Hurrah, The Guardian is once again promoting the delights of the Hoo Peninsula. Follow in my footsteps and take a walk out to Cooling this spring.
I’ve spent the last month in the sub tropics of Florida and have returned to England to find that Arctic temperatures are the order of the day. On a day of icy winds and multiple layers I was back out with my lovely volunteer gang, enjoying the watery light across the downs, the woolly tails of catkins on the hazel trees and the great tits sing songing in the hedgerows.
I have been out in all weathers with this gang of scrub cutters and hazel coppicers and a day out with friends in the countryside is a sure way of sloughing away any late winter despond.
Springwatch may not have hit out tele’s yet but Spring is well and truly here. Here is my guide for things to do to get you in the mood for the season.
1.Take a walk amongst the bluebells – They are one of the great beauties of the British Isles. They last such a short time. Make sure you never go a year without missing the sight and scent of a bluebell woodland.
2. Listen to a nightingale sing. These birds have suffered a 90% decline in this country. Conyer Brickworks, near Sittingbourne in Kent is one of the best places to hear them.
3. Discover a quirky local custom. Spring is a wonderful time to enjoy the eccentric side of British culture. Find a weird festival and go along. I went to Bradwell on Sea, In Essex’s Scarecrow Festival.
4. Embrace some greenery. Revel in some Rights of Spring and hug a Green Man.
5. Take a dip. Cold water swimming is a great health tonic and we have plenty of opportunity to indulge around our coasts. 16th April is the earliest I have ever taken the plunge but there are plenty of hardy souls who swim year round.
6. Grow some vegetables. Not only does home grown veg taste delicious but, even if you are only growing basil on a window seal, then you are taking part in the age old seasonal ritual of growing and harvesting. After all we have been farmers for 500 generations and computer nerds not even for one.
7. Do the spring cleaning. Fresh sheets, clean cupboards, spruced up oven and you are set for another year. I ran away from the household chores and spring cleaned some barn owl boxes instead.
8. Begin a love affair, have a night of passion, conceive a (planned) baby. It is the time for sex and fertility after all.
9. Shed your winter layers. Don’t cast a clout ’til May is out the old saying goes. The Hawthorn is blossoming, time to get out those shorts.
10. Spend a little time out doors in nature every day. My friend Trevor refuses to take on any big building projects in the spring. “How many springs do you think I have left?” He yells down the phone. Quite right Trevor. We should take the time to enjoy every one.
Coltsfoot is easily missed in the rush of spring but it is one of the first bright patches of the year and beautiful in it’s own right.
It was assuredly NOT spring. Despite the fact is was March, despite the fact I had fought my way across boggy paths to see the coltsfoot blooming, the icy wind scything off the Thames told me it was NOT spring. The birds thought otherwise. A cetti’s warbler blurted out a song from the reedy ditch surrounding Higham Marsh, lapwings were already swooping over the inland sea of flooded fields created by the RSPB. “It’s spring, it’s spring,” nature yelled at me but it was NOT. It was still the biting, cold ridden, hanging on til the bitter end dregs of an English winter.