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.
We’ve come across some spectacular photography while putting together the November issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine, from Bonfire Night events and unusual natural spectacles to Enid Blyton and the eerie history of Scapa Flow. Here are a few of our favourite images to celebrate the month ahead.
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.
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.
Visit the Eildon Hills in southern Scotland, a landscape famed for its distinctive peaks and mysterious folklore.
Cadbury Castle view, Somerset
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.