November 1st. We’re going into the dark now, I can feel it – though the clock change means we get light in the mornings (for now) the darkening evenings happen earlier and earlier; sunset is just after four thirty, my Lia Leendertz Almanac tells me. I feel I must get outside and walk as much as I can, enjoy the light when it’s there. This morning was grey and drizzly, though with some marvellous fog on the hills making everything seem unreal…I’m very glad I can see the beauty in all weathers, and though I’d have liked to go and walk in the mist I had to get to work.
By the time I left to get the bus back to the big car park, the rain and fog was gone – replaced on one side by big clouds with sparkly edges, and on the other by slate grey sky. I had a rare afternoon of not having to rush off to school pick up so I got off the bus early and had a walk through Christ Church Meadow, I’ll grab any chance I can to get outdoors during the working week. The Meadows are a little bit of old rural Oxford that still survives beside the double-decker buses belting up and down St Aldates. The meadows are flooded regularly by the Thames and English longhorn cattle still graze them, if you concentrate enough you can feel you can feel outside of time here.
The meadows are open from dawn until dusk – guarded by metal railings with complicated gateways at Rose Lane, which I once saw someone hilariously try to manhandle a bike through. If you come here in summer or on a weekend it is often packed with students and tourists, but early in the day, or late in the afternoon it’s often pretty quiet. Today there were a few people about and a boys rugby practice going on, but it was still quite peaceful.
If you take the path from Rose Lane you can see into the Botanic Gardens which run alongside on the left. Behind the railings, and possibly even beyond the gardens, a view of a fantastic tree, with balls of mistletoe now visible in its bare branches.
On the right the college stands against a grey, blue and silver sky., the rugby posts might spoil the view a little, but are a reminder this college, all the colleges, are places of work and learning, and are used and lived in. As well as the rugby practice underway, behind the Cotswold stone walls there will be someone writing an essay or ordering stationery. Someone washing their hair and thinking of dinner, another having a cup of tea and a biscuit.
“It is a month for finding warmth, and light, wherever you can find it”
It can also be a beautiful month, as the fiery final trees flame with colour in the pale sunlight…
Walking around to the broad walk there’s a little bend of water – the meadows are bounded by The Thames (called The Isis here) and the Cherwell. Just about all the leaves have fallen now creating a carpet of bronze beneath the trees. on this still afternoon the water is smooth, reflecting the last of the afternoon light back up into the branches. I stayed here for few minutes, breathing in autumn, before I had to make my way down Broad Walk and St Aldates to the next bus.
The reward at the end of this sort walk is a magnificent Acer, looking like its suspended in space over the stream running near the Memorial Garden, leaves on fire beneath a huge weeping willow.
Quotes are from Lia Leendertz ‘The Almanc, a Seasonal Guide to 2018’ : November. A 2019 edition is available now, they are really lovely books.