View from the Rear Window - January 2024

 January - named after the Roman god of all beginnings and transitions, Janus; he is depicted with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back. Janus translates as doorway or archway and is the origin of the word janitor.

The start of a new year - it promises to be a warm one. The garden needs a little TLC; fortunately, winter is a good time to start pruning. We did enjoy the first flush of flowers on the winter cherry (Photo 1).

Photo 1: January 1st 2024

Just one daily photo this month taken on the first day of the new year (Photo 1). The remaining daily garden photos are collated in the short video below (Video 1).

Video 1: Daily Garden Photos (January 2024)

The Met Office described January 2024 as a month of contrasts. In terms of temperatures, that was certainly the case here in Hereford. The average weather statistics for Hereford in January 2024 are summarised in Table 1 but these do not do justice to the weather variability. 

Table 1: Weather Statistics for January 2024

Weather Parameter



Average Monthly Temperature 

5 oC

Maximum Monthly Temperature

15 oC


Minimum Monthly Temperature

-7 oC


Number of Air Frost Days


Number of Hot Days (> 25 oC)


Monthly Precipitation

47.2 mm

Greatest 24 h Precipitation

20.4 mm (see text)

20th - 21st

Number of Dry Days


Monthly Sunshine Hours (estimated)


Highest Wind Speed

64 km/h


Heating Degree Days


Cooling Degree Days


Temperature-wise, January started and finished warm but we had to endure a cold spell during weeks 2 and 3 (Figure 1). We hunkered down during much of this cold spell apart from a family get-together in Reading just before that mini-freeze.

Figure 1: Max/Min Daily Temperatures - January 2024

There were a lot of dry days with most of the rain falling at the beginning of the month and around the 20th/21st. The large spike on the 21st January is an anomaly due to a blockage in the rain collector; the amount shown for the 21st January also includes the rain that fell on the 20th (which only registered after I unblocked the blockage!).

Figure 2: Daily Rainfall & Sunshine - January 2024

In the following two plots, I compare this January's weather with the previous four Januarys.

While the maximum daily temperatures for the past five Januarys have been consistently warm (14 - 15 ℃), minimum daily temperatures have shown a downward (colder) trend during the 2020 - 2024 period (Figure 3). Overall, this has meant no clear trend in the average daily temperature - however, January 2024 was slightly colder than the mean for the past five years. There is no clear or obvious trend in the number of frosty days - the warmest January (2022) also had the most frost days!

Figure 3: January Temperature Data for the 2020 - 2024 Period

In Figure 4, January rain, sun & wind data are summarised for the past four years (2020 - 2024). The remarkable thing is that sunshine duration has been virtually the same every year despite the large variation in rainfall and the number of dry days. This might be because every day is cloudy so whether it rains or not makes very little difference to the amount of sunlight we receive. That does seem too simplistic because I can definitely remember some bright sunny days in January this year.

Figure 4: Rain/Wind/sun Data in January for the 2020 - 2024 Period 

January is often a stormy month and experiences some high wind speeds and this January was  no exception. There were three names storms (Henk, Isha and Jocelyn) on the 2nd, 21st/22nd and 23rd/24th although Henk passed largely unnoticed in Hereford. Jocelyn was the most severe storm amplified by the fact it followed so closely on the heels of Isha. Figure 5 shows the daily average and highest wind speeds during January 2024; the named storms (Henk, Isha, Jocelyn) are indicated.

Figure 5: Average & Highest Daily Wind Speeds (January 2024)

The Met Office produced a rather nice graphic to summarise the variable weather we experienced in January 2024. 

Figure 6: January 2024 Daily Mean Temperature & Rainfall for the UK

Figure 7 is my attempt to reproduce this for just Hereford! Hopefully you can spot some similarities!

Figure 7: January 2024 Daily Mean Temperature & Rainfall for Hereford

The weather summary maps, produced by the UK Met Office, for January 2024 are shown below (Figures 8, 9 & 10). Herefordshire is indicated by the black circle. In terms of mean temperature, rainfall and sunshine, January 2024 was a fair-to-middling, dime-a-dozen, run-of-the-mill, middle-of-the-road sort of month in the UK, and especially so for Herefordshire. Some of the UK received better than average sunshine but not Herefordshire (Figure 10)

Figure 8: UK Mean Temperature Anomalies (January 2024)

Figure 9: UK Rainfall (% relative to 1991-2020 mean) - January 2024

Figure 10: UK Sunshine (% relative to 1991-2020 mean) - November 2023

Jobs in the Garden
  • Very quiet and not too much activity in the garden this month
  • Harvested celeriac (about 1.5 kg prepared veg) for soup and roasted vegetables), carrots, parsnip, beetroot and red cabbage
  • Last of the fresh tomatoes eaten
Photo 2: Last of the 2023 Tomatoes (1st January 2024)
  • Still using frozen vegetables (tomatoes, French beans, Jalapenos, sweetcorn) and fruit (apple, blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries)
  • Garlic, pickled cucumber & cucumber relish, medlar jelly from the store cupboard
  • Compost-wise, I have been keeping one HotBin going through the winter.
Flora & Fauna (seen in the Garden)
  • 3 x Blackbird (male, female, juvenile)
  • 6 x Blue Tit
  • 1 x Collared Dove
  • 1 x Crow
  • 1 x Dunnock
  • 2 x Great Tit (male & female)
  • 20 x House Sparrows
  • 1 x Magpie
  • 4 x Redwing
  • 1 x Robin
  • 8 x Starling
Photo 3: Incoming Starlings

Video 2: Starlings
  • 5 x Wood Pigeon
January was also the Big Garden Birdwatch (see here and here for previous years). The summary results from this year and the previous two years are collated in Table 1. The usual suspects seen this year were: blackbird (1), blue tit (4), great tit (1), crow (1), house sparrow (11), magpie (1), starling (6) and wood pigeon (5).
Table 1: Number of Birds & Species Seen in the Big Garden Birdwatch


Number of Species

Number of Birds










And, finally, a few photos from the garden ...

Photo 4: Rhubarb sprouting among the Cat Deterrent (22nd January)

Photo 5: First Snowdrop of 2024 (4th January)

Photo 6: Primula (4th January)

Photo 7: Sarcococca with Fallen Cherry Flower (4th January)

Photo 8: Hellebore

Haven't Mobile Phones Come a Long Way

Photo 1: Mobile Phone Development (1992 to 2014)

Mobile phone development is another example of Moore's Law. I think my first mobile phone was probably the Nokia 3210 (3rd phone from the left). The era of 'smartphones' is also the history of Apple's i-Phone series that started in 2007. There have been many technological developments since then but the most significant has been the ubiquitous camera phone. With each new model, there have been improvements in picture resolution, addition of zoom and macro features, videoing, better low light performance, special effects and more. Now, apparently, artificial intelligence will make us better photographers.

My phone is a Google Pixel 7 Pro bought for a bargain price after the introduction of the Pixel 8 Series. I was out delivering some election leaflets last week and during my lunch break spotted someone working on a roof some distance away. So, out with the phone and I snapped this picture (Photo 2) ...

Photo 2: Person on Roof?

Zooming in (5X optical), it clearly was a person working on the roof ... 

Photo 3: Definitely Person on Roof 

Using the 30X digital zoom, it all became clear ...

Photo 4: Person Installing Flashing Around the Chimney

Mary & I have lived through the technology age starting with the move away from slide rules and log tables to pocket calculators - some even had graphing capabilities! At University, we prepared punch cards for running small programs on the mainframe  computer. And while I was doing my PhD in the mid-seventies, all my statistical analysis and reaction rate calculations were done on a Commodore Pet Computer which was state of the art in 1977.

Moving into the world of work (bp, 1980), it was a treat to work with Apple II and IIe PCs. In the 1980s, the personal computer for home use took off - examples included the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, the BBC Micro,  the Commodore 128, the Amstrad CPC, etc. We took the plunge initially with a Dragon 64 and then an Atari ST. At work, we were using networked desktop PCs and laptops if you were working at home or away on business. Since about 2000, we have had Windows laptops (Sharp, Lenovo, Acer, Asus) for home use until moving over to Chromebooks about 10 years ago. We do, however, have a Windows 11 laptop used for specific tasks beyond the capabilities of our Chromebooks.

We have seen a lot of changes but the capabilities and features of modern camera phones still amaze. It is difficult to see how they can improve without phones getting ridiculously large. But I wouldn't bet against it: improving not getting larger.! Remember Moore's Law!!

By way of comparison, I did a quick comparison of the Pixel Pro 7 with my trusty Panasonic Lumix FZ38 (Photo 5). Although rather long in the tooth by today's standard this bridge camera is still a half decent performer with its 12 megapixel sensor and 18X optical zoom. I use it every day to take photos of the rear garden; for example, see here.

Photo 5: Panasonic FZ38 Bridge Camera

Below is a series of photographs taken with the FZ38 at 1X, 5X and 18X optical zoom looking down the garden but focusing on the yellow bucket.

Photo 6: Yellow Bucket at 1X Optical Zoom (FZ38, 7.5 MB)

Photo 7: Yellow Bucket at 5X Optical Zoom (FZ38, 7.4 MB)

Photo 8: Yellow Bucket at 18X Optical Zoom (FZ38, 7.3 MB)

A similar set of photos were taken with the Pixel 7 Pro using the 1X and 5X optical zoom and the 30X digital zoom. The photographs are similar rather than equivalent due to differences in the wide angle lenses and the aspect ratio of the picture. 

Photo 9: Yellow Bucket at 1X Optical Zoom (Pixel 7 Pro, 5.1 MB)

Photo 10: Yellow Bucket at 5X Optical Zoom (Pixel 7 Pro, 6.1 MB)

Photo 11: Yellow Bucket at 30X Digital Zoom (Pixel 7 Pro, 2.0 MB)

I still enjoy using my Lumix camera and, while it is extremely versatile and flexible in the types of pictures it can take, there is always the added faff of having to physically transfer the photos from the SD card to the computer/cloud. Its bulk is also a consideration when travelling.

A good camera phone has effectively replaced the compact camera due to the improvements in quality with the former. And, of course, nobody thinks twice about slipping their phone into a pocket/bag when they go out.

The camera phone is also pretty good in macro mode as Figures 12 & 13 illustrate. Which is fortunate as we do like to take close-ups of plants, butterflies and insects.

Figure 12: Lumix FZ38 in Macro Mode

Figure 13: Pixel 7 Pro in Macro Mode


National Trust - Lower Brockhampton


Photo 1: Lower Brockhampton Moated Manor House (18/2/24)

Sunday the 18th of February was a gloriously sunny day - too good for staying indoors. So after river testing in the morning & a quick brunch (another portmanteau word), we set off for Lower Brockhampton. It is very close to Bringsty Common which we visited in October 2023, again on a bit of a whim after river testing!

The Brockhampton Estate comprises 1700 acres of farmland, woods and orchards set in a hidden valley. There are lots of footpaths, walks and open areas to explore. Its jewel in the crown, however, is the late 14th century moated manor house with its timber-framed gatehouse dating from 1530 - 1540 (Photo 1). In the Georgian period (1714 - 1837), the lords of the manor built a much grander house on the estate and Lower Brockhampton Manor House became home to various estate workers.

The manor house is compact but does include a 'Great Hall' (Photo 2) for entertaining and a small number of other rooms (about half a dozen) set in different historical periods (Photo 3). The stewards are friendly and chatty and very happy to impart their knowledge.

Photo 2: The 'Great Hall' at Lower Brockhampton

Photo 3: Instructions for the Servant in one of the Main Bedrooms

Next to the Manor house is the ruined chapel that was built about 850 years ago.

Photo 4: Ruined Chapel at Brockhampton

Photo 5: Ruined Chapel at Brockhampton

Lower Brockhampton is great for kids with plenty of play areas. Miles of hard paths make this destination pushchair and wheelchair friendly. There is a cafe, toilets and a small secondhand bookshop - it wouldn't be a National Trust property without a secondhand bookshop!

The Hereford Bull is stored at Brockhampton - this trow is an example of the traditional cargo boats that used to ply their trade up and down the Rivers Wye and Severn (Photo 6). The trow represented Herefordshire in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Thames Regatta in 2012. At the moment it is covered to protect it from the winter weather but in warmer times you can board it.

Photo 6: 'Hereford Bull' Trow at Brockhampton 

Photo 7: Foxy Bench, Brockhampton

Frogspawn and Frolicking Frogs

We have a small pond in our garden that sometimes yields frogspawn in late winter/early spring. Two of our keen-eyed grandchildren stayed overnight (16/2/24) and this morning spotted a dead frog - possibly this one. So no frogspawn in the garden for a second year.

The following morning was bright, though not especially sunny, dry and warm (13 ℃) - February has been very warm, so far, as Figure 1 shows. For the past four years, the average daily temperature for February has been 7 ℃; up until the 20th February this year, that average daily temperature has been 9 ℃.

Figure 1: A Very Warm February 2024 in Hereford

So it was a good day to visit The Weir Garden again. The snowdrops were just starting to go over and the daffodils were just starting their late winter/spring display (Photo 1).

Photo 1: Snowdrops and Daffodils at The Weir Garden (17/2/24)

There is a small pond among the rockery garden where we soon discovered a clump of frogspawn ...

Photo 2: Frogspawn at The Weir Garden (17/2/24)
... and, to the delight of the grandchildren and grandparents alike, there were six resident frogs. Video 1 shows one of them just chillaxing (an example of a portmanteau word).

Video 1: One Laid Back Frog Chilling Out in Front of the (Future) Kids

While Video 2 has a commentary from one of the grandchildren observing a pair of frogs cuddling. I'm not sure it is the responsibility of grandparents to explain the birds and the bees!

Video 2: Cuddling Frogs at The Weir Garden

A close up of one of the common frogs ...

Photo 3: Common Frog at The weir Garden (17/2/24)

The same pond was also home to another amphibian - common or smooth newts. There were at least two and possibly more.

Photo 4: Common or Smooth Newt (Weir Garden, 17/2/24) - Male?

Apparently, frogs and newts can co-exist in the same pond despite the fact that frogspawn and tadpoles are on the newt's menu and young newts are on the menu of tadpoles once they reach their carnivorous stage.

Photo 5: Common or Smooth Newt (Weir Garden, 17/2/24) - Female?

Here is a short Countryfile video showing the life cycle of the common/smooth newt ...

Video 3: Countryfile short with Iolo Williams of the life cycle of the common/smooth newt

Soon the daffodils will be in full bloom and then the wild garlic. These dominant plant species can overwhelm the more delicate species such as crocuses and scilla ... 

Photo 6: Scilla, Weir Garden, 17/2/24

... but, of course, the daffodils are wonderful especially in clumps or carpeting the open ground or woodland glades ...

Photo 7: Daffodils, Weir Garden, 17/2/24

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