We have had the first frosts here on the edge of the Fens and in the last week or two I have begun to notice ladybirds hiding in the crevices of seedheads and sheltering in curled up leaves in the wood as they begin to hibernate. The northern hemisphere has shifted its shoulder away from the sun and on clear days the light has taken on that beautiful, soft, liquid quality. Autumn is moving inexorably into Winter.
There are still clusters of plump sloes on the blackthorn trees (Prunus spinosa) and plenty of haws (Crataegus) for the birds to feast on in the coming months. The crops of wild fruit have been plentiful this Autumn, caused by a warm Spring and rains in July and August, allowing more berries and hips to develop than usual. This may help more wild birds to survive between December and April which is a heartening thought as I tread the familiar paths through the trees.
We adopted a rescue lurcher puppy in August and she is my companion each day in the woods. Annie has been with us for three months now and we adore her fierce unbridled affection, flamboyant sleeping positions, fondness for hearthbrushes and toffee-dog-with-a-charcoal-snout looks. To our relief she learned recall quickly and if we let her off her lead in the wood she would return to us gleefully with the promise of a cube of cheese. As she hit 7 months though, adolescence, her wanderlust intensified and not even a sizeable chunk of Cathedral City could tear her away from the badger latrines and the tree where the squirrels squabble. We have had several anxious searches for our fox-coloured pal, so have had to return to the use of a long line and a running lead. The thought of her lost forever on the Fen is too awful to contemplate.
The field maples (Acer campestre) have been especially beautiful in recent weeks. The leaves of this native cousin of the sycamore and of Japanese acers turn a brilliant yellow in October and the late Autumnal light filtering through them is a sight as beautiful as any cathedral window. Beech leaves have also been luminous. One of the reasons the beech is a favourite tree species for me is that the Autumnal process of resorption of its chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, is visible for a few weeks as jauntily green and yellow striped leaves.
Both field maple and beech can be preserved in glycerin to give beautiful results (tutorial here). Brightest of all though, are Euonymus japonica or spindle leaves, some of which turn shades of almost ludicrous neon pink and primrose yellow. Several weeks ago I gathered this jewel-bright treasure and indulged in a little botanical knolling:
There are already signs of Spring in the wood. As a person who suffers from SAD I find this incredibly heartening as the days become shorter and there are more of them during which the sky seems to lower with banks of thick grey cloud. Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and cleavers (Galium aparine) seedlings germinated in August and already line the woodland paths, awaiting warmer days in March and April.
Clusters of buds are visible on most of the trees in the woods but those of the cherries are especially lovely: tight woody clusters that hint at the blossom to come when the days lengthen. This is a time of year that I am growing to love, having dreaded it for the past decade. Taking daily walks in this smallish, youngish wood and noticing the subtle signs of the change in season is really helping me to fend off my usual winter gloom.
Meanwhile I am planning to begin making videos in the next week or two. I’ll be teaching my blog subscribers how to crochet from scratch and there’ll be videos giving tips for how to make my pantile shawl and the trickier elements of the other patterns from my book. I’ll be sharing some of my favourite woodland plant species, some botanical illustration tutorials and my simplest wrist warmer pattern too, which a fair few folk have asked about. If this sounds like your bag of yarn and pencils then do sign up to subscribe in my sidebar and I’ll be popping into your inbox like a sort of yarn and twig tv.->