My Dad planted an apricot tree a few years ago, grafted onto apple (I think). It has flourished in the clay soil and spread itself wide against the south-facing wall beside which it stands. The relentless sun has ripened the fruit beautifully this summer – lovely plump apricots with a subtle sweetness and delicate flavour that is quite extraordinary. And each bite has been savoured, not least because the tree only yielded nine fruit.
Such has been the extremes of the weather this year that the blossom flowered between snowfalls and the cold of early spring meant few pollinators were on the wing. As April shivered, those nine apricots only appeared thanks to human interference and the delicate touch of a paintbrush.
And then the climate turned on its head, with an almighty downpour on May 1st and nothing but a few minutes of light drizzle since. The earth is cracked, the landscape parched. The chanterelles that popped up early across my favourite patch have long since shrivelled to dust. The local streams are gasping, pools steaming.
I took a walk around the lake below the cottage last week at sunset, worried about what I might find. The level was down, but not critically low, and although the duckweed had proliferated, the breeze was preventing the swathes from choking up the entire surface. Thankfully, there was no sign of distressed fish, a couple of carp mooched but most seemed to be bubbling among the bloodworm and silt.
Around the bank, the green of riparian growth was surprising in its vibrance. Mare’s tail and yellow iris stood defiant, while meadow browns and gatekeepers flitted in the last of the sun’s dapple.
Common darters whirred like helicopters, supercharged by the heat and rarely still. A heron spooked but sat like a sentinel on the summit of a cone shaped fir waiting, presumably, for me to leave so we could both get on with supper.