January has seen some very wintry weather; periods of snow and deep frost interspersed with deep Atlantic low pressure systems bringing wind and rain. The last few days have brought that sort of cycle in miniature, and created conditions in which a hillwalker became disorientated and lost his life on Lochnagar.
The very day after that tragic event there was a brief gap, just a morning, when it was possible to get a glimpse forward towards the end of winter - although for sure there's plenty of winter still to come.
We took a walk in the beautiful pine forest of Glen Tanar, near Aboyne. In many respects a traditional estate, Glen Tanar is also a National Nature Reserve and is administered by a charitable trust. There's a car park signposted off the south Deeside road (with a daily charge) from where a number of waymarked walks radiate. We decided on one of our favourites; a 10km route which goes up the glen towards Mount Keen.
Adjacent to the fine packhorse bridge just across the road from the car park there's a small visitor centre with information about the estate and its wildlife. Outside, we chatted to the ranger who was enjoying a coffee in the sunshine. We remarked that this was the first day since November when it's been warm enough to do that! The birds seemed to have felt it too - Great Tits and Blue Tits were calling away as if it was early Spring rather than the middle of winter.
The chapel of St Lesmo's was lit with warm sunlight; benches placed along a south east wall catch the best of any morning sun.
The lochan near to Glen Tanar House was almost completely iced over even though in full sun; it will have been this way for several weeks.
The pine forest is a real joy to walk through at any time of year and maybe especially so in winter when the evergreen pines are a contrast to the bare branches elsewhere.
The Water of Tanar drains the corries below Mount Keen and the Mounth, giving its water to the River Dee at Aboyne. There was sufficient warmth in the morning to spend some time just watching the water flow (time doing this is never wasted!). We heard, then glimpsed a pair of Dippers zipping down the river, and in another glimpse ahead, singing their bright song.
By the afternoon rain and wind had arrived as another low pressure system passed overhead, and 24 hours later the temperature has fallen from double figures to near freezing, with a raw northwesterly wind. Yes, there's plenty of winter to come, but it was good to get a glimpse ahead!