Across Britain we are witnessing processes that look familiar but are too early and not what they seem. We must use them as a warning to act

Across Britain, the woods are turning orange. Drifts of dry leaves are growing on forest floors and eddying into street corners. Hawthorn and rowan, elder and holly berries are all ripening, and the ferns are fringes of gold. From a distance, it is beautiful. But the air is still warm and summery.

And all of it is two or three months early. Holly berries usually ripen in November or December. Blackberries, traditionally a late August treat, began ripening at the end of June. This turning and leaf fall is not the usual gradual preparation for winter in temperate zones but a stress response by trees trying to conserve water. We are now in a false autumn, caused by heat and drought. And it feels wrong.

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