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Early December and the first real frost of the month. The grass on the Long Meadow white and brittle. A Kingfisher whirred away downstream in front of us along the Mermaid and, not finding a nearby wide ditch to it’s liking, it doubled back towards us calling loudly and flew up and over the railway embankment in search of quieter reaches. At this time of the year the rich orange breast of the bird glowed in contrast to the dazzling blue of its back.

All trees except the Oaks have lost their leaves. Around the Field Maples there are pools of yellow leaf-carpets. The Poplars have changed their note in the breeze, now the branches emit a low moan and no longer the sibilant whisper of the leafy early autumn. Strangely, some of the Oak leaves are still quite green and have yet to succumb to the ochre and orange of the discard.

The finches, mostly Linnets and goldfinches, have gathered in flocks along the ditch side Alders. Their contact calls drift on the breeze.

I like the smells and texture of November. Helen shared her view of the underrated month as walked under a clear starlit night. At last the temperature had dropped after a fortnight or so of rain and fog. Underfoot the going was soft, the mud a slippery plastic. There was no wind and the Field Maples has dropped their first batch of rich yellow leaves. The Red Oaks along the old railway line had succumbed at once and a rich bronze leaf carpet lay along the floor if the cutting. Every footprint yielded the sharp scent of denying leaves. It is the sort of scent that evokes memories of long past autumns; the pure pleasure of kicking through wind-raked piles of fallen leaves.

Further along the sharp stink of a Fox hung in the air, so acrid and fresh that we must have disturbed him on his rounds. The dogs pressed forward along the trail of some invisible creature. All three converge on a gateway in Back Lane in an ecstasy of a find. They strain at the leash as something noisily jumps from the lee of the hedge and flees to the centre of the field. The Fox, we think, until we look across from descending road through the next hedge gap. The unmistakeable shape of a Roebuck is just silhouetted against the sky line – he watches us from a safe distance and visibly relaxes as we walk down the lane and away.

Overhead, to the east, the star Aldebaran glows orange on the tip of one of the horns of Taurus.

The movement of birds in flocks is becoming more marked as we reach late October. The daily commute of Rooks and Jackdaws seem to fill the shorter daylight hours. Arrowing groups of Starlings head somewhere with purpose. Finches raid the bird table in noisy clusters. Golden Plover continue to stop over mid-migration, but their numbers have declined as the starlit nights assist their onward progress southward.

The frenzy of lead-tugging, sniffing and running back and forth from the dogs as where approached the house reminded me about our new neighbours. Not house neighbours but newish residents of the copse. Just before harvest one of the local Roe deer moved in. I almost tripped over her whilst trying to approach a hawk which happened to be perched nearby. She sprang up from her comfortable lie as soon as I got within ten feet of her. The form of her body left a warm depression in the long grass of the woodland margin. She merely watched me from a reasonable distance, confident that a thirty yard head start was more than enough.

Since then she was joined by a Roebuck, who eyed us from the field with a confident disdain as we walked past along the road.

This evening’s Whippet frenzy merely confirmed the deer’s continued residence. More active at dusk they wander in search of succulent grass as the vegetation becomes more Autumnal and declines in quality.

Last night at Brampton church Norfolk archaeologist, Alice Lyons, delivered a detailed and enlightening talk upon the Roman history of the village. Or, more specifically, the Roman town which originally lay to the south of the current settlement. A site of both pottery and leather manufacture at a scale unmatched anywhere else in Roman Britain. A site of 150 permanent pottery kilns at Brampton at a time when a 20 kiln site would have been considered big. Busy wharves loading shallow drafted coastal shipping, a stone built bathhouse in an otherwise timber built town. A key communication hub with access to the sea and to major arterial routes. Altogether a contrast to the modern village – how times change.

Alice rounded off the talk by showing some fine examples of Dr Knowles’, and others, finds from the 1970s excavations. These come from those which are held collection in the Norwich Castle museum. She followed this by identifying pottery shards found locally. It was generally agreed that if ever the chance to publish the Knowles archives at the museum, it should be grasped. Perhaps a project for Crowd-funding.

This morning a plaintive whistling drifted down from a hundred-strong flock of Golden Plover. They circled over the Town Field and banked towards their favoured ground. Each Autumn and Spring they call In for a brief respite on their migration from the Arctic tundra to their African wintering quarters. Always the same place. Nearly always at the same time. Their contact calls can be heard on clear starlit nights as they reconvene in ever larger flocks. A little piece of the wild north drifts through the village with a promise of cooling air.

Deer on the Equinox

September 23, 2014

Dusk on the Autumnal equinox in Brampton. Light is fading fast and, as we wander home with the dogs, the barking calls of deer echo across the valley. Roe Deer have spread their territories either side of the river and every copse seems to have its resident deer. The calls come from a buck. Invisible somewhere near Keeper’s Wood at Oxnead, his calls chime regularly, a bell like rasping with a hint of dog-like alarm as he rounds up his harem. On the Town Field we can just make out the russet silhouette of another Roe Buck – he watches us carefully as we walk slowly past, before starting to graze once more. (I have a suspicion that he is responsible for the delicately nibbled sweet corn on the allotment). We arrive home with a distinct sense of the arrival of Autumn.

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