I have discovered there’s one advantage in having stormy weather for weeks. Everything in my garden that was still standing despite being really vulnerable (the rowan) came down before Big Daddy struck yesterday.
Even so, you can never be sure, and the truly terrifying shipping forecast for the Irish Sea – ‘South veering southwest storm 10 to hurricane force 12, decreasing 6 to gale 8. High or very high becoming rough or very rough. Showers. Moderate or poor…’ – had me bringing the entire log pile into the house and metaphorically battening down the hatches, the actual battens all having been used to tether down the cold frame.
I must admit to liking storms. When I was a child I once had to be removed from the roof of the croft house (you could get on it easily because it hunkered down into the hill at the back) during a thunderstorm. I get this mad tendency from my parents, who would wake us up if night-time lightning was particularly good or the snow was falling beautifully. Storms can be exciting and even aesthetically pleasing – but yesterday was different. It moved rather too quickly from being exciting to being downright scary.
I consoled myself with the thought that the house, being almost 200 years old, has weathered storms like this before – it would have been a youngish 40 for the infamous Royal Charter storm, another Irish Sea hurricane-force-gust special, and it evidently came through that intact. (But it probably didn’t have a greenhouse in 1859.) And my stove would come in useful if there were power cuts which, amazingly, we barely had in the end. Even though the storm seemed to go on for ever.
The first thing I noticed this morning was that it was difficult to see out.
The windows, and this is a side window rather than one in the direct line of fire, were caked in salt. The bay leaves have even scratched lines in it as they were lashed about in the gale. If the glass was like that, what about the plants?
It was with some trepidation that I set foot in the garden. I started by taking some leftovers to the compost bin – the lid had blown off and the compost area was full of feathers from the old pillow I’d emptied into it. Retrieved lid, ignored feathers, turned round to check slates (AOK) and noticed the effect of the salt on the skimmia hedge which masks the alluring view of the oil tank
and, of course, the small heap of Western Red Cedar logs that didn’t quite make it into the log store. Forgot about them, have remembered now – so the Stripping of the Skimmia at least served some purpose (but quite what purpose the Browning of the Hellebores and the Smashing of the Snowdrops served has escaped me completely). And my ancient rosemary, on borrowed time anyway since I had to tie it up with blue baler twine, has been ripped apart. That was roughly it. Phew.
Then I had to go into Harlech for a meeting. Harlech is all just over 5 miles away. I was late.
I was late because every tree surgeon in the area – including my own friendly Mr Tree Surgeon Man – was out unblocking roads and, in the case of the one I know, looking extremely harassed. There were trees down everywhere, and it was noticeable that the pines and cypresses had suffered most. We have a lot of trees in this village but ours have, by and large, survived – though we do have three cypresses currently being held up by a power line, rather worryingly. And even within the Harlech area there were places which looked almost untouched, whereas other woods, parts of woods and woody gardens were almost flattened, with tree trunks looking more like matchsticks than big trees. Very strange. Poor Harlech. All my sympathies to anyone dealing with a similar situation.
Now we’re bracing ourselves for another storm, though I gather rain will be the dominant feature this time; mind you, the Met Office forecast has a lovely little snow symbol on it too. I suppose it might wash some of the salt off…