As October 2015 draws to a close, it seems a good time to reflect on what a nice time of year October is for getting out on trips, adventures and holidays.
The nights are certainly drawing in – usually rather abruptly on the final full weekend of the month – but the weather is often still good and the sun still bright. This is combined with the end of the uniform green of summer and the brief interlude before the arrival of the greys and browns of winter.
This series of photos is a commemoration of this change of the hues.
Strath Halladale, running northwards across the Flow of Caithness from Forsinard towards the north coast of Britain near Thurso. The expanse of conifers was one of the survivors of the plantations provided here because the Forsinard Bog is a large expanse of empty land that nobody had any use for, unlike the places further south where trees were being cut down for motorways, business estates and housing. Subsequently it has been realised that the trees were destroying the delicate ecosystem of the empty bog so they are being hurriedly harvested before maturity – whether this particular plantation is still there (the picture was taken three years ago) would require another visit to ascertain.
Forsinard proper is one of the most isolated places in Britain to enjoy a rail service. The station is behind the camera in this picture taken in the early hours of an October morning, with the trees showing a faint yellow hint, the grass beginning to die back and the long shadows stretching across the tattered road surface. There is more than a passing feeling of some isolated place in the centre of the North American continent.
Dingwall is the junction between the railways from the Far North (Wick, Thurso and of course Forsinard) and the scattered communities on the West Coast of Scotland near the Isle of Skye (Plockton, Durinish and Kyle of Lochalsh). A small station in the local heavy architectural style, it is perhaps not the most interesting place to spend time. The northern end of the station is now encased in mature birch trees, hiding the view up to the junction proper. Come October every one of these birches comes out in a different shade, blending with the grubby ballast and rusted rails. The large white boards with red dots in the distance are “Stop” boards used for train control; there are no conventional railway signals north of the Great Glen.
The dull green of the conifer plantations works well in October, since they blend well with the mix of yellows and oranges on the deciduous trees and the reddish-brown of the bracken. Patches of gorse maintain blobs of darker green, stretched around the ridges of exposed rock. A few trees give up particularly early and add a skeletal grey to proceedings. Red blossom throws in an extra tint to this view of the Allt Dhuirinish rising up from Loch Carron to the freshwater lochs and mountains beyond.
Beyond the end of the Kyle line, on the Isle of Skye, is the hulking form of Sgurr na Coinnich. The mountain dominates the background of photos of the attractive and well-located Kyle of Lochalsh station. Below its rugged summit and steep flanks are deep gorges carrying streams off the moss and bogs to the seawater of Loch Alsh. Crowds of trees, snuggling in the shelter from the harsher elements of Highland weather, make for a mass of hues crowded around this stream between the orange grass and purple-grey moorland flowers on one side and the dark green plantation on the other.
Far across Scotland, the town of Keith has a heritage railway based on one of the many closed lines in this area, built as two opposing companies met and attempted to work around each other in difficult terrain. Now the green diesel unit with its silver roof and red bufferbeam contrasts with the white buildings, wild mix of trees and bright blue sky. A waft of steam in the distance indicates the steam locomotive that the Keith and Dufftown Railway had hired in to mark its railway’s 150th anniversary; the diesel units were acting as hauled stock for the day.
The landscape of the North Yorkshire Moors is often as wild as the Highlands of Scotland, although it is relatively more rolling and the scenery in the valleys is softer and more wooded. The road is freshly wetted after overnight rain; the dark clouds are still wandering off to the north, although the sky overhead is bright blue. The bracken is dying by patches; the roadside short grass remains green; rocks poke out from amongst the heather. On the skyline, the trees are just changing hue.
The reddish-brown of the North Eastern Railway is seen to good effect in autumn as the trees change their hues at Goathland station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. With the sun thrown away to the south at almost exactly midday the light is pouring down onto the faded wagons, the door to the goods shed and the end of the signal box – the windows of which are seen freshly taped up against bomb damage for the forthcoming October Railways in Wartime weekend. The signaller, wearing a modern high-visibility jacket, is exchanging single-line tokens for the sections from Levisham and on to Grosmont with the driver of Class 24 diesel No. 5081. The diesel’s fuel tank and bogies are stained from rust and muck thrown off wet rails and its roof is rusty through time spent outside since last overhaul (it is now out of traffic awaiting the next one). Its dark green livery, offset with a white solebar, is never especially bright and was notorious when new for blending into the background – resulting in the invention of yellow warning panels and high intensity headlights for the locos plus orange jackets with reflective strips for the staff. The coach, by contrast, is in vibrant blood and custard with a clean roof. Behind is a mix of tree shades and some more red blossom. The rust-covered rails with patches of moss in the yard in the foreground complete the picture.
The dark clouds that sometimes gather overhead in October do not necessarily make for comfortable walking, but from a photography point of view the partial blocking out of the sun creates some incredibly dramatic scenes. This one, looking across Lake Windermere in a south-westerly direction from halfway up Bowness, was taken in colour.
A particularly splendid piece, with every autumnal colour in one tree – seen below the flanks of Loughrigg, on the Ambleside flank, at the top end of Lake Windermere. Overhead the blue sky gives contrast to the fiery leaves.
A few minutes later, from high up on Loughrigg looking down on Rydal Water. Beyond are the fells above Grasmere. The sky is a softer blue; the clouds add variety to the shades on the distant mountain.
Of course, the clouds can be an attraction in their own right – as the sheep graze, the trees below begin their change and the afternoon sun picks out every detail in the old grey Lakeland stone wall, an example of Canis Cumulus brings fresh meaning to clouds chasing across the sky above the mountains north-east of Windermere.
The fells over Langdale rise far away on a sunny Monday morning, seen across the northern end of Windermere from Jenkin Crag. The crag makes a particularly good viewpoint on the western slopes of Wansfell, looking out towards the Old Man of Coniston and the passes that carry the road across the mountains to Eskdale and the Cumbrian coast. Browning trees frame the scene.
At the south end of Windermere, another steam railway leads south to Haverthwaite; the original line continued to the Cumbrian Coast line at Ulverston, but parts of this have been superseded by a road. An “Austerity” saddletank, painted in British Railways black and named Repulse, brings a rake of blood and custard coaches through the attractive valley between lake and sea. While the sky overhead is grey, the sun beats down on the loco’s bright red bufferbeam and uses its steam to cast a shadow across the converted barn to the left. Beyond, a mix of sunlit trees contrast with the grey uplands in the background. The mixed weather conditions of October can in fact serve to show British landscape at its best.
The late John Keats referred to autumn as the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”; after a largely warm and sunny day, Coniston is seen bathed in sunset on an October evening. The Old Man rises behind, wrapped and hulking with his back to the sun. Below is Coniston Water, calm and unruffled in the still air. Bank Ground Farm is down the field below, with its boathouse to the right. The farm was adopted by the author Arthur Ransome for his 1929 book Swallows & Amazons, which made some minor changes to the surrounding geography involving a couple of extra headlands and the elimination of Coniston village. It now plays host to the Swallows & Amazons Tearoom.
Further down the lake is Peel Island, with its hidden harbour and dense tree covering. Ransome borrowed the harbour and merged it with Blake Holme on Windermere for his “Wild Cat Island”. Many years later, the island is quiet and peaceful amongst the soft, creased waters of an October sunset. The sky takes on a Neptunian air with its deep cloud, streaked by white and blotched with darker hues. The rocks stand silhouetted against the sun and a jetty stretches out onto the water with a faintly rippled reflection. The water mirrors the island and the shoreline to provide a demonstration of Monet’s watercolour art in practice. In the distance a crack in the clouds illuminates the treeline across the south end of Coniston Water, from where the Crake flows southwards towards Ulverston.
Late sunrises and early sunsets just mean an excuse to watch them – a morning Cambrian Coast train provides a ringside seat of the sun coming up over the Mawddach estuary at Barmouth. The sun shines over the clouds to the southeast, which cover the peak of Cader Idris and shade the sky to the south; the fresh sky blue and the brightly-lit clouds to the north are reflected in the swirling water.
The fairytale village at Portmeirion and its associated gardens on the north-west coast of Wales, designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, could be said to not count as a demonstration of British landscape due to the array of imported plants, flowers and architecture. Freshly washed by rain, the Chinese Garden is very peaceful and scenic with its own mix of hues and textures.
Octobers mists also add to the atmosphere of the Forest of Dean, seen here on a warm and damp day shortly before the trees started to turn. The location is the south end of Blue Rock Tunnel, on the former Bullo Pill to Cinderford branch line. The footpath is following the old tramway around the outside of a rocky outcrop that the railway cut through in a short, shallow tunnel.
Today the sun is shining. Must be time to go out…