Gentle yellows and greens of oak woodland in Autumn

In Praise of Restraint – Autumn in the Woods

Gentle yellows and greens of oak woodland in Autumn

Gentle yellows and greens of oak woodland in Autumn

Gentle yellows and greens of oak woodland in Autumn

Gentle yellows and greens of oak woodland in Autumn

Dew on the woodland floor on an autumn morning

Dew on the woodland floor on an autumn morning

I keep going on about Autumn, but I make no apology for it.  It is my favourite time of year.  The spring flowers are magical, and the Summer meadows glorious, but there is nothing quite like the fungal smell of autumn in the woods.  What I particularly like is how oak trees don’t “shout” about autumn like many other species.  Maple and cherry have been particularly loud this year – flaming orange and yellow, and stunning reds lighting up the trees along the roadside.  Almost all the trees in the ancient part of our woods are oak, which takes a more restrained approach.

Some are still quite green right now, others have a gentle yellow tinge, and others simply go brown at the edges and fall.  Against this restrained backdrop, the yellow of field maple, willow and hazel, and the shocking reds of spindle, cherry and some rowan leaves, as well as a gentle pinks and purples of elder can stand out.  Betty’s wood in particular with its greater variety of young saplings shines out in orange, red and yellow against the darkness of the old oak trees.  Oak provides a pastel and gentle canvas against which the other species can stand out.

Yellows in Betty's Wood standing out against the green oak and ash

Yellows in Betty’s Wood standing out against the green oak and ash

Cherry leaves turn orange red in Betty's Wood

Cherry leaves turn orange red in Betty’s Wood

On the forest floor, things are changing too.  It hasn’t been very wet this year and the fungi are yet to get going, but we have seen some amazing hyphae on one of our fallen logs.

Fungal hyphae form a net on a fallen log.

Fungal hyphae form a net on a fallen log.

The lichens are also coming into their own, forming a miniature forest with the various species of moss, topped off by the fallen leaves covered in dew in the early morning.  The grass also shines with dew, giving the woods an autumnal feel, and a softness that is missing at other times of the year.

Dew on a fallen oak leaf on a bed of lichen and moss

Dew on a fallen oak leaf on a bed of lichen and moss

A tiny forest of moss and lichen

A tiny forest of moss and lichen

The leaves are gently falling now and autumn is in full swing.  There is no sadness – nature is beautiful all year round.  Winter is round the corner, and with it the milky low sunshine and stark beauty and form of our lovely trees.  The turn of the seasons is something I really treasure.  For now, I will enjoy the restrained beauty of an oak woodland in the fall.

 

Yet more amazing sunsets

Painted Sky

Painted Sky

This year seems to have been a really special one for sunsets at the woods. Following on from the unreal skies I posted a short while ago, we had another stunning and unexpected sunset just before Christmas.

Not a promising start

Not a promising start

I had actually just gone to the woods to feed the birds, and only took my little camera with me.  As I hung up the last of the feeders, I thought that the light was looking quite good, so I decided to go for a little walk.  The sunset was not that promising, and a bank of cloud was coming over, but I decided to wait a few minutes longer.  And then the sky started to turn pink and orange.

Starting to go pink

Starting to go pink

More and more colour

More and more colour

The colour started to develop until the whole sky was scarlet.  I headed down to the ponds to try and catch some reflections in the surface of the water.  I was rewarded with some great colour and photos.

Red sky

Red sky

Reflections

Reflections

The colour started to turn from orange/red to magenta, pink and purple as I walked round the bottom of Betty’s Wood and up through the meadows back towards the main woods.  Even as I arrived at the main clearing, there was still some pink in the sky, and I caught the last rays of the sun before heading home.

Getting darker

Getting darker

Pink and purple

Pink and purple

Sun setting

Sun setting

The colours were totally unreal – as if a child had some pots of bright-coloured paints and mixed them all up and threw them across the sky.  Winter is a really special time of year for sunsets.  What has been most interesting this year is that the best colour has been in the north-east, and not in the south-west where the sun is actually setting.

I hope you are not bored of seeing pictures of winter sunsets – I never tire of their beauty.

The last rays

The last rays

January Gloom and More Sunsets

Peachy Sky

Peachy Sky

Some fantastic weather has led to breathtaking skies across the fields from the woods – both wonderful sunsets and amazing conjunctions of cloud and light. The view may seem the same, but it is forever changing, and the same subject can yield very different images. We’ve been really lucky to be there in the early evenings and witness this wonderful natural beauty.  This is a collection of images taken of the same subject – the hills and trees opposite the woods – but in different light, and with different moods.  I could photograph these trees forever!  The first set of sunsets were taken from the entrance to the woods, and the fields opposite us.  The second set were taken from the boundary within the woods, showing the trees from slightly different perspective, as a shower cleared to let the light show over the horizon.

Peachy Sky

Peachy Sky

Turning Pink

Turning Pink

Golden Sunset

Golden Sunset

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

Autumn in the Woods



At the risk of sounding repetitious, autumn is my favourite time of year.  Oak trees aren’t usually colourful in autumn.  Many years they simply go from green to brown to fallen in a very short space of time.  But this year, we have had some amazing colours, enhanced by the fact that the young trees in Betty’s Wood are now head high, and are also changing colour.  We have some stunning colour from our field maple, rowan, birch, sweet chestnut, cherry and other trees in Betty’s Wood, as well as our beautiful oaks, which this year are turning wonderful shades of yellow, orange and brown.
It isn’t just the trees that enhance this time of year:  we have had a wonderful display of fungi, too – on logs, on the woodland floor, on twigs, on wood-chippings – a display of colour, shapes and amazing delicacy.
The birds are also active, looking for seeds and berries.  No fieldfares yet, but our flock of linnets are back in Betty’s Wood, eating the seeds from our wildflowers, skimming along at head height, chittering their happy little song.  The buzzard chick is still asking its parents for food, although it is fully grown, ranging over the fields and over Betty’s Wood, perching at the woodland edge.
The squirrels are busy burying their caches of acorns and seeds, and the jays are screeching as they too cache food for the winter.  Mice and voles are everywhere, building little nests in our spare boots that we leave at the woods for emergencies, as well as under the bonnet of the tractor and in many other not-always-appropriate places.

Our wood-drying shed is now finished, so we can dry our firewood much more readily with the aim that we can sell bundles at our open days next year.  We are preparing to do a bit more coppicing, and to do some thinning in our plantation area to let more light into the woodland floor – our bit of harvesting, but harvesting that will renew the trees and stimulate growth next year.

I love autumn because it is time of hope – things are dying back, but we are storing things away for the winter to see us through the dark days.  Things are dying but in amongst all the death and decay are signs of renewal – seeds are sown, the leaf litter provides a habitat, a home, material for nests, nutrients for the trees and soil.  Nature is taking a breath after the frantic activity of spring and summer, taking stock, marshalling its resources to have another go next year.   Nature’s breath of beauty, wonder, colour, harvesting, storing, renewal and hope.  I love it!