28 March 2016
It turns out the storm chasing me on my walk back from Moorgreen was actually Storm Katie and, despite the sunshine when I reached the village, she hadn’t finished with us. Last night the house was pounded by rain and buffeted by howling wind. It kept me awake, worrying my roof was going to come off. This morning all was well, apart from a lot of debris in the garden. While I was surveying the non damage I heard someone in the garden next door saying ‘oh bugger,’ over and over. The carport roof next door was peeled back like the lid of a sardine tin. As I’m pretty sure that roof was only held on by blu tack I was hardly surprised.
Although our house and garden were unscathed I wondered what things would be like down by the river so CJ and I wrapped ourselves up and went to have a look. There was a lot of debris on Monks Walk but no trees down which was good news. On the corner the first forsythia I’ve seen this year was a mass of bright flowers. It was still pretty windy so CJ held the end of the branch while I attempted to take a photo. Unfortunately he couldn’t do much to help with the kerria along the road. Out of about three million photos there was just one half decent one. The blasted thing would not stay still.
When we reached the Triangle the sky didn’t look too clever and the wind was almost whipping us off our feet. The wisdom of our little jaunt started to seem questionable but we were almost at the park so it seemed silly to turn round and go home.
“I think we should turn back when we get to Woodmill,’ I said to CJ, “or maybe just after. We could see if the greylags are about first. You did pick up the swan and duck food didn’t you?”
“It’s in my pocket, but would geese like it?”
“Is the pope Catholic? They’ll eat anything.”
From the top of the slope Sarah Filmer’s snow geese looked to be in a bit of a tangle. We went for a closer look and it wasn’t quite as bad as we’d thought although a few more of the larger geese were broken. Still, after the horrendous storm it was a wonder they were still there at all.
Half the path was covered with a large puddle but that’s hardly anything out of the ordinary. On the other side of the river, somewhere over Portswood, the black cloud was dropping rain. My fingers were crossed it would stay there. Further on a line of debris and seaweed about a yard onto the grass showed the force of the storm. The water must have washed that high. CJ couldn’t resist a poke through it, looking for treasure. He found it in the form of an oak gall and, as we walked on I explained about the little wasps who made it. He seemed mildly impressed. Only mildly though.
Near the jetty there were more big puddles spilling from the path to the grass but the trees so far were all still standing. The wind ruffled the surface turning them into mini seas. The jetty itself was completely flat and we could see black swans close to the end of it.
“Do you want to go and feed them?” I asked.
“Not in this wind. I feel seasick just looking at it.”
He was right, it was bobbing about quite alarmingly. One side was completely festooned with seaweed and a large branch was entangled in the bars. Somewhere a tree was missing that.
The swans didn’t seem to mind the choppy water. CJ tried to throw them some of the swan and duck food but the wind threw it straight back at us and the swans looked disgusted, as if we were teasing them. The ducks seemed agitated. They kept taking off and then landing again a few seconds later. We left them to it and carried on.
When we got to the bend by the reed beds I was pleased to see the large tree had survived. It’s one of my favourites, especially in winter because its branches look so dramatic set against a brooding sky. Oddly there was a bright orange life belt on the grass beside it, battered and muddy.
“That must have come from the one of the bridges,” I said, thinking of the big orange life belt containers I pass so often along both Northam and Cobden bridges. “I can’t imagine the wind blew it out of the case and into the river but I hope it wasn’t thrown because someone fell in. If so, the rope must have broken so it wouldn’t have been a great deal of use.”
CJ, ever curious, bent to examine it more closely. “The rope has been cut,” he said. “Looks like someone threw it in on purpose, but not to save anyone.”
“Probably kids up to mischief then,” I said. Quite often the belts are pulled out of the cases and either stolen, left on the pavement or thrown into the river where they hang by their ropes until someone pulls them back again. When I see them I always think of someone falling in and there being no belt in the case to save them. By karmic law it should be the person who took it out in the first place floundering around in the water or at least someone they care about.
We walked on, wondering whether we should have picked it up and taken it back to the bridge. On the other side of the big tree there was a mini lake of a puddle, filled with debris from the battered poplars. Behind them, on the corner of the park fenced off for a school playing field, a large tree was almost broken in two. This part of the park had obviously been hit hard by Storm Katie.
Futher still the path and the trail to the back of the reedbeds was littered with branches big and small. We found one, complete with mistletoe and another with bright red catkins.
“It’s not often you see mistletoe up close,” I said, “at least not real mistletoe that’s still clinging to the branch.”
“Well I’m not kissing you,” CJ laughed. “It’s a parasite isn’t it?”
“It is, but it doesn’t usually kill the tree and lots of birds eat the berries.”
One huge branch, thicker than my thigh, had come down. It was cracked along its length and had made a deep hole in the grass where it fell. Nearby another large branch had obviously been dead for some time, just waiting for a storm to bring it down. Yet another tree had been snapped right off but the top had wedged between two branches of neighbouring tree. Two pigeons sat on a nearby branch. They seemed to be chatting about the damage and reminded me of my neighbour and his sardine tin roof. With the wind still blowing quite strongly we thought it sensible to stick to the path rather than walk between the trees behind the reedbeds. A branch that size would hurt if it hit you.
Amidst all the carnage there were still signs of new life. Under the next stand of poplars daffodils were flowering around the fox holes. We stopped to look at them and peer into the holes. We didn’t see any foxes but they certainly have a pretty garden. There were catkins too and new leaves beginning to open. Storm or no storm life goes on.
Life might go on but I wasn’t sure our walk should continue much longer. The black cloud that had been dropping rain on Portswood had moved round and was ahead of us now. We’d been riding our luck with the weather and it looked like it was about to run out.
“We should probably turn back now?” I said, eyeing the clouds suspiciously and thinking of my race against the storm the day before.
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