Ten autumn walks
Hidden woodlands and 17th century estates...
Plant lovers, listen up. Some of England’s most magnificent trees are to be found in Westonbirt Aboretum, decked out in their autumn finery over 600 acres of beautiful countryside. From the rippling reds and fading greens of the maples, to the hickories’ brisk yellows: it’s a top spot for an autumn walk, and the meandering assortment of trails and paths mean you can explore at your leisure.
Feeling in need of inspiration? Well, John Keats’ famous poem To Autumn, was inspired by this walk, so it’s a route with some potency. Setting out from Winchester’s centre, you’ll pass by the gentle greens of the cathedral grounds and out into the Water Meadows, beside the River Itchen. Calm, relaxing and rich with a sense of heritage—not to mention poetry—you can’t help but feel an autumnal poignancy as you take in this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.
If you weren’t looking, you might not have noticed the nearly 6,000 acres of ancient woodland tucked away around London’s eastern limits. Now we’ve told you, you’ve no excuses. Epping Forest is a hidden woodland world, fiery and bright with autumn colours at this time of year, and crisscrossed with trails for you to amble happily along. You’ll also find wandering cows, freely grazing among the trees in scenes harking back to London’s farming past.
Devoid of both cats and bells, Catbells is a peculiarly named Cumbrian peak, but a spectacular autumn walk nonetheless. It’s a little more effort than the average stroll, but suitable for families and well worth that smidgen of extra energy. From just outside the hamlet of Little Town, in the Newlands Valley, it’s a gradual climb to the top where you’ll find some of the best views to Skiddaw directly across Derwent Water.
Snettisham is quite the spectacle, particularly if you like birds. During autumn, you can witness wading species flying inland in their tens of thousands, as the tide rolls in across the flats known as The Wash. Thoughtfully, plenty of hides have been set up in the areas where the birds then settle, meaning you can sit among the vast flocks yourself. At this time of year you’ll see thousands of thrushes and finches migrating, together with wigeon and brent geese.
Once home to Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle is well-loved as an example of a classic Tudor house- and garden-keeping. During autumn, the gardeners take visitors on a waterside trail around the castle lake, an expanse of about 38 acres, so it’s quite an expedition, albeit a gentle one. The beautifully kept grounds are a nature-lover’s dream, and you’ll see everything from trees in their autumn colours to owls and woodpeckers.
The Malvern Hills cover 4,500 acres. From their peaks, you can look down over the vibrant autumn landscapes of surrounding Worcestershire and Herefordshire. Worcestershire Beacon is the highest point in the county and offers striking views over the Cotswolds and the Severn Valley. Alternatively, ascend through the autumn countryside to visit the Herefordshire Beacon and its Iron Age fort, British Camp.
Of the many charms of the Upper Derwent Valley, Ladybower Reservoir is one of the finest. Surrounded by forests, farmland, grazing sheep and spectacular moorland, it’s an enchanting place to spend an autumn weekend. You can head up to Bamford Edge for an awe-inspiring view over the resevoir, or across the Ashopton Viaduct for a closer look at the Ladybower Dam itself. Or simply walk among the trees and fields immediately surrounding the reservoir and admire the autumn colours in their full glory.
Stourhead is a 2,650 acre National Trust estate, and home to some of the best 18th-century landscaped gardens in the world. In autumn its oaks and beeches are ablaze with reds, golds and yellows, and you can spend a whole day just exploring its classical follies, or relaxing by its elegant lake. Don’t forget to pop into the Palladian mansion itself, and venture into the ancient woodland that also forms part of the estate—you’ll see the contrast between this and the meticulously kept gardens.
The 17th-century Lanhydrock estate is a lush array of elegant natural beauty surrounding one of Cornwall’s finest National Trust properties. Its 900 acres of well-kept gardens take visitors on a relaxing nature trail through the autumn trees, while the stately home of Lanhydrock itself is on hand for cream teas or a cultural diversion . You can explore the grounds, or follow the nearby woods down to the Fowey Estuary and see the autumn trees as you approach the coast.
Once home to Queen Katherine Parr, the last and surviving wife of King Henry VIII...Sudeley Castle