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How things can change

I have to go out tonight, so I will leave you with the historic tale of the Lewes avalanche.

England was a much, much colder place in them there days. During the ‘Little Ice Age’ (c. 16th to 19th C) the Thames would often freeze over in Winter, hard enough that they could hold Frost Fairs on its surface.

In 1836, it started snowing in October and the ground wasn’t clear until April. There were ten foot drifts in parts of Lewes, a town along the south coast in Sussex. A particularly strong snowstorm arrived on the 24th and blew right through Christmas.

Nobody in town noticed that on the chalk cliffs above the town, a giant cornice had formed – that’s like a curved wave made of snow. A few bits came down on Boxing Day and destroyed a shed. Some townies suggested the people right below should evacuate for a while, but they didn’t. Nobody appreciated how huge the cornice had grown.

There was a collection of ramshackle homemade cottages in the path of the avalanche. It came down on the 27th – not in a landslide, but as a huge chunk – and buried them alive. There were 15 people at home, mostly women and children, of which eight died. A hundred and fifty turned up to dig the bodies out.

Lewes is in my sort of latitude. In my 27 years coming here (lordy, has it been that long?), I’ve never seen a snowfall worthy of the name. The most I remember was about four inches (and, typical of places that don’t often get snow, it paralyzed everything).

Honest and truly, I’m more worried about the possibility of another ice age than I am warmening, which is most welcome.

November 9, 2023 — 5:24 pm
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