I hear you, I hear you. It’s only been two weeks since the last Month in Focus! But hear me out! Somehow this feature got pushed to the end of the month, and I couldn’t help thinking it was pointless telling you what to look out for and enjoy when it was almost over!
So yes, you are getting your list of April things to do quite a bit earlier, but wouldn’t you rather it that way? There’s so much to enjoy during the fourth month of the year that it was hard for me to choose, but what I have here should fit your plans for the next four weeks, whatever it is you like doing. Have fun, and as usual, let me know what you get up to!
Did you know that the badger is Britain’s largest predator? It’s true! These beautiful black and white creatures live in underground houses called setts and usually only come out during the night to hunt for their favourite food: earthworms! Now listen, I never promised they were a particularly ferocious predator, did I?
Mrs Badger gives birth to a litter of up to five cubs during the early months of the year, and by April they are ready to pop their heads out of the sett and have a look around. The bravest will even venture outside, so if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, who knows? Just remember to keep your distance – they’ve got a heck of a bite if they take a dislike to you!
Does anyone in Britain really understand where this strange sporting tradition comes from? I’m not convinced, but for 159 years it’s been happening regardless and this Sunday marks the 160th annual university boat race between Oxford and Cambridge.
To my disappointment, the race route does not pass by my boat in Richmond, which is a shame because I’m sure I could have hawked a couple of waterside spots by my window for a few quid. Never mind though, I’m planning to take a walk to Putney and cheer both teams on. Who will you be supporting?
Whatever or whoever you believe in, April is a fairly important time of year. Easter is the celebration of the death and rebirth of Christ, and in most Western countries this time of remembrance is widely adopted by non-believers just as much as devout Christians.
Even if you struggle with the idea of Jesus, I’d bet you’d be surprised at how much meaning you attach to Easter. For me, it always feels like a time for rebirth in nature. We’re seeing baby animals and birds again, as well as trees starting to grow new leaves. Just this morning I’ve spent hours marvelling at a trio of ducklings fighting upstream on their tiny little legs.
When my maternal grandmother passed away several years ago, we chose to scatter her ashes at the lake near our house. Every spring when the swans have their babies and the flowers grow on the grass nearby, it feels like she has been reborn again too.
St. Tiburtius’ Day is celebrated on April 14th, as that is when the cuckoo is believed to return from Africa and begin his famous song. Sadly, the cuckoo is not nearly as widespread as he once was, due to environmental changes that make his short breeding season a struggle.
Cuckoos are well-known for being parasitic: they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and then abadon them. This might seem like an excellent and easy parenting strategy, but it’s not that simple. As temperatures change and our native birds begin raising their offspring earlier, cuckoos are struggling to find appropriate surrogate families for their own chicks.
Did you know that the UK has over half of the world’s population of bluebell woods? These beautiful and delicate flowers are at their best during April, but if you’re planning to walk through an enchanted carpet of mysterious purple, you must be on your best behaviour. Bluebells are a protected species and it’s actually illegal to pick them. So as your mother used to say, look with your eyes and not your fingers…
Why not use the visitwoods.org site to help find your nearest bluebell wood?
And finally, let’s round up with St. George’s Day – a lesser-celebrated holiday here in the UK, and often overshadowed by that party animal St. Patrick back in March. George is the patron saint of England, but the real chap wasn’t actually English at all! Born in Turkey during the 3rd century, he was a Christian who joined the Roman army as a soldier.
George was unhappy about the persecution of Christians by his fellow Romans, and protested against their poor treatment. He was told to change his religion and attitude, but with great courage he refused and was put to death for his crimes on April 23rd, 303.
Over the years numerous legends have sprung up about this brave fellow, and Project Britain (a big inspiration and excellent resource for this monthly feature) has chronicled perhaps the most famous, the Legend of St, George and the Dragon.