I’m sure you’re almost bored of hearing it now, the constant autumn narration from everyone you stop to have a chat with: “ooh, isn’t it chilly out?”, “I can’t stand this weather”, “the nights are really beginning to draw in…” As if you haven’t realised that the much-lamented summer is finished and before long Christmas will be upon us with all its splendour and excitement. Is it me, or does this part of the year really race by?
And that alone is a reason to remember to take stock of autumn whilst it’s still with us. The natural phenomenon of leaves turning fiery red and burnished gold won’t be here forever. No matter where you are in Britain, there is somewhere for you, and you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to get outside and appreciate it! No excuses!
So without further ado, here are six UK forests you should visit to appreciate autumn colour.
1. Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
Why not start with one of the best? If you’re lucky enough to live near Westonbirt, you’re spoilt indeed. This varied collection of beautiful and ancient trees provides over 17 miles of marked paths to wander through, free of charge. The collection of Japanese maples in Silk Wood offers some of the most vibrant and stunning autumn colour, and the Old Arboretum trail is carefully sculpted to provide dramatic views of the forest and nearby landscape as you progress.
2. Grizedale, Cumbria
Easily one of the most beautiful counties in Britain, it isn’t a surprise that majestic Cumbria holds a spot on today’s list. Situated between Lakes Windemere and Coniston, Grizedale is famed for its sculpture trail, which has been a feature of the forest since the 1970s. Forty artworks by internationally renowned sculptors are linked by a network of walking and cycling trails, making this forest a treasure hunt as well as a beautiful opportunity for a stroll.
3. Faskally Wood, Perthshire
The Scots are spoilt for choice with forests, and that makes choosing a single spot quite tricky, but after careful consideration Faskally Wood pipped others to the post. Pop inside the Foresters’ Classroom and discover a wide range of tree species, or explore the shores of Loch Dunmore, complete with quaint boat house and timber bridge. Faskally Wood is also well-known for its unique autumn transformation: The Enchanted Forest. A light and music show is hosted in the evenings, illuminating the trees with beautiful bright colours.
4. Green Castle Woods, Camarthenshire
A complex mosaic of habitats, including semi-natural woodland, botanically rich meadows and even a paddock providing local varieties of fruit, Green Castle Woods is a stretch of forest in Camarthenshire. Supported by a local volunteer group who constructed many of the pathways that now snake their way through the woods, this picturesque forest takes its name from the ruined 15th century mansion which can be seen overlooking the river Tywi. In the mature woodlands, garlic grows in abundance on the forest floor.
5. Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down
Nestled between mountains and sea, this sprawling forest was suggested by my Northern Irish friend Judi, who tells me it is “by far the best”. Castlewellan boasts one of the largest and most varied tree and shrub collections in Europe, attracting tree enthusiasts in their droves. It also has numerous walled gardens and a mile-long lakeside walk. One of the most prominent features of the park is the Peace Maze, a winding labyrinth of hedges that represent the path to a harmonious future for Northern Ireland. Will you make it to the middle to ring the peace bell?
6. Richmond Park, London
And last, but by no means least, if you’re stuck in the capital this autumn without means of escape then there’s no need to worry! The royal parks dotted throughout the city will provide you with all the colour you need, and if you can find your way to the furthest reaches of west London you’ll discover Richmond Park, which I shared in its own Wild Place Wednesday entry a few months ago. The park is not only the site of some magnificent-looking trees, it’s also a haven for wildlife: home to the ringed-neck parakeet and several species of deer.