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A large, old and gnarled sweet chestnut tree - some of its golden autumn leaves cling to the branches, but most have fallen to the ground
An old, gnarled Sweet chestnut tree at Sheffield Park, showing a lapsed pollard | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Here you will find the latest updates and musings from the garden team.

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23 November

by Gardener Liv

We are now more than half way through November and a month away from the Winter Solstice - the shortest day and longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, the transition from autumn into winter signals the beginning of withdrawal and hibernation. The months leading up to our Solstice have given us time to prepare, slow down and take shelter as grumbling storms rage. Soon, the cold will tighten its clasp on nature and the daylight hours will fold even earlier into the night.

Despite the gloomy clouds that often characterise the month of November, there have been days of reprieve where some truly spectacular autumn colour has been on display. First and foremost in our beloved trees - as illustrated by our incredible collection at Sheffield Park and Garden - but also in our skylines. Indeed, there is nothing more perfect than the sight of amber coloured light spilling across our landscapes at sunset, engulfing every blade of grass and carving out the shadows of oak trees like crisp papercut shapes skimming the horizon. Autumn and winter may be the bearers of darker days, but they certainly deliver as many breathtaking sunsets as the warmer seasons do. 

This characteristic vibrancy of colour during colder seasons, is caused, in part, by the angle of the sun, which varies over the course of the year and determines seasonal variations. In summer, the sun hits the earth from a higher angle. As we get closer to our Winter Solstice, however, the sun rises and sets at a shallower angle. This means that the light from the sun has further distance to travel before it reaches us, which influences our perception of its overall colour. In a nutshell, what we observe are the colours with the longest wavelengths in the light spectrum—specifically reds and oranges. On the other hand, colours with shorter wavelengths, such as blues, yellows, and greens, are scattered and deflected by particles in the atmosphere before reaching our eyes.

Of course, the phenomenon of red skies occurs all year round - shepherds can be delighted and warned in spring and summer, too. However, there is another factor that contributes to intensifying the vividness of sunset colours in the colder months — the humidity levels. In late autumn or winter, when the air is cold and holds less moisture, especially after storms and rainfall, clear days provide ideal conditions for a radiant display of red and orange hues in the sky. Furthermore, because of the way the sun is angled, the length of a sunset is stretched, which means we can enjoy them for a longer amount of time, too.

There is no better place to admire the beautiful seasonal sunlight than on a clear day across the Parkland at Sheffield Park and Garden. It is the perfect end to a visit to the gardens, where there are still a few splashes of autumn colour left to be enjoyed.

Sunset over the parkland
Sunset over the parkland | © National Trust/Simon Akeroyd
A wooden bench is set near an Acer palmatum by the Upper Womans Way Pond at Sheffield Park, East Sussex in autumn

Book your visit

During our busy autumn season, you will need to pre-book your visit to Sheffield Park and Garden to guarantee entry. Book online or via the box office on 0344 249 1895 for visits between 12 September and 20 November 2022. Tickets are released up to 2 weeks in advance and can be booked up until 8am on the day.