Snow Joke

November 28, 2021

With impeccable timing, my parents have made two visits to Bigtown in the past month, both times coinciding with epic weather warnings. Despite visiting during the floods at the end of October, they are planning to move over here (to be closer to their favourite daughter, naturally) so on Friday they made the drive again to view some houses, managing to arrive just before Storm Arwen had got into its stride, with red weather warnings ringing in our ears.

This morning, having congratulated ourselves on surviving the weekend’s storm with only minimal damage (the house is now wearing the gutter from one of its dormer windows at rather a jaunty angle), we woke to discover that Arwen had an unexpected sting in its tail…

Snow falling in garden

I do love snow, generally, however inconvenient, but this didn’t look like the sort of weather we could in all conscience send two 80-somethings out into on a 100 mile drive. However, they were keen to get home so after an anxious morning spent alternately checking the rain radar and the live traffic cameras on the A7, they decided to take the risk and set off armed with emergency blankets, snacks and a thermos full of tea.

An hour or so later, with the sun out and a cheery message from Mum saying they had reached Langholm and all was well and they were happily eating their emergency snacks, we could go out and enjoy what was left of the snow with a clear conscience.

Snow on fallen tree
Snowy path through woods

Stay at Home Order

December 27, 2020

The Met Office had been making vaguely threatening noises about snow and ice this weekend, but I hadn’t really believed it until we woke to a dusting of snow on the skylights. Nothing to write home about, I thought, but by mid morning it was putting its back into it a bit.

snow falling

One of the consequences of living up a hill is that we get all that ‘falling as snow on higher ground’ that the weather forecasters do like to go on about. And as we only live up a relatively small hill, we’re often right on the border between snow and not-snow, which means that photos taken looking down the valley just look like a continuity error.

Snow covered farm with green fields beyond

Anyway, the sun came out, which was not in the forecast, so we took the opportunity to get a walk in while the snowiness lasted, such as it was.

snowy track through forest

Even after snow, this part of Scotland cannot help being GREEN, and I have finally worked out how to persuade my phone to take photos that capture just how GREEN it is.

Green mossy trees and woodland

Fortunately, other than our state-sanctioned walk, we had nowhere we needed to be today. The forecast is for freezing temperatures and more precipitation overnight so I expect tomorrow will be a day for the ice tyres, if I’m going anywhere by bike…

snowy scene, looking down at green below

Then again, I might just stay at home.

Marching On

March 1, 2020

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I’m pretty much done with this weather. We may not, fortunately, have had the flooding they’ve suffered further south but it seems to have been day after day of pulling on the waterproofs, hoping I remembered to dry my sodden gloves out after the last outing, and heading out for the next battering. I’ve reached the point where if it’s ‘only’ raining or ‘only’ blowing a gale, it doesn’t actually feel that bad, considering some of the other days I’ve had on the bike.

On Friday I knew I was in for a wet one but I felt I was more or less prepared as I readied myself. Gloves, check. Waterproof socks, check. Boots, check. Waterproof trousers, check. Hat, check. Glance out the window to see snow of some description mixed in with the rain, ah well, these things are sent to try us. What I hadn’t factored in until I’d set off was that these weren’t fluffy soft gentle snowflakes, oh no. These were vengeful handfuls of ice being flung by the wind into my face and – especially painfully – my ears. Stinging doesn’t begin to describe the sensation. It is of moments like these that cycling in February is made, and even the most ardent evangelist of the joys of cycling can claim there’s any pleasure to be gained from it, other than a grim sense of satisfaction at having endured the month.

Today, though, it is March and while the wind is still pretty ferocious, we must surely be within sprinting distance of spring. Storm Jorge was still raging this morning as I headed down to Bigtown for a little path clearing, but working out of the wind and in the sun we felt … actual warmth. Layers were even removed, albeit mostly only temporarily. Could it be the end of this endless winter is in sight?

Actually, Weather Gods, maybe don’t answer that question.

Me, contemplating another three weeks of winter

Get Outside

February 12, 2020

snowy sunny morning

Well, the difference a day makes (and a bit of sunshine). We woke this morning to a bit of snow, but nothing too icy, and a lot of unforecasted sunshine, which was welcome. And suddenly, having been too miserable to even venture outdoors yesterday, this afternoon nothing could stop me from getting on the bike to get the paper – even when the sunshine disappeared and it briefly started sleeting.

Fortunately, that didn’t last long and as the sun returned I was soon below the ‘snow line’ – stopping periodically to attempt to capture the contrast between the snowy hilltops and the almost spectral green of the fields in the valley.

green fields and snowy hills

Regular readers will know I’m a sucker for any sort of survey or research on cycling and I’ve been meaning to take part in this study for a few days now. It’s about cycling and mood and it requires you to do part of it before and after a ‘usual’ bike ride (whether indoors* or outdoors). What with one thing and another – gadding about, the weather, mild lurgy – it’s been over a week since I did any of my usual cycling trips, other than the one-way run to the bus on the Brompton. So I definitely recorded a mood boost on my return.

road through fields

The survey specifically required any outdoor cycling session to be in a natural, green environment. I hope this counts.

* I assume this means cycling on some sort of stationary trainer, rather than my dad’s former use of a bike to roam the corridors of power

Under the Weather

February 11, 2020

So far – and I know I’ll regret saying this – despite more or less hourly Met Office weather warnings for wind, rain, snow, ice, plagues of frogs and other hazards, the sole casualty of Storm Ciara round here has been our inherited garden statue Mostly, who has toppled from her plinth again (I should probably just lay her flat on the ground at the first weather warning of the autumn as I’ve grown rather fond of her).

toppled statue

Mostly, looking the way I feel

Mostly’s not the only one feeling a bit under the weather. I’ve been coming down with a cold of some sort which is either taking its time fully establishing itself or just extremely mild. I had two things I was supposed to be doing in Bigtown today but I was rather assuming that they’d be snowed off, given the forecast, but despite a weather warning cocktail of snow, ice and wind, when we woke up this morning the promised apocalypse was more of a dusting. This left me with a dilemma: neither sick enough to cancel due to ill health, nor snowed-in-enough to cancel due to the weather, but with no desire to actually get on the bike (or even into the car, frankly) and battle into town. Had I felt well, I might actually have relished it – and had the weather been a bit nicer, I would have welcomed the chance to drive out the lurgy through cycling but in the end I wimped out, made alternative plans, and spent the day watching the snow showers drift past my window without ever settling, and almost willing them to turn into blizzard conditions just so I’d feel a bit less of a wuss.

Not exactly the snowpocalypse

Of course, this may end up being a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ – even as I write, the snow has begun settling and the forecast tomorrow is for the same mixed bag of wintry weather and biblical weather warnings as today. But we’ve stocked up on enough food to last until the yellow warning of snow gives way to a yellow warning of rain on Friday and we’ll just sit it out if we need to …

Snow Joke

January 28, 2020

So, today was already looking complicated: my bike booked in for a (long overdue) service and a meeting at one end of town, followed by a meeting right at the other end of town, both of which would be easily accessible had I had my bike but which would be a total slog to get between without.

And that was all before I woke up to this:

snowy morning

Snow untouched by anything but a few hares’ footprints is lovely, but it is a daunting surface to cycle on. Especially when it turns out to be a bastard mixture of snow, ice and meltwater.

snow covered road

I couldn’t even put on my magical ice tyres because the gears on my bike needed serviced so there was nothing for it but to make sure I had that number one piece of safety equipment, plenty of time, walk down to the road end, where the B road starts, put on my big girl pants and set off.

snow and sky

I’m not going to lie, I’ve had better bike rides. The B-road had been treated but not ploughed so I was mostly able to cycle on tarmac rather than ice, but there were still sections of snow on some of the bends and some of it was rutted enough to make for some squeaky moments. When I’d turned off the B-road and onto a quiet back roads again at least I wasn’t dealing with much traffic, but that meant there was only really one set of wheel tracks which were clear of snow; once I was in them it was safe enough, but if they went straight over a pothole then I had no choice but to follow (it also meant that no, Mr Jeep Driver, I wasn’t going to move out of the relatively safe wheel track so that you in your four-by-four could keep driving along them the other way so beeping at me was counterproductive). The only thing I really had going for me was that I’d managed to wear my brakes down to the point that even if I lost my nerve I couldn’t jam them on anyway, which is the worst thing you can do on an icy surface.

Sustainable transport hierarchy

I actually had a meeting with the coonsil recently where this was on display …

Once in town, things improved somewhat in that the roads were clear enough. It was only when I had dropped the bike off and started walking to my first meeting that I registered why all the pedestrians were doing penguin impressions: the pavements were pretty much entirely black ice, even around the school. They were only safely passable by sticking right next to the walls, walking on the grass verges, or just giving up and walking in the road. Remind me how the sustainable transport hierarchy goes again?

Fortunately, the temperature was rising and by the time I got out of the first meeting the ice was gone and I was able to get back to pick up my bike in time for the next. There really is nothing like a freshly serviced bike* on a freshly deiced road for suddenly feeling as you have wings.

* New bottom bracket, new drive train, new gear cables, new brake blocks (‘mind you don’t come off when you use these, because they will actually stop your bike’) and – apparently – no longer wonky handlebars (‘I don’t know how you were even riding that bike’).

May I Humbly Remind the Weather Gods …

April 4, 2018

… That it is April?

snow in garden

This was Monday, but it was snowing today too (I was just too depressed even to photograph it)

We’ve not actually had it as bad here as they have further north including, crucially, Edinburgh when we have an event planned, for which it would be quite good if it *wasn’t* snowing …

Pedal on Parliament 28th April

Spring will be here by the 28th, right? Right!?

(PS if you like the design, you can now buy the t-shirt …)

There are some days …

March 9, 2018

… especially at this time of year, when if you don’t have any errands to run on the bike, you have to invent some …

snow melting by the road

Now that the snow is mostly gone – for now at least – time to venture out into the garden to see what has survived the onslaught of winter.

My Fromaldi plants – having gamely kept on flowering for ages – are looking a bit sorry for themselves (on a spectrum from ‘battered but unbowed’ to ‘dead on arrival’), but two of the Gaura seedlings I planted out at the beginning of autumn have survived so far, although they are not looking completely convincing.

Gaura plant

The tulips I planted seem to be coming up, stripey leaves and all, which is exciting. The olive tree has completely shed its leaves again, clearly having failed to read that it’s supposed to be evergreen. At least, I hope that that’s the problem, although I’m beginning to think that if you want a Mediterranean garden, the best place to plant one is in the Mediterranean (but where would be the fun in that, the gardeners cry)

tulips emerging

And then there’s the greenhouse, last seen with snow drifting under its door. Ages back, being keen to get going, the other half planted out some mixed lettuce seed in there. Clearly this was a doomed enterprise as we have since had at least two separate weeks of sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow, and our greenhouse is not a heated one so tender little lettuce seedlings stood precisely no chance

lettuce seedlings

Fortunately, they haven’t read the instructions either.

Cabin Fever

March 3, 2018

So, today should have been spent in Glasgow, in the company of approximately 50 active travel campaigners, variously networking, sharing ideas, putting the world to rights and (most likely) worrying that none of our speakers were running to time. But with the ongoing weather chaos (there are still no trains running out of Bigtown station even now) we had to reluctantly cancel. So what with that, and being ill and my Viking biking failure on Wednesday, I’ve not actually been anywhere since Sunday except out for a daily walk.

drifted snow

Today, feeling that this was getting out of hand, I decided I would either attempt to cycle down for the paper or we would dig the car out and drive down to do some recreational panic buying. No sooner had I made this decision than it began to snow again, so we dug out the car while we still could, made liberal use of the contents of the coonsil grit bin which is helpfully left right by our gate (and smells deliciously of treacle – do they mix it with molasses to make it stick or has the salted caramel fad finally jumped the shark?) and successfully made it to the main road.

It was slightly sobering to then come across an upside-down 4×4 a mile or two further down – it wasn’t exactly where I would have been cycling, but it did illustrate the fact that some people are still struggling to drive to the conditions. But, hey, apparently I’m the nutter, attempting to tackle these conditions on a bike …

Capsized vehicles aside, Bigtown was almost disappointingly back to normal – even the KFC is open again – and the supermarket’s shelves looked fairly fully stocked although we did almost end up with half a Guardian (apparently the middle bits fall out too easily and they seem to be dealing with this by bringing them out one magazine insert at a time when customers complain, rather than just sorting them all out in one go).

By the time we were heading home the snow was more or less stopped, the overturned car was being carted away and there was a sense that – the odd yellow weather warning notwithstanding – life might be returning to its normal rhythms soon. It’s been nice to have a bit of enforced downtime, I suppose, especially after a busy start to the year. But I think I’ll be ready to get out on the bike pretty soon. I just hope all the drivers out there concentrate as hard on keeping the rubber side down as I do …

Snow Day

March 1, 2018

Well the ‘beast from the east’ arrived as advertised – and although we have had nothing like as much snow and disruption as a lot of the rest of the country has been suffering, we have had some very cold temperatures and enough snow that we were very glad to have done our weekly shop yesterday morning early, before it all got too hideous. I’ve been ill enough that I haven’t particularly wanted to go anywhere, so yesterday I was happy enough to stick inside by the woodburner and watch the snow fall, monitoring the carnage on Twitter with sympathy as everyone else attempted to get somewhere – or get home again afterwards.

snowy road

Side question: what is the rural etiquette on ploughing the road up to your own property and leaving a nice ridge of snow across your neighbour’s driveway? Asking for a friend

Today actually dawned pretty bright and sunny, with no additional snow overnight. From the state of our road, it would appear the only creatures which had been moving were the hares (who, snow or no snow, have recognised it is March and have been chasing each other madly around the garden all afternoon) and our elderly neighbour who had obviously been out for her normal constitutional, winter be damned (she has yaktracks for her shoes and a spiked attachment for her walking stick and just gets on with it). There was just the question of fetching the paper. The snow didn’t look too bad on the road, and while we didn’t fancy trying to back the car out of the drive, I did think the bike might be possible with a bit of care.

bike in the snow

As a concession to the amber weather warning, I did put the spikes on the front wheel, and even donned a hi-vis orange vest (‘Is that so they can find you when you end up in a snow drift?’ the other half asked) and set off with some trepidation. I walked the bike to the road end, and found that the B-road had been gritted and ploughed, although there was only really one lane clear. The wind was right in my face and the snow was blowing all around me, and I have to admit I was beginning to think this wasn’t the most sensible thing for someone who’s only recently got out of bed with a London lurgy to be doing. So when I got round the first bend and found the snow had drifted back into the road and that – spikes or no – I wasn’t able to hold any sort of a sensible line through the resulting inch of slushy snow – I cut my losses and turned around. Maybe on a mountain bike, maybe if I was fully fit, maybe if it wasn’t such a winding road … not today though.

Indeed, as I stopped at our turning to start wheeling the bike back, the driver of the Land Rover who had been patiently following me up the hill for the last 100 yards actually stopped to check if I was all right before passing me, which is a first. I think he was pretty relieved that I was as close to home as I was. Not as relieved as I was though…

road home

Heading back up the hill to home…

Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow is another day.