• Barbara Copperthwaite

The joy of rain

This morning I was woken by the rain hammering against the window.

‘Oh heck, another horrid day; here we go again,’ I thought: it’s been a bit dodgy for last few days.

But actually, by 11am I’d done a load of work and the sun had popped out – so Scamp and I popped out too to enjoy what I thought at the time would be a brief respite. In fact, the whole day has been glorious. What’s more, with the sun coming out, it was like a switch had been flicked on a heater and it was suddenly so much warmer. Great! I undid my coat. I took my hat off. I was very warm indeed as I walked with scamp.

The sunshine has brought out the insects. Some midges danced in the patches of sunlight between the shadows of trees. As I walked on, I came across a tree that’s still got a lot of its leaves, which are a sort of yellowy- orange – and at that moment were lit up by the setting sunshine, literally looking golden. Not just your cheap stuff either: I’m talking 22 carat gold.

A few days earlier I had spotted an interesting little grey bird, with sharp, sleek body, long tail, and a beautiful lemon-yellow chest. It had bobbed up and down like a Pied Wagtail, but it clearly wasn’t one of those, and I had no idea what it might be. By sheer coincidence, that day I had received an email about local nature expert Paul Anthony’s latest wildlife walk – and illustrating it had been that very bid! I had emailed him immediately asking him what it was, and he’d replied that it was the Grey Wagtail (I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know wagtails came in any other colour than the more usual black and white). What’s more, he’d said that the best place to spot it was by standing on the iron bridge by the Dad’s Lane entrance to Canon Hill Park. So that was where I decided to head today.

As soon as I arrived I could hear the change in the river before I’d even seen it. It was rushing and roaring along, thanks to all the rain that had fallen over the last few days. I rounded the corner, and could immediately see the difference too. It wasn’t in danger of bursting its banks, but it was much higher than usual. The best thing was its colour though. It is a glorious, rich brown which immediately brought to my mind Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. The force of all the extra water must have washed tons more mud into it.

I carried on, keeping a close eye on Scamp because she does love water and I didn’t want her trying to go for a swim and getting washed away. Luckily, she was far more interested in the tennis ball she had found along the way. As I walked over the field, my boots made lovely squidgy noises as they stuck to the mud then came unglued. Fantastic, you can’t beat this time of year.

Sadly, I didn’t spot any Grey Wagtails. I did, however, scare up a pair of Wrens, which had been in the thick undergrowth in amongst the dying thickets of Nettles and Traveller’s Joy in the Holders Lane and Pebble Mill Fields. So that was a rather nice end to a very lovely walk.

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