22 November - Mini ice age

Winter preparations: A matter of weeks ago, a national newspaper was predicting that this winter will see "a horror freeze", "fierce blizzards" and record-breaking snowfall.

Vantage Weather Services forecaster Jonathan Powell even talked about a potentially "paralysing winter, the worst for decades". That fits in well with WeatherAction forecaster Piers Corbyn, who believes we are in a mini ice age that could last until 2030. It is also reported that 80 per cent of local authorities have increased their stockpiles of salt and grit. Whatever your views on the likelihood of a bad winter, it is still worthwhile preparing for difficult times. Check all heating systems - glasshouses, conservatories, office, mess room and workshop. Ensure that all vehicles are winter-ready and all workers have appropriate outdoor clothing. Overhaul pumping equipment for fountains and waterfalls, drain outdoor pipework and hoses, and insulate all outdoor taps. Have emergency telephone numbers to hand, such as for boiler-repair companies.

Coping with ice: Order in or top up stocks of grit or deicers and make sure that equipment such as snow blowers are in good working order. Increasingly managers are turning to liquid deicers - such as ThawEx Liquid Ice Melt - as a cleaner alternative to grit and salt. Keep snow shovels handy.

Ditches & drains: The wet autumn may already have caused you to pay attention to ditches and drainage systems. There may be even more water to move if a heavy snowfall suddenly thaws. Inspect all gullies and outfall pipes for blockages, remove leaves and debris from grilles and guttering, and clean out ditches.

Lawns & grass paths: Take advantage of any favourable weather to decompact and aerate grassed areas to help water percolation.

Machinery services: Arrange for a local dealer to carry out maintenance in December and January. Tools will also need attention. Inspect, clean, sharpen and grease as appropriate. Consider replacements for any tools that are worn or damaged.

Hedges, trees & shrubs: With most of the leaves fallen, now is an excellent time for inspection. Able to see into the hedge or through the branches of trees and shrubs, it is easier to understand what pruning work will be required. Take photographs as reminders.

Christmas party: Ask staff whether and where they would like a Christmas party this year. Research venues/caterers and make bookings.



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