Sir John Lister-Kaye, author and naturalist

AUTUMN is my favourite time of year. I enjoy the coolness of the nights and the lack of humidity. We get very excited when the geese begin to arrive. In the last couple of weeks, we have had tens of thousands of

pink-footed geese passing over us here at House of Aigas, near Beauly, particularly during the night, and it is wonderful to lie awake and listen to them calling.

The thing I always wait for is the whooper swans arriving. We haven't heard any yet but I am told there are whooper swans on the east coast so they should be here any day now. They come down from Lapland and their musical calls are simply wonderful. Again, they tend to travel by moonlight, and it is a very evocative, rather ghostly call, particularly when you hear it at night.

The autumn colours are a special moment. The acer trees on the estate go variously scarlet and yellow, although they are very short-lived, so you only get the glorious foliage for, at most, a week and then they drop their leaves. That tends to happen before the rest of the colour emerges.

Towards the end of October, we will get the general colour emerging. We have lots of beech trees, English oak and sessile oak, both of which turn lovely ginger colours. We have silver birch (Betula pendula) which go a brilliant gold and downy birch (Betula pubescens) that turn a wonderful

lemon-yellow colour and in bright sunlight they almost look silver.

At this time of year my wife and I can't wait to get outside, whether it is working in the garden or simply walking and enjoying the autumnal freshness. We are right over the river valley and often first thing in the morning, when I take dogs out, the valley is full of mist and it looks like a lake. If you get some sun on it, it shines just like water. You don't get that in the summer; you only get that now.

And, of course, the stags roaring. It has only just started here, but from now on every night we will have stags roaring all round us. We don't hold very many stags on our ground because it is principally for hind. Although, because we have hind, it will bring the stags in from surrounding estates.

Sometimes we have them roaring in the garden right beside us and occasionally we get a sika stag with its extraordinary shrill whistle trying to muscle in on the act. That is a real highlight of autumn.

The other thing we marvel at every year is the way that pine martens gorge on rowan berries. Rowan berries are very rich in vitamin C, which is something I think pine martens are deprived of in their normal diet.

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When autumn comes and the rowan berries emerge and ripen, pine martens go absolutely daft. Then there will be little piles of pine marten droppings everywhere which contain the seeds. It is a very common sight to see where pine martens have been gorging on rowan berries.

Song of the Rolling Earth: A Highland Odyssey by Sir John Lister-Kaye is published by Abacus, priced £9.99. The Dun Cow Rib: A Very Natural Childhood is published by Canongate, priced £9.99. Visit johnlisterkaye.com and aigas.co.uk

Emma Jones, artist

AS an artist I find this the most exciting time of year. Towards the end of August, it starts to feel like everything is getting a bit flat, the colours of the greens seem duller. You can sense the season is coming to an end.

When the weather cools and it begins to get dark earlier at night, I find that

exciting. The colours change and everything seems more intense: the frost, the mist, the wind and the vibrant reds and yellows of the fields. There is an air of anticipation.

I feel re-energised by the changing of the season. When it comes to drawing inspiration from autumn, it is almost as if your body and senses know what is happening before you do. Even towards the end of summer, I am naturally drawn to bolder colours.

The skies are much more dramatic. I bring that into my work, both consciously and subconsciously. In the summer months, I tend to use lots of green but in autumn I reach for rich reds, oranges, purples and deep pinks.

It is a bit like when you go into the shops in January and see Christmas stuff and it makes you feel almost physically queasy, I feel like that using certain colours at the wrong time of year.

I use a variety of printmaking techniques in my work at Wee Blue Press near Duns in the Borders. I combine linocut and woodcut, which are quite traditional methods, with hand-drawn watercolour and monoprint.

Monoprint is great for depicting the seasons because it is a lot looser. I tend to use found objects such as leaves, grasses and things I have picked up off the beach. I can ink those up and bring them into the backgrounds of my work.

There is a lot of throwing paint around and experimenting. Sometimes it doesn't work at all and other times it seems to magically come together. The lino and wood I use on paper, but I also print on Fairtrade T-shirts and bags.

Birds have a huge impact on me. I have always liked seabirds in particular. I sketch birds and I'm aware of them coming and going, the migration patterns, which again are very seasonal. I have been working on a print from sketches I did at St Abbs, a marine reserve 10 miles down the road.

I sketch there quite a lot because there are massive seabird colonies and a rocky coastline. I started a sketchbook in the summer and watching the seabirds has been fascinating as it has got steadily quieter from May and early June onwards, when it was alive with nesting birds.

That is something you will notice yourself even just out walking in the park. There is not the same amount of clatter and noise, everything is a lot stiller in terms of wildlife. My sketches reflect that.

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When I visited St Abbs at the end of August, most of the migrations had happened and there weren't many birds left, although some, such as the shags and cormorants, do stay year-round. I did a piece with a linocut shag in the foreground showing an autumn sky filled with pinks, violets and oranges.

Visit weebluepress.com or follow on Instagram and Facebook @WeeBluePress

Graham Stewart, curator of Dawyck Botanic Garden

IN this job, autumn is a special time. I see it as the grand finale of the gardening calendar as winter approaches and we get to enjoy that last big splurge of colour.

At Dawyck Botanic Garden at Stobo, south of Peebles, we have a large collection of trees that look wonderful at this time of year. There is such a range of colours it is like a kaleidoscope – or a chameleon's coat, depending on how you look at it – offering a palette of reds, yellows, oranges and russets.

The main players for autumn colours include the Japanese rowans, which go a fiery red. We also have maples which, as they transition, almost look like glowing embers in a coal fire. The leaves take on the redness at different stages.

The whole concept of autumn colour is the process by which the tree takes the goodness back out of the leaves and essentially recycles that, preserving energy over the winter dormancy period. As that chemical process happens, all the different colours start appearing within the leaves. The Japanese katsura goes an impressive yellow colour and, as its magnificent

heart-shaped leaves drop, you get this incredible smell of burnt sugar. It is almost like candy floss or toffee apples, an amazing caramel fragrance.

Our horse chestnut trees in the garden not only give us conkers, but the leaves show off a range of bright colours, going through different shades from green to yellow, orange and red, all at the same time, on the same tree.

Another exciting thing is when the cherry trees, maples and acers start to lose their leaves. You then get to see what has been hidden by the canopy and suddenly this fantastic bark appears.

The Prunus serrula, or Tibetan cherry, has a bronze and peeling bark. We also have paper bark maple and snake bark maple, the latter is green with white striations through it, which are a visual treat. Once the leaves are gone is when you really get to appreciate the bark.

Then going into the winter, once you have lost the canopies of the deciduous trees, that is when you get the full effect of the shapes of the conifers. Our oldest tree is a European silver fir dating back to 1680 which has been shortlisted for Scotland's Tree of the Year 2019.

I have worked at Dawyck for 23 years. Any garden, particularly a tree collection, will take decades and more to see results. Trees need time to grow, mature and make a statement on the landscape.

We are a regional garden of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – alongside Logan Botanic Garden and Benmore Botanic Garden – and have a tree collection that spans 350 years, some of the earliest introductions of these trees into the country.

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We are now seeing the fruits of labour from all those years ago. The people who started the collections knew they would never see it themselves, but we are benefiting from that foresight. As modern-day custodians we are trying to do the same for future generations.

Dawyck Botanic Garden is open daily throughout October from 10am to 5pm. It is part of the Scottish Tree Festival 2019, organised by Discover Scottish Gardens and VisitScotland, which runs until December 1. Visit rbge.org.uk and discoverscottishgardens.org

Rebecca McEwan, farmer

I LOVE the crisp mornings and colours of autumn, but this is also our busiest time of year at Arnprior Farm in Stirlingshire and that can be nerve-wracking. Every year the weather is different, and can affect whether there will be a good pumpkin crop.

The first two years it was beautiful weather with Indian summers. Then years three and four, it was really bad weather. It rained and there was a lot of rot in the pumpkins. The worst was 2018 because we had such a lovely summer then a very wet September, so the pumpkins suffered from that.

This year, luckily, because it wasn't too hot a summer, the pumpkins have done well and we're happy with the results. We open our pumpkin patch to the public today and that is an exciting moment after all the hard work.

The pumpkin patch came about when we started looking at different ways to diversify as a farm. In 2012, we were Monitor Farm for Forth Valley and had to review our entire farming structure, looking at what did and didn't work for us.

We decided to get rid of our cows, increase our sheep numbers and look outside the box for other ways to generate an income. We are beside a busy road which connects Stirling with Glasgow and Loch Lomond. With all this passing trade, we looked at what could be advertised from our roadside.

I've always had the dream of sunflowers, but Stirlingshire doesn't have sunflower weather. We have family in America who visit a pumpkin patch every autumn – something we didn't have locally. The first year we trialled it with 300 plants and it proved very popular. We are now in our fifth year.

A big thing we noticed when people came onto the farm was the lack of knowledge they had about the countryside and where their food came from. That's when we decided to expand the experience. It's not purely about come and pick a pumpkin; it is a chance to visit a real, working farm.

We added pull your own turnips and dig your own tatties, which has been popular because it is like digging for treasure in the soil. There's a kale maze and, after the pumpkin season ends, we use the kale to feed and fatten our lambs in November.

We try different varieties of pumpkins and this year have quite a few white ones, which is interesting because in previous years they haven't thrived as much. Alongside the big "polar bear" white pumpkins there's lots of orange ones – we have a crop of more than 7,000 pumpkins.

New for 2019, we have launched a Date Night event because a few people said to us they would love to come along but thought the pumpkin patch was only for children or families. That gave us the idea for a night-time opening with a gin bar, local produce and a band.

We have newly built and opened eco-luxe glamping pods where you can come and stay on the farm. The pods each have a hot tub and there's a shared swimming pool. Those have sold out for pumpkin week.

The idea for that came from our biomass, a sustainable heat source we use for the farm's main house and three cottages, as well as drying the grain in the summer. It is a way of cutting down on gas and the woodchip used for the biomass is sourced from a farm just two miles away.

Because we don't dry as much grain as we did four years ago, we had to look at putting the heat somewhere else. We came up with the idea of a swimming pool. The pool and hot tubs are heated from the biomass and use spring water from our borehole on the farm.

Arnprior Farm has been in my husband Duncan's family since 1936 and he's the fourth generation. It is a tenanted farm and his dad still runs it alongside Duncan with some help from Duncan's mum and me.

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I grew up on a sheep and beef farm in Galloway. My mum runs the farm – we lost my dad when I was younger – and she ingrained a strong farming passion in me. After university, I worked as a TV prop buyer. When we had children, I decided to work from home and throw myself into farming life.

We have three children and who knows if they will be interested in farming when they get older. I don't know if we've put them off with all the long hours we work, but they always enjoy getting mucked in with lambing and other things around the farm.

Arnprior Farm's pumpkin patch opens from today until October 27, daily, from 9am to 5.30pm. Entry is by ticketed parking slots, costing £5, redeemable against the cost of a pumpkin. The Pumpkin Late-Night Date Night takes place on October 27. Visit arnpriorfarm.com or follow on Instagram @arnpriorfarm and Facebook @arnpriorpumpkins