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  • Writer's pictureCoral

Autumn turns

November to early December 2023

I don’t always get out as much as I’d like to. I feel guilty when I’m not working, but I also feel guilty for not going out! I then find myself forgetting how important being in nature is to me. Perhaps even especially for my vocation, as it’s the basis for so much of my inspiration. Beyond that, it’s so important for my mental health. I found myself in a real rut before I went to the PNW in October. Now I realise, I just really need to spend more time outside! 

I must try not to let myself fall in to a rut again. Substantial walks on the Heath, at least a few times a week. That will be my New Year’s resolution! It’s just difficult when the days keep getting shorter, and it’s so cold. Sometimes getting outside can be difficult. I’m already looking forward to spring again! I don’t do winter very well. Perhaps best to start making some plans, go to the tropical greenhouse at kew gardens? Get lost in the jungle… hopefully you’ll see a blog post about that next month!

In the meantime, I did enjoy our Autumn season very much here in the UK, too. Even if I didn’t get out quite enough, I’ve witnessed the changing of the seasons just enough.

Hampstead parish graveyard is a wonderful place to witness the changing of the seasons. Though not a large space by any means, it’s home to some magnificent trees, and a number of lovely plants - including gorse, wild strawberries, climbing rose vines and holly. 

It was adorned in a red gown in mid November. The sun streaming through a magnificent beech tree (Fagus) backlighting its golden leaves. Autumn was in full swing. What a wonderful spot to sit and contemplate. 

The dark magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) branches strike a stark contrast against its yellow fronds. This tree lays bare of leaves now - but is already sending out buds for the coming spring. It will be one of the first trees to flower, and what a magnificent site it will be. 

Holly (Ilex) in full luster. 

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) - my boy cats namesake. My other two girls are called Saffron and Ivy, for those wondering. I love this tree and its usual leaves. It’s one of the oldest living species of tree on our planet, dating back to before dinosaur times. Absolutely crazy to think about.

Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) in every shade of autumn. 

Cotoneaster photographed on the 29th of November - and again on the 11th of December. That colour change!

This robin (Erithacus rubecula) comes to visit me every time I sit at this bench. Is it because I have snacks? It’s probably because I have snacks, but he’s a delight to share company with. He’ll often let out a little chirp when he sees me. He’ll always elect to eat seed from the bench beside me too, even when I put seeds on the floor! It’s the cutest thing ever. 

I’m not out here only feeding the robins though, I also feed lots of other birds. I’ll often say hello to this murder of crows (Corvus). Look at this photo my friend Natasha took of me tending to my brethren.

The fact I’ve got this far and not mentioned mushrooms is a crime! But there’s been plenty of those too. Thought I ache for the Olympic Peninsula (NEXT TIME), Hampstead heath has supplied us with some treasures too…

THE HECK IS THIS?! Only joking, I know what it is. It’s purple jelly disc fungus (Ascocoryne sarcoides). How gnarly is it? I love the colour - even more striking in person. 

The vale of health fallen tree is still as generous as ever. These split gills (Schizophyllum commune) are huge! I wish there was a way to angle my camera, and get a good view of the gills. One has to start upturning / twisting or picking them to get a decent look. 

Check out that scalloped edge! Gorgeous. On another note, did you know that this species is supposed to have over 23 thousand different genders? I was going to make an LGBTQ+ joke, but let’s just stick to discussing fruiting bodies for now. If a mycologist could please explain to me how this all works, that would be amazing. My mind is well and truly boggled.

Parasols (Macrolepiota procera) are such lovely mushrooms. I often like to imagine a little fairy propped up beneath their canopy, taking shelter on a rainy day. 

Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) may be common; but bands as distinctive as that never fail to make me very happy indeed! Often featured in my artworks, I’m yet to reap any medicinal rewards from this fungus. When brewed in tea, it’s said to do wonders for your immune system. Worth a go the next time I’m feeling a flu coming on…

Sulphur tufts that gleam a buttery yellow from the forest floor. They may look inviting at this stage, but as the name would suggest, not edible at all. Plenty of it to go around in these woods. 

When common puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) reach maturity, they become full of spores, which puff out like little clouds upon contact. When fresh and white inside, they are edible! I’ve foraged them before, pretty tasty with a little garlic and butter. Then again, most things are. 

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