Misty Roundhouse

Winter’s Touch

Another absolutely windless day at the burial ground again today, with the softest cold mist.  The temperature was below freezing, and patches of snow still lie on the grass and the paths after the snowfalls and flurries earlier in the week.  There is something very holding, somehow magically tender, about Sun Rising when it is like this.  The photo here gives an inkling of the feeling.

Misty Roundhouse

Misty Roundhouse

More snow is due to fall over the coming days, which will again no doubt blanket the burial ground in soft silence.  If only it weren’t so cold …

Sunset over Sun Rising

Skies

With Sun Rising Hill behind us, and the beauty of rural Warwickshire spreading out before us, the skies above the burial ground are seldom without interest.  The ridge of the hill lifts and changes the winds, influencing the clouds whether they are sweeping towards it or coming off the high Cotwolds towards the plains.  For me, these wide open skies, with such beautiful patterns and colours of cloud, are one of the really special elements of the site, inspiring the soul, lifting me when I’m low.

This photo was taken on my mobile phone, so the quality is not brilliant, but it gives an inkling of what the sunset was expressing a few days ago.  I hope by posting it here, it offers a little of that inspiration to others.

Sunset over Sun Rising

Sunset over Sun Rising

At this time of year, I feel sure that winter sunsets are the most beautiful of the year, but in six months I shall be equally sure that the summer’s sunsets are the best!

Feeder Full of Sparrows

More Sparrows

It was a delight to spend time with a few of the OWLS over the weekend, volunteers from the Oxhill environmental group : http://www.oxhill-owls.org.uk. We’ve had some terribly cold days, and the day we met was one such day – a wild easterly wind biting our faces but not dimming our shared enthusiasm for the flora and fauna of this beautiful part of central England.

As well as the first snowdrops bravely flowering in the cold wind, the busy chirruping of the tree sparrows on the feeders was wonderfully cheering too.  It was great for our OWLS visitors to see the abundance of tree sparrows at the burial ground.  Here is a shot that has been typical for almost a year.

Feeder Full of Sparrows

Feeder Full of Sparrows

It is our hope that next year the population of great tits and greenfinches will recover.  The numbers are significantly down on from previous years.  With our bird feeder volunteers filling up our industrial sized feeders twice a week, we are doing all we can to give them a fighting chance.

Tree Sparrow

Making a Corridor

Freelance environmental consltant Tim Marlow has been dropping by the burial ground over the last few months, considering the connections between the environmental programme at Upton Estate at the top of Sun Rising hill and the Biodiversity Action Plan folk at Oxhill (OWLS): the burial ground creates part of a corridor between the two.

Tim has taken some beautiful photographs, including this sparrow. We’ve had more tree sparrows at the site this past year than ever before. Just exquisite.

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow at Sun Rising

Mist over Sun Rising Hill

After the Snow

The snow has pretty much all gone now at Sun Rising and we have a few days ahead of wet ground and muddy grass.  The mists are beautiful …

Mist over Sun Rising Hill

Mist over Sun Rising Hill

Thaw

Slowly we are seeing some thaw now at Sun Rising.  The lane is still slushy but there are areas of tarmac showing through, and a few cars have now been in and out of the car park.

With a couple of funerals this week, we shall be clearing more of the car park, hoping for some warmer weather to help the thaw, but care does still need to be taken – both with not getting cars stuck in the snow, and on foot on the snowy and icy ground.

Looking up the main track to the Roundhouse

Snow

Isn’t it extraordinary the effect snow has on us? It evokes an emptying sensation, silencing both inner and outer worlds.  It can make us feel exquisitely free, released and awake; it can fill us with a sense of lonely, barren unease.  While it falls, changing our world, there may be excitement or tension, and then we wait, now unused to it staying long as it seldom does.  We watch, expecting our grey-green muddy England to push through the white, re-asserting its familiar self, with its soft colours and musky winter scents.  When it doesn’t we grumble, releasing the new tensions and fears, and blame this and that, still waiting.  It seems we have to go through those first days of inactive bewilderment.

Yet if the temperatures are so low, if more snow comes, we adapt.  We set to, as if old memories kick in – albeit slowly – allowing us to work out how to get on with life again, in the snow.  It is at such moments that I feel grateful for the walls of my little house, the fire that glows in the iron stove, the hot water in the taps, and I remember the generation before me, who faced the snow with very few comforts at all.

That loneliness still dogs me though, and the cold brings a deep ache to my bones.  And my heart goes out to those who feel it too. It can be so beautiful, so quickly transforming the landscapes of home, but snow is not easy.  It can leave us feeling isolated.  And at this time I feel especially for those who were so hoping to get to Sun Rising over the next few days, to visit loved ones, to pay their respects.  I urge anyone who is uncertain about whether or not to travel to call us first.  We are at the burial ground as often as we are able and, for those who may find it comforting, are always there to say a few words in your stead.

This photograph was taken (on a mobile phone) yesterday, giving an idea of what the burial ground looks like at the moment.

Looking up the main track to the Roundhouse

Looking up the main track to the Roundhouse

Snow Updates

Christmas is an important time at the burial ground, and we are very well aware that a good many famillies are keen to visit.  We are doing all that we can to enable this.

Even though temperature remain below freezing, there has been some thawing of the snow at Sun Rising.  Today, we are confident to say that the A422 is running fairly well, but we would advise extreme caution on Sun Rising Hill if you are travelling from the direction of Banbury.  The road from Brailes to Tysoe has been gritted and is also passable.

However, the lane from the A422 to Tysoe that runs past the burial ground is not gritted, and has only been accessible by 4x4s until today.  We made it through today, but once again it needs extreme caution as it remains dangerous with snow, frozen slush and ice. (See the photograph below: excuse the photo quality – it is taken on a mobile phone.)

The Lane between Tysoe and the A422

We have cleared the layby from the lane to the gate of the burial ground, and two cars parked neatly can fit in there.  We do not advise any car except 4x4s with competent drivers to attempt to enter the car park, where there is still a good depth of snow.

We have shovelled a path from the car park to the Roundhouse, and cleared the Roundhouse of snow.  However, we advise that the Roundhouse itself is likely to be slippery with ice. Be aware too that a slip on the paths may result in a painful injury, as the stones are uneven under the snow and ice.

Please stick to where you know there are paths at the burial ground if you do visit, as it will be easy to find yourself walking on snow-covered graves.

In conclusion, we would accord with the national advice not to travel unless it is necessary.  If however you are determined to come to Sun Rising, please note our words and be extremely careful, both on the roads and at the site.

Access in the Snow

A good few feet of snow fell on the burial ground on Saturday 18 December. Although no more has fallen, and none is forecast until the end of the week, the sub-zero temperatures mean that it is unlikely to thaw over the next few days.  Indeed, we are pretty much snowed in here in Whichford, and news from across the area is of very icy and snowy roads.  We encourage people not to venture out to Sun Rising unless they are sure of the roads and driving 4x4s.  We shall let you know just as soon as we feel the site is once again accessible.

Sunset on Snow and Bench

Tree Planting in Snow

It has been intensely frustrating, having cancelled our tree planting weekend, not being able to get all the trees in the ground.  Today we were able to put in another few, two families arriving with snow on the ground, to find the burial ground on a day when it felt as beautiful as it does in the height of summer.

Just an inch or so of snow, crispy with frost, the temperature around -3 degrees C, under the surface the earth was still deliciously soft and almost warm. Tonight temperatures are due to plummet to well below zero with a foot of snow, and the forecast anticipates no rise above zero for some days, so there’ll be no planting for a while, I suspect.

Over the last week, however, we were able to plant around 20 memorial trees, and with the help of a friend visiting from the United States (where 15 foot of snow is not unusual – thank you, Kevin) we were able to get in all the saplings around the war memorial.  We’ve used low tree guards in many plantings this year, and will see how they fare with the deer.

The trees around the pond have yet to be planted, but we are hoping now for a break in the weather between Christmas and the New Year to get these in and the majority of our other memorial trees.  Not only are some families more available at this time, but we also have access to more volunteers.

This evening as we left the burial ground, with clear skies and the moon above, snow on the ground, the setting sun shone golden.  It was quite breathtaking.

Sunset on Snow and Bench

Sunset on Snow and Bench