Archives for December 2011

Winter solstice

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:13 UK time, Thursday, 22 December 2011

Today is the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

It also marks the first day of winter from an astronomical point of view with the sun directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at 05.30 GMT this morning.

During the winter solstice, the sun is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year.

A lot of people think the winter solstice is always on December 21 and it often is, but the date does vary. It can occur as early as December 20 and also on December 23 but this is rare.

The last December 23 solstice occurred in 1903 and will not occur again until 2303. The next December 20 solstice will be in 2080.

The date of the summer solstice in June and the winter solstice in December varies mainly because of our modern calendar which does not correspond exactly to the solar year.

The Gregorian calendar consists of 365 days and 366 days in a leap year but the length of time the Earth takes to orbit around the sun is about 365.24 days.

In Antarctica, the penguins may be enjoying the midnight but spare a thought for the polar bears at the North Pole. They won't see the sun for another three months.

For us in Wales, the days will slowly get longer until June 20 2012, the summer solstice. Many people celebrate the winter solstice and in Druidic tradition there is festival called "Alban Arthan", Welsh for "Light of Winter.

Today maybe the winter solstice but the weather doesn't seem to know it. In fact it feels more like early spring with temperatures a mild 11 to 13 Celsius but there is a change on the way.

Tomorrow an active cold front will bring a spell of heavy rain followed by brighter weather, a few showers plus a drop in temperature.

Tomorrow night will be much colder than tonight with some ground frost but over Christmas we're still on course for it to turn milder again but windy too.

This is my last blog for 2011 but you can keep up to date with the latest weather news by following me on Twitter.

Nadolig Llawen!


Air from the Azores

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:24 UK time, Wednesday, 21 December 2011

It's certainly feeling milder out there today compared to recent days.

Temperatures 10 to 13 Celsius, 14 Celsius, 57 Fahrenheit in Flintshire. Incidentally, 14 is 5 degrees above the seasonal average and the highest since December 8.

Mind you, it's been even warmer in the past. On December 18, 1972, the temperature at Abergwyngregyn in Gwynedd soared to 18 Celsius, 64 Fahrenheit.

The air over us today has come all the way to Wales from the Azores but as it crosses the sea it cools forming cloud, mist and drizzle.

Some places will stay dull and damp today but others dry and even bright because down wind of the mountains the air tends to dry out, the cloud lifts and breaks with a little sunshine e.g. in Wrexham and Welshpool.

The mild conditions will continue into Thursday but on Friday a cold front will bring a spell of rain followed by brighter weather and showers.

On Friday into Saturday the air will be cold enough for a slight frost, especially in Powys and Monmouthshire where temperatures will fall close to zero, but the cold snap will be short-lived.

December last year was the coldest in a century. On December 25 the temperature at Llysdinam near Newbridge on Wye in Powys didn't rise above minus 7.8 Celsius but it will be a different story this year.

Temperatures on Christmas Day will be well above freezing, typically 9 to 11 Celsius.

A little rain and drizzle is likely as well and most of the rain will be on the hills in the west and north west, the Cambrian and Snowdonia mountains.

Meanwhile the south and east of the country may stay largely dry. The wind will turn into the south west and pick-up, becoming fresh to strong with gales in north west Wales and through the Irish Sea on Christmas Day.

So, the weather is not very festive this Christmas - turning milder and becoming windy but at least people will be able to get around easily without fear of slipping over on the ice.


No white Christmas

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 10:24 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

I know some of you will be disappointed, but I'm afraid we've seen the last of the snow and frost for a while as it's turned milder today but wet with some heavy rain on the way for this evening.

This will clear leaving Wednesday drier and very mild with temperatures as high as 12 Celsius, 54 Fahrenheit.

The mild weather will continue on Thursday with moist south-westerly winds bringing plenty of cloud in from the Atlantic.

Thereafter a cold front will move south east across Wales bringing some rain on Friday followed by brighter, slightly colder weather and a few showers.

At the moment, a green rather than white Christmas looks more likely. Christmas Day itself should be largely dry and breezy with temperatures of 7 to 10 Celsius.

I know some people would like more snow but many others will be relieved after last year when snow and freezing temperatures caused major travel problems during the Christmas holiday.


Swimming, hunting or singing?

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 11:54 UK time, Monday, 19 December 2011

You'll be glad to know that it's not too late to sign up or turn up for the annual Boxing Day Swim in Tenby this year.

This time last year someone (who will remain nameless) suggested a radio programme which would involve me taking part in the aforementioned event which was celebrating its fortieth year.

Thankfully, the idea never came to fruition and I was able to spend Boxing Day safe and warm at home, as opposed to plunging into the Pembrokeshire sea in what turned out to be one of the coldest winters on record.

Having said that, hundreds of courageous, mad or foolhardy swimmers do brave the waters every year at the Tenby event.

And even last year's eye-wateringly low temperatures didn't put that many people off (they had around 400 swimmers taking part instead of the usual 600).

When I was growing up we often went to see the Boxing Day hunt in the Vale of Glamorgan, even though we were confirmed 'townies' who weren't involved in farming or hunting.

It was just part of the festive tradition and there was something exciting about seeing the horses, hounds and redcoats gathering on a frosty winter's morning.

The ban on hunting with hounds has been in place for six years now, but the Boxing Day hunt remains a firm part of the rural calendar.

According to the Masters of Foxhounds Association, there are meets at Caio with the Cwrt y Cadno Farmers, at Cowbridge with the Glamorgan Hunt and Llandysul with the Vale of Clettwr Hunt.

I'm also planning to attend a local Plygain service at Merthyr Church near Meidrim at 11pm on Christmas Eve.

Strictly speaking, a Plygain was held in the early hours of Christmas morning, sometime between 3 and 6am and was traditionally a candle-lit service held in some of the most remote rural areas and featuring around two hours of unaccompanied carol singing.

The modern-day equivalent tends to be at a more sociable hour but the candles still give a festive feel.

There's been something of a Plygain revival this year, with attempts to keep the tradition alive by teaching people how to sing these traditional Welsh carols.

There's an example of Plygain singing on the National Museum of Wale's website, recorded at St Garmon's Church in Llanarmon Mynydd Mawr back in 1965.

So, if there's a choice of swimming, hunting or singing this Christmas, I know which one I'll be going for!

Snow disappointing

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:07 UK time, Friday, 16 December 2011

I'm sure some of you were disappointed not to wake-up to a blanket of snow this morning. I know I was when I pulled back the curtains and didn't see a single flake!

Mind you, I did say yesterday than not everywhere would have snow and some places would just have rain. That's just the way it is sometimes...

Snow is arguably the most difficult thing to predict. As a forecaster, there are lots of things to consider including: when will the snow start, when it will stop and how heavy will it be.

We also have to consider what the temperatures will be on the ground and in the atmosphere and whether rain, sleet or snow falls from the sky.

The computer weather models we use are really good and I couldn't do my job without them but they are not perfect and can skew predictions.

Unexpected factors can arise and effectively throw off predictions. We update our forecasts 4 times a day and sometimes each run of the model can be different to the previous one.

Some parts of the country have had some snow today for example in the north, Powys, the Brecon Beacons and the Heads of the Valleys.

Check out some of the twitpics I've been sent in of the recent snow:Tawsfynydd to Bala road, Bronaber in Snowdonia looking down to Trawsfynydd Lake, Brynmawr and Mold

Over the weekend, further wintry showers are expected feeding in from the Irish Sea. Most of the them in north, west and mid Wales.

Some of them will be heavy and prolonged at times with a risk of hail and thunder. Some sleet and snow is likely too, mainly on higher ground, the hills and mountains.

I can also promise some sunshine tool but it will stay cold with some frost and icy patches.

Temperatures at night dropping close to freezing or below so take extra care if you are travelling as some roads could turn treacherous.

Sunday looks like the best day of the weekend with a few showers in the north otherwise dry, bright and crisp.

The cold west to north-westerly wind will ease as well with top temperatures between 4 and 7 Celsius. Next week will bring a change, turning milder with some rain and drizzle at times.


First proper snow of the winter

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:14 UK time, Thursday, 15 December 2011

Some parts of Wales have already had a dusting of snow but it looks like we could be in for the first proper snow of the winter later tonight and tomorrow morning!

Mind you, it's not going to snow everywhere, it will depend very much on where you live and how high you are above sea level. Some places will just have rain.

Based on the latest information from the Met Office, the higher ground of South and Mid Wales could be worst hit by snow but of course things could change with further updates later today.

There is still some uncertainty on the path of a deepening area of low pressure moving in from the Atlantic.

A change in direction of just 50 to 100 miles north or south can make all the difference as to which part of Britain will get heavy rain, snow or severe gales.

This evening rain in Pembrokeshire will spread across the rest of Wales and it will turn increasingly to sleet and snow after midnight. On the coast it will probably stay as rain or sleet but snow inland.

The Met Office has issued a yellow and amber snow warning for parts of Wales. Amber means be prepared for some disruption.

Forecast chart for 6am on Friday, 16 December, 2011.

Forecast chart for 6am on Friday, 16 December, 2011.

Parts of Mid Wales, the South Wales Valleys and Monmouthshire could have 2 to 5 cm of snow, 1 to 2 inches.

However over 10cm (4 inches) is possible on higher ground e.g. the Heads of the Valleys, the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons and the hills of Powys.

The snow will be the wet, sticky kind and consist of big flakes. It will settle, especially but not exclusively on higher ground.

Cardiff and Swansea may get away with little if any snow but I wouldn't rule out a light covering on some cars and the grass.

Tomorrow the rain and snow will move away but in the north showers will move in from the Irish Sea, some of these heavy falling as rain, hail, sleet and snow with thunder possible too.

Pen y Fan with a dusting of snow by Mike Davies.

Pen y Fan with a dusting of snow by Mike Davies.

Tomorrow night, the showers will clear and with temperatures falling close to freezing or below ice will become a hazard.

This is not the start of a severe cold spell though and it looks like turning milder in the run up to Christmas next week, so a White Christmas looks unlikely at the moment.

So, a wintry mix of weather heading our way in the next 24 hours. Don't forget you can keep up to date with the forecast and the latest traffic and travel news on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru.

If you take any pictures of snow why not send them in to the weather team via email to or send me a tweet @derektheweather.


How hailstones are formed

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:04 UK time, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The weather is certainly a big talking point at the moment with more rain, hail, thunder and snow in places today.

The air over us has come from Greenland so it's cold but as it crosses the relatively warm sea around the British Isles it becomes very unstable.

The air rises sharply forming large, towering cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds produce hail and thunder. If you love clouds, check out the cloud appreciation society.

Hail showers can occur at any time of the year but are quite common during the spring in Britain and vary greatly in size.

If a hailstone is cut open, a layered structure like an onion is sometimes apparent. A large hailstone may consist of several layers of clear and opaque ice.

How hail is formed

Large hailstones fall from deep cumulonimbus clouds. The cloud base may be 3,000 feet (900m) above the ground with tops as high as 60,000 feet (18,000m).

Much of the cloud will be composed of supercooled water droplets. As the hailstone falls it will collect water droplets which instantly freeze and form a layer of ice.

It may then be caught in a vigorous updraught and, as it is carried back higher into the cloud, it collects more water droplets or ice particles to form another layer of ice.

So layers build up on the hailstone (made of alternate layers of clear and opaque ice) and the cycle may be repeated until the stone is so big that it falls to earth.

Hail history

Really large hailstones originate in thunderstorms during the summer. In July 1968 a hailstone the size of a tennis ball fell at Cardiff Airport.

An enormous hailstone from 1968. Copyright R K Pilsbury.

A 3.5" hailstone which fell on Cardiff, South Wales, during a thunderstorm on July 1, 1968. Copyright R K Pilsbury.

The largest hailstone recorded in the British Isles weighed 141 grams (5 oz) and occurred at Horsham, West Sussex on September 5, 1958.

Certainly anything approaching golf-ball size is remarkable, but hailstones can grow large enough to dent cars, shatter greenhouses, injure, and even kill people. In late October 2008 a massive hail and thunderstorm hit Ottery St. Mary in Devon.

The USA, Canada, central Europe, India and China all experience large hail. So too do land areas in the southern hemisphere.

In July 1984, a shower of giant hailstones caused about £750,000,000 worth of damage in Munich, Germany.

The heaviest hailstone (in the Guinness Book of Records) occurred in a hailstorm in the Gopalanj district of Bangladesh on April 14, 1986. The hailstones weighed up to 1kg (2lb 3oz) and were reported to have killed 92 people.

While in Nebraska, a hailstone almost the size of a bowling ball fell on June 22 2003. Measuring 17.8cm in diameter - the largest hailstone ever recorded!

Snow warning in force

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:43 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

We've had just about everything thrown at us today - heavy rain, sleet, thunder, snow and hail the size of large peas.

Mark Hillman sent in this picture via twitter. The road in Ystradfellte covered in hailstones making driving conditions treacherous and it's been a similar story in other parts of the country too.

We've also had plenty of rain and some flooding with over 11 flood alerts in force at the time of writing and a flood warning on the River Dee from Llangollen to Chester.

There have been strong to severe gale force winds as well. At Mumbles Head, in Swansea a gust of 81mph was recorded this afternoon with gusts of 67mph at Aberdaron on the Lleyn Peninsula.

The reason for the disturbed weather is low pressure. The air over us has come from Greenland so its unstable producing towering clouds and heavy showers.

Mountainous seas off the Anglesey coast by Mr Lyn Adams from Llanfair P.G

Mountainous seas off the Anglesey coast by Mr Lyn Adams from Llanfair P.G

Tonight, further heavy showers are expected in the south feeding in from the Bristol Channel. Snow is likely in places, especially on higher ground with the north dry and clearer.

The wind will be easing but still breezy on the coast and temperatures inland falling close to freezing with a frost and a risk of ice.

There is now a Met Office snow warning in force covering most of Wales tonight and tomorrow. It's a yellow warning which is the lowest grading.

So, widespread problems are not expected but be aware that there is some snow in the forecast. In fact some places, especially the higher communities including the south Wales Valleys could have a covering of snow by tomorrow morning.

A few sunny intervals are likely tomorrow but showers will become more widespread during the day. Rain, hail and sleet again.

Some snow in places too but later in the afternoon the showers should be mostly of rain.

Temperatures on the cold side, 4 to 7 Celsius. The wind not as strong as today but still breezy, especially on the coast and gusty at times near the showers.

On Wednesday night a trough of low pressure will bring more rain and heavy showers. Strong to gale force winds possible in Pembrokeshire. The air less cold so any snow should be confined to the very highest ground.

Thursday will be breezy with some sunshine and scattered showers, becoming dry for a time but we could be in for another dose of stormy weather on Thursday night into Friday.

It all depends on an area of low pressure and which path it takes. Wales could be in the firing line for more heavy rain, flooding and gales but it's there is still some uncertainty.

So it would be worth keeping a close eye on the forecast over the next couple of days.


Which Christmas tree: Real, artificial or pot-grown?

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 15:05 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

It's that annual dilemma - real or artificial, cut or pot-grown, large or small, local or foreign?

The decision to buy a Christmas tree has become a tricky business. I don't want to sound smug, but I'm feeling fairly virtuous after buying a medium-sized pot-grown tree at the weekend, which is now standing proud in the living room and filling the house with the unmistakable scent of Christmas.

Let's face it, you can't beat a real tree.

Although having said that, it's become a politically, environmentally and ethically sensitive issue that is hotly discussed and argued over with increasing fervour every year.

In the same way that people ask you where you're getting your turkey from, everyone now also wants to know where your tree has come from and how many miles it's travelled to get to you.

Christmas Tree at Llynnau Mymbyr by Peter.

Christmas Tree at Llynnau Mymbyr by Peter.

I've checked out the Carbon Footprint Calculator which informs me that a cut real tree costs 3.5 kilos of carbon emissions every year, whereas a potted tree takes in 10 kilos of carbon annually.

But the shocking statistic is that an artificial tree can cost 60 kilos of carbon emissions, which means you'd need to keep it a good few years in order for it to even things out.

Retailers across Wales are also reporting that customers are now asking them where the trees have come from, in the same way that they'd ask about food miles.

It's no longer just a matter of worrying about dropping needles all over the carpet, but of having to think about global issues like deforestation and greenhouse gasses when making your annual tree purchase.

Prince Albert - who first introduced the idea of bringing trees into the home for Christmas in the UK - has a lot to answer for.

In Carmarthenshire, we have the option of a 'cut-and-choose' Christmas tree farm at Salem near Llandeilo - a bit like pick your own fruit farms in the summer and then there's Wales's biggest Christmas tree farm at Three Crosses on Gower, where they grow an impressive quarter of a million trees annually between 3 and 20 feet tall.

Average prices for trees this year are around £40, which does seem like a lot of money, especially if the tree in question isn't going to make it past the New Year.

So many considerations, so little time.

The Welsh Government is also attempting to ease the guilt for us. As part of their Plant! project, they've been planting a native tree for every child born in Wales since 2008 - or rather Coed Cadw and the Forestry Commission are doing so on their behalf.

That's more than 100,000 trees so far and counting....

It might also be worth mentioning that our carbon footprint increases by around 6% in December, compared to other months - mainly due to all the extra shopping, eating and journeys to visit relatives that add to the festive frenzy.

I've read the label on my tree and if I look after it and remember to water it over the festive period, I should be able to plant it out in the New Year and keep it alive for next Christmas.

Now that's what you call forward-planning!

Wales in the firing line for storms

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:41 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

One of the stormiest periods the UK has seen for years is set to continue this week with Wales in the firing line for more heavy rain, gales and some snow too.

The Met Office has issued weather warnings.

The reason for the turbulent weather is the jet stream, a ribbon of strong winds travelling at speeds of around 200mph high in the atmosphere around 30,000 feet.

This will steer areas of low pressure in from the Atlantic bringing spells of wet and windy weather and some heavy rain is likely with gales and a risk of localised flooding.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the air will be cold enough for some of the showers to fall as sleet and snow.

Most of the snow will be on ground above 100 metres or 300 feet. The snow will settle in places, especially on some hills and mountains where 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 inches) of snow is possible but I wouldn't rule out slushy deposits on some lower ground.

Later on Thursday and into Friday we could be in a significant spell of stormy weather as a deep area of low pressure steams in from the Atlantic.

We could see wind gusts of 60 to 70mph, with some exposed coasts and hills touching 80 mph.

At the moment, though, there is some uncertainty about the exact track, the storm will take and consequently which part of the country will be worst hit.

Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter @derektheweather and send your weather photos by email to

Take care


Erddig country house

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 10:56 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

It's a beautiful sunny and crisp day in Wrexham today (Wednesday) where I've come to record an edition of Country Focus at Erddig, the National Trust property described as the 'jewel in the crown of Welsh country houses'.

For the first time this year, parts of the main house are being opened up to the public as part of the Trust's plans to open their properties 364 days a year.

Normally the house would be in darkness, with the furniture covered in cream-coloured shrouds throughout the winter months, as part of the process which involves 'putting the house to bed'.

At Erddig, the servants areas of the house, including the hall where they ate their meals together, are open to the public, all decorated for Christmas, with clove-studded oranges, paper chains and bunches of holly adorning the long tables and corridors.

I also took a peek behind the scenes to find out what was going on at Erddig in the rest of the house.

In one of the bedrooms, two members of staff were busy giving the room a 'deep clean', dusting and vacuuming every nook and cranny and carefully inspecting for signs of the dreaded carpet beetles which can cause so much havoc in a large country house.

Further along the corridor, the state bedroom is undergoing a transformation. The furniture and even the wallpaper in this room are so delicate and precious that visitors can only look into the room through a glass box inside the door.

The magnificent bed itself dates to the 1720's and the Chinese silk wallpaper is around four hundred years old.

The glass viewing panels are now being replaced with a more modern and accessible version which will give the room added protection.

I felt quite honoured to be allowed in to the room and imagine what it was like to stay there as a guest.

Outside I met Head Gardener Glyn Smith who had given up on 'leaf duty' today because of the strong winds.

He took me to see the impressive formal gardens, complete with conical yew trees, mushroom-shaped box hedges and apple trees training along the walls.

We went via the internal courtyards which at the moment are housing around fifty wooden chalets for the Erddig Victorian Christmas Fair which is taking place at the weekends.

I asked Glyn how a Head Gardener spends his Christmas and he admitted that he'll be in watering the greenhouses on Christmas Day, making sure that everything is surviving. It seems that a house and garden like Erddig never sleeps.

The Erddig Christmas Village is open weekends on December 10, 11, 17 and 18 from 10 am to 5 pm.

For more information, phone 01978 355314 or email:

Wintry storms and gales coming

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:03 UK time, Wednesday, 7 December 2011

It's time to batten down the hatches

If you thought today was windy, just wait until tomorrow! An Atlantic storm is heading our way bringing heavy rain and strong to severe gale force winds.

Scotland and Northern Ireland will be worst hit but the Met Office has issued a wind warning covering North Wales as well. Wind gusts 50 to 70 mph are expected with some travel disruption likely.

And it will be dangerously windy on the mountains with stronger gusts, around 90 mph or more.

The storm will bring milder air with temperatures rising as high as 12 Celsius but temperatures will drop once the rain clears during the afternoon and Friday will be a cold, breezy day.

There will be some sunshine but a few wintry showers as well and most of these will be in the north.

There is currently a Met Office snow warning in force for northern counties. Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham and Flintshire.

The snow will be in the form of showers and will be a bit hit and miss so widespread disruption is not expected.

Most of the snow will fall on higher ground where it will settle and could cause minor problems locally, however on Friday night into Saturday, ice could be the main hazard on untreated roads.

The weekend will start frosty on Saturday but apart from the odd shower it should be dry with some sunshine.

Sunday will turn less cold but windier with some rain clearing to showers later.

So, you can expect all kinds of winter weather over the next few days but take extra care if you are travelling.


Snow alert for North Wales

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:45 UK time, Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Figures from the Met Office suggest Autumn 2011 was the joint warmest on record in Wales (shared with 2006).

The mean temperature for September, October and November was 11.6 Celsius, two degrees above the average.

Sunshine was on target and it was drier than normal with 338 mm of rain, 22% below the average.

There is no risk of a drought in Wales with most reservoirs full but some people, especially on the border with England, will be hoping for plenty of rain over the winter to top up ground water levels.

November was the warmest in Wales since 1994 but it has now turned colder with the first dusting of snow on some hills and mountains.

There is no sign of a big freeze like we had last December. In fact on Thursday it will turn milder with rain and strong to gale force winds.

However, a cold front will sweep across Britain on Thursday evening followed by much colder air from the Arctic.

Wintry showers are likely on Thursday night into Friday and the Met Office has issued an alert of snow for north Wales.

At the moment, Saturday should start fine with some frost and icy patches but there is more wind and rain on the way followed on Sunday by sunshine and showers.

So, all sorts of wintry weather heading our way this week!

Don't forget you can keep up to date with the forecast on Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and online at

Stay warm

The Living World

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:28 UK time, Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Despite the cooler weather, fungi are still going strong and the constant flow of fungi photos to our BBC Wales Nature Flickr group is testament to that.

A scientist has just discovered a rare fungi living in a Worcestershire garden - the powdercap strangler.

Only found in a handful of locations around the UK, this parasitic fungus is actually an outgrowth, or gall on another fungus - the earthy powdercap (Cystoderma amiathinum).

I recently blogged about a fungi experience I had when I was lucky enough to be part of the audience for the BBC Radio 4 programme, The Living World - recorded at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

You can currently listen again to this programme all about fungi and waxcap grasslands on BBC i-Player.

Autumn wildlife on strike

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:46 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

November was incredibly mild this year which has had a knock on effect on our wildlife in Wales.

Lyndsey Maiden from the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) has been in touch with some examples of unseasonal behaviour and sightings.

Whilst our summer visitors have left us and our winter visitors such as fieldfares and redwings have arrived, it would seem that not all our wildlife is aware that winter is on the horizon.

This November has been unseasonably warm which has meant that some animals such as bats and hedgehogs have delayed their winter hibernation.

With plenty of insects still around this may not currently be a huge concern although a sudden drop in temperature may leave some animals out in the cold.

A pipistrelle bay by Amy Lewis.

Bats would normally be in hibernation by now but both pipistrelle and daubenton's bats have been seen flying around in Carmarthenshire and Swansea. Image by Amy Lewis.

Bats would normally be hibernating at this time of year and yet WTSWW have received reports of a Daubentons bat in Swansea and Lyndsey Maiden of the Trust has seen pipistrelle bats flying in Carmarthenshire.

The Trust has even received reports of frogs mating in Carmarthen.

Many plants are still producing flowers, with sightings of greater stitchwort, red campion, knapweed, cow parsley and hogweed producing new growth and flowers.

Southern hawker dragonflies and red admirals are still flying on sunny days as are wasps and other small invertebrates which would normally be dying off.

A red admiral enjoying the November sunshine at Boverton. Image by Sue.

A red admiral enjoying the November sunshine at Boverton. Image by Sue.

You may have noticed that trees such as hazels are still keeping their leaves at the moment or even daffodils coming into flower. All of this unusual behaviour seems to be down to the unseasonably warm weather.

There are indications that this is part of a longer term trend and whilst this is not the warmest November on record this is probably due to the El Nina effect cooling us down.

The Wildlife Trusts are concerned about the robustness of wildlife being able to cope with an unpredictable climate. Our unusual weather will put pressures on nature's systems and it will take time to see how she copes.

If you see any more unusual sightings please send your reports to WTSWW's Facebook page.

December looks like a return to normality though with a wintry weather forecast for the week ahead and temperatures today struggling to get above 6° C for much of Wales.

Winter wildlife pictures

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:21 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

It may be getting chillier but that doesn't stop the wildlife or the photographers for that matter.

Here are a few photos from our Flickr group which have caught my eye recently:

The cormorant and the roach by Tony Llewellyn

The cormorant and the roach by Tony Llewellyn.

Criccieth castle in black and white by Peter.

Criccieth castle in black and white by Peter.

A heron fishing for eels in the late afternoon sun by Karlentwm.

A heron fishing for eels in the late afternoon sun by Karlentwm.

A rabbit and green woodpecker by Clive Davies.

A rabbit and green woodpecker by Clive Davies.

A short-eared owl by Mike Warburton.

A short-eared owl by Mike Warburton.

First day of winter

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:13 UK time, Thursday, 1 December 2011

Today is the first day of winter from a meteorological point of view and after a very mild autumn, one of the warmest on record since 1910, the next few days are looking colder and more seasonal.

In fact some frost is expected tonight with temperatures falling close to freezing or just below, so you may need to scrape your car windscreen tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow I'd make the most of the dry and bright weather because during the afternoon, it will cloud over with rain on the way and a strengthening south-westerly wind.

Friday night will turn wet and windy with some heavy rain and fresh to strong winds and gales on higher ground.

Saturday will start wet and windy but the rain will gradually clear with much drier, brighter weather spreading from the north.

On Sunday there is some uncertainty at the moment. It may start dry but there is a risk of more rain in the south and showers in the north.

Monday looks cold and windy with a mixture of sunshine and wintry showers with some sleet and snow likely, especially on high ground, the Cambrian Mountains and Snowdonia.


Tinkinswood burial site uncovered

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 15:30 UK time, Thursday, 1 December 2011

Excavation work is drawing to a close at an archaeological dig with a difference in the Vale of Glamorgan this week.

I've been to visit the Neolithic sites at Tinkinswood and St. Lythan's near the village of St. Nicholas to hear about a new project which is involving the local community in digging for hidden historical treasure.

Cadw and Archaeology Wales have joined forces to excavate three sites near the existing ancient burial chambers.

Dr Ffion Reynolds, a community archaeologist with Cadw, told me that at the Tinkinswood sites they managed to confirm that what they thought was a fallen Neolithic burial chamber was actually a Bronze Age barrow, which caused great excitement among the team.

The original excavation took place at the Tinkinswood burial chamber in 1914 by John Ward who at that time was the Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Wales.

The remains of 50 people were originally found inside the chamber including men, women and children.

Neolithic burial chamber of the so-called 'Cotswold-Severn' type. Image by Alan Simkins

Neolithic burial chamber of the so-called 'Cotswold-Severn' type. Image by Alan Simkins.

There are large patches of rock exposed on the approach to Tinkinswood in an area known as 'The Quarry', thought possibly to be the source of the capstone used for the burial chamber - the largest in Wales at a colossal 40 tonnes.

The project has also managed to confirm that the quarry didn't supply the stone for the burial chamber which now leads to another question, where did the stone come from?

At St. Lythan's burial chamber against a backdrop of rolling fields and winter sunshine there was a small army of volunteers hard at work with spades in hand.

They'd come from all walks of life and not just from the local area:

Tom from Maesteg was made redundant earlier this year and wanted to do something constructive with his time.

For Seren a PHD archaeology student, the chance to excavate at the site of an ancient monument was a 'dream come true' whilst Ann who'd lived near Tinkinswood all her life just wanted to find out more about her local area.

The volunteers had discovered flints, pieces of broken pottery, cremated human bones and a variety of human teeth.

This was particularly appropriate for one volunteer called Gavin who had worked in dentistry for 20 years, 'I can't get away from teeth!' he moaned.

But their enthusiasm was infectious and it was obvious that everyone involved felt a real connection to the past.

It's amazing when you think that many of the objects they uncovered hadn't been touched by a human hand for around 6,000 years.

The objects uncovered at the dig will be taken away for more expert analysis before going on display in the National Museum of Wales.

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