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

Tracks

Trees and Tracks

After a week or more with the burial ground under snow or hard frost, it was quite a change today to find almost all the white gone, and the grass showing once more. Our annual tree planting had been organised for this weekend, but over a week of such unseasonally cold temperatures, snow and ice, we felt sure the ground would be too frozen, and we cancelled.  In the event, although today was indeed snow free, most of the earth was still frozen, and trees planted would not have been happy.  Furthermore, the nursery was unable to release the bare root saplings, which were frozen into the beds.  Those who are due to plant trees will be contacted as soon as we are confident that planting will again be possible. Tidying up after the snow, removing dead and frozen flowers, we noticed that a few animal pathways have become very evident.  In the snow we’d seen prints from various creatures – four footed and two – especially, beautifully, over the frozen lake, and the habitual tracks were also still being used.  Without the snow, one prominent one was easy to photograph.

Tracks

Tracks

Running from the northern boundary to the Roundhouse, this could be deer, fox or badger.  We’ll let you know. The owls are once again using the inner lintel of the Roundhouse for lunch, leaving stains and remnants which we hope families don’t mind.  I shall use the stone brush to tidy up the mess now and then, but doing so I am always glad to imagine the creatures in there, sheltering from the weather, eating one of the many little mice and shrews that thrive at the burial ground.

Sun Rising Lake in Frosty Snow

Snow on the Lake

Yesterday in the early hours, while the north of the country was being covered in thick snow, a soft and beautiful flurry fell over Sun Rising.  It was a day when a handful of families were coming to plant memorial trees, so we were momentarily concerned about the temperatures of earth and air.  However, although the air, still and bright, was bitterly cold, the soil was still soft as butter a few inches below the surface.  We planted the little saplings, with frozen fingers and misty breath, snuggling the roots in with grit and compost, and setting them into the tall green shelters.

The lake was frozen, and today, with no further snow but a much colder night, the snow that has fallen yesterday was crunchy with ice.  I would add that any visitor should not attempt to walk on the ice, remembering that the lake is a good 3 metres deep.  But it is a delight to stand beside it, particularly on bright days as today, when the winter skies are clear blue and seem to stretch forever.

This photograph is taken from the lake, looking up towards the Roundhouse and Sun Rising hill beyond. Perhaps memories of when this view is nothing but the rich greens and golds of summer, I can find an exquisite beauty in its soft white and blues.

Sun Rising Lake in Frosty Snow

Sun Rising Lake in Frosty Snow

Tree Plaques in Hoar Frost

Frost

Today the frost at Sun Rising was beautiful.  It wasn’t deep enough to deter any tree planting, the sun quickly melting and warming the ground, leaving pools of frost in small areas of shade.  With tree planting over the coming week or so, we are hoping the temperatures don’t drop any further, however.

Tree Plaques in Hoar Frost

Tree Plaques in Hoar Frost

I can’t walk as far as the lake, but the boys went down without me and reported back that it was frozen thick, as was much of the water in the brook. Already the first part of the season’s cycle is with us : I shall get them to take photos over the coming days of cold weather so that  in the summer months, when the area is green and full of life, we can remember these cold white days.

At the birdfeeder we’ve been seeing a good number of tree sparrows – a newcomer to the feeder. With their sharp black cheek marks, they always seem very distinguished to me, as if smartly dressed.  Some local pheasants have made a little circular run beneath the feeder, and walk around picking up the spilled grains, and it had grown muddy in recent weeks, but today it was frozen solid. It didn’t deter them though, and I watched them quietly and methodically walking their little circle, pecking at the earth.

Winter has arrived, and the grasslands feel quiet beneath the frost, but still there is a wonderful hum of life in the hedgerows.

Woodpecker and Bluetits

Woodpecker

Tuesday 16 November, and the burial ground was covered with a soft layer of white hoar frost in the early morning.  By eleven, much of the surrounding countryside was still lost in a white cold mist, but the sun was shining over Tysoe and the ice had melted from all but the shadiest places.  With a glorious blue sky, a few slow small tufts of white cloud, the reflections on the lake lifted the spirits.  It was a beautiful English day, with the first real sense of winter.  Around the hedges the rose hips are still abundant, as are the smoky indigo sloes on the blackthorn.

And for the first time at Sun Rising we saw a spotted woodpecker.  We have often heard the green woodpecker, laughing in the trees, but seldom seen it.  Today this bright soul flew down to the birdfeeder from the nearby ash trees, scaring away the little blue tits if only for a minute.

Woodpecker and Bluetits

The spotted woodpecker flies in and frightens off the little blue tits