Tuesday 8 January 2008

Strathspey in the Snow: Welcome to the New Year

Yesterday I ventured out into the local fields and woods for the first walk of the year, a week later than normal due to a nasty cold or virus ailment that has been slow to shift. A fresh overnight snowfall covered the ground, shimmering in the low sun. To the south the Cairngorms rose, white and distant above a monochrome landscape of dark woods and pale fields. There was no wind and little sound, just the steady crunch of snow under my boots and the occasional crack of ice as I stood on a hidden frozen puddle. Tracks showed that wildlife had been active, seeking essential food in this cold hostile world. From an overgrown spruce and larch plantation straight lines of rabbit prints led through holes in the fence to scatter at low banks and clumps of rushes where the snow was thin and could be scraped away. Fox tracks worked a way through the maze of rabbit prints. I followed the fox for a while but could see no sign it had caught anything. Pheasant tracks wandered randomly around. These pen bred birds are not fully wild. How many will manage to survive the cold? By the edge of a birch wood roe deer prints dotted the ground, never coming far from the security of the trees. Little moved as I passed by, just the occasional pheasant scurrying along a fence line in search of an opening, a coal tit foraging in pine foliage, the dipping flight of a silhouetted wagtail and once a raven, its harsh call causing me to look up, flying south straight at the mountains. On the very tip of a tall, thin, ancient larch a buzzard perched, catching the rays of the sun, its upright shape looking like an extension of the tree. Out to the west a thick bank of cloud surged against the hills. The air was sharp with frost and pale with weak cloud-filtered sunlight. As the greyness of dusk slowly replaced the faint pink of the sunset I tramped back across the fields, thinking of the warmth of the fire and a hot drink. I had only wandered a few miles on this quiet, gentle walk but I felt I had made a first contact with nature for 2008 and it was enough.

The photo shows Strathspey at dusk on January 7. Photo info: Canon EOS 350D, Canon 18-55mm IS lens at 53 mm, f5.6@1/80, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in Capture One Pro.


  1. Wonderful photograph - I was born in Yorkshire, but reside now in Toronto, Ontario. Different landscape here... Have followed your blog for a little while.

    I got your 'The Backpacker's Handbook third edition' for Christmas, terrific book.

    I've got some camping and hiking related pictures on my blog - I am hoping to get a DSLR in the summer to improve my shots.

    All the best,


  2. Thanks for your comments Mungo. Glad you like the book.

    I like your canoe picture for January 1.

  3. Thank you Chris - that picture came from a set that I took a couple of years ago. My Dad and I went canoeing and camping in Algonquin Park, and one early morning he decided to take the canoe out in the dawn mist.

    I learned something from your book yesterday - I have the MSR Dragonfly naptha gas stove and have always wondered why I get enormous orange flames for a couple of minutes... it just seemed dangerous, but I figured it was the way it should work... uh hum. I guess not. I will prime the cup with a bit of fluid and get it hot, before I turn on the gas!



  4. Like the descriptions of footprints in the snow Chris - reminds me of what Ed Abbey called "the register" in Desert Solitaire.
    We've had snow down here in Yorkshire too. Sneaked into the pub out of the rain on Wednesday night for a swift one on the way home from a meeting in the village hall. During the 45 minutes we were sat at the bar the rain turned to snow - there was an inch and and a half in just 45 minutes - but by the time we left it'd already turned back to rain and the snow was virtually gone.
    Still haven't had chance to take the price tag off my snowshoes!

  5. Mungo, glad to hear my book has been useful! You'll still probably find the Dragonfly flares a little at first, like all naptha/white gas stoves.

    John, there's an inch of snow on the ground here at 300 metres and much more higher up. Bring your snowshoes up north!