Most of October had been mild, wet and sometimes windy until a ridge of high pressure passed through giving a brief window of calmer weather. Ahead was the weekend for changing the clocks so this made it a good time to get up before light as with the clocks due to go back it would make dawn an hour early for a time. Also any calm weather at this time of year makes for the likelihood of seeing early morning mist greater giving an extra dimension and interest to the rolling hills of the Wolds. In consideration of all this I planned to be up by 6 am and on the road by 7am.
Travelling east towards Spilsby there were pockets of mist in hollows and the large village of Old Bolingbroke nestled in its deep valley was completed shrouded in mist. The most impressive sight though was over the ridge where the mist stretching along the valley of Stir Beck wrapped itself around the prominence of Dalby Hill giving the impression that its great bulk was floating. The shape of this distinctive flat topped hill of rich coloured roach stone was carved out by glacial meltwaters at the height of the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago. The maximum extent of the ice at that time stopped just short of the table topped hill but filled the width of Lower Lymndale to the east it. This forced meltwater from the great glacier and the surrounding hills to flow south and west, counter to the normal direction and so carved out new valleys called meltwater channels. The streams that continue to flow through these valleys are tiny in comparison but this morning these old meltwater channels were full again but with mist clearly showing how Dalby Hill had been separated from the main body of the escarpment by the erosive forces of water of the last Ice Age.
The sun had just appeared above a distant line of cloud near the eastern horizon which marked the back end of the last weather front and the next one was already making an appearance away to the west. This was forecast to be only a weak affair- a band of cloud which held no rain. No unusual for the Lincolnshire which lies in a rain shadow when the weather comes from the west. The thin high level clouds of its leading edge were picked out impressively by the now bright rising sun, which was still low enough for its rays to illuminate the underside of the long line of the weather front which bisected the vault of sky overhead. This early the scene was still mostly monochromatic but one tinged with gold.
Sunrises and sunsets, especially in this part of the world, have quite differing characteristics. As my last blog (Autumn Equinox) described sunsets happen overland and are usually more muted as they set over western hills often shrouded in clouds even if it is a clear day in Lincolnshire. Even if the sky is clear in the west it is not clean with the pollution from roads and cities hanging in the air diffusing the sun’s rays as it nears the horizon. The sun rising over the North Sea however usually does so with much greater impact with no grey hills or impure air to dim its radiance. As many who take their dogs or just themselves for early morning walks along Lincolnshire’s long beaches of golden sand know the early morning sun is bright and warming. In fact this is often the best time of day and can be enjoyed for several hours in summer before sea breezes pick up and the sun moves round over the land.
This was not to be the case this particular day as the western band of cloud was creeping ever slowly east threatening to eventually obscure the steadily rising sun by late morning. The mist meanwhile soon cleared even in the mist prone village of Langton with the sun’s now strong rays streaming through the line of tall limes that follow the line of the old road which used to bisect this long village (See Langton Old Road Blog). By the roadside a small thatched cottage with a conical roof topped with a single chimney belched out thick smoke that hung in the chill air. Sheltered under the high brow of Langton Edge this secluded little village is more prone to mist than most places because the cold air on the Ulceby Chalk Plateau to the east spills down over its steep sided edge and settles in the valley of Stir Beck which passes the western limit of the village just beneath the Georgian brick church causing mist to readily form here.
On my return journey on reaching Somersby, although the sun was still shining brightly, the cloud to the west was getting darker. The two combined had the effect of picking out the old rectory, Tennyson’s birthplace, and the neighbouring eighteenth century Somersby Grange against the darkening sky. Although the grange was a solid castellated structure it was the lime washed rectory with its Gothic wing built by the Reverend George Clayton Tennyson, (Alfred’s father) and his coachman that stood foremost and particularly seemed to radiate with the sun’s strong rays hitting it. Both houses have long gardens which stretch down towards the River Lymn and contain good specimen trees turning colour with autumn hues that also glowed in the sun’s warm rays. (See Somersby & Bag Enderby Blog.)
The memory of this splendid view, that had changed little since the Victorian poet’s youth, was to linger while returning home and as the advancing cloud finally caught up with the sun and returned the land to the more soft mellow light that tends to pervade the scene of late autumn.