Visitors to the Forest of Dean can look forward to an awe-inspiring display of autumn colour this year, with the weather having paved the way for an extra special spectacle in October and November 2023.
The ancient forest is set to come alive with a unique mix of golden hues, thanks to a very rainy spring with lower-than-average sunshine, followed by hot spells in June.
Data from the Met Office shows that, during March 2023, rainfall was 55 per cent above average across the UK, providing plenty of moisture to the soil and promoting strong, healthy growth across the nation's forests.
Although the process of photosynthesis will have been influenced by the reduced sunlight at this time, experts from Forestry England say that the subsequent heatwaves in early summer prompted a good season of growth for the forest — helping its trees to build plenty of the sugars that produce those gorgeous autumn colours.
The spring weather conditions also mean that, instead of following its usual pattern, the forest could experience a more gradual shift in leaf colours this autumn, creating an enchanting, one-of-a-kind mix of reds, oranges and golds.
Forestry England's experts also say that the hot start to September could have an impact on when visitors will begin to see autumn colours in the Forest of Dean. Leaves only begin to change colour when the days become shorter and evening temperatures cool, so the recent higher temperatures could postpone the start of the colourful spectacle.
But, not only can it delay the start of autumn, warmer weather can also extend it — good news for leaf peepers, as it offers more chances for people to experience the Forest of Dean's incredible transformation, for longer.
Tom Brockington, operations manager for Forestry England in the Forest of Dean, said: 'With acres of beautiful forests to explore, the Forest of Dean is ideal for a crisp and colourful walk this autumn.
'A couple of favourite spots include the view of the River Wye from Symonds Yat Rock. Not only can you see an incredibly stunning display of autumn colour along the river valley, but if you’re lucky you may spy peregrine falcons, goshawks or osprey on their autumn migration.
'Another beautiful autumn location is the Cyril Hart Arboretum, a collection of trees, with some dating back 200 years. This arboretum is smaller and quieter than the more famous Westonbirt, but no less lovely for an autumn stroll. The lakeside path at Mallards Pike is another must for an autumn colour display.'
Beechenhurst is also a stunning site to explore in the autumn time, with the interactive Zog trail and natural play area making it a fantastic choice for young families. Its famous Sculpture Trail is especially breath-taking to experience against a backdrop of dazzling autumn leaves, too.
Meanwhile, visitors seeking a thrill can whizz through the colourful forest on two wheels at the Forest of Dean Cycle Centre, with downhill tracks and cycle trails for all abilities.