And so we tramped – and crunched, and slid – from Connaught Waters down to Butlers Retreat, one of the few remaining Victorian retreats built by the Temperance Movement, now a cafe which is up and running at last. Hot chocolate in hand we imagined Queen Elizabeth I and Henry VIII surveying their land from the adjacent Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge, once known as the Great Standing. The black timbers of both buildings sit in stark contrast to the expanse of white in front of us. The virgin snow of Chingford Plain is a tempting sight.
In the forest the late afternoon sun warms the upper branches of the trees and melts the snow. This snowy world is not white at all. It softly glows with all the shades of the ice cream parlour: strawberry, butterscotch, pistachio and vanilla. Thankfully it hasn't turned to chocolate yet.
We walk on, to investigate Cuckoo Brook. The ride that takes us there is usually rust-coloured gravel but today, as yet, not a soul has set foot here. Or so it seems.
The Cuckoo Brook is frozen. Not solid, but thicker here and thinner there. Where the ice is at its thinnest we can see the icy stream babbling underneath, struggling to make itself heard. It has a quiet yet determined vigour that gives us hope for warmer seasons ahead. It is harder to see its form, the way it wends and winds through the landscape but we can just about hear its presence through the little drifts of snow.
Back through the forest to Connaught Water and the ducks are finding their feet on their new skating rink. They look a bit grumpy to be honest. The sun has only just warmed the surface up enough to melt a feeding hole and there's a crowd of mallards, geese and swans anxious to try their luck. The savvy ones are basking in the long rays of sunshine that cast about the lake like spotlights.
I don't envy them the cold night ahead, but they are ducks at the end of the day. Their feathers will do as good a job as any eiderdown and their webbed feet do not feel the cold as they have no blood vessels or nerves. Swans have also been spotted in European cave paintings from the last Ice Age so I'll try not to worry about them. This is London in 2012 after all and the snow will likely be gone by dawn.