Shooting Star

For three mornings in a row this week, we experienced some of the deepest hoar frosts seen in the UK for years. I was lucky to be working from home for a couple of these days, and slipped out into the garden first thing to capture this finely wrought beauty.

Our young birch tree, standing in the shelter of the shed while it awaits its final home in the garden, was beautifully hung with pinnacles of frost. At the bottom of the garden the leaves of the holly tree were also caged in fantastical ice sculptures.

The more mature trees in our garden looked staggeringly beautiful against the crisp, deep blue skies; the branches of the silver birch cascading like a winter waterfall,

while the beech tree’s frost laden branches reached up towards the sun.

I couldn’t resist wandering down the lanes for a lunchtime walk. On the first day of the frosts, the sun barely made an impression on the hazy whitewashed sky, and the frosts were still virtually untouched in the middle of the day. Later a thick mist would fall.

As I strolled past, the water trough for the grazing animals in a nearby field was frozen solid.

I was rather taken by the regular crystals that had formed on the old metal gate, like iron filings on a magnet.

I reached the valley floor, where the river flowed silently through this eerie white landscape.

That night any trace of mist or cloud disappeared and the following day dawned bright and clear, the sun blazing through the crystal skies onto the fresh frost. By lunchtime, some of the wonderful crystals had begun to melt under its glare, despite the temperatures remaining around -5 degrees C.  Wrapped up warm, I retraced my steps of the day before.

The river looked different, its waters dark and inscrutable, while around it the landscape glittered in the sun.

As I climbed back up the hill beneath the trees, I walked through a shower of soft flakes, as the ice continued to thaw on the branches overhead. The trees are not thick here, their bare branches offering little shade in winter, and it felt rather strange to be walking in falling snow with a seemingly cloudless blue sky overhead!

The hedges were thawing too; here they are predominantly hazel, ash, blackthorn and hawthorn, with wild roses, clematis and ivy weaving through their now bare bones. They have been freshly cut in the past week or two into neat boxes, their thick knuckles testament to many years of similar maintenance.  The outlines of the ivy leaves and flowers looked wonderful still engraved with frost in the sun.

It was hard to shut this fairytale world outside and return to work.

Later we ventured out into the icy night, wrapped up in thermal layers and armed with reflectors and torches, down the other side of the hill for an informal meeting of the village society committee at the inn. Warmed with gossip, laughter and a glass of wine or ale, we emerged an hour or two later to climb the steep hill home. It still amazes me how complete the darkness is here in the countryside, the night seemed to embrace us in its velvet cloak while overhead the bright eyes of a hundred thousand stars twinkled in its cloudless depths.

As we walked, a long slow trail of liquid light languidly arced across the sky ahead of us, before fragmenting in a shower of gold that melted quickly back into the night. It was the most amazing meteor that I have ever seen; eclipsing the stars around it, yet so leisurely that when it drew a small startled sound from me, King of the Hill had time to raise his eyes and share its progress with me, and for a moment time seemed to stand still.

There is still magic in this world, even where science has unravelled its secrets.


16 thoughts on “Shooting Star

  1. Magical indeed. Thank you for a reminder of the beauty of the hoar frost, which has now entirely disappeared. Your trees look amazing, but its the shots of the river that gave me a happy sigh. Those and the description of the shooting star. Wondrous.

    • The frost was rather wonderful while it lasted. The river was spectacular, and I was so pleased that I managed to capture some of its beauty with my little camera. All the precious moments that make me very grateful to live where we do!

  2. What lovely frost / ice photos. A real winter wonderland. The snow /meteor shower falling through your photos is really neat too! The snow in Belfast is melting today. It will take a little longer to melt out in the country where i live. All the best, Kelli

    • Thanks Kelli. The snow is a seasonal extra courtesy of WordPress, so I can’t take any credit for that, though I love its effect. I suspect that you’ll be relieved to get out and about more easily again, though the landscape can look very flat when the sparkling snows first melt.

  3. Sara; You should write for a living! Your description of the scene is enchanting.
    Today is the first day for ages on which I have not had to de-ice the car before driving to work, and I think we actually had a bit of rain overnight. It’s not often we in England wish for rain is it?

    • Thank you Mark! I do love writing. Think my alter-ego in a parallel dimension chose language instead of science… It was a hard choice at the time!

      The extra few degrees in temperature outside do make life a lot easier. The wheelbarrow of logs from the wood store to the house runs smoother when it and the ground aren’t entirely frozen too! I notice these things 🙂 Mid summer and mid-snow we tend to wish for rain… then the rest of the year we grumble at it.

  4. We had hoar frost here on Tuesday. We couldn’t remember a time like it in the last fifteen years at least.

    The meteor – I heard on the radio about a meteor that people all round the country saw. I missed it. I wish I had seen it too!


    • Hi Esther – you prompted me to do a search and I found a report on the Telegraph website on a super-meteor on Wednesday evening, presumably the one you heard of. We saw ours at about 9pm on Tuesday night, obviously a precursor to the next evening’s spectacle! That must have been even more vivid – and green! I hadn’t realised that we were in the midst of a shower, shall keep my eyes peeled on any clear nights next week, and perhaps venture out into the cold night for a bit of stargazing.

  5. Dear Sara – what a wonderful way with words you have – and there was me thinking you were just a green fingered Queen of the Hill. Loved walking through this wonderland with you in this post. Thank you


    • Dear Laura, Thank you so much. I really loved the winter transformation around us as you can tell – although when we went out for a bike ride yesterday there was still some treacherous ice lurking in some of the deep puddles that swamp one or two of the local lanes – a hair-raising moment or two! x

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