Cold Essex weather, the morning promised blue skies and crisp air, but slowly it folded into grey clouds and drizzle. This time of the year, the leaves are still a tumble of brown on the ground, pale lemon leaves still cling in the countryside but soon only the dark green of ivy and holly will bring colour.
Wandering round the woods by the reservoir the brambles are still green, great banks cascading down, ferns are already bending to the earth, they will not reach that dying colour of earthy orange and cream colour you find on the moors of the south west, these ferns will die green, soft Essex landscape holds far richer soils than the poor pinched soils of rock country.
That is what is so special about an Essex landscape, neat fields, ploughed to perfection, small woods meandering down the folds of the hedgerows. Great stagheaded trees, some dead, mark the spot of an old field boundary, and then suddenly the planned neatness of this reservoir, wander along the path and you are greeted by a row of besoms standing neatly in a row, twig brooms ready for the witches to fly away on. Further along the path you come to the bird hide, dark inside, the great wooden flaps shut, hang them back, and grey water greets you. In the distance a moored boat ,with a great many birds clustered on its edges, black sentinels keeping a watch on the water. A pair of graceful swans float past, and ducks fidget around on the edge.
The visitor centre is empty, with the usual litter of things to buy, cheap small toys, books, candles, a wood stove burns in the corner, the staff potter around quietly; here is a squirrel outside on the bird table, he tries to climb the pole with the nuts hanging from it, but slides down again and again.
We bring back a great bag of logs for the fire, snow and fog is being forecast on the radio, the logs will burn brightly snapping and sizzling on a bed of coal, pictures will chase across the flames, chestnuts roast in the ash beneath, and toast, browned lightly on the long toasting fork will taste of the smoke and woodland walks......