‘Rain and cold wind might be uncomfortable, but they make you feel alive’

'There's no such thing as bad weather' isn't a questionable adage — it's a profound statement of optimism.

There’s been some pretty diabolical weather so far this winter; rain, snow and storms, but, as yet, no hail and brimstone. Although the British love nothing better than to complain about the weather, we forget that it’s the climate that shapes our green and varied landscape.

Broadly speaking, there are two approaches to a severe winter; you either embrace the warmth inside or brave the unpredictability of the weather beyond. John Ruskin, who travelled widely, particularly in the Alps, was so enamoured with the pleasures of climatic extremes that he was oblivious to any discomfort they might create. ‘Sunshine is delicious,’ he wrote, ‘rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.’

A century later, in a similar vein, the fell walker Alfred Wainwright famously wrote that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. The irony is that he made the comment in the 1970s, when there was little in the way of effective outdoor clothing to be had — or, at least, not by modern standards. Gore-Tex was still in its infancy and Wainwright walked in tweed, which, although undoubtedly warm, doesn’t offer the breathable and resistant properties of modern technical fabrics that have transformed the possibilities of life in the great outdoors.

A love of winter weather comes with a whole raft of benefits: a strenuous walk in the rain stimulates more endorphins than an afternoon on the sofa huddling by a fire. What’s more, even in poor weather, sunny spells stimulate vitamin D and lift the spirits with serotonin.

For those who subscribe to Jean-Paul Sartre’s view that ‘Hell is other people’, there are yet more attractions; anyone who has braved icy winds and the occasional downpour will have had the pleasure of experiencing some of the world’s most beautiful scenery in peace. Not for them the frustration of queuing for a parking space or bus. There are neither midges nor litter and flights are cheaper.

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Those who embrace winter know, too, that there is pleasure to be found in contrasts: a hot bath after a freezing walk in the snow, a soft bed following hard slog up a fell. Best of all, however, is that rain and cold wind, although uncomfortable and potentially life threatening, also make you feel alive. In a world in which we are often divorced from the elements, being exposed to them is a reminder that they are a superior force.

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This article appears in the December 6, 2023 issue of Country Life.