In a couple of weeks the Bluebells will be out in force and here in Cornwall there are some great places to visit where you can bask in the majesty of their presence.
The native bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are the epitome of the British woodland at this time of year and are a proctected species under the Wildlife and countryside act 1981. This means that digging up the bulb and plant in the countryside is prohibited and landowners are not allowed to remove bluebells from their land to sell.
The Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) was introduced to British gardens by the Victorians in the early 20th century and escaped into the countryside – this is not protected. Spanish bluebells are lighter in colour than their british counterparts and sometimes pink. They have blue anthers not white, wider leaves and their structure is more upright with less droop and flowers emerging in all directions from the stem.
The Spanish bluebell can now be found alongside our native species in woodland and hedgerows. Unfortunately the Spanish and British bluebell hybridise easily which muddies the water a little.
The Hybrid bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana) has characteristics of both the British and Spanish bluebell but the anthers are pale to dark blue and although they may droop to one side they generally have flowers arranged all around the stem.
So what does all this have to do with survival and bushcraft? Ever since I watched Ray Mears controversially chew up a bluebell bulb in his BBC2 series “Bushcraft” I have been intrigued by natural glues. There are a number of resources that can be prepared and processed to make glue but bluebells have a long history with a variety of applications.
As Bluebells are poisonous their use as a glue for book-bindings not only held together extremely well but also allegedly deterred Silverfish, moths and other paper munching pests. They have also been used to affix arrow fletchings since at least the 16th century but potentially much longer.
As I had an old arrow in need of repair I was keen to experiment! Firstly, I should state that I gave myself permission to dig up some Spanish Bluebells from my own garden then, having washed the bulbs, I set to mashing them up into a paste.
They transformed instantly into a tacky paste and I applied them to my prepared arrow shaft before binding the fletchings with some rafia.
With the leftover ‘glue’ I wanted to experiment a little to see what stuff I could stick to other stuff and I set about trying to capture one of my children. My eldest is now fairly quick and nimble, having recently been training for the school cross country so I turned my attention to the youngest one. Unfortunately she has taken on a bit of a growth spurt of late and these longer limbs combined with still being small enough enough to climb through hedges and bramble thickets allowed her to evade me fairly easily also!
Eventually I settled with trying to adhere a lighter to the underside of a cherry branch and it stuck there for a good minute before finally falling off!
In conclusion the glue I produced was very easy to make and pretty effective despite not being a particularly fine paste. The arrow fletchings were still firmly attached after a couple of shots with my wildlife bow and it has dried quite nicely.
If you want to experiment yourself with making natural glues from Bluebell bulbs please don’t go around the countryside digging them up without the permission of the landowner regardless of it’s type protected or otherwise. If you have bluebells in your garden then please be sure to identify them correctly and only use the non-native varieties or visit a local garden centre and purchase them.