Best of the British countryside in September

From late-summer gardens to soaring eagles and baby beavers, celebrate September with our pick of the month's best photos from the UK countryside.

Hay bails and windmill at sunset

By September, hints of the autumn ahead begin to show themselves in the British countryside – heather coats the hills, migrant birds are on the wing and forests begin to turn from deep green to russet and brown.

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From the high fells of the Lake District to Dorset’s sunken lanes and joyous jays, we’ve come across some amazing photography while putting together the September 2021 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine. Celebrate the month with a few of our favourite September images.

Cornish tropics

Eden Project, Cornwall
Cornwall’s Eden Project in late summer/Credit: Alamy

The stunning Rainforest Biome at the Eden Project is so big that it takes most visitors one-and-a-half hours to navigate its raised walkways and under-canopy paths. The planting replicates four of the world’s rainforest environments: tropical islands, South East Asia, West Africa and tropical South America. Be prepared to share your experience with the resident roul-roul partridges and Sulawesi white-eye birds.

Discover more great jungles with our guide to the best glasshouses, greenhouses and biomes in the UK.

Aberdeenshire eden

Garden and castle
In the 1920s, plant collector Sir James Burnett and his wife Sybil, a garden designer, divided the walled garden of Crathes Castle into eight areas, each with its own theme/Credit: Alamy

The spectacular 1.6-hectare walled garden at Crathes in Aberdeenshire, adjacent to the castle, is divided into eight areas, notable for their colour themes and rare plants. Much of the planting was the work of plant collector Sir James Burnett and his wife Lady Sybil, a talented designer who transformed the kitchen garden into an ornamental garden in the 1920s. 

The upper walled garden boasts ancient topiary, including the iconic ‘egg and egg cups’, a croquet lawn and the Pool Garden. Below is the Fountain Garden and the soon-to-be replanted rose garden. The most recent addition, an Evolution Garden, was created by head gardener James Hannaford.

Discover this eden in all it’s late-summer glory with a 3.7-mile circular walk through Crathes Castle Gardens.

Eagle festival

Bird of prey in flight
The UK’s first ever Golden Eagle Festival will be held this September
Alamy

The Scottish Borders town of Moffat will host the UK’s first ever Golden Eagle Festival this September. Led by the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, the festival aims to showcase pioneering ways in which landowners, residents and visitors can help golden eagles to flourish in southern skies once again. The event will include a keynote speech by film-maker Gordon Buchanan, a Big Tree Climb, live music and more.

Beaver baby

One of the parents of the first kit born on Exmoor for 400 years at the National Trust's Holnicote Estate in Somerset. /Credit: Nick Upton & National Trust Images
One of the parents of the first kit born on Exmoor for 400 years at the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Somerset. /Credit: Nick Upton & National Trust Images

A baby beaver was spotted earlier this summer on the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Somerset – the first kit to be born on Exmoor for 400 years. The young beaver was captured on camera just 18 months after the conservation charity undertook its first licensed enclosed release of two Eurasian beavers in its 125-year history. “We first had an inkling that our pair of beavers had mated successfully when the male started being a lot more active, building and dragging wood and vegetation around the site in late spring,” said Holnicote Estate ranger Jack Siviter. Beavers are a keystone species that have been missing from the British countryside since they were hunted to extinction in the 16th century. At Holnicote, they play a new and vital role in watercourse and flood management, creating an environment that is attracting more wildlife and an increasing diversity of species.

Winds of change

Hay bails and windmill at sunset
View of harvested corn field in golden evening light with Chillenden Mill in the background
Getty

A harvested hay field in east Kent is bathed in golden evening light as Chillenden Windmill stands tall in the background. Built in 1868, this local landmark is one of only four post mills to survive in Kent, and the last one to be built with an open trestle. This early design means the entire windmill is mounted on a central vertical pole, supported by the trestle, allowing it to be rotated to bring the four sails into the wind.


Old ways

Wandhill Lane at sunrise, North Yorkshire
Wandhill Lane at sunrise, North Yorkshire
Alamy

Bathed in the subtle hues of an early autumn sunrise, sinuous Wandhill Lane slinks north then west towards the tree-topped crest of Knowle Hill on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. Ancient dykes, the crumbled remains of castles and grand manor houses dot the surrounding landscape, evoking a sense of what once was.  


Wizards’ tree

Rowan tree
The old Celtic name for rowan means wizards’ tree
Getty

In late summer, rowan trees across Britain are beginning to droop beneath the weight of their ripening ruby berries. The old Celtic name for rowan, fid na ndruad, means wizards’ tree. It was planted near houses because the red berries were thought to ward off evil spirits.


Autumn butterfly

Green-veined white Pieris napi butterfly on forget me not flower head in an English cottage garden
As the summer comes to an end, butterflies, such as the green-veined white, are still visiting the garden in search of energy-giving nectar
Alamy

This small, white butterfly with prominent greenish veins on the underside of its wings likes lush, damp gardens, as well as parks, hedgerows and meadows. Plant ivy to provide nectar and shelter for overwintering insects.


Sunken lane

Sunken lane between North Chideock and Symondsbury, West Dorset
Sunken lane between North Chideock and Symondsbury, West Dorset
Alamy

There’s something magical, almost otherworldly about sunken lanes, those ancient ways worn deep into the earth by the centuries’ passage of boot, hoof and cartwheel.  Shute’s Lane and Hell Lane in West Dorset must rank as one of the very best examples, where you can discover a lost world 10 metres below the surrounding landscape. This subterranean gem is lined with ancient ferns and the bright orange berries of lords-and-ladies. The trees close overhead to create an archway, offering cool respite from late-summer heat and a perch for hunting buzzards and sparrowhawks.


Jay joy

Jay bird flying over a field
Jay bird flying over a field
Getty

With blue wing-flashes and pink body, the jay ought to be better known. But this colouration actually helps it fade into the dappled light of woodland. Its scientific name Garrulus glandarius means ‘chatterer of acorn’ – a reference to both its screeching call and its penchant for stashing acorns in autumn to provide winter food. 


Bossington Hill, Somerset

Bossington Hill in late summer, with a view towards Dunkery Beacon
Common heather, bell heather and western gorse growing on Bossington Hill in late summer, with a view towards Dunkery Beacon/Credit: Alamy

Dunkery Beacon is the highest point on Exmoor and perhaps seen at its best from Wilmersham Common or Bossington Hill on a summer’s evening, when the last of the sun illuminates its flanks. The swathe of high moorland before you is a kaleidoscope of greens, browns and golds, with Exmoor ponies and red deer decorating the landscape.


White stork

White stork (Ciconia ciconia)
White stork (Ciconia ciconia) wading in a pond within a large outdoor enclosure ahead of release, Knepp estate, Sussex

This dramatic, beautiful wading bird could become a common sight in Knepp and the rest of West Sussex over the next decade. Conservationists hope local communities will volunteer village-hall roofs and other buildings as nest sites.


Pillar Rock, Cumbria

Pillar Rock, Ennerdale, Cumbria ©Jake Graham
Pillar Rock, Ennerdale, Cumbria/Credit: Jake Graham

Once blighted by thick Sitka spruce plantations, Ennerdale is now internationally recognised for its diversity, from the upland birch-oak woodlands and montane heaths of Steeple and Pillar to the grasslands and aquatic locales of the valley floor. More than 100 species of bird can be found here, including goldcrests, greenfinches, tree pipits and snipe, alongside butterflies, roe deer, red squirrels and Arctic charr.


Barn owl

Barn Owl, Tyto alba, in flight
Barn owl in flight/Credit: Alamy

Knepp’s (Sussex) determination to let wildlife come back under natural processes is slightly compromised when it comes to barn owls: nestboxes have been put up for them throughout the estate. Rough field margins provide ample vole and mouse prey for these silent hunters.

Photo of the Day: how to send in your images

Become part of BBC Countryfile Magazine’s nature and outdoor photography community by sharing your best images to feature as our ‘Photo of the Day’. Find out how to send in your images, useful tips and our guidelines in our photography guide.


Cotton grass

Cotton grass ©Jake Graham
Cotton grass/Credit: Jake Graham

Common cotton grass grows on boggy moors and heaths. With its fluffy white head, it’s easy to see how this summer-seeding plant got its name, but cotton grass is actually not a grass at all, rather a member of the sedge family.


Eildon Hills, Scottish Borders

The Eildon Hills in the Scottish Borders
The Eildon Hills in the Scottish Borders was once a lookout point for Iron Age people and Romans/Credit: Alamy
Alamy

Scottish Borders delicacy: pick up a a fruity Selkirk bannock, local chutneys and jams from the Country Kitchen Deli in the handsome abbey town of Melrose (countrykitchendeli.co.uk) and head up the Eildon slopes. With views across to the River Tweed and the border hills, the summits offer ideal picnic spots.


Penberth Cove, Cornwall

Penberth Cove, Cornwall, UK
Penberth Cove, Cornwall/Credit: Alamy

As the nation’s children return to school and their parents to work, the holiday season draws to a close. Busy resorts and beaches suddenly assume a serenity not felt since May. At Penberth Cove in Cornwall, which still retains a small fishing fleet, it’s a chance to sit and watch the local fishermen unload their catch – now crabs and lobsters, though once it was a key pilchard fishery.


Whiteoak Moss, Cumbria

Hikers on Whiteoak Moss, Lake District
Hikers on Whiteoak Moss, Lake District/Credit: Jake Graham

Multi-day walking is often associated with long, hard days in the hills, broken with wet and windy nights in the tent. But long-distance hikes don’t need to be as arduous as this – one trick is to incorporate walkers’ hostels into your journey.

Hostel walking is the practice of hiking from one hostel to the next, usually through rural areas. Affordable and comfortable, hostels soften the hardships of the path – the heavy camping gear, the uncomfortable packs and the need to cook your own food.


Cat Bells, Cumbria

Storm over Cat Bells, Cumbria, Lake District
The famous Cat Bells fell in the English Lake District, seven hikers descend the mountain with a stunning backdrop of a storm/Credit: Getty

As evening descends, walkers hasten off the miniature mountain of Cat Bells near Keswick in the Lake District, pursued by storm clouds and lightning. An open hill is not the place to be when lightning forks from the sky. Cat Bells may take its name from local dialect ‘cat’s bields’, which means wild cat’s shelter. “Its popularity is well deserved,” said famous fell-walker Alfred Wainwright of the peak. “Its shapely topknot attracts the eye, offering a steep but obviously simple scramble.”

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