A late afternoon in the final week of summer and I found myself taking a detour along the edge of woodland on my local common. The place was bathed in a vivid light, bright enough to illuminate the trees in their various shades of green, and there was a strong breeze that whipped around my shirt and played with the fallen leaves beneath my feet. Although still warm, I could feel the chill that the darker evening would bring. It was enough to make me sense the gradual decline of Summer and the encroaching tide of Autumn.
A speckled carpet of pink and white caught my eye and I noticed cyclamen beneath the branches of a horse chestnut. The confetti-like colours made a great contrast to the browns of bracken and fallen leaves on the woodland’s floor, but I couldn’t help wondering if this was an unusual sight at this time of year. I’m used to seeing these at Christmas time and remember them brightening the shelves of the garden centre where I worked as a student. They do flower throughout the year but I had never seen them here and my guess is that their appearance at this time was hastened by the unusual weather conditions this year. The cyclamen flowers were hosting a number of bees, which were clearly being much more industrious than me, standing as I was and pondering the seasons. As I walked through the woodland I passed silver birch, beech and oak, all playing host to various eco-systems, the inhabitants of which were mostly too tiny for me to see as a passerby.
On the Common, the grass had been harvested and bales of hay were dotted at various intervals in a very pastoral scene. On an impromptu visit to Morden Hall Park last month I came across workers gathering the hay entirely by hand and then loading it onto a cart pulled by two shire horses. The scene could have come straight out of a painting by Constable. The manpower was considerable and was made up of National Trust workers and volunteers, but the horses were a wonderful sight to see, and there was little noise other than the calls of the workers and the stomping of the horses’ hooves as they pulled the cart.
I paused on a semi-sheltered spot on the Common beneath a wonderful old oak, the curvaceous shape of which seemed benign and welcoming. A path wound up through the copse behind me. I knew it would lead to the river after no great distance but a new path is for exploration, nevertheless. A pair of meadow browns danced in the breeze, chasing higher and higher without breaking their helix-like choreography. The bright green oak leaves contrasted with the Mediterranean blue of the sky. Here, for a minute, the seasons had paused and summer reigned still. These patches of green are treasures, oases that make living in a city a joy. A few minutes beneath the woodland branches and I was refreshed and ready to face the world again.