Seasonal adventures: things to do in the countryside this spring
In the UK, we’re blessed with four (mostly) distinct seasons. Each season brings with it new sounds, new spectacles and new opportunities.
Spring is the time of renewal. As the sap in the trees rises, and leaves burst, the world feels as though it’s coming to life. But, time can pass by as quick as a flash, and if we’re not careful, we’re careering into summer before we know it. We want to encourage you to make the most of every season, so with that in mind, here are some ideas of what you can do in the countryside over the next few months.
1. Go spring foraging
The idea of foraging feels natural and easy for some, and a little overwhelming for others. But it’s a great way to connect with the countryside, and get closer to where our food, ultimately, comes from. Plus, there are some things you can forage pretty easily – if you know where to look.
If you head out in April and May, you might just find the woodland floor carpeted in thick green leaves. On a mild day, the air will be filled with the scent of garlic. This is wild garlic, and it’s a delicious food to forage. Pick a handful (leaving plenty for wildlife), and you can use it to make or enhance all kinds of dishes. You can blitz it with oil, hard cheese and pine nuts to make a pesto, chop it into pasta, or add to potato salads.
Believe it or not, you can also forage hawthorn leaves. Hawthorn is a common hedgerow plant that is covered with beautiful white blossom in May. The young leaves have a pleasant nutty taste and add interest to salads.
As always, please forage safely and responsibly, and seek the landowner’s permission where appropriate.
2. Rise early for the dawn chorus
You may have already noticed an increase in birdsong in recent weeks. This is because it’s a common time for birds to start making nests and breeding. Male birds have a tricky job; they’ve got to quickly identify a territory, protect it, and then somehow attract a mate. How do they do this? By singing, of course!
In many bird species, it’s the male that sings. If you wake early one morning in spring, you’re likely to hear a chorus of blackbirds, chiffchaffs, skylarks, dunnocks, tits and sparrows. The dawn chorus generally reaches a crescendo in mid-spring. It’s one of the reasons we celebrate Dawn Chorus Day on the first Sunday of May.
Even if you’re not an early riser normally, consider setting the alarm for 4am on Dawn Chorus Day. Pack a flask and a snack, and head out into the countryside, a local green space, or your garden (if you have one). Then it’s a case of sitting back, and enjoying one of nature’s most wonderful sonic experiences!
If you don’t want to do it alone, check your local Wildlife Trust or CPRE group. There might be a gathering near you, or a dawn chorus walk, so you can share the joy with like-minded people.
3. Have a picnic in the park
At CPRE, we know too well how valuable our parks and green spaces are. They give people vital access to nature; particularly important for people in built-up or urban areas. Connecting with nature is increasingly understood to be an effective form of therapy, and can help us combat stress, anxiety and other mental health difficulties.
We hope that wherever you live, you’re not far from a park or a green space. If you’re not sure what your options are, check out the gov.uk local park finder or have a look on social media to find ‘Friends of…‘ groups near to you.
So, this spring, why not visit your local park and spend a few hours relaxing and enjoying nature? It’s a grounding and calming activity whether on your own, with friends or family. Just grab a few things from the fridge, along with a blanket, and you’re all set!
Finally, we know that not everyone has easy access to green spaces. If this is the case for you, consider joining or setting up a local action group and getting in touch with your local council.
4. Take a trip
If you fancy a trip further afield, spring is the perfect time to visit some of England’s beautiful gardens. What’s more, CPRE members enjoy a discount at all of the gardens we’re about to list!
View a full list of the places you can visit for a discount by checking out our members’ guide and do check destination websites for opening times before you plan your trip.
The Japanese Garden, nr Newquay
In the south west of the country, you can visit this beautiful and tranquil Japanese garden. About an acre in size, spring is the perfect time to visit. Acer leaves are unfurling, pillowy blossom hangs on cherry trees, and vibrant azalea blooms add rich bursts of colour.
CPRE members get two tickets for the price of one.
Take a spring walk in the stunning gardens of Brantwood, which sits snugly next to Coniston Water, with a vista of the Furness Fells. If you wonder into the ancient woodland in spring, you might catch a view of bluebells carpeting the woodland floor.
CPRE members get one half priced ticket when a full ticket is bought.
Helmsley Walled Garden, North Yorkshire
In the North York Moors you’ll find a wonderful eco-friendly walled garden in Helmsley. Divided into 22 sections, there’s interest all year round. But in spring, a stroll around the orchard is just the ticket, as it’ll be alive with blossom.
CPRE members get two tickets for the price of one (doesn’t include event days).
Chillingham Castle, Northumberland
Speaking of walled gardens… Chillingham is another excellent example. It bursts into to life in the spring. From grand lakes to manicured borders, it’s a sight to behold. And you might just spot a red squirrel in the woods, or catch a glimpse of the only herd of wild cattle in the world!
CPRE members get half price admission.
Make the most of the spring
As always, we love to hear about your countryside experiences. If you’ve taken any lovely pictures of your countryside exploits recently, we’d love to see them. Just get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
If you want to find out more about the discounts available as a CPRE member, check out our members guide. If you’re not a member yet, why not join CPRE and help us protect and promote a thriving countryside for everyone.