Nature diary entries tell story of extraordinary spring under lockdown in the North West

• Nation’s observations of first week of spring show the ‘solace and hope’ which nature can bring in a time of unprecedented uncertainty
• Hundreds of diary entries brought together in new creative essay by nature writer Natasha Carthew
• Spring Nature Diary is the idea of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, National Trust and the Land Lines research project

Hundreds of diary entries written during the first official week of spring have been published by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and National Trust today as part of a new piece of nature writing which reveals the nation’s observations and feelings about the natural world in unprecedented times. Members of public from Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Lancashire have joined in.

The entries include descriptions of birdsong and blossom by people in self-isolation, sightings of wildlife through windows, and reflections on health and family.

The observations have been brought together in a creative essay by nature writer Natasha Carthew, who said ‘it was important to not only celebrate the arrival of spring, but to capture the nation’s thoughts and fears and include them in a tale of hope and rebirth.’

The Spring Nature Diary is the brainchild of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the National Trust and the Land Lines research project at the University of Leeds.

Nature lovers and budding writers were encouraged to pen 150 words about their observations of the start of spring, as seen in their gardens, through windows or while exercising, before submitting them to a special website.

The initiative was launched on 20 March 2020, the first official day of the season, and closed for entries a week later. A total of 180 entries were submitted.

During that time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced new measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus, urging the public to only leave the house for essential reasons.
Natasha Carthew, whose essay Hope’s Heart Beats is published today, said: “I absolutely loved weaving all the different nature observations into the story, each diary entry was like a found object gifted from folk all over the country and it was a great privilege to be asked to stitch them into the most beautiful tapestry.

“It was really important when writing ‘Hope’s Heart Beats’ to not only celebrate the arrival of spring, but to capture the nation’s thoughts and fears and include them in a tale of hope and rebirth.”

Dr Pippa Marland, from the Land Lines research project, said: “The entrants to this crowd sourced nature diary join a long line of authors who, over the centuries, have celebrated the arrival of spring.

“From Dorothy Wordsworth and Gilbert White to Derek Jarman and Melissa Harrison, nature diarists have evoked the special qualities of this season - the sense of anticipation it instils, as well as the sheer joy of witnessing new life.

“For our contributors, writing about the spring this year has provided solace and hope in a time of unprecedented uncertainty.”

An extract from Natasha Carthew’s essay Hope’s Heart Beats can be found below. The full version can be found on the National Trust’s website: nationaltrust.org.uk/nature-diary
In addition, a selection of diary entries can be found in the notes to editors. A PDF of the complete collection can be downloaded from: nationaltrust.org.uk/nature-diary
An extract from Hope’s Heart Beats by Natasha Carthew

“All the world is reciting a prayer. Gaia puts her ear to the mud wall to catch the jackdaw chatter next door the husband saying today is the day spring equinox after all but the wife won’t have any of it, not until she sees her first butterfly, Brimstone, got to be.

Beneath the girl’s feet down the tree a bit, Mum is in the kitchen reciting her poem, the one that rumbles on about the turn of the earth, her heart pining for the lengthening of the light, but Gaia knows despite her young age that the rain was still in at night she heard the drumroll thud of every winter word stamped out amongst the marsh marigolds, the ones that circled the flats their glow like stepping stones between the patches of foot pooled mud.

In the bathroom she hears her siblings sing today the day that the earth commences its tilt the pull of the sun from its root, his gift of love and heat to everyone, they said it was true, a Mum promise, pinky. She could hear them splash in the organic mineral matter moving like dippers in the bath, their hands playing beneath the plank that was meant for soap but instead held up a sign that shouted ‘Do not move, frog path.’”

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