I think it’s certainly my favourite time of year – let’s just consider the seasons.
Yes, when it’s brisk and crisp I love winter – snow is a delight and even a little rain is no problem if you are suitably dressed. The downside is it can be just plain miserable. Cold and rain together, and with glowering skies, there is not even drama – just depression – and mud. Add short hours of daylight and you have to pick the odd great days.
But when they are great, they can be marvellous. Clear and fresh, crunching over frozen soil. The bare trees open up the landscape and even familiar routes take on a new perspective.
For me, spring can rival Autumn. With luck, it avoids extremes. Still some short days but summer to look forward to. Crisp bright sun, first green shoots coming through. So, what’s not to like? Not much, I confess – only a little unpredictability. I often find myself carrying a bigger rucksack at this time of year to carry clothes I might need or those I’ve taken off as the temperature rises.
There is a freshness, with the added advantage that wildlife is starting to make an impact. Birds are starting to mate and nest. Winter hibernaters are staring to move – there is always so much to see. Colours are changing green takes over, but also heathers begin to tint hills and moorland.
Definitely not my favourite season fo walking. Heat is no friend of ramblers. In the cold you can always pile on the layers but in the heat there is a limit to what you can take off.
Bright sun demands sunglasses and peaks. Hydration is a major issue. Gaining altitude may bring you into welcoming breezes, but uphill slogs in high temperatures to get there is no fun. Perhaps the only routes to pick for summer are woodland paths or wooded riverside walks. Coastal paths can also provide an option, cooled by sea breezes – but beware, the breeze often masks the ferocity of the sun.
Like Spring, Autumn can be a great time to walk without extremes of heat or cold. As the trees lose their leaves the landscape opens up again. Colours change dramatically with golds and browns glowing in autumn sun.
After the harvest, one of the great added bonuses for me is the opportunity to forage. Nuts abound, chestnuts and hazel. Fruit and berries are full and ripe. The last blackberries, followed by elder, sloes, crab apples and rosehips. Fungus is plentiful with woods full of a wide variety of mushrooms and my favourite ceps.
It’s a close run thing between spring and autumn – but the last quarter gets my vote