Falling for autumn

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

© Andy Hay

Each season brings a different atmosphere to the UK’s woodlands with autumn lending vibrant splashes of colour in baronial hues and some unique wildlife behaviour. Warmed by the penetrating golden rays of the late summer sun sitting low in the sky, leaves of bronze, gold, crimson, burgundy and cardinal glisten like gilt. Toadstools and other bizarre-looking fungi sprout up from hollows and knotted tree roots nourished by the colour-rich leafy carpet.


They thrive in this season: adding a flame of vivid berry tones and splashes of saffron and orange into the mix. This is also the time to spot deer, rabbits, squirrels and voles between the buttery-gold and auburn glows of oak, beech and horse chestnut trees, as shorter days and cooler nights signal it is time for wildlife to prepare for the winter months.

Fungus time © Andy Hay

Lower Lough Erne, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
To experience a jaw-dropping kaleidoscopic array of autumn foliage set around one of the largest freshwater lakes in the UK, follow the picturesque winding trails around this scenic forest nature reserve. Made up of 40 small islands, two of which you can visit by boat, Lower Lough Erne is renowned for its lapwings, curlews, snipe and inland colony of breeding Sandwich terns but you may also see pine martens, badgers, red squirrels, otters, hares and stoats in the woodlands – the Castlecaldwell footpaths are open daily from dawn until dusk
Tel: 02866 341456
RSPB Lower Lough Ernes nature reserve

take the family but remember the wellies; autumn can be very muddy © Kaleel Zibe

Baron Haugh, Motherwell, Scotland
Enjoy leaf-crunching walks through the autumn woods at the Baron Haugh nature reserve to witness the large movements of migrating birds that this season brings – some are heading south to a warmer climate, while others are seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. Keep an eye out for a kingfisher or an otter on the river as the migrant waders and wintering wildfowl begin to arrive. On Saturday 19th October join the special family-friendly Autumn Colours guided walk 2pm – 4pm – a sensory delight. (£2 adults, £1 kids, RSPB members free, booking essential)
Tel: 0141 331 0993
RSPB Baron Haugh nature reserve


the changing colours © Andy Hay

Garston Wood, Wiltshire
This popular family walking venue is characterised by magnificent ancient woodlands that are crisscrossed by well-maintained paths that delve deep into a dazzling display of autumnal hues. Look out for badgers, fallow deer and numerous weird and wonderful kinds of mushrooms and toadstools – an eye-popping array of vivid shades of copper, yellow and red.
Tel: 01929 553360
RSPB Garston Woods nature reserve


Peregrine in flight © Ben Andrew

Haweswater, Penrith, Cumbria
Stunning views abound in this birch, ash and oak woodland nature reserve where dippers, ravens, peregrines, buzzards, goosanders and red squirrels are frequently seen. Keen to see a golden eagle but can’t get to the Highlands of Scotland? Then head to the observation point at Haweswater, at the end of an intriguing, uneven 1.25 mile path from which this most magnificent bird of prey soaring high on thermals. Buzzards can also be seen circling overhead throughout the year – a breathtaking sight against a backdrop of large-leaved oaks noted for their leaves of fire-engine red.
Tel: 01931 713376
RSPB Haweswater nature reserve


Sika Deer © David Kjaer

Nagshead, Lydney, Gloucester
Prepare to spot hawfinches and all three species of British woodpeckers in these peaceful woods all year round with wintering arrivals, such as birds like bramblings, lesser redpolls and redwings arriving once temperatures begin to plummet. Autumn colours at Nagshead, together with all of the Forest of Dean, are utterly mesmerising with beech, oak, rowan, aspen, willow and cherry providing contrasting rich colours and textures alongside the rich hues of autumn fruits such as rosehips and holly berries. Redwings are winter visitors, arriving in September from Scandinavia – so be sure to listen out for their high-pitched calls.
Tel: 01594 562852
RSPB Nagshead nature reserve


Images © RSPB

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