BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2020
Welcome to the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2020 – your chance to celebrate the best of the British countryside!
Now in its eighth year, the annual BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards recognises the best of the British countryside, from top holiday spots to mighty landmarks and glorious gardens.
BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2020 Nominations
Holiday Destination of the Year
Impressive cliffs and rock formations offer unrivalled coastal adventures. Explore pretty Stromness and the islands’ inspiring green-energy projects. Plus, the Neolithic sites of Maeshowe and Skara Brae, Viking heritage and great art and music. orkney.com
Beauty in abundance, from unspoiled fishing hamlets and Trearddur Bay’s coves to the surf haven of Rhosneigr and the sandy expanses of Benllech. Plus ancient sites, wildlife reserves and a thriving local food scene, especially at Menai Bridge market. visitanglesey.co.uk
Isle of Wight
A longstanding holiday favourite, with golden beaches, downs of wildflowers, a newly opened coast path around the whole island, pretty towns and traditional seaside fun. Plus secret woodlands, kind locals and family-friendly fossil-hunting. visitisleofwight.co.uk
Britain’s longest river winds through stunning Iron Bridge with its evocative heritage of the Industrial Revolution, lovely walks and living museums. Add in the 16-mile-long Severn Valley Steam Railway for a fantastic family holiday. svr.co.uk; ironbridge.org.uk
An atmospheric coast of creeks, fishing villages and artists, centred on the ancient Saxon town of Maldon, with stunning wetland wildlife and fine walking. Essex also boasts Constable country, attractive market towns and Roman ruins. visitessex.com
National Park of the Year
The Dales’ beautiful upland landscapes and glorious valleys have been enhanced by impressive wildflower meadow restoration. The park authority has shown leadership on the issue of bird-of-prey persecution, and it works hard to improve life for residents, as well as improving access and activities for visitors. yorkshiredales.org.uk
Enjoy staggering mountain vistas and wild walks as well as the world’s fastest zip wire, an inland surfing lagoon and underground trampolining centre. The park has been involved in pine marten reintroduction in North Wales and also supports local community regeneration schemes. snowdonia.gov.wales
Celebrating its 10th anniversary as a national park in 2019, the South Downs offers glorious rolling downland studded with historic sites and sustainable, free-spirited towns such as Lewes. Pioneering farming clusters demonstrate better ways to farm productively, with less impact on the environment.
A land of fantastic mountainscapes, deer and eagles, with glens home to famous whisky distilleries. Recent developments include recognised Dark Sky status for stargazers, and the rise of the Glenfeshie rewilding project, which has dramatically transformed more than 17,000 hectares of once-ailing forest. cairngorms.co.uk
Our least-populated park has rugged uplands, breathtaking coast, crystal-clear rivers and dark forests, as well as the stamp of human history with Hadrian’s Wall and many mighty medieval castles. A handsome new visitor’s centre, The Sill, offers a great gateway to exploration. northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk
Garden of the Year
Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park, North Yorkshire
Find 18 hectares of stunning woodland, garden, arboretum, three lakes and 1,400 varieties of rhododendron, plus pagodas, summerhouses and unique sculptures that enhance the landscape. Accessible, too. himalayangarden.com
Hill Close Gardens, Warwickshire
A beautiful urban-gardening gem – 16 restored Victorian pleasure gardens, a community cottage and characterful allotments with delightful nooks to explore. Very accessible. hillclosegardens.com
Powis Castle gardens, Powys
Marvel at Italianate terraces blasted from solid rock, spectacular yew hedges, dancing statues and lavish herbaceous borders in these extravagant gardens. All framed by a huge castle, to boot. nationaltrust.org.uk/powis-castle-and-garden
Alnwick garden Poison garden, Northumberland
Take a thrilling guided tour into 100 of the most deadly and narcotic plants, locked behind black iron gates.... if you dare. Plus don’t miss Alnwick’s spectacular rose garden and the world’s largest cherry orchard. alnwickgarden.com
Tresco Abbey Garden, Isles of Scilly
Surrounding the ruins of a medieval Benedictine Abbey, these sub-tropical gardens are home to thousands of exotic plants. Wander through ferns, orchids and palms, and admire the Valhalla collection of shipwrecked figureheads. tresco.co.uk
Landmark of the Year
Aka Lady of the North, this sculpture of a reclining woman is 400m long and 30m tall at its highest point. Set in a 19-hectare community park, it can be explored by the whole family. northumberlandia.com
Kelpies of Falkirk, Clyde and Forth
Andy Scott’s 30m-tall horse-head sculptures on the Forth and Clyde Canal represent the shape-shifting water spirits in Scottish folklore known as kelpies, and are a monument to horse-power in Scotland. thehelix.co.uk
Denge Sound Mirrors, Kent
Built between 1928 and 1935, the three concrete ‘listening ears’ in RSPB Lade Pits Reserve near Dungeness are relics of a defunct defence system using acoustic mirrors to warn of enemy aircraft approaching the coast. rspb.org.uk
McCaig’s Tower, Argyll
Resembling the Roman Colosseum, this bizarre and dramatic circular building towers above Oban. Unfinished after the death of its owner John Stuart McCaig in 1902, it now houses a public park within its 200m circumference. visitscotland.com
Singing Ringing Tree, Lancashire
Set on a beautiful hill near Burnley, this striking musical sculpture is formed of pipes positioned in such a way that the wind blows an eerie, evocative song across the Pennines. visitlancashire.com
Nature Reserve of the Year
Northey Island, Essex
Cut off from the mainland by the tides twice a day, this wild, undisturbed saltmarsh is home to vast numbers of geese, ducks and waders in winter. It rang with the cries of Vikings during the Battle of Maldon in 991, but is now a beautiful National Trust reserve. nationaltrust.org.uk/northey-island
With a couple of hides, easy walks and a garden illustrating how to rewild yours at home, Mersehead is an accessible, user-friendly RSPB reserve. Extensive wetland and saltmarsh areas harbour waders and wintering waterfowl. rspb.org.uk
Run by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, this is one of the best places in the UK for a close encounter with seabird colonies, especially Manx shearwaters, puffins and guillemots. Common seals and harbour porpoises throng the surrounding waters. Unbelievable bluebells in spring. welshwildlife.org/skomer-skokholm/skomer
Carlton Marshes, Suffolk
The Norfolk Broads in miniature – a jigsaw of grazing marsh, fens, peat pools, short fen meadow, tall litter fen, dykes, pools and scrub, maintained by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Discover a fine array of flowering waterplants, wildfowl and invertebrates. suffolkwildlifetrust.org/carlton
Martin Down, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset
Explore 350 hectares of glorious wildflower-rich downland full of orchids, butterflies, skylarks, corn buntings and even turtle doves. This national nature reserve is riddled with ancient sites, including the Bokerley Dyke. Vernditch Chase offers some rare woodland butterflies and flowers. hants.gov.uk
Beach of the Year
Murlough Bay, County Down
A huge sweeping beach backed by sand dunes and the Murlough National Nature Reserve, the bay is home to lizards, birds and over 620 species of butterflies and moths. Drink in views of the magnificent Mourne Mountains and the buzzing seaside town of Newcastle.
Felixstowe Beach, Suffolk
A beautiful beach on the North Sea with lovely beach huts and old-fashioned seaside charms, with the additional drama and bustle of a commercial shipping port nearby. Two Napoleonic forts and a nature reserve add historical tales and an escape into wildness.
Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire
This stunning sandy beach is flanked by spectacular rock pools brimming with life – a perfect place for seashire foraging. The main beach offers swimming, bodyboarding, dunes, cliffs and the award-winning Café Môr. The pretty village of Angle is nearby.
Lepe Country Park and beach, Hampshire
This stony beach and campsite form part of Lepe Country Park, with views across to the Isle of Wight. Enjoy excellent coastal walks featuring pine-fringed cliffs, D-Day remains and wildflower meadows.
North Bank, Gwynedd
Close to Porthmadog on the Llŷn Peninsula, this sandbar at the end of Black Rock Sands beach offers a vast expanse of wilderness ruled by shorebirds, with spectacular views of mountains to the south-east. Its dune system is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Wildlife Success of the Year
Pine marten reintroduction, Gloucestershire
The release of 18 pine martens in the Forest of Dean heralds the return of a native carnivore to its old range, in a collaboration between Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Forestry England and Vincent Wildlife Trust. The spread of martens could limit grey squirrels and aid the red’s return. wildlifetrusts.org
White-tailed eagle reintroduction, Isle of Wight
Returning this huge bird of prey to southern England involves releasing up to 60 white-tailed eagles over a five-year period, with expectations of breeding in 2024. Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation is helming the scheme in partnership with Forestry England.
White Stork project, Sussex
Private landowners are working with conservation groups to restore 50 pairs of this once-common British bird. A phased release of 250 storks will take place in south Sussex over the next five years. So far, 25 birds have been released at Knepp Wildlands in Sussex – and 2019 saw the first nesting attempt. whitestorkproject.org
Corncrake conservation, Northern Ireland
This RSPB project to manage habitat on Rathlin Island has seen two pairs of corncrakes recorded in 2019, after an absence of 30 years. Work included nettle planting and changing farming practices, especially mowing and harvesting regimes, to benefit the species. rspb.org.uk
Green attraction of the Year
Centre for Alternative Tech, Snowdonia
Dedicated to demonstrating and teaching sustainable living – from crafts and skills to farming and conservation – CAT is an inspiring, fun and hopeful project set in the beautiful Cambrian hills. Don’t miss the water-powered funicular. cat.org.uk
Devon sculpture park, Devon
Art, seascapes and wildlife collide at this new open-air gallery that features sculptures tackling climate change. Expect challenging art from bold modern artists in a rewilded landscape just south of Exeter. devonsculpturepark.org
Isle of Eigg, Inner Hebrides
A beautiful, wildlife-rich Hebridean island owned entirely by its community. A model of green and sustainable living with fully renewable electricity, Eigg offers vibrant music, crafts and history. isleofeigg.org
Down House, Greater London
Naturalist Charles Darwin lived here for 40 years (1842–82) and his house and garden have been preserved to honour his life and work, which transformed our understanding of the natural world and ourselves. english-heritage.org.uk
Knepp Wildland, West Sussex
This Sussex farming estate rewilded itself, with the help of large herbivores, to create a magnificent wildlife paradise, home to turtle doves, nightingales and purple emperor butterflies. Visitors can now enjoy safaris through the savannah-like landscape. knepp.co.uk
How it works
This year, we have asked a panel of judges with a wide and comprehensive range of expertise to look at nine categories, from wildlife success story to best national park. Our main aim was to find locations and projects that have impressed the judges within the last year or so, particularly with their commitment to protect the environment and work in a sustainable fashion. The judges assessed the quality of the nominations against a series of criteria - set out below.
- Tom Heap, Countryfile presenter
- Dixe Wills, Travel writer
- Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Historian
- Andrew Hall, Campaign for National Parks
- Phoebe Smith, Travel writer and explorer
- Carys Matthews, Digital editor of countryfile.com
Readers vote online or via a postal form in the print magazine.
We will announced the winners of the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards online in March 2020.
We have nine categories in this year's awards - here are the categories:
- Holiday destination
We’re looking for an outstanding general location that you love and think deserves to be rewarded. It could be a county, a coastline, a range of hills or simply a beautiful area – but it has to have plenty to excite the countryside lover, stunning landscapes, great activities and memorable places to eat and stay.
Simple enough – which is your favourite beach and why is it so special that it deserves an award? Natural beauty and a rich cast of wildlife will be important – as is cleanliness. But most of all, it should have a ‘must-visit’ appeal.
- National Park
Over the past year, which of our great protected areas do you think does the best job of conserving landscapes, wildlife and local traditions while balancing the needs of visitors and local people?
Which public garden, large or small, has risen to the challenge in 2019 and provided the perfect experience for the visitor? Beauty, innovation and sustainability are key areas the judges will be looking at.
We’re looking for memorable, striking human-made attractions that have meaning and compliment their natural surroundings. It could be a building, a monument, and an artwork or an engineering structure.
- Nature reserve
Which wonderful natural haven has brought you the most memorable wildlife encounters? Where do you like to return to again and again for your fix of wildlife – and why? The judges are looking for reserves that demonstrate commitment to sustainably protect species and habitats while also working with local communities, schools and businesses to enhance understanding of the natural world. Accessibility for all is also important.
- Green attraction
We’re looking for new green attractions that showcase innovative ideas and have engaged the local community and visitors by making a sustainable benefit to the local area.
- Wildlife success
Has a conservation story captured your imagination over the past 12 months? It could be focused on a single species or a habitat restoration project that helps a multitude of flora and fauna. We’re looking for innovative ideas that have engaged the local community and volunteers – and led to tangible success (species and habitats protected).
- Reader photo*
We pick the 12 monthly winners from the last year.