There is no mistaking today for anything other than an Autumn day. There is a chilly wind blowing from the South West and as I stood in the upstair bay window, thousands of golden beech leaves scudded past the window in a flurry, like golden pennies from heaven .
The hedge cutting man, Mike, has arrived to tidy our hedges before the winter comes and the fields get too wet to bear the weight of the tractor and cutter.
We have four types of field boundaries and all and treated differently. One field is bounded by a plantain (a small wood) and a beck. This is fenced to prevent cattle getting over the beck and into the wood and the farmer keeps the fence in good order. At the moment it is full of grey squirrels, which Tess would dearly love to catch - but they are much too clever for her.
Then there are the stone walls - this is the most common form of field boundary in the Dales and we have many. They do have to be maintained, so that usually there are some repairs to be done every year. Small creatures tend to live in these walls over the winter - stoats, weasels and the like.
Some fields are separated by "cams" made up of ancient crab apple and hawthorn trees or large bushes. These might be trimmed back a bit if they venture too far out into the field, but on the whole they are left alone as shelter for the birds (and usually there is a wealth of berries which are also left for the arrival of the fieldfares and redwings).
We also have a few short hedges and these are cut each year. Yearly cutting means that they thicken up nicely and so provide perfect nesting sites for small birds; earlier this year we had three pairs of yellowhammers and their offspring at our birdtable and all nested in these hedges.
Some people object to these hedges being cut, but we have fields full of over-wintering Swaledale sheep with long, matted wool. These hedges by Autumn are full of the briars of blackberries. Sheep and briars do not mix and the more they twist and turn when they get caught, the worse situation they get into.
So it really is essential to keep them trimmed.
This Sunday we put our clocks back for one hour - then it will be dark by five in the evening and although an hour lighter in the morning, this never seems to make a lot of difference. Yes, we are really entering what my mother used to call 'the dark days before Christmas'.