A cold, crisp day today, I took a walk along the back lanes of Crook, my new County Durham home.
I’ve found a spot to the North West of Crook that has commanding views of Weardale. The upper fells are covered in snow, but Frosterley and Wolsingham are currently snow-free. At first I couldn’t recognise any landmarks – I’m yet to learn the intricacies of Weardale’s bumps and curves – but then I spotted the locally famous Frosterley elephant trees. They are supposed to look like elephants, although I’m not personally convinced. I knew you could see these trees from most points in lower Weardale, but I didn’t realise I’d be able to make them out from Crook. I was only standing about twelve kilometres from them, but I still forget how close I am to Weardale in my new home.
From my Weardale vantage point (and now thoroughly frozen) I headed South back towards Crook. On a clear day there are lovely views towards the Yorkshire Dales from here, but I was really surprised to see a large cloud bearing several columns reaching to the horizon. Surely these can’t be tornados? From my many train journeys along the East Coast mainline I knew these to be fumulus clouds, marking the positions of Drax and her sister power stations over one hundred kilometres away.
Fumulus clouds are a type of pyrocumulus cloud and are formed when the steam from power station towers rises into the air and then condenses. Essentially they are man-made cumulus clouds, lifted up on the convection currents created by the hot air. They can spread for miles given the right conditions. Naturally occurring pyrocumulus clouds form above forest fires or volcanos, and can build high enough to produce lightening.
We all know that clouds are massive, but it is a strange feeling being able to pinpoint a cloud’s exact location from over a hundred kilometres away. Suddenly I felt like a very small being standing in a very small landscape.
I got home happy but cold, and once again in awe of the natural, and not so natural world.