Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Mixed Bag

After such a lovely day on Sunday it was back to wet and windy on Monday.
It rained on and off most of the day but it never actually poured down managing 3.4mm by the end of the day. Unless we gets lots of rain today, Tuesday, it looks like December rainfall for us will be a little below average even though other parts of the county are experiencing flooding. The worst of the wind saved itself for lunchtime when we also managed a little sunshine at the same time just for good measure.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Good Timing

Sunday was a lovely December day with plenty of sunshine, light winds, not too cold and no rain until late on into the evening.

We decided to make the most of the weather and pay a visit to Wentworth Castle. It’s just into South Yorkshire a short 20 minute car journey away but somewhere we haven’t visited before. I had a quick check on the Internet to make sure it was open and pick up a few details such as that it has 500 acres of parkland, a deer park and woodland trails so it appeared ideal for a short afternoon’s visit.

I did think about taking my SLR camera with its 500mm zoom lens so that if we did get close to any deer I’d be able to get some good shots, but it is a heavy beast to carry around and Sue would be taking her 1200mm lens equivalent Panasonic camera so I decided to leave the beast at home and make do with a point and shoot camera for my pictures.
We arrived and made our way to the parkland following the signs away from the visitor centre.
This was our first view of the parkland and not a deer in sight, well there probable is it’s just that no amount of zoom power is going to get a decent shot of them. As we both admired the view and were busy firing off a few first shots some staff arrived carry bags of oats to feed the deer. Rather surprisingly we had stumbled upon deer feeding time and the bags of oats were emptied onto the grass for the deer. There weren't any deer in sight waiting to be fed, however, after shouting “Come on” several times deer started making their way from all around the parkland for their share of the oats.
How close do you want your deer? As you can see a zoom lens wasn't required. The deer came up to almost touching distance provided you kept very still but the slightest movement would spook them.

This stag was in charge and spent most of the feeding time surrounded by his females making taking a good picture of him a little tricky. Eventually though when he’d had enough to eat he posed for a few pictures.

We found out that over Christmas and up to New Year’s Day the deer are fed each lunchtime so we’d been very fortunate to arrive at just the right time. After the deer had had their fill we took a little stroll around some of the parkland before returning to the visitor centre for a coffee.

We’ll have to make a return visit to have a look around the 50 acres of formal gardens and the restored Victorian Conservatory.

If I’d looked at their web site more closely I’d have known that the deer feeding time was 13:00 - 13:15 although then it wouldn't have been such a nice surprise would it. 

Watch out for “King of Wentworth Castle” coming on Sue’s Wordless Wednesday blog post later this week.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

From the Cutting Room Floor

Friday turned out to be fairly typical windy December Day. It was a mild day with some sunny spells and a few isolated showers but spoilt by the strong wind. Saturday was much better as the wind abated at last.

I just felt a little sorry for these Christmas Day visitors to the garden who didn't make either mine or Sue’s previous posts. 

Friday, 27 December 2013

A Little Break From The Gales

Christmas Day and Boxing Day provided some relief from the constant battering from the gale force winds of the last few weeks. Of course it couldn't last and by mid evening on Boxing Day the wind was getting up again and it started to rain.

Boxing Day was cold and sunny during the day. 
Our greenhouse was still frosted over in the middle of the morning and it was the first time this winter that the bird bath needed defrosting.

Then mid evening the wind returned and has continued through the night and into Friday morning with no sign of a let up. The forecast is for the gale force winds to continue all day.

I don’t know how the weather forecasters measure how windy a month has been other than to quote maximum wind speeds but that doesn't really give any details of how many windy days there’s been. So here’s my method. My weather station records wind gust speeds and it’s possible using the data output from this and then some manipulation in an Excel spreadsheet to produce a chart showing how many gusts at particular speeds have been recorded. 
For ease of comparisons between years all Decembers values from 2011 to 2013 are plotted next to one another. It turns out December and January are our windiest months of the year with January 2012 taking the unwanted number one position. There’s still a few days to go but it’s clear that not only have we had lots of windy days this month but that the gusts have also been the strongest I've recorded with 3 gusts in the 36-40 mph range. December 2010 was an exception with very little wind but that turned out to be one of the coldest December's on record.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Guests Who Came to Dinner

Cold but no wind or rain and some sunny periods meant Christmas Day was pretty good weather wise.

Here are a few of our feathered friends who called by for Christmas dinner.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Got Our Christmas Veggies

Tuesday afternoon was cold and breezy but we decided a quick trip to the plot was in order to harvest some fresh vegetables for our Christmas lunch. We didn't have any intentions of hanging about on the plot just harvest and leave.

As it happened Sue couldn't resist a little bit of video of our plot neighbour’s mini greenhouse which has taken a real battering from the winds over the last month or so. The surprise is that it’s still standing although I use that term in its loosest sense.

There’s a temptation to think the wind is going to win at any minute but on each successive visit over the last few weeks its condition has deteriorated.
Once the videoing was completed it didn't take long to harvest some carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and leeks and we were heading back home for a hot drink.
Wonder if we’ll need to do any more harvesting before the New Year.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary http://ossettweather.blogspot.co.uk/ author M Garrett

Missed Most of Monday’s Bad Weather

As it turned out Monday wasn't the best day to visit the plot and harvest our Christmas dinner vegetables but compared to other parts of the country we got off very lightly. It was a dull, windy day with rain on and off for most of the day but nothing too drastic 8.8mm and certainly nothing out of the ordinary for the middle of December. We’ll have to see what tomorrow brings now as more rain and strong winds are forecast.
Overnight Monday into Christmas Eve it was windy around midnight but then died down into the early hours of the morning. Another 3.8mm of rain in the early ours of Tuesday have lifted our monthly total to 47.6mm which is nothing out of the ordinary. Christmas Eve morning is breezy with some sunny intervals looking a possibility so it looks like harvesting some fresh vegetables should be on for this afternoon.
As it wasn't too good outside, on Monday we shared some indoor kitchen duties. I made a couple of pies. The one on the left is beef and onion in red wine, a little different from the steak and ale pie which seems to be very popular at the minute. Alongside it is a greengage pie. This is a first I've never tried them in a pie before probably because we've never had such a good summer harvest. I'm not sure the fruit is firm enough to stay put once a slice of pie is removed. I’ll soon find out.

Sue used up some of our red cabbage, Huzaro to make one of our favourite vegetable dishes braised red cabbage.
We just need to make a dash down to the plot sometime on Tuesday to harvest a few fresh vegetables.

Monday, 23 December 2013

On Alert

Sunday ended up not been a bad sort of a day after early morning rain cleared away. It was a blustery day with some sunny spells. We decided not to go to the plot to harvest our fresh vegetables for Christmas day. With the whole country on rain and wind alert that might have been a bad decision. If Monday turns out to be as bad as it’s forecast there might just be a harvesting window on Tuesday.
As you can see the forecast for Tuesday is sunny, cold and windy just the sort of weather for picking a few Brussels sprouts. 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Old Going Out - New Coming Up

Saturday marked the shortest day as the winter solstice occurred at 17:11. In Leeds it meant just 7hr 24m 39s of daylight but it will now gradually increase each day until 21 June 2014 when we’ll have 17hr 06m 06s of daylight. Officially, on day one, for 22 December 2013 it means an increase in daylight of only 3 seconds so I’m not expecting to notice the difference. By the end of the month it will be up to 1m 07s longer.

In the garden the last of the roses is still attempting to flower. 
I don’t suppose the lengthening daylight is going to do much for this particular specimen that hasn't received its winter prune just yet. On the other hand…
In our spring garden the bulbs are heading up looking for the light. It will be a while before they are flowering and I suspect there’s every chance of them finishing up under a covering of snow or ice before then. It’s good to know that they are on their way and daylight hours are increasing. It’s a pity that the worst of the winter weather hasn't arrived just yet. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A Cold Anniversary

Friday wasn't too bad a day. It was cold and sunny in the morning with clouds gradually thickening up and the wind increasing in strength as we moved form afternoon into early evening.
The 20 December marks the fourth anniversary of the coldest day recorded by my weather station. At 08:00 on the 20 December 2010 the temperature had fallen to -10.3°C. It did warm up a little bit through the day making it to a rather chilly -2.5°C at best. Thankfully that remains the coldest temperature I've recorded. For comparison purposes here’s the same weather chart for that day in 2010.
It’s difficult to believe it could have been that cold in December especially as this year the temperature has hardly dropped below 0°C let alone stayed below freezing all day.

Our herbs came ready frozen that year. This year our rosemary is in flower in December in marked contrast to four years ago.
This is my blog post for that coldest day

Friday, 20 December 2013

1461 And All That

Thursday started off on a lovely sunny note if a little on the cool side. By lunchtime however it had clouded over and it remained distinctly chilly.

Thursday was another opportunity to photograph some steam locomotive action reasonably locally on the East Coast Main Line. Another train was heading to York for some Yuletide festivities this time it was the Cathedral Express once again from London Kings Cross. 
As it was such a nice sunny morning we set off looking for a different location for our photography expedition. Our journey took us close by the village of Towton where in 1461 records suggest one of the bloodiest battles ever fought on English soil took place. I'm guessing it was before the game of cricket had been invented as back then the rivalry between the Yorkists and Lancastrians was about who should be king of England rather than who had the best cricket team. Whenever we pass this little church all by itself in a field close to the village I think of the battle.
In 1461 England strangely had not one but two kings. One Henry VI had the support of the Lancastrians whilst the other Edward IV had the support of the Yorkists. It wasn’t a satisfactory situation and couldn't last. There were several battles around the country between the warring factions which eventually ended at the Battle of Towton on Palm Sunday 29 March 1461. The Yorkists routed the Lancastrians and folk law has it that Cock Beck ran red with blood. 
This cross was erected to commemorate the battle that took place. Historical records of the numbers of casualties vary from around 9,000 to as many as 30,000. There’s now a little trail to walk along from which some of the sites where the battle took place can be viewed. As for the little church I'm not sure what, if any, are its connections to this battle it’s just that every time I drive past it, it reminds me of the famous Battle of Towton.

We did manage to find somewhere to take some photographs of 4464 Bittern steaming towards York with The Cathedrals Express.
This locomotive is a sister to Union of South Africa which we saw on Saturday. Both locomotives are on their historical stomping ground where they hauled the London and North Eastern Railway’s companies high speed express trains, such as “The Flying Scotsman”, from London to Scotland. This was in competition with their arch rivals London Midland and Scottish Railways who operated on the West Coast Main line from London to Scotland. As far as I know the rivalry didn't lead to any battles such as the one at Towton.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

December Record Breaker?

On Tuesday we swapped a little mildness for some sunshine and had what turned out to be a very nice day. Wednesday was back to normal for this December with much milder windier conditions making it not such a nice day at all.

As forecast the rain and worst of the wind arrived mid evening but didn't hang around for long. Although it was windy it wasn't anything like the ferocity of a couple of weeks ago and the rain amounted to 6.4mm which is nothing out of the ordinary.
So far just past the middle of the month it’s been a mild month - but just how mild has it been? I normally use the Central England Temperature data set which goes back to 1772 and is maintained by the Met Office. If you fancy doing a quick check on my graphs all the figures can be found here.

Now I'm not guaranteeing that I've done all the figures correctly but I would hazard a guess that these are the mildest 10 Decembers based on daily average temperatures based on this data set. 
After 18 days the average temperature based on my weather station is 7.23°C so it’s just creeping into the top ten mildest Decembers since 1772. Isn't it odd that we discuss mild winters as though they were a new phenomenon but 6 years in the current top ten occurred in the 1800’s. 
If the trend continues to the end of the year we could well see this December taking over one of the slots in the bottom half of the top ten. It’s going to be a real blow when some cold wintry weather eventually sets in.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Giant Veg

Monday continued the spell of mild December weather although once again it was a cloudy dull day.

On the plot this year we seem to have grown some rather large winter vegetables. Our carrots and cabbages have produced some giant sizes this year and the latest to add to this list is our parsnips - Gladiator.
I’m not going to claim that the whole row of parsnips are this large but I'm amazed that firstly the parsnip root actually managed to go so deep into the soil and secondly I managed to dig it up without breaking the root. So far our giant sized vegetables haven’t lost any of their flavour due to their size.
A bit of a wash and these two look good enough for the supermarket shelf except that they probably break the supermarket code of practice on size. Being this big they wouldn't fit on the shelves nicely. The smaller looking parsnip is  more like the size I expect to be harvesting. The three parsnips weighed in at 3.5kg.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas Specials

Saturday was yet another mild day for December although it was windy at times which meant it didn't necessarily feel as mild as it was. Sunday’s temperature reached 13.9°C the mildest of the month but it was another rather blustery day without any sunshine.

Saturday was a day for indulging in steam train photography.  Christmas is a time of year when the steam charters head for York for Christmas shopping specials. This Saturday was extra busy with two steam hauled charter trains each called “The Christmas White Rose” arriving in York around lunchtime one having travelled from London and the other from Birmingham.

As the trains were due to arrive in York only 10 minutes apart photographic locations were very limited if as, I did, you wanted to catch both trains. The other problem is finding a photogenic location which is almost impossible on the East Coast Main Line. It’s not like a visit to the Settle and Carlisle line or capturing pictures in Cumbria.
This is the first train which came from Birmingham.  This train was early, as we arrived and were just preparing to get out of the car we heard the tell-tale whistle so had to spring into action just in time to catch the train as it sped past. 
This is the train from London, Kings Cross running exactly on time just a few miles outside York.

It was amazing to see how many enthusiasts had turned out to see the two locomotives. The opportunity to see two steam locomotives working on the main line within a few minutes of each other is a rare opportunity these days.
This is just a small part of the crowd that came to watch. Even the police arrived at one point. I'm not sure whether they came to watch too or felt there might be a need for a bit of crowd control. They unfortunately didn't bring any horses - Sue likes to have something to photograph besides steam engines - just a police van. In a few minutes it was all over and everyone went off to download their prized pictures and add them to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or whatever.

Locomotive details for anyone interested are as follows:

Locomotive No 1
Ex Great Western Railway Castle Class no 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe hauled the Christmas White Rose from Tyseley Warwick Road (Birmingham) to York. This locomotive was built in March 1936 being withdrawn from service in December 1963. Its restoration to allow it to run again on the main line was only completed in October 2008 when it ran under its own steam for the first time in 45 years. Vintage Trains Limited were the tour organisers.

Locomotive No 2
Ex London and North Eastern Railway A4 Class no 60009 Union of South Africa hauled the Christmas White Rose from London Kings Cross to York. This locomotive was built in 1937 and was withdrawn from British Railways service in June 1966. In July 1966 it was bought by John Cameron (a Scottish  farmer) who still owns the locomotive. The charter train was organised by The Railway Touring Company

Saturday, 14 December 2013


Friday was the mildest day of December to date with the daytime temperature reaching 12.6°C. Even more surprising the over night temperature Thursday into Friday only fell to 10.4°C very mild for the middle of December. 
The rain in the early hours of the morning amounted to 5.6mm bringing the monthly total up to 17.2mm around 50% of what we might expect by the middle of the month.

The mildest December in the last 25 years was in 1988 and at the moment this year is on a par with that record.
Rather strangely to beat that record the temperatures for the rest of the month will need to stay around the same or be slightly milder than the first half of the month.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Taking Advice

It was a cold start to Thursday with the temperature falling to -1.2°C in the early hours but then recovering well during the day to reach 11.7°C. It was a dull day with bits and pieces of drizzle throughout the day.
If you are a regular reader you’ll know we've used plenty of weed control fabric on the plot over the last year and been very pleased with the results. I did blog about how tricky it was to harvest our leeks through the fabric. CJ over at Above the River and Sue had suggested sort of rolling up the fabric as the leeks were lifted so that the leek had just pass through the hole in the fabric rather than the entire process of digging up the leek through the hole in the fabric if you get my meaning.
This how the fabric looked, buried along its edges to keep it place during windy weather. The empty holes show where leeks have already been harvested. I wasn't too keen on lifting one edge and then having to secure it again having dug up a few leeks. On Wednesday whilst I was waiting to give my bonfire the attention it demanded I thought I’d see if the rolling up method might work.
I uncovered the edge of the fabric, which was easier to do as the row of Prizetaker leeks adjacent to the edge had already been harvested, and rolled over the edge of the fabric.
I lifted a few leeks which as you can see came out intact without the root snapping off in the ground as had happened before.  I’d found a couple of lengths of old warped decking boards on my scrap timber pile and thought that they could be used to hold down the edge of the fabric.
The decking boards are wet and heavy so I'm hoping everything will stay put through the next spell of windy weather. If this method works it will avoid having to cut long slits in the fabric keeping weeding down to an absolute minimum.