Like many people, winter is not my preferred time of the year but there is something very beautiful about a British winter, not least the arrival of the winter waders, the over-wintering raptors and evenings spent by a log fire. Although sunlight is at a premium, there is a very special, pure quality and intensity to wintertime sunshine. As the low rays of the sun brush all the contours that it touches, it casts the landscape in a warm amber glow. The trees have shed their clothing and reveal a new transparent character. Light streams through their bare, bony branches giving the impression of expanding space. The winter rainfall creates pools of flood water that bounce the light back up to the sky: water and light in harmony; a ‘spacefulness’ and a brightness which is impossible to ignore.
Not far from my home, the river Stour runs silently through the Dorset village; a slow meandering artery that flows from its home in Stourhead to the coast at Christchurch. You can explore parts of it by kayaking or walking. It is a quintessential English river, not noisy and bumptious like moorland streams but long, sleepy and elegant. There are otters, kingfishers, gooseanders, mallards, herons, swanneries and egrets which all depend on this water source. The Stour’s moods coincide with the seasons and the rainfall. In summer it is quiet and unassuming, but when the rains come in force, it creeps up and over its banks silently laying claim to the floodplains and fields that accompany it. It is then that I like it the best. Old haunts become new ones and there are new adventures to be had….