Cloud hangs like mist over the trees, fingers of it drifting across the hillside. The forest is dim but glows with the low light, a myriad of greens, wet and shining. Moisture is everywhere, sitting on leaves, running down dark trunks, wallowing in muddy puddles on the path. It’s no surprise, so much water pouring from the sky yesterday I thought these islands would sink. There was no letup, the rain and wind – severe gale in exposed places, said Metservice – joining forces, bending trees, flinging debris around. It was the sort of day when you’re glad to have the safety of four solid walls around you, peering at the storm through glass whilst the log burner glows behind you.
Today there are gaps in the rain, the wind merely strong, so a chance to get out for some fresh air and see what havoc has been wrought by the elements. It’s a perfect day for a walk in the forest, the wide-open spaces I would normally choose far too exposed and weather beaten. I’m glad not to be on the mountain on a day like today and shudder to think how bad it must have been up there yesterday.
The track is busy – it’s school holidays and many families are in town, probably in a vain hope that the skifield will be open. Even if the wind wasn’t too strong for chairlifts to operate, I suspect yesterday’s rain has washed away the snow cover that was there a couple of weeks ago. Children, ski-suited against the cold, splash into puddles, adults chivvying them along. One bloke in city shorts (any shorts would be way underdressed – it’s freezing) and sodden canvas pumps looks mutinous, clearly dragged out by the young woman a few feet in front of him who is more appropriately attired.
In the trees it’s hard to tell if it’s raining or not, huge plops of water dropping onto me. One splats right into the centre of my forehead and rolls down my nose in a small waterfall. The path is strewn with debris – snapped twigs and small branches, fern leaves torn from their anchor – and slippery roots to trip the unwary. I stretch over a puddle and my landing heel digs into soft mud. Freshly sawn chunks of log are rolled to the side of the path, the trunk they were cut from bleeding and raw at each side of the path. Above us a huge hole in the canopy is edged with broken branches, torn creepers and epiphytes hanging in disarray from them. There hasn’t been time to clear yesterday’s damage so this must have fallen in the storm of a couple of weeks ago that also took down a tree on our street.
The stream that normally gurgles along at walking pace is swollen and dark, frothing and foaming like an angry dog. Soggy debris covers a boardwalk, built a few years ago after a flood washed away the path – clearly the water broke free again yesterday, pushing sand and broken tree parts ahead. A man grabs a child by its coat as they head for the edge of the fast-flowing water.
We emerge from the forest as the sky darkens, rain falling again. We march, keen to get home before it gets too heavy, reaching the shelter of the porch just as it turns to a deluge. We step out of muddy boots and shake the worst of the rain from our coats, drop wet trousers in the hall and pad in bare feet to the bedroom for dry clothes. The heat of the logburner welcomes us as the storm beats its death throes against the windows.