Last night I had the huge urge to go up on the hill, despite being very tired. So, up the hill we went. It had been a wet day, but there were breaks in the cloud and we were able to sit out and look at the Severn river.
When we first arrived, there were intense shafts of sunlight over the water, and as we watched a patch of intense darkness, largely blotting out the hills beyond, moved up the water for some distance. The sky out towards Wales glowed a strange, peachy colour, but we could see it was raining heavily over the Forest of Dean. At one point, rain on the river was so intense that we could see the disturbance of the surface, despite being miles away. It did not rain on us, but that’s often the way of it with these hills, weather can be very localised indeed.
Up the Severn Vale came a parade of dark clouds, low, heavy and moving a lot faster than the pale clouds above them. Behind the pale clouds lay bright blue sky, and sometimes we could see all three layers, and sometimes some of the clouds were golden from the setting sun. The dark clouds that came were each incredibly distinctive. Animalish shapes – we saw lots of elephants, but far more dragons. Huge, serpentine Chinese style dragons with distinctive heads and faces, winding up the Severn. If it had just been me there, I might have put it down to whimsy on my part, but my husband and son saw much the same things. At one point, a kestrel came and hovered right over us.
I’m not one for symbols. I tend not to infer meaning from natural events except in the most literal ways – it’s a big cloud so it could well rain – is about my level for this sort of thing. Last night was something else entirely. There was such a sense of presence, and significance, of something big in motion. Towards the end, the sky looked like one of those old paintings of divine retribution. As we were leaving, a mix of rain and setting sun had flooded the plain towards Slimbridge with a dense orangeness unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a landscape before.
It all felt important, and I have no idea what to make of it.