Dazzling autumn colour walks with the National Trust in Kent and East Sussex
At this time of year, there’s a palette of colours waiting to be discovered across breath-taking landscapes looked after by the National Trust. Discover woodlands of golden leaves and wildlife along the way.
With hundreds of walks available to download for free from the conservation charity’s website, there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and connect with nature. From bracing hikes over windswept clifftops to gentle woodland walks, there are trails everyone can enjoy.
The National Trust is encouraging the nation to explore the many special places it looks after. With the generous support of members, supporters and volunteer teams at our properties, we look after some of the country’s most beautiful places and are planning to spend £1 billion over the next ten years to make the countryside healthy, beautiful and rich in wildlife.
Here are some of the most colourful walks to inspire you this autumn:
Parkland trail at Scotney Castle
Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km)
The jubilant colours framing the magnificent medieval ruin take on new tones over the autumn. Take an outsiders view from the parkland trail, which loops around the estate.
Keep an eye to your left as you head downhill, for gaps in the golden tree canopies opening up views of the bridge by the moat. Catch a glimpse of the Sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua, down by the boathouse, for a stunning photo opportunity.
Hardy walking souls can choose to turn right into Kilndown Wood before looping back up to Scotney’s house. Paul Micklewright, Garden and Estate Manager at Scotney Castle, says: “The beech avenue at Kilndown is breath-taking, and can be visited by following our red marked estate walking route.”
A detour into Scotney’s gardens at the end of the parkland trail will take you past yellow tulip trees, and the Oriental bittersweet Celastrus Orbiculatus over the doorway onto the bowling green lawn at the old castle. The 100-year-old purple cut-leaved Japanese Maples, below the Bastion, are an autumn staple that people return for year after year.
Ightham Mote’s circular walk to Wilmot Hill
Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
Walk the periphery of Ightham Mote’s 580 acre estate, taking in dense, ancient woodland and breath-taking views as you go.
The trail sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s not hard to see why. Come autumn, far-reaching views across the Kent countryside mix an artist’s palette of red, yellow and gold.
Looping back to the fourteenth century manor, a turn in the garden unveils more autumnal treats. The Katsura Cercidiphyllum japonicum (toffee apple tree) near the North Lake unleashes an intoxicating smell of burnt sugar from September to early October. Tulip tree, maples and Euonymus shrubs also play their part in a spectacular riot of autumn colour.
Kipling countryside walk at Bateman’s
Distance: 2.5 miles (4 km)
Autumn is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness at the family home of Rudyard Kipling. The harvest will be well and truly underway, with damsons and plums from the orchard informing delicious tearoom treats.
Venture out onto the wider estate on the Kipling countryside walk. The trail loops through woodland, past rivers and across meadows, taking in the highlights of autumn in the East Sussex countryside. It’s easy to see why the landscape so inspired fairy tales and fantasy – keep an eye for pixies hidden in crunchy fallen leaves.
The Wild Garden is the focus of autumn colour, with ornamental trees and shrubs such as Liquidamber styraciflua and European ash Fraxinus excelsior in their finest throes.
Head gardener, Len Bernamont, says: “The Amelanchiers and azaleas are among my favourites in autumn. For those who like to reap the rewards of a plentiful harvest, the bumper crops of blackberries on the estate walks are a juicy treat.”
Sissinghurst Castle Garden estate walk
Distance: 3 miles (4.8 km)
This gentle trail takes in the highlights of Sissinghurst Castle Garden’s 450-acre wider estate. Nestled in the heart of the Weald, see the landscape that inspired Vita Sackville-West’s world-class garden.
Pass wildlife in abundance from cows in the fields to smaller critters hiding in the woodlands. The trees knit a canopy of yellows, browns and reds, casting an autumnal glow along the route.
Leave time to loop through the gardens, where a vibrant palette of fiery reds and golden yellows creates a spectacular autumn scene. The cottage garden is a particular delight, whilst the trees in the orchard hang low with seasonal fruits.
Octavia Hill centenary trail east at Emmetts Garden
Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
The Kentish countryside surrounding Emmetts Garden is a fiery mix of nature, history and heritage. Home of National Trust founder Octavia Hill, a stone seat on the approach to Ide Hill village commemorates a life dedicated to social reform and the outdoors.
In autumn, crunchy leaves cushion the ground along the trail in the woodland of Toys Hill and Scords Wood. In Toys Hill hamlet, a stunning viewpoint by the well looks over an autumnal Wealden wonderland.
The route passes by exotic Emmetts, famed for its vibrant autumn colour. Visit the South Garden to see progress in the long-running project to restore Frederick Lubbock’s ‘garden gallery’. It is home to an impressive collection of hardy trees and shrubs in red, pink and orange.
Head Gardener Matt Scott says, “Our exotic tree collection comes into its own in autumn. The bright red of the winged spindle (Euonymus alatus) and golden leaves on the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) are a true wonder to see. Ripe, vibrant berries are abundant too, including the regal purple berries on the prickly heath (Gaultheria mucronata) and siren-read of the tree Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster frigidus) fruit.”
Those looking for something a little different from their autumn display will be enchanted by the many varied fungi species dotted around the grounds.