In 1906 Edith Holden started a Diary, now known as ‘The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady’. In it, she observed Natures cycle through the months of the year, writing simply about the weather, the birds, the flowers and the natural world around her. All the pages are beautifully ornamented with her original artwork and favourite poems. In this Blog, I’m going to try to emulate her Diary in a modern way. For a start, this is a blog on a computer, not pen and ink lovingly written on paper! However, I hope that the end result will have some similarities, in that I want to capture day by day, month by month the steady rhythm of Nature through the year. For although our 21st century lives are hectic, chaotic, noisy and deafened by electronics, the beat of the natural world, which is the backdrop to all our lives whether we notice it or not, remains ever the same. So take a sedate, gentle and steady-paced journey with me through the next year, observing the natural world. Our way of life may have changed almost beyond recognition since 1906, but nature is doing what it always has done, the cycle of nature remains constant and reassuringly predictable. In that respect, nothing has changed. ‘ No Winter lasts forever; no Spring skips its turn.’ (Hal Borland)

Monday, 30 September 2013

September 29th and 30th.

Yesterday was a beautiful golden day. Walked up through Castle Woods to Flagpole hill as it was a lovely evening for some views across the valley- left to the Wentwood ridge, straight ahead down the Usk valley to Newport and right, across the hills to Abergavenny.

 Lots of Robin song in the woods ,and saw a couple of migrating Swallows flying overhead. Also there was a loud bunch of starlings roosting in a bare tree. 

Although the valley still looks green , the leaves are starting to turn colour, lots of Oak leaves have fallen to the floor already.

Today, a completely different day with a misty grey start that lasted all day- the last day of September. I always think that this really marks the end of Summer and that Autumn starts in earnest in the the next month-October.
On the brook was delighted to see that the lone kingfisher has now been joined by another one- a pair back on the brook at last! The river too was a hive of activity with lots of noisy mallards and at least twenty swans.

Some days in and around the Usk Valley in September.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

September 25th.

The valley was lost in the mist this morning, as often happens in Autumn and Winter. However, unlike some days when the mist stays, giving a damp grey day, the sun soon came through and it blossomed into a beautiful warm sunny day. Dew covered cobwebs lay like hammocks along the hedgerows, and hung sparkling from gates.
The fungi are out in force now with all colours shapes and sizes popping up through the dew covered earth.
Over the last few weeks and again this morning saw a huge hornet, I've never seen as many as this year and they are very pretty, with lovely bright yellow, red and black markings, though must admit I'm a little wary of getting too close!
Some of the lovely natural meadow land along the Olway valley has only just been cut and hay baled, which is fantastic for wildlife as it has very little negative impact upon it- the birds, mice insects and all other creatures have reaped the summer benefits of the long grass and wildflowers before it was cut.

Since the equinox on the weekend the days are getting shorter with darkness falling not long after 7 pm, though today, the sun is trying not to give in to winter!

Ode: Autumn-Thomas Hood.(lines from)
I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn; --
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
Pearling his coronet of golden corn.

Where are the songs of Summer? -- With the sun,
Oping the dusky eyelids of the South,
Till shade and silence waken up as one,
And Morning sings with a warm odorous mouth.
Where are the merry birds? -- Away, away,
On panting wings through the inclement skies,
Lest owls should prey
Undazzled at noon-day,
And tear with horny beak their lustrous eyes.
Where are the blooms of Summer -- In the west,
Blushing their last to the last sunny hours,
When the mild Eve by sudden Night is prest
Like tearful Proserpine, snatched from her flowers
To a most gloomy breast.
Where is the pride of Summer, -- the green prime, --
The many, many leaves all twinkling? -- Three
On the mossed elm; three on the naked lime
Trembling, -- and one upon the old oak tree!
Where is the Dryad's immortality? --
Gone into mournful cypress and dark yew,
Or wearing the long gloomy Winter through
In the smooth holly's green eternity.
The squirrel gloats on his accomplished hoard,
The ants have brimmed their garners with ripe grain,
And honey-bees have stored
The sweets of summer in their luscious cells;
The swallows all have winged across the main;

Friday, 20 September 2013

September 20th.

It's the old traditional British Harvest  festival today, and the huge bright full harvest moon was up last night as it will be again tonight.
Went up on to Gray Hill in Wentwood, it was such a calm, clear morning and the views were beautiful- a really lovely early autumn day.

The bracken is still thick and green but starting to yellow in places. Found a bright green Broom Moth caterpiller which lives on bracken, and also a beautiful toad burrowing itself, with its back legs, into the thick grass and earth.
The Rowan trees are covered in bright red berries, don't get many of these trees down in the valley but there are plenty on the hills, the gorse too is in flower so it was very colourful up there.
 The numbers of swallows and martins are declining, sadly, just a few late stragglers- It's sad to see them go, the skies seem empty and reminds me that another Winter is on the way.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

September 17th.

It's been very stormy for the last few days, but this morning was still and calm with the smell of wood-smoke in the air from the house fires that have been lit lately to keep the Autumnal chill away.
 The birds along the brook were enjoying the calm early this morning, and I was very happy to see a couple of pairs of grey wagtails and a kingfisher, they've been there now consistently for the past week or so and I'm hoping this means they will take up territory here once again after their absence over the last year or two.

Illustration available here

Lots of white button field mushrooms are popping through the soil as well as some impressive fungi appearing on the tree trunks.
Watched a yellow-necked field mouse gathering pieces of grain that had fallen out of the bird feeder, a very pretty mouse, quite large with big round ears and huge beady eyes. There's plenty of wild food this year, so they won't need to rely on gardens too much- the hedges are dripping with hawthorn berries.

Illustration available here
It's September- Edgar Albert Guest.( lines from.)
It's September, and the orchards are afire with red and gold, 
And the nights with dew are heavy, and the morning's sharp with cold; 
Now the garden's at its gayest with the salvia blazing red 
And the good old-fashioned asters laughing at us from their bed; 
Once again in shoes and stockings are the children's little feet, 
And the dog now does his snoozing on the bright side of the street. 

It's September, and a calmness and a sweetness seem to fall 
Over everything that's living, just as though it hears the call 
Of Old Winter, trudging slowly, with his pack of ice and snow, 
In the distance over yonder, and it somehow seems as though 
Every tiny little blossom wants to look its very best 
When the frost shall bite its petals and it droops away to rest. 

It's September! It's the fullness and the ripeness of the year; 
All the work of earth is finished, or the final tasks are near, 
But there is no doleful wailing; every living thing that grows, 
For the end that is approaching wears the finest garb it knows. 
And I pray that I may proudly hold my head up high and smile 
When I come to my September in the golden afterwhile.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

September 12th.

September has been very changeable so far, with cold misty mornings giving way to some bright sunny days, but also heavy rain and sharp breezes that send the leaves scattering from the boughs.
 The robins are singing beautifully though, and over the fields the herons are abundant, their croaky voices echoing across the flood plains in the early morning mists. Apart from some white butterflies and a few speckled wood, the butterflies have practically disappeared, and some huge spiders and crane flies (daddy-long-legs) have taken their place- it's a sure sign of Autumn when you find a huge spider in the bath tub!
 Parts of the lanes are like dark tunnels, with the trees so dense and interlocking, a sparrow-hawk nearly flew into me as it whizzed along them, pulling up at the last moment with a surprised look to see me there.

The banks of the river and the brook and the old railway
line, are full of balsam,an invasive plant from Asia. Although it's very pretty, it's taking the place of native species. In the sun you can hear the seed pods popping, spreading seeds far and wide.It's a very prolific and adaptable plant-don't think we'll be getting rid of it!
Bumped into my friendly neighbour-hood hedgehog a couple of evenings ago- such endearing creatures!

September, 1819- William Wordsworth. ( lines from.)
Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.

No faint and hesitating trill,
Such tribute as to winter chill
The lonely redbreast pays!
Clear, loud, and lively is the din,
From social warblers gathering in
Their harvest of sweet lays.

Nor doth the example fail to cheer
Me, conscious that my leaf is sere,
And yellow on the bough:—
Fall, rosy garlands, from my head!
Ye myrtle wreaths, your fragrance shed
Around a younger brow!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

September 8th.

Illustration available here

Yellow leaves are starting to creep in amongst the green foliage on the trees, the Birch being the first to turn, and its leaves starting to fall in the breeze. Lots of squirrels were busily collecting hazel nuts along the lanes this morning, they should have a good store for winter this year.
 On the river was a huge flock of canada geese , about sixty to seventy birds, all honking and flapping in the water, with a group of quiet and graceful swans looking at them in a slightly superior manner! The family of gooseanders that I've seen recently were nowhere to be seen, though they often go further up stream towards the windmill.
 The hedgerows are scattered with the red berries of rosehips and hawthorn and the Oak trees this year are laden with acorns.

Rich Days-William Henry Davies.
WELCOME to you rich Autumn days,
Ere comes the cold, leaf-picking wind;
When golden stocks are seen in fields,
All standing arm-in-arm entwined;
And gallons of sweet cider seen
On trees in apples red and green.
With mellow pears that cheat our teeth,
Which melt that tongues may suck them in;
With blue-black damsons, yellow plums,
Now sweet and soft from stone to skin;
And woodnuts rich, to make us go
Into the loneliest lanes we know.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

September 1st.

September takes its name from the Roman word 'septem' meaning 'seven' as it was the seventh month in the Roman calender. The Anglo-Saxons called this month Gerst-monath- barley month or Haefest-monath- Harvest month. It is the month of the Autumn equinox, and this is the time of the traditional Welsh harvest celebration of Mabon.

Traditional days in September.
14th September-Holy rood day. ( a day when children were let off school to gather nuts!)

21st September-Autumn Equinox, Mabon and St Matthews day.

24th September- Harvest Festival.

29th September- Michaelmas ( St. Michael) day.

 Folk-sayings about September.

'Fair on September the first,fair for the month.'

'September blows soft ,till the fruits in the loft'.

'He who eats goose on Michaelmas day
shan't money lack or debts pay.'

'If St. Michael brings acorns, Christmas will cover the fields in snow.'

Illustration available here
September- Helen Hunt Jackson.( lines from)

"The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

 By all these lovely tokens
 September days are here,
 With summer's best of weather,
 And autumn's best of cheer.