Since the lockdown began, we have been blessed with some excellent weather in Beetley. It has felt like high Summer on many days, and despite the government advice, that weather has brought out a lot of people enoying the local riverside park, and the nature reserve too. Many of those have driven here from elsewhere, evidenced by the unusual number of cars parked locally, and the fact that us regulars have never met them, or the dogs of those who brought dogs along.
I don’t blame them. Most have observed social distancing, and appeared to be family groups. It was good to see the children getting out in nature, instead of binge-watching Netflix, or playing video games in their bedrooms. I was also happy to see people allowing their dogs to run around exploring somewhere new, and Ollie was happy to encounter some new canine companions.
Today, it is a full 10 C degrees colder than yesterday. And it has been raining steadily since 9 am. I have seen worse of course, and the rain cannot be described as heavy, and certainly not torrential. But it is steady rain. Spring rain, and Spring temperatures, much as we might expect had it not been for three weeks of what felt like July.
So I had to change from shorts back into trousers, and the casual shoes were exchanged for the rubber boots once again. I grabbed my umbrella, and wore a reasonably warm coat, and off we went. I chose to depart slightly earlier than usual, hoping to avoid the heavier rain forecast for later today.
What I walked into felt like a scene from a post-apocalyptic science fiction film. Nobody to be seen at Beetley Meadows, no ‘exercising walkers’ who had driven here to enjoy their allowed freedom. No dogs enjoying that change of scene they had become used to during the last twenty-one days. Nothing.
There was just silence, broken only by the sound of the rain hitting the river water.
Twice around Beetley Meadows was followed by crossing the bridge onto Hoe Rough. The car park was empty. The parking spaces in the road opposite the gate were empty, and as far as I could see, there was nobody on the nature reserve. Ollie took off on his usual routine, checking out fresh smells, and marking what he firmly believes is his own territory. I followed his rigid pattern as he traversed the paths in the same order that he does every day. Try to break his routine, and he will stand crying until I go the way he prefers.
After almost ninety minutes of circling the familiar areas, Ollie was soaked, and I was bored to tears under my umbrella. Nobody to chat to, nor even wave to. No dogs for Ollie to investigate or possibly spar with, and no trace of any wildlife risking the absence of people to explore unfamiliar areas.
It was a very lonely walk today, two hours traipsing in the rain as if we were the last man and dog on Earth.