Darrick Wood – March / April 2014

P1000934by Pat Collinson
We do love to discuss the weather, don’t we – and the first ten weeks of 2014 have given us plenty to discuss – with confirmation by the MET Office that it has been the wettest winter on record. I confess that I am a “statistic addict” and have kept daily weather details since 1982 – so here are the local rainfall figures for the start of 2014.  January 228mm, February 143mm, and March (up to the 21st) 24mm – a total of almost 16 inches compared to other parts of the country (Somerset for instance) this is paltry, but we are considered to be one of the driest areas and it certainly felt pretty wet!!  The previous wettest start was 2001 with 335mm, which included the whole of March (113mm) and made a total of about 13½ inches . . . So what surprises has the coming Spring got in store for us?  Two inches of snow in April?  A hosepipe ban in May?
Unfortunately going through my weather records had got me “hooked” – and in case any readers are interested, here are a few more rainfall records etc. that stand out . . . May 1989, just 3mm for the whole month.  August 1995 just 4mm – and temperatures around 90°f – rainfall total for the whole year was only 665mm – but the driest year I have recorded here was 1985 with a total of 554mm.  Compare that with the wettest year, 2000, with a rainfall total of 1213mm (48 inches approx.).  The National record total was 1330mm – just over 53 inches!!
The stormy winter winds have left their mark on the woods – so sad to see many branches  torn from Oak, Ash, Chestnut, etc., as well as a number of whole trees split or uprooted.  This will let more light to the lower levels – something I am sure will please the brambles and stinging nettles!  But signs of Spring are appearing, and the sunny spell in March has brought out a surprising number of butterflies.  I haven’t counted, but the majority I’ve seen to date have been the Brimstone yellow (a lifelong favourite) – like living flecks of sunshine on wings – also easy to recognise are peacocks, with the eye on each forewing – Orange Tips are up and about too, and easy to spot – but several coppery browns have been fluttering along the woodland edge, and I have not been able to distinguish any markings on their wings.  Solitary large black bumble bees are exploring holes in the ground, under logs etc. searching for places where they will lay their eggs, but I have not yet seen any honey bees – though there is blossom on the wild plum, blackthorn, etc. – or was as much is drifting down to the ground now.  As usual the blackthorn at the bottom of the slope field was a spectacular display of snowy white – So sad it is so brief  . . .
In the woods the brown carpet of last autumn’s leaves is gradually disappearing beneath the shinning rich green of bluebell leaves and the delicate ferny foliage of umbellifers – and, best of all, the white starry flowers of wood anemones.  So far I have seen no pinks among them, but they are usually two or three weeks later than the whites.  Nor have I found any bluebell flower buds – but April is usually their month, so they still have a little while before they need to wake up!
By Pat Collison