Nature’s procession of colour rolls into town. The trees wave goodbye to Summer with glee, throwing confetti of yellow, orange, red, and golden browns upon the dampening ground.
A gang of tree walkers stride up the High St embarking on a two hour trip into Glastonbury’s countryside to meet the trees of Avalon. We turn right onto Lambrook St, then left up Dod lane, through the gate just beyond the ashram where we meet the tumbling mounds of Bushy coombe.
Instead of carrying on up the hill via the path, we veer left into the coombe’s mouth, at this point stopping to note the touches of Autumn glancing across the more exposed tree tops.
Glastonbury’s close proximity to nature is one of the things I love most about living in the town. A five minute walk in any direction can lead one into the narrow lanes, through the fields, and into small wooded areas. Bushy Coombe is one such area, a nature reserve owned by local residents, close to town yet set back from the main route to the Tor. The area features a grass covered mound that forms part of Chalice hill, home to a giant linden tree known as Grandmother lime. Grassy embankments reach back between St Edmund’s hill and Chalice hill, separating them with a gully along which runs a small brook fed by runoff and gentle trickles of water rising from the ground.
The coombe beckons us in with a welcoming entrance that puts town behind us and draws nature upon us. The right hand bank of the coombe is home to small wooded areas of oak, ash, sycamore, and willows, along with the usual suspects, creating a thick under story brimming with rising bramble and home to a large colony of badgers. Lining the basin, the deepest part of the coombe, a number of younger planted trees stand in a row, they show a variety of Autumnal changes and create a fine educational route by which to proceed.
The first we approach is a dazzling Autumnal birch tree, dappling green with yellow and blotting with dark brown spots, its branches draping and swaying in the breeze, gently dispersing tiny seeds onto the wind to be scattered across the land. Here’s a poem, written this month, inspired by the birch:
Gentle birch drapes lightly
At the dawning of the day
Caught the sun just rightly
In that uniquely birchy way
And beyond the birch
At the dawning of the day
The sun danced through the curtains
In that uniquely birchy way
And before the birch stood I
Before the morning and the sky
Just waiting for that birch light
To appear before my eyes
The lady of the woods came
And blessed us with her light
And we waited there
And watched and stared
Till the sun fell out of sight
MW Oct 2021
The next tree we face is a mystery to most first time tree walkers. A number of them are dotted around thanks to proactive hedge planters. At this time of the year, they hang upon their branches three cupped, lantern-like seed pods, pinker than pink can be. These cups open to reveal three bright light bulb berries, as orange as orange can be. These fruits have sprung from dainty white blossoms that appear in May and June. The leaves of this tree can also be observed turning a hot pink in Autumn, in contrast to the racing green of their spindly new growth branches.
It is the spindle, Euonymus, who enchants many with her dazzling Autumn display that might seem more at home in springtime.
Having fascinated everyone with her beauty, the spindle waves us towards our next arboreal encounter, the white willow. Sat on the corner created by the brook and an adjoining gully, the white willow can be identified by its grey green leaves with white undersides. They shimmer in the wind as the underside of their leaves are revealed and then hidden. Willow’s leaves turn pale yellow in the early Autumn, this particular tree is still fairly green and foliaged compared to its more exposed counterparts out on the levels.
9th Oct – Group walking from grand old oakMoving on through the coombe, we meet a slightly ropey looking walnut, a cherry, a hornbeam, and a field maple, all showing various signs of Autumn, before reaching the Grand Old Oak of Bushy coombe. With a girth of 3+m, this oak could be around 250+ years old, it sits on the bank of the brook with its roots exposed and a fox hole beneath it. It will always be one of the last trees to change for Autumn.
From here, a track leads us uphill towards the right embankment, where two mature beech trees stand, one green and one copper, the latter with smudges of deep orange appearing on its outer branches. The beech tree’s sturdy trunks, both with a girth of three plus metres, which might put them at 180+ of years age, form a natural gateway that marks the foot of Grandmother Lime’s plinth. These two tall pillars, guide the walker’s eyes and feet up the embankment towards the old linden tree. And so we proceed.
To gather around the linden is a tradition upheld in some areas of Europe. I have been told of musicians performing from within them and even a pianist in a linden tree.
Linden is known to feature in the centre of villages and provide a meeting and gathering place. A recent tree walker from Poland told me that a table for social occasions was built around theirs. A similar tradition is also upheld in Glastonbury, Grandmother Linden is much visited and highly venerated, with many people coming to leave offerings and say prayers. I proceed to sing a song to her, while the group explores.
As I sung, I observed Autumn slowly moving through the leaves of Grandmother lime, turning random hearts shapes a bright yellow. Her tumbling brown seed pods are taken upon the wind to disperse upon the mound.
Linden’s autumnal display is mesmerising. At first, it might not seem that exciting, plainly bright green and yellow. It’s the way in which the colours are thrown together, first it’s a green tree speckled with yellow, until yellow out numbers green, then it’s a yellow tree speckled with green leaves, all the while the brown sailed seed pods providing further interest. On the linden, a perfectly green leaf can sit right next door to a yellow leaf that has succumbed completely to Autumn’s advance. This creates an apparently random yet seemingly considered pattern, so busy as to enfrenzy the eye, and keep one’s vision from settling, as in the following image taken in Glastonbury Abbey:
After songs around the Linden we head on over to fairy lane to catch the view of the tor, meet the tumbling two trunked ash, before turning back down on Bulwarks lane to begin the walk home through Wick Hollow.
The remainder of this walk is left to your imagination. I could be here until next month describing the gently constant changes that one can observe at this time of the year, and although I might be a willing writer, the business of life may suffer from such a commitment.
The following visual diary shows some further Autumnal highlights from the past month, including some leaf based artwork, veteran tree discovery and more pics from October’s tree walks. I also share some thoughts that emerged from the autumnal cherry leaf artwork, created earlier this month.
I hope you enjoy the remainder of Autumns show, and I’ll see you next month for Autumn’s final costume change.
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