For a while now I've known I was due to attend a meeting this evening at The Blacksmiths Arms, Little Clacton. I'd already planned to use this as an excuse to walk there and check out a couple of source=NPE footpaths to find whether they were there or not.
But sometimes nature has different plans. By the end of Look East (local news bulletin on BBC) just before 7pm, I'd seen news about cows being killed by lightning, hail so heavy it looked like snow had fallen, flash flooding, and various other weather related stories. Oh, and the forecast at the end with the weather radar suggested as we hadn't had it we would be getting it shortly.
So I left the house early. Little Clacton is only a couple of miles from home, and even with the footpath diversion I hadn't expected the walk to take much more than half an hour or so tops. But at 7pm I grabbed the waterproofs, the small umbrella (already in my mapping bag) and the large umbrella out of the car boot, and set off to walk.
The first part of the route was on lanes with no footpath. I was surprised by how many people on this short length I met walking the opposite way (2). By the time I reached the public footpath I was walking towards dark clouds that seemed to mix sheet and fork lightning equally. In the distance I could see the road where the pub was situated beyond the fields; made easier by the darkness triggering the street lamps a couple of hours earlier than normal. While on the footpath I
a) walked quicker
b) took fewer photos
c) had to switch to night mode for those photos
d) found a bridleway I was unaware of
e) worried that the photo of the bridleway signpost will be all black
f) experienced the darkest stretch of footpath I've yet mapped; trees either side and the storm seemed to blot out all light and I could only make out a short distance in front of me, enough to know to keep left to avoid the drainage ditch, and to keep my arm up if I wanted to avoid a brambled face.
I got to the pub about 20 to 8, and the heavens opened as I ordered my first pint of beer. The satellite TV signal went before my phone network failed, so the text I was sending home to say I had beaten the storm never made it (still in my Outbox waiting for a resend, but seems pointless now). Anyway, as the power stayed on I was dry, comfortable, refreshed and rather impressed by the storm which flooded a pub courtyard to a level where it overflowed to create a stream across the smokers' patio.
I'll get to the mapping tomorrow. I suspect that the NPE footpath is pretty accurate, and the unexpected bridleway is on as another NPE path. The footpath and bridleway actually take different fields though, and a more accurate survey of the bridlepath is required at some point.