Month in pictures – May in the countryside

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

Western yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), male perched in flowering rape field in spring

May is a great month for spotting wildlife, especially insects and birds that flit energetically about the countryside in search of spring food.

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From biscuit throwing to grand valleys and fighting pheasants, we’ve come across some amazing photography while putting together the May 2019 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine. Celebrate the month with a few of our favourite images.

Dorset Knob Throwing Festival, Dorset

Dorset Knob Throwing Festival, Dorchester
Dorset Knob Throwing Festival, Dorchester ©Alamy

There’s more than a little spring fever in the air this month at the Dorset Knob Throwing Festival. Practice your topspin – it’s time to toss that Dorset knob (a hard, round biscuit). Also guess the weight of the big knob, run in a knob and spoon race, or delight in competitive knob eating at this fun day out.


Edale, Cumbria

Edale, Cumbria
View from bottom of Jacob’s Ladder looking east up Vale of Edale.Kinder Scout to the with Rushup Edge and Great Ridge to right ©Getty

OS Maps has released a poster illustrating Britain’s most-trodden paths of 2018. The map based on data provided by OS Maps users, who share 2.95 million miles of walking and cycling routes, beautifully portrays the well-worn trails crossing our countryside, with Edale in the Peak District topping the list as the nation’s favourite starting point. 

Snowdon is the busiest location for the sheer number of routes, while Carmarthenshire, west of the Brecon Beacons, is one of the areas with the fewest recorded walks. Understandably, the national parks are the most popular places to find walks, with the highest number of routes plotted in the months of May, June and August.


Bittern, Norfolk

Bittern
Bittern over reed beds at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk

Close to falling silent in Britain 20 years ago, the bittern’s extraordinary booming song has returned to 80 of our wetland sites. The male bittern’s loud and mournful booming call is down to pure muscle power: strengthened muscles around its windpipe (oesophagus) expand, turning its gullet into a great echo chamber.


Ivelet Bridge, North Yorkshire

Ivelet Bridge
Ivelet Bridge, Yorkshire ©Getty

An old corpse road, now known as Corpse Way, once crossed Ivelet Bridge on its way to nearby Grinton in North Yorkshire. In late spring, Swaledale’s surrounding hay meadows burst into life with wildflowers – a colour bonanza best absorbed after a cup of Yorkshire tea and a slice of cake.


Loch Katrine, Stirlingshire

Loch Katrine, Scotland
Loch Katrine, Scotland ©Alamy

“The summer dawn’s reflected hue
To purple changed Loch-Katrine blue;
Mildly and soft the western breeze
Just kissed the lake, just stirred the trees”
wrote Sir Walter Scott in The Lady of the Lake, 1810


Tŷ Hyll, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy

Tŷ Hyll, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy
Tŷ Hyll is also known as the Ugly House ©Alamy

 Hyll, or ‘the Ugly House’, is named for its colossal, crudely cut yet lovely stones. It’s a place of uncertain origin – a brigand’s hide-out, duke’s folly, or maybe a tŷ unnos (a home built in a day to secure ownership of land). What is certain is that it’s now a cosy tearoom selling fresh-baked delights and very, very good tea. 


Burton Bradstock, Dorset

Burton Bradstock
The beach and cliffs at Burton Bradstock on the jurassic coast of Dorset ©Alamy

The shingly beach at Burton Bradstock is a great place to hunt for fossils, such as ammonites, shellfish and sponges, or follow the National Trust’s one-mile circular route along the clifftops. Behind the Hive Beach cafe car park is Bind Barrow, a Bronze Age burial mound; to the west is Golden Cap, the highest point on the South Coast, while to the east lies Chesil Beach, stretching away to the distant Isle of Portland.

Pied wagtails bob on the grass, kestrels and buzzards swoop overhead, and you may even glimpse seals and dolphins. Closer to your feet look for pink thrift, as well as rare wildflowers such as bee, butterfly, marsh and pyramidal orchids. 


Ardnamurchan Peninsula, Highland

Thrift on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, Scotland
Thrift on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, Scotland ©Alamy

Built in 1849 using granite from the Isle of Mull, Ardnamurchan lighthouse sits west of Fort William. Housed in the original stable block, the atmospheric café offers a good selection of cakes.

Reader photo of the month: fighting pheasants

Pheasant fighting
Pheasant fighting, Hillers bird hide, Alcester in Warwickshire ©Roger Saveker
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“I was lucky to have my camera with me when I came across this scene of two male pheasants sparring for territory,” said photographer Roger Saveker.