Living in a rain shadow

“John and Pam used to say to me that they couldn’t understand how they got much more rain where they lived in North Devon than we did here in Somerset,”

”Rain shadow, Mum.”

”What’s that?”

”At Ham school, Miss Rabbage used to teach us that as the rain clouds came in from the Atlantic, they would be pushed upward by the hills in the west of Somerset and the rain would fall there and not reach here.”

”Exmoor and the Quantocks and the Blackdowns?”

”I suppose so. I never checked. The only figures for rainfall that I knew were for Dartmoor and for here. Dartmoor got sixty inches of rain a year and we got thirty inches.”

The conversations recalled geography lessons at school and the drawing of diagrams that showed how relief rainfall happened. Even now we still joke with geography teachers that their subject is about “colouring in.” I have happy memories of such activities, the use of coloured pencils was obviously effective in ensuring the lessons remained in the memory.

Beyond knowing the difference between the rainfall at my school on Dartmoor and my home village in Somerset, I never knew whether we really were in a rain shadow.

Perhaps the exact geographical facts were not that important, perhaps it was the perception that mattered. Our view of our part of our home county was that it conformed to our own version of a Goldilocks principle, not that we would have understood the application of a fairy tale to human life.

We felt that we were far enough south to enjoy the best of English weather and that we were far enough north to be near the cities of Bath and Bristol. We felt we were far enough west to be away from the crowds and congestion of the areas around London and the Home Counties and that we were far enough east to escape the gridlock traffic jams of Devon and Cornwall that would be pictured on the television news on summer weekends.

Our village at three hundred feet above sea level was an ideal place to be, it was three hundred feet above the surrounding Levels which might disappear below lakes of flood water in winter, yet at three hundred feet it was never the sort of high ground that might suffer frost and ice in winter time.

To be in a rain shadow would only add a meteorological dimension to our Goldilocks principle satisfying human and physical geography.



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