On average, solar conditions have improved these last few months. In the longer term, we are definitely on the slide towards the next minimum, but there will always be days when things are far better than average.
Of course, there is no correlation between solar activity and Es (as far as I know). Certainly some great Es has been seen in periods of low sunspot activity. 10m, 6m and even 4m and 2m can suddenly spring into life with some quite remarkable signals. DX out to several thousand kilometres is not unheard of by Es on 10m and 6m.
In my experience just a few watts and simple antennas are all that are needed to work all over Europe on 10m and 6m from the UK in the Es season. As Es can occur (less often) at any time of year it is worth beaconing on 10m and 6m with WSPR or JT65 in the quieter months as people often just give up.
See http://www.solen.info/solar/ .