Autumn in the New Forest

It’s hard to beat autumn in the New Forest for spectacular scenery and an amazing array of colours. We call it nature’s free colourful firework display! At this time of year, our forest is positively glowing with reds, oranges, yellows and greens. Get outside and enjoy the phenomenal colours of nature across our wonderful landscapes and ornamental woodlands!

Not only will you find the amazing scenes of colour but look at the forest floor and you may see something quite different…

Joining our iconic New Forest ponies, the cattle and the donkeys, during the autumn you will also find pigs roaming freely in the New Forest. Why? One word: acorns. The fallen acorns are poisonous to our usual forest friends, but the pigs love them, so they are bought onto the forest to eat them all up! These pigs are taking part in the annual tradition called pannage, which goes back hundreds of years. Pannage usually starts from mid-September and depending on the weather conditions can last into November or December.

Emerging from the leaf litter and some of our ancient trees you will discover the world of fungi. 2,700 different species of fungi can be found here in the New Forest, just some of the amazing flora and fauna you can discover here. Look out for foraging workshops to learn more about the interesting species found in the forest.

Take a walk through our autumn colours

One of the best ways to explore the autumn colours of the New Forest is on foot. Crunch your way amongst the fallen leaves as you take one of our magical walking routes through our woodlands. There are ample walks to choose from but we’d recommend the walking trails at Bolderwood for some spectacular colours from the beech and oak trees as well as the Blackwater Tall Trees Trail which features a collection of trees from around the world.

Walking in the autumn isn’t just limited to the beautiful colours in the woodlands… it’s also a great time to head to our wonderful coastline for a stroll among seabirds and salt marshes. Walk along the shore, watch the waves crash and take in some invigorating sea air with great views at Milford on Sea or Lepe Country Park.

Taking place for a fortnight over the autumn, the annual New Forest Walking & Cycling Festival is a popular event on the New Forest’s calendar. Organised by the New Forest National Park Association, there are over 70 different walks and cycle rides that you can join in with. Family walks, nature walks and much more. Come along and see different parts of the New Forest that you may not have discovered before.

Head out on a guided walk where they can help you find some of the top places for autumn colours in the New Forest. Let them show you some of the best walking trails on offer here and learn from their years of experience about the New Forest flora and fauna.

Spectacular gardens awash with colour

Exbury Gardens is famed for its rhododendrons and azaleas that bloom with vibrant colours in the spring months however it is equally as beautiful in the autumn. Take a wander through the small pathways that wind their way amongst the 200 acres of garden, there are some rare trees and shrubs here that offer an autumnal delight. Equally, take the twenty minute trip on the miniature steam railway that whisks you through a section of the gardens.

The small but intimate Furzey Gardens at Minstead is another fine garden to visit in the autumn. Autumn is a blaze of colourful displays and recent planting of tree stock has paid particular attention to trees that offer fantastic autumn colour including acer and sorbus.

Foodie delights in the autumn

Lookout for seasonal dishes on the menu at some of our top restaurants and country pubs or learn how to rustle up an autumnal feast at a cookery school workshop at Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, you could even be under the expert tuition of celebrity chef, James Martin! Sample the ciders at New Forest Cider in Burley, enjoy seasonal fudge flavours at Burley Fudge Shop or stock up on delicious New Forest Shortbread, perfect for dunking in those warming cups of tea.

Cycle the New Forest

Autumn is a quieter time of year and therefore quieter pathways. It makes an ideal time for coming here for a bike ride. Either bring your own bike or hire one from the many cycle hire shops around the National Park. We have more than 140 miles of off-road tracks, and our off-road network is easily accessible from the mainline railway, with regular trains heading to the New Forest from London Waterloo.

Top ten things to do in autumn in the New Forest

  1. Enjoy a guided foraging nature walk.  Find out how New Forest people have lived off the land for centuries by using nature’s bounty. Keep an eye on our events listings for upcoming foraging events.

  2. Look out for the pannage pigs. If you go down to the woods in autumn, you could be in for a pig surprise. One of the most picturesque and photogenic sights of the New Forest year is families of pigs snuffling around in the wild. They have an important job to do – eating up all the acorns which may be harmful to other forest animal inhabitants. There’s nowhere else in the UK where this happens, so make the most of seeing this ancient practice taking place.

  3. A feast for foodies! A feast of seasonal food from the forest’s abundant larder is one of the main reasons for visiting in the autumn. Taste and buy the best of local New Forest produce, and enjoy stunning seasonal dishes created by top chefs at local restaurants and pubs.

  4.  Enjoy the autumn colours. At this time of year, our National Park is positively glowing with reds, oranges, yellows and greens. Get outside and enjoy the spectacular colours of nature across our wonderful landscapes and ornamental woodlands – it’s the best free show around. The New Forest Walking & Cycling Festival runs during October/November for a couple of weeks and features dozens of guided walks and cycle routes led by knowledgeable local experts.

  5.  Take an autumn amble along the coast... Walking in the autumn isn’t just limited to the beautiful colours in the Forest… It's also a great time to head to the forest’s 40 miles of coastline for a stroll among seabirds and salt marshes. Walk along the shore, watch the waves crash and take in some invigorating sea air with great views at Lymington, Milford on Sea or Lepe.

  6.  Exbury Gardens. It’s world-famous for its spring display of rhododendrons but did you know that Exbury Gardens is also a true spectacle in autumn? Many of its most beautiful trees and shrubs are reflected in its ponds and lakes, doubling the amazing visual effect.

  7.  Relax the day away! Forget about the hustle and bustle of everyday life for a couple of hours with a sensational spa day. Luxury and total relaxation are on offer at a choice of several stunning venues in the New Forest.

  8.  Enjoy the peace & quiet. Despite its incredible beauty, things are definitely quieter on the New Forest’s roads and tracks during the autumn months. So, make the most of getting out on two wheels – we have more than 140 miles of off-road tracks and low speed-limit roads, where you can enjoy easy cycling and see thousands of free-roaming ponies and cattle. The off-road cycle network is easily accessible by rail or road so you can bring your own bikes or hire them when you arrive – we’re just 89 minutes from London Waterloo.

  9.  Attractions. If the weather has turned too unappealing for the great outdoors, take your pick from the New Forest’s other attractions. There are museums, wildlife parks and galleries which provide guaranteed fun for all the family. Top of the list for children is Paultons Park, home of Peppa Pig World, which has become the first attraction to achieve ‘UK’s best-rated amusement park’ in TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards for three consecutive years.

  10.   Shop ’til you drop. We have a fabulous choice of independent shops for you to browse and buy from. From art and antiques to designer clothes, mouth-watering local chocolatiers, glistening handmade jewellery and tempting New Forest Cider, it’s all here waiting to be discovered in the New Forest’s pretty towns and quaint villages. 

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