Tuesday, 23 October 2012

North Yorkshire woodlands colourful show

Leaf-peeping, the pastime of enjoying autumn foliage brings in one billion dollars each year to New England.

clapham beck forest, north yorkshire, the leaves of LothlorienBut you don’t have to go stateside to rejoice in Autumn's russet hues.

The Forestry Commission says its North Yorkshire woods will soon turn gold, with the traditional riot of colour enhanced by recent night-time frosts.

Top locations to view the kaleidoscopic shades include Haygate, Crosscliff, Staindale Lake and Bickley Gate all in 3,440 hectare Dalby Forest, near Pickering.

Adding to the colourful pallet are the reds of wild cherry and oak leaves and the yellows of ash, silver birch and larch needles.

Forest rangers have been keeping a careful watch on the changing scene and adding regular updates to a special website.

Simon Toomer, from the Forestry Commission’s national arboretum at Westonbirt, said:

“Because of the less than glorious summer we have experienced in the UK this year, we expect to see prolonged autumn colour well into November due to the mild, damp weather conditions and no shortage of water.”

Why do leaves change colour?

What makes a maple leaf turn fiery red, a beech become golden or an ironwood transform through a rainbow of colours to deep plum purple? Different chemicals in leaves control the colours we see. During summer the leaves are packed with green chlorophyll, which harnesses energy from sunlight to combine water and CO2 to create sugars (plant food). However, once the tree shuts down as it prepares for winter, the chlorophyll breaks down and other coloured chemicals take over. Carotenoids (which give carrots their colour), anthocyanins and tannins give the instantly recognisable colours of autumn, making leaves appear yellow, red and gold.

For more got to the Forestry Commission’s interactive online autumn colour map where each wood is rated from green to golden.

You can also share your photos of autumnal colours on the FC's Facebook page - Forestry Commission Woods and Forests!