Wardens and visitors delight to see the end of the dormant, dark and cold section of the year, and emerge into the clear springtime sunshine of April.
The return of life to our temperate vegetation coincides with our Christian festival of resurrection, Easter. Although pre-dating this was the pagan festival celebrating the rebirth of nature with the goddess Eostre.
With Maundy Thursday on 13th of April, the Easter festival celebrations begin. Schools have started their holidays for two weeks, and Lydiard Park is always a popular venue.
With the above in mind, I should mention the popular annual Great Lydiard Park Easter Egg Trail which this year is on the 16th, which is Easter Sunday. The trail begins at the Coach House Activity centre, and happens between 10am and 4pm (last admission 3pm), and will cost £4 per child.
Also during the Easter holidays, Lydiard Park is running the ‘Kids for a Quid’ which will allow accompanied children into the House and Walled Garden for only £1. This scheme runs until 23rd April, during Lydiard House opening hours.
April (the word) comes from the Latin for opening of a leaf, which is fitting, and since the Equinox on 20th March (this year) the Sun is north of the equator at noon. This means the Sun shines at an angle giving more warmth and light.
So in the month of April, Park visitors can delight in observing the hawthorn in the hedges bursting into leaf, along with the white blossom of the accompanying blackthorn. In the month the cherries also blossom with mainly white, but also sometimes with pink flowers. One can also spot the ‘pussy willow’ blooms on the goat or sallow willow. These were once used instead of palm leaves to be given to church congregations on Palm Sunday.
With the ground plants, as the daffodils become burnt by the sun into something resembling brown paper, the tulips come into flower. A visit to Lydiard’s Walled Garden will reap a floral reward.
Wild plants to notice at this time of year are cuckoo flower in our meadows. Correctly called Cardamine Pratensis the flower is white with violet tints. No visitors can fail to notice the agricultural fields in the western parkland flushed gold with a profusion of dandelions, although of low value to the farmer, they are a remarkable sight in the bright spring sunshine.
The keen eye can pick out other signature plants of spring at the Park. There are cowslips to be seen in small groups, and when the sun is out the celandines will be glinting yellow light. The very keen eye in the Park will be rewarded with the nodding purple flowers of snakes head fritillary. These emerge from a bulb this time every year.
And as I write (13/04/17) I notice the first clumps of bluebell showing opening blooms, as are the wild garlic or ransoms. This promises a treat to come later in the month.
With flowers, come the first spring butterflies. Those observed by the Warden Team are orange tip, green hairstreak, brimstone and peacock. Sunny days will bring these beauties out.
As to bird life, April is an active month, with summer migrants arriving, such as chiffchaff, sand martins and wheatears at the same time as winter migrants are leaving such as waxwings and fieldfares.
But one thing is sure – Lydiard Park is springing back into life!
Mark Eborn – Lydiard Park Warden