A New Year’s Eve Walk on Muswell Hill Playing Fields

Dear Readers, if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that beauty can be found by walking slowly and paying attention, even on the coldest and dullest of days. We’ve been avoiding the Fields for the past week or so because the mud was so pervasive and slippery that it was no fun trying to navigate it, but with last night’s freeze everything has turned deliciously crispy. The frost has touched all the seedheads and leaves, painting every detail with icy-white.


We skitter down the slope beside the skate park, and then down a further slope to the bottom field. I think of this as ‘my’ wildflower border, though it is a pure accident, it appears. In the spring it was a mass of colour, but now it has a more austere and subtle beauty.

Muswell Hill Playing Fields in June

Each ‘scale’ on the seedheads of the greater knapweed seems to have attracted its own cap of ice.

The greater burdock seeds are iced into something that looks rather like the images of coronavirus that I’m seeing, or maybe a Sputnik (which of course is the name of the Russian vaccine). But they are also perfect examples of evolutionary design, with those hooks that inspired the creator of Velcro. All they need is a large hairy mammal to brush past and transfer them to pastures new.

Aren’t the seedheads of the fennel exquisite? They would be perfect for a winter wedding.

And even the long seedheads of the mugwort are lent an elegance by the ice that they didn’t have when fresh and new.

In this strangely monochrome world I find myself yearning for a bit of colour, however. At the pyracantha hedge on the other side of the field, I hear the familiar breathy call of a redwing. The cemetery in particular is heaving with these birds at the moment, as they pick over the ivy berries, but this little one had stopped for something orange.

This bird from the cemetery yesterday was too far away to get a decent shot, but it was glowing white and red against the ivy foliage.

As we come to the beginning of a new year, I am so glad that I have had a few open spaces to walk in. The birds, insects and plants that I’ve seen have been a real balm for the soul in these dislocating, troubling times. I hope that you have had some access to nature too. Although I managed to have a big birthday trip this year, it’s difficult to see exactly when overseas travel will be safe again. However, it seems to me that there is much to be discovered and marvelled at within a few hundred metres of ones own front door. I will never get to the end of learning about Coldfall Wood and the fields, or the local cemeteries, or even my own back garden, and praise be for that. There is no end of wonder in the world, no end to the connections and relationships that can be made.

I wish you all the happiest and healthiest of New Years. May 2021 bring you everything that you most need.

8 thoughts on “A New Year’s Eve Walk on Muswell Hill Playing Fields

  1. Anne

    Being able to leave the confines of one’s home has been a blessing; having a garden in which to extend the confines of even the harshest lock down measures is an even greater blessing. As this year unfolds I too trust there will be hope, times of joy, and opportunities for exploration – we may need to adjust the horisons and expectations though 🙂

  2. Gail

    Thank you for all your posts, which have given me so much pleasure and fun, woken my curiosity and shared the sadness of loss. I hope 2021 brings life and adventure of the happiest kinds to you and those you love.

  3. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    We too enjoy your posts and quizzes. Let’s hope 2021 is filled with wonderful nature, Happy New Year from us both.

  4. Liz Norbury

    On New Year’s Eve we had our first dry morning for a while, and I was able to walk in sunlit woods without having to squelch through mud. Today, I crunched my way to the seashore across a frozen beach. In a year when I’ve travelled so little, exploring wild places close to home has been a joy – and I have also loved reading about your own local walks. I wish you many more of them in 2021.


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