It’s early December now and at last the nights are getting colder. November was the second warmest on record. Just lately we have had a run of sunny days. I have taken the opportunity to get out walking and enjoy the good weather whilst it lasts. There is a good walk from Shepreth to Barrington which takes you across open fields to the River Rhee and then up on to the wooded ridge beyond Barrington. It’s one of my favourites and a good route for runners too. If you walk along the ridge on the ancient path known as the Mare Way you come out on the top of Chapel Hill, which affords one of the finest views in Cambridgeshire. You can fully appreciate the topography of the county: the flat open land of the Fens away north beyond Cambridge; the broad shallow valley of the Rhee or Cam with low chalk hills rising on both sides; the pattern of village settlement spreading out on either side of the river.
With the nights closing in I have been out walking after dark around and about Shepreth, where I live. There is a good circuit around the village and along a stretch of the A10. I have enjoyed it so much that I shall buy a head torch and try walking ‘off road’ using the network of footpaths. Once your eyes get used to the lack of light night walking is quite easy and as I say rather enjoyable. I had the sudden realisation the other day that at other times of the year I would be out of the house in the evening so why not now? Just because it is dark doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good walk. If the conditions are clear you have the night sky to look at and when there is a full moon you can have some wonderful views of the local landscape. Quite a few people in my village go out walking at night, as I have discovered: dog walkers, people taking exercise after work.
The garden is now in full retreat before the coming of winter. Only a few blooms remain on the roses, the sedum has lost its colour, the apple trees their leaves. I was tidying the garden the other day and came across a mound of leaves in the garden bed by the patio, nudged up against a brick pillar supporting the pergola. I started to clear away and discovered a sleeping hedgehog burrowed down beneath. Before it could stir I replaced the leaves and heaped more on. It seems a rather open space to choose for a winter hide-away. However it is surrounded by buildings and so protected from driving wind and rain. We know now to leave well alone – it’s probably the same hedgehog we see on late summer evenings walking purposefully along the patio and then down the side path to the compost bay. The children say we should not leave food out but rather respect its wildness. This might change if the winter is as harsh as last year. I will make it a point to leave more food out for the birds.