I have been planning a riverside walk for next year's schedule for my walking group and decided to try it out on Saturday.
Having had some rain during the night and early morning I carefully listened to the forecast, studied the clouds and decided that 09.30 was a good starting time. Just in case I put a lightweight raincoat in my backpack and also a polythene bag for my camera. Walking boots on and off I set.
The clouds made some interesting skies but nothing threatening. I met a man walking his two beautiful alsatians and passed the time of day but no-one else was out and about. They don't know what they're missing, I thought.
St Benet's Abbey ruins, with the base of the old mill appeared in the distance and I was enjoying the scenery. A number of small brown birds were flitting about, singing loudly and I promised myself to try and identify them in future. I was on the lookout for marsh harriers as I knew there was a nest on the other side of the river but no luck.
Reaching the main river, I turned right to follow its course and had gone about half a mile when my mobile rang. Tempting not to answer but I did, only to hear the skipper saying "there is a huge thunderstorm with hail and heavy rain in Norwich". Looking to the west I could see an enormous black cloud but it seemed to be moving slowly and I felt it could go south of where I was. "Thanks for the warning" - and continued my walk.
I reached an old pumping station on the riverside which was where I had to turn inland, back towards the village. The cows were still standing up and didn't appear to be concerned about possible rain so I confidently walked on, keeping a weather eye to the west.
When I glanced up after a few minutes, I suddenly realised the storm was heading straight for me! What should I do? The first thing was to put on my lightweight raincoat and wrap my entire backpack (camera included) in the plastic bag.
To walk on would be into the wind and all the rest of the rubbish but would complete the planned walk but to turn round and head back would probably mean I would miss the centre of the storm. Being a wimp I turned back with thoughts of maybe getting into the lee of the pumping station to avoid the worst of it.
Walking fairly fast, trying to avoid potholes, I reached the pumping station only to realise it was fenced off! The hail had started by then, stinging my face and the wind was ferocious. All I could do was walk back along the riverside path until I found a large bush, where I stood, facing the river and the passing boats, hoping that the bush would give me slight protection. By this time my trousers were soaked and sticking to my legs but my trusty lightweight raincoat (very old and never before used in anger!) seemed to be doing its job! I got some strange looks from passing boats - luckily my raincoat is pink as if it had been black I think I would have looked a bit sinister, especially so close to St Benet's Abbey ruins. Hmmm, maybe something for the future hahaha!!
I wasn't thinking along those lines at the time, concentrating on other things, hoping that the lightning wouldn't strike anywhere near and bracing myself for the thunder. After what seemed hours, but in fact was only about 10 minutes, the rain eased off a bit so I started walking again only to find that my walking boots had filled with water which was squelching through my toes with every step! Nothing I could do, just keep walking, wind and rain hitting me sideways but blue sky was getting steadily closer.
When the storm eventually passed, I rang the skipper to confirm I was ok and took a quick photo of the departing cloud.
This photo really doesn't show how ominous the cloud was when it was overhead but gives an idea of the size of the storm.
The plan now was to get back to the dry as soon as possible but I was mortified when a marsh harrier flew over me, low and leisurely, as if to say 'ha, you've put your camera away'. #%$£&*!
Compensation came with a glorious sunset and the walk can wait for a calmer day.