March 01, 2018

March is known for its strong winds in England, but the sun is warmer, and the sights of spring can be seen everywhere we look. It’s a time for tentatively venturing outdoors to catch the beginnings of new life, and getting together with friends to make the most of the lighter evenings.

March is fresh, light and bright (well mostly anyway).

As the winter season fades behind us, the days get noticeably longer and despite the frosts, showers and the very real risk of snow, birds start to return to the sky, gardens and grass verges become more colourful and we see the first bees and ladybirds appear.

If you’re lucky when in the countryside, you might even catch a glimpse of the magical and mythical March Hare.

So embrace the seasonal change.

March is a wonderful time of year that needs to be experienced to the full, creating memories that will last all year long.


Birthstone

March babies have the aquamarine as their birthstone. This mystical jewel varies in colour from pale to intense shades of aqua blue. Traditionally, the aquamarine was thought to bring eternal life to the wearer, and it represents youth and good health.

Birth flower

The birth flower for March is, of course, the daffodil. One of the most cheerful flowers in the garden, the daffodil comes in 13 different types, all in various combinations of yellow and white. Known for their long petals and protruding trumpets, daffodils symbolise a love which cannot be equalled.

Interesting Days:

After a cold and quiet of the winter months, March is rather busy in comparison, with the tentative return of a few birds and insects; and a few shoots and flowers bravely making their way into the world.

  1. March kicks off with St David’s Day on the 1 stof the month. The Patron Saint of Wales, St David’s Day is celebrated with a parade in Cardiff, local festivities and by wearing either a daffodil or a leek.
  2. Then we have Shrove Tuesday on the 5 th.  

Better known as Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent starts in the Christian calendar.

It is traditionally the day when Christians would go to church and confess any wrong doing.  It is also traditionally the day when eggs, milk and other ingredients in the home were used up in the form of pancakes, before fasting began for Lent.

Today, it’s mostly a day for pancake races and eating far too many pancakes.
Most of us cook up a batch (or two) and with lots of new and alternative recipes to experiment with, we’re spoiled for choice.

  1. Ash Wednesday is on the 6 th of the month. The date marks the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar and falls exactly 40 days before Easter.
  2. St Patrick’s Day falls on the 17 th and there will be parades, parties and festivities up and down the country, celebrating the Patron Saint of Ireland.
  3. March 20 th marks the Spring or Vernal Equinox, when the hours of daylight and darkness are the most equal in length. It has been celebrated since Pagan times as the day when spring officially begins.
    To this day, many people still celebrate Ostara, the Goddess of Spring and Dawn, who represents the start of the new Spring season.  They gather to mark the occasion at ancient sacred sites, particularly Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
  4. Definitely one to remember, the clocks Spring Forward on the 31 st.
  5. Then here’s the big one – Mother’s Day also falls on the 31 st. The one day of the year especially set aside for us to show our Mothers just how acknowledged, appreciated and noticed they really are.

Whether you’re a mother, step mother, foster mother, surrogate mother or fur baby mother, Mother’s Day is the perfect occasion to celebrate.

Birds and animals

Spring is just starting, and as the weather gets warmer, England’s wildlife becomes varied throughout March.  

If you’re lucky you might spot a mad March hare or a few rabbits, hedgehogs and voles start to emerge from hibernation.  You might also see ponds that are filled with frogs, as March is the height of their breeding season.

In the air, birds start to return from their holidays.  You might spot the odd sky lark and rooks are starting to make plenty of noise.  You may see gannets along the coast and small birds like sparrows are building their nests, so you will probably spot them carrying twigs in your garden.

March is also a great time for spotting the odd bee or ladybird, if the weather is mild enough, particularly if you have a well-placed insect hide or have planted early-flowering seasonal flowers.

Plants and flowers

The English countryside really begins to wake up in March, with small green shoots appearing left, right and centre.

Gardens are awash with explosions of daffodils and catkins dangle precariously from tree branches, blowing wildly in the wind.

Wood Anemone (or Lady’s Nightcap as it’s also known) and Red Campion are now just beginning to appear, and wild garlic flowers bring a distinctive scent to the air.

If the weather is mild enough, fruit trees will now start to blossom, adding their delicate beauty to rural landscapes and urban gardens alike.

Random splashes of colour are provided by tiny violets, primroses, bergenias and fresh pink hellebores.

Then there’s the true indicator that spring is on it’s way; the bluey-purple grape hyacinth, pinging up everywhere you look.


Things to cook

There’s not a great deal to harvest in March. 

Brocolli, spinach and cauliflower are still in season, as are leeks, spring onions and rhubarb, so you could still rustle up a crumble or two.

If you’d like to have a go at cooking some traditional fayre, food traditionally played a very important part in Spring Equinox celebrations, where a stew was often served, with or without meat, but always with plenty of fresh spring greens.

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Celebrate St David’s Day on the first with some Welsh inspired recipes.  Try your hand at making a heavenly scented batch of Welsh cakes with currants and mixed spice, or make the most of seasonal leeks with a leek and potato soup, a chicken and leek hot pot, leek and salmon puff pastry parcels or a ham, cheese and leek pie.

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Whilst we’re on the subject of seasonal cooking, don’t forget there’s also plenty of Irish inspired recipes that you could cook up for Patricks day on the 17 th.  Bring the wonderful smell of freshly baked bread to your home by baking a traditional Irish soda bread.  Then there’s hearty slow-cooked Irish stew, colcannon with it’s wonderful mix of mashed potatoes, bacon and cabbage, or of course, anything with Guiness as an ingredient.

You can add it to a stew, or even to a chocolate cake (yes really)!

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If you’re thinking that Spring might be the season to start getting healthy, think about looking up some recipes for protein energy balls.

A firm favourite around here, protein balls are great for ‘breakfast on the go’ or for a relatively healthy between-meals snack.

Easy, quick and no bake, simply mix oats and honey or agave syrup (or nut butter), mix and form into small ping pong sized balls.

Add anything else you like to flavour, from dried fruits and nuts, to desiccated coconut, cacao powder, cinnamon or chocolate chips.

You could also add protein powder if you want your energy balls to pack an extra punch.  Protein powder comes in a huge variety of delicious flavours including vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.

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Pancakes are obviously on the menu this month and there are absolutely loads of ways to enjoy them, depending on what you like: savoury, with ham, cheese, mushrooms or onion; or sweet with plenty of fresh fruit or maple syrup.

Of course you want a more traditional pancake, keep it simple by adding sugar and lemon juice to taste, or check out miniature scotch pancakes for a sweeter treat.

 

Things to make

If you’re out for a walk this month, make the most of it and gather the first few edible plants of the year.  Wild garlic leaves taste amazing.  Make your own infused oil, garlic bread or the most delicious pesto you’ve ever eaten.

You’ll also notice new nettles and dandelions starting to sprout.  Both can be made into delicious herbal tea by adding a handful to a cup of boiling water, or make your own herbal teabags!  Simply dry, grind and add a teaspoon to a small circle of muslin, tied with a ribbon.

You probably won’t find enough dandelions to make wine just yet.

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Considering March is officially the first month of Spring, food outside is still scarce for birds.   There aren’t too many berries around and the ground is a little cold for wandering worms, so the birds in your garden will definitely appreciate some homemade seed balls with plenty of bird seed and raisins. 

If you don’t have a mould to make them, cut a coconut in half and push your bird seed mixture into the half coconut shells. Drill a small hole, attach a string and hang in a high, discreet place.

Most birds are now just thinking about returning from warmer climates, so give them a helping hand to find a home.

Although most birds will nest high up in the trees, many also appreciate a well-placed nesting box.

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March is a month to start thinking about Spring cleaning and that doesn’t just mean your home.  Homemade body scrub is just the best way to wake up tired, winter skin and freshen the senses.

It’s really simple to make too, with readily available ingredients.  Add sea salt or Epsom salts to a carrier oil of your choice (coconut, jojoba and grapeseed are all lovely) and scent with whatever essential oil you like. Just make sure you use a good quality essential oil with no added nasties.

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If you do want to freshen your home, one of the easiest ways is to make your own room scents.  Add to spritz bottles to spray rooms and fabrics, or have a go at making your own simple reed diffusers to bring the scent of the outside in.

For essential-oil air fresheners, simply take a small cup of warm water (about 200ml should do it), add one teaspoon (5g) of bicarbonate of soda and one teaspoon of whatever essential oil you like.  I personally love vanilla bean, but it’s totally up to you.  Stir well, then add to a small spritz bottle and you’re good to go.

For reed diffusers, you’ll need to find a small glass jar that will hold about 150ml of water.  A single rose vase, flavoured oil bottle or glass craft bottle are all good options.  The opening of most jam jars will be far too big.

Mix 150ml water, 15ml perfumer’s alcohol (or 90% rubbing alcohol) and 5ml essential oil.  Pour into your jar and add 6 rattan reeds.

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Of course, March means Mother’s Day and the odd homemade gift probably wouldn’t be amiss.

The easiest thing to attempt is a handmade Mother’s Day card, but if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, how about making a few of the ideas below:

1.  Did you know that many of the flowers currently springing up outside are edible? No?  Well then you probably didn’t know that you bake with them either.  

Fresh flowers look perfect when used to decorate frosted cupcakes, but they can also be baked onto the top of sugar or shortbread cookies.

Edible flowers that are around in March are few and far between, so you’ll probably have to buy dried edible flowers online (unless you dried your own last summer).

If you really want to have a go at baking fresh edible flowers, you should be able to find violets, English daisies and pansies about now.

** Remember never to eat any flower that you cannot positively identify and make sure you have picked them from a clean source.  Nothing from the side of the road, nothing sprayed with chemicals and nothing from someone else’s garden!

2.  If baking isn’t your thing, how about something painted?

I love the hand painted t-towels and aprons I’ve been given over the years and the kids artwork, made into fridge magnets using shrink plastic sheets.

You could make a hand-painted mason jar vase, a decorated flower pot, or a painted family tree with everyone’s fingerprints making up the leaves.

3.  Of course if you want a simple, traditional gift you could make some tiny potpourri drawer-scenting pillows (the non-sew type), some easy handmade soaps or some bubble bath bombs. The list goes on.

4.  Finally, if you’re not feeling particularly crafty, why not pop out somewhere nice for a walk and get some family photos to add to a photobook or photo collage?

 There are also plenty of beautiful spring flowers appearing in the shops, so if you haven’t managed to grow your own, grab a few bunches of daffodils and tulips and gave a go at making a spring wreath, or arrange them to make a perfect gift.

 

Things to do

March is a month with quite a few celebrations, but if you’re not really a fan of parades or Guiness, here are a few other ideas.

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Now that the worst of the winter is (hopefully) out of the way, blossom should now be appearing on the trees and snowdrops in the wild should now be out in full force, so if you fancy getting out for a breath of fresh air, there are recognised snowdrop walks up and down the country.

If you’re not sure where to look, the National Trust has a very handy snowdrop walk finder here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/places-to-see-snowdrops.

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March is the start of lambing season in the UK and although many children’s farms and petting zoos have lambs from February half-term onwards, you are much more likely to see them about now.  Search Google for Petting Zoos Near me or if you prefer going for a nice country walk without going to a farm, search for Where can I see lambs near me? 

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Out in the garden, it’s still pretty frosty and there’s a lingering possibility of snow, so you should take care with any planting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out in the allotment and get everything ready.

If the rain holds off for long enough, March is usually

If you like to grow your own, March is the month to get the seed trays out and start off things like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cauliflower.  Even melons if you fancy.

If you REALLY want to plant something in the garden then you should be reasonably safe with beans, peas and seed potatoes as long as you have some kind of sacking to protect them from the frost.

Of course, you could always just stick to growing a few windowsill herbs. 

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So, it might not be much fun, but March is the ideal time for spring cleaning your home.  There should be at least a few days that are sunny enough to swing open the windows and let the fresh air in, so pull out the sofa, hang out the rugs, and make the windows sparkle so you can appreciate the true beauty of the spring garden.

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March is also the perfect time to pause and take a seasonal check of yourself.  How many of those New Year’s resolutions went out the window half way through January?  Do you want to re-visit any of them now?

As the mornings lighten and the days lengthen, it might be a good time to stop procrastinating and get on with that new project, book or exercise regime you were thinking about.

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Places to Go:

March always feels a little like it falls in between the seasons. 

Despite the hint of spring in the air and a few birds and flowers braving the cold, the mornings are still frozen and the wind still bites, leaving no doubt that winter isn’t behind us yet.

If you’ve had enough of snuggling up indoors and are desperate to venture out, there are a few events that you might like to know about.

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It’s International Woman’s Day on the 8 th celebrating women and all their achievements, around the world. Look out for celebrations going on up and down the country, including the Women of the World Festival, which takes place annually at London’s Southbank Centre.

In the UK and Ireland, World Book Day falls on the 7 th of March.  Look out for bookish events near you, or check out the World Book Day website for things going on further afield.

Many libraries and bookshops including Waterstones hold book readings and book-themed treasure hunts; local theatres put on performances and many National Trust properties hold special World Book Day themed events.

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Tying in nicely with the bookish theme, The London Book Fayre takes place at London’s Olympia between the 12 th and the 14 th of the month, bringing publishers, authors, readers and many more together, all under one roof.

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From the 18 th - 24 th of March, it’s National Shakespeare Week; World Storytelling Day is on the 20 th and World Poetry Day on the 21 st (noticing a theme here?) so check out your local newspapers and Facebook groups for events going on near you.

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If you’re looking for something a little less, well, bookish, the Cheltenham Festival takes place at the Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire, between the 12 th and the 15 thof March with Ladies Day falling on the 13 th

The annual 4-day horse racing event dates back 200 years and is the second largest event in the horse racing calendar after The Grand National.

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Bringing a little cheer to the month, it’s Comic Relief on the 15 th.  Look out for red noses and charity events popping up pretty much everywhere.

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Finally, head to London’s Trafalgar Square from Friday the 15 th – Sunday the 17 th for the St Patrick's Day Parade and Festival.

3 whole days of celebrations including a parade, musical performances, dancing and Irish food and drink.


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