Joys of the Season

knole in autumn

This is my absolute favourite time of year. I enjoy all of the seasons, but Autumn is so beautiful and so fleeting that I can’t help but embrace it with more enthusiasm than the rest. I wait with breathless anticipation for the trees outside my bedroom window to start to turn golden brown. I watch with glee as the pavements begin to develop a coating of russet leaves, that, like a child, I still can’t resist crunching through as I walk. I get a quiver of excitement as I smell the first whiff of woodsmoke on the air. I love that the sky drains of light before I’ve barely got home from work, and I can curl up by the fire in my cosy lounge, enjoying the anticipation of a long, leisurely evening ahead. This is the time of year for rest and recuperation. For getting around to those doorstopper books I’ve been saving. For sewing and knitting. For baking and cooking. For red wine and fruit crumble and roast beef. For Sunday afternoon walks in the park. For period dramas. Autumn is where it’s at.

knole in autumn

I went for a lovely walk around Knole Park last weekend. The trees were just starting to flame at their tips, the grass was carpeted with crisp leaves of varying shades of brown and the watery sunshine was barely able to keep the nip out of the air. As the leaves rustled in the wind and the sky lowered, there was no mistaking that the season had changed. Inside the house, where intense renovation is going on to make the roof watertight, it was dark and cosy. I love the slightly musty smell of the centuries old, wood panelled rooms, lit by mullioned windows, whose stained glass casts colourful beams of light across the floors. As The National Trust puts it, the house is currently in ‘flux’, with many of the rooms in some level of disarray due to conservation work. As a frequent visitor, I am fortunate to see the subtle changes from season to season. At the moment, many wall hangings have been removed, which reveal the cheap wooden planks that line most of the walls. Ornamental carvings have been stuck on around the tapestry lines, which makes the rooms look half naked!

knole in autumn

Returning home, ruddy cheeked, it was time for a slab of plum and almond cake and some reading. At the moment, I’m shadowing the Booker Prize shortlist with a student reading group at school. As you all well know, I am not the biggest enthusiast for modern fiction, but I am appreciating the challenge of being forced to read outside of my comfort zone. Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland is a lovely autumnal choice; a family saga set between India and Rhode Island in the 1960s, it’s a rich and absorbing tale that I would never normally have picked up, but am enjoying immensely nonetheless. Waiting for me on my bedside table as a reward are the two new Persephone titles for the Autumn; what a treat!

25 comments

  1. Dear Rachel, you express so vividly all that resonates with me in Autumn. I think sometimes that there are only we readers of books that appreciate the longer nights. Isn’t it fun to pick up books we might not have otherwise glanced at? Like “Code Name Verity”? I was completed absorbed in it, Rachel, and have you to thank for reviewing it (which I have now also done). I found myself wishing I had a class of 14 year olds to discuss it with.

    1. I think it is us romantically minded folks that love these long nights of cosiness, Penny! Oh I am so glad you loved it, Penny – isn’t it just a treat of a novel? I have passed it on to loads of my students and can’t wait to talk to them about it!

  2. I made that plum and almond cake recently, tweaked it a bit to make it gluten free, as my other half is coeliac.

  3. I got to enjoy a bit of the English autumn this time last year. I hope you have more pictures later of when the leaves turn orange and red.

  4. Oh, how wonderful to see photos of Knole in autumn! I enjoyed my visit there tremendously and still “revisit” in my mind. What I remember most about the house, and what surprised me when being there: the wonderful, delicate smell you noticed also. I didn’t know what it is – I thought maybe it’s the well-cared wood of the floors and furniture. But it’s definitely this smell which comes to my mind first when I think of Knole.
    Enjoy your English autumn! Here in Germany, the trees slowly start to change colour, and every night there are hungry hedgehog-babies and their mother on the porch. They get some catfood, and we can’t resist watching them with a torchlight – one of the joys of autumn!

    1. I’m so pleased to bring back happy memories for you, Martina! You’re right – the smell is certainly unique, and very atmospheric! Your autumn sounds perfectly blissful – hedgehogs indeed!!

  5. Lucky, lucky you to have a fireplace! If I had one, my happiness would be complete and I don’t think I would ever complain again! (hmm…) Oh well, at least I have chintz curtains to shut out the darkening skies and a comfy sofa on which to curl up with tea / a book / my knitting!
    I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesake a few years ago on a friend’s recommendation and thought it was very good. I’m not sure I could plough through the rest of the Booker Prize shortlist though.

    1. Come and live here! You’d have to put up with the other things that come with a country cottage though – mice, leaks, draughts, creaking floorboards…your chintz curtains and comfy sofa sound like bliss! I loved The Namesake too and The Lowland is very, very good. Ploughing through the whole list is definitely not going to be on my agenda any time soon – I think I’ll stop at two and hope one I read gets the prize!

  6. Oh I love Jhumpa Lahiri, glad you’re enjoying it. Well done on completing your NQT year & all the very best for this year. Well done for sorting out your work/life balance, it makes teaching so much more enjoyable.

    1. Thanks! Hope you are having a lovely time with Alice. I definitely feel like the work/life balance is becoming easier. I am ‘letting go’ a lot more, which feels good!

  7. This is a beautiful post, and on my very favourite season. I agree (from your comment above) that autumn appeals most to the romantics among us. I don’t find it dreary or sad, it’s lovely and cosy to me. It was also interesting to read about the work going on at Knole.

    1. I’m glad you are a fellow romantic, Lori! The work at Knole is really interesting. I wish the website was a bit more informative for those of you who can’t visit!

  8. You make me wish I had a ticket for a train ride out to Kent! Oh what else is new, Rachel, let’s be honest. I came home from work to a lovely pumpkin pie and despite thinking I ate too much dinner the dessert wasn’t far behind.
    Enjoy your weekend!

  9. Lovely pictures. Autumn is my favorite as well. We have the crunchy leaves and pumpkin spice everything, but it is still warm. Very warm. I long for my cardigans and scarves!

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