Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
Where to enjoyAutumn Colourwithout a car
Sunlight slanting through fiery maples, woodland walks under golden beeches, bronze and ochre forests reflected in a misty lake… autumn colour is one of the compensations for approaching winter (along with fireside pints in country pubs). This guide to car-free autumn trips kicks off with Westonbirt, Forestry England’s awe-inspiring arboretum in Gloucestershire (with thanks to John Ealing for the picture above of the famous Westonbirt maples). With kids: don’t miss the tree-fringed pathways round Great Missenden, home of the Roald Dahl museum (see 9 below).
1. Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
Trees from all round the world are collected in the Victorian landscaped park at Westonbirt Arboretum. A tree top walkway now gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the woods below and a seasonal trail (pick one up from the Welcome building) guides you through the brightest colours and most fascinating facts. The autumn family trail maps areas where kids can play, build dens, see a Grufflo or spot wild birds. And arriving car-free gets you 30% off admission.
- How to get to Westonbirt Arboretum: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
- Eat and drink: at the Westonbirt Restaurant, offering homemade food and fresh bread from the Cotswolds-based Hobbs House Bakery. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, you could also head to Stroud’s lively farmers’ market for a picnic before getting on the bus. Pick up a slow-cooked Cotswold venison pie or a homemade rosemary focaccia and smoked almond butter.
- Look out on the bus journey to see views from high, beautiful Minchinhampton Common and gold-stoned Cotswold towns like Tetbury.
2. Delamere Forest, Cheshire
Delamere Station is one of those marvellous places where you can step off the train and head straight into the woods. The visitor centre has a friendly cafe and helpful bike hire shop. Cheshire’s largest woodland area includes a patchwork of habitats: bogs and beech woods, lakes and pine trees, as well as miles of brackeny trails winding through them. And, if you arrive by train, you don’t need to pay the parking charges.
- How to get to Delamere forest: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
- Walk: Several long distance routes cross Delamere Forest, including the fabulous Sandstone Trail and there are lots of shorter walks too, leading round Blakemere Moss, a reclaimed wetland that is now a wildlife-rich lake. Or climb steeply up to Old Pale for far-reaching views. The new Oakmere Way leads from Delamere towards the next station in neighbouring Cuddington – ask in the bike shop for more details.
- Cycle: You can hire mountain bikes from the shop next to Delamere visitor centre. It costs £20 for three hours on a mountain bike and staff can suggest the best local traffic-free trails to explore, including the popular Whitegate Way, an old salt-carrying railway from Cuddington to Whitston.
- Eat and drink: Besides the cafe in the visitor centre, there’s an imaginative restaurant in the old station house with great vegan and veggie options.
- Look out from the train windows to see miles of beautiful woodland and rolling Cheshire countryside. There are hourly trains (every two hours on Sunday) from Chester and Manchester.
3. Alice Holt Forest, Hampshire
An ancient oak forest, once supplying timber to the Royal Navy, Alice Holt is now a place to walk, cycle, fish and climb. Explore the Go Ape treetop adventure, discover the deep dark wood with a Gruffalo map, play on the pirate ship or follow the family trails.
- How to get to Alice Holt Forest: Follow Good Journey’s directions. The fifteen minute bus ride from Farnham railway station soon carries you into the trees, with tall oaks and poplars beside the road.
- Eat and drink: The Alice Holt Cafe serves fresh local ingredients in wooded surroundings.
- On the way: the bus passes right by Birdworld, a 26-acre park with a safari train, children’s farm, underwater world and penguin feeding.