A winter’s trail

Two very cold but contrasting days at the weekend just gone. Bright sunshine and rich colour on Saturday, fog, frost and monochrome tones on Sunday after a largely clear night. We walked near Shoreham on the North Downs then, on Sunday, at Ide Hill near Sevenoaks on the Greensand Ridge. I tried to keep an eye open for birds and saw a yellowhammer flying away from along the line of hedgerows beneath Fackenden Down plus several fieldfare. At Ide Hill we saw a brambling among a mixed bunch of chaffinches and great and blue tits (there may have been a female bullfinch among them too) on the eastern edge of Emmett’s Garden and later some greenfinches popped out of a hedgerow. At Ide Hill, as we had hoped, we were ‘above the cloud’ with a layer of fog obscuring the low weald below and little pinnacles of ridges further south poking up through the murk. The best frost was seen en route around the woods and heaths of Hayes and Keston Common – very beautiful. And then came the snow …

Anyone with time free over the next couple of days should try to get out on the walks to experience the snow at places like Knole and on the hill tops at Fackenden and Polhill. It can be spectacular. (See photos from 2021.)

If you haven’t seen it, please check out my piece for The Guardian on a Darent Valley walk ending at the Samuel Palmer, one of Guardian Saturday’s pub walk series. And on 31 December the paper is running a piece I wrote about birding while walking – describing walks at Underriver and on Handa Island in NW Scotland.

Pictured: elderberry, rosehips and views in the winter sun on Fackenden Down; fog and murk on the Low Weald from Ide Hill

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