It's a funny old cold-wet afternoon. Not inviting at all. I can't summon up the enthusiasm to don boots, hat, coat and gloves and set about the numerous autumnal tidy-up jobs which await me out there in the garden. There are things aplenty to cut down, haul away and compost. The greenhouse needs a thorough 'bottoming' to rid it of the air of neglect I sense as I slide the door open - the summer's tomato plants are now sorry specimens hung with a ragbag of half-ripened fruit; peppers are sticky with whitefly; a lone cucumber is swollen and flabby on the vine....
And leaves....leaves in abundance. Leaves falling like confetti, ginger as freckles, tumbled into crackling heaps. I have raked and scooped 'til my back aches but a glance skywards shows more and more waiting for the whip of the wind to direct them earthwards. I don't relish the prospect of wheeling yet another barrow load to the compost bin even if it does mean more of the brown gold that is leaf-mould.Through the glass of my window and from the corner of my eye I spy a beech tree, brilliant as a beacon against the sombre conifers of Badnage Wood. In truth it's hard to miss and like all good beacons draws me towards it. I am out and how good it is to be up here on the hill with the land falling away beneath me - a stream of golds and browns and greens tumbling away down the side of the Long Mountain. How I wish I could fly and soar over this magnificent landscape with its myriad twists and turns, clefts and hollows.
It's cold and the air is wet but I'm glad I stirred my stumps. The hardest thing I think is getting through the door.
Then, from my vantage point on the hill, I hear Heather, Karl and Phil over there in the Little Triangle Field gathering in the last of the cows and calves. Phil is out on the flank somewhere while Heather urges them on and Karl thwacks his boot with a stick. It's the odd rhythmic thump which attracts my attention - and that of the hens as well. The birds stand with heads cocked and listen to the cavalcade of men and animals move across the field. There's a young bull amongst them too and I can hear him snorting heavily as they move towards the yard. He's a lumbering, muscular, ginger beast amongst the lighter-weight cows and their liquorice-allsorts calves. There's a wagon in the yard waiting to take them down off the hill to their winter quarters. The tail-gate shuts, the lorry strains its way up our narrow lane and they are gone. Silence.
That's it 'til spring then; only sheep left to nibble back and forth, seemingly oblivious to the elements.
I turn my back on the burnished landscape, head into the wind and rain and sprint for the warmth of home. Time for me to be in too.