So, we awoke on Wednesday morning to the most significant snow fall we’ve seen in these parts for many years. And here we are at the weekend and it’s still here, with more expected today and tomorrow! Unheard of. Much to my chagrin, the weather forecasters were just about completely accurate in their predictions (although the usual cataclysmic language they use to describe the potential consequences was somewhat excessive, at least for our neighbourhood).
After the brief thaw we had just before Christmas, this bout of weather started on Tuesday afternoon with a light snowfall of very, very fine snow flakes, rather like the misty rain one gets from time to time but this time the mist was snow. Not being a snow skier, I’m not sure if this is what constitutes “powder” but the flakes were very, very fine indeed (i.e., fine as in small, not fine as in good!) According to the BBC web site, this is caused by very cold weather. Apparently, as the temperature drops snowflakes get smaller and smaller; at higher temperatures, closer to freezing, the snowflakes clump together to become larger and wetter (and make better snowballs, it seems). I learned all this from the BBC Snow Quiz which is here if you want to have a go yourself.
Not surprisingly, the weather has been the main item on the evening news for the past three or four days. They’re saying it’s the coldest sustained weather we’ve had in thirty years but not yet quite as bad as the infamous winter of 1963 when it snowed somewhere in the UK every day for 71 days. The temperatures in the north of Scotland are down to -22 degrees Celsius (-7.6 degrees Fahrenheit) but around here we’ve been positively basking in the balmy temperatures of -8 Celsius (17 Fahrenheit). Not really very cold in the grand scheme of things but plenty cold for us here. The big item on the news on Thursday night was how the temperature in the UK was colder than the south pole. Well, duh! It is summer there after all.
Of course, everything here grinds to a halt with the slightest snowfall – schools are shut, no one can get to work (they claim), no food deliveries to the smaller towns and villages, etc. Fortunately, living on a main road we’ve been able to get out and about perfectly well although Pen did struggle to get home from Leamington on Friday due to having to ascend a fairly steep hill between Priors Marston (about three miles from here) and home. The BBC web site had the following photograph of the UK from space – looks pretty cold, doesn’t it?
And, we naturally took the opportunity to take our camera out on a couple of afternoons.
That was lovely. Now, if we could just fast-forward to Spring that will suit us fine.
The following two snippets I actually found before Wednesday’s snow and both refer to the impact of the earlier snow.
Snow-stranded woman misses Christmas
A woman who left her remote home in the Scottish Highlands to buy a turkey two days before Christmas has still not made it home.
Heavy snow meant it was not possible for Kay Ure to get back to Cape Wrath after a shopping trip to Inverness.
The 54-year-old and her husband John live in the Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage at Cape Wrath, on Britain’s north western tip, where they run a cafe.
Her trip involved an 11-mile car drive, a boat trip and a bus ride.
On her return, the road to the lighthouse was blocked by heavy snow, and Mrs Ure has been stranded 11 miles from home ever since.
She spent Christmas in a friend’s caravan in Durness, while her husband had the company of their six dogs, and two walkers who popped into the cafe.
They have spoken on the phone each night and are hoping to be reunited on Monday if the road to the lighthouse is clear.
Mrs Ure left for Inverness on an organised shopping excursion on 23 December.
Her husband drove her the 11 miles to a jetty where their boat is moored and from there they crossed the Kyle of Durness where Mrs Ure was picked up by a minibus.
On her return to Durness the heavy snow had blocked the route to the lighthouse and Mr Ure, 57, was unable to make the drive to pick her up.
The couple moved from Glasgow to Durness several years ago before moving further north to Cape Wrath. They opened the lighthouse cafe in the summer.
Mr Ure told BBC Scotland: “We’ve got rain coming in today which is breaking up the ice so with a bit of luck tomorrow she might get back, fingers crossed.
“It’s the first time we’ve been separated. We’ve been snowed in here for three weeks before, so we are well used to it and it’s quite nice to get a bit of peace and quiet.”
So, that’s Christmas sorted. Now, on to New Year’s:
Guests snowed in for New Year at UK’s highest pub
Guests celebrating new year at the highest pub in England had a longer than expected stay, after heavy snow left them stranded for three days.
About 30 people arrived at the Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire on New Year’s Eve to welcome in 2010.
But the wintry weather conditions meant the residents were snowed in for a further two nights.
Resident DJ Peter Richardson said: “We’ve kept our spirits up. It’s actually been quite heart-warming.”
The Tan Hill Inn stands 1,700 feet (520m) above sea level in the Yorkshire Dales.
Mr Richardson, from Richmond, North Yorkshire, said there had been a strong sense of camaraderie among the guests, who had come from across the UK.
“People have been helping peel veg for the dinner and pitching in,” he said. “We’ve also held quizzes.”
Guest Paul Manson, who lives near Alnwick in Northumberland, said: “Everyone’s been chipping in by doing the washing up, peeling potatoes, getting cars out of the snow and keeping the generator going.”
A manager at the pub said morale had remained high.
“It snowed heavily throughout the night on New Year’s Eve, but no-one gave it a second thought until the morning when they couldn’t move their cars,” he said.
Guests began making their way home on Sunday, after gritters and snow ploughs arrived and cleared the roads.
Now that’s a New Year’s Eve party!
And finally, yesterday we went to the recently refurbished Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The Ashmolean is apparently Britain’s first public museum, founded in 1683 and has quite an eclectic collection of bits and pieces. We wandered around admiring various things and stumbled across a small collection of Netsuke, Japanese miniature sculptures. For those of you who follow Ben’s activities on Facebook, you will know that he was plagued recently by an infestation of rodents who managed to chew through some of his cooling hoses. We sent him the following photograph which he might place near the car to warn the rats and any other anti-freeze addicted rodents that he will be calling for the rat catcher if they do not cease and desist.
And finally, finally, Penny’s sister J in Toronto sent the following photograph of the new security procedures to be introduced at airports following the recent unpleasantness on Christmas Day. Come to think of it, this might actually make waiting in the lines at the security checks much more interesting.
Much love to you all,