Best of the British countryside in September

From the Lake District's fells to Dorset atmospheric sunken lanes, celebrate September with our pick of the month's best photos from the UK countryside.

Jay bird flying over a field

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.


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 2020 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine. Celebrate the month with a few of our favourite September images.

Old ways

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

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

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

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

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

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 ©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.

Maritime heather in flower in August and a view of the Kynance Cove, the Lizard Peninsula (Photo by: Ross Hoddinot for The National Trust)

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 ©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 ©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 ©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 ©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 ( 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 ©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 ©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 ©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.”