A sudden Scandinavian cold front blanketed the Essex countryside as October tumbled into November, and brought a severe drop in temperatures at nightfall.
The first rural frosts of the season were picturesque and the low rising sun soon burned through the early morning cool mists that shrouded the landscape.
The warm days and damp nights had encouraged a mass growth of field mushrooms to be foraged along the field’s edge. Edith Holden wrote about fungi hunting in early November 1906: she had found 10 different species growing in a local Warwickshire woodland and surrounding fields. I’d hoped to spot a few species of British toadstools as I walked through Millennium Wood at Wickham Hall; looking for an array of colours and texture, but I was only greeted by a landscape carpeted with fallen leaves and the odour of autumn’s decay.
The days remained dry for the early part of the month and when the sun shone it was still warm in sheltered spots. For days there was a state of quietude in the mid afternoon air, which heralded a sense of calm before the storm. I spotted a common darter dragonfly; a solitary mature male resting on the banks of the riverside. Intrigued by his late appearance and that he seemed undeterred by my close presence, I sat and watched for several minutes as he basked in the temperate climate. It was, for a moment, quite surreal. A dragonfly beside me in November?
Bronzed wild hops tangle their way along the river path, entwining around the other plants growing at the water’s edge. On the river, this year’s new pair of mute swans have all but lost their ‘ugly duckling’ down and are now a shade of brilliant white. They are vocally agitated by Silverisage (the dog), who has taken a keen interest in their water bobbing activities. We leave them to their own company.
The bright field daisies and dandelions that still bloom, pay host to bees and hover flies in the late afternoon. Some dandelion heads are now full of tiny seeds, waiting for the whispering winds of father time to disperse them and then carry them on to new beginnings.
As the days grow short and evenings fall quickly, sunsets can be particularly spectacular at this time of year. But rain has come at last and the seasonal chill penetrates skin deep, a tell tale sign that summer has finally moved on.