This winter, in the British Isles, has been consistently warm, wet and windy. An unbelievable quantity of rain has fallen resulting in a succession of serious floods in Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire, South Wales, Scotland... Here in the southeast our rainfall has been steady over the winter months and has resulted in gradual saturation making walking on country paths difficult and unpredictable.
So far as conditions on the Vanguard Way go, any period of rain or wind will now be causing local problems of mud and flood together with fallen branches/trees. At the far south of the route last week there were problems with flooding in Alfriston and along the Cuckmere valley. Coupled with high tides the risk of disruption of a planned walk along the southern part of the Vanguard Way is high. Elsewhere conditions will be challenging until there is a significant dry spell because the ground water levels are so high.
This weekend we have had a bit of a change of weather in that the unseasonable warmth has given way to much cooler temperatures and, in the case of Oxted, some snow!
We took the opportunity of doing a short loop from Oxted, over the M25 via the footbridge to the section of Vanguard Way which 'shares' the route with the North Downs Way along the foot of the Downs and across the Greenwich Meridian. (Note our shared plaque with the North Downs Way at that point).
Our snow was the sticky variety and trees and bushes had been picked out with a coating of snow. Oak trees are easy to spot with their contorted skeletons.
As we neared the M25 footbridge Oxted Downs came into view - not quite enough snow for the children to have made it over to these slopes with their toboggans this time. Or perhaps 'health and safety' has prevailed as there were always a crop of broken collar bones and ankles from these rather 'black run' slopes.
Temperatures were close to freezing and snow was falling off trees and bushes as our walk progressed. The going was very soft, especially on the fields along the link path where your boots were constantly needing to be tugged from the muddy grasp below the snow. These fields are generally damp so it is expected that the situation will be worse than usual.
On the look out for wildlife footprints, we were only rewarded with small rabbit prints and dogs (or possibly foxes).
Different types of tree looked quite different with their snow cloaks - the long buds of beech, the thorns of blackthorn and the keys of ash holding onto bigger clumps of snow. The edge of one of the cereal fields had not been harvested, possibly to provide winter food for wildlife, the 'ears of corn' looking very attractive with their snowy adornments.
At the end of the fields the Vanguard Way parts from the North Downs way and descends towards Pitchfont Farm and Titsey. Here it appeared to be snowing but the falling snow was actually coming off the branches above as the thaw set in.
If you would like to look at individual photos again, here's the link to the Picasa Web Album:
|First snow of 2016|