Our Patch: Summertime Sadness

By on Tuesday, October 1, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanAs I sit here with the afterglow of Sunday’s sunshine on my skin, it doesn’t really seem like the end of summer. We have been celebrating my niece’s baptism today, and following the service, have spent the whole day in the sun – we just can’t believe how kind the weather has been to us.

And yet… all around us are the sure signs that autumn is on its way. I love this turning of the seasons, that we can have the glorious warmth and yet instinctively know that it will be short lived and there will be changes ahead.

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In the woods the decay begins. The leaves begin their descent, beginning with green and yellow, now progressing with gold, brown, and the start of red. There are fungi fruiting everywhere – although this happens all year round, autumn is the season to really view this.

At Stadt Moers Park in Whiston, we came across some Shaggy Ink Cap mushrooms, one of Mother Nature’s cruellest tricks – as their old common name “Tippler’s Bane” alludes to. This mild-tasting mushroom is perfectly edible, until someone decides to enhance their flavour – with a touch of sherry or brandy perhaps – at which point their mixture with alcohol makes them incredibly poisonous. I seem to remember a tee-total villain in a crime novel eating the same meal as their victims, yet suffering no ill effects. As someone who enjoys to cook – and who also loves a glass of wine with dinner – I’m horror struck!

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fawn_toadstoolAlso spotted at Whiston Woods were these two very different fawn toadstools. The more delicate ones reminded me of many a cover of an Enid Blyton story read as a child. The toadstools change daily from a bell shape to flat and it would seen their gills are on the top instead of underneath – perhaps this will help me identify them.

As the calendar moves determinedly towards October, we have been plagued with wasps. I try to be open-minded and all-embracing with the infinite variety that nature has to offer, but I just can’t take to wasps.

My eyes tell me how beautiful they are with their yellow and black, shiny livery, and my mind tells me how vital their role is in our natural world. Yet I loathe their direct and effortless flight, I can’t stand the tickle of them climbing my arm or buzzing at my ear, and I imagine, like everyone else, there is no occasion I wish to share my meal or drink with them. As their queens have abandoned them now to hibernate over winter, they don’t know how to behave, and as they struggle to feed themselves they see us as their meal ticket, making a real nuisance of themselves in the process.

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The fine weather this weekend brought butterflies out yet again – we saw Comma, Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Peacocks and whites, all looking slightly the worse for wear with faded or ragged wings, missing scales and legs and yet still beautiful as they gather the last the summer flowers have to offer.

They have not been the only splashes of colour, though, I have been surprised by the colours the flowers of late summer have to offer. Swathes of pale purple turned out to be carpets of Daisies, and there are still dandelion and ragworts not yet gone to seed – glimmers of yellow in the dense dried grasses, a shadow of their former glory.

teaselOne favourite, which I rarely see in Prescot, although they can be found, are teasels. The picture is of the dried seed head of this very prickly plant, the flowers of these spiky and particularly attractive relics are purple and dry, and are often used in dried flower arrangements.

I hope this fine weather continues, but already there is a fresh nip in the air, inevitably the harbinger of a much less clement season to come.

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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