The Sap is Rising…

I hear a lot of people holding out for spring at the moment. All these lockdown restrictions, post-Christmas blues and fears of what the future holds, I totally get it – we need something good to look forward to. But let’s not miss out on life in the meantime, because I’m going to let you into a hidden secret that is happening right now: The sap is rising! (Well, if not now, very soon)

This February, whatever you do, however restricted you may be, I urge you to get out for your allowance of exercise as much as possible. February isn’t quite spring, but it isn’t just about daffodils either – it’s a mover and a shaker of a month! With the warming earth it is the time of life quickening, energy is rising, and the trick is to be outside to tap into it. This works especially if you do something physical for a while, do anything: walk; run; rake leaves; sweep the patio; pull some weeds; pick up that litter that’s been annoying you in your village all winter….and of course this principle of “just get out there and do it” breeds positivity at any time of year.

February is the time when it all stirs, the songbirds start singing, courting and making nests – it’s no accident Valentine’s Day is in February, in fact February 14th was known in Sussex as Bird Wedding Day! Rumour has it the first bird seen by a maid on this day indicates the character of her future spouse – well well…

…If that’s true Great Crested Grebes are a good bird to see if you’re looking for a slick mover – they put on such a romantic show you might think you are watching an episode of Strictly! The Dernford Reservoir (near Stapleford) is a good little lockdown walk for bird lovers, you may well see a Grebe and certainly many other birds – many sporting their finest feathers around now.

Winter aconite, primroses, wood anemones and snowdrops are flowering. Frogs and toads may be seen spawning already, if you have ever witnessed this event, you’ll know it is not a sight for the prudish! Butter-yellow Brimstones may flash past at this time, apparently these are the reason butterflies are called as such. Queen buff-tailed and early bumblebees may be seen flying slowly about, seemingly defying the laws of aerodynamics as they dozily crash about. Hazel catkins, rich with pollen hang like little yellow lambs tails – look really closely and you’ll see bright red flowers – the male parts – looking like miniature sea anemones!

After the hardship of winter, a bit of February sunshine is meltingly delicious, relished by all. This is the time you might find an unusual animal basking in a south facing spot, occasionally a deer or a snake may be seen, more likely a dog or a cat, perhaps even granny! Whichever it is you can still enjoy the bliss on their face!

In lockdown, luckily for us, walking and gardening count as exercise and more, we are allowed to do it alongside another. The 2 metre distance is close enough to hear another’s voice; we can help, encourage and support each other. During this time, if you find yourself inspired, research your local gardening or wildlife groups in preparation for when restrictions lift a bit – see list below, please also let me know about other local groups that work outside, including gardening groups with outdoor activities.

If The News makes you despair, move your focus instead to something local, something you can actually affect, even if that is just your garden! And look for opportunities to meet outside, be active and interact with people in your community in a socially distanced way. We’ve got some healing to do and that has to start locally.

Some (not all) local outdoor nature-based volunteer groups for when restrictions lift:

Sarah Ashworth, Designs For Life,

Garden designer and wildlife specialist, Little Shelford

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