A chance stroll in the woods in the early days of August. A tepid, blustery wind whips around the birches, setting free their progeny in a warm, gentle seed-fall. Tiny specks of brown fertility slip down the backs of shirts, itching and inaccessible. Eco-friendly confetti sized for elfish nuptials, it peppers passing heads and transforms the surface of still ponds into living impressionist paintings.
It’s a month for ripening, decay – and wishing. For fruits plumping and seeds setting. For thistles spreading their down and for dandelion clocks to call time on summer.
It’s a time for ends to be reached in the swelling of juicy, purple damsons and gem-like clusters of elderberries. For decay to begin as tiny, invisible creatures – above and below ground – start their work of regeneration. As fungi blossom in phantasmagoric displays.
This year the letters A and u that presage August could just as well be signalling autumn. The rowans already brimming with fiery fruit, ferns lush and tall, on the cusp of turning to amber and drying to brown.
Brambles shoot out fresh long branches a-bristle with tiny – and not so tiny – spines. Late blossoms, pert and palest pink, pop up here and there even as fruits are ripening. Three stages of bramble life, concurrent in one wild plant that would colonise the planet – or Lancashire, at least – given half a chance.
Wildflowers or weeds (your choice the clan they claim) sport frail decaying wisps that float away on the faintest breath of transporting winds or the casual brush of legs passing by.
The fluffy seeds called fairies – well, at my primary school they were – venture abroad on their elegant journeys, transporting hopes and aspirations. Catch your fairy gently in a cupped hand, cradle it while you wish. Then open your fingers and watch as it flies, bearing your dreams away – who knows, to be fulfilled, if it’s your lucky day?
It’s not just terrestrial plants that are changing their garb. In lakes the water lilies are tiring, yellow flowers still snatching light from the sky despite the rains, but leaves turning a rather less healthy shade of yellow. Beneath them fish dart, around them ducks snooze and feed.
Dragonflies and damsels flit and flee, their underwater infancies distant memories, their gauzy-winged summer’s life above the surface lived at frantic speed – and soon to end.
It’s that cycle, fertilisation, birth, growth, life, then decay and regeneration that makes the natural world what it is, makes it fascinating, enrapturing, infuriating and – inspiring. Yes, I know, writers are always advised not to use too many descriptive words, but sometimes, one is simply not enough.
And that’s plenty of wordy wanderlust for now – a few more pictures will end this part of the post, but what of the work that’s afoot as I write? And the highlights to look out for on your strolls?
I will soon, all being well, be writing regularly as writer-in-residence for Mere Sands Wood, a nature reserve run by Lancashire Wildlife Trust in England. I wrote this piece in early August in a fit of premature enthusiasm but there’s nowhere to put it – yet. When the location for my posts is up and running I will let you know and hope you will visit. I plan to mix factual with creative and write seasonally inspired pieces, probably once a month, along with informed (by the experts) observational pieces.
After the final images I would have added August tasks in the woods and natural highlights to look out for but I’m not knowledgeable enough to do that yet! If there are any inadvertent errors of natural observation in the above, please don’t blame my friends at Mere Sands Wood. They haven’t seen this piece, it’s all my own doing…
And here’s a link if you’d like to find out more about the reserve: