One day in February 2012, I decided to go down to Windermere and walk on the further side of the lake, hoping that early in the year to find fewer tourists than usual. Taking the ferry across the lake I set off to walk up to Ambleside.
It was a grey, cold day, which seemed to have leached all the colour out of the world, and Spring appeared to be a long way off. Nevertheless there are always things to be seen if you keep your eyes open, so I did just that and was richly rewarded.
The inevitable mallards hung about hungrily near the ferry, but I soon left them behind, and after a mile or so I saw two female Goldeneye swimming along together, and was struck by just how well they fitted into the patterns on the lake.
There was so much to see in what could have seemed a very simple scene: the crisscrossing of ripple lines in black, white and silver grey, and the finer lines contrasting with the stronger bars, reminded me of the pop-art which was all the rage when I was in College – a long time ago.
Part of the effect was an illusion, because in fact the ducks aren’t black, but the day had darkened their brown until they matched the lake so perfectly I could only imagine they’d been designed and placed there deliberately, so that I would be the recipient of a gift. The perfect combination of their apparent stillness and gentle movement, the harmony and contrast, pattern and shape, which was a feast for the eye and the mind.
But there were more patterns by the lake that day: bracket fungus is extremely common on many trees around the Lake District, but I’ve rarely seen such perfect examples as the ones I found that afternoon.
Maroon, green, dark blue, russet, beige, purple and brilliant white, this wonderful combination of colours should be taken up and used for the flounces and frills of a flamenco dancer’s dress. Their rich patterning was so astonishingly bright and lively I could almost see them moving and hear the rustle of the taffeta.
The fruiting bodies of fungi are short-lived, for something that appears so static they come and go more swiftly than we can imagine, and perhaps these had only come to this moment of perfection that day, and maybe I was the only one to notice them and appreciate their fleeting beauty. But should I see this pattern in a dress shop I’ll know someone else was walking by the shore that day whose eye was also caught by these flamboyant flamenco frills.
Even on the coldest, greyest and most unpromising day Winter has its surprising or secret beauties.