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Nature and Weather in South East England


This section is an attempt to reduce the unpredictability of the English weather to some kind of order. There is a page for each month - see menu below - which outlines typical patterns of weather and what happened in past years. Meanwhile this page has an introduction to the English weather - and suggestions about why we always seem to be dissatisfied with it.


Everyone knows that the English weather is awful: it is part of our national image and a key source of conversation. But in fact our weather is not so much terrible as changeable. If you had no other method of forecasting the weather, to expect it to be the opposite of what it is now in a week’s time would not be a bad method. If it is a wet spring week, it will probably be all sun and blue sky next week. If we are having a summer heatwave, rain and grey cloud will follow.

In winter it may seem that the weather is always grim, but in fact periods of sunshine and frost are pretty much a dead certainty too. And a February cold snap will be followed by a period when you exclaim how unseasonally warm it is.

Because many have not grasped this simple pattern, the English are in a perpetual state of consternation over their weather. Spring is a particularly good season to see this at work. In one week the conversation can turn from what a cold, wet spring we are having to how early the flowers are coming out this year and how that is a sign of global warming. In summer, one moment it is the wettest summer ever (with pictures in the newspapers of holidaymakers huddling in bus shelters on the seafront in Bournemouth) and the next it is an intolerable heatwave (London hotter than Acapulco!!).

All of this perhaps explains why autumn is such a popular season among the English. Quite apart from the fine colours, the weather in this season can never disappoint. If it is wet and grey, what else do you expect now summer is over? If it is sunny, all the better.

My personal view is that another reason why the seasons perplex us is that there are actually six of them, not four. Winter lasts from mid to late November (the end of leaf fall) to mid February, but then a new season starts - let us call it Awakening - with tentative signs of spring, but still very wintry weather. That lasts till the start of April, when spring proper gets underway - Flowering might be a name for it - until mid June. Then it is Summer till late August, when we get Indian Summer - a time when temperatures are no longer so hot, but when the weather can still be pleasant enough to sit outside a pub or go out with just a jacket. Finally from mid October to mid to late November, Leaf Fall is the classic autumn with golden colours everywhere.

This monthly pages in this section add a lot more detail to this, and will give you some idea at least of what you might expect in any particular month. They are based on diary records of the weather and other seasonal happenings I have made since 2000. They draw their inspiration in part to doing the walks of the first Time Out Book of Country Walks from 1998 to 2004, during which period the Saturday Walkers Club did the same walks on the same weekends each year. I began to notice that such and such a walk in January was often sunny while another in October nearly always had rain, making me wonder if there was some deeper pattern.

Of course, any attempt to find a pattern to the weather could be doomed by globnal warming. If the scientists are correct, the future could bring very different seasons to the ones we have now. But whatever happens to the English climate from a new Ice Age to a baking Mediterranean climate, it is a fair bet that we will still be complaining about it.

© Peter Conway 2006-2010 • All Rights Reserved

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