Despite being surprised with more snow recently, and still having to occasionally scrape the ice off the windscreen, spring is definitely on its way. (Honest!) There are lots of tiny clues that spring is just around the corner, so dust off those winter blues and look out for these 11 signs of spring…
1. Beautiful birdsong
You’ll start to hear more early morning birdsong at this time of year, as our migrating birds have come home and male birds begin to sing in order to attract a mate. Look out for indigenous birds such as robins and great tits or migrant birds such as chiff chaffs and blackcaps. Book a cottage with a well-established garden and you can look out for birds carrying twigs and moss for nest building at this time of year.
If birdwatching is your thing, why not head to the Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Burscough? This family-friendly venue celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and you’ll find more species than ever before. Make sure you don’t miss the spectacle of the afternoon swan feeding, when thousands of these impressive birds gather. During the Easter holidays, there’s even a giant rubber duck hunt!
For a more ‘natural’ birdwatching experience that still helps you avoid the rain, you could plan a walk that incorporates one of the many bird hides that dot the countryside. We can recommend exploring the rugged landscape around Malham, in Yorkshire – which even appeared in the Harry Potter films – and taking your flask into the hide that looks over Malham Tarn. From here, you’re likely to see great crested grebes, little grebes, tufted ducks, pochard, widgeon, teal and goosander.
2. Flower power
Bluebells and snowdrops are the first to poke their delicate heads through the cold soil. Take a stroll around National Trust property Dunham Massey in Cheshire to see more than 10,000 plants in the cyclamen grove, bluebell meadow and yellow meadow. Any visit is sure to brighten your week.
In spring, wild garlic also grows in abundance around woodland areas, filling the air with its characteristic smell. With pretty white flowers, this plant looks lovely – but can also make a delicious foraged meal. Do a quick internet search and you’ll find a host of tasty suggestions from Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater and the River Cottage Team.
You’ll easily be able to sniff out wild garlic on a woodland walk in Hurst Green, Lancashire. There are a number of varied walks that skirt around the famous Stonyhurst College. Film buffs might recognise this stunning building as the boarding school from Three Men and a Little Lady. The lush landscape nearby is said to have inspired JRR Tolkien when writing about ‘The Shire’.
3. A new season of fresh food
There are a host of food fairs and farmers markets across the country in spring. River Cottage’s Spring Food Fair grows in popularity each year. If you’re likely to find yourselves in the beautiful Dorset countryside on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th May, book a ticket to join Hugh and the team. This is a full weekend of growing, cooking and eating!
Saturday 23rd to Monday 25th May will see Blenheim Palace host its first ever Food Festival. The magnificent grounds will be home to cookery demos, children’s workshops, foraging fun and stalls selling mouth-watering treats.
You can also celebrate the season of growing with The Royal Welsh Spring Festival, held on 16th and 17th May. With over 1,300 livestock, poultry and horses, hundreds of tradestands, the only Premier Open Dog Show to be held in Wales, children’s activities, a food and drink quarter, vintage machinery, auction, country leisure and much more, this event has something for everyone
Visit the Cairngorms National Park in spring and you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a wild adventure. White water rafting is at its best at this time of year, as the snow melts from the Cairngorm mountains. There are many companies offering this activity throughout the area. You can white water raft on sections of the River Spey as well as the River Findhorn which some say is one of the best for rafting in Scotland.
5. Woolly Jumpers
While all farms stick to a different lambing schedule, there are undoubtedly more lambs frolicking around the fields now than at any other time of year. The warmer weather means you’re more likely to see them outside, playing with their friends and then dashing back to their mums! Take the family to Home Farm in Cambridgeshire and you’ll see a host of rare breed sheep and lambs, as well as goats, cattle, pigs and horses. Families can even take part in farm activities like grooming the donkeys and feeding the pigs.
6. Something Fishy
Spring is the most action-packed fishing season. From March to May, high water levels disperse large fish to spawn upriver and you’re likely to see those iconic images of salmon leaping against the current. Avid anglers should head to Wales where the beats and tributaries of the River Usk teem with brown trout and substantial salmon bite in the Wye.
The stunning scenery will be at its finest in the spring too.
7. Seeing clearly
At this time of year, we tend to find that the days become crisper and clearer and the nights do too! Clear, cloudless skies are perfect for star gazing in one of the UK’s night sky parks. The Brecon Beacons National Park is one of only five International Dark Sky Reserves in the world. Residents and visitors are encouraged to prevent light pollution and take an interest in the night sky. The beauty of a cottage break – over a hotel stay – means you can stay up late to explore the night sky and simply have a lie in the following day, without missing breakfast!
8. A blossoming treat
The hedgerows of the UK come alive in spring and the stunning damson blossom throughout the Lake District is a beautiful sign that better weather is on its way. In early April you can even visit the Westmorland Damson Day Festival, and enjoy all things related to this delicious treat. (Make sure to try the damson ice cream!) Blackthorn is one of the first trees to flower in early to mid spring, when it produces a mass of white blossom. This is the tree to also keep an eye on in autumn, when it bears sloes. The cup-shaped white flowers of the wild cherry are a sure sign of spring, these appear in April even before its leaves.
9. Time travel!
An odd thing to look out for in spring, but trust us – if you’re in the right place, you might see military men and more from the 1940s! Haworth is a beautiful Airedale village, which was home to the famous Brontë sisters. With its historic cobbled Main Street, iconic parsonage and rolling moors, it’s well worth a visit at any time of year but if you choose to go between the 15th and 17th May, you’ll be able to enjoy the region’s famous 1940s weekend!
10. Taking the tiddlers to find tadpoles
Frogs start mating from January onwards, so look out for frogspawn in ponds, ditches and slow-moving streams. Frogspawn tends to be in large clumps, while toadspawn will be in ‘strings’. Why not take the kids pond dipping? This can be an exciting and valuable learning experience for little ones. You might set out with your own bug bucket, net, magnifying glass and observation sheet (you can even download top tips from the Woodland Trust) or you might choose a more structured, organised event. Rutland Water, for example, holds a host of family activity days for budding biologists and conservationists throughout the year.
11. Mad March hares
In early spring, look out for the famous ‘Mad March Hare’. These long-eared leapers can be seen ‘boxing’ during mating season. You might think these are the boys brawling, but it’s actually more likely to be the females fending off unwanted attention. The moors of Yorkshire and Derbyshire are top spots for hare spotting.
A few more…
For your own mad activities, you could take inspiration from the many rural fairs and local shows occurring at this time of year where you’ll often see eccentric challenges like egg throwing or welly hurling – both of which you could try in the garden!
For egg throwing, stand facing each other and play ‘catch’ with an egg. Each time you successfully catch it, take a step apart – the game gradually becomes more and more difficult until the egg eventually cracks and breaks on the grass, or on you!
Welly hurling is exactly what it sounds like. All you need is some open space, well away from the road, and a welly boot. Set out a throwing line and mark where each person’s throw lands with a twig. The aim of the game is to throw the welly the furthest.
For a slightly calmer garden activity, you could set up a chocolate egg hunt for the kids (and big kids) during the Easter holidays.
Take a look at the latest spring availability and offers on cottages4you.