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Crowd-sourced spring diary reveals hope of nature in uncertain times

Entries from across the UK were written as the country went into lockdown.

Entries to a crowd-sourced spring diary have been published which reveal how people are finding “hope and solace” in nature amid the current crisis.

The spring nature diary entries were written by members of the public during the first week of the season as the UK went into lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

They include poems and descriptions of spring in woods, gardens and cities, writing about adders, red-tailed bumblebees and red kites as well as traditional sights of spring such as lambs, frogspawn and blossom.

Entrants to the diary are following in the footsteps of writers such as Dorothy Wordsworth who wrote about daffodils
Entrants to the diary are following in the footsteps of writers such as Dorothy Wordsworth who wrote about daffodils (National Trust/PA)

There are reflections on being in self-isolation and the impacts of the pandemic lockdown on people’s local areas, health and family, as well as the flooding that hit parts of the UK earlier in the year.

The spring nature diary, which was launched on March 20 and was open for entries for a week, is the brainchild of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, National Trust and the Land Lines research project into nature writing.

A total of 180 entries were submitted from across the UK, including from children and adults living in both the countryside and towns and cities, who were encouraged to write 150 words on spring.

As well as being published, the diary entries have been woven together into a new piece of nature writing, Hope’s Heart Beats, by Natasha Carthew.

Sheep and lambs at Ickworth, Suffolk
Sheep and lambs at Ickworth, Suffolk (Justin Minns/National Trust/PA)

She 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.”

Magnolia in bloom
Magnolia in bloom is a key sign of spring for many people (Hilary Daniel/National Trust/PA)

Among the entries is one from William Bartlett, from Cardiff, who writes: “You crept in after the floods and waited until the wind blew cold across the worn out river.

“The magnolias amid the mole hills in the cemetery welcome you with a wild display of lightbulbs.  Let’s bury the winter under a canopy of tearful petals.”

Katharine Earnshaw, from Devon, describes a walk in the woods, in which she says: “My son, so much lower than me, stroked the star shaped moss. We were still laughing at the mud when the green of a dip stopped us; everywhere, green.

“He said it was a place for dinosaurs, then I heard it, and we all stood stretching out our ears until it broke again: the purr of beak against wood.

“‘I’ve never heard a woodpecker before’, I whispered, and he shouted ‘Me neither!’ and ran off with a stick older than him, and I hoped that this is the thing he remembers about being five.”