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Summer may have been a wash out but autumn promises to be blazing according to the Forestry Commission in Cumbria. Thanks to a cool, damp stretch of weather this year’s autumnal colours are expected to be exceptional and last well into November. Some of the best leaf-peeping destinations in Cumbria include Grizedale Forest, Whinlatter Forest Park, Giggle Alley, Ennerdale and Miterdale Valley.Already the leaves in Grizedale and Whinlatter are starting to fade to yellow and there are leaves falling in the Miterdale Valley.
The Forestry Commission has set up a special website (www.forestry.gov.uk/autumn) to show where the most dazzling colours can be found. It features an interactive online autumn colour map which rates each wood from green to gold.
Visitors are also being encouraged to get snapping to capture nature’s golden moment in all its glory. The best pictures sent in will be displayed on the Forestry Commission’s Facebook page.
Tim Oliver, Forestry Commission head of recreation and public affairs for the North England district, said:
“It may not have been the greatest summer but it looks like we’ll really have something to celebrate this autumn. Many of the leaves in our woodlands are already starting to change colour and all the signs point to this being a sensational autumn.
“With the help of the autumn colour map, visitors will be able to pinpoint the perfect spots to enjoy one of nature’s most inspirational sights.”
Cumbria’s woods and forests are at their most stunning in the autumn months.
Views from Whinlatter Forest Park near Keswick across the northern Lake District fells are awe inspiring at this time of year. Within the forest, larch and broadleaf trees give a vibrant splash of colour adding to the unique character of England’s only mountain forest.
The park offers a wide range of activities for all the family with a network of waymarked walking trails and cycling routes and new for this autumn is the Wild Play Trail which opened earlier this year.
Grizedale Forest in the South Lakes takes on a new life in autumn especially in the centre of the valley which is surrounded by ancient oak woodland.
In addition to the forest itself the central Lake District fells are a blaze of colour and can be viewed from a number of high points within the forest.
The valley of Ennerdale on the fringes of the Western Lake District offers a true taste of wilderness. The contrast between the golden larches, beech and oaks along the lakeshore with the evergreen of the spruce are magnificent.
With magnolias, beech, maples and rhododenron, Giggle Alley near Ravenglass makes a stunning short walk in autumn especially if you also take in the beautiful views stretching out over Eskdale.
In Miterdale Valley near Egremont, the leaves are now starting to fall. In autumn the oak and birch woodland of the lower Miterdale valley are like a firework display of natural colour.
The conditions for autumn are perfect this year. High temperatures during the summer lead to moisture loss, forcing vegetation to drop leaves early on.
But this year's damp conditions have allowed the trees to retain their leaves while they transform into golden hues.
Different chemicals in leaves control the colours we see. During the summer the leaves are full of green chlorophyll. Once the tree shuts down as it prepares for winter other coloured chemicals take over.
Carotenoids (which give carrots their colour), anthocyanins and tannins give the colours of autumn making leaves appear yellow, red and gold.
Budding photographers should email their autumn colour images to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Forestry Commission go to www.forestry.gov.uk