From medieval deer parks to the National Trust’s only arboretum, ‘forest bathing’ and a trail well trodden by pioneering naturalist Gilbert White - not to mention the wealth of cosy pubs and cafes close at hand - autumn-lovers are spoilt for choice in this area.
Here we list five of the best places to swish through golden leaves and hear the crunch of acorns under your wellies:
Overlooked by Farnham Castle, founded in 1138 by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen, Farnham Park is one of England’s few medieval deer parks still set in the context of its original castle.
Teeming with history, the park was also famously the site of a Civil War battle and boasts the only chalk grassland in Waverley borough and a landscape that has remained unchanged for more than 600 years.
It offers avenues, hidden dells, hills, valleys, ponds and streams, as well as unrivalled views of Farnham, a large adventure playground, cafe, toilets, free parking in the main car park off the A287 Folly Hill, and is just a short stroll from Farnham town centre’s ample array of pubs, shops and eateries (sat nav: GU9 OAU).
* Alice Holt Forest, near Farnham - This autumn the Forestry Commission is inviting visitors to try out ‘forest bathing’ and “let the rainbow of colours, the scent of the trees and the sounds of the forest ease your stress and worry”.
Known in Japan as shinrin-yoku, forest bathing is simply being in nature, connecting with the forest through the senses of sight, hearing, taste and touch and, according to the Forestry Commission, Alice Holt Forest is the number one place in the UK to “refresh body, mind and spirit”.
Offering the chance to explore the forest with your senses, Alice Holt’s three-mile family trail passes through an interesting variety of woodland habitats, from conifer plantation to mature broadleaf scattered with woodland clearings.
Take in your surroundings in one of the meadows along the route - and be sure to visit the forest’s recently-refurbished cafe afterward to complete the re-charge. Parking charges apply (see forestryengland.uk/alice-holt-forest for details).
* Selborne Common, near Alton - A winding ascent up the zig-zag path to the pinnacle of Selborne Common’s glorious beech hangers promises sweeping views of the Hampshire countryside and a beautiful display of autumn colour.
Visitors to the National Trust-managed woodland and meadows also have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of 18th Century naturalist Reverend Gilbert White, whose house ‘The Wakes’ is today home to Gilbert White’s House museum and gardens (gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk).
The museum has recently undergone a £2.5m revamp, aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and now boasts a smart new, modern cafe which provides a perfect tonic for weary walkers with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the gardens.
The cosy Selborne Arms pub, complete with open fires and a children’s playground, offers more hearty fare, while a free car park is located at the foot of the zig-zag path (sat nav: GU34 3JR).
* Winkworth Arboretum, near Godalming - “When autumn arrives, Winkworth bursts into colour, its yellows, oranges and reds painting a breathtaking picture across the landscape”, announces the National Trust website, and few could disagree with this assessment.
Visitors can take an autumn walk through 121 acres of wild woodland, accented with the fiery colours of more than 1,000 species of trees and shrubs. With a mixture of level walkways and challenging hills, there’s a route for everyone to explore.
Native oaks and beeches rub shoulders with Japanese acers and American liquidambars, creating a riotous and ever-changing showcase of colour that lasts for weeks.
When you’ve finished your walk, pop into the tea room near the kiosk for a refreshing drink and a slice of cake, baked fresh daily. Entry costs £9 per adult, £4.50 for children, and is free for National Trust members (for details see nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum).
* Ramster Garden, Chiddingfold - Drink in the fantastic display of fiery shades of reds and russets until Sunday, November 4.
Highlights include the unique 100-year-old avenue of maples, which burst into life to produce an incredible show of autumn colour.
Visitors can enjoy the maze of different paths around the 20-acre woodland garden to discover hidden sculptures, natural carvings and the tranquil lake setting.
Don’t miss the American red gum tree Liquidambar changing colour in shades of orange, crimson and purple, before relaxing in the tea house. Entry costs £7.50 for adults, children go free (see ramsterevents.com for details).