It is Mabon, the autumn equinox, the time when light and dark has balance across the world. Now the light will grow ever shorter and the days grow colder. There is already a perceptible shift in temperature which has been there for a couple of days now and it’s time, when out on walks with Daisy, for a jumper to keep out the chill air. The wind has an edge, a bite to it that speaks of the inevitability of winter.

On my walk today I gathered leaves, cones, seed heads and berries to make a display on my altar and about my house in general to welcome the changing season. The colours are truly lovely, reds, russets, acid yellows, bronze and gold. All around me I can feel everything withdrawing, closing down. The lush green growth of summer is fading now in a beautiful final flood of colour and as their leaves fall away, the trees are slowly beginning to reveal their skeleton forms.

I collected some conkers earlier today, glossy red, silky smooth to the touch and bursting with life. They’re perfect. They are sitting on my desk at the moment. I want to try planting them. If they take, who knows, in a few years or so I may have two lovely, but very small, chestnut saplings growing in my garden. Similarly, I have collected a couple of acorns and will do the same with them just to see if I can perhaps grow a new oak or two from them. They can join the elder I am currently growing from a cutting. It’s doing very well.

I also picked blackberries on my walk today and Lee and I will eat them with apples scrumped from our neighbour’s tree for tea this evening, proper seasonal fare for this time of year.

I have always loved the autumn and watching the trees colour, perhaps because it is the season of my birth. I find it comforting and it speaks to me of transformation and preparing for new beginnings, new life, new hope on its way.

When I was very small me and mum used to go for walks in the great swathe of woodland that ran behind the block of flats we lived in. It was an exciting place for a child to play and grow-up. It made me very aware of the passing of the seasons. We would pick blackberries which mum would bake in a pie when we got home. Dad adored her apple and blackberry pie which we would have with homemade custard. Even then I would come home with ‘swag’ stolen from the woods, conkers, acorn ‘pipes’, leaves, I could never leave it empty-handed.

One of my favourite things on our autumn walks was to find a really deep pile of dried, fallen leaves and scuff my feet through them, sending them crunching off in multicoloured clouds in every direction or, if Mum wasn’t looking, I would just dive into them and roll around. Do kid’s still do this sort of thing? Probably not!

I came across a group of four or five quite small children on Monday with, what I assumed to be two teachers, nursery teachers I think, all dressed in fluorescent green high visibility jackets collecting conkers and exploring the hedgerow.  I am glad they were making the effort and I am sure the high viz jackets were necessary from a safety point of view but, thinking about it now, I simply couldn’t see it being allowed somehow, that mad tumble in the leaves I indulged in as a child, and I find that really sad.    We just don’t seem to encourage kids to get too close to nature any more even when they live in the countryside. 

I only know that it was at this time of year particularly, and also in the spring, that I could feel the spirit of the place so completely. Favourite trees that I would climb regularly, sitting up high in their tallest branches, could be felt saying ‘goodbye, see you in the spring’. You could feel the sap leaving their limbs, rushing back to their roots, and they would become physically colder than they had felt before, drawing in their resources and preparing for the time of their long sleep. To me then it was a wonder and it still is wonderful.  After all, with everything that is going on in the world, global warming, pollution, deforestation on a huge and climate altering scale, nothing has been forgotten.  Despite our interference, Nature still knows what to do and when to do it.

I am going to make the most of the shortening days with Daisy until the winter comes in. Do you know what I am really looking forward to? Snow! I have been starved of snow living by the sea for the last couple of years. It never really settles so close to the sea, unless it is an exceptional year.

I travelled daily the few miles into Plymouth from my old home in Kingsand in the winter without very much difficulty only to find, a couple of miles across the Tamar, all Plymouth life was wrapped in a deep, totally disabling, white cocoon and people who lived only five minutes from their place of work were unable to get there!  This time, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, it will be my turn!!