What shall we call it? Posted on November 21, 2021

It’s turning out to be a yellow autumn – and a slow motion one. I wandered about in Kensington Gardens for an hour yesterday and photographed a dozen different trees in almost uniform yellow. No wind to speak of for three weeks has let them simmer slowly. An American pin oak was a mottled dark red but the unanimity of the rest was compelling: from Norway maples (bright and fine) to horse chestnuts (dingy, but definitely yellow). The lime trees in formal lines, with half their leaves on the ground, made delicate patterns of greeny-yellow like Tiffany glass. Oaks, as always, are undecided: green, brown and yellow leaves in a quiet motley. Most planes are dull brown; a few properly yellow. The only true bullion is the occasional ginkgo.

There is a new stream in the gardens, a tentative trickle that is gradually growing to become a new tributary to the Long Water, the upper half of the Serpentine. It starts a little north of Queen Caroline’s temple, The odd tripartite shelter, under three domes – certainly not a temple – built by William Kent when Kensington Gardens were the pleasure grounds of the palace. At first all you see is a just a deep puddle in the grass. Watch the puddle, though, and you can see movement: the water is moving: a spring. It organises itself in a few yards to form a tiny stream, gaining volume, width and speed and reflecting more of the sky until it is an unmistakable rivulet. It will soon need a name.

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