Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Going out with a bang

1st April 2010

March should start like a lion and leave like a lamb but it seems to have got that script wrong this year. You only have to hear the stories of trains being marooned in snow drifts to be reminded of the same sort of thing happening at the end of February. In its own way, it places into sharp relief the journey that I made to Aviemore a few weeks back. Then, snow seemed to be on the retreat though I was armed with my Kahtoola Microspikes in case I met anything harder than soft snow. Now, it seems that has been well replenished just in time for the Easter weekend. Of course, there's the ever present threat of avalanches (I took a quick peek at the Scottish Avalanche Information Service website and there is high risk up high in many of the hills up there) and the matter of travel too. Both of these matters are reminders of that coach crash tragedy in the south of Scotland and thoughts are the only things that I can offer to those affected.

A decade ago, the mention of the sort of conditions that have visited us more often than usual this winter would have sent anyone to their memory banks to see when they last happened. A few years back, I remember sitting in the Bridge of Orchy hotel enjoying an evening meal after a walk south along the West Highland Way from Glen Coe. What really struck me were all the photos of severe winter conditions of the sort that visited Scotland at the end of March and of February. They dated back to the 1980's and you would have been forgiven for thinking that those would never recur with the green winters that we were having and the prevailing debate on global warming. On a separate occasion, I was staying in Kettlewell and overheard a conversation at breakfast about sheep farming in much harder winters than the ones that were coming our way at that time. All the stories of deep snow covering were very far away in time and my upbringing in a more temperate maritime climate might have had something to do with it too.

In time, the wintry conditions that ended 2009 and stayed with us for so much of 2010 will be found in the same memory area as those in the 1980's and the 1960's. It is a reminder that, even with rising global temperatures (a contentious subject for some and one whose complexity is made all the more apparent when we get colder winters), we aren't going to be denied extreme winter like what came upon Scotland this week. With the milder winters that started the century, you might be forgiven for thinking that they were the start of a pattern but I have come to the conclusion that they were part of a one (El Niño and all that) that mixes mild and arctic as time goes on. We might know more about climate than we did but times like these are a reminder that there's always more to learn.

Here in Macclesfield, it isn't warm but we have no snow. Currently, it is drying up after a wintry shower that was more of rain than anything else. That's not to say that it mightn't have been sleety snow because I have been out in one of those week. April is noted for a mixture sun and showers and it cannot be said that it isn't living up to that stereotype. In fact, a quick look at the synoptic charts on the MWIS website confirm that Easter will be accompanied by a steady queue of low pressure areas. Let's see what can be done with it.

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