There maybe a chill in the air but autumn is among the best times to explore our great woods and beautiful forests as they become a glorious patchwork of colour. SIMON PARKIN highlights some of the best to visit.

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FAIRHAVEN GARDEN TRUST

School Road, South Walsham, 01603 270449, www.fairhavengarden.co.uk

Open: daily 10am-5pm (10am-4pm December to January)

Admission: £5.50 (£5 cons), £3 children, 25p dogs (must be on a lead)

There’s a magical feel to walking in the woods at Fairhaven, which manages to have plenty going on without spoiling the tranquillity. The magnificent 950-year-old King Oak is found among other ancient oaks, beech and native trees. There are three miles of easy walking, pushchair friendly, woodland trails.

THETFORD FOREST

High Lodge, near Brandon, 01842 815434, www.forestry.gov.uk/thetfordforestpark

Open: visitors centre daily 9am-5pm

Admission: Free, car parking £1.60 per hour

The ultimate adventure forest. Plenty of walks through this immense Breckland area of pines, heathland and broad-leaved trees, which are just starting to be a riot of autumnal colour. There is cycle hire available (01842 810090). Go-Ape (goape.co.uk) is open daily until October 31, admission £30, under-17s £20. The ‘hire-wire forest adventure’ has ladders, walkways, bridges, tunnels and a 140m zip-wire.

BURLINGHAM WOODS

Off the A47, near Acle

Open: Dawn to dusk

Admission: Free

A great place to really take in autumn woodland colour. A mixture of mature woodland and more recent wood and orchard plantings with three easy circular walks of one mile, two miles and three miles. It is owned by Norfolk County Council and recent work has reintroduced coppice rotations and wood management to keep brambles and non-native trees to a minimum. Trails pass through and around land associated with the late Georgian Burlingham Hall, demolished 50 years ago.

SHERINGHAM PARK

Wood Farm, Upper Sheringham, 01263 820550, www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Open: Dawn to dusk, visitors centre open daily 11am-5pm until Oct 27

Admission: Free

These mature woodlands designed by Humphry Repton and owned by the National Trust have miles of footpaths with easy walking and cycling. Famous for its vast collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, at this time of year it’s the autumn leaves that are the star attraction with some spectacularly colourful foliage.

FOXLEY WOOD

Off the A1067 Norwich to Fakenham Rood, 10 miles south east of Fakenham, norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

Open: 10am-5pm (except Thurs)

Admission: Dawn to dusk, no dogs

Norfolk’s largest ancient woodland is the place to get away from it all. In autumn there’s an awe-inspiring feel to the sheer silence of the woods, broken only by birdsong and the wind in the trees. Another peaceful spot of note is one of Norfolk’s few ancient woodlands at Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe, where a thick carpet of leaves underfoot, brings a magical feel.

SANDRINGHAM PARK

Sandringham, 01553 612908, sandringhamestate.co.uk

Open: 10.30am-5pm

Admission: Museum and garden £8 (£7.50 cons), £4.50 children

In autumn, Norfolk people claim back their royal residence from summer visitors to roam the 600 acres of mature woodland. There are nature trails, paths and an abundance of conkers and chestnuts. Try also Thursford Wood, two miles north east of Fakenham, where some oaks are believed to be more than 500 years old.

WAYLAND WOOD

A1075 to Thetford, just south of Watton, www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

Open: Dawn to dusk

Admission: Free, no dogs

Believed to be the site for the legend of the Babes In The Wood, this is one of the wilder woods in Norfolk and is said to be haunted by the souls — and the wails — of the young abandoned brother and sister. It’s a thick wood of hazel, oak, ash and bird cherry. Or there’s Honeypot Wood, three miles west of Dereham, a lovely sounding name, but actually means it was close to a medieval sewage dump — a honey pit. Full of oak, ash, field maple and hazel, it’s a remnant of woodland dating back to the retreat of the last ice age.

BACTON WOOD

2.5 miles north-east of North Walsham, 01842 810271, forestry.gov.uk

Open: Dawn to dusk

Admission: Free

Also known as Witton Wood, tree cover here dates back to Saxon times. A wide variety of colourful autumn leaves with ancient Sessile Oaks among more than 30 different species of tree including larch and western hemlock in 280 acres of wood owned by the Forestry Commission. Popular with mountain bikers, it’s great for dogs with wide, criss-crossing paths.

MOUSEHOLD HEATH

Norwich, www.norwich.gov.uk

Open: Dawn to dusk

Admission: Free

It stretched as far as South Walsham in Tudor times and was where Robert Kett, rebelling against the Duke of Somerset, camped with his army in 1549. It offers the best views of the city. It’s easy to find quiet spots among the mature native trees, pits, dips and dells.

FELBRIGG ESTATE

Felbrigg, near Cromer, signposted from A148 and A140, 01263 837444, nationaltrust.org.uk

Open: Dawn to dusk

Admission: Garden only £4.10, £1.80 children

Riots of reds, browns, golds and russets creating a truly spectacular autumn palette here. Follow ancient rights of way through the approximately 520-acre Great Wood, which contains thousands of trees – mainly maple, oaks, beeches, sycamore and chestnut. Stunning views across the lake and a Victory Wood – 200,000 trees and V-shaped rides commemorating VE Day.

BONKERS FOR CONKERS

Lobbing sticks to get chestnuts to fall is an autumn ritual, as is keeping your eyes peeled for the thrill of spotting a particularly big shiny conker poking out from the green spiky shell in the mass of brown leaves beneath trees. And then there’s the fun of the fight.

You need to choose a conker that is uncracked, firm and symmetrical then prepare it to be the champion conker!

Put your conker into the vinegar and leave for two minutes. Take out and put it on a hard surface. Heat the oven at 250°C. Bake conker for one minute and 30 seconds. Leave on a hard surface until lukewarm. Thread your piece of string through the conker using a needle.

Some of the best conkers are years old. So hunt have any olds ones lying around!

1 comment

  • There is often some nice autumn scenery around the Church lane area of Sprowston. Maybe a good idea to take a look this year as it may well be the last as they want to pave it. Please sign this petition. http:www.thepetitionsite.com345816742stop-the-redevelopment-of-3500-properties-in-by-beyondgreen?cid=FB_TAF

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Saturday, October 13, 2012

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