To the west, the Lake District fells show clear. The Langdale Pikes, the ridge of The Band running down from Bowfell, Crinkle Crags- a dark grey mountain massif. Vistas to the south, toward Morecambe Bay and the sea, are more mysterious, and transient. Scanning south across the Lyth Valley, green pastures grow pale in the grip of frost over saturated ground, once wetland. Toward the coast, mist flows over the mosses and over the sea. Bright sunlight is quick to melt the frost, but not where shadows fall and by early afternoon the white rime lingers.
Leaving behind the Christmas shoppers, we set out from Moor How bound for Troutbeck and The Tongue. A gaiters and waterproof trousers day, throughout. ' Rain showers,' said the forecast. Timing was accurate and heavier rain did not set in until late in the afternoon.
Beatrix Potter's farmhouse at Troutbeck Park showed brightly through the rain and winter trees took on distinctive character.
At Elterwater we look for the dipper of the place. Langdale Beck flows high and his perching stones are submerged, but on our return there he is.
Colwith Force is resounding in a landscape where the becks are clamorous. The woodland floor is saturated and rich in colour: decaying leaf litter, green mosses and wood sorrel.
Sunlight and shadow play through slender ash trees. They are older than they seem, these Scout Scar ash. It's exposed up on the ridge and water drains away through the limestone clitter where they anchor so they are diminutive, never reaching the majesty of mature ash. Spring foliage comes late and the prevailing south-west wind is quick to strip them bare in autumn. The quality of winter light makes them distinctive against a foil of bright blue and gathering clouds. Perspectives lead you through the trees toward ethereal wisps of ash on the horizon.
'I drive to work through darkness and into such a sunrise.' Her eyes light up as she speaks.
A heavy frost saps colour from the Lyth Valley. The sun is low in the sky and a glimmering light suffuses the landscape, creating sharp shadows. Configurations of ash trees on Scout Scar offer perspectives unseen in summer, something elusive. Oblique light and the frosty air creates a mysterious mood. Frost has hold of heather in the hollows. Sunlight filters through brambles and frost highlights decay.
5 December 2015, the day Storm Desmond saw the RIver Kent burst its banks, flooding homes in Kendal. There had been weeks of rain, culminating in the Storm Desmond deluge.
Next day dawned bright and sunny. The river shrank back, leaving crayfish, bullhead and sticklebacks stranded in the mud. Floodwater had transformed the Lyth Valley and the road across the valley was impassable for about a month.
This week we had days of rain and mist and Sunday dawned fair. I went up onto Scout Scar to look down on floodwater.
A slender crescent moon and the stars linger. Frost and December sunrise, a rosy dawn. After last night's live-screening of The Nutcracker by The Royal Ballet, I'm bound for Scout Scar in dancing shoes. Lost in the refinement of a fairy-tale world, in the grace and athleticism of the dancers. I'd like a pair of Turkish trousers. A little girl has come in pink tu-tu and red boots. We're like them, like the dancers. Well we could be.
Before and after The Nutcracker, the news. In Katowice, Poland, David Attenborough tells the urgency of addressing Climate Change at a UN conference.
A radio 4 voice warns of the 'obese crisity' (sic). The obese crisity is hotting-up in The Nutcracker audience.
Lucrezia Borgia sits in the roof garden high in Castello Estense, listening to music. Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara, patron of musicians. Perhaps her little daughter Leonora is by her side, looking out over Ferrara toward the convent of Corpus Domini where she will become Abbess at eighteen. Leonora D'Este, perhaps the first known female composer. She will leave a rich musical inheritance to her convent, empowering women as musicians and composers.
In the loggia of the oranges I hear the pure voice of Emma Kirkby singing the music Lucrezia and Leonora heard.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)