I decided to mark the shortest day of the year with local swim and paddle trips on a glorious sunny day, Sunday 20 December (the day before the actual solstice which was due to be rainy). In tribute to my longest day of the year trip back in June, I concentrated on local trips and the river Wensum, starting with a sunrise swim, followed by a sunny cycle ride and finishing with a sunset paddle.
I started the day with the difficult job of dragging myself out of bed in the dark – especially hard as getting up early was no longer a habit – but I managed it. I took a short drive and a short and muddy walk to the river Wensum at Swanton Morley, and though it wasn’t much of a sunrise, it was a lovely refreshing dip, 7.7° and a brisk current. There was a glimpse of sun as I got out, and pretty clouds as I walked twice up a rare Norfolk hill to get warm afterwards, noticing how unfit I had become.
I then made the most of short but a lovely sunny day by cycling around the lovely oak lined lanes of Norfolk, passing delightful churches at Worthing, Bintree, and Billingford where I ate my sandwiches in the sunshine.
At North Elmham Cathedral I had a rest and homemade brownies to keep me going on the last stretch of my windy and cloudy return trip. I passed the Blackwater (tributary) at Worthing and the Wensum near North Elmham Mill.
I had a quick paddle in a stream near the Wensum on the cycle ride, with lovely views of Bintry mill and the river looking beautiful lined with tall poplars and colourful willows. I swam there a few times in the summer, including on my longest day cycle trip, but I knew it would feel too cold on a December ride.
I didn’t have time to go for a Wensum sunset swim (a typical short day of winter and lack of planning to cater for this), but instead popped round to a pond near home for a paddle. I was delighted to see the kingfisher and roe deer and to witness the gorgeous sunset from the fields where I often go for walks, jogs and sunset watching.
During the day I reminisced on my longest day trip in June, and how different it was. Obviously there was time for many more swims and outdoor activities, and of course it was much warmer. It was a time of hope as lockdown had just been eased, and I was very fit from active local cycling, jogging and swimming. In December we were expecting restrictions and difficulties to come. Though at least could look forward to the days getting longer and hope brought by the vaccines.