Churchyard Nature Note with Andrew Tompsett

February 2016

A Protracted Spring is Likely

The weather conditions of recent months have broken several long- term records.  So far, and I’m writing this in mid January, temperatures have been well above normal much of the time. Rainfall has been monsoon-like especially in the North and our churchyard is saturated. All this is likely to have had an effect on nature, and with some very early growth and flowering taking place, I expect spring will seem to go on for a very long time this year.  Signs of early growth could be seen back in November, when the earliest of all daffodils (Early Sensation) was flowering in the middle of the month.  Some varieties of Camellia, such as St. Ewe, were very early and had virtually finished flowering by Christmas.

The phenomenon of a long-drawn-out spring was mentioned by Mary Wilson (wife of our former PM), in one of her poems about the Isles of Scilly. She called it ‘hesitant spring’ where spring begins very early and proceeds in a hesitant fashion for a very long time. This is characteristic of maritime climates and quite unlike the continental type of spring and especially the USA, where the transition from winter to summer is often rather quick.

However, I expect we will see our churchyard trees leafing and blooming at about their normal time in April, since most of our native trees and shrubs have evolved to avoid excessively early growth which could succumb to frost damage if they leafed out and blossomed too early. In fact many plants need a period of cold before they are able to respond properly. This is a safety mechanism which nature has evolved over millions of years.  Winter chilling is so important that certain crops can fail to thrive if they don’t get it. Examples include rhubarb, strawberries and black currants and climate change is causing concern in the industry.

Spring will come eventually and it will be wonderful. Well worth the wait!

Churchyard Paths

The state of the paths and roadways within the churchyard is causing considerable concern to all, as the constant use by people and vehicles during excessively wet weather is creating pot holes and pools of water. (Thankfully we have not suffered the flooding experienced elsewhere.

A more permanent solution from the main gate along the south side using tarmac could cost as much as £14,000 and presumably a faculty would be needed! New drains on either side could be installed and a cheaper alternative ‘scalpings’ used, though not so smooth, estimated at £5000, but these are summer jobs.  In the meantime urgent temporary solutions are in hand.

North Wall Repair

A tender for the repair to the North Wall, opposite the school, has been accepted and work is scheduled for the Easter school holidays so that the public access can be more easily restricted and hopefully better weather will prevail!