EACH weekend I set out for a run tracing the same route, accompanied by Barney the Beagle. My wheezing provokes his disdain; he has time to stop, sniff and do what dogs do, and still only needs to walk briskly to catch me up.

I never tire of the route: across the River Bourne at Milford Mill, out through Clarendon Estate, up and over Laverstock and Cockey Down, then back past the sports club and the community farm.

The changing and changeable weather provides constant variety. On Saturday, ice on the pavements and snow on the fields provided a new perspective. I skittered uncertainly on the ice on the pavements; in these conditions four legs were an advantage. Snowdrops, that had appeared a few weeks earlier, lived up to their name and stood their ground poking bravely through the snow.

The track that wends through the trees from the Clarendon Estate up to the down, criss-crossed by deer runs and punctuated with badger sets, usually finds me slithering in the mud, is frozen hard; Barney is even more distracted by the scents, clearly fresher and more pungent in the snow.

The view as you crest the summit is breathaking; it makes the heaving and panting and by now numb fingers worth it. Some days the city is shrouded in mist; some days you can’t see your hand in front of your face; some days it’s so cold and wet you can’t be bothered to linger. But today the sun is clear; the brightness sparkles on the snow and the stonework on the cathedral glows in the early morning sunlight. You appreciate a little of the wonder that early pilgrims must have felt on seeing the spire for the first time; the tallest building in the known world. I catch my breath; Barney finds a new smell and we descend through frozen snow past frost encrusted gorse bushes, to pass the schools and sports club to tackle another ice-covered pavement.

Towards the community farm, the track that lies below the winter water table and usually rewards me with sodden feet and a mud coated hound, is pleasantly solid for a change; the ice cracking as we pass. The rare, exotic and traditional community farm animals are conserving their energy and those that can muster a stare, do so in disbelief. The farm is such an asset to the community life of the city.

I usually spend an hour girding myself up for my run and then undo any benefit with an indulgent full English breakfast. It’s not always this beautiful but, whatever the weather, I always feel better for a much needed reconnection with the real and natural world in a life that has become almost otherwise completely disconnected from it.