Come with me, if you have a few moments, on a walk through the English countryside on a gentle November Sunday. We will start in the lovely village of Biddestone, (Population about 450) about 5 minutes drive from home, and leave the car on the village green, near the White Horse.
We walk past the duckpond- a small girl is sitting on a bench contemplating a bag full of bread to feed to the noisy residents-and past several eighteenth century cottages, following the road past the Saxon church, out of the village.
The leaves are mostly fallen now, and the bare branches reveal the treasures of the autumn, hidden no longer. Here is wild clematis ( Clematis vitalba)) known as Old Man’s Beard or Traveller’s Joy, and below, the poisonous berries of the Black Bryony. (Tamus communis) , of the same family as the yam, but used as an emetic in the past. The berries are strung like discarded ruby necklaces along the hedges.
Little flocks of finches move from shrub to shrub, and larks rise from the ploughed fields, together with Redstarts and Fieldfares. In the centre of this field, a lone holly has been left to grow, laden now with berries and imitating an olive tree in this almost Spanish landscape.
A little further, pheasants clatter from a shelter belt of vegetation left for them. Tall sunflowers, unharvested, grow amidst millet plants, both offering cover and food for the game birds. There are plenty of pheasants rising from the edges of the fields as we pass, making their noisy alarm calls. The breeze rustles through the plants, making a sound like running water through the dried foliage.
Occasional Buzzards circle overhead, looking for whatever they might find, and a sparrowhawk hunts along a hedgerow. Turning a corner on the track we are rewarded with a long view down towards Bath. It is a beautiful spot.
We climb the ridge now to return to the village, passing a heavily laden holly, grown to tree size, rather than as a hedge. So many berries, but only on this female tree, The male trees around it are bare of fruit.