I was never really sure when “spring” is meant to start, having just some lumpen idea of it being to do with daffodils generally being around and not needing to put on your big coat as much.

Turns out the cats, yes the cats, are well ahead of us.  Come spring, and I’m being quite serious you understand, pretty much all cats emerge.  Previously curled up into cosy spots indoors, springtime sunshine has literally seen all the neighbourhood moggies stride boldly outside, choose the sunniest spot, and um curl up into cosy spots outdoors.

With the great arrival of the cats comes the greater arrival of lots of welcome colour.  Having been on a chromatic starvation diet over winter, suddenly there’s a happy riot.  And same as all these cats, I’ve emerged too, blinking into the sunlight.

Anyway, like many people, I have a job.  I also have a young family, as well as a whole raft of other stuff going on.  I’m always busy, which is by and large a good way to be.  However right now at work it’s really busy, it always is this time of year, and I’ve noticed I need to unwind.  Mentally power down from the spreadsheets and mad deadline scramble. So, when a friend recently suggested we do a yoga class, I jumped at the chance.  Ok, I panicked a bit about being seen in public in dayglo lycra, and then I jumped at the chance.  It’s a great unwinder, even if our class does happen in the less than Zen superhero themed party room at the local soft play centre (childcare, natch).

Getting in the garden or just outdoors is another very real way to shake off the pressure and … breathe.

So, breathe all the way in, hold it there, and breathe all the way out again. No need for lycra in the garden, but I did consciously Slow. Down. and start to notice things.  If the neighbours were all pointing and laughing, hanging helplessly from their windows at the mad deep breathing lady, I certainly didn’t notice them but I did notice other things:

Ugh. The garden is full of weeds.

Calm descending and gloves donned, nettles were literally grasped.  Calm rapidly gave way at this point, I’ll be honest, to pain and mild blistering. Double-gloved now and grimly determined to chill out, those stingers were ripped out and other weeds sent packing. Right, the mossy bits next.  We have heavy clay here, so the ground is generally wet.  There’s a lot of moss, can’t lie, and I heave out a huge tussock of the stuff.

Oh good. Seems I’ve made a load of bees cross.  I’ve uprooted their mossy home on the ground and – oh, is that the Queen?  She’s most likely commanding her buzzing valets and stings-in-waiting to excommunicate me from the Kingdom as I gawp on, slack jawed.

Gah, if I hadn’t been on a self-imposed mission of business and extreme weeding, had I only listened to my own clamour for calm, the bees would still have a thatched roof over their heads.

So I jack in the weeding and listen.  I did start to notice things now, for real this time.

  • This furry clutch of buzziness nesting in the ground, after some casual research, turns out by my best reckoning to be a variety of carder bee. They sound quite choosy habitat-wise, and some of them are under threat to the point of being vulnerable across Europe so I count myself lucky we have a nest.
  • We have a blackbird nesting in a climbing rose. The female, lighter brown in colour, was holding a bunch of moss in her beak and flapped off amongst the thorns to pad out her abode. Beyond excited.
  • Common blue butterflies, exquisite, jewel-like and just there for the finding if you look.

 

So three things strike me in a neat way that wraps this up by way of a conclusion:

  • Slowing down is good for body, soul and mind. Here’s a starter for ten: www.rspb.org.uk and #GreatBritishBeeCount
  • The concept of ‘weeds’ needs a rebranding exercise. Far from being undesirable or an eyesore, why not see them as part of a diverse habitat in their own right? And if that doesn’t float your boat, *baby animals use them as pillows*. Come on.
  • The irony of a garden snail crunching underfoot is not lost on me as I take ‘nature photos’ for this blog. Even so, plant widely, for nature and diversity and feel the calm wash gently over you.

PS The bees rebuilt the roof.  They’re doing fine.

Got any top nature tips from your own garden?  Don’t be shy.  Tell the world here!

Alison Hooper

I’ve lived in various places from freezing flats in Manchester with just enough room to swing a pot rubber plant, to a Leicester semi which must have held some kind of local record for most concrete used in the garden. That took some digging out.

Now living in Market Harborough with husband Matt and two young daughters. And a cat who shows up for mealtimes.

Gardening neophyte, learning always.

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