I felt like King Lear on the blasted heath today, for the wind, that blows away the autumn and brings us the winter, is crashing down from off the moor, in a rush of tightly-packed isobars.
Walking away from home the dominant view is of Pule Hill; coming back, the dominant feature is Deer Hill. They are glimpsed between rain squalls, and in those sudden moments of calm – empty holes in the wind.
This has been the week when the colour has been emptied from the world. The deep red beech leaves have been stripped from the beeches, leaving bare cathedral columns of grey, and the thinnest of branches. There is a huge pollarded birch, one tree become four, its slashed papery bark grey and dirty.
The sedge is whispering. The river is full. This is now the season of the river. We watch its level carefully, knowing that today’s rain on the high moor will be tomorrow’s flood down the valley.
Alder bushes huddle with their feet in water. Round here they were called ‘Owlers’, and the word lives on in the guise of farm names and lonely patches of hill and moor: Green Owlers, Far Owlers, Green Owlers Hill, Owlers Clough . . . They are one of the trees that tolerate watery conditions, and, higher up, a tree of any kind is remarkable, in the true sense of the word. They would be remarked upon. The original piling foundations of Venice were alder trees, chosen for their resilience in water.
Their seeds float, and are spread along the banks of rivers by bobbing along with the water. However, no-one has explained to me how they spread upstream. The flowers are wind-pollinated, but the seeds form inside a cone structure, that opens eventyally to drop the ripe seed in the river.
Bushes create thick undergrowth called ‘Alder Carr’, and Ruby is fascinated by these swampy places. If she goes in, she will have to be hosed clean at home, and she hates getting clean water on her. The dirtier, the better.
So now I keep her on the lead when we walk past alder carr, as we walk together into the winter.