Is Spring arriving early in Norfolk?

Walker Peter Miller with the rhododendron nobleanum-venustum in flower at Sheringham Park. Picture;

Walker Peter Miller with the rhododendron nobleanum-venustum in flower at Sheringham Park. Picture; MALCOLM FISHER, NATIONAL TRUST - Credit: Archant

There is seemingly no end in sight to our topsy-turvy weather.

Before Christmas it was the east coast getting battered by pounding waves and gale-force winds and now it is the turn of the west country.

But while you might be left holding on to your hat walking the dog there really is no need yet for winter woolies - into the first week in January the weather remains extraordinarily mild.

Temperatures up to 10C yesterday made it seem more like a breezy spring day than the depths of winter - and even our wildlife has begun to notice.

Broads Authority spokesman Hilary Franzen said: 'Primroses, of the country variety, have been seen in gardens at Acle and Sprowston and blue tits have been seen investigating a broken ventilator grill on the outside of a house as a potential nest site.'

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Meanwhile, in Sheringham Park, visitor services manager Malcolm Fisher said the mild weather had seen two species of the National Trust property's famous rhododendrons flowering early.

They included one called Christmas Cheer, which was often kept in pots and brought in to the house to warm up and open its pink flowers.

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He said: 'Bird life is busy feeding and flocking but any breeding is unlikely until February. The biggest bonus of the weather is the increased numbers of visitors enjoying the park, with the overflow car park in use last Sunday.'

Norfolk Wildlife Trust spokesman Rebecca Worsfold said: 'One of our assistant wardens, Lizzie Bruce, spotted a small tortoiseshell butterfly on Thursday at NWT Roydon Common in West Norfolk and then tweeted it. It was a warm day and this was probably one of the first sightings of the year.'

Tony Brown, chairman of Gorleston Nature Club, said: 'Although I have not seen any early signs of spring, there are certainly wildflowers such as Herb Robert still in flower that would have normally died off by now.'

His report was echoed by EDP readers who have seen flowers such as fuchsias still blooming in their gardens.

And the same theme was developed by Sophie Barker, NOA warden at Holme Bird Observatory, near Hunstanton.

She said: 'I'm not so sure that Spring is coming early or that we haven't had winter yet.

'If you look at the last bumblebees, I had one in the garden on Christmas Eve, this is not Spring it is still Autumn. A lot of the movements you would expect haven't happened.

'There still seems to be food around. From a local point of view we have buckthorn bushes covered in berries and we haven't seen any fieldfare. Normally we have quite a few of them at the observatory alone. We haven't had any blackbirds either.

'The suspicion is that they haven't had to move to get food yet. As far as wildlife is concerned winter hasn't started.'

A spokesman for Highway Garden and Leisure, on the Loddon Road, near Norwich, said the mild weather was bringing on flowers in their greenhouses much earlier than expected.

He said: 'Primroses and pansies that we were not expecting to be ready until late January are already coming into flower.'

Chris Bell, a forecaster at the UEA-based WeatherQuest, said: 'Last year the cold air and the snow started to set in around January 14, but there is no sign of that happening this year.

'Temperatures are upwards of 10C, compared to the average of about 6C, and weather conditions are likely to remain pretty similar throughout this week and next.'

While temperatures were likely to dip slightly next week when the winds eased, bringing chillier nights, there was no sign of very cold air arriving.

Mr Bell said the run of low pressure systems we were experiencing had a lot to do with the very cold conditions in North America.

'When the cold air mixes with much milder air in the Atlantic it has the effect of increasing the jet stream and that helps to develop these weather systems,' he said.

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