A love letter to autumn in Durham

As the cool air begins to set in and we are forced to reminisce on the days past of a glorious summer, we are at once greeted with the marvel that is autumn in Durham. It already feels like a lifetime ago when we were sunbathing on the Racecourse, having picnics on Palace Green, and spending far too much money on Pimm’s on a hot summer’s day. The nostalgia of a carefree post-exam summer in Durham – with back-to-back socials, long days, and short nights – feels like a fever dream, especially as we are faced with the unknown of another post-pandemic year at Durham and the growing contention of housing and exams. With this, it seems all too easy to take for granted Durham’s subtle transformation into a vibrant autumnal landscape as mother nature steers the city into what is arguably its most breath-taking stage yet.

Durham has always been a magical city to live in, founded on a rich history and full to the brim with magnificently cobbled streets and the quirks of a medieval city with all the trimmings. Yet, the magic of Durham truly seems to come to life during autumn as the leaves take on spectacular hues of amber and crimson. As summatives and deadline pressures begin to creep up on us all, there could not be a better time to step outside and truly appreciate the natural wonders in this gorgeous city that we have the privilege to live in.

Walking along the river or across one of Durham’s many bridges, you are immediately greeted with a picture-perfect vision of autumn as the gradient of crisp leaves are reflected down the Wear and illuminated by the low autumn sun, like something plucked straight out of a Keats poem. Even on the commute to the Billy B, there is still much to be seen and marvelled at as Durham dons its autumnal dress.

For students, life can quickly become caught up in deadlines, formatives, and the stresses of choosing a path after university. A report published in 2020 revealed that around 80% of students in places of higher education experience physical symptoms relating to stress and anxiety, a statistic which may even seem too low in a post-pandemic world. In the age of technology, it is easy to sit at a computer all day or become strapped to a seat in the library, overwhelmed with a seemingly never-ending stream of emails, essay deadlines, and responsibilities. Yet, studies have shown that even 10 minutes outdoors every day can drastically reduce stress levels, and what better time to step outside than when Durham is bursting with colour and showcasing the best spectacle that nature has to offer. Not only does fresh air improve circulation and energy levels but immersing yourself in nature for a small amount of your day induces calming effects, improves mental health, and reduces the symptoms of stress.

Autumn is without a doubt the quintessential season for change, but I would also argue that it is the season for romance. Durham’s own legacy of the infamous 72% of students finding themselves in a relationship with a fellow student at Durham could never be more apt as we are thrown into the midst of another cuffing season. I would like to propose that there is nothing more romantic than a peaceful walk by the river as the leaves change colour or curled up under cosy blankets with hot chocolates. With the shorter and colder days, autumn also brings clearer night skies and wondrous displays of constellations much earlier in the night, so stargazing dates are most definitely on the cards. Especially as the year is beginning to draw to a close, I say ask them on a date; what have you got to lose?!

Even as the leaves begin to fall and flowers have dried in preparation for a new season of growth in the spring, nature still grants us front row seats to one final swan song just before the winter season takes full control. Step outside and open your eyes to Durham’s autumnal masterpiece while you have the chance. Take a friend, take a lover, or simply take a moment out of your day to witness Durham in all of its autumnal glory; I promise you won’t regret it.

Featured image by: Kristupas Kemeža on Pexels. 

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