Sunday, 4 January 2015

Going on an ice hunt

Today we awoke to a cold, cold morning and the street cloaked in a thick blanket of freezing fog. It seemed like an ideal day to have a brisk walk around the local nature reserve at Brandon Marsh. M was a little reluctant, preferring the idea of staying indoors but I tempted her with the idea that she could wear her pyjamas under her clothes and how fun that would be!

To clarify, the pyjamas in question were thermals which M often wears as PJs during the coldest nights. Looking out through the haze at the frozen world this morning, thermals seemed like a good idea to me. Indeed all three of us wore thermal layers under our clothes for today's walk.

I had one other ace up my sleeve today - fairy ballerina wellie socks. How could M resist?

We pulled on our many layers and I defrosted the car so we could get into it. M watched carefully as I took luke warm water and poured it onto the bumper to release the tailgate which was welded under an inch of ice. It took two jugs of warm water to free it, then a little trickled down the door gap before the seal would break. M cheered as the door released and the tailgate swung reluctantly into the air.

Into the car we bundled, piling blankets on top of M as she never wears heavy coats in the car and it takes a while for the heating to get going. After extensive window clearing, we were on our way, albeit slowly to account for the ice on the side roads and lack of visibility. Once we were out of Coventry and heading for Brandon, the road cuts through countryside and it was beautiful. Fog hung low over fields behind the hedgerows while the white trees glistened in the weak sunlight that occasionally managed to break through the cloud cover.

The driveway to the reserve was a little scary, no salt or grit presumably because the run off into the marsh would be detrimental to the wildlife. Sheet ice was plainly visible on the road surface and around the speed bumps as I cautiously made my way down the hill towards the reserve carpark, where we parked without incident.

M donned her snowsuit, boots, scarf, hat and gloves. We grown-ups did up our coats and pulled on our boots.

We were no sooner making our way through the visitor centre courtyard when we spotted our first icy things, Frozen spiders webs.
Frozen spider's web in the courtyard of the Visitor's Centre at Brandon Marsh.
The pond in the education team's garden was frozen over and Dave had to step in with stern words as M tried to step out onto the ice. So started our walk around the reserve spotting ice and showing M how very thin it was, how fragile, slippery and so very pretty.
A willow tree in the middle of a frozen lake.
The view across a frozen lake.
A stick rests on the surface of a frozen lake.
M and Dave look out over a frozen lake.
The wildlife seemed to have hidden away warm in their lairs, burrows or nests, but that was OK as we were enjoying the spectacle of ice, ice everywhere. In total M was inspected by four robins, who examined her carefully trying to judge if she should be challenged or not. I think they decided in the end that if she was a robin, she was a big, noisy robin so should be avoided. Otherwise we saw two thrushes, a blackbird, a moorhen, one tiny black beetle, one great tit, one blue tit, one sparrow, a squirrel and two rabbits. Some ducks flew overhead and three tufted ducks were making their way carefully through a tributary in a gully that fed into one of the lakes.
M holds up a stick complete with an attached piece of sheet ice.
Ice crystals formed in wood chip and leaf litter ground cover in the Mouse Maze.
Odd ice formations across a bootprint in the mud.
Wrapped up warm as she was, M had a blast. She stomped on frozen puddles. Crunched through mud. Poked at frozen drips. Removed her gloves to touch wafer thin, glass like sheets of ice. Squelched through any liquid mud she could find and sank half way up her calf in one patch of surprisingly still soft mud. All the while, M kept returning to the refrain of We're going on an ice hunt as based on Michael Rosen's We're Going On a Bear Hunt.
Frozen leaves.
Ice crystals growing out from the stems of plants.
Very dramatic looking frozen teasels.
After our walk we shared bowl of chips and a hot chocolate in the cafe. I found some colouring sheets for M which sealed the day as a good one in M's estimation. We drove home as M sang Christmas songs to herself in the car before falling into exhausted sleep within ten minutes of arriving home.

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