05 December 2016 by Phil Pickin
Although it may not be the best weather for getting out and about, cold, crisp days are a great time to get outside. What could be better than a frost-covered landscape seen against a clear blue sky? In the UK, we have such a wide variety of scenery, all inhabited by an equally diverse range of wildlife and there is much to see on a winter walk.
Hills and – assuming you are experienced, well equipped and the weather is in your favour – mountains too provide some of the most spectacular places to walk. Even in the coldest months, wildlife will be trying to carve out an existence here. If you are in luck, you could spot the likes of mountain hares in their white coats. Sadly, these animals are all too often hunted but they can still be found in the less hospitable areas.
Walks at the coast are an ideal way to enjoy some sea air and some spectacular views. For those fortunate enough to be close to the East coast you can often see migrating birds especially at the beginning of winter. Geese and many other species head to our shores to overwinter. Whichever coastal area you visit, you could be rewarded with views of anything from seals to flocks of waders and even, during the early evening, murmurations of starlings. Something not to be missed.
We don’t have to explore the wilds of Scotland or the rugged areas of the East coast, though. Walks in areas like the New Forest and similar locations can be just as rewarding when it comes to wildlife. Wild ponies and deer might be seen, along with red squirrels in regions where they still reside – despite what some say, reds don't hibernate so you could be lucky and see them foraging for food. And, with the trees having shed their leaves, less cover means it’s easier to spot all these creatures in winter too.
Even for city dwellers, or those with limited time, there are chances to rub shoulders with wildlife while out walking. Richmond Park in London is one of the better-known examples, with its resident deer population, but even less high-profile locations can offer all kinds of opportunities. Walks along the waterways can be enjoyable and rewarding. Our local parks are often home to large numbers of grey squirrels, rabbits and hungry birds – both woodland and waterfowl.
So winter walks don’t always have to be major events that require you to travel to enjoy the freedom of walking, the environment and the wildlife. Take a look at the areas that are easily accessible and close to home. Even during winter, these places can house an abundance of species to enhance your time outside. And if you don’t see as many animals as you’d hoped, you can look out for tracks in mud and snow, try to spot old nests in leafless trees and, just like nature itself, look forward to the longer and warmer days to come.
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