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The Fur Feather & Fin Guide to Autumn

Along with the rest of Britain, we have enjoyed the high temperatures of the summer, but that is coming to an end as autumn has arrived. Though the colder, darker days bring seasonal blues, there is still plenty of things to enjoy about the coming autumn months.

Trees with orange leaves in autumn

When Does Autumn Start?

In the Northern Hemisphere, autumn begins on Sunday 23rd September and ends on Friday 21st December, astronomically based on the rotation of the Earth. Meteorologically, autumn starts on 1st September and ends 30th November.

What to Do in Autumn?

People on a shoot with gundogs

As the days get shorter, there often feels like there are fewer things you can pack into the day, but there is still plenty to do. The bright, sunny days are perfect for heading off on a walk in the countryside wearing comfy country clothing. There are woodland walks through beech trees in Dorset, ancient woodland in Devon to admire, garden walks in Kent, panoramic views at Devil’s Dyke in West Sussex and plenty of others to choose from across the country.

In autumn, the shooting season is in full swing, and a chance to head out nearly every week to bag a few game birds. With so many fantastic shooting locations up and down the country, you can be sure your skills will be tested. Britain has a very diverse landscape for a small island, and pheasants, grouse and other game birds habitat the best places for shooting.

With the weather not always at its best in autumn, being colder, windier and unpredictably rainy, it is the perfect time to visit some of the UK’s best indoor attractions. There are plenty of country homes and estates dotted about the countryside, whether privately owned or run by the National Trust or English Heritage, that are great places to spend a day out with the family. Properties are still open to the public for most of the year and have a fascinating history to learn about. The gardens and surrounding parkland are well maintained, and are fantastic locations for seeing dazzling autumn displays.

You also don’t want to let your gardening tasks fall behind in the autumn, and there are several to do to keep your garden looking good over the winter. The first job is sweeping up the leaf litter and debris off your paths, patios and lawns too keep them healthy and stop them being slippery. Keep the swept up leaves to add to the compost as leaving them over the winter will turn it into a lovely mulch for spring. Carry on with the tidying by pruning hedges and flowering shrubs; anything that has overgrown in the summer should be cut back. Cut down perennials, if you want to. They can be attractive even when dead and provide food and shelter for wildlife visitors, but you may not want to have them in the garden anymore.

If you have nest boxes in your garden that have been occupied in the summer, you may want to clean them out. Remove old nest material as this means there will be room for a new one in the spring and will reduce the chance of parasites wintering in the box. Make sure you wear gloves when cleaning them out.

What Wildlife to See in Autumn?

Murmuration of starlings in the UK

As the trees turn colourful, wildlife is out in force foraging for food before it becomes too scarce over winter, giving you plenty of opportunities to get out your binoculars to see the birds and animals native to the UK in their natural habitat. 

Look up to the skies to see birds migrating south. Huge flocks of wading birds can be found on coastal estuaries where they gather before the long flight to warmer climates. Rooks and jackdaws group together to their woodland roosts, and at dusk, you can enjoy the spectacular murmuration of starlings. Make sure your bird feeders are fully stocked in the autumn too, so you can see a variety of garden birds visiting.

Autumn is the best time to see the majestic deer rut. Stags and bucks antlers grow back and rival males fight to attract the females. Red deer are the largest land mammal in the UK, and it is an impressive sight to see stags rut. There are several species of deer in the UK, found in country parks or specific nature reserves, and you can also hear the barking of muntjac and roe deer throughout autumn.

Spider web covered in dew drops

When the mornings start to get frosty, it will make you realise how many spiders there are! An early morning walk to spot the spider webs might not be to everyone’s taste, but the intricate designs are something to behold, especially when they are hanging with dew drops in the early morning sun!

The coming months are the best time to spot red squirrels. Though not as widespread as grey squirrels, they are a great spot in woodlands in Scotland, the Lake District, Anglesey and the Isle of Wight, scurrying about tree branches on the hunt for food.

Atlantic salmon make one of the greatest journeys in the natural world. Salmon will navigate to the rivers they were born in to spawn, and seeing them travel upstream, jumping up waterfalls is an exciting thing to witness. The best time to see them is the between mid-October and mid-November, when you stand on the riverbank and cheer them on. The best places to see them are the River Ribble in Yorkshire, Cenarth Falls on the River Teifi in Wales, the Falls of Shin in Sutherland in Scotland, or the Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre near Selkirk.

What Events Take Place in Autumn?

A selection of squashes and pumpkins

Autumn is also the harvest season, and there are a variety of festivals celebrating the bountiful produce being harvested throughout October. The most popular include the RHS Festival Show at Lindley Hall, London on 2nd – 3rd October and the Harvest Festival at Chiltern Open Air Museum in Buckinghamshire on 13th – 14th October. Also on the 13th – 14th October is the Great Peak District Fair and Buxton Beer Festival, the ideal event for food and beer lovers. 

For those who love walking and meeting fellow ramblers, there are several walking festivals taking place in the autumn, such as the South West Outdoor Festival from 5th – 7th October, the Crieff and Strathearn Drovers’ Tryst in Perthshire between 6th – 13th October and the New Forest Walking Festival between 13th and 28th October. In November, there is the Snowdonia Walking Festival on the 4th and 5th.

What Foods to Forage in Autumn?

Person holding foraged chestnuts

Food foraging is at its best in autumn, and there is a lot of different produce to pick. There are blackberries and sloe to pick, for pies, crumbles and gin, crab apples, hawthorn berries and elderberries are also plentiful, though you will have competition from birds and animals eating them too. It is essential not to go overboard when foraging, as you should be leaving enough for the wildlife.

Conkers and chestnuts are ripe for picking in autumn, along with hazelnuts, beechnuts and acorns. Other food to forage in woodland includes mushrooms, though make sure you know how to identify any poisonous ones! Read our foraging guide to find out what you can forage for throughout the year!

What are your plans for the autumn months? We’d love to know about your favourite activities to enjoy at this time of year – let us know via our social media!

Image credit: Tanya Hart