By Jo Finzi
It’s the promise of mists and mellow fruitfulness that makes this season something special. The sights of russet coloured trees standing silent awaiting winter, the sounds of fallen leaves rustling underfoot and the smells of distance wood-smoke make walking in autumn woodland an unforgettable experience.
Here’s a selection of autumn walks around the UK that are guaranteed to give you an appetite for more.
DUNKELD, Perth & Kinross
Scotland is traditionally a land of pinewoods, but Hermitage Wood, at Dunkeld shows off its autumn palette of vibrant red and gold - so famous that Queen Victoria once paused there to see its beeches and larches in their autumn glory.
The Hermitage trail starts with a path down the steep glen of the River Braan. As well as copper beeches there are magnificent Douglas firs, including one that’s said to be Britain’s tallest tree. Head for Ossian’s Hall, built in the 18th-century to view the spectacular Black Linn Falls.
Then turn north through the woods to Rumbling Bridge and back along the river. You’ll reach the Tap Inn, at the Birnham House Hotel in time for a well-earned refreshment.
The lakeside wonderland
The lake’s glassy surface has been admired for hundreds of years, especially when it mirrors the splendour of autumn. Cross on the car ferry from Bowness, park and take the steps to Claife Station, an eighteenth century turret built for its views over the lake. Look down over the beeches and oaks to the western shore.
Head north on the lakeside track to Belle Grange, and climb west to Claife Heights, with stunning views of the Langdale Pikes. Continue your journey via the Tower Bank Arms, at Near Sawrey (Beatrix Potter’s home village).
Thirsty for more walks? Then visit http://www.thecumbriadirectory.com/Town_or_Village/Near_Sawrey/Near_Sawrey.php
An unspoiled island
Isle of Man
Here’s a chance to see vast tracts of countryside, unchanged for hundreds of years, with unspoilt beaches and rare flora and fauna. You can re-discover the pleasures of walking in tranquility in a landscape known to the Celts and Vikings.
This autumn’s walking festival will show you the island in its seasonal splendour. It is to be based in Port Erin, as opposed to Douglas, and offers a different selection of walks in the south of the Island, as well as further afield.
Tourism minister David Cretney says: “It’s for people looking for an autumn break, others who are tied up during the summer months, and those who want to return and see what the Island looks like later in the year. I guarantee none of them will be disappointed.”
HEBDEN BRIDGE, West Yorkshire
The textile town of Hebden Bridge is ideal for autumn outings. Mill-workers’ houses stand out in contrast to Calderdale, with its woodlands woven into the fabric of the land.
From the National Trust car park near New Bridge, you take the northern route beside Hebden Water. The valley has a magical feel with green and gold leaves casting dappled shadows. A mile down the road, the chimney of Gibson Mill can be seen through the oaks and beeches, and beyond this lie Hardcastle Crags, with it’s harsh rocks soften by autumn hues.
Climb up to the right and to Walshaw and a moorland path to the east. Descend into Crimsworth Dean and back along the beck to town, where sustainance can be found at the White Lion, in Bridge Gate.
Visit the town’s website at http://www.hebdenbridge.com/
or join the Hebden Bridge Heritage Walk on 5th October. Tel: 0044 1422 843831.
Echoes of a bygone age
This marvellous gorge is where Abraham Darby fuelled the industrial revolution with his discovery that coke is better than timber for smelting iron. Three hundred years later the trees have re-conquered and display their own leafy flames.
From the Museum of the Gorge, take the riverside road to the Iron Bridge itself, built in 1779 to promote Coalbrookdale ironware. Climb through the streets of Ironbridge town, bearing right to the Golden Ball Inn, on Newbridge Road for a well deserved refreshment.
Follow Wesley Road and take the track left into Lloyd’s Coppice, a crucible of seasonal colour. A mile later, you’ll meet the road to Coalport, where you can amble back along the southern bank of the Severn to the Iron Bridge.
Coggeshall is tucked away in rural Essex. Its traditional half-timbered tithe barns and galleried merchants’ houses were built at the height of the wool trade.
Make sure you see the working water mill and old Cistercian abbey on the Essex Way, then take the lane northwest from town across the A120 and out into the open pastures. Bungate Wood is a riot of autumn oak leaves and from there, bear left to Pattiswick Green, where the Compasses, a country inn turned gastropub, will serve you venison and game pie.
After lunch, follow the trail through the middle of Great Monks Wood and Nunty’s Wood — a tiny remider of England’s ancient wildwood — to reach Marks Hall arboretum (£2 admission and a marvellous autumn canvas of foliage from around the globe, with viburnums and dogwoods reflected in the lakes beside the Millennium Walk). Then stroll back south for a couple of miles to Coggeshall.
Need more trails?
If you’re keen for more, go to http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk
A sample of what’s on offer there is the fungi event on 29th October You can join enthusiast Mrs Ray Tantrum on a 1½ mile fungi discovery morning in the woods of Coopers Hill at Runnymede. You’ll learn all the fascinating facts about fungi and how to identify them. http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ThamesPath/event.asp?PageId=10&EventId=85