Like many people, Christmas had to be different for me this year. To do what was right for both our parents, my partner and I had to be apart on ‘the big day’. And so we found ourselves, both, back in the villages where we grew up.

As the cold night of Christmas Eve gave way to a bright, frosty dawn, I was drawn to welcome the day with a brief, sunrise walk along the lost lanes of my childhood, looking out across the Dee estuary to the Clywdian Hills, alone in my thoughts but accompanied by the Christmas carolings of a lone Robin on a fence.

Not far along the track, an elderly lady stood, wrapped warmly in bright colours against the sharp cold of the start of day. As I approached, she turned to me with shining eyes in an open, friendly face and we chorused to each other “Merry Christmas”. I stopped and we stood silently, together watching as the sky turned from icy blue to the palest pink, softly washing into a warm orange glow until the beautiful, yellow orb of the sun lifted its head above the horizon. “Beautiful isn’t it? Just wonderful to be out” she said to me and we smiled at each other in a shared moment of deep understanding.

Even in these dislocated times, when distance from each other is necessary, we can find the most precious and powerful of connections, through the friendliness and kindness of a stranger sharing the wonder of nature. I walked on with a warm smile and a heart filled with thanks for that brief moment of grace.

Ruth Kirk, Landscape Engagement Officer