Sunday, 22 January 2017

Moss, mud and ice

It's that time of year - lots of mud everywhere. however, we've had a reasonable run of nice, crisp winter days lately, resulting in beautiful places being even more magical.

Last Sunday we ventured to Kitt's Grave - the woodland and scrub mosaic to the north of the A354, and part of Martin Down NNR. It's an especially quiet part of the reserve, and with most wildlife hunkered down at the moment, it gave us more time to appreciate the gnarly old oaks and beeches, festooned with moss.

Our walk took us out of the reserve and into the adjacent Forestry Commission-owned Vernditch Chase. This area of woodland is plantation Scots pine and larch, mixed with plantation beech and hazel coppice, where ancient woodland clings on.

No frost or ice on that walk, but today we went for a beautifully-sunny and cold circular walk form the Silver Plough pub in Pitton, just north of Salisbury. It takes in large arable fields and pockets of ancient woodland, including the Clarendon Way and a brief detour to the Clarendon Palace ruins patrolled by llamas. It was extremely cold today, with all puddles frozen, leaving abstract flowing lines and air bubbles captured within. All leaves had a delicate sparkling frosting, and it's amazing how pretty old logs look with frozen highlights. Overhead, fieldfares and redwings flew, with thrushes and blue tits calling.

I'm off skiing in Italy next weekend, so look out for my 'not local patch' blog post on my return in February - where has January gone!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Walking off the Festive excesses

This Christmas i didn't do too badly in terms of activity! It's all to easy to sit there and gorge but we did ensure the time off was peppered with some walks.

Christmas Eve we headed off to Grovely Wood for a good yomp along the main drive, and after Christmas I managed one last foray onto Martin Down. We noticed the first hazel catkins were just coming out. It was a beautiful sunny day too - bonus!

And then for New Year I went to the Llyn Peninsula in north Wales for a few days with friends. Such a contrast to my local patch - even the hillforts are dramatically different. I'm used to chalky earthworks, but one we climbed in Wales had a lot of dry stone walls and remnants of stone huts. I suppose the 'changeable' weather requires extra infrastructure!
Talking of changeable weather, on the supposed sunny New Year's Day we opted to climb Snowdon from the Watkin Path - the trickiest one apparently (it starts off the lowest and the final bit is a scramble up some scree). The sun did shine, but only after we'd called it a day and not risked the final ascent in the biting wind, ice and snow. It certainly made for an adventure and of course beautiful pictures. So different to my 'tame' local patch. I can't imagine, however, the weather being so bad that it was physically dangerous to climb Martin Down, so consider myself lucky!

As we get back into the usual routine of work and chores, I'm determined to make more time for longer walks exploring my local patch this year - let's see where I end up!