Today’s guest picture comes from my Welsh correspondent, Keiron. The heavy frost in the morning painted this delightful pattern on his conservatory roof.
That well known artist Jack Frost had been hard at work in our garden too. Mrs Tootlepedal told me that the thermometer outside our kitchen window was showing -6°C when I went out for a look around.
I had to put on a warm coat and gloves when I walked round to the shop to buy milk and honey.
Once again bird traffic at the feeder was worryingly low and I spent quite a bit of the morning being either too late or too early with my shutter finger as stray chaffinches approached and left at speed.
I did catch one chaffinch in a quiet moment…
…but most of them were in ‘peck and run’ mode. A dunnock was more obliging.
You can see spring bulbs sprouting behind it. They must be getting a shock.
After an early lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I agreed to go out on different walks to suit our own needs. We both had hair ice in mind as it seemed likely to be a good day to see some.
I walked though the park, along the Beechy Plains, down to the Murtholm and then along the road beside the river past Skippers Bridge. A few years ago, it was very rare to see hair ice, but today I saw many examples along the Beechy Plains and beside the river…
…and in places, almost every fallen branch seemed to be sprouting a white beard. For those interested, I have purloined an item from the Met Office website about the phenomenon.
The conditions required for the formation of hair ice are extremely specific, hence the relative scarcity of sightings. To form, moist rotting wood from a broadleaf tree is required with the presence of moist air and a temperature slightly below 0 °C. It is generally confined to latitudes between 45°N and 55°N.
In 2015 the scientists Hofmann, Mätzler and Preuß determined the exact cause of the hair ice phenomenon, linking its formation to the presence of a specific fungus called Exidiopsis effusa.
They discovered that the presence of the fungus led to a process called ‘ice segregation’. When water present in the wood freezes it creates a barrier that traps liquid between the ice and the pores of the wood. This creates a suction force which pushes water out of the pores to the edge of the ice surface where it freezes and extends outwards. As this repeats it pushes a thin ‘hair’ of ice out of the wood which is around 0.01 mm in diameter.
It is believed that an inhibitor present in the fungus allows the strands of ice to stabilise allowing the formation of the beautiful phenomena and allows the hair ice to keep its shape often for several hours.
As we are at latitude 55.1531 we must be at the very northern point where hair ice is to be seen if they are right.
This was my favourite example today.
As I crossed Skippers Bridge, I could see the first stirrings of mist forming down the river and I was hoping that I would be above it on my way back along the path from Broomholmshiels through the woods.
In the meantime, as I walked in the shadow of the trees along the road, there was no chance of mistaking it for a summer day…
…even though there was blue sky above my head.
My hopes of a sunny walk were slightly dashed when I met a couple walking down the road who remarked that it was, “misty up there.”
When I got “up there”, I could see the mist coming in from behind me…
…and when I started along the track to the woods, I could see more mist in front of me.
I stopped to put my Yaktrax on as I was coming to a grassy and often soggy and therefore icy part of my walk, and I noticed a decorative fence post and a posing robin while I was paused.
As I walked along the track through the woods…
…I was between two worlds. On one side was the world of mist…
…and on the other were the sunlit uplands.
I had a choice to make between continuing on the level path through the woods or rising above it by climbing the steep path to that stile on the wall that has figured in previous posts. I chose sunshine and views.
Ir didn’t take long to prove to myself that I had made a good decision. I snapped away with my phone and my camera hopefully to prove the point to patient readers too.
I was very happy.
As I looked over towards the hill that I had climbed yesterday, the mist looked as though it would flow up the valley and engulf the town.
Half way up the path to the stile, I came across three walkers whom I knew, and I was able to stop (purely out of politeness and not from any need to catch my breath of course) to have a socially distanced chat with them before hitting the last steep bit that took me to the stile.
Once again, it was a day of contrasts, ahead nothing but blue sky but below me me..
…twin rivers of mist rolling up the river.
The frozen ground made walking along the muddy quarry track less tricky than usual which was a bonus. Half way along the track, I met Carol, one of the ladies who take turns to sell me milk and honey in John’s shop. She was also out for a stroll. Before she went on her way…
…she told me that her son was at work in Carlisle where they had been sitting under freezing fog all day. Looking back towards England, I could quite believe it.
It looked as though the country was quite cut off from civilisation under a cloud.
Looking north as I got to the end of the track, it was a different world altogether.
In the midst of some very worrying rises in covid infections and with the political and economic scene looking very murky indeed, days like this are much needed to keep our spirits up. I had felt rather gloomy during the recent wet weather, but I was feeling so cheerful by this time that if I hadn’t been worried about upsetting the sheep, I might well have burst into song.
As it was, after noting the difficulty that the smoke from a Holmwood chimney pot had in determining which way the wind was blowing…
…I walked quietly back down the golf course.
…and got home in time for a cup of tea and the last slice of Christmas cake (shared with Mrs Tootlepedal naturally).
The combination of very wet weather followed by a spell of low temperatures may have kept me off my bike for ten days, but having hit my cycling mileage target for the year, I have been quite happy to walk out the remnants of 2020 with rain, mist, snow, ice and sunshine to keep me company. A lot of fine, calm and warm weather in 2021 would not come amiss though.
I rounded the day off with a cheerful family zoom with Mrs Tootlepedal, my brother and three vaccinated sisters, and followed that with a meal of ham and eggs with peaches and ice cream for afters, so this was a day that could confidently be entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life.
Although the failure to get a convincing flying bird of the day was a definite blot on my copybook.
Footnote: sorry about all the pictures, I found it hard not to use most of the ones that had given me so much pleasure when I was taking them, and thus went over my limit by a good few.