Imagine if you lived in pagan times when people sat hunched round fires in winter wondering if the summer sun would ever return. It’s no wonder they used to celebrate the coming of spring with a full blown festival.
I can kind of appreciate how they feel, this winter seems to have lasted ages. But with the signs of spring pushing out of the ground and singing from the treetops it’s got to be time to get out and explore.
If you put any bulbs in the ground you may already reaping the satisfaction of seeing them unfurl their new growth in the daylight. This is certainly a powerful childhood memory for me that at the time was clearly magic at work, what else could it be?
With the clocks going forward we're given more daylight in the evenings, which opens up an after school/after work opportunity to go outside more. Even on the weekends the evening daylight means more time to stay out walking, picnicking (weather permitting) and dare I say it sitting in pub gardens.
The woods are the best habitat to visit at this time of year, and they come in different forms each with their own wildlife, from our rare ancient woodland bursting with unusual plant life to the quiet gloom of conifer plantations.
Spring provides the perfect treasure hunt for children so why not grab your wellies and your coat (I did say weather permitting!) and venture out to discover the signs of spring. You can download a kid's spotting-sheet with things to look out for here.
Our native woodland birds should already be in full song, but plants are the real star at this time of year. Some to look out for include:
Bluebell (best in late April) – a national treasure of the UK, this little blue flower transforms our woodlands in spring.
Hart’s tongue fern – so named because it’s supposed to look like a deer’s tongue, ferns always make for a primeval feel in woodlands.
Primrose – this ‘first rose of the year’ comes out in droves in open woodland.
Wild garlic – you’ll know these are here by smell alone some woods are carpeted with them.
Woodruff – this small, pure white flower has a scent like sweet hay.
Wood anemone – lots of these can indicate that the woodland you’re in is very old as these plants spread slowly.
Visit a woodland
If you’re lucky enough to live near to one, these are some of our best woodland reserves for wildlife:
Dorset – Garston Wood
Kent – Blean Woods
East Sussex – Fore Wood
Gloucestershire – Nagshead
Suffolk – Wolves Wood
Mid-Wales – Carngafallt, Ynys-hir
Mid-South Wales – Gwenffrwd and Dinas
North Wales – Mawddach Valley
Staffordshire – Coombes Valley
Derbyshire – Eastern Moors
Cumbria - Haweswater
Dumfriesshire – Wood of Cree
Loch Lomond area – Inversnaid
Highlands – Glenborrodale, Corrimony, Abernethy
Not to worry if these are too far away, there’s a useful resource here to help you find the woodlands closest to you (not just RSPB ones) and get a bit of information about them: