Sweater weather is better together


A long hot summer has finally broken here in the Wuyuan countryside. The men are in the fields thrweshing rice and the women are furiously pickling and drying any fresh veg they can get their hands on. I recommend our neighbour’s pickled chillies for not being overbearingly salty as is the norm.

We have spent a long and fruitful summer at Victoria House taking children on a summer camp, and I personally took great delight in taking the well-heeled children of Shanghai on walks in rivers, muddy tug of wars and feeling grass beneath their bare feet for the first time. Nervous Chinese grandmas could be heard tutting and sighing from the sidelines.

Autumnal Cheer

If you’ve travelled in China you will know, or if you are new here you have probably heard: Autumn is the nicest time to travel in China. Days are dry and warm, but nights are cool. It is the best time to be out and about. I can also strongly recommend letting us help you go to a local lady’s house for lunch! Mid autumn festival is coming, and a highlight is the dragon procession in the nearby village of Wangkou. As you’d expect, it involves many, many explosions (fireworks, firecrackers) and a vast handmade dragon with a section held by each villager. It culminates with the dragon being thrown from the bridge into the river, where it is drowned.

The wild hill side tails which I personally adore are overgrown in summer, but become passable again as the nights draw in. I checked one myself yesterday, found a snake, fretted and spent the rest of the walk bashing the ground with a stick. I am reliably informed by a herpetologist friend that I encountered a baby ‘King Rat Snake’; non-venomous but of a fiery disposition. I encouraged him to the side of the road with said stick and both of us went on our way.

said snake

Snakes are a fixture across Southern China. On a recent trip to Moganshan, I was flabbergasted when the reception lady confidently told us ‘there are no snakes here, this is a tourism area’. I had previously read Mark Kitto’s diary of time in Moganshan and run-ins with Russell’s vipers. As a Brit this takes a little time getting used to. Antivenin are widely available, including in Wuyuan general hospital. Don’t let them be a reason for you not to out exploring, but don’t believe people who tell you they don’t exist, wherever you are in China outside of the concrete jungles.

This seems a good time to delve into Skywell’s Chinese name: 天净沙, a 14th Century poem musing on the melancholy of Autumn, and the faded glory of a village.


Wilted branches, old trees, twilighting crows;
small bridge, flowing water, lived-in houses;
an ancient path, west winds, a rawboned horse.
Sunset descending westward,
those anguished walk at the world’s end.

This hints at a darkness, as things take a turn for the worse towards winter. I’m British and love winter. Cosy fires, warm coats and shephers pie – but until then, I’ll make do with lazy walks in the woods with warm orange glow of the fading sun and leaves on the turn.

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