Until I moved to North Wales in 1992, I had always lived in urban towns on the outskirts of south-east London before making my home in the Fulham area of south-west London.
In Wales, I lived in an 18th century former farmhouse in a rural village. It was a hill smallholding surrounded by sheep farms. Over the years that I lived there, I kept sheep, goats, ducks, geese, chickens, Shetland ponies, ferrets, rabbits as well as household pets including dogs, cats and even a degu. And, although I wrote about rural affairs including farming, these animals were never sold or eaten; instead, they all had names, and lived their lives until they died naturally.
Apart from the animals, the environment was and is one of my loves. Who can resist the call of a beautiful view? Majestic mountains, impressive waterfalls, rippling streams, forests, rugged coasts plus sandy beaches can all be found in North Wales but there is one particular sight that is missing. In fact, it is not to be found anywhere in the UK.
What is missing? The vibrant colours of autumn leaves before they fall to the ground. In the UK, we are all used to our deciduous trees’ leaves turning from green to various shades of gold, tan and brown. That’s it!
Regular readers of this blog will know that my beloved wife Lisa is American and when she arrived in the UK, she was looking forward to see our autumn colours but was very disappointed by what she saw. At that point, I had no idea why – but now I do.
During our current holiday, I have seen the autumn/fall colours in New England. They are glorious. The red, orange and gold coloured leaves of autumn there do delight visitors from around the world. Apparently, much of the colour is from native sugar maples that are plentiful throughout the north-eastern states in dense and perfect concentrations. Although the time to see peak foliage at its very best has passed, the colours I have seen are still so impressive when you have only previously experienced what autumn has to offer in the UK.
Besides looking at the countryside, yesterday was a day for sightseeing. We visited West Point, the US Military Academy that prepares men and women to be Army officers – rather like Sandhurst in the UK. The major difference is that cadets at West Point, alongside their officer training, also study for university degrees. West Point is actually a military university where cadets spend four years preparing to graduate. Meanwhile, the major difference from its UK equivalent is that the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, to use its full name, is not a university and its Commissioning Course lasts just 44 weeks.
One aspect that caught my interest at West Point was the environment. It has greenery galore, certainly much more than its grand buildings, and its western extremity points into the River Hudson, hence its popular name.
After leaving West Point, we drove through rolling hills, many covered by trees showing the colours of late fall, until we reached the Poconos mountains in Pennsylvania where we stayed the night.
Picture: The River Hudson as seen from West Point. It is known as the ‘Million dollar view’.