Photo: National Trust – John Miller
Autumn casts a new light on familiar landscapes. When trees blaze with orange, red and gold, shady woodland is transformed into a dappled golden path. Nature’s last hurrah before the long sleep of winter, it feels rude not to enjoy the show.
I’m lucky enough to work for an organisation that loves and looks after woodlands. The National Trust cares for more than ten million trees across the country and last year we funded 38 different tree and woodland projects across the South East.
Everyone is welcome in the woods we look after. We want them to be loved, explored and enjoyed by as many people as possible. There are also things we can all do to help look after woodlands, such as taking our litter home, picking up after our dogs, not allowing them to chase wildlife or disturb nesting birds and keeping to the paths.
A mature oak tree has about 700,000 leaves, providing food for the tree and enough oxygen for 10 people for a year. As leaves start to die, the tree takes back reusable proteins and green chlorophyll, revealing the yellow and red pigments produced by sugars remaining in the leaf. The best and most long-lasting colours develop with warm, bright days and cold nights, slowing the transport of sugar from the leaf. Try to catch a falling leaf – it’s trickier than you think! A good way to identify wildlife is to look for nibbled nuts; an excellent high-protein food for fattening up before winter.
Here are some favourites in your local areas…
Berks & Bucks
Hughenden, near High Wycombe, is a National Trust beech woodland with a German Forest of yew trees planted by Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Normal admission and there’s a café and facilities at Hughenden Manor.
Wendover Woods – Forestry England woods with cycling routes, fitness trail and new café. Free to visit (charge for parking).
Bradenham Woods, near High Wycombe, is a typical Chiltern woodland with valley view, cared for by National Trust. No charge. Café in Red Lion pub in the village.
Burnham Beeches, near Farnham Common, is a National Nature Reserve with walking and cycling trails, a visitor centre and café. Free to visit (charge for parking).
Cliveden, near Maidenhead – a National Trust beech woods with glorious green avenue, far-reaching views and routes down to the river. Normal entry. Facilities and café at Cliveden.
Basildon Park near Goring – National Trust woods with different walks and children’s play trail. Normal entry. Facilities and café at Basildon Park.
Swinley Forest, near Bracknell – Look-out Discovery Centre, walking cycling and Go Ape. An Iron Age hillfort surrounded by a mile-long ditch.
Sulham Woods, near Tilehurst – Mix of deciduous and coniferous woodland with lots of footpaths and far-reaching views of the Thames Valley. No charge, no facilities, walks online.
Bowdown woods near Thatcham – Woodland Trust dense ancient woodland. Waymarked wildlife walks. No charge, no facilities.
Greys Court near Henley – Chiltern beech woods on the estate. Short and long walks online. Normal admission. Café and facilities.