I can’t remember a time when I haven’t enjoyed the autumn season. Cool days, the crunch of dried leaves underfoot. Even living in a city, I can see and hear the signs of a changing season around me.
I think it very fortunate that the part of SE London where I live has many green spaces, as they are called. These aren’t just the obligatory park either. Nearly every street has hardy trees planted along it. Grassy patches and flower beds abound. And just like their counterparts in the countryside, they change and grow and shed their leaves when the nights grow longer and the days grow cooler.
I am sat, at this moment, in a busy corner coffee/tea shop. On the road outside the window, I can see cars and buses continually driving by as well as people walking along the pavement. But I can also see a weeping willow waving its branches and a roundabout with grass growing over the whole of it with the trunk of a large tree growing in the middle.
When I am at home, I have only to look out my 2nd storey (well, 3rd storey if we were in America) window and I can see a wall of bushes and trees lining the pavement across the road. During the day I can see birds within the branches, and in the evening I occasionally catch a glimpse of the urban fox that has made a home deep within the protective covering provided.
These are my little patches of Mother Nature that I cherish. Occasionally though, I discover a hidden gem.
One recent discovery was hidden in plain sight. I’ve lived in this area for nearly 20 years, and I only just discovered its wonders a few weeks ago. Who would have thought there could be a large nature reserve located alongside a stretch of one of the busier roads in SE London!
Deep in the centre of this 400 acre nature preserve you can find a working farm, complete with horses, and the skeletal remains of a 13th century moated manor house. The manor and the land around it are now protected by law.
Once upon a time, the oak trees were pollarded https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollarding ) to promote growth in order to harvest the wood for building purposes. Some of those ancient oak trees remain and are over 400 years old.
In autumn time, as I walk along the hard-packed earthen trails, I am reminded once more of why it is that I love autumn. As well as ancient oaks, the preserve has hundreds of sweet chestnut trees. Their spiny pods with the sweet nut inside are now littering the ground. Most have been deftly opened and the inner nut removed by a resourceful squirrel. I have seen foxes, squirrels, birds and have heard rumour that there may even be deer living here. And, while I have not seen them, I have heard the noisy calls of parakeets flying overhead. These large green birds have been establishing a presence in this part of SE London over the past half century and now there are several decent sized colonies.
I am not alone as I walk along these nature trails either. The local residents use the trails daily in their walking commutes; there are joggers and dog walkers. Each of us surrounded by these ancient woods situated on the edge of Greater London.
Here I can see Mama Nature’s signs of autumn, and the promise of rebirth after winter’s chill.