Our weather has certainly been a major topic for discussion in recent months. It seemed to rain incessantly throughout the summer, autumn and winter, yet for the last six weeks a biting east wind gives the impression that winter is going to go on forever and ever.
The prophets of doom and gloom are telling us that changing weather patterns (global warming and the shifting path of the jet stream) will result in more extremes in the future with exceptionally heavy rainfall interspersed with droughts. Apparently we can expect cool wet summers to predominate and harsh cold winters to occur far more frequently.
Perhaps some of these predictions need rather closer consideration. We have had very wet years before. I remember when Muriel and I moved into Beeches in 2000 – it never stopped raining all summer and autumn. It was only twenty years ago (1993) that four inches of rain fell on North Devon in one June day, causing a huge flood. The August storm in 1952, with over seven inches in 24 hours, caused the terrible disaster and loss of life in the Lynton/Lynmouth valley. It was not that long ago that torrential rain caused the massive flood in Boscastle.
The average annual rainfall in our area over the last twenty years has been about 45 inches, which is exactly the same as the long-term average over the last 100 years. The very wet years are set against the years with rainfall well below average. We tend to forget that prior to 2012 we had experienced two very dry years and it was only March last year that there were dire warnings of drought.
We blame the weather for many of our problems, yet the recent floods that have dominated the news headlines have been to a large extent man-made. Rainwater coming off rooftops, tarmac and concrete can no longer be absorbed into the soil but rushes into the nearest watercourse with the result that houses often built on potential flood plains suffer the inevitable consequences.
It is the same with the state of our roads. We convince ourselves that the pot holes are the result of either frost and snow or excessive rainfall. In truth the nation can no longer afford the cost of their upkeep so we are resorting to a “bodge and hope for the best” remedy. Our country lanes were not made for the huge lorries, bulk milk tankers and heavy farm machinery which are part of everyday life in Sheepwash – indeed, it amazes me there has been no long-term structural damage to Sheepwash Bridge.
I am convinced that any major changes to the weather pattern will only occur over centuries rather than decades. The only certainty about our climate is its uncertainty – even with all its modern hi-tech equipment the Met Office can only accurately (?) predict upto five days ahead.
So what have we got coming in 2013? On the law of averages, after several miserable summers, surely we are due for a spell of long, hot sunny weather! Certainly our farming community and the tourist industry deserve a good summer.
My personal interests are fishing for salmon and trout on the Torridge and looking after the cricket square at Hatherleigh. For the latter I want plenty of sunshine, but for my fishing I want regular rainfall to keep the river at a good level. Maybe this year it will rain every Monday (preferably at night) and then be hot and sunny for the rest of the week. If only!
April 2013 (Spring issue)