Notes from Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison

p. 32 “One reaons we know how much rain has fallen where, and when is the British Rainfall Organisation: A quintessentially eccentric body and one of the first examples of what we now call ‘citizen science’. George James Symons, who began his working life in the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade, set up the Association in the middle of the 19th century in response to public concern that rainfall was decreasing across the British Isles. He recruited a small network of initial observers, then wrote to The Times in 1853 listing the further locations he wanted, calling for observers ‘of both sexes and all ages’ and offering to subsidise the cost of instruments. By 1867 he had 1,300 observers, nad had to leave his post at the Board of Trade; by his death in 1900 there were 3,408, drawn from ‘nearly every social grade from peer to peasant’… In 1916 the BRO was called upon to determine whether the use of artillery on the Western Front was somehow responsible for one of the wettest winters on record… the opinion given … was that there was no connection. The following winter would prove less wet, despite the artillery barrage of the Somme, but bitterly cold .. continued to publish its records until 1991.”

p. 55 “The aptly named George Merryweather displayed his storm forecaster, the ‘Tempest Prognosticator’ at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Looking not unlike a miniature merry-go-round, it consisted of a circle of 12 pint bottles, each containing a little rainwater and a single leech. His idea was that, on sensing electrical activity in the atmosphere, the leeches would crawl to the top of the bottles, triggering whalebone levers connected to a bell on the topmost dome; the more times the bell rang, the greater the likelihood of an approaching storm. … believed that it could easily be connected to the telegraph network in a way that the bell in St Paul’s, London, could be rung to signal an approaching storm. But then, he also believed that arranging the bottles in a circle would allow the leeches to see one another and not become lonely.”

p. 62 “Because they need their food to be over 50% water, rabbits like to feed at dawn and dusk when the dew is down.”

p. 75 Dartmoor “became a vital source of sphagnum moss during the First World War when it was gathered in great quantities, dried and sent off to be used as wound dressings due to its abosrbency and healing properties; its been shown to slow the growth of fungi and bacteria. Twelves species are found on Dartmoor, and all can hold eight times their own weight in rain.”

p. 82 “A recent study by the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, showed that one square metre of inrtensively improved grassland held just 47 litres of grassland compared to the 269 litres per square metre held by unimproved ‘rhos’ pasture with its naturally occurring purple moor grass and sharp.flowered rush.”

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