Forestry Commission – Colour me Happy Trails


Japanese maples displaying stunning autumn colour on Pheasant Ride, Alice Holt Forest.

I love everything about Autumn, I love the nights drawing in, the colder weather but I especially like the gorgeous colour of the leaves changing on the trees.  I think the picture above absolutely sums up how vibrant and wonderful the leaves are starting to become.

In a recent survey carried out by Forestry Commission England a staggering 96% of people said that beautiful autumn colours improve their mood, but why do the leaves change colour? What makes a maple leaf turn fiery red, a beech become golden or an ironwood transform through a rainbow of colours to deep plum purple?

To help you understand the science behind the forest’s most vibrant season, Forestry Commission England has put together a simple colour guide:

During the spring and summer months, leaves are filled with green chlorophyll which helps trees to harness the sunshine and turn it into sugars (plant food).

To survive the winter, most trees will shut down to store their sugars. A cork-like membrane develops between the branch and the leaf stem, depriving the leaves of nutrients and breaking down the chlorophyll.

The yellows of autumn leaves come from xanthophyll pigments and can be seen throughout autumn in a variety of trees including birches, beeches, ashes and field maples. Egg yolks are yellow because of the xanthophyll in plant products, eaten by the hens.

Orange comes from beta carotene – one of the most common compounds in plants. One of the best trees to see carotene in action during autumn is sweet chestnut. Carotene, as its name suggests, is also the chemical responsible for giving carrots their bright orange colour.

The red colour is unlike other leaf colours as it hasn’t always existed in the leaf. The colour is caused by anthrocyanin pigments which are formed by a reaction between sugars and certain proteins in cell sap.

If the sap is quite acidic, the pigments impart a bright red colour. If the sap is less acidic, then the resulting colour is purple. Japanese maples produce plenty of anthrocyanins and have very bright red leaves.




With a number of fantastic forest sites displaying the sensory delights of autumn, Forestry Commission England has named its top ten walks to boost your mood before the winter months.

From the lovely autumn colours which are set against the stunning lake at Bedgebury Pinetum to the amazing views from the new Tree-Top walk way at Westonbirt Arboretum, we have something for everyone. Our top spots are:

  1. Forest of Dean, Symonds Yat
  2. Grizedale, Carron Crag trail
  3. Westonbirt, Silk Wood
  4. Delamere, Blackmere Trail
  5. Bedgebury, Seasonal Trail
  6. Hamsterley, Bedburn Valley Trail
  7. Salcey, The Church Path Trail
  8. Wyre, Giants Trail
  9. Alice Holt, Habitat Trail
  10. New Forest, Tall Trees Trail

Now you guys know how much I love our local Forestry Commission site which is Haldon Forest in Exeter we try and visit as often as we can, it is great for H to run free and burn off some energy, well there are plenty of activities at your local forestry commission sites this autumn from activity trails to woven woodlands, check HERE to see what is on at your local forest.

You can also sign up for the free autumn learning activity pack, inside you’ll find some great activities to bring the forests to life for your children:

  • Hunt through the forests looking out for autumn minibeasts.
  • Make a mini woven woodland, or a leafy bookmark.
  • Play sound bingo and identify the wonderful sounds of the forest!
  • Design a leaf rainbow snake, an autumn bonfire picture, and blackberry art using the natural forest colour pallette.
  • And more..





So remember to check out the Forestry Commission website and get some colour in your life #colourmehappy #weloveforests





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