Autumn in Gloucestershire 2013
Published: 28 September 2013
2013 is a mast year
“Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower”. Albert Camus
The autumn equinox on 22 September - when the day and night are approximately the same length - signalled the official start of autumn in England. Although we are still enjoying warmer temperatures than normal for this time of year, from now on it gets darker earlier each evening until the midwinter solstice. But there is plenty to look forward to between now and then!
Last year’s wet summer meant the trees had plenty of water at the beginning of the summer this year and despite the heat, this prevented them from drying out too much. The warmth and sunshine we enjoyed this year have produced ideal conditions for sugars to build up in leaves, potentially boosting the intensity of the autumnal colours. Although a spectacular autumn is difficult to predict, things are looking promising right now!
This year is being referred to as a ‘mast’ year – when the trees and hedgerows produce an exceptional bumper crop of apples, berries, hips and nuts. The word ‘mast’ comes from the Old English word ‘mæst’ used in describing the accumulation of nuts on the forest floor, which were eaten by domestic farm animals.
Foraging the autumn hedgerows is a favourite pastime for many of us, a chance to relax and enjoy our beautiful countryside. Armed with a plastic container and maybe a glove to hold back prickly stems, we gather blackberries, maybe sampling a few along the way, until our fingers turn purple! A simple pleasure when we connect with our past. Our ancestors also picked the berries from the hedgerows, okay they had baskets and not plastic bags, but children would earn pennies for the blackberries they sold to the local greengrocer’s shop.
Autumn is the time for blackberry picking
The lack of rain this summer means the blackberries are firm and tasty too. Blackberries can be made into jam or used in delicious apple and blackberry pies and crumbles. They are easy to freeze: place them on a tray and when frozen they can be transferred into plastic bags and used in desserts throughout the winter months.
Sloes and damsons are also highly sought after. Add the fruit, along with some sugar, to some gin and by Christmas you will have produced a tasty sloe gin - great to give as presents or to enjoying drinking with your friends and family.
Places to Enjoy Autumn in Gloucestershire
Walking through the countryside and woods is a great way for families to enjoy the stunning autumnal colours in Gloucestershire, as well as getting some healthy exercise. Kicking through the fallen leaves brings out the child in all of us!
Gloucestershire has a wide variety of places, many that are free to visit, where you can enjoy the magnificent show that Mother Nature puts on for us in autumn. Here is just a small selection of our favourite places in the Forest of Dean, the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire.
Autumn in the Forest of Dean
The Forest of Dean
There are some fantastic walks through the Forest of Dean and a great place to enjoy the autumnal tints, some alongside lakes where you get double the effect! There are many different places to commence your walk, and the Forestry Commission website has full details, as well as a guide to the current colour rating.
Belonging to The Bathurst Estate, Cirencester Park is open to the public free of charge every day throughout the year, for visitors both on foot and on horseback. The park is large at 8km long and nearly 5km wide, but can be broken down into manageable walks, including round the lake. Dogs are welcome within the dog walking areas. Use of the town's pay and display car parks is advised. Please visit The Bathurst Estate website for more information.
Woodchester Park at Nympsfield, is a beautiful secluded wooded valley with a chain of five lakes. The autumnal hues of the mature trees reflected in the water are a beautiful sight. Waymarked trails of differing lengths, guide you through the valley and there is even a new play trail for all the family to enjoy.
Symonds Yat Rock
Symonds Yat Rock, on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire border, situated high above the River Wye, is a great vantage place to view the changing colours of the trees in the Wye Valley woods and surrounding countryside. Find the colour rating of the trees on the Forestry Commission's website.
Stratford Park is a beautiful 56 acre park close to Stroud town centre. Along with recreational facilities and a museum, it has a lake surrounded by mature woodland, containing common trees such as oak, maple, beech, as well as more exotic species in the arboretum. It is believed that some of the trees were part of a shared order with Westonbirt in the 1890s. There always seems to be lots of squirrels scuttling around gathering nuts, much to children's delight!
Crickley Hill Country Park
Crickley Hill is situated at Birdlip near Gloucester and is a prominent spur of the Cotswold escarpment, overlooking the Severn Vale. There are magnificent views towards Robinswood Hill and May Hill. There is an area known as The Scrubbs and is home to some magnificent beech trees, holly trees, as well as scrub vegetation. There are marked trails of varying lengths throughout the Country Park. Pay and display car parking. Toilets and visitor centre. For more information visit website.
Of course, no guide to autumn in Gloucestershire would be complete without mentioning our two arboretums.
Autumn at Westonbirt Arboretum
Westonbirt, the National Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum is situated 3 miles from Tetbury. It covers 600 acres and contains around 16,000 trees. The trees at Westonbirt in the autumn are totally stunning and around every corner you are rewarded with another delightful spectacle. The Japenese Maples and Chinese spindles are some of the first trees to start showing their autumn colours, but with so many different varieties of trees changing colour at various times, there is a long season of interest. It does get very busy
at the height of the autumn display. The admission prices for October and November 2013 are: Adults £9, Concessions (60+) £8, Children (5-18) £4.
Batsford Arboretum and Garden Centre
Batsford Arboretum is situated on a south facing escarpment in the north of the Cotswolds. The Arboretum covers around 55 acres with over 2,850 trees and shrubs. There are many Japanese Maples and Cherries, Quercus and Sorbus trees, to provide a beautiful autumn display for visitors. Admission charges for 2013 are: Adults £7, Concessions £6, Children (4-15) £3.
Outdoors in Gloucestershire
Check out the places we recommended last autumn, as well as these other outdoor places in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire and the Forest of Dean where you can walk and enjoy autumn.
© Article content and images copyright The Gloucestershire Oracle 2013