The Two Faces of Autumn

P1020121Holly and I take our morning walk on the local rubbish tip – well, I say ‘tip’ – that’s what it used to be, but it was ‘de-commissioned’ a few years back.

It is little short of miraculous how nature left to its own devices has spread a carpet of great beauty over those decades-worth of human detritus. In the summer meadow, bees bumble, iridescent bugs and dragonflies shimmer, butterflies dance over the convolvulus, purple vetch, crow’s foot trefoil, clover, cow parsley, dog rose, lady’s smock, comfrey, and a myriad other flowers whose names I do not know.

And spiders lie in wait for the unwary!

To be honest, Holly is a bit of a Philistine and doesn’t really notice any of that. She’s more a connoisseur of the ‘fragrances’ left for her appreciation on clumps of grass.

Now with the arrival of Autumn we have new beauties: dramatic seed heads, hips and haws, blackberries and fungi.
Version 5

Plant architecture is revealed, naked of its summer clothes


That damp sweet smell takes me back to the innocent Autumns of childhood, walking to school with pockets of polished conkers, and leaves red, russet and gold for the classroom nature table.

But Autumn has another face

Autumn is high season for the aptly-named blood sports

And in case I had forgotten, an email from the #LeagueAgainstCruelSports dropped into my Inbox this week:

“To mark the beginning of the pheasant shooting season, yesterday we released a new film called ‘Cruel Game’which reveals the cruel truth behind the life cycle of the pheasant – a non native bird raised to be killed for sport in the UK”


I was reminded of this less than lovely face of Autumn again a little later, when I stumbled across a timetable for “Shooting, Hunting and Angling Seasons”.

It tells me that October 1st does indeed open the season for shooting pheasants, though grouse and partridge have already been on the receiving end for several weeks.

And watch out ducks, geese, moorhens and coots – the fox isn’t your only worry. Even the golden plover has to endure the whole of autumn right through into winter providing target practice for the guns.

The stag and buck hunting season is in full swing, though hinds and does are safe until the beginning of November. I suppose for young fawns to lose their mums earlier than that would be inhumane. Wouldn’t it?

If you are unlucky enough to be a rat, mouse (not you dormouse – you’re ok because you’re cute and we like you. Plus you’re endangered), rabbit, grey squirrel, mink, weasel, stoat or feral cat, well, you really got the short straw – anyone can take a pop at you spring, summer, autumn, winter. It matters not.

And I won’t even get into fox-hunting.

There was a time when the autumnal killing spree was considered a necessity as folk stocked up their larders to see them through a harsh winter. But it’s several centuries, here in the UK at least, since hunting ceased being a subsistence activity and became a purely sporting one, generally confined to the upper social classes.

Have you ever stopped to think about the word “game”? In the Middle Ages the meaning of the word expanded to include animals that are hunted. Pheasant, partridge and grouse are all called “game birds”. As if their only raison d’être is to provide fun for the guns.

Now to my mind, carving faces in pumpkins is fun. Trick or treating is fun. Roasting chestnuts is fun. A November 5th bonfire is fun.

Isn’t deriving enjoyment from inflicting pain and suffering considered a trait of the psychopath? Maybe I’m being unfair to the hunters – maybe it’s only the “sport” they enjoy, the thrill of the chase, the thrill of hitting the bullseye (an unpleasant expression in itself). Perhaps it’s just that they lack empathy for other creatures with whom they share a good half of their genes. Wait a minute though, isn’t lack of empathy itself a trait of the psychopath?

The unnecessary slaughter of blameless creatures, many of which are bred, ie. given life, expressly to be killed, can scarcely be called anything but barbarous. If this is the reach of human aspiration we have not come far..

LACS, I am behind you mind, body and soul. Is it too much to ask that my grandchildren will grow up to see only the benign, beautiful, abundant face of Autumn?

The one of windfall apples and crackling wood fires? Not the one stained with the blood of the innocents?

2 thoughts on “The Two Faces of Autumn

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