There’s a maxim amongst hardy-optimistic-outdoor types that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. I suspect it hales from Scandinavia or somewhere the elements are very sure of their identity.
We are blessed with a temperate climate here in the UK which spoils us with a whole wealth of atmospheric conditions; from sudden, thunderous summer showers to silent, misty, dew-dappled mornings. Each of them with their own merits. It then astounds me that the majority of people I speak with during my working day will make a negative comment about the weather if it is anything other than 18 degrees and sunny.
In chatting with one lady I reminisced that last winter, some roads were impassible, schools closed, buses cancelled (my poor husband had to take the remaining 10 miles of his journey home by foot) and there was mild panic-buying of bread and milk all because of the snow. By comparison this January has been positively tropical.
“Still, we might get some of the white fluffy stuff in February” I cheerfully added.
“Oh don’t say that.”
“It’s lovely to look at though, through a window, with a warm hug of hot chocolate on the go isn’t it?”
“Oh no. I don’t even like to look at it. I hate the thought that I might have to go out in it and fall over.”
What do you say, to someone that’s become so disconnected from the natural world that they can’t even bring themselves to observe it? You don’t say “There’s no such thing as bad weather…”
I didn’t, but the words were battering on the inside of my teeth, hammering to be let out. I swallowed them and resolved to go exploring on my next day off.
Today was Explorday and it bore exciting weather; rain frantically racing across the fields in sheets, the wind whipping the wind chimes against the guttering. The only thing stood between me and adventure was appropriate clothing. Over the years I’ve learned that it’s easier to cool down when outside than warm up, (it’s all to do with Newton’s second law of thermodynamics for all you physics and Professor Brian Cox fans) so I often tend to over-egg the pudding when it comes to layers. Firstly base layer. Thermals are seldom sexy but mighty effective at keeping you warm without adding bulk. Next waterproof trousers and old skate t-shirt, one pair of thickish socks then jacket and boots. My boots are possibly my most treasured piece of kit. After years of searching and being told that no boots exist that will keep your feet super warm AND dry, I found a pair of North Face snow boots. I adore them.
I then grabbed a map, a flask of tea and some nibbles and headed over to Wandlebury Country Park
In it sits Wandlebury Ring, the remains of an Iron Age Hill Fort. I’ve never really explored this area although it ticks all my boxes . The whole site sits within the The Gog Magog Hills or the Magog Downs, a series of chalk hills that rise to the southwest of Cambridge.
Gog and Magog are said to be two giants, the protectors of London (who sometimes take part in the Lord Mayor’s Show, here they are with their makers who are not your average basket weavers.)
The hills are said to be the metamorphosis of the giants after they were rejected by the nymph Granta (the river Cam which runs through Cambridge) Utterly fascinating.
Sadly not much remains of the fort except a truly enormous circular ditch and bank, easily 10ft deep in some places, where ancient yews and beeches cling to the chalky inclines.
Slow fingers grip the earth deep…
It has to be said that the most exciting of the weather occurred whilst I was still at home. Here the air was busy going about it’s daily chores; rustling leaves, dispersing seeds, gently nudging clouds along, but it wasn’t … well it was safe enough to have a rootle around underneath some very tall, very old trees.
There was just enough mizzley dankness to justify the waterproofs though. Hurrah!
Some of the trees were spectacular, but I had a strange sense of not being alone…
Ancient tracks worn smooth by noctural paws. The badger paths follow the curves of the land, adding to the the beauty of the place. There is a Roman road nearby, it is straight, functional and less pleasing to the eye. Hmmmm
Then from around the corner, a tiny, wonky grain store. It sits on brick pillars to deter rats and mice, but it reminded me of Baba Yaga’s hut. Her dwelling sits atop a pair of chicken legs in the woodland of Russian folk tales… more of her and her child-eating ways another time.
One day my hands will be this deeply furrowed, my cheeks this weather ravaged, my bones this fragile, my heart this full of quiet tales.