AUTUMN down by the River Devon and the ground was heavy with fallen leaves, a multi-coloured carpet that rustled and yielded under my gentle footfall.

A small group of redwings chattered to one another in nearby hawthorns as they feasted upon the glistening red bounty of haws and a wren churred excitedly from a tangle of brambles.

The leaves were still golden and true, but rather than on the trees, most had now fallen, and their burnished beauty lit up the ground like smouldering embers.

Somewhere in the distance, the honking of greylag geese drifted across the dank air as they sought out fields and pastures to graze upon.

I headed away from the riverbank and out onto a partially flooded meadow on the haugh where I inadvertently flushed a snipe that had been hiding deep in among the rushes.

It took to the air like a missile and spiralled away into the distance in a blur of fast-beating wings.

From the haugh, I ventured into a thick stand of birch woodland where a rich, heady aroma of leaf mould enveloped my senses like a life enhancing elixir, filling my lungs with the essence of nature's wild being.

This was autumn at its most honest – the colour and the smell, the cool damp air, and the gurgle of a nearby rushing burn.

The weak calls of a mixed party of blue, great and coal tits came and went as they worked their way through the tree branches.

I walked on some more, and in a clearing, a gean (wild cherry) stood out like a lone sentinel. Unlike the surrounding trees, this gean was still partially in leaf in a rich blaze of reds and ochres.

The gean is among the most spectacular trees for autumn colour whilst others such as the ash are rather underwhelming.

Yet, ash trees shine in other ways, with their striking pale trunks radiating an enveloping soft luminescence under the weak autumnal sun.

After working through the wood, I followed a loop path back to the river, where a weak warbling song rose above the tumbled churn of water by a nearby riffle.

It was a dipper proclaiming his territory and marking out his stretch of river for the breeding season next spring.

In-between now and then lies the unpredictability of winter – will it be harsh and cold, or gentle and benign?

If the former, then the dipper need not worry.

When the ground is frosted hard, and other songbirds such as blackbirds and thrushes struggle to find food, the miraculous dipper can forage under flowing waters that never ice over, making good the rich bounty of mayfly and caddisfly larvae that abound on the riverbed.