They’ve been described as Nature’s Fireworks and when you see them you’ll understand why!
As the temperatures drop and the days shorten, the trees in the magical New Forest explode with colour; from brilliant scarlet to bright gold, hot pink to flaming orange. Then there’s the heathlands; bursting with purple heather and the flare of the gorse.
One of the reasons we’re one of the UK’s best places to experience autumn is because the New Forest has the highest concentration of ancient woodlands in Western Europe. We have more than 1,000 priceless old trees with their giant canopies, some of which were around when Queen Elizabeth I sent out the Armada. When autumn comes, they put on a spectacular show.
We also have more than 140 miles of tracks and footpaths, where you can enjoy easy-to-follow walking routes, short strolls or long-distance trails. Many of them include the chance to witness autumn in all its glory, so what better time to strap on your walking boots and stride out to see it all for yourself?
Here are a few of our favourite places to go.
Our Knightwood Oak Trail (a mere 0.25 miles although you can easily extend it) has been listed as one of the UK’s best for autumn colour – Countryfile Magazine describes it as a ‘stunning’. When you’ve had your fill of the breathtaking autumn hues, pay your respects to the fabulous Knightwood Oak herself. At 24 feet in circumference, no wonder we call her the Queen of the Forest!
Take a stroll or a cycle through the Ornamental Drive at Rhinefield. You’ll find out - in the most glorious way - why this route, planted in 1860, is regularly listed as one of the top UK leaf-peeping spots.
Beautiful colour can be found everywhere but our favourite places to look include the ancient woodland at Bratley Inclosure, Ocknell Inclosure, or the walks around Stoney Cross. Mark Ash Wood near Emery Down will also not disappoint, either.
Or why not pop up to the National Trust’s Northern Commons to spot the yellow flare of birch leaves against the brooding heathlands?
For a short stroll try the Bolderwood Radnor trail (1.9 miles) This fantastic medium walk passes through woodland featuring sweet chestnut, oak and beech dating from the 1860s. Head towards the beautiful Bratley Water, which makes for the ideal spot to rest and enjoy a picnic. The trail will then lead you to the Bolderwood deer viewing platform where you can often see Fallow Deer and, at certain times of the day, you can see them being fed by the local rangers.
The Copythorne and Cadnam Common Walk (4 miles) will take you from Moor Road bus stop past St Mary's Church before winding through Copythorne Common and its interesting mix of woodland and open glades. The route then follows rhododendron and woodland edged tracks to the Cadnam River and the northern commons. Here you can watch ponies grazing before returning through Newbridge and Copythorne Common back to the start.
Head over to Ashurst for a great walk (2.8 miles) that takes in a variety of New Forest landscapes. From Ashurst railway station this short and easy walk explores a variety of landscapes that characterise the New Forest. The route takes you past open forest lawns where ponies graze and through Churchplace Inclosure, a timber plantation, before crossing the railway into Ashurst Wood. Then continue along a road that winds pleasantly through ancient pasture woodland and across a grassy lawn to the historic remains of a saltpetre house. Return via a roadside cycle track to Ashurst village.
The Godshill and Castle Walk (2.6 miles) starts outside the Fighting Cocks pub at Godshill and takes in quiet field and woodland paths to the site of an Iron Age hill fort. It then continues to a stream-side hamlet on the edge of Castle Hill. There are views across the beautiful Avon Valley with its wildlife-rich water meadows and pasture and an optional detour to Castle Hill fort before returning along field and woodland paths to Godshill.
* If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out the Walking pages on our site: thenewforest.co.uk. We’ve got foodie walks, wildlife walks, and history walks – more than 40 in all. Many start, end or take in our pretty villages and great pubs and all will give you a ringside seat as summer slowly slips into Autumn!