For a couple of weeks I had been musing on a nature/weather-related post based around the vagaries of the British weather. We Brits do love to talk about our weather!
I would have noted that it’s been a bad year for snowdrops here
but a prolific season for catkins.
The primroses came early with the celandines and dandelions
and a wild rose, meadowsweet and the periwinkles seem to have arrived in the wrong season entirely.
I was going to expound on the amount of rain and wind we’ve had since the year began – this being a road on one of my regular walking beats which fancied itself as a canal
and round it off with an uplifting paragraph on how beautiful and life-affirming the bare trees feel when silhouetted against the sky, especially with the skylarks singing sweet and clear beyond my line of sight.
I might have ended with reference to a blog post from the Met Office last month, which informed me that:
It is the 40th anniversary of the start of what was one of the worst blizzards to have affected the United Kingdom in the last 100 years. It affected South West England and south Wales for five days from 15th to 19th February 1978 before milder weather edged in bringing a general thaw.
And I might have admitted that I’ve been quietly hopeful that maybe, just maybe, whilst we live in these parts we might be lucky enough one year to see a sprinkling. Just a sprinkling, because I do know that really, it doesn’t snow in Cornwall.
The days passed. I decided that the world would probably cope without my blog post. We were away when I saw the headlines: CORNWALL SET FOR HEAVIEST SNOWFALL IN 40 YEARS. Or words to that effect. Along with a healthy dose of cynicism I wondered – if it did snow – whether we might actually miss it. Stuck away from home, unable to return because of the snow. That would have been a bitter pill. Snow flurries chased us along the motorways as we left Kent until eventually we outran them. We returned to a snow-free Cornwall and a bitterly cold house and watched from afar as the Beast from the East dumped dollops of snow across most of the UK.
And then it arrived here. How can I not record snow in my Corner of Cornwall?
The Met Office informs me that we haven’t quite matched the blizzards of 1978:
Snow accumulated to depths of about 60cm in places on Dartmoor and Exmoor and to 85cm at Nettlecombe (Bird’s Hill) in Somerset, but drifts of at least 6m were reported over a wide area which included Dorset and Wiltshire.
The exceptional weather cut communications and caused severe hardship, and although milder weather soon reached the south-west, several towns and villages were isolated by snowdrifts for some days and it was reported that there was still snow on the ground in early July.
But we certainly had more than a sprinkling and for an afternoon last week we had a blizzard.
I do love snow. I love the purity, the pristine stretches of smooth whiteness, the clarity of the light, the silence, the newness. The first fall of the week gave a glimpse of what our snowy view might be like.
The main fall on Thursday was too thick and fast to take decent photographs, though I did try. The view from here was obliterated by a maelstrom of angry swirling snowflakes blurred into a blinding curtain. It fell across the garden and the trees in the valley and very quickly the horizon was gone. As darkness fell the flakes continued to tumble.
The Beast met Storm Emma. Friday dawned grey and glowering and remained resolutely dark and gloomy all day. Our 15cm of frozen crystals lay quietly. No bright, clear light in cerulean open skies, reflected off pristine expanses of virgin snow. No frosted sparkling icing on the branches, no joyful urge to get outside. Not a vehicle moved. The birds were mute. The wind persisted. With the wind chill, the real feel was registering as minus 11 and the light was thick and threatening.
This was a different experience of snow. Oppressive, isolating, and touched with sadness at the lives lost, especially that of the little girl in neighbouring Looe. Looe is a small, close-knit community. Her death will be keenly felt. My erstwhile delight at gazing on untrammelled snow has been tempered this year.
Saturday – we woke to soft but persistent Cornish rain. Meteorologically, we are now in spring. It’s hard to remember that the spring equinox is less a fortnight away. British Summer Time begins 3 weeks today and Easter falls one week after that. It’s been so cold, and so dangerous outside that for the past little while we’ve been hibernating. We’ve got sleepier and sleepier. Gazing out on Saturday morning at the sullen grey skies and the dripping rain, with snow dribbling from the gutters, I felt the stirrings of despondency. I’d been inside for too long.
The snow remained, receding with reluctance, but it had melted enough. I needed to get out and I marched around the lanes. Drifts of snow hunched against hedges and under trees, and white lines traversed fields, where animals have trodden regular pathways across the grass in warmer days and the snow has piled in the furrows. The grass and the brambles were dank and drab. Tussocks of sodden grass drooping: mud-brown and exhausted. There was no sign of the meadowsweet and the daffodils were jaded and struggled to hold up their heads. Everything seemed so very tired. But the temperature had soared from minus 11 yesterday to a balmy 6 degrees today and it was still rising. In the afternoon the sun broke through. And a rainbow dangled its toes in the valley.
Sunday – the sun is warm and bright. I walked today without hat or gloves for the first time this year. My winter coat was much too hot. The tiny daffodils are recovering their jaunty lustre; the snowdrops seem extra white as if washed by the snows, and the primroses have regained sufficient strength that their delicate blooms are again pointing skyward. The heavens are a fathomless blue, feathered with streaks of soft fluffy white. Somewhere up there as I pass, I hear the skylark, already singing again.
Late afternoon and it’s raining heavily again. Ah… the vagaries of the British weather. Don’t we just love it! And I can now say – with feeling – that I’ve seen snow in Cornwall.
The west of Cornwall had sunshine after the snow and there are some great snowy Cornish photos on these blogs for anyone who hasn’t yet had enough of the white stuff.
The Met Office blog, from which the quotes are taken, is here