This week it was time for our first annual visit to checkout the snowdrops at Dimminsdale and we were lucky enough to have a bit of brilliant sunshine to do it in.
If you love snowdrops (and who doesn't?) and haven't visited Dimminsdale Nature Reserve then I strongly urge you to go. There is something about turning the corner at the top of the hill to be greeted by a blanket of snowdrops nestled within this woodland setting that is really magical. You think you've seen them and then you continue up the path and keep discovering more - small clumps nestled under the rocks and swathes in little hillside clearings, they just keep coming.
If you know where to look (there is a wonderful sheltered spot just by some mossy rocks close to the pathway) you can usually see the first buds from around New Year, or even Christmas. After that it is simply a matter of time as the display slowly builds up, usually reaching a peak around the end of January/early February.
We usually visit several times over the snowdrop season - often between Christmas and New Year for that first glimpse that brightens us up during the dark days of midwinter, again during January to check on progress and then once or twice during February to wonder at the full glory of these magical little flowers.
It's often hard to know what to expect mid January - will there be much out, or will we still be searching for those early signs? Well I'm happy to report that we were well rewarded when we went this week - walking clockwise round the site from the entrance onto the road the clearing near the top of the hillside was a mass of snowdrops in full bloom. Further along the path there were quite a few more out but I'd say that they main area (just above where the path from Staunton Harold enters the reserve) will probably be another two or three weeks.
It was quiet when we went - we met just two other couples both of whom appeared to be out on rambles rather than just visiting for the snowdrops. You can be sure that as the weeks progress this will change - the number of visitors steadily increases as more snowdrops come out and at peak times you can pretty much guarantee to meet with quite a few visitors as you walk the circular path around past the laundry pool and up over the hill. First timers often ask 'Where will I find the snowdrops?' - the answer to which is just follow the path around, there is no way you will miss them! The doubt is caused by the fact that the displays are all along the top of the hillside and most people come into the reserve via the roadside entrance which is on the opposite side, at the bottom of the hill. As the path is circular it really doesn't matter which way round you follow it - you'll find them either way. If you do come in from Staunton Harold, via the National Forest Way, turn right as soon as you enter the reserve and you'll go straight up to what is usually the largest area at the height of the season.
For those who want to combine their snowdrop fix with a good walk you'll find a lovely circular walk in Walks for all in the Heart of the Forest which combines seeing the snowdrops with a walk over the Staunton Ridgeway - the walk starts and finishes by the Ferrers Centre at Staunton Harold so you can combine it with some refreshments, and perhaps a browse of the craft shops and garden centre, afterwards too.
The photo at the top of the page was taken this week, the one below is the main display fully out, taken a couple of years ago. You'll find directions to get to Dimminsdale by clicking here. The circular path around the reserve is steep in places and can be slippery - if you want to see the snowdrops but avoid the steep path then access is easier if you walk down the driveway from Staunton Harold and come into the reserve via the National Forest Way.
I just can't resist a footpath sign. The lure of that little arrow just says 'explore me' and sooner or later I just have to find out where it goes. Happily the National Forest is just full of paths. Public footpaths, permissive paths, tracks, trails and long distance paths - we've got the lot!