I have tried to make the most of the weather, enjoying rides that have usually begun at around lunchtime and seen me pedalling with carefree abandon for two or three hours as often as has been possible. I gazed at silver-blue patterns like the wing marks of huge migrating butterflies in the sky. The swallows have gone, the harvest is in, the season has changed, yet some rogue dream of summer has been left with us. I noticed holly trees crammed with red berries and a flock of long-tailed tits zipping across the open acres of grass and cropped fields.
The deciduous trees are winding down for winter. The ground has a thin layer of freshly fallen hazel, hawthorn and ash leaves – a fine, damp patchwork of browns and yellows. The oaks are still holding their foliage, taking advantage of the summer's late heat. The birds are quiet and inconspicuous, the busy breeding season is over, the migrants have left for their tropical summer quarters and the residents are preoccupied with stocking up their fat reserves for the oncoming winter. In contrast to the down-gearing woods, the surrounding harvested fields have already been planted with winter wheat; it is now sprouting vigorously, forming a uniform, fresh, verdant carpet.
The road here is patterned in muddy places by the imprint of pheasants' feet. Pale green ash leaves dapple the ground, torn early from the trees before turning yellow. Through gaps in the trees I can see the horizon, its green fields crested by brown. Trails of honeysuckle flop over the edge where the road cuts into a hill. As I ride on, the trees become older, furrowed oaks with knobbly trunks leaning away from the westerly winds. Pheasants crouch and skulk along the hedge line as I reach Walton-on-Trent. A line of houses edge the road offering protection from the still blowing gale. A dog barks as I pass a farmyard and a heap of black-wrapped bales exudes a sticky sweet smell. As I approach Barton under Needwood the harsh wind has stopped, there is silence now, just a slight breeze in the trees, leaves will fall.