Lying there, nestled deeply in the dry grasses basking in the warmth of the sun, it seems hard to believe that a three-day storm has recently come our way. And that it is October 10. Outside the house, the sweet peas lie in ruins, knocked over by the Force 8 gales that seemed destined to blow for ever, a powerful marker of a dead summer and a winter to come. Until now, their proud almost brazen headily-sweet flowers just kept coming, denying absolutely their time and place in the natural cycle. Sometimes annuals will do this, refusing the secret that next year they will come again, albeit planted afresh. In the meantime the rhododendron are already preparing for spring pretending to ignore entirely the winter to come. They do this in the knowledge that their newly-emergent buds, tightly formed and protected, will survive pretty much anything that winter can throw at them, and at the earliest changes in the day length in January, they will begin to open. The foxgloves have already done this, months ago, setting lush new leaves always bigger than before and ready to make a strong foundation for the show-offy flower stalks that will emerge in the early-ish warmth of spring. These are plants for bees, and emerge only when the bees, too, are beginning to emerge into the new dawn of a mature, warm spring.
The walk around the coastline near Prawle Point is yet another astonishing piece of the South Devon coast. Although yesterday’s sun felt warm and embracing particularly when nestled into a thick bed of grasses away from the wind, it is not a summer sun, and is getting much lower in the sky now. This makes for a dramatic light, particularly if surrounded by the sharpness of cliff and sea.
There’s a particular luxury in walking long after summer has gone yet when enough lingers as a reminder of warmth past. After a peculiarly warm September (one of the warmest on record) and a peculiarly dry September (the driest on record, and the second driest place in England here at Slapton, with less then 2mm of rain for the entire month), there is a sense of readiness for the muted. And the muted colours are here, last vestiges of summer colours now only hints hiding in sheltered places within an increasingly brown landscape. A few blackberries linger in the hedges, and this year’s rowans and blackthorn burst with an abundance of bright red berries. The land is still hopping too. Apparently the warm dry September has supported an explosion, a resurgence in the grasshopper population (despite the best attempts of our cat to eat them all). Even out here in this highly managed yet wild landscape, a careful look at any area of grassland will show it to be leaping and alive. It will only take a frost to still this landscape, but as yet we feel far away from even the possibility of frost, even while others further north have already faced this sharpest of harbingers of a winter to come.
N clambered down to this golden beach while I made my grassy nest higher up nearer to the path. The sea is cooling now, after at least 50mm of rain over the past two days. But my nest was in abundant summer grasses, dry to the ground despite the recent rains which had somehow not penetrated the thick thatch. I fell asleep basking in this warm of-summer sun, watching the late grasses wandering in the light breeze that could find its way into this hollow, each trailing a single strand of spider silk, searching for a place to land and make another temporary home. People walked past in light winter clothes, belying this decadent warmth, although once we re-emerged onto the cliff path the wind was once again there, determined to undermine the warming efforts of the sun.