I started with a quick walk on Christmas Eve afternoon - the sun was out, and a rainbow - but the mud was also making its presence felt. I decided on a quick yomp around Stratford Sub-Castle (below Old Sarum), ending up on an area of wetland given to the local people by a developer, and now being managed by the friends of Stratford Nature Reserve (volunteers). They're after a grazier, so if anyone out there knows of one locally, they would be grateful, otherwise it will have to be cut, which is expensive and time-consuming. In the summer, it will be alive with insects and beautiful wetland flowers.
We came across some signs indicating that the farm was in a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement, being paid to manage the land in an environmentally-friendly way, and including permissive access routes connecting the Public Rights of Way to areas of Open Access chalk downland. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, many areas of chalk downland were designated in such a way, but without connecting paths to them. This particular area of downland was part of Knapp and Barnett's Downs SSSI, being nationally-important and legally protected. It was a beautiful valley, with ancient stunted hawthorns and earthworks providing evidence of habitation and cultivation of the area for thousands of years.
And finally, I've just come back from a few days on the North Cornwall coast, where the wind and rain made for some of the worst walking conditions I've ever experienced - saying that, the waves and coastal scenery were still amazing, even if my waterproofs couldn't cope with the blasting!