Last year is now officially the second-wettest on record (though I have to say I have absolutely no memories at all of 2000 – the wettest-ever – being particularly damp. Maybe my mind has mercifully wiped the horror from my internal hard drive).
But The National Trust‘s annual lowdown on the year just ended makes intriguing reading – partly at least because it hasn’t been a bad year for everyone.
We’ve all heard quite enough about how terrible all the rain has been for apple trees (half-drowned), squashes (what squashes?) sweetcorn (grass-sized and no corn) – but how about the winners from 2012?
Slugs: as we all know they’ve been having a party. B&Q’s slug pellets went up by 75%, the fast-breeding Spanish slug may now outnumber natives slugs in many sites for the first time in its 20 years in this country, and – now here’s a scary thought – there is a native variety of slug, the Ashblack slug, which grows to 1ft in length – yes, you read that right: 30cm, one foot, nearly as long as your forearm. It’s rare (phew) but they’ve just found a new colony on the Isle of Wight. Be afraid. Be very afraid…
Wild orchids: bee orchids in Blakeney in Norfolk and Stackpole Warren in Pembrokeshire; fly orchids on Dunstable Downs. One of the best moments of my year last year was when I found a wonderful carpet of brilliant pink marsh orchids growing wild on a woodland walk in early summer: what a sight.
Wasp-phobics: did anyone else notice the lack of wasps last year? We have a big nest somewhere around the house every year: one year they found a hole in the roof by the chimney (we found the nest later: it was a good 80cm-1m across), then they built one in a bird box, and in 2011 they discovered the hole in the windowsill and built one in the cavity wall. But last year? Not so much as a buzz. I kind of missed them, actually.
Dragonflies: they recorded 22 different species at Scotney Castle in Kent: I didn’t know there even were 22 species of dragonfly.
Autumn colour: fabulous this year, and hanging on in there far longer than usual. My butter-yellow Ginkgo biloba was eyecatching for weeks on end.
Waxwings: they’ve had an uncommonly good year, apparently driven ever further westwards by the general lack of berries and other fruit to eat in the rest of Europe. Thousands of them went on a detour to Northern Ireland, too, where bemused shoppers on Enniskillen High Street got to watch them stripping the rowan trees.