There is nothing more British than talking about the weather, be it hot, cold, sunny or dry, we always have something to say about it. But more than just talk about it, we love to complain. A bit like Goldilocks, it's never quite right! It's either too hot, too cold or simply too wet.
When it's cold and damp outside, the thought of remaining indoors dominates our thoughts as it's definitely much more cosy however, I want to put forwards a case for the huge benefits of heading out for a walk when the humidity is at maximum.
Several years ago, I was on a day walk with a friend. Rain was forecasted for the whole day and my friend was very hesitant about the prospect of a wet walk. I turned to her saying:
"I love walking in the rain, there's something really lovely about hearing the rain on my hood and the smells from the earth"
She looked at me as though I was mad - definitely not a sight I am unused to from any of my friends! However, I do feel that we have a disproportionately negative view of the rain meaning that we overlook the joy it can bring.
It has rained almost continuously since yesterday yet I had planned on getting out of the house at around 11am once I finished off a few chores. When I left the house, the heavy rain had subsided leaving a much lighter drizzle.
The roads around my house did feel quieter and the sky was grey. Nevertheless, what I love about the rain is that even though the sky might be dull, there can be a much greater vibrancy in the colour of plants due to the layer of water. Leaves are rich and shiny and details can be seen more clearly.
As a result of this, I found myself slowing down and looking at things that I would normally just walk by.
Rain also changes the way things sound, lessening the ability for the noise to travel making it easier to hear things that are happening around us which can be a wonderful things when we are near to birds and other animals. In addition, the sound of rain is renowned to be calming, often being used as a way to get to sleep, it's irregular rhythm lulling us into relaxation and tranquility.
By the time I captured this video, the rain had mainly stopped but the birdsong sounded so much louder due to the wet surfaces being more absorbent, thus restricting sound bouncing off it.
The sound of footsteps is also different. Along the pavement it was much duller than usual with the occasional puddle to splash through and the satisfying squelches as I walked along the mud and leaf rich floor of the woods.
The rain also results in a range of different scents as plant oils and actinobacteria released, all of which can provide real health benefits when inhaled making the rain a much more beneficial time to go for a walk, and no doubt of benefit to other animals too!
I know that being in London we are often walking on concrete or tarmac, but the smell of the leaves or grass following the rain is really noticeable, however, many plants such as hedges also smell differently.
I had woken up with a mild headache that I was unable to shift, even after a painkiller, yet the air seemed to be the cure I needed. As we have all noticed, this winter has been particularly mild but the refreshing air on my face was a real pleasure and made me deepen my breath.
As I walked along, I thought about the question my mum raised the other day (yes, these are the kinds of conversations we have ;)
Do birds get cold?
It's not such a silly question given how something so tiny can survive outdoors in all weather. Sadly, of course they do and the rain can result in them suffering from hypothermia.
This recent conversation still in my mind made me feel sorry as I noticed a crow hopping around, looking for worms. Whilst I did see a flock of great tits and a few robins and definitely heard a wide array of species, I tended to only really see the larger bird such as magpies, parakeets, wood pigeon and dove flying around. I would assume that the smaller ones were taking cover and trying to keep dry in between quick dashes out to find food.
Yet whilst many of the birds hide away, other animals thrive in the rain. This includes amphibians, snails, slugs and worms, great for birds who love to feed on them!
I stood for a while and watched a few squirrels running around, digging under the leaves and extracting nuts. I wondered if they too were cold. Poor little things.
Demonstrating my amazing video skills again ;D
As I continued my walk around the woods, I noticed how most of the trees were saturated with rain but that a few of them did seem to be dry, probably due to their position and proximity to other trees. I looked at the variety of bark and how the intricate grooves and marks kept their core well protected from a range of weather.
As I passed one tree, I noticed some foam. I didn't think this was anything to worry about but wasn't sure how it was formed. A quick internet search informed me that "Heavy rains interact with the sap and particulates on the tree bark and create soapy foam that will drip down the trunk and gather at the base of the tree. This phenomenon can happen especially after a period of drought."
Although I was never much of a puddle jumper as a child, I know that children are fascinated by them, seeming to release a deep, inner joy. When looking for the "benefits of jumping in puddles" I was really surprised to see that all results came back with the benefits to children. Why not adults?
Therefore, whether you are alone or with children, the next time you get outside in the rain - why not release your inner child and have a jump in a puddle?!
A summary of some of the benefits
Things sound different - the sound of rain is very calming and can sound very different depending on the environment. The repetitiveness of it can be very calming, especially when we are used to a brain full of thoughts. It therefore helps us to relax and has also been found to bring a level of creativity.
The smell can be beneficial - Things smell different in the rain which is the result of the scent released from the dry ground. This can be loose soil but also concrete as when the rain hits it, it releases tiny particles of aerosols. The scents from plants can contain oils and good bacteria which have a positive health benefit when inhaled.
There are less people around - this is especially beneficial with so many Londoners trying to get exercise. Rain means that less people are out so take advantage of a little peace and quiet!
Good for wildlife - provides a variety of things to feed on, plus providing vital water needed for growth.
You expend more energy - amazingly, you apparently burn more calories when you walk in the rain.
It goes without saying that walking around with wet socks is never pleasant. It doesn't have to be expensive but waterproof shoes and a jacket is a must. As an avid hiker, a little tip: to keep rain off your face, wear a baseball cap under your rain hood.
Walk took place in and around Horsenden Woods.
All photos my own except puddle jumping and the Fiennes quote.