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Sunday, 4 November 2012

November Snow

Gruffy ground under November snow
Here’s a first! María Inés de la Cruz expressing empathy with the English obsession with weather. It was just after noon, we were sitting atop Pen Hill on the Mendips, surrounded by fields of rapidly-thawing snow. We’d been woken by the sound of driving rain on the windows of Ramblanista Towers, as soon as I heard reports of snow across the West Country I was out of bed and into my rapidly disintegrating boots before you could say ‘Michael Fish’; María didn’t have to follow me but my car’s warmer than our bedroom – when the heater’s working.
By noon the snow was already in full retreat 
‘So now I understand why you English never stop talking about the weather’, she said, gazing out over the Levels to Glastonbury Tor and beyond. Before us all was green and sodden, though in the distance we could make out glistening patches of white on the infamous and ever-so-slightly perilous Somerset/Dorset borderlands, behind us all was white and … I’d like to say crisp and even but it was soggy up here as it was down there. It looked a lot more idyllic than it felt underfoot; within a couple of minutes my boots were saturated. One up to María Inés de la Cruz and her expensive Hunter wellington boots.
Token attempt at 'arty' photo
It was a perfect example of the wrong kind of snow – thick and wet; what else would you expect in early November on our soft southern hills? What we lack in altitude we more than make up for in topographical variety; it might have been raining in Wells but cars were coming down the Bath Road draped in thick layers of snow. Halfway up the hill, at about 200 metres, we encountered our first slush of the day; fifty metres higher and it had settled on the road as well as the fields. Further south, in and around the Yeovil badlands, it was even better (worse?) and the A37 at Shit'n'Smellit resembled an ice rink. Wells little cousin, the aristocratic market town of Sherborne, had copped a good dose of the white stuff and the Radstock road in Holcombe looked as tricky as an alpine pass. But when we drove west out of Priddy the snow petered out to naught in the space of a hundred metres. Up on the western Mendip ridge, from Cheddar Gorge to Crook Peak, it was business as usual. 

The wintry wastes of Wessex. Looks a lot colder than it was
But even as morning drew on till noon, the snowline receded and the dazzling white gave way to a  syphilitic light green. Never mind, we'd had our fun. I'd spent a good hour lecturing María on the vagaries of the British climate; going on, ad nauseum, about the summer of '76 (which, alas, I'm old enough to remember) and the winter of '63 (well before my time). She'd finally made her peace with a very British infatuation.
Result! Enough waffle, let's get to the snow porn ...

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