Despite the unseasonal weather, (it was 24 C here today) it is more than obvious that Autumn has arrived. I spent a fair amount of time this week collecting the first fall of leaves and twigs from the oaks, as well as attempting to shift some of the many acorns. Another good few hours were spent trimming the leylandii hedges that shelter two sides of the garden. I had neglected them last year, and paid the penalty for this, with hard work. Standing some ten feet high, and almost five feet deep, this is not a job to be tackled lightly, or in bad weather. Most of the difficult bits have to be got at from the top rung of a ladder, with almost all of my body at full stretch, perched precariously on the bulk of the hedge, as I reach across. The thickest branches had to be dealt with by sawing, and each remainder would have made an acceptable Christmas Tree, for an average room. The unexpectedly good weather allowed me to get on with this job, which I could no longer put off. The end result is a satisfyingly neat double row of hedge, and more light allowed into the gardens of the neighbouring houses. I also have the scars to show battle was done, with marks from twigs, the strange redness of an allergic reaction to the pine needles, and muscles aching all over my legs and wrists.
It is getting foggy in the mornings, and dark earlier. By 7.30 in the evening, our lights are on, and by 8, it is completely black outside. The fields nearby are being ploughed, and at times the smell of the manure, and other fertilisers, is all-pervasive between here and Dereham. The leaves are turning; gold before brown, some pale and lifeless. Walking with Ollie today in the afternoon heat, we wandered in the direction of Gingerbread Corner. The vast acres of blackcurrant bushes have now been harvested; the fruit that was rejected by the farmer now fought over by hundreds of starlings. They in turn are mobbed by dozens of crows, swooping down from high nests in the Poplars lining the Holt Road, their cry of ‘caw-caw’ building to an unpleasant cacophony. Squirrels are much in evidence, rapidly gathering nuts to store against the coming winter. So many are scurrying around, Ollie is unsure which one to chase first, and just stands and cries in frustration.
Once at the plum orchards, lack of rainfall, and the cessation of watering by the farmer, shows in the remaining crop. This time of year normally sees many unpicked plums still hanging in plump clusters on the short trees. Today, all that was visible were hundreds of shrivelled and blackened fruits, dehydrated and dead on their stalks. A little further on, there is a pleasant area left fallow this year, home to attractive wildflowers, and recently, scores of sunflowers; not cultivated, just growing randomly. Their huge yellow heads, with the dark centres of seeds, helped to brighten a familiar walk. On inspection this afternoon, they have lost petals, the seeds are dry, and the heads are beginning to droop down, as if the flower is sad, or unwell.
This summer of mixed blessings will soon be just a memory. Clear nights, cold winds from the north, Halloween, Bonfire Night, and other seasonal festivities will replace the joy of light evenings, and wide-open windows. Autumn is here.