Visitors are being given a helping hand to root out the very best of Cumbria’s vibrant autumn leaves thanks to an online guide launched by the Forestry Commission.
The website – www.forestry.gov.uk/nweautumn – will record the changing colours of the leaves so people can visit the woodlands in all their blazing glory.
A team of woodland experts are already on red alert in the forests to find the hottest autumn spots across the county.
They will chart the changing shades of the autumn foliage from green to golden until the end of November.
The leaf-watch campaign is designed to help people savour one of nature’s most spectacular displays in some of Cumbria’s most beautiful woodlands including Grizedale, Whinlatter, Ennerdale and Miterdale.
It also features hidden gems such as Giggle Alley near Eskdale Green. Forester Gareth Browning says: “Cumbria is one of the finest places in the UK to see the autumn colours.
[amazon-product align=”right”]0749563338[/amazon-product]We’ll be rating the shade of the leaves to show people exactly when and where they can see the trees at their most stunning. “Thanks to the rather damp summer, this year promises to be a particularly good one for leaf watchers.
I’d advise people to keep checking the website as the best is yet to come.” To celebrate the start of the autumn colours, the cafes at the Grizedale and Whinlatter Visitor Centre’s are also introducing a new range of seasonal recipes on their menus.
The Café in the Forest at Grizedale will be serving home made seasonal foods such as Apple and Parsnip soup, Cumberland Sausage and Blackberry and Apple pie made from fruit collected in the Grizedale Valley.
[amazon-product align=”left”]0276444973[/amazon-product]Siskins Cafe at Whinlatter Forest will be serving treats such as hot chocolate, seasonal soups, apple cake and parsnip cake. Wherever they decide to go, visitors are encouraged to bring their cameras to capture the beautiful autumnal scenes.
There is also a wealth of activities to enjoy from woodland strolls to high energy mountain biking adventures. Thanks to a disappointing summer and the recent sunshine, the trees have been able to store a lot of food.
When temperatures start to fall and the trees shut down for winter, the food, stored as sugars and starches in the leaves bring on the vibrant colours.
The Forestry Commission website also includes information about why leaves change colour in autumn.
Some of the best woodland venues in Cumbria to go and spot the autumn displays are:
Grizedale Forest, near Hawkshead, Ambleside In the heart of the Lake District, this forest park takes on a new life with the changing colours of the leaves, especially in the centre of the valley surrounded by oak woodland.
The nearby fells also look superb in autumn and can be viewed from a number of high points within the Forest. Grizedale Forest recently featured as one of the UK’s 30 best places for autumn colours on Times Online.
Whinlatter Forest, near Keswick
Look out for larches and broadleaf trees which burst into technicolour each autumn. England’s only mountain forest offers amazing views across the northern Lake District fells. For added adventure, the Altura Trail puts altitude into mountain biking with a great single track trail which rises to 500m (1600ft) above Keswick and the northern lakes.
This wild valley is another spectacular place to visit in autumn. The contrast between the golden colours of the larches, beech and oaks along the lakeshore with the evergreen of the spruce trees is magnificent. The heather, bracken and bilberry also add new vibrant colours to the mountains above the forest.
Miterdale valley, near Eskdale
In autumn this oak and birch woodland in the Western Lake District is a joy to walk through. You can soak up the colours of the season as the forest and fells shed their summer dust in preparation for winter.
Giggle Alley, Eskdale Green
Hidden at the heart of this wood are the remains of a Japanese Garden which lay neglected for years until the Forestry Commission and local volunteers dug into save it.
The highlight of autumn here are the maples which produce masses of fiery red leaves. In addition to the garden the woodland is a great place for a short family walk where children can enjoy playing hide and seek.
The garden is close to the car park in Eskdale Green. For more information about the Forestry Commission in Cumbria and other parts of North West England, log on to its website www.forestry.gov.uk/northwestengland & www.forestry.gov.uk/nweautumn