With the fells hidden in mist the focus was on the nearer view and detail of snow and ice. Walking south, I stopped to photograph a hawthorn glittering with sunlit ice-droplets, icicles gleamed and swags of snow slid off branches with a soft thud. I align the low winter sun through ice-droplets to see the colours of the rainbow as sunlight refracts through ice. Hawthorn twinkles in tiny white lights, sometimes coloured lights. From the shadow-side of a hawthorn, I looked up to see rising sunlit mist gleaming over the Lyth Valley and it was breath-taking. A runner on the escarpment edge heard my gasp of wonder and stopped to share the moment. An epiphany, caught in a spirit of reverence. He took photographs to send to a friend in city lockdown.
Through history, mankind has endured ages of pestilence and war. Civil wars in England, and the Great War of 1914-18 which concluded with a fearful pandemic. Somehow, in such times, we seek solace and communion with something greater than ourselves. Can’t always find it when we seek it, but sometimes it comes so powerfully that it seems, for a while, the only thing that is real. I remember coming across the Book of Hours of Anthony Woodville, brother of Edward IV's. queen who was grand mother of Henry VIII. In the midst of the turbulence of the Wars of the Roses he turned to beauty and meditation, commissioning this lovely book to be made.
Broadcast on Saturday 16 January 2021. Radio 4. SoundStage. The Oak Wood.
Sound recordist Chris Watson spent a year focusing on North Wood, Holystone, Northumbria where he lives. He guides the listener through birdsong, through the seasons, through the transitions from dusk to daylight. His commentary is packed with information, focused, precise. In winter, I've often heard the calls of a mixed flock of fieldfare and redwing. He catches the song of redwing at the moment of their departure for their breeding grounds in Norway.