The British winter is as unpredictable as our summer. It never ceases to surprise us. One day it is mild but the next sees sub-zero temperatures. The only thing we can guarantee is that it will be cold at some point, you will need a scarf, gloves, and a hat, and Christmas will be in December. But apart from that, all bets are off. 

Old wives’ tales 

But are we being too pessimistic? And how can we forecast with confidence? Some old wives’ tales believe that, with a little know-how, the severity of winter can be forecast accurately. Let’s look at a few of these.

Folklore says there are many signs that can forecast a cold winter. A foggy morning in August; animals with thicker fur; and thicker acorns on the ground. The more berries you spot, the more food for hibernating animals who will need it because winter will be nippy. If there are more mushrooms than normal, snow will fall – and no mushrooms mean a milder winter.

Thunder can also predict a harsh winter: if there is thunder in the autumn, the winter months will be cold. And if you hear thunder in the winter itself, it will snow seven days later. 

Other harbingers of colder winters involve squirrels and moles; namely a squirrel burying nuts quickly; and mole holes deeper than 2.5 feet. 

The colour of the tiger moth caterpillar can also predict how cold winter will become. While black on both ends, the caterpillar has a reddish-brown mid-section. The narrower that reddish-brown means winter will be harsh. The wider the band then the weather will be mild.  

The spleen of a pig: the thicker the spleen, the thicker the snow; and if you spot any pigs gathering sticks or leaves, a cold winter is on the cards.

Other old wives’ tales that allegedly predict a colder winter include an apple tree with more fruit than normal; apple skins that are tougher and thicker; and flowers that have a second bloom or keep their blooms for longer. 

More tales say cold weather can be forecast if trees have more and larger pine cones; onion skins are thick; and trees have brighter leaves in autumn. And if you spot wasps or bees building nests high in the trees or even birds migrating early, get ready for a cold winter. Finally, if you see a robin near a house in the autumn, the mercury is set to drop. 

Get ready now

Setting aside these old wives’ tales, the facts are that winter in the UK often brings all kinds of adverse weather. Whilst some will always take us by surprise; frost, ice and snow need not. Before the temperature drops further, should you want a discussion on de-icers and equipment for winter with a company that has seen 149 of them, please contact Peacock Salt.