The realities of an English Winter are often a far cry from the cosy image portrayed on a Christmas card…snow is shown as something all friendly in those scenes, a soft, sleeping swan covering the landscape with white feathers….here in Norfolk the past couple of years we’ve only ever had a couple of light fluries at most, for us the mild Winters just seem to be damp and dreary.
All too often I think Winter is over before it really is, the hedgerows are a mass of sweet scented blossoms, snowdrops and crocuses brighten up bare patches on the ground….then a frost hits and the world outside changes. Everyday walks suddenly seem very unfamiliar…..hedges and trees are covered with white sparkles, and when there’s a fog to boot it really unnerves the senses as sight and sounds are muffled and misted ….it all feels eerie and unexpected and being outdoors is bone chillingly cold.
So far it’s been a very mild Winter this year, heavy frosts have been pretty few and far between and thick morning frosts even fewer…some Winters ago we seemed to have them everyday so we were quite used to only seeing a few feet in front of us first thing in the morning, now when it’s foggy it’s a real shock drawing back the curtains.
The frost we had last week was so heavy that at times when I was out ambling over the marshes I thought it looked more like a fine layer of snow….it seemed especially so over the rosehips that grow all tangled and wild along this part of the lane. There’s nothing friendly or cosy about how this looks, it’s cold, sharp….makes you want to hurry on back home to get somewhere warm.
The only colour seems to be the smudge of golden river reeds and the speckled red of a handful of remaining hedgerow berries. The rosehips themselves are now all wrinkled and squishy if you try to pick them, best left alone for any hungry birds or squirrels…..the lane is quite shaded and I’ve noticed before that the hips, haws and sloes along here come on a few weeks later than the ones on the marshes where everything seems that much more exposed to the weather. On a day so fey lit and misty, the bright red of the hips is a most cheering sight.
There’s something about how wild roses grow, all higgledy piggledy that makes me think of the Briar Rose story by the brothers Grimm…..it grows so fast and tangley that it’s easy to imagine them growing, weaving themselves in amongst blackthorn bushes and spreading out around the castle where she’s sleeping…..in the stories it’s only ever the spikey thorns that are mentioned, but the part of me that likes to go foraging sometimes likes to think about how it would have looked other times of the year, all scarlet hips and deep purpley blue sloes….and other times desolate and haunted.
Maybe ten minutes or so around the corner by the river a small wild rose is sprouting the most impossibly bright green leaves, today they look like they’ve been dipped in sugar and crystallized. When it’s warm and the sun is out, this walk by the river is wonderful, it’s a real sun spot here and I can happily sit down in the sunshine amongst the wild chamolie which covers the ground and almost drift right off.
The leaves are the most perfect shape, all the same and yet slightly different….a sparkled glittereing frosty top edges each one…in the midst of a cheek chillingly cold walk these little leaves are such a reminder that Spring is really only just around the corner….
Somewhere there’s a low and distant rumble, a train sounding more like thunder is hurtling along the track, impossible to see today in the fog….the river is a clear as glass and reflects all the grasses and reeds along the banks.
The frost covers the tangle of branches and looks more like tiny prickles along a bramble bush or some of the more ornamental roses…it forms the most delicate patterns and is so pretty to look at I can almost forget how cold it is.
I’ve mentioned it’s cold, and it is even though I’m all bundled up in my shawl (I managed to get it away from himself for more than a precious 5 minutes) and I’m also wearing fat Norwegian mittens, it’s my legs which really feel this morning’s bite, and the cold then spreads….but if I’d stayed cooped up indooors I’d have missed all this, even when Winter feels miserable, dreary, and never ending, a lick of frost can totally transform my appreciation for it.