Tag Archives: snow

Nature’s home: weather or not

Snowy January sunrise over woodland
Snowy January sunrise 2018

Today, I am sharing two versions of my daily world view – looking east at sunrise, out over our local woods to the valley beyond. Living high on quite an exposed valley side, facing towards the North Pennine moorlands, we have a very ongoing relationship with the weather: colouring our skies in the early morning, blasting us with wild winds or drenching us with driving rain.

Connecting types of weather to our UK seasons is something we have absorbed from childhood. But how often do we now find ourselves talking about ‘unseasonal’ or ‘extreme’ weather? It seems almost constant.

We don’t need to be meteorologists to be aware that our weather patterns are changing from those we have come to expect as part of the seasonal cycle.

My snowy January image above was taken 2 years ago. It would be most unusual for us to get through the month of January without seeing a good covering of snow for at least a day or two. We’ve not seen more than an odd flurry of snow yet this Winter. Over the Christmas and New Year holiday, we had some of that ‘unseasonal’ weather I mentioned earlier, mild and frost-free.

January sunrise, gold and pink horizon with deep indigo sky and silhouetted trees in the landscape below

It’s not only humans noticing these weather changes – the natural world has noticed too. Last year, late February saw temperatures we associate with Summer. And only once since 1910 had March seen more rain.

Over at Nature’s Calendar https://naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk/analysis/seasonal-reports/, their records show that everything we associate with Spring happened earlier last year. All of the flowering plants such as blackthorn, hazel and lilac bloomed between 3 and 5 weeks earlier than expected. Frogspawn, butterflies, ladybirds were all spotted 2 to 3 weeks early. Birds were early building their nests.

These natural events have been recorded over so many years, the changes are noticeable.

For many people around the world, including here in the UK, we know climate change has created much bigger problems than finding we need to mow the lawn before the end of March. The heartbreaking wildfire scenes from Australia, flooding in Indonesia and here in the UK are just the next painful examples of the climate crisis we are living in.

Many of us are trying to do our bit for the planet: planting trees, avoiding plastic, eating less meat, walking or cycling rather than car travel … and a whole host of other things too.

I think individuals taking collective action really is important and shouldn’t be underestimated, but the speed with which we as a global society must act on the climate crisis means we must convince decision makers to act too.

At this year’s World Economic Forum this week at Davos the climate crisis is very much on the agenda. Finally. This annual meet-up of the world’s top brass in business, finance and politics is where the decisions determining what is important this year are discussed.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2020 acknowledges and highlights the climate crisis, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss as the most significant risks this year.

From the reports I have seen coming out of Davos, it could have gone better, but I do think there’s reason for hope.

Senior business executives are beginning to realise it can’t just be about shareholders profits any more. Business as usual is now being challenged not only by climate activists, but by hedge fund managers too.

Yes, of course we will need to keep banging the climate crisis drums – and ever louder. But I am beginning to feel that we are rolling the wave now and I believe the impetus is on the side of taking climate action.

I am hopeful that this is another win for Professor Romer’s “conditional optimists”, that I talked about in one of my New Year posts.

I think of it as active optimism – the more people we have taking positive climate action, the more likely we are to be successful in our endeavours to save our planet and its biodiversity for the future.

Peggy

Mushroom close-up

Zooming out for the bigger picture

“What’s This?” was the question Cee gave us to ponder for last week’s Fun Foto Challenge. We then had a lot of fun trying to work out what other people had posted.

For my entry, I zoomed in on some natural subjects, focusing on shapes and details. This week, I promised to post the original images so you can see the whole zoomed out picture. Here they are …

1. Woodland waterfall

Miniature waterfall on a woodland stream
Miniature waterfall on a woodland stream

This is one of the many small streams (or ‘burns’ as well call them here in The North 😉 ) that flows into the River Derwent in our local woods. I love this miniature waterfall as it cuts its way through the bedrock and pours down onto the next level below, surrounded by woodland greenery. I often find myself reaching for my camera when I see it. For the challenge, I picked out the water splash detail.

2. Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot

Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot
Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot

This is one of the two pots of the “Washfield Doubles” Hellebores I have on the steps by my back door. In this photo from April 2012, it looks like I was focusing on the quantity of late snow, rather than the plant itself! For the challenge, I chose the detail of the concentric curves of the terracotta pot, its black plastic liner and the topping of clean white snow.

3. Worm’s eye view of a woodland mushroom

Worm's eye view of a large woodland mushroom
Worm’s eye view of a large woodland mushroom

As I am not in the habit of crawling on my belly in beechwoods, you will notice this photo was taken by my son! I am always drawn to the unusual angles of this set of mushroom shots so I thought it would be perfect for the “What’s this?” challenge.

I enjoyed Cee’s photo challenge. I hope you enjoy my zoomed-out photos!

J Peggy Taylor

Merry Christmas from Oak Trees Studio

Christmas Eve is such a busy day, so it is wonderful to find an hour when we can escape to the woods for a brisk Winter’s walk. There’s no white Christmas for us here in northern England this year, but our little video takes you on a short walk in our woods when they were beautifully snowy. To accompany you on your walk is one of my favourite Winter melodies, Gustav Holst’s setting to Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter”, played on the piano by our son, Will. We hope you enjoy our snowy musical montage.

We wish all our visitors a very Merry Christmas.

Very best wishes from
J Peggy Taylor and all of us at Oak Trees Studio

Autumn and Winter have converged!

I like to change my blog header for each of our seasons. Being a keen gardener and based in the UK, my seasons divide neatly into three-month blocks: March, April, May is my Spring; June, July, August is my Summer; September, October, November is my Autumn; leaving December, January and February as Winter.

The end of November – beginning of December is when Autumn and Winter converge, and we have definitely noticed changes in our weather. November has been dull and dreary with mists and fog, but December has already brought us drier, brighter weather, though colder, with the beginning of frosty nights.

Converging paths in snowy woods
Converging paths in snowy woods

For my Winter season blog header, I decided to choose a very wintry image. The header is taken from this photo I took a few years ago at the entrance to our woods after a heavy snowfall. I love the way the snow conceals almost everything, just leaving the tree trunks and a few branches visible.

The other obvious thing that remains visible in the image, is the wooden signpost that marks the converging footpaths at this point. If you look very carefully you may also just see the faint tracks in the snow – some coming in from the right and others heading straight on along the old railway path.

This post also links to the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge on the theme ‘converge’.
Do take a look at what others have posted for this challenge.

J Peggy Taylor

Colourful Winter sunrise silhouettes the early morning landscape

Winter Sun Silhouettes

I think there is something immensely ethereal and primeval about sunlight in Winter. Here on latitude 55 degrees north, we experience our ‘shortest day’ of the year on 22 December. On that day the sun rises around 8.30am in the morning and sets around 4.00pm in the afternoon. Since it occurs during our normal waking hours in mid-Winter, we notice and often watch the sun as it rises or sets in spectacular fashion. The above image was taken in mid-January at 8.30am. As the sun rose over the woods to the east of us, the sky filled with flaming colour, silhouetting the trees and the valley horizon … and our washing line and the streetlight. Even these mundane details were drawn into this dramatic, glowing dawn.

It is not at all surprising to me that our ancient ancestors were such keen observers of the ‘movements’ of the sun, nor that fire was of such significance to them, especially during those dark Winter days. A few miles across the moors from us, the town of Allendale hosts a unique fire festival on New Year’s Eve (31st December) called the Tar Barl, when flaming barrels of tar are carried through the town as part of the New Year festivities. In northern Europe fire festivals hark back into ancient times when encouraging the return of the sun after the dark days of Winter was an important task.

Browsing through our photo archives for silhouette images for the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge this week, I noticed the images that best fitted the theme also had something else in common – Winter sun.

Dark trees silhouetted against snow
The dark silhouettes of the tree trunks stand out against the snow as we return from a Winter walk

The old railway cutting is one of our regular paths so we have seen it in all weathers, as we make our way in and out of the woods. I love the way the snow lights up the cutting, emphasising the dark tree trunks on each side. The pale peach light of the setting sun is just visible directly ahead. When we see that pale peach light, we know we may be treated to a beautiful Winter sunset as our path takes us onwards out of the trees.

Tree and gatepost silhouetted against the Winter's afternoon sun
Tree and gatepost silhouetted against the Winter’s afternoon sun

I showed another image of this location in my last post for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Winter theme. Here on the edge of the wood we can look out right across the upper valley and moors. Beyond the drama of the dark foreground silhouettes of the tree and the gatepost, I also like the middle distance silhouettes of the Winter trees. Their leafless branches expose the stark beauty of their structure, like natural sculptures. In Winter the sun sets behind the distant valley here, so this is a favourite view of ours.

This unusual Winter sun silhouettes the trees through a grey sky
This unusual Winter sun silhouettes the trees through a grey sky

This is another one of those slightly strange Winter sun experiences. My son spotted this silhouetted tree pattern against the sun as it struggled to put in an appearance through the cold and heavy grey sky.

J Peggy Taylor

Spring waterfall tumbling over rocks

Water and Winter for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

To help kindle our creative fires for the ‘Water and Winter’ theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, Cee gave this prompt :

“The Water energy is a strong generative force centered in the lower belly. When the Kidney Qi is strong, a person is fearless, determined, and can endure many hardships in pursuit of their goals. Persevering by will power is characteristic of those with strong Kidney Qi. The color for water is blue.”

The substance we know as ‘water’ is a crucial part of life here on Planet Earth. Water truly is a ‘strong generative force’ and it plays such a significant part in the cycle of the seasons. Thinking about the seasons always leads me to think about the natural world and its continual battle for life. In browsing through my archives to choose images for my challenge entry this week I was very much reminded of the hardships nature must endure just to survive, especially during the cold season of Winter. I was also struck by how different our ‘normal’ environments can appear when wrapped in Winter snow.

Oaks silhouetted in snow against pines
The clinging snow traced out the branches of this group of oak trees

This group of oak trees stood out against the dark green pines beyond. I noticed the way the snow had clothed the main branches of the trees. It looked as if the branches had been painted white. The thinner oak twigs retained their red-brown colour and contrasted with both the oaks’ snow-white branches and the darkness of the tall pines.

Soft snow decorates the twigs of this hazel thicket
Soft snow decorates the twigs of this hazel thicket

We often walk by this coppiced hazel. As with the oaks above, the snow has clung to the leafless twigs and branches, giving it a decorated effect. I love the way the snow highlights the underlying shape of this tree.

Winter sun silhouettes - trees and gate in snow
The low Winter sun gives little warmth on this snowy day as it silhouettes the gate and trees

There is a convenient bench just by this gate, on which woodland visitors may linger and look out across the valley. As you can see, this was not a day for sitting or indeed for lingering too long either. It was very cold, but the slowly setting Winter sun gleamed so beautifully across the snow-covered fields.

A heavy November snow fall
A heavy snowfall in November coloured the late afternoon with a snowy blue-grey gloom

This was the first of many snowfalls that Winter. The snow fell so thickly and so quickly. I took this photograph from our front door at around 4.30pm, during a brief interlude when the snow eased off a little. There was this eerie blue-grey light as we looked out eastwards towards the woods. It is very unusual for us to have snow on this scale even before November is out.

Hopefully our Winter this year will not be too harsh.

J Peggy Taylor