As the seasons start to change we are met with frosty mornings, vibrant leaves and plenty of wildlife to spot during our autumn walks. As autumn sets in, our daylight hours reduce and plants stop making food in the run up to winter. There is plenty to look out for during this time including scampering squirrels collecting their winter supplies, conkers littering the forest floor and unique fungi flourishing in woodland areas.
The most obvious and beautiful sign that the seasons are changing and autumn has arrived can be seen by simply looking at the colour of the trees. Why do leaves turn orange during autumn? As autumn begins, daylight hours begin to get shorter and the temperature starts to drop. The leaves stop their food-making process and the chlorophyll begins to break down, this results in the trees losing their green colour and leaves begin to turn a beautiful shade of yellow, orange and red. The crisp leaves covering the ground and the array of colours make autumn walks even more beautiful.
Autumn marks the start of conker season, did you know that conkers contain a poisonous chemical called aesculin, which although not fatal can make you ill. Conkers are commonly found across playgrounds during September and October where children play traditional conker games.
From September onwards fungi begins to grow on the forest floor, creating bright and unique shapes that are great for spotting whilst out on an autumn walk. Did you know that without fungi there would be no circle of life, fungi helps to break down plant and animal matter and recycle it to be used again. Have you ever spotted the Fly Agaric? This type of fungi is the classic fairy-tale toadstool.
Pumpkins are symbolic of Halloween which falls in the autumn month of October. During autumn there are plenty of pumpkin patches popping up across the UK which offer the perfect opportunity to pick your own. Why do people crave pumpkins at Halloween? The tradition started in Ireland in response to a folktale. The tale was of a man in the afterlife who held a carved-out turnip with glowing coal, Jack-o’lantern’ was born when this custom was introduced to America where pumpkins were readily available.
As the leaves start to change colour and the mornings become frosty many birds such as nightingales, swifts and swallows prepare to fly south for the winter, escaping the cold climate for warmer weather. During this time of year you can see large flocks or swallows gathering on telegraph wires as they congregate to fly south.
During autumn grey squirrels are busy foraging for nuts, acorns and seeds which they will collect during autumn and bury underground, ready for winter when food is in short supply. You can spot grey squirrels scampering up trees in woodlands, forest, parks and most gardens, especially those where food is left out for birds.
Red squirrels eat a variety of food including beech nuts, fruits of shrubs, some funghi, insects, seeds, and sweet chestnuts. Unlike grey squirrels they do not eat acorns as they cannot digest them. The number of red squirrels has dramatically declined since grey squirrels were introduced, you are less likely to spot a red squirrel in the wild, however if you do, they are easily detectable by their tawny coloured fur and tufted ears. A great place to spot red squirrels is on Brownsea island in Dorset where there are around 200 squirrels living in this safe haven.
Would you love to explore more autumnal wildlife but don’t know where to start?
Active England Tours offer a range of Autumn walking tours, both private and self-guided, located in the picture perfect Cotswolds which is only an hour’s journey from London, Bristol, and the Midlands. *Due to Covid 19 certain tours will not be running, however, you can book now for 2021 with a fully refundable deposit.
- Night’s Accommodation
- All Breakfasts
- Maps, Route Instructions, Comprehensive GPS routes (Ride With GPS) to follow on your phones
- Walking Poles
- Luggage Transfers
- Emergency Support
If you are heading out for an autumn walk with your little explorers take the below printout to play some autumn walking bingo on your way!
Know any great autumn walks? Please share in the comments below.