Heavy snow could hamper early arrival of spring


Nature experts say spring is already on the way - but that heavy snow could now "halt its march".

Early signs of spring have been spotted after the warmest year on record for the UK.

Sightings of snowdrops, hazel catkins and even ladybirds and butterflies have been submitted to the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar scheme, which asks the public to report natural events which mark the changing seasons.

So far in 2015, there have been reports of snowdrops at 120 locations across the country, hazel catkins at 74 spots and even sightings of ladybirds, small tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral butterflies, the Woodland Trust said.

Snowdrops Emerge Early Due To Mild Temperatures

In November, the Trust received a record of frogspawn on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, the earliest such incidence for nine years.

A warming climate has seen spring coming earlier, and three of the last four years have seen some of the earliest spring averages the Trust has compiled from its monitoring of the seasons in Nature's Calendar for the last 15 years.

Research looking at nature records stretching back to the 18th century has found flowers over the last 25 years blooming up to 12 days earlier than previously.

The current freezing conditions may halt the march of spring, but conservationists say that causes less of a problem than a late cold snap, as happened in 2013, when more species are likely to be awake from hibernation or already flowering.

A red admiral butterfly sits on a blosso

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Woodland Trust citizen science manager, told the Press Association: "People still seem to be surprised to see snowdrops and butterflies in early January, but our warmer climate in recent years means this is now pretty common.

"Records added to Nature's Calendar by the public have enabled scientists to learn how trees, plants and wildlife adapt to our changing climate.

"If we can ensure our natural environment is diverse, resilient and interconnected it will make it easier for wildlife to adjust too."

The Trust said it would be working in partnership with the British Science Association to estimate the rate spring progresses this year.

National Trust's national specialist on nature and wildlife, Matthew Oates, said: "Spring has been calling for some time, due to a mild autumn, December and early January. The signs are all around us.

"Hazel catkins were quite prominent in southern England before Christmas and are now well in flower, such that some hay fever suffers - like me - are already experiencing symptoms."

He added: "Spring's advance has now been checked by the arrival of the first cold snap since March 2013. Perhaps spring needed slowing down, as early springs are risky and almost always end in tears."

But he urged the public to look out for the signs of spring and report them to the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar.

Temperatures Continue To Drop Across Scotland

So, weather-wise, what does this week have in store exactly? Leon Brown, meterologist at The Weather Channel, told Aol Travel: "After a few days of mild weather another seven days of colder weather will arrive during Wednesday. There will be quite a drop in temperature during the day behind a cold front on Wednesday.

"Between this Wednesday and next Wednesday, snow will be in the forecast for just about everywhere, but amounts will vary quite a bit, even locally.

"The weather pattern from Wednesday will be very similar to two weeks ago with a very unstable polar maritime air mass dragged all the way from North West Canada.

"There'll be a lot of showers over the west on Wednesday night to Thursday, turning readily to snow inland and some thunder around coasts.

"There'll be some moderate to heavy snowfalls on Wednesday night to Thursday over West Scotland, Northern Ireland to North West England, and snow showers also moving over the higher parts of the south west on Thursday morning with 5cm to 10cm across Exmoor and the Mendips. Mid and North Wales may also catch 5cm to 10cm.


"The main snow risk areas on Thursday night to Friday look like Wales again with another 5cm to 10cm, and more over the higher mountains. Some snow showers moving over the western Midlands towards the London area may give 2cm to 4cm.

"Later on Friday and Friday night it will be the turn for North England and then East Anglia to see some snow as an occluded front moves south.

"By next weekend the UK will be in a northerly Arctic flow with hail, sleet and snow showers around coasts and over northern Scotland, with just a few showers inland over southern Britain.

"Before the cold snap is pushed away, it looks like there will be another snow risk next Monday as an area of low pressure tracks southwards in the Arctic flow. This may bring 5cm to 10cm quite widely over northern Britain, and a lot more over the higher hills in Scotland and Pennines. As much as 5cm also is likely as far south as the Midlands.

"The lowest temperatures in this cold snap look likely on Sunday when winds will drop out for a time. We could see -8C to -10C over parts of the north on Sunday morning."

Love spring? Spot the signs:

National Trust's ten signs of Spring
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Heavy snow could hamper early arrival of spring

“The popular spring bulbs are valued for their brilliant flower colours and shapes,” says Matthew.

Top tulip spot: Hidcote, Near Chipping Campden. Every year 15,000 tulips burst into bloom providing a beautiful splash colour against the mellow cotswold stone of this magnificent formal house and gardens.

Other great tulip spots include: Sizergh Castle, Cumbria; Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire; Upton House and Gardens, Warwickshire.

“Although they can be spotted throughout the year, these bushy-tailed creatures come to life as winter recedes and can be spotted foraging on the ground or roaming through the treetops.”

Top spot for red squirrel viewing: BrownseaIsland, Dorset. This island sanctuary, located within Poole Harbour and only accessible by boat, is a haven for wildlife. Thriving natural habitats provide great wildlife spotting potential, particularly for the often elusive rare red squirrel.

Other places to seek out red squirrels: Formby, Lancashire; Mount Stewart, Co. Down; Wallington, Northumberland.

“One of the earliest and finest signs of spring is a rook with nest building material held in its beak. You can spot a rookery in the tree tops or in old houses across Britain, with eggs appearing around early March,” says Matthew.

Top rook-spotting territory: Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire. Rookery building in the trees at Tattershall means visitors who make the climb to the top of the castle keep can enjoy spectacular local views and down into the nests below too.

Other great places to see a rookery: Tyntesfield, Bristol; Fyne Court, Bridgwater; Crook Peak, Somerset

“After the long winter, migrating birds return from milder climates to spend the summer. Spot chiffchaffs from March, with swallows and house martins usually arriving in April and swifts following in late April or early May,” says Matthew.

Top bird watching spot: Crom, Co. Fermanagh. Escape to 2,000 acres of one of Ireland’s most important nature conservation islands, full of ancient woodlands and picturesque islands. Watch the winter birdlife depart and migrants arrive from the south from our new bird hide on the shores of Derrymacrow Lough.

Other top spots for spring birdwatchers: Stackpole, Pembrokeshire;  The Lizard, Cornwall; Blakeney Point, Norfolk.

“Newborn lambs are emerging on unsteady legs at farms all over the country,” says Matthew.

Top viewing spot: Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire. This working estate is still guided by the seasons and brims with new life in spring as lambing season arrives. With a substantial collection of rare breeds, Home Farm sees the arrival of approximately 300 new born lambs each year.

See more spring newborns at: Brockhampton Estate, Herefordshire; Scotney Castle, Kent; Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion.

“Fields of bright yellow dandelions are a sure sign that spring is on its way – and a big help to bees and insects as they come out of hibernation, although possibly not for gardeners.”

Top dandelion spot: Attingham Park, Shropshire. The open fields of many National Trust parks and estates are perfect places for dandelions to flourish, such as just north of the mansion at Attingham.

Other great dandelion fields: Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire; Felbrigg, Norfolk; Stonehenge Landscape, Wiltshire.

“Over half of the world’s population of bluebells can be found in the UK and the delightful carpets of blue that cover our woodlands throughout late April and May are one of our greatest spring treasures,” says naturalist Matthew Oates from the National Trust.

Top bluebell viewing spot: Blickling Estate, Norfolk. Visit in April through to May and follow the winding paths through the great wood and pass through swathes of dainty English bluebells.

Other bluebell hotspots: Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire; Lanhydrock, Cornwall; The Vyne, Hampshire.

“One of the great signs of the arrival of spring is the so-called ‘mad March hare’ – as these usually shy and reclusive creatures can be spotted ‘boxing’ in open fields throughout the mating season.”

Top hare viewing spot: LymePark, Cheshire. The open spaces here are perfect hare-spotting territory during early spring. Head up to The Cage, an atmospheric hill-top hunting lodge, for great views across the park’s vast acres.

Other good spots for hare spotting include:

Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire; Mountain hare can be found on the Dark Peak Moors, Derbyshire

Irish hare can be seen on Divis Mountain, Belfast.

“These bright yellow bulbs are already beginning to burst into life, heralding spring as they spread outwards from the south west to the rest of the country,” says Matthew.

Top spot for daffs: Sizergh Castle, Cumbria. Wordsworth’s famous poem was inspired by a beautiful belt of wild daffodils in Cumbria. The wild variety found here has a particular beauty. Dora’s Meadow at Grasmere, created by Wordsworth in memory of his daughter, will also be open for daffodil-viewing under the National Gardens Scheme on 1 April.

Other top spots for daffs include: Kingston Lacy, Dorset; Chirk Castle, Wrexham; Gibside, Tyne & Wear.

“These astonishing goblet - or star-shaped flowers found on trees or shrubs are much admired seasonal icons, and for good reason.”

Top magnolia viewing spot: Nymans, West Sussex. This spectacular garden is famed for its amazing collection of rare and important plants. In spring the stars of the show are magnificent magnolias, underplanted with drifts of daffodils and grape hyacinths.

Also see magnificent magnolias at: Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey; Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall; Bodnant Garden, Conwy


Need to escape the wintry weather? We've got just the thing:

Affordable winter sun holidays
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Heavy snow could hamper early arrival of spring

For a warm winter break in Europe, head for Malta where temperatures rarely fall below 15C and you can enjoy the city of Valletta and the Maltese islands in a relaxed setting you won't find in the summer months. Explore the cobbled streets and sun dappled squares of Valletta, go hiking in the countryside and explore the beautiful coves and beaches without the crowds. easyJet Holidays offers a seven-night holiday at the three-star Blue Sea St George's Park & La Vallette Resort in the town of St Julian's, just north of Valletta, for £289 per person, based on a 4 February 2016 departure from Gatwick.

Ideal for a short city break or week-long holiday, Morocco's Red City is the place to go for an exotic winter shopping trip in winter. Just under four hours from the UK, Marrakech has plenty of sunshine, temps of up to 18C and an exciting culture to explore. lowcostholidays.com offers seven nights in Marrakech from £155 per person, based on a 20 January 2016 departure from Stansted and a B&B stay at four-star Blue Sea Marrakech Ryads Parc and Spa in La Palmeraie.
Bali is a top long-haul winter sun destination for a bargain, where 10 holiday items including an evening meal, sun cream, a bottle of water and glass of wine can cost just £40. The spectacular Indonesian island boasts kilometres of powder soft sand, swathes of lush rice paddies and an engaging native culture. Travelsupermarket compares holidays to Bali and has found a seven-night holiday to Bali with ebookers staying at the four-star Umalas Residence on a room-only basis from £556 per person, based on 22 February 2016 departure from London Gatwick.
The Caribbean is a classic winter sun destination offering sunshine, a laid-back island vibe and some of the best beaches in the world. While it's a go-to place for luxury travellers and may not be the first destination you think of for a cheap getaway there are plenty of affordable options. A cruise, for example, allows you to take in not one, but a number of islands and covers your travel, accommodation and food costs so you only have to spend on souvenirs! P&O Cruises offers a 14-night Caribbean fly-cruise visiting nine islands (Barbados, Aruba, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, Amber Cove, Tortola, St Maarten St Lucia and Dominica) from £1,329 per person in February, including flights from various UK airports, full board accommodation, entertainment and round the clock kids' clubs.

For a family-friendly getaway in the sun, look no further than Portugal's Algarve, where you can enjoy cultural festivals, sandy beaches and winter sunshine. The 16C winter temperatures make the Algarve ideal for outdoor activities, such as hiking, golfing and kayaking. Don't miss a day at the beach as winter is the best time to see the coastline's natural beauty without the crowds. On the Beach offers a seven-night holiday at the three-star Club Dos Arcos Apartments, including flights from Stansted on 17 January 2016 and B&B accommodation from £114 per person.

For a touch of the exotic and temperatures of up to 25C during the day, head for Red Sea destination Eilat in Israel, where you can swim with dolphins, go on a Jeep tour in the mountains and relax at the beach. Monarch offers a seven-night holiday to Eilat from £448 per person, including a stay at the three-star Astral Palma in a junior suite on a B&B basis and return flights from Luton on 21 January 2016.
Looking for an affordable week in the sun somewhere off the beaten path? The Cape Verde islands are located 500km off the coast of West Africa and share African and Portuguese influences. They're not as touristy as the Canary Islands and have gorgeous beaches in Sal and Boa Vista. Cape Verde is also a paradise for surfers, hikers and divers. Sunshine.co.uk offers a seven-night holiday at the Pontao Hotel for £450 per person, including flights from Gatwick departing 13 January 2016 and half-board accommodation.
Think Canaries, think bring on the Full English? Think again. Lanzarote, an island of brooding volcanoes, has managed to contain its tourist development, allowing its natural beauty to break through. Black volcanic fields, deep green cacti, whitewashed cottages: it’s a landscape to gladden the cool designer’s eye. December may be the beginning of the rainy season but don't let that put you off! The island experiences less than 20 days of rain in an entire year. Stick to the south for warm sunny days on the beach. lowcostholidays.com offers seven nights at three-star Blue Sea Costa Teguise Gardens on a B&B for £223 per person based on 11 Jan 2016 departure.

With average temperatures of 32C across the winter months and soft sandy beaches, Goa is the ideal destination for escaping the cold and discovering a new culture. Visit the exhilarating local markets stacked with spices and silks, relax on the vast sandy beaches lapped by the Arabian Sea and explore the unique local cuisine. Head to Central Goa for water sports and diving, North Goa for the lively atmosphere and nightclubs and South Goa for spotless white sand, baroque churches and bazaars. Monarch offers a 14-night holiday at Palmarinha Resort in North Goa for £615 per person, departing Gatwick on 28 February 2016.

Want winter sun without the long-haul flight? Cyprus is an excellent choice for warm temperatures (20C), sightseeing and gorgeous beaches. Nature lovers will be in their element throughout the winter months when the landscapes are lush and green. You can visit the Troodos National Forest Park, enjoy a camping holiday and go strawberry picking. Limassol boasts quiet beaches, fascinating historical attractions and museums, while Paphos is known for its ancient ruins, unspoilt beauty and bustling centre. easyJet Holidays offers seven nights at the luxurious Amphora Hotel & Suites in Paphos for £239 per person, based on a 2 February 2016 departure from Gatwick.

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