Well it’s been proper cold hasn’t it? We have witnessed winter days like those recalled by older folk who remember day after day of frosts being annual events.

Few can deny the beauty of a leafless tree covered in snow and ice crystals glistening in the winter sunshine that we have had the fortune to be blessed with recently.

Surely I am not alone in preferring a cold crisp bright winter day when I can feel the hard frozen ground under my feet, the crack of ice and the crunch of frozen leaves compared to a mild, wet, damp, grey day?

Whilst we need to ensure we are well wrapped up to keep ourselves protected from the dangers of the cold, once we have done this there is little to stop us getting out and enjoying it. Don’t wish this time away - it is a special time of year.

The low temperatures that bring frost are a part of the rhythm and balance of the natural world in this part of the planet that we call home. Just as the amount of day light hours prompts many trees and birds to shed leaves or migrate so the drop in temperature is a message for many other creatures to rest up, save their body fat stores until warmer and easier foraging days arrive.

Many insects, so important to the wider eco-system being as they are food for other creatures as well as pollinators of plants and trees, respond to low temperatures by taking shelter and going into a state of dormancy – a type of hibernation – until the spring.

They do this in piles of leaves, in logs and the stalks that remain of the year’s plants. Other creatures, unable to withstand the cold months of winter lay eggs that will hatch young in the spring that they will never see. The queen bumble bee is the only one who survives the winter, burrowing down in the ground.

Whilst the frosts do kill certain plants that we would have been wise to bring indoors, or protect by covering if left outside, there are certain vegetables that taste better after frost.

The sugar content and therefore sweetness, of parsnips, carrots, cabbages, turnips, sprouts, beetroot and leeks among others are all increased by exposure to frost. There are also seeds of certain plants and trees that require exposure to low temperatures in order to germinate – a process known as stratification.

This is not to deny the challenges that such cold temperatures bring to many creatures. Our beloved kingfishers are threatened by starvation when ponds, rivers and canals freeze over and many other birds are in great need of high calorie foods such as fats and nuts if they are to cope with these bitter temperatures.

As well as leaving food for them and logs and leaves for the hibernating insects it is also important to ensure that water sources are still available by breaking or melting ice that may cover them.

This is especially true on those clear dark and starry nights when no clouds are present to trap the warmth being offered by the ground during the day. Despite the apparent coldness everywhere, even during the winter warmth is being generated from deep underground that is stopped escaping by a blanket of cloud.

We are still, thankfully, being permitted the chance to walk outside for exercise as a way to look after our physical and mental health during this latest lockdown and I encourage you to do so. Why not challenge yourself to walk a path you have never trodden before?

Don’t be put off by the winter. There are amazing clear views to be found. I wandered through Queens Park and Shadsworth Environmental Link and the view of the Bowland Fells beyond the Ribble Valley was wonderful – painted white with snow as they were. Enjoy

Andy Mather is the Myplace Project Officer at The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside