Autumn is one of the most glorious times in the UK. Trees are resplendent in a riot of colours – from scarlet to mustard hues – while the sun still flirts with us in crisp, clear skies. Here is where to escape for a few days to soak up the great outdoors.
The Garden of England
With its rolling hills, fertile farmland and abundant orchards, Kent certainly deserves its moniker of the ‘Garden of England’. Filled with beauty spots – from idyllic rural vistas to glittering coastlines – you’ll be spoilt for choice. One of the best places to enjoy the golden glory of the season is at Bedgebury Pinetum and Forest. There are 1,800 different species of trees to discover plus tranquil lakes and winding cycling paths to enjoy. Meanwhile, Knole Deer Park – the last remaining deer park in Kent – is filled with ancient oak, hawthorn and birch, and is the perfect place for autumnal walks – twigs, acorns and leaves gleefully snapping underfoot.
Where to stay: Duck Lodge, Sevenoaks, Kent
Nature lovers can be at one in this white weather-boarded lodge. It may have a timeless, bucolic location, surrounded by fields and orchards, but inside rooms have contemporary features juxtaposed with exposed beams and wooden floors. Wrap up and spend the day at nearby Toys Hill – the place that inspired Octavia Hill to found The National Trust – or head to Emmetts Garden, from which you can walk to Chartwell, the family home of Winston Churchill, renowned for its pretty setting. On your return, you’ll be greeted by the resident ducks, and you can kick back, drink in hand, by the cosy wood-burner.
The enchanting forest
The New Forest in Hampshire transforms once autumn arrives: heather shines with its varying shades of vibrant purple and pink, fungi appears as if by magic, and the forest canopy glows with its russets, golds and reds. Crunch across the New Forest Downs and make the most of misty mornings and sunny afternoons. For those keen to find out more about the heritage and wildlife of the forest, book into one of the 70 guided walks by local experts, as part of the autumnal New Forest National Park Walking Festival (13 – 28 October).
Where to stay: Kings Hyde Cottage, Lymington, Hampshire
Found in the heart of the National Park, staying at this snug bolthole means you’ll have the forest glades, ancient woodland and open moors minutes from your home-from-home. The perfect romantic hideaway for two, you can use it as a base to indulge your inner arboreal passion. The New Forest boasts oak trees dating back 800 years, and explorers can walk through a rainbow of colours by taking off on foot from nearby Lymington to Brockenhurst (from where, on a clear day, you can see the Isle Wight).
It might be on London’s threshold, but Surrey should not be overlooked when it comes to searching for that magical kaleidoscope of countryside colours. The Surrey Hills turn a rich gold at this time of year, as oak, beech and chestnut trees go through the changes. While Box Hill, with its magnificent views over rolling hills, Leith Hill and Hindhead Commons are just a few of the area’s highlights. In fact, Surrey is considered one of England’s most leafy counties and is also home to the flagship gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society – RHS Garden Wisley – which comes alive with seasonal hues and special autumnal events, such as bat sessions and pumpkin-carving.
Where to stay: The Surrey Manor, Wonersh, Surrey
History fans and luxury lovers will both be in their element in this 10-bedroom property. The UK’s oldest moated Manor House, mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086, it oozes a sense of heritage (check out the 16thcentury dining room). But a modern makeover adds a top-end feel with a glass breakfast room, library, heated indoor swimming pool and elegant décor. It is perfect for exploring the Winkworth to Oakhurst Wonder Walk, which takes ramblers through woodland to three National Trust properties – Hydon’s Ball, the 16thcentury Oakhurst Cottage and Winkworth Arboretum. Home to Japanese, American and Norwegian maples, not to mention over 1,000 plant species, the Arboretum becomes a painterly sight with leaves showboating their extraordinary shades.
An Area of Outstanding Beauty, the Cotswolds is renowned for its honey-coloured villages, impossibly pretty pastoral scenes and famous gardens, such as Hidcote Manor Gardens. This Arts and Crafts space has intricately designed outdoor ‘rooms’ by American horticulturist Lawrence Johnston. Another famous local name is Laurie Lee, who was born in Stroud in Gloucestershire, and who captured the very essence of this corner of England inCider With Rosie. As summer segues into autumn – you can see his inspiration first hand, and immerse yourself in the year’s most colourful season at the Laurie Lee Wood nature reserve in Slad.
Where to stay: Pinkney Court Lodge, Tetbury, Gloucestershire
For a touch of grandeur, this comfy lodge, dating back to the 16thcentury, actually occupies the west wing of a country manor house. While the chic interiors will impress – think: roll-top baths, French furniture and elegant wallpapers – it’s the setting that you will fall in love with. Nearby is Westonbirt Arboretum, which has 15,000 trees and 17 miles of trails to explore. A highlight is the Silk Wood Trail, which will take you through Westonbirt’s collection of maple trees, including the famous national Japanese maple collection.
Take a leaf out of Norfolk
From Foxley Wood, Norfolk’s largest primeval woodland, to Wayland Wood, believed to be the site for the legend of the Babes In The Wood, Norfolk has a wild and fairy-tale-like feel to its woods and countryside. Nature’s own firework display, the autumn palette is impressive – with maple, oaks, beeches, sycamore and chestnut trees coming to life with their varying hues.
Where to stay: Ivy House, Bressingham, Norfolk
Crunch down a sweeping drive to arrive at Ivy House, a newly-renovated Grade II-listed Georgian mansion house. A grand staircase leads to five bedrooms, which have period furniture, decorative fireplaces and decadent bathrooms. Downstairs, meanwhile, there is a formal dining room, drawing room and games snug – ideal for youngsters. Set within the 12-acre Bressingham Gardens, you can stay put and explore the year’s finest hour right on your doorstep. Otherwise, head to Thetford Forest to discover the UK’s largest man-made lowland forest and its walking trails. Best of all, after a long traipse in the countryside, you’ll be able to return to your own manor house and rest your legs in the house’s bubbling hot tub.
All properties can be booked at www.mulberrycottages.com or by calling 01227 464958
*This article is published in the October 2018 issue of Canary Wharf Magazine