If summer has ‘o’er-brimm’d your clammy cells’, fear not! Golden autumn lies ahead, when ‘barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, and touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue’.
The Helpful Holidays team rejoice at the onset of every beautiful West Country season, enthusiastically digging out winter woollies, surfboards, foraging baskets and spring posy vases accordingly, but autumn is probably our most favourite, when our little piece of England is at its most glorious.
Mist wisps low in valleys, moorland slopes don a warm umber hue, hedgerows are laden with fruit and crowds drift away from beaches, leaving your footprints meandering flawlessly along sandy shores.
Autumn’s a wonderful time for a break, to escape the maelstrom and commotion, and head for peaceful, mellow days in Somerset, Dorset, Devon or Cornwall, to relax and revitalise. And don’t worry that autumn means ho-hum hibernation… here are our ten favourite autumn activities to fill your days.
Autumn’s about the trees, nature’s festival of russet, copper, gold and cinnamon, and the occasional in-your-face glorious red. Children love getting creative with autumn leaves and, in the age of adult colouring books, don’t be too staid to get stuck in yourself. Forget paint and tissue paper, just pack paper and glue and rustle up colourful leaf collages, mobiles, wreaths, prints, rubbings and lanterns (try gluing leaves to jamjars).
Where to start? Elderberries for cordial, blackberries for crumbles, field mushrooms for a breakfast feast, cob nuts to store for Christmas… it’s a veritable bounty in the countryside this autumn after the summer showers, and you can fill your basket simply by wandering country lanes. If you’d like some help from the experts (especially if you’re looking for edible fungi), there are foraging walks and courses across the South West, including a two to three hour fruit and fungi foraging walk from the pretty Dartmoor village of Lustleigh with Wild Food UK this September (stay near Lustleigh at The Hayloft).
Kick the leaves
There’s a child in us all, and who can resist that little youthful frisson of kicking up a cloud of crisp autumn leaves? Autumn walks are lovely. No more summer stickiness, just invigorating dewy days when you can actually smell the freshness and silent woods are full of mystery and wildlife to explore. Many of our country cottages have woodland walks direct from the door, or book an East Devon cottage for the end of September and enjoy a week of free guided walks with the Sidmouth and East Devon Walking Festival (23rd to 29th September).
Brilliant beachcombing (with the dog)
It’s the perfect time to wander beaches to discover treasures tossed up and revealed by blustery autumn storms. Follow the tideline and keep your eyes peeled for pretty shells, smooth sea glass, bizarrely shaped driftwood, ancient pottery shards and artefacts and ammonites (Dorset and East Devon’s ‘Jurassic Coast’ is great for fossils). Simply finding something special is a thrill, or you can turn it into jewellery or your own unique piece of art. For inspiration, visit our coastal galleries, where you’re likely to find works created from beachcombing finds. And if you’ve a four-legged companion, don’t forget many beaches which don’t permit dogs in summer are pleased to welcome them from 1st October.
The South West is studded with beautiful stately homes giving a glimpse into a Downton Abbey-style way of life. Many now belong to the National Trust and provide a great day out, especially if autumn showers put outdoor activities on hold. Arlington Court, in North Devon, is home to a carriage museum with over 40 horse-drawn vehicles, from elegant royal coaches to humble carts which transported servants. And it’s not all grandiose – for something a little more quirky, head for Thomas Hardy’s Dorset cottage or A la Ronde, a 16-sided shell-encrusted Exmouth building once owned by two spinster cousins. Stay in Exmouth at 31 Salterton Road or Peonies.
Swim, surf and paddleboard
Autumn’s a great time of year to swim in the sea or learn a new watersport. The water temperature is surprisingly balmy. By October, the Cornish sea temperature is around 14 degrees centigrade, which is warmer than June, plus you’re unlikely to be rammed by rambunctious bodyboard-riders. Simply paddle in the shallows, or take to the waves to ride the surf or sample the current craze for paddle boarding. Watersports schools across the South West will be pleased to help.
Sunset seafood suppers
Much as we love going to bed with the sun in the summer, it’s pretty special when evenings draw in and we head out for a seafood supper in a traditional fishing village at sunset. Book a candlelit table with a view across the very beach where your freshest of fish was landed just hours earlier and enjoy a good bottle of wine as the sun sinks into the sea below a rich autumn sky of blue and bronze. You can’t wish for better than the North Cornwall ‘Doc Martin’ village of Port Isaac, where there’s lots of fabulous restaurants, including Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, the 2018 Good Food Guide’s top eatery. We’ve a choice of cottages in Port Isaac, including Castle View, Edgehill and The Keep Pot.
Who needs fireworks when gardens are heading for winter in a blaze of natural colour? The West Country is renowned for fabulous gardens to visit and in autumn they’re peaceful and full of mellow beauty. Stourhead’s neo-classical landscape is world-famous, with the lake and temples spectacularly set against the crimson of maples, burnished chestnuts, yellow Tulip trees and rusty beech. RHS Rosemoor is another popular wonderland with surprises round every corner, and the National Trust’s Killerton is perfect for exploring paths amid Chinese Scarlet Rowan and saffron-yellow Zelkova carpinifolia.
Ah, delicious West Country! It’s no coincidence the South West’s calendar is studded with scrumptious food festivals showcasing the best of the West – it’s the best of the rest too. Our food and drink really is world-class, produced using traditional time-honoured techniques from bountiful seas, fertile soils and small family farms, all warmed by a balmy climate. The Falmouth Oyster Festival in October celebrates the native Fal River oyster and Cornish seafood (stay at Gwelavon or Mount Pleasant), or come and meet us at Powderham Food Festival for your free Helpful Holidays bag to fill with tasty goodies.
Check out our cottages to find your perfect autumn retreat. There’s lots to do out and about, but nothing beats the sheer luxury of coming home at the end of the day to your cottage hideaway, snuggling up in thick socks and jumper, drawing the curtains and sinking into a sofa beside a real woodburning fire. Open a bottle or stir up a hot chocolate, get stuck into a box set or lost in a good book. Take a look at our collection of romantic cottages if you love the idea of a deep claw-footed bath and beamed bedroom under the eaves. And, as if that isn’t tempting enough, there’s plenty of autumn availability and great value low-season prices.
Book your cottage today and celebrate autumn the Helpful Holidays way!