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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 07 January 2010 by John Richards

Entry 137. The big snow.

The big snow

What I am about to write will come as no surprise to UK readers, nor I guess to those from further away who have probably heard of our predicament and sighed 'so it finally snowed again in Britain, just as it does here (Scandinavia, Germany, Canada, US, Japan, New Zealand, whereever) every winter and your country grinds to a halt.'  Yes, well, fair comment, all I can say is that this is turning out to be the longest, coldest, snowiest freeze certainly since 1978/9, arguably since 1962/3, and snow accumulations in some places are starting to match 1947.

So we are not prepared, because to prepare every winter for a winter like this one would be a terrible waste of many resources, not just money.Nor are we experienced. More than half our population has never encountered weather like this, certainly as adults. And so much has changed. We all drive everywhere now; in 1963 only about 30% of the population had cars. We now have motorways, and supermarkets rather than the local shop; we commute to work, often long distances. In 1963 most people took the local bus. Often now there is no local bus. Life has changed completely, and in this country the changes did not plan for prolonged heavy snow, because climate change had predicted there would never be another freeze-up.

Nevertheless, we really are in one of the snowiest places here. In most other parts of the country, there have been several big dumps, but long calm, very cold, sunny spells in between when the crews can get out to clear the roads and paths. Here it has snowed day after day after day, and the forecast is that it will snow tomorrow and for at least several days after, all the while getting colder and colder and colder. The most optimisitic forecaster is saying that it will continue to get worse for a minumum of another two weeks.

In fact, it has not been that cold here yet. Last night we had -10C, -8C in the unheated alpine house and -3C in the heated one. There is as yet little or no wind or chill factor. West of here in Carlisle they have already had -15C and just north of my home town of Reading in the balmy south they had -17C with worse to come. Nothing to Calgary which the News said was a 'normal' -24C yesterday!

But the snow! In the garden we now have more than 25 cm, level lie. Luckily there has been almost now drifting as yet. The continuous cover is now three weeks old and it has just snowed more and more. Most of the features in the garden have disappeared completely.

If you think I am moaning, I am not. I love it actually! Everything looks splendid, and we are lucky. We have our health and mobility, we are walking distance from the shops, I have been swimming every day, we have nowhere we need to go (as yet, use of the car is a distant memory), and we still have some coal, I have been sawing logs, and the electricity is still on. We have no gas piped to this house! But I did think I would put the snow on record, as it may never happen again in our lives, and it might affect the plants! It is so easy to forget what happened just before.........

So here are some pictures. First of all, the back garden, sunlight on the trees.

The alpine houses and the scree are deeply buried....

And the troughs barely recognisable.

The trees were truly spectacular. Here are trees in the front, followed by an ancient apple and a silver birch.

So what did you do in the snow, daddy?

Well, I sowed my seed, all 131 packets (with another eight, just cleaned, still to go). They say that a good covering of snow helps germination. Heres hoping!

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