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.
So said John Clare, the 19th century English poet noted for his celebration of the English countryside.
What does England have to offer in the autumn? Certainly the flowers of summer are gone – but in their place many charms await the visitor.
The weather in September and October is often warm with a slight chill overnight and perhaps a morning mist giving way to warm sunshine and a bright, golden light. The air is often calm and distant views particularly charming, as the still-green countryside becomes dusted with gold and auburn.
The gardens assume a new identity as the colours of autumn take hold. The summer flowers are replaced with the autumn specialists in hues of gold, purple and red. At this time we expect to see asters, Helenium and Rudbeckia. The best of the autumn gardens will have plenty of floral delights for the autumn visitors as well as the changing colours of the trees. This is a great time to visit Stourhead Landscape Garden. As you stroll around you’ll see a wide variety of rare and unusual tress with the autumn colours reflected in the glassy, still waters of the lake.
Alternatively you could take a drive across the New Forest to Exbury Garden, featuring seasonal colours of dogwoods, azaleas and maples. Also in October this garden hosts a display of Nerines and an Autumn Art Exhibition.
Knoll Garden in Wimborne, run by the RHS Gold Medal winning team, is a wonderful innovative show garden covering some 4 acres of mixed planting. It shows the great horticultural value of grasses in creating versatile and elegant designs that endure through the seasons. With matures trees, water and innovative and diverse planting styles, this is a great garden to enjoy when illuminated by the slanting sunlight of autumn
The heritage attractions such as Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury are open all year round and you’ll have the advantage of seeing them at this quieter time of year - lots of time to wander and appreciate your surroundings without the company of too many other visitors! If you are visiting London then you’ll find that there is just as much to do in the autumn as there is in summer.
At the dining table, the summer fruits and salads are put aside in favour of warming soups and blackberry and apple pie with Dorset clotted cream. This is harvest season on the farms and in the gardens. The last of the summer vegetables are harvested and enjoyed – or made into chutneys and preserves.
This is also the time of year to enjoy one of the ‘Apple Days’ that take place around the country. These events offer the opportunity to celebrate the many different varieties of apple that can be cultivated in the temperate climate of the British Isles – you can taste different kinds of apples and sample food and drinks made from them, such as juices, ciders, cakes and pies. Paul is celebrating autumn with some cider-making. This part of Dorset was once a traditional cider-making area. Much of the village of Shillingstone was once covered in orchards. We have demijohns of cider bubbling away in the kitchen slowly turning from apple juice to cider!
So when does autumn come to a close in England? When daylight saving kicks in on 30 October 2011 the days will suddenly seem much shorter. Then we look forward to November 5th when every town and village in England puts on a firework display and bonfire to remind us of Guy Fawkes’ failed Gunpowder plot.
And then begins winter!