‘Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow’.
Frank Zappa – Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow
There is a postcard for sale in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery depicting three scenes from a hundred years ago. The people in the sepia photos are clearly making the most of the winter weather and enjoying themselves. Buxtonians still indulge in winter sports although it doesn’t look quite so formal these days.
A dollop of the white stuff causes more disruption than it did a century ago, even though elderly residents claim the winters are nowhere near as severe as they used to be (typically followed by a Monty Pythonesque yarn about hardship). The difference is that a lot of folks commute to work or school nowadays; a century ago, most just trudged to the nearest place. Health and safety wasn’t really a thing. Unemployed and prisoners of war were handed a shovel and a sack of salt. For better or worse, times have changed, but rejoicing in the possibility of a white Christmas remains an option.
A jaunt up through Grinlow Woods to Solomon’s Temple is especially magical in the snow. It’s like going through the wardrobe into Narnia. A successful clamber to the top of the temple is greeted by a majestic view of Buxton and the neighbouring hills, its unplanned sprawl made pretty by the pristine white. In hindsight, I would avoid the main path because people sledge down it and turn it into an A&E filler. There are safer routes to the crown of Grinlow. They all begin at Poole’s Cavern at the bottom of the woods which has a café if you’re in need of a hot beverage and a mince pie.
Buxton is notorious for its peculiar weather, situated a thousand feet above the level of the sea. Even by the town’s meteorological standards, 2017 was a strange year. Like an errant father, summer put in a very early appearance in May and June and then left, never to return. We had a few weeks in November which looked a bit like autumn but that didn’t stick around for long either. If 2017 was a film, the seasons have put in surprise cameo roles. The rest of the time, we have conditions that I like to call non-season; weather that doesn’t resemble anything; slate-grey skies and persistent rain. Climate-change deniers should be sent to live here.
If you’re planning a safe journey in these parts this winter, then Buxton has its own website at www.buxtonweather.co.uk to help you survive its notorious micro-climate. Run by local one man institution Michael Hilton, his online reports are constantly updated with the help of the populace. Michael comments on the benevolent spirit of his contributors:
‘Once again Buxton’s fine tradition of trying to help each other has come to the fore in the conditions this winter. I have been receiving dozens of “snow related” messages and pictures, about road and snow conditions, throughout the Peak District. Along with current weather conditions and weather forecasts, I have been posting all of these messages, on buxtonweather.co.uk to assist travellers on Peak District roads. It is heartening that so many people take the trouble to send messages, to assist other travellers in these difficult conditions. There was around a quarter of million page views, on the buxton weather site, over six days, during a snow fall in December! So I would like to say a big “THANK YOU!” to all of you wonderful people, who send updates to me – your efforts are greatly helping your fellow travellers – and your efforts are much appreciated!
So take some pride in yourself, Buxtonians, enjoy the weird yet beautiful weather here…
Ben Jones, Buxton Museum & Art Gallery for Explore Buxton
See more of Buxton in the Winter in our feature: 8 Things You Might Not Know About Buxton in Winter