2003-4 - PART 2:
A TRIP TO THE MIDLANDS AND THE BRISTOL CHANNEL
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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
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
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
This attempt is taken from the M42 bridge just
south of Solihull. A partial view of quite a nice
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
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
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
....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
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
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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