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Need a kitchen knife that's sharp and balanced just for you? Savernake Knives will make it for you

Laurie Timpson (left) and Philip Shaw with their high tech milLaurie Timpson (left) and Philip Shaw with their high tech milNext time you watch a television chef chopping away at a bunch of parsley or taking micron thin slices off a carrot, try not to think about the risk to their fingers - instead think about the knife he is using.

Chefs get very attached to their kitchen knives and have very firm views about them - and they will have very firm views about the kitchen knives being made by Savernake Knives in Chisbury.  This is a business 'start-up' in the real meaning of the phrase.

Laurie Timpson and Philip Shaw have taught themselves how to make beautiful and lasting kitchen knives that are aimed to fill a hole in the market.  

At one end of the market are the artisanal knife makers who produce knives by hand and to individual specifications.  They can take weeks if not months to complete one knife and they can charge up to £800 for the privilege.  At the mass market end are the kitchen knives most people buy (or get given as wedding presents) and which many chefs use and then throw away when these mass-produced knives run out of sharpness.  

Finding a market right in the middle are Savernake Knives who can complete a bespoke knife in a few days.  They style themselves as twenty-first century artisans and want to make your perfect kitchen knife - not just anybody's, but yours. They do not do hunting knives, only knives for the kitchen and they come in at £150 and upwards.

Both Laurie Timpson and Philip Shaw have spent many years working abroad - both felt the need to return to the UK and both moved back to live in Wiltshire.  Laurie's time in Africa included six years with the HALO Trust - the charity making war torn lands safe especially as regards clearing landmines.  It was famously supported by Princess Diana, then by Angelina Jolie and now by Prince Harry.

Philip spent most the last ten years working overseas for Adam Smith International supporting British Government projects. He was most recently leading projects in East Africa and Pakistan and now lives in Great Bedwyn.  Laurie lives off-grid in Savernake Forest with his wife and their baby.

After two years spent seeking advice, learning and assembling an amazing range of sophisticated machinery, Savernake Knives had a soft launch just before Christmas.  

The mill's control panelThe mill's control panel  Milling the steelMilling the steel  Blades waiting to be finished Blades waiting to be finished  

As their 2017 begins they are launching a period of hard work and marketing to the region's large community of professional chefs and also to keen and committed amateur chefs: "We're offering something unique for them - designing knives to a chef's or cook's own specification to millimetre accuracy, at a reasonable price and in a matter of days."

They both enjoy making knives: "We enjoy our work.  We just love making them - we're fascinated by them.  They've become a bit of an obsession."

"To do it as we do it", they tell Marlborough.News - almost in unison, "is remarkably complex."  Laurie is master of the blades: "Central to what we do is the quality of our steel."  And Philip is master of the handles: "We make ergonomic and long lasting handles - for what are very high quality tools."

The process starts with the design - using a top-end 3-D computer programme.  The design is then transferred to the computer controlled Haas milling machine, which can produce nine blades in a working day cutting three blades from each piece of steel as it is held on a magnetic chuck.   

The milling process can be adjusted down to micron level. (A micron is a millionth of a metre - so, no, you don't get much carrot in a micron thin slice - it was just a figure of speech!)

Each blade is then heated in their furnace to about 1,000 C and then tempered in liquid nitrogen taking it down to nearly 200 C below and giving the blade flexibility as well as strength.  There is then a further stage with the blades spending a couple of hours in a tempering oven at 175 C.

After that it is submitted to various forms of abrasive finishing, sharpening and polishing gear to produce the finished hollow ground blade.

Spalted beech with its unique markingsSpalted beech with its unique markings  Blocks before they are stabilisedBlocks before they are stabilised  Heat-treating the steel at 1050 CHeat-treating the steel at 1050 C

For the wooden handles they choose mainly spalted beech and olive.  Spalted beech is wood from a beech tree that has been attacked by fungi which leave unique markings and coloration right through the wood.  

This wood is stabilised with resin and then baked - giving the wood a heaviness and also a surface that is good for cleanliness and hygiene. This process does make shaping the handle quite hard labour.

The workshop signThe workshop signLaurie Timpson and Philip Shaw have plans for the future development of Savernake Knives.  They hope to be able to employ one or more young local workers and to give older people who are still anxious to work, the ability to undertake at home some of the labour intensive but somewhat repetitive finishing processes for the knives.

They have taken an immense amount of trouble to source not just the best materials to work with, but also the best machines to help them do the work.  Take a look at their website designed by Silverless the Marlborough design studio.  

It shows an admirable transparency in what they are doing and their gratitude to all those who have inspired them and supplied their workshops.  

And to think that at one time they had decided their future lay in producing axes.

The finished articleThe finished article

Most photos by Niels van Gijn of Silverless. Click on photos to enlarge them.

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When shall I put my bins out? Read this!

Refuse collection image courtesy of Wiltshire CouncilRefuse collection image courtesy of Wiltshire CouncilIt’s a tradition as familiar as pulling crackers and kissing under the mistletoe. Every Christmas, dozens of Marlborough and Pewsey residents jump on to Facebook to ask when the bins are being emptied.

According to Wiltshire Council, there will be no waste or recycling collections on Monday, 26 December.

All collections during the week following Christmas week will be one day later than normal, with a collection on Saturday, 31 December.

Collection days will return to normal from Monday, 2 January.

Garden waste collections will be suspended from Monday, 26 December and restart on Monday 9 January. But anyone who has paid for a garden waste collection can leave their real Christmas tree alongside their garden waste bin on their first garden waste collection day in January and it will be collected and composted.

For anyone desperate for a visit to the tip, all household recycling centres will be closed from 1pm on 24 December and all day on 25 December, 26 December and 1 January.

Marlborough recycling centre is routinely closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Everleigh on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

There you go, then: bookmark this article or – if you’re a Facebook Group admin – pin it to the top of your page until January 2nd. And if anyone asks (which they will) post the link to this feature. 

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Has the British government turned its back on young refugees now moved away from Calais?

Since the reports Marlborough.News carried from Dr Nick Maurice about his work in the Calais 'Jungle' where thousands of refugees were encamped - most of whom wanted to get to Britain - the camp has been destroyed and the refugees dispersed.  While the reporters who covered the camp's destruction have moved to other stories, the plight of the refugees is getting steadily worse.

There was criticism of the slow process of bringing to Britain those child refugees who had the right to join family here.  Now that many of the children have been dispersed round France, there is more criticism that the British authorities are not living up to their promises to keep these children safe and bring them to Britain.

In a report just published, the charity Help Refugees says that the Home Office is keeping child refugees in the dark about how to move to the UK.  The report cites cases among minors of self-harm and found that some children had run away from centres: "It was clear from our observations that the Home Office was purposefully remaining silent on important issues that directly affected unaccompanied minors."

Dr Maurice gave medical care in the Calais 'Jungle' - during May and again in September - under the auspices of another charity working with the refugees: Care4Calais.  Towards the end of last month, Clare Moseley, one of the founders of Care4Calais, sent us a long report which has very helpful and detailed background on the continuing plight of these refugees.

On 28 October 2016 the last refugees were bussed out of the Calais 'Jungle' to more than 160 government run reception centres (CAOs) situated all over France.  The following week what remained of the Jungle camp was bulldozed flat.  

These moves, and the events running up to them, dispersed up to 10,000 people who had been living in the camp at the end of August 2016, but they did not address the underlying reasons why refugees congregate in northern France and why they have done so for a number of years.

There are primarily two reasons why refugees arrive in Calais and the surrounding area.  Firstly, an anomaly in the UK asylum system:  if you want to claim UK asylum you have to physically be in the UK.  However there is no legal way to gain entry, so you must enter illegally in order to make a legal claim.  Refugees gather at points close to the UK border to attempt illegal entry to the UK.

Secondly, the 'Dublin' system of determining which EU member is responsible for processing a refugee's asylum claim states that the claim should usually be made in the first EU state that the refugee enters.

Refugees in France who have been fingerprinted in Italy or Greece therefore risk being sent back to those countries that are already heavily overburdened by the refugee crisis and struggling to cope.  However, there is a six month time limit and in recent months we have seen refugees staying in Calais in order to 'break' the Dublin fingerprint limit.

New arrivals

One of the biggest gaps in the French authorities' plan for the end of the Calais camp is the total lack of provision for new arrivals post 28 October.  And, of course, refugees have continued to arrive.  The Minister of the Interior has said that the French authorities are considering this.

Two options are available: either maintaining a reception centre in Calais - at the risk of creating another 'Jungle'.  Or to maintain reception centres in all the major French cities in order to 'intercept' the exiles in transit.

Numbers have increased significantly in Paris and Dunkirk.  And evacuation similar to that in Calais took place in Paris on 4 November transferring 3,800 refugees to CAOs.  However, hundreds of people continue to sleep in the streets of Paris. An official centre was opened on 10 November that has only 400 places where refugees can stay temporarily before being transferred to centres elsewhere.

The camp in Dunkirk, which had previously shrunk to around 500 people, has now increased to 1,300 refugees.

Detention Centres

We understand that 200 refugees have been sent to detention centres, that the Calais detention centre has had to grow by 20 more places, and that numbers are up at the Lille and Paris detention centres. We heard that three Sudanese men had been presented to the Sudanese Embassy for deportation back to the Sudan.  

At the detention centres there are reports of refugees having their possessions confiscated and they tell us they are provided with minimal food, blankets and toiletries, and have little or no access to interpreters or information.

This amounts to the criminalisation of being a refugee, which is fundamentally wrong.  Refugees are people with a right to international protection - they are not criminals. Driving refugees underground, arresting and detaining them in these conditions is morally unacceptable.

The CAOs

The CAOs are intended as a temporary solution only.  We were originally told that refugees would have a four week period in the CAOs so they could decide whether to claim asylum in France or to leave the country. We understand that in some instances this stay may be extended.

Care4Calais has received feedback from refugees in over 100 CAOs and has visited 13 CAOs.  They vary greatly in nature and standards - from apartments for families with modern appliances to disused school buildings containing makeshift beds with only two toilets and showers for 50 people.

In over 50 per cent of cases refugees report being reasonably comfortable.  Some of the most worrying reports include racist protests - sometimes violent - against the centres, delayed or withheld access to medical care, and lack of access to interpreters - commonly reported across CAOs.

We visited one centre where minors were housed in a homeless shelter for French adults and we were told alcohol and drug abuse took place there.

The unaccompanied minors, who left Calais with a promise that their cases would be processed, have generally been deserted and there has been a lack of communication from UK Home Office officials.


The long-term proposed solution is the Reception and Accommodation Programme for Asylum Seekers (P{RAHDAs).  These (overdue) centres will provide accommodation for people claiming asylum in France, but also for those awaiting transfer to another country under the Dublin procedure and, if necessary, persons under house arrest.

In addition they will house those under what the French authorities describe as 'preparation for exit from the system of refugees and rejected persons'.  This suggests that PRAHDAs are likely to be secure and custodial and illustrates the extreme stance the French government is now taking towards refugees.

The UK's responsibility

Any sustainable, long-term solution ton the refugee problem in northern France requires recognition of the underlying reasons why refugees arrive there.  Many have close family or community ties to the UK, have served alongside the British army in Afghanistan, have lived in the UK previously or even have ties going back to colonial times.

To date the UK has refused to take any responsibility for these people who are now in desperate need through no fault of their own.

There is no morally acceptable reason why the UK should not do its fair share to help out in what has now become one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time.

In addition to providing a fair share of places, we must also create safe passage for genuine refugees and establish a means whereby those in genuine need of UK asylum can be safely processed without the need for them to risk their lives attempting to enter the UK illegally.

The Home Office has issued guidance on unaccompanied minors that places a number of harmful restrictions on the transfer of minors over the age of 12 to the UK, and backtracks on previous commitments made by the government and codified in Lord Dubs' amendment.

We are extremely disappointed to see the government falling short of its commitments to help refugees - yet again.  The Home Office guidance shows a failure to ensure that the UK's vow to take in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees is fulfilled - and more widely, a refusal by the government to take responsibility for the pledges we have made to alleviate the plight of refugees.

Until the government recognises the vital role it must play to achieve a longer term solution, the situation only looks to worsen with vulnerable people again left at risk.

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Forget Black Friday – Thursday evening is the time to visit Marlborough’s shops

Lights by Julie WetherellLights by Julie WetherellForget Black Friday and Cyber Monday – Marlborough traders will be throwing open their doors this Thursday evening for a late night shopping experience.

The event gives discerning shoppers the opportunity to browse around dozens of shops in a relaxed atmosphere, free from the bustle of a normal working day and under the radiance of the Christmas lights.

Most shops taking part in the event will be opening until 8pm. Some will stay open a little longer.

All will offer special discounts and promotions, and many will be handing out mince pies and mulled wine to add to the atmosphere.

And, of course, parking is free throughout the town after 6pm.

The event was rubber-stamped at the inaugural meeting of the town’s new Retail Forum. Around 25 business owners and managers agreed to stay open, and persuade their neighbours to do likewise, so there should be more than enough shops open to satisfy most Christmas shoppers.

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Climber Jake Meyer has reached many summits, had many adventures - you can hear his mountain stories at his Marlborough lecture

Jake MeyerJake MeyerJake Meyer has a passion for climbing.   Whether it's the Marlborough College climbing wall or his recent attempt on K2, he embraces the challenges.

On Thursday, November 24, Jake Meyer will be giving the Kempson Rosedale Enterprise Trust's lecture in the Memorial Hall at the College: "Jake Meyer- Reaching for the Top - A Marlburian's life of adventure: from Kilimanjaro to K2".  (Full details of the lecture are here.)

The Marlborough-based charity the Kempson Rosedale Enterprise Trust funds selected students from St. John’s Academy or Marlborough College who plan to spend holiday time or gap years undertaking an enterprising and challenging activity.  They look for young people with ideas for inspiring and remarkable activities, which will enrich their lives.

It is very obviously a charity that ticks boxes for Jake Meyer.  He was twelve when he got his first taste of climbing - during a visit to the College he tackled the climbing wall. 

He told Marlborough-News about his experience of climbing while a student at Marlborough College: "My fondest memories of early climbing days as a student at Marlborough are the trips to Swanage in Dorset, or up to our outdoor activity centre in Snowdonia."

Jake has held several records for being the youngest to reach mountain summits - including Everest and the Seven Summits, which are the seven highest mountains on each of the seven continents.  We asked him whether breaking records have a special appeal for him?

"Yes – when I summited Everest in 2005 I was the youngest Briton to do so, and the youngest man in the world to climb the 'Seven Summits'. For the 'Seven Summits' it was very much the age record as the youngest to complete them that was the catalyst to go and do them.  In life, it’s too easy to procrastinate and say ‘yeah, one day I’ll do that’."

Apart from breaking records, what is your main motivation? "My main driver for undertaking all of these adventures has been the opportunity to challenge myself, to keep pushing my own boundaries."

"I think that is why I fell in love with climbing in the first place: pretty much all other sports involve competing against other people or teams, whereas with climbing, the only person you compete with is yourself. You can spend a day climbing with someone of a significantly different - better or worse - standard and you can still both have an incredibly fulfilling time."

His most recent expedition was an attempt to reach the summit of K2 on the China-Pakistan border. At 8,611 metres it is the world's second highest mountain and its reputation as a very dangerous mountain to attempt has given it the nickname of the 'Savage Mountain'. This was Jake's second attempt to reach the summit and it nearly ended in disaster.  

    [Click on photos to enlarge them][Click on photos to enlarge them]

On 22 July a huge avalanche wiped out their carefully prepared camp at 7,300 metres.  This destroyed their and other teams' supplies - specifically supplies of oxygen - and the Sherpas called a halt to further climbing and they had to abandon their attempt.

Since 1980, nearly half K2 climbing seasons have passed without an ascent. Will Jake try K2 again? "Before I left for the expedition this summer I said to myself that if it didn’t work out, then I wouldn’t return. However, having had an incredible experience back on the mountain, despite the frustrations of abandoning our summit attempt, it has made me yearn for a return."

"I’m always very conscious that safety - your own and the team's - must be absolutely front and centre in defining success on any trip – not the summit itself. The mountain’s not going anywhere, so I live to climb another day!"

This expedition was supporting the Walking with the Wounded charity: " I haven’t done all of my trips with a charitable element in mind, but for those that I have, I’ve  been incredibly proud to support some fantastic charities over the years, and blown away by the generosity of all those who’ve donated to the charity as a result of my adventures."

A B&B with spectacular viewsA B&B with spectacular views

Apart from his climbing career, Jake Meyer served with the British army in Afghanistan - where there are some 'incredible mountains', but in Helmand they had 'enough dangers to worry about'.  He is now active in the army reserve:

"I am the second in command of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, which is a Cirencester based Squadron of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry - the nation’s only Armoured Reserve Unit, and we train on Challenger 2 main battle tanks."

Jake Meyer now works as a leadership and management development consultant for the Inspirational Development Group:  "We specialise in creating measurable and sustainable change in organisations through designing and delivering individual and business performance improvement programmes."

"We are fortunate to also have a unique partnering agreement with the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which allows us to operate and run programmes for our clients at the world’s most prestigious leadership development Academy."

The Kempson Rosedale Enterprise Trust was formed in 1988 in memory of a much revered Marlborough College master and mountaineer, “G” Kempson. In 2009 the trust was extended by Rachel and Barney Rosedale commemorating their son Rupert Rosedale, who died in an avalanche on Ben Nevis.

We are grateful for use of such stunning photographs - they are all from Jake’s 2016 attempt in K2.


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Marlborough's Christmas charity events - carols and much, much more

A Marlborough Christmas: Anne Deuchar of Marlborough Cancer Research UK  Harriet White of Marlborough College EnterprisesA Marlborough Christmas: Anne Deuchar of Marlborough Cancer Research UK Harriet White of Marlborough College EnterprisesThis year Marlborough hosts a fine array of Christmas music - traditional carols and Christmas music for all tastes - with some new Christmas fun and shopping - all giving people a chance to support a range of very worthy local charities.


Saturday,  December 10

Marlborough Choral Society - A Christmas Celebration
7.30pm, St Mary's Church, Marlborough
Tickets : £8 (Students £1, under 16s free) available from Sound Knowledge or on the door.

Saint-Saëns - 'Christmas Oratorio' with harp & organ
Holst - 'Christmas Day'
Other Christmas music including pieces by Tchaikovsky and John Rutter and a set of Australian carols. Look out for some unusual words!

Retiring collection for Julia’s House, Children’s Hospice.
The choir will also be singing at Coombe End Care Home on December 12 and at Savernake View Care Home at a later date.


Sunday, December 11

A Christmas Carol Concert - Marlborough’s Macmillan Cancer Support Group

Marlborough Town Hall - doors open 7pm

With the Kennet Valley Brass and the Pewsey Male Voice Choir.

Refreshments and raffle.

Entry:  Adults £3 & children £3.


Monday,  December 12

Marlborough Community Choir – Christmas Concert
7.30 pm, St Mary's Church, Marlborough

Free entry, retiring collection to Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal for Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's new cancer treatment centre.


Saturday December 17 - 10am – 4pm

A Marlborough ChristmasNorwood Hall, Marlborough College

Entry:  minimum donation of £3 (children under-12 free).

Over forty carefully selected artisan trade stands will be selling gifts, food and drink. Santa's Grotto will offer the chance to have a photograph taken with Father Christmas. 

There will be Christmas musical entertainment from the Marlborough Rock Choir and Marlborough Community Choir. Mince pies, mulled wine and other refreshments will be available all day at Cafe Cancer Research UK.  

This is a tri-charity fundraising event for Cancer Research UK, Prospect Hospice and Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal.

Anne Deuchar, Marlborough Cancer Research UK event organiser, told Marlborough.News: “This is the first tri-charity event we have held and I hope it will run every year. This Christmas Fair offers festive fun for all the family, and every penny raised will go to these local charities.”

Harriet White, Events Assistant for Marlborough College Enterprises said: “It’s great to be involved with the local community and to support these fundraising events.”


Saturday December 17 – 4pm

Annual Classical Carol Concert in Marlborough College Chapel - Vale of Pewsey Hope and Homes for Children Support Group

Marie Claire spent her first nine years in the notorious Noel De Nyundo orphanage in Rwanda. With Hope and Homes' support, Marie Claire is now with a loving foster mother & is beginning to thriveMarie Claire spent her first nine years in the notorious Noel De Nyundo orphanage in Rwanda. With Hope and Homes' support, Marie Claire is now with a loving foster mother & is beginning to thriveTickets: £10 each (children under-12 free) available at David Dudley Jewellers, Kim Vine in Marlborough High Street or 'phone 01672 562777 for more information.

This carols by candlelight concert will include:  carols with organist Chris de Souza, The BlueBelles A Cappella Group, The Great Bedwyn Millennium Choir and soloists Fiona Scott MacArthur, Luana Godwin and Nick Evans.

The charity Hope and Homes for Children finds alternative, high quality family based care for vulnerable children, who otherwise would be in orphanages. Their work is now recognized as best practice by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation.

The charity develops family support services and establishes robust fostering and adoption networks. And it has a local connection.

Colonel Mark and Caroline Cook, who lived in West Stowell, near Marlborough, founded the charity after their experience of Bjelave orphanage, Bosnia. The charity now works with children in Africa and Eastern Europe.

The Vale of Pewsey Hope and Homes for Children support group are grateful to their sponsors (Kim Vine, Dept ’83 Marlborough, The Red Lion East Chisenbury, Susan Hussey Opticians) who have made it possible to reinstate this carol concert after a break last year.

For more information of how you can support the work of Hope and Homes, please contact Alison Netherclift on 01672 562777 or on-line at

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October - where was the rain?

Westonbirt in all it's October gloryWestonbirt in all it's October gloryThis quotation from John Burroughs (1837-1921), an American naturalist, is so apt for the last couple of weeks.  He is best known for his observations on birds, flowers and rural scenes. “October’s Party.  How beautifully leaves grow old.  How full of light and colour are their last days”.

Our weather is still breaking records.  We have just enjoyed 23 dry days, average is 13, with a total of just 31.5mm of rainfall.  This makes October 2016 a record month for my weather station with minimal rainfall of just 31.5mm, the driest since 1984.

Looking at my records I note how this month can be so different from another in that the previous driest was in 2003 with 36.8mm but the following October was a washout with 159.3mm.  The 33-year average is 88.1mm.  October was the second driest month in the year, after July, which is surprising being an autumn month.

The wettest day occurred on the October 1st with 12.0mm with the second wettest on October 15th with 7.9mm.  These two days make up two thirds of the rainfall recorded in October.

When the records for wind direction are studied the reason for this dry weather becomes clear.  The winds for the month have been predominantly from the north to east quarter.  There were several days with light drizzle brought in from the North Sea and four days with daily rainfall that was less than 1mm.

Although we did have many days with several hours of strong sunshine, the end of the month brought a number of days with thick, persistent cloud.  The high pressure trapped beneath it stagnant air that was reluctant to move due to minimal wind.  On October 25th and October 31st the maximum gust all day was just 9mph and many hours when the wind dropped out altogether.

Analysis of the data for barometric pressure shows that the average daily pressure for October was the highest I have recorded for this month with 1023.3mb – another reason for the dry month.

The latter half of October is the time when, as a rule of thumb, evaporation of moisture from plants and ground sources into the atmosphere is overtaken by rainfall totals.  At this point precipitation exceeds evaporation, which allows the rainfall to percolate down through the soil to the aquifers.  October 2016 is an exception in that the evaporation for the month of 31.6mm is greater than the rainfall total of 31.5mm.

The many dry days this month produced 95.4 hours of strong sunshine.  This total exceeds those for the last two years, 2014 and 2015 gave us 65 and 68 hours respectively, since this instrument was installed.  Even though we had many dry days and much sunshine it was not a record month for temperatures.  The beginning of the month was warm with maxima a few degrees above the mean but noteworthy was October 31st when the last of the very mild air pushed the thermometer to 17.6C. In fact the mean for October was 0.14C below the 33-year averages.

At least one air frost has occurred each October, sometimes as many as six in the 1980’s and 1990s. However no air frost occurred in the year 2000, with several years since being frost-free, but the last four consecutive years have been frost-free.

There were four days in the month when fog formed overnight with visibility down to 200 metres although when October 31st dawned this dropped to 100 metres before the sun broke through.

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