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…
Badbury, near Faringdon is a beech woodland with great views of the Thames flood plain and Faringdon. Enjoy the remains of an iron age hill fort and natural play areas for children. Charge for parking. No facilities.
Wychwood Forest in Charlbury is part of the Cornbury Park Estate, the largest area of ancient woodland in Oxfordshire dating back to Neolithic times. No charge, no facilities.
Wytham Woods in west Oxford is one of the most researched woods in the world, as it is owned by the University of Oxford. You need a permit to walk in the woods, but it’s free to apply online. No charge, no dogs or bikes.
Cowleaze Woods, near Watlington. Set high on the Chiltern escarpment, it has far-reaching views over the Oxford plain and lots of circular footpaths. No charge, no facilities.
Basildon Park near Goring – National Trust woods with different walks and children’s play trail. Normal entry. Facilities and café at Basildon Park.
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 entry. Café & facilities.