Sunday 1 May 2011

1.5.11 – Bluebells in the wood (Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland)

1.5.11 – Bluebells in the wood (Millport, Isle of Cumbrae, Scotland)

The Enchanted Woodland
We went to find the Secret Stairs in the Enchanted Wood, Katie and I.  The spring sunshine kissed the rough stone walls, down which Ivy Leaved Toadflax flowed in torrents of tiny, delicate lilac coloured flowers, tipped with yellow.  Not satisfied with this, the same sun kissed the wavelets in the bay into diamonds, while the wind ruffled them gently, roughening them into frosted glass.  Hand in hand we walked, talking as only an eight year old girl can, about the mystery  and secrecy of the enchanted woodland we had set out to discover. 

Cathedral of the Isles
We turned up the road to our tiny island Cathedral, grey stone spire reaching up towards the white tufts of cloud drifting by.  At once, the peace and serenity of the place took hold, and Katie and I whispered our comments, heard only by numberless birds, twittering amongst the gently swaying branches above us.  A little path, cross-hatched by thick roots, led us deeper into the sun-dappled woodland.  On one side, drifts of wild garlic, the pungence of their scent contrasting with their delicate heads - white balls made up of tiny star-like white flowers.

Wild Garlic and Bluebells
On the other side, bluebells crowded amongst the tree trunks, their blue cups dangling from their green, curved stems.  Katie ran ahead, the sunlight picking out her golden hair, as it danced under her pink sun hat, her purple dress swaying with her lithe, energetic young movements.  Where were the stairs?  Was it far?  Who else knew about them?  Why were they there? 
Path among the Wild Garlic in the Enchanted Woodland

Suddenly the path fell away like a cliff top, and, approaching, yes, there it was, old worn sandstone slabs, swathed in moss, leading down into the depths of the woodland, to other narrow paths, wending their way here and there amongst the bluebells.  She skipped down, full of awe, thrilled to find the stairs, made secret by her bright mind, the woodland enchanted by the innocence of her imagination.
The Secret Stairs

We choose a narrow path, nearly overgrown by fresh green leaves, here and there nettles, as yet soft with new growth.  Brambles extended their curved branches across the path, making us stop to part them and pass on.  The trees were bright with early spring leaves, the teasing breeze making the sunlight flicker and dapple the forest bark she ran across.  Suddenly a little rabbit bobbed out of the grass, and froze at the sight of us.  Katie stopped, breathless, watching the wind stroke his soft grey-brown fur.  And then he was gone, darting into the bushes.  Every flower was a joy to her, every bird fluttering across the path, a surprise.  Celandines lined the track, their shining golden petals pointing sharply.  And then a crop of wood anemones, white as starlight, their six petals backed with green, and a minute coronet in the midst of each, sporting dainty yellow stamens, like jewels in their crown.  She picked one gently, carrying it carefully all the way back down the road, commanding me to place it gently in an egg cup of water, so that mummy could admire and share her wonder.

Kames Bay, Isle of Cumbrae
And so we turned towards the beach at Kames Bay, where on the pink, flat sands, mum, dad and little brother were digging.  A small river runs across the sand, twisting and meandering slowly towards the sea.  Generations of families have realised that its gentle progress across the near-level beach makes the engineering task of dam building an easy challenge, soon rewarded by the developing pools, large enough to float plastic boats.  So red and blue plastic spades and buckets, aided by the occasional heavy garden spade, make a family race to build up walls and direct the glittering water this way and that, shouting to one another to repair breeches in the little sand walls, splashing barefoot in the trenches, until the sun fades into the sea behind the blue Arran mountains, and the gentle gloaming light announces bedtime.  Of such is the magic of childhood on a Scottish island in springtime.


  1. Meg... just found your wonderful post about the secret stairs. I remember more than anything, the smell of the wild garlic as I dallied on my way up the path to another piano lesson...

    1. Just found your comment - thank you! It was a magical day that day. Best wishes