The year has just crept into its winter stage now with most of the leaves having fallen from the trees revealing the twisted, knotty branches which once held them firm against the strong winds we have been having this year. The lush green hew of our summer countryside has given way to the rich reds, yellows and golden browns of Autumn which themselves have now moved aside for the drab greys and dark browns of the winters pallet. The sky outside my office is a solid mid grey colour interspersed with the odd darker grey cloud, and has been for the past couple of days. Last week saw a few days of brilliant sunshine with clear blue skies which hinted at being pleasant and warm but hid the truth of mid single figure temperatures and biting cold winds. Winter is not just coming, its already here….
A lot of people at this time of year suffer from the ‘Winter Blues’, a so called condition brought on by short days and longs nights as well as the constant lack of any warm colours when you look outside the window. Not me though, i love the winter season and all that she will throw at me over the coming months. Admittedly by the end of winter even i look forward to the new beginnings that Spring brings. But during the cold, damp ‘miserable’ days of winter there is still some colour to be found before the heavy frosts set in, you just have to get out there and look for it.
The fruits of the wild rose bush, known as rose hips, provide numerous bright globes of colour against the thorny stems and branches of the leafless bush. As kids we used to break open these ‘fruits’ and use them as a torture method for whoever was closest to hand, as the furry looking seeds inside were natures very own ‘itching powder, resulting in prolonged scratching and writhing around on the floor once stuffed down the back of a mates t-shirt. Funny to watch when done to someone else, but not so funny if done to yourself. They also made your hands red and sticky as you rolled the pods in your fingers to break them open.
You also have the the dark burgundy berries of the hawthorn bush which hang down on a branch similar to a bunch of grapes on a vine. These are a favourite of wild birds and are quite often the cause of the nasty red poo stain on your car when you park near one of these bushes. These little berries have a firm outer skin with a soft inner flesh which surround a small but hard ‘stone’ inside. Squish one between your fingers and you,ll end up with a red mark for the rest of the day. Blackbirds and thrushes swarm the hawthorn bushes for these delicate little berries in the winter, i believe they may be a main staple for them to help them through the winter period.
Another of my favourites is the fruits of the Blackthorn, Sloe Berries. These thumbnail size berries are a beautiful dark blue colour on the outside and once broken open are a rich purple inside. These are another favourite of the wild birds at the start of the winter before the frosts take them. They are also picked by hand and used to make Sloe Gin and vodka, a favourite of my parents. Try not to squash any on your clothes as they stain pretty good.