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Leaf peeping and autumn colours

We always think that changing seasons are another way to find joy in the great outdoors, but there is something truly spectacular about the autumn. The crisp air lends itself perfectly for invigorating walks through a spectrum of reds, yellows, oranges and gold, whilst no one can deny the satisfaction of kicking up the crunchy fallen leaves as you go.

In recent years, the idea of leaf peeping has made its way across from the United States, in which nature and wildlife fans embark on a pilgrimage-like trip to experience the sights, sounds and colours of autumn.

So, don’t let the season pass you by – here are some of our top tips for making the most of the season’s colours whilst exploring West Sussex.

Gardens and woodland

What better way to immerse yourself in the season’s changes than a visit to one of West Sussex’s many gardens? With stunning varieties of native and foreign flora, including rare and exotic species, you’re in for a breath-taking experience.

“Westwood Lake is a must-see for the picture-perfect reflections on the water. The woodlands are also really impressive, especially Coates Wood with the dramatic north American trees such as the giant Redwoods.” – Wakehurst Place

Landscape photo of orange coloured trees and leaves on the ground at West Dean Gardens
West Dean Gardens
Two people walking through orange trees at High Beeches
High Beeches
Autumnal view across the lake at Wakehurst
Wakehurst Place
Landscape view of the sun through orange trees at Leonardslee
Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens

Have a look at our recent guide on some of the best hidden gems in the county or browse through the heritage and gardens listings here.

Walks and trails

Of course, one of the simplest ways to explore the changing leaves and fall colours is to get out and explore the landscape! Our specially curated escapades by Vespucci Adventures are sure to take you on an unforgettable route (no doubt with a cosy pub stop along the way), or take a trip through an enchanting tree tunnel on a guided tour near Chichester with Sussex Walks.

For picturesque village walks surrounded by beautiful countryside, we love wandering the Downs around Storrington or exploring the walkways around lovely Cuckfield – don’t forget to stop for lunch at Tom’s Food. If you’re planning on staying over a few nights, why not enlist the help of Footprints of Sussex to help you plan a self-guided walking trip across the Downs?

For more great walking trails and inspiration, have a look at our walking pages.

West Sussex Windmill in a field with blue skies
Scandinavian interior at Tom's Food, Cuckfield

Immersive activities

Combine the joys of leaf peeping with an experience that throws you in the centre of the action or even carries you through it. Hop aboard the Bluebell Railway at one of its hop-on-hop-off stations and witness the magic of vintage steam trains whilst travelling through the colourful landscape – it’s an adventure to suit all ages, made even better with options for dining or afternoon tea.

Tucked away in a secluded setting near Shoreham, The Artisan Bakehouse offers a rustic retreat of breadmaking workshops, cosy cottage or shepherds hut stays and tranquil woodland surroundings, perfect for a slice of the good life.

Two men on the Bluebell railway
A round loaf of bread made at the glorious grains workshop at the Artisan Bakehouse

Cosy up in a country pub

Finally, a trip to West Sussex in the autumn months isn’t complete without stopping off at one of the many traditional country pubs to warm up by a fire, rest your tired legs and refuel with a hearty meal made using fresh local produce. We just love the cosy vibe of The Noahs Ark Inn, so grab a glass of red or a mug of hot chocolate and cream and pull up by the fire.

Situated between Petworth and Midhurst, the aptly named The Halfway Bridge Inn is a charming old coach house surrounded by a river, interconnecting streams and countryside. It makes a great stop if you’ve been hiking within the Lodsworth area or exploring the grounds of the Cowdray Estate.

The lounge at the Noah's Ark Inn in Petworth
Lush green trees and landscapes at Cowdray

Have you got any autumnal tips, activities or favourite places to share with us? Tag us in your posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and don’t forget to use the hashtag #RediscoverWestSussex!