10 ways to leap into spring

At last the season is upon us. So to celebrate, Kate Finnigan has come up with some of the best - and greenest - ways to enjoy the great outdoors
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The Independent Online

This month, thousands of spring flowers are exploding in a riot of colour in gardens, local parks and woodland across the country. While the Lake District shows off its host of golden daffodils, Bulb Mania is in full throttle at the Eden Project, where waves of narcissi are about to give way to an ocean of 400,000 deep blue hyacinths. At the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, the Spring Festival has started. Daffodils, Chionodoxa siehei and Scilla siberica are currently flowering, but to find out what will be blooming next weekend go to Kew's online Bulb Watch (details below). You can also visit the National Trust website for details of Spring Flower walks and planted garden displays across NT properties.

The Eden Project (01726 811911; www.edenproject.com) ; Kew Gardens (020-8332 5655; www.rgbkew.org.uk); National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk)


Build a stone wall, construct a boardwalk, plant some trees: the charity BTCV's countrywide network of "green gym" events and activities not only helps to protect local green spaces but will also get you fit. The Trust's annual Spring Into Action campaign kicks off on 1 May and continues until 7 June, and has hundreds of coppicing, pond-digging, step-building and path-laying vacancies to fill around the country. Find your local event on the website below.

BTCV (www.btcv.org.uk)


See British agriculture at work by visiting a farm for the day. Charles Davis at Gorstage Green Farm in Northwich, Cheshire, will show you how to milk the cows and stack bales at his Farmer 4 a Day guided tours (£60 for half a day). The Soil Association's website has a list of organic farms that are open to the public, and ones that offer family farm trails, shops and accommodation.

And with 59 city farms in the UK, urbanites need not feel left out. The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens has details of activities in your area.

Farmer 4 a Day (01606 853193; www.farmer4aday.co.uk); Soil Association (0117-314 5000; www.soilassociation.org); FCFCG (0117-923 1800; www.farmgarden.org.uk)


Become a phenologist and help the BBC's Springwatch campaign to build up information about the season by looking out for six species, including red-tailed bumblebees, frog-spawn, and swifts. Observations are being sent in to the BBC at a staggering rate of one every two minutes, with 800 logs per day. It's accessible to everyone - you can even record your sightings via mobile phone.

Springwatch (www.bbc.co.uk/nature/ animals/wildbritain/springwatch)


What's wrong with staying at home anyway? It's not like there's nothing to do. Why not clear out your junk, socialise and get yourself something new into the bargain by hosting a clothes, toy or general junk swapping party? Invite your friends to bring over their cast-offs and exchange away. One man's trash is another man's treasure and all that.

For more green living ideas, go to the Friends of the Earth website (www.foe.co.uk/living)


...or plant. Or walk beneath. Or climb, even. The Mighty Oak Tree Climbing Company in Cornwall teaches technical tree climbing (ie with ropes and harnesses) to individuals and groups for prices ranging from £120 for three hours. They also offer tree-top camping, where you get to sleep in a hammock or tree boat at the top of your tree. (Groups of two or more will pay from £140 per person.)

If that sounds too vertiginous, you might prefer a weekend under the trees instead. Center Parcs has four holiday villages with self-catering accommodation based in UK woodland: Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Elveden Forest, Suffolk, Longleat Forest, Wiltshire, and Whinfell Forest in Penrith. A two-bedroom comfort villa at Elveden Forest, sleeping up to four people, starts at £379for a three-night weekend break.

Or why not plant a tree? The Ancient Wisdom collection at www.tree2mydoor.co.uk comprises more than 25 native trees - including crab apple, ash and rowan - which can be delivered to your home. If you don't have any space of your own, you could help a community project by joining in a public tree planting. See the Woodland Trust website for information on upcoming events.

If all this sounds too much like hard work, and you simply fancy a woodland walk, the Forestry Commission website has general information on trails, walks and activities at a forest near you.

Last but not least, if you go down to the woods in May, you'll just be in time for the Tree Council's Walk in the Woods festival, where bluebell walks, dawn choruses, tree trails and, of course, teddy bears' picnics will all be on the agenda.

The Mighty Oak Tree Climbing Company (01637 880466; www.mighty-oak.co.uk); Center Parcs (0870 520 0300; www.centreparcs.co.uk); Woodland Trust (www.woodlandtrust.org.uk); Forestry Commission (www.forestry.gov.uk/activewoods); Tree Council (www.treecouncil.org.uk)


Attract more wildlife to your garden. Here are English Nature's five starter steps:

n Make a pond. Bodies of water - even very small ones - are wonderful for wildlife. Short of space? Try placing a container, such as an old enamel or china sink, in your garden. Remember to add a few stones at one end, so that frogs and toads can climb out easily.

n Plant native shrubs or trees. Flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs provide a source of food and shelter for small mammals and birds.

n Choose plants that offer nectar and pollen. Go for old cottage garden plants, and avoid those with complex flowers. Generally speaking, the more complex or highly bred the flower, the less it will have to offer bees, butterflies and other insects.

n You can make your garden more attractive to birds by providing them with a wide range of food - the greater the choice, the more species you're likely to see. If you have a cat, put a bell on its collar to alert birds.

n Leave a small pile of logs in the corner of your garden. Decaying logs in a quiet, shady corner will provide a home for a wide range of insects and mammals, such as hedgehogs. Ideally, some of the logs should be upright and partially buried in the earth.



Have at least one car-free day this weekend and opt for travelling by public transport instead. Even better, cycle, skate or walk.

Fancy a ramble? The Ramblers' Association walk finder will find your nearest group and weekend walk, whether you're in the city or country, an adult alone or a family with young children. Simply enter your postcode. Non-RA members can usually join in at least two walks before deciding if they want to join.

If you'd rather be on two wheels, the award-winning travel company Country Lanes has cycle centres in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty in the New Forest, Yorkshire Dales and Lake District. Enjoy them for from £14 per person.

Want to be by the water? You'll find scores of ideas for urban and rural walking and cycling trips by canals, lakes and rivers at the holiday provider Waterscape.com.

Its current cycling route of the month is the scenic Rutland Water - spot rare wildlife and get fit at the same time.

Ramblers' Association (020-7339 8500; www.ramblers.org.uk); Country Lanes (www.countrylanes.co.uk); Waterscape.com (www.waterscape.com)


The online ethical travel agent www.responsibletravel.com is currently offering short whale- watching breaks to the Isle of Mull. Explore the remote land- and seascapes of Scotland's west coast - and watch for whales, dolphins, puffins, gannets and razorbills - for from £495 per person for five days (excluding flights). Day cruises around the isle are also available from £60 per person.

Responsible Travel (01273 666612; www.responsibletravel.com)


Sustainable living starts here. Even if you haven't got a garden and your window ledges are the irritating kind that aren't wide enough to hold a window box, you can still grow something. A sunny window sill is the ideal spot for growing things from seed - try pots of kitchen herbs or leaves such as rocket. After one home-grown salad, you'll have the bug.