We’d like to introduce Katie, a passionate conservationist, crafter and writer, who loves to try new things. She has volunteered to write a few blog posts for our members to help during this period of isolation. She has to self-isolate for 12 weeks too, so she appreciates what this means.

This one is all about signs of spring...

Spring is a time of transformation. It’s no wonder many past civilisations equated it to magic, as things which appeared dead suddenly sprung back to life. Today we still enjoy the freshness of the season with its bright yellow daffodils, jumpy lambs and multi-coloured crocuses. Yet there’s more to the coming of spring than these postcard ready clichés. Spring is a mass awakening, the like of which we don’t see at any other time of year. Each species has its own rhythm, some risking the last frosts to get a head start, others taking their time until everything is good and ready.

One of the first and easiest changes to spot each year is the coming of the blackthorn blossom. Blackthorn is a scrubby tree, which is often grown in hedgerows, its long nasty looking thorns preventing a quick shortcut through the shrubs. In the autumn it’s easy to identify from the thick mass of sour-tasting sloes decking its branches. It’s one of the first species to get its spring glad rags on, with masses of small white blooms lining our roads and fields. The warmth generated by human activities, such as cars and industry, often brings this tree out even earlier, meaning you’ll notice blackthorn’s along main roads bloom far earlier than those away from traffic.

The flight of the bumblebees is more than just a classical masterpiece. These fat little creatures are often forgotten when we talk about the importance of honey bees to our planet, but bumble bees and solitary bees play the same vital role - pollinating our flowers, crops and fruits. Just like the honey bee these fuzzy little creatures live in colonies, with a queen and her drones. The queen is much larger than the rest and over winter young queens will hibernate beneath the ground, before emerging in spring to search out food and start their new colony. So if you see a large furry bee buzzing around your flowerbeds don’t worry, it’s just a hungry queen who’s awoken from her winter sleep.

We often think of the smell of blossom when we think of spring, but in fact there is a more pungent smell which can be associated with this time of year; the smell of garlic. Wild garlic, or ramson is a woodland plant which grows in great carpets during the early spring. A close clump of wide almond shaped leaves it’s easy to identify from its garlicky smell. Indeed many people use the spring leaves to create pestos and other garlic treats, though harvesting from the wild should always be done with great care and consideration.

Although daffodils, crocuses and primroses might be the big showy spring flowers we all know, another wonderful bloom is the lesser celandine. This small buttercup coloured flower creates vast carpets of yellow stars amongst its dark green nest of leaves. Although it thrives within woodlands it’s also regularly found in parks, gardens and hedgerows. Alongside this a calmer hedgerow companion is dog’s mercury. Not as bold as other spring plants, its flowers are small and green, barely noticeable without peering closely. Yet this little green plant tells an interesting tale, showing us where ancient woodlands would once have stood, within what are now all too often only hedgerows and fields.

Finally of course we have to mention springtime bird song. With the longer warmer days our birds start to get frisky, chasing each other through the hedgerows and singing their hearts out as they tell their neighbours to get lost and their sweethearts to come near. One of my favourite springtime bird calls is less of a song and more like percussion. The greater spotted woodpecker announces his presence with Morse code, tapping out his claim to his territory on a handy tree. It’s a wonderful wild and ancient sound, giving the sense that you’re standing in the middle of a great forest even when you’re in the centre of a busy town.

It may be hard at times, with our busy lives, so often focused on the human world, to stop and enjoy the changes happening all around us at this time of year. This year in particularly, with so many of us stuck inside it can feel like the world is passing us by, yet it’s amazing what you can still enjoy from an open window, or a garden bench. From the trill of the wren to the arrival of an early butterfly, freshly emerged and looking for a drink. Wherever you are and however you are spending this difficult time, spring is slowly unfurling around us, ready for when we can step back out into her glory.