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…
Surrey & West Sussex
Winkworth Arboretum, near Godalming, is the National Trust’s only arboretum. Enjoy a walk through the woods as the autumn explodes with colour while younger ones can clamber over the new tree adventure, complete with climbing wall, fireman’s pole, rope tunnel and ladders. Dogs welcome. Normal entry. Facilities & tea room.
Hatchlands Park at East Clandon, near Guildford, has a 4.5km circular walk which follows the edge of the park through woodland. Dogs welcome. Free parking. Facilities, café & shop.
Admire the colours over the Devil’s Punch Bowl on the Hidden Hindhead Trail, the lovely walk crosses the A3 and takes in some spectacular views. Dogs welocome. Car parking. Café and food kiosk & facilities.
Take in Dapdune Wharf to St Catherine’s on a River Wey walk at Guildford. This dog friendly route offers some spectacular views at the highest point of the walk before you descend to the valley bottom. Parking available.
Petworth boasts 700 acres to explore – but you don’t need to do them all in one day! Stroll round the Pleasure Grounds, enjoy a three-mile walk through the park or discover the ancient trees that dominate the skyline here. Parking, café and facilities. Dogs allowed off leads in deer park and on a lead in the Pleasure Grounds.