Lighter evenings, bright flowers and gambolling baby animals are images we dream about for months on end as cold weather and rain keep us indoors and under the duvet.
As we race toward the spring equinox and its promise of longer days, thoughts turn to neglected gardens in need of a spruce, chocolate eggs ending 40 days of fasting and, of course, roast spring lamb.
Spring is the season which brings everyone out of the winter slump, encouraging us to get back outside and enjoying nature again as scarves and gloves make their way back into the cupboard.
This newfound positivity has a scientific basis – and it’s not just the prospect of a mountain of hot crossed buns and Easter eggs which gets people smiling.
The increased hours of daylight and sunshine, which start to be really noticeable after the clocks spring forward on the last Sunday of March, have a profound effect on the mood of most people, says Dr Laura Hyman.
Dr Hyman, principal lecturer in sociology at the University of Portsmouth, explains: ‘Many of us look forward to the start of spring after enduring a few months of winter.
‘Western cultures generally promote biological or scientific understandings of happiness, whereby we are encouraged to think of our feelings as being shaped by the natural environment – for instance by the weather or by hours of light or darkness.’
Westerners generally associate darkness with misery and light, and sunshine with happiness or pleasure. Indeed, some people who have too much darkness and not enough light can fall ill– and may receive a diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) says Dr Hyman.
She adds: ‘Of course, once spring has arrived and we have more hours of light in each day, many of us are more inclined to spend more time outdoors –which is another thing that is proven to make us feel good.’
This opportunity to get out into nature is something which excites most people, but perhaps none more so than the many gardeners who work to beautify our local landscape.
Green-fingered members of Southsea Green will be out in force during the next few months to watch the season unfold in their garden near Canoe Lake, with newts and frogspawn in the pond and birds nesting in the hedgerows.
Volunteer Vanessa Goldbert says: ‘Spring for gardeners is almost the equivalent of new year, it’s the start of everything getting going, the time of sowing seeds, planting out and an abundance of fresh new growth all round.
‘It’s such a busy time for us all, there are never enough seed trays or spaces in plots for all we’d love to grow, so many possibilities!
‘For me spring is a gardener’s spirit season, a time when magic starts to happen. It’s the season that starts it all, and it teaches us all so much.
‘When you sow those tiny seeds, with a little warmth, moisture and faith they grow and it never fails to amaze me how such wonderful things can be produced from something so tiny.’
Keen volunteers can get involved with the spring activities at the group’s open garden events which take place on the first Saturday of the month to keep the area looking fresh and adding to the city’s spring beauty.
‘Portsmouth really awakens in spring, those first buds appearing on trees and air filled with bird song is such a relief after winter,’ adds Vanessa.
‘Milton Common is a favourite spot to see the season unfold, butterflies, coastal birds and wildflowers a plenty.’
Spring is one of the busiest and most important periods of the Christian calendar with Lent and Easter, and the special church services and events which surround these dates.
A particular focus during this year’s Lent for the Diocese of Portsmouth has been the environment and combating climate change, in line with the Church of England.
The bishop and his senior staff are sharing a different practical action every day during the religious observance to encourage people to preserve God’s planet, for example having a regular meat-free Monday or buying secondhand clothing.
When Lent ends on Good Friday, for some it’s a great a four-day bank holiday. However for many it symbolises the sacrifice Jesus made before being resurrected on Easter Sunday – with plenty of ceremonies and events to celebrate this throughout the city.
Perhaps less well known are some spring traditions which date back even further than this religious celebration – with pagan symbolism to be seen everywhere when spring has sprung.
Ancient pagans celebrated Ostara, whose mythical name comes from the Germanic goddess Eostre, traditionally celebrated and honoured during the month of April.
Eostre is the goddess of rebirth and fertility hence the symbolism of Easter eggs, hares, rabbits, chicks and lambs.
Victoria Melluish runs pagan events and decoration workshops at Butser Ancient Farm, near Waterlooville, and is hoping to expand their events from the Celtic Wheel of the Year to include Ostara celebrations.
‘It’s important because it’s an ancient farm, these are the kind of traditions these people would have had. It’s in our DNA so it allows people to really get into it,’ explains Victoria.
‘The main thing to take from it is fertility and rebirth – it’s all about making the most out of the spring goodies that nature provides.’
These are testing times but with spring around the corner, nature, at least, is full of hope and new beginnings.
What to see and where
As spring bursts into life across the area, there are plenty of beautiful places to visit and make the most of the new season.Flowers will be in bloom at many beauty spots, and getting out into nature for a walk will be top of many people’s lists of spring activities.One popular bluebell walk around the Holywell Estate, Swanmore, will be open to visitors with pre-bought tickets on April 25 and 26, to wander around the river meadows and parklands.Tulip enthusiasts will flock to Arundel Castle from April 1 to see more than 60,000 blooms in the castle’s gardens, creating an explosion of colour planted in an array of unique designs.Easter activities at Butser Ancient Farm will include a springtime trail and the opportunity to meet plenty of newborn baby lambs.From April 4 to 19, the farm will be open and visitors can even get the chance for a sneak peek at the top secret 2020 design of their Wickerman, and Saxons from Herigeas Hundas will be holding demonstrations over the Easter weekend.Plenty of baby animals will be born at Staunton Country Park this season, and visitors are invited to enjoy a woodland discovery at Staunton Farm on April 6, 8 or 16.This will involve an adventure in the woods, playing and competing in a variety of games and challenges, with a snack cooked on the fire.Take a walk around Portsmouth and Southsea for the ultimate sign of spring – beautiful daffodils bursting from verges around the city.
News from Portsmouth, The News