Countryside magazine featuring the people and wildlife that shape the landscape of the British Isles
New Land Owners, New Visions
Two historic community land buyouts have recently been agreed in the south of Scotland. The Duke of Buccleuch, Scotland’s second biggest landowner, has sold land to the communities of Newcastleton and Langholm. The land hasn't changed hands in hundreds of years, and signals a gradual shift in the pattern of land ownership in this part of the country.
Caz Graham goes to meet the people who made these buyouts happen, and hears how this is a once in a lifetime chance to shape the future of their community. At Newcastleton the local trust has taken control of 750 acres above the village, they plan to develop it with new housing, leisure and tourism, and renewable energy. Just over the hill, 10 miles away at Langholm a second significant community buyout has just been agreed. The Langholm Initiative are set to own just over 5000 acres of moorland, making it the biggest buyout in the south of Scotland so far. They explain their ambitious plans to create a new nature reserve, create new woodland and restore peat to help tackle climate change. They are also passionate about demonstrating that conservation and development can be mutually beneficial, and describe how they will deliver ecological restoration alongside the regeneration of their community.
Presenter: Caz Graham
Producer: Sophie Anton
As he strolls along the coast of Northumberland, an archaeologist points out where you can still see the signs of a tsunami which played a part in the separation of mainland Britain from Europe. Meanwhile, a cross-channel swimmer, a keen bird watcher, and an environmental artist reveal their own very personal connections with the landscape of the sea. From the beauty and mental healing we gain from the sea to the pollution we cause in it, these are stories of revelation, respect, fear, horror, unknowing, wonder and inspiration. Presenter Helen Mark, Producer Sarah Blunt.
Gilbert White’s Selborne
Gilbert White, born on the 18th July 1720, is one of Britain's most influential natural scientists. He is often described as the Father of Ecology and revolutionised the way people observed and interacted with Nature. His main work 'The Natural History of Selborne' which was published in 1789 and is a series of letters to fellow naturalists has never been out of print and is thought to be the fourth most published book in the English Language. 'Open Country' steps back in time as we take a tour of Gilbert White’s garden and the surrounding landscape of Selborne 300 years after this pioneering naturalist and gardener was born, to explore the landscape and wildlife which so inspired him and which remarkably has changed relatively little since then. Presenter Helen Mark, Producer Sarah Blunt.
The Bord Waalk of Amble
Amble lies at the mouth of the River Coquet on the North Sea coast of Northumberland. Today it is a lively coastal port with a harbour village, a lobster hatchery, sandy beaches and boat trips to Coquet Island where the only colony of Roseate Terns in the UK nest and breed. But this hasn’t always been the case as we hear. Formerly a coal mining town, Amble suffered terrible economic decline. But in the last 25 years or so, the area has been rejuvenated and community self confidence, self esteem and economic prosperity have grown. The latest project in this regeneration inspired by the landscape and the wildlife called Bord Waalk is a Bird Sculpture Trail which follows a route from Low Hauxley along the coast, around Amble and along the river to Warkworth. Whilst the starting point take us back in time as rising sea levels at Low Hauxley are uncovering extraordinary archaeological remains including Beaker pots and burial cairns, the sculptures and accompanying phone app have been inspired by the wildlife and landscape of the present; including seabirds and starling murmurations over the nearby reedbeds. Presenter Helen Mark, Producer Sarah Blunt
Ghost Ponds and Underwater Songs
Richard Waddingham, a Norfolk farmer has been the inspiration for a remarkable project which is recovering and restoring Norfolk’s ponds. Norfolk has more ponds than any other English county; around 23,000 ponds. In North Norfolk many of these ponds were created in the 17-19th centuries as marl pits to provide lime-rich clay to improve the soil for crops. But over the last 50 years many of these ponds have suffered neglected or been filled in, largely as a result of changes in farming practices. Today, the Norfolk Pond Project is working to recover and restore these ponds. And where there is life in a pond there is sound; for example, water boatmen, respiring plants and water beetles all produce sounds, so by listening to the underwater sounds in a pond, you can estimate its health. For one composer, this was also an opportunity to create music. Not only does a healthy pond ‘sing’, but it increases the biodiversity in an area, and as Richard Waddingham first discovered and demonstrated, pond conservation and intense agriculture can coexist.
Presenter Helen Mark, Producer Sarah Blunt
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At 330 meters about sea-level, Cleeve Common in Gloucestershire is the highest point of the Cotswold Hills. It's become famous as the backdrop to the racing at the Cheltenham Festival, and Sybil Ruscoe first saw it from a helicopter while covering the Festival for BBC 5 Live.
In this programme she re-visits the common, where thousands of years of history is etched into the landscape. From Roman stone quarries to an Iron Age meeting place...from the original racecourse to a modern golf course.
She finds out about the wildlife that calls the common home - from skylarks to yellow meadow ants - and learns about the centuries old balancing act between recreation, agriculture and conservation.
Produced by Heather Simons
Picture credit: Michael Bates