What was certain was that I was wearing too many layers. What seemed uncertain was the season. It looked like winter (unless you looked carefully); but felt like autumn (or even the springing of returning warmth). So, even with no respite from the gales – passing unheeded and unhampered through shoulder-height hedges as transparent as leaded glass; and as substantial as gauze – it was obvious that there was no need for that thick, second fleece.
The many gulls strafing the thirteen locks climbing the Northern Stratford Canal seemed to be taking pleasure in the many opportunities the gusts provided: producing masterful acrobatic routines. And yet a lone heron glided sedately above the resultant turmoil. Nearby, though, a field-edge kestrel flapped its wings dragonfly-fast as it wind‑hovered; before finally retreating to distant shelter.
Further on my short walk, a lone mallard took advantage of the strong tail wind, and the deserted Grand Union Canal, to sail masterfully up its centre: king for a few minutes, at least. I was heading in the opposite direction, of course: along the muddy path. And soon the temperate breeze – ensuring stiff resistance to all straight-line progress – contained cooling hints of the rain to come.
So I headed back: on my way, disturbing a large mixed flock of redwings, fieldfares, and thrushes: fifty or more, rising in waves – along with my confederate guilt. Here, the centuries-old hedgerows sprawled, having lain undisturbed for years: providing me with sanctuary, and the birds with plentiful food.
On the shortest day of the year – a time for stillness and reflection: as the sun turns, and the light returns – somehow, this brief wander through a small parcel of Warwickshire felt more like regression than procession.