Forestry England’s top 10 mindful walks to enjoy this autumn

Monday 23 September officially marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, and with impressive autumnal displays predicted by Forestry England expert’s right through until to mid-November, now is a great time to indulge in the practice of forest bathing. 

There is strong scientific evidence that visiting a forest can have a positive impact on your wellbeing and forest bathing, which is known in Japan as shirin-yoku, helps to reduce stress by connecting with the forest through our senses of sight, hearing, taste and touch.

Liz O’Brien, Forest Research explains:
 “Woodlands can help to restore our health and wellbeing. If you visit the forest in autumn, the rainbow of colours, the scent of the trees and the sounds of the forest can leave you feeling calm, focused and positive.”

For spectacular autumn colour, trees need a healthy balance of sunlight and rain to produce sugars, which create the colours in the leaves.

Andrew Smith, Forestry England’s director at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire explains:

“For a dazzling autumn display, a warm, slightly moist summer is needed so that the trees can build up sugars, which create colours in their leaves. 

“The wet weather we experienced in mid-June teamed with the sunshine we experienced for much of July was the perfect weather balance for a long lasting and colourful display this year!”

To help you refresh your body, mind and spirit whilst discovering breath-taking forest landscapes, here are a collection of Forestry England’s best walks to enjoy this autumn.

1.    Westonbirt, The National Arboretum – Autumn Trail
Experience autumn from all over the world along the autumn trail at Westonbirt Arboretum. Find a quiet spot under a Japanese maple in Acer Glade to be still and take in the vibrant colours that surround you, and appreciate the beauty of nature’s greatest show.

2.    Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest – Be here now trail (1.5 miles)
Take a moment to slow down and walk amongst trees at Bedgebury National  Pinetum. Become more aware of the present moment and the natural world around you. Walk calmly and breathe deeply as you experience the sights, scents and sounds of nature. This gentle route highlights the beauty of nature with panoramic views of Bedgebury’s tree collection, Dallimore valley and lakes. The trail offers simple ways to notice and be observant as an approach to wellbeing.

3.    Blackwater, New Forest – Walk the Tall Trees trail (1.5 miles)
Walking the circular ‘Tall Trees Trail’ will take you through an impressive section of the drive amongst towering Douglas fir and mighty redwoods giving you plenty of opportunities to slow down and look up! The path is a flat and fairly smooth gravelled surface with frequent resting places to enjoy the forest atmosphere.

4.    Fineshade Wood – Dales Wood trail (3 miles)
Taking between one and two hours to complete, Dales Wood trail leads you through a collection of broadleaved trees, revealing many shades of red, golden, purple, orange and brown, a real feast for your eyes! For those who fancy something a little longer and more challenging, the Mill Wood walk (6 miles) is a treat for the senses. Some parts are more enclosed giving a cosy feel in the cooler autumn temperatures; meander through to really see the trees in detail.

5.    Dalby Forest – The Adderson Rigg trail (1.5 miles)
Head into Dalby forest and explore with your senses the naturally sculpted Adderstone on this gentle walk. The trail follows forest paths and roads through a variety of woodland allowing you the opportunity to ease your stress. You will be met and awakened with stunning views over the forest.

6.    High Lodge – Thetford Forest (3 miles)
This trail is perfect for those wanting to get away from it all and enjoy the peace and quiet of the forest. Far away from the visitor centre this trail takes you into the heart of the forest, allowing you to soak in the atmosphere with all your senses.

7.    Jeskyns – The Broomfield Loop (1.5 miles)
A gentle, undulating walk on surfaced paths that leads you through new woodlands, grazed meadows, orchards and ponds. A walk guaranteed to restore your mood and give you back your energy.

8.    Moors Valley – The Look Out (1.5 miles)
This lovely meandering route takes you away from the visitor centre into the peace and quiet of the forest. The trail takes you to an amazing spot where you can let your stresses drift away, the Lookout. Once here you’ll be rewarded with stunning views across the valley

9.    Wyre Forest – The Buzzard trail (3.25 miles)
The Buzzard trail explores the depths of the forest through beautiful mixed woodlands allowing your mind, body and soul to relax and unwind. The trail takes you along forest tracks and narrow paths, past majestic old oaks, as well as the Wyre Arboretum providing lots of opportunities to slow down and rejuvenate.

10.    Grizedale Forest – The Grizedale Tarn Trail (3.5 miles)
Follow the relaxing sounds of the stream as you leave the busy forest paths into the depths of the forest along the Grizedale Tarn trail. The narrow path gives way to a wider track that opens up the colours of beautiful autumn that are on display at this time of year. Look out for the many sculptures you will pass and be sure not to miss the narrow path that leads to Grizedale Forest’s only natural tarn, where the changing colours of the trees will be gloriously reflected in the waters. As you descend back to the centre you will be rewarded with views of the west side of the forest and the ancient broadleaf trees that cling to the steep slopes, their leaves of green now giving way to the beautiful golden colours of autumn.

During the season, Forestry England is encouraging visitors to woods and forests to document their autumn discoveries by posting images of autumnal colour on social media channels using the hashtag #autumnleafwatch.

With more than 1,500 forests and woods in England and over half of the population living within six miles of their nearest forest, there are ample opportunities to get out and enjoy the beautiful wash of colour and the crunch of dry foliage underfoot over the autumn months.

Images can be downloaded here. Please credit Forestry England.

For more information on how to experience autumn in a forest near you visit www.forestryengland.uk/autumn.

Note to editors

1.    Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, welcoming 230 million visits per year. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and are enhancing forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. For more information visit forestryengland.uk. Forestry England is an agency of the Forestry Commission.

2.    Why do leaves change colour?
Andrew Smith, Forestry England’s director at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum explains:
“Different chemicals in leaves control the colours we see. Leaves are packed with green chlorophyll, which harnesses energy from sunlight to combine water and CO2 to create sugars (plant food). Once the tree shuts down as it prepares for winter, the chlorophyll breaks down and other coloured chemicals take over. Carotene, anthocyanins and tannins give the instantly recognisable colours of autumn, making leaves appear yellow, red, and gold.”

Media Contacts: 

Becky Ulewicz, Media Relations Officer, Forestry England
t: 0300 067 4107
e: Rebecca.ulewicz@forestryengland.uk