Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Clear Skies

Having just returned from 10 days touring Southern Ireland, in glorious sunshine for most of the time, we were struck with how clear the views were back in the UK. Was this a by product of the volcanic ash - we wondered? Perhaps the plume of volcanic ash high up (and out of sight in the atmosphere) was blocking out other - more usual - pollutants?

Then we realised that perhaps it was the total and prolonged absence of air flight that might be responsible. After all the largely invisible pollution that we are told is caused by air travel is supposed to contribute to a "greenhouse" effect and accelerate global warming. But it is very difficult to see the proof of this with ones own eyes.

The ferry from Dublin arrived in Holyhead around mid day and after a short stop at relatives on Anglesey our 3 hour return trip to Sheffield took us within sight of both Snowdonia and the Derbyshire Peak District. Rarely - if ever before - have we seen distant ridges, summits and exposed rocks so clearly defined.

Snowden and its neigbouring peaks were clearly visible as were the patches of snow on high ground in shady nooks and crannies. The sky appeared cleaner, and bluer that we can remember and this contributed to the clarity of distant vistas along with the blue sea with white waves rolling in to sandy beaches around Llandudno. Great Orme Head was clearly visible in its entirety - no need to extrapolate from partially visible views between cloud. The climb out of Glossop and views toward Kinder Scout were as full of detail as we have ever seen. Gullies as well as ridges stood out far more clearly than we could recall seeing before. Then we could feast our eyes on the deep blue of both Ladybower and Derwent Water reservoirs as we neared the end of our trip along Snake Pass. We could clearly could make out millstone grit of Stannedge Edge towering above both reservoirs, against a beautiful blue sky dotted with white clouds. Then it was up toward Strines moor and sneak rear mirror views back toward Whin Top before Sheffield unravelled as we approached it along the Rivelin Valley. High up to the right, towards Lodge Moor, I could see standing stones in the mid distance that I never knew existed.

I know it is selfish but if the Icelandic Volcano is the cause of this "revelation" of nature's glories  in the North of England then I hope it continues a little longer so I can capture some of our local views on camera.

The overall effect has been similar to the transformation of vision an optician achieves when fitting the correct strength lens during an eye test ( or possibly after a cataract has been removed). We can remember only a few occassions, in the last 25 years or so, when travelling from Higgor Tor, and stopping to overlook Sheffield above Ringinglow, that we could not only see the shape of  distant landmarks like Loughborough and Ferrybridge Cooling TTowers but further out to Drax and also to an unknown power station beyond even that. I am sure we would be able to see a similar distance as clearly this afternoon had we taken that route back home.

There probably have been days when we have witnessed a similar clarity - so our experience today is certainly not proof of the otherwise hidden effects of air travel but it does seem highly suggestive.
I wonder if anyone else has had similar experience and reflections in the last couple of days?