The colours and scents of autumn in Borrowdale

Fly agaric mushroom close up, Lake District

Falling leaves, high winds and misty days mingle with cold frosty air and in just a few short weeks transform the wooded Borrowdale landscape creating a remarkable autumn tapestry of green, yellow copper and gold and all the colours in between.

When it comes to native tree species, Borrowdale is the most wooded valley in the Lake District, and at seven miles long there are plenty of choices for walks to enjoy the autumn colours.

An autumn tapestry of colour
Autumn colours in Borrowdale, Lake District

Colourful Derwent Water displays

The Lake runs almost due north-south, so when the morning sun is on the west shore the best views are actually from walks on the east shore. The footpath that joins Great Wood to Ashness Bridge gives good views over the lake, or the easier Lakeside Amble waymarked trail from Keswick Lakeside shop takes you to the viewpoints of Friar’s Crag and Broomhill Point.

Your 'Lakeside Amble' starts here
People sitting on benches by Derwent Water, Friar's Crag, Keswick

The late-afternoon sun makes the birch yellows and mellow oak golds of the east shore really glow under the rocky outcrops of Walla Crag and Falcon crag - click here to download a route that gives you good views of the east shore.

The woods of upper Borrowdale

There are gentle riverside walks through the woods from Rosthwaite towards Grange. You might like to try our Downstream to Derwent downloadable walk or, if you want something a bit more strenuous, try the paths climbing up through the woods from Stonethwaite and Longthwaite.

For the more adventurous, the views from the summits of Castle Crag and Kings How give you a vantage point above the trees, looking down on a patchwork of colour as it sweeps down the steep fell sides. Our most popular downloadable trail, the Borger Dalr geology walk, takes in this part of the valley.

Castle Crag sits in a valley of autumn colour
Autumn colours at Castle Crag, Borrowdale, Cumbria

Fungi’s autumn function

Autumn is natures time for recycling and as broadleaved trees lose their leaves the litter created quickly becomes inhabited by fungi, the primary decomposers of dead plant material. The mushrooms we see on our woodland walks are merely the fruiting bodies of the fungi, but along with bacteria, insects and invertebrates, species like Boletus edulis (the cep or penny bun) will break down the structure of the leaf litter, recycling it and making it's nutrients available again.

A penny bun, properly known as Boletus edulis
Close up of single cep, or Boletus edulis

Don't wait too long to get out and see these woodland recyclers though as most fungi will disintregrate and decompose themselves within just a matter of days or weeks after fruiting.

" Close your eyes take a deep breath. That is the scent of life in the woods, unmistakable, and unique to the UK"
- Maurice Pankhurst, Woodland Ranger

Internationally significant rainforest

The woods in Borrowdale are of international significance. Known as Atlantic Oakwood, they are remnants of an immense forest that once stretched from western Scotland, all down the west coast of England and Wales. The woods are not only Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), they are also designated European Special Areas of Conservation – only a World Heritage Site would have a higher level of legal protection.

The distinguishing feature of Atlantic Oakwood is the unique collection of mosses, lichens and plants that grow with the trees due to the high level of rainfall.

Explore these wonderful Atlantic Oak woods after the rain and in between showers, witness the changing light as water cascades through the canopy evaporating to form a tree-hugging cloud layer.

Welcome. This is your rainforest.