Floodlight on Lord Crag and Nab Scar, fiery grasses and bracken, a glow of gold through the hanging wood. Shielded by fells, Rydale lies in shadow and a deep frost. Tomorrow is the first day of winter, of meteorological winter, and it’s below freezing. Below Loughrigg Fell the woodland canopy billows like ice-clouds. Slender branches are filmed with rime-ice, like antler velvet. Sunlight in a sky of blue, the morning calm and still. The flaming heights, the hanging wood and the frost-pastures below the Coffin Route are mirrored in Rydale Water.
A deep frost on a still and overcast morning. The ground hard, ice on poached ground. Pastures of frosted grass, lichens on limestone paler than ever and cushions of moss spiked with crystals of ice.
The soft chacking call of fieldfare in the top of a hawthorn. A sole bird visible but he calls to companions hidden amongst a tangle of branches. Only flight reveals them.
Later, a group of half a dozen fieldfare flew calling, toward Helsington Barrows.
Berries and fallen leaves lie on the sodden grass beneath the whitebeam. Standing beneath the tree, I look up through branches sunlit and shadowed, through red berries to the blue beyond. Listening to a blustery wind that animates the tree, setting it dancing. The fiercest gusts make the boughs creak as as the tree flexes and sways. Whitebeam is a beautiful tree and responsive to the wind. It rises behind a dry stone wall that flutes the wind through its crevices, standing sturdy and unmoved.
Berries are abundant this autumn and I know few as striking as the fruit of the spindle tree. In early November, I'm seeking the perfect spindle laden with fruit and with leaves all shades of rose. It's rare to find perfection. Sometimes autumn winds wreak havoc with the leaves, stripping the shrub. This autumn, I found a shrub by the lake at Sizergh with splendid foliage and few fruit.
Near Helsingon Church was a spindle rich in fruit, caught in sunlight, with few greenish leaves.
The pink seed capsules split to reveal orange seeds and here you can see the capsule splitting to release its seeds.
The gardens at Sizergh Castles are a joy. On our last visit the motif was butterflies, today it's autumn fruit and winter thrush.
Leaves fall from the trees but the early sun vanishes and the light is poor. Flights of redwing overhead, the small and slender thrush with a high-pitched contact call- this morning they are silent. Fieldfare amongst them but they are silent too. The birds alight high in the canopy and it's hard to make out detail. Fieldfare and redwing are shy birds and the last leaves conceal their numbers.
Bunches of purple grapes on the vine against the lichened brick wall. Dahlias and a drift of Spanish daisies.
We come upon a bed of Chinese lanterns and a single fruit within the remnant of its outer casing.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)