This last week has felt unmistakably autumnal. It’s a time of year when our senses and nature’s beauty both appear heightened. Cobwebs hung with dew dance and sparkle as if draped with diamonds. The light is golden and you can almost smell summer lapsing into autumn. It’s also given me an excuse to bring out all my over-sized knitwear, light the log-burner for the first time and consume a crumpet or two. So, to share my appreciation of autumn, here are five things to look out for over the coming weeks in Fingle:
The changing colour of the leaves is quintessentially autumnal. It seems ironic that as they shut down and die they become so fresh and vibrant. The view down the Teign Valley from Wooston hill fort is particularly spectacular at the moment, a mosaic of vivid yellows, oranges and reds.
Now is a particularly good time for fungi as they require humidity to spread their spores. A personal favourite is Piptoporus betulinus (top centre in the collage below), also known as the birch polypore or razor strop fungus. It is one of the most common polyporous bracket fungi and grows almost exclusively, as its name suggests, on birch trees. It has a plethora of uses: it can be used to sharpen blades (hence razor strop); has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-septic, anti-inflammatory and absorbent properties, so is a very effective plaster; gives off a pungent smoke which is an effective insect repellent; and finely flaked can be used as kindling when lighting fires.
Autumn is undoubtedly the easiest and most exciting time of the year to see deer as they engage in fierce mating battles. As the blog ‘walking with deer’ notes, signs to look out for include: rutting stands (where stags paw at the ground and urinate to mark their territory); the sound of bellowing or the clashing of antlers as the stags compete for dominance; and antlers adorned with vegetation so they appear bigger. Rutting activity is most intense at dawn and dusk but at the moment the bellowing can be heard echoing throughout the valley.
Berries and nuts
Horse chestnut trees laden with shiny mahogany coloured conkers are characteristic of autumn but Fingle is currently a Smörgåsbord of fruits, nuts and berries. This is excellent news for our birds and mammals as it gives them a chance to stock up before winter. Dormice, for example, gorge on hazelnuts to almost double their bodyweight ahead of hibernation. Yet despite this, did you know that between 40-50% of them die during hibernation?
It is this time of year that salmon return to their natal river to spawn. There are various theories about how this happens including magnetic fields, oceanic currents and “chemical memory”. In the UK the Atlantic salmon season usually lasts three or four weeks, from mid-October to mid-November, contingent upon autumn’s first heavy rains. The weirs in particular are great places to see a flash of silver as the salmon leap four times their length to ascend the fall. If you look closely you might be able to differentiate the red-bellied, streaky-flanked males from the darker females with a rainbow glimmer on their sides.
Enjoy all the season has to offer!
Written by Eleanor Lewis. Deer photo by Paul Moody, razor strop fungus photo by Matt Parkins and all other images by Eleanor Lewis