Richard Lutz rides a storm on the Kinver escarpment.
It’s a well know fact, chronicled nowhere specific, that Britain is shocked when winter dishes out bad weather.
We’ve had a couple of back to back storms and we take to Kinver Edge to sacrifice ourselves to the pleasures of blasting wind and stinking rain. No one else is stomping around this giant sandstone escarpment which towers over the Stour River Valley to the east and its more famous cousin, the Severn Valley, to the west. The weather is just too crazy.
The Worcestershire and Staffordshire border sits across the Edge’s spine. They meet at a big tree right on the footpath. And you can stand square with its massive trunk and have half your body in one county and the other half in the other. It’s something that would excite any six year old…and me.
Sometimes along this 400 foot high ridge you see a lone walker, with that indisputable fixed stare long associated with a huge day’s tramp along the long distance paths that loop and drive through this part of the heart of England. But not today. It’s just too wet.
And this despite the fact that Kinver Edge, along with the humpback Malvern Hills to the south, are really the only two places to walk in winter simply because their tops are dry underfoot. No plague of Midland mud here that transforms the nearby Cotswolds or the Worcestershire valleys into quagmires.
Below Kinver Edge is a series of sandstone caves. People lived in them for centuries with the last families only moving out in the 1960s. They were farm labourers, toolmakers and quarry workers and lived troglodyte lives until better housing beckoned.
Today you can roam into their former homes; one is a museum, another is empty, carved over the centuries with initials, weird hieroglyphics and the simple dumb marks of vandalism. But as one historian said of the random cave damage: even conscious damage, such as graffiti, is of historic interest.
Halfway through the walk with its persistent rain, the sun suddenly emerges. The wet remnants of the storm dot the bare hardwoods – the oak, the ash and the chestnuts that cover the hills. And as if by magic, the raindrops in the branches transform.
They become specks of red and blue bubbles as if they were Christmas lights strung over the big trees. This is a trick of the light caused by the low winter sun as it bounces and reflects off the wet branches. If you twist your head, the coloured dots disappear. Twist again, and they dance and reappear.
We try to grasp why we are all seeing the same pretty cavalcade of colour, how we see things seems personal. Yet, all three of us are an audience to it. And that seems good enough as the low sun pops in and out, the blue and red dots twinkle and the clouds overhead warn of another burst of rain.