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Winter storms hit nature and held back spring

Dismal weather and storms from December to February hit nature as well as people, bringing down veteran trees and drowning burrowing creatures such as moles, rabbits and earthworms, while the mild conditions led to very intermittent and disturbed hibernation.

...many things are still early, and things are finished early, primroses went early, bluebells, even oil seed rape, is going over down south, and a lot of things are coming up early.

Elderflowers are coming out early, some dog roses are in flower and that's 'hello June!'. Hawthorn in the south is at peak and coming out elsewhere, and it used to be end of May, not mid May.

In the fields, grasses are flowering early, buttercups are out early and the crops are very advanced as well, the wheat and barley are fairly advanced, particularly the barley.

– National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates

The excessively wet conditions, which led to repeated or constant flooding in some areas, initially held back the advance of spring, with plants such as snowdrops still early but not "unduly" early.

Flowers and insects booming as summer arrives early

A mild winter means that summer is arriving early as many species have "jumped the gun", experts have said.

Flowers and insects have arrived early Credit: Bryan Pickering/Eye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images

As a result, National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates said: "It was like a Grand National getting off in a big way, because of the ridiculously mild winter.

"It's an early summer because of the mild, wet and stormy winter, and the whole thing's rather jumped the gun."

While the winter might be best remembered for the storms and floods that hit the UK, it was also the fifth mildest December to February for the UK in records dating back more than a century.


New Delhi tops list of cities with dirtiest air

India's capital, New Delhi, has the worst air quality of any city in the world, according to figures published by the World Health Organisation.

The WHO measured the average levels of harmful particles known as PM2.5s to try to gauge which urban areas had the most dangerous pollution levels.

Smog obscures the view of the India Gate monument in New Delhi. Credit: Associated Press

Indian cities occupied the top four places on the global list, and 13 out of the top 20 dirtiest cities.

There were three Pakistani cities in the top 20, along with the Qatari capital, Doha and cities in Iran, Turkey and Bangladesh.

Pollution report 'shows need for more cycling'

The UK's governing body for cycling has said high levels of air pollution in some British cities are further evidence of the need to expand cycling.

It follows a study from the World Health Organisation that found nine British cities and towns had unsafe levels of air pollution.

British Cycling is calling for more investment in cycling infrastructure. Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Martin Key, campaigns manager for British Cycling, said: "With almost daily news stories about worrying levels of air pollution, it is clearer than ever that more cycling is the answer to many of the problems we face in Britain today."

"If local and national government put sustained and targeted investment into improving our roads and making them fit for cycling, we will without doubt create healthier, happier communities and more pleasant places to live," he added.

WHO warns worldwide air pollution 'getting worse'

The World Health Organisation has warned that air pollution is "getting worse".

Only 12% of residents in cities that reported on air pollution were living in areas that comply with the WHO's guidelines.

The WHO estimates that in 2012 air pollution was responsible for the deaths of 3.7 million people around the world.

Beijing is among the world's most polluted cities. Credit: Associated Press

Although several British cities have been named as breaching safe air quality levels, cities in countries such as India, China and Pakistan have much higher levels of pollution.

Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO's assistant director-general for family, children and women's health, said many cities were now "so enveloped in dirty air that their skylines are invisible".

WHO names UK towns with unsafe air pollution levels

London, Birmingham and Leeds are among nine British towns and cities which have come under fire for breaching safe levels of air pollution

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also named Chesterfield, Nottingham, Sheffield, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Thurrock as having problems with levels of dangerous particles called PM10s.

However some areas, including Manchester, Bournemouth and Northampton, did not provide data for levels of PM10s.

This picture taken in April shows smog in the skies above London. Credit: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

People living in polluted areas are at greater risk of respiratory disease and other health problems.

Public Health England has said that air pollution was responsible for 25,000 deaths in England in 2010.


Seabed 'covered in human litter'

Large areas of the sea bed are covered with human litter such as plastic bags, bottles and discarded fishing nets, scientists have discovered.

Researchers looking at samples from all over the world found that plastic was the most common litter, accounting for 41% of the waste on the seabed.

Dr Kerry Howell from Plymouth University's Marine Institute said the study showed litter was present "in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans".

£500m bid to get more drivers using electric cars

Nick Clegg charging an electric car at a research centre in Berkshire. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Government is set to spend £500m to encourage more drivers to use electric cars.

Under the proposals people can get grants of up to £5,000 towards the cost of an electric vehicle.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will also set out £100m of extra investment in research and development to help the UK remain at the forefront of the new technology.

Warning over HS2 wildlife damage

Around 500 wildlife areas could be at risk from the HS2 high speed rail line, conservationists have warned.

The Wildlife Trusts called for a £130m investment to create new green areas over the length of the new line.

An anti-HS2 poster in a the Staffordshire village of Whittington. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Among the areas affected by the new line are 43 ancient woods and nine Wilflife Trust nature reserves.

One-fifth of gardeners admit throwing snails over fence

A fifth of gardeners admit to throwing snails over the fence into their neighbour's garden to get rid of them, a survey has revealed.

The poll for the Royal Horticultural Society found 80% of people will be heading into their gardens this Easter to tackle spring jobs such as weeding and mowing the lawn.

Neighbours admit to throwing snails into each other's gardens. Credit: Waltraud Grubitzsch/DPA/Press Association Images

The survey of more than 1,500 people to mark National Gardening Week this week also found that good gardeners make good neighbours, with just 3% admitting to growing plants to block out their neighbours' gardens.

But while almost four fifths (78%) said they had never thrown a snail into their neighbour's garden, 22% admitted to the horticultural crime.

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