If life is looking grey, escape to the little New England of Yorkshire for some natural colour therapy this Autumn
If there was a prize for the UK’s most colourful landscape then Ryedale, a tiny rural corner of Yorkshire, might just triumph every autumn – not only is it a feast for tired eyes, but a gift for anyone needing to recharge the mind and soul on an autumn getaway.
Philip Spurr, Programme Director for Place and Resources at Ryedale District Council: "Ryedale in autumn transforms into a living tapestry of colour each year, the perfect place for anyone needing to escape from the grey every day. It’s a gift from the wild and when you get out and immerse yourself in it, it really is the best kind of therapy."
At any time of year Ryedale is one of Britain’s most tranquil and beautiful areas of countryside, but as August wanes, woodlands – more than anywhere else in the North of England – explode into a kaleidoscope of leaf-colour; the world-famous heather-clad North York Moors shift from purples to soothing reds; the chalklands of the Yorkshire Wolds radiate a halo of white light; and rolling horizons of farmland become a giant mosaic of mellow colour, loved by artists like David Hockney.
Even people of the past recognised Ryedale’s healing qualities. For centuries, people have been retreating here to seek sanctuary from the world, not least Saint Aelred, a 12th-century monk who was moved to write of the area: ‘Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity, and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world.’ His words hold true today: with mile upon mile of unspoilt countryside it’s easy to find your own own oasis of calm whilst marvelling at Nature’s magnificent autumnal displays.
After being out in the great outdoors and working up an appetite, you can taste the fruits of Ryedale’s harvest in the eateries and independent food stores of Ryedale’s historic market towns - award-winning Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside, Pickering and Malton, Yorkshire’s Food Capital. You can also meet local producers during the area’s monthly food festivals and markets. Or you may simply want to warm your feet up by the open fireside of a friendly pub or rest your head in a luxurious bed in the market towns’ first-class accommodation.
If you’re tempted to book a retreat in Ryedale – whether for a day or longer, visit www.visitryedale.co.uk.
Here’s our top 12 tips for finding colour tree-therapy in Ryedale:
- You can’t beat tree-hugging and bird song to relieve stress, proven by boffins to release oxytocin and make you happy! And you can’t get a broader variety of trees to hug than at the Yorkshire Arboretum, a vibrant giant garden of over 6,000 trees from around the world. Even the squirrels are turning red, as the arboretum has just opened its first, tree-filled red squirrel enclosure, complete with a public viewing boardwalk and platform to make sure that visitors can enjoy a close encounter while the squirrels play and thrive. yorkshirearboretum.org
- Whatever your age, you’ll be enchanted by the spell-binding Northwood, England’s first Fairy Sanctuary. This forest story-trail through Fairyland has been specially designed to help you experience the magic of the woods and its wildlife. There are autumnal candlelit wanders (with an option to enjoy warming refreshments in the café – licensed), and you can even stay in cosy and luxurious woodland bothies dedicated to fairy kings and queens. northwoodtrail.co.uk
- For the ultimate ‘space out’, how about starry trips to the edge of the galaxy? With its Dark Sky Discovery Centre, Dalby Forest is one of the best places in Britain for stargazing once autumn’s darker nights arrive. In fact, the entire area’s recently been awarded coveted international ‘Dark Sky’ status, and on clear nights you can see the Milky Way, a rare – and colourful - phenomenon in the UK. It’s a must-see visit during the region’s annual Dark Skies Festival (February), a celestial celebration with a huge range of events, both fun and seriously scientific. forestryengland.uk/dalby-forest/stargazing-dalby-forest
- With panoramic views over the tree-tops, the best place to experience the trees is from above, so the more adventurous might try Skelf Island at Castle Howard with its secret tree-top nests spanning the Great Lake, castlehoward.co.uk/visit-us/visitor-information/skelf-island; or Dalby Forest’s Go Ape, with its rope bridges and zip wires giving you a birds-eye view, www.goape.co.uk/locations/dalby
- You don’t need to climb a Himalayan mountain to find spiritual peace! Saint Aelred’s home, Rievaulx Abbey was once one of Europe’s greatest monasteries, and the eloquent abbey ruins seem a million miles away from the real world in their wooded valley. It’s just one of many ancient abbeys in the area where monks retreated from the world, from 1500 year-old Lastingham Priory, to the working abbey of Ampleforth. english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/rievaulx-abbey
- Helmsley Walled Garden’s fruiting orchards (perfect for autumn scrumping) are its crowning glory, but it’s also been designed as a place of peace and tranquillity, in balance with nature and the natural world with its ‘green’ gardening practices and spaces designed for mindfulness, like the White Garden and Garden of Contemplation. New for 2022, the award-winning visitor attraction is celebrating this relationship in a series of events exploring the ancient healing power of herbal remedies. Find out more at helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk
- With their motto ‘Restore. Reconnect. Rewild’, Adventures for the Soul have just introduced Magical Meanders, taking walkers off the beaten track through Ryedale’s countryside to help recapture a sense of awe and wonder, both by day and night. adventuresforthesoul.co.uk
- With some of the largest traditional orchards in the North of England, Ampleforth Abbey’s monks handmake their famous cider and brandy to a centuries-old recipe – and autumn is the best time to take an orchard tour, as over 50 varieties of apple are harvested and hand-pressed in the abbey’s cider-mill. ampleforth.org.uk/visitors/visit-us
- Castle Howard might be one of the Britain’s finest stately homes, but it also has 2000 acres of woodland in its parkland paradise, and plenty of rambling trails for an autumnal wander. It’s even got its own Tree Nursery if you’ve been inspired to grow your own. castlehoward.co.uk
- It’s perhaps no surprise that Ryedale has a talent for woodcrafts, and in the art studios and craft workshops of Ryedale’s market towns – especially Malton and Helmsley – you can see how some of Britain’s top makers are transforming the region’s home-grown wood into stunning works-of-art or high-quality furniture, from award-winning Duncombe Sawmill to the Stickman’s eccentric walking sticks. You can even hunt for the mini masterpieces of Old Master carpenter, the famous ‘Mousey Thompson’, in the region’s churches, pubs and country houses. visitryedale.co.uk
- If you fancy a woodland walkabout or bike-ride in Ryedale, there are thousands of miles of trails to choose from, leading you through the spectacular landscapes of the North York Moors, Yorkshire Wolds, and Howardian Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. For walking, have a browse on Alltrails where you can download a series of specially-commissioned trail maps, complete with directions and detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers. alltrails.com/lists/ryedale-district-council-walks. For cycling, get inspired at www.visitryedale.co.uk. Many of these multi-distance routes start from the area’s Market Towns and provide picturesque opportunities to explore the area.
- Why not spend the night amongst the trees? You’ll be spoilt for choice: indulge in luxury treehouses at Wolds Edge or Studford Lodge; a lodge in your own woodland glade at Cropton or Keldy forests (where you can also meet an expert ranger to explore the secrets of the trees; the Tree Relaxation Retreat in Rosedale Abbey (Guardian & Times’ Top 25 world’s best yoga holiday & retreat) which includes moorland strolls on the ‘spa menu’; or High Dalby House in Dalby Forest, a luxury holiday spiritual retreat with gardens designed for mindfulness and a ‘hermitage’ with chapel, sauna, hot tub and labyrinth. visitryedale.co.uk
Information about where to go and what to do in Ryedale is available at www.visitryedale.co.uk – part of the destination development initiative from Ryedale District Council.
Notes to editors
Ryedale District Council’s destination development project supports the growth of responsible tourism in the district, and helps to attract seven million visitors annually, and a £281 million total visitor spend.