Originally published on 16th December 2017 in www.urbanescapist.wordpress.com
Winter has always been my least favourite of the four seasons and the season I have appreciated least of all. To me it has always appeared comfortless, bleak, unwelcoming and I pass the days waiting for Spring to arrive. This pessimistic view of mine means the virtual loss of three months from my calendar as I wait for the days to pass. This Winter I have decided to not let this happen and intend to make every attempt to appreciate the season. There must be some hidden beauty that I am missing and so instead of hiding away at home on these cold days I will be heading into the countryside and hopefully discover all that I have neglected in previous years.
The mild and dry November ended abruptly here on the south coast with December descending upon us with a marked contrast in temperature and bringing with it rain. Throughout the country there has seen plenty of snow this week although down here it has a habit of missing us and so far we have not had the pleasure of a white ground covering of snow.
Late last Sunday afternoon I managed to find a couple of spare hours and drove over to Arundel to walk around Arundel Park. This week as we approach the Winter equinox it is just about as early as it gets for the sun to set so I did not have too much time on my hands. On my last visit the trees were displaying some magnificent colours but the frosts over the last couple of weeks have taken the last remaining leaves from the trees leaving a bare framework of branches. One particular Oak tree looked magnificent against the blue skyline. The strong winds from the previous week had done a splendid job pruning the tree of its dead wood and the fallen branches were laying on the ground beneath the tree. On a number of these branches lichen could be seen growing on the dead wood.
The lichen impressed me with its delicate and complex structure. My knowledge and recognition of the various forms of lichen compares to the same extremely low level I have of fungi. I took the above photo and hoped I would have better success in tracing it’s name than I did in the Autumn months with the various fungi I photographed. Luckily for me as it was fairly common and growing on an Oak tree I found it fairly quickly on the Internet and identified it as Oak Moss Lichen (Evernia prunastri). I hope I am correct. Lichens are strange organisms being an association between a fungus and an alga. Both parties cooperate together for survival and growth. So this is a true hidden beauty of winter, hidden away from us during the rest of the year by the leaves growing on the trees and revealing itself only once those leaves have fallen.
As I walked back to the entrance by the Arundel Castle Cricket Ground the loss of the deciduous leaves and ground covering had revealed plenty of holly with its striking red berries. Folklore suggests that if there are plenty of berries then we will be in for a cold winter. If that is correct then this winter will be especially harsh as the bushes were laden.
As I neared the car there was a kestrel perched on a telegraph pole surveying the area beneath it. Winter is well and truly alive and I look forward to spending the next few months discovering more of what nature has to offer in this season. I am now beginning to realise Winter does offer beauty and finding it will be an interesting challenge.