A growing number of experts believe that this year’s unpredictable weather, which brought spring on early, then deluged Britain with record rainfall, has now taken them straight to autumn - bypassing summer altogether. Holly berries are appearing in the hedgerows, conkers and apples are falling from the trees and mushrooms are springing up in the fields. All the signs are that the briefest of brief English summers is coming to an end and autumn is already upon them. Fruiting holly has been spotted in Hampshire, conkers are appearing in Essex, blackberries are ripe in Devon and the nation’s orchards are preparing for an early harvest. Early apple varieties are already being harvested. “Autumn has definitely come earlier this year. We expect varieties like Discovery to be in the shops as soon as next week. Later varieties, like Cameo, are already showing really good colour, which is extraordinarily early. Normally we wouldn’t expect to see that until the last week of September.” Many of those working in agriculture had already noticed the signs of an early autumn. “From my office in Devon I can see ripened blackberries, which I would not have usually expected to see for several weeks yet. There is concern that seasons are becoming a lot less predictable and that will clearly have an impact on British farmers.” The early onset of autumn can be explained in part by record high temperatures in spring, when average temperatures of 48F (9C) – the highest since records began in 1914 – led to plants and trees like the Hawthorn flowering early. By mid-April, fields were filled with tulips and rhododendrons were making an early appearance. Migrating birds have also been confused by this year’s weather, with flocks of swifts arriving in April rather than May. The soaring spring temperatures were followed by the wettest summer in more than 200 years. The recent downpours and relatively cool weather tricked some plants into thinking winter was on its way. A spokesman for the Met Office’s Centre for Climate Change said it was too early to say whether this year’s conditions were evidence of global warming.
Adapting to the damaging effects of climate change, plants are gradually moving to where temperatures are cooler, rainfall is greater, f...