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.