Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Avoiding the showers...

I've managed to get out over the bank holiday weekend, perhaps more than I thought. With the weather continuing to disappoint it has been a question of timing - keeping an eye on the sky and, in particular, the clouds. Clouds are so often the brutish harbingers of bad weather, these airy sculptures, ethereal, majestic works that are the most egalitarian of natures displays - and they are available to all - free - everyone has a ringside seat - surely we should look and celebrate? I keep watch for the spells of relative clarity and then take a chance and make a dash for it. I've been out everyday except yesterday, Sunday was best, I covered 26 miles and stayed dry.

But today it's cold: wet and cold but beautiful. Water everywhere, collecting in puddles, knee-deep in clear pools around farm gates, swelling hidden ditches and exciting quiet rivers into torrents. Where the roads meet the bottom of the hill in Congerstone, the fields have been replaced by a huge, flat, black mirror. The entire landscape instantly transformed into another world. Not a soul around and, other than startled birds, it was perfectly still, as if it had all been there, unchanged for all eternity. All bold primary colours and simple geometry. As I change direction the wind strikes me with a whining frenzy out of a racing tempestuous sky. The clouds hurl over me, low and thick and furious. A short blast of rain lashes me in a torrential stream - cold and bitter, a great blustering wateriness. I briefly take shelter in a small wood.

Stormy sky - Congerstone
There are times when the land looks dead, when houses and gardens look dreary and desolate - but the wood is always a circle of loveliness. It never fades - it seems to have mystery and strength and grace, it is staunch and majestic, a place of quiet and conflict, of absolute peace and passion and death. All year it has a special atmosphere, you need only enter a few yards under its canopy to become under its spell, to sense the change the shifting - sometimes soothing often startling. There seems some precious quality brought about by the close gathering together of trees into a wood. It defies analysis. I think there has to be a closeness. An avenue will not do it - nor a park or an orchard - it needs an untidiness, a wildness, a conflicting and yet harmonious pooling of life. Woods stand about the countrytside in scores, hundreds, I suppose even thousands. They are pools of wild life in a too ordered, too civilised country. They are green islands and in so small a country they are especially precious. Without them the English countryside, man-made for the greater part would be nothing.

The storm quietens and I'm struck by shafts of golden sunlight piercing the dark sky and penetrating the land below. The rain stops - I'm back on the bike and on my way.

No comments:

Post a Comment