Category Archives: Foresty Commission

How and why do leaves change colour in the autumn?

Colour Me Happy

Our friends at Forestry Commission England carried out a survey on how we feel about autumn, and a staggering 96% of people said that beautiful autumn colours improve their mood.

These stunning colours draw in the eye and make us happy, but why do leaves change colour in the autumn? What science is going on behind the scenes?

To understand this, have a quick look at the phases which a tree goes through.

[Hint: you can follow these phases on this interactive map, which tracks the changing seasons]


Phase 1: The growing season begins…

Like any other living thing, trees need to take in energy. Unlike any other living thing, trees do this through solar power. Pretty impressive huh!

During spring and summer, the tree bursts into life and uses the sun’s rays to grow new shoots. Once the buds are set and the leaves are fully expanded, the tree fills its leaves with a green-coloured chemical called chlorophyll. This chemical is what allows trees to harness the sunshine and turn it into sugars (tree food). Yum!

The tree is constantly topping-up the chlorophyll during this growing phase, as the chemical is continually being broken down to produce food when it’s exposed to light.

Phase 2: Power down

When the days grow shorter, the light and heat levels drop, so the trees’ ‘solar panels’ power down. The tree creates a block between the branch and the leaf stem, depriving the leaves of nutrients and preventing chlorophyll from being topped-up.

Phase 3: Colour breakouts!

In autumn, the green chlorophyll begins to break down, uncovering other brightly coloured pigments hidden within the leaf.

On some trees you’ll see the rich oranges (carotenoids) or yellows begin to break through, (anthophylls). On others you’ll see a beautiful deep red or purple. These colours come from anthocyanins, which the trees make from the sugars trapped in the leaves.

Next time you look up at a golden autumn tree, you can smile knowing that a tree produces its colour as part of its annual growth cycle.

 Colour Me Happy

We’re in for a treat this autumn!

Luckily for us we’re in for a great season of colour this year, and here’s why…

Andrew Smith, the Forestry Commission’s director at Westonbirt explains that because of “the abundance of rain we experienced in spring, coupled with above average sunshine, has meant a great growing season for trees as it allows them to build up plenty of sugars in their leaves.”

Andrew goes on to explain that, thanks to a warm autumn (one of the hottest Septembers in over 100 years in fact), our forests will stay colourful for even longer this year!


All the more reason to head to one of the Forestry Commission’s top 10 autumn walks! They’ve hand picked the finest forest walks from around England for you to experience the stunning colours of autumn. It’s all part of their #ColourMeHappy campaign, which is encouraging people to get outdoors to make the most of this beautiful season.

Celebrate autumn at Go Ape!

Autumn Zip

Autumn has arrived and forests across the UK have started their spectacular transformation. The once-green canopy is turning into a rainbow of reds, golds, yellows and oranges… and the Go Ape tribe can’t get enough of it!

But, there’s more to an autumnal forest than crunchy orange leaves! We were recently reading the Forestry Commission website and found a list of wild things to look out for when you’re taking a stroll through the woodland this season…


The Deer mating season starts at the end of September, with a peak in mid-October. Stags grow extremely impressive antlers to woo female Deer and fight off other males; and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to hear their cries echo throughout the forest.


While some birds (Swallows, Cuckoos and Warblers) leave the UK during autumn in search of warmer climates (who can blame them?), some species arrive here, such as Swans, Ducks, Geese and Waders. Birds change their diet during the autumn months, swapping Caterpillars for small seeds, and their nests become easier to inspect thanks to the fallen leaves.


Autumn is seed season! Now’s a great time to gather seeds from across the forest; find them in cones, fruits and berries. Did you know that trees have different methods of dispersing their seeds? For instance, some seeds are scattered by Squirrels, while others are spread by birds.

Red SquirrelRed Squirrel

Take a peek in the forks of tree trunks, and there’s a good chance you’ll come across a drey (a large nest) built by a Red Squirrel. They spend autumn gathering nuts and seeds and scattering them in hiding spots across the forest; their acute sense of smell and spatial memory means they’re able to find them months later!


Of course, many of the UK’s forests are also home to Go Ape! We have 30 locations across the UK, stretching from Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire, all the way down to Haldon Forest near Exeter. So, you have no excuse not to unearth your knitwear and come and swing with us this autumn.

We strongly recommend booking a Tree Top Adventure, as you’ll be rewarded with awesome views of the colourful forest as you take on an array of obstacles. You’ll climb ropes, scramble across nets, crawl through tunnels, wobble across bridges and whizz down zip wires!

If heights aren’t really your thing, you could always cruise the forest floor aboard one of our all-terrain Segways. Feel and hear the autumn leaves crunch as you roll over them, weaving your way in and out of the trees.

So, what are you waiting for? Book your Go Ape adventure today!


Images copyright of Forestry Commission

How to actually enjoy exercise


Our friends at the Forestry Commission share our love of the great outdoors. They also see the forest as the place to explore, enjoy and exercise.  Here’s a guest post written by Joe Walton, Forestry Commission England.

How many unloved gym passes lay dormant after their new year’s resolution-inspired pledges wear thin? How many running shoes go unworn for months after one event? How many health concerns do we ignore just because we don’t enjoy working out?

It’s tough. Health warnings are popping up everywhere we look, and our foods now contain more sugar and fat than we thought possible. We know we should be more healthy, but in real terms that means getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, and two or more days of strength exercise a week according to NHS guidelines.

The problem is, lacing up your shoes and getting out for a run on the busy streets or in a crowded gym can be daunting. As well as having no privacy, there’s no fresh air, and let’s be honest here… it can be pretty dull.

Run Forest Run

Thankfully, we’re not alone in thinking this! Forestry Commission England have recently teamed up with running experts  Run England to try to make exercise enjoyable again by bringing running in the forest to life.

According to Run England research, by committing to small achievable goals, finding a support network or a motivational programme to keep us going, and appreciating the environment we exercise in, we can make exercise enjoyable again (and get healthy doing it).

Personal trainer Clare Darlington recognises this, and has been working closely with the Forestry Commission to help make this easier. Together they have designed an email programme which helps us to take the first steps to get up and running in the forest.

The six week programme titled ‘Run Forest Run’, features videos, advice, exercises and training plans to keep us motivated and inspired as we get into the habit of running in the forest.

Thinking about it, ditching the gym or streets for a forest workout is a straight-up good idea.

Instead of sweaty neighbours at the gym, we’ll be running alongside birds and wildlife, and instead of weaving in and out of traffic, we’ll be whizzing along between the trees. That sounds more like it!

There are also a series of 3, 2, and 1 km running routes across the country to make building up your stamina and strength a little easier, and giving you those achievable goals to stay motivated!

Once you get beyond the hurdles and frustrations which you normally associate with exercise, you get to the core of what it’s really about. No more gym passes or dark streets, just the forest, your feet, and a large dose of endorphins!

Wild Running

After you’ve found your running rhythm, you might start craving something a little more challenging.

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to run somewhere a little more free, try one of the longer Wild Running routes. These are a series of the most free, euphoric runs for you to “release your inner wild.” You can download and open the routes in your favourite running app, or print out the route guide and map if you’re going for the old school, tech-free-runner vibe.

So there it is, distance yourself from the places and things which prevent you from really enjoying exercise, and place yourself in inspiring natural environment. Before you know it you will be reaping the rewards of running with a big smile on your face.

Find a healthier, happier you in the forests and #EscapeTheStreets. You can do it!

Forget Fad Diets. Get Fit the Forest Way!

Get Forest Fit With Go Ape

Attempted Atkins? Done Dukan? Or is the 5:2 diet your thing?

A New Year is often the fresh start many need to begin their journey to becoming healthier and happier, time and time again choosing the latest diet craze to shed the pounds. But foodies need not cut the carbs or survive on 500 calories a day, for those that love adventure there’s a much simpler way to get body confidence back…head to the forest!

Our friends at the Forestry Commission have the counted the Christmas calories and found the perfect way to burn off last years indulgences. Starting with:

Calorie burning walks

A candy cane = walk 1 mile

  • Suggested trail: Route to Health sculpture trail at Cannock Chase Forest, Staffordshire
  • Why? A perfect trail to help get you started. The trail offers a gentle walk complete with unique art pieces. The works of art are all themed around health issues and are designed to generate interest in exercise, relaxation, mental health and a healthy heart.

A prawn cocktail starter: walk 3 miles

  • Suggested trail: Bolderwood Radnor Trail in the New Forest, Hampshire
  • Why? A fantastic trail that explores both modern and ancient woodland. Follow the trail right to the end to reach a viewing platform where you can often see fallow deer.

A slice of Christmas ham served with roasted parsnips: walk 3.5 miles

  • Suggested trail: Seat How Trail at Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria
  • Why? As England’s only true mountain forest, Whinlatter takes calorie burning to a whole new level – with glorious views to reward you at the end of your walk. Seat How Trail takes you up to 500 metres above sea level with great views over the Lake District lakes and fells.

Invigorating runs or blood-pumping bike rides

A slice of Christmas cake: cycle 8 miles

Suggested trail: Green Cycle Route at Dalby Forestry, Yorkshire
Why? A lovely trail on the high plateau around Adderstone, with mixed terrain of forest roads, grass tracks, with a few short climbs and descents.

Roast goose served with pigs in blankets, and Brussels sprouts covered in gravy, followed by a slice of Christmas cake and a spoonful of brandy butter: run 10.5 miles

Suggested trail: Hawkshead Moor Trail, Grizedale Forest, Cumbria
Why? Best for running or cycling – a great calorie burner with plenty of ups and downs to challenge you. In the heart of the Lake District, this waymarked trail on forest roads climbs up to give you fantastic views across to the Langdale Fells and Helvellyn.

Cheese served with crackers and grapes: run 1 mile plus toning exercises

Suggested trail: Fitness Trail at Wendover Woods, Buckinghamshire
Why? This circular trail, set along unsurfaced/ cross country style route, contains 10 pieces of fitness equipment designed to improve all over body fitness. Each piece of equipment has guidelines on what to do and the number of repetitions required to achieve set goals.

Now there’s food for thought!

The foodie fun doesn’t have to stop just because it’s a new year, remember it’s all about everything in moderation.

Did you know there’s a Go Ape Adventure at each of the locations above?

In fact, there are 28 sites across the UK! On average, a visit to Go Ape burns between 510-660 calories! What’s more, the exhilarating Go Ape experience strengthens the following muscles:

  • Rhomboids, Lower Trapezius, Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Erector Spinae, Latissimus, Dorsi Gluteals and Quadriceps.

It also stretches the following:

  • Upper Trapezius, Pectorals, Erector Spinae, Latissimus Dorsi, Hamstrings, Gastrocnemius and Soleus.

So, forget the fad diet and get fit the forest way. Love yourself, love adventure.

Our forest doors re-open on 14th February, get in early and book your next adventure online now.