Nature diary: share your first day of spring

Close-up of daffodils in the garden at Tyntesfield

Spring signals the start of warmer days and longer evenings, renewed life and returning colour.

To celebrate, we're calling on nature lovers across the UK to send us their observations of the first day of the new season, Friday 20 March 2020.

For generations, poets and writers have put pen to paper to express the importance of the arrival of spring and the burst of colour and busyness in the animal kingdom. 

The digital diary aims to capture the start of the season by asking people to document their observations of wildlife, the weather and what spring means to them in no more than 150 words.

As we all adapt to a very different way of life over the coming months, this will encourage people to engage with their own natural surroundings, which can offer benefits to both physical and mental health. 
 
Observations can be made in people’s gardens, in the countryside or even through windows, so those limited by the effects of the coronavirus can still take part. 

In 2019, wildlife lovers contributed to the first ever crowd-sourced nature diary to mark the official start of spring. The digital diary, which is a partnership between the National Trust and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, offers a unique snapshot of the change of season as it swept across the UK. 

Feeling inspired? Submit your spring reflections
Spring in Northern Ireland

Writes of spring 

Last spring the Arts and Humanities Research Council asked people across the UK to capture the arrival of the first official day of spring and help create a crowd-sourced nature diary. More than 400 people joined in celebrating this season of colour and the natural world coming to life. This collection of entries is curated by the writer Abi Andrews.

Read our diary entries
Hilary McGrady

Hilary McGrady

'Spring is one of my favourite times of year – a time when National Trust places burst into life. After a winter of long and cold nights, we all look forward to lighter mornings and long walks in the fresh air. It’s about refreshing our senses in gardens bursting with colour, being inspired by wandering through magnificent landscapes and re-connecting with each other in the great outdoors.

'This year, I was privileged to spend the first few hours of spring in one of my favourite places. Divis Mountain has long been a place I love to walk and run because of the sense of freedom it gives me. The light rain felt refreshing, and a reminder that April showers are just around the corner! It was a joy to share this wonderful open space with my colleagues.'

A chiffchaff perched on a branch

Pete Brash

'Bright daisy buttons burst, scattered on the grass,
Bluebell green spears through forgotten autumn leaves,
Sparrows gossip in the ivy, greenfinches wheeze and wings wheel,
Starling quacks creaks snaps crackles and pops whistles,
Wood pigeon claps wings and sails while another croons deep bass,
Song thrush enquires, nuthatch quips, squirrel chatters,
Dunnock juggles a jumble of notes that scatter,
The robin considers, sings syrupy sweetness and pauses,
Red-tailed bumblebee blunders on a currant bush,
Pounces on pink grape bunches of tom cat flowers,
Red orange butterfly cavorts and corkscrews through bright light and deep shade,
Sun beams, laser through branches, stair rods on celandine reflections,
Chiffchaff constant, metronomic, counting time as the heartbeat of spring quickens.'

A picture of ayellow Iris flowering in spring

Pam Smith

'‘Strolling is the gastronomy of the eye. To walk is to vegetate to stroll is to live.’ (Balzac 1799 - 1850). I associate spring with strolling; looking far and looking close, the mid-range confident garden scenes can wait until summer; it’s the quieter long views and the up close secret studies of squeezable buds I’m interested in.

'My favourite flower colour is yellow. Spring is blue skies, yellow flowers and jewel green buds. Sounds are those of stones on rakes as we prepare seed beds, a chiming percussion to the anticipation I feel as I step through the gates of our walled gardens.

'For gardeners this is a sped up time up year as seemingly overnight the tree canopies turn green and cast shade, but we wait for the Ash, our last tree to unfurl its leaves; as we wait our seeds germinate with the promise of future harvests.'

Kate Martin

Spring, the very word is full of energy. We “spring” out of bed, we describe someone with lots of energy as “wound up like a spring”. So it’s not surprising that most of us feel a new lease of life as we come out of the long winter months.

For me the first day of spring is more of a feeling than a set date. It’s a heightened sense of the natural world waking up around me. It is the first sight of a sparrow picking up dead grass and moss for its nest building, the gentle kiss of warmth from the strengthening sun on my face, the smell of daffodils as I walk through my garden and the sound of an early bee buzzing around. These simple pleasures remind me that I am part of and surrounded by nature all of the time. And it is now more important than ever that we all take the time to notice the natural world around us. With the UK’s wildlife in serious decline we should not take for granted that these simple pleasures will be there in the future for us to enjoy.

A recent report produced by the National Trust, in partnership with the University of Derby, reported that people taking time to notice nature has benefits to both people and nature. The findings revealed that people who notice nature are more likely to feel happier and are also more likely to take action to care for our wildlife. This certainly rings true with me as I’m never happier than when I’m outside hearing the birds singing or spotting an elusive animal dart past.

Spending time with my Mum as she pointed out what this wildflower was, the best place to hunt for crabs or identifying the bird song I could hear definitely encouraged me to take action and has shaped my future career in conservation. But you don’t need to change your career path to play your part to help nature.

2020 is the 125th anniversary of the National Trust and as part of our celebrations we are asking everybody to just take some time to notice nature. So go on…get outside and immerse yourself in the sight, sound, smell, taste and touch of nature, whether it is on your apartment balcony, in your local park or at your favourite countryside spot.

Noticing nature all year round