November – Light amidst the damp darkness

“No sun – no moon –
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds –
November!”

So wrote the poet, Thomas Hood. And let’s face it. November wouldn’t rank all that highly in the nation’s ‘Favourite Month’ competition.

… overnight frosts are rarer than in March

But I love it! There’s something reassuringly cosy about the dark evenings. It’s a humbling, primeval reminder that despite the world’s sophisticated advances, the annual celestial cycle never wavers.
OK – the weather can get a little ‘stuck’ at this time of year, as nature’s metabolism slows. In calm conditions, with insufficient strength in the sun to shift it, fog can last for days.

It’s certainly hard to find too much excitement when it seems never to get fully light during those brief hours between dawn and dusk.
However, we are prone to clichés when it comes to November weather. The reality is less formulaic, more fickle, as autumn transitions unsteadily towards winter.

The ground is quickly cooling but our surrounding seas are still relatively warm, providing a maritime lag to the chilling process. So despite being closer to mid-winter, overnight frosts are rarer than in March. And arctic visitations to our shores are unlikely to bring widespread snowfall.

In fact, some November days can be warmer than those of July. In exceptional years, 20C has been achieved. With the low sun glistening through the leaves and onto the village green, Guy Fawkes looks a little over-dressed as he sits upon the readied pyre. By 3pm he needs his coat, though; the chill returning, as the sun heads for the horizon and mist forms over the dewy grass.

So yes, November brings few fireworks, meteorologically at least. But the calmness belies anticipation – the drama of a British winter is about to unfold.

(Written by John for BBC Countryfile Magazine)

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