The June Rains

I cannot believe how quickly June has creeped up on us. In one sense this feels like the longest year yet, so much has happened in 5 months and I almost feel ready for Halloween. But on the other hand, where has it gone, I could’ve sworn it was only march…

June is that funny month, is it spring, is it summer? The birds are still nesting, the wildflowers are in bloom, the temperature hasn’t dropped below 10 degrees in almost a month. Later this month, we will have the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. Which really indicates the height of summer, but isn’t summer only starting, we’re only half-way through this years Spring Watch? I have blethered on about this too much to anyone that will listen (i.e. my mum, dad and sister who have each given me a look that suggests I have seriously lost the plot) but these are the things that keep me up at night. 

Anyway, no matter what the season is, for me, what I often associate June with is rain. I remember being 9 or 10 years old, it was the first day of the school summer holidays, my mum was packing our suitcase for our upcoming holiday to tenerife and I was playing in my bedroom with my younger sister. Leading up the holidays, the sun had been beating down on little old Glagsow town, we had been counting down the days to the end of school and endless warm summer days, looking forward to playing with our mates in the garden, riding bikes and learning cool tricks on our trampoline. But day one was a wash out, although we weren’t too bothered, we still had the whole summer ahead of us. I remember that day, watching at the window with my mum and sister, overlooking the street. The sky was full of heavy grey clouds but it stayed bright, and rain battered off the pavement. Suddenly, a roar of thunder rattled the street and an indistinguishable bright light filled the grey sky for half a second. This carried on for a short while while the three of us sat watching, completely fascinated. 

It also reminds me of the summer that I spent working at a forest school, a wonderful job filled with laughter and fun kids and mud (so. much. mud), and seeing as it was june, rain! At the start of the day, the rain wouldn’t bother me, I would build a shelter but not spend much time in it. By lunch time, I would be beginning to feel the cold, but I would fight through it, I would sit in my hand-made shelter and eat my lunch, and I would be ready for the first afternoon session. But by the second afternoon session, I would be soaked through to my skin, my shelter would be leaking and the floor would have puddles. My bum would be wet from sitting on the damp ground or a wet fallen branch. My brain would try and send signals for my fingers to move but they would be stiff and refuse to do anything. June rain is different to the harsh winter rains, it is warm and can be pleasant, but can be relentless and without the proper waterproofs, the cold can seep through to your bones and make your skin numb. After a full day of forest schooling, all I wanted to do would be to get home, have a hot shower, drink some tea and put on my comfiest pyjamas. (I have now also learned that jeans are not to be worn in the rain and the power of some quality waterproofs). 

And today, the 4th of June, feels almost like that day that I sat with my sister watching the lightning and listening to the thunder. The past month has brought dry, hot weather to Scotland, drier than usual. Hot and dry weather is an unusual occurrence in this part of the world, but this is customary for May, and every year it catches us Scots out (and usually gives a few of us some nasty sunburns). Then, in the past few days, the temperature has dropped back below the lovely 20 degrees celsius mark and the clouds have descended. Just in time for the wildlife trusts 30 days wild challenge… 

So sat in my room, eating lunch and watching a netflix show, as one does on a rainy lockdown afternoon, I opened the window to let in some fresh air. The street was quiet, there were no cars, no chatting neighbours. All I could hear was the patter of heavy rain, the trickle of water running down the road and into the drains, the heavy drops falling from the gutter and a lone signing blackbird, hidden from sight but his voice travelled through the rain well. I got an urge to get out and embrace it, so I grabbed my old red raincoat, pulled on a pair of boots and headed out for a walk! 

I didn’t go far, it wasn’t long until my jeans were wet through and my glasses were smeary so that everything looked a little blurrier than usual. But my short walk was incredibly  refreshing. This weeks #wildflowerhour challenge is to identify a grass, I had planned on heading out for a long nature walk to do this until I saw the forecast for today and decided to stay home. But once I was out, I decided why not have a look! 

I came up the main road – on the right, there was a busy road, trucks and lorries rush past, splashing the surface water behind them as they sped. But to the left, an area of grass with some tall sycamore trees. Thanks to lockdown, the council have abandoned their industrial lawn, biodiversity killing, monster mowers and the grassy area here has flourished. So I took some time to enjoy it. The ground was mushy underfoot, the grass soaking up the first decent rainfall in two months. Delicate raindrops had come to rest on the sunshine yellow buttercup petals. Water trickled down the stems of the tall cow parsley, rusting the grass below. As I watched, I came across a small mammal burrow. Small holes in the ground, no bigger than a small easy-peel tangerine were surrounded by dry grass that had been stripped of its outer layer. I don’t know what might be living here, I suspect a mouse, I will need to go back and investigate when the weather is better.

Young Foxglove

Under the shelter of the tall sycamore trees, the rain had softened and I lowered my hood, allowing myself to feel the warm water fall onto my face. The fat green leaves of the trees above me were glossy wet, and in the branches I noticed a house sparrow, carrying a caterpillar or a mealworm from a garden feeder. It disappeared into the thick canopy and came back empty beacked. It flitted off, through the downpour, to a nearby garden, and returned quickly with a mouth full of grubs and back into the thick leaves above me, where I suspect it had a nest full of hungry chicks. I kept walking and headed into a street of bungalows that is well decorated with trees and wildflowers growing on the unattended patches between cars and the pavement. It was still quiet despite the battering rain and as I listened, I heard the scratchy call of a greenfinch from the top of a shrub. On the ground, plants of all shapes and sizes were sprouting up. Tiny blue forget me nots, thick and spiky thistles, and my favourite, a tall, purple fox glove, creeping up through a broken wooden fence. The top of the plant was still very green and fresh but at the bottom, the striking, tubular floors were starting to emerge. Fox gloves are a pollinator favourite,but  unsurprisingly in the heavy rain,the bells remained free of bees for now. I suspect that as the rain calms, this plant will be attracting bees from all over the neighbourhood. 

I returned home soggy and a little chilly. My glasses steamed as I stepped into the warm house and my sister laughed at my rain styled hair-do (not my best look). But I felt so content. I hung my wet clothes up to dry and put on some warm pyjamas. 

As fairly hairless mammals, we are not well designed to cope with the rain. We do, and for good reason, have a tendency to avoid the rain at all costs. Being wet and cold is unpleasant, and you might think that us Scots might be better adapted at dealing with it. Maybe we are, but most of those that I know, tend to keep indoors in downpours, huddled in blankets. If we do have to go outside, we wrap ourselves in big waterproofs and carry large umbrellas. However, stepping out into the rain can be so refreshing! Especially at this time of the year, when the sky is light, there is no wind, the birds are still calling, wildflowers are bursting out of the streets and the rain doesn’t hurt with cold. It is so good for the soul, even if it is only for 20 minutes, and a great way to connect with the outdoor world. Then you can come inside, get changed and grab a mug of something hot.

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