Following wet and wind the season is settled into a sultry South Downs autumn. Although no hint of cold or frost days are suddenly shortened by an hour. Soil is concealed by bonfire bright leaves breaking free from trees and floating down to land – protecting precious soil and precarious plants. The air is still and waiting for winter. With the ground now gold, as summers’ green dies and rustles under foot, flashes of life remain – a reminder of spring to come.
Branches bear bright berries, ladybirds linger and the last of the butterflies – red admirals – bask still on bare earth. Made brilliant by the sinking sun dahlias in danger of death by frost tempt tired bees for a final forage. They feebly feast on these flowers before they fade. Skeletons of poppies, seed long scattered, cast lacy shadows across the grass as the season of the dead creeps upon us. Scabby apples sit abandoned on a tree – ignored even by blackbirds and looking like Halloween. The lone raven has returned to Roedale – shining darkly, patrolling shut up sheds with watchful eyes. Higher up magpies perch and mutter awaiting opportunities for mischief.
Digging at dusk to plant garlic seems wise – to ward off wayward wildlife and less earthly intruders. The robin stalks me, rustling through remnants of plants, rooting for a ready meal to fuel it through the night. As evening falls the ghostly gathering of starlings loops lazily above the trees of Hollingbury Woods, then vanish with the fading light.