Autumn is one of our favourite times of year here at Preston Park. It’s the season of change and a time to slow down. Soon, the grass will be covered in morning dew, spider webs will glisten in the early morning sun and it will be time to pull on our favourite woollen jumpers. It’s also a great chance to get outdoors and explore the autumn landscape as the leaves turn from green to beautiful hues of orange and red. The nights may be drawing in but don’t let that put you off, as nature always has a trick or two up its sleeve…
Trees and bushes are weighed down with winter berries
Hawthorn and rowan trees have magnificent clusters of berries at this time of year. Their cut branches make a beautiful autumn display when brought indoors and arranged in a tall vase. Please only take what you need, as the berries are a vital food supply for wild birds over winter. Scandinavian birds such as fieldfare and redwings can’t resist battling the North Sea for our berries and milder climate.
Why not welcome birds into your garden with a bird feeding area? Many smaller birds like blue tits, goldfinches and robins will struggle to find their natural food during the harsher winter months so they will appreciate seed being put out for them.
As daylight begins to fade look out for starling murmurations
As the cold nights draw in, the starling’s flock together in their thousands, swirling and dancing across the sky before settling into their winter nesting grounds. The starlings will start their performance around dusk, typically over reed beds. Why not take a hot flask to your nearest nature reserve and watch the sky come to life? It’s a fantastic sight.
Hedgehogs get ready to hibernate
Before Bonfire Night check any large piles of logs and debris for hibernating hedgehogs. These snuffling mammals spend summer and early autumn building reserves for their long sleep over winter. If you’re lucky enough to have a resident hedgehog in your garden, you can leave a small tray of cat food out for them. And if you see a hog looking small or out during the depths of winter, please get in touch with your local hedgehog rescue or the rangers at Preston Park, who are happy to help.
It’s time to harvest autumn apples, berries and sloes
Apples freshly picked from the Orchard at Preston Park Museum
Here at Preston Park we’re lucky to have an orchard full of heritage varieties of apples, plums and quinces; the majority of which are ready in autumn. This year we have had a bumper crop so keep your eyes peeled for apple picking events and fruit for sale at the museum.
Look out for apple picking events taking place at the museum throughout September
Blackberries and sloes are also ready to be picked and make a delicious winter tipple (if you’re new to foraging please be careful as some British berries can be poisonous). You will need to let your berries infuse in your gin or vodka for 2 -3 months.
Sloes can often be found growing in abundance among hedgerows
Make your own berry winter tipple
750ml of gin or vodka
200g caster sugar
400g berries (the more berries the stronger the taste)
Allow to infuse for 2-3months
Pick your own pumpkin
Pick your own pumpkin at Preston Park Museum
Whether you’re a pumpkin eater or a pumpkin carver, this time of year can be fun for all ages. Pumpkin carving is a Halloween tradition that comes from Ireland where people would carve faces on turnips to frighten away Stingy Jack. When Irish immigrants moved to America, they started to carve Jack O’Lanterns from pumpkins.
An autumn display outside of the grocers on the Victorian Street, Preston Park Museum
Throughout October, you can pick your own pumpkin from our pop-up pumpkin patch, keep an eye on our social media pages for more details coming soon.
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