Before we have to batten down the hatches for the predicted Siberian winter we’re going to face, take advantage of bright, crisp autumn days when we can really appreciate the burnt oranges, deep reds and warm yellows of the season.
There are so many arboretums, national parks and smaller public gardens from which we can gain inspiration that there’s really no excuse not to, especially with half term upon us.
Here’s just a few of the many open spaces filled with autumn splendour to enjoy.
Westonbirt Arboretum, nr Tetbury, Gloucestershire: Home to 15,000 trees, at this time of year Westonbirt is a riot of colour as the 600-acre landscape is steeped in red, orange and yellow hues. Enjoy the wealth of rich colour among the Japanese maples, sweet gums, witch hazel and members of the walnut family. For family days out, take part in conker challenges or just enjoy tasty picnics, collect colourful leaves and take beautiful memory photos. For details visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-autumn
Stourhead, Wiltshire: Visit one of the world’s finest landscape gardens and see vistas highlighted with burnished leaves and rusty colour palettes. Explore the 1,072 hectare (2,650 acre) Stourhead estate where chalk downs, ancient woods and farmland are managed for wildlife. With a breathtaking lake at its centre, the garden is planned with temples and follies and a planting scheme which allows the colours to wash through the landscape. For more information call 01747 841152 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire: For centuries people have been drawn to this inspiring place with Cistercian abbey, elegant Georgian water garden and medieval deer park. Here at Fountains, autumn is spectacular as the leaves turn from green to glorious golds to rich russets. For more information, call 01765 608888 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire: This stunning garden comes ablaze with fiery reds, rustic bronzes, ambers and gold in autumn. The garden stays open throughout the winter months and is at its most magical as low light levels and frosts highlight its natural shapes and textures. Seed heads, fragrant winter flowering shrubs and ornamental grasses create drama. The brightly-coloured barks, Cornus stems and berries along the Winter Walk bring vibrant winter colour. For more information, visit www.rhs.org.uk
Faskally Wood, Pitlochry, Scotland: A network of old estate paths leads round the small, but picturesque, Loch Dunmore with its timber bridge and boat house. Faskally House became a training school for foresters during the 1950s and this wood provided a testing area for numerous woodland management techniques. See the forest in autumn when reflections fill the loch with shimmering colour. Faskally also plays host to The Enchanted Forest, an amazing light extravaganza that takes place each year in late October/ early November. For more information, visit www.visitscotland.com
Castle Ward, Northern Ireland: The hit series Game Of Thrones was filmed here, but Castle Ward has much more to offer in the way of glorious landscapes filled with the burnished colours of autumn. See the gothic and classical collide at the eccentric 18th-century mansion, which rests on a rolling hillside and looks out over the tranquil waters of Strangford Lough in County Down. Walk or cycle along the Lough trail or through the sheltered woodlands and spot butterflies, rabbits, ducks and swans. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Sheffield Park Garden, East Sussex: Set around four lakes and backed by neo-Gothic architecture, the 120 acres of parkland were planted after 1909 by Arthur Soames, purely for the drama of shape and colour. Columns of deciduous conifers and plumes of pampas grass contrast with assorted fiery tints of trees and shrubs, waterside ferns and marsh plants. Beds of autumn gentians, G. sino-ornata, are a quirky touch. For more information, phone 01825 790231 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sheffieldpark