Autumn Childhood: Bike Rides through the Woods; Scrumping & Conkers; Response to photo-prompt challenge


The Challenge

This challenge came from Linda, aka carbdiva, on this link. Thank you, Linda, for initiating this challenge to push our boundaries further.

She says:

"Your prompt is this photograph of a country road. Perhaps you have walked this path many times; do the colors, sights, and sounds of the autumn woods bring you peace and contentment? Or, is this a place you have never been before; what lies beyond the bend in the road?

I think that’s all you’ll need to get started. Let your imagination take you down the path, and start writing."

My thoughts turned to my childhood days, freedom to roam the countryside and the beauty of Autumn all around me. Bike rides with friends occurred as often as possible.

So I started writing.

Bicycle Adventures

Ready for the off!
Ready for the off! | Source

Golden Days

Bump, bump, dg-a-dg-a-dg, in the ruts, over the ridge, the cycle wheels whizzed along the track as, hair streaming with speed, I followed the trail through the golden trees.

Freedom! Friends out in the countryside at the weekend, Indian Summer, exploring just a bit further than normal from our well-wheeled tracks; free-wheeling, legs straight out or feet up on the handle-bars, tearing through the air. Already back to school, we treasured what was left of the sun’s rays, gathering the weekends about us before the clouds set in.

How comforting that was, surrounded by russet, gold and deep green. So who cared if we were back at school? They couldn’t touch us out here, in our own world, in our God-given element of copper freedom. Look out! Low branch; duck and dive. Look Mum, no hands! Look Mum no teeth! But it never happened. We knew we were lucky. We knew the hole in the road wouldn’t be there at the wrong time. We knew God was on our side.

The smells of Autumn filled our nostrils, clung to our hair until bed-time. The crisp, dry leaves, as yet untouched by rain, crackled beneath our tyres, swirled in a mottled yellow-brown tumbling slip-stream, ready for the one behind to catch in his teeth. We were always open-mouthed with the thrill of it all, the decay-dewed rushing air so persistent against our faces that it was impossible to breath without faces agape.

Across the Sussex Weald

From chalky down across the Weald which shelters many woods and forests.......
From chalky down across the Weald which shelters many woods and forests....... | Source
and conkers!
and conkers!

Harvest, Scrumping & Conkers

The harvest was in, the fields chalky green beneath the Downs. Apples hung in the orchards, begging to be scrumped into our baskets. We sortied and skirmished on daring-do days. Soon it would be time for bobbing apples.

In the meantime, we'd pick the best conkers from soft rotting soil under the Horse Chestnuts, nature's lofty parasols. That smooth, mirrored surface of ready-polished wood offered us the free entry to conker competitions. We'd smash the opposition and gain the reputation to face the next.

Harvest Festival would see all the fruit, vegetables and plaited bread laid out beneath the altar. A smell of rich soil and plenty pervaded the church before all was dispersed to the needy.

Dust, dug out dens and grazed knees were our staple, bikes our sturdy steeds and we could go anywhere, do anything.

The Game of Conkers

The game

  • A hole is drilled in a large, hard conker. A piece of string is threaded through it. A large knot at one or both ends of the string secures the conker.
  • The game is played between two people, each with a conker.
  • They take turns hitting each other's conker using their own. One player lets the conker dangle on the full length of the string while the other player swings their conker and hits.


  • The conker eventually breaking the other's conker gains a point. This may be either the attacking conker or (more often) the defending one.
  • A new conker is a none-er meaning that it has conquered none yet.
  • If a none-er breaks another none-er then it becomes a one-er, if it was a one-er then it becomes a two-er etc. In some areas of Scotland, conker victories are counted using the terms bully-one, bully-two, etc. In some areas of the United States and Canada, conker victories are counted using the terms one-kinger, two-kinger, etc.

In some regions the winning conker assimilates the previous score of the losing conker, as well as gaining the score from that particular game. For example, if a two-er plays a three-er, the surviving conker will become a six-er. In other regions the winning conker simply gains one point, irrespective of the points-value of the loser.

Bends & Forks

Round the beckoning bend we sped. The sparkling eyes, the grins from ear to there, were infectious. The occasional walker would stand aside and laugh at us as we zoomed past, youth on our side. Autumn existed for us, the falling leaves rained for our amusement, the titian trees cried on us to keep us dry. Our speed never diminished, even uphill as our legs pounded the beat. Exuberance maintained our energy; we laughed, we pedaled, we shrieked, we yelled at each other, at the trees, at the world.

The track split; we slid to a halt, tyres tracking our hesitation through the orange carpet, bikes to attention as disturbed, dried pepper flecks powdered the air, filled our heads with potential sneezes.

Tom cried, ‘Last one to the end of the track’s an idiot!’ and took off before his last word reached our senses. The chorused ‘Wait!’ punched a hole through the yellowed canopy. My calves ached to catch up. The youngest never wants to be the last. The youngest has something to prove, something to win, something to show them she’s got some guts. Face as fired as the Autumn, I skidded, I flew, I pedaled my heart out, past my brother, past my best friend as she slid on mossy roots, caught up with Tom and we hit the hedge as one. I caught his glance of approval before he had his chance to regain composure. I smiled. My day was complete.

Sunset | Source

Time for Tea

Our cries echoed, bumped each other through the burning woods, alight with our fire, aflame with our wish to make our legs ache until we tumbled into a pile of leaves, panting and giggling. Our laughter subsided with the flames mirrored in the pale azure sky.

Time flickered into reality; time to pedal like fury, fanned by the warm flames of tree and sky, urged by the hint of cool air on gentle evening mist, home for tea. I rode home into the fiery sunset, heart aglow.

Scrumping & Scrumpy

Scrumping refers to the act of stealing apples in the countryside, for example from a cider orchard or from someone’s garden. The word comes from Scrumpy cider.

Scrumpy is cider originally made in England's West Country, (Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire). Nowadays it refers to locally made ciders produced in smaller quantities and using traditional methods, rather than to mass-produced branded ciders.

It can be dry or sweet, is usually still rather than carbonated. However, it tends to be stronger in alcohol and more tannic than commercial ciders. Because of its traditional method of production, it's usually pulpy and often cloudy in appearance.

To the Autumn of our Years?

Where did that world go? When was the last time I rode my bike through a wave of crackling crimson and ochre, battling against the tide? When did I last string and aim a conker? When did it change? When did my world become a serious place? Where did all those friends go?

Well, we have to grow up don’t we? Don’t we? Tides turn. What goes around comes around. We have our Spring of life, our Summer of sunshine and madness, then comes our Autumn, when our lives slow down, change colour, teach us that all things have to subside, prepare for eventual Winter to bring decay and death.

Squirrel | Source
Blackbird | Source

Retracing my Steps

Not yet! Not for me! The fire comes before the decay. I’m wiping the mud and rotting leaves off my bike. I’m wiping the sweat from my brow. I’m oiling the pedals and I’m ready to roll.

I’m not waiting for Autumn either. I’ll be off down those tracks, watching the flowers unfurl, smelling the growth of the mighty oaks, alert for a peep of a scampering squirrel, for the ‘tch-tch’ of a blackbird chastising my trespassing. Strong fingers grip and guide my vehicle of exploration, my path is a mystery but I revel in the journey, wide-eyed at that energy and life pervading all I pass.

I will be down that track this Autumn. I’ll be with my best friend Tom and we’ll ride the crisp path of flames, feel the leaves fall on our hair, wonder at the fire in the air and, eventually, we’ll reach the end of that road together, smile, then wander slowly home, hand in hand through the trees whose flames lick the sky.

Harvest Moon


Light-hearted Acrostic Poems

1: Autumn

Autumn brings a warming glow

Under skies of falling leaves

Turning yellow, gold and red

Under root and moss and trees.

Moon is swollen, tinged with blood,

Night gives way to flaming flood.

3: Awareness

Always close the gate behind you,

Wear stout shoes when walking wild,

Ask to cross that farmer’s field

Remember, keep your manners mild.

Every time you see the ducks

Near clear waters, canal or lake,

Eat your bread but do not feed them

So their stomachs do not ache.

Sense and sensibility go a long way.

2: Russet


Under the blue

Skies of yellow, golden hue

Sights anew

Eyes delight in


Please Close the Gate!


John Keats' Poem about Autumn

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;

To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells

With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,

For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?

Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,

Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;

Or by a cider-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821)

What is Autumn to you?

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Comments 42 comments

annart profile image

annart 16 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Jackie! What a lovely comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 16 months ago from The Beautiful South

What a great fall festival of things to read! Autumn is the relaxing season for sure and makes looking for holidays so much fun. Glad I found this! Great job.

annart profile image

annart 20 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Nadine, for your lovely comments. I'm glad you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Great to see you today!


Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 20 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

How wonderful to time travel through our inner mind that has documented all our lives experiences. You have done that so very well. I also really liked your Light-hearted Acrostic Poems. Great hub.

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Yes, I always wanted to stay there! Thanks for reading and commenting.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


Made me want to return to my teenage years and refuse to grow up!


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Yes, Chris, I've just read it, literally before coming to your comment here! Thanks anyway, for letting me know.

It's the best piece of writing I've read for some time. Thank you so much for penning it. I've shared it so I hope many others read your stunning story.

I hadn't forgotten that you'd asked about my neighbour's anecdote and am still trying to find out more!


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 21 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

Ann, I've already commented on your hub, but I wanted to let you know that I've just published the story of Dunkirk that we discussed. If you remember, you gave me the idea.

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author


So glad you enjoyed this; thank you for the kind words.

I love Autumn too, mainly for the colours and the richness of harvest time.

Good to see you.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Flourish: Thanks for your visit. Sorry for the delay in replying. Your comment didn't come up on my notification.

Glad you liked the conker game. It was always great fun!


lyoness913 profile image

lyoness913 21 months ago from Overland Park, KS

What a beautiful read. We had a chestnut tree but I've never heard of 'Conkers' How interesting! Fall is my favourite season- the cool evenings, Halloween, the start of school, and most of all Football and Hockey season. Thanks for the enjoyable read :)

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks,R.Q., for your kind comments and for closing the gate!


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 21 months ago from Lincolnshire, England

Lovely nostalgic story-telling Ann with conkers and scrumpy and childhood bike rides; great addition by Keats there at the end as well.

I've closed the gate:)

Best Wishes;


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Frank, glad you liked it. Head on! Yes.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

This was very entertaining, and I especially enjoyed the game of conkers. They look suspiciously like what we call "buckeyes" in the northern US but we sure don't have a game like that to my knowledge.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 21 months ago from Shelton

great photos, great hub and a challenge met head on.. annart, I loved it

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

manatita: Thanks for the compliments. The 'story' is half autobiography; it was great fun! Glad you liked the poems.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 21 months ago from london

Some great scenes, O Country-lover, and some excellent poems at the end. Story well told with a sense of fun and adventure. Nice pics.

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Dora. I'm glad to bring back feelings and memories of childhood. I can still feel the elation of those bike rides!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean

Reading your story makes me feel the energy and excitement of childhood days and the verses are excellent. Thanks for such a beautiful read!

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Mary, thank you so much for your lovely words and the votes. I'm glad you enjoyed this and that it evoked some memories for you.

I can still feel the wind, smell the air and, as you say, feel the muscles aching!

I enjoyed writing this as it took me back to such a great time. My childhood was the best; I was very lucky.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Minnetonka Twin: Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I'm glad this took you back to so many good memories. Isn't it great to have the freedom of the countryside?

I appreciate you reading this and following me. Off to read some of yours!


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Aww, bill, you're too kind. But you, child's scribblings? I don't think so!

Thank you for such lovely words and I'm glad you enjoyed this.

Hope your Sunday is great too, bill.

Ann :))

Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 21 months ago from Minnesota

This incredible hub brought me back to my childhood on Lake Minnetonka. We had bike trails that we made ourselves (not man made) from the days and days of traveling with our bikes. I remember the feelings of joy and freedom as I whizzed down my bike path; wind in my hair and not a worry in the world. I agree with you Ann when you talk about how fall prepares us for all the death's we will face in the future. Thanks for a jam packed gem of a hub; full of photo's, poetry and stories of childhood joys.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 21 months ago from New York

Oh Ann, how beautiful and filled with phrases that tease the memory. I didn't get to ride my bike in the beautiful woods as I grew up in the city, but ride my bike I did. I could feel my calves remembering the pumping as I made it up the hill or relaxing as I glided down the next.

I understand the beauty you talk of as I've lived with it throughout my married life. Your metaphors are as breathtaking as the bike ride you took!

Voted up, useful, awesome, and beautiful.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

Mists and mysteries, thank you very much!

All I can say is thank the gods I answered this challenge before you did. That way I could feel good about mine for a few days before you made it look like a child's scribblings. :)

Beautiful work...a story....a poem...beautiful images...what more could any reader ask for?

Have a superb Sunday, my talented friend.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Hi Chris! Yes, therapeutic indeed. At least we can still get on a bike and explore the countryside.

Thanks for the visit and great comment. Glad this stirred up some memories.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

peachpurple: Thanks for your comment. Bicycle rides when young are one of the best things I remember, especially as I was lucky to live in the countryside and have the freedom to roam a little. It's great to have the memories of fun and innocence.


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 21 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

Ann, you used the word innocence to describe your essay to me, and that certainly sums up the scenes you have painted in my mind. You've gotten me reliving the memories of my own childhood. Thanks for the inspiring piece of creative writing. Too bad we can't go back and do little parts of it over again from time to time. It would be so therapeutic.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 21 months ago from Home Sweet Home

since we do not have autumn in our country, i guess sunny days is consider spring and autumn. I love when the sun shines. And I missed those bicycle rides too

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Theresa. Your comments always warm my heart. As you can see in the comments, I'm learning new words too. I think it's the countryside that brings about the rich language of nature; children's and farm-workers words for local growth and creatures.

Thank you for your generous comments and for the votes etc. Your support never ceases to amaze me.

Lots of hugs for you too and have a wonderful Sunday. (My 'grands', a word I pinched from you, are popping in so mine will be great!)


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

torrilynn: Thank you and I'm glad it brought back happy memories.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Will, for a great comment. Language is a wonderful thing, isn't it? And you've taught me a word too, a totally different version of those wonderful glossy seed-casings!


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you so much, John. I was hoping readers could feel themselves riding along. I appreciate your kind comments and the votes.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Carb Diva: Thank you; I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Lots of us went scrumping for apples, usually just over the hedge of someone's garden. I loved collecting conkers for the sheer joy of feeling them in my hands! Glad to have given you some new words!


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 21 months ago from southern USA

Dear Ann,

I know you may be having sweet dreams at this moment and I hope you are dreaming of those carefree days of kaleidoscope bliss riding your bike. Eric is right, you have managed to take us back to the sights, sounds, smells and joy of the days of our youth. So, thank you for taking us along on for the ride.

I have never heard of conkers before and I love learning of something new, at least to me.

Superb writing.

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Hugs galore!

torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 21 months ago

Beautiful and helps one to remember happier times. thanks

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 21 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

"Apples hung in the orchards, begging to be scrumped into our baskets."

What I love about our English cousins and our shared language is that we still understand one another even when we read terms that we have never used, like 'scrumped'.

A wonderful work, Ann!

(BTW, in the US, conkers are known as buckeyes.)

Jodah profile image

Jodah 21 months ago from Queensland Australia

This was an incredible hub Ann...perfect in every way. I felt I was there, riding along with you and Tom, then comparing the season to the Autumn of our lives and looking back.. All,great. Your wonderful acrostic poems just topped it off. Loved it. Voted up.

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 21 months ago from Washington State, USA

Oh Ann, this is absolutely exquisite! Thank you for sharing with us your memories and allowing us to ride on the handlebars as it were. (And, I must admit to a bit of fun in hearing some of your British colloquialisms, "Scrumping" and "conkers" were new to me.)

You certainly rose to the challenge, and then some. Thank you for a wonderful addition to our hub pages.

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

What an exquisite comment, Eric; thank you so much. You couldn't have given me a greater compliment. To teleport someone back to his/her youth was part of my purpose here. I especially like the 'gently' and 'carelessly'.

Thank you. I'm up later than usual, obviously so that I could read your comment before my head hits the pillow; you've made me smile and lifted my heart as those days meant so much to me.

You understand the human psyche well; you saw through my 'self-confidence' hub too!

Thanks again for your valued visit this evening.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I remember to this day when the teacher told me that time travel was impossible. Clearly that teacher had yet to read Annart. For in just a moment I was happily unsettled from my seat and gently lifted and set carelessly unto my youth. Thank you for a most enjoyable ride.

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