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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

07 September 2011 | Posted in Wildlife

sweet chestnut
Author Ronnie Reed

Summer has crept out of the back door leaving behind empty fields of yellow stubble. The season has turned and the colours are seeping from the verges as the flowers fade. The soft green teasels that grew along the roadside have hardened like old age into brown spiky seed heads. Dusty plantain heads wave in tangled mats of dried grass, lifted by a breeze that has a sharpness to it that heralds shorter days and longer nights. Tall, grey, pungent, tightly knotted sprays of mugwort have invited spiders to spin their webs and tiny droplets of dew hang suspended from them in early morning mist.

Everywhere nature has opened her larder for all to enjoy. Already the black, glossy elderberries that reach above the hedgerows have been stripped by birds. Brambles covered in tightly folded ebony coloured fruit are humming with insects; flies, hoverflies, bees; feasting. Fleshy rose hips, and small clusters of haws splash the hedgerows blood red, Above them grow dull black, bitter sharp sloes waiting for a bottle of gin! Tiny yellow crab apples drip from the branches of their trees asking to be made into jam. For every child there are horse chestnuts, browny-green and thorny on the outside, soft, white and furry on the inside lying with their lips open wide, split apart to reveal the dark polished fruit inside. Their cousins, the sweet chestnuts hide delicate nuts inside soft, bright green prickly cases while beech nuts split apart as they fall ready for squirrels to gather.

Once it rains the floor erupts with fungi: in grassland, field mushrooms and creamy white giant puff balls; in woodland, bright lilac caps of amethyst deceiver, on oak trees clusters of ‘Chicken of the Woods’, on elm and beech shell-shaped silver grey oyster mushrooms, and at the feet of silver birch bright red, white flecked deadly fly agaric. Some to collect, some to avoid.

Until the first frost bites enjoy.

Autumnwatch in Sussex

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