NATURE IS hurtling “helter-skelter” through the seasons - with the UK racing towards autumn ahead of schedule, say conservationists.

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Naturalist Matthew Oates of the National Trust said: “Signs of autumn are already in the hedgerows and woods.”

He added: “This year has raged its way through winter, then we went into a very early spring, and then it rushed helter-skelter through summer without stopping for breath.”

He said that there are “strong signs of autumn already here, like the beech nuts. It’s an amazing beech mast year and the nuts are incredibly well developed.”

Sycamore and hawthorn seeds are well developed, too, and even holly berries are already red in places.

By midsummer many of the UK’s blackbirds had stopped singing, said Matthew. He also pointed to the early arrivals of high summer butterflies such as the chalk hill blues.

Gardener Paul Guppy from Upton Country Park near Poole on the south coast said: “Our dahlias, crocosmias and many other late summer and autumn flowers were flowering even before the end of June. It’s a strange year.”

In Scotland, fruit growers in Angus and Fife have said there has already been a glut of berries, leading to 70 tonnes of strawberries being dumped because they were surplus to requirements.

And Nursery Supervisor Pete Brownless at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh said: “Flowering in some species has been exceptional, probably due to last year’s warmer than average summer and a much better than average rate of survival of some less hardy plants.”

[Picture credit: Jonathan Billinger/Wikimedia]