As the clocks go forward, lighter evenings and warmer weather (hopefully) mean you can get fit, take up new hobbies and dust off those new year's resolutions, says Susan Young
So what are you going to do with your extra hour of light after the clocks go forward on Saturday night? You probably made all sorts of new year's resolutions back in the wintry days of January - but keeping them is almost impossible when the weather is miserable and it's dark all the time.
Now spring has well and truly arrived and it's going to be light until a sensible time of night - so why not take up something new? We've come up with 10 ideas to inspire you. And if you find a fantastic new passion as a result, do write and let us know.
- Cycle to and from school
If you normally drive or use public transport, this is an easy way to get fitter and save money. Once you start, who knows where it could lead? (To make sure it doesn't lead to the local casualty department, make sure you've got a helmet and working lights.)
- Get walking
Not only can it get you into the best of the British countryside, nose-to-nose with nature, it's the cheapest and easiest way to get fit and stay fit. Just half an hour a day will find you burning off 2,000 calories a week (the equivalent of six Mars bars). What's more, it's a fabulous stress-buster, and it boosts your immune system for 24 hours afterwards - so you have a higher chance of not catching something awful from the child who's just sneezed over you.
Walking the Way to Health has advice on how to start, and details of short walks in every area. See www.whi.org.uk. Breathing Places is dedicated to getting out and about; enter your postcode to find destinations close to home at www.bbc.co.ukbreathingplaces. The Ramblers' Association includes contact details for guided walks in every area, useful advice on equipment, and a 12-week walking plan. See www.ramblers.org.uk.
- Take up running
If you've never done it before, start slowly, get proper running shoes, and keep to light, safe places. Or make contact with a local club and run with others. There are details on www.runnersweb.co.ukindexrun.htm.
If you need a goal, it's not too late to consider working towards an organised run. Highlights include the Bupa Great Manchester Run on May 18, The Robin Hood Half Marathon in September, the Bupa Great North Run on October 5, or the Great South Run three weeks later. And somewhere near you this summer there will be a 5km Race for Life. For details of all organised runs, start by looking on www.cancerresearchuk.orgrunning.
- Watch wildlife
You've seen Bill Oddie on Springwatch, so why not get out and see some nature for yourself? The BBC's Breathing Places website is a good place to start if you are looking for somewhere to go, with useful information on the wildlife you might see.
The National Trust website (www.nationaltrust.org.uk) has a fantastic calendar showing which creatures you might be able to spy, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (www.rspb.org.uk) also has useful bird-spotting information.
Migrant birds such as the cuckoo and chiffchaff are starting to arrive around now, bats are coming out of hibernation, and you might spot fox or badger cubs in the early evenings.
- Go swimming
But not in the local echoing hellhole full of your splashing pupils. Instead, do a little research, plan a day trip and go to one of Britain's surviving open-air pools where you can enjoy fresh air and the birds singing as you plough up and down.
There are a lot more classic Thirties' lidos than you might think, although many shut for the winter and will be starting to reopen soon. And there are also a surprising number of outdoor pools that are open and warm all year round.
A good way to start is to visit http:homepage.ntlworld.comoliver.merringtonlidoslidos3.htm.
- Love your garden
Fed up with the view from your window? Gardening is a great way to enjoy the longer days and great outdoors, even if you've only got a balcony or a window box. You can grow potatoes in a bucket, and it's not too late to start sowing herbs, tomatoes and salad leaves on a sunny windowsill. Seed packets give advice on timings or try www.rhs.org.uk or www.gardenersworld. comwhat-to-do-now.
If you have got outdoor space and it's looking a little sad (dilapidated decking? lousy lawn?) this is the perfect time to lay grass. Work will involve clearing the space, digging, levelling and removing stones, followed by either turfing or seeding and weeks of keeping it damp. Both are fun, but turfing is about the only instant thing you'll ever do in the garden - it's like laying carpet.
- Have an early barbecue
Yes, you may have to wrap up warm, but you could always mull some wine to keep out the chill. If you want to make burning your bangers a more sustainable cooking method, ditch the gas-powered grill and look out for bags of UK-sourced charcoal from Forest Stewardship Council-approved sources (the local petrol station may not stock this, so plan ahead).
- Join a green gym
No treadmills or plasma TVs here - this is a way of volunteering for outdoor conservation work and getting some good exercise out of it at the same time. You might clear a path or tame a hedge, with proper warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after. For more details, see www2.btcv.org.ukdisplaygreengym.
- Enjoy a short break
Without risking the stag parties of Prague or the hell of a budget airline - why not book somewhere mad via the Landmark Trust, which looks after some of the nation's oddest properties and follies?
Whether you fancy a Lutyens house in the deepest countryside (find 11 friends to share it first) or the joyously named House of Correction - or even a fort - you'll find something for a memorable stay. For details, see www.landmarktrust.org.ukhandbook.
- Or you could do something adventurous
Surfing, kitesurfing or hang gliding perhaps. Clearly if you opt for an extreme sport there are more dangers than simply going for a walk, so make sure you learn properly and use accredited organisations.
If you're just keen to fly quietly over home territory without the adrenalin rush, try a hot air balloon flight - at its best in the early evening
More spring in your step
So what are you planning for spring? We asked The TES website users, and here are some of the answers...
FluffyPinkFairy can't wait: "I get to ride my horses more - I love the spring forward. I get Seasonal Affective Disorder in winter quite severely, so it is good when I get the extra light and feel I have a life outside of normal working hours."
Annie Baker is planning to grow cabbages, while IndigoPeach intends to party.
Relaxation is most popular. "Sit in the garden with friends, boyfriend, wine and BBQ food. Canoeing. Running (maybe)," says Physphobic.
CelticQueen, who lives in Germany, adds: "Sit on my balcony and watch the boats float by. Go for walks along the river - ending in the Biergarten where I enjoy a drink or two with friends. Watch less telly and post less on The TES."
Sideshow says: "We are going to get some new garden furniture and sit on the patio instead of watching TV. I will probably read. The little one will want to play Connect Four. Other half will start running again, and on Sunday evenings we'll go for long walks along the river. Be nice when the weather picks up."