Reflections on autumn through three beautiful scenes

Dusk. The sun sets over a valley. Two farmers, sleeves rolled up, gather wheat and stack it across a field. Further down, three others work with a horse and haycart in front of a shaded farmhouse. Adrian Allinson’s painting depicts a late summer harvesting scene. Autumn beckons.

Outreach at The National Archives is always looking for new and inspiring ways to use our visual collections to improve wellbeing and maintain good mental health. To mark National Day of Arts in Care Homes, we’ve selected three images from our collection that can inspire activities to do just this.

Taking place Sunday 24 September, it’s a day to champion, promote and encourage arts engagement in care settings. 2023’s theme is reflections, fitting for a time when the days get shorter, temperatures cool, and autumn arrives.

1. Harvesting

Look at the image below. What activities are taking place?  

The painting depicts a country scene at dusk. Two men in shirtsleeves gather wheat and stack it/lay it out neatly across the hilly fields. At the bottom of the valley is a haycart and horse, as well as farm buildings accessed by a winding narrow road. 
Harvesting Scene, Adrian Allinson, 1939–46. Catalogue ref: INF 3/23

When you look at this image what word or words spring to mind? You can almost sense the warmth of the late summer sun on the backs of the workers, the coarseness of the hay in their hands, tired limbs. Do they have time to take in the splendour of the multi-coloured landscape?

This image was produced during the Second World War to motivate people to work and produce food on the land. It was used as part of the Dig for Victory campaign. The government encouraged people to plant gardens to supplement their rations and boost morale. In Britain, waste ground, sports fields and golf courses were requisitioned for farming and vegetable growing.


  • Such imagery can inspire us to think about autumn foods. The harvesting of wheat is a key ingredient of bread making – see a video and bread recipe at Taste of Home
  • Or we could dream up a simple baking recipe to fill ourselves up on autumnal nights.
  • How about baking an autumn treat like a cinnamon apple pie or poaching plums with sugar and citrus juice?

2. A Night Out

We have chosen the image below as it reminds us of planning a night out to the theatre, cinema or gallery.

This poster features Euston Station in London, looking rather glamorous, its name lit up against the dark background of the night sky. There is a contrast between the arch of the railway station with the lighting of the street and inner station. In the foreground, old motor vehicles transport people through the Arch to the lights of the theatres and restaurants beyond. The poster advertises night trains to Liverpool, Manchester, Scotland and Ireland.
Euston Station, 1905. Catalgoue ref: COPY 1/229 B (204)

Does this poster remind you of a special night out? Perhaps you remember travelling by car or train to see a play, a film or other entertainment. Maybe the image makes you think of music from a recital or a musical? Can you sing or hum some of it?

The image reminds us of how busy cities are, how they stimulate our senses. Imagine the noise, the fumes from the cars, people chatting in the street, the chill in the air. Is it exciting, reminding you of fun nights out? Or too loud and busy?

This poster from the Edwardian era illustrates the famous arch of Euston station built in 1837 and demolished in 1962. The arch was not only a fitting gateway to the Midlands, but to the whole new world which the railway opened for people.


  • Inspired by the Euston Arch image discuss with a friend one of the memorable evenings out you have experienced? What made it special? Perhaps you would like to write a poem or short story about it – jot down a few words.
  • Tips for writing: Leap straight in – don’t try to say too much. You can use some tools or techniques to make your poem memorable; repeat key words. Appeal to one or more of the senses – for example sound, smell, touch. Can you think of the sounds and smells this busy night-time image helps evoke?

3. Apple Picking

Did you know that there is a national apple day in the UK on 21 October. This image reminds us of all things apples.

Here, a man and a woman pick apples from an orchard using ladders and place them in baskets. It is an early autumn day and the man and woman are perched on ladders reaching for the crop. Baskets of apples are suspended from the ladders by rope.
Food Production Apple Picking, Percy Drake Brookshaw, 1939–45. Catalogue ref: INF 3/109

Perhaps this image reminds you of growing something in your garden, whether fruit or vegetables and having the satisfaction of eating them. Or the frustration of finding them eaten or damaged by insects or wildlife! Perhaps you can recall the specific taste of toffee apples at a fair or times cooking apples at home?

Apple growing in Britain was introduced by the Romans, but the British taste for cider dominated apple production by the Middle Ages. Monks in monasteries also began planting orchards from the 12th century onwards. With the cultivation of new varieties in the Victorian period orchards increased vastly in numbers in Britain.

This poster was produced during the Second World War to encourage people to save and store food during wartime. The theme of austerity was commonplace in many posters produced by the Ministry of Information, of which this is one.


  • Can you name different varieties of apples grown here in the UK? Here are a few to start you off, Royal Gala, Cox, Russets… Can you think of a few more?
  • Perhaps you can recall a celebration when apples were used? Apple Wassailing – shouting and banging on pots – takes place on 12th Night in January in South West England, or the fun of apple bobbing at Hallowe’en?
  • Try drawing a simple tree with branches. Now use your fingers to paint the tree using different colour paints or crayon. You will be surprised how relaxing it is.

More activities

There are all sorts of autumnal activities that you can participate in:

  • A popular activity is berry picking for puddings or breakfast.
  • Have you tried pressing leaves and flowers. They make nice keepsakes or gifts to share with loved ones or to place in a memory box. Put the leaves inside some heavy books and press each leaf between the pages. After about a week they should be dried and perfectly patterned. They can then be used as art and craft material – glued into collages for example or simply admired for their beauty.

We hope to have inspired you to some autumnal wellbeing!

Other resources and blogs you may enjoy:


  1. Heatherlandon says:

    A very interesting set of pictures and comments. They would have been ideal for the dementia day group I helped run pre covid

  2. jonathan pye says:

    Is it possible to buy copies of these pictures ?

    1. The National Archives blog team says:

      Thank you for your comment. We don’t stock a print version, although a digital one is available from our image library:

      We do have many other prints available though, which you can browse here:

  3. Mrs Joy Scurr says:

    What a kind thought,to use art to promote recollection.I hope your project is taken up widely in care homes

  4. Marion Churchill says:

    Loved the paintings! More, similar,please….

  5. Hilary Caminer says:

    This is a lovely initiative. Ideal for your target group.

  6. Fan li says:

    The picture is very beautiful, is it possible to buy a copy of the picture?

    1. The National Archive blog team says:

      Thank you for your comment. We don’t stock a print version, although a digital one is available from our image library:

      We do have many other prints available though, which you can browse here:

  7. Simon Rae says:

    What a lovely set of pictures… the first Harvesting Scene by Adrian Allinson, 1939–46 was such a trigger for memories of the English countryside of my youth. But I was a bit taken aback by there being no females in the scene… surely there would have been some Land Girls involved? Then the Food Production Apple Picking poster by Percy Drake Brookshaw remedied the thought. Such an uplifting image with women and men working and striving together to reach the crop at the top (reminiscent in its design of some of those Socialist Realism posters that came later in the ‘50s).

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