The very best of April


Overwintering winged visitors such as redwings and fieldfares leave our shores, to be replaced by summer callers, including house martins, white-throats and marsh, sedge and willow warblers. Ears are pricked in anticipation of hearing the call of the cuckoo. Frogspawn and toad eggs make their magical appearance and tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies flit from flower to flower. As rare orchids emerge in meadows and marsh marigolds light up river-banks, the scent of wild ransoms pervades hedgerows.


Spring lamb, watercress, spring greens and wild garlic

Start with watercress soup

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Move onto lamb with wild garlic and spring greens

End with last year’s frozen berries (raspberries, strawberries and redcurrants) with hot white-chocolate sauce


Cucumber gin
3 small cucumbers
70cl/700ml gin
Drink within 6 weeks

Peel the cucumbers and slice them lengthways; take out the inner seed section of each one. Cut into
2cm (¾in) square pieces. Put the cucumber pieces in a kilner jar, add the gin, seal, and shake gently to mix. Steep for a week in a very cool, dark place, turning occasionally, then strain off the cucumber and bottle the gin. You can drink this neat and very cold, especially in hot weather, but it is far better made into long drinks.

Extract from Susy Atkins’s ‘How To Make Your Own Drinks’, published by Mitchell Beazley (£16.99)

Get away

To four-star Holbeck Ghyll (01539 432375; for a grand retreat-rooms feature a decanter of locally distilled damson gin-in the Lakes, overlooking Lake Windermere. Rooms from £190 a night. 

Walk this way

Holbeck Ghyll is the place to go for a walking holiday. There are numerous routes starting from the hotel, whether you want to traverse the Wainwrights or just amble along paths over breathtakingly beautiful National Park land.

The month in words 

‘The blackthorn starreth now his bough on the eve of May: All day in the sweet box tree the bee
for pleasure hummeth: The cuckoo sends afloat his note on the air all day’ Robert Bridges, April 1885

What’s on

April 6 Grand National, Aintree, Liverpool (

April 7 Tchaikovsky Gala, Royal Albert Hall, London (www.royalalbert

April 12-13 RHS London Orchid & Botanical Art Show (

April 13-14 The BASC Gamekeepers’ Fair, Catton Park, Derbyshire (

April 19 Nicholas Parsons at the Lords of the Manor Hotel, Gloucestershire (

April 25-May 7 Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor Gardens, East Sussex (www.pashley

Last chance to see

David Attenborough: Life on Camera‘, until April 28, Natural History Museum (

Book now

Tickets for the CLA Game Fair at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, July 19-21 (

Don’t miss

The British Asparagus Festival, Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire, April 23-
June 21 (


The Collected Poems of William Wordsworth