The refreshing power of a powerful shower

Some people spend vast sums of money on power showers. They have special pumps installed to boost the flow rate and ensure that they can get thoroughly drenched. So why is it that when the weather affords us this rare luxury for free, we pull faces, grumble, and if we’re venturing out into it, we layer on the waterproofs? 

Okay, there’s a small matter of temperature. Your shower at home may be slightly warmer than the stuff that falls from the skies, but in mild conditions when you’re running, you wouldn’t want the rain to be heated, would you?

By the way, I’m pondering this now that I’ve dried out, and I’ll confess that seeing this morning’s rainfall, I wasn’t all that keen on heading into the deluge. But I’m glad I did because it was terrific – a refreshing change to have puddles to charge through and trails sparkling with runoff. After a dry winter and spring, the ground is hard, it needs the rainfall. We might have said “yuck” when we got up this morning to the sound of rain pelting against our windows, but I bet every plant in Lancashire was luxuriating in the shower and thinking “Ah, that’s better”.

We met up by Lottie’s in Belmont, donned the wet weather gear and set out into it. We were a tad more cautious on wooden stiles and took a bit more care on the descents because of the unusual levels of sogginess, but spirits were high, and once you’re wet, you’re wet. Who cares if your hair is plastered to your face and your undies need wringing out? If you’ve got a hill to run up and good company to do it with, what’s not to like? 

For much of our run, the views were somewhat obscured by clouds which had descended to just above head height but even so, there was plenty to see closer to ground level. Elder trees were laden with plates of creamy flowers, and thistle heads were tinged with the first touch of purple. Skylarks popped up from behind walls, and a few gulls had headed inland from the coast. Plump lambs stuck close to their mums. Catkins littered the ground like swarms of hairy caterpillars 

We were unable to see the transmitter on Winter Hill, but that didn’t matter. With a guide leading the way, you don’t need to know your bearings – just enjoy, trust the guide. Flow across the contours of the land, follow lines of dykes, brooks and streams. Listen to the sound of flowing water. Immerse yourself because this wonderful wet stuff is the stuff of life. 

The area we ran through is filled with waterways, reservoirs and infrastructure designed to capture precious rain. Those steep grassy slopes are no ordinary hill, but a dam wall.  That swift-flowing stream which once drove a mill is now part of a reserve that’s home to bats, deer and all manner of winged critters – some of which you might inadvertently swallow. 

We descended a stony track – like running along the bed of a shallow stream.  We nipped through a dell where the grass was thick and lush, where bluebells accented the colours, where trees hung so low across the path that we had to bend double. We ran through a coniferous forest where most trees stood proud and tall, but others had succumbed. We stepped, jumped or clambered over tree trunks, noticing the coin-sized plates of fungi, noticing how time would strip the bark and how the rain would finish the job by varnishing the clean timber inside. 

We ran up onto higher ground, swished through reeds, wobbled across a rutted field, and about an hour in, we noticed that the rain was easing. We stopped for a drink under a stand of trees, spied Bolton in the distance, Egerton standing just below, cars streaming past on the A-road, and across the valley, the mown slopes of a golf course. It was, without doubt, brightening up.

We dropped off the high ground, ran down to Dimple, past Walmsley Chapel, and around Delph Reservoir. We said hello to a Shetland pony, which took a proffered handful of grass, although its donkey companion proved more reserved.  We took a turn by the side of Eagley Brook, then nipped up and across the fairways at Dunscar. The golfers were heading out and the breeze was picking up. Sunshine was threatening but so was a band of dark grey cloud. 

We risked a patch of stinging nettles and headed towards Gale Brook where we found trees straight out of a fantasy – trunkless, with twisted limbs, wrapped and cushioned with moss. We descended through bluebells, jumped a stream and followed a narrow path that, by night, must be a thoroughfare for all the local badgers.  

The rain had soaked us. It had made timber walkways entertaining and tree roots extra slippery, but it had also released the odour from carpets of wild garlic. It had brought out the colours, washed the dust from the trails, left its sheen on the rocks. It was dripping from each precisely crafted beech, creating ripples on otherwise still pools. It had filled potholes and was topping up the streams and the reservoirs. It was making rich black mud that was soft and ideal for mud larks to run through. 

It was also keeping most people indoors. We saw hardly anyone out and about but discovered that they were all sheltering in Lottie’s – eating breakfast while they were at it. When we piled into the packed café, just before the breakfast service ended, the team at Lottie’s were great, finding us places to sit, sorting proper mugs of tea, coffees, cracking bacon and sausage rolls, eggs and smashed avocado on toast, and everything served up in no time at all. 

Most of those sitting around us would probably not have contemplated being outdoors that day because of the foul weather. Maybe they were planning something for an afternoon that was forecast to be drier.  But with a good few miles completed, it was hard not to feel a bit smug.  The rain wasn’t an issue. The problem was the idea of it. The first minute standing exposed without shelter wasn’t pleasant, but the solution was simple: get on with it. Find some more people who love to run and get moving, laugh about the soaking. And if it convinces you that getting drenched is just fine, you can always dive into another shower when you get back home.  

Kate Woodward