Here are 12 places you can see the autumn colours in Hampshire, including many places you can visit for free in locations such as the New Forest, South Downs, Southampton and Winchester.
One of the things that makes the transition from long summer days to long winter nights more bearable is the burst of autumn colour we get to see in September, October and November.
And while the UK doesn’t naturally enjoy the multitude of colour seen in places like the US or Japan, where there are naturally more species of trees, you still can’t beat an autumn walk in an ancient forest or a tree-lined avenue as the leaves fall gently around you.
Here are 12 great places to see the autumn colours in Hampshire, including locations you can visit for free.
For the best displays of autumn leaves, pick a bright, sunny day following a period of dry weather and cool – but not frosty – nights.
Where to see the autumn colours in Hampshire
1. Exbury Gardens, New Forest
Exbury’s 200-acre gardens on the banks of the Beaulieu River feature tupelo, sweet gum and hickory trees as well as Canadian and Japanese maples. This diverse mix leads to a magnificent display of colours when autumn arrives.
If you do visit, don’t leave it too late – the gardens close for the winter in 2016 on Sunday 6th November.
Cost: Adult entry to the gardens starts at £10.
Directions: Exbury Gardens is near the village of Exbury not far from Beaulieu in the south-east corner of the New Forest. The postcode is SO45 1AZ.
2. Keats’ Walk, Winchester
Poet John Keats spent time in Winchester in the autumn of 1819 where he enjoyed a daily walk through Cathedral Close to the water meadows at the Hospital of St Cross on the edge of the city. This experience provided the inspiration for his poem, “To Autumn”.
Keats’ Walk, as it’s known, also passes Winchester College, the Kingsgate Arch and the picturesque timber-framed Cheyney Court. The sight of the autumn trees in the avenue in front of the cathedral is particularly beautiful.
Directions: Park on the southern edge of the city at Five Bridges Road off St Cross Road or in the city centre.
3. The Vyne, Sherborne St John near Basingstoke
With a mixture of native and non-native trees, the grounds of The Vyne – a 16th century country house near Basingstoke – are perfect for an autumn walk as the colours turn.
There’s also an apple orchard to explore and a walled garden filled with pumpkins.
And on selected dates in October there’s a variety of events celebrating the estate’s apple harvest. This includes the chance to sample the orchard’s many varieties of apples and a ‘walk and talk’ amongst the apple trees.
Cost: Entrance to the grounds starts at £7.20 for adults. It’s free for National Trust members. The orchard ‘walk and talk’ costs £10 and includes a cream tea.
Directions: The Vyne is on Vyne Road, Basingstoke, RG24 9HL near Sherborne St John.
4. Waggoners Wells, Grayshott
The beech trees that surround the three ponds at this nature reserve near the Surrey border produce stunning colours in autumn.
Once you’ve witnessed the gold and copper palette reflecting on the water, there’s a wishing well to seek out and a woodland walk that’s great for kids and dogs.
Directions: There’s a large car park on Waggoners Wells Road, which is off the B3002 between Headley Down and Grayshott. Grayshott is off the A3, just south of the Hindhead Tunnel.
5. Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Romsey
Sir Harold Hillier founded this arboretum in the early 1950s. It’s now owned and run by Hampshire County Council.
There are more than 42,000 trees and plants from around the world on the 180-acre site, which has great views over the north of Hampshire.
There’s also two restaurants where you can warm up on chilly days, two large ponds and an educational garden for children.
Cost: Entry is from £9.95 for adults.
Directions: The gardens are just off the A3090 at Jermyns Lane, Ampfield, Romsey, SO51 0QA.
6. Alton to Wickham on the A32 road
If you want to see the autumn colours from the comfort of your car, it’s worth driving the 22 miles from Alton to Wickham near Fareham on a sunny October or November day.
Not only will you get to see the colours change in the trees and woods that line the route but you’ll also pass through many pretty Hampshire villages including Chawton (Jane Austen’s home for the last years of her life), West Meon and Droxford.
There’s picturesque views of the Meon Valley too, plus several good pubs en route such as The Shoe Inn at Exton and the Thomas Lord in West Meon.
Cost: Just your fuel.
Directions: At the north end, you can join the A32 on the A31 roundabout just south of Alton. At the southern end, follow signs for Alton from Wickham
7. Tall Trees Trail and Blackwater Arboretum, Lyndhurst
You’re guaranteed beautiful autumn colours just about anywhere in the New Forest. One of the best places is the Tall Trees Trail near Lyndhurst.
The trail takes you both sides of the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, where many non-native trees were planted alongside conifer, beech, sweet chestnut and oaks trees to deck out the road leading to Rhinefield House in the 1800s.
The walk includes some of the oldest and tallest fir trees in the UK. Blackwater Arboretum, which includes more trees from around the world, is at the southern end of the trail.
Directions: Follow signs for Rhinefield House from the A35 west of Lyndhurst. There are two car parks at opposite ends of the trail.
8. Southampton Central Parks
There are few cities in the world that can boast the amount of city centre parkland Southampton enjoys.
Its five central parks – East (Andrews), Hoglands, Houndwell, Palmerston and West (Watts) – are interconnected and cover more than 50 acres. The city established them between 1854 and 1866, hence why they’re now protected with a Grade II listing.
East Park and West Park are particularly colourful in the autumn months. It’s also worth strolling the length of the north-south walk, a tree-lined avenue that stretches in a straight line for about half a mile through East Park, Palmerston Park and Houndwell Park.
Other sights to look out for are the Titanic Engineers Memorial on the western edge of East Park and the monument to Isaac Watts opposite the civic centre fountains in West Park.
Directions: The parks are to the east and north of the main shopping streets and close to all the city centre car parks and train station.
9. Curbridge Nature Reserve
This ancient oak woodland runs alongside the upper reaches of the Hamble estuary, a couple of miles downstream of Botley.
You’ll find hazel, ash and holly trees mingling alongside old oaks.
Directions: Parking is at Burridge Village Hall, Botley Rd, Southampton, SO31 1BL. From there you can walk down the lane to the wood and shore.
10. Hinton Ampner House, Cheriton
Hinton Ampner House is a stately home and gardens located just off the A272 between Winchester and Petersfield.
The five-acre gardens include an array of trees and shrubs that turn all sorts of colours as the days get shorter. There’s also superb views into the estate’s parkland, which is dotted with ancient beeches and oaks, and extended views beyond into the South Downs National Park.
The National Trust offers autumn guided walks around the estate’s gardens and parkland in October and November. There are also plenty of public rights of way to explore around the estate.
Cost: Entry to the house and gardens is from £11.30 for adults or free for National Trust members. The guided walks are £10 and last two hours.
Directions: The house is signposted off the A272 at New Cheriton. The postcode is SO24 0LA.
11. Forest of Bere, Wickham
Centuries ago, the Forest of Bere was a royal forest that stretched from the River Test in the west to the Hampshire/Sussex border in the east.
Nowadays, only patches of the forest remain. The largest of these is near Wickham, just off the A32. There you’ll find acres and acres of woodland to explore. There’s also a natural forest playground including an oak treehouse and lots of paths suitable for pushchairs and cycles. It’s handy for the Meon Valley Trail, too.
Cost: Free, but a small charge in some car parks.
Directions: There are two car parks off the A32 north of Wickham on Heath Road and a car park with toilets on Hundred Acres Road, which is off the B2177 at Wickham Common, east of Wickham.
12. Manor Farm Country Park, Bursledon
The best autumnal views are near the river pontoon in Catland Copse on the eastern side of the park, where hundreds of trees line each side of the estuary as it snakes towards the end of the tidal section at Botley.
You can either sit in relative comfort on the sheltered bench at the top of the slope or head down to the shoreline to perch on the trunk of a weathered oak tree.
Cost: Free entry to the park but there’s a small charge for parking and a charge to visit the farm museum.
Directions: Manor Farm Country Park is on Pyland’s Lane, SO31 1BH, just off junction 8 of the M27.
Where’s your favourite place to see the autumn colours in Hampshire? Have you visited any of the places on this list?
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