One of my Cambridge professors once joked that it was classic British irony to come over the crest of the hills only to find another, higher one beyond, followed by rain. Another declared that it the only good ramble was a muddy, wet ramble in boots over spongy marshes. For Americans, such self-inflicted hardship can all be a bit mysterious.
Wet weather move into Sandbanks over the weekend, first a 6 am thunderstorm, then a bucketing downpour as the sun rose. It didn’t deter the kite-surfers, concerned only with finding the maximum wind velocity and avoiding the shallows revealed by the tides.
I’d planned a day out, exploring west from Poole despite the weather. I set the TomTom generally towards Weymouth, then ignored the advice and took any road that looked interesting (despite some unsettling warnings in the signage).
At noon, I landed in the market town of Wareham. It’s located on a dry rise between the River Frome and the River Piddle and has a charming quay with a tempting footpath winding along the riverbank towards the sea. I had some ice cream, schemed over the maps on the wall, and waited for the squall to clear before setting off.
The British are a culture of walkers: I think that it’s how they connect with places, come to know people, relax together (it also justifies a warm social tea afterwards). I’m not very adept at the ritual naturalist and historical discussions that accompany their walks, but enjoy the exploration, the elements, the conversations, and the chance to take pictures.
I also like the disconnection from everyday goals and planning. I’m free to keep going if the next bend looks interesting, but it’s also fine just to sit along the bank and study the mossy boats and swirls as the water passes through the reeds.
I’m torn about whether I prefer a solitary walk or one with people. On one hand, I value contemplation in quiet open spaces and the freedom to pick a path and a pace. On the other, rambles stimulate long meandering conversations among genial companions that build easy understanding and intimacy.
The rains returned a mile outside of town: I waited under the eaves of the Redclyffe Yacht Club for a bit before deciding that the weather was settling in for the afternoon. Pulling the coat more tightly and huddling into the collar, I slapped through the puddles and mud back to town.
The wind rose and the cows aligned in the pastures against it: the bushes bent and fluttered over the trail, and the boat’s rigging whistled all along the waterway.
A perfect afternoon, only missing friends to share tea and laugh about it with afterwards.