Posts Tagged ‘snow’

So I was worrying about the trees in my last post. Well, I arrived at Spring Cottage to find things could have been worse. snowy landscape

A rapid thaw was happening, the temperature having shot up from minus three to about five degrees centigrade overnight. Where I’m told there had been knee-deep snow yesterday, patches of earth were now appearing.

snowy landscape

The house looked more or less intact. I’d remembered to turn off the water before I left, there was no burst pipe. On the other hand, the back door looked suspiciously wet and was hard to open. I put my shoulder to it and burst out into the soggy garden, shocking some birds into the sky. Above me, the gutter teetered at an unseemly angle and disgorged its melting contents straight at the door. In the garden, we’d lost a couple of tree branches here and there, nothing desperate and it will all make good kindling once it’s dried out.

hedge along a roadside

The weight of the now rapidly vanishing snow had done other things as well. Along the lane, bits of hedge were looming forwards in the manner of a drunk sharing a confidence. Lonicera Nitida, sometimes known as boxleaf honeysuckle, is easy to shape and trim but, being a relative of the climber, it hasn’t got any what you might call ‘integrity’. Rather, it leans up against itself like a teenager during that phase where they cling to doorframes to stay upright. Weigh it down with a lot of snow and it’s gone – teenager to drunk in a week.

trimmed hedge

I had to do something before the forecast rain arrived. So I swapped my idea of walking in the hills for sturdy yellow work gloves, reached through the hedge as far as I could from the garden side and hoicked the spindly stems inwards. Then from the roadside, more than ankle deep in thawing snow, I shoved it upwards with an upside down broom. But it wasn’t enough, it had lost its grip, and some of its top-heaviness just had to go if the next snowfall wasn’t going to see it lying stretched out across the lane.

Now that it’s done, I’m thinking that the snow did me a favour, although I would have liked a walk instead of a sore elbow from wielding the shears. The hedge is now thinned out for a bit of fresh growth in the spring and should be all the stronger for it.

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From the silhouettes of Italian trees to the spectacular giants of Lydeard Hill in Somerset, they are under threat and I am worrying about them; capturing their beauty while I can.

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It’s a place where people still cycle in sub zero temperatures.

Where it is still expected that you might wish to sit outside to eat when snow lies on the ground. (They give you blankets.)

Where the snow thawing in the sun on the roof freezes again before it reaches the ground.

Good morning!

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The snow’s all gone now but for the brief day or so that we had it, it revealed new textures in the patchwork of the hills.

The garden was suddenly full of the evidence of the birds and animals that traverse it when I’m not looking.

Of the flowers, only the snowdrops seemed to be relishing the sub zero temperature. Everything else – primulas, hellebores, crocuses, euphorbias – all were bent to the ground, crushed by the frost.

And the frozen pond had claimed another frog; suspended in ice so thick that it will have to wait many days until the thaw.

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January

Floodtime:  We had a pipe burst in the loft over the kitchen and I learned to leave the heating on and turn off the water at the mains when I leave.

lkj

February

Repairtime: So many things wrong with the house all of a sudden that it became rather depressing to be here but we got through it.


March

In which my neighbour brought me some eggs from the farm, Spring Cottage had lots of visitors and I was reimbursed for the flood by the insurance.


April

When Spring arrived at the cottage, as did a lorryload of logs, and the house was painted. We also celebrated our first year here.

;l

May

Started with a bang. On the day I collected my new car, I had a crash. Racing, double-barrelled cow driving the other car, who then lied about what happened. I’m still annoyed…

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June

We settled into enjoying the cottage this month, with visitors and summer times in the garden. Nice that the pace slowed down a little.


July

During which nothing much happened and blogging really almost stopped, only to be followed by…

;l


flower
August

During which the blog went public. I had a holiday down here, and blogged like a woman possessed. I also journeyed to the beautiful Montacute House, south of here, and did lots of gardening.


riding clothesSeptember

Brought the discovery that what I thought was mainly an ornamental vine in the garden, actually had grapes on it. I also celebrated the first comment on the blog and went riding for the first time.

autumn leavesOctober

October arrived with the cheque from the insurers for the car accident in May. It took five months for them to settle the claim, because they are a pile of idiots. I started having riding lessons.

November

In which Spring Cottage had eight lads to stay and there was the first snow before Christmas for many years.


December

Was cold and frosty, with snow covering everything for the best part of a fortnight. It was frustrating not to be able to get to the cottage despite the Tank – although this was mostly cowardice rather than practicality.

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 brings all the things everyone wishes for, combined with good health and happiness.

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I actually talked to people today – I mean, real people, not just on the ‘phone. It’s so easy here to go for days without seeing a soul to speak to.

I drove over the back way to Triscombe Nurseries via Lydeard Hill and the Blue Ball Inn and didn’t get lost for once.

The Blue Ball, Triscombe.

The Blue Ball, Triscombe

The hills were wreathed in a dense, damp fog interspersed with occasional, surprising, glimpses of bright autumn leaves, which the wind has not shaken loose from their branches. I love driving along these narrow lanes through the hills, especially when it’s as atmospheric as it was today. It was quite possible to imagine that the last 50 years have been wiped away, with chickens feeding by the sides of the road and the tarmac’ed surfaces flowing freely with reddish muddy water as the snow melts.

At Triscombe Nurseries, the chap seemed to have verbal diarrhoea and told me all about what he was doing yesterday, when I drove over to find them shut. So, now he knows all about me and I know all about him and his children, as well as about some people living locally to me, who I don’t know! This is what I love about life down here. At first, I felt impatient, as he buttonholed me before I’d even had a chance to look around, but actually, despite the lengthy chat, it saved me time, because he asked what I wanted and got straight round to getting it for me, while I hunted out some hyacinth bulbs. End result: some interaction, actual interaction, rather than what passes for interaction these days, and a thoroughly efficient shopping experience. With the weather the way it was, it wouldn’t have been very nice to linger longer anyway.

I also stopped and chatted to my next door neighbour, who lives five minutes’ walk away. She cares for her 93 year-old husband and had been completely snowed in, as the milk tankers pushed the snow right up to her driveway, which then froze over. The farmers keep the road open for the tankers to get through but that’s no help if you can’t get your car in or out. I’m surprised that they were so inconsiderate though. She sent me a Christmas card and I am always touched at such small signs of acceptance into the community.

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I knew it would happen as soon as I’d got over the massive hump that is Christmas and all one has to achieve during that time and before. I am ill. Gripped by a sore throat and lethargy, I have slept the morning away to find a huge thaw under way, which has saved me from carving a path out of the front garden.

Forcing myself out of bed, I almost fled straight back to London. But the Children are taking Little Sister to the Natural History Museum today, so all that I would gain is the looming clearing up, which is best ignored for the time being. Instead, I decided to tackle the chores I brought with me, head on. I have put up Mr and Mrs Hangup from RE (they are actually called that):

I also put up the mirror I picked up on my trip to Langport, so that you can actually see yourself in the bathroom. Rather a shame really, as one of the luxuries of being down here is not having to worry about appearances and not having a mirror helped.

Then, I discovered the wonderful, surreal world of the Clerkenwell Kid and the sounds of the Real Tuesday Weld. But aside from this, I’m afraid I’m not very inspired today. I have no idea why I am showing you pictures of my flannel and tea towels… Time to go.

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Now that I am here in Somerset again, it feels strange to be somewhere so quiet and isolated; to be sitting on my own listening to the crackling of the fire and the roaring of the boiler, instead of having Family Guy and “some guy who’s, like, a DJ, only not” in the background and fretting about the mess.

Arriving at lunchtime, I found Spring Cottage hale and hearty, having survived everything that’s been thrown at it in the last few, chilly weeks. There’s a slight thaw going on, but the snow is between five and eight inches deep, so it won’t be quick.

This is a relief, as I had worried that, despite my precautions, the pipes would have sprung a leak or some other calamity might have befallen us. Outside, there is a snowdrift in the road about 10-15 inches deep, where the tankers that collect the milk from the farm down the lane, have ploughed through the snow day after day. I wade through this in my new wellies and, tomorrow, there will be a path to shovel through the snow from the front and back doors into the garden, so that the house is more accessible, but, for today, extracting the tools and drill from the car is all I plan to do in the great outdoors.

The pond is so frozen that it has half disappeared in the snow but, when I stand on it, the ice sheet snaps in two and lots of tiny, aquatic insects rise to the surface. I hope it brings them some oxygen and that the frogs are safely hibernating down below.

While eating, I read through the community newspaper, photocopied in small numbers and hand delivered by one of my neighbours to the wooden box with the hinged lid that serves as my letterbox. There’s trouble down in the village, with footballing children breaking windows in the village hall, and the shop and post office threatened with closure. Despite trading in the same spot for well over a century, it no longer makes the owners a living and they are selling up. Sadly, no-one is buying and it has been on the market now for over a year. The plan is for a community shop, like they have in The Archers, staffed by volunteers, to replace it but in a different, more central, location. Apparently there are over 250 community shops in the UK, with 17 in Somerset alone. As it is a remote and properly rural county, this does not surprise me. I would like to support the shop, so I hope that its opening times will suit me, as I’d like to do something to help the community, even if it’s just buying a few things there when I can.

From the far distance, amplified by the chimney, I can just hear the shouts of brightly dressed people, who’ve driven out to toboggan down Broomfield Hill, as I sit on the hearth and lay a fire, making the cottage cosy and warm for the night. As the light starts to fade and the temperature falls again, we are even slightly festive.

Tomorrow is another day, I think, as I sneak onto the internet, and connect myself with my real world once again. But for this evening, it’s an Icelandic thriller and uneaten Christmas cocktail sausages for me.

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I couldn’t not share this wonderful photograph taken in the snow on the Quantocks by Quantock Photography recently. My children once stumbled on a small herd of deer when out walking in the woods and I see them through the binoculars at twilight on the hills out the back of the cottage. But I’ve never been this lucky.

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Not feeling at all reassured by repeated emails this week from Schofields, my wonderful insurance brokers, telling me to check my property for frozen pipes and other severe weather damage. After January’s deluge, I have taken so many precautions that leaving Spring Cottage for a few days has turned into a major event, with a ‘To Do’ list many lines long.

The view from the back of Spring Cottage.

All I can do at the moment is hope that Sunday’s flash visit to Somerset won’t be scuppered by the snow that is currently engulfing the area and London as well. While I was out for lunch, we had about half an inch and I was only gone about 45 minutes. Luckily it’s a bit too warm in central parts for it to stick around. However, I’ve just heard from Sally at Manor Farm, that conditions down there are terrible and getting worse. So, fingers crossed. Lady-Gardener has just called to say that it snowed all night in Taunton.

Blurry GirlMy fingers are also crossed that the Girl will be able to get back from Up North tomorrow. I am dying to see her after many weeks away at university. It is her birthday on Tuesday, after which I will no longer have any teenagers. How time passes – it is all quite strange.

Also quite strange, was my boss at yesterday’s Christmas party, encouraging me to get a dog and bring it to work. Hard to work out if he was serious. He was definitely not drunk!

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...just as the sun was ri-i-sing

Woke really early this morning, wide awake in the freezing cold and stuck my nose out of the covers because it seemed very bright. The moon was still out and I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the amazing light out there.

I really love this picture, which some people might consider marred by the telegraph wires across the sky. But to me it completely sums up the beautiful  isolation of the cottage, and yet shows its tenuous connectedness to the rest of the world via the internet. Yesterday, the snow was an inch high along the tightrope-like wires, until it got blown off, which made me think about how precarious our modern world is. How certain we feel about our mastery of the universe, which is so very dependent on a technology that can fail in an instant.

Dear diary

Unfortunately the freezing conditions meant my riding lesson was cancelled, which was very disappointing. The weather was bright and beautiful, which I celebrated by cleaning the house. I know how to have fun! Going to make an early start back to London before the roads ice up too much again, so I’d better get on with the Hoovering.

From -4° to +1°C : I’ve come back to London feeling amazingly revitalised, as if I’d been on a holiday. Thank you, cold weather.

Looking back at my pictures, I’d already forgotten what a white world it was just yesterday morning.

Yesterday

Today

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I bet one of the tabloids has already thought of my headline too… actually, I see that it was The Guardian yesterday. I’m busy with indoor pursuits at the moment and may say more later but here, for the moment, are some pictures of life down here this morning.

And then, there were a load of footprints in the back garden (above); I thought at first that these were a child’s footprints but on closer inspection they disappeared into the hedge between the garden and Higher Close (the field behind the cottage), so they must have been some kind of animal. But I wonder what – the prints were quite far apart, so something quite big, maybe a deer?  I’m about too go and Google animal footprints to see if I can find out.

Postscript: probably rabbit, although having just been for a freezing walk across the fields, rabbit tracks look quite different to this with all four pawprints being either quite close together or in pairs of two, depending on their gait.

It’s lovely seeing the very altered landscape that the snow has brought; the usually colourful patchwork of the fields has been turned almost black and white, with the brownish hue of the trees, now blown clear of snow, standing out against the various shades of white of the ground. The fields vary in the intensity of their whiteness depending on the texture of what is growing in them. From here, up in the hills, I can also see that there is no snow down on the Levels and, in fact, there’s only about two inches here but it has stayed all day and shows no sign of going. I saw that it’s freezing up again on my short walk over to Manor Farm just now but it looks like riding will be possible tomorrow, as the farm lies much lower than we do and the arena was quite clear of snow.

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