Find autumn colour at Kent’s stunning National Trust sites

The house and garden in autumn at Chartwell ©National Trust Images/Rachael Warren

The house and garden in autumn at Chartwell ©National Trust Images/Rachael Warren - Credit: ©National Trust Images/Rachael W

In this strangest of years, the changing of the seasons is a reassuring constant. Let’s embrace the start of autumn | Words: Emma Ward - Photos: National Trust Images

Apples on sale in September at the Music and Beer Festival at Smallhythe Place. The apples are grown

Apples on sale in September at the Music and Beer Festival at Smallhythe Place. The apples are grown organically in the orchard at Smallhythe ©National Trust Images/David Oliver - Credit: ©NTPL/David Oliver

The pandemic has left a lot of us rather bewildered and wondering what’s in store for us next, but one constant that never alters is the turning of the seasons.

As summer melts into autumn, we can begin to see signs of the changes ahead in the leaves on the trees and the distinct autumn chill that accompanies the last of summer evenings spent outdoors.

If you want to make the most of autumn 2020 but are not sure where to start, here are some ideas from the National Trust.

Leaf spotting

Autumn leaves are the jewel in the crown of many National Trust countryside areas and gardens’ attractions and September is the perfect time to spot the first summer greens turning into fiery reds, yellows and golds.

Kent has a number of autumn leaf-spotting idylls, including Emmetts Garden in Westerham and Ightham Mote in Ivy Hatch. Why not collect some fallen leaves and take them home to press and turn into an autumnal artwork?

Fungi growing by the drive in August at Emmetts Garden ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Fungi growing by the drive in August at Emmetts Garden ©NTPL/Andrew Butler - Credit: ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Fungi foraging

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Some of nature’s strangest phenomena emerge from under fallen logs, on woodland floors and inside the cracks in ancient tree trunks in autumn. Britain has a wide selection of indigenous fungi that come in a startling array of colours, shapes and sizes.

Identification is vital, as many varieties of fungi are poisonous and must not be touched or ingested. Try Cobham Woods or the North Downs woodland areas.

Back to school

Brush up your history with a trip to Chartwell, Sir Winston Churchill’s country retreat in Westerham.

Get inspiration for your next English literature project with a walk around Sissinghurst Castle Garden, former home of renowned novelist Vita Sackville-West.

Stay ahead in maths by counting the stone steps that lead down through Quarry garden at Scotney Castle at Lamberhurst.

View from the Elizabethan Tower at Sissinghurs looking west ©National Trust Images/Penny Tweedie

View from the Elizabethan Tower at Sissinghurs looking west ©National Trust Images/Penny Tweedie - Credit: ©NTPL/Penny Tweedie

Unleash your inner botanist with a late-summer tour around Emmetts Garden, with its hillside setting proving an ideal spot for rare plants and trees to thrive.

Harvest festival

Embrace autumn’s bounty at Scotney Castle, which has its very own hop farm on the wider estate.

Stroll alongside the hops and take in their heady aroma before delving into the woodland to see what nuts and berries are growing in the wild. Always check that they are edible before tasting.

Elsewhere in Kent you can wander among the fruit orchards at Chartwell and Sissinghurst Castle Garden to see branches laden with rosy apples, juicy pears and succulent plums.

Get fit for winter

Take advantage of the last of the summer sun and the beautiful surroundings of autumn to get out for a gentle stroll, lively dog walk, healthy jog or rigorous hike.

Wear layers so that you can regulate your temperature as you go along and pack some fortifying snacks and plenty of water.

Why not reconnect with friends for a (socially responsible) get-together in the Kent countryside? Good places to explore with plenty of open space include Toys Hill or Petts Wood.

Check first

While the various National Trust property teams have worked extremely hard to enable visitors to return to these much-loved beauty spots in Kent, there are still many restrictions in place as the country fights to prevent further spikes of Covid-19.

Always remember to book your tickets in advance and check what the arrangements are for parking and whether entry dates and times have changed.

Take all litter home with you and help protect habitats, flora and fauna nationaltrust.org.uk/features/how-to-book-your-visit-and-what-to-expect.

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