Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Snowy Cotswold Christmas

Seasonal greetings from the Cotswolds to all! Great Britain is undergoing it's coldest winter since records began in the 1890's and here in our patch we have had even worse snow than last January. On Christmas Day we set off for a morning walk around the fields, before everyone else emerged after lunch.

A little brook, half frozen at the edges, but still sluggishly trickling towards a larger tributary of the Evenlode river, a couple of miles away.

The most familiar of paths are transformed -

- and the broad fields are pristine, save for the meandering tracks of wild creatures. The horizon is softened by an icy haze.

The dullest of dead vegetation metamorphosis's into ice sculptures -

- and the stark, sleeping trees appear sepia-black against the sky.

The horse chestnut avenue leading towards the farm -

- and my favourite line of trees looking delicately skeletal; in summer it is a plump lushness of greenery,
as seen here.

A welcome stretch of cleared road and the rare sight of tarmac.

To the right of the tree line, the big house seen from the side.

As we come off the road and turn back into farmland, the snow becomes deeper and completely unsullied, undulating over the ploughed trenches like a white desert.

Looking back to see the deep path we have trodden; it was only a few months ago that I was walking here on cracked, baked earth, brushing through chest high wheat, the sun hot on my back, feeling slightly spooked by the whispering of the dried corn heads.

Wait for me Andy - I'm still taking photos!

Time to head home - the village is but a few minutes away, through the hole in the hedge - there is the church and spire beyond, just seen through the freezing mist.

Winding tracks in the snow, where the allotments have been a larder for the rabbits and hares - and goodness knows they need it. Next week the temperatures rise and we will have rain. Despite the stunning beauty of the snow, I think animals, birds and humans will breath a collective sigh of relief as life gets back to normal.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Winter drabness at Eastleach Turville

With the weather milder - but still dank and wintery - long walks are resumed. The kind of 'duty' walks taken with a stiff upper lip and the intention to get it all over with as soon as possible in order that one might return to a warm sofa, feeling virtuous of soul. Even the pretty village of Eastleach Turville seemed subdued as we started out.

The river Leach runs through the centre of the village, clean and crystal clear. Behind the trees peeps the tower of one the two churches which sit almost side by side - therein hangs a tale for another day, it is too cold to stand around telling stories.

Sharp eyed Andy spotted a brown trout somehow, amid all the drab browns and greens of the flowing river.

Leaving the village and heading out to the field footpath.

Passing an unpicked orchard, the apples a cheerful brightness against the gloom.

This is one of the bleakest times of the year - not even the faint promise of spring to lift the heart.

The sheep are quiet and sluggish, streaming slowly away from us as we walk through the valley.

At last we reach our stopping point - this rather dull looking muddy track is Akeman Street, part of the old Roman Road which stretches across this part of the Cotswolds. Here we hunker down on the stone wall and gratefully drink watery hot chocolate.

From Akeman Street looking across to the
Hatherop Estate as the afternoon draws to a close. We must hurry, if we are not to be finishing our walk in darkness.

But the too-short day catches up with us and soon the trees are dark shadow dancers as we trudge along muddy grass. A lone black bull sillhoutted against the night sky, bellows a challenge in the chill dusk.

With much relief and tired legs, we return to the village, now festively lit with decorated cottages. Such a reviving sight after a rather melancholy walk and the realisation, not for the first time, that if Christmas didn't exist in mid-winter, it would have to be invented.

By co-incidence, we did part of this walk exactly (to the day) a year ago, but the weather was somewhat less gloomy, as can be seen by comparing some of the photos.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Blue green and white

Readers who subscribe to my other blog will know that in early October I
broke my upper arm. It's been a long two months and I've been somewhat reclusive since then, venturing out for little local walks when I have had the energy - and not at all in the recent sub-zero temperatures we have not-been-enjoying in the normally temperate UK. But things do, eventually return to normal and yesterday saw a thawing, to our relief, although we have been comparatively lucky, sheltered beneath high ground.

My walk yesterday was the first for weeks and it was simply the same route I've been treading for eight years. It is hard to see it with a fresh eye, especially when one is feeling dull and tired. Winter is, by definition, a fairly lifeless season but the winter greens are managing to push through. Over to my left, as I negotiate icy mud, our village nestles almost camouflaged in the landscape like a brown sleeping mouse in a bundle of dead leaves.

The sheep seem to be weathering the cold, as are the many flocks of crows and jackdaws which punctuate my walk with constant cackles and caws.

But just as it seems as if nothing can break through my ennui, I notice the vivid tans and browns of the landscape, glowing in the warm sun which is melting the last of the snow.

And the way a cloud formation can look exactly like a giant bird of prey in hunched, hunting position, tail down and wings spread.

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