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Wild Garlic Woodlands

Wild Garlic Woodlands

Mid May is one of my favourite times for exploring my local woods, as the wild garlic flowers come into full bloom. This May has been a case of dodging the rain but in between the showers there can be some great light for photographing the pretty white flowers in wild garlic woodlands…

Allium ursinum, more commonly know as wild garlic or ramsons is (according to Wikipedia) is a bulbous perennial flowering plant in the amaryllis family. Belonging to the Allium genus, it’s a wild relative of onions and garlic. The second half of its Latin name ursinum refers to bears. It’s thought that brown bears loved to eat the bulb when coming out of hibernation! In fact, two of its common names are bear’s leek and bear’s garlic. The Woodland Trust has a bit more about the plant, where to find it and its uses here.

Wild Garlic Flowers by a Path in Strid Wood at Bolton Abbey
Wild Garlic Flowers by a Path in Strid Wood at Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire Dales

Swathes of wild garlic in Strid Wood are one of the highlights of out May Bolton Abbey workshop. The image above shows the flowers spreading up the bank on one of our favourite stops by the River Wharfe. In the absence of our workshop this May I decided to explore some local woods instead. One of these, Birkham Wood near Knaresborough is quite a small area, but had a decent crop of flowers!

Birkham Wood in Spring
Birkham Wood in Spring near Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

The particularly wet spring seems to have led to lots of lush vegetation so the ramsons are competing with other plants. But the mixture of fresh greens and white flowers was still quite attractive. One of the good things about the showery weather is that in between the showers the light is just right. This soft diffused light is best for photographing foliage and flowers. By contrast, direct sunlight is too harsh, leading to “hotspots” and lost detail – particularly in the white garlic flowers. Because of this, don’t forget to take your tripod with you as overcast conditions may lead to long exposures in dense woodland!

Wild Garlic in Woods by the River Swale at Kisdon Force near Keld
Wild Garlic in Woods by the River Swale at Kisdon Force near Keld, Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

The middle of May is generally the best time for catching the wild garlic flowers are their best. However, if they’re in a particularly sheltered spot the season could last longer. The flowers by the River Swale at Kisdon Force above were well sheltered in the valley bottom. And after a cool spring one year, this photograph was captured on 18th June!

Skipton Woods in Spring
Path through Skipton Castle Woods in Spring, Skipton, North Yorkshire

Skipton Castle Woods is easily accessible, being just a short walk from the centre of Skipton. This lovely Woodland Trust wood has a huge bank of wild garlic by the stream along the main path. The flowers are so dense they can look like a covering of snow!

Wild Garlic Flowers in Mackintosh Park in Spring KnaresboroughWild Garlic Flowers in Mackintosh Park in Spring Knaresborough
Wild Garlic Flowers in Mackintosh Park, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

One of the wild garlic woodlands I visit every year is the tiny Mackintosh Park alongside the Beryl Burton Cycleway heading out of Knaresborough towards the Nidd Gorge Woods. It may only be a small area, but there’s a lovely meandering path through the white flowers which is a joy to wander along at this time of year. Which is your favourite local wild garlic woodland to visit?

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