How will you remember the summer of 2018? (Doesn’t it feel like it’s finished now!) long hot sunny days, nights when you can’t get cool and definitely can’t sleep, a lovely staycation in the good old UK..aah those summer nights...
Not sure I remember a similar long period of hot sunny weather and it's hard to remember when it first started. We were in Nethy Bridge at the end of May and the weather was already scorching. It seems to just have gone on and on since then with record temperatures, office workers demanding to wear shorts, warnings for people to avoid beaches in Cornwall, road surfaces melting and surely everyone having the best holidays ever in this glorious weather.
We were days away from a hosepipe ban up here in the North West with the scorched earth look the new norm for gardens, but then something happened. Along came the rain, torrential at times, bringing flooding and general gloom. Friend’s family weddings disrupted by storms in Wales washing away their marquee and reception – the same storm blowing away another friend's tent in the middle of their family holiday leading them to declare they were “never camping again” and then it was time for our much anticipated summer break.
Now I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees their future holidays through those proverbial rose tinted glasses! Long hot summer days, meals outside, glasses of wine and freshly prepared food, walks by the sea, climbs up mountains and sunsets lots of sunsets. All captured on our cameras and ready to post on our Instagram (@MWGU50 if you don’t already follow us!), Facebook and here.
Imagine our surprise as the big day loomed and we checked the forecast – Clouds? Rain? Gales? That couldn’t be right, that’s not our holiday! What should we pack? Shorts, woolly jumpers and hats? Probably better take the Smidge (those Scottish midges are very unpredictable and like to chew on one of us!)
We set off on our summer 2018 Scotland road trip (all roads seem to lead us there!) late at night in torrential rain making the drive up the M6 to Lockerbie a stressful time. The rain was so hard we couldn’t see in front of us (use your lights people!) and the required nip to the loo stop resulted in us getting soaked (from the weather that is!). We arrived to our first stop to find a balcony overlooking Annandale Water with a lovely walk round the lake which would all have been perfect if not for the rain!
Never mind, we’re always optimistic day 2 would surely be better? Indeed it was as we journeyed a couple of hours higher up to stop for lunch beside some nuclear subs (that was a really sobering moment as we ate our mozerella salad and realised how close we were to weapons of mass destruction). Sun's shining, Loch Long is beautiful, time to get the cameras out – cue torrential rain part two and a hasty retreat to the car. In Arnie’s words “I’ll (or we’ll) be back”!
Never mind (again!) lets continue our journey to our next stop in Inveraray – lots to photograph, time for a walk, admire the scenery… but we were met by that all too familiar rainy day sight in the UK. Steamed up shop windows, tourists wandering aimlessly in their anoraks, queuing for cups of tea in quaint little tea shops and the sad sight of children who would rather be doing anything other than this. There was a brief period of sunshine, so (excitedly) out came our cameras, for about five minutes til the heavens opened again! After a lovely evening meal at the Samphire Restaurant, we ventured out again to admire the clouds rolling across Loch Fyne – should have known better as they rolled above us and I am sure you can guess the rest!
Day 3 – this wet weather tale is nearly complete – the trip to Mull. Our plans had built in time to explore Oban before we caught the ferry to Mull, but once again torrential rain saw us spending a very long time shopping and drinking coffee in Tesco followed by lunch in a very steamed up car on Tesco car park! This is hardly holiday inspiration for you I am sure!
The ferry to the Isle of Mull was supposed to be (in my holiday dreams) us basking in glorious sunshine on the top deck capturing bird life, ships and the beautiful views with our cameras. Instead we had to empty our case to find some warm jumpers ( a vest top, long sleeved t shirt, hoodie and a coat and I was still cold!) just to wait in the queue and the boat trip was something else! I’m sure hardened seamen would disagree, but it almost felt like we were on the Poseidon adventure! Waves crashing over the boat, wind howling round your ears, rain and spray soaking you! We were real sailors (!) staying on deck outside the whole trip, mostly by ourselves, watching ghostly ships pass in the mist and finishing our day soaked to the skin, freezing cold, but strangely exhilarated by the whole experience!
Arrival on Mull in the late afternoon to dark skies and heavy rain, single track roads and one shop en route (hence the large amount of time spent in Tesco Oban!) 30 minutes to our destination along the side of a stormy loch past free roaming cows and sheep who watch your every move and the final stretch of road to our holiday cottage on the slopes of Ben More looking like a scene from a horror film! No mobile signal since we left the ferry, very dodgy internet in the cottage, weather forecast for the week rain , rain and more rain.
Here comes the summer?
I’m not sure what has happened over the past 6 weeks but we actually seem to be in the midst of a “real” Summer! Every year (or so it seems) weather forecasters (who I believe just guess!) promise us a long hot summer – the best Summer since 1976 – and every year we seem to have a couple of nice days and then just return to our usual and mostly expected Summer of cloud and drizzle with occasional sunshine. Are we disappointed? Maybe not as it is something we have to come to expect. In fact the weather all year rarely changes and sometimes it is hard now to distinguish between seasons.
1976 has become this fabled long hot Summer when reservoirs ran dry, beaches were packed, the sun shone every day and people were genuinely more happy. It is hard not to notice the difference in everyone’s mood when the sun shines on us. We both lived through 1976 – aged 10 and much less mature than 10 years olds in 2018. 1976 for me was a long family holiday on the Isle of Wight basking in the sunshine and coming home with a “healthy” tan. There was no need for sun protection in those days we had no idea what damage we might have been doing. In fact the most popular sun products of the time offered no protection and instead worked as tan accelerators! If your purse didn’t stretch to that my friend Pamela knew the recipe to make your own! (which actually used to sizzle on your skin due to the high oil content!). Picnics with home made ‘butties’ and “corporation pop” (cant tell you the disappointment when I found out this was tap water), playing out with your friends ‘til at least 9 o’clock, fun in the blow up paddling pool and lots and lots of ice creams! I have no real recollection of drought conditions, hose pipe bans or uncomfortable sleeping conditions and, in Chris’ words, wasn’t every childhood Summer just like that?
The following 40+ years (that makes me feel so old) have had nice Summers with intermittent sunshine and even short bursts of extreme heat. Our daughter’s graduation in 2013 was a boiling hot day and how they managed to get everyone through it without a fainting incident was remarkable. We left shortly after for a family holiday to Paris where the temperature hit 42 degrees and leaving your air conditioned hotel each morning was like walking into an oven. In an altogether familiar pattern this was soon replaced by cooler, rainy weather but at least you could sleep each night and your grass stayed green!
It's hard to pinpoint when this year’s glorious Summer began. The Winter was cold and seemed to stretch for an eternity. We were lucky and avoided any snowfall, but the rest of the country suffered. Spring started with a record cold for early March, the Summer clothes remained firmly at the back of everyone’s wardrobes while we all remained in thick jumpers, boots and woolly socks (I have to say at this point I love my boots and would happily wear them all year). Shortly into April we began to have forecasters promising the hottest weather we had had in April for many, many years. Time to put the boots away? Maybe not, they do get forecasts wrong (a lot!) but right on cue along came temperatures almost in the 30’s and our first spell of unseasonably hot weather began.
Although it didn’t remain at that level of heat, that appears to have been the start of this long hot Summer. A trip to London (which we'll write about soon) that required some adult clothes (tights and suits – although not together) one of us sweated while the other perspired all the way there and all the way back – we even had to buy some more sunglasses as we were completely unprepared.
The May school holidays bought record temperatures again. We were staying in the highlands of Scotland so had sensibly packed our jumpers and waterproofs and couldn’t quite believe the weather we had. Long hot Summer days (all week!) with glorious sunsets – I even had to buy some shorts (might have been the first pair since 1976!).
Doesn’t it feel like that has now become our weather? Sunshine every day, temperatures in the high 20’s and even the low 30’s. Wimbledon without any cancelled matches, people barbecuing every night, strange white tan lines where watches and bracelets sit plus the age old question of should you wear your socks with your sandals! It even feels a bit odd when you see clouds.
The sunshine is beautiful, clear blue skies, long hot days and glorious sunsets - but oh how I wish it would cool down at night. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can't sleep uncovered (does this echo back to childhood days when you felt safest under a blanket?). My first attempt at growing my own sweet peas seems to be doomed to failure – ‘What does it mean Mum if they’ve gone all crispy?’ A 10k walk, which we frequently do at the weekend, leaves you drained and exhausted and where does your appetite for anything other than ice cream go?
We’re days away from a hosepipe ban, local moorland fires are still causing problems for our hard working fire service and we are all exhausted from a lack of good sleep, but the whole country, sick of Brexit and politics, austerity and disruption (rail firms I mean you) have had their mood lifted by the sight of a big yellow ball in the sky sending down its warmth. Coupled with the completely unexpected progress of England in the World Cup, drinks outside with friends and families, no need to wear your coat (or boots!) and the general feeling of wellbeing - Summer 2018 is turning into one we will all remember and hopefully for all the right reasons! And maybe just maybe 2018 will become the "new" 1976?
We’ve never considered that we live in a high risk area for any natural disasters - big or small. There have on occasions been earthquakes – very, very small earthquakes reaching the dizzy heights of 2 or 3 on the Richter scale. I think I remember once that somewhere local had a tiny little tornado which knocked a few bins over, but on the whole we live in a relatively sheltered (by the Pennines) area which probably doesn’t feature highly on any emergency planning list. How strange it has been this week to find one of our local areas propelled to national stardom for what has been declared a ‘major’ incident.
Winter Hill, visible to most people around our end of Lancashire/Greater Manchester and instantly recognisable from the television mast which sits atop it. Popular with walkers, runners and cyclists – families out for day trips, horse riders, dog walkers and if it snows it’s the first place most people go with their sledge! Visit Rivington on any Sunday or bank holiday and you’ll find the car parks of the local barn full of motorbikes old and new. The view from the pike stretches for miles and on a clear day you will not only see the towns of Wigan, Bolton and Chorley but in the distance you will make out familiar landmarks of Manchester city centre, Liverpool, Blackpool and even the hills of Wales. Walk further up to the transmitters and the view is breathtaking, literally, as even on our clear day, it is almost always breezy! Indeed it’s only a couple of months since we ventured up to the masts for one of our Sunday strolls (see below).
2018 has already produced the longest heatwave most of us can remember. Glorious blue skies every day since late May, wall to wall sunshine, high temperatures (stuffy nights…) and as a result parched, dry grass and moorlands posing an ever increasing risk of fire.
During the last week of a June a moorland fire broke out on Saddleworth Moors – about 25 miles East of where we live - visible across most of Manchester and beyond creating a plume of smoke NASA could photograph from space. Before this was under control the already stretched fire services then had to contend with a second fire breaking out on Winter Hill just west of Bolton and which dominates the view from our bedroom window – about 8 miles away. Without any let up in the weather both fires soon grew out of control and both were declared major incidents with hundreds of firefighters and dozens of engines and helicopters involved.
The plumes of smoke from the fires have filled our skies morning and evening for almost a week now. Thankfully for us the wind has never blown the smoke towards us although at times the smell of burning has been overpowering and we have awoken most mornings coughing. And it has been a bit surreal to be able to watch a national news story live from the comfort of your bedroom!
We are at least 8 miles away from Winter Hill and can only imagine the impact the fires are having on the affected areas and particularly on the fire service supported by colleagues from across the country and members of our armed forces. They are working tirelessly to get the situation under control in appalling conditions.
Uncomfortably, the smoke has proven irresistible to photograph. Beautiful and hypnotising- stretching for miles and miles around our local area and when the sun begins to set behind the smoke clouds the colours of the sky are once again breathtaking – purples, reds, yellows and a bright pink sun. We have kept our distance and photographed with a long lens but in this world of people feeling it is their right to get the best shot it has not been surprising that the police have had to issue warnings to drone pilots hampering the helicopters and even had to rescue a member of the public who managed to get close to the fires (after ignoring the Police and Fire Service cordon) then collapsed with smoke inhalation problems!
As this is being written the smoke in our area has disappeared or at least decreased, so maybe the work of the fire crews is beginning to have an impact, but it will need a really good downpour to do the job properly as peat can stay burning under ground for a long time. So whilst we’ve got a proper summer this year I’m sure a lot of people won’t be too sorry to have some rain soon but until then lets be thankful we have dedicated professionals trying to contain the situation and leave them to do what needs to be done.
After what seems to have been a very long winter, with parts of the country being deluged with snowfall and bad weather (as is common in our little part of the UK we seem to always miss the worst extremes of the weather - possibly due to being on the sheltered side of the Pennines) towards the end of April saw the sun finally make an appearance with the hottest April temperature in 70 years, 29.1C (84.4F), being recorded in London.
We usually go out and about with our cameras every weekend and when we have time during the week, evenings too. Everywhere has looked very bleak with bare trees, spring flowers only just beginning to appear and grey skies, but all this changed almost overnight last week.
As the sun came out the skies turned blue, leaves began to appear on the trees and we even spotted a bluebell poking its head above the soil! (early for April?). Sadly, the sun and the heat seemed to have a detrimental effect on the rows of very late yellow daffodils, which appeared to have wilted and died almost overnight.
A morning mid week walk on the #warmestdayoftheyear (don’t forget the hashtag!) with the sunshine casting glorious shadows in the woodlands and on fences and buildings - followed by a Saturday afternoon walk, which saw blue skies and a temperature of 22C (almost 72F) plus a few complaints about how hot we were! The fields and paths were full of walkers and dogs, teenagers playing music and spending time together in the woods and even a tractor ploughing his dusty fields. Fields of yellow rapeseed and the sounds of cricketers playing in the sunshine. It definitely felt like summer!
Fingers crossed that these idyllic few days are not summer 2018 and that there is plenty more to come!
Life and other