The Spring Equinox, 21 March, is a key turning part in the annual calendar, marking the date on which the day and night are of equal length. This turn in the seasons has been celebrated by cultures throughout history with festivals for their gods and goddesses held at this time of year. Today, Pagans continue to celebrate the coming of spring. At the time of Spring Equinox the god and the goddess are often portrayed as The Green Man and Mother Earth.
With the first signs of spring in the air there are tantalising glimpses all around us, signalling that the world of nature is about to burst into life for another year. After many plants have been laying dormant over the cold (or at least very wet!) winter, it is always a joy to see the first clues that the world is waking up once again.
I believe the best way to bathe yourself with the optimism of spring is to take a walk in Britain’s native woodlands. Here, the arrival of spring is heralded by a spectacular display of wildflowers. The appearance of so many wildflowers in early spring is part of an annual race for plants to flower and set seed before the trees come into full leaf, closing the canopy overhead and shading the woodland floor. These opportunistic plants are hard-wired for action, their resources being stored from the previous year within a bulb or fleshy root. As soon as temperatures are warm enough they burst into life and seize the moment.
Here are just a few of my favourites...
Amongst the first flowers to appear are primroses (primula vulgaris), with their clusters of pale lemon-yellow flowers. In appropriate conditions, the primrose can cover the ground in open woods and shaded hedgerows. The name primrose is derived from the Latin prima rosa, meaning first rose, and it is said to have be Bejamin Disraeli’s favourite flower.
Following closely on the heels of the primrose, is the white star-shaped flowers of wood anemones (anemone nemorosa). From March to May these profusive plants form dense carpets of white flowers with golden centres across the woodland floor. A perennial member of the buttercup family, the plant is poisonous; it contains protoanemonin, an acrid and bitter oil which can lead to skin irritation and gastric problems.
Come April, it is the time of the bluebell (hyacinthoides non-scripta), which forms blue carpets on the woodland floor. The UK boasts more than half the world population of common bluebells, dotted around our ancient woodland. Named from the shape of the nodding flower, the common bluebell is a protected species and is under threat from an imported Spanish species, making it illegal to pick. The native species is easy to identify as it has narrower leaves (about 1cm wide) and its flowers are deep blue narrow bells which hang from just one side of the stem and have a sweet scent. The Spanish version, by contrast, has wider leaves plus larger and paler flowers that form all around the stem. The common bluebell is often termed the UK’s favourite flower (although I don’t remember having a say in that!) and it forms the basis for the logo for the Botanical Society for Britain and Ireland.
A less popular flower, but one of my personal favourites, is the ramson (allium ursinum) or wild garlic. Ramsons are hard to miss thanks to their pungent smell and they tend to be found in damp soils in woods or on shady, moist banks flowering from April to June. They are part of the allium or onion family (as are bluebells) and they give off the distinctive smell of onion or garlic when trampled, probably as a defence mechanism against insects. Our dog seems to be uncontrollably attracted to wild garlic, insisting on walking through the leaves whenever we come across it. We’ve often speculated that it may be her own way of repelling insects (or perhaps, more likely, disguising her own scent for hunting purposes). The smell certainly lingers on her coat... Despite the (sometimes overpowering!) smell, ramsons are a beautiful plant producing a deep green carpet dotted with white star-shaped flowers in clusters on a spiky stem.
I hope you have a chance to explore the world of woodland flowers this spring, but remember admire them in-situ, it is illegal to pick many of the species and several of them are also poisonous to humans and animals.
Apple App Store Review (Canada) 2018
I used it for two weeks when I was on holiday on the UK and I found it reliable and accurate. The descriptions of landmarks was spot on. I enjoyed the walks all the more because there was no worry about getting lost. The historical notes and various “insider knowledge” enhanced my appreciation of the beautiful landscapes. Highly recommended, worth every penny. I just wish I had something like this where I live in Canada.
Google Play 2018
Best walking app I've used, the routes have always been better than expected. Not only are they picturesque, they are also easy to follow.
Google Play 2018
Loving this app. Initially had a few glitches but these all went away after a bit of tweaking the settings. I have used the app for 6 walks so far and have discovered lovely local walks that I would have never known about. The walk descriptions and directions have been really accurate. The live map has been helpful in checking that I haven't gone off course.
Newsletter Feedback 2018
Just completed my first walk using the @ifootpathuk app on my phone. A nice walk and we didn't get lost (as I have no sense of direction whatsoever that is high praise!) #hiking #Snowdonia #walking #adventure
Twitter Feedback 2018
Google Play Review 2018
Super fast help to sort out my problem. Well done and nice friendly reply as well.
Help Centre August 2018
Super fast help to sort out my problem. Well done and nice friendly reply as well.
iOS Appstore November 2017
Great App - never get lost! by The Parallax View Best couple of quid I’ve spent in a long time. Walks are well described & it’s easy to see if you’ve wandered off the mapped tracks via GPS. Degree of difficulty is useful too - can choose a 2 Welly, 5 mile walk with a pub at the end for a relaxing Sunday.
Email November 2017
Wow what a lovely experience it was using your app worked perfectly from the off for the first time found walks nearby we would have never found, brilliant work guys and gals.
This is a great app. Easy to use. Great selection of walks and very uncomplicated instructions, good simple maps. Other walking apps I have tried can be very confusing, this one is just right. Thank you
I used the app for the first time this afternoon. I lead regular ‘Walking for Health’. The app is terrific!
I do a lot of solo walking...so always worry about safety and getting lost.....not anymore I don't...!!!!! The guides are always spot on....and that's what I do.just follow the blue spot...!!! Thank you.... It's my favourite app...!!!!
My wife and I did your Petworth and Shimmings Valley walk yesterday. It was absolutely beautiful and enhanced by the wonderful weather. Your instructions were the clearest I have ever used for walking.
Without doubt the best app that I have ever downloaded! - NT
This App is brilliant. It enables you to track your walks and download them for future reference. The Library provides you with a variety of walks and are supported by clear instructions and photographs along the route. This makes them very easy to follow. I have used the App for about two years and have found it invaluable. Should you have any queries about any aspect of iFootpath the support you get is second to none.
Absolutely beautiful walk, and a wonderful app. Thank you so much :)
I want to congratulate you on your web site/app performance, quick, reliable and easy to use. I have similar walking apps with OS Maps and ViewRanger but yours is best.
This app has totally changed my life, i absolutely love it. I did this walk yesterday, what a beautiful walk it is, i thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely do it again, in fact i met an older gentleman who was on his 100 and something time there!! My sister and daughter cant wait to come along. The noise mentioned about the motorway is negligible and for me did not detract from the overall walk at all, the view from the top was stunning!!
So far I have downloaded 5 walks and completed 3 of them, tomorrow will be No 4. I love your website The walk descriptions are the best I have used in the last six years of rambling since I retired. This is a website I would be more than happy to pay a subscription for, instead I'll donate a sum to my favourite charity. THANK YOU.
Have deleted Pokemon Go and downloaded @ifootpathuk which is much more 'me'
I love the illustrated descriptions of each walk section. Really helps to enjoy the walk and get to know something about what I'm seeing. So much better than apps that only provide GPS co-ordinates and no photos or description. Love it!
After trying out numerous other apps I came across this one: way ahead of any of the others in every way. Much more accurate and very easy to use with great features. Would highly recommend it as THE app to use for walking.
Just wonderful, with walks for everyone: the fit, the not-so-fit, short walks, long walks, through woods, up hills (and down).
I highly recommend it, as my mum and I use it to go for walks and finish by eating at a pub. Its detailed and sometimes humorous instructions lead us easily to our destination. Also, to top this, it has interesting facts about the area we're walking in
I don't review much but this app deserves it. Downloaded some really good walks and the combination of the good descriptions and the really useful map of the walk showing where you are make it a brilliant tool. Well done and keep up the good work.
Very enjoyable and well described route. Views over the river from the warren were stunning.
Fantastic walk and amazing views. Great directions though I followed the GPS map mainly
Great walk, instructions were very detailed, perfect!
This may be the best walk I've ever done. It was certainly the best directions.
Even on a cold windy day with it trying to snow this was still an excellent walk. We managed it with our 2 children of 5 yrs and one in a all terain pram (a defo no no with a normal pram). Will be doing this one again in the summer.
Used app while visiting (it was great!)--live in Texas. Thanks!
Your app and walks are a dream to use
Did this walk this morning with our three little girls and we all love it. Great day outdoor!