With autumn in full swing, it’s not just nature and wildlife that’s displaying autumn behaviour – we too adapt to this time of year as the temperature changes and the nights draw in.
Getting stuck into a new boxset, putting the garden to bed, digging out your big coat from the depths of the wardrobe and changing the clocks are things we can all identify with at this time of year. Recognising these familiar autumn rituals, National Trust places in the North West have come up with a list of nine ways to make the most autumn, tapping into these seasonal behaviours.
A booking system has been introduced at many National Trust places, to keep everyone safe and maintain social distancing, in line with government guidance. To avoid disappointment visitors are encouraged to book in advance, especially at busier times such as weekends and school holidays.
1. The final hurrah for our gardens
Whilst many of us are tidying up our borders, raking the ever-falling leaves, getting the last cut of the lawn in and putting the garden to bed ahead of winter, there’s’ still plenty of colour and interest to be found in larger, formal gardens. Take in the toffee-apple scent of the Katsura tree at Dunham Massey and the vibrant red leaves of the euonymus alata (‘burning bush’) at Speke Hall. The Italian Garden at Lyme is still bursting with colour at this time of year too with Rudbeckia Goldstrum in the beds and vibrant Viburnum on the banks.
2. Swapping one drama series for another
Getting into a new boxset or dusting off your sequins for a new dancing series is a good way to fill those darker evenings, but during the daytime there’s drama of a different kind to be seen in the deer parks at Lyme and Dunham Massey. Experience one of nature’s most spectacular moments as the deer battle for supremacy during their October rut. Watch and listen to deep bellowing and the clash of antlers as the males compete for the pick of females. The drama and noise as they lock antlers is an unforgettable wildlife wonder – a rival for any TV drama or sequenced, sequinned dance.
3. Turning back time by more than just an hour
Popping out the pin to wind back your mechanical watch, remembering where the time settings are on your digital device (whilst trying to work out if it’s updated automatically), and promising to finally update the clock on the oven – it’ll soon be time to put our clocks back. If you fancy going further back in time, two National Trust places in the North West have opened their indoor places where you can travel back in time by more than just an hour.
You can escape the autumn chill and enter a world from the past as the heritage machines roar into action to weave fabric in front of you at Quarry Bank. In 1784, monumental change was brought to the village of Styal when Samuel Greg established his cotton mill. Powered by the water of the river Bollin and the toil of the workers, the Greg family business was part of a turning point in our history. Feel the floors shake beneath your feet as the spinning machines turn, giving you a sense of what it was like to work in a cotton mill.
For a touch of luxury, step inside the house at Lyme and into the Regency era. Wander the decorative rooms on the ground floor and enjoy the detail of the ornate fireplace in the Drawing Room and the rows of book-filled shelves in the Library. Lyme also celebrates a more recent date this year which many of us may be familiar with – 25 years since the National Trust property starred in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice as Mr Darcy’s ‘Pemberley’ home.
4. Carving out some family fun
Pumpkins will soon be hollowed-out and faces carved ahead of Halloween – a family tradition for many of us. Families can add more tricks and treats to their half term this year whether you’re looking to explore somewhere new or visiting an old family favourite. At Dunham Massey, little explorers can follow an adventure trail to find out what Hooty the owl and his friends are up to this autumn. At Lyme, families can tick off some ’50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities– the National Trust’s outdoor challenge to get kids closer to nature. Create some wild art from crunchy autumn leaves in the woodland at Lyme, look for clues from wild animals including the red deer who live here, or head up to Cage Hill on a windy day to try out one of the best spots for flying a kite.
5. One, two, three…bakes
Bake Off has many of us dusting off our cake tins, checking the expiration date on flour at the back of the cupboard and using every utensil in the kitchen to complete a recipe. Why not leave the baking to someone else, or get some recipe inspiration on a visit to National Trust places in the North West? Scones with clotted cream and jam, and the ever-popular Victoria Sponge, are National Trust staples, but autumn brings some new additions to the menu too. Apple Crumble Pot will warm you up from the inside out after a walk at Dunham Massey, and a visit to Speke Hall isn’t complete without a slice of their traditional Wet Nelly – a Lancashire fruit cake whose recipe has been passed down from chef to chef. If savoury dishes are more your thing, Quarry Bank has added warming autumn favourites including Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup, and Mixed Bean Chilli to its menu. The National Trust’s touring pizza van will also be parking up until the end of the half term at Dunham Massey to add an extra slice of enjoyment to your day out.
6. Getting your big coat out
From the bowels of wardrobes, cupboards underneath staircases or hidden away on coat racks that have piled up over the months, many of us are digging out our winter coat as the temperature drops. Get reacquainted with your seasonal second skin on a walk through the changing colours of autumn. You’ll be rewarded with glorious views on the Lantern Walk at Lyme, or follow the Ancient Tree Walk at Dunham Massey to see a colourful display from one of the finest collections of veteran trees in England.
7. Food storing for the winter
We’re not talking about panic-buying, but that box of Christmas chocolates you’ve picked up on a recent shop and popped in a cupboard, an early pack of mince pies, or even the odd early present or two. Local wildlife is storing up its reserves for the winter too and with fewer leaves on the trees there’s one North West resident who’s easier to spot at this time of year. Keep your eyes and ears peeled in the woodland at Formby for red squirrels – a rare and endangered British species. In autumn the squirrels are very active as they come down from the trees foraging for food in preparation for winter. Autumn is also the last chance to spot the rare Northern Dune Tiger Beetle at Formby – one of only two places in the country where you can see them. This is the time of year when they begin to lay their larvae in burrows in the sand to keep them protected over winter, before they emerge as adults in the spring.
8. Spreading your wings before the cold sets in
Whether it’s a few days away to make the most of the school holidays, or some local daytrips to enjoy the milder temperature, autumn sees many of us head out before winter hibernation sets in. Bird life is spreading its wings at this time of year too in preparation for winter. Winter visitors arrive in autumn from the north and east to spend the winter in the UK, where the weather is milder and food is easier to find. Golden sunsets and migrating birds on the Mersey beside Speke Hall make it one of the best places for a spot of twitching. You’ll spot godwits, teal, mallard, redshanks, plover, greenshanks, knot and dunlin, to name a few.
9. A complete change of scenery
The view from our windows has certainly changed with the arrival of autumn colour set against clear blue skies on those brighter days. For a complete change of scenery, and unrivalled autumn colour, you can’t go wrong with a trip out to the Lake District. There is nothing more magical than the fells and woodland turning from green to gold. It’s the perfect time of the year to get your walking boots on and enjoy the nip in the Cumbrian fresh air. The thunder of the falls at Aira Force are a sight and sound to revive your senses and it’s one of the few places where wetter days are better with the rainwater making it even more impressive. And for a picture moment that’s guaranteed to get you more ‘likes’, head to Borrowdale which is arguably the best Instagrammable spot as the most wooded and colourful valley in the Lakes.
All information and visiting arrangements are subject to the latest government guidance around coronavirus and are regularly reviewed. Please check the National Trust website and the individual property web pages for the place you wish to visit before you travel, and book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
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