Christopher Somerville is Walking Correspondent of The Times. His long-running ‘A Good Walk’ series appears every Saturday in the Times Weekend section. He has written some 40 books, many about his travels on foot in various parts of the world, and thousands of articles in all the national newspapers. He has had two collections of poetry published. He loves music, and sometimes tries to play it.
Introducing … the Armchair Walker
Damn, it’s back to lockdown! Or at least to Tiers of Frustration. Please, if you are going to do one of my walks, observe the social distancing and countryside code advice – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code/the-countryside-code. Please also park thoughtfully. There are a lot more of us walking in the countryside for recreation and relief at present, and the pressure has increased on local residents and their cherished footpaths.
Lots of you have said you like the Armchair Walkers I’ve been posting during the Covid-19 outbreak. So I’ll keep them coming on this page, for anyone who can’t get out and about on foot. No maps or detailed directions – just an invitation to sit back with a cup of tea or a glass of something nice, and savour some moments, memories and plans for the future!
Grease the Boots! Stay Frosty!
Armchair Walker #14
Crunch to squelch.
New Year’s Day. We looked out to see a good thick frost on the garden. The hill slope beyond lay whitened, the woods dark along the ridge, the sky leached colourless.
In the lane the severely trimmed hedges were covered in a thin film of frost. Trees stood black and skeletal. Breath steamed as we went up the steep incline of Stony Sleight, a rubble of pebbles brought downhill by rain floods littering the skiddy red limestone. Jane picked up a water-smoothed stone along whose rim the dripping water had frozen overnight into a line of tiny glassy stalactites, like the teeth in a T Rex jaw.
Beech leaves lay blackened in clots, each leaf edged with a lace of crusted ice. Interwoven strands of ivy wrapped a cut tree branch, the frost covering giving the whole composition the look of an artwork. The earth of tractor ruts was frozen hard, and the brown water in the ruts themselves was skinned over with panes of white ice, the two colours swirled together like a coffee and vanilla ice cream. I broke through a pane with my boot, the crunch and crack reminding me of the magic that frost and ice brought to walks in childhood.
On the way down from the hill towards the village we crossed fields still whitened, where the frost was rising from every blade of grass and fallen leaf to form a misty miasma in the valley. Ice in the hoof pocks left by cattle was melting, so that what had been a crunching walk ended as a squelching one.
More Armchair Walkers here