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'There's enough bad news... we want this show to be a celebration'

Chris Packham and co are back with a new run of Springwatch and it's tipped to be the most exciting series yet

By Gemma Dunn

Lighter evenings, tick. Trees blossoming, tick. Warmer climes, tick. The season of renewal - albeit late - is upon us and BBC Two's Springwatch is back to mark the occasion. The annual three-week extravaganza - presented by Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Gillian Burke - will once again chart intimate and extraordinary encounters with some of the UK's most-loved wildlife, broadcasting live from the National Trust's Sherborne Park Estate.

But it isn't just the Cotswolds' countryside that will be on view. The dedicated Springwatch team will also be on the road, delivering live reports from up and down the country. It's a show that generates a sense of event, Packham says.

"It's a bit like a festival, which gets a real momentum going by the end of it," explains the 57-year-old naturalist. "You just know that you're going to see something new, learn a lot of new things and it will be exciting."

"We want people to feel like they're coming to a place where they feel comfortable and they can learn something along the way," agrees co-star and longtime wildlife presenter, Strachan.

"Last year, a lot of awful stuff went on during Springwatch. Grenfell Tower, the General Election - people had enough of that.

"We like to do hard-hitting stuff, as well, but generally it's a celebration of British wildlife."

So what can we expect from this series?

Springwatch - the sister programme of Autumnwatch and Winterwatch - first came to the Sherborne Park Estate last spring with a brand new idea: to stay in one place and see how the wildlife fared throughout all the seasons. Fast-forward a year and it's a case of revisiting old favourites (spot the kestrels, badgers and bats) and making new friends, too.

Highlights include a new family of barn owls, an expansion on 2017's "festival of raptors", sparrowhawks, elusive otter families and water voles from the Windrush River, plus specialist species, such as yellowhammer, skylark and linnet - all of which will be captured with a network of high-tech cameras and, as ever, the live webcams.

As for life on the road, "We're basically billing it as the Springwatch Road Trip," chimes Burke (43). "We're heading down from Shetland in week one and, in week two, we'll be in the Yorkshire Dales, where we'll be looking at two ex-coal mines and these heavily industrialised sites that nature is reclaiming.

"Then, we're finishing week three in Cornwall, which is my patch, where we'll be looking at what we're calling the toughest place to live in Britain, which is essentially the inter-tidal zone."

But road-tripping isn't where the fun ends. There's also Springwatch Wild Academy - an all-new, digital-only show, specifically aimed at schools and young people.

"We want to encourage children to get into wildlife and it's getting harder and harder these days to get kids connected," begins Strachan (52). "A lot of them have disconnected and gone to the Xbox or whatever else they're playing with, so we've got to keep at it.

"And to have a programme like this, which is digital, which is what most kids are watching these days, I think is brilliant. This is a great platform for us to be able to expand the brand and target children."

"Springwatch Wild Academy is one of the most exciting things we've done for years," Packham concurs, "because we've always wanted to cater for that audience. It's brilliant, going into schools."

The schedule is packed, it's live TV and the wildlife is wholly unpredictable. But that's not enough to worry Packham, who seems entirely unflappable.

"The joy of doing it live is ultimately it's a reactive and responsive thing," he says, matter-of-factly. "You've got to be on your toes and we just want to do the best job that we can.

"My attitude is this is a bit like going into a pub when you don't know the people there, but you're going to sit down and have a conversation with them about something that they're all interested in.

"So, it's a conversation about wildlife; we illustrate it and we've got some exciting things to say. People need to figure out how the world works; that's one of our underlying goals, that people come away with a better understanding of it.

"But, at the same time, it's got to be entertaining and try to appeal to an audience which isn't wholly committed. There are a lot of people who will watch every wildlife show on TV - they are wildlife buffs.

"But we like the idea that there might be one person in the family, who will sit down with the rest of the family, and we have an opportunity to engage them all."

Springwatch, BBC Two, Monday, 8pm

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