Autumn Adventures

From our bedroom window, at the rear of the house, I can let my eyes settle idly across the garden; to observe, admire, scheme, admonish and other such Things; or I can raise my gaze a little to take in the playing fields beyond. I could, I suppose, go even further; focus higher and further away: at the sky, and the clouds and birds contained within it. Or perhaps a little lower and closer, at the things that lurk at the bottom of the window sill. Be that as it may, this post concerns the middle distance; the playing fields and the autumn scenes contain therein.

For as long as we have lived in our house, the playing fields have been used with varying regularity, and the various pitches have been cut accordingly. At one point only a couple of rugby pitches and a cricket pitch were mown, now nearly the entire area is in use. Throughout all of this, one area has been left alone. When we moved in eight years ago this pitch looked to be merely an bit of unmown grass; several years later, it is now taking on a different and altogether more interesting character. From the aforementioned window, several shrubs and small trees are presently visible. Of particular note are a series of shrubs that have recently taken on a fiery red colour; catching the low rays of evening light on the odd occasion the sun shines right to the end of the day. I thought it was about time I took a closer look at said red bushes: thus, my friends, begins our adventure.

Access to the field, for those with the key, is via a gate; access to the field, for those without the key, is through the fence. Here’s a rather damp slideshow of our approach:

It’s dark, it’s dreary, but hopefully you can see the red glow of the mystery-shrubs through the dullness in the final photo.

Upon closer inspection, it became clear that said mystery-shrubs were in fact Common Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). Common they may be, but they put on quite the show:

A question began to form in the murky backwaters of my mind: how did this get here? As you can see it’s not just one plant but a veritable shrubbery. Common Dogwood is a native plant, yet I don’t know of any other populations locally. The plot thickens: not only was there a whole host of Dogwoods, there were other mysterious inhabitants too. I’m not one hundred percent certain about this next one, but it looks to me like Swedish Whitebeam (Sorbus intermedia):

As the name suggests, it’s not a native – although it naturalises easily enough given the opportunity – so how did such a number of these get to be here? To further thicken the plot, we also happened upon a little meadow of Michaelmas Daisies:

autumn michaelmas daisies

In and amongst this unusual selection of plants were some small trees that seem a little more in keeping with this little area of ecological opportunity: Goat Willow (Salix caprea), Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and a hip-laden Dog-Rose (Rosa canina):

Keeping the Michaelmas Daisy company down in the rough turf were some fine stands of Red Clover:

On the far side of this little stretch of land, some diggers had driven through the grass to dump some earth from work they were doing elsewhere in the playing fields. The tyre tracks made the perfect conditions for the compaction loving Plantain:

autumn plantain

Where most other plants had been crushed by the immense weight trundling through the undergrowth, the Plantain was taking full advantage. I’m sure that in due course, some of the shrubs shown above will do the same; nature abhors a vacuum.

Whilst I’m more enlightened about the inhabitants dwelling on this strange patch of land, I’m much more confused about how they got there. I’m sure there must have been some deliberate planting at some stage within the past few years, but by whom? Confused I may be, but pleased also: the various shrubs and trees were laden with berries and fruits, providing rich pickings for local wildlife. The long grass and undergrowth will presumably provide shelter for a number of creatures, large and small. The only thing which potentially compromises the currently diverse flora is this little patch of brambles in one corner:

autumn elder brambles

I noticed a few stems had started snaking their way into the surrounding long grass. Brambles have their place, but they do tend to dominate given the opportunity.

Well that brings us to the end of our little adventure. It’s a spot I’ll keep an eye on and certainly revisit. It’ll be interesting to see how the area develops over the coming years.

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