The Freeze

The snow was here again. It descended from the skies in heavy drifts, flakes swirling as they came to rest. All through the night the snow fell, dramatically silent, and when morning came everything was smothered in pristine white icing: irresistible.

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Outside there was a chill that tightened the lungs, so cold was the air that even breathing in felt like getting smothered in snow. Each branch was cloaked, giving the impression of an overly enthusiastic artist splashing every bough with thick white highlights. Undisturbed snow on the sides of the track glistened, catching the light and sparkling with wintery luminescence. On the cusp of March, it was more of a spring wonderland than a winter one, and yet it could have easily been Christmas morning.

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Up in the trees, a whisper of falling snow betrayed the presence of a blackbird, sending tremors up the branch that dislodged loose flakes. A male, black feathers stark against his festive background, spotted with rich red berries and the undersides of dark leaves. He chirruped softly, his song more melancholy than it should be.

A man passed me on his bicycle, his tyres crackling like static feedback that faded as he disappeared. The landscape quietened again, a deafening silence only found with snow, when the world stops and waits with baited breath for this unexpected phenomenon to pass. It is a time when even nature stands still. Water is stopped in its tracks, defiant of gravity’s pull.

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Sloping down the bank to the river was a series of deep tracks, dogs mingled with hopping birds. The ever-falling snow began to repair the damage, forming undulations of half-hidden footsteps with softened edges. A wren sped past, trilling its bold song that seemed too big for its tiny lungs. What must the birds think? Have they anticipated this, read some sign in the climate to help soften the blow? The already challenging task of finding food in winter just became more trying, a test of strength and endurance in such temperatures.

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After a while my feet began to grow numb and my stomach rumbled. As I trudged back up the track, curving away from the coursing, white-framed river, I thought how I would snuggle up in my warm house with something to eat. I glanced back over my shoulder and saw a song thrush foraging. It had a snail pinned in its beak, and was cracking the shell hard on a rock. Such work the birds put in, when all I needed to do was open a can of soup and I’d be warm.

Back at the house, I peered outside and saw the feeder swinging empty again. Thinking of the blackbird, wren and diligent thrush, I hurried into the garden and replenished the feeder with rich fatty seeds, sprinkling some on the ground for those too heavy or timid to feed from the plastic perches. The birds needed all the help they could get.

Winter Wonderland in Spring

Last Wednesday my boyfriend and I had a free day, so decided to go for a hill walk in the Lakes. As we scooted along the M6, the weather transformed from dry, drizzly to snowy. The experience felt like we were being transported through time. After having some lunch in Windermere, watching Goosanders and an array of swans and geese paddle by the water’s edge, we headed off into the wilderness.

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What I find most magical about snow is the tranquillity that accompanies it. An almost eerie silence settles over the landscape, and even breathing sounds deafening. As we pulled on hats and gloves, I couldn’t stop gazing at the formidable rolling hills and dry stone walls dusted in icing sugar. It was bizarre to think that back in Carlisle, we hadn’t had a flake of snow, and here the scenery was thick with it.

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We followed the sheep up the hill, who were far more sure-footed than I. Despite my horrendous balance, I only ended up falling on my face twice, which I considered an achievement. Every so often I couldn’t help but stop and drink in the landscape before me, spread out like an unrolled map. The vibrant blue sky against the pearly white hills looked like an illusion, too perfect to be real. For a moment I was ridiculously proud of my country, impressed with the magnificence of little old England. So many people shoot off abroad to enjoy stunning scenery, and don’t appreciate what they have a short drive away.

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It really did feel like a different world up there, with only the sheep for company. At one point we stumbled across a set of vertebrae lying in the snow, presumably from an unlucky sheep. It was a bizarre find, but captivating all the same.

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The ascent was a challenge, but worth every slip and stumble for the view from the top. Due to a threatening white-out that had already claimed a nearby peak, we refrained from climbing very high, but the sight was still breathtaking at six hundred metres . Even without the beautiful covering of snow, the contrasting textures and rich colours had me snapping away like a photographer possessed. Eventually the time came to make our slow descent back to the road. Although thoroughly puffed out, I was beaming ear to ear after my adventure.

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