The skies are becoming bluer, the winter coats can be stored away, and the sounds of birds finding loved ones is flooding to your ears which can only mean one thing – spring is here! The most optimistic of the seasons, spring brings the promise of longer, brighter days. With nature shaking off its sleepy winter habits, there are plenty of ways to engage with animals both at home and away. Even if you live in the hustle and bustle of our overcrowded capital, London.
With a reputation for grey skies and bad odours, London isn’t often associated with engaging with nature, but if you’re a resident, there are options for you (if you can spend the large amount of time taken to travel anywhere in the city). To start with, London does have some lovely parks: Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath spring to mind, especially the latter which also holds Golders Hill Park. At the Park are a zoo and butterfly house, providing a chance to see animals that you won’t find out on the city streets. My favourite London park remains Greenwich Park, which houses the famous Royal Observatory where, for an entrance fee, you can spend your time learning about time and, most excitedly, stand across the Prime Meridian. But Greenwich park itself holds natural treasures too, in deer and squirrels and a seemingly endless supply of dogs out for walkies.
If you’re able and willing to spend more money for not just a day out but an educational one, the Field Studies Council offers a range of day courses based in different parks. Courses cover topics such as birdwatching to urban plant identification and moth trapping. For a special event, be it a birthday or anniversary, the day courses could be a grand idea for a nature-appreciating couple. There’s also a surprisingly large number of farms in London (at least, ‘large’ for such a developed, concrete city). The most famous of them is Hackney City Farm; north-east out of the city centre, the farm prides itself on having provided locals, especially families with children, with an inner-city farm experience for over two decades.
Nature can also be engaged with at home, albeit easier to do so with a back garden. If you do have a back garden, most pet stores will have an abundance of gear specifically for helping wildlife at home. Bird feeders remain the most obvious, as they are the easiest way to attract wild visitors. However, make sure to check what sort of bird seed you’re buying – not all seed is appropriate for all seasons, nor all birds. Also, diseases among our feathered friends are often spread via bird feeders, so make sure you add washing your feeder to your to-do list every now and then. If you’re in a flat, maybe you could have a feeder on your balcony if you have one? There are bird feeders that attach to windows, but sticking one onto a sixth floor apartment wouldn’t be the best idea, as no one on the street would be particularly pleased to have a bird feeder fall on their head by accident.
This is all only scratching the surface of how to enjoy spring in London, and a quick internet search could help you find more wonders. Spring is by far my favourite season of the year, and hopefully you are excited to enjoy it, too. Make sure you use the warmer (yet not scorching) days to get out and engage with nature close to home. Of course, spring is also the season for rain showers, so it’s probably best to take a brolly along, just in case.
Words by Olly Dove
Olly recently completed her MSc. in Taxonomy and Biodiversity at ICL and the Natural History Museum.