Living seven hundred feet above sea level in an exposed situation means the growing cycle here is usually at least two to three weeks behind lower places nearby. Spring arrives in Kelso by the River Tweed long before it makes an appearance in our village.
But on Sunday, with the sun shining after months of rain, I ventured out into the garden to take a few photos. Snowdrops are carpeting grass and verges, daffodils are well up, winter heathers are blooming along with violas and primulas, the viburnum is flushed with a mass of red buds, and my rosemary, thyme and origano have survived the mild winter and are looking good. So fingers crossed snow and sub-zero temperatures don’t arrive with March.
Though milder than usual for this part of the country, this winter has been wet. Ground is sodden with many fields sporting puddles as large as lochs, rivers are high, roads have capacious potholes that delight in causing fatal damage to car wheels, and verges are sticky with churned mud. Whilst further north so much snow has fallen that ski slopes could stay open until the summer, with snow depths at resorts said to be higher than the Olympic runs in Sochi and some of Europe’s popular resorts.
Despite this, we’ve been let off lightly compared to thousands of people in south-east England, many of whose homes have been flooded for several months. With river dredging discontinued several years ago, they have been unable to cope with the unusual volume of water and have spilt out across acres of flat land.
Gales and high seas have swamped many seaside towns wreaking havoc with quiet, out-of-holiday-season lives as well as the livelihoods of fishermen.
Some years ago, neighbours who were away during the winter asked if we would keep an eye on their home. The weather hadn’t been particularly cold, but one day my husband returned from a visit and told me to don my wellies and waterproof. A pipe had burst in our neighbours’ home and the place was flooded. Unfortunately it was a pipe leading from the cold water tank in the loft that had ruptured, so water spewed from it down the staircase and through the entire ground floor where it was six inches and more deep.
Even for me it was heartbreaking to see treasured mementos, letters, valentine cards and photographs swirling around in the waters along with rugs, shoes, books and magazines, clothes, tennis racquets — all the stuff that enhances our lives and makes a place home. We got the water turned off, brushed out the worst of it and did our best to salvage what we could, draping items over the backs of chairs, laying precious ink-blurred letters on towels. But with no electricity and the light going there was a limit to what was possible. Then we had the task of phoning our neighbours and telling them the bad news. A nightmare for them. So my heart goes out to all those people who have suffered flooding.
Around the world freak climate events have recently taken place — floods, soaring temperatures, droughts, ice-storms and deep falls of snow which, with icy temperatures, have retained their grip on communities much longer than normal.
So the question being asked is… Are these freak events caused by climate change?
It’s a question few usually high-profile politicians and environmentalists have been willing to answer or have wanted to comment on. Presumably if they said no they might be the butt of ridicule and anger from the poor souls suffering from this winter’s adverse weather. Weather forecasters have been hesitant. The Met Office has now said the unusual weather events are of a type to be expected with global warming, so…although it cannot be proved conclusively, they think the freak weather experienced around the world could be caused by global warming.
Take from that what you will.