It takes a dedicated lover of the countryside to respond to the cold beauty of an icy moon over a frost-bitten field. Bleached of life and colour the land struggles to provide sustenance to the flock of sheep scraping a meagre ration from its freeze-dried grasses.
The colder weather of winter lends its own kind of beauty to country scenes. The light is gentler, colours are subtler and outlines are muted by misty air. But the pleasure we get from winter scenes is no less special or memorable. The beauty of winter may be evanescent and fleeting – but is all the more precious for it.
Even more memorable are the sudden changes of the winter scene brought home to us by a fall of snow, when places long familiar are suddenly seen anew, clothed in a pristine whiteness that briefly transfigures them.
Walking over snow-covered hills (an undertaking that requires careful planning and safety awareness) is an out-door experience more than any other that can take us into a different world, one that is pure and edenic. Some return from it feeling strangely different, renewed, cleansed even, and philosophically detached.
But we don’t have to go to such lengths to gain the benefit of a winter walk after snow. A local footpath through fields will take us out of ourselves – and with children offer the fun of snowballing or tobogganing down a hillside. Woodland walks in particular offer something more with branches glistening and a ribbon of white to follow through the trees.
Of course, describing the countryside in rapturous language at a time of year which is more generally thought of as dull, cold and lifeless may seem unrealistic, selfishly thoughtless even when for many of our fellow-citizens winter means a constant struggle to keep warm and get about safely. CPRE has for years campaigned to improve the quality of public transport and housing in rural areas, and individual members are often involved in community support activities.
But meanwhile, even in the depths of winter our countryside retains its ability to take our breath away by its beauty. Global warming means it’s happening less these days – but when it does, don’t miss it.