What picture does October conjure up? Shafts of sunshine filtering through crisp autumn leaves? Quiet foggy dawns? Swirling wind and rain?
It’s a chameleon of a month
‘Yes’ to all of these – and more. October’s signature changes from day to day and from year to year. It’s a chameleon of a month. On the journey from summer to winter, the northern hemisphere’s atmospheric waves can lurch rather chaotically to and fro.
30 years ago, in the early hours of the 16th October, one particular wave of weather crashed across southern England, bringing utter devastation. Not a hurricane by the strict definition of the term, but try saying that to the millions who woke up to mayhem that morning. The scars in the woodland countryside are still evident to this day.
Thankfully, such tumult is rare. Autumn days often wander through a seasonal ‘no man’s land’ from chill misty mornings to warm balmy afternoons that can still feel like summer. Only three years ago, spookily, the mercury reached as high as 24C on the final day of the month. It was the warmest Hallowe’en on record.
But back in 2008, winter arrived early. On the evening of the 28th October, arctic air plunged southwards. The resultant snowfall – the earliest in several decades for parts of southern England – is unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime. As I suggested to my son, as we sledged down the slopes of the Chilterns, (with the trees still in full leaf!), he might not witness it again either.
And the picture this October? A rich mosaic for sure, but hopefully nothing too surreal.
(Written by John for BBC Countryfile Magazine)