Saturday, April 05, 2014


Winter Walking

C.E.M. Joad (1891-1953), The Untutored Townsman's Invasion of the Country (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1946), pp. 49-50:
And to my mind, the best time for walking is the winter. Many townsmen know little of the joys of winter walking, and only venture into the country in weather that is fine and warm. Winter, they think, is cold and wet. Cold it may be, and why not, pray? For my part, I like the cold, which brisks me up so that I can keep up with anybody on a cold day. But wet it most certainly is not, at least, not especially wet. It rains far more, I am convinced, in July and August than ever it does in December and January.

In the winter I can go across country. There is no undergrowth in the woods; there are no crops in the fields and no bracken on the slopes. One walks free and unencumbered and, broadly speaking, one walks where one likes.

And how much more one sees! In August the country is muffled under a blanket of dull green. The blanket spoils its shape and blurs its contours. (It is sad to think that August, which is the dullest month of the year, is the only month in which most people see the country.) The winds of winter have stripped the blanket away and laid bare the bones and naked structure of the countryside. And how lovely that structure is! I would give all the tender greens of young spring, all the gorgeous colours of the autumn woods' decay, for the bare boughs of an oak with its tracery of little twigs silhouetted against the dark red of an afternoon sky in December. The sun has just set and over against it, glimpsed through the infinitely lovely pattern work of the twigs, there is an evening star. There is a tang in the air; the earth rings hard under the feet; there will be a frost to-night. So home to a coal fire, with lamplight and curtains drawn; the kettle boiling on the hob, and crumpets for tea. What has summer to offer comparable to these winter delights?

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