• September Saturday

    On a perfect September day, falling acorns rattle on the road. The leaves maintain their colour, with the early exception of the turning leaf of the Virginia Creeper. The Creeper clings to the walls of the Marsham Road Cottages. The sky is a softer blue, brushed with the feathery high cirrus cloud. Along the Railway Line a family of Bullfinches creep along the Blackthorn thickets. In the distance a lone Muntjac hurdles the potato baulks. The cool Saturday morning air just moves the very tips of the highest trees. It feels as if we are just about to turn the corner into Autumn proper.


  • Night calls

    Tawny Owls are spending their nights in establishing their winter territories. The lighter calls are presumably the younger among them. At times the shouting match reaches a crescendo as two birds throw their calls at one another, often within the relatively confined space of the garden. We hear hear the scrape of their talons as the land on the ridge tiles. In a semi sleeping state their arguments come and go. The outside night world making small incursions into the house and then drift away.

  • Wildlife crossroads

    I count eighty eight House Martins and Swallows on the telephone lines near the Common. The gathering continues until, at some hidden signal, they will depart and leave us and take the summer with them. When that moment actually arrives is hard to spot, but by Sunday evening they have dispersed. The village really is on the cusp of the seasons this week. The convergence of the river, its valley, rail lines and roads seeming to combine to create a meeting place for the moving migrants. That evening we stumble across two Fallow Deer, not the usual Roe or Muntjac, both of whom were moving with intent – their own small scale migration in search of new territory.

    The next morning the unmistakeable call of the Golden Plover drifts down as the first flock arrives at their favourite stopping off point on the way south from their tundra breeding grounds. As always they centre themselves on the same arable fields which must have become ingrained as the traditional rest on their long journey south. We hope to hear them during their night time flights as the moon becomes full late in September.

  • Fall of a giant

    Fallen giant - the last mature English Elm in Brampton has been felled
    Fallen giant – the last mature English Elm in Brampton has been felled

    A giant fell this morning. The skeletal carcass of the last English Elm to have reached maturity in the village has been brought crashing to ground. It had far outlasted its contemporaries – many of which were felled when the Dutch Elm Disease struck in the 1970’s – but now decay had finally so-weakened the stem that it was unlikely to remain standing for a further winter. So, at ten minutes to ten on a Sunday morning, following a short chainsaw cut and a haul on a tractor winch, the old tree cracked and came to earth. What was left of its crown, which once touched up to 100 feet in height, split in to many pieces on impact. Tell tale star-like shadows of fungal growth showed through where the viable bark had spilt away. These are the marks of its death and decay. The stump looks as weak as cork. There is a gap in the skyline. Some ten years ago tree surgeons had taken cuttings from its then fully leaved crown in the hope that it was disease resistant. But the cuttings came to nothing and the disease took hold. Now this is its epitaph.

    It’s young relations, mostly clones of the parent, still sporadically grow as hedge plants for a few years until the Dutch Elm gets to them. No Elm in the parish reached maturity in recent years. The bare branches remain in hedge lines for a few years until they are tidied away or trimmed back. The Elm is no longer a feature in the local landscape. Although it held on for longer than most in the area.

  • Night visitors to the garden

    I woke with a start to the insistent “shush..!” of the librarian. Until I managed to collect my thoughts, I was transported briefly back to the Reynold’s Library – that silent school sanctuary of o-level revision and homework. But with a start I realised that I was listening to the sound of night visitors to the garden and as I became more alert, I heard the sound repeated. This time less the human and the more animalistic. Now, again, with an answering call which only slightly varied in pitch. It was the same sound for which we had paused to listed for a few moments near the old farm buildings – sometimes a hiss, sometimes a screech. These were the roost contact calls of Barn Owls.

    The owls were hunting over the now deserted gardens, quartering the deserted lawns, driveways,mushers and beds and gentle calling to one another as they went. The sound sneaking through the open window of the sleeping house. Their visit drawn by the gathered presence of rats and mice which had deserted the now depleted fields and hedgerows. Perhaps a less welcome thought than that of the school librarian’s insistent order. In this slightly sleep addled way I drift back to sleep

  • Death in the village – the probable loss of Ash trees

    The slow death of a 100 year old Ash tree in the village is surely due to the currently rampant Chalara fraxinas infection – although this has yet to be proven. I have been watching it’s slow decline over the last two years or so, initially just the tips of the branches, but last year the dieback was noticeably dominant. The tree, in some firm of emergency measure, sprouted secondary “epicormic” growth from the larger branches, but this summer even those have failed. By the autumn the few leaves it could produce were on lower branches which had sprung from the root or thereabouts. By this autumn these leaves were withering in the manner shown on the Forestry Commission’s identification sheets. I now wait for the Forestry Commission to asses the tree properly.

    I do not think that this is the only tree infected – there is another mature specimen showing similar symptoms, but not as advanced. It is a concern of course that a number of the others in the parish are already infected. This is highly likely. The real question t ask is whether any will have a much-hoped for resistance. The landscape is certainly going to change.

  • Autumn sharpener

    Overnight, hail hit the roof lights like shrapnel. Squalls scudded through the village, driven by a sharp northern wind. Before dawn, at one minute Jupiter glistened in a crystal clear sky, the next another hail-laden cloud rushed in.

    Later in the morning, winter visitors in the form of Fieldfares, have arrived in the old Elm hedge. Woodpigeons are battered by the wind and surf ahead of the breeze. The coloured leaves of Ash and Field Maple have been scattered and Hawthorn lay in yellow pools around their mother plant. This is Autumn with a barely concealed shard of Winter.

  • Autumn gold

    A quiet morning in the village. Hardly a breath of wind and an overcast sky – calm and more settled weather as predicted by yesterday’s fiery sunset. As we walk back to the cottage, a flight of 25 Golden Plover sail overhead in formation, their gentle whistling call drifting down.  These Plovers are regular visitors en route during their spring and autumn migrations. They always seem to choose the same fields on which inch to congregate, presumably for the safety derived from their relative height, size and aspect. Their numbers fluctuate as parties arrive and leave but their collective visit extends to weeks rather than days. On many occasions, as I lay in bed during a clear moonlit night, their whistling calls remind me of the tundra and their northern origins

  • An Autumn Saturday and bulb planting is underway in the village. Not guerrilla gardening as such, but part of a Parish Council plan to provide an uplift to the village scene. Species Crocus around the village sign and wild Daffodils around he bus shelter will hopefully provide a splash of colour next Spring (as long as we planted the bulbs the right way up…..!).
  • September deer

    A Roe doe and her faun are now venturing further from their woodland sanctuary. Her coat the colour of wet sand. The faun, about half her size, is sporting an outsized and full-grown pair of ears which rotate and twitch nervously as we pass. The doe stares intently at us but shows little sign of imminent flight. They resume grazing as we disappear from view

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