What’s your favourite season? In Britain we still have quite clearly defined changes around the year, keeping us on our toes and providing endless conversation topics in lifts around the country. Winter gives us frosty mornings, skeletal trees and occasional snow falls carpeting the land in muffled beauty. Spring bursts forth with its gambolling lambs, cheerful daffodils and the brightest green you’ve ever seen. Summer brings the (often unfulfilled) promise of balmy evenings when swallows swoop, BBQs proliferate and we flock to the beaches like lemmings to a cliff edge. And then there’s Autumn; my favourite season by a country mile …
I love the fiery reds of Virginia Creeper rampaging across old houses, deep orange pumpkins and wobbly-skinned squashes, crinkly, crunchy falling leaves, misty, moisty mornings with dew-bejewelled spiders’ webs, peaty, damp walks through fading woods and the smell of bonfire smoke drifting into steepy grey skies. John Keats sums up its appeal in his much-quoted ode ‘To Autumn’. Here it is, with some photos that hopefully capture a little of Autumn’s spectacular performance heralding the end of Mother Nature’s Greatest Show On Earth.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring?
Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
The Lake District in Autumn is a great time to visit – so much colour and very often fine days. On a visit to North Yorkshire, I discovered Helmsley Walled Garden, which has 52 different varieties of apples, most of which are fruiting in October.
The garden, overlooking Helmsley Castle has many other fruits, flowers, shrubs and tree and worth a visit if you’re in the area. (Check opening times.)