This weekend it was my birthday, and we celebrated by starting the day with breakfast and presents in bed (thank you P and D). I felt very grateful for my lovely family, and friends too, who made me feel very special all day - I'm very lucky. My friend gave me this lovely heather and I put it with my pansies and some conkers to make an autumn display on the little table outside the kitchen door. I can't resist collecting conkers at this time of year, even though my children are grown up - I think I'll still be doing it when I'm an old lady!
I also received two lovely books. I am a bit of a bookworm, and always have something to read at bedtime, but these are more the kind of books you might pick up and put down. The first is 'A First Book of Nature' by Mark Hearld and Nicola Davies. Now this might seem an odd choice for someone of my age, but I chose it because it ticks so many boxes for me: I adore Mark Hearld's art (remember the harvest hare card I bought last month?), I love the seasons and I love poetry. I can read this book with my two lovely nephews (aged 7 and 5) when they visit, but mostly I can enjoy it myself. Children's books are often works of art in their own right, and I have several which I still enjoy.
The illustrations are gorgeous and the writing is beautiful - look ...
The second book is 'Letters of Note: Correspondence deserving of a Wider Audience' by Shaun Usher. This is a wonderful book full of letters written by the famous and the not-so-famous, and it is absolutely riveting, not to mention very moving and at times funny. I enjoy writing letters, and fear it may be a dying art with the arrival of the internet and mobile devices. Letters are like poems, little snapshots of a moment, and always a fascinating insight into the writer's character. When I was a child my elderly Uncle used to write letters to myself and my brother in which he related funny stories and drew little pictures in the margins. I always looked forward to receiving them.
As the weather was beautiful we went for a walk in Leigh Woods in the Avon Gorge in Bristol. We've often visited that part of Bristol but never the woods themselves and today was the perfect sort of day for an autumnal stroll. The woods are perched at the top of one side of the gorge, and on arrival we spotted this amazing veteran yew tree which seems to have had the parish wall built around it!
Next to it was a bench carved from a tree trunk into the shape of a crocodile.
The sun was out and it filtered gently through the beech, oak and chestnut leaves.
Underfoot the woodland floor was covered in crunchy beech husks and mast.
There were sweet chestnuts too, breaking out of their spiky cases.
And here and there a feather, reminding us that the woods were full of birds.
There were also fabulous bursts of colour in the form of berries ... bryony berries (one of my favourites),
and orange holly berries.
The woodland is managed carefully to encourage a rich diversity of species, so fallen trees are left to rot down and provide habitats for numerous creatures.
Soon we found ourselves high above the Avon Gorge and were able to look down over the cliffs. Can you see the tiny car on the road at the bottom, and the car park on top of the downs on the opposite side?
We could also see the river Avon as it flowed towards the sea.
Back into the woodland and I looked up through the still-green oak leaves above our heads.
Bunches of sycamore keys hung above me, tiny helicopters ready to fall.
There were some wonderful fungi as we walked - I will have to try to identify them.
Although it was a sunny afternoon, the woods were dark and sound was muffled by the leaves. We met many families and dog-walkers, but often found ourselves out of sight or sound of anyone. Occasionally we found ourselves in little pools of sunlight which were very welcome.
Soon our walk came to an end, and we were ready for a coffee.
So we headed to our next destination, Ashton Court, an old manor house with parkland nearby which has been bought by Bristol City Council. We sat outside at the cafe and enjoyed our hot drinks, surrounded by well-kept gardens.
There are also herds of deer, the stags looking magnificent with their enormous antlers.
As we left we admired the sweeping views across the city,
and came home via the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Here we are approaching it.
Almost on it ...
And driving across.
Here's the view over the side - it's dizzyingly high.
Once on the other side we stopped to take a photo, and marvelled at the height. What a feat of engineering!
We drove back through Clifton, with its grand Georgian houses.
They are very elegant, and rather continental-looking.
Some have some very quirky period details.
I made an apple and pear cake for tea, not as visually exciting as my usual iced birthday cake, but delicious, nevertheless.
I love having my birthday in October, and this was one to remember :)