Early signs of spring in the Sid Valley

Sweet violet

Sweet violet - Credit: Ed Dolphin

Despite a few frosty mornings, local wildflowers are up and about very early this year. Amateur plant hunters from the Sid Valley Biodiversity Group have started a project to record when the valley’s plants are in flower. 
It is still the middle of winter, but our sheltered valley has more than thirty different species with flowers open already. Some of them are months too early according to the textbooks.


Primrose - Credit: Ed Dolphin

The volunteers have found the hedgerow favourite red campion flowering at 15 different sites even though the textbooks say it flowers in May and June. The pink starred flowers of herb Robert are four months ahead of schedule, and there are ox-eye daisies open in Alma Lane when they are not expected until July. You can see primroses and even violets in several places.
Even the grass has stopped hibernating. When I was much younger, the lawn mower went away at the end of October and didn’t come out again until at least March. Many of you will know that is no longer the case. To reinforce this, daisies have been in flower all winter on several roadside verges around town.
Our seasons are changing. Nature’s calendar is a long running project organised by the Woodland Trust. Their records show that spring, defined by events such as frogs spawning, buds opening, and birds building their nests, is starting two weeks earlier than twenty years ago.

Red Campion

Red Campion - Credit: Ed Dolphin

The local project was given a real boost when Melinda Keeble, who helps run the excellent Sidmouth Library Virtual Nature Table on Facebook, unearthed a copy of the Victorian book Flora Sidostiensis by WH Cullen. This little book lists all the plants known to have been in the valley in 1849. The Biodiversity Group volunteers will be looking to see how many are still around, and which new ones have moved in. Melinda is working on a nature spot challenge for the Science Festival in October.
There will be a full report at the end of the year, but you can keep track of progress by visiting the iNaturalist website and searching for the Sidmouth Hedgerow Herbaceous project.

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