I've really noticed the pace of the season lately - all of those autumnal gusts are really blowing the beautiful leaves off the trees, seemingly before they've really had a chance to change properly!
This weekend I've tried to catch some good autumn colours before it's too late, firstly via a loop starting from Hinton Ampner, and then today at Stourhead.
Some of you may recall I HATE a 'there and back' walk i.e. not a loop. Therefore, I managed to construct a loop, starting from the road to the ancient and pretty village of Hinton Ampner (off the A272 towards Petersfield, about 30 mins from Winchester). I had inadvertently also taken in part of the Cheriton battelfield from the Civil War, which has various interpretation panels dotted about - very interesting. It was a rather grey and cold day - very autumnal. The walk took us down ancient old droves with beautiful thick hedges laden with berries (refer to my post about mast years!), towards the Open Access of Cheriton Wood. I'd never been before - it's an interesting mix of native broafleaves, various conifers, and wide glades being planted up with new trees. Lovely colours, particularly from the beeches. On battling our way to the edge of the wood (no paths!) to pick up a footpath back, we came across a sign welcoming us to the wood. Unfortunately, it then turned out that the open access excluded August - Feb - whoops! The path then took us to the village of Bramdean via some fields of what looked like Phacelia (good for farmland birds and often planted as part of a Stewardship scheme) - not much to it apart from an enormous manor on the road, but not even marked on the map! Bramdean Manor itself was tucked away up the hill on our route, nestled next to a 12th century church being renovated, and with stunning views back across the valley towards Hinton Ampner. Here, we're at the very top of the Itchen catchment, and indeed, Cheriton is where the springs forming the source of this amazing river can be found. In the gathering gloom we quickly yomped back along a beautiful ridge towards the car.
And then today we braved the crowds and headed to Stourhead. It was chocker but, it seems to absorb the vast hordes well and we were able to enjoy the stunning autumn colours (perhaps a week or two too late?) without too many people blocking views! I'd not been before, but the constantly changing light made for some beautiful photos. The low autumn sun caught the edges of the tulip trees, planes and beeches, seemingly setting them afire. Beautiful but fleeting - some patience required!
So get out there (a recurring message of mine!) before this brief spectacle is over!