Barlow Nurseries

Growers of trees, shrubs and hardy herbaceous perennial garden plants near Newport, Shropshire

And less than that in rural areas….

We were real townies when we moved here.   Nothing wrong with that of course;  if you’ve lived in towns all your life, there’s nothing else to be, but becoming country folk was not the smooth and seamless transition we’d planned – there were real surprises lurking in the rural idyll.

The most striking was probably the dark.   When you live in an urban area you’re never far from electric light.   Road safety engineers’ enthusiasm for flood lighting as much of the world as they can means that even if your bit of suburbia is only modestly illuminated, there will still be light pollution spilling in from somewhere nearby.   Even on the darkest nights there’ll be light enough to see by.

We’re not that far from civilisation here of course, and we can see the eerie orange glows of the Telford and Stafford conurbations on the horizon, but we are several miles from any significant lighting.   And on a cloudy winter night, you can’t see a thing.   Nothing.   Not even your hand in front of your face.   That’s country dark that is.   And until you get used to it, it’ll spook you.

Probably the second surprise was the wildlife.   We were expecting wildlife of course, but weren’t really prepared for the sheer volume, or its enthusiasm for sharing the house with us.    The scene was set on our first day when Nick rashly turned on the flourescent light in the garage at dusk, with the door open, and was promptly engulfed by a cloud of  the largest flying insects in Shropshire.    A Kamikaze dung beetle, a squadron of moths the size of small cars, and several thousand of their friends crowded in, while Nick hastily flicked off the light, and beat his way out.

And then there were the rodents.    You get rodents in suburbia of course, but we must have led a charmed life because we’d never had a problem with them.   The rat bait we found in the loft, and under the floor boards, suggested we weren’t going to be leading the same charmed life here.    You soon get desensitized to it of course; after the first few dozen dead mice you stop squirming.  And you learn fast.   Mostly you learn that you need help, and if you can find someone that thinks catching mice is about the best fun in the world, so much the better. So we got a cat.   Cats really are the most impressive predators, and the cheapest and most enthusiastic employees you’ll ever recruit.

Thats cold that is

That's cold that is

But probably the oddest lesson of country life was the weather.   For the first several years that we lived here we watched the weather forecasts to check the overnight temperatures, and were consistently surprised that it was always colder here than the weather man had said it would be.   We started thinking we must be in some sort of weird microclimate – Newport, the coldest place in England, is just 4 miles away after all – but the weather man knew that, so why didn’t he take that into consideration in his forecasts?

The answer, which we were embarrassingly slow to catch on to, is that it is colder here than where most people live.   The weather forecasts are tailored for the majority of the population, who live in towns and cities, and we’re in the country!   Another country dweller must have complained to the Met Office, because their forecasters now make a special point of saying “these are temperatures for towns and cities, it’ll be several degrees cooler in rural areas”.

And so it is.  Our picture (all this preamble just to show you a picture of a thermometer!) shows last night’s low hovering around -11 degrees centigrade (the forecast was minus 6!).   And yes, those numbers have been written on by hand – it’s an old thermometer, and the print wasn’t as weather proof as it might have been, so we’ve had to give it a helping hand!

Next week’s weather is forecast to be equally cold, and the odds of a white Christmas have shortened considerably in the last few days, so it’s looking like it’s going to be a cold ‘un.   Time to dig out the winter woolies, and make the best of the wonderful variability of the Great British weather (whilst avoiding all thought of the balmy conditions our suburban friends might be enjoying).

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