The National Trust launches its first Walking Festival
This October half-term sees the National Trust celebrating its first Walking Festival. From 22 to 30 October, properties across the country are showcasing the best walks to enjoy with family and friends, either under their own steam, or with the guidance of friendly staff. From walks with rangers to self-guided rambles, there is plenty to help you to get outdoors and enjoying the delights of the countryside and our most beautiful places. October is also the best month to experience glorious autumn leaf and berry colour.
Many of the Walking Festival’s organised walks are ideal for families to take part in together. Some properties are offering buggy-friendly routes, and shorter distances for very young visitors.
If you like doing your own thing, the National Trust has also created loads of new downloadable walks and way-marked trails for you to enjoy at any time of the year. Many of the houses and gardens sit within extensive country estates of parkland, meadows and woodland, so why not take your walking boots when you next visit one of the Trust’s properties, and explore a bit further afield?
If you prefer walking in a group, there are many organised walking events – check out www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walkingfestival for details. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and share the simple pleasure of walking. Here are some Walking Festival highlights in the south:
Hinton Ampner near Bramdean is best known for its magnificent garden with stunning vistas over rolling countryside. In celebration of the Walking Festival, the property is hosting an autumn walk that explores the wider estate, taking in views across the South Downs countryside and paths through woodland rich in autumn colour. Walkers are rewarded with a comforting bowl of homemade soup! 22 & 26 October, 10.30am – 1pm, booking essential on 01962 793512, £10.
Autumn colour at Hinton Ampner: The daisy-like heads of bright yellow rudbeckias, and the elegant stems of salvias are just some of the plants at their best in autumn, when the long, cool nights trigger them into a flowering frenzy and intensified petal colour. Visitors can enjoy showy performances from the coral-red Salvia darcyi and the fuchsia-pink Salvia involucrata, which contrast magnificently with the deep-blue of Salvia cacaliifolia.
However, the stars of the show are undoubtedly the dahlias, whose hardy nature means lasting colour well into October and the first frosts. There are hundreds of these exotic Mexican beauties at Hinton Ampner, including the rich tangerine ‘David Howard’, and a fiery red called ‘Murdoch’, as well as ‘Moon Fire’ which is bright yellow.
The delicious magenta pink of dahlia ‘Fascination’, is used to great effect along the Sunken Garden, providing a contrast to the sunny displays of dahlia ‘Yellow Hammer’ in the Yew Garden.
The rich red of dahlia ‘Arabian Knight’ can be spotted in the Walled Garden’s central border, whilst other varieties in deep pinks, dark reds and creamy whites mingle with the vegetables, salvias and snapdragons. In the Autumn border, the snowy pom-poms of ‘White Nettie’ highlight the lilac-blue of hydrangea Hydrangea aspera Villosa. The Walled garden is also bursting with orange pumpkins and squashes, brightly coloured sticks of leafy chard, even runner beans and lettuce – all destined for Hinton’s own café.
Mottisfont near Romsey lies on the banks of one of Britain’s most famous chalk streams. On 24 October, visitors can enjoy a guided walk alongside the crystal clear waters of the River Test, and learn more about some of the hidden wildlife and plants that reside here. The walk is followed by light refreshments. 10am – 12pm, £12, booking essential on 01794 344020.
The ancient chalk downland of Stockbridge Down is the setting for Mottisfont’s second walk. Offering spectacular views across Hampshire, an Iron Age hill fort and a WWII lookout post, this walk encompasses some interesting historical facts about a site that is also rich in flora and fauna. 25 October,10am – 12pm, £5, booking essential on 01794 344020. Meet at Stockbridge Down car park.
Autumn colour at Mottisfont: the grounds are ablaze with autumn colour from stately plane, oak and beech trees in shades of buttery yellow, ochre and auburn. The garden’s two tulip trees really come into their own at this time of year, when their acid green summer foliage turns a magnificent pale gold.
One of the stars of the gardens is the hornbeam, which explodes into a canopy of orange and scarlet, and whose leaves create such an exotic ‘carpet’ when they fall to the ground. Bright red clusters of berries adorn the vibernum in the river garden, and pretty pink and red clusters of cyclamen litter the lawns.
Mottisfont Abbey, Mottisfont, Romsey SO51 0LP, 01794 340757.
Morgaston Woods on The Vyne estate near Basingstoke is a very special place of ancient woodland and wildlife-rich wetlands, home to hundreds of plant and animal species, from roe, fallow and muntjac deer, to exotic fungi, orchids and wading birds. A downloadable walking route (just over two miles) is already available online, but the woods are also the venue for a new orienteering trail, which The Vyne is launching during Walking Festival Week.
The course offers an enjoyable new way of exploring the countryside in a physically and intellectually challenging way. Designed by BADO (Basingstoke Andover District Orienteers) it is suitable for a wide range of fitness levels and ages, with a 2.3k introductory course available for first time map readers, as well as a more challenging 2.9k route. Find out more at the FREE orienteering launch weekend on 22 and 23 October, 11am – 4pm.
Autumn colour at The Vyne: in the ancient woodlands beeches and oaks mingle with sweet and horse chestnuts to present a glorious canopy of rich autumn foliage. Fringing the edges of the lake, the orange, crimson and deep purple leaves of liquidamber and swamp cypress trees create beautiful reflections across the water.
The Vyne, Sherborne St John, Basingstoke RG24 9HL, Tel: 01256 883858.
The Walking Festival takes place at a time when more and more people are realising the health benefits of walking, spending time outdoors, and waking up to the fact that many children today have little direct contact with the natural world. There are now more than 250 walking trails available to download on the National Trust’s website or you can ask for walking information at the properties you visit. So, put your best foot forward this autumn by stepping out and enjoying the outdoors with the National Trust.
For more information about walks in your area and across the country, as well as details of downloadable walking guides, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walkingfestival