Looking out for the first signs of spring

Hopefully, Jess won’t have to shake the snow from her fur any more this winter.

I’m sure I’m not the only dog-walker who watches for the first signs of spring with eager anticipation. So I was very excited recently when, setting out on a long walk with Jess, I spotted my first lambs of the year. Suddenly, my hopes for the day ahead turned from thoughts of mud and potential ice underfoot to dreams of dry, springy turf and warm, sun-baked rock. (I would assume, from the way she was tugging excitedly on her lead, Jess’s thoughts had turned to chasing these lively newcomers.)

Young lambs full of the joys of spring

Ever the optimist, I tend to declare that spring is sprung as soon as I see the first snowdrops. Then I remember that I live in the north of England and I really should be swaying more towards the ‘ne’er cast a clout’ brigade who insist on waiting for the bluebells in May before they even think about consigning their dogs’ winter jackets to the back of the cupboard. Maybe I should be a crocus person? What about primroses? Daffodils must be a sure-fire sign of spring (although I spotted some of those in mid-January this year).

Jess’ springtime transformation

When I was a growing up in London, I used to watch the horse chestnut trees that I could see from my bedroom window for signs of the seasons changing. I would always feel a touch of excitement at the first hints of green among the branches. Now that I spend so much time outdoors, there are certain things guaranteed to fill me with exactly the same buzz – the smell of wild garlic in the woods, the sight of birds flying back and forth with nest-making twigs in their beaks, the sound of the long, bubbling trill of the curlews, returning to their breeding grounds in the hills... It’s also the time of year when Jess gets marched to the groomer’s to be transformed from an embarrassing scruff-hound into a perfectly presentable little terrier. (She has only a single coat so we let it grow in the winter in the hope that it’ll bring her some extra warmth.)

Shedding the layers, but it’s still too soon to bare arms

As much as I love being on the hills when they’re covered in the white stuff, or watching Jess leap playfully through the snow in the park, by this point in the winter I crave longer days and warmer weather. For me, spring means the chance to spend more time outdoors – to walk for hours on end, to get out in the fresh air in the light evenings, to sit and linger over al fresco food, to feel the sun on my arms...

Perhaps that’s the sign I should be watching out for... the first person on the hills in a T-shirt. But then, do I count trail runners? Probably not, as they’re super human and don’t feel the wind, rain and cold like us lesser mortals. I’d love to be able to declare the lambs I recently spotted as the ultimate ambassadors for this year’s season of new life but, on closer inspection, I noticed they were all wrapped up in little plastic jackets with shocked expressions on their faces. Cute, but not encouraging... No, I really don’t think I can declare the start of spring until I’ve seen both bare arms and bare lambs.