22nd April 2016
May, glorious May, the deliciously warm and sunny prelude to summer, when blossom blooms, hedgerows go gorgeously green and beautiful bluebells awaken from their winter slumber. May Day signals the start of this most lovely of months; an ancient festival celebrating spring that dates back hundreds of years.
Here in the UK we celebrate it with a delightful, long weekend and all over the country there’s a wealth of fun and family friendly things to see and do. Here are a few of the Joules’ team’s favourite May Day activities…
Butterflies usually wait until the warm weather arrives before they become active here in the UK (very sensible of them), so it’s unlikely you’re going to see any fluttering around your garden just yet. In the meantime, head over to the tropical Butterfly House at the Natural History Museum where May Day bank holiday tickets are still on sale and beautiful butterflies are plentiful. Wear a bright floral print and you’ll blend in perfectly. Or visit www.heliconius.co.uk to find more butterfly centres nationwide.
www.nhm.ac.uk £6.50 for adults & children
Did you know? The Butterfly House at the Natural History Museum was the setting for little Prince George’s first family portrait.
Even if the weather’s still a little bit on the chilly side, there can be fewer springtime sights to warm the heart than a beautiful blanket of bluebells. So put on your wellies, pack your handy rain poncho and go hunting in the woods to find some. The best news is that you can find bluebells in bloom all over the country this time of year. And in case you’re not sure where to look, the National Trust has come up with a handy online tool to help you find your local blooms.
Did you know? The Victorians used the starch extracted from crushed bluebells to stiffen the ruffs of their collars and sleeves.
Since medieval times people celebrated May Day by cutting down a young tree and fixing it into the ground to dance around with lots of pretty coloured ribbons (some of us might remember colliding with classmates around the maypole at school?) Maypole dancing still takes place at lots of locations all over the country over the May Day bank holiday, including Hever Castle in Kent. Here at the family seat of Anne Boleyn, there’s a day-long programme of this and other traditional May Day activities, including a ‘Summer Awakening’ procession and a Green Man Hunt around the grounds. Wear a light cotton t-shirt or polo under your coat – with all that dancing and running around you may need to lose some layers! www.hevercastle.co.uk
Did you know? According to tradition, washing your face in the dew from May Day morning beautifies the skin.
The May Day weekend is the ideal time to get yourself down to the farm to greet spring’s new arrivals. At Cwmcrwth Farm’s award-winning holiday cottages near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, Farmer Rob tirelessly shows all guests, big and small, how to get hands-on with the new May-time delivery of piglets, chicks and lambs. Wellies are obligatory as are plenty of warm knits to keep you toasty at early morning feeding time. www.cwmcrwthfarm.co.uk
Did you know? Lambs have a field of vision of around 300 degrees, which enables them to see behind themselves without having to turn their head.
If you’re staying closer to home over the bank holiday or rain showers keep you indoors, make the most of this perfect opportunity to indulge in some traditional May Day crafts. Check the weather forecast and stock up on lots of different coloured tissue paper. Then slip into your comfiest jeans and coziest sweatshirt while your little ones venture out in raincoats to gather twigs to use as flower stems. There’s hours of fun to be had creating your own pretty springtime blooms when the real ones are waterlogged. Click here for extra inspiration.
Did you know? Hawthorne and Lily of the Valley are the flowers traditionally used for a May Day garland.