May walking – Spring Wildflowers


While March and April, depending upon where you live in the UK, can be regarded as transitional months between the seasons, there can be little doubt that for most of us May is truly a month that belongs to spring.

The magnificent unfolding of spring is nature’s earnest response to warmer temperatures and lengthening days. Among the many signs of this wonderful season of rebirth, is there anything more uplifting for walkers up and down the country than May’s displays of wildflowers?

I’m sure each of us has our own favourites. In no particular order mine are primroses, cowslips, wood anemones and bluebells. Sadly, not as widespread and common as once they were, country walking offers a good chance of encountering each of these species and only on foot is there time to appreciate their beauty and spectacle.


Primroses favour laneside banks, verges, hedgerows and woodland fringes with dappled sunlight. In Norse mythology the five petals of each flower represent life in the form of birth, initiation, consummation, repose and death.



Cowslips are found on close-cropped, unimproved grasslands, where grazing by sheep and rabbits has predominated and chemical fertilizers have not been used. The cowslip is the foodplant for the caterpillars of the strikingly marked Duke of Burgundy butterfly with its dark chocolate background and tawny/bronze flecks.

Wood Anemones

The dainty white flower heads of wood anemones carpet deciduous woodland in April, the timing of their brief flowering crucially ahead of the trees coming into leaf and thereby shading the woodland floor.


Swathes of bluebells are synonymous with deciduous woodland. As much as their stunningly eye-catching display of blue, on a still day it is their wonderful perfume that captivates the senses of anyone fortunate enough to be wandering along a path through bluebell woodland.

Want to know more about the countryside you’re exploring? Take a look at The Countryside Companion, available in our online shop and in good book stores.