Saturday, 9 November 2013

Autumn river

The river has become a different beast over recent weeks, the water levels higher than they have been for many months and the greens of summer growth now edged with brown, as water plants retrench ahead of the approaching winter. The riverside path has become slippery with fallen leaves; those from the many limes, paper thin in character, have been transformed into a delicate layer of yellows and translucent greens. Upon this layer are scattered the more robust leaves of willow which, with their silver white undersides, take on the appearance of a shoal of fish, flung up from the river and scattered in death.

The air itself smells damp and heavy with scent. The earthy smells of fruiting fungi rouse the nostrils and hint at decay. Nature is busy, breaking down the growth of summer and secreting it away in a largely unseen cycle of renewal. It seems to have been a good year for fungi and an abundance of fruiting bodies adorn the stumps of trees, cut down in case they fell unplanned at a later time. Not everyone has appreciated the fungi; several of the path-side clumps carry the impression of of a boot or shoe, too big to be that of an overenthusiastic child.

Elsewhere, other, less-obvious, fungi can be seen. Small fruiting bodies emerge from the leaf litter or grow on the litter itself. Others adorn the trunks of trees, a dozen or more feet off the ground and safely out of reach of ignorant boots. While it might feel as if nature is winding down, it is clear that there is plenty going on, even here where the river winds nonchalantly through the town. Shrubs and bushes are still festooned with berries and the trees heavy with seed. Returning blackbirds and migrant thrushes will have had plenty to feed on this autumn, so it is little wonder that garden feeders have been so quiet.

The changing of the clocks, coupled with the shortening hours of daylight, have restricted my riverside walks. While I am forced to take a less pleasant route to and from work, I know that life along the river will continue and that it will still be there, renewed come spring.

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