Weather watch

Wind, rain or shine in the New Forest?
As a nation we are well-known for our obsession with the weather and it’s an obsession that national parks share.

In the traditional upland parks such as the Lake District or the Cairngorms, weather is a matter of life and death. Mountain conditions are monitored more closely than your bank balance around pay-day. A change of wind direction or a falling barometer can provide vital information for those climbing the peaks or farming the hills.

But what of the New Forest National Park? Surely you don’t need to check the prevailing conditions before scaling the heights of Bolton’s Bench?

Well, in addition to being the UK’s smallest and most densely-populated national park, the New Forest is among the flattest. The highest point in the Forest near Bramshaw is only about 135m or 443ft: hardly enough to get you out of breath, let alone worry about conditions at the ‘summit’.

The fact that the New Forest National Park is vertically challenged does not reduce the level of interest in the weather or make the weather here uninteresting.

The New Forest’s sizable sailing community, for instance, needs to keep a close eye on the weather. A long cold winter such as the one we experienced in 2010 or increasingly hot dry summers if some predictions about global warming are correct can have significant impacts on the New Forest’s animals, plants and landscape.

At a more personal level, we all want to know what the weather in the New Forest is going to be like for that walk or picnic, that bike or horse ride, for flying a kite, for gardening or farming.

So while it is not essential to monitor the avalanche risk here, the New Forest National Park developed its own weather station.

It used to be located in the village of Buckler’s Hard. The station was not much to look at: just a big black bucket. But inside that bucket was a range of hi-tech gizmos connecting wirelessly to the National Park website.

You could view live, real-time readings of all the usual measures such as temperature, wind speed and rainfall and a number of less usual ones including humidity and wind chill. Daily highs and lows were shown as well as current conditions. Weather history was recorded over the past months and year. There was also a live webcam.

Martin O'Neill