I heard them before I saw them. Shrieks of excited children pierced the woodland air as I squelched my way towards the clearing.

A temporary encampment had been demarcated with tethered birthday balloons and, in the middle, I spied the supervising grown-up who had presumably sent party-goers scattering among the trees in search of feathers, oak leaves or sweet chestnut cases.

I, too, was gamifying my walk in Borthwood Copse; occasionally sidestepping off the track to examine a branch, scaly with deckle-edge fungus or a tangle of forked lichen.

I'd set myself the goal of finding catkins and was delighted to see an abundance of them, poised to wag in the breeze like little lamb's tails.

For so many of these short winter days I have been hunched indoors over my corporate laptop as, even though the government has seemingly washed its hands of COVID-19, many of us are still working from home in a post-pandemic fug.

So, at the weekend, seeing a break in the clouds, I went for a walk in the woods.

I picked up a pal and, with his bouncy little spaniels in tow, we headed for the National Trust copse. Once unleashed, the dogs ran in morse code; dashing ahead then dotting on the spot to investigate an interesting aroma.

The low-slung mutts scurried into a big puddle, exuberantly wading up to their armpits (legpits?) through the muddy water, with the occasional backwards glance to make sure we could see how mischievous they were being.

The pups evaluated other hounds; what nuanced messages they received with their noses we can only guess at - though it seemed possible that the spaniels' natural scent was masked by their mudpacks.

I sloshed after them, the water no match for my wellies. Suctioning a foot out of one particularly murky hole elicited a satisfying schluuuurp, before my imprint was swallowed in a sloppy wash.

We reached The Cathedral; a glade encircled by smooth-trunked beeches. In warmer months I have lain on the ground there, staring up through the trees' armature; daydreaming in the dappled light.

Not today though; the arena was a quagmire — though that didn't stop one of the dogs rolling joyously around, paws kicking as he span. Was he channelling my memories of that summer day?

Britain may not be South America (although Amazon World is within a mile of Borthwood), but it still has 'rainforests'. These cover only one per cent of the land, with none on the Isle of Wight.

Whatever this copse's ecological status, there is something magical about exploring mushy winter woodland and scrutinising inscrutable slow-growing plants.

As we walked home, I saw a dog wearing a bow-wow onesie. I giggled to its owner, "You realise that you have doubled your workload. Not only will you have to clean your pooch, but you'll have to wash his pyjamas too!"

I left my friend to hose down his caked canines, while I swilled my boots in a gravelly pool — ready to splash another day.