It was raining when we got up this morning. Really, really raining. Not just tiddling, but hammering, crashing and flooding off the flat roof of the small conservatory on our home for the holidays. The one where my husband Peter and I are enjoying our first fortnight alone together for millenia. It was a Suffolk deluge. Apparently this is one of drier parts of the UK in summer…
Then it stopped. Properly stopped, not just as if the clouds were taking a breather. The sun came out, a warm breeze was blowing and the natural reaction was to get out of the front door as quickly as possible, with the dog, to have a walk in beautiful Rendlesham Forest, as recommended by Peter’s brother.
Well how was that for an error of judgment? We arrived at the tiny visitor centre (looking back, it is so tiny that only the people working there have any form of shelter from the elements) soon after twelve and were still able to think about leaving all the waterproofs in the car. I even considered wearing my trainers – the type with that airtex vest type material on the top (you see what a fitness expert I am..) Some small voice convinced me otherwise, thank goodness and the same voice ensured Peter stuffed the anoraks in the rucksack just in case.
Properly shod we walked off happily into the depths of the forest, along a 3 mile trail suggested to us by the forest ranger, following a map that bore no resemblance whatsoever to the route we were following. But the sun was just about visible, there were regular painted waymarks and the dog was having a ball – literally. Who could tell – we may even have been privy to sightings of the strange ‘UFO’s that have earned Rendelesham the nickname of ‘ “Britain’s Roswell”. In fact there is even a ‘UFO Trail’, although I think, like any spacecraft, it turned out, had seen the weather forecast and headed off to another galaxy….
We heard the first rumble of thunder after about half an hour of a pleasant, if rather dull ramble. A few minutes before the forest had gone eerily quiet and I had moaned that it wasn’t surprising they didn’t bother with ‘August Watch’ or ‘Summer Watch’ as Chris Packham and Simon King would only have wasps and bluebottles to talk about. As it was about time for a break, we stopped, munched on rather bruised apples and a scrumpled packet of mini cheddars and broke open a bottle of water as we were feeling a little dry… (you can sense where this is going can’t you?) Another, louder, rumble. The waterproofs came out and with them wrapped around our waists we headed off again, out of the shelter of the deciduous woodland and onto a wide path lined on both sides with dense conifers. The rumbles became more frequent and the first spots of rain saw us put on our jackets, bracing ourselves for an invigorating, if somewhat quicker walk along the last mile or so of the route.
Yes dear reader, then the heavens opened. Thinking perhaps that the shelter we had quickly sought under the low branches of the conifers was less than sensible as the thunder pealed ever louder and lightning appeared every so often overhead we took our chances and walked and walked and walked getting wetter and wetter and wetter until we saw the toilets near the car park and sighed with relief.
It was then I saw the family – three adults, three children and a labrador having a picnic near the hut offering lightening conductors, I mean cycles, for hire. They were literally sitting at the bench eating under umbrellas. However daft our idea had been, theirs was leagues ahead.The children were running to the inadequate play facilities every so often, presumably to dry off.
As we got into the car a nice young woman approached us and said she was employed by the Wildlife Trust to undertake a survey, asking visitors how they had enjoyed their day in the forest and what changes they thought would improve the facilities.
Tumble driers? A roof? As we drove away (to battle our way through flooded roads) we saw her approach the picnicking parents and children. They probably wondered what all the fuss was about…