Padley Gorge (Shutterstock)
List 24 August

Go for gold: Where to see Britain's best autumn colours

With a colourful autumn predicted, seek out spectacular valleys and vibrant woodlands this season in bold, beautiful Britain

1. Credenhill, Herefordshire

Autumn colours in Herefordshire (Shutterstock)

Autumn colours in Herefordshire (Shutterstock)

Credenhill Park Wood is a designated Scheduled Ancient Monument and Special Wildlife Site, and the site includes 13 hectares of ancient semi-natural wood. Walk along the tranquil paths among the trees to spot rare small-leaved limes, early purple orchids, and fragrant wild garlic.

Credenhill's Iron Age hill fort is one of the largest hill forts in England, and it is thought to have been an Iron Age tribal capital. The walk to the top is well worth it, especially if you explore the woods along the way. At the top you will see views across to Wales. Soak up the autumnal landscape and let your imagination take you back to a time gone by.

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2. Brede High Woods, East Sussex

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex (Dreamstime)

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex (Dreamstime)

At 648 acres, Brede is one of the biggest Woodland Trust sites in England and lies within the High Weald AONB in East Sussex, approximately six miles north of Hastings. The site comprises ten separate ancient woods, some of which retain their original broadleaved character with extensive areas of hornbeam and sweet chestnut coppice. 

The woods undulate and change in the form of banks, ditches and sunken tracks. Historic uses of the woods can be seen in the extensive earthworks from the excavation of iron ore that underpinned the historic Wealden iron industry. Varied autumn colours and the chance to see some of the country’s most important species including great crested newt, brook lamprey, dormouse, badgers and fallow deer, make Brede High a wonderful place to enjoy autumn.

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3. Beacon Hill Wood, Somerset

Autumn landscape in Somerset (Shutterstock)

Autumn landscape in Somerset (Shutterstock)

Visitors to Beacon Hill can expect steep climbs and stunning autumn scenery. A copse of large old beech trees, visible for miles, forms a distinctive crown on the ridge. The wood includes features dating back to Neolithic, Bronze age and Roman periods. Bronze Age barrows (burial mounds), old quarry pits and various standing stones are just some of the features to look out for, and the Fosse Way – a great Roman road – crosses through the wood too. 

More recently, the Auxiliary Unit – one of the most secretive services of the Second World War – had a base here, operating out of an underground bunker. Today’s visitors can explore its springs, gullies, ridges, ponds, rides and glades, soaking up the wonderful colours of autumn.

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4. Tyrrels Wood, Norfolk

Autumn forest in Norfolk (Shutterstock)

Autumn forest in Norfolk (Shutterstock)

Quiet and off the beaten track, Tyrrels Wood is a welcome spot for visitors and wildlife alike. At the centre is an ancient woodland site, named Boscus de Grischave in records dating back to 1251, and believed to have been around since the Ice Age. It has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the immense variety of woodland packed into such a small area. 

Paths wind through dense undergrowth, emerging in open areas that boast big veteran oak trees. A circular route around the site is easy to follow, passing through the diverse autumnal colours created by native species such as oak, hazel, ash, field maple birch and rowan.

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5. Lumb Brook Valley, Cheshire

Cheshire in autumn (Dreamstime)

Cheshire in autumn (Dreamstime)

You get four woods for the price of one at Lumb Brook Valley, as it is a collection of interconnected but distinctive woodland sites. The Fords Rough contains an area of ancient woodland, and in the valley you will discover a diverse range of shrubs and flowers. A surfaced (if sometimes waterlogged) footpath provides access through the length of the wood.

The Dingle is a large wooded valley offering a variety of broadleaf and conifers. A well-used footpath meanders through sparse ground vegetation, but pockets of colourful flowers emerge here each spring. By contrast, Long Wood has many maturing oaks with dense layers of rhododendron beneath.

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6. Crinan Wood, Argyll and Bute

View from Crinan Wood over Crinan harbour (Dreamstime)

View from Crinan Wood over Crinan harbour (Dreamstime)

Crinan Wood rises 100 metres above the picturesque village of the same name. The Crinan Canal borders the site, and the famous Corryvreckan whirlpool is a few miles out to sea (if it's really wild you can hear it from the wood). Crinan Wood is an exceptional place; with its moist, warm climate it is often described as a remnant of Scotland’s own rainforest, and it is home to a vast variety of ferns and lichens.

24 species of birds can be found in the wood, including buzzard, tree creeper, redstart and wood warbler. Such impressive natural diversity is typical of the ancient Atlantic oakwoods of the west coast of Scotland. There was a time when oakwoods stretched between countries: through Spain and France, to England, Wales and Scotland. A scattering of this native oakwood still survives, and Crinan Wood is one of them. 

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7. Carngafallt, Powys

Autumn in Elan Valley, Powys (Shutterstock)

Autumn in Elan Valley, Powys (Shutterstock)

Carngafallt is a wonderful place to watch birds or simply enjoy the view. The moorland landscape looks especially colourful in late summer and into autumn. Birds of prey are always present, including red kites, buzzards and peregrines. Ravens, too, are easily seen. Winter thrushes, redwings and fieldfares feast among the berried rowan trees, sometimes with ring ouzels.

Carpets of mosses and lichens are at their best at this time of year too.

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8. Drumlamph Wood, Londonderry

Carved badger in Drumlamph Wood (Dreamstime)

Carved badger in Drumlamph Wood (Dreamstime)

Discover the beauty of Drumlamph Wood, one of the few remaining ancient woods in Northern Ireland. Just outside Maghera, the wood lies adjacent to the Sperrin Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is, unquestionably, a beauty in its own right. Drumlamph Wood has been traced back as far as 1599, and was once part of the extensive oak forest of Killetra in south-east County Londonderry.

The ancient woodland is buffered by rush meadow and wetland, with recently-planted woodland in the fields further north. All provide a wonderful haven for wildlife, from sparrowhawks and buzzards to mammals such as otters and the Irish hare. In winter especially, the Irish hare frequents the wood edges as well as the surrounding fields.

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