Footsteps in the fog

Despite not feeling that great today, I thought that a walk in the fresh air with Ollie might help to clear my head. We left a little later than usual, at 2.30pm. As soon as I was outside, I realised that the grey gloom I had mistaken for overcast skies, was in fact, thick fog. This was not like the fogs of old, that I well-remember from London. They were exacerbated by coal fires, heavy traffic, and industrial pollution. This was a country fog, freshening the air, and hanging low to the ground.

Once over on Beetley Meadows, it made for an interesting sight. Visibility was only around one hundred yards, less in some places. I could feel the cold of it on my face, although the day itself was not unduly chilly. Across the newly-cut grass areas, the fog was thicker, and almost touched the ground. After a brief circuit, we waded the river, and climbed the fence giving access to Hoe Rough. At least I did, using a handy log placed there by someone. Ollie deftly skipped through a gap in the barbed wire, too low for me. Over the other side, the trees broke up the effect of the fog a little, and it didn’t seem so dense. The spiky bushes that proliferate over there appeared to have turned white overnight. On examination, it was just water droplets from the fog, clinging to the painfully sharp spines. A touch with my stick, or an inquisitive nudge from Ollie’s nose, and it was gone, in a heartbeat.

Walking on through the muddy ground, I could see the fog moving, gathering in the hollows and dips in the ground. I suddenly became aware that it had changed the normal acoustics of the place. Every sound seemed to be amplified, and I could hear things from places that I knew to be a long way off. The traffic on Fakenham Road, just average Saturday shopping commuters, was very loud and insistent. Rather than hearing it from some way off, about one thousand yards away, as a distant murmur, it felt more like standing close to a motorway, or busy arterial road. I could detect the sound of people playing football, on the hard pitch in Beetley Meadows, just visible across the river. The bouncing of the ball, and the excited shouts of the players. Church bells were ringing, at a volume suggesting that the church was near enough to be seen. However, it was likely coming from Gressenhall Church, two miles away, as the nearest church in Beetley has no bell-tower. I checked my watch, suspecting a 3pm wedding; but it went on far too long, so I had to conclude it was most probably a bell-ringers’ practice session. Making my way further up to the higher part of Hoe Rough, I could hear the drops of moisture falling from trees onto the leaves underneath. They cracked like small hits on a snare drum.

I found this a little disconcerting, yet fascinating, in its own way. I had never suspected that sounds would be affected by fog in this fashion. It made me think of those old films, women afraid of footsteps behind them, on foggy London streets. Perhaps those sounds were also amplified by the thick fog?

Back over the meadows, the sky was darkening, and the fog seemed to be settling lower. I couldn’t see anyone clearly, just shapes in the distance across the field. Ollie and I bumped into some other dogs and their owners, and we all discussed the weather, and the dogs of course. By 4pm, visibility was very poor, so I decided it was time to head home. My head seemed to be a lot clearer, and my senses felt heightened too. All thanks to a seasonal fog.

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6 thoughts on “Footsteps in the fog

  1. I looked up “pea soup fog” (or, “pea souper”) on Wikipedia, and discovered an unflattering photo with the caption, “A residential high-rise on the banks of the Thames pokes its head above the London fog and into the sunlight.” I guess that’s the London fog you described (why am I suddenly thinking of designer trench coats?). I’ve experienced (behind the wheel, or on foot) some very dense fogs, from the Missouri River bluffs to the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

    As for sound, I found this on the internet: “Sound travels better through a denser medium–think about how sound seems amplified when you’re underwater. If the fog is thick enough, it could affect the way sound travels and could make it easier for you to hear something that is farther away.” That sounds logical to me.

    As for Gressenhall Church, do they have any hunchbacks on staff?

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    1. The fogs I remember in London were long before high-rise flats were ever built, but you get the general idea. We didn’t have Burberry trench coats though, just cheap duffle coats; made of wool, with hoods. They got very wet, and felt heavy to wear.This country fog is very different, and you are right about the sound changing. I looked it up too.
      Best wishes as always, Pete.

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