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It’s official, its 2024 and the decorations are likely to be down, unless you like to hang on until last minute! There may still be some leftover chocolates and for a while you may find a sliver of tinsel in the far corners of your living room, still smell the faint scent of the tree, and come across a few pine needles lingering in unexpected places. Christmas has given way to January in all its low hues and undoubtedly unpredictable weather.

January can be a tricky time for many of us, it’s quiet after the energetic build up to Christmas. We resume work, or our loved ones do. The days can seem to blend into long nights. And still throughout my adult years I have often heard many people say, “there simply isn’t much to look forward to in January, nothing happens really”.

As a nation we often see this first month as something to get out of the way, not to look forward too. We set ourselves tasks, we might have a clear out, get a gym pass if it’s our thing and begin again, while a new year stretches out in front of us, dangling its pathways and wondering which route we will take.

How ever you see January, how ever it makes you feel, nature is still very busy working its weaving magic above and beneath the ground and that is something we can all take some small pleasure in and feel positive about. Nature can provide a wonderful outlet for us, but we must keep our eyes and ears open, take comfort in its beauty and delight in the surprises it often brings.

In January the birds are especially busy, hunting for food that can be a little sparse. But they sing happily while they search. Early morning you will hear only the beginnings of the dawn chorus creeping in. Robins, wrens, blue tits, blackbirds, dunnocks, and song thrush but to name a few. If you can get out, add a little more feed to your bird table or trees and in return you will continue to aid their beautiful serenade to the world you inhabit. When you have a moment, see if you can spot any returning birds to your garden or the area where you live, do you have a returning robin?

Keep an eye on the sky and you will most likely see swarms of starlings early evening, huddling together, creating beautiful patterns known as murmuration. A sight to behold and a wonderful distraction from everyday life.

And then we have the Snowdrop, they can appear in late January if the weather is warm enough, their delicate white shining a light through our winter days. If you do not see the flowers yet, you may catch a glimpse of them protruding willingly through the soil. Snowdrops are one of the first flowers of spring. They symbolise new beginnings, hope, rebirth, and the ability to overcome challenges. A plant of pure positivity.

And underneath the soil…

In January it sometimes feels as if nothing is growing. Everything is stuck and we are destined to live forever in a leafless landscape of short days and dread.

This isn’t true for roots. As soon as the year turns, many roots start to grow beneath the ground, as long as the temperature is above freezing. Roots have some remarkable chemistry that allows them to ‘feel’ their way in the dark, a little like when you get up in the night and navigate your way in the dark without switching on the light. While all is still above, the roots of many plants are getting ready for the growth season to come.

Andy BeerEvery Day Nature, 2020

Meanwhile above ground it is good to remember that not all trees have lost their leaves. Take for example the winter flowering Cherry Blossom (Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis Rosea). It’s delicate small pinked tinged flowers on show from November through to March, injecting subtle colour into many a bright, cold crisp morning.

Twelfth night sees the tradition of wassailing. There are two types, but we will learn of the orchard visiting wassail. Where people gather in cider producing orchards to sing and recite incantations around the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year. There are many songs to be sung among them the “Gloucestershire Wassail”.

If you can get out for a walk, January days can be beautiful when the sun is out, the frost is crisp and there is a little bite in the air. The red berries are bright on branches and primroses continue to flower. Hellebores, Camellia, Cyclamens and Rosehips all show up during this month. Some National Trust gardens remain open and do a wonderful job of show casing seasonal plants and flowers.

If you are indoors, why not invest in a winter flowering house plant? A peace Lily, Boat Orchid, Azalea, or Amaryllis? If you can’t get outside then why not bring the outside in, there are many positive benefits to be had from sharing your home with plant life, they can increase oxygen levels and allow you a little more breathing space.

Finally, if you’re looking for an excellent bite size coffee table read that connects you to nature, I would highly recommend “Every Day Nature” by Andy Beer. You will see I have included an extract from his book on this blog. Not only is it informative and beautifully written, but it also has some wonderful water colour drawings that run throughout. For each day of the year there is a digestible, magical piece of nature to read about. Something truly positive to read every morning with a hot drink and piece of warm buttery toast.