Four hours ago, I posted about how the rain had stopped me doing all the planned outdoor jobs today. Awful weather does not allow me to stop one regular outdoor pursuit of course, as Ollie must have his walk, come rain or shine. So at 2 pm, we set off.
Despite the gusty wind, and rain that was increasing in intensity, it wasn’t really cold. I wore a light jacket over my T-shirt, shorts, and some leather trainers. For protection, I used my trusty windproof umbrella, as we walked into an afternoon that would have not been out of place in late November. As I suspected, the Meadows were almost empty of other people. One fellow dog-walker was also braving the elements, but he was wearing waterproofs of the type usually seen on a trawler captain, and he set off home after twenty minutes. That left just me and Ollie, trudging around in the wet.
My trainers had been overwhelmed in less that half an hour, and were completely sodden. Despite having the umbrella, most of me was soaked anyway, as the rain was coming in at an angle, driven with force by the gusts. At least my head and neck stayed dry, and I was able to see. Ollie headed off into the river, looking for ducks to annoy. But despite being the traditional ‘good weather for ducks’, there were none to be seen. They had also had enough, and were off somewhere, sensibly staying out of the deluge. Rabbits were also notable by their absence, probably staying warm and cosy in their burrows. Half way along from the Fakenham Road bridge, I spotted the long-absent egret. I had wondered where this regular resident of Beetley Meadows had been, and some of us had discussed the absence of the bird only recently. We concluded that the arrival of holidaying children had disturbed the routine, and the bird had left for a quieter spot.
The snow-white water bird was standing on the edge of the riverbank, gazing intently into the water, no doubt awaiting the arrival of a fish of a suitable size for lunch. But it hadn’t reckoned with a bored dog. In the absence of any ducks, Ollie decided that an egret would do just as well, and plunged into the water, heading for it. There was never a chance that he would get close, let alone catch it, so I stood and watched. The bird took off at a leisurely pace, and landed in the branches of a tree on the other side, in Hoe Rough. Under the same tree, the small summer herd of resident cows stared blankly across at us, munching away at the grasses, unconcerned about the rainwater cascading down their flanks.
I called Ollie back onto the path, in the hope of leaving the bird in peace. We eventually got round to the bend in the river, where the scene couldn’t have been more different from yesterday. Where there had been families having picnics, and groups of excited children playing in the water, there was nothing, just us bedraggled pair. Then I noticed that we did have company. The large grey heron, that had recently returned and then soon disappeared again, was back in its spot. Standing as still as stone, it looked more like a garden ornament than a real bird. Also transfixed on the flowing water below, it had not appeared to notice our arrival. Or perhaps it was unconcerned by our presence. As it didn’t move, Ollie appeared not to see it. He ran around sniffing, and looked up at me, wondering what I was looking at, I surmised. The heron then moved slightly, just one leg, perhaps preparing to catch a fish. But it was enough for Ollie to suddenly be aware of the large bird nearby, and off he raced, to check out the new playmate. With a mighty flap of its enormous wings, the heron was up and gone, soon a good half-mile distant, leaving Ollie frustrated, as usual.
We had been out for over ninety minutes. The rain was coming down harder than ever, and the sky was dark enough to suggest the arrival of evening, despite the early hour. I had reached my limit of endurance for today, and headed home. My clothes are drying in the bathroom, the shoes abandoned in the covered entrance at the side, and the umbrella upended in the shed, to drip-dry. Summer, who needs it?