A farmer makes a channel to drain a pool of rainwater in the track with the heel of his boot. “You’ve chosen a good day for walking” he says, the rain streaking down his face. “You know where you’re going, got a map?”. Unsure wether this comment comes from friendly concern or the suspicion of trespassing, I assure him I have both map and will keep off his land.
A row of traditional thatched cottages. Outside one a Sussex Police notice requesting information on the murder of a woman called Valerie Graves. I subsequently learn she was killed in one of these houses with a claw hammer.
Three swans glide in the rain pocked channel, Chichester cathedral misty behind. Flocks of birds arise at intervals and on land pheasants run busily across the lane.
Walking on seaweed by Bosham Channel I greet an elderly man with a dog – both beige. “You got a hat?” he enquires – everyone seems very concerned for my wellbeing today. I tell him I do and it’s in my pack. His large dog jumps at my chest its paws coating me and my camera in mud with great efficiency.
“Is there a cafe at Bosham” I enquire? “Boooosham” he replied “I can tell you’re not from around here”
Tracing the edge of a field in heavy rain an old tractor pulls a trailer on which two men stand in dirty yellow waterproofs, hoods pulled up. They look like they are performing a strange ritual. When they get close to me they suddenly jump off drawing long knives. Without a moments delay they start cutting up the cabbages in the field. The driver who’s the boss gets out and talks to me checking “I’ve got enough fluids” and says my pack must be heavy. I appreciate the empathy and that I’m not starring in my own private slasher movie.
A Barboured gardener with a moustache as neatly trimmed as the hedge he’s working on tells me “What with the rain I think I’ll call it a day soon” “Thing is if you’re not working, you’re not earning when your self employed” I can relate to this. He asks me where I’m heading “Emsworth, that’s a long way, nice place… they do a good pint there”
The path runs through an activity centre and I run into a group of children, one says “We need to find a leader, we’ve gone out of bounds”. In the next field a man pins up archery targets “I will take points off if you don’t pay proper attention” he announces to his students. They respond by waving their arms and making faces when his back is turned.
Amused again by the studied insouciance of the English getting on with it immediately after a downpour. I encounter a scene of children with fishing nets and a man casually reading a paper with a mug of tea on bench, just moments previously it was pouring with rain.
After these damp days condensation starts to form inside the camera. In Thorney marina the boaters bar and diner made me fantasise over aircraft carrier portions of steaming food but in the event all the food I can buy are peanuts… again.
A sign informs me that the public footpath around the MOD site on Thorney island is closed – shame as I was rather looking forward to the novelty of the intercom access controlled path.
At the end of the day when I close my eyes I still hear the rain drumming on my hood that has been a near constant companion for the last four days.