From my home town of Kingston upon Thames, there is on the opposite bank of the River Thames the grounds of the Palace of Hampton Court, a largely open parkland area south of Bushy Park, the home of the Hampton Court Flower Show, and the historical Palace of Henry VIII.
On the north bank of the River Thames is an easy walk of about 3 miles (just under 5 km) following the river to Hampton Court called Badge Walk. Pleasure boats and ferries enjoying the leisurely pace of life, cruise passed on the river. Cyclists, joggers and walkers, out to exercise or just enjoy being out in the open air pass by, sometimes with a jolly “Hello” greeting. It is a pleasant walk on a sunny day for all.
For many weeks the weather in the UK has been like summer, even if it is only March/April, so much so that many parts of the UK are so short of water there has been a hosepipe ban introduced, rivers and reservoirs are running dry, the area has been declared officially in drought conditions.
And so I set out on a beautiful morning, to exercise myself on the walk, with the warmth of the sun putting an extra spring in my step. But as I neared the end of Badge Walk, coming to the entrance to the Royal Palace, the skies darkened, and I could see the ribbons of heavy rain falling in the near distance. Looking at the movement of the clouds and the direction of the wind, I realised and hoped the storm would pass to the north of me.
It had taken about an hour and a half to reach Hampton Court, time enough to earn a sandwich and a cup of tea in one of the cafe’s the grounds, and then to take a leisurely stroll through some of the gardens of the Palace.
It is a little too early for most of the flowering plants to bloom, but there were beds and beds of daffodils, some already having flowered looking a little bedraggled, some just in their prime, carpets of yellow gently swaying in the sunshine.
Yes, the rain did not materialise, but the sky was darkening, this time the blackest black I could remember, a storm was brewing, and it was time to leave, the quicker the better, and the quickest was a bus ride back to Kingston.
It was a race against the storm, and having reached the shopping centre of Kingston I entered the Bentall Shopping Centre, the heavens opened, delivering hail stones and rain drops large enough to stop and elephant stampede, but I was dry.
This British weather. It is so changeable, and it seems to be getting more so, from desert heat to Arctic freezing, tropical rainstorms to parched landscapes.