Soak up the changing autumn colours at the gorge
Make the most of the late sunshine and enjoy the golden brown canopy of the oak trees as the season moves into autumn.
The three mile circular gorge walk is well worth the effort, although the path is narrow, steep and slippery in places. Where the river is wide and slow and after the crowds of summer have left there are opportunities to spot river birds such as dippers and grey wagtails. In other sections of the gorge the river is certainly not gentle as it roars through narrow passages and pours into boiling potholes. The shorter walks to Devil’s Cauldron and Whitlady waterfall also provide a great opportunity to experience the wonder of nature.
The river is surrounded on all sides by ancient oak woodland which has managed to survive over the centuries due to the gorge’s inaccessibility. During the first and second world wars huge amounts of timber were needed for the war effort, wood was used at home in the coal pits and steel works as well as on the battlefront for trench building. The oaks in the gorge would have been very useful and would certainly have been felled if there had been a way to get them out. Thankfully the steep sides and geology of the gorge meant they were left alone and the area remains heavily wooded today.
During autumn this ancient oak woodland turns golden brown, and as the leaves fall, the ground and even the rocks in the river change colour as they are covered in golden brown leaves. The light also changes from the dark green of late summer to a brighter more yellow hue and the views open up again. The Whitelady waterfall on a crisp autumn morning is often obscured by mist making it even more magical.
When the conditions are just right, wet but mild, many different fungi can pop up overnight in the woods. Look out for the beefsteak fungus which is usually found close to the ground and is deep red on top. When the fungus is cut open it leaks a red blood-like liquid and it’s resemblance to a raw steak gives it its name. A more appealing fungi to look out for is the chanterelle, usually a creamy-yellow colour and the shape of an umbrella blown inside out by the wind. This is an edible fungi however it is not advisable to eat any wild mushroom unless it has been identified by an expert. Another fungi commonly found in oak woodland is the Deathcap, which is highly poisonous and looks similar to the Cep or Penny Bun, another edible mushroom that grows in oak woodland.
For something that's sure to be tasty pop in to either of our tea-rooms. Refuel half way round or reward yourself after your exertions. Cream teas always taste better when you have earnt them.