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Two-week bluebell delay caused by the ‘Beast from the East’ says Woodland Trust

PUBLISHED: 13:06 11 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:13 11 May 2018

Bluebells photographed last week at Essex Wildlife Trust's Weeleyhall Wood nature reserve in Tendring. Picture: Emily McParland

Bluebells photographed last week at Essex Wildlife Trust's Weeleyhall Wood nature reserve in Tendring. Picture: Emily McParland

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While 2018 saw an early start to spring, the “Beast from the East” delayed the blooming of bluebells in British woods, the Woodland Trust has said.

Bluebells photographed last week at Essex Wildlife Trust's Weeleyhall Wood nature reserve in Tendring. Picture: Emily McParland

 

Bluebells photographed last week at Essex Wildlife Trust's Weeleyhall Wood nature reserve in Tendring. Picture: Emily McParland

Carpets of flowers are now turning the ground of woods blue across the UK, but the first record of bluebells flowering came 39 days later than it did last year, data submitted to the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar shows.

By April 20 2017, there had been 716 records of bluebells flowering submitted to the Nature’s Calendar scheme, in which members of the public help record the changing seasons, but by the same time this year there had only been 73.

This year the first report of bluebells flowering was on March 20 in south-east England, compared to February 9 in south-west England last year, the Woodland Trust said.

The conservation charity said the fluctuations were an example of how some species were able to respond to the climate.

It came after an early spring due to mild conditions was stopped in its tracks by the freezing weather in March, dubbed the Beast from the East.

Before the series of cold snaps, the Woodland Trust had received 352 individual pieces of “unusual” data which indicated the early arrival of spring, from hazel flowering in October to butterflies appearing in February.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, who leads the Nature’s Calendar project, said: “The cold snap had a dramatic effect on spring’s progression.

“The rise in unpredictable and extreme weather may catch some species out, such as the early frogspawn which may have been killed by the frost.”

Compared to the benchmark year of 2001, when weather conditions most closely reflected the 30-year average from the Met Office, bluebells are around 12 days late.

At the Essex Wildlife Trust, media manager Charlie Oliver said: “Ancient woodlands carpeted in native bluebells is one of Essex’s great natural spectacles but the exact weeks they flower varies from spring to spring.

This year they have been a couple of weeks later than last year, probably due to the ‘Beast from the East’. At one stage it looked like bluebells would flower exceptionally late but some unseasonably hot days in late April, followed by heavy rain, accelerated the flowering process.

“This weekend is probably the last chance to catch them at their brilliant best.”

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