Now that summer is over, Cara Kliman looks at how to encourage your children to celebrate the change of season…
‘I’m too old to jump in piles of autumn leaves,’ Alice says, as we walk through Heaton Moor Park on the way to school. But as we come out of the gates onto Peel Moat Road I notice she can’t help making a tunnel with her foot through a bank of red and brown leaf litter by the park railing.
Still, it would be good to have some other signs of autumn to tell the girls about, beyond the rust-coloured leaves, beautiful as they are.
I phone my old neighbour, Paula, who runs a gardening business, and she tells me about changes in nature to look out for at this time of year. She lives in London, and hasn’t been to Heaton Moor, so if they don’t all apply to our park, she recommends keeping an eye out for them in gardens or other nature spots.
She suggested a number of things to look out for and explained why they are more abundant at this time of year.
1 Plant products
These might be:
- Pine cones
‘Those ‘helicopter seeds’ you might see are the ones that come spiralling through the air like helicopters as they come down off the trees,’ Paula says, adding that there are four types of trees that produce helicopter seeds: sycamore, ash, field maple and Norway maple.
‘You might see squirrels burying acorns or conkers to come back to when the cold weather arrives,’ she says.
She tells me that insects, birds and foxes will be gorging on seeds and other wild foods, to fatten themselves up for the winter.
2 Autumn plants
These might include:
‘Ivy is one of the few plants that blooms in the autumn, producing sticky yellow flowers,’ Paula explains.
‘You’ll see insects like butterflies and wasps feeding on them, as it’s one of the few sources of nectar available at this time of year.’
There are other reasons for liking ivy: later in the autumn the flowers turn to berries that are a crucial source of food for birds like thrushes and blackbirds, preparing for the winter.
Look out for:
These birds become more visible in the autumn,’ Paula says, ‘during the summer you don’t see much of them as they’re moulting and then they appear again around this time of year with a fresh set of feathers.’
Another thing to look out for is flocks of birds migrating. It’s possible you’ll notice swallows and swifts heading off for some sun.
‘There will be a lot more spiders about in autumn, it’s their mating season so they’ll be out, looking for a love interest,’ Paula says.
So all in all, plenty to look out for in the park!