Make the most of autumn with the National Trust

by Katie Rowe

Category: Expert insights
October 10 2014

There are a kaleidoscope of colours to admire across England at this time of year but where do you go to see the most dazzling displays? The National Trust have the answers. Here, they recommend a selection of autumn walks where you’ll discover orange-dusted hills, golden woodlands, blue evening skies and if you're lucky, some red squirrels along the way…

Russet: Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire

Mass of reeds at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire ©NT Images


Wicken Fen is one of Europe's most important wetlands, supporting an abundance of wildlife. The raised boardwalk and lush grass droves allow easy access to a lost landscape where visitors can enjoy the vibrant russet tones of the sedge in the autumn months.The wetlands are a great place to explore as the sun goes down. The sedge is illuminated by the sun and you can enjoy the vast open skies that gradually fade from russet oranges to black; it really is an iconic landscape. 

Yellow: Speke Hall, Liverpool

The shores of Speke's coastal reserve © NT & David JonesThe Tudor house and estate of Speke Hall appears to glow yellow during the autumn months. The trees are decorated with yellow leaves in the Clough, Speke Hall’s ancient woodland of beech and oak. Grasses turn a yellow-brown as they dry up for the autumn and even the skies get a yellow hue at dusk.

Rosehips turn from yellow through to red, the plums from green to yellow to black, while the haws get a rush of yellow colour, as do the crab apples. All of these berries attract some fascinating wildlife including song thrushes, mistle thrushes and blackbirds.

Green: Cragside, Northumberland

Visitors on a stone bridge at Cragside, Northumberland © NT Images John Millar

During the autumn months, the seven million coniferous trees across Cragside keep the estate a fresh green while autumn changes the landscape around it. The Pinetum was established by Lord and Lady Armstrong as a showcase for their wealth and is a horticultural jewel. Plant hunters were sent around the world to create a fine collection of rare specimens.

Visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk through the atmospheric pine woodland looking at the rows of spruce and conifers this autumn. 

Red: Brownsea Island, Dorset

Brownsea Island is located in Poole Harbour and is home to around 200 red squirrels and autumn is the best time of year to see them. Red squirrels raise two broods so numbers are at their peak and as squirrels don't hibernate, they are busy gathering food to see them through the winter.

Red makes its mark further throughout the island with the ornamental red and scarlet oaks from North America and you can also see the red autumnal fronds of the bracken. The island is also home to migrant redstarts, the common red darter dragonfly and red admiral and peacock butterflies. Autumn also sees the emergence of the fly agaric fungi, which is red with white spots.

Gold: Petworth House, West Sussex

Petworth House is set in a beautiful deer park landscaped by 'Capability' Brown and was the inspiration
for one of the great landscape painters, J.M.W. Turner.

In autumn, the woodlands and grasslands transform slowly from green to gold. The magnificent oaks, limes, beeches and chestnuts create canopies of buttery-gold foliage and at the centre of the deer park stands an English oak tree with golden leaves that has stood overlooking the estate for almost 1000

In the evening light, the setting sun bathes the mansion in a warm yellow glow, whilst its windows
shine gold and red.

Blue: Carding Mill Valley, Shropshire Hills

The blue of the Shropshire Hills is reflected in A E Houseman’s poem, A Shropshire Lad, in which he talks of the 'Blue Remembered Hills'. As you walk through Carding Mill Valley, it is these blue-tinged hills that visitors see standing in the distance.

As the nights draw in during the autumn months, the skies become a dark blue colour. The water in the stream and the waterfall appear to shine brighter and the heather takes on a blue tinge. 

Rolling hills in Shrubland, Carding Mill Valley, Shropshire ©NT Images David Noton


Find more fun things to do in autumn...

Katie Rowe

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