Walks take on a different sensory experience as seasons come and go. Autumn brings its own sights, sounds, smells, textures and even tastes, that are unique to the season. There’s so much to delight in, from crunchy autumn leaves to delicious hedgerow fruit. Take your next walk at a slower pace and really savour the season.

All the colours of autumn

It’s the time of year when leaves turn glorious autumnal shades and flutter free from deciduous trees. Look out for them swirling in the autumn breeze or creating a stunning carpet on the ground – perfect for crunching! You only need to step out your door to see an attractive array of golden colours. But for the most impressive spectacle, go for a walk at an arboretum. These botanical gardens are planted with large tree collections and offer an impressive palette of autumn hues. There are many to explore in the UK, including Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, “a magical tree garden”.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Take it sloe

An autumn walk is the perfect opportunity for foraging in hedgerows. Look out for sloes, an inky-purple fruit that grow on blackthorn trees. Sloes are a relative of the plum and an excellent fruit to pick if you’re a first-time forager. You’ll know they’re ripe when they’re a beautiful dark shade, plump and squash slightly when squeezed. Remember to forage them responsibly and sustainably. The Woodland Trust has a useful guide for this. It’s best not to eat sloes raw – when they taste bitter – but they’re delicious once cooked. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has a tasty recipe for crab apple and sloe sorbet, or you could go for a traditional tipple. Check out Jamie Oliver’s recipe for sloe gin.

Sloe berries on blackthorn (Prunus spinosa).

Wonder at autumn wildlife

There’s plenty of wildlife to marvel at on a walk, even as winter draws closer. Look out for small wonders – autumn’s golden light catching on spider webs, or squirrels collecting their nuts. On a larger scale, autumn is deer rutting season. It’s incredible to see stags lock antlers in competition for females – but don’t forget to watch from a safe distance. Countryfile has listed the best places to witness this autumn spectacle. It’s also the season to spot incoming migrant birds. You might come across redwings, pink-footed geese, and starlings who’ve migrated from the continent. An early evening stroll can reveal one of nature’s greatest spectacles – a murmuration swooping gracefully across the sky. Wonder at these groups of starlings forming spectacular, ever-changing shapes in the fading light. Somerset’s Avalon Marshes is a great place to see them in action.

Starlings at Dusk

Seasonal treasures

Nothing says autumn quite like horse chestnut trees laden with conkers. We’re in the middle of conker season, so you’ll find many scattered on the ground beneath these majestic trees. Why not search for these shiny brown seeds with little ones? Once you’ve collected them, you can use this popular method to harden them. Then they’re ready to use for conker contests (threaded with pieces of string) or to keep as autumn treasures that’ll last for years. You can even use conkers to make laundry detergent, for an eco-friendly touch.

Horse-chestnuts on tree branch

The scent of the season

There’s something special about the scent of pine trees. You’ll notice their refreshing aroma long before you spot them. It’s a scent that evokes the outdoors and awakens the senses. During autumn they drop their precious cones, scattering them across the woodland floor – ready for collecting. Why not take a handful home with you? They hold the lingering scent of pine, transporting you to an autumnal wood or forest, even when you’re indoors. They make attractive DIY décor, as well. Silver or gold spray paint turns them into sparkling decorations, with silver pinecones thought to bring good luck, too.

Plan your autumn walk with an Ordnance Survey map 

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