Springing forward

Posted Mar 2 2018, 1:45 am in , , , , , ,

When February slips into March and, irrespective of whether the new month comes in like a lion (as it has for my friends in the UK), or a lamb (here in the Rideau Valley), it’s the time of year when my thoughts always turn to my life in England.

Although there are many things I love about Canada, since I spent almost twenty years “across the pond” and am a dual national, England will always be my second home and have a special place in my heart.

I miss England most in springtime. British poets have long celebrated spring for good reason. There is a gentle and timeless quality to springtime in England I haven’t found anywhere else.

From the first snowdrops in February, to crocuses and daffodils in March, and then bluebells in the woodland in April and May, the English spring follows a slow and steady progression. In an often tumultuous world, I find this annual constancy both comforting and reassuring.

After months of darkness and rainy winter days, the return of the dawn chorus is also cause for celebration. Although Tech Guy bemoaned the cuckoo that called as regularly as an alarm clock outside our bedroom window from four-thirty in the morning onwards, it was an annual sign that spring was truly on its way.

Springtime is also a special season in England’s gardens, parks and historic properties, many of which reopen to visitors at this time of year.

One of my favourite places is Greys Court, a Tudor country house and gardens in the care of the National Trust and near the famous rowing centre, Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.

From March through May, we visited Greys Court almost weekly to savour the sights and scents of the different spring flowers as they came into bloom.

We also often went there on Mothering Sunday (British Mother’s Day, this year on 10 March) for a walk in the grounds followed by a scrumptious afternoon tea.

In Canada, spring is a much brasher—and more rapid affair.

Where I now live in Eastern Ontario, spring often seems like a comma between a harsh winter and hot summer. It’s not unusual to go from wearing mittens and a parka one day to shorts and a sun top the next.

Along with collecting the sap in the maple trees (to make sweet maple syrup and other treats), spring here is also synonymous with “pothole season,” a consequence of warm days and cold nights when water freezes under roadways and causes them to crack. The only beneficiaries of this significant driving hazard are car repair shops who count on an uptick in business at this time of year.

For gardeners, the spring planting is also much later here than it is in England with the frost-free growing season usually starting around 23 May.

No matter where or when I mark it, though, spring is always a time of happy firsts.

The welcome warmth of the sun on my face after a cold winter. 

A return to flip-flops and pedicures in place of boots and closed-toe shoes. 

And the day when winter tires can finally be swapped for summer ones. 

Along with more hours of daylight, there’s also shopping for new spring clothes, the return of geese to local waterways, and ice cream time when seasonal stands reopen.

Although March can begin—and end—with a snowy reminder of winter’s bite, as we start these months of renewal, I wish you your own springtime joys and fresh starts—whatever they may mean. 

And for my North American and other non-UK readers who may be tempted to visit England this spring, here are some links to get you started:

Britain in springtime

Visit England – spring holidays



8 responses to “Springing forward”

  1. Dorine Fowke says:

    This is lovely, Jen. I’ve experienced a bit of spring across the pond, But I wonder, if spring in south eastern Ontario is a comma, what is it on the Prairies? An explanation point?!

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you, Dorine. Your comment made me chuckle. Yes, I think an exclamation point might indeed be appropriate for the Prairie spring…especially if it came complete with a tornado warning!

  2. Heidi Vanstone says:

    Like many of your readers, we too are anxiously awaiting the “real” arrival of spring. Although it was warm enough for our son to wear shorts yesterday, boots and mittens were the order of the morning as we prepared to leave the house earlier today. Only in Canada can we have such weather extremes!

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Warm wishes for what I hope are the final weeks of winter, Heidi. English Rose is most envious that your son was able to wear shorts for at least one day. We’re not there yet here!

  3. Tara says:

    I think we might be experiencing a Canadian spring in the UK at the moment. No sign of the daffs yet, at least where I live (especially with the snow we’ve had this week). I’m hoping it will be gone soon. I don’t know how you cope with so much of the white stuff!

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      The UK weather reports have been alarming, Tara. I hope all the snow is now melting. Here in Canada, we may not like having months of “white stuff” but we at least have the infrastructure to help us cope with it more easily. Wishing you fields of lovely daffodils soon.

  4. What a lovely and timely blog post, Jen. As I write, the UK has been blasted by both the Beast From the East and Storm Emma and the TV news reports are filled with pictures of deep snow and stranded vehicles. Spring has definitely been put on hold over here, so your post with its reminders of spring-flowering bulbs and the opening of our lovely old houses and gardens to the public is most welcome.

    In response to Tech Guy’s lack of enthusiasm for the cuckoo’s contribution to the dawn chorus, I have to tell you that living by the sea, you always hope in the spring that your roof won’t be one of the ones chosen by this year’s nesting seagulls. Seagulls do a clog dance on the roof-tiles at 5 o’clock every morning. Not the way I want to be woken up!

    Sending good wishes to you and all your readers over in Canada and wishing you all a happy and mild springtime.

    PS I notice that you managed to give ice cream a mention…

    • Jen Gilroy says:

      Thank you, Sue. I’m so pleased you enjoyed this post. I hope you see signs of spring very soon. I’ve certainly been watching the British weather reports with concern.

      I also hope you aren’t one of the ‘lucky ones’ chosen by this year’s seagulls!

      And of course I mentioned ice cream…although I managed to refrain from including a picture of the ‘open for the season’ sign that has just appeared on one of our local ice cream shops!

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