When do the clocks change and why do we change them?

What time and on which day do the clocks change in spring and autumn? Why do we change them? Do they go forwards or backwards? And what can you do with your extra day light?

Changing clocks in spring

If you live in the UK you will be used to the clocks changing. But why do we do it? When do they change? And what can we do to make the most of the extra hour of daylight in spring?

Why do we change the clocks?

The policy was introduced in 1916 in an attempt to save fuel, namely candles and coal, during World War One. It has since remained.


When do the clocks change?

The clocks change twice a year, once in spring and again in autumn. On Sunday 31 March 2019 the clocks go forward one hour, and on Sunday 27 October 2019 they go back one hour – hence the phrase, ‘spring forwards, fall back’.

How to make the most of your extra hour of daylight in spring

It’s 6.40pm on Saturday 30 March. The day’s sunlight quickly wanes and the countryside becomes enveloped in a blanket of winter darkness. Summer feels so long ago. Last spring was a lifetime.

The next day – slightly disorientated by your clock-altering exploits in the middle of the night – you feel excited. The day flows by and before you know it, it’s 6.40pm again. Yet unlike the previous evening, the sun still sits proudly in the sky. Daylight saving – and the spring equinox a week earlier – mark the arrival of spring.

Celebrate the changing of the clocks with our top 10 ways to make the most of your extra hour of daylight.

1. Get stuck into gardening

Woman gardening
Plant summer bulbs in spring ©Getty

March and April are great months for getting into the garden. Plant onions, potatoes and summer bulbs, work your compost and protect emerging shoots from slugs. Stay on top of early growth by mowing the lawn (when dry), weeding and pruning bushes.

When you’re finished, pull out a deckchair, pour a cold drink and marvel at your own, astounding productivity.

2. Make a bird feeder

Pinecone bird feeder
Pinecone bird feeder ©Getty

Longer days bring greater opportunities for observing birdlife in your garden. Why not make a simple bird feeder and hang it in view of your kitchen or bedroom window? Try making one from a conifer cone:

Conifer cone bird feeder

  1. Rub lard between the seeds of a conifer cone
  2. Press birdfeed into the lard
  3. Hang the cone from a tree or hook away from windows and close to a natural refuge such as a tree or hedge.
  4. Watch as your garden fills with birds. And be sure to keep the feeder topped up.

3. Blossom Walk

Pear blossom
Pear blossom ©Getty

Even after a nine-to-five there’s enough daylight to head out on a stroll and see early spring’s blossoming trees. Hawthorn’s turn white and pink with thick clusters of blossom, while later in the month wild cherry trees turn white with blousy petals. Look out for the crab apple bloom, its sweetly scented flowers an important source of early pollen for bees.

4. Have a BBQ

Celebrate spring with a BBQ ©Getty

Wait for a balmy spring day, and then strike with your first BBQ of the year before the sun goes down. Cook seasonal foods such as celeriac, halibut, leek and spring lamb. Add a few foraged ingredients – such as dandelion leaves and wild garlic – to liven up the meal.

5. Sunset walk

Sunset on the South West Coast Path, Cornwall
Sunset on the South West Coast Path, Cornwall ©Jake Graham

With the clocks pushed an hour forward, the sun now sets at 7.41pm. Head out on an evening walk, climb to a high point or find a beach close to your house and watch the sunset. Returning home, listen for the song of the robin ­– an effective hunter even in dim light ­– and the call of the owl.

6. Watch the lambs play

Lamb in field with buttercups
Lamb in field with buttercups ©Getty

Grab a blanket and hot drink, and then leave the house for the nearest sheep field. Surrounded by daisy-flecked grass, admire the joyfulness of the newborn lambs as they leap and kick through the verdant pasture. It’s a sure-fire way to make you smile.

7. Fly a kite

Flying a kite
Flying a kite ©Getty

This simple and nostalgic activity is a great way to spend your extra hour of daylight. Find a nearby beach, hill, park or garden, untangle the strings and set flight to your kite.

8. Make a Mother’s Day gift

Homemade chocolate truffles on a plate.
Homemade chocolate truffles ©Getty

Sit outside in the sun and take on one of our seven easy makes for Mother’s Day.

9. Embrace a spring shower

rainy day in Ireland
Relish the rain ©Getty

Next time the heavens open, refrain from popping your umbrella and running for shelter. Embrace the rain, and remind yourself that there are few things quite as magical as water falling from the sky.

10. Grow cress on your windowsill

Grow cress in an egg shell
Grow cress in an egg shell ©Getty

Cress is one of the easiest edibles to grow and a great way to make the most of an extra hour of daylight.

How to grow cress

  1. Find a plastic tray – a rinsed food container works perfectly
  2. Line the base with tissue paper or cotton wool and coat generously with water
  3. Sprinkle cress seeds across the surface, then cover the container with plastic wrap
  4. Place in a sunny windowsill, watering regularly
  5. This quick-growing seed will be ready to harvest in a week or so. Add to salads, sandwiches or eat on its own as a tasty snack