The tracks go down through the woodland and meet a stream, wide and noisy in the silent whiteness of the winter woods. The becks run black against the white of the snow, quick and dark, swirling down the hills and filling the rivers. I look for a place to cross, getting my feet wet would not add to the enjoyment of the day. I mark the place where the deer have crossed the stream, where they have jumped up, caprioling, onto the opposite bank. A winter wren watches me from the tangle of branches over hanging the stream. In the middle of the beck is a wide flat rock covered with snow, here I find a series of fresh paw prints showing where a fox decided he didn’t want his feet wet either. I have no chance of tracking the fox on his quick straight lines across the country so I leap and totter from stone to stone and make the other side, on the trail of the deer.
I know this game trail well, it seldom fails. Further up the hill I find small scrapes at the foot of a spruce tree, showing where the deer have tried to open up the frozen ground to find bracken roots and bluebell bulbs. The scrape looks small and feeble, as if the animals haven’t even tried. I carry on, conscious off the noise my boots make in the snow, conscious of the rustling of my clothes, learning to move in an environment that is new to me. If the Innuit have many words for snow then the British have as many for mud. I am at home in mud, my eyes trained to spot tracks and sign but in the whiteness of the woods it becomes difficult to see and harder to concentrate.