I hear the cogs of the seasons turning more loudly now. It is not the spritely turn of the spring, nor the languid, well-oiled turn of the summer, but a slow, heavy shift. The woodland groans and creaks with the unstoppable momentum of autumn’s change. First frosts remind the earth of the cold that is to come as the first trees become starkly-branched silhouettes against the early morning skies. It’s a season of contrast; warm sun, cold shade. Skies, menacing one minute are joyous the next. Unexpected showers send chilly sheets of rain trickling into clothes not yet chosen to keep out the winter weather.
As I walk through fields to the woods today, the sun shines low through bare ash branches. Spider’s threads, stretched through the grass tops, shine silver. A skein of geese fly overhead, evocative sound drawing the eye to the v-shaped trails that fly south towards more fertile feeding. I spy a glint of gold in the worn out hedgerow – a last buttercup radiates the warmth of the autumn sunshine.
The smell of old leaves, damp, and earth waits in ambush, a smell I had forgotten in the temporary green extravaganza of the summer. The heat in the autumn sun is not strong enough to follow me into the wood; the temperature drops. My feet find the floor unusually bouncy; it’s strangely quiet. The leaf carpet is thick, yet the canopy seems undiminished. With the exception of the odd ash, the trees are holding their leaves. The oak is beginning to take on shades of yellow and brown, the beeches are hinting at change, but green is still the main theme.
I hear a curlew, then silence. A buzzard circles overhead. Every now and then I bump into a subdued tit flock. I see the badgers are still digging, but the wood is quiet. I hear individual leaves as they fall to the ground – a gentle patter, interspersed with the occasional thud as something heavier drops to the wood floor. A red admiral flutters, making several cold, false-starts before flying up into the canopy.
It takes a long time to heat the Cosy Shed with the wood stove today, a long time for the nuthatch to find the seed I put out. The sky is grey overhead. I am feeling the loss of summer when, just outside the window I notice some of the hazel coppice stools we cut at the start of the year. This year’s new growth has lost some of its leaves, but it’s not this I am noticing; catching my eye are the studs of vibrant green along the length of the stems – buds are growing already. It is a wonderful reminder that the cogs of the seasons never stop turning. As the winter approaches, so too will it go. The wood is simply tucking itself up in bed for a while, ready to re-emerge into the spring sunshine of the year to come.