A dear friend of mine – a wise, wild knower of woods and their ways – speaks of bright April days as blessings. You can never be sure, he says, how many more of those clear, soul-soaring days you have left. Each is to be savoured and cherished.

That’s your challenge this April, friends. Get out. Pay attention. Enjoy. Be thankful for nature. And thrive. Nature’s there in the background all the time, quietly making our home planet habitable, beautiful and fun. That’s why we call her Mother Nature as – just like everyone’s mum – she gives us everything we need, efficiently and without fuss. And just like a mum’s, her hugs are the stuff of dreams. But, as is often the case with our mums, we don’t pay Mother Nature half the attention she deserves.

Let’s make April a month of noticing, of paying nature our unswerving attention. Why not start small and close to home? With weeds. I can feel the botanists bristling at my use of the word, but I love it. I want to reclaim it, imbue it with all the verve and might of these plucky little plants. Gerard Manley Hopkins understood. In his poem Inversnaid, the last line reads, ‘Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.’ What organisms did he choose to represent his plea for the natural world? Wolves? Whales? Eagles? No, humble weeds.

For weeds are mighty. They’re everywhere, reaching from pavement cracks and the tops of walls for the sky, bringing the light of the sun to earth to feed us, and locking carbon in the ground as soil. Each weed is a tiny miracle. And in April, wherever you are, they are all around you. I defy you to walk a hundred metres in Norfolk this month – in Norwich, Thetford, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth or Diss – and not meet weeds.

I can almost guarantee you will see hairy bittercress in flower this April. It’s a comes-as-standard weed of anywhere paved or trampled or tarmacked. I can also almost guarantee you’ve ignored hairy bittercress thousands of times in the past. But this April we’re paying full attention to nature. I want you on your knees, taking a look. I want you swooning over hairy bittercress!

Hairy bittercress is a doughty little member of the cabbage family which, like most of its relatives, is edible. All cabbages have cross-shaped, four-petalled flowers, though the white blooms of hairy bittercress are so flimsy that they are hard to imagine as a cross. What matters to us, though, is that this lowly flower is everywhere. It’s nature – free, friendly and accessible – right in the heart of our towns and cities, smiling at the sun and begging to be discovered.

If you’re as old as I am, you’ll have reached an age at which it’s hard to get down on your knees. So let’s look for something else while we are here. What’s that? That handsome blotch of reddish purple, like a wine stain on a linen napkin? Why, those are the flowers of red dead-nettle, another of April’s plants of scuffed up nowheres, of roundabouts and the dusty bases of city trees.

Great British Life: Red dead-nettle. Red dead-nettle. (Image: Amy Lewis)

Oh we know red dead-nettle, I hear you say. Do you though? Do you stop to look whenever you see it? Do you stroke its softly furry, crinkle-cut leaves? Do you gently run its neat square stalks between your fingers and marvel at their architecture? Do you blush on seeing its charming hooded flowers, with spotted throats to rival our most outlandish orchids? If not, now is the time to blush, to topple headlong into love for nature’s unassuming gifts. It’s April and we have made a vow to pay attention and to notice.

Your knees are suffering now, begrudging the cold and unforgiving pavement, but you’re distracted by a sound from the tree above. A light, exuberant tinkling – like tiny shards of precious metal raining down – this is a goldfinch singing.

If we had never seen a goldfinch – if we didn’t know that such a bird existed – and we saw its picture in a field guide, we would gasp. We would wonder where on Earth a being of such precious beauty could be found, extolling to our friends its blood red face and sooty lores, its ink black wings with drops of snowy white and flashes of outlandish gold. We would plot safaris to some far-flung corner of the world where we could see one. But because this lovely bird lives beside us in our city centres, cheerfully sprinkling its happy song across our urban soundscapes, we ignore it.

Great British Life: A goldfinch in a sycamore tree at Stoke Holy Cross. A goldfinch in a sycamore tree at Stoke Holy Cross. (Image: Elizabeth Dack)

You know the drill by now. It’s April and we’re noticing, paying every organism our full attention. Let’s bathe together in the priceless light of goldfinches, letting our hearts swell to their music, allowing ourselves to be thankful for their presence in our lives, for all they give to us, without ever knowing.

As my wise friend says, these bright, blue days of April are a blessing. They spell the end of winter’s darkness and the rising of the sap. They clamour for us to be outdoors, connecting with the wild world all around us.

And we know – with scientific certainty – that being in nature, exercising in green spaces, and paying attention all have dividends for our health and happiness. Who would have thought that a primate which evolved in nature, whose close relatives and ancestors have walked – again we know with scientific certainty – in Norfolk for almost a million years, would benefit from being in nature?

And nature benefits too. For every time we crouch to notice the tiny flowers of hairy bittercress we’re reminded how integral nature is to all our lives, at all times, everywhere. And silently – perhaps – some of us commit ourselves to fighting with our every breath for nature’s future.

And for a healthy future for our species, which evolved in nature and depends on it. For every breath.