Sunday, 26 September 2021

Beautiful trees in autumn colours

THE only consolation when sitting on the M25 is the wonderful array of colours emerging in the plantations on the banks.

There’s the lemon of false acacia, the golden topknots to the beech, turkey oak turning to mahogany, dull red on the cherry, the ash still green and the pale grey undersides to the whitebeam leaves.

For another grand collection try Westobirt Arboretum, near Tetbury (signed from he M4 at the Bath turn), where specimens stand alone so that their shape can be admired as well.

But it is rather flat there and cannot rival our own Chilterns — the view from Remenham Hill over to Fawley and Hambleden, Stonor Park with its fallow deer, a circuit at Basildon Park or Greys Court.

You will each have your favourite autumn walk. Mine is the beech tunnel on the Thames Path between Goring and Whitchurch, with glimpses of boats on the river and pillboxes on the banks, our last line of defence against waterborne invasion.

Access is via the road past Goring station or turning right from the steep B471 just before it reaches the houses of Whitchurch.

Get out your map (OS175 with the pink cover) and follow the pink dashes to find a circle or simply follow the well-marked Thames Path and take a cup of tea or lunch before walking back — it is worth doing twice.

Yew trees cling to the chalk cliffs on the landward side and their berries are ripening now, as is the still orange holly and whitebeam, dark red haws and bright rosehips, black berries on dogwood, elder and buckthorn, the pink of spindle whorls — that great store of winter food for the birds which will carry the seeds far and wide.

These are all in the hedgerows on either side of the stately beeches, their leaves gleaming every hue of ochre, russet and brown.

The great prize is to find the translucent red drupes of the guelder rose, not a rose at all but a viburnum, brought here from the Dutch province of Guelderland. It grows to only 2m or 3m and has small, crumpled looking, sycamore-shaped leaves and beautiful berries.

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