Further Downhill

And I thought that yesterday was bad

Having posted yesterday about the snow, I have now to report that the situation has deteriorated quite dramatically. There has been no real snow for the past twelve hours, but the powder that we received yesterday has simply shuffled around into a more comfortable situation. The drifts are harder, taller and more angular than they were, and a constant mist of stinging grit comes swirling around them. The dykes have almost vanished, and the grating powder hisses like an army of adders as it scours out the space between the coping stones, leaving an ugly jaw of broken teeth where a wall should be. Gradually, the drifts have built ramps over all obstacles, and the hawthorns down by the loch fan out the spray like the smoke from a dozen chimneys. It’s as if the valley is on fire, swirling vicious white fumes from the south east – fumes which scrape and sculpt the stubborn drifts into solid artefacts – making it appear as though something substantual is under those sharp, mathematical curves. In fact, it’s merely a trick of the wind – the physical manifestation of draughts and currents in the air.

Some are simply waving dunes, like the snaking mound which now runs in a rampart three feet high across the yard. Others express the meeting point of a number of slicing eddies – there are sculpted cliffs and breakers like this one in the photograph. Six feet high at its peak, this particular drift has crept like sand until it stood squarely over the partridge breeding pen which I photographed yesterday. It took half an hour to dig it back and let some sunlight into the pen, and I half expected to find dead birds lying beneath the powder. As it was, I finally cleared enough to lift the outer door and saw a hen partridge poking her head meekly out of the sarking board box at the other end of the enclosure. They’re both doing very well under several feet of snow, and I made sure that they had access to their feeder and drinker before going on to check on the other birds. Three hours later, the waving drift has almost entirely rebuilt itself and should probably be cleared again before dark.

It was interesting to watch my pet blackcock digging a snow shelter for himself, scratching the powder behind him like a foraging hen and finally settling down in a hollow space about the size of a rugby ball. As I type, there is a thee inch square hole in the drift which indicates where he is lying, but it would otherwise seem like an empty pen. I’ve hung an old bedsheet up one side of the pen to give him some shelter, but the way the icy grit swirls and bends around obstacles, it doesn’t seem to be doing much good.

Next door’s keeper came over to tell me that he had tried and failed to get out onto the main road. Drifts which were higher than the roof of his land rover were piled up between the dykes on the way down to the low ground, and the road out onto his side of the hill is heaped up over eight feet high with snow. Judging by the weather forecast, there is no end in sight. The snow has stopped falling, but the way it is now moving suggests that there could be some real problems ahead if this swirling mist starts to freeze.

I’m worried about my partridges up on the hill, but getting up there to make sure my hoppers are full is out of the question. I have to hope that they’re tucked in somewhere out of the wind, because otherwise they won’t last long.



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