Harpenden bluebell wood still closed to public

A SEA of blue in a Harpenden wood is doing little to calm troubled waters with residents annoyed they cannot access one of their favourite locations to enjoy blooming bluebells.

Earlier this year the Herts Advertiser publicised assurances from the the UK’s largest agricultural centre, Rothamsted Research, that a popular path through a wood on its estate would possibly reopen to the public in spring when the bluebells flowered.

The institute had annoyed local people when it blocked public access to Knott Wood with fencing and hedges, putting a sign up saying it was private land. A spokeswoman said at the time that the wood was private with no public rights of way running through it and, “any accident in the wood would be our responsibility if fences are inadequate.”

She said the wood might reopen on a trial basis during the bluebell flowering time.

But Knott Wood is still closed and Harpenden resident Julian Barker said: “The bluebells in Knott Wood on the Rothamsted estate are truly magnificent this year, well worth a walk or a ride out to see them.

“Unfortunately they remain firmly locked with public access barred. I have visited these woods every year since my children were born, taking photographs every year. We tried to visit them [Good Friday] and my daughter was very sad that she could not walk on the paths through the woods.

“I think it’s sad, it’s so beautiful. There are big, wide paths so you are not damaging the bluebells themselves. I understand about health and safety but I think there are ways of opening the woods without exposing themselves to liability.”

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While he praised the centre for its contribution to the scientific field and Harpenden, Julian called on Rothamsted to, “not forget their responsibility to the local community who enjoy visiting the woods.”

Another Harpenden resident, Chris Glover, said he believed the woods had the biggest concentration of bluebells in Harpenden. He added: “It’s still a complete mystery as to why they have done it; there is no need to close it. It can’t be a safety issue; there are millions of paths through woods elsewhere that are open, so I can’t think of any valid reason why they would fence it off.”

A spokeswoman for the centre said while she understood residents’ concerns she was unable to comment officially further as the staff responsible for the woodland were away from the centre this week.