Away with the fairies on a damp Sunday


Some days you look out of the window at the driving rain and begin to contemplate a day by the fire with the Sunday papers. One glance at the pleading face of the old dog and it’s usually a case of “OK I’ll get my waterproofs”.

It was just such a day last Sunday and as usual I gave in, and Tibbie and I headed off down the river to see what was about. Actually, once we were out, the rain eased and the waterproofs were soon consigned to the rucksack and I began to enjoy the outing.

Autumn was getting into its stride with ash leaves falling like snow, but many others were still verdant green, so there’s still a while to go. Berries were bountiful, particularly haws and sloes, but I seemed to have missed the boat this year with the elderberries.

I paused to watch a mixed flock of common and herring gulls bathing on the edge of a shingle island in the middle of the river and a few “redheads” were feeding close by.

This is the term used for female goosanders to distinguish them from their male counterparts who have black heads.

Despite the lateness of the season, there was still a few flowers in bloom, namely harebell, devil’s bit scabious, Himalayan balsam, foxglove and red campion, but the first frosts will soon put paid to them.

As I walked through the damp riverside woodlands with a party of long-tailed tits chirping overhead, I came upon a huge “fairy ring” of toadstools growing under the remains of a long-dead hawthorn. They were growing in an almost perfect circle about 20ft in diameter. Luckily I had my “Collins Gem Photoguide to Mushrooms and Toadstools” in my hip pocket (A great little book to help with common fungi identification).

Clouded Agaric seemed to be what I was looking at, as it ticked all the right boxes in the guide. The final clincher was the statement “It smells strongly of turnip” and even my poorly developed nostrils had to concur.

How these amazing circles are created is open to speculation, but they are just another of Nature’s wonders found commonly right on our doorstep. It may not seem much to most people, but it certainly made my effort to drag myself away from the fire worthwhile.

z Watch this space next week for news of a new booklet just launched, which hopefully will entice you away from the fire this autumn.