Autumn has long been a wondrous spectacle in the calendar of nature lovers. Even those who aren’t outdoorsy can appreciate the colours of the changing leaves in autumn on Instagram! But did you know that there’s a phrase for this seasonal activity? It’s ‘leaf peeping’!
What is leaf peeping?
Leaf peeping refers to the act of observing autumn foliage scenery. Usually, this includes travelling to a deciduous-tree-filled destination (whether that’s the park down the road from your home, a different part of the country, or in a different country altogether), but it can also take place at home if you are lucky enough to have deciduous trees in your garden!
Much like birdwatching, leaf peeping is all about observing the best of nature!
Where does leaf peeping come from?
The term actually originated from North America, where leaf peeping is most common in areas such as New England. This area is famed for it autumn tree displays, such as the below:
Many leaf peepers flock to this area to view these awe-inspiring colours during the autumn months, much to the chagrin of locals due to the overcrowded roads!
However, although the US’s east coast is extremely popular for hobbyists, the truth is that you can leaf peep all over the world. In fact, Japan has its own version of leaf peeping called ‘Momijigari’, which translates to ‘maple’ or ‘red leaves’ and ‘hunting’ (in contrast, ‘hanami’ refers to the custom of admiring the transience of flowers – mainly the spring cherry blossoms).
Best places in the UK for leaf peeping
Thanks to limited travel opportunities this year, some of us only have the option to stay within our countries of residence to view the fabulous foliage displays of autumn. But that’s okay, because Britain really does have some wonderful scenery! Here are a few of my favourite UK locations for leaf peeping:
Westonbirt National Arboretum, Gloucestershire
The Westonbirt National Arboretum is possibly the best known arboretum in the UK. Having only been established in the 19th century, the area consists of over 18,000 trees and shrubs, and stretches over an area of 600 acres.
New Forest National Park, Hampshire
Home to many rare birds and mammals, the New Forest consists of thousands of acres of unenclosed pasture land, heathland and forest. It’s also a biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest, which means that its beauty will be protected for years to come!
Lake District, Cumbria
The Lake District is a spectacle at any time of year. But, in autumn, the famous bodies of water reflect the red and orange peaks! No wonder so many poets, writers and artists have called this region ‘home’.
Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk
Of course, I had to include a location in my home county of Suffolk! Rendlesham Forest is a 1,500 hectare wood in the Suffolk Coastal district – and was the site of a UFO incident in 1980!
If you’re based in London, you don’t have to drive for miles to get your leaf peeping fix! Richmond-Upon-Thames is a beautiful location for catching some autumn colour – especially in Richmond Park.
Where have you been leaf peeping? Let me know in the comments below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.