Back from Snowdonia after our customary mid-winter visit. By the beginning of February there were already tiny signs of spring in swelling buds, hazel catkins, a few snowdrops. There was snow dusting the hills over 600 feet; on one west-facing grassy bank the first wild Welsh daffodil had opened. In The Winter’s Tale Perdita says ‘Daffodils, that come before the swallow dares and take The winds of March with beauty’. This is February; more evidence of climate change?
A sunny day in winter here is disconcertingly beautiful. The hills have a far richer palate of colours even than their spring swatch of pale-to-dark greens or their yellow-to-khaki-to-ginger autumn coat. Winter colours come in fine brushstrokes and filigree detail. Oaks, trunk to twig, shine light grey in the sun, ashes silvery white, sometimes orange, birch twigs smoky purple; you can pick out their populations across a valley, distinct from the red of Japanese larch among the grey-blue of Sitka spruce. Hemlock and Douglas fir are coachwork green, the rocks among them various greys dotted with white quartz or stained yellow with lichen. Bracken smears thehills with brown. Gorse, even now, pricks bright yellow stitches, and a stream flashes silver. There is nothing watercolour about this painting: it has the full tone of oils.