Perfect places in Britain to immerse yourself in the beauty of autumn10/02/2021
FORESTS, fells, parks and dales are beginning to glisten and glow as the trees turn red, gold, orange and yellow.
Autumn is truly here and there are plenty of great opportunities to enjoy a spot of leaf-peeping – the nickname for visiting trees at this time of year as they put on a spectacular display.
Trisha Harbord suggests some perfect places across the country to spend the day or take a longer break.
CLIFF TOP TREES
A QUARTER of White Cliffs Country in Kent is an area of outstanding natural beauty, including Kearsney Parks, just two miles from Dover.
Red, orange and yellow hues of beech and lime trees contrast against evergreen yews. They also line the banks of the River Dour, which flows through the park, and its ornamental lakes are a haven for wildlife.
Thanks to a £3million National Lottery grant, there is a new children’s play area and cafe.
WHAT ELSE? Go to the White Cliffs visitor centre for superb views of the coast, countryside and medieval Dover Castle, where you can explore an underground hospital and wartime tunnels.
GO: The new Travelodge Dover has family rooms from £47 a night. See travelodge.co.uk for details.
SEE oak, beech, maple, horse chestnut and many more at Unesco world heritage site Blenheim Palace, Oxon – where visitors are given a trail booklet so they know what they are looking at.Don’t miss the unusual cedar of Lebanon tree which featured in 2007 film Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix.
WHAT ELSE? Enjoy an audio tour around the magnificent 300-year-old palace, including the bedroom where Churchill was born. There are new art and wildlife exhibitions as well as October half-term Halloween fun.
GO: Adult ticket for palace, park and gardens is £29.50, child £16.50, under-fives free. blenheimpalace.com.
THROW in a Gruffalo or two and the kids will happily join you on a leaf-peeping trip.
Characters from Julia Donaldson’s popular children’s books are hidden on a Gruffalo trail among the brightly coloured trees in Hamsterley Forest in the Durham Dales.
There are also walking, cycling and horse-riding trails, along with orienteering activities and areas for picnics. Bowlees visitor centre is the perfect base from which to discover the area and enjoy walks to the waterfalls, including High Force, which at 70ft is one of the most spectacular in the country.
WHAT ELSE? See deer roaming in the 200 acres of parkland at 14th-century Raby Castle in Staindrop. And visit the Bowes Museum, housing paintings, sculptures, fashion and lots more exhibits, at Barnard Castle.
GO: The High Force Hotel has a special offer until November 28, with B&B for two people from £102. See raby.co.uk.
BARK AND RIDE
THERE is nothing new about the New Forest, packed with magnificent mature trees.
It is more than 900 years old, covers parts of Hampshire and Wiltshire and got its name as William the Conqueror’s new hunting ground.
Trees include English oak, ash and beech as well as exotic species such as Japanese cedar, Wellingtonia and sweet chestnut.
Jump on a bike and ride through the carpet of leaves – there are more off-road cycle paths here than anywhere else in the UK.
WHAT ELSE? Get a different view by canoeing or kayaking on the Beaulieu River with New Forest Activities (newforestactivities.co.uk) and visit the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.
GO: The Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst has three nights’ B&B for the price of two, from £175pp. See balmerlawnhotel.com. Or explore the forest in a four-berth campervan from £507 for four nights. For more details, see yescapa.co.uk.
RED, orange and yellow trees reflect in the water at beauty spots across the Lake District, making for a spectacular sight.
Top leaf-peeping locations include the National Trust’s Allan Bank And Grasmere villa – the former home of poet William Wordsworth – which offers fabulous views across the colourful valley.
Grizedale and Whinlatter forests are also brilliant for exploring by foot or bike.
WHAT ELSE? With no motorboats allowed, quieter Grasmere lake is perfect for kayaking. But if you don’t mind chilly water, why not try wild swimming? Don’t go home without some Grasmere gingerbread, invented by cook Sarah Nelson in 1854, from the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop.
GO: B&B with a double room at the Victorian House Hotel in Grasmere costs from £110 a night in October. See victorianhousehotel.co.uk.
LOCH AND LEAP
THE Highlands of Scotland were named by Lonely Planet as one of the best places in the world to see autumn leaves.
Head to the Uath Lochans trail near Kingussie in the Cairngorms National Park or Loch Arkaig in Lochaber for a dazzling display of fiery colours.
Autumn is also perfect for spotting wildlife including red deer and squirrels, eagles and grey seal pups along the Caithness coastline.
WHAT ELSE? Star-gaze at Tomintoul & Glenlivet Cairngorms Dark Sky Park, the most northerly in the world and the darkest in the UK. The new Northern Lights arts festival at Wick Harbour is being held from October 8-16.
GO: A two-night B&B break at the 4H Royal Marine Hotel in Brora, an hour from Inverness, with dinner on one night, is from £129pp. See royalmarinebrora.com.
SWING through, and over, colour-changing trees on the Go Ape course at Delamere Forest in Cheshire.
As well as the high ropes and zip line, there are Segway tours through the oaks, beeches, sweet chestnuts and pines.
The forest is also criss-crossed with walking and cycling trails.
If you feel energetic, climb to the summit of Old Pale for some fantastic panoramic views, stretching from the Welsh hills to the Peak District.
WHAT ELSE? Adventure park BeWILDerwood Cheshire is in woods near Malpas. And Magical Woodland, a light trail around 15 acres of colourful woodland near Northwich, runs from October 9 to November 7.
GO: Four nights in a Delamere Forest silver birch two-bedroom cabin, from Monday, is priced at £645 in total. For more details see forestholidays.co.uk.
WATER AND WILDLIFE
THE woodlands of Northumberland include England’s largest forest park and our darkest skies.
Kielder Water and Forest Park has a wide choice of trails – including one along the 26-mile shoreline of northern Europe’s largest man-made lake.
There are nature hubs for wildlife spotting, which can include ospreys. Northumberland Farm is a great base for families, close to the rugged coastline and village of Seahouses.
WHAT ELSE? Search for the constellations at Kielder Observatory. Meanwhile, Harry Potter fans should visit Alnwick Castle, which starred as Hogwarts. Take a boat trip from Seahouses to spot seals and birds on Farne Islands.
GO: Two nights’ self-catering in a canvas cottage at Northumberland Farm with en suite, sleeping six people in October, is from £480. See featherdown.co.uk.
BEAN THERE DONE THAT
THE spectacular Forest of Dean and Wye Valley has created the first UK guide to leaf-peeping.
With more than 20million trees, the Glouc- estershire area of outstanding natural beauty has an amazing array of autumn colours.
The guide (available at visitdeanwye.co.uk) gives you the best ten leaf-peeping spots, drives, walks and experiences. They include Tintern Abbey and The Kymin, an 18th-century round- house with views to Monmouthshire.
WHAT ELSE? Wye Adventures (wye adventures. com) offers activities including canoeing and gorge scrambling. Take a Dean Forest Railway steam train to see more golden canopies and visit the village of Symonds Yat for views of the valley.
Leaf-peeping private tours with a Blue Badge tourist guide is from £125pp. See britainsbestguides.org.
GO: Sleep among the trees in a glamping cabin for four in Lydney, from £290 for two nights. See resilientwoodlands.co.uk.
ENJOY a touch of luxury after trundling through fallen leaves with a “forest bathing” day.
Wakehurst in East Sussex – Kew Gardens’ country cousin – is holding workshops on the Japanese art of Shinrin-yoku. You are taught to relax by connecting with the environment.
Wakehurst, like Kew, becomes a cascade of colour with yellow, red, orange and even purple leaves.
The forest bathing workshops on October 16 and November 13 cost £22.50 and include entry to the gardens and parking. See kew.org.
WHAT ELSE? Stroll along the new boardwalks over wetlands near Westwood Lake and get close to wildlife in the 150-acre Loder Valley Nature Reserve.
GO: Nearby Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club, set in 186 acres of parkland, has a two-night autumn retreat with B&B from £358, based on two sharing, until November 30. See ashdownpark.com.
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