Autumn in the Kingcombe valley

THERE is something special about autumn, that “season of mellow fruitfulness” before the razzle-dazzle and expense of Christmas and the long cold grey months till spring.

Partly it is the gorgeous colours but also it is that slightly melancholy time of saying goodbye to migrating birds, seeing the cows go back into their winter quarters and the leaves dropping from the trees.

So before, the winter blues set in and the festive shopping bug bites, make time to visit one of the West Country’s secret places, a hidden valley of peace and quiet that is completely free of charge – and completely free of shops.

The Kingcombe Meadows nature reserve, just outside Toller Porcorum, has space to explore and wander, to watch the sun set after an afternoon gathering conkers and sweet chestnuts and to investigate secret webs and hidden dens. The Dorset Wildlife Trust nature reserve is a must-visit that is free and open every day of the week, all year round, but is perhaps at its best in October.

Kingcombe is the perfect place to escape the constant day-to-day interruptions, stresses and electronic ‘bleeping’ of daily life. In this secret valley, the sounds are of buzzing, bird song, and rustling leaves and occasionally splashes as pond dipping gets underway.

It’s a place where wild-flower meadows are untouched, where children can get up close and personal with mini beasts, go pond dipping and collect twigs, sticks and branches.

The café, at the nearby Kingcombe Centre, serves home-grown and home-made food and this hidden treasure is a welcoming oasis for wildlife enthusiasts, families and those looking for some peace and quiet.

“Autumn at Kingcombe Meadows is simply exquisite, it’s an ideal place to bask in natural beauty and blow the cobwebs away. Children and adults alike can’t resist roaming through the wild meadows, crunching through fallen leaves and scouring the hedgerows for brambles,” says Nick Tomlinson, centre manager at The Kingcombe Centre, where the café is open from 10am – 4pm Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and all week during the Dorset school holidays, between February and November.

Pictured is an autumn sunset at the Kingcombe Centre

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