Today’s visit to Southampton Common begins in the Old Cemetery, to pause and pay respect. I was lucky enough to bump into one of the Friends of the Old Cemetery during my wanderings this week, who kindly showed me a beautifully restored World War One grave, near the Cemetery Road entrance.
This week the Common has been stunning, with autumn colours everywhere. It’s been difficult to know which way to look as I stroll along, crunching through the leaves and exclaiming aloud, to anyone whom I meet or just to myself, about how beautiful this time of year is.
When the rain rolls in, as it has from time to time, there is all that beautiful woodland to hide in, where I commune with the latest tiny fungi.
So, this has been a fantastic week to aimlessly meander around, breathing in the golden glory of autumn on Southampton Common. If the wind and rain have left a few leaves, next week might be even better. But whatever the weather, Southampton Common is a wonderful place to be, and we are very lucky to have so much natural beauty in the city.
What a beautiful week it’s been on Southampton Common! The late September sunshine accompanied by bugs, butterflies, and bees and dragonflies has made me very happy indeed.
However, there was more than just that to delight me: spectacular crepuscular rays playing around the corners of the Common….
mist rising eerily across the ponds and fields…
spiders webs glistening in the morning light. The Common was a big chunk of heaven this week and I was lucky enough to be there.
Even with all this summery weather, though, autumn has been in the background, reminding me that it is about to take over. The trees are slowly losing their leaves, fungi are popping up everywhere and plump sweet chestnuts tempt me to pick them up and photograph them, until I remember how sharp their cases are.
I am loving this time of beautiful transition.
It’s been a week of all the weathers, and although there have been some gloriously sunny interludes, I have been mighty glad of the sheltering presence of the tress on Southampton Common. You are never far from leafy cover on the Common, and I am constantly amazed by my ability to discover new pathways or woodlands.
The Cemetery Lake has a rather welcoming tree near the water’s edge, and is slightly more sheltered from the wind than the Boating Lake. As a result, I have spent some quality time with the swans and gulls over on that side of the Common this week, and rather neglected the other two ponds (although I did se a rather pleasing cloud arrival over the Boating Lake one morning).
One major advantage of being driven into the woodlands by the damp weather is that the season of fungus is upon us. This is the time year when I set off from home looking like a semi–responsible citizen, and return with branches in my hair and mud encrusted debris on my clothes, having spend a happy half hour or two kneeling in the squelchy undergrowth photographing the tiny but transient delights of fungi. Every little mushroom is different, and I am prone to exclaiming with joy when I find something particularly pleasing. People like me, who wander wild haired, chatting to themselves with beaming animation, are one of the reasons why some individuals are fearful of being alone in woodland.
Although there have been plenty of times when the clouds have rolled in this week, there have also been sunny hours, when the speckled woods and dragonflies have danced in the rays. During these moments I have been reminded that although I love the colours and tiny life of autumn, I am kind of sad that the insect stalking months are drawing to a close.
This week has brought me a delicious taste of what I hope is to come over the next few months. After a cloudless night Thursday morning was a treasure of rising mist against a backdrop of shimmering on spider’s webs. This is what I dream of in autumn and winter, and, as a bonus of the season, I don’t have to rise particularly early to enjoy it. Bring on those on-my-way-to-work sunrises and golden rays.
Even on the less spectacular mornings there has been plenty to be happy about on the Common this week. The little grebes still have their fiercely protected nest, and are often seen fishing by the edge of the Boating Lake (how they do love to inhabit those shady areas out of the light!) There are a few tufted ducks back on the Common with two or three on the Boating Lake (although usually they seem to prefer the Cemetery Lake). Not to be outdone, the swan family have been posing quite nicely for pictures in the pale morning light.
Away from the ponds there are all the little signs that Autumn is easing it’s way in: a few ripe chestnuts that make me want to light a fire on which to roast them (but not under any circumstances on the Common, please), shiny conkers, acorns, and delicate fungi. All this is worth the dropping temperatures and sorting of gloves ready for winter (how is it that I have about eleven gloves but no matching pairs?)
Even better, despite all these autumn treats, summer is not yet gone: the trees are mostly fresh and green (and how lucky are we to have so many of them?) Sunny corners are still busy with speckled woods, and the bees are buzzing around any available flowers. This in between season really is ticking all my boxes!
This week has been a lot about the dragonflies. Like me, they seem to be trying to squeeze everything possible out of the last few moments of summer. The pond-sides have been busy with the sound of their wings, and every now and then I have had to stop abruptly at the sight of a shimmering body on the path ahead of me. They regard me with their huge complex eyes, and promptly depart.
Although the insect numbers are diminishing as the weather cools a little, there are still a good number of tiny creatures trying to avoid my lens: shieldbugs swinging on grass stalks, damselflies staring at me with their outsize eyes, holly blue butterflies on the heather, and speckled woods flitting around every sunny corner.
Another great delight for me this week has been watching the little grebes on the Boating Lake as they dive, and then emerge far away from their original point of entry with an ill-fated fish in their beaks. They require a fair bit of patience photography wise, as they seem to like to fish in places where the shadows are greatest and the light lowest. Just as I have them in sight they dive again, emerge in a sunny spot, look at me with mischief in their eyes, and dive back into the gloom.
A visit to the Boating Lake is never complete without a quick mention of the cygnets: despite still having their grey juvenile colours they are taking on the elegant pose of mature swans now. It won’t be long until they are learning to fly and their parents are making plans to help them to move on.
In the background, autumn is slowly but steadily creeping across the Common: the mornings are cooler, and I have found a few conkers and numerous acorns lying around. What delightful photography subjects they are: you can pick them up and move them to a convenient environment where they stay still indefinitely. Although I am clinging on desperately to the last moments of summer, I am, in reality, ready to welcome the warm colours and crisp mornings of autumn.
After two weeks of sunshine in Barcelona, I’m back in intermittently sunny Southampton, and enjoying occasional opportunities to stroll the Common (in between more pressing school holiday related activities).
It seems to have become that in between season: summer one minute and autumn the next, and my backpack is full of layers of clothing that I spend the day faffing around with. I have found a few fungi and quite a number of acorns on the Common, and whilst it’s sad to think of summer drawing to a close these autumnal subjects do have the definite attraction of staying still to have their photo taken.
However, there is still enough summer around for me not to dwell too much on the chillier seasons: I have been chasing dragonflies, with varying degrees of success, and the damselflies are still busy in the tall grass beside the ponds.
There are also quite a few butterflies still teasing me with their fast wings, although they are starting to look a little weather worn.
There is also every potential for the weather to revert back to full on summer the minute schools re-open. So, all in all, I am not packing up my summer photography ideas just yet.