OPINION: Why spring 2021 will feel so very special

Bluebells in Foxley Wood, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve

Bluebells in Foxley Wood, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve - Credit: David Tipling

After enduring The Second World War and suffering one of the hardest winters of the 20th century, 1947 delivered to a weary population a very special spring: warm, peaceful and full of hope.

It was said that one could hear a deep collective sigh at the smell of the first mowed lawn.

It would be a grave disservice to equate our current situation with then, but the comparisons are quite compelling, and I’m sure that we’ll be equally relieved at the lengthening days and warming sun of this spring.

The months of restriction have seen many people re-discover the joy of nature whilst out walking, and I suspect that the spring of 2021 will have a special quality too, with a little more attention being paid to the arrival of the first swallow or emerging cluster of bluebells.

Easter bunnies aside, spring, I feel, is uniquely adult, for children tend to develop deeply imbedded memories of snowy winter days and the long hot holidays of summer.

A common frog

A common frog - Credit: Neville Yardy

Spring – properly observed – doesn’t burst-forth, she has a creeping subtlety that requires sober maturity to appreciate and saintly patience to truly love.

I first fell in love with spring as a young man returning home in late April from a lengthy spell abroad.

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Travelling the last leg by train through the East Anglian countryside, I ventured to pull down the dirt smeared carriage window and suddenly I saw her, properly, for the first time, vibrant green, with a fragrance unmatched by any perfumery.

She has the ability to trigger so many emotions even when viewed through a minds-eye far from home.

The ascending voice of the skylark lost in a tent of blue; butterflies tripping through the garden and the distant enunciating cuckoo.

When expressing, unbridled, the season’s exultations, it is difficult not to emulate the platitudes of nature’s old poets, but ‘Oh to be in England, now that April’s there’.

I wonder how service personnel felt returning to Blighty from far-away lands during 1947, for then, like now, families had suffered long separation and the ‘special’ spring must have felt, more than ever, like a new beginning.

Male orange tip butterfly

Male orange tip butterfly - Credit: Karen Husband

It is no surprise that people would seek the healing power of nature, and it is no coincidence that rambling, camping and hobbies such as birdwatching grew in popularity.

The unexpected hush of human activity last spring meant many people – some for the first time – could hear their garden birds sing territorial claims, see them win a mate and build their nests; time allowed us a new appreciation of nature.

Spring takes her time to get ready, she is caprice and changeable, sometimes turning a cold shoulder other times hot with temper, but how we love her.

Make a date with nature this spring

This spring Norfolk Wildlife Trust invites you to take part in its own phenology survey and share your first sightings of three species:

· swallows

· orange-tip butterflies

· common frogs

Whether you are lucky enough to have them visit your garden, or you see them on your local patch, you can help NWT map sightings within our county to build a picture of where – and when – they appear. For more information, see www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/spotter

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