Posted 16th Nov 2015
Get outdoors this autumn and visit the Woodland Trust’s top locations to take in spectacular autumn colour
The Trust owns hundreds of woods across the UK and all are free to visit. They are great places for a day out with the children, to watch nature up close or to get fit and healthy.
Whilst visiting autumn woods make a note of the first signs of the season; from berries ripening to leaves changing colour, to leaf fall. By recording this information on Nature’s Calendar it will help scientists observe how the changing climate is affecting the UK’s plants and wildlife.
The Woodland Trust also have plenty of great ideas on their Nature Detectives website for activities you can use to entertain the kids both indoors and out. From spotter sheets, games, crafts and recipes, families won’t be short of things to do.
We’ve picked out a few of the best autumn woods across the country, but there are many more. To find your nearest autumn wood visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/autumn.
Top autumn woods:
This large and diverse site offers a mix of ancient woodland, open grassland; together with woodland archaeology remains, wonderful walks, interesting wildlife and breathtaking views all set in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Meander through the ancient woodland with its oak standards, areas of coppiced stools, and fine 200 year old specimens of small leaved lime and beech. Or enjoy the verdant splendour of the 180,000 broad leaf trees planted in the late-1990s, which include many of the pre-existing species but with the addition of yew, whitebeam and wild cherry.
And for those interested in archaeology, there are interpretation boards and leaflets on-site which explain what features to look out for – such as the wood banks, chalk and marl pits and an ancient drove road - and how these fit into the site’s history.
Situated a couple of miles north of Westbury up the A350, Clanger, Picket and Round Woods are a collection of three woods, with Picket Wood to the north separated only from Clanger by an old, earthwall-sided track. These woods have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the varied butterfly and moth populations.
Historically the wood is home to several important species of butterfly including the nationally scarce silver-washed fritillary and Duke of Burgundy. Over 300 species of moth have been recorded, including the rare and vulnerable small eggar moth and the nationally restricted narrow-bordered bee hawk moth. The woodland also has an important breeding bird community.
This large area of woodland sits in a deep coastal valley and is not immediately obvious unless you visit nearby headlands or high ground. The sheltered valley and hidden location do however help create a wonderful setting of woodland around a lush meadow where the sounds of the overhead sea breezes, bird song and the running stream water create an idyllic and historic atmosphere akin to 'stepping back in time'. Four previously separate woods make up this area. It is home to an array of wildlife including otters and bats.
Nestling between Harrogate and Knaresborough, Nidd Gorge is actually made up of five woods: Coalpits Wood, Bilton Banks, Spring Wood, Scotton Banks and Gates Wood.
Take a stroll through the woodland, indulge the kids in the Nidd Gorge Adventure Trail, and keep your eye out for roe deer, tawny owls, herons and woodpeckers. In total the woods are home to more than 80 species of bird and 30 different kinds of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
As well as wild flowers indicative of ancient woodland and abundant wildlife, 91 species of fungi have been identified in the gorge, including puffballs, cup fungi, jelly and bracket fungi. Public footpaths run through the site and along the riverbank, linking the gorge to Harrogate, Knaresborough and the surrounding area. You can also reach the Woodland Trust’s Bilton Beck and Rudding Bottom woodland by following the riverside path to the west.
Wentwood forms part of the largest block of ancient woodland within Wales and is found within an area that has a concentration of ancient woodlands that runs between the rivers Usk and Wye. The recorded history of Wentwood extends to over 1,000 years, once a hunting preserve of Chepstow Castle.
The site is a haven for wildlife. Dormice can be found, together with adders, lizards, deer and many woodland birds including the nightjar. The wood has a number of ancient monuments surrounding it and a Bronze Age burial mound within the wood. The ancient track ways, charcoal hearths and remains of an old mill gives us a clue to the past uses of the forest.
Today’s wood is remnant of the extensive woodland that once covered much of the east bank of the River Foyle, stretching as far as Strabane. It managed to withstand the siege of Derry in 1689 and the presence of American troops during the Second World War. At 7.5 hectares (18.5 acres) the remaining woodland is much reduced from its former size.
Beech trees, interspersed with hazel, holly and oak will be waiting to greet visitors, who may even catch a glimpse of some special wild inhabitants which include the red squirrel, sparrowhawk and long-eared owl. Visitors can choose between a 40-minute or 20-minute circular walk – both suitable for those who enjoy a gentle stroll.
Photo courtesy of Woodland Trust: Stuart Jackson, Steven Kind, Nick Spurling