We’ve long been sold the notion that January is an anti-climax. The parties are over; all we’ve got now are tightened purse strings and an expanse of cold, grey weeks to get through.

But with the chaos of the festive season long gone, now we can really settle into the heart of winter. Now we can stop rushing, stop spending, stop staring at to-do lists that defy all realistic restrictions of time. Now we can just slow down and enjoy the walks, and there really is little better than a winter walk.

We may have less daylight to play with and be more at the mercy of weather conditions, but those wintry windows when we can get outdoors are a feast for the soul. There’s something uniquely comforting about rummaging for your thickest socks, zipping into a fleece and waterproof, pulling your favourite woolly hat over your ears.

A crisp morning, when frosty dew glistens on crunchy grass and sun streams through bare, zig-zaggy branches. The robust drama of a sky full of bulging rain clouds, all shadows and contours, or the oddly soothing peace of a gloomy white horizon.

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Where summer heat stifles and tires, there’s an energising magic to moving through chilly air, our senses awaken as cold nips at the nose and fingers tingle and numb. If you’ve planned things really well, there’ll be a flask of something hot to wrap your hands around, or there’s always the kettle for a mug of tea at home.

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Keen hiker Lucy Silver from north Oxford has spent much of the festive season making the most of the dryer weather in Oxfordshire’s more interesting hilly areas – the Cotswolds, Chilterns and on the breezy Berkshire Downs.

Banbury Cake:

Oxford Mail Camera Club member Lisa Kinghorn's beautiful Ridgeway view

She says: “Winter can be so drab and dull in the city – especially in the post-Christmas lull when the place feels deserted. But within half an hour of the suburbs you can be among lovely rolling countryside with just the birds for company.

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“My favourite destination is the Ridgeway, along the county’s souther edge. It’s mostly gentle walking but occasionally dramatic. It’s the closest we’ve got to proper hill country in our generally flat county, and it is at its best on a bright, crisp winter morning. Plus there are some great pubs in the nearby villages in which to warm up.”

Malachy Dunne, founder of counselling and wellness experts Lifetime Therapy, says: “It can feel that winter imposes a curfew on us, keeping us in our homes and out of wild, natural spaces until spring comes again. I like to break that curfew and encourage others to do the same.

“The hush of nature at this time of year is just that – a hush. If you look at the trees and shrubs, you’ll see the buds are set. These living things are alive and well, and resting. Perhaps we should follow their lead.

Banbury Cake:

Camera Club member Paul Brown took this stunning shot on The Ridgeway

Tiffany Francis-Baker, illustrator and author of Dark Skies says: “I love exploring woodlands in the winter months because as the trees drop their leaves, a new landscape is revealed. Not only is the heart of the tree uncovered in all its gnarled beauty, but it’s much easier to spot winter birds like goldcrests, redwings and robins hopping through the branches.”

To find people to walk and socialise with, or to help improve the paths we all walk on, contact ramblers.org.uk/oxfordshire