Musings From A Post-Storm Sunday In Beetley

It has been a week of two halves, and no mistake.

The week started out quiet, and very sunny. There was no frost, blue skies, and because the local kids were on half-term holiday, traffic was light. There was a blip on Monday afternoon, when a sudden rainstorm caught me unawares as I left the supermarket, but it is February, after all.


Julie has been feeling unwell for some time, and she has been taking Lateral Flow tests in case she had Covid-19. Fortunately, they were all negative. Unfortunately, she didn’t get better and a hacking cough and severe headache meant she had to take a sick day from work on Friday.

Then last night, her cough got worse, and I also became ill, with severe pains inside that kept me awake. As a result, both of us didn’t sleep until after 4:30 am, and only woke up at 10:30 this morning. It is going to be a very quiet Sunday for us, as we both feel like death warmed up.

My serial episode may not appear until much later today, if at all.


I have still not heard back about the renewal of my driving licence, and it has been two weeks. If they fail to issue me a new licence by my birthday in March, I will effectively be banned from driving. That has really been irritating me, even more so as their communication to me was from a ‘No reply’ email address at the DVLA.


At least Ollie has been on good form, enjoying his toys and walks, and eating his dinner. His fur looks a lot better too, if not completely re-grown.


The second half of the week brought two severe storms. We missed the worst of the first one, then Storm Eunice hit with extremely high winds. Friday night, we went to bed listening to the wind, and fearing the worst. But the following morning, we were happy to discover we had been spared. Some small trees have fallen across paths at Beetley Meadows, meaning short diversions. Otherwise, my walks with Ollie survived the storm. On Saturday afternoon, icy rain arrived, and the dog-walk left me soaked through and chilled to the bone. More of the same is forecast for later today, and during the rest of the week to come.


It still remains to be seen if things are going to get worse in Ukraine. We have gone from ‘invasion imminent’, to ‘talks in progress’, followed by ‘invasion at any moment’. If nothing else, it will allow the profit-bloated oil companies and big corporations to claim ‘WAR!’ as a justification for their ongoing dramatic price increases.


Hopefully, we will all have a relatively happy Sunday. Maybe don’t bother to watch the news though.


Nature’s invoice

I have been writing a lot lately about how good the weather has been. Although too hot for some, and sometimes difficult at night, we have enjoyed a few weeks of very warm temperatures, record-breaking highs, and unbroken sunshine. The long wait for that late summer was finally worth it, after all.

Today, we got the bill. Mother Nature sent her invoice for the supply of good weather. Like a large heating bill after a long winter, we knew it would come, but it was still a shock when the envelope was opened. The central and eastern parts of the UK were hit with a drop in temperatures of up to fifteen degrees (C). Accompanying this came a huge rainstorm from the Atlantic. Meeting somewhere in the middle, the result was an electrical storm that left thousands without power, lit up the sky with lightning, and dumped the best part of a month’s rainfall on us in twelve hours.

Homes, shops, and schools were flooded, many having to close. There were landslides, train derailments, and serious problems on the roads. Even though we had fair warning, as usual we were unprepared for the full effects. Despite some injuries, it has been reported that nobody was killed, which is a blessing. As the storms continued eastward, the rain here got so heavy that even my trusty umbrella was of little use on my walk with Ollie. I had to go back to heavy boots and a coat too, for the first time in many weeks.

But I am not complaining. Honestly, I’m not. Because we had a summer, albeit rather late, and it was good too. And we all know that you have to pay for the good things in life. This was that invoice.

Storms: The aftermath

The storms last night finally blew over at midnight. Local social media was rife with tales of the effects of the intense rainfall. Our local town, Dereham, was hit very hard. The housing estate at Toftwood experienced extensive flooding, with some residents evacuated into community centres. Others had to be evacuated by rescuers using boats, and many homes were badly damaged by water.

In the village of Yaxham, roads were impassable, and even Norfolk’s major roads, the A47 and A11, had to be closed in places. Some buildings had roofs damaged by the amount of water falling onto them, and outlying districts were cut off due to flooded roads too.

I stayed up late, watching the referendum results. By 2 am, the outcome was undecided, and could have gone either way, so I gave up, and went to bed. I woke up to sunshine this morning, and Julie telling me that the Leave side had won the vote, much to our delight. Outside, the lawn and patio were strewn with leaves and slim branches from the oak trees, and the damp ground appeared to be drying out.

I went out earlier than usual with Ollie, pleased to be walking in the sunshine, and enjoying a gentle breeze. Arriving at Beetley Meadows, I was shocked to discover that not only had the small river burst its banks, the water had spread further than I have ever seen before. The picnic areas were under water, and so too most of the paths near the riverbank. But this time, the water had encroached onto the main paths, under all the seating areas, and had also cut off any pedestrian exit from the main gate, or by the bridge. Short of a diversion around the main road, I was not going to get Ollie over to Hoe Rough.

I walked him in circles around the dry areas instead, then through the small woods. He was happy enough, and enjoyed drinking from the overflowing river where it crossed our path. We have had a shower this evening, but fortunately nothing like the rain of last night. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Storms over Beetley

I like to think that it coincides with the momentous vote today, that a powerful storm has arrived, just as we returned from having cast our votes at the Village Hall. We hurried into the house as the skies darkened, and soon it was like night outside. Thunderclaps and lightning flashes accompanied the increasing rain, illuminating the living room. The thunder rumbles overhead as I type, perhaps warning of an EU departure, or signalling the uncertain future that will follow a possible exit. Who knows?

If we lived in the time of the Vikings, we would be consulting soothsayers, eager to hear their predictions and interpretations of this storm. But we have the BBC news to tell us why it is stormy instead. And later tonight, we will have Dimbleby, Paxman, and many other pundits, all keen to tell us their own conclusions.

And they are unlikely to mention the storm.

Storm over Beetley

Just after 10.30 last night, Julie spotted some flashes of lightning out of the living room window. They grew in frequency and intensity, and were soon followed by the sound of distant thunder from the south. Ollie is not always scared of storms, but something about this one made him jumpy. He was barking at every thunderclap, and pushing against our legs, for reassurance.

It was’t long before the tempest drew closer, lightning illuminating the dark night sky, all the more powerful for the absence of any light pollution in this area. By the time Julie was ready for bed, the flashes were unusually frequent, and the thunder seemed to be above our heads. Ollie had appeared to calm down, and by 12.30, he took himself off to bed. The rain had started, and could be heard falling with some force, but he seemed to settle.

About an hour later, I went to bed. Julie was still awake, unable to sleep for the now continuous lightning, which was lighting up the bedroom like a powerful flash gun, every few seconds. The rain had turned to hail, and was clattering against the windows with considerable power. After a while, Julie got up and closed the window. We had to settle for a fan to combat the humidity, as the water was coming in through the open window at a worrying rate. It wasn’t going away, and the room was in almost permanent illumination, with the thunder rumbling like a jet aircraft overhead.

Julie eventually checked on Ollie, who was no longer resting, but sitting up, and looking very distressed. She brought him into the bedroom and comforted him, and he settled down on the floor next to my side. We were worried about potential damage to the large oak trees, in case any branches fell onto the house. I was also worried about a possible flood in the shed, as this has happened before. Neither of us could quite remember a storm like it in the UK, for the sheer duration and intensity was like nothing we had ever experienced. The sound of the rain and hail on the windows and the flat roof of the extension was so loud, it seemed to be coming from inside the house itself.

We got little sleep, especially Julie, who had to get up for work at the usual time. The morning was warm and calm, and there was little evidence of the tumult of the night before. The shed wasn’t flooded, and no branches had fallen. The ground was almost dry, and nothing untoward was discovered. Some parts of the region had experienced flooding, according to the news, and we had obviously had power outages, as the digital clocks all needed to be reset. But otherwise, all was well.

That was some storm though. It really was.

Walking with Bertha

We had some plans for today. Julie’s son was coming up from Hertfordshire with his girlfriend, and we were going to meet up with her other children, and all go out to eat in Norwich. The table was booked, and our spare room prepared for the overnight guests. Julie had made brownies as a treat, and for once, everything was well organised. It was going to be a family Sunday. We were not expecting particularly good weather. The TV forecast had mentioned heavy rain was possible, and there could also be strong winds, up to gale force. After so long with blue skies, and uncomfortable heat, it seemed rather cruel that nature should pick this weekend to shuffle the deck. Julie’s son had to turn back. The M25 was closed, the weather appalling, and the surface water was becoming too dangerous. With the prospect of local road closures, weather disruption, and the chance of being stranded somewhere, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and scrapped the whole thing.

Sure enough, within the hour, the sun had appeared. Blue skies and gusty winds blew away the rain, and we were left wondering if we had been too presumptuous with our cancellation. Either way, I had to take Ollie out, and we left for his walk in pleasant temperatures, and brightening conditions. I decided to wear a light coat, just in case. We had been informed by the weatherman, that these conditions were the result of catching the tail end of Hurricane Bertha, as it made its way across the Atlantic before fizzling out somewhere further north. I did a couple of tours of the meadow, and cheered by the warmth, decided to take Ollie across to Mill Lane, heading for the route behind the pig farm. I hadn’t got very far, when the sky darkened rapidly. Bertha had arrived. Perhaps she had gone for a look around north of Gressenhall, and decided she preferred the Beetley area. Whatever the reason, I suddenly found myself in the middle of a very unusual weather experience.

Once past the few houses, Mill Lane becomes a dirt track, shaded by large trees that meet overhead, and form a closed glade. Even in the brightest and warmest weather, this section of the path is usually dark and damp, and the ground always remains muddy. As I entered this, the sound of building wind became louder, and different to any I had ever heard before. In a moment, it was as dark as night, and all around me small branches, twigs, and leaves began to flutter down from the trees. They were caught in the strong winds, and began to swirl around just above ground level, as if they were trying to get back up into the trees that they had fallen from. Loud cracks advertised the falling of larger branches, which plopped down into the mud. And it was raining. Not just any rain, but hosepipe rain, coming at me horizontally, as if unseen Firemen were hosing me down. I didn’t really feel able to continue forward, or to turn for home. I had to close my eyes against the debris lashing my face, and within seconds, I was wet through to the skin. I wasn’t in the ‘eye of the storm’, I was directly in the storm. And it felt very strange.

I opened my eyes to check what Ollie was making of all this. The answer was that he was continuing as normal. Sniffing around up ahead, and trotting about as it it was just another day. I managed to pull up my thin hood, but that was soaked before it covered my head, and if anything, made me feel even wetter. I trudged on, shoes now black with water, and filling with mud and twigs, trying to remind myself that it was still August, and that this must soon pass. Once clear of the glade and into the open fields of battered blackcurrant bushes, the rain could really make its point. It lashed down with renewed fervour, causing me to turn sideways to avoid the worst effects. I contemplated going home, but Ollie had run off a few hundred yards ahead of me, to sniff at the rabbit burrows, so I carried on, hardly able to see for the water running down my head. And then it stopped.

In the blink of an eye, the sun was out again. It was bright and hot, and it was as if I had imagined the previous ten minutes. I started off once more, following Ollie, who had by then reached the plum orchards up ahead. Much of the fruit had been blown to the ground, and the stumpy plum trees looked buffeted and bruised. The hot sun could be felt on my back, and although I was still wet underneath, my thin coat began to dry out. I looked over to the south-west, and could clearly see the cloud that had passed over me. Low, black as pitch, and still swirling. It was accompanied by nearby thunder, and someone in the direction of Wendling was no doubt getting the same treatment I had recently received. I checked my watch, and realised that I had only been out for forty minutes. I had spent twenty of those minutes in the company of just the tail end of Hurricane Bertha, and it had been a far from pleasant encounter. I decided that Ollie needed to have his usual walk, so I carried on. The sand around the pig farm was damp, and reminded me of a beach as the tide comes in. The pigs showed no signs of being bothered by the storm. If anything, it had provided them with muddier than normal wallows, so they seemed content. I made it up as far as Gingerbread Corner, then turned to retrace my steps for home. Near the fruit farm, Ollie had other ideas. He spotted a rabbit, and took off along the rows of blackcurrant bushes, disappearing a few hundred yards inside the fields. I followed him up there, as I knew he would soon be back, looking for me.

Sure enough, he soon returned. But so did Bertha. A few raindrops, accompanied by darkening skies, and I knew she was back. I walked into some hedges lining the fields, and waited for the worst. Just heavy rain, and plenty of it. Ollie looked up at me, wondering why I wasn’t walking. This time, I was going to wait it out. After fifteen minutes that seemed like an hour, the rain stopped once again. In hot sun, I set off briskly, determined to get home before the next cycle began. We arrived back in warm evening sunshine, and a stiff breeze that made the leylandii hedges wave at us. I discarded my wet clothing, and gave Ollie a good dry with his towels. Julie made me a coffee, and resisted the urge to chuckle at my dishevelled appearance.

I had survived my walk with Bertha, and I sincerely hope that she never feels the need to return to Beetley.