Some days, walking into work feels a bit like an executionary march. This time of year, especially, with my pale Northern skin screaming for a few hours of sun, I instead power through a blessed thirty minutes of low sunlight/flat grey skies, (or occasionally driving icy rain) into the artificially lit and climate controlled officeworld, where only a few hardy pot plants can survive.
This Thursday, I instead had the long walk. Forty-five minutes through urbs, suburbs, business and industry parks around the ring road, and a bright morning to walk through, hazy sun and crisp air. A morning to take every off-road route available. I started along the creekside path. The creeks are cut into our estate to keep water where it belongs; in the Thames. This close to the river they are concrete-lined culverts, deeper in the middle, made for fast drainage and sequestering of floodwater. Foxes and feral cats trot along their concrete banks, and wagtails flicker across the water. Field maples line the river, nettles crowd the path, yellow and dull green, the odd hawthorn making a splash of red. Then into the park, past the morning school-run. The municipal beds have gone to neon-bright pansies and primulas, with occasional pins of small ornamental evergreens in lurid lime green, fairly glowing against the year-round yew hedges.
Then out into the world of front gardens, at this time of year showing wear and tatter, brown leaves scattering the lawns, but here and there a shrub showing spectacular autumn colour; December is Cotoneaster, bright with red berries and redder leaves, black twigs like mucky brushstrokes peeking over low walls, waiting for the birds to become hungrier as the frosts get harder.
This year, I can't help looking for flowers. Fuchsia, still flowering. Chrysanthemums, still blaringly bright. Mock Orange and other municipals enjoying a second flower flush, particularly in the warm particulate glow around the ring road. And the roses! Still powering on, deep into winter, flowers and fruit on the same branches, promise and fulfillment all at once.
Top to bottom; red Cotoneaster, sunny Chrysanthemum, delicate Mock Orange, rufous Hydrangea, orange Firethorn and irrepresible Berberis.