Folklore has a numerous sayings to predict the weather or climatic conditions to come. They might not all be nonsense!
Folklore says that if the oak leafs before the ash we will have drier summers.
If the oak before the ash,
Then we'll only have a splash.
If the ash before the oak,
Then we'll surely have a soak!
Folk wisdom has it that a wet summer can be foretold by whether the oak or the ash leafs first, but this race has become increasingly unequal because of climate change, according to scientists.
Dr Kate Lewthwaite, the Woodland Trust's expert on climate change, said: "With every one degree rise in temperature, oak has a four day advantage over ash. Ash appears to be more responsive to the length of the day in spring, while oak is more responsive to temperature. So with warmer springs, oak is having the advantage."
Climate change predictions are for drier summers, punctuated with periods of more intense rain than in previous decades, so the old rhyme may have some wisdom in it yet.
'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' is an well known proverb. The earliest citation is this version of the rhyme from Dr. Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732, although it probably existed in word-of-mouth form well before that:
A French proverb - 'En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît'. This translates as
'In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please', which has much the same meaning as 'ne'er cast a clout...'.
Hawthorns are virtually synonymous with hedges. As many as 200,000 miles of hawthorn hedge were planted in the Parliamentary Enclosure period, between 1750 and 1850. The name 'Haw' derives from 'hage', the Old English for 'hedge'.
The tree gives its beautiful display of flowers in late April/early May. It is known as the May Tree and the blossom itself is called May. Using that allusion, 'till May is out' could mean, 'until the hawthorn is out [in bloom]'.