Thursday, 15 January 2009

Winter's Walk

Ralph (incarcerated)
I fed the prisoner some oatmeal
to warm his tummy on such a cold day.
Greedy thing! He ate it so quickly that he got
an oatmeal mustache. But when I returned with
the camera, he had rinsed it away.
He fixes me with an accusing eye.

When I can't get outside for my daily walk, I start to feel like a caged thing.

I walk, almost every day, for exercise and mental health - I'm not sure which comes first, or even if I could differentiate between them. I will walk in most weather conditions: hot, warm, cold, spitting, raining, snowing, or blowing. I draw the line only at pelting it down and that horrendous combination of wet and wind which is, for me, most insalubrious.

I know that only a Texan (or similar) would find England cold. Compared to what the Canadians and Finns (for example) have to put up with, England's winter is practically balmy. However, I think that most people would agree that England does specialize in a form of bone-chilling damp that has evolved a hot tea/hot fire/hot AGA loving people.

It might seem contradictory, but I think that proper cold is preferable to all the wettish, grayish mucky muck. After a few teasing little snow flurries and sub-degree temperatures, we awoke to a beautifully frozen world on Saturday morning. Suddenly, all of those sad shrubs and sodden grasses acquired an elegant frosting. After bundling up to feed the chickens, I felt inclined to wander out and inspect the changes that the frost wrought.

The field to the right of our back garden.

It looks so pastoral, but I have left out the view of my neighbor's junk car collection. (We live nearby the English version of Sanford & Son.) But don't those weeds look lovely?

Hillview Farm, next door on the left-hand side
Usually, it is a world of mud.
On a clear day, you can see the hill
of Watership Down on the horizon.

Our road cuts through old farming ground.

The road is dense with houses on both sides, but tiny parcels of farmland lie behind. It feels rural and strangely suburban at the same time.

I climbed up onto a high bank to take this picture.

Again, the solitary splendor of the view misrepresents the reality: a busy thoroughfare full of speeding cars, cyclists, walkers, horses and the occasional inconvenient lorry. The one-lane road must make room for many.

This rather steep hill is so densely thicketed that it stays dark on even the sunniest of days. Although it is only a mile from the bus-stop at the top of the hill to our Barn at the bottom of the hill, my daughter has successfully argued that it is a hazardous journey.

She requires car service; unlike her mother, she doesn't enjoy a nice walk.

English winter, even when frosted, is monochrome.


marja-leena said...

Nice post, I love the frost! Canadian winters are indeed cold, especially in central and eastern Canada right now. Southwest BC is a maritime climate, so it's very similar to the UK. Right now we've been fogged in for several days, it feels very cold and damp. Damp is the key word :-)

The Grandpa said...

Lovely pictures, and a nice job of capturing the thin line that separates the idyllic from the real.

Sarah Laurence said...

Bee, I agree. I prefer a real winter to the cold damp of England. Still, that field in frost is gorgeous, and the icy road is magical. It may be monochromatic, but your words give it color.

Pigtown-Design said...

Bee... i read somewhere farther down about "sigmund being in caterham"... is that where you all are? I have great friends there - on Grange Road. They lived in NYC for a while.

Peggy said...

Loved the post today, Bee, on so many points! I, too, love to walk anywhere and anytime. It's like therapy to me. I agree, also, that winter should have proper cold, and although I didn't see snow in your photos, I welcome the white stuff. Your Sanford & Son quip made me laugh out loud. Jolly good time! Thanks. :)

Lisa said...

Although Georgia doesn't have that English damp, our winters have a certain chill that is different from what we experienced in Chicago. I guess in Chicago, it got so cold that you just bundled up. Here, you think about bundling up, think again then shiver, annoyed that you didn't bundle up.

I really enjoyed the pictures and the stroll.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, so quintessentially English - very different from NY winter.
We are expecting a high of 17'f tomorrow.
R's brother lives in N.Dakota minus 30'f or something awful.
Great excitement, horror and relief at our local plane crash. Too cold to walk down to see it - but most amazing.
So what Persephone books did you get?
I'm in the middle of Manjia - not the best one but interesting. Written in German originally in 1938.

word verification: froin
sounds oddly weather related.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I'd love to take a lovely stroll on my own. Once Adam's in school, I'll give this a try. It may give me a bit of exercise to go walking with him, but certainly not a mental rest.

I love the look on your chicken's face. He does seem rather suspicious. I suppose any caged being would. Like how you said that you feel like a caged animal when you don't get your walk.

I'm still loving the fact that you've added pictures to your beautiful words!

word verification: stion
if you unscramble it a bit, it says "sit on". The opposite of your walk.

Braja said...

England has an annoying "undecided cold," where it flops around deciding to be bone chillingly cold or stop the bad weather altogether and do something NICE. It is that indecision that irritates :)

Where are you in England? Looks like so many tracks in Herts. that I trod while living there...

willow said...

I am sooo envious of your walking scenes. (((sigh))) I would walk every single day, too!

Ralph is a handsome devil.

It is -7 here right now. Brrr.

Fantastic Forrest said...

You had a frosty morning; I had a frosty morning. You fed Ralph oatmeal; I ate oatmeal. You walked; I said "Hell, no! It is too fucking cold out there."

Our lives are SO much alike, it's scary. ;-)

Loved your post and the photos.

Anna said...

Hey Bee sometimes here in Canada we get to bone-chilling damp weather, and I just don't like it. BTW these are nice frosty images. Thanks for sharing. Anna :)

Audrey said...

Gorgeous photos Bee! Well done!

I often think of the line from Mark Twain who once said "The coldest winter I ever had was a summer in San Francisco." He never had a February in England.

Pete said...

Gorgeous photos. Tis a glorious country indeed. I think my DNA loves the cold because in summer here I often wish I could live in a chillier part of the world. But I also love our blue skies here and I'm a real whuss in the cold. But a nice bracing walk on a cold, clear day - there's nothing like it.

Dave King said...

I envy you such countryside to walk in. Thanks for sharing it and allowing me to enjoy it vicariously.

Beth said...

I envy you. If I had such beautiful scenery to view, my walks would be far more enjoyable (and frequent).
Right now, it is far too cold here to enjoy walking anywhere...

Lovely photos.

su said...

Lovely, all of it is just loverly. S.O. says that chickens were the best animals we ever owned, and we sure had our share from rabbits through a horse, as the chickens earned their keep by gifting us daily with an egg each.

PS Ah enjoy the frost it is 20 below zero in my corner of the world this morning.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Beautiful photos, Bee!! I like the way the frost adds a touch of winter... without all of the shovelling! It is raining in my part of England today.

Reya Mellicker said...

I, too, walk every day though the truth is, when it's really hot and humid, or when there's an icy rain and lots of wind, I don't enjoy it. Just like you it's as much about mental health as physical. As if there is a difference!

Love the pics of the English winter.

CashmereLibrarian said...

That's lovely! I'm a walker, too, but not today--the temperature is just now creeping up above 0 F.

Bee said...

Marja-leena - Oh, I agree! Dry cold is always warmer than damp cold . . . and the same is true of warm weather.

The Grandpa - Nice that you noticed that "thin line."

Sarah - The frost and ice were lovely while they lasted. Sigmund and I came out of the cinema at 11 am, and a warm wind had melted it all away . . . just like Peter's snowball from A Snowy Day.

Pigtown-Design - Hello, JAPRA buddy! Sigmund's sister lives in Caterham . . . and he grew up in Sanderstead, just down the road.

Peggy - Thanks for the kind words. I've never met my junk collecting neighbor . . . I wonder if he is as cantankerous as George Sanford?

Lisa - The clothes bundling thing may be why I am never as cold when we go skiiing! (Duh; I am dressed like the Michelin Man.)

Elizabeth - North Dakota does indeed have a harsh climate! I suppose it's good for reading, though . . . but not so nice if you have to feed livestock twice a day or commute to work.

Wasn't that plane crash rescue amazing? Perhaps I should pay more attention to the flotation device tutorial . . .

Will post about new Persephone books soon.

Alyson - Chickens truly do have beady eyes! Walking with children can be nice, but it isn't a good, relaxing "lose yourself" kind of walk.

Doesn't it seem like the word verification words are getting more interesting . . . not to mention spookily intuitive?

Braja - Your description of the weather's indecisiveness amused me! You are so right, honey. We aren't too far from HERTS; West BERKS, actually.

Bee said...

Willow - negative seven! Aye yi yi. I hope you have a treadmill! (Ralph did look particularly handsome in his close-up.)

FF - You are so right! Totally alike! (hee hee)

Anna - A touch of frost is pretty, but I don't want to risk hypothermia! I hope that you keep warm this winter.

Audrey - That is a good line. Truthfully, I think that our summer last year was practically as cold as our winter!

Pete - Must agree with you in preferring blue skies overall; but for something bracing, an icy walk in full-on gear is nice.

Dave King - Pleasure!

Beth - And when the bulbs start coming up, it gets even more lovely! (Have you always lived in Canada?)

Su - 20 below zero is hard for me to imagine! Do chickens have to stay in a heated Barn during Maine winters?

JAPRA - Yes, default weather (gray and rainy) today. Sigh. That beautiful frost was special.

Reya - Walkers have to walk! I'd rather deal with the heat than icy rain, though.

Cashmere Librarian - What do you do instead of walking when it's just too cold?

Anne said...

I love this, mostly because it's such a wonderful post but also because it's just the sort of thing that I would do: go out for a walk in wintry weather to see what I can see. Thank you for sharing your pictures with us! They might inspire me to take some pictures of my own in Montana next week.

I've never experienced England's damp cold, but I imagine that I would agree with you (and many other commenters) about preferring proper cold. Frost and snow are preferable, IMO, to damp and dreary!

Coccinella said...

From one who is living the Australian Summer, I love your Winter photos, Bee and the inspiration to get out and take some 'different' shots - thanks.

Dick said...

Great pics, Bee. I spent so much time driving through the lanes resolving to pack the camera next time. Packed it and it thawed. More due shortly, though, so get those bones warmed well in advance!

herhimnbryn said...

Ah, Bee Lady, now you have me feeling heart-sick for a cold frosty England. Also, for HEDGEROWS! I miss walking between hedgerows........

Bee said...

Anne - Do, please, take some pictures of Montana. It's bound to be snowier than the scant covering of frost we had to make do with!

Coccinella - Is it very hot where you are?

Dick - That day did have a rare beauty, didn't it? I hope we get a bit more of it before the daffodils make an appearance.

herhimnbryn - There is a lovely song about homesickness for England, and the chorus is, "But England calls, the hedgerows and the town halls."

JaneyV said...

Bee - thank you for taking your camera for a walk. I too walk every day. The Pooch cannot be incarcerated even if the weather is foul. I find it uplifting even the dankest of days. That is the main problem with the winters here - they can be so dank. That said, I've grown to embrace them because on those gorgeous crisp days or a sunny spring day with a warm breeze when I don't think I'd rather be anywhere else.
I too went for a long walk last Saturday in that heavy frost. It was wonderful. I smiled when I read that you lived so close to Watership Down. I walked in Winnie-the-Pooh country of Ashdown Forest (the real Hundred Aker Wood) and we came across a waterfall that was frozen in to amazing stalagtites. It really was a winter wonderland.

Lovely post.

The word verification is sconated - which kind of described how I feel after a cream tea.

sylvia said...

How lovely. And here I am, complaining about the cold in Southern Spain, I really do feel guilty now (but it dropped to below 10C and I wasn't ready!)

You've inspired me to take up my daily walks again, I've become a homebody this past month.

Bee said...

Janey - My gardener, a real old Berkshire boy, pointed out Watership Down to me. When I was a little girl in Texas, reading about rabbits, I couldn't imagine that I would someday live in a storybook place! Is the entire "Hundred Aker Wood" still preserved?

Sylvia - Cold is relative! What sort of walking terrain do you have?

JaneyV said...

Well quite a lot of Ashdown Forest is heathland but there is a well-worn footpath that brings you through a wooded area to the Pooh-sticks bridge. It's mainly sweet chestnut trees and if you look at EH Shepherd's original drawings it is very recognisable.

Bee said...

I'd love to visit . . . I assume that I'm not too old to play pooh-sticks?

JaneyV said...

You're never too old to play Pooh Sticks! I googled it and came up with this fine page detailing someone's walk to the bridge!

JaneyV said...

Oh dear some of that address got lost so I'll link to it

Bee said...

Thanks, J! Must do this before the children think they are too old to play with me!

Brave Sir Robin said...


For a person who only recently acquired her camera, you have certainly learned your way around it quickly.

The shots, (and definitely the sentiments behind them), are beautiful.

I love the way you framed the shot of poor incarcerated Ralph between the frozen coop wire.

As for proper cold, I absolutely agree. The nasty dampness that accompanies the almost cold is depressing and makes one long for summer, while the frozen silent world of a true cold blast fills one with a sense of rightness.

(Not to mention it finally kills off the mosquitoes around here)

As for the walking everyday.


I used to do that, and I certainly miss that quiet time alone each day, away from the demands of daily life, if only for a brief while.

What an amazing Woman you are, you cook, you bake, you write, you garden, and now these amazing photographs.

Is there anything you can't do?

I'll bet not.

Bee said...

BSR - I'm sitting here right now, thinking that I should go out and catch that last hour of rare winter's sunshine, but loath to leave my cozy little nook.

Thanks so much for the positive feedback on the photography . . . I'm having a lot of fun playing with it. You are very, very kind.

Gifted Typist said...

Those pictures remind me so much of the hoar frost I used to see on the Somerset Levels - somehow never with a camera.

Bee said...

Gifted Typist - I just started taking pictures, and have suddenly been gripped by the "I wish that I had a camera with me" way of seeing things. Thanks for visiting!

dianeinjapan said...

Beautiful--I would want to take daily walks there, too! I know what you mean about only a Texan thinking it's cold in England...I can get pretty whiny here in temperate western-Japan in January, myself!

Bee said...

Diane in Japan - I don't know why it should be so, but a lot of cold always seems nicer than a little bit of cold. Thanks for visiting!

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