My last post was an account our August trip to the Birdfair, an annual three-day celebration of the natural world held on the shores of Rutland Water. It’s a huge affair, a joyous jamboree with at least a dozen massive marquees and thousands of visitors who park up in the surrounding fields and pastureland before making their way to the site. At Birdfair a carnival atmosphere reigns … unless, that is, it rains.
This year we’d noticed for the first time that Birdfair is being styled as the “birders’ Glastonbury.” Now you can call me an old worry-guts, but I was inclined to think that this is tempting fate given Glastonbury music festival’s uneasy relationship with the rain gods. And so it proved to be: in the making of this reckless comparison the curse of Glastonbury was duly invoked.
We’ve been to more than 20 Birdfairs, and on the whole have been blessed with good weather. But all good things come to an end, so it came as no surprise that the forecast for Friday afternoon and evening was dire.
In these circumstances you hope the weathermen have got it wrong – no surprises to be had there, of course – but this time, regrettably, they were spot on. The rain set in shortly after midday and got steadily heavier. Soon we were enduring a downpour of biblical proportions.
We made a run for it at about 4pm on Friday, back to the comfort of our hotel where, it transpired, television reception was non-existent due to the intensity of the storm.
I was pleased to get out of the field in which we’d parked without much trouble, but we learned later that folk leaving after us were less fortunate. Many of them had to be pulled out by a tractor, until the tractor got stuck and had to be rescued by another, stronger tractor. You couldn’t make it up.
The next day the site was in a wretched state. Despite the organisers’ best efforts the main pathways were rivers of disgusting mud and slime, interrupted by occasional pools of standing water. Visitors slipped, slid and paddled between marquees, and the stall selling wellington boots did record business.
Older visitors could be heard belting out the Flanders and Swann classic ‘Mud, mud, glorious mud,’ while one of the less ancient birders treated us to a rendition of Paul Simon’s ‘Slip sliding away.’
By Sunday afternoon the mud was turning more glutinous than liquid, and a degree of normality had returned to proceedings. The foul conditions underfoot didn’t spoil the Birdfair – we Brits are made of sterner stuff – but I fear for next year’s event, lest we once again fall foul of the curse of Glastonbury.