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Modern phenologist honoured

Among the many people awarded OBEs in the New Year's Honours was 81-year-old phenologist Jean Combes.

Phenology studies the times of recurring natural phenomena, and particularly the dates of the first occurrence of natural events in their annual cycle. Because it can illuminate changes in climate, it's acquired a higher profile today.

Phenology benefits from researchers who are long-lived, and determined - Jean has been recording the first sight of first leaves on local trees for 61 years - and has long attracted the British. Its founding father is Robert Marsham. He started his phenology notes at Stratton Strawless in 1736 and continued them for sixty years.

Subsequent generations of his family continued his work, which was called Indications of Spring. The data has proved immensely useful. Marsham, also a great planter of trees, recorded 27 signs of spring, including the often overlooked turnip-flowering dates.

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