Dartmoor’s weather has been said to be ‘unpredictable’ but to the moorfolk who know what signs to look out for nothing comes as a surprise. It could be said that the weather can on occasions be split in two forecasts in so much as it could be raining on the North Moor but dry on the South Moor. A very ‘tongue in cheek’ saying used to describe the weather on Dartmoor is;
Fust it rain’d then it blaw’d
The it ‘ail’d then it snaw’d
Then it com’d a shower o’ rain
Then it vreez’d an blaw’d agean.
As with anywhere, especially in the holiday season the hot topic of conversation is the weather – “what’s it going to do today?” During the summers months a good rule of guide is; “rain before seven dry after eleven,” and many is the occasion when an early morning walk begins in the rain and you are sunburnt by lunchtime, or;
Many a cloudy morning
Brings forth a sunny noon.
Many of the old sayings have come from centuries of moorland weather observations handed down from generation to generation at a time when many of the day to day activities were reliant on the weather. For instance, one mistake with planting a seasons crop could result in empty winter larders. As with most places, everybody is an ‘expert’ on the weather but it appears that in respect of our ‘new’ weather patterns a lot of the traditional lore is no longer applicable with regards to the timing of the seasons.
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another fight,
But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.
If drops hang on the fence on Candlemas Day the icicles will hang there on March 14th.
There is always one fine week in February.
If in February there be no rain,
The hay won’t grow, nor the grain,
All the other months of the year
Most heartily curse a fine Februeer.
When the cat in February lies in the sun, she will creep under the grate in March.
Dust in March brings leaves and grass.
A peck of March dust is worth a king’s ransom.
As many mists in March so many frosts in May.
Much March dust, and a shower in May,
Makes the corn green and the field gay.
When flies swarm in March, sheep come by their death.
If it thunders on All Fool’s Day,
There will be good crops of corn and hay.
When April blows its horn,
‘Tis good for hay and corn.
For a warm, wet May
The parsons do pray,
For then death-fees
Come their way.
He who bathes in may, will soon be laid in clay.
A dry May and a rainy June,
Puts the farmer’s pipe in tune.
A dripping June brings all things in tune.
Ne’er trust a July sky.
Ice in October to bear up a duck,
Winter to follow with slush and muck.
Lazy fly, rain is nigh.
When ants move their eggs it’s a sure sign of rain.
If the stars huddle earth will soon become a puddle.
When elder is white, brew and bake a peck.
When elder is black, brew and bake a sack.
Ash before oak, there will be a soak,
Oak before ash, there will be but a splash.
If the heron flies low, rain is a comin’.
If at dimpsey the frogs do croakin’, we’em be soon due a soakin’.
The West wind always brings wet weather,
The East wind wet and cold together,
The south wind surely brings us rain,
The North wind blows it back again.
If the sun in red should set,
The next day surely will be wet:
If the sun should set in gray
The next will be a rainy day.
The worse weather for the rider, is the better for the bider.
True Signs of Rain – 1834.
The moorland winds begin to blow,
The clouds look black the glass is low,
The soot falls down, the spaniels sleep,
The spiders from their cobwebs creep.
Last night the sun went pale to bed,
The moon in halos hid her head;
The boding shepherd heaves a sigh,
For see a rainbow spans the sky.
The walls are damp, the ditches smell,
Closed is the pink-eyed pimpernel;
Hark! how the chairs and tables crack,
Old Betty’s joints are on the rack.
Loud quack the ducks, the peacocks cry,
The distant tors are seeming nigh;
How restless are the snorting swine,
The busy flies disturb the kine (cattle).
Low o’er the moor the swallow wings,
The cricket too, how loud he sings;
Puss on the hearth with velvet paws,
Sits smoothin’ o’er her whiskered jaws.
Through the clear leat the fishes rise,
And nimbly catch the incautious flies;
The sheep are seen at early light,
Cropping the meads with eager bite.
Though June, the air is cold and chill,
The mellow blackbird’s song is still;
The glow-worms, numerous and bright,
Illumed the dewy goyle last night.
At dusk the squalid toad was seen,
Hopping and crawling o’er the green;
The frog has lost its yellow vest,
And in a dingy suit is dressed.
My dog, so altered by his taste,
Quits mutton bones, on grass to feast;
And see yon rooks, how odd their flight,
The imitate the gliding kite,
Or seem precipitate to fall,
As if they felt the piercing ball.
T’will surely rain! I see with sorrow
We shan’t be on the moor tomorrow.