I had originally intended ascending Alva Glen, but with the east-side path closed, I opted instead to traverse the lower flank of the Ochils towards Silver Glen.

The evening air was warm and muggy, the last fleeting tendrils of summer still hanging-on. Over sheep pasture below me, a flock of swallows wheeled and swerved. Nature is forever humbling, and it was hard to imagine that in a few days’ time, these little birds will embark upon a gargantuan migration to southern Africa. It is a journey fraught with danger and many will not survive the rigours of the Sahara combined with a multitude of other threats.

The white florets of yarrow also shone-out. This is a plant steeped in folklore and revered by herbalists since the earliest of times. The legendary Greek warrior Achilles was said to have used yarrow to cure wounds, and in Anglo-Saxon times it was utilised as a charm against bad luck and illness.

On reaching Silver Glen, blue and great tits bounded through the trees, and I could also hear the distant twittering of long-tailed tits hidden in among the turning autumnal leaves. The woodland here at Wood Hill is predominately sycamore, but in several places there was also an abundance of ash.

Ash is a tree I’ve always found to be rather peculiar; it’s one of the last trees to unfurl into full leaf – usually by the end of May – yet is among the first to shed its foliage in autumn. This would seem to give it a short growing season and put it at a competitive disadvantage with other trees.

But this casual observation does not reflect reality, for the ash is prolific in growth and generally abundant. The late emergence of ash leaves is ideal for sun-loving forest flowers such as wood anemones, lesser celandines and dog violets. And, even once the canopy is fully verdant, the airy arrangement of the leaves enables plenty of light to penetrate below. It is, however, autumn when I like ash woodland best, not for its fiery leaf colour (ash leaves often fall to the ground with hardly a turn of hue) but rather because of the special ambience created, in particular the striking pale trunks, which radiate an enveloping soft luminescence under the weak autumnal sun.