Month in pictures: Best of the British countryside in November

For much of the UK, November represents the height of autumn. The stag rut is in full flow, forests sing with seasonal colour and fires burn in cosy country pubs. Here is our pick of the month's best photos from across the UK in November.

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Here is a selection of the best images used in the November 2019 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine, plus our favourite reader photos of the month.

For much of the UK, November represents the height of autumn. The stag rut is in full flow, forests sing with seasonal colour and fires burn in cosy country pubs. It’s also a month of mystery; a time when strange creatures – witches, monsters and fairy folk – haunt our woodlands, coasts and hills.

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We’ve come across some spectacular photography while putting together the November issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine, from magical ruins and leaping salmon to the gilded woodlands of Perthshire. Here is our pick of the best November images from across the British countryside.

Loch Tummel, Perthshire

Queen's View, Perthshire, Scotland
Queen’s View, Perthshire, Scotland

This vantage point over long and  narrow Loch Tummel was said to have been Queen Victoria’s favourite view on her route to Balmoral. But today’s vista is not what the Queen would have seen; the construction of Clunie Dam at the eastern end of the loch in the 1950s raised the water level by 4.5 metres.


Pheasant, North Yorkshire

Male cock pheasant
Male cock pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) in full breeding plumage stood displaying from dry stone wall. North Yorkshire, UK ©Alamy

Vast numbers of non-native pheasants and red-legged partridges are released into the countryside each year by the shooting industry. The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) puts the figure at between 41 and 50 million birds. Of these, around 15 million are believed to be shot; a similar number are killed on roads. The rest enter the food chain, eating reptiles, insects, grain and shoots or being eaten themselves by foxes, corvids and buzzards. The majority don’t survive more than 12 months. There is increasing concern among conservationists that the release of such large numbers of non-native game birds into the ecosystem each year negatively impacts native British species and the local environment.


Eel fishing on the River Seven

Eel fishing on the River Seven
A young lady with her strange net, fishing for elvers or small eels in the River Severn at Ashleworth near Gloucester, England, 21st April 1942 ©Getty

Eeling was cheap and cheerful – the working man’s fish. Offal and a piece of line were enough to catch one. Salmon fishing was an expensive sport, the domain of the monied classes. But the eel has been victim to one of the greatest wildlife crimes, according to some. The draining of traditional wetlands and river obstructions have played a role in its plight, but possibly the biggest and most immediate threat is trafficking, feeding insatiable appetites for this fish in Asia. Their export is worth millions of pounds. Fortunately, our European neighbours are taking the problem seriously. In February 2019, nine men were found guilty of eel traffiacking by Nantes Criminal Court and sent to prison for up to two years with huge fines. There is hope. sustainableeelgroup.org


Lewes bonfire night, East Sussex

Lewes in Sussex
Revellers parade through the streets of Lewes in Sussex, southern England during the traditional Bonfire Night celebrations ©Getty

Visit the small town of Lewes in the South Downs for a night of fun and fire in what many consider to be the UK’s largest bonfire-night celebration. The evening includes more than 30 processions, attracting some 30,000 visitors.


Dering woods, Kent

Dering woods, Egerton, Kent
Aerial view of mist over Dering woods, Egerton, Kent ©Alamy

Woodland covers just 13% of the UK – lagging far behind the EU average of 38%. There’s now an urgent need to plant more fast-growing trees in order to lower the levels of planet-warming CO2 in the atmosphere.


Corfe Castle, Dorset

Corfe Castle, Dorset
Autumn sun falls on the walls and battlements of the historic landmark that is Corfe Castle in Dorset, England ©Getty

The site of the broken hilltop tower and walls of Corfe Castle is loaded with stories. One concerns the 16-year-old Edward, King of England, whose claim to the throne was disputed by his half-brother Aethelred. While visiting Aethelred in Corfe in 978, near the mound where the Norman castle now stands, Edward became involved in a quarrel and was murdered. By whom, no one knows. But he gained honour and reverence in death, became the focus of a religious cult, and is now commonly known as Edward the Martyr.


Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire
Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire ©Getty

Perched high on a rocky peninsula, with sheer cliffs rising up from the crashing North Sea on all its sides but one, Dunnottar is perhaps the most dramatically located castle in the entire British Isles. A small wooden church – one of the first Christian buildings in all of Pictland – was built at Dunnottar during the 5th century AD by the missionary St Ninan. By the 9th century, King Donald II ruled here from a small fort, until Vikings killed him and razed the buildings to the ground.

Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

Ludlow Castle, Shropshire
Ludlow Castle, Shropshire ©Alamy

Head north on the B4361 for about 10 minutes to the heart of bustling market town Ludlow and its imposing Norman castle, perfectly poised on high ground above the rivers Corve and Teme. One of England’s first stone-built castles, it boasts a rare, circular chapel, and served as the administrative headquarters for Wales and the Marches during the 16th and 17th centuries. Open daily but closed 20–27 November, £7 adult. ludlowcastle.com


Ardvreck Castle, Highland

Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt
Ardvreck Castle at dawn, Assynt, Scotland ©Alamy

Narrow windows, spiral staircases, vaulted cellars and turreted walls – Ardvreck Castle once resembled a fairy-tale fortress. Today, it stands half- wrecked on the sandy shores of Loch Assynt, left to ruins by siege, murder and fire. Ardvreck’s foundations were laid more than 500 years ago by Angus Mor III, a member of the MacLeod Clan. Initially, the structure would have been simple – perhaps three or four storeys high with a brewhouse, bakehouse, stables and berthing port for easy access to the loch. It wasn’t until the end of the 16th century that Donald Ban IX added the iconic cylindrical tower, part of which remains today.


Photography from the November 2018 issue:

Stirling, Stirlingshire

Stirling, Scotland
The Wallace Monument, Scotland ©Drew Buckley

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a still from The Lord of the Rings film set: the Wallace Monument rising in low autumn light from the volcanic outcrop of Abbey Craig just north of Stirling. Built in the 1860s in Victorian Gothic style, it commemorates William Wallace’s victory over the English at Stirling Bridge in 1297. From Abbey Craig, Wallace was able to watch his enemies slowly cross the bridge, and so was able to time his attack when “as many of the enemy had come over as they believed [they] could overcome”. Some 5,000 English troops were trapped and slaughtered.

Stirling Castle Stirling Scotland

Tarr Barrels of Ottery St Mary, East Devon

Tarr Barrels of Ottery St Mary
Tarr Barrels of Ottery St Mary ©Philip Hartley

Ignite a wooden barrel soaked in tar, hoist it upon your shoulders and run through the streets of a small town in East Devon; for Ottery locals, the rules of this bonfire-night tradition are simple, but it’s a brave man or woman who takes part. This unusual custom began 400 years ago after the gunpowder plot of 1605 and continues to draw crowds today; 4–5 November.

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Eildon Hills, Scottish Borders

Eildon Hills, Scottish Borders
Eildon Hills, Scottish Borders ©Alamy

Visit the Eildon Hills in southern Scotland, a landscape famed for its distinctive peaks and mysterious folklore.


Cadbury Castle view, Somerset

Cadbury Castle, Somerset
Cadbury Castle, Somerset ©Alamy

Summit Cadbury Castle hill fort on a brisk November morning and you may be fortunate enough to see the Somerset countryside shrouded in a thick mist. You’re most likely to see this magical display in autumn when long, cool nights increase the relative humidity of the air.


Brocken Spectre, Mountains of Mourne, County Down

Brocken Spectre in the Mountains of Mourne
Brocken Spectre in the Mountains of Mourne ©Alamy

The Mourne Mountains are deeply ethereal, where cloud shifts and pulses around fractured peaks and light paints patterns in the sky. One display sometimes seen is the Brocken spectre, the enlarged shadow of an object or person cast upon cloud within a spectrum of light. 


Scapa Flow, Orkney

Shipwreck, Scapa Flow, Orkney
Shipwreck at Scapa Flow, Orkney ©Alamy

During the First World War, blockships were sunk at strategic entrances to Scapa Flow in Orkney to deter enemy ships and as anti-submarine defences. Some wrecks still jut above the water, as desolate reminders of conflict. Eleven of the 74 ships scuttled in the Flow in 1919 still lie here, providing a haven for marine creatures, including crabs and urchins as well as fish, such as pollock and satire.


Etta Lemon, founder of the RSPB

Victorian fashion, stuffed bird hats
Victorian fashion, stuffed bird hats

Disgusted with the Victorian fashion of wearing feathers and stuffed birds in hats, campaigner Etta Lemon founded the RSPB. Here, the well-off display their plumage – the more exotic the better.

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Duddo Five Stones, Northumberland

Duddo Four Stones, a prehistoric stone circle on a hilltop in Northumberland
Duddo Four Stones, a prehistoric stone circle on a hilltop in Northumberland ©Getty

Curiously crinkled sandstones sit on the skyline of a small hill, with sweeping views across to the Cheviot Hills in the south and the Lammermuir Hills to the north.


Kent’s Cavern, Devon

Kent's Cavern, Devon
Kent’s Cavern, Devon ©Alamy

There are more than 40 accessible caves in Devon, including Kents Cavern in Torquay. Drop deep beneath the town into the Labyrinth and the Bears Den, and walk among 400-million-year-old rocks decked with spectacular stalagmites and stalactites. 


Addington Hills, London

Addington Hills park in Croydon
Addington Hills park in Croydon ©Stuart Gleave

Each tree species has its own autumnal colour palette, as this gorgeous aerial photograph of the trees in Addington Hills park in Croydon reveals. Up until recently, such a shot would be very tricky to take, but the advent of drones with excellent cameras has opened up a whole new world of landscape photography. Photographer Stuart Gleave told us: “My main concern was getting the drone into the air and back again without one of the many local dogs rushing over to investigate.”


Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire

Chipping Campden in autumn
View over Chipping Campden in autumn, Chipping Campden, Cotswolds ©Picfair

Autumn is the perfect time to roam the leafy valleys and honey-coloured stone villages of the Cotswold Hills. Here, the vista over Chipping Campden is studded with rich flashes of autumn colour – amber, copper and rust.

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Photo of the Day

This was one of our favourite reader images from October 2019.  Share your best countryside photos for the chance to feature as our ‘Photo of the Day’. Simply email photos@countryfile.com or post on our social media channels using #BBCCountryfileMagPOTD