There's a golden glow over the reedbeds and blue sky is mirrored in the water. Alder are sunlit, with cones of last summer and catkins for the coming spring. An egret gleams in flight, widgeon call and there are shoveler, gadwall and coot. All this is worth coming for but snipe is called and that’s irresistible. Seeing them is a challenge for those who do not have fighter-pilot vision. There is a competitive element to birding and finding snipe exemplifies that. I bet few folk search for the female flowers of hazel that show beside the golden male catkins and they are stunning, like sea-anemones.
On a bright winter’s day at Helsington Church we are alone, and not alone. A woodpecker is drumming, nuthatch are vocal and a bullfinch calls softly.
Yesterday, a raven rode the thermals by Scout Scar escarpment, legs reaching-out for touch-down as the wind swept the bird up and away.
This morning is so calm we feel and hear our feet crunch through frost sparkling the grass and enhancing the intricate veins of winter leaves. Senses are heightened on such a day.
For a writer, nuance is indispensable, it's fun and challenging. So I was interested to hear a BBC radio 4 programme: 'The Death of Nuance.' The first episode was entitled ‘ Losing my Nuance.’ Later that morning I wrote to the editor of the Radio Times Letters Page, as follows
Our day was pastoral. Over Cunswick Fell, then we follow a network of footpaths and green lanes linking farmsteads: Hall Head Hall, Bank End, Cappelrigg, Bonfire Hall and Cunswick Hall. On a winter’s day of sunlight and shadows we see no one and it’s as if we have slipped back centuries. Bonfire Hall, an evocative name. Cumbrian farmsteads are often designated ‘hall’, perhaps suggesting the status that might attach to a yeoman farmer.
To think back in time we need old maps, before the coming of railways and roads.