brown leaf in tilt shift photograph
autumn, Blog

Autumn Leaves and Autumn Treats

Autumn Leaves

Autumn is starting to ruffle its way through the woods surrounding our house. This summer was so wet the bracken grew to over six feet high in many places. It makes perfect cover for the wild boar during the day, but it began to turn rusty toward the end of September. The longer, cooler nights since then and a couple of heavy rainstorms have turned the fronds a dull brown and beaten them down to knee-height.

Autumn Treats

There’s an Indian summer forecast for this weekend. That suits me: DD is coming home for the weekend. On Saturday, we’re introducing her to a great Italian street food kiosk. We’ve got tickets for the Forest Food Festival on Sunday, so that will be another enjoyable trip. This Food Festival is small, but well worth a visit. All kinds of local food producers have stalls, and there are presentations by chefs and live music too.

Drawing of a  Gloucester Old Spots pig  - ogo of the Forest Food Festival in 'Autumn Leaves and Autumn Treats'

Last year I bought some fat heads of garlic from The Garlic Farm, and planted them when I got home. I harvested the crop a few weeks ago. It’s been so good, I’m hoping The Garlic Farm will be there again this year, so I can buy some more!

Apart from the Covid year 2020, we’ve been to The Forest Food Festival every year. It’s a funny thing, but it’s always had perfect Autumn weather, blue sky, warm sunshine and only the occasional mare’s tail of cloud in a clear blue sky. The forecast this year is for more of the same, so we’re looking forward to a pleasant stroll around the stalls. It’s a good place to start picking up little stocking fillers. Quite apart from food themed presents such as cordials, beers, chutneys and other preserves there are plenty of treats on offer in the craft tent. A local photographer produces beautiful calendars filled with local scenes, there are handmade soaps, paintings and other artwork. Last year DD bought a beautiful little hand-painted dish.

My End-Of-Summer Resolution

My To-Be-Read pile is almost as tall as I am, so with only three months left of 2023 (where did the time go?) I’ve made an end-of-summer resolution. When I wake up each morning, I now set a timer and read for twenty minutes before I get out of bed. As I normally wake before five a.m, it doesn’t eat into my working day, and it’s a manageable length of time. Its surprising how much I can read in that short time.

I love a tick box, so my daily reading sessions have been added to the chart I made on Canva to log all the little jobs I have to do leading up to the launch of Royal Passion on 24th of this month. If you sign up to my monthly reader newsletter here you can download the prequel to Royal Passion, Royal Rivals, for free.

To order your copy of Royal Passion from your favourite platform, click here.

You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

Alex, autumn

Mud, Mud Inglorious Mud…

Blueberry Leaves In Autumn

It’s been a funny year.  It’s the end of November, but I’ve only started heating the greenhouse in the past few days. Our cherry trees, whose leaves usually turn glorious sunset colours before dropping, are hanging on like leaden green rags. Out in the wood there’s been more in the way of seasonal colour. Birch leaves are small and heart-shaped, hazel leaves deckle-edged discs. With the shortening days they’ve all turned bright yellow. One or two seedlings have escaped from the beech wood to light up the understorey of the conifer plantation. They make it look cheerful on the dullest day. When the sun shines, they really glow.

In the garden at Tottering Towers, the blueberry bushes always put on a great autumn show. They’re the plant with everything—beautiful flowers which bees love, delicious fruit, and each November they turn fiery red, without fail. They grow best in lime-free soil and must never dry out, but as they’ll grow happily in containers this isn’t a problem. Mine are planted in big plastic tubs filled with ericaceous compost. They stand in trays which I keep topped up with rainwater. Unlike most plants, blueberries don’t mind standing in water.

The whole countryside around here is used to wet feet. It’s been drizzly for weeks, but a few days ago the weather turned stormy. Torrential rain went on for hours, only relieved by heavy showers. The River Wye is higher than it’s been for months. Sliding down banks between forest tracks is like the worst episodes of cross-country running at school. With most of the leaves now off the sweet chestnuts of the bluebell wood and the ground covered with nuts, squirrels are everywhere. Alex, our retriever/labrador cross is far too slow to catch them before they spring up to safety in the trees. That doesn’t stop him trying. When we reach a road on our walks I put him on the lead for safety. I have to be careful to spot the squirrels before he does, as he’s prone to mad dashes. Yesterday, he saw a squirrel I didn’t, leapt forward and almost yanked the lead out of my hand. Next thing I knew, I was flat on my back looking up at the sky through those last few autumn leaves. I’d lost my footing on the muddy ground, and went down splat.  Luckily this happened only a hundred yards from our house. It was a cold, wet walk home!

apple and blackberry, autumn, Charlie Siem, Dr Adam Rutherford, recipes, Yehudi Menuhin

Food, Men and the Weekend…

Charlie Siem
If you follow me on other social media, you’ll know I’ve had a few issues with a particular image of the delightful Dr Adam Rutherford. Whatever the subject, however many photos I’ve added to my blogs since he starred in FMATW, he keeps popping up to illustrate links I post to Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. I’d say “randomly” but that’s got a specific meaning for my OH, who tends to come over all Dr Sheldon Cooper when I use the word. If continuous appearance wasn’t bad enough, it’s too fuzzy, indistinct picture of Dr Adam to be worth repeating. 
Today’s Man of the Moment, Charlie Siem, has a much better photo. It won’t matter if this keeps reappearing! Charlie is a 27-year-old violinist from London who is a real force on the international stage. The first time I heard him play, he attacked Bruch‘s Violin Concerto with such vigour, I forgot I was sitting in a traffic jam. Then I looked him up on line, and discovered this picture. If all that isn’t enough to attract your attention, his father is (allegedly) a billionaire, and Charlie plays the d’Egville Guarneri that once belonged to Yehudi Menuhin. Wow…

It’s been such a good year for fruit, we’ve got plenty of apples despite hungry deer invading the garden and the hedges are full of brambles. Here’s a really simple recipe for making the most of this hedgerow harvest. The amount and type of fruit can be varied according to what you have available. You just need to make sure you have about a pound and a half of it in total. 


1.5lbs peeled, sliced cooking apples and washed blackberries
Sugar to taste
4oz flour
3oz butter or margarine
2oz demerara (brown) sugar
3oz rolled oats

Put the prepared fruit into an ovenproof dish with sugar to taste and a couple of tablespoons of water.
In another bowl, rub the fat into the flour. Stir in the sugar and oats. Sprinkle this crumble mixture evenly over the fruit, making sure to cover it completely. Cook for around half an hour at 180°C, (fan oven 160°C) Gas Mark 4, or until the fruit is cooked and the topping is golden. Serve it hot or cold, with plenty of custard, cream or ice cream.

I’m going to be making blackberry and apple jelly this weekend, too, when I’m not trying to oust Dr Adam Rutherford from my picture gallery. Have you ever been haunted by anything you’ve posted on the net? If so, how did you exorcise your problem?