The air is cool as it moves around us. Under foot, crimson leaves lie fallen, their work done, and far above our heads the empty branches whisper in the wind. Decades of stories are whispered back and forth, as we stand below them, looking up as they sway and talk, telling their tales in a beautiful language.

On we walk, enjoying the crisp air on our cheeks, our hands warm in gloves, feet swathed in socks and boots. The path changes to gravel, then grass, and back again as we meander our way through the forest. Mushrooms peak from fallen logs, fir trees stand vibrant in the morning glow, in the distance a burbling stream tumbles its way to meet the river some miles from here.

We chat about nothing of importance for that is not why we are here. For us this is a hallowed place, a church bigger than any other, a nurturing land with gentle qualities, one that can be as harsh as it is tender, as beautiful as it is stark. There is no place for religion here, only nature in all its glory. Even at this time of the year it is powerful and beautiful in more ways than I have words to describe.

Stand under a large tree, let your eye travel up that gnarled and weary trunk, decades old, strong and solid. Look at the branches as they spread out to capture the sky, the twigs that twist ever higher, and even in these autumn months a few leaves who haven’t quite finished their work cling on to the last. Not yet, they say, not yet.

Look up through those branches to the sky, the cold blue ceiling above us, pocked white with clouds.

Marvel at all of this, at the vast scale on display and realise how small we are, how insignificant in the face of such wonder and beauty.

Walking on we turn a corner and a single flat sheet stretches out before us, reflecting the clouds above as they scroll across the surface to the other side, disappearing into the reed beds. Some ducks emerge from the opposite shore and send ripples across the water, rendering the sky surreal.

We stand and breathe the clean air, sharp and cold on our lungs, ruddying our cheeks, and together we smile, happy and content as Mother Nature looks over us all.