Friday, 14 December 2012

Medieval mid winter

Mid winter conjures a Medieval vulnerability across the landscape; the world of Bruegel’s peasant skaters, tiny figures making merry as the fields stretch away to be lost in the snow. Even when having fun they keep their heads down, braced againts the cold. Druridge Bay retains little from that time. Low Chibburn Precaptory dates from the early 1300s but is marooned in the rectilinear fields of ex-open cast and nearby Widdrington Castle long demolished. There are tucked away corners where the winter’s cold, unvisited woods and fields not dug out for coal suggest a world before. The frost has turned the top inches of sodden pasture to a crackling, scrunching crust. Hard work to walk over, with every other footstep breaking though the iced floor into the goo below. The cold has leached the colours too.  Winter thrushes move quickly away, not even wasting energy on a call and on the ponds teal, mallard and moorhen keep their distance but are loathe to fly. There are pockets of ridge and furrow at the south of the Bay, picked out by a foggy sun. Step into the shadows and you can feel winter willing you to stand too long and get too cold. All wise peasants would best be indoors but I have been out counting the pools and flashes of water left by 2012’s deluges. Water boatmen still row under the ice which is thick enough to carry my wieght, squeeking and snapping under my boots.

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