1998 was remarkable for exceptionally heavy and persistent rainfall: in Southern Scotland, average precipitation exceeding 115 inches made that year the wettest on record. Consequently, the Southern Uplands have been rendered severely waterlogged, resulting in treacherous walking conditions.
I recall a hike traversing the ridge from Broad Head to Wisp Hill (situated in the uplands NNW of Langholm, Dumfriesshire) via Faw Side, Rashiegrain Height, Pikethaw Hill and Ewenshope Fell undertaken during Mid-June 1998. Normally, this peaty tract is expectedly moist, being part of the watershed feeding Stennies (to the west), Meikledale (to the SE) and Eweslees (draining from the col between Pikethaw and Ewenshope), so obvious care must be taken. However, on that occasion, progress was downright unpleasant: a relentless Force 7/8 sou'wester and visibility down to less than one hundred yards exacerbated matters. Fortunately, the cloud-base lifted upon attaining Pikethaw's summit, revealing the elegant cone of Wisp Hill in full splendour. The steep descent from "The Wisp" to Mosspaul was a nightmare experience, the sodden vegetation having the stability of glazed ice... Similar problems were encountered during 1998. Between Friday 24th and Sunday 26th April, over four inches of rain fell in the Lowther Hills. I was based in Wanlockhead Youth Hostel at the time and can vouch for the weather's savagery. On Tuesday 2nd June, whilst en-route to The Merrick from Glen Trool, I was blown over on the summit of Benyellary and came to the rapid decision that Southern Scotland's highest elevation would be a most dangerous place to develop my aerodynamic skills. Reluctantly, I turned back... It is hoped that 1998 will be regarded as one of those rare abberations which gains legendary, if rather dubious, status in Scottish meteorological lore.
January 1999 saw a continuation of the wet and windy theme with very little in the way of variations: by the 19th, Eskdalemuir's rainfall tally exceeded eight inches. February and March were predominantly mild with a gradual tapering of precipitation. Winter made an unwelcome comeback during Mid-April, with significant accumulations of snow above the 1,000 ft level. The emphasis was on sunshine and showers with a marginal reduction in average temperatures for May and June. July commenced inauspiciously: wet periods alternated with days of stupor-inducing humidity. However, the last week of the month was glorious! Langholm celebrated its hottest Common Riding in living memory. I missed the festivities and escaped to the Lowther Hills - my fourth stay in Wanlockhead this spring/summer. Isolated thunderstorms announced the arrival of August, followed by a week and a half of warm, sultry langour before the onset of Atlantic depressions in the latter half of the month.
In all, the spring and summer of 1999 - although not sufficiently good enough to erase memories of 1995 - showed a considerable improvement over the previous year's gloomy weather.
Copyright 23rd August 1999 and 19th September 1999:
RICHARD M. STANBROOK,
18 Drove Road,
Langholm, Dumfriesshire DG13 OJW.