Signs of spring - from snowdrops and birdsong to back to school
- Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN
Despite winter seemingly set for a final icy blast, there are signs that the dark days will soon be over - and spring is in the air.
Temperatures may be due to plummet next week with snowfall forecast, but bulbs are already forcing their way through the ground, birdsong is increasing and the days are gradually getting longer.
March - the meteorological start of spring - will soon be with us and brighter times are on the way. Here are seven signs of spring:
Bulbs, glorious bulbs
Brave your garden for a few minutes and spot the green tips of bulbs poking through the soil.
You may also want to watch:
Snowdrops are already out, even a few daffodils here and there, plus crocuses, and bright yellow aconites - a really heart-warming sight.
Another two to three weeks and gardens will be filled with spring colour as snowflakes, hyacinths and the small variety of iris join them.
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The days have been growing longer and lighter since the winter solstice back in December.
From December 21 each day gets longer by an average two minutes and seven seconds - about 15 minutes a week. By mid January we have an hour a day more of daylight.
By the time we reach spring on March 1, the sun will be rising at 6.46am and setting at 5.41pm - almost 11 hours of daylight and 90 minutes more than today (February 5). Then we look forward to the clocks going forward an hour - on March 28.
Spring can provide some of our loveliest weather - and some very warm days, too.
March, April, May often have less rain than the summer months and with the longer days be perfect for getting outside.
Average day-time temperatures in March are between 10C and 12C but are often higher - the record is 25.6C.
With life on hold again since Lockdown 3.0 began, we can all look forward to prime minister Boris Johnson telling us on February 22 what will happen next.
That's the day he will reveal his "route map" out of lockdown and providing coronavirus cases keep on falling, some restrictions are bound to be lifted.
Everyone will be hoping with the vaccine roll-out going well, it will mean we can return at least to life like last summer with shops, pubs and restaurants and some attractions back open by the time spring is under way.
Youngsters - and their families - will be looking forward to schools reopening on March 8 - providing that the virus does not spiral out of control again.
More details of the arrangements for pupils going back will be announced before the end of the month as government ministers have said schools will be given at least two weeks to prepare.
The Great Outdoors
Yes, with warmer and longer days it will be the chance to get out and about again - Covid-19 restrictions allowing - to enjoy our countryside, parks and gardens, and beaches.
To fly a kite, enjoy a picnic, sit on a warm clifftop and read a book, go running in a t-shirt, swimming without a wetsuit and cycling in shorts.
With catkins and blossom on the trees, and leaves starting to appear, birdsong will fill the air (especially if you fancy getting up early to savour the dawn chorus) and our migrant birds will return.
For many the sound of a cuckoo (increasingly rare) is the essence of spring, while others love to see swallows returning or to have a nest-box webcam to watch the babies hatch and be fed.
Birds returning in the spring include Dartford warblers and reed warblers, house martins, nightjars and restarts, wheatears, swifts and terns.
If you are walking in the countryside look out for lambs in the fields, another joyful sight in spring - and if you are by a river, there are often cygnets and ducklings.