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The Forestry Commission predicts fantastic autumn colour after a great growing season for trees

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Autumn Maple leaves in Giggle Alley

The UK has experienced a typically English summer, some great sunny days interspersed with lots of rain! But what does this mean for autumn colours?

When will we start to see leaves turning colour and falling? And just how much does the weather affect when autumn happens? Does a warm 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?  The Forestry Commission gazes into its crystal ball to try….

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

“Autumn's foliage displays are certainly affected by the weather. This year should be good for producing autumnal colour as, although it’s been quite warm it has also been wet with periods of heavy rain interspersed by some really warm, sunny days.

“That has meant a great growing season for trees allowing them to build up plenty of sugars in their leaves.  It is these sugars that produce the rich autumnal colours when they are absorbed back into the tree to help them survive winter.

“This year we predict that whilst autumn colours may start soon, they will be best in mid to late October. However, we anticipate prolonged autumn colour well into November due to the mild, damp weather conditions. 

“Predicting when autumn will fall and what type of colour the leaves 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 using the latest scientific knowledge on trees and leaf senescence (the scientific term for leaf fall). However nature has a wonderful habit of doing the unexpected so we can never give a totally accurate prediction.  A harsh storm or a severe frost can easily put an 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 #autumnleafwatch walks include:

1. Westonbirt seasonal trail, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire
2. Symonds Yat Rock to Biblins loop walk, The Wye Valley in the Forest of Dean
3. Radnor waymarked trail, Bolderwood, New Forest, Southampton
4. Lynford seasonal trail, Lynford Arboretum in Thetford Forest, Norfolk
5. Church path trail, Salcey Forest in Northampton
6. Red Walk, Great Wood in Somerset
7. Bedgebury Pinetum and Forest, Kent
8. Grizedale Tarn Trail, Grizedale Forest, Cumbria
9. Blackmore Trail, Delamere Forest, Cheshire
10. White Horse Trail, Friston Forest, East Sussex

The public are invited to keep the Forestry Commission informed on the colour transformation - from green to golden - as it is happening by using our interactive map. This is then displayed on our website throughout autumn, allowing you to find the best colour in your area.

This year, you can also join in the #autumnleafwatch phenomena at our sites by sharing photos of autumnal colours on their Facebook, Instagram and twitter pages. Throughout October the favorite pictures will be shared across our social media. As autumn draws to a close the public will be asked to vote for their favourite autumn image which will be displayed on our autumn web page in 2016. The winner will also win one year’s Forest Discovery Pass and Go Ape vouchers.

For autumn walks and information about events and exploring Forestry Commission managed woods and forests this autumn, visit

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. Andrew Smith is the new director of Westonbirt, the National Arboretum. He has worked for the Forestry Commission for 25 years he trained in Forestry at Bangor University and has held a number of senior management roles with the Forestry Commission in Yorkshire and at National Office.
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. The Forestry Commission Discovery Pass gives free parking for the year for your local Forestry Commission Woodland, plus a range of other great discounts. Further information can be found at

Media contact:

Rebecca Ulewicz 
Contact: 0300 067 4107/