Operation “Leaf Watch” in Cumbria








A team of woodland experts from around Cumbria have launched an eight week mission to help nature lovers get the most out of the region’s autumn colour displays.


Every autumn, the natural phenomenon attracts a host of visitors to the area’s woods and forests, so Forestry Commission staff are out and about monitoring some of the key autumn hotspots and rating the colours on their dedicated autumn colours campaign website – www.forestry.gov.uk/nweautumn

Visitors to Cumbria’s forests are now able to plan their woodland trip at the click of a mouse.  The online guide helps people choose the right time and location from the many places to go and see the kaleidoscope of autumn colours, including Grizedale, Whinlatter, Ennerdale and Miterdale. 

The online map will give people daily updates on Cumbria’s tree colours as they change from green to gold, until the end of November.

Mountain biking through the forest

Mountain biking through the forest



Gareth Browning, a forester and co-ordinator for the work of the Forestry Commission’s ‘leaf watchers’ in the region is expecting autumn colour spotting to be as popular as ever this season, despite this year’s dismal summer weather.  He says:

“The Forestry Commission ‘leaf watchers’ team check the colours daily and update the website so everyone knows exactly when to go out and see this marvellous natural display.

“We’re really lucky in Cumbria to have so many places to enjoy the spectacular autumn colours, as the leaves turn from greens to yellows, oranges, reds and golds.  Whether you’re out for an afternoon stroll or a keen photographer, it’s the perfect opportunity to get active and enjoy the great outdoors at this time of year.” 

Despite the summer wash out, the warm, moist conditions and the recent sunshine have allowed trees to store a lot of food. When temperatures start to fall and the trees shut down for winter, the food, stored as sugars and starches in the leaves bring on the vibrant colours.



Some of the best woodland venues in Cumbria to go and spot the autumn displays are:


Autumn colours at Giggle Alley

Autumn colours at Giggle Alley



Grizedale Forest, near Hawkshead, Ambleside

In the heart of the Lake District, this forest park takes on a new life with the changing colours of the leaves, especially in the centre of the valley surrounded by oak woodland.  The nearby fells also look superb in autumn and can be viewed from a number of high points within the Forest.


Whinlatter Forest, near Keswick  

Views from the Forest across the northern Lake District fells are dramatic and awe inspiring.  Within the Forest, larch’s and broadleaf trees change colour adding to the unique character of England’s only mountain forest.


This wild valley is another spectacular place to visit in autumn.  The contrast between the golden colours of the larch’s, beech and oaks along the lakeshore with the evergreen of the spruce trees is magnificent. The heather, bracken and bilberry also add new vibrant colours to the mountains above the forest. Ennerdale also has a webcam, which can be viewed at www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-6lcc3m

Miterdale valley, near Eskdale

In autumn this oak and birch woodland in the Western Lake District is a joy to walk through.  You can soak up the colours of the season as the forest and fells shed their summer dust in preparation for winter.

Giggle Alley, Eskdale Green

Nestled in a small wood called Giggle Alley, in Eskdale, a Japanese Garden had lain largely neglected since its sale in 1949. But over the past few years the Forestry Commission has teamed up with local volunteers to rescue it.  The maples in the autumn look like they are on fire. There is a canopy of red maple leaves above you and the ground is carpeted with scarlet stars.  The garden is close to the car park in Eskdale Green.

For more information about the Forestry Commission in Cumbria and other parts of north west England, log on to its website www.forestry.gov.uk


The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain with responsibility for over one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The North West England Forest District covers the Lake District in Cumbria, the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire. The forests today are managed for conservation, wildlife, landscape and recreation as well as providing a valuable source of timber.

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