Best of the British countryside in July

A selection of the month's best photos from the UK countryside.

Sparrowhawk

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From secluded coves and beaches to coastal flowers, wildlife, dunes and sailing boats, we’ve come across some amazing photography while putting together the July 2020 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine. Celebrate the month with a few of our favourite images.

St Mawes magic

Castle on the coast in Cornwall
St Mawes Castle was one of a number of forts built in the 16th century to counter invasion from the Continent
Alamy

If you tear yourself away from the eye-watering views at St Mawes Castle – built in 1540 by Henry VIII – and head north, you stand a chance of spotting another coastal splendour: the cirl bunting. Once widespread across the south of England, by the late 1980s – due to a loss of its favoured, traditionally managed, mixed farm habitat – it was in danger of disappearing as a British breeding bird.

Thankfully, a long-running RSPB project has now boosted the population in its South Devon stronghold by 10-fold. The scheme has also returned the species to neighbouring Cornwall and the countryside surrounding St Mawes – the first successful reintroduction of a songbird in Europe. 


Bird or insect?

Hummingbird hawk moth
A large, day-flying hummingbird hawkmoth uses its long proboscis to feed from valerian flowers
Getty

High summer, when the days are long and warm, and the wildlife in the garden is at its annual peak of activity. The lavender and catmint are in full bloom and busy with slender brown honeybees, clumsy, furry and colourful bumblebees, yellow-and-black metallic hoverflies and, every now and then, the blur of a hummingbird hawkmoth (pictured), long tongue extended, dashing from flower to flower.


Brilliant Broads

Cockshoot Broad, near Woodbastwick, Norfolk
A view of the Dyke at Cockshoot Broad in the Norfolk Broads.
Alamy

Secluded and tranquil, this Norfolk Wildlife Trust – Cockshoot Broad – is part of the Bure Marshes National Nature Reserve and is famous for its water lilies. Look out for damselflies and the streak of a kingfisher.


Manifold magnificence

St Bertrand's Bridge on the River Manifold, Peak District
St Bertrand’s Bridge on the River Manifold, Peak District
Alamy

Often overlooked in favour of its famous neighbour, the Dove, the River Manifold is no less charming as it winds its way through the limestone crags of the Peak District. It creates a particularly pretty scene as it flows under St Bertram’s Bridge, a beautiful single-span stone crossing of medieval origin, before joining the Dove at Ilam.


Sussex poppies

Distant sunset over field full of poppies, near Brighton, Sussex
Distant sunset over field full of poppies, near Brighton, Sussex
Alamy

A glowing sun lowers over a field of poppies near Brighton in Sussex. These ebullient blooms spring into action from June to August and tend to cultivate fallow fields and disturbed ground, seen to heartrending effect after the First World War. Although artificial poppies flourish as a symbol of Rememberance, the delicate wildflowers are in decline due to intensive agriculture practices. Increasingly, their cheerful yet poignant beauty is confined to road verges, scrub and waste ground.


Ambush hawk

Sparrowhawk
A side portrait of a male sparrowhawk sitting perched on an old log covered in lichen alert and looking forward
Getty

In open-sky hunting, this is often seen making a succession of flaps and glides. In ambush, it is fast and furious, often hugging close to the ground or keeping to cover afforded by vegetation. Males (pictured) are petite, with
a small head, rounded wings and a long tail, slate-grey upperparts and brown-barred off-white underparts. Females are paler and can be much larger, heavier, bulkier, and more powerful; they can be confused with goshawks.


Porthmelgan, Pembrokeshire

Porthmelgan, Pembrokeshire
Porthmelgan, Pembrokeshire ©Alamy

A small valley dotted with signs of ancient habitation runs through the moorland of St David’s Head. The vale ends at Porthmelgan cove, where its stream flows into the rolling sapphire waters of Whitesands Bay.

The cove is carved into soft shale, flanked with harder rock that makes up the protective promontories that form the bay. When the tide is out, the sandy beach invites exploration of rock pools and a cave. The cove is the perfect place to gaze toward Ramsey Island and the Bishops and Clerks rocks. South Bishop Lighthouse, almost 8km away, seems like a dreamy trick of the eye as it appears to hover above the water on hazy summer days.


Peacock splendour

Peacock
Peacocks are members of the pheasant family ©Getty

Peacocks are members of the pheasant family, which includes partridges, turkeys and grouse. Although the word peacock is widely used, strictly the term only applies to male peafowl; the females are called peahens, their offspring are peachicks and, most delightfully of all, a group of peafowl is called an ostentation. 

The bird originates from Asia where it has special significance; in 1963, the peacock was declared the national bird of India, beating the great Indian bustard, the sarus crane and the spiritually symbolic white swan to the coveted position. It’s thought the first peafowl to arrive in Britain came here with the Romans, who enjoyed eating the birds; their recipes even required peacock innards, tongues and brains. But it was the Normans who really had a taste for them. At King Henry III’s Christmas feast in 1251, the banqueting table groaned under the weight of a gargantuan meal that included 120 peacocks.

These days we’re more likely to farm them for Britain’s parks and stately homes than feast on them.


Sea asters

Aster Flowers, Family Asteraceae, growing wild on pebble beach, Sandwich Bay, Kent UK - Kent Wildlife Trust, wide angle showing habitat
Aster growing wild on Sandwich Bay, Kent ©Getty

Asters are also known as Michaelmas daisies. Common and usually found in saltmarshes, estuaries and on cliffs. It flowers from July to October, with purple flowers up to 20mm across.


Red squirrels

Red Squirrel
In Britain, there are now an estimated 120,000-140,000 red squirrels ©Alamy

Britain’s native red squirrels first appeared 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age when the land between Britain and Europe began to disappear. These acrobatic rodents are one of the UK’s most loved animals, but they are elusive to.


Mottistone Down, Isle of Wight

Tennyson Trail, Mottistone Down, Isle of Wight
Tennyson Trail, Mottistone Down, Isle of Wight ©Alamy

From the town of Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, head up the ski-jump contours of Tennyson Down (in the background, above), past the monument to the eponymous poet laureate and continue until you reach the view of the Needles. Return the same way, popping into Farringford, Tennyson’s former home; farringford.co.uk. Distance: 6.4km/4 miles.


Constantine Bay, North Cornwall

Sunset over Constantine Bay, North Cornwall
Sunset over Constantine Bay, North Cornwall ©Natural.com

Not only a popular surf beach, Constantine Bay in north Cornwall boasts a glorious arc of sand dunes that provide an important habitat for nesting birds, insects and rare reptiles, including adders, slow worms and lizards.


Sand lizard

Sand lizard
Sand lizard ©Naturepl.com

One of our most beautiful reptiles, it digs narrow tunnels in dunes for winter hibernation. The flanks of courting males turn bright green in spring. It buries its eggs in sand, in sheltered dune hollows, where the eggs depend on the sun’s warmth for incubation.  Habitat destruction has meant the sand lizard is now one of the UK’s rarest reptiles.


Margate 1935

Margate, 1935
Showing the enormous popularity of Britain’s seaside resorts at their peak, the beach at high-summer Margate is packed to the rafters in August 1935 ©Getty

Why do we love deckchairs so much?

Its simple design hasn’t changed in more than a century, and it’s this timeless appeal, coupled with what it has come to represent over the decades – lazy days with toes in the sand, sunshine and ice creams – that means the British love affair with the deckchair remains strong. “I think they are geometrically perfect,” says Stephen Davies of Southsea Deckchairs. “They have beautiful simplicity and this physical beauty is surpassed by what they represent. They are a positive symbol – what society needs.”


Kearvaig Bothy, Scotland

Kearvaig Bothy, Cape Wrath
Kearvaig Bothy looking towards Cape Wrath ©Alamy

Welcome to the end of the earth. If you want to escape to the wildest edge of Britain, make Kearvaig Bothy at Cape Wrath, in the extreme north-west of Scotland, your destination. It’s an epic journey to reach this otherworldly place; you’ll feel like you’re on a different planet when you finally hike or bike along the rough track that leads to this remote haven. Kearvaig is free and open to anyone, and just steps away from the front door is a gorgeous white-sand beach that looks like a Caribbean scene until you dip a toe in the ever-chilly water. Unlike some basic bothies, this is quite cosy – bring your own wood and you can bed down next to a crackling fire.


Fishcombe Cove, Devon

Fishcombe Cove, Devon
Fishcombe Cove, Devon ©Alamy

Eelgrass beds grow in the waters around the coves of Elberry, Churston and Fishcombe (pictured) in south Devon, providing important breeding grounds for native seahorses.


Chapman’s Pool, Dorset

Chapman's pool, Dorset
Chapman’s pool, Dorset

Trowelled out of the black shale cliffs beneath the South West Coast Path is Chapman’s Pool. Feared and admired in equal measure, this remote beach is often bypassed in favour of Lulworth Cove, yet is every bit as enchanting.

It’s a short, steep descent from the village of Worth Matravers, and the reward is a tranquil, gently shelved cove that, on a calm day, is like a lake. Visit on an incoming tide and you can find yourself cut off, but at low water the bronze shingle beach and soft mudflows yield a treasure trove of fossils.


Dolphins

Dolphins at Ramsey Island, Wales
Dolphins at Ramsey Island, Wales ©Alamy

At least seven species of dolphins have been sighted in British waters – the easiest the spot include bottlenose and common dolphins.

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