Monday, 11 April 2016

Cloud Watching & Weather Lore

'Red sky at night, shepherds delight. Red sky in morning, shepherds warning'

To say that I am fascinated by the weather is an understatement. I adore the weather. All kinds of weather. Storms, fog, mists, rain, sun, showers, high pressure fronts, winds, stillness, auroras, electricals, gales ... I could go on and on. As a child, my favourite story was Wizard of Oz because I was obsessed with tornados and my love of weather has influenced my life so much, that I'm writing a novel about a runaway boy named Aubrey Cirrus who flies a hot air balloon around the sky. It's a kids novel - it's allowed to be daft, okay? :P It's called 'Archipelago of Skye' but if you know me, you already know this!

What you may not know, is that my Dad used to be a sailor, of sorts. He was in the merchant navy but even as a boy, his life was spent on and around boats, on and by the ocean and if anyone loves the sea as much as me, it's possibly my Da. Growing up, Dad filled my head with his tales about whirlpools and waterspouts - tornados at sea!!!- and my mind was tossing and turning with fantastical dreams about storms. I was raised with a profound respect for the old proverbs, such as; 'Mare’s tails and mackerel scales make tall ships carry low sails' and 'When the North wind doth blow, we shall have snow'. 

Dad and I spent a lot of time outdoors. Other kids were busy learning times tables, meanwhile Dad told me all he knew about the stars in the sky and visibility (Math's is definitely my weakest point!). I grew obsessed with clouds and their types, how to predict the weather based on how clear the horizon was or how wispy the cirrus was in the sky, but I couldn't tell you who was on 'Big Brother' or if 'All Saints' was a local church or a pop group. 
I've slowed down recently with regards to the blog. Partly because I'm reaching the final weeks of my degree and work has been intense, and partly because I've reached a point of questioning what content I wish to share. I never wish to fall into a habit of taking photos for the purpose of blogging. ever. That is my precisely not my blog. I want my blog to be a hub of memories, information that is precious to me and a reflection of my mind, adventures and lifestyle. I'd love to throw in some articles and helpful guides, a bundle of personal accounts of experiences so that I can read back on them and smile - but also - fall back into my rhythm of sharing photographs that were never intended to be shared. Weird huh? 

So what has this got to do with the weather? 
-Well, weather is pretty important to me. It's a huge part of my life. I spend 70% of my time day dreaming at the clouds (unless I'm at work, in which case I'm craning my head out of the front door, trying to squint up at the sky). I LOVE cloud patterns and identifying high, mid and low cloud. This probably sounds really boring to you. I totally understand if you want to just ignore my writing and look at pretty pictures of clouds. That would be okay. 

People who live by the sea in particular are pretty switched on about predicting the weather without the aid of the met-office. Those old proverbs are still in common use today down here in Cornwall, and what the fisherman have to say about the weather is probably more likely to be true than the weather channel. Back before the days of 6 o'clock news, the old fisherman of yore relied on their cloud lore to know when it was safe and when it was dangerous to go to sea and how long they might have for a fishing trip - because the weather is almost their deity. The winds control the sea and their lives lay in the hands of the volatile and temperamental ocean. 

So different clouds mean different things. This picture is an excellent example of fascinating sky as it shows lots of different cloud but I'm gonna keep it really simple. You've got four types of cloud height, but lets stick to the main three - high, mid and low cloud. 

In high cloud, you get the very pretty cirrus varieties of clouds. They form at 16,000-43,000 feet and are made of ice crystals. They can't rain. It's really damn cold up at that height and you would only really cruise at that altitude if you were in a big old jet plane. 
Cirrus are those wispy clouds you see on sunny, fair weather days. The kind of beautiful, idyllic and serene days where you want the weather to go on and on forever. Sadly, I was always taught that when you see Cirrus clouds - wet weather is on the horizon and will normally catch up with you in the next 24-48 hours or so. I took these photos yesterday - today we endured pouring rain, 50 mph winds and a lightning storm. I really love cirrus clouds - even though they mean the fair weather is coming to an end. I think you can also see some cirrostratus (the veil like cloud which is merging into other cloud). I'm not 100% perfect at identifying cloud, but cirrostratus tends to be sheet like, covers the sky but lets both sun and moon light through. The presence of cirrostratus means that moist weather will be with us within 12-24 hours or so. 

The two other types of common cloud we see in the south of England are the cumulus variety and nimbus. Nimbus is very common - you will all be well acquainted with nimbus. Even more so if you live in the north, for Nimbus clouds mean precipitation. Rain. Hooray! Good old Blighty and its temperate climate. We love to whinge about the rain. So next time it rains (it's probably raining right now (if it's not, what are you doing inside reading this?! Get outside and sun bathe before a cloud comes and covers the sun again!) look up at the sky and that dark, menacing cloud you see - it's probably a type of nimbus cloud. You know, like Harry's broomstick. Yes, the Nimbus 2000

Cumulus is the favourite, iconic cloud of traditional countryside scenes of old England. It's the delightful, fluffy cotton wool cloud of fair-weather. It doesn't mean that the rain is coming. It's just innocent, and beautiful and dances merrily along in the breeze. It's one of the lower laying clouds (other than fogs and mists of course) and generally forms below 6,500 feet. They contain water and sometimes bring wind but don't worry if you spot cumulus on a nice sunny day - it's not the harbinger of imminent gloom. We like cumulus. 

My last bit of weather lore before we get adventure orientated, is the piece of advice my Dad always gave me concerning clear horizons. When you're looking out to see or at a peninsula of land across the sea - if the visibility is hazy, the fair weather is still loitering. When the visibility is crystal clear, it will probably rain tomorrow. A clear & crisp horizon brings wet weather, so when I look out over towards Falmouth from the Lizard and it's all sort of fuzzy on a sunny day, I breathe a sigh of relief because I know I've at least got some more time with the rare summer weather. 

'If cows lie down and refuse to go to pasture, you can expect a storm to blow up soon'

I always remember being told that if the cows and sheep were lying down, it was going to rain pretty soon. I always believed they were keeping their bit of grass warm but back in the old days (and probably still today in farming country), many people look to the animals for signs of changing or unsettled weather. 

'Catchy drawer and sticky door, coming rain will pour and pour'

I've recklessly taken time out of my crazy deadlines and uni schedule to come home this week. It's actually the easter holidays for us but I spent two weeks of that in intensive study mode. My brain nearly melted and oozed out of my ear hole, I was like that little boy Jack from the nursery rhyme who became dull because he had no fun. This week hasn't all been larking about on the coast though - Tuesday I was running one of my dissertation project community workshops in Porthleven, all about Creative Writing and place as inspiration. Then on Wednesday, my family drove from Illogan down to the Lizard to meet up with George's family and we went wedding venue hunting. Man, this stuff's getting real. It wasn't exactly hunting, because we knew where we were going - we just wanted to have a check and show the places to my family, who hadn't seen them before. We wanted to make sure they'd fit with our idea. 
And they certainly did. 
I don't want to give too much away, but I will tell you that it's all going to be very, painfully Cornish and very oceany. Like, intense oceany without actually happening underwater in scuba gear - because that would be too much and George wouldn't let that happen. He's already let me have my wicked way with the Honeymoon decision (but partly because he wanted to honeymoon in Cornwall to avoid travelling, but I wanted islands - so I got my way purely on a technicality that Cornwall does in fact have islands within the duchy. *evil cackle*

We've had some absolutely breathtaking displays of cloud this week. Sure enough, the cirrus was the harbinger of storms and what a mighty thunderstorm we had today in Porthleven as Alex, Jamie and I sat warming ourselves by an open log fire. Yesterday, Jack (one of my best friends) and I spent a lot of the afternoon exploring Sennen, a village I always drive past but never visit (memo to self, must come back here with surfboard as surf is great) and then we decided to ramble some miles along the coast path to try and find the 'song of the sea' plunge pool that's located at a remote cove called Nanjizal. I love west Cornwall but it's only ever with Jack that I really explore it. He's my official rambling and explores buddy and we've stumbled upon some really wondrous places before together (and then later seen them featured on Poldark). 

The seagull below looks as though he's hurling abuse at me. It's not dissimilar to my experience of life at Redruth secondary school :P Just general rude and uncouthness all round.

We had no real idea of how to find Nanjizal. I had consulted a map really briefly before we left and thought 'oh well, we'll rely on the satnav'. Clearly I had been in Bath for too long, because as we left the boundaries of civilisation (if you can call Illogan civilised :P) the 3G vanished, became GPRS which then dwindled away as we approached the west Cornwall peninsula before becoming a firm, definite No Service. 
Undeterred, we adventured on. After all, this was how people did it before satnavs and google maps! We had Atlases and road maps, like the good old days. I recalled that Nanjizal lay 'Before landsend but after Porthcurno somewhereabouts' so we drove around but failed at finding any road signs for such a place.  Cornwall is normally pretty good at road signs - we get a lot of emmets, bless them. 
We ended up finding an adorable, smugglers cove called Porthgwarra. We parked up, found a coast path map and spotted Nanjizal about a kilometre and a half away towards Landsend. We decided we'd march forth, racing the light to the famed fairy pool and enjoy the sunset on the cliffs. I regretted wearing uncomfortable shoes. I forgot that uncomfortable shoes aren't a thing in Cornwall. 

Sometimes the land got boggy - but quickly all of my life and former self came rushing back to me. I remembered how to climb rocks, leap over big gaps and stones. I was filled with serene joy, and as it always did in these parts, the breeze blew the dust out of my mind - all the inconsequential city problems, woes about the flat in Bath, and I remembered what was important again, in my little world. The ocean was as blue as it could be. And there was joy. A whole lot of joy. 

When we eventually arrived at the mysterious Nanjizal, we were dismayed to see that the tide was in, rough and there was absolutely no way to access the plunge pool. Or even the beach for that matter. We didn't mind too much - we were just thrilled to have found it. We had got so excited by our quest, and challenge of navigating the coast path by counting inlets, rocky outcrops and bays - that we were more relieved to have fulfilled our journey. Anyhoo, it gives me an excuse to come back and explore the cove when the tide is out a little. I think it's one of those places where you need to come when the tide is just right. Here's what the plunge pool, sea cave looked like from afar with the tide in and all over the place - you can make it out on the left hand side, that tall, narrow sea cave. 

Here I go again - on an obsessive photo binge of the waves. I was in LOVE with the colour of the water, the way it was churning and the spray flicking up. I couldn't stop photographing it. I wanted to be in it, but I knew that not only was it deathly cold, but the sheer power of the water would break my little bones. I'd be washed around like a rag doll in that powerful shore. Instead, I had to be content with staring at it, mesmerised, on the cliff tops, dreaming about what it would be like to be a wind sailor.

The bluebells are coming into bloom in the woods. My goodness, I haven't seen wild bluebells in about 3 years. I know how excited I am to take back my old life, but also add to it the new chapters and things I've learned from my time away. 

Milly moo is a naughty puppy. And she knows it. 
Today was my last full day in the duchy. Jamie, Alex and I sheltered at Alex's house before venturing out to 'Leven in search of a log fire and tasty treats. We ended up at the Ship, because that's where we always end up. George's brother works there too so it's always nice to see a friendly face. Will bagged us top notch seats by the fire but not before we dashed out and took advantage of the light. I took some shots for Jamie's blog which I'm excited about because right now I'm really loving producing photography for other people more than myself. I wish I could share the shots here because I love them so but I'll keep them as a surprise. Be sure to keep an eye out for them on her blog. She's also been dreaming up a redesign to come with a new name so keep an eye out for that too ^_^. 
These were the last moments of light and good weather, for the lull of light and stillness passed and another storm rolled back in across the harbour bringing with it chaos and electricity. We sat in the cosy pub and watched flashes of lightening fill through the narrow, single glazing windows and considered how many generations of people had enjoyed this warm fireside. 



  1. I missss homeeeee! Please can you take me with you?

    Ps, lovely post as always :) <3 xo

  2. A lovely post. I absolutely love the weather, so many complain about it but I love how typically British and unpredictable it can be. Coming from a fishermans family I can definitely agree with you that we predict the weather more accurately than any weather channel or app! I have a little cloud book and I love collecting photos of different ones I've spotted - such a cute thing to collect I think!

    Tamsyn Elizabeth | Peaches and Bear

  3. Oh my goodness, looks amazing.

  4. You never disappoint, Sarah by the sea ;-) I love the little explanation of clouds (I know NOTHING) and your adventures, as always. My parents' hometown is actually near the sea so being a small child I've had the pleasure (or pain, cause I didn't know back then ha) to visit the shores and my dad used to tell me about his scuba stories... now that I'm #old I can say that i truly appreciate more whenever I head back East to home where much of my childhood holidays were!

    You should write a guide on weather forecasting hehehe... I'm the sort who checks the app every day but am skeptical of it! SHOW US YOUR TIPS O WISE ONE~

    Cherie | sinonym

  5. I LOVE clouds and I always love reading about them (I have read the Cloud collector's handbook and a few other publications about them! Are you a member of the CLoud Appreciation Society?) Staring at the clouds is my chief source of entertainment on long car journeys. Looking for pictures in the clouds as well as identifying them. One of my happiest days was seeing Lenticular clouds on the way to Durham!!! I made my driver (Mother in law!) stop so I could take their picture clearly. OH to see a Kelvin Helmholz!
    Your photos always make me breathless to go to Cornwall. I grew up on a diet of Famous Five and other books set with descriptions of the Cornish sea so it is in my literary heart. Just reading another book in a series I adore by Carola Dunn set in Cornwall about Eleanor Trewitt who gets involved in murder cases and I just love the description!

    I love the old wise sayings about weather- they have stuck for a reason- there be wisdom there.
    VERY best of luck for your last weeks-Well done for getting through it!xx

  6. Your little lesson about the clouds was SO interesting. It made me want to learn more! I've always loved looking at clouds, but have for some reason never learnt much about them.
    And oh, wedding planning and honeymoon planning sounds very exciting! An Ocean-y wedding sounds lovely.
    Good luck with your last few weeks of uni!

    Mimmi xx

  7. I love that you know so much about the weather and these photos of the sea are absolutely STUNNING! I so want to be exploring cliff tops in the sunshine and watching waves crash on shorelines right now! This just looks too beautiful for words! Alice xxx

  8. My partner is obsessed with weather, I like to put it down to his concern for our well being whilst in the outdoors but actually it's just a pure obsession! I do think it's fascinating though. The farmers around these parts always know the weather which amazes me. I think the cows laying down is an old tale though as they lay down here even when it blazing with sun - maybe they're just lazy cows around these parts?

    When I was down in Cornwall last year, I couldn't help but be enticed by the sea and its waves. We've lots of beaches in Wales which are stunning but there's something different about yours... The waves are much more fierce and the spray smells more salty.

    Ah, I need a beach adventure now...
    Loving Life in Wellies Blog


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