If that sounds like some exotic little creature peering out from behind the shrubbery, think again. Leaf-peepers are people who travel far and wide to enjoy glorious displays of autumn colour.
The term was coined in the United States, where the legendary autumn colour changes in the dense foliage of the Appalachian Mountains are so dramatic that they can be seen from space. In the States people take autumn holidays, especially to go and see the colours. And it’s catching on over here too, as leaf-peeping becomes increasingly popular.
If you live in the New Forest, or happen to be visiting, you don’t have to travel far at all, because the Forest’s ancient and ornamental woodlands are among the best places in the country to see the autumn colours. And the time for leaf-peeping is nigh, because the last two weeks of October are when the colours will reach their peak.
The timing and intensity of autumn foliage displays are affected by the weather, and this year the warm summer, with spells of rain, followed by the dry early autumn has concentrated the sugar levels in the leaves that help them to change colour and develop the vibrant autumn reds and golds.
Trees to look out for are the oaks, beech and field maples which offer a glorious display lasting into November, while the native British common spindle, dogwood and wild cherry tend to be among the first to change colour.
Look out for the canopies of beech at the Bolderwood end of the Bolderwood Ornamental Drive, visit the mature mixed woodland around Denny Wood campsite or go and see the sweet chestnut behind Anderwood car park.
The Forestry Commission rates each woodland from green to gold as leaves turn, so to find out how the colour displays are coming along and decide where to go, visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/autumn