I tend not to write that often about walks around our local patch: no specific reason for that, beyond the fact that we do them so frequently that to us they’re just part of life’s routine; it would be a bit like keeping a diary of the washing up or mowing the lawn. Not that I’m disparaging local walks; they’re the staple that helps keep us fit enough to do the other, more adventurous stuff when the opportunity arises. And they’re the thing that most often gets me out of doing the washing up or mowing the lawn.
We were out earlier today and my mind went back to walking much the same route earlier in the year; it felt like no more than a few weeks back and I was amazed to discover that four months had passed – amazed and a bit mortified at how quickly the months and years seem to be rolling by. But the four months explained why things looked so different…
Back in August it looked like the grain harvest was likely to be a good one locally; apparently it was and – just as importantly – the local farmers managed to get it collected and into storage before the winds and rain came along and battered it down. I’ve seen how hard they work – they were out there again today, past dusk.
Now there’s just stubble still showing through in a few fields, but most of them have been turned over in readiness for whatever gets planted next. Different varieties of birds have moved in and the last few stragglers left over from the dragonflies, bees and butterflies have finally made whatever arrangements they make for the winter. The berries and hedgerow fruits have gone, as have the wild flowers – even the nettles are in full retreat!
It’s all very quiet, virtually monochrome (aside from the skies) and could easily get a bit cheerless. That’s when you have to remember how many folks there are out there who would give anything for the health and opportunity to take even a short stroll in the country – at any time of year, in any weather. So we remind ourselves that the rain and mud are part of the deal, and the reason why we have rivers, lochs, peatland and forests. And that we live at a pretty northerly latitude so short hours of daylight for a few months also come as part the package.
In one of his recent blog posts, Alan Rayner (A blog on the landscape) wrote that “Where we live, we say that we only have two seasons, the dusty one and the muddy one”. Alan’s a bit further north than we are but the same applies; we generally get the weather of the west, if in slightly diluted form, and we’re now into that period in the year when the ground seems to get wet and just stay wet. It’s one of the reasons why I miss the deep, bone-hard frosts of years gone by, which we rarely seem to see now. Tough on the ankles though – a rutted track, frozen solid; so maybe I’m letting nostalgia cloud judgement with that one.
Right now I’d love a couple of weeks in the highlands, but I’d settle for a day in mid Wales. The former is out of the question until next spring/summer; the latter might just be possible with a bit of planning and improvisation.