The scent of spring: The first bees are bumbling among sprays of blossom like fireworks…

Thank goodness that’s over! So long, wettest-February-on-record; good riddance, miserable winter. For the first time in ages, the forecast in some parts of Britain is predicting sun for several days.

The bright months are back again, and how welcome they are. As David Hockney recently put it, in a caption of a painting of butter-golden daffodils created while he is self-isolating in Normandy: ‘Do remember they can’t cancel spring.’

Mares’ tails of cirrus clouds are luminous against the blue. The slow ease of a heron flying down our valley in North Yorkshire promises blossoming days.

Thank you, British climate. It is as though God has opened a new packet of fine weather.

Lammy the woodland lamb smells the daffodils and enjoys the spring sunshine at Temple Newsam House in Leeds, West Yorkshire

Lammy the woodland lamb smells the daffodils and enjoys the spring sunshine at Temple Newsam House in Leeds, West Yorkshire

Lammy the woodland lamb smells the daffodils and enjoys the spring sunshine at Temple Newsam House in Leeds, West Yorkshire

Following the cold and wet weather the country has been left battling over the last few months, spring is now making its appearance

Following the cold and wet weather the country has been left battling over the last few months, spring is now making its appearance

Following the cold and wet weather the country has been left battling over the last few months, spring is now making its appearance

Molly the cockapoo puppy makes leaps through the tall grass in Wales as spring begins to make its arrival to the country

Molly the cockapoo puppy makes leaps through the tall grass in Wales as spring begins to make its arrival to the country

Molly the cockapoo puppy makes leaps through the tall grass in Wales as spring begins to make its arrival to the country 

How we long — and need — to keep calm and carry on. We are all ‘key workers’ in the task of holding our worries down and lifting our spirits up. Now, a fair week is, for many, here to help.

A shower of sunlight (free vitamin D), breaths of the cleanest air this country has known for decades — as there are so few cars on the road — and the sight of the year’s first bees are balms for your soul.

From now on, from the early mornings, those who can will carefully be setting out to see the day.

You may leave the house tense, the fear of the voices in your phone and on the radio still playing in your inner ear.

But as you walk, something wonderful happens. The pace of your steps changes as you find the rhythm of the day. An old soldier once told me: ‘You can walk fear into the ground.’

Bright red flowers make their appearance at Guildford Castle in Surrey on March 20 as the nation prepares itself for a shower of sunshine

Bright red flowers make their appearance at Guildford Castle in Surrey on March 20 as the nation prepares itself for a shower of sunshine

Bright red flowers make their appearance at Guildford Castle in Surrey on March 20 as the nation prepares itself for a shower of sunshine

Pictured: Bright yellow daffodills come out in bloom at Astbury village, Cheshire, as the country braces itself for warmer weather

Pictured: Bright yellow daffodills come out in bloom at Astbury village, Cheshire, as the country braces itself for warmer weather

Pictured: Bright yellow daffodills come out in bloom at Astbury village, Cheshire, as the country braces itself for warmer weather

As spring begins to make its arrival to the UK, people are seen walking under cherry blossom trees in Battersea Park, London

As spring begins to make its arrival to the UK, people are seen walking under cherry blossom trees in Battersea Park, London

As spring begins to make its arrival to the UK, people are seen walking under cherry blossom trees in Battersea Park, London

Pictured: An array of colourful flowers are in bloom at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, West London, as sunshine begins to sweep over the nation

Pictured: An array of colourful flowers are in bloom at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, West London, as sunshine begins to sweep over the nation

Pictured: An array of colourful flowers are in bloom at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, West London, as sunshine begins to sweep over the nation

We live near Hebden Bridge. A great tit, immaculate in lemon, grey and black, surveyed our family. He was thinking of starting his own.

A mile of track brought us out into wide sky and the tufted roof of the Pennine Moors. ‘Curlews!’ I exclaimed, ‘Hear them? That bubbling cry?’ A pair crossed the valley below us, twisting through the wind.

Why do birdwatchers love their hobby? While you study birds you are in their world — the full, real world, a place of pure existence.

Here, there are no clocks, no dates and no headlines, only the momentary and eternal time of the wild. Birds transport you. The effect works in a garden, in a park and even through your window if you are forced to stay in.

And how the birds are loving these fresh, glowing days. We saw lapwings cartwheeling, jackdaws spiralling, oystercatchers and gulls visiting from the coast.

Pictured: Walkers and visitors enjoy the colourful flowers that are in bloom at Hampton Court, London on March 20

Pictured: Walkers and visitors enjoy the colourful flowers that are in bloom at Hampton Court, London on March 20

Pictured: Walkers and visitors enjoy the colourful flowers that are in bloom at Hampton Court, London on March 20 

Pictured: A man walks past some blooming magnolias at the Lukelands Garden near Ivybridge, Devon, as spring makes its arrival to the country

Pictured: A man walks past some blooming magnolias at the Lukelands Garden near Ivybridge, Devon, as spring makes its arrival to the country

Pictured: A man walks past some blooming magnolias at the Lukelands Garden near Ivybridge, Devon, as spring makes its arrival to the country

Spring daffodils and cherry blossom begin to make their arrival in Hampton Court, London, as the country prepares itself for sunshine

Spring daffodils and cherry blossom begin to make their arrival in Hampton Court, London, as the country prepares itself for sunshine

Spring daffodils and cherry blossom begin to make their arrival in Hampton Court, London, as the country prepares itself for sunshine

Swans swim across the the River Severn in Worcester as the nation begins to warm up and spring makes its arrival

Swans swim across the the River Severn in Worcester as the nation begins to warm up and spring makes its arrival

Swans swim across the the River Severn in Worcester as the nation begins to warm up and spring makes its arrival 

In the cities you will see wood pigeons, iridescent starlings and sparrows, all keeping the appropriate social distance from you.

There are lambs in the fields, shaky with the novelty of every moment. As they grow and strengthen, they will run races in the evenings and play king-of-the-castle on molehills.

In these worrying times, try to look at the world as they see it, with plum trees, thorns and magnolia setting off sprays of blossom like fireworks.

Magpies are building in the taller trees, stitching little forts of twigs. ‘A magpie flies like a frying pan!’ wrote T. H. White, author of The Once And Future King.

I think of all magpies as good-luck charms, for you never see one alone. If you do, the other is hiding: count each as half a joy.

You never know what a walk will bring. A piebald shire horse leaned over a fence and our little boy stroked her nose. The look of joy on our son’s face and the patient affection of the mare were profoundly beautiful.

It was a gentle, ancient contact between strangers, part of the friendship between humans and horses that is 6,000 years old and will endure as long as we do. Hikers in the lanes are nodding and smiling at each other as never before.

Pictured: People walk across spring Daffodils and magnolia in Hampton Court as spring makes its arrival to the UK

Pictured: People walk across spring Daffodils and magnolia in Hampton Court as spring makes its arrival to the UK

Pictured: People walk across spring Daffodils and magnolia in Hampton Court as spring makes its arrival to the UK

As the new warmth falls on your face and sets the grass glowing, you can almost believe sunlight has a scent. The rough fields give up a smell of mud and sedge, green-gold, earthy and reedy. It is the tang of the turning of the year, the return of colour and hope.

For those inside our cities, a view lit by the sun, trees bright with buds and the glitter of the sky are blessings now. You can hear the dawn chorus in the early morning, instead of the grate of traffic.

You do not need to head for the coast, for the national parks or for beauty spots to collect some of the treasures of this spring.

Moss on a wall, a lance of sunlight, a shadow blueing, a chaffinch singing: these are the gifts of life.

We returned from our walk philosophical. My favourite proverb, from Finland, is useful when I’m outside and in. ‘Don’t jump before you reach the ditch!’

What does it mean? Fear only makes the bad seem worse. If we are careful, the advice is that we can still go out.

Let us relish it all while we can. Beauty and consolation surround us. The swallows will come back, and the swifts will return. The days will warm with the light.

We can live only in days, and days as bright as these are godsends. Look up. Smile. Greet the spring.

 

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