Rachel Bradshaw of Cheshire Wildlife Trust explains how to get the most out of her favourite season



Beech woodlands are among the most spectacular to step into in autumn. With a canopy of orange above and a vast array of beech masts to crunch beneath your feet, there is a gentle pleasure in walking among these giants. Often used to line estate tracks and roads, you’ll now find rows of large trees looking strangely lost in the middle of the countryside.


An English staple, no word can be said about native British trees without mentioning the oak. A gentle bloomer in autumn, it has its own majesty in the golden hues of its crown, and of course, the added attractive crop of acorns. Even when the leaves begin to fall, the oak makes an attractive figure with its gnarly bark and large twisted branches reaching towards the sky.

Silver birch

The silver birch is an attractive tree at any time of the year, its ghostly white bark striped with dark horizontal lines makes it stunning even without its leaves. But autumn adds to its glory, with its almost triangular yellow leaves fluttering gently in the breeze and littering the ground like confetti.

Wild cherry

Hard to miss in the spring when its beautiful blossoms herald the coming of warmer days, the wild cherry is often forgotten about come autumn. But not only does this tree provide a tasty bounty for the birds, it also shines out against the blue canvas of the autumn sky in fiery orange tones. Often dotted along the edges of roads, or in the margins of fields, this wonderful tree is worth stopping to admire wherever you may find it.

Sweet chestnut

Though it was brought to the UK by the Romans, the sweet chestnut has, through trial and time, earned its title of honorary native. The large saw-edged leaf is hard to confuse with anything else and in autumn the intensely spiky cases of the sweet chestnuts themselves are an extra giveaway. Turning beautifully golden these trees are attention-grabbing whether standing alone in a field or growing in the middle of a woodland.


In autumn and winter, blue tits and other tit species including great tits, coal tits and long-tailed tits form flocks that travel together searching for food. Others to watch for:


Fieldfares are sociable birds and can be seen in flocks of more than 200 roaming through the countryside. They often venture into gardens when there is snow cover or if it is a severe winter.


Redwings migrate here at night – on clear evenings listen out for their 'tsee' call overhead. They can often be spotted in flocks with fieldfares, moving from bush to bush looking for food. Apples and berry-producing bushes such as hawthorn may attract redwings into the garden.


Starling-sized, the waxwing is one of the UK's most exotic-looking birds, with a large, orangey-pink crest. It does not breed in the UK but is a winter visitor from Northern Europe and can be spotted in flocks on bushes full of berries.


Great British Life: Look and listen out for the rutting stags. (c) Bertie GregoryLook and listen out for the rutting stags. (c) Bertie Gregory

Nuts and seeds

Listen out for the sounds of conkers and chestnuts dropping from the trees as the season changes. If you see lots of fallen green acorns it could be because the tree was under weather-related stress.

Deer ruts

Hearing a deer rut is one of the most spectacular things about autumn. You’ll see stags running back and forth, usually parallel to one another, bellowing out as a challenge to each other. There can be bust-ups when they lock antlers and physically challenge one another. If you can’t see them, you can most certainly hear the echoes of the males calling out among the woodlands.


Trentabank Reservoir Nature Reserve

Nestled in Macclesfield Forest, our Trentabank Reservoir Nature Reserve is a brilliant starting point for a late-season ramble. The reserve offers the chance to see the red deer in the forest. The males will be in all their splendour as they approach the rutting season, defending their feeding grounds and herd of hinds.

Eastwood Nature Reserve

Eastwood is a hidden gem of a woodland, nestling in a stunning clough valley a stone's throw from Stalybridge town. Woodland birds are here in good numbers, especially those who thrive on the deadwood habitats, including treecreeper, nuthatch and woodpeckers. A tumbling brook and pool are at the heart of the reserve, which welcomes dippers and occasional kingfishers in winter.


Great British Life: Take your pick of autumn blackberries, but leave some for the birds. (c) Alan PriceTake your pick of autumn blackberries, but leave some for the birds. (c) Alan Price

Take a fungal foray

While the fruiting bodies of fungi can appear year-round, there’s always a bumper display in autumn. You don’t need to be particularly keen-eyed to spot them poking out from beneath fallen leaves or erupting from dead wood. Remember it’s best to look, not touch, so make sure you capture your finds on camera.

Go blackberry picking

As the weather turns cooler, it’s the best time to go picking those juicy fruits from the hedgerows. You can also spot all sorts of wildlife feasting on the hedgerow harvest. Blackbirds and thrushes love blackberries too and the crops of rose-hips, sloes, crab apples, elderberries and haws (hawthorn berries) provide autumn food for mice, voles, hedgehogs, squirrels as well as many kinds of birds.

Explore the woodlands

Whether it’s hunting for conkers, kicking through drifts of leaves or seeing stunning sunsets, autumn is a magical time of year to experience woodlands. Look out for the varying colours of the sycamore leaves as they put on a particularly spectacular autumn display.


It’s time to walk, run or swim for wildlife and show you care about the nature and climate crisis with the Wildlife Trust Big Wild Walk.

The trusts are asking nature lovers to fundraise for their projects to bring wildlife back.

Get fit, have fun and raise money for wildlife. Invite the family to join in, set up a remote relay with friends or take the challenge to school. Indoors or outdoors, front room, park or wood, treadmill or track – the choice is yours.


Share your autumnal photos, videos and stories on how you plan on taking action for wildlife this year on our social media channels.