Hello Pumpernickel

As a school child October meant being back in school, with summer holidays a fading memory and the daily homework load increasing…

As a student each October entailed new accommodation, cooler days, light dwindling by late afternoon, evenings spent on assignments…

As a parent by October routines had become established: children’s uniform ready for the morning, dinner money in envelopes, reading logs checked, spellings tested…

As a teacher by October the new timetable had been established, pupils’ names learned, the first homework tasks marked – and superseded by the second, and the third…

But October colour? Colour!  Was there ever time to appreciate just how vibrant the colours are in October? Or how the unobtrusive foliage of previous months bursts into brash shows of bronzed and golden flamboyance…

Trees look splendid in October, dancing flirtatiously in their finery before leaves fly off to carpet the ground. Who can resist scuttling and scuffling feet through piles of dry crispy leaves?

October is a sensual affair…Gaze on the leaf colour,     notice the fungi,  stroke the tree bark, sniff the freshly mulched soil, listen out for  the birds, crows and kites, cawing and squealing in the treetops.


About an hour’s drive west lie the National Trust gardens at Stowe. Just west of Buckingham they are.  To stroll around in this stunning Capability Brown landscape is to gaze through stage set 

after stage set,    sighting new vistas, exploring neo-classical temples,   examining imposing structures.   








To see a video of the gardens click here:

A favourite point to stop and ponder is the mid-eighteenth century Temple of British Worthies…

In niches in a curved wall are 16 busts, eight of figures famed for their thinking and writing, eight of figures of action and leadership, Queen Elizabeth 1 being the sole female figure. (See here for details of the individuals.)

There is a hugely impressive house at Stowe, which since 1923 has housed Stowe School, an independent school. The vast lawn in front of Stowe House    is the school’s cricket ground. The view from here takes in the Corinthian Arch and the East and Wes tLake Pavilions.   (For an appreciation of the landscaped gardens from an art history perspective view a tour given by Stowe School’s headteacher in place of the 2020 Speech Day.)

The trip to Stowe had all the elements of a very special treat – a visit to a different county, different and impressive surroundings, bursts of autumn colour, all topped off by a late lunch out (a sausage roll and a cup of tea in the airy, spacious NT café!)


Each October the garden grapes need to be assessed and dealt with. There are two vines of different varieties, the foliage of which scrambles up and over a pergola at the back of the house. Some years the crop is sparse but 2020 provided a bumper harvest. One vine catches more sun and this year grapes grew in heavy hanks. 

“How do you know when the grapes are ready to cut down?” folk ask.

“When they begin to fall and become squishy underfoot,” is the usual response. Plagued for a decade or more by fearless birds making their way inside the house it was only when the connection between fermented fruit and an uncapped chimney was made that dealing with the grapes became an October necessity.  After all, dealing with inebriated and dehydrated intruders, some alive, some not, was never a joy…

By the second week of this month flocks of starlings were making regular low-level flypasts over the pergola, some birds landing into the foliage to shake the fruit downwards… Action had to be taken.

Grape Harvest Day dawned, chilly but dry. Aided as previously by The Academic and The Biologist the cutting down began.

“Let’s call these ones Grade 1,” said The Academic about the larger sun-advantaged grapes. They were cut down – and weighed. 19 pounds.

Down were cut the smaller, greener Grade 2s: they weighed 26 pounds.

Some bunches were wizened and unusable but weighed they were too – 2 pounds of those. So, 47 pounds of grapes were harvested in total, Italian harvest grape cake     was eaten at a half way refreshment point and the starlings are no longer terrorising Boatwif and the Captain right outside their own back door.


Up in Kempston Wood the leaves are falling thick and fast. Paths are carpeted in leaf litter, branches are skeletal shapes,   their limbs twisting towards the tree canopy. The main route through the woodland is blocked by a fallen ash.     Visualising Cleddau as a 60 foot tape measure it seems about 80 feet of tree has slammed down to ground level.


It was on the way back from a walk one day to check that the little dinghy is still afloat at Tithe Farm    (yes, it’s there though the water level isn’t visible) that Pumpernickel was met. In the old dairy at Wood End Farm work has continued on the rocking horses. This was one of the horses on August 20th   Now, painted, and with eyes, their creator has named them. Say hello, readers,  to Josephine (on the left) and Thomas (on the right)   and to Pumpernickel…   

As British Summer Time ends there’s now only a photo reminder of a favourite summer flower…

Boaters and non-boaters – may you all stay safe this winter.

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5 Responses

  1. Carol says:

    A wonderful, lyrical post of Autumn Sue, brilliant (in every sense) photography too. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Pip says:

    Stowe will always be part of my soul. The Palladium Bridge for one is so beautiful.
    Back in 1990 I was the Associate Set Designer for The Marriage of Figaro which was performed at the Roxburgh Theatre in the grounds. For two weeks the company lived on site, sleeping in the school premises, eating below the huge portraits in the school canteen and working our socks off at the theatre.
    We did get time off to enjoy our surroundings and the facilities, swimming pool and squash courts. Many a walk around the gardens, I believe the head gardener lived in one side of the Corinthian Arch.
    One night I stayed on through the night to paint the stage floor and had been lent a car to drive back to my accommodation. I left just as mist was rising off the grass, no-one else was awake. If I hadn’t been so tired I’d have gone for an explore.
    The following year the team was meant to return to work on two operas, David the overall designer had put in a request for us to stay in the Gothic Temple, now run by the Landmark Trust. Sadly he and his wife ended up moving to the States that year, so the original team were disbanded and I never got to return. Such a wonderful place, thank you for sharing, bringing back all my memories.

    • Boatwif says:

      Hi Carol,
      It’s good to hear from you. I am very snap happy at this time of year – some trees produce the most astonishing colours – I love it!
      The hedgerows are very colourful too at present with masses of hips and sloes.
      Best wishes to you and George.

      Hi Pip,
      I loved reading about your memories of Stowe – it’s such a stunning and inspirational place.
      About twenty years ago I remember being much taken by the triangular Gothic Temple and took loads of photos to work into a presentation to inspire ghost story writing for 12-13 year olds. The pictures certainly kicked off loads of ideas..
      The Gothic Temple still is in the hands of the Landmark Trust and it looked as if it was occupied by guests last week.
      I hope all is going well in your “moored up” life – and that Tilly has settled into her new territory…
      Best wishes,
      Sue /Boatwif

  3. Carol says:

    Hi again Sue, I meant to ask if the Hebe near the top of your post is in your garden and wanted to know what its name is, do you know?

    • Sue Deveson says:

      Hi Carol,
      I’m sorry but I don’t know! I have groped around the plant in case a plant label which would give more detail was still in the ground – but no luck!
      Good luck with any future gardening exploits of your own,
      Sue /Boatwif

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