Leaf blowing in the woods at Trelissick?!

Illustration of autumnal oak leaf by Sonia Hensler

Over the last few weeks, the countryside rangers have been vying with the wind and gradually blowing all the leaves, twigs and mud from the woodland walks. Whilst carrying out this task we have noticed our work being met with confusion, and sometimes irritation, by many of our visitors and we must admit that it’s easy to see why!

It seems like a very strange thing to do; ‘blow leaves around in a woodland that is thick with the fallen things at this time of year?’, ‘Are we mad?’ (Just some of the questions we have been asked). Besides anything else, we all love to see the autumn leaves on the ground; we prize their fiery colours and crispness underfoot whilst marveling at their myriad shapes and sizes. For many, the way that fallen leaves alter and enhance our British woodlands is something that defines the autumnal season.

Unfortunately, at Trelissick, with the sheer volume of visitors we receive and the number of feet trudging along the woodland walks each day, the little leaves don’t remain in leaf form for very long. If left alone, the blazing carpet of autumn becomes a thick layer of mud by the onset of winter – the path no longer sheds water as it should, pools and potholes appear, ditches no longer drain and, within a short number of years, the track will have deteriorated greatly or even have started to pull itself apart in places.

Leaf blowing looks like a bizarre activity in the woods
Leaf blowing the paths at Trelissick
Leaf blowing looks like a bizarre activity in the woods

Our current path surface was laid almost twenty years ago and, if you are a regular visitor to the Trelissick countryside, you will know it is still in fantastic condition and remains so throughout the year. We have several miles of this footpath, making it great for walking but prohibitively expensive to resurface even sections with any sort of regularity. The good condition can be attributed in large part to our diligence at keeping the leaves off the track and back in the woods where they can break down and actually return to the soil.

As ever, and with a sincere apology to autumnal aesthetics, it is about balance for us as rangers; We welcome an incredibly diverse range of visitors to the countryside here, from dog walkers and families with pushchairs to serious ramblers. Additionally, since we began hosting parkruns, we have noticed a significant increase in people using the woodland walks for running – a contingent who do so because, among other reasons, the path surfaces are excellent.

We are passionate about managing our countryside to be as natural, un-spoilt and intact as possible whilst at the same time, keeping it open and accessible to all.

– The National Trust ranger team, Trelissick and North Helford