Capturing the arrival of spring in a nationwide crowd-sourced nature diary

Date: 20/03/2019

Today wildlife lovers across the UK have the chance to contribute to the first ever crowd-sourced nature diary to celebrate the first official day of spring (Wednesday 20 March 2019).

Led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)1, researchers from the Land Lines research project examining the history of nature writing2 and supported by the National Trust, Natural England and the Field Studies Council, the digital diary encourages people across the UK to document their observations of wildlife, their favourite places and what spring means to them.

For generations, poets and prose writers have put pen to paper to express the importance of the arrival of spring and the burst of colour and busyness in the animal kingdom.

Entries could be a description of an early morning encounter with an urban fox, as you make your way to work or capturing the wonderful sounds of birdsong when walking in the woods.

All of the diary entries, which can be up to 150 words, will be live curated from dawn to dusk, and could take the form of a poem or something about the symbolism or meaning of spring. People can upload their diary entry and any accompanying image to the AHRC website ahrc.ukri.org/spring-diary/ and also share them on social media using the hashtag #springnaturediary

Writer Abi Andrews will then select the entries from across the UK that best capture the arrival of spring for a specially produced ebook.

Dr Pippa Marland, part of the Land Lines research team, based at the University of Leeds, said: “The crowd-sourced spring diary will give nature lovers across the UK the chance to participate in an event that combines the best traditions of citizen science with the opportunity to produce their own nature writing. 

“It will offer a unique snapshot of the beginning of spring this year and mark an important moment in the history of nature writing in the UK.”

Prof Roey Sweet, Director of Partnerships and Engagement at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “Generations of writers have sought to capture the beauty and meaning of the arrival of Spring and the burst of new life that signals the change of season.

“We want people to record and share those signs, whether on the daily commute or a rural walk, so that through their words we can bring to life the essence of spring as it sweeps across the country.”

The National Trust looks after and protects thousands of hectares of countryside, coast and gardens for people to enjoy.  Its Head of Species and Habitats Conservation, Dr David Bullock, said: “This is an amazing time of year as nature starts to wake up with the lengthening of the days and the climbing temperatures. Blink, and you might miss the first bumble bee.

“Wherever you are in the country, there is lots that you can look out for.  From the frogs in ponds to the honey bees finding nectar in the last of the snowdrops; the powerful songster - the mistle thrush - pronouncing its presence from the very top of the tallest tree to hungry badgers excavating lawns searching for grubs and juicy plant roots.”

Natural England have two hundred and twenty four National Nature Reserves in England, and the Field Studies Council have twenty sites across the UK.  Both organisations will be helping us to celebrate the start of spring, welcoming visitors to experience a range of stunning locations and encouraging people to write about what they see.

Funded by the AHRC the Land Lines research project, based at the universities of Leeds, St Andrews and Sussex3, has been examining the literary, social and cultural impact of nature writing from 1789 to the present day.

In 2017 the Landlines team and AHRC launched a nationwide search for the UK’s favourite nature book. Hundreds of people nominated books and thousands voted in an online poll won by Chris Packham’s ‘Fingers in a Sparkle Jar’4.

For further press information please contact:

Mike Collins, Head of Communications, Arts and Humanities Research Council, 07590 436751 or mike.collins@ahrc.ukri.org

Images linked to the story are available via (credit information can be found in the image information): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/tyvtcbchjchozy2/AADc8ns_8aZ-jiz56Ymin7e6a?dl=0

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Arts and Humanities Research Council, which is part of UK Research & Innovation, funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training, in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.  Visit us at: www.ahrc.ac.uk, on Twitter at @ahrcpress, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council, or Instagram at @ahrcpress.
  2. Land Lines - Modern British Nature Writing 1789-2014 Research organisations involved: University of Leeds School of English (Lead research organisation), University of Sussex and University of St Andrews. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. www.landlinesproject.wordpress.com, @LandLinesNature or www.facebook.com/LandLinesNature
  3. The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 33,000 students from more than 150 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. We are a top 10 university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and in the top 100 for academic reputation in the QS World University Rankings 2018. Additionally, the University was awarded a Gold rating by the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework in 2017, recognising its ‘consistently outstanding’ teaching and learning provision. Twenty-four of our academics have been awarded National Teaching Fellowships &- more than any other institution in England, Northern Ireland and Wales - reflecting the excellence of our teaching.  www.leeds.ac.uk
    The University of St Andrews was founded in the 15th century. St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. Teaching began in the community of St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland in 1410 and the university was formally constituted by the issue of Papal Bull in 1413. The university is now one of Europe’s most research-intensive seats of learning - over a quarter of its turnover comes from research grants and contracts. It is one of the top rated universities in Europe for research, teaching quality and student satisfaction and is consistently ranked among the UK’s top five in leading independent league tables produced by The Sunday Times and The Times, The Guardian and The Complete University Guide. www.st-andrews.ac.uk
    The University of Sussex has challenged convention since its foundation in 1961. From the campus’ modernist architecture on the edge of a rural national park, to our progressive academics and creative professional services staff, to the inspiring students who choose to learn and live here, to the very tone of the institution and the nature of its conversations, through to the expressions of radicalism, critical thinking and, at times, dissent. The University of Sussex has a long tradition of experimentation and innovation that has made a real difference to the lives of many students, and those who benefit from our research and wider endeavours. Our research creates new agendas, contributes new knowledge and provides new ideas and solutions that are helping to shape the world. We challenge conventional thinking and discourses, offering inspiring and creative ways to understand and solve global issues.
    Visit www.sussex.ac.uk
  4. The winner of the search for the UK’s favourite nature book was announced on Winterwatch in January 2018 - https://ahrc.ukri.org/newsevents/news/chris-packhams-fingers-in-the-sparkle-jar-voted-uks-favourite-nature-book1/
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