3 gorgeous gardens to experience autumn colour

PUBLISHED: 17:45 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:47 15 September 2020

Autumnal reflections at Coverwood Lakes Photo: Leigh Clapp

Autumnal reflections at Coverwood Lakes Photo: Leigh Clapp

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Enjoy a peaceful stroll in these Surrey gardens and experience the season’s burnished hues at their best

Coverwood Lakes' tranquil beauty Photo: Leigh ClappCoverwood Lakes' tranquil beauty Photo: Leigh Clapp

It’s particularly wonderful to get out in the real world to celebrate the season with all your senses. Surrey has a range of stunning autumn gardens to immerse yourself in to admire nature’s spectacle of colours. Add in the element of water with those cloaks of gold and amber shimmering in the rippling surface for a further dimension of quiet reflection as you stroll amongst the beauty.

There’s something quite magical about mist rising from the surface as the sunshine warms up the chill from the night before or the colours are so intense against the deepest blue sky that you have to just stop and marvel at the mirrored sight.

Here are three of our favourites to experience this time of mellow fruitfulness and nature’s crescendo of vibrant fireworks.

Coverwood Lakes

At Coverwood Lakes in Ewhurst, water is ever-present and it’s all about the spectacular vistas across the liquid expanse. Spread over 14 acres in the stunning Surrey Hills there are four lakes to ramble around, as well as bog gardens, an arboretum and a marked trail through the 180-acre working farm with Hereford cows, sheep and horses.

The gardens were originally laid out in 1909 by Mr Stephens, son of the famous inventor of blue-black ink, known as Stephen’s Ink. By the time the Metson family bought the estate the gardens were in a state of neglect, smothered in brambles, and needed rejuvenating, plants and trees added, the paths reinstated and the lakes established.

The style is naturalistic with an understory of azaleas and rhododendrons under the canopy of evergreens and deciduous trees, accompanied by marginal choices such as lysichitum and gunnera. Golden tones reflect in the water, where you may spot carp swimming in and out of the water lilies, while a small waterfall links the second and third lakes. At the edge of the water is a well-placed bench, a lovely spot to sit and take in the atmosphere.

The vine-clad pergola at Coverwood Lakes Photo: Leigh ClappThe vine-clad pergola at Coverwood Lakes Photo: Leigh Clapp

Winkworth Arborteum

A hike down the valley through resplendent woodlands accompanied by the crunch of leaves underfoot will take you to the lake at Winkworth Arborteum in Godalming. Then sit awhile in the rustic old boathouse to watch the flotilla of ducks glide by as you admire the beauty all around.

Owned by the National Trust, the 100-acre gardens are known as an ‘unfinished masterpiece’, as they were created by previous owner Dr. Wilfred Fox around 90 years ago and continue to evolve and be added to. Dr. Fox had a real passion for trees and the environment, founding the Roads Beautifying Association in 1928 and receiving the Royal Horticultural Society’s Victoria Medal of Honour in 1948.

His inspiration came also from visits to Sheffield Park in Sussex and Westonbirt in Gloucestershire with their naturalistic placement of layered shrubs and trees around lakes and he developed an arboretum of specimen trees in a way that it appeared to be a woodland garden, by painting a picture with trees and shrubs, rather than just being a regimented collection.

Considered one of the UK’s greatest arboreta, Winkworth glows with autumn wonder on the steep slopes from a plethora of trees, including golden nyssa and fiery maples, along with the fading charm of papery hydrangea blooms and the ruby red berries of crataegus and pyracanthas.

Mist rises off the lake at Winkworth adding to the atmosphere by the rustic boathouse Photo: Leigh ClappMist rises off the lake at Winkworth adding to the atmosphere by the rustic boathouse Photo: Leigh Clapp

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“The larch (Larix) is my favourite at Winkworth. It turns a bright yellow in autumn and then a brilliant green with the new foliage (it being one of the few deciduous conifers) in spring. Even with all the colours vying for space at Winkworth, the Larch seems to stand out as being tall, straight and quite stately. Silver birch (Betula) are as good in autumn as they are any time of year; Liquidambar always deserve a mention but you can’t do much better than Cercidiphyllum japonicum. Everything about it is just fabulous. The autumn leaves, the spring leaves, the shape of the tree and of course the burnt sugar smell from the leaves on the ground. We have a number of them at Winkworth in slightly different locations so the trees can colour some weeks apart which extends the season somewhat,” comments Graham Alderton, National Trust Surrey Landscapes head gardener at Winkworth and Claremont.

As you wander, take time also to appreciate the National Trust’s contribution to our environment as it celebrates 125 years of preserving the UK’s built and natural heritage. In 1895 Social reformer Octavia Hill, solicitor Robert Hunter and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley convened the first meeting in a response to a growing alarm that Britain’s natural and built heritage was under threat with the expanse of London, and the result was a charitable institution. With the help of its supporters, this conservation charity, Europe’s largest, protects and cares for nature, beauty and history for the nation to enjoy. Independent of Government, it’s all thanks to the 5.6 million members, 65,000 volunteers and 14,000 staff that support it. Without this help, the organisation wouldn’t be able to care for the land, buildings, gardens and precious collections that it protects. “Our Trust gardens are some of the best in the country, tended to by passionate and hard-working gardeners and volunteers alike. They love the gardens they work in and making sure they are at their best whether it be the ecological, aesthetic or historical aspect; it’s an amazing feeling to share it all with the visitors. That will never change. As time passes though, we are keeping one eye on climate change and how this fits in to the management of our gardens and all of our spaces,” adds Graham.

Painshill Park

To continue the theme of a waterside stroll at this glorious time of the year, visit Painshill, near Cobham, an authentic 18th century ornamental landscape garden. Once heathland, the site was contoured with composed views through the artistic vision of keen plantsman, painter and imaginative designer, Charles Hamilton, between 1738 and 1773. The design incorporated a 14-acre serpentine lake, carefully planned trees and shrubberies, with the flourish of the element of surprise from an array of architectural follies, including a ruined Abbey, grotto and Gothic temple. You may be surprised to learn that most of the buildings are not what they seem, they are more like film sets, built of wood, rendered to look like stone, as a budget cutting option. Views were created to be romantic and evocative, forming a living work of art in the fashionable picturesque style of the times. All the planting is based on what was available before 1780, keeping it true to what was there in Hamilton’s time. Around 90 original trees remain, including American oaks and taxodiums, and using meticulous research a multitude of species plants has been and continues to be added.

Layered foliage at Winkworth Arboretum Photo: Leigh ClappLayered foliage at Winkworth Arboretum Photo: Leigh Clapp

To know

· Coverwood Lakes Ewhurst, GU6 7NT is open through National Garden Scheme on Sunday October 11 from 11am to 5pm

Adm £6, chd free. Light refreshments, home-produced beef burgers, coffee, cakes

Web: ngs.org.uk

· Winkworth Arboretum, Godalming GU8 4AD. Check website for updates on pre-booking and visiting.

Web: nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum

The vista to the stage set folly at Painshill Photo: Leigh ClappThe vista to the stage set folly at Painshill Photo: Leigh Clapp

· Painshill, Cobham, KT11 1JE. Check website for updates on pre-booking and visiting

Web: painshill.co.uk

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