Summer has made way for autumn, and the leaves of mighty oaks, towering beeches and Japanese maples are changing from shades of green to mellow yellows, flaming reds and deep browns.
As October clicks in, ‘leaf peeping’ adventures — the term coined by our friends across the Pond to describe seeking out the season’s boldest colours — are increasingly popular.
They are a double delight. For while Mother Nature brandishes a paintbrush over the northern hemisphere’s most beautiful woodlands, it’s also the time when tour operators, hotels and airlines send prices falling along with the leaves.
But how can you tell if we’re poised for a cracker when it comes to colour?
There are, explains National Trust gardener Toby Yorke, a few factors that can predict whether a showstopper is on its way. He says: ‘Throughout the year, factors such as temperature, moisture and sunlight all contribute to the vibrancy of the colours.
‘A wet spring and a hot summer, followed by sunny autumn days and frosty nights, usually make for a dazzling leaf display.’
The science behind the colour wheel is that chlorophyll, the pigment that gives leaves their greenness, ebbs away as shorter days and cooler temperatures set in.
Other pigments — copper, amber and crimson — formerly masked by chlorophyll, start to shine through, boosted by surging sugar concentrations. When those nutrients have gone, the leaves drop.
North America would waltz off annually with gold in the leaf peeping Olympics — few destinations can conjure up the bewitching ‘fall’ foliage that Vermont or New Hampshire can — but Japan’s autumn, koyo, is a close rival. The country’s many sub-species of maple create a scarlet mosaic that endures until early December.
If only a shorter — and more affordable — break will do, Britain’s woodlands are just as soul-lifting, especially when days are bookended by a hearty breakfast and a cosy rural pub.
Around 13 per cent of our own land is covered by trees, with everything from orchards to medieval royal hunting forests and formal avenues, such as the soaring limes in London’s Regent’s Park.
Its cloak of green is already being shrugged off in favour of warmer hues, says Alan Power, head gardener at the National Trust’s 18th-century Stourhead estate in Wiltshire, who argues autumn is the best season to be among nature.
‘It’s my favourite time of year, and you can feel the change coming as early as late August,’ he adds.
‘At Stourhead, the yellow buckeye tree next to the Pantheon is usually the first to turn, followed by the red oaks, golden beeches, yellow tulip trees and a host of other species that create a vivid natural tapestry.’
The curtain is just about to rise on autumn 2019. Here are ten great holidays guaranteed to showcase the best of the season . . .
Hear the rustle of leaves underfoot — and the lilting sound of bluegrass music — in the Great Smoky Mountains in America’s Deep South, where hickories, sweet gums and scarlet oaks are among 100 varieties of native tree changing colour.
Dovetail easy-walking trails with stops in Tennessee’s Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, where country star Dolly Parton was raised.
AUTUMN THRILLS: Hike under the sun-dappled tree canopies on the Oconaluftee River Trail in North Carolina.
BOOK IT: A week-long road trip in the Smoky Mountains costs from £1,295 pp with Vacations To America. Prices are based on two sharing and include flights, car hire and B&B accommodation (vacationstoamerica.com, 01582 469777).
October is a mystical month in which explore Schwarzwald — or the Black Forest — the 100-mile portion of southern Germany that inspired Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
The deep-green firs look ever-more Christmassy against the fiery colours of their deciduous neighbours.
Wrap up for misty morning hikes, knowing that a slab of the region’s famous chocolate and cherry cake awaits in a kaffeehaus.
AUTUMN THRILLS: Drive the Black Forest’s cuckoo clock road for the grandest panoramic.
Heaven-sent for photographers, the steep, ancient winelands in Portugal’s northerly Douro region take on a honeyed hue as autumn wanders in.
The weather is mild, and an electric bike (e-bike) is a great way to cover miles in these sloping lands, punctuated by remote villages and quintas, the port and wine estates.
AUTUMN THRILLS: Watch the Douro river winding between picturesque Régua and Pinhão on its journey to Spain.
BOOK IT: An e-bike tour of the Douro region with BSpoke Tours costs £1,185 pp, including cycle hire, transfers, hotel accommodation based on two sharing and flights (bspoketours.com, 020 3740 3966).
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Joanna Tweedy