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Post created: 13th December 2022.
Length: ~700 words.
The sky is a leaden-gray; to the east, quite black. If these pictures are a little dim, that reflects the deep overcast slab of cloud that’s hanging low over North Oxfordshire – with large flakes of snow falling out of it. It was hoping for cold, but I think that as the cloud has moved in the last hour or so the temperature has risen slightly. No matter. This will do just fine for my needs.
I’m (overly!) layered-up for the cold, toastily warm – even though I’m standing still for quite long periods of time to capture photos and video of this increasingly rare (thanks to climate change) event. It’s so captivating: Not just the seemingly unusual cold in this record-breaking weather year; but the sensation of snow falling, and the unique muffled, hissing sound in the landscape it creates.
When you’re out in the countryside in heavy snow there’s not a lot of noise; the snow deadens any sound carrying in the air. More importantly, all the animals with any sense are buried deep in the under-storey of the hedges, sheltering from the cold. In that deep silence with the faint hiss of the falling snow, what you are left with is the rhythm of your boots on the ground, and the beating of your heart, and the slight drum brush after-beat of the snow scattering as you walk through it.
As a kid, I used to walk out into the countryside during the regular Winter snows; back in a time when Banbury would be cut-off when the snow drifted across the major roads that cross the high ridges to get into the town. I had an old military great coat, and naff-all sense, so after four or five hours outdoors I’d come home frozen but happy. Gradually those experiences taught me how to dress and equip myself to be – and even sleep – outdoors in freezing weather.
I really miss this. I find the cold far more pleasing and refreshing than the Summer heat. This – probably barely below freezing according to the ear-nose tingle ratio – is actually very comfortable: I’d prefer -6°C or -7°C; the best I’ve has locally was around -12°C back in the Winter of 2010/11.
As the snow slackens off, the cloud starts to become patchy with the odd bright spot. But around sunset, with no let-up in the slab of stratus from horizon-to-horizon, and the snow below scattering the light from above, everything takes on an ethereal reddish-purple hue as the light starts to properly dim.
I can only hope this is an early start to a beautiful Winter.
I really can’t write much more: Words can’t describe this very well (you just have to be here!). Apart from the music in my head, and the visuals I’m trying to capture and share, the over-powering sense I have of the day is relaxation; a simple enjoyment of seeing a side of the local landscape that’s becoming ever rarer these days.