As soon as I reach for my jacket, Ruby knows we are off to the woods together, and, as the experienced athlete that she is, she immediately starts her warm-up routine. She dances round and round, chasing her tail, while I sort myself out with boots, hat and gloves.
We open the door, and the wind hits us, full in the face, and momentarily it takes my breath away. Ruby’s long ears fly up and back, and she opens her mouth to check out all the new smells in the memory bank she has in the roof of her mouth.
Even on quiet days it is windy up here, but on a day like today, when another anticyclone is sweeping in from the Atlantic west, it is like being hit by a breaking wave. For Ruby, the new smells on a gale must froth about her like cream.
We scramble down to the canal, for a little shelter from the wind. The colour of the water tells me what the weather was like last night, and therefore the state of the footpaths in the wood. If the water is brown, it has rained heavily in the night and the colour comes from the peat washed down from the moor. A brown canal means a horribly muddy walk and a horribly muddy dog.
Today, though, the canal was a drab khaki green, which means it has been dry overnight. The colour is the reflection of the heather slope, which, in August, is a glorious mass of purple.
When we reach the wood the noise of the wind is like the roll of surf on an exposed beach. It is the song of the spinning earth. The branches sway and clatter, and the moss and lichen on them have become a vivid green in the otherwise dark and drab wood.
Despite the noise, the birds still call to each other, fragile in the rush of sound. Coal tits and blue tits are still trying to be heard, until every bird goes suddenly quiet as the yip-yip of a sparrow hawk reminds them not to draw attention to themselves. Sometimes, you need to make a little noise to tell others where you are, and sometimes you need to shut up and keep still.
I can’t see the hawk, but I can hear it as it quarters the fields by the river. People, as well, should learn from the little coal tit, who is wise in the true ways of the world. Sometimes, it is important to shut up and keep still.