Today is St Swithun’s Day, that all important day in July that will, as legend has it, determine our weather for the next forty days. Will it be a summer of long lazy days spent outside, frequent barbecues, gentle tanning and relaxation or will it be one of soggy picnics, wellies and umbrellas, and washed out fetes?
The legend goes thus:
St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare
St Swithun was the Bishop of Winchester during the ninth century. It is said that he requested that he be buried outside, rather than inside Winchester Cathedral, so that his grave would be trodden on by passers-by and so that it would be graced by the raindrops falling off the eaves above. Legend has it that when the monks tried to move his body indoors some years later it rained so heavily for the next forty days that their efforts were thwarted and they gave up on the idea. Whatever the truth of the story the legend actually does have some scientific basis to it. The jet stream tends to settle into a pattern during the middle of July which then tends to remain reasonably steady right until the end of August. When the jet stream lies north of Britain then continental high pressure moves in whereas when it lies across or south of Britain then Arctic air and Atlantic weather systems come into force.
I’ve woken up this morning to the evidence of rainfall during the night but with the promise of a fine day ahead and a steady rise in temperatures. I’m not quite sure where this leaves us as far as the legend of St Swithun goes – forty days of mixed weather? I’m going to go with forty days of dry, sunny weather but as my children know only too well, my weather predictions tend to be completely wrong!