Kitiara Pascoe – Autumn Attempts Near Axminster
The thing about the fickle nature of autumn is that you end up carrying half your wardrobe around with you. The skies veer wildly between piercing sunshine and aggressive drizzle, interspersed with violent winds and the odd rainbow. It’s a sartorial challenge, to say the least.
Even more so when you decide to go walking en route to a place requiring slightly smarter dress than walking boots and a raincoat. On Sunday, I made the inadvisable decision to compromise with the weather, a British habit that absolutely never works.
We were on our way to see Simon Armitage give a poetry reading at Bridport’s Electric Palace. It seems to have taken me a full decade to appreciate the poetry my degree wafted under my nose but that’s the glorious thing about poetry, it waits for you.
Simon Armitage was taking up space in my GCSE textbooks fifteen years ago and there was something about his poetic persistence that intrigued me. Also, it’s not every day you get to hear the poet laureate talk in person and there was a reasonable chance of pre-show fish and chips.
But first, walk. The morning was perfect in the way that only autumn mornings really can be. Brittle blue skies and a low sun singeing the edges of leaves. The clouds had taken over by 3:30 pm as we parked in Kilmington, an absurdly pretty village just before Axminster. I was wearing walking boots and a sort of waxed down jacket, paired with a belligerent hope that it wouldn’t rain.
We were aiming for Shute Woods, a walk described in the village’s 6 Circular Walks in Kilmington leaflet (head to ‘Maps & Travel’ on kilmingtonvillage.com). Not a long walk by any stretch of the imagination, just an easy jaunt over 3.5 miles.
It started from the village hall car park and wound its way along a few postcard lanes lined with adorable cottages. After a short while, we got onto a thoroughly be-leafed footpath through woodland, whereupon the drizzle began.
This is the thing about making a compromise with clothes and weather, you always end up compromised. The drizzle turned into Proper Rain and the further we walked, the more persistent it became. There’s only so many times you can say, ‘Oh, it’s only a shower’, before you realise that it is, demonstrably, not.
Thanks to the storm the day before, the path was sodden, despite its high ground and became more of a bog-wading exercise than a stroll. We sheltered under a tree, consulted the map and realised we’d soon descend into rather watery fields. We decided to save ourselves the trek and head back to the car.
This part of autumn, where it’s dark before you leave the office, encourages us to stay in our homes. But I don’t think aborted walks are a reason to not attempt them. Even for half an hour, a damp, autumnal walk is a joy. There’s something about the dripping leaves and hushed woods that make it almost magical.
With dwindling light, I think it’s more important than ever to go outside at every possible opportunity. I might not have seen all Shute Woods has to offer the Sunday stroller but it was worth the effort. Light is sacred during these months and the great outdoors funnels it into your blood more readily than in an urban sprawl.
I swapped my shoes at the car but still met Simon Armitage looking a little shabby around the edges. Like I said, compromising with the weather never works.
All content by Kitiara Pascoe