Having moved south from the frozen wastes of Scotland to the more clement prairies of North West Essex, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the difference in the length of the seasons between the two places. Generally speaking, Cambridge probably gets around two extra months of what I would call summer – April to October as opposed to May to September in Edinburgh.
I’ve been measuring this basically by observing when things start or stop growing, and indeed when it feels like winter. You can still be out on your bike without getting wrapped up at the tail end of October down south whereas in Scotland I would have pretty much packed my bike away at the beginning of October. Cycling into a 35 mile per hour headwind in the pouring rain is over-rated.
In terms of plant growth, mowing the grass stopped mid-October at 900 feet above sea-level on the Pentland Hills but that was partly due to the ground being saturated by that stage of the autumn, and it stayed that way until mid March. Here in East Anglia, I mowed on Christmas Eve in 2011 but I can’t recall when the mowing season started. It was so dry in Spring 2012 that I think the grass was too parched to really kick off it’s growth spurt until the heavens opened in April.
Another great indicator that winter is here is when ALL the leaves have fallen from the trees. Our garden looks really stunning in the autumn with a really great show from all the deciduous trees that I can’t yet name apart from a Walnut. I noticed that in the week of the 5th-11th November, the trees really did have a dramatic moult and all of a sudden the trees were bare. The weather wasn’t particularly cold or windy, the trees just seemed to have decided that – in the immortal words of The Sherminator – “it was just their time”.
The following week saw some quite strong winds that put paid to any leafy survivors that were grimly hanging on and handily deposited many of my leaves on our neighbours lawn which saves at least a couple of hours of raking – sorry Jeremy.
So what’s the lesson? That leaves in this part of the world give up the fight in the middle weeks of November. Let’s wait and see when they return from their winter feeding grounds.