Lewisham’s Beckenham Place Park will next year be home to a new wild swimming lake, thanks to a plan to make London the world’s first National Park City.
The scheme put me in mind of the Shoulder of Mutton lake in Wanstead Park which, decades ago, used to host swimming galas and other events. Long-time residents of Aldersbrook will remember the jetty and diving board that stood at the edge of the lake before falling into disrepair that led to their removal.
With millions set to be spent shoring up the dams of the park’s lake system it is surely feasible that the City of London Corporation can reopen Shoulder of Mutton to swimming while the work is undertaken.
While being cheaper than a lido it would provide an excellent resource and give local residents the chance to enjoy once more swimming in natural surroundings, just like in the Serpentine and Hampstead Ponds.
The sensor unit, 750m NNE of the weather station wansteadweather.co.uk on the Aldersbrook estate, is much better exposed and will hopefully offer more accurate wind and sunshine readings. It will also provide a chance to further investigate the area’s microclimate.
The station has already shown that the golf course is warmer on a radiative cooling night than the Aldersbrook Estate.
The 8th and 9th of August 2017 has produced probably the most miserable weather of this summer.
A rainfall event that began just after 8am on the 9th deposited nearly 36mm of rain in the Wanstead area over 14 hours.
The 09-09 total of 33.7mm made it the fourth greatest daily August rainfall since 1960.
The heaviest rain fell in a fairly narrow band, as shown by the official 24hr totals on ogimet.com. The low pressure system also produced a lot of rain for the east coast in the previous 24hrs with Bridlington recording over 56mm.
The rain brings the summer total to 207.7mm, just 0.6mm short of the amount recorded in 1997. Though it has been wet it is still a long way short of the wettest summer on record: some 391mm were recorded here in 1903.
In terms of temperature it has been a chilly start to August; the mean temp currently stands 1.2C below the whole month average. Considering CET it has been the coldest start to the month for 30 years.
July 2017 was the wettest since 1960. Some 92.3mm of rain were recorded which is 212 per cent of the 1981-2010 average.
Although the opening third of the month saw a continuation of the June heatwave temperatures gradually returned to normal values to leave the mean for the month at 19.2C, that’s 0.7C above average.
With all the rain sunshine totals were down. Some 167 hours were recorded, that’s 87% of average.
Though the rainfall total was impressive it is well short of the record of 164.2mm set in 1834, and is only 35th in the list going back to 1797.
Summary for July 2017
Mean (1 minute) 18.9
Mean (min+max) 19.2
Mean Minimum 14.7
Mean Maximum 23.7
Minimum 9.4 day 12
Maximum 30.5 day 07
Highest Minimum 18.3 day 06
Lowest Maximum 19.0 day 24
Air frosts 0
Total for month 92.3
Wettest day 30.8 day 11
High rain rate 56.4 day 29
Rain days 10
Dry days 21
Highest Gust 17.4 day 27
Average Speed 2.9
Wind Run 2163.5 miles
Gale days 0
Maximum 1024.2 day 16
Minimum 996.8 day 31
Total hours of sunshine 167
In terms of the rest of the summer a look at the ECMWF control run out to 10 days suggests an unsettled start to August with the jetstream centred right over the top of the UK. Things may improve as the Azores high attempts to exert more influence – so perhaps more in the way of sunshine than of late. In terms of heatwaves it is impossible to tell at this range.
1st: Cloudy but with sunny spells developing, these growing longer in length by evening.
2nd: Sunny with just a few light cumulus.
3rd: Sunny start though with plenty of cloud around, this tending to thicken after lunch with odd spot of rain.
4th: Sunny and very warm early then tended to cloud over before sun returned in the late afternoon and evening. Some very unstable low to mid level cloud.
5th: Sunny with just a few cirro-cumulus. Feeling very warm with cloud bubbling up in the evening, however forecast storms failed to materialise.
6th: Sunny with cirrus and dotted cumulus. This tended to thicken late morning though sun stayed out and became hot and humid.
7th: Sunny with lots of high-level cirrus and cumulus most of the day.
8th: Bright but mostly cloudy start, the cloud tending to vary through the day. Sunny after 4pm. Warm overnight.
9th: Bright but mostly cloudy start, the cloud tending to break and vary through the day.
10th: A mostly sunny morning and lunchtime until 2pm when it clouded over.
11th: Cloudy with some bright breaks at first. Cloud thickening with rain by noon, this falling sporadically before getting going after 5pm and stopping by 3am.
12th: Cloudy, damp and close start.
13th: Sunny with variable cloud until noon when there were just bright spells.
14th: Cloudy but with a few breaks around mid morning. Turning cloudy again before sunny spells in the evening.
15th: Cloudy with some sporadic rain as warm front blew through and close. Very limited brightness.
16th: Cloudy with some bright spells. Feeling warm and humid.
17th:Sunny with just a few cirrus drifting around. Feeling hot, cloud thickened from the west in the late afternoon.
18th: Sunny with variable cirrus and cirro cumulus through the day. Feeling very warm. Storms began building with supercell to west of London and over Chilterns.
19th: Cloudy, dull start and very humid with heavy mist – the cloud tended to lift to give sunny spells in the afternoon.
20th: Drizzle after shower before obs time, then showers through to 1pm.
21st: Cloudy start but with sunny spells developing. Clouded over in evening with intermittent heavy rain at 11pm and through the early hours.
22nd: Cloudy but with sunny intervals developing around noon. Heavy showers developing with thunder at 2.30pm and 3.07pm.
23rd: Bright with variable cloud
24th: Cloudy with light, showery rain from northerly airstream that originated in the Med.
25th: Cloudy with light rain just after obs time.
26th: Cloudy with occasionally rain. Feeling warm and a late clearance. Breezy and chilly overnight.
27th: Cloudy but bright and sunny spells developing. A very heavy shower at 1pm.
28th: Bright start but clouding over.
29th: Sunny start with cloud increasing after noon to leave overcast before patchy rain moved in. This falling more heavily at 5pm before clearing to further showers. More rain overnight before a strong squall arrived at 2.45am and lasted an hour with further bursts of rain through the night – two claps of thunder and lightening during squall.
30th: Sunny with variable cloud through the day. Very warm in the sunshine
31st: Sunny with variable cloud throughout the day.
I’ve seen this phrase uttered more than once over the past couple of days thanks to high temperatures and humidity. But ask anyone to define a hot day and you’ll get a different answer every time.
Growing up in the 1970s / 80s redtop newspapers would use the phrase once the mercury was nudging 80F (26.7C). But to ‘scorch’ you need sunshine, preferably at least 10 hours of it. Considering statistics from the Heathrow airport climate station in west London there have been 463 scorchers since 1959, the most recent happening on July 5th with 29.5C recorded and 13.9 hours of sunshine. There have now been 9 scorchers this year, already matching the number that were recorded in 2014 and only 3 short of last year.
But even with last month’s heatwave this year has some way to go, however, to match the amount measured in 1976 and 1995: 31 days!
The mean temperature for May 2017 of 14.7C was 1.6C above average; the warmest for six years and the 11th warmest in a local series going back to 1797.
Despite the first ten days of the month continuing the dry spell that has plagued London for months the total recorded finished above average: 62.5mm rainfall (122% of the 1981-2010), the wettest May for three years.
Though the month finished warm with some cracking sunny days the first two-thirds of the month were relatively dull: 157.1hrs of sunshine were recorded which is 86% of average, the dullest for 13 years.
1st: Cloudy all day with just a few bright intervals.
2nd: Sunny and clear morning, cloud bubbled up at noon. Cloud thickened with very light drizzle at 8pm.
3rd: Cloudy, dull with occasional very light drizzle.
4th: Cloudy and feeling chilly all day. Odd drizzle.
5th: Sunny start though cloud thickened quickly to leave an overcast though bright, breezy afternoon.
6th: Cloudy all day with a couple of bright spells.
7th: Cloudy and cool start, cloud decreasing after noon, eventually clearing to leave long sunny spells at 5pm.
8th: Cloudy and cool start – the cloud sticking all day and felt chilly.
9th: Cloudy and cool start, cloud decreased late afternoon but did not completely clear until 5am, saving area from frost. -2.8C in Benson!
10th: Sunny and mostly clear into the afternoon with patchy cirrus.
11th: Sunny and humid to start with much high-level cirrus. Breezy too. Showers overnight.
12th: Cloudy start, one or two light showers before a brief heavy one at 2pm. Sunny spells developed late afternoon.
13th: Cloudy start before cloud decreased to long sunny spells in afternoon. Cloudier overnight with showers between 7am and 8am.
14th: Sunny spells and breezy. Cloudier overnight with shower at 7am.
15th: Light rain and showers through the morning, clearing in the afternoon to sunny intervals.
16th: Bright start with cloud decreasing. Some very warm sunny spells – felt like summer for first time. Light rain in the evening though it didn’t start falling consistently until 2am with heaviest fall arriving at 4am.
17th: Bright start with plenty of sunny spells. Showery rain arrived at noon, turning more persistent at 4pm, clearing around 10pm.
18th: Bright start with lots of sunshine. Cloud began thickening at 1pm with bursts of light rain. Persistent rain arrived at 3.30pm and was still moderate to heavy at 10pm. Started petering out at midnight but then two further showers at 3am and 5am.
19th: Showery with longer spells of rain. This tended to clear to sunny spells. Thunder in the evening with a brief heavy shower at 6.23pm.
20th: Sunny, warm and breezy morning to 1pm.
21st: Sunny start with cumulus bubbling up. Sunny spells thereafter, growing longer as day wore on. Still 20C at 6pm during first Music in Wanstead Park. Overcast early but cloud started to break around 8am.
22nd: Sunny with decreasing cloud, clear by 1pm with just patchy cirrus.
23rd: Cloudy start with sunny spells mid morning, turning mostly cloudy again though.
24th: Bright start with variable cloud and sunny spells.
25th: Sunny with variable cloud at obs time, the cloud quickly clearing though a convection line could be seen in the west from Essex.
26th: Sunny and clear though breezy. Long sunny spells through the day. Feeling hot. Thunder and brief downpour between 8.30am and 9am.
27th: Sunny though only after front had cleared. Then alternating cloudy to sunny. More cloud late afternoon and not feeling as nice as forecast.
28th: Sunny start with variable cloud though the day. Rain in the evening before storm arrived at 1am, the rain turning heavier at 1.45am and lasting till just gone 3am.
29th: Cloudy start though soon turning brighter. Feeling humid with occasional very light rain.
30th: Cloudy but bright with the odd break. Feeling fresher
31st: Bright start with plenty of holes in the alto cumulus. Cloudier in the afternoon
The driest April since 2011 was also the seventh driest in a local record going back to 1797. Just 4.3mm fell, nearly half of which was recorded on the final day.
An ‘absolute drought’ that began in March coincided with the month; a run of 26 days with a daily total of <0.2mm! Dry early springs seem to be becoming a pattern in this area with eight of the last 11 Aprils being notably dry.
Though the mean temperature for April finished a fraction above average – 10.6C is 0.8C above average – it was a month of two halves. The month started warm with the temperature peaking at 25.4C on the 9th – Sunday of what was a warm weekend in London.
A polar low on 24th brought an unseasonably cold end to the month with cold days and night frost. Thunder was recorded on 26th and was accompanied by <5mm hail.
The total sunshine hours were just above average: 178.4 hours is 111% of the 1981-2010 average.
The wettest day occurred on the 30th with 2mm.
Air frosts: 1, Ground frosts: 7
Looking ahead, I think May will be another slightly milder than avrage month and continuing much drier than average.
1st: Cloudy into the late morning before some cloud breaks appeared. Brief shower and some warm sunshine but cooler than lately. Cold in early evening and cloud breaks overnight.
2nd: Sunny with variable cumulus. Variable cloud through the day and chilly overnight
Sunny with bubbly cumulus.
3rd: Cloudy but with bright breaks and blue sky in distance.
4th: Sunny and pleasant early with bubbly cumulus – this lasted all day.
5th: Sunny with just a few cumulus.
6th: Sunny with just a few wispy cumulus floating around, slight haze.
7th: Sunny and gin clear.
8th: Sunny spells with a few cumulus. Much cooler.
9th: Sunny with some cirrus and cumulus.
10th: Sunny though with lots of cloud at times.
11th: Sunny start then clouded over then sunnier again with cloudier periods.
12th: Early sunny spells, the cloud thickening by 11.30pm to leave a mostly cloudy afternoon.
13th: Cloudy though high base made it seem bright. Feeling chilly. A shower overnight.
14th: Bright start though with plenty of cloud around. Clear spells overnight.
15th: Sunny early though cloud increasing – a very light shower at 2.15pm.
16th: Cloudy, dull and cool. Some brightness at 2pm but then cloud thickened and breeze freshened to leave a cold afternoon.
17th: Sunny with variable cloud – clear overnight with ground frost.
18th: Sunny with broken cloud to start.
19th: Sunny start but clouded over, then sunny intervals.
20th: Cloud and mild all day.
21st: Very light drizzle to start then heavy cloud. Drizzle turned to light rain in Beckton but dry in Aldersbrook.
22nd: Bright start with broken cloud.
23rd: Bright early with patchy cirrus and altocumulus then completely cloudy and chilly. 24th: Some spots of rain around before moderate shower arrived at 5pm with 0.54mm falling.
25th: Sunny, clear start in polar air before cloud bubbled up around 10.30am. Then sunny spells – dew point stayed around or below freezing all day.
26th: Overcast and chilly with a cold breeze.
27th: Sunny, frosty start but cloud quickly bubbling up. Felt chilly.
28th: Mostly cloudy with the odd sunny spell
29th: Bright start but quickly turning cloudy
30th: Sunny early but gradually clouded over with rain at 1am. This stopped around 2am with small fall before 9am.
The unearthing of an ancient Egyptian statue, initially thought to be of the pharaoh Ramses II, in a Cairo suburb earlier this month reminded me of the mysterious stone that was discovered in Wanstead Park in 2014.
The granite object, discovered partly buried in undergrowth on the banks of Heronry Pond, was initially thought to be part of the long-lost pyramidion (or capstone) of Tia, overseer of the treasury in the time of Ramses II, from his tomb at Saqqara in the Aswan region.
Though tests made last year at Reading University suggested otherwise the fate of the stone that once had pride of place in the American garden of Wanstead House remains a mystery.
The capstone was placed in the park as part of a landscaping project in 1784. Humphry Repton, the landscape gardener who devised plans in 1813-18, described Wanstead Park as “one of the most magnificent places in this country”.
Unfortunately, owner William Wellesley Pole’s debts caught up with him and the estate’s riches were sold off at auction, including the intriguing stone which was labelled Lot 279.
The auction on June 10th coincided with the hottest day of 1822 with the temperature peaking at 92°F. Evening thunderstorms brought some relief but the capstone remained unsold.
A catalogue of the 30-day event showed that Lot 279 was the last item to be sold, being bought by the auctioneer himself who immediately gave it to his son-in-law to display in his garden at Tamworth Castle. There is no evidence, however, that the stone ever reached Tamworth.
Though rainfall during the summer of 1822 was average much of it fell in cloudbursts. Luke Howard’s records in nearby Stratford for June and July reveal many days with maxima well into the 80s and destructive thunderstorms with deadly lightning and hail, some of which measured three inches in diameter.
It is possible that faced with transporting a very heavy lump of granite some 135 miles on a horse drawn cart on unmade, waterlogged roads those charged with the task instead quietly slid the stone into one of Wanstead Park’s lakes.
Ralph Potter, a member of Friends of Wanstead Parklands, has been following the story of the stone since it was discovered. He explained the reason behind why he thinks the stone’s origin is inconclusive: “Probably the world’s most eminent authority on stone from the Aswan quarries has declared, based on photos alone, that the stone does not originate from Aswan. On the other hand we have an eminent petrologist who within minutes of seeing the stone declared it almost certainly came from the quarry complex at Aswan.”
*A full history of the mystery of Lot 279, written by Chris Elliott, can be found here
**A chronicle of Wanstead Park, written by Alan Cornish, can be found here.
***The statue pulled from the mud in a Cairo suburb is thought to be most likely the first king of the 26th Dynasty of Egypt — Psamtek I .
Luke Howard’s entries in the Climate of London at the end of July tell of a very stormy period of weather