Best British countryside, nature and wildlife programmes to watch in November 2020

Can't decide what to watch or listen to this month? Here's our round-up of the best countryside TV and radio that you won't want to miss…

Programme Name: Cornwall with Simon Reeve - TX: n/a - Episode: This Cornish Summer with Simon Reeve - Ep1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows: (R) with the Taco Boys Simon Reeve - (C) Beagle Media Ltd - Photographer: Chris Mitchell

You don’t always have to go tramping into the wilds to enjoy the best of the British landscape. As winter approaches and lockdown descends, bring the countryside into your home with the best nature and wildlife programmes, hand-picked by our team of countryside experts. From great nature documentaries and wild travel shows to fascinating rural stories and countryside comedies and dramas, there’s something for everyone. We feature a mix of new releases and classic shows available on catch-up. This month, get your fix of autumn wildlife and a burst of Britain’s coast, as well as some philosophical fishing and a walk through Walthamstow Marshes.

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Best British countryside, nature and wildlife TV programmes in November 2020

Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Iolo Williams and Gillian Burke
Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Iolo Williams, Gillian Burke present Springwatch Photographer: Jo Charlesworth

Autumnwatch

  • BBC Two
  • 27 October – 6 November

The wild, live show is back for another batch of autumn-brewed wildlife adventures. Chris and Megan are in the New Forest, reporting on the local fox and badger families; Michaela is in Fife, following the antics of a giant grey seal breeding colony on the Isle of May; Gillian reports from South Yorkshire, revealing the wildlife to be found amongst chimney stacks and industrial ponds; and Iolo is based at the Centre of Alternative Technology in west Wales, where he aims to track down pine martens and an unusual parrot-like bird, among other wild delights. Enjoy majestic autumn spectacles and extraordinary wildlife insights with this expert crew.

Watch Autumnwatch on BBC iPlayer


Simon Reeves with Dr Carly Daniels at Lobster Hatchery on the Cornish coast
Simon Reeve with Dr Carly Daniels at Lobster Hatchery, Cornwall. Photographer: Chris Mitchell
BBC

Cornwall with Simon Reeve

  • BBC Two
  • Sunday, 8 November, 8pm

A fascinating look at how the coastal county has emerged blinking from a bruising lockdown into a summer of survival. Adventurer and author Simon Reeve travels through glorious Cornwall just as restrictions lift, finding out how the tourist honeypot is faring. With 400 miles of spectacular coastline, Cornwall is a hugely popular holiday destination, sometimes drawing in more than four million visitors. Its resident population of half of million is heavily reliant on tourism, and often earns seasonally. Will its many small businesses be able to make enough over the remaining few months of summer to tide them over the winter? “It seems like it’s a trade-off in lives, isn’t it?” remarks crab fisherman Jonny Murt. “If we don’t open everything up, every single business around this harbour will go bankrupt.” After visiting a china clay mine, Britain’s second-most valuable mineral, and watching as 22,000 tons are blasted from the earth, Reeve considers Cornwall’s industrial past and the effect of its decline. This leads him to a foodbank in Camborne, which is now serving 14,000 meals a month to hundreds of impoverished Cornish families. The testimony of foodbank-founder Don Gardner is heartrending, and one young father remarks perceptively about the Cornish predicament, “there are jobs but there aren’t careers”. Reeve is a thoughtful and engaging presenter with a likeable manner that gets the best out of those he meets, while the dramatic beauty of the land speaks for itself. Highly recommended.


Programme Name: Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing S3 - TX: n/a - Episode: Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing S3 - iconic (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: picnic beside a Norfolk lake. Paul Whitehouse, Bob Mortimer - (C) Owl Power - Photographer: Pete Dadd
Paul and Bob enjoy a picnic beside a Norfolk lake. Photographer: Pete Dadd
BBC

Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing

  • BBC iPlayer

Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer cast off for a third series of this gently comedic angling odyssey. The two lifelong friends continue in their quest to catch a different species each week, complete with the now-familiar mix of serious and light-hearted chat. Across six episodes, Paul and Bob fish in different seasons, visiting some of the most beautiful parts of the UK, from the glens of southern Scotland to the rolling hills of Herefordshire. With the spectacular locations doing much of the heavy lifting, the rest of the set-up is appealingly laid-back, as Paul and Bob settle down to while away the day angling, shooting the breeze and catching the occasional fish. Paul’s lifelong passion for the pastime is nicely set against Bob’s more novice enthusiasm, and their respective energies and tempos, set against nature’s tranquility, create a lovely flowing show is both entertaining and relaxing.

Watch Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing on BBC iPlayer


The Owen family with a pony
Miles, Clive, Edith, Annas, Nancy, Raven, Sidney, Reuben, Violet, Clemmy and Amanda with one of their horses on Ravenseat Farm
Channel 5

Our Yorkshire Farm

  • My 5
  • Season 3

It’s hard not to be fascinated by the Owen family. Nine children! On a farm in the Yorkshire Dales! With sheep, cows, dogs, ponies, chickens and tractors! How do they do it? With down-to-earth practicality and a hardworking-but-relaxed attitude, Amanda and Clive Owen somehow manage to herd their huge flock through the seasons and the years. In series three, the Owens bid farewell as their eldest, Raven, heads off to university and they battle through winter storms and floods before experiencing lockdown in spring. At this point, the family film themselves, with camera crew unable to get to Ravenseat Farm. They acknowledge their luck in being isolated on 2,000 acres, and the parents are delighted to have all the children at home to help with lambing season. It’s extraordinary to watch a nine-year-old and 13-year-old deliver a lamb, and gives home-schooling a whole new meaning.

Watch Our Yorkshire Farm: Season 3 on My5


David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough examines biodiversity loss on Extinction: the Facts on BBC One. Photographer: Sam Barker
BBC

Extinction: the Facts

  • BBC iPlayer

This hour-long documentary sees David Attenborough address the data and science behind the Earth’s loss of biodiversity. Last year a UN report revealed that around one million species are threatened with extinction; here, leading scientists discuss what this means for both our planet and humanity as a species. Unsurprisingly, it’s not good news, with food and water security threatened, increased risks of pandemics and reduced ability to control our climate. The rate at which this biodiversity decline is occurring is eye-watering and unprecedented – and it is driven by our destructive practices. Many of us thought that the danger lay years in the future but in fact, the crisis is here and now. The question is, what can we do to turn the tide and restore stability to our planetary home and its eco-systems?

Watch Extinction: the Facts on BBC iPlayer


Programme Name: Blood of the Clans - TX: n/a - Episode: Blood of the Clans - Ep1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Alasdair MacColla and his Mercenaries - (C) BBC Studios - Photographer: Danny Carr
Alasdair Mac Colla of Clan Macdonald of Dunnyveg in Blood of the Clans 

Blood of the Clans

  • BBC iPlayer

Mingling documentary with dramatic re-enactment, this new series brings to life the violent history of the civil war that tore Scotland apart in the 17th century. Conflict erupted when the Scottish Parliament led by the chief of the Campbells declared war on Charles 1. Clans loyal to Charles rose up in rebellion and an ancient feud between the Campbells and the Macdonalds came to a head again, unleashing all hell and threatening the stability of the British state. Neil Oliver presents this engrossing and embattled saga, which features stunning footage of the Scottish Highlands.

Watch Blood of the Clans on BBC iPlayer


Programme Name: Mountain Vets S2 - TX: n/a - Episode: Mountain Vets S2 ep5 (No. 5) - Picture Shows: Vet Jennie McMullan - (C) Rare TV - Photographer: William Kelly

Vet Jennie McMullan on Mountain Vets (Photographer: William Kelly)

Mountain Vets

  • BBC iPlayer

Mountain Vets returns to the Kingdom of Mourne in Northern Ireland for a second series of six episodes, following the hard-working vets who are a lifeline in this rural community. Dramas in the first episode include a call-out to attend a prize ewe who requires an emergency C-section and a terrier who needs urgent attention after a suspected ingestion of rat poison, while new vet Jennie attempts to put a cast on a newborn lamb with a broken leg. 

Watch Mountain Vets on BBC iPlayer


Two RNLI volunteers at the lifeboat station
Matt Steedan and Bryan Jones at Swanage lifeboat station in Saving Lives at Sea (Blast! Films Ltd)
BBC

Saving Lives at Sea

  • BBC iPlayer

Following the volunteers of the Royal National Lifeboat Association, series five of this documentary opens with the crew at Swanage lifeboat station, where brothers Matt and Gavin race to save two paddleboarders before they are swept into a fishing lane. In Withernsea in the north east, a local fisherman is missing at sea and the crew scour the North Sea to find him. And a Blackpool RNLI wedding doesn’t pass without incident…

Watch Saving Lives at Sea on BBC iPlayer


Group of residents around a farmhouse
The residents of Brithdir Mawr are striving to save their off-grid home
BBC

Our Lives: Saving Our Eco-Village

  • BBC iPlayer

Follow the eco-community of Brithdir Mawr as they work to save their self-sufficient lifestyle at the foothills of the Preseli Mountains. The 17 residents enjoy the good life of growing their own food, rearing animals and providing their own power and water, while living in converted sheds and barn around a shared farmhouse, but all this is threatened by the soon-to-expire lease on the land. The off-grid community has just a few months to raise the funds to buy the landlord out, or lose a way of life that has sustained the community for 25 years.

Watch Our Lives: Saving Our Eco-Village on BBC iPlayer


David Olusoga
BBC

Black and British: a Forgotten History

  • BBC iPlayer

First broadcast in 2016, this series is available to view again on iPlayer, and presents the overlooked history of people of African origin in Britain, from the African Romans in Northumberland who guarded Hadrian’s Wall in the 3rd century to the black sailors who fought for Britain at Waterloo. Historian David Olusoga also present the stories of a black Georgian trumpeter, Queen Victoria’s god-daughter and how the millworkers of Rochdale stood in solidarity with enslaved Africans in the American south. It’s eye-opening and important viewing.

Watch Black and British: A Forgotten History on BBC iPlayer


Iolo williams in the Cambrian Mountains
Iolo Williams tracks wildlife in the Cambrian Mountains
BBC

Iolo: the Last Wilderness in Wales

  • BBC iPlayer

The least-populated area in Wales, the Cambrian Mountains are home to a wealth of wildlife. This watery habitat is the source of six mighty rivers – the Rheidol, Ystwyth, Teifi, Tywi, Wye and Severn all have their origins here – and contains a raft of reservoirs, including those in the Elan Valley. Iolo Williams explores this lakeland on foot, tracking elusive pine martens in conifer forests, ospreys fishing on Llyn Clywedog, curlews breeding near reservoirs and goshawks nesting in the Twyi forest, among many other fascinating species.

Watch Iolo: the Last Wilderness in Wales on iPlayer


Huw Edwards on coastline
Huw Edwards presents a documentary exploring the roots of Welsh history
BBC

The Story of Wales

  • BBC iPlayer

Thirty thousand years in the making, this story begins with the drama of the earliest-known human burial in western Europe. Huw Edwards delves into the biggest prehistoric copper mine in the world, and visits the site of an Iron Age hillfort. He reveals the true scale of the Roman occupation, and shows how Welsh saints carried the light of the gospel to the rest of the Celtic world, and left a mark on their homeland that we can all still read today.

Watch The Story of Wales on BBC iPlayer


WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 04/04/2020 - Programme Name: A Wild Year - TX: n/a - Episode: A Wild Year - Pembrokeshire (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Puffins at the Wick on Skomer Island. - (C) BBC - Photographer: Drew Buckley
Puffins at the Wick on Skomer Island in A Wild Year. BBC – Photographer: Drew Buckley

A Wild Year

  • BBC iPlayer

Focusing on three distinct regions within Britain – the Pembrokeshire Coast, North York Moors and the Fens – A Wild Year captures the rhythm of these unique habitats over the four seasons. The first episode focuses on the sea-spritzed coastline of Pembrokeshire, home to spectacular wildlife from grey seals to colourful puffins. The Atlantic ocean shapes the seasons here, in a region where farmers grow the earliest potatoes while sheep graze clifftop pastures. In the Fens, water also shapes the landscape, but here we find an ancient mosaic of wetlands covering hundreds of square miles, brimming with wildlife. Migrating whooper swans flock here in their thousands to spend the winter, while in spring, ‘mad’ march hares box away over-eager suitors. The final episode takes place in the 550 windswept square miles of the North York Moors, where heather-clad upland is interspersed with remote homesteads that raise tough Swaledale and cheviot sheep, animals bred for the moorland life.

Watch A Wild Year on BBC iPlayer


Helen Macdonald looking at a tree
Helen Macdonald explores the wild spaces that survive beside the M25
BBC

The Hidden Wilds of the Motorway

  • iPlayer

Author Helen Macdonald goes in search of the wild worlds hidden besides Britain’s busiest road – the M25. This congested artery has looped around London for nearly 35 years, and in that time nature has had adjust and adapt to its dangerous, noisy presence. Great tits are altering the pitch of their call to be audible over the motorway’s roar; deer have had to find a safe crossing to avoid its hazards. Macdonald begins her investigation south of the Thames at Kent’s Junction 1 and travels clockwise, discovering a wealth of wildlife, from autumn fungi and brown trout to kestrels and foxes. Along the way, she unearths unusual artistic connections to the motorway, including the landscape paintings of Samuel Palmer, which caused the motorway to be diverted, and the novels of JG Ballard, whose dystopian novels were influenced by the waysides and forgotten corners of our urban infrastructure.

Watch The Hidden Wilds of the Motorway on BBC iPlayer


A sea eagle in flight/Credit: Dorothea Oldani, Unspalsh
A sea eagle in flight/Credit: Dorothea Oldani, Unspalsh

Natural World: Super-Powered Eagles

An extraordinary study of these magnificent super-predators of the bird world. To find out how eagles manage the feats they achieve, bird expert Lloyd Buck puts his golden eagle Tilly to the test, and we follow the antics of a bald eagle family. Don’t miss Tilly spectacularly swoop across the moors to catch – and, amazingly, lift – a robotic hare off the ground with one foot, despite the fact that it weighs one-and-a-half-times her body weight.

Watch Natural World: Super-Powered Eagles on BBC iPlayer


Toby Young and Mackenzie Crook in Detectorists
Toby Young and Mackenzie Crook in Detectorists
BBC

Detectorists

  • BBC iPlayer
  • Series 1, 2 and 3

Mackenzie Crook’s low-key, gentle comedy about the escapades of longterm friends and misfits Lance and Andy has the warm, lulling appeal of a quiet pint with a pal. The detectorist duo spend much of their time in the rolling landscape of Suffolk, scanning the fields for hidden treasure while shooting the breeze, and Crook’s love of nature shines through in the shots of wildlife and the verdant setting.

Watch Detectorists on BBC iPlayer


larry and george lamb with bicycles in front of lake
Larry and George Lamb explore the land on two wheels
Channel 5

Britain by Bike with Larry and George Lamb

  • My5 TV

In the second series of this laughter-filled travelogue, Larry Lamb and his son George explore more of the country’s best cycle routes, excavate Roman ruins, encounter exciting wildlife, and even sleep in a spooky haunted castle, uncovering some family history along the way. Episode one sees father and son in Northumberland where they cycle beside Hadrian’s Wall before joining an archaeological dig, then ride on to Craster for kippers. In the next episode, the pair load their bikes on the ferry to tour the tropical Isles of Scilly, where they make fudge using local gin before heading to St Mary’s to row in the oldest pilot gig on the Isles. A race through the Peak District is next, with a stop for some springtime sheep washing, then it’s on to Snowdonia in Wales for an exhilarating zip-wire ride. In Northern Ireland, the Lambs spot seals in Stangford Lough, and in the final episode, the pair land on soft white sand on Barra in the Outer Hebrides to take on the epic 185-mile Hebridean Cycle Way.

Watch Britain by Bike with Larry and George Lamb on My5


Rural Middleham, Yorkshire Dales National Park, England.
Middleham, Yorkshire Dales National Park, England.

The Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes: In Summer

  • All 4

A fulsome celebration of summers gone by and the people who live and work in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District, featuring sheep shearing, crag climbing, ultra running and the Muker Silver Band.

Watch The Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes: in Summer on All 4


Man on a trawler scooping fish from sea
Witness the highs and hardships of fishing the Cornish coast

Cornwall: This Fishing Life

  • BBC iPlayer

This six-episode series follows the fortunes of the fisherfolk of Cornwall, introducing viewers to the fishing families of Megavissey, the Newlyn fleets that compete to catch the Cornish sardine (formerly known as the pilchard) and the big and small boats that fish the coast. What will the future hold for these communities post-Brexit?

Watch Cornwall: This Fishing Life on BBC iPlayer


Sean Fletcher on the Wales Coast Path
Sean Fletcher explores the Welsh coastline in Wonders of the Coast Path on ITV
ITV

Wonders of the Coast Path

  • ITV

Presented by Sean Fletcher, this new six-part series explores the fascinating regions along the Wales Coast Path, from the marine wildlife of Cardigan Bay to copper smelting in the ancient Great Orme Mines in Llandudno. Sean walks the paths and meets the people who help to make these places so special, while sampling beach cookouts and spotting local wildlife. The series offers a great opportunity for an armchair adventure, as Sean leads the way around this spectacular coast.

Watch Wonders of the Coast Path on ITV Hub


Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe standing in field
Kurtan and Kerry Mucklowe return for more offbeat adventures in series three of This Country
BBC

This Country

  • BBC iPlayer

Returning for its third and final series, this mockumentery set in a Cotswold village catches up with its heroes, hapless cousins Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe and ever-hopeful local vicar Reverend Seaton. In episode three, an infamous Mucklowe family member returns to the village, causing Kerry to re-evaluate her living arrangements. Meanwhile, the vicar and Kurtan help Len get back on his feet.

Watch This Country on BBC iPlayer


Best nature and wildlife radio programmes in November 2020

Beautiful lake
Chris Yates goes in search of ancient carp and reflects on fishing in Reading the Water

Reading the Water

  • BBC Sounds
  • Released 15 October, available for a year

Writer, naturalist and fisherman Chris Yates returns to a secret lake in Wiltshire he last visited 20 years ago, in search of an ancient carp which, he says, is “the size of a small submarine”. Having amassed 60 years of fishing wisdom, he’s less concerned these days with actually catching a fish, and much more interested in what we can learn from sitting still, quietly, and observing the world around us. Alongside insider tips on the behaviour of carp, Chris regales us with tales of extraordinary moments he’s witnessed while lying beside a lake, his back against a tree. Recorded on a single summer’s day in July, we share in the magic of a secluded place, sitting with Chris from dawn to dusk, amidst the singing of wrens and the wood pigeons’ lullaby, absorbing the play of the light on the water.

Listen to Reading the Water on BBC Sounds


Anita Rani Countryfile presenter

Ramblings: Anita Rani on Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes

  • BBC Sounds

Countryfile presenter Anita Rani fulfils a long-held wish by joining Clare Balding on a walk for her long-running series Ramblings. Rani shows Balding around her stomping-ground of the past 20 years, east London, strolling through the Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes. As they wander past cyclists and skateboarders, spotting a heron and exploring the Walthamstow Wetlands, Rani talks openly and engagingly to Balding about her Yorkshire upbringing, the fascinating story behind her new puppy’s name and how appearing on Who Do You Think You Are? changed her life.

Listen to Ramblings with Anita Rani on BBC Sounds


Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) perched in tree in spring. (Photo by: Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)
Garden warbler (Sylvia borin) perched in tree in spring. (Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)

The Essay: A Birdsong Garden

  • BBC Sounds 

Geoff Sample is a field recordist, natural history author and sound artist, with a special interest in birdsong and the cultural history of hearing music in nature. This five-part audio series, each piece just 15 minutes, is a mix of memoir, natural history, folklore, birdsong and spacious soundscapes created in his remote home in Northumberland. Geoff takes us through the four seasons of the year, considering how living close to and listening intently to nature can enrich our lives. Hear the Vale of Whittingham come alive in May with a dawn chorus trilling with redstarts and warblers; note the silence of the nightingales during a solar eclipse in summer; listen to the first notes of a young chiffchaff and the cacophony of pheasants and mallards over an autumn river; sink into the sounds of tawny owls on a winter’s night.

Listen to A Birdsong Garden on BBC Sounds


otter in shetland
European otter (Lutra lutra) resting on seaweed covered shoreline rocks

Open Country: Dawn Walk

  • BBC Sounds

A wonderfully reflective and meditative series of coastal dawn walks with wildlife filmmaker John Aitchison in West Scotland, in which otters, white-tailed eagles and roe deer enjoy the early morning while a rich dawn chorus provides a beautiful backdrop.

Listen to Open Country: Dawn Walk on BBC Sounds


david Attenborough looks at camera
BBC

David Attenborough reads JA Baker’s highly regarded work of 1967

The Peregrine

  • BBC Sounds

David Attenborough reads from The Peregrine, a classic of British nature writing written more than 50 years ago, in which JA Baker records his obsessive attempts to follow, study and understand a pair of peregrine falcons as he walks the fens landscape of the Essex coast.

Listen to The Peregrine on BBC Sounds


Ferns in valley in autumn
Discover the eco-pioneers who have changed our view of the world in Green Originals (Getty Images)

Green Originals

  • BBC Sounds

This wide-ranging series asks today’s green thinkers to talk about the people who have inspired them, the pioneering scientists, campaigners and communicators of the last 60 years who have swum against the tide to influence our opinion and behaviour on the environment. Profiles of Rachel Carson and James Lovelock sit alongside those of Joni Mitchell and Margaret Thatcher.

Listen to Green Originals on BBC Sounds


Grey squirrel holds nut
Does the grey squirrel deserve its reputation as a remorseless invader?

Nature’s Great Invaders

  • BBC Sounds

In this five-part series, Derek Mooney examines Britain’s non-native invasive species and the complicated attitudes they engender, from the ubiquitous grey squirrel and the ring-necked parakeet to Japenese knotweed and ash dieback fungus.

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Listen to Nature’s Great Invaders on BBC Sounds

Where is Countryfile visiting this week and what time is it on BBC1?

Countryfile visits Ballycastle this week on the show – find out what time and when Countryfile is on TV with our episode guide.

Find out more about this week’s show

Ballycastle, Northern Ireland
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