From the mightiest oaks to the most delicate of birches; from scarlet fungi to yellow-specked bracken, the magical New Forest, Europe’s best National Park, is the place to enjoy some spectacular autumn colour.
Check out our favourite spots to see the stunning autumn colours…
One of the Forest’s oldest beech woodlands, Denny Wood near Lyndhurst, boasts some of our most beautiful trees. Acid green in summer, the leaves will turn yellow and gold, before falling in their millions to make a giant, rustling carpet to kick up and run through – great for kids of all ages!
The Knightwood Oak Trail
Find out why Countryfile Magazine tipped this gentle walk as being one of the UK’s best for autumn colour. They described the dark, golden leaves and rich bracken hues as ‘stunning’ and who are we to disagree? Best of all, this trail will give you the chance to view the magnificent Knightwood Oak, whose girth measures a magnificent 24 feet. At more than 500 years old, she was around at the time of Henry VIII – no wonder we call her the Queen of the Forest.
Located near Poulner in the Forest’s north, this area is perfect for experiencing colour on trees, as well as terra firma; from the brilliant yellow of the birches to the last clumps of purple heather and the delicate tracery of the dying brackens. The walk starts off by passing a clump of gorse bushes, which provide beautiful colour and that distinctive coconut scent!
Rhinefield Ornamental Drive
Considered by many as the ultimate autumn colourburst, this drive was planted in 1860, and offers colour and wonder all year round, as well as the Forest’s tallest tree! It’s a good one if you are bringing people with mobility issues, or you can take a slow crawl through on the drive itself, and marvel at the glory through your car windows. Time it right, and you can also proceed on to Blackwater to see the falling leaves twirl and float into the pond there.
This area of woodland near Minstead comes magically alive during autumn as the bright yellow and orange leaves of the beech trees appear to be almost suspended in mid-air before falling, oh-so-gently, to the forest floor.
You will have to pay to enter but, trust us, it’s worth it to experience a veritable explosion of colour; from flamingo-pink nerines to vermillion and crimson acers, all gloriously reflected in ornamental ponds and lakes of this world-famous, 200-acre estate, at Exbury Gardens. It’s not hard to see why this garden was a great favourite with Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, who planted three trees there, and enjoyed a ride on Exbury’s miniature train!
One of the Victorian Inclosures, Puckpitts, near Lyndhurst, contains a number of larches. A classic ‘Christmas tree’ triangle shape, they turn a deep ochre in autumn and will look stunning on your Insta feed.
The Ancient Woodlands
The New Forest is the proud custodian of some of the most important Ancient Woodland sites in the whole of Western Europe. These areas boast the oldest and most dramatically-shaped trees, each one an entire eco-system supporting a thousand different lives, from owls to bats to beautifully-coloured moths and lichens. Where to find them? Try Bratley Inclosure, which has a 4.3-mile trail running through, Ocknell Inclosure, or the walks around Stoney Cross.
PS While you’re in the New Forest, make sure you take time out to appreciate the autumn colour at lower levels. The flaring yellow gorse and last remnants of heather on our heathlands is as breath-taking as the bejewelled hedgerows, bursting with ruby red hawthorns and shiny scarlet honeysuckle berries. Freckled in brown and yellow, bracken looks beautiful over the heathland - make sure you pick a sunny day and you’ll see it all set off by a sapphire sky.
*More autumn ideas here: thenewforest.co.uk