Shropshire snow: all too brief…

The forecast suggested the possibility of snow across the higher ground to the west, but also that the roads would probably be sufficiently clear to allow access to the hills. In the event, the journey was untroubled and, other than a dusting across the flanks of The Clees, by the time we saw the first evidence of white tops we were only couple of miles out from Church Stretton.

In anticipation of rain at some point, we decided to put on waterproof overtrousers from the start: bulky, cumbersome, restrictive; but windproof and very warm. We gambled on the route via Light Spout waterfall being a good bet for quickly getting clear of the crowds gathering in the car park at the foot of the hills, and it turned out to be even quieter than we’d anticipated. Climbing the rocky steps adjacent to the fall was a little tricky, with many of the rocks smeared with a mixture of ice and streaming water. However, it was manageable: descending that way would have been much more of a problem.

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Looking towards The Clees from Long Mynd.

From the top of the waterfall the path follows the route of Light Spout Hollow and eventually intersects with The Shropshire Way, which then follows the spine of the ridge all the way to its high point at Pole Bank. There was a covering of snow for most of the route, with a few light drifts in places, but not sufficient to cover the heather and other ground vegetation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most substantial areas of snow were in the areas around Pole Bank itself. We even saw someone using a pair of cross-country skis, which was probably overkill at the time, and certainly would have been as the day progressed.

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The road adjacent to Pole Bank cottage

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Reasonable, if short-lived, snow covering

Sadly, by the time we were retracing our steps a couple of hours later, the snow was already receding quite rapidly along the path; probably a consequence of residual warmth in the ground, combined with the passage of boots. Looking further to the north and west, we could see what looked like the evidence of heavier falls on the Arenigs and Berwyns…

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Somewhat closer, a storm was gathering over Corndon Hill, although its effects – if there were any, other than a darkened sky – eventually passed to the west of us…

p1070540 The tracks below would, I’m guessing, have been made by a rabbit…

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The squeezed middle (05/04/2013)

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Drifted snow and loose, sandy soil is a recipe for an unholy mess. It will get worse before it gets better!

Mostly our weather locally seems to be westerly in character; the prevailing wind blows generally from the south west, very few days are totally free of cloud and whatever mid/south Wales has been getting… well we get what’s left over. The latter part of this winter has bucked that trend and the south and west midlands seem to have become a far-flung outlier of the north-east; colder, drier, and with a biting wind carrying hints of Scandinavia and the Baltic. 

 

We’d come to the local hills to check on the bluebells. It’s a few weeks yet before they’ll reach their best  (whatever that might mean) but by now there should be clues as to what we can expect. After the bonanza years of 2010 and 2011, last year was a disappointing, muted showing; slow to emerge, tentative and stunted, the display unconvincing and all too brief. 

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Worcestershire Beacon and North Hill – some 25 miles distant and three hundred odd feet higher – are hazy but clearly holding snow on their northerly aspects. I know from experience that the summit ridge of the Malverns can be a bitingly cold place in an easterly.

In this most delayed of springs, the signs are not so encouraging; perhaps unsurprising when clusters of snowdrops still retain their fading flowers into April and the garden Forsythia is a solid month behind schedule. The hills still hold snow – plenty of it – well below the thousand foot mark, with only the southerly aspects becoming substantially clear. The new camera has so far spent most of its time tripod-mounted and pointing at the tree outside the kitchen window. This winter we appear to have both long-tailed tits and siskins as residents, rather than occasional passers-by. I did however stumble across a kingfisher while out walking and managed to get a couple of shots, despite its reluctance to sit and pose…

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Not pin-sharp, but focussing time was strictly limited.

Snow, as promised… (18/01/13)

p1060874It’s sometimes said that there are only two types of forecast – wrong and lucky!

We were promised (threatened?) proper snowfall; told to be ready for twelve to fifteen centimetres. This happens a lot and often the reality turns out to be somewhat less impressive than the prediction – a couple of centimetres, gone within a day or so. Not this time, though; this time the forecasters’ pledges were honoured in full. If anything, full plus a bit more.

The first decision was straightforward: the car stayed on the drive. The sledgers and snowboarders – of all ages, it has to be said – were out in force; particularly fond apparently of the slopes of the local golf club. If somebody didn’t emerge from the clubhouse brandishing either an injunction or a blunderbuss, I’d be very surprised.

Ducks, swans and geese got fed and were noisily grateful. At least those who muscled their way to the front of the queue got fed; we had nowhere near enough to go around. We were lucky enough to spot a handful of fiedfares, a couple of yellowhammers, some sort of bunting (‘some sort’ is as specific as we can be, where buntings are concerned), and get the best and longest view we’ve ever had of a bullfinch; a bullfinch which, to begin with, I expertly identified as an ‘odd looking robin’.

p1060883The safety markings on the railway bridge (opposite) made for a nice splash of colour, when viewed across the frozen pond. The bridge is occasionally vulnerable to large trucks, which probably shouldn’t be on that lane and certainly shouldn’t be attempting to get under that bridge. Rail chaos invariably ensues for at least the rest of that day.

The trains were running today, though, including a slow freight which came lumbering out of the driving snowstorm, taking something from somewhere to somewhere else.

I’m no better with railway wagon identification than I am with buntings.

From the vaults: A winter visitor (18/12/2010)

It’s stopped now but that was as sustained a spell of snowfall as I can remember for a good few years. It might have varied in intensity and size of flake but for hour after hour it never once looked like coming to an end. If radio and television updates are any guide it sounds as though the general synopsis at 21:00 hours is chaotic and likely to remain so.

I can sympathise with those affected, in some cases badly so, by the disruption and delays but it’s hard to deny the aesthetic appeal of a good coating of white powder. A black dustbin in the garden presently looks like a huge glass of Guinness, and even the pile of bricks denoting yet another part-completed construction project has been softened and camouflaged.
A series of stills of the back garden could have been taken in black and white and would have looked scarcely any different: until, quite unexpectedly, a young fox appeared, balanced nonchalantly on top of the fence…

We’ve seen them around the garden on a number of occasions; usually older specimens looking tatty and furtive. This was a youngster with a lush, thick winter coat, possibly enjoying its first snow. It seemed pretty comfortable in its environment and happy enough with the vantage point. We’re a bit ambivalent about feeding garden mammals as, living close by a park with a large pool, it would be easy to attract rats. As it happens, this particular suburban specimen looked in pretty good condition and quite well nourished. Fortunately our near neighbours no longer keep chickens.

Our visitor then led me a dance; cavorting around the garden as I moved from window to window (and floor to floor) trying to get a shot that wasn’t either out of focus or blurred by motion. This (above) was as good as it got before foxy decided he’d had enough of our company and departed for gardens new.

               Going nowhere anytime soon

From the vaults: Let’s be careful out there … (06/01/2010)

Let’s be careful out there …

Snow, like many things, is best sampled fresh. A familiar landscape sporting a new winter coat is familiar no longer: old lines are blurred, new ones picked out in the clearest of relief; depths of field are shifted, perspectives altered. We plant our feet where we might at other times step around and tread tentatively where we would, on a different day, move with confidence.

School and workplace closures had brought out the crowds – sledgers mostly – but they were concentrated on a few polished slopes and it was easy enough to give them the slip, finding the places where, our own footprints aside, only animal tracks had disturbed the surface of the snow.
By mid-afternoon the wind had strengthened and swung around to a north-easterly, whipping up eddies of spindrift and giving the pristine fields a scoured look; as if a few dozen hectares of tundra had somehow been scooped up, carried south, and deposited in the unlikely setting of north Worcestershire.

From the vaults: First Snow (25/12/2009)

First Snow

First snow was a bit of a strange affair. The fall was intense but short in duration, and no more than a few centimetres fell. Usually that amount of snow would be gone within a day but – having fallen on already frozen ground and with temperatures remaining low – this relatively trifling amount hung around, even at street level, for almost a full week. As is often the case, the disruption, bordering on chaos at times, was disproportionate to the volume of snow.

Out on the hills it had fallen to a greater depth and as of today there is still decent cover, particularly above about 600 feet; well trodden in places, still pristine in plenty of others. The clear sky suggests that overnight temperatures may remain sufficiently low for it to stick around for a while longer yet.

The mini thaw from the mid-day sun brought shards of accumulated ice tumbling from the beech trees in spectacular showers and the absence of any wind meant that we were never less than comfortably warm when on the move. Idiot that I am, I left the camera at home; another reason to hope for the snow to still be there in a few days’ time.