The shorter the day, the longer the stride. When the earth turns hard as iron, the daily walk out into the Northumberland countryside becomes more of a march than a stroll – it’s far too chilly for hanging about. Nevertheless, it has to be done whatever the weather. George insists on it. So every afternoon, rain, hail or shine I have to pull the boots on and accompany the pooch on his constitutional.
More often than not, the destination is the same. Wallington Hall Estate is about a mile from our cottage and there are several fabulous walks around the house and gardens and into the surrounding parkland. In the summer, of course, the entire place is a festival of noisy, lively, joyous colour. But in Winter, nature’s whimsy is suspended for renewal and repair.
But there are compensations. Colder temperatures mean fewer visitors. Most humans seem to prefer the warmth of their centrally heated homes at this time of year and this encourages some of the less confident species to show their faces more often.
I’ve seen a lot of deer this month and they’ve been a really cheery sight during these dark grey days. They have such grace, elegance and agility – even George just stands and stares (something that doesn’t normally come naturally to Miniature Schnauzers). Of course, in reality, the deer are just as much permanent fixtures of the landscape as sheep and cows but for most of the year they are masters of disguise. They disappear into the abundant foliage of the woodland easily avoiding the careless glances of the average sight-seer. But when the clamp of arctic air puts the squeeze on the food supply, everyone has to go further and work harder for their daily bread – deer included.
And that’s been a real bonus for me this Winter. So to put that old adage of ‘waste not, want not’ to good use, I’m making a mental note to try to capture some of their athletic charm when I next put charcoal to paper.