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KO for conkers but Autumn comes early

THE British Conker Championship, that celebration of national eccentricity, is under threat this year due to global warming, it was revealed in early September.

The contest is usually held in October, when the horse chestnut season has peaked to produce the finest conkers, but this year many of the trees have already dropped their fruit, says the Woodland Trust.


This is caused by a double whammy: because of a hot and early spring, the trees have matured a month earlier than normal - and high winds have stripped many of them of their conkers before they were ripe.

Despite the wet weather and lack of sunshine throughout the summer the temperature has been a degree above average, similar to 2005 and 2006 according to the Woodland Trust. So even though summer may have seemed elusive to us humans the rainy weather hadn’t fooled our wildlife. Nature has been taking advantage of the conditions, providing a bumper crop of fruit. Hawthorn has been coming into fruit since 11 July, and elder berries have been spotted since 7 July; these are both fruits which are usually seen in the autumn.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite of the Woodland Trust comments: "Last summer we had drought, this summer we seem to have the opposite, but it looks so far like the different rainfall conditions haven’t affected the early ripening of wild fruits. It may even be the case that the increased rainfall has helped fruits such as blackberries to grow more abundantly. A few of the traditional signs of late summer and early autumn have been creeping earlier into summer for several years now. These early ripening autumn berries are an example of this, and we need your help to look for them."

Blackberries (known as brambles in parts of the UK) have always been a late-summer/early autumn fruit but now, like many wild fruits such as rowan berries, hawthorn berries, elderberries, sloe berries and even hazelnuts, they are ripening earlier and earlier. In fact, for the last two years, there have been ripe blackberries in time for the Wimbledon finals and this year is no different despite the disappointing weather.

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