September 22 is the Autumn Equinox and the first day of England’s most gloriously colourful – and some would say delicious – season. As the colours change, the apples turn rosy and the nights draw in, discover unique English activities from cider-making to red deer spotting via mushroom foraging and autumn colour walks.
TASTY FOOD FESTIVALS
Autumn is synonymous with abundance and harvest, when so many of England’s tastiest produce is in its fullest flavour – and what’s more, September 17 to October 2 is British Food Fortnight, so all the more reason to investigate all things edible. York’s biggest food and drink festival transforms the city into a foodie wonderland from 23 September – 2 October, with events ranging from a Chocolate Tasting Panel to a Gin Tipple Lunch taking place across various venues including some of the city’s most historic buildings including, for the first time, the 17th century King’s Manor. 1 October sees the Forest of Dean’s Forest Showcase Food Festival, a ‘celebration of food, music and art’ held in the grounds of the splendid Speech House Hotel; expect top local and artisan producers, a mouth-watering array of hot food, real ale and wine, plus talks, parent and child cookery lessons, chef demos and live music. And celebrate the sausage in Lincolnshire on 22 October, at the Lincoln Sausage Festival, which presents the county’s famous export in the castle grounds – 30,000 bangers are served on the day.
York Food & Drink Festival tickets are individually priced per event, and many are free; Forest Showcase Food Festival costs £5 for adults, under 18s £2, under 5s free; Lincoln Sausage Festival entry is free for children, £1 for adults.
Autumn = apples to many people, while for many others apples = cider. Impress your friends with a home-made brew after a visit to Upper Neatham Farm’s Practical Cider Making Course. Organised over the course of a weekend at the idyllic Hampshire property – whose orchard has 100 trees of different varieties – the course will teach you to select, prepare and pick apples, press them into juice and then follow the fermentation process to make them that much more delicious; choose from residential or non-residential packages. For a family-friendly celebration of the apple, also in Hampshire, head to Blackmoor Estate’s Apple Tasting Day on 8 October. The free event presents the opportunity to taste an incredible variety of apples, meet an ‘apple doctor’ (to identify mystery apples), as well as enjoy horse and cart rides, Morris dancing and more.
Upper Neatham Farm Practical Cider Making courses run 6-9 October and 13-16 October. Residential courses cost from £185 for 2 nights and both days of the course (based on two people sharing) and a limited number of non-residential spaces are available for £60/day.
Foraging is all the rage among top chefs and no wonder – discovering your own ingredients in the wild, picking them, then cooking them is far more fulfilling than a trek to the local supermarket. Tudor Farmhouse Hotel is a former working farm that has been stylishly converted into a boutique hotel with a gastronomic edge, thanks to its award-winning head chef Rob Cox and in-house forager Raoul van Den Broucke. Raoul runs fascinating foraging expeditions that take guests out into the beautiful Forest of Dean countryside to collect seasonal delicacies, followed by a sumptuous lunch. Tudor Farmhouse is also offering an Autumn Leaves Escape package – ideal, combined with a foraging course. For those who can’t resist the heady smell of a freshly unearthed mushroom, Suffolk Market runs Mushroom Foraging and Wild Cooking events. Each starts with a walk through ancient woodland in the heart of Constable country, continues with plenty of mushroom identifying and picking, and ends with lunchtime treats made from the fruits of your forage. And you get a goody bag full of recipes, a foraging calendar and a selection of wild food products to take home!
Tudor Farmhouse group foraging courses run on 30 September, 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th October and 4 November. Courses are priced at £50pp and begin at 9.30am; lunch is served at 1pm. Suffolk Market’s Mushroom Foraging and Wild Cooking events run on 24 September, 8 and 22 October and 5 November, costing £75pp.
There’s no need for an Instagram filter at the National Trust’s many properties that find themselves in their absolute element during the autumn months. The Trust’s website has downloadable walks encompassing everything from bracing hikes over russet moorlands to wanders through woodlands carpeted in jewel-coloured leaves. At Stourhead in Wiltshire, head on a five-mile walk through gorgeous woodlands to King Alfred’s Tower, a 160ft high folly, via deep autumnal hues of red, russet and yellow; watch this autumn time-lapse video for a teaser. Meanwhile Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey is home to Japanese, American and Norwegian maple trees whose leaves blaze bright in the autumn months. If you fancy spending longer amidst the autumn colours, watch them float by from a Drifters canal boat; the Stratford Canal is fringed by hedgerows (with plenty of berry-picking opportunities) and takes you to tree-lined Bancroft Basin, where you’re a stone’s throw from the Swan’s Theatre and myriad Shakespeare attractions.
Entry to Stourhead is £17.60 per adult and £8.80 per child; entry to Winkworth Arboretum is £8.40 per adult and £4.20 per child (prices include Gift Aid). Drifters organise canal boat hire with prices varying depending on the size and capacity of boat.
‘WOW’ WILDLIFE EXPERIENCES
Head to Yorkshire to see one of nature’s loveliest and largest sea creatures enjoying their annual visit to England’s shores. Minke whales are 30ft long, five tonne marine mammals that grace the waters surrounding Whitby from the end of summer through autumn and Whitby Whale Watching lets you get right up close. Though spring is the season associated with hatching and the birth of many animal babies, autumn is when the seal pups come into the world on the Farne Islands, which has the longest history of counting the seals of any colony – thousands of pups are born there each year. Head on a boat trip in September and try to spot the first fuzzy, white seal pup on Inner Farne, though peak time is October when thousands of the adorable creatures can be seen gathering on the rocks. While seals are being born, deer are finding themselves a suitable mate and National Trust properties across England offer the chance to see red deer out and about, many preparing for their annual rut. In Yorkshire, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal combines wonderful colours with wildlife on a dedicated deer park walk, and the fallow deer at Ashridge are particularly active in the Autumn; the colours on its Autumn Colour Trail are spectacular.
Whitby Whale Watching tours run through September and October, costing £40pp; Inner Farne is looked after by the National Trust and admission charges are £7.70 per adult and £3.90 per child (including Gift Aid), not including the boat charge.
For more holiday inspiration check out www.visitengland.com
Mark Bibby Jackson
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