I have always been keenly aware of weather and at one time did the recording and sent in the records daily by telephone from the weather station at Glenmore Lodge, the Outdoor Activity Centre for the Scottish Council of Physical Recreation, where I instructed in Field Studies. For the last 25 years I have received copies of the monthly weather records and Annual Reports, recorded, from 1972 by John Goodger, Head of Science at Gwernyfed School, from the local weather station there. In 1978, it was moved to his smallholding at Felindre, which is situated between Glasbury and Talgarth, in Powys. These are very useful and variations of rainfall, snow cover, late frosts, drought periods, etc often account for variations in flowering times of local plants of interest to me.
The crops of stone fruits in my orchard at Wye View have been consistently poor since moving here in the early 1980s. Fruit buds used to be severely depleted by bullfinches and some hedge cutting below the orchard may have helped by removing their cover and discouraged them but I haven’t see them about now in the lanes for several years. A check with Andrew King, our bird recorder for the Brecknock Wildlife Trust, confirmed that he also has not seen this species in the orchards and lower farmlands they used to frequent and is now recording them in Spring and early Summer in upland areas, particularly in young forestry plantations.
This is the first Spring that my Cambridge Greengage tree, planted in the 1980s, is laden with fruit. It now looks like an umbrella, with the ends of the branches on the ground. Limbs on two very old damsons in the boundary hedge have broken off in the high winds early in June, though the bountiful fruit was still quite small. Other plum trees which have borne very sparsely in the past are also laden, so I have been checking the weather records to see if I can correlate this Spring’s bounty with any particular features.
To quote abstracts from John Goodger’s monthly notes from the beginning of this year:-
January. Overall it was the warmest January in records starting 1972, though the mean maximum was marginally higher in 1990. Mean soil temperatures were at record levels at all depths. Number of air frosts (-0.1°C or below) 4. .
February. Despite one cold week, it was overall the mildest February since 2002; also the wettest since 2002. Number of air frosts 8. This was the fifth successive month with rainfall over 100mm. The snow depth reached on the 9th was the largest since 15-1-1987, but the lying snow disappeared much more quickly than in 1987. .
Winter 2006-7 (Dec/Jan/Feb. Mean temperature 6.4° (2.1°) above average and (just) the warmest in the Gwernyfed/Felindre records.
March. Mildest March since 2003; wettest since 2001. Equal lowest number of air frosts (2) with 1991, 1994 & 1998).
April. A phenomenally warm April, with mean temperatures nearly 4° above the 1971-2000 average. Air frosts 0. The highest maximum and the highest minimum were all records for April (since 1972). Soil records were at record levels for April for all depths. It was the driest April since 1984 (which had only 4.0mm), but there was measurable rain on only 3 days, compared with 4 in 1984.
May. Despite a mean temperature 1° above the 1971-2000 average, this May was a poor relation to the remarkably warm month which preceded it, and the mean maximum was actually below that for April. The 27th was the coldest day in May since 1997. After the April warmth, the mean soil temperature at 100cm remained at a record level. It was the wettest May since 2002. Mean temperature for March, April, May was 10.2° [1.9° above average, and the highest on record]
2007 so far: mean temperature 8.7° [2.1°above average, and the highest on record] The last air frost of the Spring was on 21st March, the earliest date in the local record at a site which has occasionally had air frosts at the beginning of June.
Not naturally a pessimist, I fear climate change is accelerating and will bring about such a disruption of the balance of nature that any benefits which the optimists foresee will be short lived, but the stone fruits here certainly seem to have thrived on this year’s lack of air frosts at the critical blossom time. Comments from other growers and beekeepers would be interesting.