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Wed, 20 Nov 2019 16:26 GMT

Autumn in the British Woods

Lifestyle & Health

Hannah Bardsley - 7Dnews London

Tue, 15 Oct 2019 15:06 GMT

What is autumn but the crunch of red and yellow leaves underfoot? The smell of damp moss, and earth after rain.

Autumn is the sunlight as it finally touches the sky. Deep hues of pinks, oranges and reds. They blend with the dark blue, mixing like a water colour palette on the horizon. And, the air that comes with the rising sun, cool and crisp, is so fresh that with each breath you drink in, it floods your lungs; the same way fresh cool water might meet your lips.

It is a season of change; not like summer which stands still in its warmth and greenery; nor winter with its bleak greys, and white blankets of snow. Autumn brings surprising moments of warmth sandwiched between days that feel bitterly cold. It is an ever-changing environment; trees blend colours and flowers fade to be replaced by rich juicy berries.

If the colour drains from the world in winter that is because all the final energy goes into autumn. One last celebration of nature, a grand celebration, before flora decides to hide in hibernation.

It is the harvest season. Apples burst from trees in green and reds, ripe for the plucking and preserving. Combine harvesters cut across fields in their sharp steady lines taking the waving yellow wheat, and pumpkins and courgettes grow large and swollen above the ground.

It is a time for long walks and rambles, but also a time to pull on wellie boots. The ground is dry in summer, and frozen in winter, but muddy in autumn. The forest-bed woodlands are covered in leaves in and soft pine needles.

In Esher Common, a small sanctuary of silence in the county of Surrey, well-behaved dogs run through the trees. They throw themselves into the small Mole River, and then when they consider themselves sufficiently wet, they emerge and run across the muddy bank and the up the damp earth. Completely coating themselves, they change their coats from whatever beautiful colour they once were to a deep earthy brown.

The common is a small piece of forest amongst farms and fields. The small river flows through the park with low hanging trees dipping their faded leaves into the water. There are reeds that grow over the banks and a small path runs a long its edge.

There are plenty of paths running through the parkland. Some are large, clear and obvious. Others are smaller and promise adventure. You don’t realise how much adventure until you follow them and suddenly find that the narrow paths have led you to a glade of trees and there is no clear way to move forward.

You could always retrace your steps, but that would be dull and boring. Instead, continue on using your sense of direction as your only guide. The park isn’t too big that you’ll get lost forever, and the foliage too closely packed that you risk damaging the forest floor.

Be warned though, it will turn the experience into an adventure. The ground is steep at points, and you may find yourself precariously balancing while climbing up tree roots. Or you will be making your way down slippery, muddy slopes, half hopping, in some strange in-between of moving as fast, but also, as slow as possible.

But in autumn this will happen even if you stick to the paths.

The common is surrounded by the fields of a typical English farmhouse and its cottages. The type with whitewashed walls, or red brick and ivy climbing around the door. There are pubs too. Somewhere to pop into for a drink and a meal after an explore. And a dry place to warm up, if rain decides to shower down on you while you are out rambling.

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