It has been pointed out to me that i did not post John Hinchcliffe’s November diary written for publication in the Dorset Life magazine in 2010, so here it is. On re reading this I am struck by sensitivity to the seasons and knowledge of the countryside.
The end of October and the beginning of November were and still are an important occasion: a period of time when Pagan and Christian beliefs are intertwined. All Hallows Eve or Halloween is on the 31st October and All Saints Day on 1st November with All Saints Day on the 2nd and also the Eve of the Celtic New Year. This is the end of summer and the onset of winter, a time of sacrifice, bonfires and for remembering the dead.Unlike the gradual changes that took place in the landscape during August, September and October the change in November is dramatic and somehow final, ravaged by high winds and torrential rain. The trees in particular now stand stark and leafless, their colourful displays almost gone. Everything is wet, damp and dying. The once rich vegetation of the Dorset Lanes, downland and meadows is reduced to seed heads and lifeless stalks, luckily, however for the birds there is still a rich harvest of these seeds, wild berries and windfall apples over which fieldfares in particular like to fight and squabble. Never-the-less it is not all bad, every season brings with it new opportunities and now it is time for brisk walks by the sea or on the downs, for chopping wood and open fires, for savouring the smell of wood smoke, apple tarts, sloe gin and roasted chestnuts.
Englishman need the winter when years ago I was working in India or on lecture tours in Australia and America I longed for these drizzly damp cold days. This is also a time for looking at the garden and planning for the new year, for deciding what to plant and where, assessing ones successes and failures. For consulting nursery catalogues and deciding which seeds to buy.
My illustration of a Lapwing highlights the importance of this time of year in terms of migration as many species of wading bird, ducks, and geese are now moving south to Dorset from their northern breeding grounds in Scandinavia, Russia or the Artic. Notable local sites include the brackish waters of Radipole and Lodmore, the Fleet and Poole and Christchurch. Harbours. Look out for birds such as Shelduck, Black tailed-Godwit, Oystercatchers, Redshank, Snipe, Curlew Ruff and Dunlin.
John Hinchcliffe 2010