We are so far north here that we get only 8 hours of daylight in December and so far west that it doesn’t get light until 8am. So it’s something of a relief when the shortest day comes around and we know that the worst is over and that from here on in the days will start getting lighter. This year the shortest day fell on December 22nd, which was something of a shock to the 300 Pagans who turned up at Stonehenge to celebrate the Winter Solstice a day early in the mistaken belief that because the longest day always falls on June 21st the shortest day must fall exactly six months later.
Not long ago ago I was asked by the Westmorland Gazette whether I’d suffered any catastrophes in my garden and this was my reply: “The biggest catastrophe is the one which is about to happen. I’ve got a lot of tender plants and I know that one of these days we’ll get a really cold snap which will wipe everything out”. Talk about tempting fate! These words were published on 10th December and fate was obviously paying attention for once because we have since suffered the coldest weather in ten years, with a succession of frosts at minus 7 C followed by three heavy snowfalls. Here’s a slideshow of my garden on the morning of the Winter Solstice, accompanied by ‘In the Cold, Cold Night’, by the White Stripes.