The first and last of the winter snow

With the late snowfall came a morning of childhood joy, and a chance to use our crazy coracle sledge.

A child in a green coat rides a red sledge down a snowy hill, watched by a Golden Retriever dog.

“Wake up, it’s snowed!” I knew G wouldn’t mind me disturbing him if there was a chance he could go sledging.

He’d spent all winter scanning the weather forecast, hoping to see the little icon of the black cloud disgorging its white flakes. And now, just when it seemed that the sledge would spend the season stored away unused, it had finally snowed. A lot.

“Let me see.” He flung open his bedroom curtains to reveal a deep snowfall, covering the garden and street beyond. It was still coming down hard in the cold morning air.

I checked the weather app on my phone: a series of black clouds, but the later ones had big blue drops instead of white flakes. “It’s going to turn to rain at lunchtime," I said. “We’d better get out there.”

I was as excited as a kid. Snow never gets old, at least not when you see it as infrequently as I do. Each snowfall feels like the first; each brings back memories of childhood winters.

Remember the time when the lane filled hedge-high with snow and our neighbour excavated it with a digger? I woke to see its vast yellow bucket going past my bedroom window.

Or when my dad took me swimming in town and a surprise snowfall stranded the car on the way back? We had to abandon it and walk home, sustained by a Lion bar purchased in the only open shop.

Each snowfall is a blank page on which to write new memories. This one didn’t look like a classic, but we were keen to see what its story would be.

Conditions, we agreed, would be best on the hills. The common was nearer, but the snow would already be deeper further up and would last longer.

A Golden Retriever dog shakes itself in the snow, silhouettes of trees just visible through the low cloud.

We busied ourselves getting ready. Eating porridge. Donning layers. Finding mittens. Packing the flask. Retrieving the sledge.

The bright red sledge was an impulse purchase from a hardware store a few years ago. I was attracted by its unusual circular shape – a kind of plastic coracle for snow that's easy to carry and which introduces a pleasing element of chaos as it spins you down a slope.

Carrying the coracle sledge by one handle, we set off urgently up the hill with the dog in tow – spurred on by the spectre of the lunchtime rain that threatened to end our fun. The snow thickened as we climbed and was blizzard-like when we reached our chosen spot.

It looked promising, but would it be any good? The first few runs down the hill are always a bit anxious. It takes a while for the rider to get the hang of things, and for the sledge to carve its own slick groove through the snow.

G stuck at it and was soon sliding smoothly down the hill, the dog pursuing him in a blur of tail and paws. Crashing at the bottom was the best bit: G would roll off into the snow and welcome the dog’s nuzzling excitement at this curious turn of events.

I had a couple of goes too. But the snow was already starting to soften, and my weight made the sledge dig in. So I switched back to my role as starter, giving G a push to get going and sometimes running down the hill after him – partly for the hell of it and partly to keep warm.

We kept going until the cold was seeping through us and we both acknowledged we’d had enough. The sledging was done, but no snowy expedition is complete without hot chocolate. We sat on a nearby bench and shared the contents of our flask, savouring the first and last snow of the year.

“I’ve been looking forward to this,” said G. Me too son, me too.