Posts Tagged ‘weather’

But wait, I still have some pictures to share of that pretty white stuff. It’s all melted and wet now but it was lovely while it lasted. It makes everything so… I don’t know … picturesque, somehow. Silly, isn’t it?

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Hamlet in the snow.

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So, the autumn equinox came and went, and I missed sowing my Higgledy Garden seeds on time. But the weather has been really warm here, even in the hills, so I sowed them about a week late.

I did a little planning this time and put the taller ones at the back and sowed them in rows within patches rather than just in straight rows. I hope this makes the beds even prettier.

Envelopes of seeds on a table

Planning is the point where I usually get a bit stressed and I need to remember that nature is pretty forgiving. The main thing for me is to make a diagram of what I sow, so that I can recognise and name what develops next year. I did this in the company of the final vase of last year’s Higgledy seed purchase which I sowed in spring. That’s inspiration enough.

vase of flowersI mentioned that it’s been warm. Well, the seeds are up already…

Sprouting seeds

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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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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.

IMG_3518 frost


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


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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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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