Enjoy colour, walks and craft this autumn at National Trust properties in Sussex
1. Autumn colour
Enjoy Sheffield Park as the autumn colours ignite the trees and cast picture perfect reflections in the lakes. Famous for its autumn colour, this is the season that Sheffield Park and Garden was planted for. Take in the natural beauty as the trees glow with brilliant displays of reds, oranges, purples and greens. Children’s spotter sheets and colour wheel installations encourage young families to spend time noticing the variety in nature’s palette.
The South African flower borders at Nymans carry on flowering into late October, sometimes even longer. Salvias are beautiful in autumn, particularly those surrounding the rose garden. Walking in the woodland and garden at Nymans, you can see magnificent colour especially from hickory, liquidambar and acer trees.
Spot deer and wildlife in the woodland, watch mist settle over the boating lake from the shelter of the bird hide. Enjoy views across the Weald, which are particularly striking in autumn with a blend of earthy colours transforming the landscape.
2. Nature walks
Fall under autumn’s spell with immersive walks in the South Downs. Nature is busy in September, from migrating birds and fruiting fungi, to butterflies on the wing. On autumn walks at Black Cap and Slindon in South Downs, you can find open views, fungi, blackberries and hazelnuts for foraging and swallows congregating for their migration to sub-saharan Africa. In September there are clouded yellow and dark green fritillary butterflies. In October and November the trees turn brilliant shades of amber and gold.
Devil’s Dyke & Cradle Valley is home to wildflowers such as devil’s bit scabious and weird and wonderful fungi: including cobalt crust, parasols, waxcaps, shaggy inkcaps and King Alfred’s cakes.
See swathes of heather in flower at Black Down and the blue sky reflected in heathland ponds. At Harting Down and Slindon, listen out for the deer rut in the distance.
3. Crafts & creativity
Take inspiration from Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge in the garden at Monk’s House. Nestled in the heart of rural Sussex, Monk’s House is a tranquil 16th-century weatherboarded cottage inhabited by Leonard and the novelist Virginia Woolf from 1919 until Leonard’s death in 1969. Get to know Leonard and Virginia Woolf and the wider Bloomsbury Group by visiting Monk’s House. Full of their favourite things, the house appears as if they just stepped out for a walk. Open Fridays and Saturdays for pre-booked visits only until 29 October.
It’s impossible to ‘leaf swish’ without a smile on your face.
4 .The deer rut
At Petworth Park, hear the guttural calls of the fallow deer, echoing across the landscape and spot powerful antlers among the hillocks and long grass. Deer rut guided walks are one of nature’s greatest spectacles as bucks compete to attract the females by battling it out with their antlers. Visitors can join a deer rut guided walk led by a knowledgeable guide and learn more about the fallow deer in this historic parkland setting. If you’ve got binoculars bring them along so that you can observe the deer’s behaviour. There’ll be an element of hiding and waiting too. Walks will run on October 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 17th, 19th & 21st. Pre-book.
The blackberries started early this year but there’s plenty more harvest in the National Trust’s walled gardens, orchards and hedgerows in Sussex. See the fruits of the Kitchen Garden’s harvest at Standen this autumn. Plus there are guided walks on the history of the garden demonstrations of how to spin wool, by the East Grinstead Spinners.
Visit Woolbeding Gardens and see mature apple tree cordons, grown in an intricate lattice pattern on the garden wall. This horticultural haven is bursting with colourful planting and innovation. Open Thursdays and Fridays until September 30th. Book a ticket in advance and travel via minibus from Midhurst town centre.
Take inspiration in the cottage garden at Alfriston Clergy House, with its raised kitchen garden beds on a domestic scale. With traditional apple tree varieties in the orchard laden with fruit and pumpkins peeking through their cover of leaves, this is a gentle place to rest and reflect as the days draw in. Open Wednesdays and Thursdays.
6. Golden light
The golden light of autumn afternoons gives everything a warm glow that’s tinged with nostalgia for the summer just gone and a tingle of excitement for the crisp days to come. The slanting sun bathes houses, gardens, landscapes and faces in a honeyed light, nowhere more so than Petworth Park amongst the wavy gold grassland, with views of the grand house bathed in soft afternoon light or how about a cappuccino on the mezzanine floor of Nymans’ new Riding House tearoom, with views of the Weald from the top windows. At the top of the acer steps in Standen’s Arts and Crafts garden as they turn red and golden in early autumn. In Nymans’ new Garden in the Ruins – among the gothic stone window spaces and warm rust coloured planters .
7. Leaf swishing
Whether it’s a high-kick to watch the leaves tumble, or the flat-footed swish-swish to enjoy the rhythmic crackle and whoosh of the dry leaves, there are no half measures. It’s impossible to ‘leaf swish’ without a smile on your face. Try these spots:
Tunnels of beech leaves, down the deep lanes on the Slindon estate.
The woods at Nymans, in late autumn, as the golden leaves form native trees fall to the ground, including beech, field maple, hornbeam and veteran oaks.
Discover Walk Wood at Sheffield Park and Garden: this peaceful area of woodland is steeped in history, with an abundance of wildlife and natural art sculptures.
8. Try something new
Sheffield Park autumn photography workshop – The natural beauty of the gardens offers spectacular autumn colour and walks and a popular autumn photography workshop (Friday, 30th September, Monday, 10th & Thursday, 20th October, 8.30am-12.30pm). An outdoor photography workshop is the perfect opportunity to learn how to capture the beautiful colours of autumn. Adult £35, includes hot drink and cake.
9. Rainy days
A rainy day in autumn is a great excuse to leave the dog at home and prioritise an exploration of the huge variety of grand, stately and quirky houses and collections that we look after in Sussex.
Before they’re put to bed for the year, visit:
Flower Power at Standen – Step back to 1972 with Flower Power, a new programme at Standen. To mark the 50-year anniversary of being in the care of the National Trust, Standen is paying homage to this era. From fondues to fuzzy felts, enjoy a snapshot of life in the 70s, against the backdrop of Standen’s trendy Morris & Co designed walls and textiles. Inside the house is a recreated 1970s room set by Morris & Co, with their ground breaking Triad collection, plus a contemporary design space until October 30th.
Rising from the ashes: the story of Nymans’ fire. A new exhibition which tells the story of how the Messel family overcame the fire at Nymans, until October 30th.
10. comfort food
The National Trust’s cafés in Sussex know a thing or two about serving up a soothing pumpkin soup or delicious slice of spiced apple cake. Pop along to Nymans, Standen, Petworth House, Birling Gap or Sheffield Park for an autumnal walk and a teatime treat.