Sunday, January 14, 2018

a low spurn count

Here's a bit of a round-up of some bits and bobs that probably don't merit a blog post of their own:

I was going to make the point (but forgot) in the account of my Black Mountains walk that this is a particularly good time of year to be up on these hills - not just because a glorious crisp sunny winter's day is a good time to be up a hill pretty much anywhere, but specifically because these hills have a reputation (entirely deserved) for being boggy, even on top of the ridge. This is partly geography - they're big whale-backed ridges with flat tops, rather than the more exciting rocky arĂȘtes that you get in, say, Snowdonia - but partly just a reflection of how relatively un-scary and easily accessible and therefore highly-populated they are, and therefore the amount of erosion that takes place. In some places they've laid some flat stones to form a path and prevent you disappearing up to the knees in peat.

Anyway, the point is that good times to be up there and avoid excessive boggy squelchiness are high summer, when there's been a chance to bake off some of the water (though it's never completely dry) or in sub-zero winter temperatures when everything's frozen solid. You do have to address a few different problems then, though, like not slipping over and shattering a hip, especially at my age.

Other walk-related news: I've uploaded some pictures to the photo gallery, something I mean to get round to doing more often. New Year's resolutions, again.

Speaking of New Year's resolutions, another was to get the old blogging frequency up a bit, as 2017 was the least bloggy year on record with a pitiful 44 posts. Now there are obviously some mitigating factors here, not least being preoccupied with The Boy, but since he's now trundling round the house in his walker shouting the odds and ripping telephone directories in half I'm very much hoping that I'll have a little more time to think about other things in 2018. There is also the Twitter factor, i.e. the increased likelihood that if I see some amusing link or have some throwaway comment to make on current affairs I'll do it on Twitter rather than here. I suspect I will never regain the dizzy heights of 2007 when I cranked out 282 posts, and I'm fine with that, but my limited aspiration is to arrest the decline whereby every year since 2010 has seen fewer posts than the year before. Given the paltry output I managed in 2017 that should be a lowish bar to clear. 

Here's a couple of graphs:

Every cloud has a silver lining, and in the case of 2017 you can see that while my reading habits were affected a bit, the total number of books I read didn't see the same steep drop-off as the general blog posting did. As a consequence the "book posts as a percentage of overall posts" number is at an all-time high of 29.55%. 

As it happens this seemingly small drop-off (13 books against 15 in 2016) masks the extent of the fall a bit, as it turns out that 2017 also holds the record for shortest average book length (253 pages) and therefore fewest overall pages read (3292 compared with 4404 in 2016). Here's some more graphs:

Lastly, and completely unconnected to blogging or statistical nerdery, I can't remember exactly what series of link-following led me to this article about the Spurn peninsula in East Yorkshire, but you'll (possibly) recall that Hazel and I visited it way back in August 2007 (so this is one of those 282 posts). We drove on the excitingly rough and evidently frequently repaired and re-routed track down to the car park by the old lighthouses and had a bit of a walk around (it is, as you can imagine, rather exposed and windy). Well, it turns out that back in December 2013 there was a particularly vicious storm which washed away a section of the road, as well as most of the vegetation and sand dunes which hold the peninsula together, and you haven't been able to drive down there since.

You'll recall that the general (though not completely uncontroversial) consensus is that the spit has been destroyed and re-formed (slightly further west each time) many times in the past, typically every 250 years or so, and that it's overdue for such an occurrence to happen again but that it's been held at bay by a series of shoring-up measures dating back to the 1850s. Well, it sounds like nature has finally found a way through. You can see the damage pretty clearly on Google's latest satellite photo - pre-2013 (have a look here, for instance) there was a narrow green strip running all the way along. So it'll be interesting to see what happens now, given that the authorities seem to have plumped (probably rightly) for a policy of managed retreat, i.e. letting nature take its course. What you would expect to happen is for future storms to eventually carve a permanent channel through the breach and then gradually eat away the spit all the way down to the end, and then for the longshore drift and silt deposition process to start to build a new spit from the mainland end. Note that we're talking geological timescales here, though - none of us is going to see it.

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