Wild thunderstorms and wild food!
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mid-August and most of the way through the second rather poor summer in
a row. Not incredibly wet as such (remember last years' floods?) and
not incredibly cold either but rather breezy most of the time - too
rough to get out to sea on our 16ft Dory most days - which is a
bit frustrating to say the least! It's been the kind of summer where
you get on with other stuff and hope for an Indian Summer in September!
Photogenic thunderstorms occurred on July 29th when I last spent a
whole afternoon/evening out with the cameras. There were more on August
12th but these were nowhere nearly as impressive. Fishing has involved
the occasional snatched day out, maybe once a week or even a fortnight
July 29th. A major thundery outbreak coincided for once with good
visibility, tremendous precipable water in atmospheric soundings and
the risk of getting stuck in flash-flooding. With all of that in mind,
and with the rainfall radar showing storms moving up Cardigan Bay, I
set off for the coast at Borth.....
Here's the view upon arrival. A beautiful sunny day was about to take a
different turn. The storm was moving along a N-S line of activity
which was itself slowly edging eastwards (the view is looking
south-west), so one of these cells would doubtless reach the beach in
due course. Lightning could be seen striking the sea a couple of miles
.....as new cells started to drop rain to the south of this mature one.
closer! The thunder was becoming a bit noisy now! The people in the sea
seemed unaware of the hazard though. It is a general rule of thumb in
thunderstorm lore that if you can hear thunder, you are at risk of
getting struck. If you can hear fairly loud thunder, you should always
seek shelter. I was OK in the Faraday Cage of my jeep, except when
popping out to take a quick pic!
line had now moved much closer to land, and this developing cell took
on a striking appearance (if you will forgive the pun). It very quickly
intensified and became electrically active....
....with this being my parting shot, grabbed quickly with my digital
compact. Soon I would lose visibility as the torrential rain started to
move in. Time to head inland....
...where I was greeted by further intense convection to my SE. To my
west, the storms over Borth were now crossing the Tarrenhendre ridge.
Thunder boomed from side to side of the Dyfi Valley. I love the sound
of thunder in the mountains - it is quite different to the sound over
flat areas due to the echoes from the mountainsides.....
A pause in the precipitation on the line to my west but strong
convection was ongoing as exemplified by the hard, dark cloudbase.
Before too long precip-shafts could be seen falling over the Corris
area. Cadair Idris forms the backdrop.
course a heavy and again thundery rainstorm was in progress. This was
the last intense one of the day and after it had passed it was time for
a pint back in Machynlleth!
August 12th was one of several thundery days around mid-month: however
most of the activity was in England and southernmost Wales. The 12th
did produce a cell with a nice gust-front on it.....
not comparable in quality to the July 29th activity!
shot of it passing over. Nowhere near as dramatic as the one I caught
in April at this same spot!
On the 14th, I decided to have a day off fishing. Thunder was again
forecast for S England and southernmost Wales. This time I saw the
storms - from Pwllheli! Thunderheads can be seen from many tens of
miles away because the cloud-tops are so high.
So - onto fishing. Why go fishing at all?
I hope this image shows
why, if not the one below! Good company, fresh air, beautiful scenery
and food as fresh as possible from the sea. This was taken on the Stone
Jetty at Aberystwyth, where I took my friend Bryony for an evening's
mackerel fishing - she caught her first fish and was delighted!
This haul of over 100 mackerel (later
split between the three of us who own the boat) was taken on the one
day recently that we were able to get out afloat. Fresh mackerel are
quite delicious - unbeatable really. The old wives' tale that mackerel
eat sewage is a bit wide of the mark - they are a fast, streamlined
predator that will eat any small fish they can catch. They work in huge
shoals to round up whitebait and sandeels and then set about them with
murderous ferocity - that's why people use shiny lures to catch them,
as when in a feeding frenzy they will snap at anything that looks
remotely like a small fish.
Grilled, barbecued or smoked the flavour is amazing. I also freeze down
a few dozen for winter bait as bits of mackerel will catch other fish
in their season, such as whiting. Nothing gets wasted!
As the weather deteriorated, the only fishing has been during the
occasional 12-hour window when winds died away and it was dry. Visits
to favourite bits of rocky coast were then in order - this is Porth
Iago on the N coast of the Lleyn Peninsula. This spot is good when the
tide is coming in as a riptide forms between the rocks here and the
small island. But on my last trip the rough weather had scattered the
mackerel shoals and I had to work hard to catch just a few.... luckily
there was a compensation on the way home:
...in the form of the first chanterelles of the year. If you get to
know your edible mushrooms (and very importantly, learn to distinguish
them from the poisonous ones), there are some great feasts to be had. I
found these in some woods not far from Dolgellau.....
So the day's catch was
enough for a tremendous feast for two. Grilled mackerel (with peppered
butter), chanterelles and runner beans (from my friend's garden) with
fried onion in white wine & cream, and organic new potatoes - fit
for a king indeed! The contents of this bucket had all been eaten just
a couple of hours later!
So - will we see any really summery weather this year? That's the
question everyone is asking. My gut feeling is that pattern-changes
always occur sooner or later - look how the 1976 drought suddenly ended
on the August bank holiday! So it's not a case of if, but when.
Hopefully within a week or so!!
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