ON A chilly morning down at the lido on Wycombe Rye, mist rises over the warm blue-lit water.
Barely distinguishable swimmers emerge from the half-light, as if in an advertisement for an Icelandic geothermal spring.
As dawn breaks, swimmers turning their eyes skywards may see fluffy clouds tinged with pink, or vapour trails slicing through the fabric of a clear blue sky.
It’s crisp and cold and calm: October in the Chilterns, when the woods are ablaze with colour and families are searching out their scarves and winter coats to make the most of the seasonal spectacle.
Autumnwatch is back on our screens, the pumpkins are suddenly swamping the supermarket shelves and a host of animals and birds are stocking up for the winter months.
It’s a year since we started asking our readers which sights, sounds and smells best sum up the spirit of each month, and pictures have flooded in for our online Chilterns calendar chronicling the changing seasons.
From an astonishing array of fascinating fungi to the night-time cry of the fox or muntjac, different aspects of the month have grabbed our attention, from swirling leaves and colourful toadstools to the glorious colours of ripe berries and falling fruit, or the cries of honking geese and calling owls.
This is the rutting season, where the roar of a stag can be heard from afar, and free-roaming red and fallow deer in parks across the area may be exhibiting some unusual behaviour, as well as physical changes.
It’s a month of eager foraging for humans and rich pickings for birds, insects and mammals alike, with trees and bushes bursting with tasty treats.
In kitchens across the Chilterns, pots and pans have been bubbling with jams and jellies, crumbles and preserves. Windows have been steamed up as cooks have dusted off their recipes for rosehip syrup, sweet chestnut stuffing or crab apple jelly.
The rich, rapidly-changing colours and glorious textures of October make it a favourite with photographers, especially deep in the woods where the green, yellow and russet hues contrast so beautifully with the rugged outlines of ancient trees and when the sky can contain so many surprises, especially at dawn and dusk.
And after so many months of pandemic worries, there’s a renewed enthusiasm for socialising as the end of the month approaches, houses bedecked with cobwebs, witches and carved pumpkin lanterns to welcome the little parties of ghouls and ghosts trotting round to see neighbours after a painful and difficult year.
So many of the pictures were striking that it offered a chance to highlight the stories of regular contributors – joining Sue Craigs Erwin on her walks between Amersham and Little Chalfont with her mischievous rambling companion Ted, an inquisitive four-year-old spaniel, for example.
Lesley Tilson is another walker eager to escape her frontline NHS job as a midwife and nurse and finding an opportunity for reflection and peace in the Chilterns countryside.
For wildlife photographers like Graham Parkinson, patience is a virtue – but worth those long cold waits when a bird, insect or mammal lands in just the right place at the right time.
From cute goslings to fast-moving dragonflies, Maidenhead photographer Nick Bell’s broad range of subjects have also provided a lot of pleasure on local wildlife forums, as well as a vital opportunity to get outside with nature and away from the pressures of living through a pandemic.
But from the banks of the Thames to Ivinghoe Beacon, from the historic Ridgeway to the depths of Burnham Beeches, this is an ancient and fascinating landscape, with thousands of hidden pathways, Roman roads and drovers’ routes to explore – and we’re grateful, as always, to those hardy souls who are out and about in all weathers capturing the beauty of the local countryside in all its glory.