Weather on the Scilly is, to put it mildly, a bit mad. It’s amazing the difference being just a few miles into the Atlantic can make. As such you have to be prepared for every eventuality. This is particularly important in my case as I am hanging around on the coast for extended periods of time, often standing still. And then walking somewhere else, jumping on bicycle and then cycling up a large hill to a completely different bit of coast.
When I first started my fieldwork back in May, I was setting out wearing thermal baselayers and full waterproofs. As time went on, I started having to rapidly shed layers when the sun ambushed me and did it’s best to roast me alive in my waterproof trousers. This is particularly tricky as I move through the various microclimates that seem to exist around the coast, depending on which side a rock I happen to be lurking on. And the wind.
As the windiest place in the UK (See here for statistics – http://andrewlainton.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/englands-windiest-and-least-windy-lpas-nppf/) it’s fair to say that the Scillies are quite gusty. In the time I have been here, the wind has seldom dropped below 15 mph. The average Scillonian would probably laugh at such low windspeeds however.
Windspeeds of over 25 mph are pretty regular occurrence, and last weekend we were battered by gales of over 36 mph. In weather like this, I generally can’t carry out my fieldwork as filming the rafts becomes impossible (Not to mention the sheer unpleasantness of hanging around on cliffs in those conditions.) These winds can often mean that on the sunniest days, standing on a cliff can still be freezing cold. This means that you can be wrapped up in a woolly hat and coat, and still get sunburn.
Of course if the wind drops, mist and fog often roll in, soaking everything (especially if you cycle through it at speed). This also makes it very difficult to spot birds at sea as visibility rapidly drops. To give some idea of just how bad visibility is at these times, when I left the Woolpack this morning I could barely see the trees in front of me.
Sometimes all of these things can happen in the same day. Often these changes in the weather are not accurately forecast.
Of course, recently, the weather has been a bit more like this:
I still don’t trust it though. I’m still carrying a full set of waterproofs around with me. Just in case.
(Our swallows have not been prepared, and have made several attempts to leave the nest in the teeth of howling gales. Not the best conditions to learn to fly)