Where to See Yorkshire’s Spectacular Autumn Colours
Shiny conkers, crunchy leaves and the seasonal spectacle of gold, orange and red as the leaves on the trees turn make an autumn walk all the more interesting
Home to more than 80 contemporary sculptures set within 45 acres of breathtaking woodland gardens, the award-winning Himalayan Gardens are the perfect place to witness the arrival of autumn. This beautiful valley has scenic woodland walks, a pagoda, a Himalayan shelter and arboretum, together with three lakes, a contemplation circle and a Norse hut. It is widely considered to have the largest collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias in Yorkshire, and children will love exploring the gardens, the 20th century thatched summerhouse and the distinctive red Pagoda – built in Bali and overlooking one of the lakes, home to a beautiful floating magnolia sculpture. With more than 300 different types of trees, the arboretum itself covers 12 acres and includes 52 varieties of oak, 25 limes, 20 birches, 17 acers and some more unusual species such as Chitalpa, a hybrid of the Cigar Tree and Desert Willow, and the Broussonetia which is a paper Mulberry. There is also an oak which is directly descended from the King Alfred’s Oak at Blenheim Palace, which is more than 1,000 years old.
Crewelthorpe, Ripon HG4 3DA
As a World Heritage Site, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal is spectacular all year round but, with the turning of the autumn leaves, the ruins of the magnificent abbey, its follies, mirror-like ponds and statues are given a particularly stunning backdrop that all but camouflages its resident red, fallow and sitka deer. The landscape is peppered with ancient limes, oaks and sweet chestnuts, which you can explore via the miles of footpaths and trails that take you into the woodland on the High Ride path, or down through the high-sided Seven Bridges Valley. The circular 4km Ancient Trees Walk takes you through the deer park along bridleways, footpaths and roadways, past St Mary’s Church, Choristers House, the East Gate lodges, and back again. There are also guided walks through the Medieval deer park, where you’ll hopefully glimpse the clashing of antlers during the deer rut. On 16th October, there is a special 5k run through the grounds, heading past the abbey and around the water gardens. Suitable for keen runners and families alike, all the money raised will go towards restoring a long lost statue in the gardens.
Ripon, North Yorkshire HG4 3DY
The Yorkshire Arboretum, a 120-acre woodland landscape on the Castle Howard estate, is home to an extraordinary collection of more than 6,000 trees from around the world. Created thanks to the enthusiasm of Lord Howard and James Russell over a period of 18 years between 1975 and 1992, the arboretum site was formerly parkland around Castle Howard, and the original bastion wall still forms much of the arboretum’s southern boundary. There are also a number of mature, statuesque parkland trees, especially oaks and sweet chestnuts, dating from the 1780s, which give height and stature to what is still a very young collection. There is a well-defined divide between the soil type on each side of the central line of the Yorkshire Arboretum. The southern side is mostly quite heavy clay, while the north is sandy, and these different growing conditions were exploited by James Russell as he planted a growing collection of trees from the late 1970s onwards. The majority of trees planted since the 70s have been of wild origin, grown from seed collected by expeditions to many parts of the world, especially China. Many seeds or young plants have come from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and this high proportion of wild-source material, with its genetic diversity and importance for conservation, makes the Yorkshire Arboretum very significant – it is now regarded by Defra as a back-up collection for Kew. Explore the tree collection at your own pace with a tree trail map, available from the visitor centre. The trails last between one and two hours and take in all the most interesting and beautiful trees in the collection. Friendly expert guides are also on hand to explain the arboretum’s history and tell you more about its treasured trees. For anyone interested in planting or preserving trees, the on-site Tree Health Centre is a pioneering initiative that aims to make people more aware of the importance of a healthy treescape, and the problems caused by tree pests and diseases. It offers specialist training in tree health through a wide range of courses, held in a mixture of classroom and outdoor learning settings in the Yorkshire Arboretum.
Castle Howard, York YO60 7BY
At Thorp Perrow Arboretum you’ll find one of the largest collections of shrubs and trees in the region, including five prestigious National Collections, including walnut, lime and ash. All the trees in the arboretum are labelled with a number on a green or black plastic ‘luggage tag’ which is usually found on the trunk of the tree or around a lower bough. The entire collection is recorded in the arboretum’s catalogue, which is available on site. There’s also a Bird of Prey & Mammal Centre, for those for whom autumn leaves hold less interest than meerkats, wallabies, pygmy goats and Shetland sheep, and lots of special hidden places to discover amongst the trees for the adventurous. The arboretum was originally created by Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner, and further developed as a visitor attraction by his son Sir John and his wife Niki. Covering 100 acres, it’s laid out in sections that take you on a journey of discovery around the continents, with species from China, Japan, North America and Chile. Throughout the autumn, leaf colour changes here set the woodland walks ablaze with red, gold and orange, and guided walks offer a fascinating insight into both the trees, and the fungi which grow here.
Bedale, North Yorkshire DL8 2PS