Each year at about the same time I (Duncan) visit Holystone to take a group of students around the woodland along Holystone Burn. We follow the same route each year on very nearly the same week each time. Most years the wood ants are swarming on the top of their nests and this recent visit was no exception. Up at the Yardhope oaks we stand on the bridge and look up the valley at the wild wood that extends up the valley and it is here that some sense of the progress of spring can be made.
Two photographs, one from 2 May 2007 and the other from 5 May 2011 make an interesting comparison. The day was significantly duller in 2011 but other things are obvious too; the primroses are just in bud this year but were in full flower 4 years ago. Most noticeable, however, are the oak trees; fresh new leaves in 2007 but very little this time. The trees deeper in the valley do seem to have suffered from some recent frosts, browning off the tiny emerging leaves. So in conclusion the spring is a little later than in 2007 at least, certainly at Holystone.
The top has broken off the oak to the right of the 2011 picture, a victim of the winter snow. Other oaks in the valley had broken branches and some of what were tall junipers were splayed and flattened to the ground.