Autumn in Arundel

Arundel Castle towers over the river Arun

Autumn will soon be dressing the skirt of trees around Arundel Castle as it towers over the quaint streets of the town clustered below. For 900 years this symbol of power and permanence has silently watched the river Arun’s steady flow past.

Arundel – England’s History

In 1067 Roger de Montgomery was given Arundel as a reward for standing in for William in Normandy while the latter was conquering England. It must have been clear who was in control. The Norman hand was unmistakable in the imposing towers and formidable gates (first built in stone in the 12th century but rebuilt in the 19th century). Nowadays the castle is benignly open to the public, as is the scenic Arundel Park.

A visit to the Arundel Museum reveals an interesting history. The Castle was besieged in the Civil War and sacked by the Parliamentary forces. There might have been even more historic drama here when future king Charles II, escaping after defeat at Battle of Worcester, narrowly evaded capture. His party, on their flight to a rescue ship at Shoreham, met some of the local deer hunt. You can walk this route on the way-marked footpath ‘Monarch’s Way’.

Autumn woods

Autumn’s quietness has settled over these woods just along the lane from the castle. The first signs of autumn’s majestic and moody season are showing in the trees already. Soon this hillside will be a blaze of autumn colours and the woodland floor full of the smell of autumn, as the earth yields its summer memories. In the spring this place was alive with birdsong. Draped up the hillside these woods dominate the valley creating an amphitheatre of sound. But today there is a beautiful silence broken only by a lone robin, some blue tits and the screech of a jay answered by the laughter of a green woodpecker. High in the canopy the call of rooks echoes across the valley. Autumn has come!

Reed beds at Arundel Wetlands

Autumn Migration

Even the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times; and the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow observe the time of their coming…  

Jeremiah 8:7
Thatched bird-watching hide at Arundel Wetlands

The woods are comparatively silent now, so too the Arundel Wetland Centre just next door. It may seem silent here but nature’s secrets are not often revealed to the casual observer. Day time visitors to the Wetlands Centre will miss much. But wait in this bird-watching hide in the quiet of dusk or early morning and these apparently empty reed beds will come into life.

As we bid farewell to our summer, so do many of our seasonal visitors such as the swallow – the hirondelle of Arundel (a swallow appears on the Arundel coat-of-arms). The swallows that were darting across these reed beds have gone on their way to southern Africa. Migration is a wonder, still full of so much mystery. Will these birds make it and return next spring? Sadly, we know that increasingly many do not.

But there is no migration for this resident family. Instead the ducklings are having to learn social-distancing!

Mother duck with two ducklings
John Constable painting of Arundel Mill

Arundel Mill and Castle” is John Constable’s last painting (1837).  His father was owner of Flatford Mill and later of Dedham Mill and, understandably, John loved scenes like this with all their detail. They must have reminded him of his youth growing up in Dedham Vale. The mill here has long gone, the Wetlands centre now covers this area. All that remains is the mill stream.

‘The landscape painter must walk in the fields with a humble mind. No arrogant man was ever permitted to see nature in all her beauty.’

‘The sound of water escaping from mill dams, willows, old rotten banks, slimy posts….I love such things- Shakespeare could make anything poetical…As long as I do paint I shall never cease to paint such places. They have always been my delight’.’

John Constable

Soon early autumn mists will hang over this valley. For the present the mood here is calm yet tinged with a little sadness that so many birds have gone. Come winter, these water-meadows will be flooded, which will be good news for the winter birds here and, upstream, at the Amberley and Pulborough Brooks reserves.

Like the silent waters of this river, all creation is on the move.

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