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What you might see on aLocal walkin Spring

While we're all staying at home to help slow the spread of Covid-19, people are finding beauty in their immediate locality. Even the tiniest, commonest spring flower or blue tit hopping on the branches of a tree outside the window feels like a minor miracle during these difficult weeks. What you might see on a local walk in spring depends where you are, but could include wild flowers that grow almost anywhere, on roadside verges and grassy slopes, in parks, woods and fields. Look out for birds, animals and insects too - squirrels and starlings, colourful goldfinches, butterflies or bumblebees. Here are some of the things you might see beside the path on an exercise walk near you in April. And if you can’t access them now – for whatever reason – enjoy the pictures for a virtual spring.

  • County: in Spring
  • Great for: animals | bird watching | flowers and gardens | insects | trees |
  • Refreshments: eat at home
  • Please note: Stay safe and local. Follow NHS guidelines on social distancing. This was researched/updated in April 2020. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
What you might see on a local walk in spring; some Blackthorn.
  1. 3. Spring Flowers

    In Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, the shepherdess Perdita (who is really a lost princess) lists violets, daffodils, oxlips, lilies, and pale primroses as “flowers o’ the spring” that she’d like to give Prince Florizel. Some of them have been budding in woods and hedges for weeks already. Others, like bluebells are getting ready to burst into flower during April.

    • Sweet violets On grassy banks and woodland floor, sweet violets are among the earliest flowers to appear, tiny harbingers of warmer days ahead. With their heart-shaped leaves and delicate smell, they’re a by-word for romance. Look out for white violets, a variation of the commoner blueish-purple.
    • Primroses have also been going strong since February in many parts of the country. Their delicate pale yellow flowers decorate railway banks and roadsides.
    • Wood Anemone Carpets of these white stars (pictured above) spread out in the woods from March onwards with intricate leaves and sometimes pink-tinged petals. Following the light, they open fully only when it’s sunny.
    • Celandines These starry yellow flowers are part of the buttercup family. Celandines are among the earliest flowers to appear, followed by golden yellow buttercups, which carpet damp fields and meadows from April. Larger kingcups (aka marsh marigolds) pop up in gold clumps from March near streams, lakes and canals.
    • Bluebells Each spring, woods across the UK fill with lakes of bluebells, one of the world’s great wild flower shows. Britain has half the world’s population of bluebells and this year’s relatively mild, wet weather flowed by spring sunshine is bringing them out early. They generally flower in April and May, later as you move northwards, and are one of the species that suggest a patch of woodland is ancient.
  1. 4. Flowering trees

    Hazel trees have been sporting their dangling yellow catkins since February. During March, the white-blossomed blackthorn has put on a particularly spectacular show this spring along with pink ornamental cherries on suburban streets. And blossom season has only just begun. It’s a good time to spot birds in the trees too – while there are still not too many leaves for them to hide in.

    • Hazel Dangling yellow catkins appear in the woods and hedges along with snowdrops at the very start of spring, but they often carry on into April.
    • Blackthorn or sloe There’s been a regular avalanche of these delicate white blossoms this year, covering the hedges like snow. These bushes are probably better known for its fruit – the blue-black sloes whose sharp juice turns bottles of gin and sugar purple in time for Christmas.
    • Apple and cherry Pink blossom along the hedges in April is often some form of apple tree. Some of these sprouted from thrown-away cores or household rubbish. Wild cherries, often with frothy white blossom, are also an April sight, as celebrated by A. E. Houseman in A Shropshire Lad:
      “Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
      Is hung with bloom along the bough,
      And stands about the woodland ride
      Wearing white for Eastertide.”
    • Hawthorn Looking forward to May, the abundant flowers of May blossom are much more robust and creamy than the earlier blackthorn. Smelling slightly unpleasant (a bit like cat’s piss) hawthorn is a tree with folkloric connections.
    • Elder Even further ahead, the flat creamy bunches of tiny elderflowers will be ready around late May or June sometime to make into elderflower cordial.
  1. 5. Insects

    The thousands of species of bugs and beetles in UK parks and gardens will keep any nature spotter busy. As the days get warmer, look out for bees and butterflies on the flowers.

    • Ladybirds We’ll soon start seeing these well known red beetles with black spots again. Ladybirds come out of hibernation in April to find a mate.
    • Bees There are hundreds of species of bees in the UK, including 24 different bumblebees. But only one type of honeybee, thinner and less furry than a bumble with orangey gold-and-black stripes.
    • Butterflies The most common garden butterflies include the handsome red admiral (black with red bands and white dots) and the dramatic peacock (red with colourful eyespots on the wings).
    • Dragonflies and damselflies You can spot red damselflies from April onwards while May and the summer months bring the turquoise flash of a common blue damselfly or the green of an Emperor dragonfly. If you live near a pond or stream, look out for these shiny long-bodied insects hovering over the water.
  • What you might see on a local walk in spring; Hare in a field.
  • What you might see on a local walk in spring; a Primrose flower.
  • What you might see on a local walk in spring; a Violet.
  • What you might see on a local walk in spring; some Blackthorn.
  • What you might see on a local walk in spring; some Apple Blossom.
  • What you might see on a local walk in spring; A bee.

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