1st – Start of Meteorological Autumn
2nd – Full Moon Triggers ‘Spring’ Tides
4th – National Fish and Chip Day
6th – National Read a Book day
11th – The (Rescheduled) Great British ‘Spring’ Clean
18th – Great British Beach Clean
22nd – Mabon; ‘Pagan’ Harvest Festival of Fruit
22nd – Autumnal Equinox, Start of Astrological Autumn
Here in Sussex, we are forecast a mild, showery September this year. The shortening of the days is starting to become noticeable, and nature has definitely got the memo about the official start of autumn. Haws and sloes are ripening, and it looks like a good year for rosehips. Time to look for traveling flocks of geese overhead, wave goodbye to the final departing swallows, keep an eye out for ink caps and other early fungi, and look for ivy bees and late nectaring butterflies on sunny ivy blossoms.
The estate that surrounds (and owns many of the properties in) our village hosts a game shooting enterprise, and the stubble fields which were harvested at the start of last month, are filling up now with pheasants which squawk in startled alarm in the dusk.
Mid-August I was walking between those fields via the Centurions Way on my regular circuit. I noted that the wild clematis which two weeks earlier had been a mass of ‘travellers joy’ flowers – constellations of creamy stars, was by then entirely gone to seed. The clouds of ‘old mans beard’ as the soft seedheads are known now stuff the hedgerow with silvery fluff. It reminds me of the first walk I took here on a windy day in early September two years ago, when the old railway route seemed to come alive with the ghost of its past – ash branches clacked above with a clanking of wheel and rail, and the hedgerow sparked with bright motes of berry and puffed clematis smoke.
It was on the same walk last month that I spotted the lapwings. Three of them (I prefer their country name of ‘peewits’ or the descriptive ‘green plovers’), picking over the winterbourne pasture between the feet of the sheep that had been brought down from the flinty Down earlier that week. I wonder if these farmland loving waders will stay long enough to see the dry stream bed of the winterbourne bear its seasonal flow when the autumn rains finally draw the water level above ground again.
September is birthday month for my soon-to-be-husband, so there is cake to plan. Perhaps it will include pears or hazelnuts, both of which are in season now. That is, if one can get to the nuts before the squirrels do!
Despite the change in season, the allotment is not quite ready to slow down just yet. There are still maincrop potatoes in the ground that need lifting, and the dahlias and chrysanthemums continue to bloom. Leeks are in, ready to be paired with the stored spuds for hearty soup over winter. Hardy kale will keep us in vitamin rich greens even when the colder weather comes.
The main job this autumn is to apply thick mulches or manure or compost that will keep the emptied beds blanketed and in good condition whilst they rest, ready for next years cropping.
A poem for September:
Autumn Park (The Year A Day Older)
Wasp browses grazes dozes around the ripe-burst plums.
Bloom-blushed skins split and weeping, sugars congealing around the edges of wounds.
Wasp visits the apples too, that lie bruised and unloved in knotted grass.
Schoolboy still in grey flannel shorts, pockets filled with fluff and electronic stuff.
Mine bulge too, with heavy comfort. Lumpy bumpy clumpy with collected talismans.
Conker smooth in my cupped palm, turn it once twice thrice, soothed to calm.
Long Tailed Tits ping from the cherry tree,
I squint-focus, count them as they fly, commas against the gauzy sky.
The greys have arrived and the trees flare against them,
As though trying to set fire to the rain.
Leaf-sparks launch themselves into the winds, swirling, snagging,
Into the hedgerows where they linger, smoulder,
Hops Hips haws, fire motes.
The year a day older.