I’m not afraid to admit that once August is over, it takes a lot for my usually nature-loving self to make the effort to get outside and spend time in the woods or at the beach. When the sun is shining and it’s warm, it’s so easy, but once the rain appears and the temperature drops and you suddenly find you need six blankets, puddlesuits, hats, umbrellas, wellies and raincoats just to leave the house, it all gets a bit much. The hermit in me peers out of the window at the rain, screws up her nose and hides under a blanket on the sofa, vowing not to leave the house again until spring – but this year I’ve been inspired by blogging favourites Hannah and Davina, and Lucy’s brand new book (more on that in a future post), to enjoy the seasons for what they are and make sure we don’t get bogged down (pardon the pun!) in the autumn blues. Here are the ten things we’ll be doing this September and October to make the most of the most colourful season of all.
1. Make dens to shelter from autumn showers
We live literally minutes away from a country park, which coppices trees and then leaves the branches to use as den material or firewood; we’ve seen some amazing hideouts, treehouses and dens, and this year we’re on a mission to build the biggest one yet.
2. Collect conkers
Aahhh conkers. Once the favourite autumn playground game, now banned due to ‘health and safety reasons’ in most schools, we’re not going to let Michael Gove and his motley crew ruin our fun. We’re planning on making conker people, garlands, necklaces and finishing the whole thing off with a ruddy good conker tournament. I am not in the least bit competitive. Cough, cough.
3. Make a nature table
Nature tables are the BEST (apart from when you forget about them, and the leaves go all crumbly and that stick shaped like a bird is suddenly just a stick covered in three-weeks-worth of dust….), and they’re great to make with kids. Our nature-finding missions usually end up with an abundance of stones (always good for painting!), but we also try to look for impressive leaves, pine cones, conkers, driftwood, shells and so on.
4. Forage for blackberries
My blogging friend Mel mentioned the other day that she’d been on a foraging workshop, and I immediately thought, ‘I’d love to do that’. At the moment, the only thing I feel safe picking are blackberries, so they’re going to make up our autumn foraging adventures, then we’re going to turn them into jam (err, maybe), cakes and crumble (definitely).
5. Make nature prints
Never mind soggy potatoes and overpriced craft stamps, we’re going to be printing with whatever nature is offering up this autumn. Dried flowers, leaves, sticks and seed pods all leave really distinctive patterns, and work equally well with paint or ink pads.
6. Try stargazing
The one thing I really hate about the end of summer is how quickly those long, balmy evenings seem to come to an end. Suddenly, you’re waking up in the dark and going to bed in the dark, and if it’s raining, doing everything else in the dark as well. The one good thing about the sun going down earlier is that you don’t have to wait until gone 10pm (I’m an early bedtime-r!) to go out and have a look at the night sky – we’re going to be getting Bens telescope out (it’s a child’s one, we don’t have an observatory in the back garden or anything!) and seeing how many constellations and planets we can see. Probably with the help of some hot chocolate and lots of cake.
7. Have an autumn picnic
Picnics don’t just have to be a summer thing; pack a backpack full of blankets, pop on some chunky knitwear and head off to the woods or the beach to have lunch outside. Think flasks of homemade soup (we like spiced butternut squash and sweet potato), chunks of crusty bread, fruit pies and some gooey sugar-free brownies (I found this recipe on Pinterest and am itching to make them!).
8. Play nature bingo
Nature bingo is a great way to get everyone motivated into heading outside, especially if there’s a prize for the winner. There are some great boards on the internet, but my favourites are here and here, purely for the lovely illustrations!
9. Make leaf piles and leap in them
Do you need a reason?!
10. Cosy around a campfire
Either light a fire and cook your lunch outside, or head out after dark to toast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate; one of the best things about plummeting temperatures is bundling up in coats and knits, then huddling together around a crackling fire. Nothing quite beats the crisp autumn air and the lingering smell of woodsmoke!