Autumn in Saddleworth by John Kirkbride

JOHN Kirkbride looks at Saddleworth in autumn and some of the things we can enjoy over this colourful season.

Despite government attempts to create the impression that everything is back to normal, I think most of us are fully aware of the fact that it isn’t.

The good news is we’re getting there and if we can tread carefully through the coming autumn and winter, we should be able to look forward to better times ahead.

To be fair, we’ve moved on quite a bit in the last few months, and it’s been wonderful to enjoy some of those freedoms that have been returned to us.

Mark Hirst – Christ Church Freizland in Autumn Mist

It’s been good for the soul to see people sitting outside the pubs, even if they were in bobble hats and scarves, and despite the cancellation of some Saddleworth events, numerous groups have got together to create alternative entertainment.

If you listened very carefully on May 28, you could hear the strains of brass band music echoing around the hills, and though I missed the sound of plastic glasses crunching underfoot, it almost felt like the real thing. (I mean Whit Friday, not the 70s soul band).

And if you thought you were hearing noises in your head over the weekend of the cancelled Rushcart festival, it was probably the sound of Saddleworth Morris Men and friends giving their clogs a run out in Uppermill. I would imagine they all made good use of their pewter tankards too.

A situation like a pandemic can bring out the best in people, and when it does it has the effect of drawing communities closer together, which gives us all a reason to be hopeful.

Autumn in Saddleworth John Kirkbride

As Robert Louis Stevenson remarked: “to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” Unless you’re on your way to the pub, of course.

Stuff about autumn
The word autumn comes from the Latin word autumnus, and prior to the 16th century the season was more commonly know as ‘harvest’, for fairly obvious reasons. This is how we know the Harvester chain of restaurants dates from before the 1500s.

Because scientists need set dates for everything, meteorological autumn always begins on September 1. For the rest of us, however, it starts on the equinox, which falls on September 22 or 23.

According to Greek mythology, autumn started when Persephone was nabbed by Hades and whisked off to become Queen of the Underworld. Pers’s mum Demeter (who also happened to be goddess of the harvest) wasn’t impressed and made all the crops die until her daughter was returned, which then became spring. It may be a bucket of hogwash, but those ancient Greeks could spin a great yarn.

Autumn by Angela Tate-Wright

Apparently there are less heart attacks in autumn, and boffins at the University of Michigan reckon it’s because we get an extra hour of sleep, which makes us less stressed. Also, babies born during Autumn are more likely to live to be 100 than those born at other times of the year. As far as I know, the boffins don’t have a clue how to account for that one.

Autumn on Saddleworth farms
As we’ve already established, autumn is the time for harvesting, when all the good stuff that’s been growing over summer gets cut, picked or dug up. It’s a busy season for farmers (what season isn’t)? and about the only thing they have time to watch on telly is the weather forecast.

You can tell the forecast is bad when you see them still working at 11pm with floodlights on the tractor, trying to collect the grass before the rain kicks in. I should be used to it by now, but every time it happens I’m convinced that aliens have landed in the field across the road.

Autumn by Nigel Barnes

One of the joys of a countryside walk is the mooing and baaing of livestock as they potter about over the hills and valleys. Sadly it gets less at this time of year, with many animals being billeted indoors as the days and nights get colder. That’s why it’s so important to get the fields baled up, or they’d be living on artificial grass chopped up with a few herbs.

Autumn is also the time for harvesting apples, and though I’m told they have their health benefits, there’s only one thing apples are good for (Two, if you include pies). In France they call it cidre; in the West Country they call it scrumpy; here we call it lunatic soup, which isn’t very PC, but if you’ve ever drunk too much of it you’ll understand why.

Growing your own
Across the UK, increasing numbers of people are growing their own grub. Allotments are back in fashion, and lots of people who are lucky enough to have a garden also have their own greenhouse.

There was a time when I would’ve sidled away quickly if someone had blurted the word polytunnel, but it’s now become part of the vernacular and they seem to be springing up everywhere.

Autumn by Jasmine Yaqub

Saddleworth is no exception to this trend, and speaking personally, it’s been a good crop this year.

If the current supermarket shortages start to hit tomatoes, I’ll wager there’s enough surplus toms in fridges and on window sills around the region to re-supply them. Over the last few weeks I’ve had tomato bread, tomato trifle and tomatoes en croute with a tomato and love apple sauce.

In truth, there’s nothing quite like a late summer salad made with your own lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions and peppers. You could try the Dorchester, of course, but you might have to sell your house to buy a starter. That’s the beauty of greenhouses: free food, and somewhere to have your Amazon parcels delivered when you’re out.

You can keep your greenhouse productive through autumn and winter, too. If you sow things like peas, broad beans and carrots you should get an early spring crop, while some salad leaves, microgreens and herbs will grow all year round. If you live on the top of a hill in Saddleworth, though, you may have to take the greenhouse indoors during the blizzards.

Autumn by Nigel Barnes

Things to do in autumn
Luckily there’s plenty of entertainment on offer in Saddleworth over the autumn season. There’ll be regular laughs at Greenfield’s Off The Rails Comedy Club, and live music is slowly returning to a number of pubs in the area. There are also some great shows coming up at our local venues, including Uppermill Civic Hall, the Millgate Centre in Delph and Mossley’s George Lawton Hall. And there’s always Halloween, of course.

The most abundant raw material at this time of year is dead leaves, and if you’re someone who enjoys upcycling old t-shirts into furniture, there are plenty of crafty items you can make with fallen tree-wear. However, you’ll have to use your imagination because I can’t actually think of any at the moment.

(I once had the intention of making a small work of art using brightly coloured leaves that I’d collected off the ground. Unfortunately I left them drying in a carrier bag for too long, and as soon as I touched them they turned into something resembling a pack of Doritos that’s been driven over by a road roller).

If you can’t think of anything to make with autumn leaves, there are a couple of other things you can do with them. The practical option is to put them on your compost heap. The much more enjoyable option is to make your way down to one of Saddleworth’s many bridle paths and kick your way through the drifts of ex-foliage like an overgrown kid. Never done it myself, obviously, but I’m told it’s fun.

Autumn by Nigel Barnes

Looking forward
Even though the pandemic is still affecting us, 2021 hasn’t been a complete washout. True, the weather hasn’t been fantastic, but that’s not the pandemic’s fault. And besides, living in Saddleworth we should be used to that by now.

The truth is, there are still things to look forward to throughout autumn, and hopefully we won’t be in another lockdown by Christmas.

So as always, let’s put a positive spin on it. We’re getting to grips with the situation and we’re learning to live with it, and that’s probably the best we can do right now. Let’s make the most of the glorious golden leaves and the autumn TV schedule, and ignore the fact that it’s cold, dark and blowing a gale.

If we stick together we can get through this. We’re British, after all, and that’s what we do. So get those mittens on and raise your glass to autumn 2021, and even better times in 2022!

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