It will be a difficult winter, but the natural world brings small, precious consolations
As different parts of the UK find themselves under varying degrees of restriction, as indoor pleasures dwindle for many, the outdoors may provide some shred of solace, some healing connection to nature. Impervious to human travails, autumn happens to be putting on a particularly spectacular extended show this year, thanks to a damp August and sunny September. In some parts of the UK acers, or Japanese maples, are now entering the period of their most vivid crimson pomp; Amelanchier lamarckii, or the juneberry, is shedding its delicate apricot autumn foliage to reveal its handsome dark branches; oaks are on the turn towards a warm yellow.
Observing this seasonal drama is called momijigari in Japan – or “leaf-peeping” – and the National Trust notes that the British are becoming more susceptible, at this time of crisis, to its pleasures. It is also a remarkable year for apples and honey-scented quinces – indeed, for fruit and berries of all kinds, from rowan and sloe to spindleberry and holly. For those lucky enough to have a garden, raking is now a seasonal task and ritual, the rich scent of rain on fallen leaves a small pleasure to be savoured. To plant daffodil bulbs and sweet pea seeds is to engage in small acts of optimism and expectation – it is to insist that there is something to look forward to.