What a rosy idyll this scene suggests. But if you look at the tree in the background you can see that it is leafless. I took this photo four days ago during the heady flourish of early summer. This walnut tree is about 40 years old and we sited our house to allow one of two walnut trees to remain. The following photo was taken in March 2000 and shows the tree in good health - not the finest nutter, but flavoursome all the same.
Walnut trees in Canterbury are at the limits of their climate tolerance as their early foliage and flowers are susceptible to wind and hard frosts. Once our tree had reached a certain height - about roof apex level - the upper branches were constantly shorn of leaves by the summer nor' westers. Occasionally a spring cold snap straight up from Antarctica would wither the beautiful racemes of flowering promise, and there would be no nut crop around Elwin's birthday in April.
But over the last two years very noticeable extremes of weather have stymied the tree's efforts to establish foliage. After the fearful and destructive gale in September 2013, which stripped away budding growth, a cold snap in the spring of 2014, summer gales, and this year's winter of variable conditions - generally mild, but with short spells of extreme cold - any foliage that formed just wasn't enough to provide effective photosynthesis for a sizeable tree.
I've noticed another walnut tree in the village which has almost succumbed to the same conditions, but being smaller and in a more sheltered spot, it is producing new growth low down. This might see the tree through this cycle of extremes into years of more settled spring weather. But for my walnut tree, planted by my brother when he was still a teenager, it's time is over.
Walnut tree Juglans regia