17th December 2022
We have been experiencing some of our coldest December weather for over a decade across much of northernmost England. In Scotland it has, of course, been even colder with a temperature of -17˚C recorded at Braemar in the Grampians this last week. Even so, parts of Northumberland have had temperatures locally falling to the cold side of -10˚C over the last few nights and I got some very frosty pictures coming back from Newcastle Airport the other day (I took a scenic route).
Whilst severe cold weather has in fact been observed across much of the country over recent days, much of northern Britain does tend to get colder than the south of the country, and there are upland parts of Northumberland, County Durham and North Yorkshire, not to mention across the border into the Scottish Borders that often get frost and snow in seasons other than winter. This is still sometimes overlooked by Regional news-reporters from the BBC or ITV, who are based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne or Gateshead where severe frosts and/ or snow-cover are usually short-lived affairs (if this occurs at all), and very much restricted to the winter months. The Beast from the East that saw in March 2018 was a rare exception.
However for viewers of Regional TV who live in more northerly, upland parts of North East England, cold and snowy weather is likely to be encountered even during mild winters- of the sort that have become normal in the last twenty years. Last winter was a case in point: Winter 2021-2022 was mild and daytime temperatures were often 10C or above near the North East Coast but there were short-lived colder spells too. Storm Arwen brought, at the end of November 2021 widespread snow and freezing conditions to the hills: In the North Pennines, it was blizzard conditions with heavy snow bringing down power-lines that contributed to black-outs rather than merely the strength of the wind. Little covered by BBC1 Look North and ITV1 News Tyne Tees was the wintry weather with quite heavy snow that affected upland areas in the North Pennines and the Cheviots during the first week of January 2022, specifically around 3rd/ 4th. This had real impacts on folk living in rural communities in places like Allenheads, in the North Pennines, Redesdale in the foothills of the Cheviots, or the high fells above Reeth or Thwaite in upper Swaledale, North Yorkshire.
Folk who live in these upland areas, specifically farmers who are dependent on the weather remaining reasonably mild at critical times of the year (such as when little lambs are being born), one late snow-storm or a couple of late frosts in May can have serious implications for their livelihoods. If people have to travel, or choose to visit family and friends or go out for the day, coverage of potential hazards (like snowy roads or freezing fog) can be enough to persuade viewers to postpone their journeys, or modify travel plans and use a different route to get to where they need to be. In short, Regional TV broadcasters have- as Public service providers- a duty to provide information that informs viewers of their News- programming of potential risks to their safety or well-being, if these are Region or area-specific. It means that, if there is heavy snow in the Scottish Borders or even East Lothian, but all areas in the ITV1 Tyne Tees or BBC1 NE/ Cumbria transmission areas are free of snow, Regional TV producers have a duty to warn viewers who live in Northumberland (that might traverse the snowy parts of East Lothian en-route to Edinburgh) that this weather is happening and that they might be advised to delay or alter their travel plans until the locally- snowy weather has passed.
Coverage of unusual cold or snowy weather at times of the year when it would not happen in other parts of England than the North East (or northern Cumbria), or of such weather happening just north of the Scottish Border (which is uniquely liable to impact people in northern North East England due to their proximity to colder upland parts of the Scottish Borders) serves another important function for viewers who live in North East England who are proud of their Region and its unique Northerly latitude compared to other English Regions. News that reminds viewers that they get more “Arctic-like” conditions at times because their Region is closer to the Arctic than other parts of England helps to “Big-up” their Northern sense of esteem and pride that they have in their “Northernness”, and that of the communities in which they live. News about snow-bound roads and very low temperatures, particularly if accompanied with stunning scenery and footage, in the winter also adds a little “Zest” and excitement to the Regional TV bulletin whilst ensuring that Geordies and Northumbrians feel good about their geographical location and their North East Regional identity. In late spring or early summer, reports about late patches of snow lingering on the north sides of The Cheviot or Cross Fell, or May snowfalls turning the tops of the North Pennines white- also provides a reminder as to how far north folk are whilst “Bigging-up” the local sense of “Northernness”. Such news also provides that “Wow!” factor and adds a Zing to the news-coverage that helps engage viewers.
Folk who live in northern North East England in particular are proud of their Northern identity, and they are also proud of their proximity to Scotland and other Northern countries such as those of Scandinavia: Much of the Geordie dialect originates with the Old Norse language brought across by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago! Language is another affirmation of the unique northern position of North East England, the word for child in Geordie is bairn, which is almost the same as the Norwegian barn, which also means child. Northerners talk about fells, rather than moors in describing an open rural areas of very high ground and this Website, addressing folk who live in northern North East England, will always refer to fells not to moors, the Norwegian equivalent word is fjellene (fjellet is the singular). Perhaps BBC1 Look North (NE/ Cumbria) or ITV1 News Tyne Tees could do something on the similarities between the Geordie dialect and modern Norwegian, to remind viewers that geographical proximity to Scandinavia has had an impact on the language spoken locally.
Returning to the subject of severe weather and Norway, there are occasions in winter when the weather will be mild across all parts of England but when some folk who live in North East England may be impacted by very much colder weather affecting Scandinavia, often when a weak high-pressure system in Arctic Scandinavia brings very cold air across Norway, but the prevailing mild south-westerlies affecting Britain are too strong to allow this very cold air to reach any part of mainland Britain (either that, or only northern Scotland may be affected). A number of folk living in North East England, particularly coastal communities fronting the North Sea, work either in fishing or they work out on oil-rigs in the northern North Sea. Others, because of the relative close proximity of North East England to Scandinavia will travel there for short breaks of a few days to a week, for leisure, or if they have family who have moved there. A number of Scandinavian families live in North East England for various reasons, but relative close proximity to their homeland means that they will often fly back to Norway or Sweden to visit relatives.
If ships are liable to encounter icing conditions and oil-rig workers liable to encounter blizzards in the northern North Sea, or Norwegians (or native Northumbrians) are more likely to visit Norway travelling from the North East than from other parts of England then I would venture to suggest that Regional News broadcasters based in North East England have a duty of care to these folk to warn them of severe winter conditions prevailing on the other side of the northern North Sea- even when all of England, including North East England, is totally free of such freezing conditions. And reports of frozen oil-rigs and iced-up ships will also add that real “Zing” to the Regional News- bulletin whilst “Bigging-up” the pride of Geordies, Mackems, and Northumbrians with news that affirms their unique North-Easterly latitude and longitude, i.e., More North- East than the rest of England- and indeed much of the UK too! After all, it is extremely unlikely, at such times, that Regional TV services serving any other parts of the UK (except perhaps Northern and North East Scotland) will have Regional News-reports about ice-bound ships or frozen oil-rig workers in the northern North Sea!