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Signs of Autumn

Signs of Autumn in Breamish Valley

Mirabelle plum tree

Mirabelle plums fruiting in Branton

Autumn is the in-between season. It’s the transition between summer and winter. A time when, by and large, the growing season ends, as the days become shorter and the temperatures drop.

When does Autumn begin?

Meteorologists use a simple method of dividing each season into a three month period: Spring is Mar-Apr-May; summer is Jun-Jul-Aug; Autumn is therefore Sep-Oct-Nov, and Winter is Dec-Jan-Feb.

Astronomers, on the other hand, use Earth’s position relative to the Sun to define the seasons. Autumn begins at the Equinox (around 21 Sep) when days and nights are of equal length. It continues until the Winter Solstice (around 21 Dec) when daylight hours are at their shortest.

Another way to define when Autumn begins is to simply note any signs of change in plants and in animal (including human) behaviours. These ‘signs of Autumn’ feel like a more natural way to determine the coming and going of the season.

Signs of Autumn 1: harvesting crops

One of the most iconic images of autumn in the UK is that of neatly-balled hay bales lying on golden stubble in low gilded sunshine.

hay bales in Powburn

Hay bales in Powburn

Signs of Autumn 2: turning leaves

As the days get shorter and the sunlight decreases, many trees don’t have enough light to photosynthesise. They stop producing (green) chlorophyll and their leaves start to change colour.

Autumn tree in Powburn

Turning leaves in Powburn

Autumn elder in Powburn

Autumn elder in Powburn

Signs of Autumn 3: fruits and seeds

Sycamore seed ‘helicopters’, acorns, blackberries and other wild fruits begin to ripen and disperse.

Mirabelle plums in Branton

Mirabelle plums in Branton

What are your signs of Autumn?

I’m sure you’ll have your own favourite signs that hint at the beginning of Autumn. Is it the appearance of ripe sloes in the hedgerows? The arrival of redwings? The first acorn to fall? The first blackberry?

Whatever signs of Autumn are important to you, they are not dictated by a set date on a meteorologist’s or astronomer’s calendar: they reflect some, perhaps cherished, change in the natural world that holds a particular personal significance. Enjoy!

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