Everything seemed to be inching towards normality when a shock report disturbed the arrival of spring.

As days lengthened my first garden butterfly of the year appeared when a brimstone fluttered over flower beds on April 4. March went out in a blaze of glory with beautiful red kites soaring in blue London skies and a temperature of 23C, a UK highest for the month since 1968. Balmy April produced no significant rain for three weeks.

Bees and other insects were soon buzzing and bird migrants from Africa appeared. My first sand martins on April 7 were followed by a swallow on April 13 both in Thamesmead. Cherry tree blossom lined streets after snowdrops and crocuses shrivelled.

Lockdown easing commenced with pubs and restaurants trading again outside, queues formed at reopened non-essential shops and a haircut was back on my menu four months and five days after the last one. Daily covid fatalities plummeted below 50 and I received my second jab. There was no time to celebrate before the Woodland Trust spoiled it all.

Their survey on Britain’s woodlands found just seven per cent is in a decent state due to pollution, disease, pests, development and climate change. Invasive species like rhododendron and fungi such as ash dieback have killed trees while our too-abundant deer decimate saplings by browsing.

Wild Things: 'Pirates of the Skies'

Cherry tree in blossom by Jim Butler

Cherry tree in blossom by Jim Butler

Bird numbers in these woodlands are down 29 percent since 1970, butterfly numbers crashed 41 percent since 1990 and plant numbers reduced by 18 percent since 2015.

The National Trust, forced to spend £2million demolishing 40,000 diseased ash trees on their properties, plans a substantial tree re-planting programme along with other charities and several national newspapers.

This disease from Asia(sound familiar ?)is expected to wipe out 2.5million trees at National Trust sites alone.

Wild Things: Help save our marshland

Any fallen branches discovered on woodland walks should not be used in wood-burning stoves. The highly toxic fumes include fine particle pollution. Particles may lodge in lungs and are especially dangerous to children and elderly in urban settings.

Wood burning at home using unseasoned wet wood will be banned by law from May 1 as well as use of domestic coal. Wood-burning stoves have surely had their chips !