autumn thoughts

This time of year always gets me feeling quite pensive. The longer nights always allow for a little more time at home, with a book or pottering about the house, to be quiet and reflect on the big changes happening in the natural world, writes community gardener Robyn Riddoch

On the surface, it can look as if this time of year is all about loss and sadness. Trees lose their bright green foliage which we have come to treasure so much over the summer. The swallows, martins and swifts which light up our hedgerows and trees with song all summer long are beginning their long journey south again and taking their noisy joy with them. The bright and bountiful nature of summer is gradually slowing and fading and plants are retreating back into the ground, taking their colour and vibrancy with them.

However, looking deeper we can also find hope and renewal and optimism. The very first buds on the trees are already beginning to appear only just after they have shed this year’s leaves. The trees themselves look forward to spring and know that they must ready their buds now using the last of the autumnal sunlight. Other plants begin to deepen and strengthen their roots because they know they will need them when the days start to lengthen. Hedgehogs snuggle down for the winter to ready themselves for an energetic spring. We go out into our gardens and plant daffodil and tulip bulbs because we know that spring will come again. Even as the days shorten, we are burying ourselves a treasure for when the light comes back into our lives. A secret we may even forget about, a gift for getting through the winter.

The natural world also gives us hints about what we humans may need to get through the long winter months. The hedgerows and woods are rich with the reds, purples and oranges of berries as the trees and bushes remind us to stock up on vitamin C. Hawthorn berries, rosehips and elderberries are particularly good examples. Acorns, sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts drop to the ground to remind us to eat well and heartily to keep ourselves warm. Nature is always looking out for us if you can see the signs.

We can also take hints from the plants; to deepen and strengthen our roots, to
nourish ourselves from the base. Work out what is important, what grounds you and
focus in on it. Give yourself space and time to consolidate all that has happened so
far in the year. Go slow and relish the pace. Do not see the winter, as I am prone to
do, as an ending of this year but more as a gearing up for the next.

Happy hibernating.