Finding new ways to spend your free time and entertain the kids isn’t always easy, but what better way than to let nature do the work for you.
In Autumn there is a wealth of colour and abundance of fruits and nuts, plus wildlife preparing for the winter giving you plenty to spot on a woodland walk or a trip through the countryside, and around the UK there are certainly plenty of places and open countryside to visit and enjoy.
As well as exploring new places, you can learn new skills or develop existing ones, add to your knowledge about plants and animals, or even create decorative items for the home.
Whether you just want to improve your identification skills or want to teach the kids about trees, Autumn is the ideal time to get up close to leaves as the beautiful colours and falling leaves cover the ground.
Nuts such as conkers, acorns and beech nuts or shells can also make a pretty autumn display, or be used to make decorations to attach on a wreath for a seasonal wall hanging. Pine and fir cones are abundant in woodlands too, and can be left natural or sprayed to make decorative arrangements.
Although care should always be taken, traditional games like conkers are popular at this time of year, so revisiting the old playground game can be a fun pastime.
Spotting mushrooms and toadstools is also fun, but beware as mushrooms can be poisonous so don’t collect them unless you’re with an expert. Many safe to eat fungi can look similar to poisonous varieties.
Nature walks can be great for increasing knowledge of fauna in different habitats. Whether you make your own checklist and keep an eye out for insects like butterflies and dragonflies or birds enjoying the last of the season before flying south, keeping your eyes open can make you aware of just how many creatures can be found on your doorstep.
Different animals can be found depending on where you go, and many visitor centres or nature reserves have wildlife hides and bird watching huts so you can be concealed and watch birds and animals in their natural habitat. Rabbits, hares and even foxes can be seen in grasslands and fields. Ducks, geese, swans, coots and moor hens are attracted to pools and lakes, with dragonflies enjoying the edges where reeds and bullrushes grow. Butterflies can be found in a sunny spot or in meadows whilst bats come out at twilight and can be seen flitting around above your head.
Some organisations like The Wildlife Trust and National Trust do nature walks with a guide who will show you where to find and how to identify different plants and animals. Some take place in an evening such as bat walks, whilst bug hunting, bird of prey spotting or pond dipping sessions can take place during the day or at weekends.
Autumn is a fantastic time for different types of light. As the sun sets earlier, with the colourful leaves and some beautiful sunlit clouds in the early evening there are lots of opportunities for developing a love for photography.
Whether you like to use people or scenery as your subject matter, photographs can be a great way of preserving a memory of an afternoon on a beach in September or a woodland walk in October.
If you don’t have a camera, you could always carry a notebook to keep track of the what you see, or an artist’s sketch pad to embark on a new creative skill.
Unless you’re hardcore and equipped with 4 season sleeping bags, Autumn is the last opportunity in the year to go camping, and the weather still gives some warm days. Although the nights are cooler, it’s nothing that a couple of jumpers and a campfire can’t fix. Take the last opportunities to spend a night under the stars before the frosts settle in.
You could even set up a telescope or take a pair of binoculars to look at the constellations. The earlier nights give you more opportunities to see the stars, and if you head for somewhere with less light pollution, you’ll see more of the sky too.
Whether you prefer going on foot or on two wheels, the days are long enough for a day walk or a bike ride so why not go and explore somewhere you’ve not been before. After a day in the fresh air, be it hill walking, ambling over dunes or sandy beaches, trekking in the highlands or exploring a forest you’ve never got round to visiting, popping to a local pub or restaurant for a hot plate of food can give the perfect end to the day.
The beauty of Autumn is that there’s always something new to see. Just open your eyes and ears and you’d be surprised how rewarding a trip into the great outdoors can be.