outdoors

The Little Things - Winter Mornings

Now, however cold it is or however reluctant my duvet is to release me in the morning, I usually have to summon the courage to throw back the covers and step out into the chill of the early day. 

You see, when you have a dog who loves her post-breakfast walks and a son who has to get the school bus at 7.20am on six mornings every week, there's really not much chance to linger in bed. This used to really bother me but, this winter, the excuse to get out and about early is one I've gratefully seized...

These winter mornings have been unbelievably beautiful. And, when you're the only one around, you can stand, stare and soak it all in for as long as you like without having to share any of it with anyone.

On super cold mornings, when I pull my hat further down over my ears and wonder why I didn't put on that extra layer, you feel pretty chuffed with yourself that you made it out. On misty mornings, when tendrils of creeping fog ooze across the paths in front of you and slip over the lake, the world seems muffled and if anyone is out, they're usually hidden from view.

So, my dog and I crunch through the frosty grass, splash our way through mud and puddles and drift soundlessly through the mists and fog on these winter mornings and, by the time we return home, we think we've earned the right to slip back upstairs for a few minutes and wrap ourselves in blankets until we're warmed through again.

Wanderlust - France In Autumn

Now I know I'm very lucky to have an Aunt who lives deep in the French countryside but I felt even luckier last autumn when son and I escaped for a few days in France during the half term.

And really, we couldn't have been more fortunate with the weather if we'd wished for it. Blue skies, autumnal sunshine and all manner of glorious colours and seasonal beauty awaited us.

Not far from Aunt's house is Le Bois du Tay, a wooded hill that always reminds me of something from a fairytale - a deserted hilltop chapel, mineral water springs, a pretty arboretum, twisting paths through the trees and even horses in unexpected clearings. We love wandering round because you really never know what you're going to find when you round the next corner.

Son loves it there too. Aunt's dog and he run and run through trees and up and down hills for hours. You know where they are simply by listening for the combination of excited barking and happy laughing.

At the end of Aunt's garden is a field full of cows. This soft-eyed creatures amble up to their fence when we appear in the garden and moo gently until we pay them some attention. When you walk up to them, they back away until one or two brave cows edge forward and push their noses into your hand, hoping for some kind of treat.

For some reason known only to the powers that be, the airline we fly with stop flying to Aunt's local airport at the end of October so we had to sail home. I admit that I loathe boats but the opportunity for this history-loving girl to call in at Pegasus Bridge before boarding the ferry made the ridiculously long journey home bearable.

With our batteries recharged after a few days of French living, we made it back home with smiles on our faces and a last touch of sun-warmth in our bones.

The Little Things - Spring Blossom

One of the highlights of my days is taking my dog for a walk. I love getting away from my desk or just grabbing some fresh-air time to blow the cobwebs away and clear my head. Invariably, any problems or issues that are floating around in that packed cranium of mine and sorted, arranged and organised nicely by the time I get home.

Another reason I love walking my dog is that it makes me really aware of the seasons. In the winter, Jack Frost's fingers pinch my cheeks and nip my fingers. In the autumn, I kick my way through drifts of leaves and leave over puddles. In summer, I'm up walking by 6am in the cool, still freshness of the morning so my black Labrador doesn't overheat. And in the spring, watching the beautiful blossom burst from bare branches makes me smile. It makes me stop, stand under the boughs and stare upwards. I trail my hands across the petals, feeling their silky softness and I take photos in the hope of capturing these spring moments for bring brightness to grey days...