Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Walking uphill slightly, we cross the lane, stepping across the stream of water that runs down its length almost all the time now. An undulation in the asphalt further up the road has made the run-off miss its destined drain, so it flows down along the road’s surface, much of it also by-passing the gulley outside the cottage where the tarmac has been scarred by the tread of lorry and tractor tyres.

Turning the numbers to align, I throw back the padlock in its sodden nylon sheath and heave back the lever to release the gate. We head into the field, to its highest point, to check if there is any livestock around. Nora goes running off to find some good smells, her ears blowing back in the breeze, while I trudge around the field’s edges. Instinctively anti-clockwise, never clockwise.

The meadow must be the size of our local park; yet it feels much smaller. A single young tree has been planted in the centre, protected by sturdy, stock-proof fencing. By the gate, there is an old barn that has been partly converted into stables and then abandoned. I heard the money ran out but I know to expect its conversion into a holiday let. A laminated planning notice, torn loose from its moorings, lies almost lost in the hedge.

The stable doors hang loose on their hinges, blown to and fro by the wind. The half-roman roof tiles – traditional around here – have slid away from their moorings here and there, and the new concrete floor is stained and patchy. A bath sits upended on a pile of discarded timbers. It is all wet. So wet.

As I continue to walk the margins, heading uphill now, a mist rolls in, obliterating Cothelstone and Lydeard Hills, and my focus is drawn to the ground. The field has lost its place in the landscape. Maybe this is why it feels so small today.

The ground is saturated even here in the uplands. Hoof-prints hold little pools of soil-reddened water. The grass, still green last week, is yellowing, not exactly flooded but oozing water around its longer tussocks, anything at ground level slowly asphyxiating. The remains of one of last summer’s corncobs, blown in from the field over the lane at harvest time, lies among the decaying cowpats. The grain has been eaten but the cob is here to rot. It is hard to imagine that this meadow was full of rabbits and yellow buttercups only last May.

close up of buttercups

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With another Atlantic storm forecast tonight and tomorrow but with blue skies momentarily offering themselves, Nora and I make the most of a short lull in the last few weeks’ stormy weather. This apparently endless wet weather is hard to bear, both physically and mentally.

Up on the heath, the soft, wet ground yields easily underfoot; the bridleways are stippled with the hoof-prints of shod horses – clear impressions of nailed-on shoes and, unusually sometimes, their frogs – and by the flatter signatures of the resident herd of small, unshod Exmoor ponies.

The grass, just beginning to spring back into life on paths worn bare last summer, now bows itself to walkers and riders treading hard into the spongy moss around trails already bathed in mud.

Driven by south-westerly winds, the day’s fine weather begins to abandon us and make its way towards the Bristol Channel and the north east.

Cothelstone Hill overlooking Bridgwater Bay

And the bad weather heads in from the west over Exmoor.

Cothelstone Hill looking towards Exmoor

Bundled-up walkers march briskly, keeping their dogs close, snatching this brief opportunity, mindful of not getting caught in a sudden squall.

Back in the warmth of home, the dehumidifier hums and daylight fades greyly as we await the incoming gales.

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barometer

The barometer is responding to my frequent tapping by pointing firmly to Stormy this morning (although this picture, taken yesterday, doesn’t show it) and, by the way, isn’t the typography on it really annoying? I clearly didn’t have my ‘design head’ on when I bought it but then, it was a car boot sale bargain, albeit twee and with FAR too many typefaces.

Yesterday, I had the bright idea of asking my neighbour Sue, if I could walk Nora in the field opposite the cottage. With the rain barely stopping for more than a few minutes at a time, it didn’t feel worth going far but somehow a run in the garden didn’t seem to warrant leaving the cosy warmth of the fireside where, for a while at least, I had built a fire that didn’t smoke us out.

grey Quantock hills

After days of being followed around by grey skies and persistent drizzle, it finally dawned frosty, windy and bright here today. So Nora and I went over the road again and she had a lovely undisturbed run in what must be about two acres of grass, rabbit holes, puddles and bovine hoofprints. An absolute luxury for us with our town mentality of walks involving frequent interactions with people and other dogs.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy meeting others. Sometimes those brief conversations about the mud or the dogs’ behaviour are what get me through the day. But the endless vigilance required to prevent what the vet calls Nora’s ‘dietary indiscretions’ and what I call ‘eating any old crap that she finds on the pavement’ or worrying that her boisterousness will terrify passing Somali children going home from school can be rather wearing. Sometimes, it’s lovely just to walk in peace and enjoy the view, taking pictures without my arm being yanked by Nora at the end of the lead or finding that my momentary inattention has led to her lying neck deep in mud, having wrestled someone’s tiny, white and raincoated dog into the mire along with her.

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I think I must be getting my mojo back. I feel distinctly chipper, despite drips and leaks and a million things to fix here. Today I can only sense a cheering black dog. Hooray!

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Just thought I’d try a bit of positivity today. I’ve dashed around for much of the day cleaning and basically making myself feel more in charge of what’s happening to the cottage. The rain has stopped and, while the water is still seeping through a bit across the whole of the south-west wall, it is starting to dry out.

flooded road in Somerset

Having improved my mood a bit, if not my now chapped hands, I took Nora for a walk. Intending to drive to the shops first, I had to turn back as the road to Bishop’s Lydeard was flooded. Even in a 4×4 I decided not to risk it as it looked quite deep. I’ve had enough disasters of late.

blue winter sky

moss covered tree

dog walking in woods

Here are some shots of my almost completely private walk with Nora – only once we had reached the top of Cothelstone Hill did we meet some people and their dogs. Lovely!

dog on the heath

Nora the labradora

old stone wall

trees in winter sun

Nora heading down the hill

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On the way home we met toothless Graham from the farm on the road. He said we’d had 30mm of rain last night, which would explain a few things.

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#Storm2013

Much was said about the storm, called #storm2013 on Twitter as though there could be no other this year, that gripped southern England overnight; including a lot of hyperbole and speculation. It was, in fact, pretty dramatic and disrupted many people’s journeys to work, bringing trees down onto power lines and across railways. Although there was a lot of overblown verbiage out there, there were four deaths, so it was a relief to emerge unscathed, although I have yet to see if there’s any damage at Spring Cottage.

By late morning the high winds had passed, clearing the skies and as Nora and I made our way over the rough grass of Richmond Park in London, the sun was shining brightly. A huge open space in south-west London, the royal park is one of King Henry VIII’s hunting grounds, untouched since the sixteenth century, more or less, save for the addition of a few lodges and car parks.

There seemed to be deer everywhere today (which there aren’t always), including a very impressive stag sporting some huge antlers. Perhaps they had come down closer to the roads than usual following the bad weather. Not wanting a repeat of last year’s Fenton dog chasing deer video, I was quite careful to pick a spot to walk where there seemed to be no wild animals, although the vibrant green parakeets that inhabit most of London’s parks these days chattered loudly all around us.

On our brief 15-minute walk, as required by Nora’s tender puppy joints, we came across a literal windfall of sweet chestnuts, shaken loose from the trees by the winds but quite ripe enough to be gathered and eaten. My first thought was to wonder why there were so many tennis balls under the trees.

sweet chestnuts on the ground

I collected only a few, feeling sorry for Nora, who kept following me into the spiky mass that pricked her feet and made her run out again quickly onto the grass. There was a warning notice in the car park about not taking any mushrooms but nothing about chestnuts, so we nabbed a few, and there were plenty left behind for the other animals to feast on.

close up of sweet chestnuts

sweet chestnuts in a bowl

Postscript: Feeling guilty today (18 November) after another visit to Richmond Park. Posters have now gone up on some sweet chestnut trees asking people not to take the chestnuts as the deer need them. I won’t do it again!

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blue sky with small white cloud

It’s been so very hot. Rising early before the heat of the day allows me a few hours’ activity but, even then, the effort dampens and frustrates my hair’s supposed straightness.

flower petals on garden table

The plants are exhausted and thirsty. Some buds simply dry before opening. Others flower but quickly lose their petals, dropping wherever, confetti-like

gravel and mauve flower petals

geranium petals in a pond

Yet others twine joyously around despite their yards of dry branches, as if to say: you can’t catch me…

clematis on a wall

The grass yellows. I leave it long to keep it damp and pathways are trodden into its margins by animals I never see.

Long grass in evening sunlight

When cars pass dust rises and coats the bins –dustbins – by the side of the road, just as its cousin, the mud, did a few months ago but now the ground is cracked and hard.

It is summer, at last.

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It’s too cold for May. Things growing are in suspended animation, biding their time, waiting for warmth and rain. Instead, it’s windy and grey. The chimney booms with the sound of the air rushing over the roof, birds rise up from the field behind the hedge, try to fly across the garden and are beaten back to where they started by sudden gusts. The sun emerges for a moment but is swiftly covered again by layers of lowering cloud. Rain threatens but does not fall. Shivering, I put on the heating and think of making a fire, feeling the tension as my body tries to ward off the cold. Like the flowers in bud, I’m waiting for a change.

poppy in bud

chives about to flower

Peony

Peony almost blooming

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Today was a horrible day. Fretful and loathe to get up, I lurked inside for as long as possible before I faced the damp outside.

misty weather on the hills

But eventually my aim to counteract the worrying that is going on in my head with some productive activity did win through. So, as well as food shopping and mending the garage light (changing the bulb – sometimes things are not as bad as I fear), I drove over to Triscombe in the heavy mist (ok, maybe it was low cloud) and bought some narcissi and grape hyacinths, anemones and aubretia to brighten up my dreary garden that just will not come into flower.

If you’re within reach, I can highly recommend them. Time has slightly stood still there and very lovely it is to and chat to Stuart about this and that, while you’re thinking about what to buy – even if it’s just bird seed.

rock plants in an enamel bowl in the garden

The birds here seem very hungry, so I stocked up with so much that it came in a sack!

female chaffinchThen I went in search of lambs. Now, rather oddly, I saw the first lamb out in the fields when I was out riding on New Year’s Day. That lamb must be quite senior now that the countryside is full of actual spring lambs.

two lambs suckling

Things have been very tough for sheep farmers this last year (and not so hot for the sheep either). Wet all last summer, so lots of them (the sheep) are lame with foot rotty problems – they’re limping about all over the place, their fleeces sodden and muddy. This one is quite clean, although not pink as those that graze the red earthed land around here often are.

sheep with full fleeceThe horrible, long winter had temperatures that were well below freezing at night for long spells, followed by a very cold spring which led to sheep being buried in snowdrifts and lambs dying as they were being born. Luckily, it wasn’t that cold down here in the south west, but spring is still being held in abeyance by the cold and it’s windy as hell, or I should say, as usual.

two lambs gambolling across a field

So, anyway, here are some lambs. They brought a smile to my face with their silly antics – one of the lambs below is standing on its mother.

a ewe with two lambs

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Last week, as the snow melted away, new life was stirring beneath the trees’ damp discarded leaves. It is spring in the middle of winter.

snowdrops in bud

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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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Last week, or it might have been the week before – I lost track over Christmas – the Girl and I went to Oxford. She had the loan of a car for a few days and, having passed her test over a year ago but not having driven much, she wanted to do a longer drive.

terraced house with model shark crashing into roof

On the way, we left the motorway at the first exit and, as we were driving along a very unremarkable road, spotted this house with a model shark crashing through its roof. It’s quite famous and I’d seen pictures before, but it was still fun to see it unexpectedly. The Girl, who’d never heard of it, thought it was pretty cool. I expect the neighbours have got used to it now but there were a lot of objections when it first went up.

closed gateway

We both work at universities in London, so we should have known that anything to do with Oxford University was likely to be mainly CLOSED during the vacation. Nevertheless, we managed to dawdle our way around town quite successfully as it wasn’t raining. We did have to go inside a few times though.

Objects of Use shop

This is a rather wonderful shop called Objects of Use, which sells rather old fashioned household items. I’m a fan of the kind of wood and natural fibre washing up brushes we used to have at home when I was growing up. They’re cheap, totally recyclable, and have heads that can be replaced, so I happily bought two and some spare heads for under a fiver.

street sign for Logic Lane

To anyone who has attended a campus university, as both of us did, the idea of a university whose colleges and libraries fill a town amongst normal dwellings and businesses is quite odd. I loved my campus being self-contained. However, it does make for a beautiful city in Oxford.

Bodleian LIbrary and Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

Bodleian library

precincts of Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford

a street in Oxford town centre

It has been raining in the UK more or less constantly for what seems like months. Evidence was everywhere with flooded roads, allotments, cricket pitches and the River Cherwell being close to bursting its banks by the Botanical Garden. You wouldn’t want to punt in this weather.

Met Office records show that 2012 was ‘the second wettest year since records began’ (their records arbitrarily start in 1910 – records have actually been kept since the 1700s apparently). As someone remarked on Twitter, that is such a very British statistic.

Magdalen Bridge, Oxford

Finally, cold and tired, we stopped for tea and scones at the lovely Grand Cafe, which has been the site of a coffee shop since 1650, before heading home. More about that in another post.

Grand Cafe, Oxford

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Cobwebs

The weather is terrible, so I haven’t wanted to venture out – although loud drips forced me to go and clear some of the gutters before the house starts leaking. I was quite looking forward to being marooned inside with the radio, the fire, a good book and the internet. It always sounds like such a lovely idea – to have a quiet day doing nothing – but it’s just given me a stiff neck and has made me feel like punching something.

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If you were anywhere near here, you’ll have dashed in and out of your house dodging the rain this summer.

You’ll have paid your gardener, whom you’ve been eagerly awaiting for two weeks to give you a hand with the tons of stuff you can’t keep up with out there, and watched her drive away with your lawn half mown and her kids soaked to the skin, only to find the sun out 20 minutes later.

That’s what we’ve been doing this summer. An absolute horror, so far.

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I feel a bit stuck – I’ve nothing to say really. It’s wet outside as so often these days and I’ve been dodging the rain to get my hedge cut and the cuttings cleared away. But a little ray of sunshine today was spotting my most elusive clematis, flowering high up in a tree at least 30 feet off the ground. It’s frustrating because it’s rather a nice bright yellow one – of course, I don’t know what it’s called.

So difficult to photograph though, even hanging out of my bedroom window, as it’s up there…

There are others out at the moment:

And one that’s already been and gone, without being photographed, much earlier in the year.

That’s all for now. Here’s hoping for better weather soon.

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