I woke up thinking about mud today. Nothing really surprising there, as I have thought a lot about mud since moving to Norfolk in 2012, and getting a dog. I even wrote a short blog post about mud, in January 2016. It features in my life a great deal, more than I ever imagined something like that would.
When you have spent most of your life in a city like London, mud is rarely an issue. It is something you almost never see to be honest, unless you have a very large garden, or go out of your way to leave the city, and go somewhere muddy. But why would I have ever done that?
In Beetley, my encounters with mud are daily, at least for six months of each year. A result of frequent heavy rain, melted snow, or the overflowing small river having burst its banks. I have become an expert on mud of all kinds, as well as coming to dread the mud, and often hate it too. I am told that one reason it is so bad, is that it is rarely cold enough for long enough to freeze the mud around here. Even after nights when the temperature has dropped to -5, a short burst of morning sunlight is guaranteed to melt just enough mud to make my walks treacherous, as well as unpleasant.
Cows don’t help either. When the small herd was kept on Hoe Rough for a few months, they left behind hoof-prints and breaks in the soil that soon filled with rain, turning into mini-mud pools overnight. Though the cows are long gone, replaced by less mud-inducing sheep, those holes and ruts are still there, and still full of mud. I also discovered that there are many types of mud. On the harder soil, slippery mud lays on the surface, resembling the shiny chocolate Ganache beloved of modern bakers. Walk on this at your peril, as it is as slippery as the surface of an ice rink.
Mud also dwells beneath what appear to be tufts of grass. They look solid enough to walk on, but the mud is waiting below, to suck the boots off of the feet of any unwary walkers. There is more obvious mud of course. The eight-inch thick stuff accumulated on the main paths, often turned into what looks like black soup, after more heavy rain. I would not usually choose to walk through that, but often a thick tangle of brambles either side gives me no other choice. Ollie is untroubled by mud of course. His light weight and delicate paws rarely break the surface, and he is oblivious to the wetter pools, splashing them over me, as he runs ahead.
I have tried various different types of boots to make walking in the mud bearable. My first sort were not up to the job. Lighter, thinner soles made them work like ice skates, and I had to resort to a large stick, just to stay upright. After trying some heavy-duty boots, I have finally settled on neoprene-lined knee-length boots, with soles almost as thick and rugged as tractor tyres. Even with such specialised and expensive footwear, I am unable to avoid the main problem, as I still have to actually walk in them. They disappear into the mud with each step, requiring considerable effort to lift my leg each time to continue my walk. It is like walking in weighted deep-sea diver’s boots.
This means the walks only get me half as far, in the same two hours or more, with Ollie constantly running ahead, then looking back to see why I am not keeping up. It is also more tiring to walk in mud of course, so I return feeling worn out most days at this time of year. The sun has been bright so far this morning, which means I can anticipate more mud when I take Ollie out later.
I doubt you ever think much about mud, and rightly so.
I don’t blame you at all.