Monthly Archives: April 2017

The best places to see Britain’s Autumn colours

Summer may be loosing its bloom but as it does so Autumn brings it’s own natural palette to Britain’s forests, arboretums, parks and gardens.

From late September and throughout October it’s all abut fiery reds, golden yellows and rich burgundies of turning leaves. Here are ten places to relax and enjoy Britain’s autumnal beauty at its best.

1Faskally Wood, Perthshire, Scotland

Lake in Faskally Wood

Perthshire is known as big tree country, with around 25 species of tree including Scots pine, silver birch, hazel, ash and oak. While it’s a beautiful place to visit year-round, Faskally Wood really delivers the goods when it comes to autumnal displays.

Created as a “model forest” in the 19th century, it’s full of beautiful specimens which are pointed out on the guided trail-blaze walk in October. As night falls, the wood transforms into the Enchanted Forest with a shimmering lightand music show.

2Lime Avenue at Marbury Country Park, Cheshire, north-west England

Lime Avenue

Instagram at the ready! Capture the blonde autumn tints of magnificently symmetrical Lime Avenue – a legacy of Marbury Country Park‘s former grand estate days. The park is in the heart of Northwich Community Woodlands, which is part of the Mersey Forest.

3New Forest, Hampshire, southern England

New Forest National Park’s ancient woodlands cover more than 50 square miles. Discover mighty redwoods planted in the late 1850s, as well as alder, beech, sweet chestnut and other varieties. Take the tall trees trail under majestic conifers on Rhinefield Ornamental Drive – it’s one of the best places to experience the vivid array of autumnal hues, which arrive in time for New Forest Walking Festival in October.

Don’t miss the huge 500 year-old Knightwood Oak on the Bolderwood Ornamental Drive near Lyndhurst, and look out for the park’s famous wild ponies, as well as pigs roaming the forest floor on the hunt for green acorns.

A new eco spiritual retreat in Kerala, India

Earlier this year a brand new eco retreat, Rasa Gurukul, opened its doors for the first time in the South Indian state of Kerala. Its mission is to teach the art of living well.

Its idyllic location on an organic farm amid coconut trees and spice groves is edged by the beautiful banks of the Chalakudy river – the place perfect to relax and to connect with the earth.

Visitors can learn to how to cook Keralan dishes, and muck in with the farming in the fields and orchards, learn yoga, enjoy various types of Ayurvedic massages, meditate, eat well and come home full of the joys of life.

This out-of-the way haven is the brainchild of Das Sreedharan. Das was born in a small village in Kerala where he would follow his mother around the vegetable plot and into the kitchen.

When he left for England, his passion for home cooked South Indian food went with him: he set up the Rasa chain of London restaurants, and every year he organises London’s annual Kerala Food Festival.

Yet, Das wanted to offer more. He wanted to offer a farm experience where guests can eat farm fresh produce grown without the chemical pesticides and fertilisers that mask their flavours. Rasa Gurukul was born.
Transfer is by bullock cart

Indian life is notoriously noisy and hectic but you won’t find motorised vehicles on the farm. When you arrive at the edge of the farm your final approach with your luggage is on the back of a bullock cart pulled sedately by a slow-going bullock through the scenic lanes.

As you notch down a gear or two, the surroundings come into focus and it’s tempting to stop along the way, to watch the potter at his wheel, or the jaggery (traditional cane suger) maker stirring vats of cane sugar.

Accommodation can be a cottage, single or double rooms, but all rooms have been created in typical Keralan style with wood floors, rustic constructs and all come with incredible river views.

At night it’s hard not to be awed by the sunrise and sunsets and the light as it falls over the water and the land.

Mornings on the farm start with energy raising yoga and meditation so you can tackle the challenges of the day. Everyone joins in including staff and students from the local village. You learn, quickly, that your mental and physical wellbeing are intimately entwined, and unless you can rest your mind and relax, sooner or later your body will suffer.

This concept is at the heart of what Keralans know as Ayruveda – a Sanskrit word made of two parts: life and science. Ayurveda is, therefore, the science of life itself. The knowledge is said to have been passed down from the gods.

Ayurveda has been used for at least 2,000 years, and the doctors at Rasa Gurukul are the fourth generation to practice this ancient form of healing. Key tenets are universal inter-connectedness, and the body’s five elements — space, air, water, fire, and earth — as when these fall out of balance, we fall sick. Restoring your balance requires the right food, the right physical treatments, and the right state of mind.

24 hours in Genoa, Italy

Often overlooked by sun-seeking tourists in a rush to get to picturesque Portofino and pastel-painted Cinque Terre, Genoa is one of Italy’s most underrated and historically significant cities

This former maritime power has much to boast about: birthplace of world navigator Christopher Columbus, home to the prison from which Marco Polo dictated accounts of his travels, Italy’s first football team, and inventors of pesto.

Genoa’s topography, nestled between mountains and sea, means that the city is blessed with temperate weather all year round and, with direct two hour flights from the UK, it’s the perfect escape for those in search of history, culture and hearty Italian fare, any time of the year.

This compact city is more than a gateway to the Italian Riviera, it’s a destination in its own right.

Must stay

Reacquaint yourself with the renaissance at Vecchia Genova, a Sixteenth Century palazzo located in the historic centre of Genoa, just 300m from San Lorenzo Cathedral.

Days begin with homemade brioche and organic jam breakfasts served on the terrace and end in blissful slumber in spacious, stucco-walled bedrooms.

For something a little more luxurious, treat yourself to the Grand Hotel Savoia, Genoa’s most opulent lodgings. This five star hotel was established in 1897 and has long been a favourite amongst old Italian aristocracy. Soothe your sightseeing-worn limbs in the hydro-pool on the terrace or at the on-site spa.

4-day hiking in the Brandenberg Alps, Tyrol, Austria

It’s only 45 minutes from the airport in Innsbruck to Kramsach, but the taxi driver is scaring me with a recent story about a hiker who’s been gored to death by a cow in this region.

Now I’ve always believed, that despite their bulk, cows present no threat to the walker, but apparently this one was guarding her calves when the woman’s dog started harrying them. I’m thinking I’d better watch my step on this hike.

The small town of Kramsach nestles in the valley beside the Inn River and is dominated by the mountains rising up above it. I leave my heavy luggage at the hotel, just taking a small rucksack with my essentials. The first day is classed as “moderate” with only 10km to hike and it’s a pleasant morning as I walk along the road, cross the river and take the path signed to Brandenberg.

I climb upwards through the forest, and it’s steep in parts, before reaching 1509m, marked by a summit cross. It’s very hot but fortunately the trees provide essential cover from the sun. The weather is hazy so the views are not great but still, I can see Kramsach and the river running the length of the valley. From here it’s downhill on a 4×4 track but there are pleasant interludes through the forest before I reach the tiny village of Brandenburg at 900m.

I wake up to rain which looks set for the day and I’ve got 19 km to complete. Nothing for it but to don my wet weather gear and grin and bear it. I take the road out of the village to the hamlet of Winkl. There the road winds steeply upwards but I take a forest track which crosses it sporadically. So far the rain has been constant and I’m feeling very wet. But, as I climb higher and rise above the cloud, the weather begins to ease.

I reach the 1786m Kienberg, the day’s highest point, and I can just about glimpse the villages below through the mist. A narrow path leads steeply downhill and I surprise the occasional Chamois which bounds off in the distance before I can reach for my camera. The day is slowly improving and I take an asphalt road before the final descent to the tiny village of Pinegg. Although I’m feeling dry outside, my rucksack is soaked, together with all its contents. My room turns into a giant airing cupboard.