This weekend, I decided that I love being by the sea in winter, and being in the mountains in summer. You’re probably thinking that sounds quite strange. Don’t I want to be in both places in summer and tucked up in a blanket with a hot chocolate and a book in winter? Well yes… and no*. You see, despite it being rather wintery outside (for once there is actually a scattering of snow to accompany the doomsday headlines of a Siberian arctic blast hitting the UK), I still want to be outside.
But don’t most people want to go to the seaside in summer? You know, when it’s actually warm enough to bathe in the sea and sit around in a t-shirt building sand castles? Well, yes. Which is one of the reasons I’d rather go to the beach in winter. The same beaches that are full of people in summer are barren, windswept places to be in winter.
I’ve just come back from a long weekend in Northumberland. I walked for miles and miles along stunning sandy beaches and rocky coastline and saw only a handful of people. The wind blew me along, hail occasionally battered my face and it was bitterly cold. Dark clouds hung ominously low in the sky, the sea crashed against the rocks and sunlight fought its way through the chinks in the clouds to shine spotlights on the landscape. It was so beautiful it almost hurt.
And, though the British weather is notoriously fickle, you don’t get the same experience of the coastline on a balmy summer’s day. That feeling of being bound up with the elements, of bearing witness to the force and power of nature as the waves smash into the coastline and the wind whips the sand into a hissing snake that winds its way around your shoes. It’s the way the sky and sea change their mood within hours or even minutes. It’s the exhilaration of not just witnessing nature but being part of it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some wonderful days out in the hills in winter. When crisp snow blankets the ground and the sun shines down from a blue, calm sky, it can be amazing. But I’ve also frozen my butt off on a number of occasions and had the odd winter climbing experience where I’ve been very grateful to get down to a hot shower. Because when the weather turns, it’s not so fun. The mountains in winter are beautiful, but they’re also a dangerous place.
Of course, anywhere can be dangerous if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nature is a wild and unpredictable beast and that’s part of what makes it so magical. I rarely venture into the sea and have a very healthy respect for the ocean. And while I’m more at home in the mountains, this means I’m better able to judge when it’s going to be an enjoyable day to head to the heights and when it makes more sense to stay at home.
But what if you could put the best bits of both worlds together? If you could stand with a beautiful coastline on one side and towering mountains on the other. Do such places exist? (Is that a rhetorical question?)
*Just for reference, curled up with a hot chocolate and a good book is one of my absolute favourite places to be in winter. After I’ve exhausted myself on a good run outside of course. 😉