Spring treasure 1: British Summer Time Begins

26/3/2018 It is hard to believe it is nearly the end of March and signs of spring are only just beginning. Apparently deciding after the last icy spell that they had waited long enough, all the flowers and blossom appeared all at once: blackthorn in the hedgerows, carpets of primroses, daffodils in earnest, violets and periwinkles. I saw the first green leaf on my hardiest hawthorn plant this week, and a moorhen made up her mind to settle in her nest on the front pond.

But still there is far less in the way of spring than was to be found at the beginning of March last year. Mowing the lower lawn is still a good fortnight or more off – I would sink into a mole tunnel-ridden bog if I were to try it now – and I have yet to find a white or mauve violet, celandine or Siberian squill in my garden. The daffodils are only just beginning to think about showing their faces.

It still feels like winter, despite the beginnings of colour (other than brown and green) in the landscape. I have surprised myself by not minding in the slightest. I am in a rare state of motivation regarding house-related tasks: tidying and sorting mess and paperwork, starting to organise future building works, and finishing half-completed indoor jobs and administration. But it has made choosing my first spring highlight difficult: I don’t think I could choose between blackthorn and cherry blossom, violets and primroses, daffodils and periwinkles. Or making friends with a pheasant for that matter. And as for spring sunshine – well, we had more of that in February than we’ve had in spring so far. The spring equinox also ought to be a contender, but somehow it felt academic this year: there was an icy wind and it was mighty hard to convince oneself it was the first day of spring.

So instead I have chosen something that up until now I have been intentionally avoiding: a man-made seasonal event. Man-made, but nevertheless the most reliable – and this year, noticeable – sign of spring: British Summer Time. Overnight, we are suddenly blessed with a whole extra hour of evening daylight.

It is a strange phenomenon, and I have never understood why we have to wait until after the spring equinox for the clocks to go forward; after all, they go back approximately 6 weeks after the autumn equinox. 6pm is a sunset time that we only experience in spring.

Sunbathing goatsBut it means that the longer evenings are all the more welcome when they do arrive. I returned home in the afternoon after less than 24 hours in London. Much as I had enjoyed seeing friends and playing music there, I breathed a sigh of relief to be back with the trees, space and country lanes. To celebrate the extra daylight, I went for a dusk walk at 7.30pm – somewhat later than I intended, but the sky was clear and the moon was bright. Spring was finally in the air. The free range chickens across the road were also out celebrating: they showed no signs of retiring, long after my chickens had put themselves to bed.

The air was still and the reflection on the reservoir was perfect. The days of rushing to fit in a walk before dusk are over for a while; perhaps post-supper walks will even become a feature of my week. Writing this the next morning, sitting in the garden with sunbathing goats and listening to purring chickens and birdsong, I am finally starting to believe, tentatively, that spring has arrived.