There is nothing that says spring has arrived more than the ecstatic bubbling trills of the returning Curlews, although some might say the Lapwing’s ‘peewit’ cry runs it a close second. The tumbling dance of the courting Lapwing is a marvellous sight in fields across the National Park at this time of the year.
The drowsy buzzing of the first bumblebees can be heard in spring. The queens overwinter and the lucky ones who survive are the first to take advantage of the sunshine and spring flowers.
Look out for the golden-yellow stars of lesser celandine dotting the short turf along field banks – one of the earliest spring flowers, humble but with the promise of sunny days to come. Wordsworth loved it and wrote three poems about it, including ‘To the Small Celandine’.
Woodlands in spring
A little later on, the woods in the Dales are full of Primrose and Bluebells. Visit Grass Wood near Grassington where there are also fine displays of Lily-of-the-valley or Freeholders’ Wood near Aysgarth where you will find drifts of Wood Anemones in the spring.
Woods are also the best place to hear the dawn chorus and there’s nothing more thrilling than standing in a cold dark wood watching the first rays of the sun peeping over the horizon and then hearing first one, then another then the whole wood-full of birds singing to welcome the day. Look for events around International Dawn Chorus Day in May.
The dazzling green of newly unfolded tree leaves, such as Larch and Hawthorn, are some of the most vivid at this time of year. Country children used to call young hawthorn leaves ‘bread and butter’, and ate them in the spring.
Farmers are always glad to see the green flush of new grass on limestone pasture because it means they no longer have to supplement their animals’ feed, but for the visitor, it’s just part of what makes the Dales so beautiful. The limestone reef knolls at Cracoe are particularly striking, rising up against the brown moorland behind.
Spring also means new life, and for Dales farmers, this means lambing time! As you walk through the fields in the spring, you can see the first of the year’s lambs playing in the green fields. You will often see lambs charging around in groups, which is known as a ‘lamb gang’.
Enjoy this video from our YouTube channel, which is all about what is happening on a typical Dales farm in the Spring.