Gliffaes Hotel has an impressive collection of both native trees and trees from all around the world; many of the large oaks within the grounds date back over 4 – 500 years. Over the next three to four weeks we should be treated to a rolling display of ever-changing colours as the different trees compete to put on one last hurrah before the winter gales rob them of their leaves. Not every year produces the full, vibrant spectrum of autumn colours but having had a hot, dry summer and some bright autumn days so far we should be set for a fine display.
During the summer leaves are full of the green pigment chlorophyll, which soaks up the sun’s energy in the process known as photosynthesis. Chlorophyll absorbs the blue and red light from the sun but reflects the green light, which is why the leaves appear green to us in summer. In the autumn the sap that carries water and nutrients from the soil to the leaves stops flowing, the chlorophyll in the leaves begins to break down and the green light is no longer reflected back to us. The colourful pigments in the leaves of the different species of the trees are then revealed to us. The debate is still ongoing as to why the trees have all these different coloured pigments in their leaves; it’s one of nature’s wonders that we can revel in each autumn.
An hour’s walk guided by our Tree Walk Map will lead you past all the autumn highlights in our garden – the maps are available for free at the hotel reception. Come along an hour or so before lunch or tea and take a gentle walk through our trees indulging in what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’. The idea is to take your time and allow nature to soak into your body through your senses. See the wonderful colours of the leaves, smell the damp autumn earth, feel the rough bark of the ancient oak trees; hear the crackle of the dry leaves underfoot and perhaps if you are lucky, you can almost taste autumn in the air. The Japanese view forest bathing as a form of preventive medicine as they have proved that a slow walk through the woods will lower levels of the hormone cortisol, too much of which in the body leads to stress and on to heart disease.
Some of the trees to look out for in our collection during autumn; the Liquid Amber, the Tulip Tree, the many and varied Maples and also the humble Larch. Keep an ear out as well for the high pitched squark of the dazzling Jay as he busies himself burying acorns for later on in the winter. It’s the forgotten stashes of the Jay’s acorns that ensure the continuation of the oak tree. Get here early in the morning and you will see the criss-cross hedgehog tracks in the dew on the lawns from their nocturnal foraging.
I will be leading two guided walks this autumn at our hotel in Brecon Beacons. Journey through the trees at Gliffaes followed by a three-course ‘autumn’ themed lunch. This will be a gentle stroll of about a mile with plenty of chat about trees and woodlands in general. You can find out more information here.