It started slowly at first; the gentle patter of raindrops hitting the canopy of leaves above our heads – not quite enough to deter us from our woodland walk. High above the tree-tops the sky loomed grey and threatening.
We quickened our pace, eager to reach the lake before the rain worsened; a large, glassy body of water filled with fat ducks and geese and tangled reeds. As we reached the clearing and came to stop by the edge of the lake, the rain began to fall in sheets, hitting the water in large drops causing ripples to break the otherwise calm surface. We stood for awhile and watched the ducks diving, the greylags and the Canadian geese honking; a pair of swans elegantly glide across the water and in to the distance.
When the rain didn’t let up we sheltered under a large tree; watched the blue tits and the great tits attack a feeder stuffed with fat balls, two eager magpies watching through beady eyes – one for sorrow, two for joy. A chill was in the air though, and standing still without coats wasn’t an option for long. As soon as there was a break in the rain we made a dash for the safety of the woods again.
It was a quiet day; the rain keeping the dog walkers at bay. The wind raked its fingers through the leaves creating a rhythmic rustling sound, our footsteps silenced by the damp leaf-littered pathway. The tallest trees with branches outstretched toward the sun had leaves that were just starting to turn; flashes of gold and yellow between the lush green.
We pointed out the bushes laden with Autumn berries to each other, the trees that had grown over with velvety moss. Scoured the woodland floor for interesting funghi – signs of the season.
Eventually we reached another clearing. This one a car park with a wooden hut that doubles up as a cafe. My mum spotted it at first; grey fur on the bird feeder. I stopped for awhile, poised with my camera to see if I could capture the thing that had been feasting on the crumbs left out for the birds. Two beady black eyes, large ears and claws that grabbed at the leftovers greedily. It was a rat and a clever one at that – he had made his home in the tree stump that had been fashioned in to a bird feeder. He cautiously peeked his nose out, whiskers trembling on the breeze before climbing up on to the table and snatching up the food in his sharp teeth.
When the rain picked up again we knew it was time to leave. Back in the shelter of the trees we could be mistaken for thinking it wasn’t raining at all – the denseness of the trees keeping us from getting wet. But the scent of rain hung thick on the air, and the occasional stray droplet would hit us, a reminder of things to come when the trees thinned out on the other side.
We crossed the wooden bridge over a shallow stream, long-tailed tits scattering as we did so, low-hanging leaves slick with raindrops. As we made our way through the meadow the rain fell hard.
We stopped just once more to gather up chestnuts to take home and roast later that evening, the perfect Autumnal gift from nature.