Winning tip: Signs of renewal, Bath
Clusters of cotton, amethyst and mustard sprout proud from the morning dew; crocuses thrive above ground as the harsh winter sun gives way to a blinding dawn of new; a sign from Mother Nature that the seasons are changing. This delicate flower is a symbol of hope, change and vitality despite the interminable lockdown. Soon the manicured lawns of Bath’s Royal Victoria Park will be awash with colour as these delicate blossoms take root, a reminder that after the storms we’ve weathered, life will return in abundance to this sparse Eden, just as light will soon return to our lives.
A floral mosaic in machair meadows, North Uist
Machair is a rare and precious form of dune grassland found in the Outer Hebrides, built on the fragments of seashells laid down over thousands of years. Every spring at Balranald there blooms a mosaic of flora: dancing daisies, golden buttercups, and the purples and pinks of clover and cranesbill. Threatened bird species benefit from this unique habitat, including chough, corn bunting and the elusive corncrake, filling the air with the rasping call that sounds like its Latin name, Crex crex. I can’t wait!
Bursting into blossom, Nottingham
Nottingham Arboretum has some stunning blossom in March and April. There are more than 800 trees and 65 species but the pink and white blossoms dotted around the undulating grounds are just magnificent and leave a confetti of petals on the ground. There are also a number of listed structures and statues here, as well as an aviary, a duck pond, a bandstand and a cafe. It’s the oldest public park in Nottingham, opened in 1852, and the closest to the city centre – and it’s free to visit.
Timeless serenity among the graves, west London
Not far from the crowded parks of Gunnersbury and Walpole, South Ealing cemetery is a corner of timeless serenity. There’s a woodland feel to the old graveyard. In early spring the ground gleams bright with thousands of purple crocuses, interrupted by subtle drifts of snowdrops. Bluebells emerge later in the season. Wait until early evening and go for a wander among the gravestones and carved angels, all softened by time and moss and golden light. The air is hushed, then cut with sharp birdsong and the exuberance of new life.
A glorious field of hope, Liverpool
A million daffodils were planted in the Field of Hope by the Marie Curie charity. Take a short walk from the car park in the south-east corner of Sefton Park and you are soon beguiled by the sight: they are beside the lake and beneath the trees, a scintillating saffron spread giving hope in spring. Some early-flowering species have been planted elsewhere in the park, so blooms will lift your spirits from late January through to April. Hope springs here, only two miles from Liverpool city centre.
Glory illuminated, east London
A hidden gem of nature in London is Wanstead Park, a 140-acre, Grade II-listed park with tranquil woodlands and ornamental lakes, landscaped as a magnificent garden for Wanstead House in the 1700s. Though the mansion is long gone, splendour is easily found elsewhere, and nowhere more so than for a brief spell every spring in the park’s Chalet Woods. This small, unassuming patch of woodland unveils a dense carpet of bluebells during April, becoming stunningly illuminated with the rising or setting sun streaming through the canopy above.
Path of wonders, Pembrokeshire
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path in south Wales – particularly north of St Davids – is a wonderful place to view spring flowers. At the sides of the footpath are the most beautiful primroses, daffodils, thrift, sea campions, cowslips and sea holly. There’s also a superb array of bird life to enjoy, including red kites and choughs. It is a spectacular stretch of coastline.
None more blue, Surrey
The bluebells at Staffhurst Woods (a Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve) near Oxted are joyous from mid-April – every time you think you have reached peak blue you turn a corner and discover yet more swathes. Make sure you try both sides of the wood (a road runs through the middle).
Pilgrimage to a place of peace, Warwickshire
Each year I make a spring pilgrimage to St Michael’s church, linked by an ancient lane to the National Trust’s moated house at Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire. Its delight is in greenly golden daffodils, but snowdrops also grace the graves as sun streams through the fuzz now softening the trees. There is peace, and the past, and the promise of perpetuity.
Uplifting colours and scents, Warwickshire
For a truly captivating experience, explore Coughton Court near Alcester, in springtime. The award-winning gardens come to life as flowers peek through the earth and blossom begins to adorn the trees. As buds awaken from their slumber, joyful daffodils burst into the sunlight; the perfume of apple blossom caresses the air and the slumbering ferns begin to unfurl. A murmur of movement arouses the senses as a kaleidoscope of insects dance in nature’s playground. It uplifts the soul and fills the heart with pleasure.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010