Autumnal foliage hotspots, foraging, forest bathing, leafy crafts, walks and adventure all part of new online guide
The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley is making a bid to be recognised as the UK’s leaf peeping capital with the launch of the country’s first Leaf Peeping Drive and comprehensive online guide to attract more visitors this autumn.
The area, which encompasses sections of the three counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, is well known to for its annual symphony of colour with over 20 million trees of mixed species spread over its 200 square miles.
Its tourist board is looking to take advantage of the growing popularity of ‘Leaf Peeping’ tourism, a term which has come over from North America and growing in profile in recent years. It’s all about people enjoying the changing seasons and travelling to view and photograph foliage.
The new fifty mile mapped out drive guides visitors to the very best spots to experience autumn colour demonstrating how the region’s foliage show can easily rival that of New England and Japan where peepers from around the world flock to in their thousands each year.
“Our members are ready to welcome visitors with open arms this autumn and the experts are predicting a show-stopping glow following a wet June which they say plays a key role in a colourful autumn season,” explains Helen O’Kane, Chair of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism.
“It is a delight to watch the trees start to light up as the days begin to draw in. The majestic oak, ash, birch, beech, larch, sweet chestnut, maple and tulip trees contrast beautifully with our evergreens. We believe our extensive woodlands, sweeping river valleys, rocky outcrops and diverse species of trees give us the winning formula to be crowned Leaf Peeping capital of the UK!” O’Kane added.
Chief Leaf Peeper
Paul Rutter has been recruited as the region’s Chief Leaf Peeper to be on hand to give expert foliage advice and has helped pinpoint the area’s Leaf Peeping Hotspots for visitors to enjoy.
Paul is a tree specialist and woodland advisor for Plant Life who lives in Ross on Wye with 45 years of experience, so knows the area inside out. He explains, “This region has one of the UK’s finest displays of foliage for the autumn which makes it perfect for Leaf Peepers. It is the time to embrace the changing seasons and celebrate the important role that trees play on our planet. They are fascinating and we still have so much to learn about their ecosystems and the connections they have to other lifeforms is totally understated.”
Leaf Peeping Drive in detail
The new 50-mile Leaf Peeping Drive is a circuit that can be picked up at any point which includes ten identified ‘Hotspots’. Starting from Symonds Yat Rock the route heads through dense deciduous woodland to reach The Kymin viewpoint. From here follow the road clinging to the Wye with its oak, beech and ash riverbanks to reach Tintern Abbey. The drive now heads deep into the Forest of Dean and takes in Puzzlewood’s ancient woodland before reaching New Fancy’s 360-degree forest views. Visitors will enjoy miles of unbroken woodland along forest roads including 200 different tree species with a stop at Cyril Hart Arboretum before calling in at Beechenhurst and then Cannop Ponds, to then re-join the Wye, crossing Kerne Bridge.
Leafy ideas from local businesses
Local businesses are embracing the campaign with creative ways to ensure a huge welcome for Leaf Peepers. The owner of Wharton Cottages near Ross on Wye will be renaming her properties Leaf Peepers Cottages perfect for peepers looking for a base. Whilst over at Eastnor Pottery they are running leaf themed clay modelling workshops. Forest of Dean Adventure’s 12 metre climbing wall will be decorated in autumn leaves, Parva Farm Vineyard is matching wine to leaves on a vineyard walk. Boutique hotel, Tudor Farmhouse, has even concocted a special Leaf Peepers Fizz cocktail to revive all those thirsty peepers after their foliage frenzy. There is forest bathing, wildlife safaris and photography workshops aplenty all designed for Leaf Peepers looking to explore the region guided by its many local experts.
In-depth Leaf Peeping Guide
The in-depth guide is online and features a downloadable PDF of the Leaf Peeping Drive and 10 Hotspots, many accessible by car and some requiring more discovery on foot. The guide also includes Paul Rutter’s specially created Leaf Peeping short walks, as well as a whole host of other ways to enjoy the autumn foliage including themed accommodation breaks, autumn feasts, numerous ways for autumn visitors to get creative and enjoy a leafy crafty experience. Advice is on hand on how to capture foliage with professional photographer David Broadbent’s Big Lens Botany Tips.
The Leaf Peeping Guide is available now at www.wyedeantourism.co.uk/leafpeeperswelcome.