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)

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

October 30th.

The last few days have been very stormy, the wind sending the leaves scattering from the trees and the meadows full of flood water from the overflowing brook. Flocks of gulls have moved in, enjoying the new habitat, along with canada geese and the ever present herons. 
This morning though, in the calm sunny weather there were still a few late butterflies fluttering around enjoying the last flowers and also some huge bumble-bees, there are still some dandelions, daisies and buttercups to be found.

An Autumn Sabbath walk-
 James Grahame.

'Flowers faintly tinged and breathing no perfume.
 But fruits, not blossoms, form the woodland wreathe that circles Autumn's brow:
 The ruddy haws Now clothe the half-leafed thorn; the bramble bends 
 Beneath its jetty load; the hazel hangs with auburn bunches, dipping in the stream
 That sweeps alang and threatens to o'erflow
 The leaf-strewn banks:
 oft, statue-like, I gaze,
 In vacancy of thought, upon that stream,
 And chase, with dreaming eye, the eddying foam,
 Or rowan's clustered branch, or harvest sheaf, 
 Borne rapidly down the dizzying flood.'

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

October 23rd.

After the heavy rain of the last few days, the Olway Brook and the Usk river are once again muddy brown torrents and the meadows around them doing their job as flood plains. It's amazing how quickly these waterways can go from being the clear, shallow rippling waters, barely covering the pebbles on the bottom of their channels to the overflowing fast currents that they are now. At least this year they are doing it in the right season and not during Spring and Summer when the high waters cause devastation to wildlife. 
Herons are enjoying the watery meadows, wading through the waters on their long legs. Flocks of starlings are grouping together, in trees and on wires, preparing themselves for Winter.

The Autumn-Elizabeth Barrett Browning.( lines from)
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill —
In spring, the sky encircled them —
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

October 17th.

A lovely day on the Gwent levels. The reed beds are starting to die back and are very quiet, the absence of the summer warblers,who filled the reeds with outbursts of babbling song is very noticeable. The numbers of wintering ducks has increased however, with large flocks of teal, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall ; the ever present coots, mallards, moorhens and swans make it a very busy place! 

Along a quiet patch of reeds growing out of a muddy bank, I was very fortunate to see three water rails foraging through the mud and occasionally chasing each other out into the open. They're such secretive birds, and it's rare to be able to watch them for a prolonged period and get a really good look at them.Out on the mudflats, where the Usk meets the Bristol Channel were lots of curlews, filling the quiet day with their lovely babbling call.
 A couple of days ago I found to my surprise, a great crested newt swimming around in my dogs water bowl, it's now been re-homed in a suitable pond!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

October 11th and 12th.

The first touch of Winter has arrived in the last few days with cold East winds and dark grey skies this morning.

However, yesterday morning there were glorious blue skies and fantastic clear views from the top of The Sugarloaf, right across the valley and out to the Bristol Channel. The Ravens were croaking loudly and launching themselves off the peak of the hill to soar and swoop in the air currents. Lots of shiny, black dung beetles in the bracken and an amazing array of fungi.
Walked up the Usk River valley today. Some of the fields are replanted with crops already and are an almost luminous green, the others are stubbly and full of crows and rooks. There are some huge bunches of white Michaelmas daisies growing in amongst the bushes along the river bank, giving some lovely fresh colour to the autumnal colours elsewhere, and the spindle trees too are covered in bright pink pods, that later will reveal even brighter orange seeds.

Autumn- John Clare. (lines from).
The summer-flower has run to seed,
And yellow is the woodland bough;
And every leaf of bush and weed
Is tipt with autumn’s pencil now.

And I do love the varied hue,
And I do love the browning plain;
And I do love each scene to view,
That’s mark’d with beauties of her reign.

The woodbine-trees red berries bear,
That clustering hang upon the bower;
While, fondly lingering here and there,
Peeps out a dwindling sickly flower.

The trees’ gay leaves are turned brown,
By every little wind undress’d;
And as they flap and whistle down,
We see the birds’ deserted nest.

No thrush or blackbird meets the eye,
Or fills the ear with summer’s strain;
They but dart out for worm and fly,
Then silent seek their rest again.

Monday, 7 October 2013

October 7th.

It's been a really mild start to the month, with plenty of sun and blue skies. There are still a  few butterflies around because of the mild weather, have seen several red admirals, painted ladies and plenty of  large whites, also a few varieties of flower still in bloom- poppies, mayweed and knapweed are still flowering in the meadows. The sloe berries are huge this year as are the rosehips and the holly is covered in bright red berries. It has been a good summer for all wildlife this year, a year of respite I think . If only we could have a few more years in succession like this one I'm sure lots of the species that were struggling would start to thrive again, however that's a big 'if' !

 A flock of fifty or so martins flew overhead a couple of days ago, and saw a lone swallow, I'm sure this will be some of the last sightings of them until next year. There are large flocks of jackdaws, crows and rooks in the fields now, they gather together every Autumn, in big, noisy, black -feathered groups to patrol the stubbly fields for grain and grubs and any other tasty pickings that may be laying around.

Rich Days. W.H.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.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

October 1st.

October was the eighth month of the Roman year-'octo' meaning eight. The Anglo-Saxons called it 'wyn-monath', -Wine month, as this is when they made wine and also ' winter fylleth' as at the October moon (fylleth) Winter was supposed to begin.

Traditional days in October.
1st October- English Pudding Season begins!
4th October-St Francis Day.
10th October- Old Michaelmas Day.
18th October-St Luke's Day.
31st October- Samhain and Halloween.

Folk-sayings about October.

'Rain in October
Means wind in December.'

'When birds and badgers are fat in October, expect a cold Winter.'

'When berries are many in October,
beware a hard Winter.'

'Corn and grain, corn and grain,
All that falls shall rise again.'

Autumnal- Ernest Dowson.
Pale amber sunlight falls across
The reddening October trees,
That hardly sway before a breeze
As soft as summer: summer's loss
Seems little, dear! on days like these.

Let misty autumn be our part!
The twilight of the year is sweet:
Where shadow and the darkness meet
Our love, a twilight of the heart
Eludes a little time's deceit.

Are we not better and at home
In dreamful Autumn, we who deem
No harvest joy is worth a dream?
A little while and night shall come,
A little while, then, let us dream.

Beyond the pearled horizons lie
Winter and night: awaiting these
We garner this poor hour of ease,
Until love turn from us and die
Beneath the drear November trees.