Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Weather update.

Put two British people in a room together and for some time they will not see each other. Its our reserved attitude. Then some time later there will be a grudging acknowledgement of each other.  Usually as delivered as a nonchalant nod. Later, they will begin to talk. If their boaters, the topic of converstion will be pump-out -v- bucket and chuck-it.  Any other people and the topic will be the weather, its because we are obsessed with the weather. Recently as part of a research project turned up a 258 year old weather diary. The diary was kept by Reverend Duel Taylor, who was at the time the rector of Bath. starting in 1756 and for the next six years he meticulously recorded the prevailing conditions day by day.
As a boater we are also fixated with the weather. Often using the information to guide our movement or mooring over the following few days. We have an expectation that the canal might freeze over during the worst that the winter can throw at us. However, we would be very surprised it the rivers should freeze over. 1947 and 1963 were two particularly cold years, with in living memory. I was around for the first, but I can only remember the second one. On the 17 of December 1759 the reverend wrote: 'A sharp north east wind which has frozen the river so hard the people have walked over it in great numbers for 3 days past.'

(Made of parchment, the small notebook describes in some detail the weather conditions between 1756 and 1761.)

The coverage of the diary coincided with the end of a period of very cold weather in our history known as the 'Little Ice Age'. Frozen rivers were not unusual during this period.

The River Thames froze over on a number of occasions. The people organised what were called  'frost fairs' At its worst there would have been around a foot of ice. So next time someone says 'its very cold today' you could remind them that by comparison, 200 to 400 years ago the conditions had been much worse. And that the weather now is particularly balmy!

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