Rising above the grey

Rather than ushering in the Mediterranean to the UK, climate change is bringing increasing greyness interspersed with ‘extreme weather events’.  Gradual descent into winter in November used to be marked by a week of hard frosts, sometimes with temperatures lower than the rest of the winter.  Not in recent years.  It’s just been boringly uniform greyness with Covid-isolation, the slow-march to the Brexit guillotine, cronyism and incompetence in Number 10, and the blatherings and attempts to subvert democracy of Donald-the-Terrible (Loser) of the Disunited States of America, further darkening the gloom.

My way of easing the grey out of my brain is to get out into the fresh air and up the mountain behind the house.  Even when the weather is wet, windy and overcast it’s very therapeutic.  I do it most days.  But few were as exhilarating as Friday 27 November.

I woke to cloudless sky and shagpile carpet of frost.  No gardening in this.  Great for going up the mountain.  Leisurely breakfast.  Checked e-mails and newsfeeds.  Checked the conditions before changing to leave.  Shock. Thick mist had filled the view.  I could barely see across the lawn to the Blue House (40 feet) nevermind see the sky or across the valley.

I had seen these conditions before though not for a few years.  A module on climatology and weather forecasting in university gave an inkling of what was going on.  Even more excited now.  I don’t always carry a camera when I go out but I packed my Canon EOS in a rucksack and pocketed my SX720.  If this was going to be as good as I hoped I didn’t want to miss out.  A brief pause to photograph frost-fringed leaves in the garden.

I strained my ears crossing the road to reach the farm track.  The mist was so thick that ears gave more warning than eyes as the road is used as a rat run, cars rounding a blind bend and not bothering to slow from 60mph as they come into the 30 limit.  I could barely see across the width of the Mon and Brecon Canal but as the track rose towards the farm at the top I knew I was right, blue sky appearing vaguely through the whispy top of the mist. 

Climbing the field towards the ridge, the sun was breaking through, copper coloured beech and oak at the edge of the wood leading up to bright blue.  Looking back the entire valley was filled with mist.

By the time I crossed the track halfway up the slope and into the next field the colours were intense, partly because the air was so clear but partly because eyes were dazzled coming out of the grey.

The Folly Tower was bathed in warm sunlight, the whole of the Vale of Usk to the east an undulating grey-white sea.  In the far distance a pencil-thin black line marked the top of the western edge of the Wye Valley.  The end of the ridge disappeared into the mist, marked only by a small clump of trees above Pontypool Park. To the South the entire the urban sprawl of Pontypool-Cwmbran-Newport was gone.  Further south again, the Severn Estuary and beyond that England, where on a good day you can pick out individual fields, were lost.

I was soon joined by another guy who, like me, had anticipated the same phenomenon and taken his camera for a walk.  We exchanged friendly banter about the relative merits of Canon and Nikon, reluctant to leave the ridge-top.    Descending into the thick mist didn’t appeal , the temporary cure for SAD was too alluring and the warmth of mid-day winter sun intoxicating.  

But eventually it had to be. The way back along ridge drops, heading towards the gloom.  Looking back, the Folly Tower was still bathed in sunlight. 

It was still clear to the west but the great sea of mist on the east was rising and as I dropped down further it swept over in a long tongue and started crossing a field on the other side of the ridge-top path.  Within minutes I was in the grey.

I had watched the mist licking across the ridge-top but then, even more rapidly than it came, it disappeared and I was in the sunshine again.  A brief but pleasant respite before I turned to drop steeply back down to the valley and the mist-shrouded house.

But at least I had got the grey out of my brain.

This entry was posted in Grey Britain, Health and humour, Hiking, Landscape, Monmouthshire, Mountains, Nature, Photography, Pontypool, Reflections, Wales, Weather, Winter and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rising above the grey

  1. Alison Crane says:

    What a wonderful, evocative description of a memorable day for you.

  2. Stu Newland says:

    Hi Barry,

    I hope this email finds you well, and surviving (mentally!) lockdown in a UK winter!

    Thanks for all your blog posts during the year. I alway enjoy reading your descriptions of walks – they whisk me away from my desk for a moment to being on the walk with you – be it the sun of Simi or the mists of Pontypool! (I love that photo of the leaves with the frost on them by the way – you could probably sell that to a Stock website).

    We hope that you have a good Christmas, and that it hasn’t been disrupted too badly by the new restrictions.

    The change hasn’t affected us too badly; we were planning on spending a few nights at Jen’s parents in Glasgow, but we’ll now go across just for Christmas day. Our Greek neighbours managed to make it back to Rhodes just before the new restrictions – but I imagine organising a journey back could be quite a challenge!

    Thanks so much for all your financial support of us and our work during the year – we’re very grateful, and we hope you’ve been encouraged through the stories we share in our updates.

    I’m hoping that I might get the chance to see you sometime in the not too distant future. I’d planned to come down to Cardiff in March – but alas that wasn’t to be. Hopefully it won’t be too long!

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas.

    Much love from us all, Stu, Jen, Jonah & Toby

    Stuart Newland

    Address: 9 Shoolbraids, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8ER, United Kingdom Phone: +44 (0) 7739 395859 Email: stunewland@googlemail.com Skype: stunewland

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