NATURE'S rich bounty was swelling on either side of the walkway that leads from Menstrie to Tullibody – a larder of brambles, rosehips and elderberries on the cusp of juicy ripeness.

These berries will provide vital sustenance for birds, wood mice and bank voles as they fatten-up in preparation for winter.

Now might be a time of plenty, but in only a few months’ time food will be hard to find and the ground hardened by frost.

Not far after Menstrie, I inadvertently flush a yellowhammer from a patch of brambles, a golden flash of colour as it disappears from view.

I’ve seen more yellowhammers in Clackmannanshire this year than in recent times, so hopefully these attractive little buntings are undergoing something of a recovery after a period of decline.

There is other birdlife about, too, including several blackbirds and a lone song thrush.

I linger for a while on the bridge over the River Devon, its banksides thick with the growth of Himalayan balsam. This is an introduced species that grows tall and can shade out native plants.

Their exploding seed capsules throw seeds a reasonable distance, which can also be carried in the water, making the plant a prolific coloniser along river systems.

True, their sickly sweet perfumed flowers attract pollinating insects, but perhaps they do so to the detriment of our own native flowers by attracting bees and hoverflies away from them.

Non-native species upset the delicate natural equilibrium, and in the case of Himalayan balsam, it is so well established on the Devon that it seems unlikely it will ever be eradicated.