Autumn is my favourite time of year to be out and about exploring the woods, fields, moors and meadows of the surrounding countryside.
As well as the vibrant red, gold and orange hues of wild cherry, maples, birches and beech, there are stunning unexpected wonders to be found such as fairy tale-like, scarlet fly-agaric mushrooms (though these are definitely not for eating, shamans from the Saami people of Lapland reportedly drink the urine of caribou, which have eaten fly-agaric, as a means of getting high) as well as a host of more edible treats including sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts.
The Hohes Venn landscape found in the nearby Eifel region is an area of moorland and raised bog which was, at one time, extensively planted up with exotic confers during the time of the Prussians. These areas are now opened out again, drains are being blocked up and open moorland habitats are once again being restored. At this time of year, the Hohes Venn has a wonderful “savannah” type character with moorland grasses interspersed with birches, rowans and scots pines. My son got into the part of being a bushman and brought along his home-made bow and arrow (though I think his plan had been to be Robin Hood rather than the Masai Mara).
The lower lying pastures, orchards, woods and meadows are also particularly beautiful during this season, especially in the early morning with frost on the ground and before the sun has burned away the morning mist. Amongst the fields and hedges individual scattered, rowan, cherry and birch trees create some spectacular localised splashes of colour.
The most colourful and diverse autumn colours are often found around towns and villages where native woodland and hedgerow species are usually complimented with a whole host of introduced and cultivated species such as Norway maple, horse chestnut, whitebeams, rowans, guelder rose, cherries and a range of fruit trees. As these photos taken around Raeren (just over the border in Belgium) and Walheim illustrate, trees and shrubs greatly enhance our towns and villages through adding texture, form and colour (in addition to a whole host of other ecological services).
For kids it’s a great time also to be out collecting conkers, berries and orchard fruit. Without trees, our urban areas would be infinitely less attractive and poorer places to live. So make the most of it; get out and enjoy the autumn at its finest. Winter is not too far around the corner…