In meteorological terms, autumn is here – it arrived with September.
To mark the change in season, the National Trust is launching a seven-week walking festival, the Great British Walk, to encourage us to explore the Great Outdoors on foot. Running from Monday, September 8, to Friday, October 24, the Trust has uncovered some of Kent’s most colourful vistas, stories and objects to see on walks through its properties.
Children playing in the autumn leaves at a National Trust property. Picture: National Trust/ Megan Taylor
In the last surviving deer park in Kent, Knole’s guided walks provide the chance to see the golden hue of the wild deer, glimpse sunlight through the autumnal reds and browns of the ancient oak trees and spot mottled greys of fungi in the undergrowth. Inside, one of the most ostentatious showrooms glows soft silver – the King’s room is home to a rare set of solid silver furniture probably from the court of Louis XIV of France. Only two of the sets survive, the other belongs to the Queen and is kept at Windsor Castle.
The home of Vita Sackville-West, Sissinghurst Castle is built of dusty pink bricks which look the most romantic from a distance. Take an estate walk for the best views of the tower and to experience the changing colours of the lakes, woodland and farmland. Climb to the top of the tower to see far-reaching views across the Kentish Weald and the rosy bricks up close, or visit the exhibition in the oast house to learn more about the colourful characters of Vita and her husband Harold.
Autumn at Scotney Castle boathouse. Picture: National Trust/ Paul Micklewright
Relax in the picturesque garden with the glorious backdrop of this fairytale castle. After you’ve had a good look around the Victorian country mansion with its secrets and stories – where you might meet the much-loved cat-in-residence, Puss Puss – you can venture into the wonderful woodland and parkland with over 770 acres to explore. There are three easy-to-follow trails marked out on the estate, and don’t forget to seek out the beautiful boathouse covered in autumnal foliage.
Take the circular estate walk through the woodland to see the best view of the house and its bright red bricks. The family home of Sir Winston Churchill, Chartwell was where the great man himself could relax and enjoy his favourite hobbies, including painting. The studio in the garden is literally full of colour, including Churchill’s own palette still covered in paint, his artworks, easel and other materials on display. The multi-coloured artworks stand out against the oak floors and furnishings.
Follow one of three routes around the estate to take in peaceful woodland, ancient springs and stunning views. Those looking to go further afield can download walks to nearby Oldbury Hill and Old Soar Manor. Inside, visit the new chapel and look up at the original 16th-century ceiling to see regal emblems associated with the union of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon – the red and white Tudor rose and yellow castles of Castile. On Wednesday, October 1 don’t miss the opening of the painted cabinet in the chapel corridor – ornately decorated on the outside, the cabinet is a shocking bright red inside.
The White Cliffs of Dover
AND FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...
WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER
The best place in the region for those who want to exchange autumn tones of brown and red for shades of cobalt, navy, turquoise and indigo as the shades of the sea and sky mingle together, and are set off by the white of the cliffs themselves. Special guided walks from the visitor centre to South Foreland Lighthouse run on Friday, September 19 and Friday, October 10 (no booking required), otherwise pick up a map and explore the blues on your own.
For more details on the Great British Walk keep up to date via the website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greatbritishwalk