A winter walk: footprints, snowy sheep – and just one robin.

A field near North Stainley.

I think I like this kind of wintry day best of all. We’ve had a carpet of snow on the ground, blanking out grass, pavements and drifts of snowdrops. But today, it’s just a little warmer, and the snow is softly melting into the ground. But still here. We go out for a walk, before the cold descends once more. Winter footprints are visible now, because the impacted snow has dissolved away, leaving a silhouette of – what? Is that a crow print? A pheasant? Oh look, those are rabbits – look at how they land, four square and neatly as they run. And here’s a dog of course.

The landscape assembles itself into broad strata of austere colours: raw umber earth; no-longer pristine snow, almost dappled in places; perhaps some olive-shaded grass, and behind all these, a line of winter trees, their skeletons highlighted against the grey sombre skyline.

We see this robin on a fence post.

But apart from him, sheep are the only living creatures we spot on our walk today. Against the snow, they aren’t white at all, but a slightly dirty cream. They scratch an unsatisfactory meal from the less snowy parts of the fields. They come to look at us. We look at them.

Then we look for snowdrops instead, and for wood. It’s forbidden to go out at this time of year without coming back with an armful of kindling for the log burner.

And how glad we are to get back to our log burner! We enjoyed seeing our familiar landscape clothed in its skimpy veil of whiteness. But we appreciated getting back to warmth, a fireside, and a nice cup of tea even more.

Here’s a contribution to Jo’s Monday Walk (Jo’s own walks tend to be in Portugal these days. That’s where she lives. Feeling chilly Jo, reading this?)

Click on any image to view it full size.

Snapshot Saturday: a sunny face in the crowd of snowdrops

In the woods beyond our house it’s impossible to walk without risking crushing snowdrops beneath our feet.  They’re everywhere.  They thrust through the ivy, the mosses and last autumn’s fallen leaves, promising longer days and new life.

But they don’t prevent quite everything from getting a look in.  Just occasionally, a few aconites muscle in, their sunny faces a contrast with that crowd of snowy-white blooms.

A response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: A Face in the Crowd. I haven’t really stuck to the brief:

‘Create an image that represents being “a face in the crowd.” Explore silhouettes, shadows, orientation, and other ways to mask your subject. As you hide the defining characteristics of your model, notice which traits continue to stand out.’  I haven’t learnt not to be shy about including solitary strangers as I point my lens.

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Snapshot Saturday: You can never have too many snowdrops

2018. Our earliest snowdrops.

On New Year’s Day, I excitedly posted a photo of the earliest snowdrops of the year, spotted that very morning.  If I’d known that this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge was to be ‘Growth’, I might just have held back.

As it is, I now realise just how special those early hardy little shoots are.  That little patch of snowdrops I showed you was alone, quite alone on a sea of bare earth, creeping ivy and a few shriveled Autumn leaves.

Let’s fast forward maybe four weeks.  This is what the garden and surrounding woodlands will look like after all the hundreds and thousands of local snowdrops have grown, pushing themselves forth through the chilly frozen earth.  Our annual miracle.

February 2017.  All the local snowdrops have arrived.

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Joy

I’ve been enjoying a brilliant book, ‘The Moth Snowstorm’, by Michael McCarthy.  Thanks Penny, for suggesting it.

It’s part nature writing, part memoire, part polemic, and a powerful and affecting read about McCarthy and his relationship with the natural world.  A constant theme though, is ‘joy’.

The book first got under my skin when defining ‘joy’, which is perhaps summed up as a moment of true happiness, with a spiritual, selfless, outward looking dimension. McCarthy’s first experience of joy was as a boy, learning to love the landscape and wildlife of the Dee Estuary. Later, it was bluebell woods, chalkland streams … and so on. Most of his joyful moments happen when he’s alone and surrounded by the natural world: though he acknowledges that our children, our grandchildren also bring us moments of undiluted joy.

What in the natural world brings me joy?  Nothing original.

The first snowdrops edging through the earth while winter is still bitter, dark and long.

Snowdrops at Sleningford, February 2017

Bluebells, with their sweet cool scent, apparently hovering in an unending hazy carpet across a woodland floor.

Bluebells at Ripley, May 2017

Lying in bed early, very early on a springtime morning, and hearing the very first bird as it calls out to orchestrate the morning concert which is the Dawn Chorus.

First thing in the morning, last thing in the evening, the blackbird sings. : http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcohebing/ Wikimedia Commons

A rare sight in England now, but fields scarlet with swaying poppies.

Poppies: Grain field with Field Poppies in Schermen, Möser, Landkreis Jerichower Land, Germany. J.-H. Janßen ( Wikimedia Commons)

Waves crashing on a beach, as a chilly wind whips sand across my face and into my eyes.

Haeundae Beach, Busan, South Korea

What brings joy to your soul?

Afterword:  Some of you have asked to be reminded when BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ series about the Nidderdale Way is being broadcast.  The first of six programmes will be on air this Thursday, 18th May at 3.00.  ‘Our’ episode will be the sixth and final one, on June 22nd.  Podcast available.  

Walking the Nidderdale Way is pretty damn’ joyous, actually.

Nidderdale.

 

Spring is springing

ns4I was out for a convalescent constitutional this afternoon: William had passed A Bug onto me last week, and I’ve been a little delicate.  I hadn’t taken my camera with me, only my phone, so these images aren’t the finest.  But I don’t care.  They’re evidence that spring is on the way.  I wish you could hear, as I could, the birds singing as they do only when they too know that short winter days have passed. Yes, spring is springing.