As October progresses it is all about colour and on a bright sunny autumn day the colours can be dazzling. Well, perhaps not all trees put on a spectacular show as some species give-up their leaves in a rather resigned and dull manner. Others however, make up for those that clothe themselves less richly by displaying their coats of many colours.
On Friars Meadow for a brief while the silver birches take on a mantle of cascading yellow fountains yet the common alders that accompany them resolutely refuse to play the colour game and simply drop their leaves when the weather dictates. The birches, however, take all the glory.
Elsewhere willows leaves are yellowing and oak leaves will turn to burnished copper while hedgerow shrubs display enormous variations of autumnal tones and can show off in a spectacular manner. The spindle bush, unobtrusive for most of the year, will brighten the hedgerows with its pink ‘cardinal hat’ seed cases which protect the plump orange seeds inside.
Eventually all must fade and fall and along the Valley Trail they make up a delightful carpet of colour to enhance a brisk walk. However, in sheltered areas the fallen leaves accumulate and when wet are turned to mud by the passage of many feet, hooves and bicycle wheels. In those areas it is necessary to leaf-blow or sweep them clear before winter to keep the trail surface in good order.
Autumn is also about the end of another grazing season. As each week passes there are fewer cattle as each pasture is cleared in turn. There always seems to be something amiss once the cattle have gone even though, during the season, they present a range of problems such as lameness or other minor injuries through to incursions from the neighbouring farm. There is no doubt that they ‘make’ the landscape and provide the key to the feeling of timelessness of the riverside. However, without grass growth and with increasingly inclement weather the cattle cannot remain. Hopefully in just six months time cattle will return to graze and manage the riverside for another summer season.