The house martins, flying high in the sky, have formed a huge flock of hundreds of individuals; the nights, lit by a vast moon, ring out to the incessant calls of tawny owls; and even after a cool summer, there is a perceptible nip in the air. The fields throng with newly released pheasants.

Autumn is upon us. After one of the finest years for gardens-the cold winter followed by a warm spring and damp summer we may now be in for one of the most spectacular shows of autumn colours in living memory. Already, the hawthorn bushes are bejewelled with ruby fruits beside the purple sloes of the blackthorn.

We’ve been busy making apple tarts, jellies and chutneys, but have hardly made a mark on the huge crop still on the trees. The blackbirds feast on the windfalls. When I was a teenager, we would take our apples to a local man who made cider on an ancient press. That process once rather haunted me when I picked up the juice in my father’s Volvo, I went round a corner too fast and 20 gallons tipped over the back seat. But now that the trauma has faded with time, we’re going to borrow a press this weekend.

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