Autumn Fruits in the Rain

Autumn Fruits walk in the rainAutumn Fruits in the Rain

It appears in recent years, that the Autumn Fruits Walk tends to act as a magnet to rain.  This year was no exception.  However, the weather forecast gave plenty of warning and so the 7 participants came prepared.

As for the walk itself, we again saw how the presence, location and abundance of plants vary from year to year. This time there were lots of the Continue reading “Autumn Fruits in the Rain”

Glorious Weather for Autumn Fruits Walk

The walkers enjoying the glorious weather

The walkers enjoying the glorious weatherGlorious Weather for Autumn Fruits Walk

Steve Hallam reports that this year’s Autumn Fruits walk had two noteworthy characteristics.  Firstly, it was blessed with the most glorious weather – wall to wall sunshine and windless. Secondly, this was one of those years in which the title should have been ‘Autumn fruits and flowers’.

Inconsistent Nature

I have commented before on Continue reading “Glorious Weather for Autumn Fruits Walk”

Don’t leave your home in the dark

Don’t leave your home in the dark

Don’t leave your home in the dark

Essex Police are warning residents not to leave their home in the dark.  With the nights drawing in, the tell-tale signs of empty houses become more apparent.  This is a bonus for burglars who prefer to target empty homes unseen and avoid confrontation.

As the days get shorter if you work away from home, or even pop out to get the children from school, by the time you return home it may already be dark.  A house in darkness says no one is in especially if your neighbour’s houses either side have lights on and show other signs of being occupied. If you back onto open farmland or have parking areas or footpaths to side or rear this may be even more apparent.

Illusion of Occupancy

Create the “Illusion of Occupancy”, when its dark make your home look like you are in. Leave lights on or put them on timers or daylight sensors to come when it gets dark. Remember though no one lives in the hall or on the landing so if you leave these lights on supplement these with lights on in rooms that you would normally occupy at that time of day i.e. lounge and kitchen.

A carefully placed imitation TV or “Fake TV” can further add to that illusion of occupancy by making it look like the television is on. Some burglars may also listen at windows or letterboxes for signs of activity, so consider leaving a radio on within your home.

Don’t forget the outside of your property too, if burglars see that it is lit they are less likely to approach for fear of being seen.
Leave lights on, with energy efficient bulbs it costs very little nowadays and yet may save you lots!

Fairies & Fruits

Fairies & Fruits

A report on the Autumn Fruits Walk by Steve Hallam

On the 16th October I ran the fourth Autumn Fruits nature walk around and through Hillhouse Wood. The fact that I am able to make this statement is a slight surprise because the previous evening’s weather forecast had heavy rain bang on the time of the walk, and light rain for an hour either side. On which basis I had anticipated being on my own. Accordingly, I was quite pleased to hear heavy rain falling when I woke up, suggesting that it was moving through earlier than forecast. And so, by around 9.45 the rain was becoming showery and the clouds were lightening. But would everyone have been put off? As it turned out the answer was ‘no’ with nine hardy souls arriving at the church. Naturally, as this was the first year I forgot to bring any sweets, two of them were young children. Typical!

Keeping interest levels up

This year, unlike in 2015, I had ample time to survey the route and knew there was plenty to see. But, as a result, this would make it a relatively long walk (about two hours) and I wasn’t sure how long the youngsters’ interest would last. As I’ve commented on before, it has been a surprise to discover how the presence, location and abundance of plants vary from year to year. So each year there are pleasant surprises with the occasional disappointment. This year’s disappointments were an absence of Black nightshade, virtually no Dogwood berries or Sloes, a reduced variety of flowers, and the fact that the crop of our one Plumtree had already finished.

Happier Side

On the happier side of the coin, this year we had another great display of wild hops, a relatively large number of Holly berries, good displays of both Black and White bryony (no relation) and a pretty flower that I’ve not previously seen – Creeping cinquefoil; a flower that is easy to mistake for a Buttercup.


And so to my two mini-walkers, Abigail and James. It turned out that they each had a fairy – Abigail’s was called Rosehip and James’s was called Blueberry. They were keen to see the real-life berries that their fairies were named after. We would see both, but my challenge was to maintain their interest at a high enough level to keep them in the group until we got there. Luckily for me, we came across Rosehips fairly quickly, which pleased Abigail and made James keen to find ‘his’ berry.

Even without the incentive of sweet rewards they were both happy playing the ‘Hip or Haw’ challenge. This kept them going until I managed to find some Sloes – as close as you can get to a Blueberry in north-east Essex. In the end, they got nearly half way round before James’s little legs reached their limit and their Mum took them home. I thought they both did very well.

Autumn Fruits Walk with Steve Hallam

Steve Hallam leads a walk in search of Autumn FruitsAutumn Fruits with Steve Hallam – 16th October

Steve Hallam will lead a guided walk to seek out berries, soft fruit, nuts, seeds & fungi.  All of these are now out in abundance.  To join Steve you should meet him at the Old Church at 10am on Sunday 16th October -wear suitable clothing!

Steve will explain the folklore about the finds, which ones should not be eaten – and what will happen to you if you do!  You should expect to see around 20 types of berries, fruits and nuts.

The walk will take in Hillhouse Wood and surrounding hedgerows, and will thus be a little longer than normal.

Strong boots or wellies should be worn, as we may encounter long wet grass!


Autumn Fruits Walk 2015

Autumn Fruits Walk 2015

A report by Steve Hallam

In mid-October, I led the third of our Autumn Fruits walks. These walks focus on berries and nuts, but also cover whatever else we find along the way. Thirteen people came on the walk this year, which was pleasing bearing in mind the uninviting weather at the time.

Nature predictable?

It might reasonably be thought that, as this walk is primarily plant-based, the same things would be seen each year. Indeed this is what I had anticipated. However, it transpires that nature and predictability are not natural ‘fellow travellers’. This year this worked slightly to our disadvantage, as several finds in 2014 were absent this time. Chief among these was a spectacular display of wild hops, of which there was now no sign at all. White bryony was another fruit that could not be found. In general, the numbers of berries were lower than in the two previous years. The haws and hips were relatively thin in the hedgerows, as were the delicate Spindle tree berries. The blackberries of the Dogwood were nearly completely absent; in fact, it was only through diligent searching by party members that a few were found.

Historic references

Despite these absences, the area in and around Hillhouse Wood is so productive that we still ran out of time before we had stopped to see and talk about all the berries, nuts and flowers that are visible at this time of year. The walk pays most attention to aspects of the countryside such as the ways in which plants were once used by people, how they can indicate the line of historic boundaries, the mythological beliefs that were associated with certain plants, and the tricks they use to survive. Flowers such as the humble and unspectacular looking Yarrow or St. John’s wort were once important to previous generations, used to cure ailments and protect crops from disease.

Our two Guelder rose shrubs put on their normal spectacular display, while the Ivy berries were maturing in their normal abundance. Of the two, the latter were of much greater use to people, and have more interesting stories to tell. One of its uses was to protect households from malicious goblins, especially at Christmas time.


Blackberries have been abundant this year, although largely over by now. We were also able to find Woody nightshade and the related Black nightshade, the former a climber but the latter an upright herbaceous plant of disturbed ground. Two strands of Black bryony were found, the only member of the Yam family to grow in Britain. A few Holly berries were tucked away, and one Honeysuckle plant which was simultaneously showing berries and flowers. In the wood, the Sweet chestnuts had produced their normal heavy crop of well-protected nuts.

So, all in all, we had a very successful walk which I trust everyone enjoyed.

Crime precautions as clocks go back

26th October at 2am – Clocks go back an hour

In light of this Essex Police have offered the following advisory note:

On the 26th October at 02:00 the clocks will be going back and the darker evenings will be drawing in, check your outdoor security lights and replace those bulbs that have blown. It’s time to think about the burglar out there and not leaving them ‘tell-tale’ signs that your home is empty and vulnerable.

Security light deters burglarsThe art of illusion is to try and make it look as though your home is occupied even though you are not there. Provide that first impression to the ‘would be’ burglar that this house is occupied, it looks too difficult to get into and that if they do try there is a good chance they will get caught!

Lighting – if your house is overlooked and there is the chance of burglars being seen they will prefer to go elsewhere, so get some decent lighting on your house. Dusk till dawn activated lighting on the front and rear with energy saving bulbs, not only deters the burglar but you can see who is at your door or around your home and also when you return home you have a welcoming light.

Is there clear unobstructed access to the rear? Burglars will prefer to gain access out of sight at the rear. Where possible fence and gate access to rear gardens (ensure that the gate situated at the front of the house and is securely locked), top this with some trellis or plastic spiky toppings (the spiky topping requires a warning notice).

Leave radio on talk channellHow about some defensive planting, what’s this you ask? something like Berberus, Pyracantha or Hawthorn around perimeter fencing or anything else you wish to protect i.e. domestic fuel tank (some garden centres sell more established plants).

The illusion – Try to make your home look similar to when you are there – a radio on a talking programme, table lamps inside on timers (don’t use energy saving bulbs with digital timers it shortens the life of the bulb) or use a ‘dusk till dawn’ sensor (bulbs are now available with a built in sensor), it all helps.