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NEWS RELEASE No: 1562329 AUGUST 2012

Dull summer could extend the party for the leaf-peepers

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Autumn at Westonbirt Arboretum

The UK has not had much of a summer and with the less than glorious weather experienced and September looming, it’s almost autumn already!

But how much does the weather affect when autumn happens? Does a wet summer affect the displays of autumnal colours that we all love to see? And is it really possible to predict when leaves will start to change colour?

Simon Toomer, the Forestry Commission’s Director at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire explains:

“Autumn's foliage displays are certainly affected by the weather. The intensity and longevity of colour varies from one year to the next. Luckily, different conditions suit different plants and each year new, and sometimes surprising trees will provide the star turn.

“This year we could see prolonged autumn colour well into November due to the mild, damp weather conditions.

“Cool, damp years can also bring out stronger tones in some species. If you are lucky enough to live near examples of Persian ironwood or katsura, look out for their respective rich purple or pink tones. Native trees, such as the beech, may also provide richer golden tones this season.

“Predicting when autumn will fall and what type of colour the leaves of the trees will turn is always an entertaining task. Trying to guess the timing and colouring of trees in autumn is something that we indulge in every year at Westonbirt. It's good fun, but nature is a mysterious thing and even with increased scientific and plant knowledge, we can get it wrong. Weather can also intervene, with a harsh storm or severe frost putting the end to many a great autumn show.”

With a number of fantastic forest sites displaying the sensory delights of autumn, Forestry Commission England has named its top ten places to visit. From the ‘electric light bulb’ yellow of autumn leaves at Westonbirt to the amazing view from the Tree Top Way at Salcey Forest, we have something for everyone this autumn. The best leaf-peeping spots include:

  1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire
  2. Friston Forest in East Sussex
  3. Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent
  4. The Wye Valley in the Forest of Dean
  5. Salcey Forest, near Northampton
  6. Maulden Woods in Bedfordshire
  7. Grizedale Forest, North West England 
  8. Castle Neroche near Taunton, Somerset
  9. Bolderwood, New Forest
  10. Mendip sites

This year, members of the public can also follow how quickly our woodlands are changing colour and help us keep this up to date. Using the Forestry Commission’s interactive online autumn colour map it’s easy to find the best colour near you, as each wood is rated from green to golden.

And join in by sharing your photos of autumnal colours near to you on our facebook page - Forestry Commission Woods and Forests!

Notes to editor

  1. Simon Toomer has worked at the Forestry Commission’s Westonbirt Arboretum for more than 12 years and was appointed Arboretum Director in 2009.  He trained in environmental biology and forestry.
  2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment.  Further information can be found at
  3. Leaf peeping is an informal term, commonly used in the United States, for people who travel to view and photograph the fall foliage in areas where foliage changes colours, particularly New England.

Media contact:
Rebecca Turner  0117 906 6030