Sunday, 12 December 2010

December 1767

We have had a very severe frost and deep snow this month. My

thermometer was one day fourteen degrees and a half below the

freezing point, within doors. The tender evergreens were injured

pretty much. It was very providential that the air was still, and the

ground well covered with snow, else vegetation in general must

have suffered prodigiously. There is reason to believe that some

days were more severe than any since the year 1739-40.

Gilbert White

The winter of 1739 sounds even tougher - It was called The Great Frost :

We have more snow and frost predicted for the end of the week...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Is it or isn't it?

Further cold weather this winter is possible if the current Atlantic high pressure system that is trapping sub-tropical air and preventing it from reaching Europe stays put or goes away and returns.  While the severity could be exacerbated if current arctic sea ice levels continue to remain low, according to one climate scientist.
Britain's Meteorological Office forecasts that the cold snap affecting northern Europe will continue for the next week or so, according to a Met Office spokesman.  "Much of December looks like being on the cold side," commented Met Office chief forecaster Ewen McCallum

There is “no evidence” that the Gulf Stream is slowing down at the moment, according to Vicky Pope, Head of Climate Change for Government at the UK Meteorological Office.  A report by the Met Office released at the Cancun climate change conference stated that improved observations cast doubt on previously reported evidence of a recent slow down in the Gulf Stream which keeps northern Europe warmer than it would otherwise be. 

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


We were starting to feel left out here in Hampshire. It has been snowing pretty much everywhere else in the country since the weekend. Record low temperatures for November, or at least since 1985 in Wales of -17c and deep snow cover over the North of the UK.  

Snow has been predicted but hasn't arrived although it has been jolly cold. So when the forecasts were again looking to snow for this area I took it with a pinch of salt - despite twice checking metcheck yesterday - the most reliable forecaster.

They said 3am - it will come - and it did - not much - but enough to satiate that snow longing dormant since January - not much - just a dusting - but enough for exited children - not much - but enough for footprints and very small snowballs - not much - but enough for J's hope for a day off work to be dashed - not much but enough for F to think he had spotted a fox track on Long Road:

Maybe he was right - I'm not great at identifying tracks in snow...had a look a few sites and it could be. Long Road is prime dog walking territory and there were all sorts of doggy prints criss crossing along the pavement too. What I was particularly looking for was bird tracks - but none to be seen - they were probably on the other side of the road - keeping a wide berth from dogs and perhaps foxes.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


A thin finger of mist extended out into Long Road as we trundled our way home at about 4.30 yesterday - now the twilight time of day. Clear cold evening - frosty night ahead. A was given charge of the torch and stopped every few yards to examine leaves and hedgerow with it, casting the light where ever her interest and gaze fell, making for very slow progress. She then suddenly exclaimed and pointed

"Mummy a cloud has fallen down" as we looked right, into the field, there indeed was the fallen small white fluffy cloud, sitting neatly and fully formed- and extending slightly into the road ahead of us - beautiful.

F meanwhile was intently looking up into the darkening sky - he is doing Space as a project at school this term and has started taking more interest in the sky  recently. He noticed the moon was "just over half full", a gibbous moon - and very near to it in the sky a bright object.

"Star or Planet?" I asked. He thought planet, probably Venus, and I think he was probably right. - another beautiful sight.

Friday, 12 November 2010


 This morning a flash of color flew beside us in the calm blue, post stormy sky. At first I thought it was a wood pigeon, but the bobbing flight pattern and the way the bird stuck its wings right out to reveal the blue stripe underneath gave it away, it was a Jay. It has been a while since I have spotted the any of the Jays on Long Road. I think there is a pair and I think they live in the Oak tree half way down on the field side. May be they are easier to spot this time of year with the diminishing foliage.

Jays are one of my favorite birds, along with Goldfinches and Long Tailed Tits, and I still feel a thrill when I see one.  This is what the RSPB has to say about them,  their inherent shyness may have something to do with my failing to spot them for some time.

Although they are the most colourful members of the crow family, jays are actually quite difficult to see. They are shy woodland birds, rarely moving far from cover. The screaming call usually lets you know a jay is about and it is usually given when a bird is on the move, so watch for a bird flying between the trees with its distinctive flash of white on the rump. Jays are famous for their acorn feeding habits and in the autumn you may see them burying acorns for retrieving later in the winter.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Storms have been battering the UK, with snow, downpours of rain and winds of up to 65mph (105km/h).
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were worst hit, with the weather bringing disruption to many areas.
A weather warning has now been issued for parts of south-east and south-west England, with up to 70mm (2.75in) of rain expected overnight. - From the BBC website

Not the best day to find out a rainproof coat is not actually waterproof - the rain soaked through the top layer, into my cardigan and through another couple of layers - resulting in drenched grumpy stomping down Long Road. In weather like this it only possible to look down - down at the leaf litter which is increasing by the minute today and slowly turning into sludge as feet, cars and pushchairs trundle through it.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Rose Hip November

Locations are from different neighbourhoods: Fairfield and Saanich Peninsula, which are all in Victoria BC

not Long Road... yet, but the rosehips are out everywhere, and this beautiful song by Vashti Bunyan makes perfect, evocative listening for this time of year

Monday, 1 November 2010


This beech tree with a beautiful autumnal display is one of the few eye catchers on Long Road at the moment. The last frost seemed to shock many of the trees into dropping their leaves. Curiously the leaves have been raining down green without first turning the yellows, oranges and browns of usual Autumns. I guess because deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter to conserve energy, the cold snap has quickened this process. I found a nice explanation of why trees loose their leaves here on e-how.

Here is a close up of an oak, just starting to show colour but having lost a lot of leaves and all acorns.

F picked up a little collection of leaves for himself today, first a leaf from one of the hazel trees.....

 ...and an assortment which shows quite nicely a lovely russet colour fern contrasted with some of the fallen green leaves...

...which he then pulled the stalks from and took this picture :)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Fractals, ferns and frost...

R.I.P Benoit Mandelbrot the mathematician who showed elements of the beauty of nature through his calculations of fractals.

 "Why is geometry often described as cold and dry? One reason lies in its inability to describe the shape of a cloud, a mountain, a coastline or a tree." The approach that he pioneered helps us to describe nature as we actually see it, and so expand our way of thinking.

On Long Road we have seen several examples of natural fractals this week - the first being the ferns, that when broken down create smaller and smaller copies of the larger plant. F has experimented by gleefully pulling some of the last green specimens to pieces.

Next looking up into the sky at the high cirrus and small cumulus clouds moving above us. It is at the edges we noticed the swirling and curling associated with Mandelbrot's set.

....Finally this morning the first frost came, and the sharp intake of cold air was a pleasure as we stepped out. Jack Frost had been hard at work  - as Long Road lies at the bottom of a small valley it is always that bit colder than the surrounding area - we were able to fully appreciate the frost patterns on the slightly wilting foliage and notch up another fractal spot.

Nice article on fractals here:

Friday, 15 October 2010

Blackberries and The Devil

I've made jam, cobblers, smoothies and even chocolate and blackberry muffins from the pickings on Long Road in the past few weeks. But it is too late to eat blackberries straight from the hedgerows now, apparently - even F knows that - and tells me in no uncertain terms today as I flout the Old Wives Tales and pick a few to munch on the way home.

The saying is that the Devil was kicked out of heaven on October 11th. He landed on a blackberry bush. It must have hurt as each year he takes his revenge by spoiling blackberries after the 11th. Some say he spits on them, others that he pees on them.

Other sources I have found claim:

Your last chance to pick your blackberries is Michaelmas (29th September), by legend, the day the Devil spits on them, making them inedible more of the devil having a bad day. The berries I picked today certainly didn't look too devilish and tasted good. I tend to leave the ones where the berries have puffed up and become bulbous or shrivelled. After a  futher bit of looking I found a possible explaination to the legend:

The mould that will settle on them this late in the year is the grey botrytis cinerea mould.

yuk. I guess we are eating blackberries so late in the season this year simply because they have not gone mouldy, perhaps this could have something to do with the warm October weather.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Warm October

It has been an unusually warm October, walking along Long Road in a t-shirt seems a little odd. Apart from a few yellowing leaves on the Oaks, only the ferns on the side of the railway appear to be indicating signs of Autumn colors, turning brown and withering.

Whilst fumbling with my camera last week, I had a chance to chat to Martin Ward, a keen amateur photographer. I told him about this blog and he has taken some shots of Long Road as he sees it. Here are a few of his images, they really capture the warmth of the past few days I think. Click here to see all of Martin's Long Road Album

Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday morning

This is it..... Long Road on a grey Friday morning,
at first sight an unremarkable bit of road, with weeds pouring over from the unkempt
railway on the pavement side. A few oaks trees clinging on at the side of a  field, and a grass
verge that no one walks on but the council keep mowing on the other. A bridge taking traffic onto the A3
to London or Portsmouth halfway down, and a bit of unloved  scrub land beyond with abandoned farm vehicles.
.....but on closer inspection is wonderful what you can find there.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Misty morning, damp, so damp the water vapour from the warming land is hanging visibly in the air, curling around us. It has settled in a beautiful way on the myriad of cobwebs. A & F take their time this morning examining them and looking for the spiders. F's interest lasts a few minutes on Long Road before friends are spotted in the distance. A wants to look at each and every one. On the return journey we stop to watch one spider at work blobbing glue with its abdomen, weaving silk to glue with legs and heaving the silk to the next anchor point.

We notice two types of cobweb, the traditional spiral web and the web which looks like a woven hammock. I wonder what spider species makes the second type, and in my search have come across The Arachnological Society and get drawn into scientific research into the strength of spider silk. Its pretty strong stuff, in fact a web line in our garden strung from a tree is currently supporting a small sunflower, which would slump if not suspended in this way.
Long Road, Hampshire a few miles from Selborne where Gilbert White the pioneering 18th century naturalist lived and documented the flora and fauna of his area in his book The Natural History of Selborne.

The long road home, to and from school, playgroup, friends houses, the nearest village. With my family or on my own, I walk this way two three sometimes four times a day. It is our patch. It is the place to watch the time and seasons come and go. A place to listen, think, learn or this morning stride though the driving October rain and getting wet feet.