Monday, 12 October 2015

An afternoon walk - the road to Bepton

My work pattern has altered recently, now allowing for an afternoon walk. I headed out onto the Bepton Road. The Downs slumbered in the distance ahead, indistinct with mist and low sun glare, their tree-covered northern slopes a myriad of texture and shade. 

I have noticed in past few mornings when heading out to work that overnight temperatures have significantly dropped; no frost yet, but fog and heavy dew and a chill in the air. The trees have obviously noticed too as autumnal colour is becoming very apparent along the woodland edges, not just in the fruits and nuts, but the leaves too. Beech trees always seem to be the first to turn, but even the oaks are taking on a golden hue and the road to Bepton, including the pastures which stretch either side, is punctuated by great old oaks, remnants of lost hedgerows like loose stitches from the fabric of the fields

A gateway suggested a place to gaze out over an everyday landscape, an ever changing yet timelessly familiar view. The village was not in sight from here, nor any other scattered habitation, yet more subtle evidence of people living off the land was everywhere, even if one ignored the marching line of telegraph poles. The field had been harvested, sheep allowed in to strip-graze the remaining stubble, pheasants paraded at the margins, tyre tracks  were imprinted in the mud where a farm vehicle had passed sometime earlier. 

Along the lane, the hedgerow was studded every few yards with jewel like clumps of berries from the rose and trailing bryony. Here and there, a few brave sprigs of yarrow, red clover and even bush vetch attempted in vain a final flowering.  On the opposite side of the hedge, a motley gathered group of tups picked at their grazing lazily, waiting for their turn with the ewes. A flock of finches overhead was a swirl of flight and twittering. 

A crow dropped into the top of the bushes, carrying in its beak the body of a vole, probably stolen from a harassed kestrel or other bird of prey after being snatched unsuspecting from the long tussocky grass; light then dark. 

After an awkward transition, autumn undoubtably has the countryside firmly in its grasp. There is the rumour of a hard winter to come. The berries on the holly are already red, reports are coming in from across the country of migrant birds arriving ahead of our own unnaturally imposed schedule, a chill wind blows from a cold north-eastern continent.  I wonder how the patch will cope with a winter freeze, what wildlife will be forced to venture down from the hills or the north, seeking survival? The crow will use his intelligence to survive, the voles will be insulated in a tunnel-world beneath the snow, the bright hedgerow berries will be a finite food source. 

This afternoon I was grateful for the sun, as it seemed to bathe all in a delightful golden light and warmed my face when turned away from the stiffening breeze. A comma butterfly was just as grateful, fluttering up from the hedgerow to bask on an oak leaf, as if showing its host tree an example of colour to aim for. 

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Hello! Thank you for viewing my blogs and profile. I am passionate about the countryside and british wildlife and I hope that this comes through in my blog. I am a nature writer and have been pursuing photography since early teenage years, whilst building a career in conservation. Helping people to reconnect with the natural world is very important to me, whether through direct hands on interaction, education or literature. Please also visit my website, for more information, my current CV, and further examples of writing and photography. You can contact me or keep up to date with new blog posts via Twitter @SophiEcoWild and/or Feedback, comments and audience participation are always welcome! Sophie May Lewis