The Storm

Meon hill in the sun

I love storms. I love the wildness of bad weather. When the wind is howling and rain is driving across the hills I want to be out in it. I love being buffeted by the wind and the slightly scary feeling of everything being unpredictable and crazy. I believe this goes all the way back to the far distant past when I was a toddler and we lived in Zimbabwe, Africa. Although I was a very small person I can still remember African rain, the fatness and spacedness of the first drops as they fell into sand-coloured dust, making little craters in the dry earth. I think the memories of African storms, which must have been tremendous, are happy memories and are the reason why I love storms and wild weather even today.
    One of my unrequited dreams is to go tornado chasing in the USA and yes, I confess to seeing the film Twister multiple times. But, despite loving storms and walking in bad weather, I have also been rather afraid of getting caught in the rain on long distance walks. When you are out for several days, sleeping in a tent, the thought of being wet is rather daunting. I once got spectacularly wet on a long distance walk in Wales, entirely due to my own stupidity, and it was a very cold, miserable experience that I am in no hurry to repeat.
    All through my long walk in 2019 I dreaded bad weather, but when it finally came it was actually ok. I was camping on Hadrian’s wall, close to the Cumbrian border. We had two days of driving rain and although I had very wet outer gear, I had become much smarter at camping over those months and I was able to manage the rain without getting my clothes or sleeping gear wet.
I felt really great after that experience. I felt much more confident about walking and camping in bad weather conditions.
    In the late summer of 2019 I decided to walk some of the old Salt Way, a possibly pre-roman track which would have run from Droitwitch in Worcestershire, to London and the sea (did you know there are salt mines in Droitwich?) Anyway, the trail is marked in a few places on the OS maps and the bit I wanted to tackle went from near Statford-upon-Avon to near Winchcombe, taking in parts of the Cotswold Way. 
The first day was gorgeous (see above), I walked from Lower Quinton across the hills to Hidcote, a lovely stroll along rolling hills and pretty, almost uninhabited countryside. That evening I camped in a farm near Mickleton. The set-up at the farm was unusual. I was in a field, the only tent, behind three wooden cabins. The bathroom facilities were small, two loos with a shower, about the size of a caravan bathroom, but very warm and super clean. I liked this campsite actually, especially as mine was the only tent on it.
    In the field next to me was a small herd of sheep, who are very nice camping companions, with their sonorous baaings and warm, wooly smell. So things were looking good. I set up my camp, ate and drank supper, listened to the sheep and generally felt rather chilled. Then the storm came.
    I sat in the entrance of my tent watching the sky darken. It looked at first as if it was some distance away, a low, blue-black, ‘bruised’ sky over the hills in front of me. As time went on, the storm got closer and closer. The clouds were moving quite fast yet the day became ominously still. A wyrd yellow light turned the sheep to gold and the birds stopped singing. The air of menace became intense. I watched as a strange cloud began to form in the midst of the blue-black storm sky. Could this form into a tornado? 
    I felt extremely small and fragile, sitting in my thin cloth tent. So small and fragile I got my husband on the phone. Even though he was 50 miles away it felt less scary sharing this moment with someone. Enormous billows of cloud coiled in the sky either side of me as the dark sky loomed closer and closer. I kept looking at the sheep who were contentedly grazing, I thought if they started looking spooked I was going to make a run for it, animals being wiser about things like tornadoes than humans..
    By now a cold wind had whipped up, the sides of my tent were flapping and slapping in the wind. Should I go somewhere? The loos were almost as fragile as my tent and my innate English fear of embarrassment stopped me from hammering on the door of the only wooden cabin that was occupied. So I stupidly stayed in my tent watching the apocalypse roil towards me.
And pass by.
Reader, I was a little embarrassed then. But that crazy storm passed over my head and just...disappeared. The sky went grey, no raindrops fell, no twister grabbed me. It was one of the scariest, most beautiful and bizarre weather moments I’ve ever had. 
Later that night I heard the first soft pings of rain on my tent and by the next morning it was coming down in torrents. I walked/slid from Chipping Campden down into Broadway, dripping wet and with mud up to my knees, where I met a man posting waymarkers for the final stretch of an ultra marathon which was coming up from Stroud to Chipping Campden. A thousand runners all heading towards me along a good stretch of the route I wanted to walk the next day. I looked at the mud caking my feet and considered those thousand runners and thought, ‘no.’ The next morning I packed up my soaking tent and caught the bus back to Brum.

At this point the storm was vaguely interesting and a long way away

It got rapidly more ominous

a compilation shot of what I could see in front of my tent

the sheep went gold in the wyrd light

Pretty impressive, right?



  1. Extraordinary Susan, wonderful pictures.... weather can bring in a suddenly human and fragile feeling! Appreciated xs

    1. Thank you Sarah. I certainly had a wobbly few moments there!


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