Friday, 24 September 2021

Rural sights and sounds that announce the arrival of autumn

Rural sights and sounds that announce the arrival of autumn

THE other morning I was eating my breakfast just after sunrise when, before heading off into the woods, a green woodpecker (Picus viridis) landed on my lawn in search of ants, its preferred food.

These birds are quite something to see up close with their distinctive red cap, cheeky, inquisitive nature and distinctive green feathers on their upper flanks.

I love the old name “Yaffle” that this bird was once called.

Looking up again, I notice that a pair of male speckled wood butterflies are dancing around each other to the side of one of my silver birch trees as they fight over ownership of a patch of sunlight.

Soon afterwards I am heading towards Stoke Row with my friend Dave.

Approaching this old Chiltern village, the canopy of beech trees greets us with a welcome coolness and, as we pass Rumerhedge Wood and enter Splashall Bottom, the road leads on to Busgrove Lane.

The woods around here are still verdant, although we are already in an otherwise seemingly early autumn.

Arriving in the village, we drop down into Nottwood Lane and head northwards through a footpath that crosses a small piece of meadow beside the Crooked Billet.

This ancient pub was run by the late Nobby Harris many years back. He was a character. If late at night he decided that he was tired he’d make his way upstairs and say, “help yourselves and leave your money on the counter”!

That is not to mention the alcoholic chicken drinking out of one of the slop trays in the cellar!

But I digress. The pathway drops down to Newnham Hill Bottom and from here we are presented with a choice — along to Oakingham Bottom to the left or Nott Wood to the right. We decide to take the left turn. The woods here have an other-worldly character complemented by some sweeping green hills to the north east.

There is an abundance of lichen flourishing on the twigs of the trees, a sign of a healthy woodland, and the air here feels very pure.

There are plenty of stout old cherry trees which, all things permitting, will provide a welcome harvest next year.

Taking a step back and viewing this lovely pocket of woodland alerts me to the fact that this may have looked very similar to the ancient forest that existed when our ancestors first arrived here many years ago.

Turning southwards and crossing some open country, we meet some friendly horses and then progress down a very narrow old hedged path which takes us back to the car and on to visit the Rising Sun at Witheridge Hill.

Back home as the sun is setting and I am sitting outside, I am enthralled to hear the soft murmuration of a turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur).

These once fairly common members of the Columbidae family have become very rare migrant summer visitors.

They will leave soon but their lovely purring notes fill me with hope that they will return next spring.

Just as I am about to turn in a robin bursts into song, announcing the onset of another autumn.

The leaves will not fall yet but mushroom hunting time is now on the agenda and I wonder what I will discover on my next excursion.

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