March is here and with it spring has finally arrived. Here is our monthly column from Andrew Mather of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

It has been a testing long winter with lockdown restrictions being in place for what seems like an age as well as many frosty sub-zero days which, whilst bringing benefits and their own beauty, are challenging for us humans and wildlife alike.

As I write though there is a stillness in the air and some gentle sunshine which lifts the soul.

With the longer warmer days finally here hibernating creatures such as hedgehogs and frogs are stirring from their long winter dormancy and preparing for the serious task of finding a mate.

Birds such as chiffchaffs are arriving from Africa looking for nesting sites and competing with many other species that have overwintered here for twigs and mosses to construct this year’s nests.

If you remain still in a green space it will not take long before you become aware of the flurry of activity taking place as our feathered friends engage with perhaps their busiest time of the year.

As you take your daily walk be aware of which trees and shrubs are first coming into leaf. One of the first is the Hawthorn.

This tree, which is the most common hedging plant in the UK, will start producing light green leaves this month which at this stage of their growth are actually edible for human consumption.

Their leaf production is one way of telling them apart from the Blackthorn, another common hedging plant famous for its sloes, which can produce its white blossom this month before its own leaves arrive later in the spring.

We hear so much disturbing news about nature and wildlife being in crisis it is easy to feel disturbed, powerless and even overwhelmed.

A response that serves us, and the natural world upon which we depend, better, is one of action. One of the best things you can do for your local wildlife is to put a pond in your garden or yard. Access to water is incredibly useful for a huge range of species from birds to insects and amphibians.

If you do not have a lot of space or access to earth in which to dig down into you can still achieve this by using an old sink or even a washing up bowl. Just place some stones within it to ensure creatures can get in and out as well as have somewhere to perch when taking a drink – this interestingly applies to bees as well as birds.

You will be amazed how quickly nature will take hold of this new habitat.

Another action that can bring benefit to nature and wildlife as well as ourselves is to grow something. This could be native flowers that offer us beauty and feed for insects that are so important to the eco-system, or herbs and vegetables which we can produce ourselves rather than buying them from far flung corners of the globe.

There is no such thing as not having green fingers. Anyone can grow something as long as they have the right information to ensure they give a plant the right soil and enough sun and water. March is a perfect time to start planting and sowing seeds.

Why not start out with some mint and spinach for the kitchen and nasturtium flowers for the yard and the local bees.

I encourage you all to use peat free compost in your growing. Too little information is shared regarding the importance of peatlands in the fight against climate change and flooding. Per hectare peat stores more carbon than a forest and the UK is 12% peat with Darwen Moor being a local example of this unique habitat.     

Those of you who would like some support with starting out as a grower are very welcome to come down to our new project at the greenhouses in Witton Park, Blackburn starting later this spring to learn and share with others – feel free to get in touch with us for more information –

Enjoy March.