Gruelling year ends with an icy blast

IT BEGAN with a dull, damp, grubby couple of weeks and ended with an icy blast as temperatures plummeted and snow fell across much of the country.

ICE CRYSTALS: temperatures plummeted as 2020 came to a close PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

After the murky start that left some areas hit hard by heavy flooding, it was a relatively unremarkable month in the Chilterns, but made a little bleaker as families prepared for a hug-less Christmas separated from loved ones amid growing fears of another surge in pandemic deaths. 

SPLASH OF COLOUR: mandarin ducks at Burnham Beeches PICTURE: Carlene O’Rourke

Despite the dismal weather, muddy paths and bleak headlines, local photographers were soon managing to capture some of the brighter colours on show across the country, from classy mandarin ducks to dramatic sunrises and sunsets.

CLEAR SKIES: Brill Windmill PICTURE: Siddharth Upadhya

While Carlene O’Rourke found the ducks at Burnham Beeches bringing a welcome splash of colour to the grey weather, windmill enthusiast Siddharth Upadhya managed to take advantage of clear skies to capture the beauty of the magnificent post mill at Brill, which has timbers dating from the 17th century.

MILLER’S TALE: the restored windmill at Great Haseley PICTURE: Siddharth Upadhya

The skies were equally obliging over in Oxfordshire at Great Haseley, where the restored stone tower mill has dominated the countryside since the middle of the 18th century but suffered years of deterioration and neglect before being fully restored to its original working order in 2014.

DELICATE PATTERNS: wintry colours near Amersham PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

Elsewhere bare branches and frozen berries provided some striking patterns for Sue Craigs Erwin’s early morning dog walks, with ice forming delicate filigree patterns on spiders’ webs – at least until temperatures started to climb again, much to the delight of four-legged explorers.

MORNING PADDLE: icy water is no deterrent to intrepid explorers PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

Meanwhile widllife photographers were looking to the trees – as in Glynn Walsh’s striking Christmas Day picture of a noisy robin. Bare branches provide a better chance to pick out our feathered friends, so it’s a good time of year for first-time birdwatchers to get their eye in.

ON SONG: a robin shares a little of the Christmas spirit PICTURE: Glynn Walsh

Others keeping their lenses focused on local hedgerows include Graham Parkinson, whose pictures have also featured in our recent Littleworth Common feature, and Nick Bell, who has provided an array of fantastic shots for our recent feature about garden birds and article about Mark Avery’s guides to different types of birdsong.

METALLIC SHEEN: a curious starling at Abbey Park Farm PICTURE: Graham Parkinson

With the month’s striking and appropriately named “cold moon” also grabbing people’s attention, some photographers had their lenses trained slightly further afield, as Phil Laybourne demonstrated.

MOON SHOT: December’s “cold moon” PICTURE: Phil Laybourne

Back on earth there was fog and mist to contend with, not to mention torrential downpours and muddy footpaths where it seemed impossible to find any glimpse of colour to lift the mood. But of course there is always that exceptional sunrise or sunset guaranteed to lift the spirits – and with the winter solstice behind us, the days start getting longer from here on.

RAY OF HOPE: days start getting longer after the winter solstice PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

After a year like 2020 and with so many families still ill, grieving or forced to stay apart, New Year celebrations around the country were muted, to say the least. And with another national lockdown looming, the first few weeks of 2021 will not be any easier.

OUT OF THE WOODS?: spring is just around the corner PICTURE: Sue Craigs Erwin

But for those able to get out of the house and escape the grim headlines for a little, the mud, mist and chill in the air doesn’t matter too much. We may not be out of the woods yet, but as the days start getting longer and lighter it really does feel as if spring is just around the corner…

A big thank you to all the keen local photographers who have allowed us to use their work this month. If you would like to contribute any pictures, favourite moments or seasonal suggestions to our calendar entry for January, contact on email or via our Facebook group page.

Leave a Reply