When travelling to the Cumbrian Lake District you should always keep one eye on the weather …
There are two types of weather in Cumbria: the first is forecast by the Met Office and never happens; the second is Mother Nature doing her own thing (and never telling the Met Office about it in advance).
For the locals, this isn’t a problem. They simply get on and do whatever it is they need to do that day: sometimes it will mean wearing wet weather clothing, whilst on other occasions, a full wetsuit is needed.
Tourists though, need to be aware of the following points:
Changeover Day Weather: The weather on Changeover Day, when most self-catering properties, guest houses and hotels rotate their clientele, is always gloriously sunny. For those arriving into the county for the start of their holiday, it fills them with joy and hope that the rest of the week will be in the same vein. It won’t. Just ask the visitors who have packed up their saturated belongings from the previous week, and now regret having booked last week for their break instead of the coming week. It’s almost as if Mother Nature is saying, “Go on, look out of your car window and see what you could have seen, had you picked the right week for your holiday!” Not that the following week will be any better. Mother Nature is simply teasing the new batch of arrivals and letting them get unnecessarily excited.
Red Button Forecasts. Digital television has given us access to hundreds more television channels, although the weather information pages of the old Ceefax and Teletext have yet to be updated. Select a 24 hour, or even a 5-day forecast from your remote control device and note how the Met Office just doesn’t bother. As the map downloads, Cumbria seems to appear as an afterthought. It’s as if the Met Office simply plonk a weather symbol, (any weather symbol will do it appears, it doesn’t actually have to be relevant), where Lancaster is, and another one where Carlisle should be. As for the huge swathes of Cumbria in between these points, the Met Office has clearly decided that this is weatherless. Nothing will be happening here, weatherwise, it seems. How wrong they are.
Unsubstantiated rumours. Rumours of fine weather in the Cumbria can cross the entire county quicker than a Search and Rescue dog. Rain forces many tourists into any sort of place of shelter: coffee shop, closed tourist information centre, public toilets, or under a passing Herdwick sheep. This is where most tourists will hear phrases including, “It’s just a passing shower,” (even though it arrived in February, and nine months later, it is still passing through) or, “Rain at seven, dry by eleven,” which is worthless, seeing as it doesn’t state on which date at eleven o’clock it will be dry. Whilst sheltering under a tree near Loweswater once, a passing walker actually said, “Apparently, there’s a broken satellite falling to earth and when it passes over head it may shelter us from the rain for 14.62 seconds.”
Micro Climates. The reason the Met Office doesn’t bother weather forecasting in Cumbria is because of micro climates. These are small areas where the weather is affected by the geological surroundings. Seathwaite, in Borrowdale, is often quoted as being the wettest place in England, because of its position north-east of Scafell Pike, Scafell and Great Gable, some of the highest mountains in the area. With prevailing winds coming from the south-west, these mountains force the rain-bearing clouds higher, encouraging them to empty their contents over little Seathwaite. A few miles down the road at Grange, the weather can be dry and sunny. Indeed, whatever weather tourists may experience in one valley, can be completely different to the weather experienced by tourists in the adjacent valley. Suffice to say that Murphy’s Law ensures that, wherever you are, you’ll be in the wrong valley.
The Cumbrian Weather Forecasting Stone. Of course, local Cumbrians have adapted to this way of life, growing webbed feet and skin that doesn’t wrinkle after being in the water for more than fifteen minutes. Part of this adaptation, or evolution, includes their sense of humour. In several places tourists may see the Cumbrian Weather Forecasting Stone, dangling on a piece of rope (wet, of course) with a guide to its various depictions close to hand. If the stone is wet, then it is raining. If it is not wet, then you’ll know that it will be raining soon. If you can’t see the stone then it is raining very hard, and if the stone has gone, then heavy rain has washed it away.
The best form of Cumbrian weather forecasting relies on an old, traditional proverb, handed down from shepherd to shepherd. You are guaranteed rain today, if there’s a vowel in the month. You have been warned. Happy holidaying.
© Simon Whaley