Saturday, 31 October 2015

Autumn catching up

It's been a funny year, as I've mentioned in previous posts, with flowering times all out of kilter. Even the leaves have taken a while to start turning, but suddenly they have been catching up.

Having friends staying with me last weekend gave me a good excuse to head off to the New Forest to check out the autumn colours there. Our first stop was Bramshaw Wood, in the north of the Forest - the colours were indeed beautiful on a slightly damp and grey day - typical autumn! Beech and bird leaves formed a colourful tunnel along forest tracks and footpaths, with few people to disturb the tranquility.

We then headed off to Bolderwood deer viewing platform, as we were still in the middle of the rut for both fallow and red deer. Alas, no deer at all, but the short walk through the arboretum contrasted well with the native trees we'd experienced earlier - enormous redwoods and more sweet chestnut, with far more people, in this popular spot in the Forest. At this point the rain set in.

The next morning we headed out for the excellent yomp up to Old Sarum - it was a very different day, with glorious sunshine and mild temperatures. The autumn colours were perfectly setting off the blue sky, with the usual beautiful views across the valley and from the top of the hillfort - I am so lucky to have this on my doorstep!

The advantages of getting lost

Yes, yet again the innate ability of the Roses to get lost didn't fail us, when Mum and I went for a walk in Bentley Wood a couple of weeks' ago.

We had decided to walk from a different car park, along the forestry track and then loop back on ourselves - how hard could it be? Well, we should have known better, for it became obvious that we had perhaps turned left a bit early and missed our connection with the main track back to the car park. Heading off in what we thought was the right direction, we soon ended up in a field full of cows - definitely wrong!

Retracing our steps through the woodland compartments - fiery sweet chestnut and beech leaves contrasting against the conifer plantations - our quiet panic was suddenly disturbed by the very-close rumbling roar of a fallow stag in rut - amazing. We'd seen quite a few herds on our meandering route as well.

The fallow roar is very different to that of a red deer, being more guttural and 'gargly' than it's larger, native compatriot. Whereas red deer rut in open areas, aiming to stake their claim to the large harems of does hanging around, fallows sometimes have fewer females, who choose the successful (strongest) male.

So, if we hadn't got lost (and we did soon manage to find our car!) we would never have heard that amazing autumnal sound.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Long shadows

I love this time of year - coming back from meetings in Dorset, I can pop into Martin Down for a quick yomp to blow the cobwebs away with the crisp autumnal wind and long shadows cast by the low sun.

It was looking stunning - as always - and the storm cloud in the distance just heightened the sun catching the top of Hanham hill (the highest point on the Down).

The seedheads of many flowers - still interspersed with some in flower (knapweed, yarrow, hawkbits, devils bit scabious still going strong in parts!) - were beautifully back-lit in the sun. We've used them as table decorations for Christmas lunch before - agrimony, wild carrot and knapweed look spectacular sprayed silver and strung with beads!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Extended summer

This summer has been a bit of a funny one - after the wash out of August, September was mostly glorious sunshine. I'm not sure if the plants were watching, but whatever the reason, it's quite amazing how so many are still flowering.

On my recent trip up to Scotland, the heather and devil's bit scabious formed beautiful purple carpets, and coming back down south, on a quick foray to Martin Down during the week, the knapweed and rough hawkbit were still very much in flower.

On the flip side, for some plants it seemed that autumn came early this year - though the blackberries were starting at the end of July, they've continued to fruit still, providing a bumper crop for humans and wildlife alike - lots of blackberry jelly this year!

Of course, it's hard to say whether these changes are just one-offs, or whether climate change has a part to play here. I guess this sort of topsy-turvy world is becoming something we are going to have to get used to - but can the wildlife do this too? Hmm...