A season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Keats had it right, autumn is one of our most evocative seasons. And a great one for wildlife across Lincolnshire.
For starters, Autumn brings in the harvest and nature’s bounty. Berries and fruits ripen and glow out from hedgerows. Rose hips, haws from the hawthorn, blackberries and elderberries all provide a wealth of food for wildlife. And for canny humans. I certainly remember going blackberrying when I was younger. Setting out with old ice-cream tubs for an afternoon and returning scratched and bleeding, but laden down with our haul. These we then cooked with apple and pushed through a sieve to yield a gloriously deep purple sweet puree that tasted divine with ice-cream.
Of course, plenty of other creatures appreciate all this food too. Birds particularly benefit from hedgerow fruits. Ready for the cold winter they gorge themselves. Laying on fat reserves that will tide them over the leaner times ahead. Mammals too. Squirrels scamper about, hiding caches of nuts. Harvest mice clamber amongst bramble bushes looking for ripe fruit. And everyone loves a windfall apple.
Another source of food in the autumn is fungi. Here in the UK we probably don’t take enough notice of our fungi, dismissing them as ‘toadstools’ to be avoided as they are poisonous. In reality very few species are actually poisonous to humans, though quite a few are inedible. But there are some which are absolutely delicious. Caution must be sounded though, don’t eat anything if you don’t know what it is. Some of the poisonous species do look rather like edible ones. And some, like the aptly named ‘death cap’ are potentially fatal. Talking of names, fungi do have some wonderful ones. Rooting Shank, Fairy Inkcap, Dryad’s Saddle. Don’t they just sound great? Look out for them in our woods and along our hedgerows this Autumn.
Talking of woods, how about the annual spectacle of the shifting woodland hues? Greens change into vibrant reds, browns and yellows. Fallen leaves coat the ground with a carpet of colour. Walking through this is a wonderfully sensual experience. Not only with the colours, but also the sounds of feet swishing through the drifts. And who can resist kicking the piles of leaves to send them fountaining upwards before twisting and spinning their way back down again.
So this Autumn, get yourself out into the Lincolnshire countryside, and enjoy nature at its best!