Countryside magazine featuring the people and wildlife that shape the landscape of the British Isles
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
Brett Westwood's Summer Nature Diary
Brett Westwood shares his audio-diary of the natural world in summer including nectar-robbing bees, hover flies which resemble hornets, and murderous crab-spiders.
Producer: Karen Gregor
Pete Waterman at Braunston Marina
Pete Waterman, is best known as part of the hugely successful music production and song-writing partnership, Stock Aitken Waterman, creating hits for artists like Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley. But he grew up in Coventry close to the canal, and years of fishing with his father while on holiday at Braunston Marina gave him an interest in the canals and their history.
Braunston Marina is situated at the junction of the Grand Union and Oxford canals, not far from Daventry. In this programme, Pete revisits his childhood holidays at the Marina and learns more about the important role it has played as the heart of the canal network.
2020 marks 50 years since the last regular commercial canal contract came to an end. It was called the Jam 'Ole Run and involved boats taking coal from around Coventry to a jam factory in London, going via Braunston. Pete finds out more about it, and gets to see one of the boats that was present on the last ever run.
Produced by Heather Simons
The Great Spotted Woodpecker Quest
A Great Spotted Woodpecker and a trail of clues reveals the connection between a garden feeder and the local woodland. Hiding in his garden shed with some very large spiders for company, wildlife cameraman James Aldred spends many happy hours in May watching Great Spotted Woodpeckers gorging themselves on the peanut feeders in his garden on the edge of Bristol. Both male and female birds regularly visit the garden and appear to fly back and forth from the direction of a woodland. Are the birds that feed in his garden actually stocking up on protein to feed young in a nest in the woodland and will those young birds return to feed in his garden when they fledge? There’s only one way to find out. It proves to be a fascinating and tantalising quest as James solves the puzzle, discovers a line of connection and unravels the truth about his garden visitors! Producer Sarah Blunt
Why do the weeds in our pavements deserve our attention? Helen Mark presents a pavement safari in search of our urban flora. French botanist, Sophie Leguil decided to start chalking the names of plants next to them to draw people’s attention to the downtrodden. Others, like Jane Perrone began to do the same thing, and gradually the urban flora is gaining a new respect. But this isn’t the first time these plants have attracted interest, botanist Phil Gates tells the story of weeds, walking and worship as he reveals how some 90 years ago a young Edward Salisbury, (who was later to become Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew) discovered how seeds could be picked up and transferred vast distances on the soles of our shoes. So has the time come to show the downtrodden a little more respect? Trevor Dines of Plantlife certainly thinks so, and argues that we should be protecting our grass verges, reducing the frequency with which they are mowed and allowing the wildflowers that line our roads to grow which would enrich our environment and our well-being. Producer Sarah Blunt
Photo credit: Phil Gates