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The hedgerow Oaks have attained a rich bronze after a frost or two. This Oak, on the southern edge of Keeper’s Wood, glows in the sun.

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Oxnead Meadow in late November. Morning mist rising after a frosty night

I woke with a start to the insistent “shush..!” of the librarian. Until I managed to collect my thoughts, I was transported briefly back to the Reynold’s Library – that silent school sanctuary of o-level revision and homework. But with a start I realised that I was listening to the sound of night visitors to the garden and as I became more alert, I heard the sound repeated. This time less the human and the more animalistic. Now, again, with an answering call which only slightly varied in pitch. It was the same sound for which we had paused to listed for a few moments near the old farm buildings – sometimes a hiss, sometimes a screech. These were the roost contact calls of Barn Owls. The owls were hunting over the now deserted gardens, quartering the deserted lawns, driveways,mushers and beds and gentle calling to one another as they went. The sound sneaking through the open window of the sleeping house. Their visit drawn by the gathered presence of rats and mice which had deserted the now depleted fields and hedgerows. Perhaps a less welcome thought than that of the school librarian’s insistent order. In this slightly sleep addled way I drift back to sleep

As the sun rises during early November the light struggles through the murk. Birdsong has almost disappeared, with the exception of the metallic ticking from a resilient Robin and a short insistent burst from a Wren hidden deep within a knot of bramble. Otherwise the silence lies heavy and the impression of a decline into Winter is hard to avoid.

I check the Ash trees along the railway line as I pass them. They have dropped most of their leaves making it harder to spot those with die-back. What I can find does not encourage me. If those grand mature specimens in the valley have succumbed to Chalara fraxinea, it seems unlikely that these closely packed, self-sown youngsters are going to thrive for much longer. It strikes me that most people do not notice the trees for what they are; distinctive boundary markers, etchers of sky line and creators of cool shade. But when they go, or threaten to do so so, the very loss of volume within a country village is immense. The accompanying photograph shows what is essentially the carcass of a village tree – the whisper of leaves has gone and soon too will the shadows.

Leaf fall

November 7, 2011

The wind changed direction and blew steadily from the south east earlier this week. This change of angle served to strip the leaves from the poplars that line the Oxnead Road as well as those on the railway line. Hitherto for some weeks the prevailing westerly wind had failed to dislodge leaves – perhaps they were not quite ready. The arrival of some rain may have helped – trees need the movement of water in order to force the issue. A dry period merely desiccates the tree into a kind of suspended state.

Other trees are clinging on, although the Field maples have dropped a few of the chrome yellow leaves.

Autumn maple leaves

The Ash and the Oak hold on. They must be getting some energy from doing so, but I can’t help thinking that this must be minimal.