I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at www.linzertortes.blogspot.co.uk. Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Published November 4th 2013
Who needs summer, anyway?
As autumn arrives and the weather gets colder it's easy to be a bit glum about the end of the warm months. However, autumn is such a beautiful time of year, so don't hide away indoors. Get out there and take advantage of nature's bounties. Here are 5 things to look for to get you started.
I love a good bramble hunt, and even in a city you can still find these hardy bushes popping up in even the most semi-rural areas. In Edinburgh, one of the best places is along the Water of Leith walkway.
They pop up here and there, a tangle of thorns hiding dark-purplish fruit. Go out with a few containers and collect as many as you can. There are lots of things you can make with brambles, or blackberries if you prefer their more official name. They go very well with apples in a pie or a crumble. Or you can start preparing for later in the year by making a bramble vodka, or a preserve like bramble jelly. You could also try looking for sloes, which are another seasonal fruit, and then make a sloe gin.
Some bramble bushes are a little less accessible than others!
These are a plentiful source of autumn activities. If you start your collection now then you will be able to gather beautiful leaves ranging from green to orange to red. Press them between the pages of a heavy book for a couple of weeks and then you'll be ready to use them in all sorts of crafts and arts. Why not try making a leaf butterfly? Or, even more elaborate, get a plain tablecloth and some fabric paint and decorate it with leaf prints. For younger participants a simple collage is always popular, and can be easily framed to make an impressive, brightly coloured gift for a grandparent or other relative. Or a leaf placemat will be a welcome addition to the dining table as winter draws near.
There are bound to be lots of leaves to collect in this park.
Nothing says autumn like the rich, glossy, chestnut colour of a conker. These can be trickier to find than brambles, and certainly less plentiful than leaves. Once you've found a good spot you can come back year after year. Either keep them as a pretty desk or house decoration, or thread them and have an old-fashioned game of conkers.
The trees are heavy with rowan berries; those glorious bundles of bright red fruit. You can't eat them raw, but you can turn them into rowan jelly. It's a slightly tart jelly, which is perfect for preparing for Christmas gifts, or just keeping to go along with turkey as the festive season approaches.
Mushrooms and toadstools pop up in all sorts of places in autumn, but many people feel a little nervous about collecting them to eat. You should only do that if you are absolutely confident that you can tell your Shaggy Ink Cap from your Death Cap, and if in doubt DO NOT EAT. In many local areas there are now specialist guides who will lead a fungi foray and teach you how to recognise those that are safe to eat, and how best to collect them. If you're still not keen on collecting them to eat, then don a pair of gloves and have some fun with fungi in other ways. You can do a spore print on white paper, or get a hand lens and inspect all the different parts of the fungi.
I hope you enjoy autumn as much as I do. It's such a wonderful time of year, and there's no reason to let the worsening weather put you off an outdoor excursion. It might be nippy, but on a sunny day even a city walk can be beautiful.