The First Frosty Foray of 2016

Wednesday 20th January 2016

Banbury, Poet's Corner, Crouch Hill, Salt Way, Giant's Caves, The Bretch, Bretch Hill, People's Park, Banbury
8.5km/5⅓ miles – 140m/460ft

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route map Late from the house I pound at full speed from the centre of town to the foot of Crouch Hill. When I left the house the air was clear. Within minutes, as anticipated, the air filled with dense mist. The dew point is a very sensitive phenomena!

Here, on the edge of town where the temperature if still a degree or so cooler than the urbanised land, it's still clear – though tongues of mist drift over the summit of the hill from the surrounding suburb.

This morning presents a very strange sensation as I walk quickly. Not so much the weather, it's because I'm wearing long trousers for the first time in I don't know how long (probably last Winter). Outside the town the temperate is still probably -2°C/-3°C. I rarely, as I'm so often pressed to explain, don long trouses unless the air temperature is below freezing!

The soft wet clay the hillside has the feel of a crème brûlée – the frost has hardened the crust, making it easier to walk without slipping, but push too hard and your feet break through into the soft ooze below.

I arrive at the scrub at the top of the hill just as the first glimmer of the sunrise pokes through the mist. Almost immediately, as the rays of sunlight warm the air to the dewpoint, the air becomes thick with fog, adding to the lighting effects.

Crouch Hill, and the land and hedgerows in the countryside beyond are painted in a layer of hoar frost. In the low-angle light of the sunrise everything around glistens in hues of yellow and orange.

The top of the ground-hugging fog layer looks like it's settled around 150 metres AOD. That gives me an idea. I change my plan and take a right at the foot of the hill.

A while later I climb out of the fog layer once more to the top of Bretch Hill. Looking southward into the rising sun Crouch Hill emerges from the white 'sea' like a dark island – and off to the south-west the shadow of Hobb Hill rises dimly in the mist.

I stand and take in the view – my first frosty foray of 2016.

I love walking on mornings like this. There hasn't been a really good cold spell since 2012, when it got down to around -14°C/-16°C around the summit of Sibford Heath. Hopefully we may get another longer, preferably colder stretch of frost and snow before the Winter breaks.