April 01, 2018

April is a month of sunshine, showers and the legend of the Easter Bunny.  

It finally feels like spring.

Skies are just starting to be blue more than grey, buds are appearing on the trees and it’s nesting season with blackbirds singing a chorus at dawn.

The sunshine greets us when we wake; there’s Easter to look forward to with a glorious 4-day weekend and the world just seems like a happier place to be.

It’s a month to get outside with our wellies on, climb trees and find egg shells on the ground.  To open our eyes and see.

Spring is in full bloom, and England is alive with the sights, sounds and smells of new life.

There certainly is a lot to see, do and celebrate, so fling open the windows and let the freshness of April fill your home.

 

Birthstone

If you were born in April, your birthstone is the most precious jewel of them all: the diamond. With its name meaning “invincible”, the diamond is the hardest substance on earth, and it is said to bring peace and protection to the wearer.

The diamond symbolises everlasting love, which is why it is the most popular choice of stone for engagement rings.

Birth flowers

April’s birth flowers are the daisy and the sweet pea. The cheerful daisy is a flower we all love from childhood. Known for its bright yellow centre surrounded by a fringe of white petals, it symbolises innocence and purity. When given to someone else, it means you will always keep their secrets.

The sweet pea is renowned for its beautiful perfume and array of brightly coloured blooms in white, pink, purple, red and yellow. It symbolises pleasure, and can also be given as a parting gift.

Interesting Days:

Although we can still expect frost and showers for a good two months yet, April is usually a month when we can start to get out and about with plenty of sunshine to warm our days. 

Lucky really, because there’s a lot going on:

  1. April 1 st is April Fool’s Day, otherwise known as All Fools Day.

Celebrated throughout Britain and Europe since Medieval times, April Fool’s Day is a time for playing jokes and tricks on your friends and family. Be sure to get your pranks in before midday though, otherwise you are the fool!

  1. Palm Sunday is the 6 th Sunday of Lent and falls on the 14 th. It marks the start of Holy week; the Day Christians celebrate Christ entered Jerusalem on a Donkey and the 7 days leading to Easter Sunday.  In the middle ages, people often referred to Palm Sunday as Fig Sunday as it was a day when figs were traditionally added to meals or deserts.
  2. It’s Good Friday on the 19 th and the Day when Christians remember the crucifixion of Jesus. As one of the oldest Christian Holy Days, it is a public holiday all over the UK.
  3. Easter Sunday this year falls on April 21 st and really is the most important holy day in the Christian calendar. Easer Sunday sees most of the UK commemorating the resurrection of Christ.  Easter is also celebrated as a secular holiday in the UK, with Easter egg hunts, hot cross buns and chocolate eggs given as gifts.
  4. Easter Sunday is closely followed by another Bank Holiday on Monday the 22 nd, celebrating Easter Monday.
  5. April 21 st marks Queen Elizabeth the II’s real birthday (as appose to her official birthday on the 5 th of June) and is celebrated at events at several London landmarks, including The Tower of London.
  6. We have St George’s Day on the 23 rd with parades and church services up and down the country celebrating the Patron Saint of England. This is a huge event for UK Scouting, so expect to see lots of children parading in their neatly pressed uniforms.
  7. Finally, the 30 th of May is also known as May Day Eve. Not so well known today, In the middle ages, May Day’s Eve was traditionally a day when people would go out to collect flowers and other decorations ready for celebrations on the 1 st of May, marking the start of the summer season.

Birds and Animals

April is birthing season, and English farms are welcoming new lambs and calves into the world. If you are in the countryside, you might be lucky enough to see some of the new babies in the fields at this time of year, but should also be able to see them if you make a trip out to a local petting zoo or children’s farm.

The odd bee can now be seen buzzing around the garden, at dusk you might see the return of the fox and life is starting to spring up everywhere, with migrating birds noticeably starting to return from warmer climates. 

Blackbirds sing in the morning, House Martins, Swallows and Swifts start to return and in the South of the country, you might be lucky enough to spot the odd Cuckoo.  

You may also spot bats in the skies at sunset, as they are just starting to emerge from hibernation.  Depending on where you are in the country, foxes are now becoming more apparent.

 

Plants and Flowers

April is a truly beautiful time of year. Towards the end of the month, English woodlands are carpeted with bluebells, and stunning displays of colour are provided by purple orchids and yellow archangels.

You should start to see the appearance of sloe flowers and wild cherry blossom in the hedgerows.  Cowslips, violets, forget-me-nots, cow parsley and nettles all start to come into force in the fields and on grass verges, whilst gorse is beginning to flower on heathlands.

In the garden, tulips and rhododendrons start to bloom, showing off their bright pink trumpet-shaped flowers whilst Magnolia trees, briefly put on a glorious display with their huge pink blooms.

Delicate yellow candelabra primulas flower alongside multicoloured auriculas, which are known for their sweet perfume.

 

Things to Cook

Hot cross buns seem to appear in the shops earlier every year, but traditionally, they are an Easter treat.  They’re often so cheap, it’s not worth making them to save money, but it is a fun way to while away an afternoon.

These spiced buns contain raisins, mixed peel and are decorated on top with a flour and water cross.

The dough needs to be allowed to rise fully at least 3 times, or they’ll end up pretty tough and inedible, so leave yourself plenty of time.

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Of course, Easter is also the time for eggs and not just the chocolate kind.

If you’re going to blow some eggs to decorate the shells, you’ll need to find some way to use up all that left over egg!

Experiment with omelettes, Spanish tortilla, scrambled, baked or poached eggs with ham, mushrooms and hollandaise sauce.  Or if you feel like a sweet treat, there’s always  good old fashioned custard tarts or yummy meringues.

If you’re not bothered about saving shells to decorate, don’t forget about dippy eggs and soldiers.  A perfect way to start the day.

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If you’re out for a wander over the Easter weekend, keep your eye out for wild garlic.  If it’s around, you should smell it on the breeze.  It’s now in season and is perfect in salads as it has a much more delicate flavour than the regular shop bought kind. Use it to flavour your own dipping oils, dressings or to make the most divine pesto you will ever come across.

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On Easter Sunday, roast lamb is traditionally served with Jersey Royal potatoes, seasonal vege and mint sauce, although in recent years vegetarian options have become increasingly popular and are a fabulous way to make the most of spinach, spring onions, asparagus and other seasonal produce.

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In the garden, April is the month to harvest salad vegetables with rocket, radishes, watercress, carrots and spring onions all in season and ready to toss into a perfect salad.

If you care for it, early rhubarb should now also be ready for picking.  If you’re not fond of rhubarb crumbles, try making up a few jars of rhubarb jam or a bottle of fresh rhubarb cordial.  The sugar takes away the slightly bitter taste. 

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April is also a month where nettles have started to grow with a vengeance along the edges of paths and fields.  The fresh, new leaves are perfect for throwing into a pot with boiling water to make a delicious tea or for making soup.  Just be careful not to get stung whilst out foraging.

 

Things to Make

Dig out your flower press because there will be flowers popping up absolutely everywhere this month.

Pressed flowers are perfect for making jewellery, for scrapbooking, for baking and for a whole host of other crafts.

Just remember to pick flowers from your own garden or those that you know you are allowed to pick!

Some flowers are actually protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and others have been planted in parks and along grass verges for everyone to enjoy.

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While we’re on the subject of flowers, or more accurately, weeds, towards late April, most green grassy spaces will see an explosion of bright yellow dandelion flowers.

Before you reach for the weed killer, stop for a second.

Dandelions are quite amazing plants that have all sorts of uses.

April is a month of spring and Easter crafts with plenty to keep your crafty hands busy.

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Decorating eggs is a famous Easter custom which is enjoyed by children and adults alike.

The eggs can be dip-dyed in bright colours, painted, drawn on with marker pens or even rolled in glitter. Just remember to hard boil or blow them first (or alternatively, use artificial paper eggs found in craft stores).

Eggs can be quickly and easily dyed with either shop-bought food colours or natural dyes made from pretty normal ingredients found in your kitchen.

Tumeric for yellow, red cabbage for blue and beetroot for pink.

Side note - In the UK, most chicken eggs are a tan colour and covered in protein spots which can make them a little tricky to dye and decorate, but if you look around, a number of supermarkets are now selling white shell varieties.  Check out both Waitrose and Ocado.  Alternatively, you could just go for duck eggs which are bigger and have tougher shells, making them easier to decorate anyway.

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Easter wreaths and garlands are some of my absolute favourite to make.

Brighten up your home with a wreath made using greenery from your garden;  gypsophilia, bright yellow daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and small, decorated eggs.

Don’t take too much greenery from trees and bushes at this time of year.  Theya ren’t ready for pruning just yet.  Also, when making floral arrangements, choose your flowers carefully. Some cut flowers last a lot longer than others!

You could even have a go at making your own Easter tree. 

Find a nice looking branch (go for one already on the ground, rather than pulling bits off trees); paint if you like or keep it natural.  Then pop into a pretty vase or fix it into a terracotta plant pot using plaster and decorate with flowers, ribbons, decorated eggs or any other Easter decorations you can find.

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Of course no Easter would be complete without confectionary of some kind.

If you want to gift someone a special present, or if you’re just at a loose end, why not think about making your own?

Raw chocolate kits are great fun and really simple for making homemade chocolate treat sand if chocolate isn’t your thing, you could always try making fudge, another super simple option with easy to find ingredients.

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If you want to make something not Easter-related, April is an ideal time to make a bat box. Designed to mimic a bat’s natural roost, a bat box will encourage bats to make their home in your garden. It can easily be made from softwood.

When finished, position it about four metres above the ground to host your own bat family.

 

 

Things to Do

There’s something about April with its longer days and bursts of sunshine that makes you want to get outside, get active and get on with something new.

The new season brings with it a renewed energy. The world is fresh, light, bright and full of new beginnings. 

So if you’ve been procrastinating so far this year, now’s a great time to tackle a few jobs around the house, redecorate, spring clean, or start a new project.

Get up early, fling open the windows, put on some rubber gloves and make that oven gleam.

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With the plethora of flowers everywhere this month, bring the outside in and brighten up your home.  There are so many flowers around right now to choose from.  Pick a posy but be careful what you pick.

Many flowers are planted for everyone to enjoy.

Traditionally in England, the first Sunday in April was known as Daffodil Sunday. 

A bunch of bright yellow daffodils will brighten up any room.

If you haven’t any of your own, buy a small bunch from the supermarket.  They are always tightly closed up, but will open up after a day or two, placed in a vase on the windowsill.

Many open gardens around the country will also have Daffodil Days.  Search online for venues near you.

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Out in the garden, you’ll probably find that gardening is a bit on the cold side in the shade, but it can be lovely when the sun comes out.

The earth has now warmed after the long winter, so you could also start thinking more seriously about planting.

Raised beds are a perfect solution if you only have a small outside space.

If your lawn is looking a little sorry for itself, you should now be able to safely sprinkle down some grass seed.  While you’re at it, throw down some wild flower seeds in the flower beds, ready for the bees in the summer. 

Try Cornflower seeds, Nigella seeds (love is in the mist) and English marigold seeds.

It’s also a month for planting fruit and vege, so stick on your thermals and a decent pair of gloves and grab a shovel.

Potatoes, broad beans, broccoli, sprouts, carrots, parsnips and peas will all do well, planted in the ground from April onwards.

If you’re lucky enough to have space for a greenhouse or if you want to start growing something inside, you could start off a sunflower, tomatoes, strawberries or a few pots of herbs.  If you’re short on space, pop a few mason jars on a sunny windowsill.

Rosemary, thyme and basil should all be fine if you plant them now.

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The weather might be ridiculously changeable, but it’s still the perfect time of year to go for long walks in the countryside.  Go searching for a woodland bluebell walk, go and feed some ducks or even go for a run. 

Walking and running are amazing forms of stress relief - Just don’t forget your umbrella and raincoat!

While you’re out and about, keep your eyes open for wild garlic and nettles.  Foraging season has begun.

 

Places to Go:

April is one of the busiest months of the year with the Grand National taking place on April the 6 th.  The Grand National is the biggest horse racing event of the year, taking place over 3 days at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool.  It starts on the 4 th, with Lady’s Day on the 5 th.

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It’s Bat Appreciation Day on the 19 th.  Check out the Bat Conservation Trust website for Bat walks, events and other activities near you.

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Easter Sunday falls on the 21 st this year which also happens to be the Queens real birthday.

Take a trip to either The Tower of London, Windsor Great Park or Hyde Park to see gun salutes marking her special day.

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The 21 st also happens to be National Tea Day in England.  If you ever needed a fabulous excuse to go out for a sumptuous afternoon tea, this is probably it.

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If you’re in the mood for all things Easter, or if the kids are reluctant to get outdoors, Easter egg hunts and other Easter themed everts are organised in most local areas.

Many National Trust locations hold Cadbury Easter Egg trails, but there’s always plenty of others to choose from.

If you can’t find one, you could always pop down to your local park and hide a few of your own.  They won’t want to go home until every egg is found!

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April is the perfect month for getting into the countryside and enjoying a woodland walk. The weather is usually pleasant, and nature is at its most beautiful, so it needs to be enjoyed.

Woodland bluebell walks can be found up and down the country.  Just Google Bluebell Walks UK.  The Woodland Trust and National Trust have really comprehensive lists of walks and woods.

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One of the largest Flower Shows in the UK kicks off in Harrogate, Yorkshire on the 25 th of April.  4 days of garden inspiration, shopping, entertainment and floral displays provided by some of the best gardeners and florists from around the UK.

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It’s the birthday of William Shakespeare on the 26 th, so if you’re in the vicinity of Stratford upon Avon on Saturday the 27 th, you’re in for a treat.  The play writes hometown holds its annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations with performances, workshops, theater demonstrations, crafts and many other family friendly activities.

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If you’re in the London area, the London Marathon takes place on the 28 th and the public is welcome to go along to cheer the runners along.

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Finally, UK coffee week runs from the 29 th April to the 5 th May.  This is actually a charity event raising money for Project Waterfall, an amazing charity that aims to bring clean water and education to coffee growing communities around the world. So if you prefer a mug of coffee to a cup of tea, you might want to check out the UK Coffee Week website for participating retailers, then grab a cup of coffee for a good cause.


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