4 October 2016

All the Leaves are Brown

"All the leaves are brown, but the sky wasn't grey...
We went for a walk ... in Durham one autumn day"

Autumn is definitely a time of colour. Head out of the city, into the north east’s natural beauty and discover the colourful countryside that is all around. Simply stop and take in the glorious views. 
On a sunny autumn day, it’s a sight to see and a sight that's hard to beat.

One of my favourite places in the northeast to witness a wonderful autumn is Hamsterley Forest in County Durham, which takes on a rich russet glow during autumn. 

Autumn, normally associated with dropping temperatures and the nights drawing in as winter approaches, is most easily noticed by the colour change in leaves. And that is why for me it is one of the best times of the year. My favourite season. With golden tree-lined trails creating a carpet of crispy leaves - perfect for little (and big) feet to rustle in. Not to mention cosy warm layers to wear, even though there is still a bit of warmth in the sun; and the perfect excuse to fill a flask with hot chocolate or coffee to keep you warm.

Hamsterley forest, managed by the Forestry Commission, is a delightful 2,000-hectare oasis, sprawling along the sides of a sheltered valley in County Durham. It’s a lovely place to visit in autumn, as we found when we were met with beautiful colour from the moment we arrived. On the way into the forest, we even chanced upon a deer crossing the road - beautiful. (But sadly not quick enough to get the camera out).

Hamsterley Forest is one of Durham's most popular visitor destinations. There are 33 miles of way marked walking, cycling and horse-riding trails in striking surroundings in this beautiful location in the Durham Dales. We explored on foot and enjoyed the four-mile amazing forest drive*.

Every year more than 200,000 people visit Hamsterley Forest. Last autumn we visited twice. It was that good. Once with, and once without the boys. Once we'd been, we knew the boys would love it and on the next sunny day we made sure we took them and their cameras with us too.

Hamsterley Forest through the eyes of an eight-year-old...
Hamsterley Forest through the eyes of a six-year-old ...

Although there are amazing views throughout the best bit for me is around Blackling Hole. The surrounding woodland, stream and waterfall are great for a bit of family friendly exploring. 

As well as taking their own photographs they especially enjoyed the Gruffalo trail in the deep. dark wood, playing football on the grassy area near the visitor centre and the adventure playground.

According to the Met. office, the most vibrant displays of autumn leaves are evident when a dry summer is followed by an autumn with dry, sunny days and cold, but not freezing, nights. Fingers crossed then!

Cost:A £5 toll is charged for each car visiting the forest to access the Forest Drive and car parks (a short stay option of £1.50 for one hour is also available)
Time: Vehicle access to the Forest is from 8am to 8pm (April to September) and 8am-5pm at all other times.
Equipment: Camera, walking boots, bikes (optional)

*NB - The Forest Drive will remain closed to vehicles 400 metres east of the Grove Car Park for essential maintenance until the end of October 2016. During this time, the Forest Drive will be a no through road. Access by vehicle to car parks east of the closure will be via Bedburn main entrance. To visit facilities west of the closure, access will be via Grove Road. More info: 

Boys Club Rating: Great. It really inspired the boys to take their own pictures.

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