Low season is a great time to get away – even if it’s just for the weekend – and with autumn setting in the English countryside is awash with colour.
There’s a secret part of all of us that still enjoys pulling on some wellies and kicking up the fallen leaves. Whether you’re finding an excuse to do that by taking the kids out for the day, or you just want to unleash your inner child for a few brief, joyful moments, we’ve picked out some of the best woods for autumn walks.
Just south of Farnham in Surrey is Alice Holt Forest, a 2,100 acre area of pine and oak trees that offers plenty to keep you amused. The forest can be explored on two feet or two wheels - cycles can be hired from Quench Cycles and there are several tracks and trails to follow, with or without a guide. You can also keep fit and toned by trying Nordic walking. Four-week progressive courses are started throughout the year and are great for getting out in the fresh air. Alice Holt also runs various events from bushcraft skill and forest survival days to festive craft sessions and twilight walks.
Sporting the largest collection of conifers in the world, Bedgebury in Kent is a palette of reds, yellows and greens in the autumn months. The pinetum and forest are a haven for bird watchers; woodpeckers, finches and even birds of prey can be spotted and keen ornithologists can find a list of species on the website. Other activities include fungi walks, a midwinter fair and for the more adventurous, there is a Go Ape course that gives great aerial views of the surroundings.
Already turning golden, the 3,500 acre Haldon Forest Park is just fifteen minutes from Exeter and offers a multitude of ways to enjoy the outdoors. From horse riding and cycling to Segway tours and Go Ape, you can discover the sights and sounds of the forest however you choose. If you live close by and fancy yourself as an archer, you can take part in regular archery sessions, or brush up on your orienteering skills with a map pack available at reception.
The charmingly named Giggle Alley is a small area of woodland in the Lake District, and includes the secluded remains of a Japanese garden. Commissioned in 1914, the garden features a series of pools surrounded by bamboo thickets, maples and magnolia and is currently being restored. Lazy walks through the forest are very pleasant in the autumn sunshine and the contrast of the Acers contrast beautifully against the native oak trees. Set on the southern slopes of Scafell you are, of course, not far from the panoramas of the surrounding landscape either.
Popular as much for the legend of Robin Hood as for its excellent range of activities and events, Sherwood Pines Forest Park is a great day – or night – out. Astronomy and star gazing evenings are held in the winter months, allowing you to discover the secrets of the night sky, and daytime activities include fire craft, basket weaving and orienteering. If you fancy a complete camping experience you can stay overnight and hone your bushcraft skills. Build your shelter, cook dinner on a camp fire and search for bats and deer in the gathering dusk.