Outdoor Discoveries

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out-of-doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Weather

A new weather map

25th August 2022

In the past, seeing changes in the presentation of weather information is something that has raised my ire. When the BBC did away with weather maps, I moved over to the Met Office for sake of keeping the added overview that such things provide. Location-based weather forecasting undoubtedly is useful and I use it a lot but the overview remains especially helpful.

It may seem a niche interest to many but one thing that I find really useful is a rain radar map. Handily, both Met Eireann and the Met Office incorporate these into their phone apps so you can use them while out hiking. In the case of the former, it really saw usage during a recent trip to Ireland when light rain showers dampened at least some of the Kerry mountains. Seeing that the shower was only a passing affair helped enormously with decision-making. Naturally, this all depended on the availability of phone signal and it was never up to the minute but the lag never got in the way of seeing the way that things were moving.

A rain radar map often helps when you are indoors too since waiting out a passing shower or a spell of rain can allow you to do things outside when conditions are drier. This applies to cycling to and from work, going shopping, exercising or travelling further afield. For all these, websites are as useful as phone apps.

That brings me to the main subject of this piece since the Met Office is trying out things all the while. Some are appreciated and successful while others are unwanted with some needing to be tolerated when they become permanent. Of all these, there are some changes that get previewed and a new way of presenting past and predicted weather is among them.

Both now appear in the same place and it only is the timeline that tells you that you are dealing with observed or predicted weather. However, the difference between the two is not as clear-cut as it could be. With rainfall patterns, there are hints like the extra resolution of observed data compared to what is predicted. There is one other thing to realise: the frequency of the predicted data appears to be once every fifteen minutes. Thus, if you see timepoints that are not at 0, 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour, then you definitely have an observation map layer on display.

The new map may not be intended to remain open in a web browser from one day to the next but that is a habit of mine. The older maps work well with this since they reset to the latest data even if you may need to advance the timeline accordingly on the radar map. The new map does not do this but it is in its beta phase at the moment and hence could change according to user feedback. For that reason, I am not being as critical as I have been in the past when equivalent changes have been made and it is larger too, a boon for those of us using larger screens (I am writing these words on a 34″ widescreen monitor that I use with my home workstations). So far, what is there looks interesting so I plan to keep an eye on where it goes now.

Things change all the time anyway and not always for the better. The location-based forecasts on the Met Office website do not allow for favourites to be kept or previous searches to be retained so I would like to see them look at this as well. At the moment, I am looking at setting up a list on this website of links to ones that I commonly use for the reference of visitors to this website as much as myself. Handily, you can get forecasts for mountain tops like Helvellyn and even lakes like Ullswater so that might be the basis of an interesting selection.

Weather better suited to indoor investigations

28th February 2020

Unlike this time last year when I was in the middle of string of outdoor excursions, this month has little very little action at all. The weather has brought storm after storm and the rain is flooding down from the sky as I write this words. January may have been more appealing but other concerns like gaining a new contract took precedence. That has been sorted now so next week should see a start on revenue earning work again.

That is not to say that I have not been exploring ideas for overseas trips or one nearer home even if COVID-19 could limit such excursions for a while. Finding possible destinations in Washington State, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming has drive me to perusing various guidebooks and others for Colorado, California and Ontario have found their way onto my reading list. It is the prospect of extending North American explorations after last year’s stint in British Columbia that is the underlying motivation for all of this.

There is no shortage of wilderness areas but there is a need to find a base from which to explore them. Denver looks promising for a stay in Colorado but I need to uncover more about that state and, in a sense, the same applies to Lake Tahoe on the boundary between California and Nevada or Ontario where being based in Toronto could have a use.

Reading guidebooks may not sound exciting but they do advance all these pipe dreams. Consulting local magazines like Distinctly Montana, Wyoming Magazine, Big Sky Journal, Montana Outdoors and Montana Quarterly would augment these in a more bite-sized manner and some have email newsletters too so it is not a case of reading everything at once only then to forget it all afterwards. My European explorations have been more gradual affairs, after all, and it always helps to find ideas one at a time.

The next steps would be to make use of these but that will depend on how the year goes. COVID-19 is a reminder that events can derail such designs so it is best to see what can be facilitated. One thing is sure though: another visit to North America could happen yet.

Reeling in some leap years

27th February 2020

There was a series on Irish television called “Reeling in the Years” where each program covered happenings in a certain year in the past using archive footage. The concept may not have been all that original though the focus of Irish events gave it a certain uniqueness. It was the sort of light television programming that could be repeated endlessly should a vacant slot need occupying.

Of course, that is not how I tend to view the entries on here and I often struggle to complete a trip report as I have been doing for a while with a day spent along Derbyshire’s Great Ridge in the autumn of 2017. Sometimes, what should produce a timely report can gain the feel of an archive item.

Nevertheless, 2020 is a leap year and a very rainy, snowy and windy February gains an extra day; it is hard to believe that we were basking in unseasonably warm sunshine just over a year ago. Perhaps, it is little wonder then that I often state that we get weather instead of seasons and such is the defining characteristic of a maritime climate.

January and February often are the quieter months of the year so there is some time for looking back and a little forward planning. Thus, I take this opportunity to cast my mind back over leap years from a outdoor wandering vantage point since that stops me at 2000 when I commenced my working life after formal education.

By 2004, my pedestrian hill wandering had come into being with Scotland being a major focus along with England and Wales. The year itself was terrible from a weather standpoint with the summer being a washout. Only some flexibility at work allowed me to snatch a drier interlude to go north to Lorn and Lochaber to make the most of a fleeting opportunity.

2008 then was the third calendar year for this blog and saw a high point in my Scottish rambling. Until very recently, a week in August spent among some of the Western Isles became my most adventurous escapade ever. Skye was a staging point and I managed to avoid much of the rain that came from a stalled front lying across Ireland, England and Scotland. It now seems surreal that there was some glorious weather to be enjoyed on Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist.

The occasional good fortune of those islands again manifested itself in 2012 when they in fact endured a drought while the the rest of Britain has the wettest summer ever. It was only the dryness of the Outer Hebrides that stopped the year going down in records as being wetter than in 2000, a year that I hardly regard as being that rainy at all though there were autumn deluges. The differences in weather were missed in 2012, not only because of a certain weather myopia but also because the heavy workload of 2011 had drained me to the point that energy for planning a return to the Western Isles just was not there.

By 2016, major changes were taking place in my life after the passing of both my parents. These were becoming evident in 2012 and the combination of a busy working life and ongoing inheritance works became enough to break me. One saving grace was that I started exploring elsewhere in Europe and that began in 2015. 2016 saw an extended weekend spent in each of Austria and Norway while there also was a mid-winter break in Mallorca. It was the latter than really taught me a lesson with a heavy cold and the others might have been but palliative care for an ongoing malaise. Changes were coming.

As I look back, it is tempting to think that leap years are not always the best for me though I now reckon that they were not as bad as I might have thought them at the time. 2020 could prove no different but that remains to be seen. Changes are continuing and I now work for myself so overseas and other excursions can continue alongside the other things that need doing. Only time will show what chances are available.

Cabin bound

26th February 2020

The title of this post could have been “Cabin Fever” but there is a good reason why that is not the case. It is true to say that February’s weather has not been inspiring this year with a storm arriving most weekends but there is also the draw of indoors activity and the need to attend to working life matters too.

There also has been some tinkering on the technology side and that also applies to the operation of this website too. Most of this is behind the scenes and all of that is about keeping out unwanted visitors, spammers included, so that things run more smoothly. The appearance on mobile devices is another matter that needed attention and things should appear better on smartphones after the remediation.

Along the way, there was much to learn and there always was another thing to try. that may remain but, COVID-19 permitting, there is a need to get out of doors too. With the debt caused by the purchase of a new camera now paid off, any better weather in March could be used using an old trick of mine: booking an associated night in a nearby hotel. After that, there is the Easter weekend which rather spoiled me last year while I was in Edinburgh. Some pondering and planning lies ahead.

Autumn reflections

30th August 2018

There have been a few nights this week that possessed the chill of autumn and some trees already are losing their spring and summer colouring. In fact, I picked two early conkers on a walk this evening. Meteorologists may prefer us to wait until the start of September but I always wonder if autumn really starts in the middle of August. Some I overheard talking about turning on their heating may not disagree with me so strongly.

It is strange how we assign the summer months because when it comes to hours of daylight, August in some ways is a mirror image of April. The main difference generally is the residual heat remaining after June and July, something that can hold until the start of November. This past summer has been exceptional so it is not that the school year starts after a break without its share of sunshine even if August came damp.

For whatever reason, I can get ideas about fresh restarts around this time. It might be that there is a lull during September or the start of those school, college and university years but my mind can fill with possibilities while bemoaning that such things often are stymied by a decline in energy coinciding with growing hours of darkness. It often feels like a brief burst of energy before other things take hold.

The latter has me wondering about a midwinter getaway since I did not have an overseas trip this summer because of other concerns. This line of thought also emerged two years ago and there was a trip to Mallorca with some walking that in on my radar for a forthcoming trip report. Other possibilities will be assessed and enough time allowed so as not to have 2019 began like 2017 when a heavy cold weighed me down.

2018 has been a busy year for me with a move into self-employment taking up the summer months and a series of property maintenance tasks in Ireland that were planned during the career break that I began in August 2017. The last part of 2016 came busy with Irish matters so that might not have helped the start of the next year either. As I look to the rest of this year, I hope that work will remain steady enough for me to focus on other things like getting out and about in any good weather that comes. Life has become an adventure again and that blows away any staleness that once may have beset me.