September, the start of autumn and as Keats would say, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…”. This is a mixed month in terms of weather, warm days or incessant downpours can happen at any point, but nature continues to thrive one way or another.
I’m really enjoying the show of cyclamen under trees and bushes at this time of year. Their topsy-turvy petals come in a range of pinks, lilacs and stark winter white which really stands out against the leaf strewn forest floor.
On warmer days it’s still a good time to see insects in the hedgerows, a few dragonflies can be found on the last of the wild flowers. The first flushes of fruit happened way too early this year, here we are in September and the blackberries are almost over. Rosehips and varieties of nut are easy to spot and forage at this time of year.
If you do pick anything to eat, always double check it’s edible online or in reference books. The Woodland Trust have a month by month guide on their website and the British Trust for Ornithology has a fantastic three page guide to berries you can find in the UK. Make sure you can clearly identify the varieties and print a colour copy for taking on walks;
The team at Countryfile have also produced a wonderful guide to foraging for all the family;
Mushrooms are another good find but, unfortunately, it’s now totally forbidden to pick from my patch in the New Forest. Wild Food UK has a clear list of edible and poisonous varieties to look out for. If in doubt, take a photo and check before you touch them.
Now is a good time to get children outdoors searching for conkers, those shiny horse chestnuts that are definitely not for eating. You don’t have to play ‘conkers’, finding the biggest or smallest can be the aim of a game. It’s very easy to grow one in a pot and you can enjoy watching it grow indoors over the winter months and then planting it in a special place next spring. Many people gather horse chestnuts to place in the corners of the house, to deter spiders who, apparently, don’t like the odour.
In terms of bird spotting, now is the time that we lose our summer visitors, warblers, swifts and swallows as they fly south for the winter. My window bird feeder has been very busy this past week with coal tits and robins by the dozen. We are also on the migratory path for waders who have spent some time breeding in the arctic and pass through Britain on their way to warmer climates. To find out more about birds (and other wildlife) in the New Forest have a look at this wonderful local website;