The light wind was producing little more than a shiver in the boughs, but the ash trees were throwing off their leaves as if their lives depended on it. The ash is always the first tree to lose its leaves, shedding little branches of six to eight at a time. It takes one look at winter and gives up-not for it the burnished autumn plumage of the beech and the maple.

The spiders have never been busier. I’ve rarely seen as many webs as on last Saturday. It was a dank day and each thread held hundreds of little water droplets like perfect jewelled necklaces. The webs were strung across the seed stems of hogweed, across fences as well as smothering my lawn. I wonder what they catch to eat on these wet days.

On crisp cold days, particularly in November, single strands of thread hang in the air. These are made by spiderlings and act as a sort of parachute to transport the young spiders. It’s a very effective method, and this form of transport has allowed spiders to colonise new volcanic islands before any other animal. The thread is called gossamer because it always appeared at the time of the great goose fairs in the run up to Christmas.

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