WINTER 2003-4 - PART 2:


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On the 28th of December my Grandmother died at the ripe old age of 92. A lot of time in my early years was spent with my Grandparents and they imparted to me their love of landscape and the natural world. This page is dedicated to their contribution.

"Expeditions" were a feature of my early years. Here is an old photo from circa. 1973 in which I'm sat on a rock next to my sis, with (L to R) my Grandfather, Dad & Grandmother. I can't remember where this was but obviously on a hilltop somewhere. We usually were!

My Grandmother used to produce the most elaborate picnics out of what would seem an impossibly small rucksack. One we used to love was the big thermos full of hot sausages! She was good at that type of thing.

The first mountain my Grandparents climbed together was Y Garn above Llyn Ogwen, way back in the 1930s. My Grandfather had several seasons in the Alps but his - their real love was the Black Cuillin of Skye. Their house in Coventry was called "Coruisk".

In 1988 I had the first chance for a look myself, climbing peaks that had been sacred names to me 15 years earlier. They were every bit as amazing as had been portrayed to me. The pic above is on the way up Sgurr nan Gillean, with Am Basteir (and its famous tooth) and Sgurr a' Fionn Choire along the ridge to the L.

But back to the present. The sad news arrived that evening and so I found myself in the Midlands, where the family live.

Needing a breather from the pressures that inevitably accompany such situations I decided to give storm-chasing a go in the Midlands on the 6th of January. Some promising weather was about but I soon started to miss my favourite Welsh foregrounds.

This attempt is taken from the M42 bridge just south of Solihull. A partial view of quite a nice storm!

There are very few places to stop safely in this area and fewer still with decent views. So I took to the back-lanes, where as a lad I had cycled, trying to recall places with a bit more sky available....

I found one or two worthwhile spots although by then the convection had backed off considerably. Here's one place for future reference. It is the top of Weatheroak Hill, which is near the small town of Alvechurch. The tower is an old windmill.

On the morning of the funeral a squall-line passed through, dropping torrential rain, hail and snow in the core. Lightning flickered and thunder grumbled across the suburban landscape. There isn't a photo, but it cheered me up a little bit, thinking that some things are just more permanent than others...

On Sunday 11th I was homeward bound. The charts had indicated instability over the S and W and I drove through one Cb giving sleet and small hail near Bromsgrove, before seeing a more solid-looking line of storms as I crossed Clee Hill...

This was taken at about 1300 near Ludlow. It was clear that the storms were more intense to the south but I didn't have the opportunity to make an extensive detour. I continued west into Wales, through mucky unphotogenic clouds, sleet and hail showers....

....while, 70 miles to the south, this was ongoing! Taken by Roger Scott from near Watchet on the Somerset coast, and sent to me by Robert Tarling - my gratitude to both - this is a shot all UK storm fans would dream of getting! The waterspout was estimated to be 2000 feet high and it made landfall (= a tornado) but dissipated shortly afterwards without doing much damage, so far as is currently known. It shows many classic features, emanating from a lowering in a rain-free part of the cloudbase, and is likely to have been related to a rotating updraught. TORRO are busy investigating it: had it passed through a built-up district the results could have been serious.

I wonder what the angler was thinking???

Meanwhile, I continued my way westwards....

...and so I finally descended the Llanidloes-Machynlleth mountain road. The heavy showers had given way to a cloud-canopy, only broken here and there. One such break appeared momentarily, bathing the valley in front of the Glaslyn escarpment. I stopped, vast landscapes all around me, breathing in the clean mountain air. I was home, and here was my greeting. Out of darkness, light.

My Grandparents were apt to say, when I was hacked off about things as a teenager (as most teenagers are on and off), "Never mind. There's always the hills". They were 100% right. Thanks, both of you.



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