We seem to be having an odd autumn around here. I watched our local avenue of horse-chestnuts change from green to dusty brown without stopping at all in any part of the yellow/gold spectrum. Red seems to have been missed out almost completely – except for the holly berries which are trying very hard to fill the void. There are a few trees attempting to play the game, but it’s a half-hearted effort.
Then last week, the acres of green bracken suddenly turned a washed out beige.
Already though, this has begun to change, as the first light frost, followed by hours and hours of heavy rain, has started to turn the bracken black. And now it is all beginning to sag. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I was excitedly spotting the tightly curled emerging fronds, and now the vast growth, taller than me in lots of places, is all about to sink back to the ground.
Melancholy is supposed to be the emotion of the month, but I try hard not to go down that road – it can be too hard getting back. Instead I like to enjoy the changes.
I can already sense the woodland opening up as the leaves start to fall in greater amounts and the floor changes from a green mattress to a scrunchy brown and gold leafy carpet. Soon we’ll have a heavier frost and wake up to a spangled scene. And in the meantime, I relish the mornings when the sun streams through the canopy…
Impossible to feel melancholy with all that going on.
Well I admit it was only just a frost, nothing terribly dramatic, but the first of the autumn around here. In fact by the time the delinquent dog and I made it out this morning, the sun was blazing and the frost almost gone – it is a beautiful day now, a true autumn glory.
If Number One daughter emerges from her cocoon, we might make it to Stowe Gardens for a stomp through the leaves…
Hands up those of you who can honestly say you don’t sneak the occasional conker into your pocket at this time of year. I’m sure I’m not the only adult who still gets a little thrill finding a new glossy brown conker on the ground – a split-second regression to playgrounds and autumns past…
My dog-walking coat is currently playing host to a small collection – I start off intending to bring them into the house for a seasonal arrangement, but somehow the coat stays in the car for days on end and finally when I pull them out, they’ve started to shrivel. (There ought to be a message there I feel sure – choose your own).
But although I get very excited finding conkers, I really prefer acorns. There’s something about all that pent-up energy, sitting in its own, beautifully crafted cup, that delights me every year.
Annoyingly, acorns also appear to be the current weapon of choice of our bushy-tailed tree-dwelling terrorist friends (AKA squirrels). Once again the delinquent dog and I are having to sprint through the worst of the danger zones, checking overhead for any signs that the little devils are preparing to attack.
First there was this little chap poking up in the hedgerow…
Soon he was joined by these little poppets…
And then, just a few days later, they looked like this…
That’s the original chap on the right. Now joined by all those babies.
Less than a week and such a transformation.
I walk the dog in and around woodland most days, and decided last year after noticing such a lot of different fungi popping up practically every day, that this year, I’d get myself a field guide.
I’m not planning to pick any – I’ve watched far too many Midsomer Murders etc, for that, and although I’m sure the Other Half loves me, I suspect asking him to trust my mushroom identification skills would be a step too far. (When we visited the poison garden at Alnwick a couple of years ago, he was very disturbed to discover just how many species I already grow in our garden, and how much I knew about their poisonous properties…) – poor boy.
No, I don’t want to eat them, but I would really love to be able to put a name to a cap, as it were, and know more about them generally.
So please, tell me which guide do you have? What would you recommend a beginner to use?
For the last few weeks I have been watching the blackberries ripen in the hedges as I walk the delinquent dog each morning.
On Friday, I could resist no longer. The poor dog stood around, looking just like small children do when you stop in the street to talk to people – that posture that says something like ‘Oh really, haven’t you finished yet’…
While I had my breakfast courtesy of Mother Nature.
You know how it is, nothing happens for weeks on end, then suddenly everything is going mad and you’re racing to keep up.
It’s been like that here for the last few days – but in a fabulous way.
A friend of ours loves to fly, and last weekend he decided the weather was perfect for a trip around the Scottish Islands and Highlands. The Highlands are my favourite place – and so I leapt at the chance to go hopping around.
We went up the West coast, stopping first at Gigha – the airstrip is a field – you can just about see it in the picture…
Next day and a view of Iona and Staffa
Then we were off to land at the airstrip at Barra – yes, it’s a beach.
The view of Barra airstrip from the air traffic control tower – that’s our plane on the sand
The islands going out towards Stornoway are unlike anything I’d seen before.
And then we stopped for fuel at Stornoway
And then off around the coast of the mainland….
Then the lighthouse at Cape Wrath
And Balnakiel Beach
We spent the night near Forres and then off again from Inverness down the Great Glen – I kept looking, but no sign of Nessie…
Watching the mountains of Aran come out of the clouds.
Before flying back through the Lake District and home.
Now I’m back it all feels rather like a dream and I have to keep pinching myself to remember that it really happened. An amazing experience I’m sure I’ll never forget.
Getting back into the swing of things at home again now and looking forward to the girls breaking up for summer. Hope you’re enjoying the weather and staying cool.
Theresa, do you happen to know what this is? He was flying about on the sand dunes at Barra – so pretty and strikingly vivid.
My advice is this – if you go down to the woods today – wear a hard hat.
I’m used to trying to squirrel-spot before the Delinquent Dog does, because experience has taught me that if I don’t, I risk having my arm detached from the shoulder as he races towards them on the end of the lead. This has rewarded me with several good laughs, as I’ve watched Mr Nutkin and friends deliberately cross the paths in front of us, taunting the boy with their agility. Sometimes I’ve noticed that a pair will go in one direction and another will whizz round behind him.
Fortunately the poor boy misses most of them as he’s too busy sniffing the doggy Facebook notifications (trees), but we do get the odd attempt to climb trees – I keep telling him not to bother – it only encourages the squirrels to do it more, and let’s face it, even if he wasn’t on a lead, he’s hardly built for climbing, but he takes no notice.
But lately the squirrels have definitely upped the ante, not content with driving him wild and taunting him from the branches, they’ve now started bombarding us with missiles (bits of tree). At first I thought it must just be the wind, but now it’s happening on calm mornings, and with far too great a frequency to be a coincidence. And the force with which some of these cones hit the ground makes me grateful they haven’t yet quite managed a direct hit.
I listened out his morning after another incident and I could almost swear I heard a snigger from up above.
Of course you can’t see the little devils up there in the tree canopy, you’d have more luck trying to find Edward Snowdon in a Russian airport, but I know they’re there, plotting their next evil deed.
So be warned – wear something protective, but on no account wear anything that could resemble a target from above – we don’t want to help improve their aim.
I won’t bore you with the details, we all have them in some guise or other from time to time, let’s just say it’s been that sort of week.
But the sun has come out, it’s practically the weekend and I’m feeling a lot better, so with a bit of luck next week might be a nice simple run-of-the-mill affair and I can get back into my basic routine.
I’ll leave you with the highlights of the last couple of days…
It’s two years since I dug out all the irises in the garden because they weren’t producing any flowers, but surprise, surprise, look what’s happened – how’s this for tenacity – just goes to show, you can’t keep a good flower down.
And raindrops on roses – one of my favourite things (make a good song lyric that…)
I know they cause problems, the rangers at the woods near our home have spent years and a huge amount of sweat removing vast amounts of them. But they’ve left a few – and at this time of year, I’m glad they have.
Rhododendron – not one of nature’s shrinking violets – excuse the pun – but glorious when in full sail.