How to ensure there’s a spring in your step in the morning

New research from the University of Cumbria has found that over the last 12 months Brits have spent significantly more time in nature.

Particularly enjoying the fresh air and morning bird song, 72% of women and 60% of men now want to spend more time exploring their local wildlife in the future. While conversations with friends and family about what can be seen, heard, and smelt have increased, many are also now turning to social media to identify their findings.

To celebrate the launch of Nature Valley Protein Soft Bakes, the brand is encouraging people to grab more morning by getting out into nature as a key part of a morning routine.

Exploring the great outdoors can have a positive impact on personal wellbeing, whilst also enjoying the morning sunrise. Spending time in nature reduces stress levels, improves your mood and physical health as well as being an overall calming influence.

To make navigating nature even easier, Nature Valley has partnered with naturalist, Sophie Pavelle, to provide a simple guide of where to look and what to spot on your morning walk as well as safe ways to go off the beaten path without harming nature or yourself:

Early bird catches the worm

In early Spring, the sun will rise at about 6am. Just before that, you can always rely on the blackbird and the robin to kick-off the dawn chorus, and perhaps even the gorgeous melody of a song thrush if you’re lucky. It doesn’t take long for other birds to join in the fun, with great tits, blue tits, wrens, dunnocks, finches and all sorts taking to the stage.

Birds

The morning is one of the best times to explore nature, because there is just so much going on! In Spring especially, birds are getting excited – there are a lot of hormones flying around during the dawn chorus – as they compete with one another for a mate and defend their territories. Cute as they are, robins are feisty little birds – often engaging in a bit of aggression as they fight for their patch…they are a bit of a bully!

Don’t forget to look up, too. One of our most common birds of prey, the buzzard, will likely be up and at it, soaring the warming currents of air. Tails fanned and wings outstretched, at this time of year this is a good sign that they are honing their courtship skills ready to settle down with a mate for the season.

Frogs

Peek in any pools of water, have a good look out for frog spawn and toad spawn. It’s easy to tell the difference, frog spawn is laid in classic, gooey clumps, and toad spawn floats in long lines. Frogs are very excitable at this time of year too, so you may even spot a cheeky piggy-back occurring in a sheltered corner…say no more!

Wild Garlic

There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh wild garlic on a morning walk. Common throughout the UK, they love shady woods and come into full force in early Spring. Spring is the perfect time to forage for their leaves, which can be eaten raw or cooked into salads. But always make sure it’s garlic before you snack.

Bees

Many of the early risers are solitary bees – groups of bees which are important pollinators, but don’t belong to a colony like honeybees. They often can be seen emerging from their burrows in the ground, or sandy banks, even walls – ready for a day of hard work.

Queen bees are the only members of a bumblebee colony that hibernate over Winter and emerge again in early Spring. Be sure to keep an eye (and an ear) out for rather sleepy looking bumblebees, which may appear in the cool of the morning to gorge on nectar and regain their energy levels, before seeking out a new nest site to raise a new bumblebee colony ready for Spring and Summer.

Spring blossom

As trees begin to bloom, the smell of blossom on an early morning is a bit of indulgence. Blossom is an essential feature of early Spring, offering quick nectar stations for emerging pollinators, and allowing trees to cross-pollinate and produce fruit later in the year.

Fox Cubs

If you’re really lucky, and towards late April, you might even catch a glimpse of some fox cubs, which begin to start exploring above-ground around this time. Early morning again, along with dusk, is a good time to try and see them.

Remember to keep safe and vigilant when you’re out in nature as Sophie explains:

Staying at a distance is key

Always make sure you’re watching wildlife, be it birds or mammals, at a safe distance and with minimal noise. Mornings are a sensitive time for many species as they are out and about, so just try and be mindful of this on your walk.

If you’re curious about a plant or animal you’ve come across, but not sure what you’re looking at, there are a couple great apps which help you identify the species. ‘Seek’ and ‘iNaturalist’ are my favourites – I use them all the time!

Don’t forget to take a map

Make sure someone knows where you’re walking and what time you have set aside, especially if you’re exploring a new area. If you’re unsure about whether your route is public access, check out your local rights of way here: https://footpathmap.co.uk.

Ordnance Survey also has a brilliant app where you can download leisure maps from all over the UK, to help you on your way: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk (it’s also very handy as it shows you your location in real-time, which always helps if you’re a bit stuck!) Finally, What Three Words is a fantastic way to pinpoint your exact location – useful for if you need to share with someone else or emergency services: https://what3words.com/products/what3words-app/

Need another reason to grab more morning? This April, Nature Valley is encouraging people to snap a photo of their mornings in nature to be in the running to win an adventure-filled £4000 UK Holiday. Head over to Naturevalley.co.uk/grabmoremorning between 12 – 25 April and follow the steps on how to enter.

Nature Valley Protein Soft Bakes are made with whole grain oats and barley – high in protein and fibre, they are the perfect part of a grab and go breakfast.

Available now online and in major retail stores.