Autumn has arrived, and along with it the myriad reds, yellows, coppers, browns and golds we associate with this most glorious of seasons. And from beneath the fallen leaves, mushrooms and toadstools emerge, popping up here, there, everywhere, erupting from the earth as though by magic. The appearance of these mysterious fruiting bodies has been a little later this year in North Dorset, than last – due in part I imagine to a dry(ish) September – but they’re making up for lost time now.
Hedgerows, too, are laden with seasonally coloured fruits and berries; crab apples, hollies, hips, haws, sloes, to name but a few; all providing welcome forage for wild creatures as they make their preparations for the cold winter months ahead. And, of course, there are nuts. This has been a wonderful year for nuts, not least, acorns. A single Oak tree can produce up to 90,000 acorns each containing large amounts of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and minerals; making them an important part of many wild animals’ diets. Small mammals such as mice and squirrels feed on them, as do birds and deer.
I find it impossible on my walks not to gather up pockets-full of fallen fruits, nuts and berries, as well as pretty coloured leaves, fir cones, seed heads, feathers, and anything else (bar fungi) that catches my eye. Usually I take my finds home, filling our windowsills with objects more beautiful and unique than anything I could ever find in a shop, but sometimes I use them to create Nature Mandalas (a form of nature art) which I leave by the side of a path or woodland clearing; for others to find, wild creatures to eat, or the wind to blow away.A mandala is a Hindu and Buddhist symbol, circular in design, representing the universe. You don’t need to be artistic to create a ‘nature’ mandala; just work from the inside outward, maintaining symmetry and balance, adding whatever you want until you are happy with what you have created, or have used up all your materials. So long as it is circular, there is no right or wrong way to make such a thing. Nature mandalas are such a beautiful way to revel in nature’s bounties, mark the changing of the seasons, and reflect on the passing of time. Maybe you’d like to give it a go? But beware… they can become quite addictive!