Going to extremes

It has been good to look back on my time in Greece during the summer, trekking in the mountains, swimming in the Aegean, warm sunshine ……..  but life can’t be lived in the past. It’s time to refocus.

I like extremes of weather.  My ideal is summer in Greece and winter in the Canadian Rockies, from plus to minus 35oC.  It’s the drabness of Grey Britain which gets me down.  So when on Friday 25 October the Met Office began forecasting an exceptional weather event, it aroused my interest.

The talk was of winds comparable with those of the Great Storm of 1987, known still as the ‘Michael Fish Hurricane’.(1)  The 2013 storm, dubbed the St Jude Storm because it was forecast to occur on the eponymous saint’s day, swept across the UK and northern Europe on 27-28 October.  Unlike the 1987 event, it was predicted with some considerable degree of accuracy and precautionary measures were taken which helped minimise the impact.  Even so, people were killed and in the UK an estimated 625,000 homes lost their electricity supply(2).

The effect in South Wales was less than areas further to the south in England but, with a degree of optimism, I was compelled to go out and walk to the top of the mountain behind the house.   I trekked to the top of Garn Wen at the end of afternoon of Sunday 27th when winds locally were forecast to be at their strongest and again, for a repeat performance, on the morning of Monday 28th.

The cobwebs were certainly blown away but I have known the winds on the mountain considerably stronger.  On a couple of previous occasions, in a col where the venturi effect is greatest, in order to make forward progress I had to dip my shoulder and angle my body into the wind and slide my feet along the ground to avoid being blown over.

In South Wales the St Jude Storm wasn’t that extreme.  It was more severe in southern England and in Denmark apparently gusts were recorded at 120mph.  Good fun though not dramatic, it certainly added the frisson of excitement I was looking for, enhanced and not at all dampened by the horizontal rain from the subtropical showers whizzing across from west to east driven by the wind.

The top of Garn Wen, the next band of cloud and heavy rain scudding across at high speed from the west

Looking north along the ridge at the top of Garn Wen, the next band of cloud and heavy rain scudding across at high speed from the west

A bonus on the way back, a small crop of Clitocybe geotropa soon made into soup

A bonus on the way back down, a small crop of Clitocybe geotropa soon made into soup

Tuesday brought a different focus.  Though the winds had died back, there was a backlog of heavy rain and continuing showers pumping into watercourses which meant that river flows would be high.  With a day of forecast sunshine the obvious target of interest was further west in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Waterfall Country which might well be at its most spectacular, enhanced by autumn colouring.

The waterfalls didn’t disappoint though with mild weather having delayed change in colour and then strong winds and heavy rain having swept leaves off the trees the colours were not as vivid as I had hoped.


Autumn in the pools left by water receding from the flat slabs of the river bed

Autumn leaves and water coloured by sediment

Autumn leaves and water coloured by sediment


Looking upstream from one fall to the next


…. getting closer


Water cascades over the edges of cliffs


The volume of water is impressive


Freezing the action: the pattern of rapidly falling water is mesmerising

1  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Storm_of_1987

This entry was posted in Autumn, Grey Britain, Hiking, Landscape, Mountains, Wales and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Going to extremes

  1. sarahsquall says:

    Lovely images, both visual and verbal. I like to see the gleaming white trig point on your hill with all its different back drops, perhaps there’s a photo series there? ‘Postcards from the hill.’

    • BarryH says:

      Thanks Sarah, good idea. I estimate that I have been up to the trig point close to 2000 times since we moved here in 1975. I never tire of it, the backdrop varies hugely.

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