Autumn in Wales

St Matthew
Brings on cold dew

September heralds the start of the autumn in Wales. It is often a fine month, and seems like a resting time between summer and winter. St Matthew’s Day is the day before the autumn equinox, which occurs on Spetember 22 and around this time there is the possibility of the first frosts – the cold dew of the saying. Above all September is the fruit-picking month. At Plas Farm that means blackberries. Millions of them! Field mushrooms begin to show to like lost golf balls amongst the cows. By the end of September, autumn red and gold are starting to show here and there as nature begins to spread its seeds. After a walk around the farm in September, you are certain to be carrying a number of seeds in your clothes, on your shoes, even in your hair! Heather clad hills and moorland produce natural displays of rich colour which can look very striking.

Much rain in October
Much wind in December

October can be quite rainy although there is usually one fine period during the month. Some say it often occurs around St. Luke’s Day, the 18th, and then a dry spell with quite a lot of sunshine is known as ‘St Luke’s Little Summer’. The colour of the leaves in October is spectacular, particularly at Plas Farm where there are many different types of tree in the parkland areas of the old estate. There is a country saying – If on the trees the leaves still hold, The coming winter will be cold. Animals in October are chiefly busy about one thing: feeding and stocking their larders. New birds arrive from the continent to replace the ones that have left – wood pigeons on the beech nut trail, flocks of starlings flapping their wings on rooftops and bunches of redwings hunt in the meadows for food. October is also a great time for spotting spiders webs, all silvered with dew drops. You may see young spiders weaving their webs by daylight in summer but you must wait till late summer or autumn to find fine webs that are built to last. It is fascinating to watch. The Garden Spider has six spinners under her body. Each is made up of a great number of small tubes. One spider may have as many as six hundred. Out of each comes silk which hardens in the air, and is stronger than steel of the same thickness. The spider does not use all her tubes at the same time. Only when she wants the strongest thread. To begin with she fixes a thread to a leaf. Then she either lets the thread blow and fix itself to another point or she walks off with it and chooses a likely anchorage. As the thread is too slack, she draws it tight and rolls up the waste in a ball and eats it to use again. On she goes to a third point, and on again until the main frame is finished. As this needs to be strong, she runs around it three or four times, adding more silk as she goes.

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member,
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds – No-vember.
Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

The month of November has a reputation for being dull and wet which is not always justified. The middle of the month is often more settled, with an anticyclone over much of the country which may give sunny days and frosty nights. Warm reds and browns are replaced by cooler colours as the landscape becomes tinged with silvery blues and greys. Night fogs sometimes develop in November. The weather in November depends in part on the kind of summer and autumn we have had in Wales. Everything is trying to keep warm in November. Holiday makers in front on the fire in their cottages, birds outside puffing out their feathers. You will not have to go far to find a chink in a wall stuffed with snail shells, their front doors sealed with a thin horny pane. Behind every loose piece of bark you will find spiders and insects sleeping and sheltering from the frosts that will bring down the remaining leaves from the trees apart from the evergreens. Wrens use their nests as winter bedrooms – as many as nine or ten of them tucked away snugly as the autumn in Wales comes to an end.