February Fill-Dyke

One of the pleasures of island living is the dialectic vocabulary. Despite having lived here for a decade, I’m an overner and will always be one. . Approaching my fifth decade, I rarely get called a nipper anymore. We’ll sit down for nammit around midday. Our log man, a peoper Islander, delivered us a load last week and introduced us to a new colloquialism for this time of year, February fill-dyke.

This term apparently refers to the the weather conditions prevalent at this time of year. “If you can survive February fill-dyke, you’ll be fine the rest of the year,” was Mr Bronwin’s advice. He must sense the weather in his bones, as the following days saw the heaviest downpours of the year so far.

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The weather forecast is even more valuable at this time of year, when adventures must be carved out, between the short hours of the day and the turbulent atmospheric conditions. I’m a big proponent of getting outdoors whatever the weather, but the photographer in me demands that I get out when the sunshine does.

The filling of the dykes is clearly well underway. Footpaths have reduced to muddy trails, the grass on either side evermore trampled by those passing through. I’ve only got one pair of trainers at the moment, and they’re not really up to the job of handling the mud, so falls have become common and the washing machine is in regular use (top tip: avoid falling into barbed wire, ouch!)

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The forest shows the same effects but even more dramatically. Down alongside Parkhurst stream, the paths are flooded, with the litter floating through the water with glimpses of sunshine sparkling in the newly formed swamp. The stream itself flows like a river for the only time in the year.

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It’s still possible to find solid ground. Up before dawn this morning, I headed to St Catherine’s Down and the surrounding coast. The sun played behind thin clouds and the expanse of water around. The footing was sure. The forecast predicts a return to the cold by the end of the week, but whatever winter has left to throw at us, however full the dykes, the world will continue its orbit and spring will be in full bloom soon enough.