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72 Seasons; Look Closer

Today we publish the final report of our ground-breaking 72 Seasons project. We learned such a lot and have found a concept project which helps people to connect to nature, and which protected their wellbeing during the pandemic.

2020 was a difficult, unprecedented, traumatic year, but luckily we had a strand of good stuff to hang onto. Lots of us found solace in nature, watching the seasons unfold and nature change as expected, while everything around was not as expected certainly brought comfort. Well, we were lucky enough to be researchers measuring that comfort as it happened, with a group of incredible volunteers who inspired us and helped us to capture a moment in time.

Read all about it, here… 

Autumn in the 72 Seasons

Welcome to Autumn, our final adventure in nature. This season has an added layer of poignancy, as there is a sense of ending running throughout. Our seasonal seekers were really engaged this season though, there was a lot of spotting and sharing. Maybe they were making the most of the project while it lasted? Maybe it was more needed as Autumn included another lockdown? Maybe we just got the seasons spot on this time? Maybe the group had got to know each other much better and felt more comfortable together? Maybe it was all of the above.

 

Season; 3 – 7 October: Conkers Peek from Spiky Shells

Who doesn’t love conkers? They are one of the best toys we are given from nature in my humble opinion. I think a ‘horse-chestnut’ or ‘conker’ tree is probably the most commonly identified tree in the UK. Then there is the joy of opening the spiky shells and finding a big one, or a triple, or a double and the beautiful colours and shiny ness of new conkers too. It just feels like the right season to launch Autumn.

 

Images; conkers in the trees and conkers around a shell taken 4 October, conkers in my hand taken 6 October, expansive and gorgeous Pendle Hill view taken 6 October and red autumn leaves also taken 6 October.

In Japan, in the original ancient natural calendar, this season is ‘The Paddy Water is First Drained’. That is a real culture difference, isn’t it. Paddy fields are not in our national psyche, in the same way that conkers maybe aren’t in Japan. I mentioned in a previous post, that the seasons are inspired by the ancient Japanese calendar, but are mostly translated into nature based happenings which are easy to spot, without having to go too far into the countryside. We have tried to keep as many as possible from the Japanese seasons, but some just can’t work here – The Elk Sheds its Horns and The Bear Retreats to its Den are both seasons in this period in Japan, for example, and I’ve not spotted many Elk or Bears in my everyday wanderings!

 

Season; 8 – 12 October: Red Leaves Glow

Images; yellow autumnal leaves from 8 October, red leaves on building taken 10 October and close up of red leaves from 12 October.

This was a good season which was kept as 100% agreed that this was happening. Many red glowing leaves were found, on buildings, peeping over walls, amongst forests and towering over parks and car parks. There was even some spotted on the way to the bus stop, which is my consistent litmus test. Can you see this season if all you do is walk to the bus stop? If yes, it fits, if no, it does not. This season, that was again more vital than ever I could have anticipated. This area of Lancashire, around Pendle Hill has had some of the strictest restrictions for almost all the year, and little exploration has been allowed.

 

Season; 13 -17 October: Leaf Peepers Admire Autumn Colours

Natures palette is really vibrant and wonderful at this time of year, and it’s a great idea to admire some colour and enjoy the show the trees put on for us. Leaf peeping is quite an American term, but it just means enjoy looking at the leaf colours, and maybe take a photograph. It’s also something that changes over time, you can look each day and note subtle differences, or look at groups each week and note sweeping changes.

Images; a hairy and later flowering clematis 13 October, orange leaved tree with red leaved shrub taken on 16 October, vibrant red tree also taken 16 October, bare tree from the same day, bright white snowberries also from the same day.

Obviously all our seekers were out and about on the 16 October making the most of the blue skies and crisp light. Many of them told us they enjoyed kicking the leaves which had fallen, and a couple suggested that the season should include that, but I try and keep the seasons something that anyone can enjoy, even if not able-bodied or able to get out and kick leaves.

 

Season; 18 – 22 October: Holly Berries Feed the Birds

Images; leaves taken on 20 October, cows taken on 22 October. I love how creative and nicely framed these images are.

People agreed with the season but obviously found to tricky to photograph – they got there in the end, as you will see a little further down.

72 Seasons is primarily a research project. We wanted to know if we could bring people closer to nature, if we could make people feel more connected to nature and to measure their health and wellbeing as we did that. As I write this blog, we are also carrying out analysis on all the results. As part of that work I keep reading the comments people have made during the year.

This season people were telling us that “The seasons seem to be back in synch now after our blip over the summer months when things didn’t seem to fit our 72 seasons very well! Autumn is fitting better! 😁”
Others mentioned “The nights are drawing in and the leaves are dropping from the trees” and more that “The Redwings are flying around the hedgerows on Billington Moor having arrived from Scandinavia. The Hawthorns are shedding their leaves now as are the Sycamores and Birch.”  I really love the range of people taking part. Some are very knowledgeable, others like detail and others like big sweeping changes “Getting darker earlier and a chill in the air.” Some notice animals, some notice birds, some notice flowers.

“Squirrels burying nuts”

“The last of the blackberries on the country lanes, which I have been enjoying on my walks for the last few months.”

“Time for planting bulbs”

“I have seen lots of different formations of geese flying over”

72 Seasons is a project that anyone can engage with, whatever their expertise or interests. It designed to work for a really wide variety of people.

Season; 23 – 27 October: The First Frost Falls

Ahh, the crispness of a frost. When the air feels sharper and everything is outlined and clearer! This season was one of the trickier seasons, it was kept but with only 58% of the seekers agreeing. Maybe there were pockets of places which had some frost, and other areas that didn’t? Maybe there wasn’t any frost at all but most people thought it was a blip in the weather and that frost would return next year.

Image; snail defying gravity with ease 24 October

 

Season; 28 October – 1 November: The Pumpkins are Carved

I mentioned in the Summer seasons (you can read that previous blog post here) that I chose the first July season to be one of my favourite things. This one is my youngest’s favourite. He loves Halloween a lot. We watch a lot of American Halloween cartoons all year round and I know some of the most popular Halloween songs off by heart now, including such dreadful classics as ‘Halloween night’ and ‘Scary, flying shark’. Did you know there was a tradition of singing? If you didn’t, its coming! We always end up with what’s popular in America over here eventually don’t we? While thinking about this season, is it nature? Pumpkins being ripe is probably a season, but not something you can easily find on a walk to the bus stop. This is quite a man made and nature combined season. It’s the only season that is a bit on the cusp, but I have to admit I wondered how our seekers would find this one? Yet this season was kept with 100% agreed.

Images; autumn leaves on the floor 30 October, bird eating holly 30 October, another bird eating holly also on 30 October and pumpkin image taken on 2 November.

Also, our seekers spotted birds eating holly berries now. These are a couple of great action shots.

 

Season; 2 – 6 November: Hedgehogs Shut their Doors

Well certainly a challenge to photograph this official season! Not sure it’s actually possible. Thank goodness we have Cath Ford drawing all the seasons, I mean not only is she brilliant, but it brings all these trickier seasons to life along with the others. It’s also a nice season to imagine, hunkering down and hibernating and time to be cosy.

You can see colour changes in the photographs as you look through a whole season. The green starts to go and browns and oranges start to arrive and this selection of images really shows that.

Images; bare tree with blue sky taken 4 November, black ash buds 4 November, horse chestnut buds and witches broom in tree also from 4 November and frost, mist and flooded fields from 5 November.

Witches broom is a deformity in a woody plant, typically a tree, where the natural structure of the plant is changed. A dense mass of shoots grows from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird’s nest. It is sometimes caused by pathogens. I used to think these were birds nests, but I love the name, witches broom. It’s evocative, and descriptive, and oh-so-apt for Pendle, which is internationally famous for witches of course.

This season coincided with back into national lockdown, and our seasonal seekers had to explore even more locally than before. Thank goodness there is always something to look at in nature. We have certainly needed the comfort and reassurance of something happening as usual this year.

 

Season; 7 – 11 November: The Trees are Bare

Images – all of the above taken on 7 November; tree full of red berries, bare trees full of starlings, bare trees in front of sunset, bare trees in the park, colourful gum tree, and bare tree in garden.

 

Images; leaves clinging to trees on 8 November, green moss on dry stone wall 8 November.

These two images both feel very peaceful. It is quite a calm season, having bare trees.

Images; two different paths through trees on 9 November

I do really love how the paths here are so different, yet taken on the same day. One with mixed colours and shapes and one orderly, like each one has a wood artist, one who is messy and one who is ordered! I wonder if one is a managed forest and one not, or if it something to do with wind and seed dispersal many years ago.

 

Images of two different bare trees, left from 9 November and right from 10 November.

When the above left image was shared, our seeker captioned it ‘Moody Bare Tree’ and it got me thinking – they have a bit more personality when they’re naked! What do you think? Do you see a different side to the trees when they lose their leaves? Have you noticed this before? This is how the whole project works by the way, each season is designed to encourage you to either look at something new, look at a change or to look again at something you know well. The whole project is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, who fund a lot of building work and once told me that people always tell them they look up more after a place has been ‘done up’. Well, this project is about looking up, down, sideways and again!

Images; Bare trees with crisp reflection taken on 10 November, autumn sunset featuring bare trees from 11 November.

We haven’t had many sunset and night images shared, it was lovely to see this one.

 

Season; 12 – 16 November: Honking Geese Fly By

This is a new season, which replaced one which didn’t make the final cut. The abandoned one was ‘The Land Freezes’. It feels quite dramatic to say that. I know the weather seasons have been harder for people than the ones about things. Wonderfully explained by one of our seekers “I think that because there have been more weather ones there is less push to go out and look for specific things. I like looking for things!” I replaced this with a season which encompasses sound and imagery too, and hopefully fills skies across Pendle and nearby. I personally live in an urban part of the area, and the geese fly over my house twice a day, at dusk and at dawn. It’s quite a vibrant sound, and the formation is just like Cath’s drawing above. If you have Instagram, think of following her work on there.

Fun fact, I thought of Cath’s Instagram (which is here) because at the moment she keeps sharing her nail varnish and clothes combinations and my nails are currently painted in the exact shade of the sky above! We know how to live a rock and roll life in lockdown!!

In all seriousness though, 72 Seasons has had an added level of importance in lockdown, and during covid. It became a comfort and inspired people. One seeker told me they were going to take up a photography course soon after enjoying taking photographs of these seasons. Another said “I’m consciously trying to notice more and have started to do little What’s app quizzes with families like “what 5 birds do you think I saw this morning”. Something fun and cheerful. 2nd wave is definitely harder!”

 

Season; 17 – 21 November: Puddles Galore!

Who doesn’t love splashing in puddles? Not us, as 100% of people agreed with this season. There is a Scandinavian saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing – which might be said everywhere it’s cold and rainy to be honest. But, it’s certainly something I have appreciated since moving to the far east of Lancashire about 15 years ago. It does rain, a lot. So you have to put on some weather proof clothing and go out regardless, as if you wait for nice days, you might be waiting a long time. Of course, as soon as I mention that, there is a day of glorious weather!

 

Images; Blues skies and gorgeous weather and views of the rolling countryside and moors taken on 19 November

Also spotted on the 19 November, is this bright yellow waxcap fungi. Waxcap fungi like grasslands with poor nutrients and because of that are quite hard to spot, and are a species in decline. There just aren’t enough places left which are not used in some way. You can read more about waxcaps here. 

Image taken on 21 November ‘Wet Puddle Walk’

This was one of my photographs, I had some fun out splashing in puddles and shared a collage. Also showing off my new wellies too – they are Muck Boots are are great, really thick soles so your feet don’t get cold, but it does make them them heavy to walk in. “Nice new wellies! And thanks for enjoying the puddles for us in them.” one seeker said. But I told the group I wasn’t brave enough to walk through the middle of the top one! I had visions of disappearing down up to my neck, which was a scene I remembered laughing at in The Vicar of Dibley, which is an old tv show now. One person replied “Exactly what happened to our daughter when she was about 18 months old – she disappeared into a puddle she jumped into (the drain cover had also disappeared) Thankfully she was still holding my hand.” Can you imagine how much your heart would be beating if that happened? I’d be too scared to let them splash in puddles. So, puddles galore but stay safe folks!

 

Season; 22 – 26 November: The Rainbow Hides Unseen

Grey skies with rainbow from 22 November.

Hidden rainbows was the season we went out to meet three seekers in person, don’t worry, this was in between lockdowns and we stood outside their homes, and travelled in separate cars, so it was all very Covid-secure. What it was, through, was a really marvellous day out! I started working from home full time on the 16th March 2020, and this day, the 27th November was the first day I had left the office for work. I was so excited! I asked three different seekers to talk on camera about their experiences during the year. I was really keen to do this while the project was still happening and to capture the project, live. Our three interviewees; Jackie, Caroline and Sue, were wonderful hosts, making us all feel welcome and pretty hardy agreeing to stand outside with us for the whole couple of hours we were there. The wonderful Caroline and Dave from Huckleberry Films (their website is here) did all the hard work, setting up cameras and sound equipment, recording, and then creating the film. I just chatted to people and asked some questions. I’m really grateful to everyone who made this happen, and also to Cathy from the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership (their website is here) who supported the film financially, through National Lottery Heritage Funds.

You can see the film here.

I do hope you have watched the film, it’s incredibly heartwarming and a lovely piece of work, telling the story of noticing nature and how connection matters.

 

Images above all taken on 26 November; autumn sunset through a tangled frame, misty field, giant horsetail, a misty sunset and turkey tail fungus.

Talking about the giant horsetail one seeker explained it was a “stunning and an incredible plant, although not keen on them in my garden” and another that “I’d never seen them before. Certainly, wouldn’t want them in my garden either!” and it was through lots and lots of moments like this, our seekers connected with each other. I am still sad that we weren’t able to get the seekers to meet each other in person, but we proved the resilience of humans, and nature, and connection can cut through that.

 

Season; 27 November – 1 December: The North Wind Brushes the Leaves

Image; Frost tipped grass from 1st December

As December began, we were coming to the end of the research project, and this was our last month together. This was when we asked people what they might do next year as the project ended?

Just carry on looking at nature

I’ll be doing more noticing

Will miss it! 72seasons has got me thinking about doing a photography course, or just learning a bit more about how to take better photographs of the natural world.

I’ll just keep observing!

I would miss it if it disappeared. I hope that it continues so that we can see which Seasons have been adopted / adapted / thrown out / replaced. It’s provided a welcome break from Covid and a great opportunity to engage with the natural world.

Sad. 😭 Keep looking out for detail and not lumping seasons together – hoping this will help get me through winter which I always find hard. Thank you. I have enjoyed it.

I have enjoyed the project. Observing wildlife was something I did before and will continue to do but monitoring the seasons in such detail is something I may continue with.

Carry on watching the seasons unfold – but I don’t wish to carry on with this project

I feel really sad 😢 Not thought further …

Birds sightings trees coming into bud sighting of flowers or wild herbs

No issues. Carry on enjoying the great outdoors

If you could produce a calendar I would continue doing it next year.

I think it’s really sad. How will we get through January and February!! Thank you so much for doing this project .

No

I feel sad, it has really kept me in touch with the outdoors and i have enjoyed the 72 seasons. Next: I am going to spend more time outdoors and notice the mini seasons more

I will continue taking photographs and watching for changes again as I walk in the countryside. It would be good if the Facebook group could continue to post comments and photos and keep in touch. I think I will take up diary writing next year as I haven’t done that since a teenager. I wish I had started this year. It would have been interested to look back on. The project has been very good for me and helped to keep me positive. Thank you Kirsty. Oh and I’ve enjoyed the art work so much and if a calendar was made I would love a copy to keep one as a reminder.

I will miss it ,but I will continue to walk one hour every day and will continue to take my daily photo for the river ribble Trust

I will miss seeing the pictures. Not thought about next year yet!

Will miss it but hopefully carry on noticing the world around me

No thoughts but have been on walks and taking notice of my surroundings

I have noticed most things out on dog walks , so every day. It’s been such a good project enabling you to observe more instead of walking past. We will keep walking Pendle and trying the different loops. We are still discovering different parts , even now !

The above are all the answers we received. Although not everyone was gushing about our project a large number plan to continue their connection with nature. That’s a cheering thought, that there will be lasting change.

 

Season; 2 – 6 December: Morning Walkers Crack Icy Puddles

This is a new season and replaced ‘The First Icicle Forms’ as no one found any icicles. They may have been very well hidden or in fact they may not have actually existed this time. Our volunteers did find icy puddles though and a few mentioned overnight ice, and one talked of spotting puddles in the morning and I put as many comments together into one season as I possibly could – so this was a truly co-produced season. Maybe you recognise one of your comments?

Bare tree in icy puddle taken on 3 December, budding trees from 4 December.

 

Season; 7 – 11 December: The Sky is Cold, Winter Comes

 

Images; autumn sunrise on 7 December, and sunrise behind bare branches also from 7 December.

It was, very, cold!

 

Season; 12 – 16 December: Evergreens Stand Alone

I love the detail of this image, it’s just a perfect vision of this time of year. Would also make a cracking Christmas card too!

Images; Snow on Pendle hill taken on 14 December, 15 December was the sunny shore from one of our seekers who took a short break from Pendle.

 

Season; 17 – 21 December: The Sky is Dark

I remember when planning this project, I did an exercise with a group about finding their birthday seasons. Someone came up to me and told me this was their season, and they didn’t like it! I did think about changing it, but I’m glad I stuck to it. We need to get better at enjoying all the seasons and weather, and  dark skies are a great time to stargaze, or to celebrate the Winter Solstice. And, luckily, 92% of you agreed this season was a keeper.

Image; Dark sky on 19 December.

Images; Daffodils sprouting on 17 December and an expansive view taken on 17 December.

Are the daffodils really early this year to sprout? Or is it something that always happens and only time I noticed? Also, I wanted to share the image of the grasslands, which looks to be on Pendle Hill itself to me. Doesn’t that look like it will have a dark sky soon?

Season; 22 – 26 December: Frost Patterns Fallen Leaves

Images; frosty leaves on 22 December, frozen puddle and brown leaves taken 24 December, frosty green leaf and frosty puddle also taken on 24 December, then frosted window and another puddle from 25 December – Christmas day!

Our Christmas season. Whatever your thoughts on Christmas, it was clear we all love frost patterning leaves. ice, and frost in general are endlessly fascinating if you like pattern. Beautiful, fleeting, fascinating.

 

Season; 27 – 31 December: The Snow Creates Silence

This is it, our very last season. I wrote in the email sent to our seekers, that we were taking a fairly large risk predicting snow, at the end of the year, and not just any snow but the soft fluffy kind which affects soundwaves and creates silence. Waking up on the 27 December, you would have never believed snow was coming.

Images; All of the above were taken on 27 December.

But it did, snow fell. The right kind, on the right day, as though finally the weather had read my email and that the whole universe conspired to align the seasons for us. What a way to end.

 

Images; Robin and bare trees from 28 December

Loved this stunning image of winter – snow, a robin, it’s just wonderful. Total fluke too according to the photographer!

 

Images; Snowy hill from 28 December, snowy evergreens from 28 December, more snowy trees also from the 28 December, an undisturbed field of snow from 28 December and a snowy garden from 29 December.

All the above images taken on 30 December; ice close up, ice looking like fur, frosted leaves, canal towepath frosty in the morning, ice on car roof

Images; 31 December frosted spiders web and snow tips in garden.

I can’t believe we ended on such a high. We got the very last season season so exactly right!

 

Thank you to all our volunteers. Did you know 310 people took part in seeking the seasons with us in 2020. They donated a huge amount of their time, and enthusiasm for nature and created a community which gave a lot of people a lot of solace during the most difficult of years.

 

Please note all photographs have been image described in their captions, to make sure this post is accessible to the widest possible audience.

If you have any questions or thoughts on this blog post, please send me an email at kirsty@theevaluator.co.uk – I’m afraid I had to turn comments off this blog, as it was just getting filled with spam robot stuff which no-one wants to see.

 

Thanks for reading, thanks for seeking.

Kirsty

 

72 Seasons on film

We have just made a film all about our 72 Seasons project. This is one of our own projects, funded by the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership. With artwork by Cath in the Attic, and filmed and edited by Huckleberry Film, this is a lovely video to share.

This whole year, 2020, we created a way to notice more and get closer to nature and tested it out with a group of 200 volunteers. 72 seasons, has been a joy from the start and as we come to the end of the year, we made a film! Here is the story of 72 Seasons of Pendle Hill…

Director’s Blog: Why we are more resilient than we think we are?

Hello,

My name is Kirsty, the Founder and Director of The Evaluator. Occasionally I write a Director’s blog to include general thoughts and interesting pieces of information that we are currently working on.

Presently, I am working on trying to come up with a solution for measuring how our clients have adapted to Covid-19. It has brought so many changes to our world. As a team, we have been carrying out quite a lot of research with people, everyday wellbeing was something we measured at the start of lockdown, and recently we have been carrying out quite a lot of online research into how organisations have helped their participants during lockdowns of all alerts/levels/tiers. I think we have found the personal view, but are lacking the more professional view, so I want to make sure we work out an easy way to do this and then apply that as widely as possible.

I started with some research, and I think the ultimate skill we are discussing is resilience. The ability to ‘try, try again’. But what is resilience and how can we measure it? We have in the past developed our own resilience scale.

Here is an extract from a blog post first published in 2017:

Resilience is a skill, we know that instinctively but how do you say for sure if someone is more resilient than another? What if they become more resilient? How do you prove it? 

There is no easily comparable tool that many people use, there are a number of resilience scales but these tend to be used in a clinical setting and are not suitable for every project. I have therefore, developed my own resilience scale, which shows what the individual believes to be their own skill-set.

I have based this on the ten ways to be more resilient as defined by Liggy Webb – the United Nations adviser on resilience; author of the book ‘Resilience’ and international keynote speaker on how to be more resilient. The ten skills are; take a journey of self-discovery, optimism, emotional control, change for the better, coping well with conflict, embracing opportunities, looking after yourself, making positive connections, keeping going and having a vision. I have reworked these skills into a scale which participants can rate themselves and also a set of skills that project staff can assess. 

Participants are to answer how often they feel like this, over the last two weeks:

  • I know myself well, and can describe my strengths and weaknesses
  • I cope well with change
  • I cope well with conflict and/ or arguments
  • I feel like I can say yes to opportunities
  • I put myself first, so I can look after others better
  • I have been socialising recently
  • I am able to make plans and stick to those plans
  • I believe that life will improve in the future, I feel optimistic about the future
  • I have coped well with making decisions
  • I feel that I can cope well with stressful situations

Assigning each answer with a number, means we can measure how resilient a person is, at a particular moment in time. We can ask them again, every quarter and track their movements. We can find out what happened to make them more resilient, and what happened in their lives to make them become less resilient. In short, we can show impact numerically. 

We have used the above scale in a number of different evaluations and it has worked well. This year however we need something additional. We have been thinking about what resilience means when it is across a team, or collective, and what it means during a global pandemic. We came across a great article:-

Collective Resilience by The Collective Psychology Project – this has lots of relevance to many of the organisations we are working with. Here are some of the main points:

“There are three different layers to the crisis all playing out simultaneously: a public health emergency, an economic disaster, and a social and cultural crisis”

“22% (of adults) were engaging more with arts during lockdown”

“In the UK, 64% of adults felt that their communities had ‘come together to help each other’ during the crisis”

“63% of people felt more connected to nature during lockdown”

These are all positive outcomes to arise. However it is not all good news…

“health workers and Covid patients have faced high levels of trauma”

“we become more prone to conspiracy theories or extremist views when we feel threatened”

We should retain hope:

“Covid-19 has also shone a light on another, more hopeful story; one about how ordinary people, often led by the young, are finding new ways to cope and thrive, even in hugely challenging organisations”

“What’s more, there is evidence, from previous epidemics (like SARS), as well as other kinds of emergencies, that people in crises don’t just find ways to cope with negative mental health impacts, but also report positive effects, such as greater sense of community, meaning and spirituality – sometimes summed up in the term ‘post traumatic growth”

You can read the whole article here.

To conclude, we are going to mull over these terms – and figure out how to positively word some research into organisational post-traumatic growth for organisations.

Thanks for reading,

Kirsty

72 Seasons; The Agreed 18 Seasons of Spring

In 2020, for the project 72 Seasons, we are working with a group of volunteers – our seasonal seekers – to rename the year in nature. Every 4 or 5 days we start a new season. Our seekers are helping us to notice the changes in nature. Throughout they project they complete health and wellbeing surveys as we monitor the changes that they feel as they move closer to nature.

Our ultimate goal is to have an agreed list of 72 Seasons which are easily noticed, things you can see even if you don’t have a garden or are able to go for long walks or reach the wilder spots. We are running this project in the area around Pendle Hill and it will be a Lancashire-specific, or possibly North-West-specific, list of seasons when complete. We also hope it will have been fun for people to take part in. We had planned to do some of the work purely online and some in person. The in-person elements have been postponed but the online only has positively thrived.

Here is a blog post all about how Spring went. We did this for Winter previously and there is a link to that post here, in case you prefer to read in order.

 

If you have just read all about the changes in Winter, you’ll have noticed that people started to keep an eye out for previous seasons. Well, the magnolia crept into this season…

Pictures by Tammie, Ellen and Helen, who were delighted to find the magnolia blooms.

I do really like the way people take on noticing the ‘season’, it becomes personal to find it. I even find myself looking at my list as I go for a walk and thinking about what I might be able to notice in advance and what might be taking its time. You cannot rush nature, it does its own thing, and you have very little control in general. I think that is the comfort of the project. Most of the seasons chosen are mostly free from too much person-interference, and the changes are designed to put you in the bigger natural world.

We never could have predicted that this project around noticing nature and wellbeing would have such a turbulent year to follow. It almost feels unreal that in 2020 we happened to carry out a year-long nature project that people can take part in from home. As a researcher you cannot get much luckier than measuring wellbeing with a group of people both before and during Covid and hopefully continuing as we come out of Covid. We have measured wellbeing and health in detail during the most impactful year, with dramatic changes in life and huge effects on wellbeing. We have been there, live, measuring away and running the project, mostly just as planned.  It is also crucial to note that nature almost feels like the only silver lining of Covid; our rivers cleared up, the skies were free of aeroplanes, and traffic was almost silent. Looking at Spring happening, quite normally, while the whole world around us changed beyond all recognition, was a source of comfort for me and for many others taking part in the project.

“This year with lockdown I somehow feel even more aware of nature and how it is thriving and blossoming without us – almost as if it is benefiting from our absence. Quite humbling.”

“I don’t know if it’s what we are going through at the moment but I’m noticing the different trees and how they open up and the different time trees open up… the glorious different green colours in the trees. I’ve noticed the blossom and spring flowers and been sending photos to my mum as she has missed seeing all the spring flowers while out and about. It makes me realise what we take for granted usually and is opening my eyes to the wonder around the beautiful part of Lancashire I am so fortunate to live in and be able to see while in lockdown.”

“Really enjoying taking part. It’s particularly good to focus on nature during these weird times.”

Season: 31 March – 4 April; Daffodils Dance in the Breeze

 

Pamela took the left photograph on 9 April and Veronica took the photograph on 31 March

This was a new season – one we created based on what people noticed, as our original estimate of ‘Thunder Raises its Voice’ proved wrong. We do replace quite a few seasons. ‘Kirsty Daffodil’ is a nickname of mine. I resisted using daffodils as I thought it was a bit too much about me! The daffodils won through though. I suppose it wouldn’t be a British spring without them.

And the seasons were already starting to blur! Proving that the seasons do “march on without us” as one seeker said. There was a real feeling of excitement as Spring, sprung!

Jackie took this wonderful image of redcurrants flowering with Pendle Hill peeping through in the background, Sue took the photograph of Solomon’s Seal springing up among the daffodils and then a different Sue shared a collage of Spring flowers.

Season: 5 – 9 April; The Swallows Arrive.

As I write this post, the season is ‘The Swallows Leave’ and their time with us is brief, approximately five months – When they arrive, they chatter, they raise one or two broods of young, and then they go. They know how to make an entrance, and how to keep us keen! The shapes of them flitting and swooping over the canal, has brought me much happiness this year – consternation also, as I try to remember which is a swift (all black) and which is a swallow (white, below).

Caroline managed to get a photograph of a swallow on 12 April. They are so fast it can be hard to catch on camera.

Season: 10 – 14 April; Yellow Forsythia Gleams

 

The first image here was taken by Marian on 9 April and the second by Veronica on 31 March.

Our Facebook group of seasonal seekers continue to learn together. I send out longer emails explaining the seasons and do try and research and share interesting snippets. In that way people can choose how involved they want to get.

One seasonal seeker, Deborah mentioned “The garden smells wonderful after last night’s rain and the hellebores are at their best at the moment. This smell is ‘Petrichor’ (thanks Kirsty Rose Parker, hadn’t heard this word before so I looked it up) it’s the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek petra (πέτρα), meaning “stone”, and īchōr (ἰχώρ), the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.”

It is wonderful to get feedback on how people are using the information and learning more.

People started to share the parts of spring that meant something to them…

On 10 April our spring seekers were on fire! Anita found a butterfly – Sally shared this blossom she found and Sue found a horse chestnut tree starting to grow its flowers.

Not all of the group were out and about as – some people were shielding at home at this point. People started to share more paths, and larger views, for the people who were not getting out so much – a series of virtual walks and paths, organically created within the group.

Chelle shared this Spring View on 13 April, Sue shared an ‘Into a Silver Birch Wood’ on 10 April and Judith shared this Early Morning View of Pendle’ on 11 April. Note the magnolia, creeping into shot there, almost stealing the limelight. I noticed that people were echoing our style of describing the seasons, and making it their own.

In this project we aim to try and engage the senses – sometimes we ask people to touch – or feel the breeze. It is not all about just looking. In April, the scents of the season were also being noticed.

Sue found a carpet of wild garlic on 15 April, Deborah shared garden smells on 11 April and Sue shared a blossom photograph on 15 April.

Season: 15 – 19 April; Lambs Jump in Green Fields.

It’s an iconic image of Spring, and particularly so in our neck of the woods. Lambing time and spotting the first lambs of Spring simply had to be included. We wanted to be a bit more specific and asked people to notice the lambs jumping and being playful if possible and to take a moment to notice the green of the grass and to watch them play. Lamb pictures were popular!

Photographs by Anita on 19 April, Yvonne on 18 April, Sue on 18 April, Sally took a picture of Barnoldswicks famous rainbow sheep, Marian took a picture of these zworbeles sheep on 17 April.

Two further pictures of lambs, both by Sally.

Just a note of explanation on the famous rainbow sheep – I live in Barnoldswick and this was in the height of lockdown, so people could only go for a walk. Most people tried to go out everyday and sometimes we would see friends on the street and stop for glorious five-minute chats across the street or path. Whoever would have predicted how beautiful those moments of connection were and how vital they felt. We actually went for a few family walks to go and find the rainbow sheep after a friend of ours had shouted across the street that was what they were doing. The rainbow sheep had become a local tourist attraction and celebrity. It felt like everyday there was a picture of it shared on social media. The rainbow was the symbol of supporting the NHS, along with clapping every Thursday at 8pm on the doorstep. I have a 4 year old who enjoyed trying to spot the rainbows. I was working throughout lockdown, as my role transferred easily to working from home, but during this hot and sunny spring we would often try and go for a walk about 3.30 or 4 pm, in time to be home to watch the briefing. Writing about that feels a little surreal now. It feels like an awfully long time ago and a whole different time and routine already.

Season: 20 – 24 April; The Tulip Blooms

Sometimes we really get a season right and this was one of them. It just worked perfectly.

Photographs by Sue on 20 April, Christine on 20 April, Ann and Sue on the 21 April

 

Photographs by Pamela on 24, Michelle on 22, Carol on 23, Jackie on 21 and Sam on 21 April too.

Season: 25 – 29 April; Bluebells Carpet the Woods

Photographs by Stella – she took this shot on 25 April, and Janet took the left one on 29 and Caroline found this bluebell carpet on 5 May.

Most years recently I have been to visit the Bluebell woods, but this year it wasn’t possible for me or for many other people to do so. I did feel very grateful for being able to walk to lots of lovely nature spots, and this reminded me that not all of us were even able to do that. It also helped me understand more about how the individuals who were shielding enjoyed the pictures of the wilder areas. The Bluebells do make a lovely carpet!

The English and Spanish Bluebell Identification Quest was strong in our Facebook group. Spanish bluebells are invasive in our country and out-compete the more delicate, stronger smelling (in a good way) English bluebell. They can be tricky to tell apart and our seasonal seekers were keen to learn the differences and to find the rarer English bluebells.

Here are some Spanish ones;

Photographs by Michelle on 25 April, Kath on 24, Sam on 6 May (we kept the debate going a fair while!) and Kath on 9 May.

 

Here are some English ones, they are a bit harder to find:-

Photographs by Sam – who took the first two photographs on 6 May, – Cathy also found this patch on 6 May, – Georgie took this close up on 26 April and Leanne found this clump on 7 May.

The flowers are longer and thinner, and there are usually less of them. They are not as vigorous as the Spanish ones.

Season: 30 April – 4 May; Trees Turn Green Again

This season really brought out the photographs and people started to share more images. I wonder if it’s because trees from a distance are particularly photogenic?

Photographs by Sarah took this picture of green trees on 2 May, Leanne’s ‘Silver Birch Found Its Leaves Again’ on 4 May and Sam took this atmospheric shot of green leaves on 2 May. The last photograph is Jill’s woodland on 6 May.

At this point we also had a discussion about the Oak and Ash trees and the old saying about them. ‘If the oak should bloom before the ash then the world will have a splash, if the ash should bloom before the oak then the world will have a soak.’

Sue took this image of a bare ash on 3 May. “The ash looks to be the last one to bloom and we’ve already had our soak!” explained Sue.
I just wanted to mention Sue’s dedication here, she shares regularly and is an active part of our Facebook group.
Here is Sue’s before and after trees! “My husband is getting fed up walking with me as I take so long looking at everything and taking photos!” she explained. Sorry to Sue’s husband, but we are very pleased! That’s exactly what we hoped would happen during this project.
During this time; the group took us on a virtual walk…
 
Down Anita’s road, stopping by Caroline’s Spring Bank, through Sarah’s woodland entrance, to Jill’s deep woodland, noticing Sue’s fruiting Lichen and just enough time to watch Liz’s geese and their baby goslings before making a wish and watching Georgie’s sunset.
Frog digressions
Cathy shared this photograph on 9 May, and Judith shared this one on 7 May.
I love it when the group go off on one of their own interests – like poo detectives (which I am happy to encourage, but do not want to share pictures of poo here – spoiler alert – they were mostly fox or hedgehog!) It means they are connecting more, and this was important at this time.
Frogs were popular. People would talk about them. “We’ve had two dead ones this year. The first seemed fearless whenever we went near the pond and just kept sitting there, then found it dead in the pond a few days later. The other was just sat on the path!” from Michelle. John was also concerned “I’ve just seen my first tadpoles – incredibly late – and in a bit of water which will dry up soon so they’ll probably die. The lake they normally breed in is already totally dry so none there.” he explained.
Frogs however did gift me one of my favourite photos from Spring!
Janice on 8 May – gold star! This frog looks like the most content frog ever, so clearly some are thriving somewhere.

Season: 5 – 9 May; Wisteria Cascades.

Anita shared this wonderful Wisteria on 11 May. We chose items for the seasons that could hopefully be fairly easily seen, items that most people might be able to spot. We think at least one house in most towns has a Wisteria and they are often at the front. Is that correct? Also, we only keep the seasons that more than 50% of our seekers have agreed and found. If it doesn’t make the magic 50% it is replaced. Some make it with 100% agreeing and others are trickier.

One seeker did say:

“I’m intrigued as to how the various seasons are chosen, which flora and fauna are selected and why some prominent ones left out?”

I’ll try and answer that here. We try and match as many of the original Japanese 72 seasons as we can – although that’s probably only a third of the seasons, and then we have to tweak them. There are bears and exotic plants in Japan. They grow rice and lots of other differences, that cannot translate to Pendle and the area around Pendle Hill. One of my passions, is about making sure that people are included. My professional background includes working with vulnerable adults, and I always want my projects to be open to as many people as possible. It was very important to me, and the whole Pendle Hill team, that you did not have to have a garden, or be well enough to climb Pendle Hill to be able to take part. We want to measure wellbeing across lots of people. I also wanted to see if the project could have an online component so that people who worked full time or worked shifts, or were carers or parents of young children could still take part. Those factors meant we have tried to select the parts of nature that are easy to spot from pavements. When writing them I often thought ‘could I see this on a walk to the bus stop, could I see it in a garden I walk past?’ So, it’s actually about including people rather than prominent nature. We never knew how important that online component would become. We do still hope to be able to complete some face-to-face elements of the project, hopefully in 2021.

Season: 10 – 14 May; Blossom Petals Scatter the Ground.

The images throughout the project by Cath Ford are all wonderful, but the ones with shoes feel particularly noticeable to me. As soon as I see these shoes, I feel like I am looking down at Cath’s feet! If you want to know more about Cath’s work, her website is here. 

Few blossom images were shared in this season – Some seasons really pop and some don’t. That’s the nature of an experimental project like this one. No matter how much people enjoy the seasons, people have other things going on, or they struggle to sustain the same level of enthusiasm all year around. However one of our seekers shared these heart shaped petals, on 1 May.

Season: 15 – 20 May; Birdsong Fills the Sky

This season is new, we actually moved a few seasons around – some were a bit early, some a little late, and others just didn’t work as well as we had planned. When that happens and we need a new one, we read all the comments carefully to see what stands out.

One seeker told us:

“The seasons are spread out much more- start earlier. I am really enjoying the project. I look forward to looking at the posts and appreciate the range of followers, ranging from the experts who know or research all the names, people who are comfortable to ask questions and me who gets easily confused regarding the season we’re supposed to be in, not great with Facebook and still comfortable. It’s wonderful to join with others who appreciate nature, it’s colours, textures…”

And another said:

“Noticed lots of birds have nests and chicks. We have blue tits, coal tits, blackbirds, goldfinches, sparrows.”

And another said:

“I enjoy participating. I have seen baby goslings and baby moorhens on the river. Swifts and swallows and house martinis during the day and plenty of bats at night”

Which all combined to give us the confidence to move the seasons, and to decide on birdsong as the defining season here.

Season: 21 – 25 May. The Lilac Flowers.

Did you know that Lilac in flower on 25 May has been immortalised in literature?

The People’s Revolution of the Glorious Twenty-Fifth of May is depicted in Terry Pratchett’s, ‘Night Watch’, which has a similar story to Les Miserables. Survivors of the revolution are said to wear lilac, each year on 25 May to commemorate their survival. Following Terry Pratchett’s announcement that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, fans called for 25 May to become ‘Wear Lilac’ day in support (now memorial) of Pratchett and to raise awareness of the illness and to raise vital funds for the Alzheimer’s Society UK.

As a Terry Pratchett fan myself, I had always wanted to include The Glorious Twenty-Fifth and was delighted that this season worked out so well! Also, Night Watch is a wonderful book. Well worth a read.

Photographs by; Stella on 17 May, Cathy on 21 May and two photographs of White Lilac by Sue on 22 May.

Photographs by; Kath on 22 May – Sam, Michelle and John, all on 21 May.

Photograph by Michelle, “look what the wind brought on 22 May.” Lilac was another win!

 

Season: 26 – 30 May; Cow Parsley Lines the Hedgerows

One of the really nice parts of the project is that people can take part in lots of different ways. Some are really knowledgeable about nature and some are new to lots of the seasons. That is one of the special parts of nature, it doesn’t judge and does welcome everyone.

One seeker told us:

“I’m not sure what cow parsley looks like! I’ll check on the internet.”

And another said:

“The project is educating me all the time”

Sally took this photograph on 26 May and John took this on 29 May. Then Sally found a whole swathe of cow parsley on 28 May.

 

A few other shares – we do seem to love trees as a group!

Tim shared a ‘Sunrise Through the Old Oak Tree’ on 26 May, Sally shared this beautifully framed image on 12 May, Marian shared this Hawthorn blossom on 11 May and Jill was back sharing the woods again on 31 May.

Season: 31 May – 5 June; The Elder Flowers.

We often see elders on the paths, and public parks, and along the canal locally. They are pretty hardy and seem to thrive in a range of places. Due to their flowers being quite distinctive, they are a good one to ‘spot’. And ‘spot’ people did!

Photographs by; Sally took this on 31 May – Sam took this one on 4 June – Tim found these on 4 June and Cathy found this on 31 May

Photographs by; Caroline found this on 5 June and Michelle found these frothy ones on 5 June.

The elder also lasted really well this year.

Caroline took this gorgeous picture of an elder still flowering 13 June and John found this on 4 June.

As I write this part of the post, (it takes me a long time to do a whole season story!) the season is about Elderberries. We have come part way in the cycle. Nature really does just keep on going.

Season: 6 – 10 June; The Blackbird Fledglings Leave the Nest

Photograph taken by a friend of mine, who isn’t actually taking part in the seasons, but did give me permission to use the photograph. This is by Philippe and was taken on 8 June showing an empty blackbird nest. I was so pleased to see this as it can be really hard to spot an absence. We want the seasons to be a nice mix, which shows the varied wonder of nature. Sometimes that is about noticing some change, or noticing when something stops, or a feel that these less tangible seasons are part of the wonder of nature. We do think they are important parts of the whole make up of nature affecting wellbeing. It is something that is more intangible, and harder to describe a feeling.

One seeker told us:

“It makes me stop look and listen more. I look up and down not just in front 😊”

And another explained:

“An insight into local nature in our immediate environs, plus the feelings that invokes.”

This makes me feel more confident that we are creating the space for those feelings to happen. People are exploring nature with all their senses, as they wish and finding what works for them.

 

Just at this time, Sue posted this image with the caption ‘Pendle brings us all together’ which was so fitting – in fact it’s the vision for the whole project. Together for our landmark. Bringing people together from both sides of the hill. I think I’d have said Together for our hill! You can read about the project aims here on their website. 

Let’s share some of the wildlife noticed by our seekers…

 

Photographs by; Pamela took this photograph of Peregrine Falcons nesting at St Mary’s Church in Nelson, Michelle took a photograph of this dragonfly on 27 June. The 8 June must have been a great time to spot rabbits and hares, as Tricia captured a ‘Baby Bunny’ and Sue found ‘Mr Hare’. Apparently Mr Hare is a regular visitor to the garden, but rarely stops for photographs!

Photographs by; ‘Hi Cows’ by Sue on 29 June and Blackbird spotted by Ellen on 21 May.

We haven’t set wildlife as seasons so much, as they can be hard to spot and we explained about how we are trying to make sure that people don’t have to be able to venture far to be able to take part. At first that was mostly to include people with disabilities who perhaps couldn’t walk to the hill, but during the year this widened to include everyone who was limited in their range by Covid, (which turned out to be everyone, literally everyone!). However the next two were wildlife we did think everyone stood a chance of seeing.

Season: 11 – 15 June; Butterflies Flutter

These great action shots were captured by Michelle on 17 June and Sally on 16 June.

Have you noticed how many images I’ve shared from Sally? I think she must be our most prolific photographer! Thanks Sally for all your images, and I’m sorry I had to leave so many out too.

Season: 16 – 20 June; Bees are Busy

This photograph of a Bee being busy was taken by John on 17 June.

In terms of wildlife, bees and butterflies are both pollinators, and both at serious risk of decline. It’s wonderful to see them and I think they absolutely deserve a place in the seasons, and should be noticed. I wonder if part of the reason they are at risk is that people take them for granted? We still have chance to change this. As bee expert Dave Goulson says, insects breed fast and they just need a few more flowers to thrive. Many of us can do a bit to help by growing a few bee friendly flowers and avoiding weedkillers. We can also all enjoy the fluttering of butterflies and the buzzing of the bees.

Season: 21 – 26 June; The Days are Long

Oh what a lovely season, one of my favourites – Summer solstice, and the longest day. I think this is a really beautiful image by Cath too. We are currently discussing what we are going to do with all the images and how we are going to share them. We’ll keep you posted!

This is a photography by Sam called “the days are long and so are the shadows!”  I could not love this image more. It works so well with the season, and the project full of seasonal seekers, and the image Cath created above.

Time for one last nature walk in Spring… ( our seasons don’t really match up to Spring and Summer, but we call them that as people seem to understand it better than first quarter, second quarter and so on!)

Jackie shared the mossy wall at Townley on 8 June and then Sue lent us her expertise to share a lush meadow on 29 June, a horse chestnut in flower on 9 June and pine cones on the tree also on 9 June.

Wait a minute is that the same meadow Sue shared earlier?

I think it might be! Let’s hope Sue is still taking part (the programme is anonymous – only names on the Facebook group which is private) and will take some pictures later in the year!

Season: 27 June – 1 July; The Scent of Roses Fills the Air.

Sarah captured this rose on 27 June, Michelle caught this lovely climber on 27 June and Sue found this older, wilder rose (preferred by bees!) on 29 June.

Our final season of Spring – is all about Roses. This was a must, as I’m Kirsty Rose Parker, the lead on this project, and I love roses! What a way to leave and move into more summery seasons, with the scent of roses all around us!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Winter sign up for ’72 Seasons’ is now open

72 Seasons is open for Winter sign ups.

Image saying 72 seasons now open for winter

 

Would you like to join us? Would you like to take part in a creative and relaxed wellbeing project and come and seek the seasons with us?

It is all completely free, this research is part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership range of projects, and is funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

People who have taken part this year have described the project as:

“A really interesting way to enjoy nature even more, and an opportunity to easily learn and engage with others in a relaxed way. Brilliant!”

“Very enlightening and I notice more of what’s going on around me”

“Really enjoying it. I have been much restricted in getting out and about because a very ill husband who is shielding. The project is a chance to make me watch the changes from the garden.”

 

All you have to do, is be willing to look around you as you go about your daily life, just from your windows if needed, or as you walk to the corner shop and back. You do not have to be able to travel far or be able to climb Pendle Hill. The whole project takes place through email and surveys, and we have a private Facebook group where people can connect with other seasonal seekers, and share their photographs but you do not have to join the Facebook group. The project is open to anyone who travels/ works/ or lives near to Pendle Hill.

If you want to join us, just send an email to kirsty@theevaluator.co.uk saying your first name and the word join, and we’ll take it from there.

72 Seasons now open for Summer

 

72 Seasons is now open for Summer sign ups.

Join us in our beautifully calm and easy nature project. We ask you to fill in some simple online surveys all about health and wellbeing, and then take you on a journey to seek the seasons with us. During Summer we will be looking out for weather changes, plants fruiting and flowering and noticing more of the subtle changes in nature. We will email you three seasons in advance to look out for and then ask what you noticed. It can all be done online, and in your local area. You don’t need to be able to travel far or have a garden, you could take part just by looking out of your windows if you wanted.

 

Summer sign ups has now closed. 

 

We look forward to adventuring with you. Please note 72 seasons is a research project and is part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership portfolio of projects.