After rain the countryside becomes a different place, the air refreshed and deliciously scented with sweet earthy odours released from the now sodden ground. The muggy, heavy air is gone and with it has gone the lingering drowsiness that tends to creep over me on these warm and sultry days. The greens of the vegetation seem darker, as if the leaves and fronds have absorbed the moisture through osmosis to become plumped up and fleshy. Droplets of water form on the vegetation; coalescing under the influence of gravity into larger drops they slip from the leaves to fall noisily through the canopy.
The beech trees are striking, their tall narrow trunks rising up to a green cathedral roof and stained darker grey by the rain. The trunks look like stone pillars and the regimented nature of their planting, with neat rows forming a thin veneer between the road and the brooding conifer plantation, only adds to the sense that I am within some wonderful piece of natural architecture. The closed canopy has so limited the growth of other plants that there is no field or shrub layer and my gaze through the plantation remains unimpeded.
Leaving the boundaries of the wood I slip silently out onto one of the wide forest tracks and then follow the line of power cables through the cleared ride. The grass here is long and unmanaged and, when dry, alive with various bugs (including the Bishop’s Mitre, a fitting species to find so close to the cathedral-like beeches). The grass itself is joyously wet and I delight at the way it tugs at my trouser bottoms and wets my shins. I am a child again, ignoring parental chidings about not getting wet, running through the meadows of memory with a broad smile on my face.
I can hear the soft calls of a party of Long-tailed Tits and it is not long before they are all around me, working their way back up the trail I have just followed. This is a family party, with youngsters in tow. These small birds, all fluffy feathers and lollipop stick tail, are a delight to watch. Some of the youngsters have wet plumage and appear bedraggled, further adding to their endearing character. The rain was heavy so I assume they must have taken shelter somewhere, only now venturing forth to search for small insects dislodged by the rain.
The heat will return; the vegetation will dry and the air will become increasingly heavy with moisture. Dark clouds will form, the atmosphere increasingly charged and I will become drowsy and wish for the inevitable storm to break. I can then look forward to that feeling of refreshment that comes after rain.