Mid November. A mild, damp morning on the heath, where gorse is flowering again. At the woodland edge, deep red branches and shining white bark of silver birch trunks show that their foliage has gone. Oak and beech hang on to their leaves until the next strong winds blow through.
Old Dog still loves his daily walks, although progress is slower and the way is shorter now.
The yellow gold of beech leaves against a backdrop of dry brown leaves on an ancient oak.
By the edge of the woodland track, Fly Agaric toadstools are here again. Each autumn they grow in this spot, out of thick layers of leaf mould and amongst the bracken, bramble and grass.
The traditional Fairy Toadstools of childhood story books and folk legend, Fly Agarics are poisonous but beautiful. Roger Phillips writes in Mushrooms and Other Fungi of the British Isles (Pan Books, 1981) that the name derives from the medieval practice of soaking platefuls of the toadstool cap in milk, to stupify flies. He also tells of the use of these toadstools by the reindeer herders of Lapland, who might chew the dried cap to experience the dizzying and hallucinogenic effects of the toxins that the toadstool contains.
Bright moss and a foxglove for next spring.
An old Hazel hedge, showing signs of past coppicing, still shows green leaves beside the path.
Up on the hillside. a cow sleeps with her new born calf in a commoner`s farm field.
The Badgers Set, where local badger families would be sleeping beneath the bank, ready to emerge and forage for worms and insects in the woodland at night.
As we walked, we came upon a little group of New Forest mares who have lived around the village edge since they were born. This mare, Spice, is the sister of our New Forest geldings, Woody and Ginger. She knows us well and came across to greet us.
The New Forest colts have left their mothers now, to be kept on their owners` smallholdings or to be sold at the Pony Sales. The filly foals might stay with their mothers , to expand the family group. This bay filly is tall for her age and looks well after a good first summer on the Forest.
Spice`s grown-up daughter came over to join us.
The foal wandered away but kept a close eye on Old Dog, although the adult ponies are unworried by his presence and seem to know that he is old, frail and no danger to them.
Spice and her daughter followed us down the hill......
Holly berries, on bushes scattered amongst the gorse, are feeding migrant thrushes and blackbirds now.
Underneath the trees, on our way back home, we found clusters of unknown toadstools shining among dried leaves in the grey November light.