Nature Notes – May 2023
by Andy Johnson
Recently the north of England was subject to a ridge of high pressure and a NE airflow. These conditions were ideal for the creation of Britain’s only named wind ‘The Helm Wind’, which is formed in the Cross Fell region of the North Pennines. Moisture in the NE wind condenses as it rises up the eastern flank of the Pennines to form a stationary cloud or ‘helm’ (thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word for helmet or head covering). As the wind crests the ridge it is compressed and increases in speed as it descends into the Eden Valley. Although local, it can blow for up to a week out of clear blue skies, at speeds of 60 mph or more; it can do significant damage. The wind may be accompanied by a roar, rather like standing behind a jet engine. The irony is that this wind is localised; within a mile or so of where it blows, the atmosphere can be calm.
As I write we have a pair of swallows and house martins back. Chalky White spotted an osprey flying over the village and a black cap is singing in the Old Rectory garden. Cuckoos have returned in southern England and by early May our swifts should also have returned.