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!