Best of the British countryside in October
In October, the vivid greens of Britain's woodlands are replaced by spectacular autumn colours, the hills flush red with bracken and many of our animals are on a mission to fatten up for winter. Find out more about October in the countryside with our a selection of the month's best photos from around the UK.
October's spectacular autumn colours are complimented by a host of other natural wonders: salmon begin to run, overwinter birds arrive on our shores and deer prepare for the rut. It's a month of harvest, a time to read books, and the perfect conditions for walks through wooded vales.
We've tracked down spectacular photography while putting together the October issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine – here are a few of our favourite images to celebrate the month of October.
A selection of the best images used in the October 2020 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine.
The boar are back
Wild boar are large animals, weighing between 60 and 100kg and standing up to 80cm at the shoulder. Their thick, bristly top coat has a much softer under-layer. Wild boar young have a lighter-coloured coat than adults. Ginger-brown with stripes for camouflage, it has earned them the name ‘humbugs’.
The debate over boars in the British countryside has waxed and waned for many years. Should they be in the countryside, and namely the Forest of Dean at all? Are numbers too high, or too low? Are they a danger?
Hundred Acre Wood
Britain’s forests, woodlands and trees have inspired the work of some of our most legendary literary figures. Keep your eyes peeled for honey-loving bears, friendly piglets and energetic tiggers in Ashdown Forest, immortalised by AA Milne – who lived near the forest – as Hundred Acre Wood in Winnie the Pooh.
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Most who visit Borrowdale will tell you two things: it is one of Britain’s most spellbinding landscapes, and it’s wet. Both are true. In fact, the valley receives an average of 3.5m of rainfall every year, making it one of the wettest places in the UK.
The spectacular results of such dampness are everywhere. Rivers churn, falls tumble and ancient Atlantic oakwoods, largely lost elsewhere in Northern Europe, survive. Broad-canopied and cloaked with lush mosses, liverworts and lichens, these oakwoods are regarded as temperate rainforests, akin to those of the Pacific Northwest, Tasmania and the Valdivian coastline of South America.
In autumn, the rain seems to fall with particular gusto, breaking through the tawny canopies and rushing down grimacing trunks to feed the mosses and ferns below.
Hembury Woods on the fringes of Dartmoor is at its very best on a misty autumn morning. These mists, created by the graceful River Dart and held in place by the canopy of trees, enhance the beauty of this ancient and peaceful place.
It's among these trees and this water that grey wagtails live. Look for their lemon-coloured under-tails flicking up and down on the rocks beside the river.
Castle on the hill
Once apparently stretching for 149 miles (240km) from the Irish Sea coast in the north to the Bristol Channel in the south (see box, page 27), Offa’s Dyke still loosely follows the modern border between England and Wales. And while much has been lost to time, some 130km of visible remains survive. The Offa’s Dyke Path accompanies about 56 miles (90km) of the remnant dyke, from Chirk to Llanymynech, Montgomery to Kington and Tintern to Chepstow.
With its long sandy beaches, yawning valleys and rugged, towering cliffs, the landscape of North Devon’s Hartland Peninsula is alive with drama. Little wonder that the area has starred in film productions for many years, the latest of which is Daphne du Maurier’s haunting gothic tale Rebecca, due to screen on Netflix this autumn.
Many coastal waterfalls tumble to the sea from the hanging valleys of north Devon, created by streams running from moorland to shore. One of the best known is Speke’s Mill Mouth, a dramatic cascade pitching some 15m to the rocky beach below. At the top is grassland – a riot of sea pink from May to September – over which peregrines and kestrels hunt their prey. Just 100m away is Docton Mill Gardens and Tea Room (doctonmill.co.uk), a working mill with a nine-acre garden, where 20,000 narcissi bloom spectacularly in springtime.
Photography from the October 2019 issue
Autumn is a good time to appreciate spiders, such as this raft spider, when they reach full maturity towards the end of their commonly one-year life cycles, says entomologist. Huge and dark chocolate brown, the raft spider is edged with two contrasting yellow-white stripes down sides of abdomen; legs are paler. Common in lowland wetlands, fens and boggy upland moors, it walks on water.
Malvern Hills, Worcestershire and Herefordshire
Malvern Hills form an eight-mile spine through Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small part of northern Gloucestershire. Here are walking opportunities that range from quiet ambles along lower wooded slopes to the strenuous ‘end to end’ along the Malvern Ridge. Formed of Precambrian rocks over 680 million years old, these hills are fêted for their mineral water (take a bottle to fill from springs and spouts as you wander) and dramatic views across the Severn Valley into 12 English and Welsh counties. The 425m summit, open and exhilarating, is the Worcestershire Beacon; here you’ll find a toposcope, installed in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.
How do pine martens help red squirrels?
Where pine marten numbers increase, there is evidence that red squirrel numbers also go up. Why? Because pine martens target the red’s principle scourge: grey squirrels. Martens hunt greys – and, it’s thought, stress them, which disrupts their behaviour in various ways, including a reduction in their breeding rates.
With greys more scarce, reds are more likely to thrive. And their agility and light weight mean they are more skilled at eluding martens than greys. There are no plans to reintroduce reds to mid-Wales. It might be that the existing, genetically distinct red squirrel population there recovers naturally, as they appear to be doing in Scotland and Ireland.
Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire
With forest floors carpeted in gem-coloured leaves of russet, rust and gold, beech woodlands are true autumnal wonders. The long-lived trees in Buckinghamshire’s Burnham Beeches SSSI provide habitats for many rare deadwood species, inluding hole-nesting birds and wood-boring insects, while the bark hosts a variety of fungi, mosses and lichens. Look out purple fungi amethyst deceiver pushing through the leaf litter.
Plemont Beach cave, Jersey
Jersey’s wildest corner lies in the north-west of the island – rugged cliffs sheltering coves of golden sand. At Plemont Beach you can find extensive rock pools and huge sea caves including this one, with a cascade of water streaming like a curtain over its entrance. A perfect place to play pirates and find treasures, real and imagined.
Marshaw Wyre, Forest of Bowland, Lancashire
A gentle, sunbathed autumn day in the uplands is a blessing for walkers – gin-clear views and a rich colour pallette await, with cooling breezes to make conditions perfect for a good stomp. Here, the ghost of summer sun lights up the valley of the Marshaw Wyre, a stream that rises below Hawthornthwaite Fell in the Forest of Bowland. This little-known spur of the Pennines thrusts west into northern Lancashire and is characterised by stark hills and grouse moors threaded by pretty valleys.
Forestry Commission centenary
Founded in September 1919, the Forestry Commission began essential work to restore England’s forests and woodlands that had been lost during the First World War. Celebrating its centenary year in 2019, our guide looks at the history of the UK’s forests and woodlands, wildlife to spot and the best forests to visit.
Plas Power Woods, Wrexham
The Vale of Clywedog wriggles greenly defiant through a part of the map that red lines and grey blocks dominate. And through it, the delightfully sylvan 9km Clywedog Trail follows the river to Wrexham via Minera Lead Mines, the corn mills at Kings Mill and Nant Mill, Bersham Ironworks, the Turkey Paper Mill and the William Emes-designed open parkland of Erddig Estate, where the trees are gracefully spaced.
For a shorter yet equally rich circular walk, a 2km seasonal trail has been devised by the Woodland Trust in the very heart of the vale at Plas Power Woods.
Allen Banks, Northumberland
This hidden corner of Northumberland presents a real lost-world feel. Where the River Allen has cut a precipitous gorge on its winding course to join the River Tyne, that sense is reinforced. Forests of beech and oak cascade down the steep-sided valley, the largest area of ancient woodland in Northumberland.
Photography from the October 2018 issue
Glen Torridon, Scotland
We needed something dramatic for our front cover to sum up the arrival of autumn. This shot of Liathach and Loch Clair in Scotland's Glen Torridon is the perfect shot, its mountains, woods and pristine loch superb inspiration for autumn adventures in the countryside.
Salmon run, Scotland
Salmon were once abundant across Britain, their epic migration a wonder familiar to everyone, but numbers have plunged in recent decades.
Buttermere, Cumbria, England
Discover golden larch trees and regal evergreen pines on a journey through Buttermere Valley in the Lake District National Park.
Saffron harvest, Cornwall, England
Brian Eyers revives a lost tradition, growing the world’s most expensive spice on slopes above the sea in Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula
Sycamore Gap, Northumberland, England
Few sites are more iconic of rural Britain than this solitary sycamore tree rising from the crumbled stonework of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland National Park.
Avocets, Devon, England
There’s one superstar species that draws plenty of people to the Exe in Devon: the avocet. This dainty wader, with its striking, pied plumage and upturned bill, was once described by Chris Packham as “the Audrey Hepburn of birds”, and it is undeniably attractive. Being the iconic logo of the RSPB, the avocet is also familiar to most bird lovers.
Loch Tay, Scotland
A tall silver birch waves her burnished gold leaves under a crown of Scots pine on a tiny loch island in Tayside. The colours are vivid, the strong reds of the beech trees tangling with the russet branches of the pine.
Gypsy encampment, Essex, England
For more than 500 years, Gypsies have roamed Britain, yet they are still often cast as outsiders. Curious about the lives of his Gypsy ancestors, we set off to explore the stopping places where they once camped to find out about Gypsy life past and present.
Red deer, nationwide
Britain’s deer populations are expanding, yet most of us see them rarely as they are secretive woodland dwellers. During the autumn deer rut, they are much more noticeable due to their need to mate.
Blackjack Cottage, Glen Coe, Scotland
Around 50,000 people walk the West Highland Way every year, but in the month of October you have a better chance of getting this romantic wilderness to yourself. A three-hour ‘there-and-back-again’ walk to Ba Bridge starts opposite the impossibly picturesque walkers’ hut Blackrock Cottage, at the entrance to Glen Coe. Look out for eagles, grouse and deer.