The weather has finally broken – bright blue swathes have been replaced by ominous greys. Normally, I would begrudge the rain for keeping me from my evening rounds, but the earth is in such need of water that it feels more appropriate to be grateful for the downpours.
The moon’s last cycle consisted of two contrasting halves: the first, much to my delight, felt like an eternal succession of brilliantly hot days. To wake in the morning and be sure of fine weather is liberating for the inhabitants of this Atlantic island, and the opportunity to be outdoors in the sunshine for sustained periods is for me a deeply pleasurable novelty.
The second half of the month served as a juxtaposed response and much needed relief from the first half. After relatively stable weeks, suddenly there is volatility in the sky – an outburst that has felt ready for a month is now finally releasing, bringing a welcome and relieving freshness to the atmosphere.
As I write, the sky rivers are rolling in from the south west bringing substantial drenching and thunderous displays as they pop and hiss over the levels on their approach toward the hills of Glastonbury. Despite their ferocity, the storms still have not sufficed to fully quench the drought upon the land.
Throughout August, I took short walks at the cooler end of the day, making late afternoon or early evening trips with my guitar, often sitting out until sunset. I watched the moon develop night-by-night, each time her appearance venturing further into the darkness. On the night of the August full moon I snuck out to meet the moon at midnight. I went in search of the shadow of St Michael’s tower casting across Stone Down, and placed myself at its top, mirroring the moon’s position. For a brief moment, we both hung dreamily, staring at each other from opposite sides of the mound.
A recent sunny day adventure took me into the heart of the Glastonbury zodiac in Butleigh to explore Park Wood – a private wood that is off the beaten track. I caught wind of the existence of Merlin’s Oak some time ago, but only now had enough clues to navigate within its vicinity.
Finding its exact location was another task entirely. The wood is overgrown and, at his time of the year, the surrounding fields are chest deep with grasses, bindweed, and brambles, making the approach to the oak quite difficult.
I include an image of Merlin’s oak as well as a lesser known, but equally impressive oak living on the edge of the woodland.
Due to the sustained amounts of sun during August, many fruits and nuts have ripened early: the blackberries are plumping, the acorns are as big as my thumb, and the beech trees too are dropping their seeds in numbers.
It’s been a year of bounty for many oak and beech trees. On the east of the Tor I came across an oak with a very freshly dropped bough, it was laden with acorns to such an extent that they may have been partly to blame for the loss of the limb.
In another case, a young beech on Stone down has produced nuts in such abundance that its branches have been pulled down to within reach under the weight of the mast.
I have observed a number of oaks shedding large boughs (which some suggest might be caused by drought), and many other trees performing an early Autumn, throwing off their leaves to preserve water, a drastic but necessary measure.
The elders seem to be the least able to cope in the hot conditions, the sustained heat caused their leaves to shrivel to a brown crisp. Some of them now appear like ghostly desiccated stalks amongst the reinvigorated greens, and might be mistaken for dead if not for their umbrellas of black-red fruits dangling upon skeletal limbs.
The dancing ash trees have not lost leaves or boughs, but have caused a large golden halo of dried grass to form in the field surrounding them.
As the image shows, the stubbly grass which in normal conditions would be regrowing for a re-mowing, shows a definite change in colour. I assume this is because the ash has consumed all the available water.
The months of September and March are the most mutable in terms of light, temperature, weather, and general feeling. It’s the time of the year when the day and the night are of an equal length and characterised by a to-and-fro between the retreating heat of summer and the creeping cold of winter, or vice versa.
During the last moon’s cycle, I walked both in the light and the dark at the same time of the evening, mirroring my experience earlier in the year at the spring equinox. Now, standing at the edge of the autumn equinox, the evenings draw in so rapidly that my ventures have become stranded by night’s tide and my clockwork trips to Stone down are now conducted in the dark.
The gentler signs of true Autumn are starting to appear; the yellowing of elder and the early drop of ash, the bright yellow spots of linden and numerous other subtle changes, noticeable to those wishing to observe closely and repetitively.
Though I love the hot weather, I am quite fond of autumn and I have learned to approach it with optimism. I am finding some relief as the cool pokes its head through the warmth, the ground softens beneath my feet, youthful songbirds sing disjointed ditties, and the air conducts a very different symphony of smells.
I await the trees’ colourful display with glee, and I am looking forward to the cosy feeling that gathers as we pass through the equinox, as the day’s light is consumed at both ends, we say goodbye to summer and start to prepare for our descent into the darker months.
To celebrate this period, I have announced four autumnal walks in Glastonbury cemetery, running every other week throughout October and November. If you live nearby then I hope to see you on one of those walks.
Until next time, we walk To The Trees.
A Visual Diary – Aug/Sep 2022
Upcoming Tree Walks + Woodland Fires
Public Tree Walks, Glastonbury – By Donation
Sun 25th Sep – Sunday Tree Walk, Glastonbury – 11am – 1pm
Sat 8th Oct – Autumn Tree Walk, Glastonbury – 11am – 1pm
FB Event: https://fb.me/e/3qJNzk6yW
Book: 07548 936 081
Glastonbury Cemetery Tree Walk
Wednesdays 5th Oct, 19th Oct, 2nd Nov, 16th Nov
11am – 12.30pm – by donation
FB Event: https://fb.me/e/2itESXZn5
Book: 07548 936 081
Abbey Tree Walk & Talk
Note: Abbey Entry fee is not included
A gentle walk with tree ident and poetry.
Sat 17th Sep – 11am – 12.30pm – £10pp
Sat 15th Oct – 11am – 12.30pm – £10pp
FB Event: https://fb.me/e/256hQkVIM
Book: 07548 936 081
Bishops Palace Walk, Wells
Gentle walk and talk with tree ident, songs, and poetry in the grounds of Bishop’s Palace.
Sat 1st Oct – Bishop’s Palace Autumn Tree Walk – £14.50pp – 11am – 12.30pm
Sat 12th Nov – Bishop’s Palace Autumn Tree Walk – £14.50pp – 11am – 12.30pm
FB Event: https://fb.me/e/3JCB8yfUk
Walks for individuals and groups, for birthdays, weddings, and as an add on to your retreat, at a date and time to suit you.
Call Matt to book: 07548 936 081
Bring the outside in!
Sign up for Matt’s bi-weekly email and podcast featuring highlights from his private walks around Avalon. You will receive all content directly to your inbox, emails will be sent on the New Moon and Full Moon.