8 of the best places to see autumn colour in Sussex

Acer palmatum by the Upper Womans Way Pond at Sheffield Park ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Acer palmatum by the Upper Womans Way Pond at Sheffield Park ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler - Credit: ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The Sussex countryside will be ablaze with colour in autumn 2019. Here’s our guide to some of the best places to enjoy nature’s spectacular display


The red and gold acer grove is the star of the autumn garden. Combine a walk in the crisp autumn air with a visit to the house to luxuriate in the stunning William Morris interiors. The Morris & Co: Inspired by Nature exhibition continues until 10 November. Keen snappers might like to join the outdoor photography courses on 10 and 15 October (£55) led by local photographer Roger Bloxham, who will provide guidance on how to capture the stunning shades of the season. There's also an Apple Day on 12 October showcasing the fruit of the orchard. Dogs are welcome - there are acres of woodland to explore on the wider estate and they are allowed on paths in the formal gardens.


Sheffield Park

The much-photographed lakeside vista glows with burnished colours, ranging from yellows and ambers right through to the deepest purples, all reflected in the glassy water. From 23 September to 10 November the gardens will be opening early to enable visitors to soak up the display in the morning, when the reflections in the lake are at their most splendid. There's so much to do on a day out to Sheffield Park: when you've finished admiring the specimen trees and formal planting, enjoy a walk in the estate's parkland or the wilder environs of Walk Wood. Dogs on leads are welcome in the landscape garden after 1.30pm daily. Dogs on leads are also welcome in the parkland and off-lead in East Park at all times.


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There is plenty of scope for admiring the exquisite palette of the season at this special property, not least in the arboretum planted by the Messel family starting in the 1890s. Some of the most spectacular displays come from the Quercus rubra, Liquidamber and Taxodium distichum trees. Meanwhile there is lots more to admire in the gardens, from brightly coloured dahlias and asters to the more muted shades of the heather garden. The woods next to Nymans garden contain the biggest tree in Sussex - a gargantuan redwood that is over 50 metres tall. Dogs are welcome in the woods at any time and are allowed in the garden during winter opening hours (from 4 November).



The gardens at Kew's country estate are full of fiery shades of yellow, red and orange in autumn. And there are plenty of special events to enjoy this month including Bountiful Botanics (12-13 October) - an exciting programme of tours talks and family fun, plus hands-on workshops and live music; autumn walks from 23-27 October; early opening for Wakehurst and Kew members on 27 October and half term activities for children. The Millennium Seed Bank - the world's largest seed conservation project - is open year-round. Dogs are not normally permitted at Wakehurst but a dog-walking trial took place in September with dogs allowed on a short lead in designated areas of the gardens and woodland, so the situation may change in the future.


Ashdown Forest

A deer-hunting forest in Norman times, Ashdown Forest is an ancient area of open heathland with a rich ecological and archaeological heritage (and still home to fallow deer). Two thirds of its 6,500 acres are heathland and the rest is woodland. The landscape would traditionally have been managed and used as grazing by commoners. At this time of year the heather - traditionally used by commoners for thatching, animal bedding and bases for hay stacks - is in full bloom, lending a pink glow to the landscape. Dog walkers are asked to consider ground-nesting birds by keeping their animals under close control, preferably on a lead, when walking on heathland. Of course Ashdown Forest is most famous as the home of a certain bear of very little brain and Pooh fans can visit the Enchanted Place and Poohsticks Bridge. Maps are available from the Forest Centre at Wych Cross (RH18 5JP).


Brede High Woods

One of the largest sites managed by the Woodland Trust, Brede encompasses 647 acres of ancient and secondary woodland, streams, ponds and open heathland. Lying on the shore of the Powdermill Reservoir, the landscape enjoys a huge diversity of wildlife as well as a fascinating history (it was once part of the local iron smelting industry and the site of a gunpowder works). The landscape is at its best in October, when the birch, oak, hornbeam and sweet chestnut trees flush copper and gold. Dogs are welcome.


Ebernoe Common

This is a great place to enjoy autumn colour and spot toadstools - Ebernoe is home to some 400 species of fungi. Look out for grassland specialists such as waxcaps or in the main woods, species like magpie inkcap and garlic parachute.

The ancient woodland is broken up by glades and ponds and provides a habitat for a fascinating range of wildlife, including adders and 14 bat species, so it's no wonder that it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Dogs are welcome as long as they're under close control.


Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens

Leonardslee Gardens near Horsham reopened this spring under new ownership after being closed for several years. The woodland gardens offer myriad colours with acers, amelanchiers and many other species producing pinks, yellows, reds and bronze shades. There is also a fine collection of evergreens, with Scots pine, cedars and redwoods to admire. The dawn redwood is an endangered deciduous conifer, its reddish-brown fibrous bark colouring beautifully in autumn. From 24 October to 2 November a new outdoor, immersive performance, Tree and Wood, will come to the garden with Jony Easterby in collaboration with singer-songwriters and accompanying visual spectacles.



- What's on in Sussex this month - We round up some of the best events and things to do across Sussex this month

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