Take advtantage of mild autumn weather

The grumpy toad and fairy clubs encountered on Sunday's outing.
The grumpy toad and fairy clubs encountered on Sunday's outing.

This unusually mild autumn continues, with no sign yet of a hard frost to propel us into winter.

My dahlias, roses and Michaelmas daisies are still going strong in the garden, awaiting the first sub-zero temperatures to blacken and finish them off.

Bearing all that in mind, on a dreich but mild last Sunday morning, I set off on a walk round the woodland policies of Bowhill Estate near Selkirk to see if things were equally as unseasonal in the countryside.

The first thing that struck me was the amount of fresh fungi there was around. The damp conditions were ideal, but with the recent big fall of leaves, it was quite difficult to spot them amongst the leaf litter. Once I got my eye in, there were loads to keep me amused.

Under one particular coniferous tree, there were several clumps of what looked like brown brush bristles sticking out of the carpet of pine needles. On closer examination the bristles were branched, like clusters of tiny, closely packed antlers. It was certainly a new one for me. Looking it up afterwards, I reckon it was one of the “Fairy Clubs” – possibly one called Ramaria invalii. Nearby was another one, but a bit easier to identify. It was a traditionally shaped mushroom with a cream and orange cap and a distinctive dark brown stem – Velvet Shank.

After doing some fungi photography, I was walking along the forest track when I came upon another sign of the mild weather. Along one of the ruts, a toad was enjoying the damp conditions, out looking for tasty slugs or worms. The first sign of a cold snap will see it off into hibernation. Meanwhile, it didn’t seem too happy, judging by the grumpy expression on its face when I pointed my camera at it.

As the walk unfolded, I was struck at the number of wild flowers still in bloom, so I began to take note. I spotted daisy, nipplewort, self heal, herb Robert, forget-me-not and most unusual of all – water avens, whose flowering period according to the books, is April – September.

As long as the mild weather lasts, take full advantage and get out into the countryside, before everything shuts down for the winter.

If you see anything unusual, drop me an e-mail and picture if possible to corbie@homecall.co.uk