On the afternoon of New Years Day, we joined our sons and their families for a walk up on St Catherine`s Hill, on the northern outskirts of the Dorset coastal town of Christchurch. We lived nearby when the boys were young and this was always a favourite walk.
The first views show the wintery heathland of Town Common and the flooded water meadows of the River Avon, which flows into Christchurch Harbour just a few miles further downstream.
Normally, there is just a thin ribbon of meandering river, twisting down through the valley. The water meadows flood every winter after heavy rain, but this year the floods seem more widespread and more prolonged. This winter we have had some of the highest levels of rainfall on record. Local farmers and landowners also believe that reducing the cutback of weed in the river ( a cost cutting measure apparently) has impeded the main river channel and made the flooding worse than it should be.
A view across Christchurch town, towards Hengistbury Head and the sea in Poole Bay. The tower of Christchurch Priory Church is in the middle distance.
Looking towards the north, across Town Common and towards the flooded River Avon flowing southwards from Ringwood.
Sunlight among the old Corsican Pines on the top of the hill.
The river has flooded to the very edge of gardens in the villages strung out along the Christchurch to Ringwood road. In the distance is the higher land of the western New Forest.
Our little grand daughter M, playing in the puddles with her young Aunty A, her Mum`s younger sister.
A crisp, cold wind followed us along the hill but there was enough sun to warm us up if we walked quickly. It was a lovely hour or so in the winter sun and a good way to begin another year. I`m pleased we made the most of that sunshine. So far it has been the only sunny day this year!