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16 December 2016

Winter is NOT Coming - Wildlife in Bristol’s Stoke Park Starts Spring Early

Up until now, talk of winter conditions in the UK this year has been centred on extreme cold. Due to the presence of a weak polar vortex, experts have been expecting a severe chill to the air this winter; some have even speculated that the freezing temperatures may be enough to challenge for the title of the coldest winter on record, which hit the UK with lows of -19.4°C back in 1963.

The flora of Bristol’s Stoke Park, however, has different ideas.

Bluebells in Stoke Park, Bristol (Dec. 8th) - Img source: Bristol Post
As reported by the Bristol Post, several species of plant usually dormant during the winter months have unexpectedly sprung to life throughout the woods and wild areas of Bristol. There is, of course, still some speculation concerning the exact cause of this phenomenon, but local experts have a good theory about the cause, with extreme temperature shifts associated with climate change topping the list of candidates.

It all seemingly began with the dose of severe cold that descended upon the UK over the past few weeks, when temperatures regularly fell well below 0°C overnight. As far as the local plant life was concerned, this was the depths of winter.

So, when the Thursday just passed (Dec. 8th) experienced temperatures more in line with midsummer, peaking at approximately 17°C, Mother Nature decided that spring must be on the way, and the flora reacted accordingly.

Woodland buttercups & edible lime leaves in Stoke Park, Bristol (Dec. 8th) - Img source: Bristol Post
This was first noticed by wildlife expert and Bristol Post columnist Mr England, who regularly travels the wilds of a Bristol as a guide. On his most recent visit, he was astonished to find plants such as bluebells and woodland buttercups (Lesser Cellendine) popping up months ahead of schedule. He told the Bristol Post:

"The Lesser Cellendine are normally the first spring woodland flower, but never appear until the end of February. Climate change is real.

"These plants respond to environmental factors and regardless of the time of year they will and are growing – it's unbelievable and worrying too.

"I could make a spring salad right now, in midwinter. It's ridiculous," he said. "I found leaves from the edible lime tree – they should be in shut down now, not growing new leaves. I think 2016 will go down in history as the year we skipped winter if temperatures carry on like this. It's so worrying. It was 17 degrees on Thursday in Bristol – that's warmer than April."

Mr England also noted that this phenomenon doesn’t seem to be restricted exclusively to flora, as some of the local fauna is getting in on the act, "Yesterday, for instance, I heard a Thrush singing its heart out. They don't normally start singing until February either."

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.