September is a month of transitions. Although I admire its beauty, it has never been one of my favourite months. Like all transitions, September can be unsettling especially as autumn is the precursor of colder and darker winter nights. This year, however, I am trying to see it all with new eyes.
In this time of climate change, economic and political uncertainties, and so much environmental degradation, it is reassuring to witness the click in and click out of the seasons. The goings and comings of migrant birds, the chestnut conkers that decorate the ground and the semi-hibernation of our beloved mammals; nature’s routines that we have come to know and that we can set our circadian rhythms by. It shows that at least some things are working to order and that there is continuity.
So today, with my binoculars, camera and push bike as companions, I set out in the autumn breeze to soak up the last songs of September. On route to the next village, I take in the intricate seed heads of Travellers’ Joy (Clematis vitalba) and the remnants of field and hedgerow plants pushing out their final flowers so that the winds can carry the last seeds of the season: agrimony, fleabane and scabious. The starry seed heads of the umbellifers stand structured and tall against the rose hips, sloes and red berries of the blackthorns and hawthorns; together they are a rich harvest for the winter.
On reaching Child Okeford, I chain up my bike and make way on foot up to the top of Hambledon Hill, an iron age hill fort that hangs high over the Dorset countryside.
The sun is warm on my face. By now it is late September and there is still a sea of greenness stretching out beneath me. The sky is blessed with some remaining martins and swallows as they gather in groups preparing for their long migration. I bid them good luck as they scoop past me, eye to eye. There are two buzzards mewing overhead and flocks of meadow pipit and yellow hammers flitting over the ancient burial mounds.
Higher I go feeling the peace that surrounds me. Looking out at a landscape I have come to know and love; a place that has served me well. A place that is abundant with life and human histories. I climb higher onto the ramparts following in the footsteps of ancient warriors and accompanied by the buzzards, crows, ravens and a young kestrel hovering silently on the uplift. A sparrow hawk completes the set as it darts below me; its menacing dark blue grey wings stark against the chalk path. I look out at the timelessness of the place and ponder the comings and goings of nature and people; the glowworms that light up the north banks, the harebells of high summer and the orchids in Spring. We are all just passing through.
Still foraging for signs of life I find a basking lizard and three garden tiger moth caterpillars before I fill my pockets with conkers and make my descent and journey home. It has been a wonderful two hours to appreciate the last songs of September…..