The low autumn sun still retains brightness enough to brush the tops of the birches with brilliant light, splitting the trees into two horizontal bands; the upper band of vivid gold and yellow positively burns against the dull brown of shadow below and the rich Payne’s grey of sky above. The rain has been through, a passing shower moving at speed and leaving behind it a fresh fall of leaves to float on shallow puddles or stick to the glistening path. It is a beautiful scene, truly autumnal in nature and reminiscent of the paintings that filled my Ladybird book of Autumn as a child.
Much of the autumn landscape has changed since those paintings provided my first views of the wider landscape. I suspect that were I to view them again now they would present themselves as nostalgia, glimpses of an England now lost. Gone are the teams of horses and the burning stubbles; gone too are the vast flocks of finches and buntings that would have taken the grain that the harvester was unable to collect. Something of that landscape remains however: the autumn harvest still continues, the hedgerows still hang heavy with berries – particularly so this year – and the dark, clouded skies still bring with them autumnal storms.
The autumn landscape is often beautiful, the light more subtle than the harsh glare of summer and the air carrying with it ripe scents that tease the senses. There is a real feeling of change at this time of the year and of industry, evidence that the rural landscape is alive and lived in. Tractors ferry crops from the fields, lorries heavy with beet trundle to the towering sugar beet factories and tables at the local farmers’ market are weighed down with local produce.
Arriving thrushes and finches suggest a transition. These are winter visitors, arriving from Scandinavia and beyond to tuck into autumn’s bounty and delight birdwatchers. As the days shorten, so the richness of autumn will slip away, the landscape shedding its autumnal tones to reveal those of winter. It is a time of year to be out and about, making the most of the last warming rays and the harvest that underlines autumn’s bounty.