Country diary: gateway to a winter’s trail

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Aberystwyth, Ceredigion: Change, slow but significant, is evident along the path that zigzags across a windless winter landscape

The hills in the distance were still banked with snow, but on the narrow path above the village, the frost had melted even in the hollows. At the far end, a rusted iron gate guarded the steps down to the road; pushing it open, I wondered how many times it has swung on these simple hinges, giving access to both school and chapel in the village.

In the wood above the lane, thin shafts of watery sunlight sliced between the limbs of dormant beech trees. Beyond, the crown of the great oak tree stood naked against the sky – each twig, branch and bough utterly still on this windless morning. The loudest sound, aside from the occasional sharp mewing call of a red kite, was that of water gurgling from field drains into the ditch at the side of the road.

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