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Sunday, 20 November 2011

It’s finally starting to feel as autumn should. I’m looking out of my window on a grey and gloomy scene, the houses around us looming out of a thick fog, darkness descending. It’s quite a contrast with the weather we had earlier in the week. I think it was Tuesday when I took the longer walk to town, a two-and-a-half mile route that I usually complete in around forty minutes. A number of the oak trees along the railway line were not only in leaf, but green.

We do see oaks in leaf through the winter, but generally what we’re looking at are immature specimens, or the lower branches of youngish trees - hence the term ‘pubescent foliage’.  A lot of the other trees around here are bare now, but in sheltered spots, close to the ground, a number of elders and sycamores were still clinging to their leaves.

The larches - which I believe are our only deciduous conifer - have turned colour and are rapidly shedding their needles. I’m not a great lover of the extensive larch plantations which cover so much of our upland landscape these days, but I do enjoy them in spring, when they put out fresh foliage, and in the autumn when they turn a coppery brown.

Over the past year or two I’ve started collecting photographs of plants and trees in their various seasons. I offer no excuse for putting up these few shots of autumn leaves taken  in earlier years, other than that I’m rather pleased with them

When I was a child I was always drawing or painting trees. In my twenties I tried to pursue a career as an arboriculturalist, but fell flat on my face. I could expand upon that, but later. What I remember of my early artistic forays was that I always began with brown for the frame of the tree, green for the leaves. I have since taken great delight in pointing out to other people how rarely you find a tree-trunk that is actually brown. This is a young sycamore struggling for the light in a dense thicket of larch.

The various walks I take into town capitalise on the wonderful network of disused railway lines that criss-cross this part of the county. We were all horrified when Dr Beeching (a Chairman of British Rail under the Tory Government in the 1960s) oversaw the savage pruning of our network and the closure of many rural branch lines. On the plus side, many of those that were closed have been converted into bicycle and footpaths.

The last part of this walk to town brings me out on a hill which overlooks the city of Durham and affords a view of the castle. I cannot say anything about the castle right now, but in a day or two’s time I’ll have looked up a few salient facts to go with the pictures I hope to take tonight when we troop into town and watch the Durham Lumiere exhibition. It’s a display of light and lighting effects designed to show the city in a different and unusual - light, I guess.

The last few hundred yards of the descent into town takes you under this impressive railway viaduct, built in 1857 - the year that Nebraska achieved statehood, I believe. Many years ago I used to stand on the veranda of my brake-van as I took freight trains from York to Newcastle, and marvel at the views from here, across town to the cathedral. Odd how life takes you to unexpected places….

Yesterday I notched up the 44th on my list of ‘football grounds I have visited’. Sunderland is only fiften miles or so from here. They play in the Premier League. They left their old home at Roker Park some years ago and decamped to the Stadium of Light - fondly known to the Newcastle supporters up the road as the Stadium of Shite. It’s an off-the-shelf kind of building, and pretty uninspiring. If the team had been playing well I dare say the 38,000 crowd would have generated a bit of atmosphere; but they were dreadful, as were their opponents, Fulham. The atmosphere at York, with 4,000 supporters in the ground, has been far better this year. Fulham were allocated a vast expanse of seats at one end of the ground, thousands of them, and appeared to bring no more than a few hundred supporters. They really should be ashamed when they look at tiny clubs like York, four divisions below them,who frequently take 5-6-700 away with them. 

So, for the second game in a row I witnessed a 0-0 draw. I am hoping for better fare a week on Tuesday when York play another cathedral city, Lincoln. 

Tonight, then, the Lumiere. I hope my camera is up to it.

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