NATURE NOTES - Rain, rain, go away

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WELL, after a few months of the worst weather for years it was ‘sods law’ that it would break eventually and when better to do it than the week before the children start their summer break.

What happens on July 15 – sunshine all day on St Swithin’s Day – what a great omen!

St Swithin was a monk who lived in Winchester and died in 862. Legend has it his remains were moved inside the cathedral in 971, after which it rained for 40 days and nights - hence the weather lore began:

St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain 
Full 40 days, it will remain 
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair 
For 40 days, t’will rain no more

The weeks of torrential rain has been having a massive impact on some of our wildlife – especially some species of insects and wild flowers.

There’s always the exception and one flower species that seems to have thrived – the orchids particularly the bee orchid, distinctive for the bee-like appearance of its flowers. Conditions may not have suited humans, but they have been ideal for flowers like the bee orchid.

The warm winter and then the drought in March and April disappeared quickly as the rains arrived. As a result, bee orchids have flourished.

Other plants to make the most of the great wet summer are Mediterranean annuals such as small restharrow, distinctive for its pink and white flowers, and nitgrass. These have also thrived, this may not continue though.

Plants like these do well when you have arid conditions one year and very wet ones the following year. If it keeps on raining next year, coarse grass will eventually swamp the grounds they are growing in and all the gains will be lost.

A more worrying impact of all this wet weather is the havoc it’s playing on the farming industry

Some chip shop owners say they are having to charge more after the wettest June on record pushed up potato prices.

Many are charging an extra 10p for a bag of chips as rain-sodden fields play havoc with potato harvesting. It has been reported farmers in northern England are losing up to 40 per cent of their crop and are raising prices by £50 a tonne to cover costs.

The shortage of certain fruit and vegetables has raised questions about the robustness of the UK’s food chain.

A new report by the NFU warns that the UK is becoming increasingly reliant on imports such as tomatoes, cucumbers, spring onions, runner beans and mushrooms, suggesting sustained periods of poor weather that threaten its dwindling domestic production will have a significant impact on prices.

Experts said it was inevitable that the current weather conditions would have consequences for consumers, peas and strawberries being particularly hard hit as well, but stressed it was not all bad news.

Flood or drought! Not a good choice whichever! Lets hope the jet stream gets back to normal and better weather is on its way.