Seldom Said

Sunday, February 12, 2006

In praise of winter walks

Winter scene

We had another deliciously cold walk in the Peak District yesterday, this time along Baslow and Curbar Edges. The weather forecast was somewhat dubious, but we were determined to get a dose of fresh air after too much enforced idleness. We were rewarded with an invigorating and thoroughly enjoyable walk, with only brief flurry of snow to make us doubt our decision.

Once again, it was dull and overcast for most of the day, but the hazy views from the edge and the contorted, wind-sculpted millstone grit were wonderful to behold in person, if disappointing to photograph. I had taken Alice's dad on the same walk in the ice and snow, which was brilliant, but a bit treacherous underfoot. This time we only had a little bit of mud to contend with and most of that was frozen solid. As ever, nothing could daunt the rock-climbers who were out in force and busily hauling themselves up the sheer rock faces.

Beginning our return leg from the end of the edge, we walked beside a river and were entranced by the mirror-clear reflections in the placid waters. A half-submerged branch appeared to be floating in mid-air! The sun started to stream through occasional breaks in the cloud at this point, illuminating the misty horizon with faint beams of light. Walking back to our starting point in Baslow, we passed through farmland, following a devious path along stone walls and hedgerows. We encountered several fields in which the principal crop seemed to be boulders, but very little livestock; we later discovered a herd of sheep sheltering in a barn.

Much as I enjoy the vibrant colours of spring and autumn, I always think that there's something magical about the landscape in winter, especially on crisp, icy days like yesterday. Bare trees silhouetted against the sky always draw my admiring eye and I love the way that mist softens the edges of the distant hills and filters the dazzling sunlight into soft pastel colours. It's a joy to walk in these conditions too - provided you're wrapped up nice and warm. Time to resist that hibernation instinct and make the most of it while it lasts!


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