Don’t miss a spectacular show over the coming weeks: it’s near where you live and free to view. Yes, nature’s annual autumn spectacle is on!

Our county has long been nicknamed “leafy Surrey” – and rightly so, because it’s been confirmed as Britain’s leafiest county. Lucky us, as each autumn promises a fantastic display of autumn colour, as trees, bushes and hedgerows display a rich palette of autumn colours: shades of red, yellow, brown, purple, pink, orange and gold.

I’ve written in the News & Mail over several years about autumnal colour and, looking back over some of those earlier features (and when I wrote them), it’s clear we are waiting longer for autumn colours to peak this year. 

The primary trigger for trees to begin the process of shutting down for the winter and shedding leaves is day length, but weather conditions through the year affect how they grow, and then the rate of leaf loss and intensity of colour.

For spectacular autumn colour, trees need a healthy balance of sunlight and rain during their growing seasons to produce sugars, which create the colours in the leaves. 

Warmth and lots of sunshine help to increase the leaf sugar content which results in the range of pigments as leaves turn in autumn from green to red, orange, brown and gold.

The rainy weather early in the year provided plenty of moisture to the soil, necessary for healthy and substantial growth.

During the year we’ve experienced periods of overcast weather followed by long spells with lots of sunshine. A bit hit and miss, then.

Colour changes in trees’ leaves take place as the days become shorter and evening temperatures cool, with the green chlorophyll in the leaves starting to disappear, exposing the yellow, red and orange hues: these haven’t just been manufactured but were hidden in the background all along.

Forestry England speculated in mid-September that the high temperatures we experienced at the beginning of that month would delay the onset of autumn. As we now know, the temperatures were unusually warm too at the end of September and into October, reinforcing that earlier prediction. 

As I type this, I see through the window that trees and bushes are now beginning to show their true autumn colours in the sunlight. In this snapshot of species I can see green, orange, gold and several shades of red.

As the evenings draw in, be sure to take time to notice nature, drink in the colourful landscapes and experience the dusky, heavy scents of autumn – as well as the sounds of crisp leaves crunching under foot. 

Wherever you may happen to be in Surrey, you’ll not be far from autumn colour. But remember that it’s fleeting, so enjoy it while you can. A single storm can strip trees bare… and it’ll be a whole year before nature repeats the spectacle.