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Season of tiny conker collecting

What a glorious spell of weather we've been having lately. Whilst meteorological autumn started on 1st September, and although the slight chill in the mornings does feel autumnal, I want my seasons to be more nuanced. This is why I am such a big fan of the ever changing nature of the 72 Japanese micro-seasons, which chime with nature that is ever changing. The 72 seasons have been on my mind this week for two reasons. Firstly, my ritual for the past week or so has been to stop beneath a particular horse chestnut tree on my morning walk to see what bounty has accumulated overnight on the pavement. I am in a bit of a battle with the squirrels here. On at least one occasion I've stood beneath the tree and been pelted with half chewed bits of conker shell. Overall I think I am prevailing - or perhaps the very very tiny conkers this tree seems to be producing this year don't constitute a particularly filling meal for the squirrels. Last week most of the conkers were either squished or partly chewed, but this week they are perfect in their prickly casing as you crack them open. I was delighted to find one with three tiny conkers nestled inside. Weirdly though, the other chestnuts I pass, whilst laden with huge fruit only a couple of weeks ago are now bare, yet I've not collected a single conker from them. Perhaps the squirrels won that round. As I gather the conkers, I find myself naming this week the season of tiny conker collecting. I've placed them in my sacred conker storage bowl (actually a gloriously autumnal soap dish from the wonderful Wild Gorse Pottery) and admire and add to them daily. The other reason that it's a good week to celebrate 72 seasons is because Noticing Nature: the British micro-season project are publishing their book Nature's Calendar on 7th September. Since 2021 their twitter (X?!) account has been a haven of amazing nature noticing, as people send in photos, drawings and observations about the season wherever they are in the British Isles. Now each season has been recorded in a book to inspire regular acts of nature connection. I can't wait to get a copy. I really hope conkers get a mention.

Talking of regular acts of nature connection. Over the years we've been blogging, the ParkBathe project has been mentioned multiple times. Yesterday we took a step closer to bringing it to Lanarkshire. Last night a group of about 12 volunteers and staff from South Lanarkshire completed the first session of training to become ParkBathe leaders. Over the next few weeks we'll be doing some in-park training and then we'll be ready to take you on a slow silent meander through a local greenspace, encouraging you to use all your senses to notice nature in a new way. To get a sense of the ParkBathe calm right now, take a moment to check out their video and engage in some virtual nature connection, which research has shown to be nearly as beneficial. We'll keep you posted when our ParkBathe sessions are going to start.

Finally, a post-lunch walk update. Wandering up the street at lunchtime, I was aware of a van towing a wood-chipper parked ahead of me. Suddenly I realised what was happening. My (current) favourite chestnut tree had just been given a quite dramatic haircut. The tree surgeon, obviously a diligent sort had swept the pavement almost clean after his endeavours. I rescued what I imagine will be one last lonely tiny conker, and continued my walk, mourning the loss. To add insult to injury, there had been unrelated radical tree chopping in the park too. A slightly sad ash tree is no more. Just a circle of longer grass, flowers and tall dock seed heads surrounding the remaining stump. Despite the sadness of poorly ash trees, and premature garden maintenance, I really did feel connected to nature. I'll note it in my nature notebook tonight. If you don't currently keep a note of things in nature, then there is an exciting new app coming to the rescue next year from author and supreme nature noticer Melissa Harrison. Called Encounter it will be a guided nature journal, prompting you to photograph and otherwise record what you see in nature to help increase nature connection. For more information and updates on how it's developing, check out the website. In the meantime, enjoy tiny conker season.

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