Dazzling autumn colour walks with the National Trust
At this time of year, there’s a palette of colours waiting to be discovered across breath-taking landscapes protected by the National Trust. Discover woodlands of golden leaves and maybe some deer or red squirrels along the way.
With hundreds of walks available for free from the conservation charity’s website, there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and connect with nature. From bracing hikes over windswept clifftops to gentle woodland walks, these are trails everyone can enjoy.
The Trust is encouraging the nation to explore the many special places it looks after. Here are some of their most colourful walks to inspire you this autumn:
Brownsea Island, Dorset
Rich reds of Brownsea
For a walk with a sense of adventure, why not embark on a voyage to Brownsea Island? It’s only a short boat ride from Poole Harbour but feels like stepping into another world, full of thriving wildlife. As the autumn months set in the woods and heathland begin to turn, filling the island with fiery foliage and russet-coloured bracken. This is also the best time of year to spot Brownsea’s most famous residents – the red squirrels – as they come down from the tree canopy to store food. For an even better chance of spotting these shy creatures you can join one of the daily guided walks with a National Trust ranger, who will show you all the best places to find them.
N.B. Squirrel walks available between 24 September – 19 October.
Price: Normal admission applies, plus separate charge for ferry to island. (Ferries not run by the National Trust)
King Alfred’s Tower walk
Stourhead is one of the South West’s most celebrated sites for autumn colour, and it’s not hard to see why. This 5 mile walk takes you up through beautiful mixed woodlands to King Alfred’s Tower, a 160ft tall folly designed for Stourhead’s owner Henry Hoare II in 1772. On a crisp, sunny autumn day you’ll be able to catch the sunlight gleaming through the trees, making the bright autumn foliage even more fiery. As you return, don’t forget to take a detour through the famous landscape garden to see deep hues of red, russet and yellow reflected in the lake. If you need a refresher after all that walking, why not seek out the Gothic Cottage nestled among the trees, where you can pick up a warming drink or tasty snack.
London and the South East
Petworth Park, West Sussex
Ancient tree walk
What better time of year than autumn to marvel at some of the oldest and largest trees in the country? Petworth Park is dotted with ancient gnarled specimens, including an oak that has survived here since the 12th century and still puts on a spectacular show of colour every year. With over 700 acres of parkland explore you’ll be spoilt for choice for places to explore, but the Ancient Tree Walks trail will help you find some of the best spots to enjoy the autumnal display. If you visit in October or November you might also get to see the annual deer rut, where the males compete for a mate.
Autumn Colour Trail at Ashridge
This route leads you through some of the most spectacular hidden corners of the Ashridge estate. Every corner you turn or hill you climb will open up sweeping views full of fiery autumnal tones, especially the stretch through the aptly-named Golden Valley, where ancient beech trees glow gold and bronze at this time of year. You’ll also pass some veteran sweet chestnut trees, which make this a great spot for a bit of foraging. Lucky wildlife spotters may even catch a glimpse of the resident muntjacs or fallow deer herds through the trees.
East of England
Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire
Wicken Fen’s stunning autumn colours can be seen on a walk around the reserve’s mosaic landscape of reed bed, grassland and open water. In September the sedge turns russet, which becomes golden in the evenings as the setting sun shines through the leaves. This is also the best time of year to spot some of the resident wildlife, from Orb-weaver spiders spinning their delicate webs to the bright blue flash of Kingfishers diving into the waterways. Don’t fancy walking? Why not hire bikes instead and take a long cycle around the fen to make the most of the autumn sun.
Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk
Church and Ice House walk
With its eye-catching autumn foliage and fungi, the Great Wood at Felbrigg is possibly one of Norfolk’s best kept secrets. Take a stroll down the beech-lined ‘Victory V’ avenues, where the towering branches create tunnels of colour over your head. It’s worth making a detour down the ‘Lion’s Mouth’ as well, where the narrow winding lane flanked by trees really does feel like it’s entering the jaws of a fire-coloured lion.
Autumn colour walk
The days might be getting shorter, but there’s still plenty to explore at Croome during the autumn months. Take a stroll along the lakeside and you’ll be rewarded with a rich swathe of colour, from the bright orange horse chestnut leaves dipping into the water, to the berry-red rose hips and golden birch trees. After the bustle of summer, this is the perfect time of year to slow down and rustling of leaves under foot, search for shiny conkers and breathe in the crisp autumn air.
Croft Castle, Herefordshire
Ancient woodland walk
Croft comes alive with colour in the autumn, and many of the trees here have a tale to tell. Lace up your walking boots and set off across the parkland to take in the vibrant colours of the Spanish Chestnut Avenue. The seeds of these sweet chestnut trees were supposedly plundered from captured Spanish ships, and planted in a crescent at Croft to represent the battle formation of the Spanish Armada fleet. A bit further on through the rustling leaves you’ll come across the William Oak – named for after Sir William Croft who supposedly died under this tree after being shot in the Civil War. By the end of the walk you’ll have earned a warming drink in the tea-room – and maybe a piece of cake too?
Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire
Boots, Gaiters and Vistas walk
Fountains Abbey was founded in 1132 by 13 disillusioned Benedictine monks from York. Now a crumbling ruin the remains make an impressive sight, especially when they’re surrounded by bright reds, oranges and golds from the autumnal foliage. This route will take you around the boundary of the estate with fantastic views of the Abbey – particularly from the Temple of Fame where the river and ruins lie stretched out at your feet. You’ll also wander through the 18th century water garden, where you’ll encounter playful outdoor art nestled in the landscape for folly! 2018. You might even spot some of the 500 wild deer grazing in the deer park, or hear the clacking of antlers as the males compete for mates.
Wallington was the home of the Blackett and Trevelyan families for more than 300 years, and between them they planted swathes of woodlands that still cover the estate today. The sheer number of trees makes this the perfect place to escape outside during the autumn months, and crunch through fallen leaves. One of the best routes meanders along the banks of the River Wansbeck, crossing over bridges and stepping stones - perfect for a tranquil stroll on a crisp autumn day. If you’re lucky you might even spot some of the resident red squirrels darting along the branches above your head.
Once a grand private estate, Stackpole is now fully open to explore and provides access to stretches some of the UK’s most beautiful stretches of coastline. Discover the clear water and sandy dunes of Barafundle Bay, take a bracing stroll along the wind-swept clifftops, or meander your way among the woods at the edge of the Bosherston Lily Ponds, where the branches will be bursting with bright autumn foliage. If you’re really lucky you might even spot an otter.
St Mary’s Vale, Monmouthshire
Sugar Loaf circuit
St Mary’s Vale is dominated by oak and beech trees, but it doesn’t look quite like your average wood. While a few trees have attempted to grow straight, the vast majority abandoned that long ago and have taken on strange, twisted forms that resemble something out of a Tolkien novel. Listen out for the gentle trickle of the Nant Iago stream, before taking the steep climb up to the summit of Sugarloaf – where you’ll be rewarded with views over a sea of burnished reds, oranges and golds.
The Argory, County Armagh
Lime Tree walk
In summer the Argory’s lime tree walk is lush and green, but as the year winds down the avenue begins to turn, and soon you’ll find yourself strolling underneath a sea of golden leaves. If you’ve still got some energy left then why not explore further through the riverside woodlands? If you keep a look out, you might even find some blackberries to eat or fallen conkers to collect.
Mount Stewart, County Down
Voted one of the top ten gardens in the world, Mount Stewart was designed by Lady Londonderry to be full of colour. Even in autumn you’ll find bursts of red and gold foliage everywhere, whether you’re taking a short stroll around the gardens or exploring the wider demesne. The Red trail is the estate’s main circular walk which loops its way through both fields and woodlands, flanked by bright fiery colours the whole way round. You’ll also get to take in some beautiful views over Strangford Lough.
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