Today, when I took my dog for her daily walk in the local woods, I was very aware that change was in the air. The woods seemed to be waiting for something, and holding their breath.
They are, of course, waiting for the autumn. It’s almost as though they are keeping still and quiet in the hope that winter might pass them by this time.
For the last few days, we have caught the tail-end of Hurricane Bertha, so the woods have been hammered by strong winds and heavy rain, so perhaps they are just having a well-earned rest after the storm.
The stinging nettles are now too high, and they’ve been smashed around. It would be nice, perhaps, to indulge in some schadenfreude here, imagining that this serves them right for all those stingson my hands this summer, but, actually, they are far more hazardous for the blind walker on the edge of the soup plate, because now they bend over the paths drunkenly, and wave themselves about at face level.
Apart from the vociferous crow family – the crow, the jackdaw and the magpie – the birds are generally quiet. They seem too busy feeding young and teaching them to fly and recognise predators to waste time in defending territory or showing off to the girls. They need to start piling on the weight for the winter.
I still know they’re around, because I hear their little contact calls in the trees all around me.
There seems to be little colour, except the dull, tired green that is everywhere. The only flower worth mentioning is along the river, the much-maligned Himalayan Balsam.
The way people talk about it, you would assume it is a triffid, or an eastern European immigrant, set on destroying our English flowers and our English culture of delicate, unassuming primroses (the key to their English nature is in the name). But, if you look at it before you pull it up, it is really quite a pretty flower. And the bees love it.
Just as with human beings, there have been numberless waves of alien plants in this country. Just about all our trees are aliens. Even the snowdrop is a garden escape, and came from Turkey only a couple of hundred years ago. In my lifetime, there have been panics about ragwort, sycamore, hogweed, Japanese knotweed, the list will go on.
Before Dutch elm disease wiped it out, even the majestic elm was despised as “the Warwickshire weed”.
So, balsam will find its place and its predators. It will take time, but if Natures got an abundance of anything, Time is it.