Derek – Saturday 31st December 2022

Winter is a fluid season; when it begins and ends is arguable. With climate change all the more so, as warm spells follow cold spells adding to the confusion. We had a heavy fall of snow on 11 and 12 December. It stuck around for a week, on days that hovered around zero, then the temperature shot up to springlike temperatures and it was as if the snow had never been. Some of our herbaceous plants had shrivelled in the cold. Their stems and leaves haven’t recovered, but will grow again when spring returns. The garden is pretty soggy from all the recent rain, and more is due. We can hardly complain, seeing what is happening in the USA with their great freeze. We are just having an up and down winter.

Our pond is utterly full. Every barrel is topped to the brim, but just a few weeks’ drought would empty them. There are still plans afoot for a garden tap, though how we might fund it is undecided.

The National Trust says extremes in weather are the way it is going to be from now on. That means hot, dry summers and stormy winters with cold spells and warm spells too, along with floods and high winds. This year in the garden, after our hot summer, I noted how few spiders we had in September, the traditional time for the webs of the garden spider. I wonder how many frogs were culled in the drought, and what effect this will have on frogspawn this coming spring. We’ve had fewer butterflies, dragonflies and ladybirds. With small bodies, they cannot survive long in drought. Fewer insects means fewer birds, as they are a vital part of a bird’s diet. Earthworms too will have been badly affected by the drought. A long drought next year could really hit them, and that will affect the condition of our soils.

In spite of icy weather in the US, 2022 is the hottest year globally on record. Temperatures over 50ºC have been recorded in the Middle East, Africa and Australia. Ice caps are melting in Greenland and Antarctica, and there have been wildfires across the globe. The UK had its first temperatures of 40 degrees, including, according to local weather watchers, in Forest Gate. Storm Eunice in mid February blew down our wooden fence, which had to be held in place with ropes and posts. Of course, not all storms can be ascribed to climate change, but the increased energy in the atmosphere makes them stronger and more frequent.

Climate change is on the march. Our efforts to mitigate it are pitiful.

The wooden fence with its mural had had its day, and was replaced in the summer by the metal railings now in place. Sophie’s last major job was sourcing the fencing and the installers. A memorial to her is in preparation.

On 17 December, the community garden had its seasonal Mince Pies and Mulled Wine event with a turnout of 60 to 70 people. Forest Voices gave us carols, while children searched the garden for a Christmas message, and Santa Claus hid in the book shed, possibly dreading the workload to come.

Today, I spot a winter flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) by the mid gate. It flowers on bare stems as you might gather from the species name, unlike the Viburnum tinus in bloom near the small pergola, which is an evergreen shrub. I wander through the buddleia arch, and am halted by the wind chimes tinkling in the breeze.

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