Winter curiosities… in March!

Winter arrived in south Devon with a vengeance on 1st March, and with it some curiosities I have never experienced before.

I ventured out onto the snow in the back garden at about 8 o’clock this morning; it looked like normal pristine powdery snow into which my boot-clad feet would easily sink with a satisfying powdery crunch, but it was nothing of the sort. The overnight snow had frozen, with an invisible crusty upper layer which could almost take my entire weight; this was something my eyes and brain had not encountered before and was therefore quite unnerving for a second or two. My feet did actually sink into the snow and in so doing cut large jagged shards out of it, like small icebergs; this made each footprint about five times the size of my boot. At this point I realised that walking any distance at all was probably unwise and certainly heavy going. I ventured only six steps into the garden to take a few snaps and leave some food out for the birds.

There was a curious and not unpleasant sound in the back garden, rather like a giant and very delicate crystal chandelier that had caught a draft. It took me a while to realise that it was the wind in the silver birch tree. I could just make out that every silver branch was covered in fine crystal ice – natures chandelier. I thought it odd too that eleven wood pigeons were perched in that tree and not the evergreen ones either side of it; I would have thought the evergreens would provide more protection from the wind-driven snow, but they definitely liked that silver birch.

Back in the house I made coffee and out of the kitchen window I noticed about a dozen quite large fluffy balls in what would have been the middle of the road. Was this something children had been playing with the night before? Then one of them moved. They were fluffy balls of a sort – actually birds scrunched up into shapes that rendered them almost unrecognisable; only when they moved did it become obvious what they were.

I did not venture outside yesterday at all, not even into the garden. Not only was the snowfall heavy – the first in Newton Abbot since 2006 – but the winds were quite high and picked up hour after hour until by the early evening they were really quite fierce. Late last night the garden was covered in fine powdery snow; by this morning it was littered with hundreds of twigs and small branches. It’s going to take a while to clear that lot up after the thaw! Should I venture down the road to the shops? A combination of ice-coated snow, high winds and hailstones say no.

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