Sunshine that is.
Well that’s not quite true, there has been sunshine. There has also been a lot of rain and almost constant howling gales and, hand on heart, every time I have stepped outside things have been perfect right up to the moment I’ve got to the beach.
Take last Tuesday for example. It was an extremely low spring tide which gave me the opportunity to walk the shoreline from Mansands to Scabbacombe without the scrambling. The air was still and warm in the sunshine, and in the shelter beneath the high cliffs spring was indeed in the air. Until that is I reached the tricky headland at the far end of Long Sands. Now the wind funnelled across Scabbacombe beach, the clouds appeared out of nowhere and spread rapidly out from the cliff top and with them came the rain. Icy cold rain driving in sheets. In seconds the dry rocks were transformed into water slides and by the time I reached the relative shelter of the beach and cliffs I was wringing wet. I could not have got any wetter if I’d walked into the sea, and I would have got a lot colder either.
I squelched up the hill along the footpath that was now a mud filled stream, the wind still whipping me with bucketful after bucketful of rain.
Bad luck you say. Conspiracy I say because no sooner had I reached the car than the clouds blew away and the sunshine returned. And that is not the only time this has happened in recent weeks. Last Friday it was almost a repeat performance at Breakwater Beach.
And damn it, it is going to do the same again, I am jogging back down North Boundary Road to the car to grab my bag to walk down to Fishcombe Cove and the rain is darting at me from the one and only cloud in the sky. The cloud is following me. I turn the corner and the cloud turns to follow. I dither under the tailgate of the car until the cloud losses interest and then nip across the road and duck under the tree cover, if I’m lucky the cloud won’t notice until it’s too late.
Fishcombe Cove across to Churston Cove is bathed in sunshine and is sheltered from both wind and waves. It’s a little after high tide but it is only a low neap, coming barely half way up the newly rebuilt steps. The steps got wrecked last autumn and I thought there was little chance they would be repaired as they are out of sight and suffer few users, austerity cut-backs being what they are. However, both these and the bottom couple of steps on the coast path over at Churston Cove have been restored. However, standing on the lowest step in the waist deep water which is suffused with green light and quite clear down to the seabed of jumbled stones and wispy seaweed fronds, the chill of the water is a sharp reminder that despite the warm sunshine spring officially is still two weeks away (Monday 20th March, 10:29 local time in the UK).
I push off from the step and I am quickly out of my depth. Out in the middle of the bay the waves swing up and down with their crests just breaking into myriad glittering jewels. People are watching from Churston Beach. I am watching for the seal who can be friendly and also less friendly.
Lying back and kicking up fountains of water I glance over my shoulder and spy the grey blanket of cloud sweeping over Torquay. It is rising up over the headland and sweeping my way. That is my signal to leave.
I am towelling furiously as the first raindrops hit. Forget it, clothes on, now! A dash of rain hits and instantly the concrete walkway darkens, but I am already hauling my sweatshirt on and begin stuffing my towel into the bag. I’m done and have just time to wave at the lady now going in for her swim before dashing for the meagre shelter of the trees.
It’s just normal, perfectly healthy paranoia. Everyone suffers from it.
But that doesn’t mean the clouds are not following me.
Wild Swimming Map: Devon & Cornwall