Autumn shines in all its golden glory

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Summer has been a washout this year but at least it has resulted in spectacular displays of autumnal foliage.

Over the last two weeks I have been transfixed by the ever-changing hues of a magnificent beech tree in our neighbour Bernard’s garden.

Bernard told me that he planted the tree many years ago with his wife. Now this tree gives endless hours of pleasure in the autumn, spring and summer.

At the moment its leaves are changing from burnished gold to a rich velvety brown. In the spring its leaves are an acid green and in the summer they shine like emeralds when the sunlight catches them.

Last week, during a rare sunny day, I stole a few minutes on our bench under the mighty beech with our other neighbour’s cat Tinky.

There is nothing more calming to me than sitting below the beech and looking up into its canopy. Soon the leaves will be gone but they will reveal a sight that we can only see in winter – the rolling hills of Caton Moor. Even winter brings its special pleasures.

To take advantage of some of the better days I’ve been out walking with my husband Mark (aka Sparky). Last weekend we went over to Kents Bank near Grange as Sparky was to photograph the Queen’s Guide to the Sands, Cedric Robinson, for a tourism publication. In the sleepy village of Kents Bank every garden was caressed by a soft, golden light.

When we arrived at Guides Cottage – Cedric’s home – we met a delighted woman who’d just bought a dozen eggs from him and was on her way back down south.

Poor Cedric was recovering from a cold but he was happy to go out onto the sands with Sparky for the photo shoot.

His cottage looked like it was a slice of the distant past with its low roof, tiny windows, quaint garden and ramshackle outbuildings. It was as if time had stood still for many centuries.

They motored off towards Grange (to get to the sands more quickly) so I walked into town along the wonderful Victorian promenade. Many other walkers were out enjoying the fine weather and rich autumnal colours of the shrubs and trees along the prom. It was sheer bliss to take in the colours and the views.

Sparky got a great shot of Cedric with the sands and deep gullies in the background. Then it was time for Cedric to head home to his charming wife Olive.

This weekend we travelled further afield to Hollingworth Lake Country Park near Rochdale in Yorkshire.

I’d only ever driven past the lake on my way to Leeds but I’d always thought it looked worth a visit.

Sparky had seen the lake on his search for the holy grail – a 4X4 vehicle that isn’t too bad on fuel – and he thought it would be a great place for a walk.

When we visited the lake on Saturday the sun was out and so were the crowds. It wasn’t exactly peaceful but it was beautiful and we had a close encounter with a heron fishing for its dinner in a nearby stream.

We had a delicious lunch (I had mussels and Sparky had a panini) at a fabulous pub called The Wine Press overlooking the lake.

We basked in the sun like lizards, sipping our drinks and forgetting all our cares.

Not the sort of people to be put off by the weather, we had an outing to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve on Sunday.

I expected it to be quiet as the rain was pouring down but the reserve and its cosy cafe were surprisingly busy.

We bought Christmas cards in the shop and watched the birds from a couple of the hides for about an hour.

I was delighted to see a nuthatch – a bird I never see in our garden in Caton.

A new hide named in honour of Eric Morecambe had been opened one day previously. Eric’s daughter Gail opened the hide and our photographer, Nigel Slater, who took her photograph at the hide, said she was a charming and open person.

Eric was an incredibly keen birdwatcher so it is lovely that the RSPB at Leighton Moss has chosen to remember him in this way. Leighton Moss is such a tranquil and beautiful place –it must have been a welcome escape from the hectic world of showbusiness.