Tag Archives: autumn

Damp Gold

Yellow Leaves

The countryside has turned golden once again. It’s a greener, paler gold than the ripe wheat, but still lovely, and would be more so if it would ever stop raining.

In the event of a dry spell, you could do worse than check the Forestry Commission’s website for their Autumn Colours map, and find the best place to swish through leaves near you.

Kicking up leaves


It’s a joy to be outdoors on the last of the clear autumn days, and the early hard frosts seem to have made the colours extra good. Is it my imagination, or have all the seasons been superlative this year?

If you are stuck in an office with the rain beating against the windows, just contemplate this image and imagine yourself into a better place.

Forest sceneAll images from the Forestry Commission website.

Forage in the hedgerows

After the first hard frost it is sloe picking time. They grow on blackthorns – easy to spot because they grow the same size as hawthorns but with oval leaves and really quite ferociously long thorns. They aren’t as ubiquitous as hawthorns, but most country walks in East Anglia are likely to throw up several.

This is a typical thorn. Our sloe picking expedition was punctuated by a quiet chorus of ouches.


The ripe berries are beautiful on a sunny autumn afternoon


It didn’t take long for us to collect a whole bowl, leaving plenty of less accessible berries for the birds. Then spit spot back home, and we put them in the freezer overnight to simulate a hard frost – we’ve only had a couple of light ones so far. Apparently you can make sloe jam or eat them fresh fresh from the tree, but we saved all ours for infusing in gin – find the method in good old wikipedia. It should be ready in time for christmas. An extra tip is when you have drunk the gin, try infusing the leftover berries in sherry. I haven’t tried this yet but it sounds lovely.

Available for free in a hedgerow near you. You can eat the berries but not the leaves of the Blackthorn tree.


Local, seasonal, delicious

The Elbournes have been growing orchard fruit for five generations. Their farm shop in Meldreth has been there since 1967, but is only open in season – pretty much August to February. The apples there smell so much more apply than those in the supermarket – the orchards are around Meldreth and the next village, Melbourn, so they don’t have far to come and can be picked when properly ripe.

It’s a treat to drop in to the shed and pick out some interesting apple varieties from the wooden crates.

They have been very proactive in planting and selling heritage varieties. South Cambridgeshire was traditionally always an apple and plum growing area, famous for it, and they are carrying on the tradition and growing varieties I, an apple lover, have never heard of. 


They do well known varieties as well, generally at less than supermarket prices, and full flavoured apple juice pressed from single varieties, which is also available in farm shops around the area. Have a look for it if you are in the South Cambridgeshire area. Also, occasionally homemade apple muffins still warm from the oven appear on the cash desk.

There were two but one got eaten before I could take a photo…

Do seek them out and remember what apples should taste like – a touch tarter and more complex than the modern commercial varieties and perfect with Wensleydale cheese from the Hawes Creamery.

NB the shop is now closed until the season starts again in August.

Cam Valley Orchards Farm Shop
25 Whitecroft Road, Meldreth,
Royston, Herts SG8 6ND
07770 461 685
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only, 9AM to 6PM, August – February
No website

Autumn setting in


A month ago, everything round here was golden. Really. This was just around the corner from my house


Then this happened

The harvest was late in this year because it was so wet. For weeks combine harvesters have been everywhere, clogging up the roads in morning rush hour (if such a thing exists here), raising enormous clouds of dust. However late you drove home there would be headlights in the fields as every dry hour was pressed into service. 


The stubble faded from deep coppery gold to buff, and now they are being ploughed back to brown and grey.