If you spotted these unusual clumps of white hair stuck to branches in Macclesfield Forest, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had discovered evidence of a Yeti.
But the strands of white ‘hair’ are in fact delicate lengths of ice, known as hair ice or ice wool, caused as a result of fungus growing on dead wood in strong humidity and sub-zero temperatures.
Suvi Harriman, who lives in Gawsworth, was thrilled when she spotted the rare natural phenomenon during a new year walk with husband Mike, children Johanna, eight, and Patrick, seven, and their cocker spaniel Belle.
Suvi, who is originally from Finland, said despite being from one of the northernmost areas in the world, she has never seen the natural occurrence before.
She said: “We went for a lovely walk in Macclesfield forest and spotted rather uncommon sighting of hair ice/ ice wool. Very beautiful and magical!”
Suvi, 39, who moved to the UK in 1998 and works as an e-commerce manager at the East Cheshire Hospice, said: “I’ve never seen it before. I knew what it was only because I have seen a picture of it before. But I ended up Googling it as I wanted to know how it forms.”
Conditions need to be absolutely perfect for the creation of hair ice. It can be difficult to spot because the ice is so thin, it melts easily when the sun rises. It can also be camouflaged by snow.
It only grows on rotting wood in the presence of the fungus Exidiopsis effusa. The process behind the formation of ‘hair ice’ was only discovered in 2015 by a team of researchers in Germany and Switzerland after remaining a mystery for 100 years.
Severe Weather warnings are currently in place for Macclesfield.
Untreated surfaces, such as pavements and some minor roads, are likely to remain slippery throughout the morning. A few freezing fog patches are also possible.
The chief forecaster for the Met Office, who issued a Yellow warning of Ice on Monday night, said: “A very cold night is in store, and as moister air comes in contact with cold surfaces later, the potential for a lot of frost to form, rendering some surfaces hazardous.”
Temperatures will remain mild tonight (Tuesday, January 3) with rain forecast for around teatime. Temperatures are expected to drop to -3 degrees on Wednesday night and will remain cold throughout Thursday. Temperatures will be milder on Friday with rain forecast from midday onwards.