After a long, hard winter, the sights, sounds and scents of spring in the UK will come as a welcome relief for many people. Over this weekend, amateur nature writers across the country are being encouraged to document their feelings and record sightings of flora and fauna of the new season.
The observations will be collected by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the National Trust, then woven into a new poem by the nature writer Elizabeth-Jane Burnett.
As part of a similar project last year, housebound contributors, young and old, wrote in praise of the signs of spring glimpsed through windows or from balconies during the first coronavirus lockdown, while others focused on the birds, the bees and the unfurling leaves spotted during outings for permitted exercise.
There were recurring themes: the joy of birdsong, the pleasure of a surprise encounter with a frog, butterfly or deer. There were vivid descriptions of kingfishers, of soaring birds of prey and paths flanked by wild garlic.
The Cornish nature writer Natasha Carthew went through the entries and used them as inspiration for a new story of her own, Hope’s Heart Beats.
A year on, organisers are fascinated to find out if feelings towards nature and perceptions of the changing season have changed.
Tom Freshwater, the National Trust’s head of partnerships and programming, said the spring equinox, which falls on Saturday, was always a turning point in the calendar. “But this year’s feels more eagerly awaited than ever,” he said. “The blossom, the warmer days and the shoots of new life remind us that there are better things to come.
“Nature has been a quiet but constant part of our lives among all the uncertainty of the past 12 months, and I think we will see that reflected in people’s observations.
“We’d like people to tell us what they’re seeing and feeling on the first day of the new season. You don’t have to be a writer or a poet to get involved – you can simply share a few words, a short story, or even a photo.”
This year observations are being encouraged from people’s gardens, in local parks, out in the countryside, or even through windows, so those who are self-isolating can still take part.
Kristine Zaidi, associate director of programmes at AHRC, said she hoped the project would prompt people to reflect about their relationships with nature. “It is more important than ever that initiatives like this renew our focus on the human relationship with the natural world,” she said.
Burnett said she was comforted last year by David Hockney’s vibrant iPad image of daffodils called Do remember they can’t cancel the spring.
She said: “This work was a balm at a time when it was really needed and I think that there is an opportunity here to do something similar, on some scale, with text. The fact that multiple voices will inform the poem is exciting and a way of celebrating the positive ways we can pull together in community.”
People can take part by posting a comment on the National Trust’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 March 2021.