FOR some it’s the most evocative, magical and colourful month of the year: a time of misty mornings when a chance ray of sunlight might highlight the delicate filaments of a spider’s web or a dramatic sunset provide the perfect finale to a rain-soaked ramble.
Mosses, lichens and intriguing fungi flourish in the damp woods, while for a fortnight or so the trees are draped in the glorious yellow, gold and russet hues that mark the most spectacular natural fireworks show of the year.
After the fun and games of Halloween and noise and lights of bonfire night, November can be a bleak, damp time too: with darkness falling by teatime and a fine drizzle all too often washing the colour out of the landscape, it can be all too tempting for us to stay close to the fire.
Making the extra effort to dress up warm and shrug off the rain can bring its own rewards, though.
There’s wildlife aplenty flourishing among the trees, with birds feasting on berries and hedgehogs settling down for the winter to a backdrop of whistles from the red kites that have become synonymous with the Chilterns in recent years.
Once a common sight in the towns and cities of medieval Britain, the birds had become virtually extinct by the end of the 19th century after 200 years of human persecution.
These days the Chilterns is one of the best places in the UK to see the birds, thanks to a successful re-introduction project between 1989 and 1994 which now sees them soaring on the thermals across the region.
Of course this area of outstanding natural beauty pretty much epitomises quintessential English countryside with its sweeping chalk hills, quaint market towns, historic pubs and breathtaking views.
The weathered brick walls of a pretty cottage down a quiet country lane reflect the final blaze of autumn colour before the icy blast of December arrives and the trees get stripped bare by fierce winds and driving rain.
The squirrels are stocking up too, their cheeky faces one of the most familiar wildlife sights in local woods.
On bleaker days, it may be hard to find much to photograph among the drab, dripping branches, though more inventive souls are good at spotting those small shapes, shadows and textures that can still produce the perfect picture.
As we’ve mentioned before, up in the Lake District they call the sullen no man’s land between autumn and winter “back End”, a lost “fifth season” of the year recalled by author and friend Alan Cleaver, better known as @thelonningsguy.
Writing in his blog back in 2013, Alan wrote: “It’s such a blindingly obvious fact to most Cumbrians that you really do wonder how the rest of the world copes with a mere four seasons.
“It comes between autumn and winter when autumn’s lost its glory but winter is yet to bite.” It’s a perfect phrase for summing up the dank, drab atmosphere on some days in late November, when the light feels bleached and the undergrowth sodden.
But not all days are like that – chilly glimpses of winter sunshine uncover the glories of the Chilterns landscape, from colourful fungi to foraging birdlife.
And as November comes to a close, there’s a true icy blast to remind us that winter is just around the corner, with snow forecast across much of the country in early December.
Evergreen trees and bushes provide an array of berries for native birds and migrants alike, while foxes are on the move, younger dog foxes and some vixens leaving their home territory to try to establish territories of their own.
It’s a time of year when many young foxes are killed by cars, while others could die from cold or starvation if the winter is a hard one.
Badgers too are are pulling moss, leaves and bracken into their underground setts where they spend so much time snoozing while round in the gravel pit the wildfowl are squabbling and the migrants have arrived in force.
On crisper, clearer mornings the lighting effects are more striking, and dramatic cloud patterns offer the promise of a memorable sunset.
When the sun is low on the horizon, the rays pass through more air in the atmosphere than when the sun is higher in the sky, and there are more moisture and dust particles to scatter the light and produce those vivid red and orange hues we love so much.
Some of the most dramatic sunsets occur when clouds catch the last red-orange rays of the setting sun or the first light of dawn and reflect the light back towards the ground.
The skies offer plenty of other photographic opportunities too. While serious astronomers have had their cameras focused on the gas giant Jupiter or the Leonid meteor shower, Astronomy magazine was waxing lyrical about the surface of the waxing crescent moon, where in the middle of the month the “bewildering spread of craters in the south” gave way to the “wrinkled ridges crossing the darker lava seas to the north”.
Whether you’ve been capturing a perfect shot of the new moon on a clear night, the mist rising over the valley or a red kite swooping down for a snack, we’d love to see your pictures from across the Chilterns.
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As always, a huge thank you to all the local photographers who have allowed us to use their work this month: click on their pictures to find out more about our regular contributors.