Saturday 9 January 2021

Lockdown in the Snow

Dusk, January 8

So here we are again. With a new lockdown. And this time in the coldest months with only short hours of daylight. Outside it’s -8.5°C and the snow lies deep. Ah, yes, the snow. Transforming the world, bringing its fragile beauty to a familiar landscape, creating a magical but hostile environment. The snow has brought joy to the first days of the year, the lockdown has not. Neither is a surprise.

Since the first lockdown ended in the hot days of last July I haven’t felt too restricted. I could travel anywhere in the Highlands to go walking and camping, cafes and shops were open. My partner, trapped down south for eight months due to the pandemic and personal events, returned home. I still avoided crowded places, wore a mask in shops, reduced my visits to cafes, but I still felt much freer than last spring. 

The Cromdale Hills, January 8

I still do to some extent as the new lockdown in Scotland is not as severe as the first with regard to the outdoors. There are no restrictions on how long or how often you can exercise this time. If necessary you can travel five miles outside your council area to start your exercise. That should be a boon to those living in small heavily populated areas. Here in the Highlands it doesn’t really matter. Highland Council covers a huge area. I can drive over 100 miles without leaving it. I don’t think I should though. I can walk into hills and fields and woods from my front door, so, as in the first lockdown, that’s what I’ll do. All the photos here were taken within a few miles of home. It’s all about reducing the risk of spreading the virus. The fewer people any of us see the better, sad to say. 

Ben Rinnes, January 6

I could say that any travel to the mountains was for work but that doesn’t feel right. I don’t need to do it. I can try out gear for my reviews for The Great Outdoors here and I have enough trips I haven’t written about yet to fulfil any requirements. I do have book work that means I will have to go further afield, though still in the Highlands, but I can do that later in the year when, hopefully, the pandemic will be easing. 

Birch in snow, January 7

Every day this year snow has fallen. Walking has been a joy. Until the snow became deep. Then I dug out my old cross-country skis and relished again the pleasure of gliding through the snow. A few days before this I admired a dramatic dawn from a local hill, the glen below filled with cloud, the distant high Cairngorms edged by a glowing sky. 

Cairngorms at dawn, January 6

In the woods the trees are heavy with snow, bowing down under its weight. The snow falls silently. There has been little wind. It is quiet and still.

Trees and snow, January 8

The only activity has been around our bird feeders which are a flurry of wings all day as a mass of birds try to eat enough food to get them through another freezing night. There are red squirrels too, and rabbits, all eager for peanuts and sunflower seeds. 

Trees & Mist, January 3

Living here I’m very aware that I don’t feel the effects of the lockdown like people in towns and cities, especially those who love the hills and wild places. I miss not being able to see my stepdaughters, but not much else. It makes me realise what is most important to me. Nature is what I can’t do without. 

Dawn, January 6

As in the spring I’ll continue to post pictures from my outdoor trips. I have considered not doing so, as some people felt seeing them made their situation feel worse. However far more people have said my pictures help them. I hope that is so.

Stay safe.

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