April weather can seem to play tricks on all of us. But don’t worry – it’s all quite typical of this fickle month.
It shouldn’t be surprising – after all, it happens every year. Who amongst us, though, doesn’t pause in awe at the transformation that’s now taking place in our landscape? From grey to green. April, above all others, holds witness to the reassuring, unfailing cycle of renewal.
Longer days and higher temperatures largely govern the speed at which spring progresses. In warm years, when the mercury has made an early, unexpected dart into the 70s, I’ve known the Horse Chestnut (conker tree) to be in full leaf early in the month. Sometimes, however, held back by persistent wintry northeast winds, the hedgerows can appear lifeless and drab, even as May approaches.
April is the cruellest month
Different species of fauna and flora emerge according to their own specific triggers. Like the tortoise and the hare, they will arrive at summer in their own good time.
As we know, the dash of the hare can sometimes be too hasty. In April 1981, those Horse Chestnuts were indeed in full leaf when a late snowstorm swept the heart of the UK. A foot of snow on the 25th cut many a bough down to size. There must have been a few early swallows who considered turning round and heading back to Africa that year. T.S. Eliot recognised these meteorological reversals when he observed: “April is the cruellest month”.
Somehow, though, nature recovers from such set-backs. The dazzling rape fields now whet the appetite for the golden months that lie ahead.
(Written by John for BBC Countryfile Magazine)