Top 5 places for enjoying the autumnal colours near London

autumn leavesEvery season has its strongest and weakest features. Like probably most of us, I dislike autumn for its dank weather, and swiftly shortening daylight, and heavy showers, bringing loads of mud, and… And simply for that it’s not summer anymore. But I’m prepared to accept all this grey doom and gloom, only for that extravaganza of colours, having given inspiration to such many artists, for that bracing crisp air with a hint of approaching Christmas in it, as well as for the scented carpets of leaves, cheerfully rustling under the feet, while you enjoy your autumnal walk.

Here are some charming spots for taking the best from the exuberance of colours in autumn:
treetop walkway kew gardensView from the Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens (photo by Don Cload)

1. Kew Gardens, Surrey (9 miles southwest of central London)
Even if you’ve never been to Kew Gardens before, you’ll likely recognise the place by that quirky-looking 50 metres high Chinese pagoda, the photograph of which usually accompanies the info referring to Kew Gardens in pretty much every single guidebook about London. The collection of more than 30,000 different plants and trees, having been claimed the largest in the world, as well as many attractions (Temperate House, Kew Palace, Palm House, Princess of Wales Conservatory etc.), scattered all around this 300-acre horticultural paradise, have made this place world renowned.
Kew Garden’s diversity of trees, some of which are more than 200 years old, is amazing. Autumn is great time to appreciate it. Strolling along 18 m high and 200 m long Treetop Walkway, it’s so easy to fail to remember the passage of time, having been mesmerised by the vibrant autumnal palette.

sheffield parkSheffield Park in autumn (photo by Wesley Trevor Johnson)

2. Sheffield Park, East Sussex (46 miles from London)
120-acre Sheffield Park is a sheer realm of colours in autumn. Wherever you cast your sight, there are splashes of scarlet and maroon, amber and golden, auburn and copper, which are intensified through the reflections of 4 lakes. If you can’t paint, after having had visited Sheffield park in autumn, you will likely feel the incentive to enrol on some fine art courses.

3. Hever Castle, Kent (34 miles of London)
Anne Boleyn’s charismatic personality might bring the majority of people to Hever Castle, but it’s most certainly Hever Gardens, that make them to revisit the sight. 125 acres of parkland, well packed with beautiful features, such as Italian garden, Loggia, Grottoes, Tudor gardens, mazes, fountains and statues, make a perfect backdrop for Hever Castle. In autumn, the Pompeiian Wall of Italian Garden, covered with burgundy foliage of vines, looks as if it’s enveloped by flame, as does the castle, having been crawled by Boston ivy. Don’t be surprised to catch a sweet aroma of toffee, emanating in the air. Katsura trees’ lovely heart-shaped leaves, as they fall and rot, produce this gorgeous, mouth-watering aroma.

wakehurst placeWakehurst Place in West Sussex (photo by Nigel Freeman)

4. Wakehurst Place, West Sussex (36 miles south of the capital)
This garden is often called “Kew in the country”. It is also run by the Royal Botanic Gardens, and boasts a huge collection of rare trees and plants (as well as the highest growing Christmas tree in England). 500 acres of garden, set around 16th century Elizabethan mansion, will definitely take more than an hour for exploring. Mansion Pond and Iris Dell, clustered with miniature Japanese maples, blazing with all shades of scarlet, come to the fore in autumnal months. Don’t forget to bring camera!

ashdown forestAshdown Forest. View over the King's Standing area (Photo by David Brooker)

5. Ashdown Forest, East Sussex (40 miles from London)
This substantial 6,500-acres spread of heaths and woodland had been used as the Royal Hunting Area since the 13th century, but nowadays has a free public access. In the 20th century A.A. Milne immortalized the place by making it the set for his stories about Winnie-the-Pooh and his plush friends. At Hartfield, which is settled on the northern edge of Ashdown Forest, there’s Pooh Corner, the souvenir shop, where you can find all sorts of stuff related to Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Tiger and others, as well as to get the info about the real and enchanted Pooh places.
Although the connection with the Milne’s honey lover ads a certain charm to the area, Ashdown Forest is nice place for walking in any case.
In autumn, more than at any other time of year, the spinney is full of rustling, and seems to be alive. The air is filtering down with a strangely relaxing smell of damp soil and leaves. And the views over the undulating, multi-coloured lines of the Weald inevitably emerge the associations with the impressionist’s paintings.

And what is your favourite place to enjoy autumn?

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