February’s Still, Silent Fog

An old oak sitting in floodwater and surrounded by fog in Combe Valley Country Park

The Spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length and the season of rebirth and renewal officially begins, always brings a sense of relief to me, with yesterday’s warm temperatures a far cry from the seemingly never-ending cold, wet month of February. Fog and flood – if I could find two words to describe last month on Combe Valley Nature Reserve, these would be the ones! This past winter has been one of rain, rain and more rain in these parts and the impact this has had on the Valley can be seen from all around. The flooding has spread further across the wetlands than ever before and walking there has been confined throughout winter to the higher ground of the Greenway and woodland paths.

A positive aspect of the incessant downpours and yo-yoing temperatures is that there were more days of fog across the valley than in recent years. I don’t mean the regular wispy spirals of mist that rise on cold mornings above the river and streams – no, I mean real pea-soupers. Thick blankets of fog that shrouded everything, creating ethereal landscapes of paths into the unknown and skeletal trees reaching out through ghostly auras

In the first week of February one of those ‘pea-soupers’ descended on the valley. A really cold night followed by a warmer day, with minimal wind speeds, were forecast and there was plenty of water across the wetlands to create high humidity. Ideal conditions for fog. When I looked out the window the next day, I couldn’t see the nature reserve at all – perfect!

We parked up at the start of the Greenway in an area usually busy with dog walkers but, on that day, there were none in sight. As I stepped onto the main path, it led into nothingness and the silence that greeted us was shattering. Similar to those early days of the first lockdown, the hum of nearby road traffic had been muffled by the murkiness, creating an eerie sense of mystery for the way ahead. It felt comforting to have the still silence of nature around me, yet it also felt a little bit creepy and I was glad to have my partner with me for this walk.  (As an aside here, I rarely walk in the landscape, particularly public nature reserves and woods, alone – an important safety topic for another day.)

Fog paints a new picture of the landscape, changing perspectives from one of chaos, where trees, shrubs and the wetland grasses in the valley meld together, to one of separation and depth, where unfamiliar figures and vistas emerge from nature’s veil of mystery.

The path we took undulates along the western side of the valley, and at each turn new images along the well walked (and photographed) paths presented themselves. Clumps of trees, that I hadn’t noticed before, were isolated from the tangled mass of green around them; an occasional slight breeze billowed wisps of fog around the hawthorn hedgerow lining our way.  At the crest of one hill, tree branches reached out from the gloom accompanied by the sound of geese honking on the scrapes in the distance.  As I stopped to watch the fog envelope Decoy Pond Wood, the classic ‘hoo hu-hoo’ call of a male tawny owl hauntingly rang out several times across the valley, adding to the already unnerving beauty of the morning.

I have to admit it was a walk of wonder, seeing so many new shapes defined by the mist; ancient oaks I hadn’t noticed before and telegraph poles looming ominously out of the gloom. Ebbing and flowing across the valley, the fog acted as a natural diffuser with the greens, yellows and russets of the wetland reeds and grasses more vivid, and figures of other walkers appearing as dark spectres, occasionally emerging from the murk along the way.

I realise that there’s a lot to be said for fog – after this walk I spent several mornings walking the higher ground, discovering the valley through a new lens. And now, at a time when I’d normally be searching in eager expectation of the greening and warmth to come, I find myself looking out in hopeful anticipation of a few more lingering, murky days, so that I can again enjoy the altered spirit of place in the valley when it’s blanketed in still, silent fog.


  1. This is a stunning set of black and white photographs Lin, cinematic is a word that comes to mind. I enjoy these sorts of foggy mornings and the way fog muffles sound, even though I don’t purposely walk through it. I would feel too vulnerable if I can’t see around the corner or behind me but I do admire its beauty and love the atmospheric scenes it temporarily creates.

    • Thank you for your kind comments Sarah – I have to admit that being in the fog and seeing the valley in a new light has changed my view of those cold, murky February days! I do understand your comment about feeling vulnerable in this environment – the fog adds to that sense and I must admit I would not go out alone in it in such secluded places. I know you’re not alone in feeling this way and having done a little bit of research I’m hoping to publish a post about it soon.

    • Thank you Susan – I’m pleased that the sense of wonder came across in this post…I usually can’t wait for February to end and Spring to begin, but I have to admit that seeing the valley in a new light has changed how I feel about those dull February days…in a good way!

  2. I love your description of peasoupers. The deep fog keeps me focused on the earth instead of the sky. I love how each emerging shape is a surprise and new even if you’ve seen it many times on brighter days. The photos are mysterious and entrancing. Thank you for sharing your journey into mystery created by fog. With appreciation for your photographic skill.

    • Thank you, Elaine – I do love the whole idea of the word ‘peasouper’, in fact, I looked up the origins of the term and apparently the word comes from 19th century London to describe the greeny-yellow fogs that plagued the city at that time! Thankfully the fogs here aren’t a similar colour or smell!
      The first walk really was a walk of wonder and excitement with each new discovery. It has made me so much more aware of some beautiful trees that I wouldn’t have noticed before…in fact it’s quite an oxymoron really, as the fog actually helped me to see things more clearly

  3. Dear Lin, I agree with your sentiments regarding the chaotic weather patterns not only in your area but worldwide, as we endured the same here in Germany! I have heard that Western countries are experimenting with a formula to alter the atmosphere’s upper layer and change from dry to wet conditions, similar to what China did many years ago. This may be in response to the persistent droughts experienced in recent years. Nonetheless, as always, you have captured the most beautiful moments and reminded us that Mother Nature has her own unique way of revealing her beauty. Thank you for that!💖

    • Thank you Aladin, fog’s ethereal veil certainly is Mother Natures unique way of focussing our minds and revealing the beauty all around us in the often overlooked parts of the landscape. Oh my goodness, I do remember many years ago there was an Olympics when it was believed that the country holding them had manipulated the weather to stop rainclouds gathering. Experimenting with this planet to change the atmosphere’s upper layer from dry to wet to combat drought seems as wrong as all that mankind has done to bring on climate change and global warming in the first place – I do hope they see sense!

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