Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

“Gorse is out of bloom, when kissing’s out of fashion”

There was heavy snow in the early hours of Sunday morning. We didn’t need any more encouragement. The Gooley family set off for an explore of Black Down, the highest point in our county of West Sussex.

One of the first things I noticed was that the gorse was in bloom in the snow. Gorse is famous for this, which is where the saying above comes from. (There’s more on reading snow and gorse on this page and weather lore here.)

The snow had stopped as we felt the Land Rover Defender’s wheels losing traction on a steep section. But there were still thick low clouds all around. As we set off on foot, I spotted the sun for one second between the clouds.

In conditions like this, if the sun does peek out from behind the clouds, it’s really important to give it your full attention . Bring it down to your landscape and you’ll be glad you did when it disappears again.

For fun, have a look at the images on this page and see if you can spot the sun. Answer at the bottom.


I’m sure you spotted it. It is high in middle of the photo third from bottom, the one above the animal tracks in the snow. (There are plenty of tracks here, but most of the marks are from secondary snow showers. Snow that has been shaken free from branches by wind. The number of spots is a sign that the temperature has already risen above zero degrees Celsius. Lots more on these sorts of signs in The Secret World of Weather.)

Most people might think, “Ah, that’s nice.”, when the sun comes out for a second on a cold cloudy day. Natural navigators think that too, but only once we’ve bagged it.

When I saw the sun for a split second, it was near midday. I knew that the high ground directly below it was south of me. It was the last time I saw the sun that day, but I now had a sturdy compass in the shape of the land to guide me.