Waking Up To Winter

I woke up very early this morning, disturbed by the sound of gale-force winds, and the rain lashing against the bedroom windows. It took me a while to get back to sleep, but I managed it.

I didn’t surface again until almost 10 am, and might just as well have stayed in bed.

I know it’s not unusual to have rain here in June. Everyone knows that the weather in this month was just as awful as long ago as 1944, so no great surprise. And for those of you used to my seven years of weather moans, you will remember many June posts lamenting the absence of a summer in Beetley.

But this is torrential rain, and it has lasted for almost eighteen hours now. The addition of strong winds arriving yesterday increased the noise, and debris from the Oak trees is scattered all around the property. The chimney of the wood-burner is creaking as if it is about to tear away from its mountings, and various local dogs are barking at rattling gates and fences. The sky is best described as ‘threatening’, and the forecast is for more of the same, for the next eight days.

And it is cold. Yes, cold. And in June. Cold enough to put the heating on, but I flatly refuse to do that. Cold enough to mean that my shorts will have to be put away again, and Wellington Boots needed to replace more comfortable footwear. Midsummer’s Day is the 21st of June, so we don’t have long left before the evenings already begin to get darker. But it is 11:30 in the morning, and already dark enough to have lights on around the house.

I don’t ask for much, I really don’t. (OK, I know you think I do…)

But can we just have some summer, please?

Walking In The Wind

Not for the first time on this blog, I am writing about dog-walking in high winds. According to the weather reports, we have had wind speeds of 50-60 mph here today. Listening to that wind battering the house, I would have thought those numbers might be higher. But at least as the speed increased, the rain-clouds were blown away.

Leaves missed in last year’s clear-up have discovered new life. They are blowing around like small tornadoes, filling any corner or gap they can find, and rustling like a natural musical instrument as they circle. Tree branches small and large are clattering onto the flat roofs and paved areas, and even the tight hedges are creaking and bending in the gusts.The high chimney that serves the wood-burner is making ominous ‘clicking’ sounds, as it resists, and all TV channels are constantly interrupted when the outside aerial gets the full force.

But Ollie still has to go out. So, on with my biggest coat, fake-fur collar turned up against the blow. At least there is no need to struggle with an umbrella today, and probably no point in trying anyway. Closing the side gate as we leave, it feels as if some giant hand is trying to stop me puling it shut. As I watch wheelie-bins rolling around opposite the house, I am not excited by the prospect of two hours or more outside. But birthday or not, it must be done. And Ollie is oblivious to weather, whatever the conditions.

Over at Beetley Meadows, the wind hit my chest like a well-placed punch from an experienced boxer. As I struggled with my gloves after taking off Ollie’s lead, he scampered off as if it was just a mild Spring day. I could hear twigs falling through the branches, and some ominous creaking of the thinner trees, as their roots struggled to combat the force of the gales. But like anything, you get used to it. After forty minutes, I headed off over to the wilder expanses of Hoe Rough, where Ollie is always extra keen to go exploring. On the main path, the strength of the gusts was enough to make breathing difficult, so I diverted to the sides, closer to the river.

After two hours, I considered my duty done, and I decided to head for home. As I walked back with Ollie, I had time to reflect on the timeless power of nature.

And how insignificant we are, in the face of that.

Winter has arrived

It has been a while since my last Beetley weather report. Well at least it seems so, to me. 🙂

After the hot summer, and an unusually mild early autumn, we are getting payback, as I might have guessed. Almost gale force winds, and torrential rain that lasted for over twenty hours. The leaves are still falling, and are now sodden clumps all over the place. Driven into piles by swirling winds, then rained on, they will have to be left where they are, as I cannot even contemplate trying to clear them up in this weather.

And the mud is back, let’s never forget the mud. In the space of a few days, pleasant dog walks have returned to battling high winds, and slipping around in the rapidly forming mud pools.

Checking the weather forecast, the earnest young man predicted ‘showers’ for Norfolk. You have to laugh at those forecasters, they should really be on stage at a comedy club, getting riotous applause.

So winter is here on time, and set to stay for its usual few months.
It could be worse of course.

At least it isn’t snowing.

Goodbye, Abigail. Hello Barney

I had a bad sleep last night. Storm Abigail blew in to Beetley, and strong winds swirled the leaves, and battered the house. When you live under two large oak trees, one at the front, the other at the back, you can become very edgy about falling branches, as you listen to the smaller twigs and debris clattering down onto the roof. At times, I heard the gusts continuing to build, rattling windows, and banging outside doors in nearby gardens. The breaks in the wind only served to increase my trepidation of its return.

This morning, the wind had dropped significantly. The grey clouds have been moving rapidly across the sky until blue could be seen, and some brightness returned. However, it appears that this is the proverbial calm before the second storm hits. The BBC weather team have continued with their new idea of naming storms. In alphabetical order, using actual names, they have decided to call the next one Barney. Ten minutes ago, they were forecasting winds of up to 70 miles per hour. The warnings of damage to trees and houses, problems on the coast, and widespread disruption to roads were delivered almost gleefully. They love to have really bad weather to talk about, and they always seem to get it right, the worse it is.

So, we will be battening down for Barney tomorrow; watching the trees, and hoping for the best.

A visit from Aeolus

The God of The Winds seems to have decided to visit Beetley. Since late last night, we have been buffeted by winds that would probably be enough to stop a ferry sailing, close a bridge, or ground light aircraft. Julie woke me this morning, to tell me that a branch had blown off of the large oak tree at the front. It had buried itself in the beech hedge, leaving a large forked section protruding into the pathway, hazardous to anyone walking by. I got up and went out to extricate it from the hedge, surprised at how heavy it was. I thought that we had been very lucky that it had not fallen into the roof of the house, or onto one of our cars parked underneath. It could have done some unwanted damage, that’s for sure. After checking out the swaying branches to see if any others looked about to snap, I dragged it through to the back, and stored it along the back of the shed. I will cut it up later, and add it to the woodpile for next year. Living under two large oaks, we always have to consider the possibility that we might suffer some damage from them. Despite my constant complaints, there has not actually been a great deal of constant rain, so no doubt the interior of both of these old trees is very dry.

They are about three hundred years old, so would have been saplings in 1715. By the time of the American War of Independence, they would have been a considerable size, sturdy and proud. Spared cutting for shipbuilding, they sat silently through the news from Waterloo in 1815, and a hundred years after that, shaded soldiers home on leave from the Western Front. They remained unnoticed through another world war, and were oblivious to moon landings, pop music, and the winter of discontent. Not until 1979 were their slumbers disturbed, when this house was built between them. I hope that they will remain long after I am gone, looking down on future occupants, ignoring the trivial events that matter so much to the humans who seek their shade, and admire their canopies. To be allowed to share history with them is a small price to pay for having to collect the leaves and acorns that they discard annually.

Out with Ollie on the meadow, the wind had blown away the clouds, leaving blue skies and sunshine. But it remained to make life difficult for us, hitting me with the force of an unseen prize-fighter, boxing my ears. Clothing blown tight against the body, twigs falling like confetti, and even the tiny river whipped into a rushing frenzy. After ninety minutes, I gave up. Ollie felt a little hard done-by, but I had had enough of feeling like I was walking through treacle. I returned home, to listen to the howling outside, and keep an eye on those branches. Feel free to leave anytime, Aeolus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeolus#/media/File:Aeolus1.jpg

Four Seasons In One day

No, not the Crowded House song. It’s about the weather and dog-walking again, I’m afraid.

We woke late today, courtesy of the archaic custom of putting the clocks forward one hour. This is supposed to mean one hour less in bed, but we slept through that sixty minutes, blissfully unaware.
We were greeted by a blustery day, grey skies and showers. A sort-of April day, albeit a little premature. It was spring-like after a fashion, as it didn’t feel too cold, and the showers came in swirls. During a late breakfast, autumn arrived, as the wind increased to an uncomfortable level, and began to blow things around outside, steadily increasing in strength.

By the time I was getting ready to take Ollie for his walk, winter had made an unwelcome reappearance. It was dark enough to put lights on in the house, and the rain had turned from showers to a driving downpour. I steeled myself for the afternoon excursion, and ventured out across to Beetley Meadows with Ollie. Within seconds, the wind had risen to near gale-force, and the black clouds seemed so low, you could almost throw a stone into them. The rain quickly turned to hail, driving in the wind with great strength, swirling around our unfortunate forms with incredible force, sounding like the beats of a fast snare-drum against my coat and hat.

Even Ollie, normally oblivious to weather conditions, sought refuge under the foliage of a large bush. I had been out for less than ten minutes, but already my cotton trousers were soaked through, and the water and hail sneaked under the collar of my waterproof coat, dampening the neck of my T-shirt. The supposedly waterproof expensive gloves were also sodden on my hands, and much of the ground had turned into a muddy stream. I plodded on for Ollie’s sake, turning my back to the wind to minimise the worst effects of the weather. I could hear thunder, but fortunately saw no lightning, as we were very exposed over there. Nobody else was around; they were sensibly still indoors, waiting for it all to go away.

I carried on over to Hoe Rough, preferring to keep moving rather that trying in vain to seek shelter under trees. Once we had made the short distance to the gate there, the rain stopped. It was abrupt, as if someone had just turned off a hose. Without the rain and hail, the wind was bearable, though I was conscious of many small branches being dislodged, and falling all around us. Even the largest trees were swaying alarmingly, seeming to move of their own accord. I trudged on, with Ollie happier now, and running ahead. We did a couple of circuits around the area, and after we had been out for about ninety minutes, the sun began to break through the clouds. As I headed back to the gate, the sun came out in earnest, blue skies appeared, and it was summer once again. I started to feel uncomfortably hot, wrapped up in waterproofs and a hat, and loosened my scarf too. The gloves came off, and I unzipped my coat.

By the time we got home, although Ollie was still wet, and my clothes were still soaked, I could have got away with shorts and flip-flops. Four seasons in a few short hours. Amazing.

Weather worrywort

OK, I admit it. I write a lot about the weather; mostly critical, and generally complaining. Anyone who regularly reads my blog must think, “Here he goes again.” I have given various explanations about why weather concerns me so much. Everything from flooding sheds, leaking wood-burners, and having to always go out with Ollie, whatever is being thrown at us. If I were you, I would be getting pretty fed up of it by now. Mostly, it is because I consider, rightly or wrongly, to have been let down by the promise of a retirement in better weather than I could have expected in most other places in England. I had been hoping for the East to offer dry conditions, with little snow, and only occasional rain. Well, as you will have read, it didn’t work out quite as I had hoped.

However, I am going to eat at least some of my words, and offer this post by way of an apology to East Anglia. Watching the weather news on TV, I note that there are terrible conditions in Scotland. Roads impassable because of snow, accidents, and power cuts too. The West Country and the Midlands have not escaped bad conditions either, and some areas have had flooding, and damage from high winds and gales.
When Ollie and I almost ran home yesterday afternoon, to escape a painful hailstorm that battered Beetley Meadows, I felt sure that we were once again the victims of weather misinformation. The forecast had been for a bright and sunny afternoon, not for darkness at 3pm, and hail like tiny bullets.

Watching the news that evening, I soon saw that we had actually been fortunate. This part of the country had escaped the worst, and today it is once again sunny, though cold. I suspect that most people in this country would be happy to be spending time in Norfolk today, away from the deep snow, gale force winds, and torrential downpours that they have suffered for seven days. I have no doubt that there will be future posts about the weather, and what effect it is having on life chez beetleypete. But for now, it looks as if I have to reluctantly concede that things are not so bad here after all. Sorry readers, and apologies to Norfolk too.

Not quite as good as I had hoped though…

A wet and windy walk

Most of the UK has been hit by strong winds recently. Parts of Scotland have been without power for days now, and there are coastal flood warnings in place. Here in Norfolk, we have had a constant flow of strong gusts of wind. Last night, it was so windy I could hardly sleep, and have felt dopey all day as a result. I suppose the wind seems worse because there is no other noise to hear. Living in London, everything else was as noisy, so the wind made little difference. Here in Beetley, it is so quiet after dark, that the sound of wind in the trees, blowing leaves, and buffeting against the house, seems really bad.

I decided to make my weekly shopping trip earlier today. The evening forecast was bad, so I resolved to get out and about before my habitual dog-walking time of 2pm. By the time I returned and unpacked the goods, Ollie was running late for his walk, and we didn’t get out until 2.30. It wasn’t especially cold, but when the wind gusted, that was cold, and I felt it on my face. It also carried small drops of ice-cold rain, which made the walking less than pleasurable. It appeared that the inclement weather had also kept in most of his regular gang members, as few other dogs were around. I picked up the pace to keep warm, and after a few circuits, I spotted two rabbits, brazenly feeding on the grass near to the picnic benches. I hissed the word to Ollie, ‘Bunnies!’ He took off like a dog possessed, as he saw the two ahead of him. One of the rabbits made a quick escape into a warren. The other paused, seemingly confused, before plunging under the dry branches. Ollie was close on his fluffy heels, even following into the undergrowth. But of course, he wasn’t going to catch his prey, as it scuttled down a convenient hole.

At least the exercise was good. Ollie emerged, frothy-mouthed with excitement. He looked at me as if I could magically make the rabbits reappear, and we carried on walking. We bumped into Poppy the Lakeland terrier, and her genial owner. He commented on the weather, in particular the abundance of leaves so late in the season. Ollie ran around with Poppy for a while, but she was more interested in her tennis ball, than being chased by an older male dog. It started to get darker, and the rain became more persistent. I decided to head for home early, after less than ninety minutes out. On the way back, we spotted Bella, the grey Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She can be unhappy with some other dogs at times, so is kept on her lead. She likes Ollie though, and rushed over to see him. I exchanged pleasantries with her owner, and headed off through the exit for home.

By the time it got dark, the wind had brought torrential rain to the party. The gutters soon gave up trying to cope, and the side entrance is awash. I have been out to the shed twice, to check if it is flooding, and I am worried that our tall metal chimney may not endure the gales.
I really hate winter.

A Windy Walk

Saturday didn’t start too well. On a routine trip to the shed, to get a fresh light bulb, I noticed that almost half of the floor was under water, once again. Presumably, the recent torrential rain has raised the level of the ground water, and it is finding its way inside, though it is impossible to work out how. This meant a complete evacuation of all the stuff stored out there, to gain access to the floor, so as to be able to ascertain the extent of the small flood. Sodden cardboard packaging had to be thrown out, and numerous things re-packaged, in plastic containers that will resist the worst of the water. Many items had to be found a place in the adjacent garage, which is now almost full, with only a narrow access passage left.

Once the space had been cleared, the mopping up process could begin, using any old towels, dust sheets, and paper. When the area was dry again, I resolved not to put anything back there that could be damaged, so a complete sort out was necessary. I know that this is insignificant, when compared to the devastation caused by severe floods in the South-West of the UK, but when it is in your shed, and causing a nuisance, it still seems like a big deal. After almost two hours of this chore, it was time to get ready to take Ollie out, for his later than usual walk. I decided to reward his patience, with a walk along the Wensum Way, to the back of the large pig farms, and around the plum orchards.

After ploughing through some muddy paths in Mill Lane, we emerged into the large area of open fields, home to a large plantation of recently pruned blackcurrant bushes. It was here that I discovered a new ‘enemy’ of the dog walker. Wind. Not a breeze, you understand, nor even something described as ‘blustery’, or ‘windy’. This was serious wind, a north-westerly coming at us like the back-draft of a jet engine. Flattening my long parka against my body, and whipping up stones and twigs, which clattered into and around me, as if hurled by some unseen poltergeist. Forward movement felt constrained, as if wading through deep water, and my eyes were soon streaming too. Turning my back for a brief respite, I felt that it would almost support my weight, if I leaned into it.

Ollie was oblivious, as he usually is. No extremes of weather ever seem to faze him, and his demeanour is the same, whether in torrential rain, or thick snow. If he noticed this wind, he certainly didn’t display any reaction to it, and carried on looking for rabbits, peeing up bushes, and trotting around, as if on a mission, only known to him. When he got thirsty, he took a drink from one of the pond-like puddles, and he ran on far ahead, sometimes looking back, to check that I was still there. When we reached the pigs, they sauntered over to the fence, no doubt hoping that I was a farm employee, bringing them more food. They all lined up to look directly at me, as their huge ears point forwards, and shade their peripheral vision, like blinkers on a horse.

When we finally arrived at Gingerbread Corner, I took the opportunity of a break. There is a large copse of tall trees, and they stop the wind from having the same effect that it enjoys across the open fields. Retracing the route towards home, I at least had the wind in my back, and this made walking much easier. I arrived home, pleased to be away from the constant buffeting. One hundred minutes seemed so much longer, when it was hard to hear yourself think, and each step felt like I was wearing diving boots. I am looking forward to a time of less extremes, ‘normal’ days, windy, or otherwise. The good walks will return, their time is just around the corner.