Written by Heather Elvidge
With this year’s early spring and early harvest, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that August has embraced the trend by becoming rather autumnal.
Up until now, 2014 has been benign — this is the first month when temperatures have been below average. Is this farewell to warm days? Not necessarily: there’s still time for some fine spells.
So let’s celebrate the fruits of a good season. Commercial fruit growers are having a good year, with apples, pears, plums and blackcurrants ripening three to four weeks early. Even grapevines, which need 100 hours of sunshine, have been well suited. Back garden apple trees have fewer fruits than last year, although the apples are larger. In the hedgerows, brambles are plump and the plentiful sloes are two weeks ahead of last year.
Garden birds are still subdued by the moult, while many migrant birds are on the move. At the time of writing swallows and house martins are still here. They’ve had a successful year and many pairs have a second brood of chicks on the point of leaving the nest.
The puffins and kittiwakes have left Bempton cliffs, but glorious gannets are still cruising and diving for fish. If you’re planning a visit then hurry along this weekend because the RSPB’s reserve will be closed from September 1 for a big makeover. It won’t reopen until next April, although public footpaths will still be accessible during the winter for those bracing clifftop walks.
Moorland walks are enlivened by acres of purple. Common heather, or ling, works its magic with millions of tiny flowers. Past generations of moor dwellers made good use of it, producing brooms, baskets and bedding from this tough plant. Heather also flavoured their beer and thatched their roofs.
The heather forms a habitat for many creatures, although only two can eat it. One is the red grouse; the other is the blackface sheep that’s such a familiar sight beside moorland roads.
After a period of blustery days we’d like a settled autumn. September can be very kind, with morning mists giving way to pleasant daytime temperatures. September 1 is the day to note: “Fair on St Giles Day, fair for the month.”
After that hopeful saying, folklore gives few clues. That’s because the old lore is mostly concerned with weather’s effect on crops. When the harvest was in people weren’t too bothered until October, a month crammed with sayings concerning the winter.
August’s weather often carries on into September, which isn’t always a good thing. And sure enough, the Met Office says that the unsettled pattern of showers and dry sunny intervals looks set to continue for a while.
If you have reason to need a fine day then September 15 is your best bet. Records show that it’s fine in six years out of seven.
Some folk say that weather changes with the turn of the moon. In other words, whatever the conditions when the moon is new or full, that’s how the weather will stay until the moon’s next quarter.
The new moon was on Monday — check if they’re right on September 2, the moon’s first quarter.