‘These early November hours
That crimson the creepers leaf across
Like a splash of blood, intense, abrupt,
O’er a shield; else gold from rim to boss
And lay it for show on the fairy-cupped
Elf-needled mat of moss.’Robert Browning
November is often considered a quiet month in terms of nature but so much is going on in the undergrowth.
Mammals tend to curl up in their burrows, getting ready for winter, but you may see some activity as the hedgerows grow more brown and bare at this time of year.
The best bursts of colour come from the rosehips, every shade from orange to dark crimson. After the first frosts, dusty purple sloes are sweeter and great for creating sloe gin or adding to preserves, but please make sure you identify them before eating.
Seed vessels of all the wildflowers and plants also create a great display, common ragwort, cow parsley and teasels as well as the purple wisps of rose-bay willow herb.
You may find a lot more evidence of other mammal activity, footprints left in the mud and softer ground as animals forage for food before the temperature drops. Deer sometimes take shelter in the hedgerows and along the edge of fields during the cold, wet weather so keep your eyes open.
In the south of England we have a great variety of trees and their leaves provide a canopy of colour against the ever increasing grey skies of late autumn. Plants that thrive in these conditions include ivy, which blooms at this time of year, and mistletoe which is easy to spot as the leaves fall and the bare branches expose thick, green bushes and white berries.
The trees are also home to a profusion of fungi growing around the trunk and base at this time of year. Scarlet elf cup fungi and shaggy parasol mushrooms appear but, although pretty, both contain toxins that can cause stomach upset so avoid eating them.
Remember to stock up your garden bird feeders to help our feathered friends through the coldest months. November is a good time to see waders, ducks and geese in the coastal estuaries and marshes. The V formation of geese and the loud honking calls overhead can be flocks arriving from the north, Iceland and Greenland or even Siberia, to winter in our relatively temperate climate.