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My, My, It’s Dry
14th June 2023
Last Updated: 31st July 2023
We wouldn’t be British if we didn’t complain about the weather would we? “It’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s too wet, it’s too dry”. Most of the time our changeable weather is very benign and largely beneficial to the huge diversity of plants and animals with whom we share our land. However, sometimes, just sometimes…
The UK is blessed with one of the most stable environments of any country across the planet. OK, in recent decades we have had earthquakes, a few may even have woken up light sleepers! And of course, there was ‘The Great Storm of 87’, however I suspect it’s remembered more for Michael Fish’s infamous forecast than the weather event itself. Otherwise, it’s been over 250 years since we suffered a Tsunami and more than 55 million years since we had a volcanic eruption.
Even the weather patterns across the UK are kind to us. The worst frozen arctic winds are warmed by the seas before they reach us. Atlantic hurricanes soften before they blow our isles and we get Goldilocks rainfall (not too much and not too little) that keeps our valleys green and delivers our picture postcard snow-capped peaks.
Bill Shakespeare was aware of our unique situation: ‘This Sceptred Isle, this other Eden, demi-paradise, this fortress built by nature for herself, precious stone set in a silver sea, as a moat defensive of less happy lands.’ Excuse my abridged quote of the bards work but you’ll see we both agree on the good fortune the UK enjoys.
Our gardens, hedgerows and countryside are host to many life forms and they arrive from every continent on our planet and from more countries than I know. As I write this, I can see squirrels from North America, Parakeets from Africa, Rhododendrons from the Himalayas, Rabbits from Spain and Russian Sage …well, err from Russia. Never mind all the birds that migrate to and from our shores.
I think our gentle climate has also given rise to our unique take on how we discuss ‘the weather’. We talk in dramatic language, the voice-over tones of a disaster movie epic, when rain stops play, or snow delays a train. I can become quite melodramatic describing my scorched lawn and parched veg. Yes, June has been remarkably warm, perhaps no discernible rain for a few weeks is unusual but drought, really? I’m not convinced yet.
Anyway, during the dry spell, I’ve decided to prioritise my water butts for filling my bird baths and hedgehog (multi-species) water bowls, I’m prepared to forfeit the lawn and borders this season, because the wildlife matters more. An example of this is my pond is currently full of frogs. Normally by this time of year they’d disperse to live a terrestrial existence. But the pond is packed and every evening I’ve been watching them climb up to claim the best spot on the lily leaves and stones. Then they wait patiently for the mozzies to come within reach, then with such stiff competition, they spectacularly launch themselves skyward, huge legs dangling behind as they snatch their prey from the air before their peers! No tongue dabbing for these guys. All these frogs in close proximity seems to create hunger and is driving this unusual behaviour.
There are many examples of survival being the name of the game, from ants collecting and taking water to their nests, birds soaking seeds in the bird bath before consuming them, to a hedgehog coming out surprisingly early to sit in a water dish, cooling off before taking a long drink ahead of a night’s foraging.
The UK seems to suffer more of these dry spells and combined with increasing average temperatures creates moving goal posts for our wildlife. Early summer used to be ‘good times’ but it seems less and less so nowadays and I for one will happily forfeit a green lawn to support all the creatures competing for limited water availability.