Country diary: An explosion of colour before winter’s gloom

Country diary: An explosion of colour before winter’s gloom

Badenoch, Cairngorms national park: The first snow may have appeared on the mountaintops, but the trees below are still ablaze with vibrant autumnal hues

“October is the coloured month here,” wrote Nan Shepherd in The Living Mountain, her meditative hymn to the Cairngorms. For me, it seems a month that grasps the whole spectrum of colours in its eager hands before November winds blow them away and December darkness falls.

The great oaks still hold most of their leaves and are mostly still green, though tinged with yellows and browns. The birch leaves are a soft shower of lemon and lime, gradually thinning to reveal more of the cross-hatched white trunks and the spindly black branches. The aspens, meanwhile, are the showgirls of the forest, shimmying in cascades of gold to the rustling of their own applause. Their castoffs carpet the trails, each leaf brightly splashed as an artist’s palette before being crushed into the mud.

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