1. A blaze of autumn colour at Sheffield Park and Garden

Famous for its autumn colour, this is the season the garden was planted for. The dazzling displays of autumn colour at Sheffield Park and Garden are a show-stopper. Take in the natural beauty as Sheffield Park glows with brilliant displays of reds, oranges, purples and greens.

  • If you’re visiting before 19th November, pre-book your car parking space before arriving. Book online at nationaltrust.org.uk/sheffieldpark or call 0344 249 1895.
  • There’s no need to book when you arrive by public transport. The 121 bus runs every hour on Saturdays and Sundays from Lewis, via Cooksbridge. You can even arrive by the Bluebell Railway steam train from East Grinstead. See more transport routes here.
  • Did you know: Sheffield Park is famous for its collection of nyssa sylvatica trees, which are glorious in autumn. With 400 raised from seed by Arthur Soames between 1910-1924, the garden has the largest collection of nyssa on one site. The reason for the concentrated planting of the species was to recreate ‘the fall’, with its spectacular autumn colours.
  • Nyssa Sylvatica ‘Sheffield Park’ was cultivated here and comes into autumn colour around 10 days earlier than other nyssas. Saplings are on sale in the shop to buy and plant at home.
  1. Romantic walks in the garden at Nymans

With its mellow garden in autumn, Nymans is an unmissable treat. Don your best autumn scarf and take a stroll round the romantic ruins and garden. The autumn sun bathes the garden in golden light. The cafés at Nymans serve deliciously good scones with cream and jam.

  • Walk in the woodland and garden and see magnificent autumn colour in the hickory, liquidambar and acer trees.
  • Spot deer and wildlife in the woodland, watch mist settle over the boating lake from the shelter of our bird hide.
  • Enjoy views across the Weald which are particularly striking in autumn with a blend of earthy colours transforming the landscape. The South African flower borders carry on flowering into late October and there are wonderful late flowering dahlias surrounding the rose garden.
  • Pop in to see Artist in Residence John Thompson, as he paints in the Potting Shed.
  • Warm up by the fire while browsing the secondhand bookshop.
  1. Exhibitions at Standen and Nymans

A rainy day in autumn is a great excuse to explore some of the huge variety of grand, stately and quirky houses and collections that we look after in Sussex. Here are some exhibitions to prioritise before they’re put to bed for the year:

  • Drawing Standen – until 29th October –  See Maggie Beale’s charming sketches of family life. Drawn during and after her studies at the Slade School of Art, her sketches provide a poignant insight into the rhythm of life at Standen in the early 1900s.
  • Creating a Dream at Nymans – until 29th October – Imagine the house at Nymans before the fire. Step into Maud’s reimagined studio, to see her vision evolve, and add your own creative spin to Maud’s grand design. Using 3D techniques, the exhibition recreates Nymans as it was, with vivid colour, new fabrics and newly acquired objects.
  1. Half term and Halloween fun for families

From spooky castles to Count Frogula’s Halloween, there’s lots of fun to be had in Sussex this October half term:

  • Count Frogula’s Halloween Half Term Trail at Nymans: Resident giant frog Hopper has invited his uncle Count Frogula for Halloween at Nymans. Join them for a spooky time around the garden with witches’ hats, spooky spells and plenty of tricks and treats. Watch out for the pumpkin army, and the giant black cat waiting to pounce! Have your face painted for Halloween by a professional face painter. 21st to 29th October: 10am–4.30pm. Trail £3 with a prize. Face painting free.
  • Spookiful Standen: Have a spookiful half term at Standen with a fun trail for all the family. Spot the scary scarecrow and bats, have a magic meeting by the Lavender Lawn, find a witches’ coven in the Quarry Garden and step inside the spookiful Bothy. Bothy open 7th to 31st October. Trail: 14th to 31st October, £3 with gift.
  • Bateman’s Fairies and Fantastic Fungi Trail:
21st to 29th October, 10am–4pm, £2 plus admission.
Look closely, can you find where the fairies live? See what kind of rascally games they’ve been getting up to, and maybe have a go at some too! Suitable for families with primary school aged children.
  • Bodiam Castle Spell Quest: 14th to 29th October, 10am–4pm, £3 plus admission.
Young witches and wizards are wanted to take part in a thrilling quest to save the castle from the clutches of a wicked warlock. With the guidance of Midnight, a mischievous bat, unlock your magical powers and wield spooky spells to claim your prize. There’s Halloween crafts and storytelling sessions too (see website for details). Come dressed up in your Halloween costumes to take magical, spooky photos. Suitable for 4 to 8 year olds.
  • Drop in Natural Printing at Sheffield Park and Garden: Use Sheffield Park and Garden’s autumn colour as inspiration and experiment with mono prints, gelli plates, natural dyes and hapa zome. Suitable for all ages. £3 per person, Friday 27th and Saturday 28th October, 10am-4pm. Pre-book your car parking space during autumn.
  • Spooky Pumpkin Halloween Trail at Petworth House and Park: Whoops, someone’s stolen Petworth’s prized Hallowe’en pumpkin. The race is on to solve the case in this spooky ‘Whodunnit’ mystery. Petworth’s fun pumpkin trail involves the whole family, with games and challenges you can complete together around the gardens. 14-29 October, 10.30am- 3.30pm, free trail.
  1. The deer rut at Petworth

At Petworth Park, hear the guttural calls of the fallow deer, echoing across landscape and spot powerful antlers among the hillocks and long grass.

  • Deer rut guided walks: one of nature’s greatest spectacles. Bucks compete to attract the females by battling it out with their antlers. Visitors can join a deer rut guided walk led by a knowledgeable guide and learn more about the fallow deer in this historic parkland setting. If you’ve got binoculars bring them along so that you can observe the deer’s behaviour. There’ll be an element of hiding and waiting too.  Walks run on 16th, 18th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 27th, and 30th October. Adults £5, children free, booking essential on 0344 249 1895 or online.
  1. Autumn in the garden at Bateman’s

Spot varieties of apple, pear, plum, damson, and greengages that would have been available in Rudyard Kipling’s orchards. Sample treats in the Mulberry Tea-room. Join a guided estate walk with a ranger on 29th October to catch the last wild, juicy blackberries (£5pp, pre-booking essential).

  • Into the Wild: The Wild Garden is the focus of autumn tree colour, with ornamental trees such as Liquidamber styraciflua and European ash Fraxinus excelsior in their finest throes.
  • Lines of limes: Admire two perfectly straight lines of pleached limes from the Quarterdeck, which turn a deep yellow in autumn before the leaves fall. The formal lines are in keeping with the original Jacobean garden which must have existed here during the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • Garden opens daily, 10am to 5pm. Normal admission applies. 

Len Bernamont, Garden and Outdoors Manager at Bateman’s, is thinking of Bateman’s smallest inhabitants come Autumn. “Now is traditionally the time to cut down herbaceous plants and remove old flowering stems. Many invertebrates, small mammals and birds rely on these for shelter or food. Why not save a bit of work and help your garden residents by leaving ornamental seedheads – such as alliums, heleniums and sunflowers – as long as possible. Plants with composite flowerheads, such as ornamental cow parsley, are great sources of forage and shelter overwinter. At Bateman’s, we balance this by removing stems from the earlier flowering perennials such as Euphorbia epithymoides ‘Midas’ that are already producing new leaf growth, and therefore shelter, at this time of year.”

  1. Nature walks in the South Downs

Fall under autumn’s spell with a walk in the South Downs. Nature is busy in October, from migrating birds to fruiting fungi:

  • On autumn walks at Black Cap and Slindon in South Downs, you can find open views, fungi, sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts. In October and November the trees turn brilliant shades of amber and gold.
  • Devil’s Dyke & Cradle Valley is home to wildflowers such as devil’s bit scabious and weird and wonderful fungi: including cobalt crust, parasols, waxcaps, shaggy inkcaps and King Alfred’s cakes.
  • See swathes of heather in flower at Black Down and the blue sky reflected in heathland ponds. At Harting Down and Slindon, listen out for the deer rut in the distance.
  1. Autumnal tree walk at Petworth

The 18th-century Capability Brown designed Pleasure Garden and 700-acre park are wonderful places to escape to in autumn. Beautifully designed for maximum visual pleasure,        there are plenty of ‘wow’ moments, and enough space to relax in solitude, play with the family, or stride out with the dog.

  • In the Pleasure Garden winding paths take you past impressive monuments with stunning views  – look out for the Ionic Rotunda and Doric Temple.
  • Petworth’s magnificent collection of North American tree species including red oaks, sweet gums and red maples produce a rich orange-red canopy that contrasts with the buttery yellow of ancient chestnuts and oaks.
  • In the parkland there are several self-guided walks to enjoy, but the best in autumn is the Ancient Trees Walk – a four mile circular route taking in some of the country’s oldest and most venerable native trees, as well as glorious views of the South Downs.
  • Look out for ten new scarlet oaks, planted last year to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and to create new dramatic vistas.
  • A cluster of three ancient oaks includes one that is nearly 1,000 years old.
  • The ‘Beelzebub’ oak dates back to 1779 and marked the parish boundary; it’s been suggested that its name came from the superstition that land outside the parish was dangerous.
  • Some of the sweet chestnuts are gnarled and twisted from lightning strikes, whilst other trees are hollow and you can actually squeeze inside them.