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Open Country Podcast

English, Personal stories, 1 season, 419 episodes, 5 hours, 4 minutes
Countryside magazine featuring the people and wildlife that shape the landscape of the British Isles
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Postal Paths and Corpse Roads

Up until the 1970s, postmen and women in rural areas walked their delivery rounds - taking routes through the hills dubbed "postal paths". Some routes, and fragments of others, still survive today. In this programme Helen Mark explores one of them, near the village of Shap in Cumbria, with author Alan Cleaver who is writing a book about these old paths. So far he's identified over thirty of them up and down the UK. Others have now been built over and are gone forever. Alan tells Helen about the cultural significance of the postal service in the past, recounting the poignant story of a man who used to write letters to himself, just so that the postman would call by and he would have a visitor. Alan and Helen discuss the disappearing role of postmen and women, in the age of electronic communication. Helen also explores part of Shap's old Corpse Road, which linked Swindale Head with Mardale - a village which didn't have its own cemetery until the mid 18th century. Before that, bodies had to be carried over the fells to Shap for burial - a distance of about eight miles. The last body was carried along the Corpse Road in 1736. Local historian Jean Scott-Smith tells the story of the Corpse Road and shows Helen part of the route.Produced by Emma Campbell
4/18/202424 minutes, 36 seconds
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Britain’s deadliest footpath

The Broomway has been dubbed the “deadliest footpath in Britain”, claiming more than a hundred lives. Helen Mark takes a cautious walk along this treacherous Essex seapath with Peter Carr and John Burroughs from the Foulness Island Heritage Centre. She’ll hear how people can easily become disoriented on the vast mud flats and tragically caught out by the rapidly advancing tides of the Thames Estuary. Helen will also be joined by Thea Behrman, the director of the Estuary Festival, to reflect on how this meeting point of land and sea can provide creative inspiration through its bleak beauty. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Robin Markwell
4/11/202424 minutes, 29 seconds
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Field notes from Mars

Rose Ferraby joins geologist Dr Claire Cousins, visual artist Ilana Halperin and art historian Dr Catriona McAra as they explore the artistic and scientific terrains of both Orkney and the planet Mars. From the windswept Orcadian cliffs to the Martian landscape, they discover the surprising similarities of these two locations and explore how both science and art can interpret time, space and history in new and insightful ways.Produced by Ruth Sanderson
4/4/202424 minutes, 27 seconds
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Tales from the Quoile Riverbank

Over the centuries the River Quoile has carried Vikings, steam ships and cargoes of coal and timber from as far afield as the Baltic and Canada. Today it's a river for leisure pursuits – popular with canoeists, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts.Cadogan Enright is a councillor, environmental campaigner and chairman of the local canoe club. He takes Helen Mark out on the river to sing its praises, but also to point out concerns. He tells her that Downpatrick and the surrounding countryside were prone to tidal flooding in the past, but now the threat comes from the land - with increasing winter storms leaving the land saturated. Helen meets Robert Gardiner, chairman of the railway museum, who shows her how the water flooded their exhibition gallery last year and has threatened the museum's financial future.Back on the riverbank, Helen meets Stephen O'Hare, a member of the River Quoile Trust which campaigns for improvements to the river. He shows her the remains of quays along the riverbank, which were once busy dockside areas for cross channel steam ships during the industrial revolution. Trade died out because of the unpredictability of the tides and the difficulties of navigating Strangford Lough out to the Irish sea, and came to a halt in 1957 when a flood barrier was built at the mouth of the river.As for the Vikings – they haven't quite disappeared. Viking historian Philip Campbell and a group of enthusiasts have built a re-enactment village and a replica longship which they sail on stretches of the Quoile. He tells Helen that, as its dragon head noses through the waters which wind around the gentle drumlin countryside, he is filled with appreciation for the beauty of the river and its importance through the centuries.Produced by Kathleen Carragher
2/9/202424 minutes, 39 seconds
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Reed cutting at Cley

Bernard Bishop has lived and worked on the Cley marshes for his whole life. It's the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's oldest reserve and home to a plethora of birdlife, sealife and grazing saltmarsh cattle. Bernard and his family have been cutting reeds to be used for thatching from the marsh for five generations and counting. Bernard talks to Ruth Sanderson as he cuts this year's reed crop with his son and nephew. With birds calling overhead, he reflects on a life spent working in and loving this very special landscape.Produced and presented by Ruth Sanderson
2/2/202424 minutes, 33 seconds
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The changing river with Philippa Forrester

For over two decades presenter and wildlife expert Philippa Forrester has lived in a house with a river flowing through the garden. It's home to an abundance of species including Kingfisher, Mink and Egrets, and it's been the backdrop to a remarkable period of time when Philippa helped raise two orphaned otter cubs ready to be released back into the wild.In this programme Philippa tells some of the stories of this river, and remembers how whole trees and even a car have come floating past after particularly heavy rains. She talks about how the river changes in the seasons, but also how she's seen legions of Signal Crayfish marching down after the sluice gate has been opened. Philippa drops down to Keynsham to speak to Simon Hunter about what can be done to help tackle this invasive species, and Ben Potterton from The Otter Trust pops over to the house to talk about those enigmatic and elusive carnivores.Presenter: Philippa Forrester Guest: Ben Potterton, The Otter Trust Guest: Simon Hunter, Bristol Avon Rivers TrustProducer: Toby Field for BBC Audio Bristol
1/25/202424 minutes, 31 seconds
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Mabel's mountain trip with hares

"In the winter when the snow is there it's a different world, escaping into the silence. It has a hint of the forbidding too because you feel you're going on true adventures." Andrew Cotter.It's almost two years now since Iain Cameron and Andrew Cotter took producer Miles Warde on a lengthy summer mountain hike. They all agreed they'd love to come back in the winter, in the snow, kitted out and accompanied by at least one of Andrew's famous dogs. Olive stayed at home for this one; but buoyed up by endless biscuits and chicken bits, Mabel made it over four Munros in the ice and snow near Glenshee. It was a grand day out.Andrew Cotter is a sports broadcaster and author of Olive, Mabel and Me. His friend Iain Cameron is a snow patch researcher and author of The Vanishing Ice.The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde.
1/18/202424 minutes, 1 second
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Return of the Derry Girl

Derry/Londonderry has a conflicted past but is fiercely loved and celebrated by its inhabitants. In the 21st century, it's shaping a new identity and redefining itself. The success of the hit TV sitcom 'Derry Girls' has breathed new life into the civic vision of the city and its surrounding landscape, shining a global spotlight on a place so often defined only by its troubled history. Marie-Louise Muir is native to the city and has resettled there after years of living away. In this programme, she discovers the new atmosphere of pride which is emerging and explores the new narrative of the city and its surroundings. Produced by Ruth Sanderson
1/18/202424 minutes, 6 seconds
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Creative Island with Anneka Rice

Anneka Rice’s favourite place on earth is the Isle of Wight. As an accomplished and enthusiastic painter, its landscape and atmosphere have inspired her art for as long as she can remember. And she’s not alone. On today’s Open Country, Anneka sets out to discover why the island is one of the most creative places in the UK, famous for attracting poets, painters and photographers to its shores. From legendary names such as Tennyson, Keats and Dickens, to modern-day local artists, Anneka considers whether it’s the sense of remoteness from the mainland, the ever-changing coastal landscape, the sense of community or something less tangible that inspires so much creativity.Please scroll down on the Open Country page of the Radio 4 website to find photos from the day and also the 'related links' box for more information about the interviewees.Producer: Karen Gregor
1/4/202424 minutes, 18 seconds
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Seeking asylum in nature

Helen Mark joins a group of asylum seekers as they help with a tree-planting project in Denbighshire. She hears how - without a car, and with rural buses both scarce and expensive - refugees rarely get access to the countryside. The group of people she meets have travelled to Wales from Liverpool for the day, but come originally from all over the world. She hears about the experiences of four of them - from Iraq, Iran, Namibia and Togo. They spend the day working alongside local conservation volunteers from the nearby village of Tremeirchion, sharing food, stories and songs.The project is organised by the charity Action Asylum, which has joined forces with the North Wales Wildlife Trust to get more than two thousand trees planted on former farmland near Offa's Dyke path. For the asylum seekers, who are not allowed to work while their cases are being assessed, it's a chance to contribute and do something constructive. With incredible views of the mountains in the distance and the Welsh coast spread out beneath them, Helen hears how working in the countryside is beneficial for both the environment and the refugees' mental health.Produced by Emma Campbell
12/28/202324 minutes, 29 seconds
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Music of the Gloucestershire landscape

The rural landscapes of Gloucestershire have inspired many classical composers - including Herbert Howells, Gerald Finzi, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Ivor Gurney, to name just a few. In this programme, Rose Ferraby finds out about the links between landscape and music and learns about the extraordinary cluster of composers who were associated with Gloucester Cathedral in the early part of the 20th century. She talks to academics and musicians about how a love of the Gloucestershire countryside influenced composers of the time and visits some of the beauty spots which inspired them - including Chosen Hill, believed to be the only hill to have a piano quartet dedicated to it. At Gloucester Cathedral, she hears the choristers sing the Gloucester Service, a setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis by Herbert Howells, and meets the cathedral's director of music - who was himself taught by Howells at the Royal College of Music.Produced by Emma Campbell
12/21/202324 minutes, 18 seconds
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Wintertide in Hartlepool

Sally Rodgers from electronic musical duo ‘A Man Called Adam’ takes us to the Headland of Hartlepool to explore the landscape, culture and history which has inspired her music. As part of Wintertide Festival, the artists of the area have created installations, art and music inspired by their fishing heritage. We hear about the songs of the ‘gutter girls’ – women who gutted herring along the East Coast – which ‘A Man Called Adam’ have reworked into electronic soundscapes, to be played along the Wintertide Trail. Sally meets the curators and creatives at work transforming the Headland and learns more about how industry and culture here have been shaped by the features of this coastline. As dusk falls, the Headland is lit up as the Wintertide Festival begins.Produced by Helen LennardThe Gutter Girls project was commissioned and funded for Wintertide Festival by Tees Valley Festivals Volunteering.
12/20/202324 minutes, 27 seconds
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Unearthing the past at Vindolanda

At the major Roman site of Vindolanda, just south of Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, excavations have unearthed artefacts from nearly two thousand years ago. In this programme, archaeologist Rose Ferraby visits the site and asks what we can learn about the people who lived here and the kind of lives they led. She hears about the five thousand pairs of shoes which were left behind by the departing Romans, from marching boots to baby's bootees, with another 30-40,000 more pairs believed to still lie buried on the site - along with several tonnes of pottery, ceramics and animal bones.At Vindolanda's sister site, Magna, archaeological work is being directly affected by climate change. The peat bog on which it sits is drying out, exposing ancient structures to the air. It’s a race against home to find out as much as possible and to preserve the past in the face of the changing climate.Produced by Ruth Sanderson
12/8/202324 minutes, 14 seconds
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Wilder London

Dan O’Neill is a wildlife expert and biologist. He’s also the first openly gay wildlife presenter. In this Open Country he’s in London to discover what ‘rewilding’ means for the capital. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched the ‘Rewild London Fund’ to help make London a leader in urban rewilding, from restoring rivers to reintroducing species currently absent from the capital. One of them is the beaver and at Paradise Fields in Ealing, just down the road from the busy Greenford tube station, a family of five beavers have just been introduced to their new home by conservationist and vet Dr Sean McCormack. Together they will transform a gritty urban wasteland into a wildlife haven with ecosystem benefits for residents' wellbeing and flood defences. The beavers are just one example of the huge growth in biodiversity in the city. As Dan travels from Ealing in the West to the east of the city at The Paddocks in Tottenham Hale, he discovers that there is also growing diversity in the conservation community. He meets LGQBT conservationist Izzy Knight who shares his passion for everything wild and celebrates the ‘Queer Nature’ festival at Kew, before heading back to Ealing to see whether he can spot those elusive beavers in their new home.Produced by Helen Lennard
11/30/202324 minutes, 42 seconds
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Shaky Toun

The Highland Boundary Fault runs diagonally across Scotland, dividing the Highlands from the Lowlands. In this programme, Helen Mark finds out what impacts this geological feature has had on the landscape around it. She visits Comrie, which at one time had more earth tremors than anywhere else in the UK, earning it the nickname "Shaky Toun". On a tour of the Earthquake House - one of the smallest listed buildings in Europe and the first purpose-built seismological monitoring station in the world - she learns how earthquakes were measured and recorded in the 19th century and how technology has moved on since then. The geology hasn't only affected the landscape, but also the wildlife within it. The Highland Boundary Fault is the frontline in the battle between red and grey squirrels in Scotland. South of the fault, greys have largely ousted the reds - but the area north of the line, with its more rocky and mountainous habitats, is still a haven for native reds. This is partly because of control work carried out by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, who trap and kill grey squirrels north of the line, to try and protect the population of reds. At the Loch of the Lowes nature reserve near Dunkeld Helen joins a red squirrel walk, hoping to catch a glimpse of this endangered species in the trees. Further west at Conic Hill, Helen meets a geologist who explains how the Highland Boundary Fault was formed 400 million years ago and how it still has lasting cultural, agricultural and even linguistic effects today. Produced by Emma Campbell
11/23/202324 minutes, 30 seconds
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Caves and Dragons: Pembrokeshire by Paddleboard

Anna Jones paddleboards the rocky coastline of Pembrokeshire, listening to the mysterious growling sounds of the sea caves. As the tide rises, water sloshes into holes in the rock and squeezes out puffs of air - or could it, maybe, be a dragon? Paddling in and out of the caves and coves, Anna and local instructor Libby Chivers allow their imaginations to run wild, picturing dragons and sea monsters deep in the darkness. It's easy to get carried away - literally - on an inflatable paddleboard, so Libby shares her top tips for staying safe on the sea. With Stand-Up Paddleboarding becoming ever more popular with water sports amateurs like Anna, rescues are on the rise. Libby shares her story of pulling a panic-stricken girl from the water and explains how lifeguards helped thirty paddleboarders back to the shore in a single day on one Welsh beach. Swept up by the atmosphere of the sea caves, Anna dries off and heads into Fishguard to learn more about the town's legends and folklore. Amid mysterious tales of pirates, smugglers and mermaids, there's the real-life story of the last invasion of Britain - when French soldiers landed at Fishguard in 1797. Local historian Edward Perkins shares the amazing story of Welsh heroine Jemima Nicholas, who fended them off armed only with a pitchfork. Presented and produced by Anna Jones
11/16/202324 minutes, 16 seconds
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Mountain Rescue

The mountain rescue team in Wasdale in the Lake District have recorded their busiest year so far with some of the harshest winter months still to come. The Langdale Ambleside team have also already reached their average annual incident rate - two months before the end of the year. Across the peaks of the UK, Mountain Rescue teams are coming under increasing pressure as visitor numbers soar. Helen Mark meets members of the Wasdale Mountain Rescue team and the Langdale Ambleside team in the Langdale Valley, to find out why they are getting called out so often. Both teams want people to come to the mountains and lakes that they love, but with the right knowledge and respect for a landscape which can be lethal. Certain spots in the lakes have been pictured and shared on social media drawing in more visitors, who may not be prepared for challenging terrain and bad weather. Ross Davidson is a photographer who has begun to question whether the incredible sunsets and sunrises he shares online might be part of the problem. The Mountain Rescue teams love their work and want everyone to enjoy their landscape, but as volunteers giving up their free time to help others, they're questioning whether they can sustain the rapidly increasing call-outs. That’s why they, and the celebrated mountaineer Alan Hinkes, are asking hikers and climbers to be "adventure smart" by making sure they have the knowledge, the equipment and the right conditions to make the most of these dramatic landscapes. Produced by Helen Lennard
11/16/202324 minutes, 39 seconds
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At Carbeth, just north of Glasgow, there are around 170 simple wooden huts tucked into an area of woodland. Basic and off-grid, they are part of Scotland's hutting tradition. Carbeth is the biggest hutting site in the country, with a history that goes back to the end of the First World War, when the landowner gave permission for people to camp and later to build simple dwellings, as interest in nature and the great outdoors grew. Since then, hutting has gone through peaks and troughs of popularity. Interest waned with the arrival of package holidays in the 1960s and 70s, but the 21st century has seen a revival. It's now hugely popular again, with a long waiting list for huts. In this programme Helen Mark visits Carbeth to meet some of the hutters and find out what the attraction is. She talks to a couple whose families have had huts on the site for generations, and who first met there as teenagers. She also learns about the recent growth in hutting, thanks partly to a change in Scottish planning law which has made it easier to build huts, after the"1000 Huts" campaign by the charity Reforesting Scotland. She visits a pilot site in Fife, where twelve new huts are now under construction. Helen also visits the site of the legendary Craigallian fire - a camp fire which was kept burning in the 1920s and 30s on the edge of Craigallian Loch near Carbeth. It was a magnet for early pioneers of the outdoors movement, who would sit around it discussing politics and sharing information about how best to survive in the wild. It became a stopping-off point for walkers and mountaineers exploring the Highlands. Helen meets a man whose father was one of the "fire-sitters", and who set up the monument which now commemorates those pioneering days. Producer: Emma Campbell
11/2/202324 minutes, 39 seconds
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Felixstowe with Carolyn Quinn

Carolyn Quinn has family links to Felixstowe, a place she’s visited frequently over the years, enjoying walks along the Edwardian seafront, soaking up its old world charm. For Open Country she returns to take a closer look at this Suffolk town, including how it’s been shaped by the enormous presence of Felixstowe Port, the largest container port in the UK. She begins her journey with David Gledhill at Felixstowe Museum who gives a quick overview of the richly historic area. From there she walks round the corner to Landguard Nature Reserve, overlooked by the port’s enormous cranes. Ranger, Leonie Washington, shows her the reserve's internationally important habitat of vegetated shingle. It supports species like the incredibly rare Stinking Goosefoot and provides habitat for ground-nesting birds like the ringed plover. Next, Carolyn pops on a hard-hat and enters the Port itself, where Paul Davey shares some facts and figures about this bewilderingly huge place. Then it’s onto the Wildlife Trust’s Trimley Marshes reserve. It was created to replace habitat destroyed when the Port expanded around 30 years ago. Carolyn asks Andrew Excell whether this wetland habitat makes up for the lost mudflats. And finally, the seaside holiday scene: Billy Butlin opened an amusement park here in 1931 and later sub-let it to showman and entrepreneur, Charlie Manning, who renamed it Manning's Amusements. Charlie's grandsons, Charlie Jr and Jonny, still run it but have also established Beach Street, where traders operate out of - what else - repurposed shipping containers. Carolyn meets Jonny and his mother, Sarah, who shares memories of the early days. Note: The parody of the shipping forecast was written by Les Barker and included on the album ‘Guide Cats for the Blind’ created by Clive Lever. Producer: Karen Gregor
9/14/202324 minutes, 20 seconds
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Fieldnotes from Eternity

Paul Evans explores the rich folklore and natural history of St Melangell church near Llangynog in Powys for a new piece of nature writing. Paul is one of our finest nature writers and in this episode of Open Country he talks us through his creative process, which he describes as "a kind of imaginative hunter-gathering”. Inspired by the ancient yew trees that grow in the churchyard, he listens to their stories, such as the science behind their great age and the legend of Saint Melangell, a nun who fled here from Ireland to avoid an arranged marriage. She protected a hare which was being chased by hounds from a royal hunting party, and was gifted the surrounding Pennant valley by the Prince of Powys who was impressed by her bravery. Here she founded a religious community and became known as the patron saint of hares. Immortal yews, magical hares and the mystic Melangell, there is so much rich material for Paul's next piece of writing, a short essay which he reads at the end of the programme. Interviewees: Reverend Christine Browne, Priest Guardian of St. Melangell's Church; Professor Jane Cartwright of the University of Wales Trinity St David; Dr. Emma Gilmartin of the Woodland Trust; Lottie Glover of Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. Produced by Karen Gregor
9/7/202324 minutes, 18 seconds
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Stone Circles and Dark Skies in County Tyrone

As a child, Mary McKeown played hide and seek amongst the Beaghmore Stone Circles in her native County Tyrone. It's a mysterious, mystical site with seven circles, ten rows of stones and twelve cairns, all seemingly carefully aligned. They were found by turf cutters in the 1930s, excavated in the 1960s and carbon dated back to the early Bronze Age. There are many theories about what they were used for - perhaps a burial site, a place for harvest ceremonies, or some sort of lunar or solar calendar. The belief that the stones were connected to celestial events prompted Mary, now working as a tourism officer, to bid for Dark Sky status for Davagh Forest, a short distance away. It's one of the few areas in Northern Ireland unaffected by light pollution. In Irish, 'davagh' means cauldron – the site sits in a natural bowl in the forest protecting it from artificial light from surrounding towns and villages. Davagh became the world's 77th Dark Sky park and the first in Northern Ireland. Mary and her colleagues were also successful in getting funding to build an observatory. Resident astronomer, Barry Lynn, operates a telescope through a retractable roof and projects images of the skies on screens around the park. He says he was first attracted to the area by his interest in archaeoastronomy, the study of how past cultures viewed the skies. He says its fascinating to think that centuries ago, people watched the same moon, sun and stars as we do today. Back at the Beaghmore Stones, Helen is persuaded to join Mary for a barefoot walk inside the circles. Some believe that the 'energy' of the landscape promotes a sense of mental well being. Helen remains unconvinced about this, but enjoys recapturing childhood memories. Produced by Kathleen Carragher
8/31/202324 minutes, 24 seconds
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Highlands with Horses

Mary-Ann Ochota joins a group of walkers, riders and horses as in the Scottish Highlands as they follow St Columba’s Way, a pilgrim route from St Andrew’s to Iona. Starting at the village of Killin, eleven people and four horses – Istia, Kirsty, Moy and Sasha - follow the old ways through Glen Lochay and Glen Lyon to the Bridge of Orchy. It's a trip organised by The Big Hoof, a group which promotes adventure and wellbeing through long journeys travelling with horses, on both new routes and ancient ones. Participants join the journey for as long as they want - on foot, horseback or bicycle. Mary-Ann meets the people who have decided to take part in this secular pilgrimage, discovers the healing power of walking with horses and strangers, learns why it’s not about simply riding horses but travelling with them as companions, and hears more about the Venture Trust, the charity the group is raising money for. Produced and presented by Mary-Ann Ochota
8/24/202324 minutes, 9 seconds
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Sound and Light at Dungeness

The landscape of Dungeness, at the south-eastern tip of England, is an unusual one. In this programme, Helen Mark finds out about stories surrounding sound and light on this peninsula which juts out into the English Channel. She visits the huge concrete "sound mirrors" - built in the 1920s as an early detection system for incoming enemy planes. Their technology became obsolete as aircraft speeds increased and radar was invented. They still stand today, but are now part of a nature reserve. Helen finds out how they worked, and experiences for herself their eerie sound projection abilities. She also learns about the wildlife which now thrives around them. A few miles further south, Helen visits the old lighthouse - one of five lighthouses which Dungeness has had in its time. The area stands on vast ever-shifting banks of shingle, which have expanded seawards over the years, leaving previous lighthouses stranded too far from the sea. The construction of a nuclear power station in the 1950s also obscured the lighthouse then in use, so it was decommissioned in 1960 and is now a tourist attraction. Helen walks up its 169 steps to the top and talks to the current owner, whose father bought it on a whim at an auction. In this programme Helen experiences the distinctive sounds of Dungeness - from the magic of the sound mirrors and the whistle of the tourist steam train to the ever-present crunch and rattle of the shingle underfoot. In this pancake flat landscape, sound and light both seem to move in mysterious ways. Produced by Emma Campbell
8/17/202324 minutes, 40 seconds
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Oban Cliff Mystery

"They rise up suddenly out of fields, they're next to roads and they're even in the middle of the town golf course." Oban resident Antonia Quirke is intrigued by the strange cliffs that can be found everywhere along this stretch of Scottish coast, and she becomes more obsessed when she finds out that someone has been banging in titanium bolts to create new climbing routes up to their peaks. Joining her at the Dog Stone is the geologist James Westland who begins to unpick the history of these cliffs, plus two climbers she meets en route south, a volunteer with the Woodland Trust, Laura Corbe; and an Australian climber called Andy who has been helping to bang in the new routes. The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde
8/10/202323 minutes, 55 seconds
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The Isle of Man

Thousands of years ago, large parts of Britain were covered with temperate rainforest - also known as "Atlantic woodland" or "Celtic rainforest". It's a habitat which needs high rainfall and low annual variation in temperature, so the western fringes of the British Isles provide perfect conditions. But temperate rainforest has been largely destroyed over the centuries and there are now only fragments of it left. One of the few surviving areas is in the Isle of Man, where work now is underway to expand and restore this unique habitat, thanks to a £38 million grant. At Creg y Cowin over 70 acres will be planted with native tree species, with around 20 acres left to regenerate naturally. Helen Mark visits the island to learn about this project and meets the Wildlife Trust volunteers involved in the early stages of getting the work underway. She also finds out about "tholtans" - abandoned agricultural dwellings which are a feature of the landscape of the Isle of Man. She meets a couple who are trying to document as many of these ruined buildings as possible, and finds out about links between the landscape and the Manx language. Produced by Emma Campbell for BBC Audio Bristol
8/3/202324 minutes, 38 seconds
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Stories of Sea and Stone

The town of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast has long been associated with fossils. In this programme, Rose Ferraby finds out about new geological research which sheds light on changes to the marine landscape of thousands of years ago - and asks whether it has lessons to teach us for the future. She meets a geologist and a marine biologist who tell her about the latest research, and talks to an expert on Whitby jet to find out how this unique type of fossil has become so linked with the town. She also visits the town's newly-established lobster hatchery, where work is underway to hatch out and release hundreds of thousands of juvenile lobsters in order to conserve marine stocks. Producer: Emma Campbell
7/27/202324 minutes, 19 seconds
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The Maelor

"When I was a kid, a little junior baby map addict, it always worried me enormously - Flintshire (detached). Why is it detached? What's wrong with it?" Mike Parker is obsessed by an area of Flintshire called the Maelor. On the map he says it looks like a calloused big toe sticking into the plump ribs of England. Situated slightly south of a line between Wrexham and Whitchurch, it follows few of the expected border rules. And to prove his point, he's taking Miles Warde on a tour, from the Wychbrook to Hanmer and the border post on the strange Fenn's mosses. You'll also hear from a local Welsh language teacher called Dr Cymraeg - aka Stephen Rule - and visit the vicarage where author Lorna Sage grew up. Her most famous book is called Bad Blood. Mike Parker is the author of All The Wide Border: Wales, England and the Places Between The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde
7/20/202323 minutes, 52 seconds
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Tiny's Cairn

It's a land of standing stones, burial cairns and circles in the fields - Glen Lonan beside Loch Nell. Lupi Moll and Ivan Nicholson, who've known the area all their lives, take Oban resident Antonia Quirke on a short trek through the glen to see if they can work out why there are so monuments here. It was once part of the road of the kings, an ancient coffin route. It also includes a more recent memorial, a stone eye that marks the resting place of Lupi's wife, who died twelve years ago. The presenter is Antonia Quirke, and the producer in Bristol is Miles Warde
7/13/202324 minutes, 1 second
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Inspiration on the Tay

Dougie Vipond visits the River Tay, which runs from its source in the Highlands, past Dundee and out to sea. For centuries, the Tay estuary has shaped how creative people have expressed themselves. Starting at McDuff's Cross, the author Robin Crawford explains the Tay's link to Shakespeare - who was said to have drawn inspiration for his play Macbeth from this area. Pre-Raphaelite painters Turner and Millais knew the area well, Beatrix Potter imagined some of her most famous creations on the Tay's banks, and some of Scotland's best known artists such as Raeburn and Naismith depicted the landscape in their paintings. Dougie visits the studio of a contemporary landscape artist, Helen Glassford, to find out how her view of the silvery Tay continues to have an impact on artists today. Produced by Ruth Sanderson
7/6/202324 minutes, 19 seconds
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Wartime Secrets of Coleshill

Helen Mark visits Coleshill in Oxfordshire to learn about its wartime secrets. In 1940, with fear growing that Britain could be invaded by the German army, the estate became the training headquarters for a secret underground army. Over the next four years, thousands of country men - such as farmers, gamekeepers and foresters - were trained in underground resistance. They lived outwardly ordinary lives, but their job was to spring into action in the event of invasion, disappearing into bunkers buried in the landscape and emerging to disrupt the invading army through sabotage and hand-to-hand combat. Their life expectancy would have been around two weeks. With its quiet countryside location, far from military targets but near good transport links to London, Coleshill was the perfect place for this top-secret training base. High walls around the estate also kept its activities shielded from prying eyes. Even after the war the cloak of secrecy persisted, and today most people have never heard of the role Coleshill played in Britain's wartime history. Helen climbs down into a replica of the original underground operational base, used for training recruits, and finds out what life would have been like for these 'Auxiliary Units' or 'Auxiliers', as they were known. Sworn to secrecy, many never spoke of their experiences and took their knowledge with them to the grave. The feared German invasion never happened, so their services were not called on for real, and in many cases even their families never knew what the Auxiliers had signed up for. Now many people are piecing together their family histories and are keen to find out whether their fathers, grandfathers or uncles may have been part of one of the best-kept secrets of World War II. Produced by Emma Campbell
5/11/202324 minutes, 21 seconds
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Rhondda valley: a landscape of change

The landscape of south Wales has been shaped and defined by coal. In this programme, Helen Mark explores the Rhondda valley – finding out about is history and asking what its future may look like, now the heavy industry has gone. She visits a disused railway tunnel which once carried coal from the mines to the port of Swansea, but which has been closed and sealed off for decades. Now a group of enthusiasts is campaigning to re-open the tunnel as a tourist attraction. They have ambitions plans for it to become the longest cycling tunnel in Europe, with hopes that it could also function as an exhibition space, miniature concert hall and even a wedding venue. Helen puts on her safety helmet and is lowered down through a shaft into the tunnel, to see for herself how the structures of the past could take on a new life in the future. Produced by Emma Campbell
5/4/202324 minutes, 40 seconds
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Chasing Jamie Allan

Jamie Allan was a celebrated musician and friend of the aristocracy, but also a thief, bigamist, and deserter. Known as "The Dukes Piper", he is the source of many songs and legends in Northumbria. In this programme, folk singer Jez Lowe traces one of these legends across the Rivers Ouse and Nidd, over which Jamie Allan supposedly fled from army conscription to freedom in Scotland. As he crosses the waterways of North Yorkshire, Jez finds out about the life and adventures of this Robin Hood figure from the 18th century, and enjoys some of the music he would have played. Produced by Helen Lennard
4/27/202324 minutes, 41 seconds
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Herefordshire's Golden Valley

Ian Marchant is time-travelling through Herefordshire’s Golden Valley in springtime. He learns about "the wine of the west" in cider-maker Denis Gwatkin’s orchards, discovers Herefordshire’s lost castle at Snodhill, and visits an Elizabethan watermeadow system in Turnastone. Ian finds out why modern-day pilgrims are walking through the Golden Valley. High above it, he visits ancient Arthur’s Stone which captured the imagination of CS Lewis. Win Scutt from English Heritage tells Ian of exciting archaeological discoveries about the dolmen, built by Neolithic cattle herders. Producer: Sarah Swading
4/25/202324 minutes, 20 seconds
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Lost Norfolk

Norfolk has around two hundred abandoned villages and more ruined churches than any other county. In this programme, Lawrence D'Silva explores some of them and finds out why there are so many in Norfolk's rural landscapes. He wanders through the grassy outlines of the streets which once made up the medieval village of Godwick, imagines what used to exist in its ghostly outlines, and learns what led to its decline. He finds out how some deserted landscapes are now havens for wildlife, and experiences thousands of rooks and crows coming down to roost at dusk in Buckenham. At East Somerton he finds a ruined church almost swallowed up by the surrounding woodland and hears about the legend of the tree now growing right in the middle of what was once the church's nave. There's even a ruined church which is now part of a private garden. Lawrence meets its owners and finds out how part of Norfolk's history has become part of their everyday lives. Produced by Emma Campbell
4/13/202324 minutes, 19 seconds
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Saving Our Wild Spaces

From oyster monitoring in Northern Ireland, to beach cleaning in the North East of England, and from wildlife gardens in Felixstowe to tree-planting in Scotland, Helen Mark returns with a new series of Open Country and speaks to some of the many people who give up their time to volunteer on conservation projects. Inspired by the BBC One series 'Wild Isles' which celebrates the natural wonders and wildlife of Britain and Ireland, Helen is on a pontoon in Bangor, County Down to find out why looking after oysters is integral to our seas. She speaks to two people in Bath who have taken on the management of an area of land for the benefit of the community, and hears the inspiring story of how one woman's determination to pick up rubbish on beaches in the North East has blossomed into an organised community project. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Toby Field.
4/6/202324 minutes, 17 seconds
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Seahenge is an extraordinary early Bronze Age timber monument which was found on a beach in North Norfolk. Formed of a giant up-turned tree trunk surrounded by wooden posts, it's believed to have been a place where the dead were laid out. It was originally built on land on the edge of saltmarsh, but shifting sea levels meant that it became swamped by the marsh and was then preserved in a layer of peat. Four thousand years later, with further changes to the coastline around The Wash, it emerged once more - as the waves eroded the peat away, revealing the ancient timbers beneath. In this programme, Rose Ferraby traces the story of the monument. She meets the man who originally alerted archaeologists to its presence in the sand at Holme-next-the-Sea, and talks to some of the team who worked on the project to excavate it almost a quarter of a century ago. She goes to see the preserved timbers in the museum at King's Lynn, and reflects on what Seahenge reveals about people's relationships with their landscape in prehistory, and how they have adapted to life on this ever-changing coast. Produced by Emma Campbell
1/26/202324 minutes, 15 seconds
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East Neuk of Fife

Ruth Sanderson visits the East Neuk of Fife on the east coast of Scotland. "Neuk" is the Scots word for a nook or corner, and Ruth finds plenty of interesting corners to explore as she braves the wind and the cold to meander up the coastline from Elie to Crail. She finds out about the Fife coastal path, discovers some of its many beaches and learns about its seabirds. She also meets a geologist-turned-restaurateur with a professional interest in the area's sealife, who tells her about the importance of fish to the region's trading history. Some of the old fishing villages are now havens for artists: in Crail Ruth visits a family-run pottery which was set up in the 1960s, and discovers how the landscape has inspired three generations of creativity. Produced and presented by Ruth Sanderson
1/23/202348 minutes, 38 seconds
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Winter Wonder in East Lothian

For this week’s Open Country, Helen Mark is in East Lothian in Scotland to revel in the beauty of the winter landscape. On the outskirts of Haddington, wildlife artist Darren Woodhead is ensconced in a hedgerow at dawn. Winter is his favourite time of year to paint; all his painting is done outside, sitting on the ground. He relishes the way in which the elements alter the way water-colours behave on the paper, creating patterns as the paint starts to freeze. Further east on the coast, Helen walks down onto one of the Dunbar beaches known locally as ‘Eye Cave Beach’. Land artist, James Craig, is engaged in the meditative art of stone stacking, at one with his surroundings, racing the rising tide. James organises the annual European Stone Stacking Championships here and tells Helen that his family has had a connection with the stones and the coastline for generations. On her final stop, Helen travels north-west to the sweeping sands of Gullane beach. Emily Hogarth takes inspiration from her daily walks across the wide open bay for her papercut art designs. Her work seeks to make the everyday magical, and she tells Helen there’s nothing like winter in this part of Scotland to heighten her senses. Produced by Beatrice Fenton
1/12/202325 minutes, 12 seconds
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Folk on the Hills

Folk musician Johnny Campbell is recording an album of songs from the summits and industrial hotspots of northern England. Jez Lowe joins him at Kinder Scout in Derbyshire to celebrate ninety years since the ‘Right to Roam’ movement began and explore the traditional songs of the Peak District. Jez meets local singer Bella Hardy to hear how her home in Edale has inspired and influenced her work, and writer Roly Smith who can explain the history of Kinder and the 1932 mass trespass. It may be ninety years ago, but for young global folk stars Kate Griffin and Ford Collier of Mishra, the call for a right to roam is still relevant. They have recorded a version of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Manchester Rambler’, a song inspired by the Kinder trespass. Jez meets Kate, Ford, Johnny and Bella to hear how a new generation of musicians are continuing MacColl’s legacy of folk singers fighting for our rights in the countryside. Produced by Helen Lennard
1/5/202324 minutes, 21 seconds
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Ulster Canal: the missing link?

The Ulster canal was built in in the mid 19th century across the north of Ireland, linking Lough Neagh in the east with Lough Erne in the west. Like most canals, it fell into decline with the arrival of the railways. Partition in 1922 was the final nail in its coffin, and all 46 miles closed completely in the 1930s. Now there are plans to re-open a cross-border section of the canal between County Armagh and County Monaghan - an idea which was mentioned specifically in the Good Friday Agreement. In this programme Helen Mark retraces the ghost of the route of the old canal - easy to see in some places, hidden beneath decades of ivy and tangled undergrowth in others. In the village of Benburb, she meets author and enthusiast Brian Cassells, who tells her about the history of the canal and paints a picture of what restoring it could mean. On the other side of the border, she visits the Ulster Canal Stores at Clones, where canal restoration work has already started. Stores manager Hugh Tunney describes re-opening the canal as a "game changer". He's hoping it will bring much-needed infrastructure for boaters and paddleboarders, attracting tourists and generating more income for the area. At Lough Neagh, Helen meets up with a group of canoeists, who tell her that reviving the Ulster canal would open up whole new possibilities of routes for them to use - linking this area of the island with other existing waterways. At the other end of the canal, she tries her hand at rowing a traditional Irish currach on Lough Erne, under the guidance of skipper Olivia Cosgrove. Could the Ulster canal be the missing link in the extensive network of waterways which criss-cross the island of Ireland? Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Emma Campbell
12/29/202224 minutes, 37 seconds
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St Just in Midwinter

Helen Mark tries to live in the moment at a deserted cliff edge chapel, hears carols that have deep ties to Cornwall's tin mining heritage, and comes face to face with hell's snarling jaws as she visits the town of St Just in Penwith. In the heart of the town is the "plen-an-gwari", one of the last of the Cornish medieval amphitheatres built to host a sequence of religious mystery plays, the Ordinalia. Centuries after their suppression, the plays were revived in the 2000s as a community-wide venture that once again brought them, and the "plen", to the centre of community life. Helen meets Graham Jobbins, Mary Ann Bloomfield and Isobel Bloomfield, the family playing a central part in ensuring the tradition continues. Out on the cliffs nearby, Kari Herbert leads Helen on a midwinter walk which uses the natural landscape of cliffs and sea to inspire a meditation on the turning of the year. And at the Miner's Chapel we hear how the tin mines which once dominated the area gave rise to a tradition of local carolling that survives to this day, with Alan Cargeeg and his fellow singers. Producer: Beth Sagar-Fenton
12/22/202224 minutes, 29 seconds
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Belfast's Alleyways and Orchards

Arts consultant Amberlea Neely and architect Aisling Rusk are on a mission to re-imagine Belfast's residential alleyways. Originally built over a century ago to allow access for coal deliveries, sewage systems and bin collections behind the city's high-density red-brick terraces, the alleys became neglected and derelict - spaces for fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour. In recent years, residents of some streets have got together and turned their back entries, as they are often known, into pleasant lanes, festooned with flowers and used for neighbourhood parties and even arts events. The movement grew during the Covid lockdowns when people became aware of the value of the fresh air in the open spaces just beyond their back doors. There have been similar alleyway greening transformations in other British cities, like Manchester and Liverpool, but Amberlea and Aisling have a more ambitious vision. They're campaigning for these hidden thoroughfares to become a vital part of Belfast's green infrastructure - safe play areas and traffic-free walking and cycling routes. They set up a project called "9ft in Common" – the average width of a typical Belfast alleyway - and spent months walking the city's entries to draw up a digital map of the network. In this unlikely setting for Open Country, Helen Mark explores the momentum behind the movement. She talks to Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland about planting apple “orchards” in the alleyways and giving residents horticultural advice. She visits Wildflower Alley, one of the city's first and most successful neighbourhood projects, which now features in tourist trails, and hears from residents about what these once neglected spaces now mean to them. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Kathleen Carragher
12/15/202224 minutes, 36 seconds
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The Mendip Hills

The Mendip hills stretch across the landscape south of Bristol and Bath, running from Weston-super-Mare in the west to the Frome valley in the east, with views down across the Somerset Levels. More than seventy square miles are designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, with ancient woodland rising above dramatic gorges. Beneath their beauty, the hills hide an intriguing wartime story. Black Down was one of the "starfish sites", where fires were lit at night as decoys to simulate burning cities and so trick the German planes into dropping their bombs on the countryside instead. Its physical remains can be seen in the landscape to this day. Helen Mark explores the area and learns about its history - both ancient and more modern. Nearby Cheddar Gorge may be more famous, but Helen finds out that Burrington Combe has a fascinating past. It's home to what is believed to be the oldest cemetery in Britain, where human bones were excavated from a cave in the 19th century. Modern radiocarbon dating techniques have shown them to be more than 10,000 years old. The area is also an important haven for wildlife. Helen meets a ranger who is busy building a hibernaculum - an underground hiding place where adders and other creatures can spend the winter. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Emma Campbell
12/8/202224 minutes, 42 seconds
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Rutland Water: What lies beneath?

Rutland Water is home to a rich array of wildlife, including osprey, but beneath the water there may be much more natural history to discover. Last year Joe Davis found the largest and most complete Ichthyosaur skeleton yet seen in the UK. This inland reservoir was once a tropical ocean and there may be many more fossilised remains that remain beneath the water. In fact, there was a recent discovery of the fossilised jaw of a Jurassic crocodile-like creature. Today the habitat around the reservoir provides a perfect home for waders and wildfowl, as well as sand martins and other birds. Helen Mark discovers how this watery world also hides the most fascinating aquatic insects. Once the reservoir was hated by locals who lost their land and homes, but today it provides the perfect setting to make the most of our natural world and understand more about both the wildlife of today and the creatures that swam here millions of years ago. Presented by Helen Mark. Produced by Helen Lennard and Perminder Khatkar.
12/6/202228 minutes, 45 seconds
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Opening Up County Down

Helen Mark is in County Down, where woodland which has been in private hands for centuries is being opened up to the public. Mourne Park was owned by the same family for five hundred years, but has now been bought by the Woodland Trust. Restoration work is underway at the 385 acre site - clearing invasive plants which have smothered some of the ancient trees, and marking out new walking trails for visitors. Almost half the forest here meets the criteria to classify as ancient woodland, which is one of Northern Ireland's rarest habitats. Helen also finds out about recovery work going on to restore the land after last year's devastating wildfires in the Mourne mountains, and learns how sheep are helping the National Trust to monitor the recovery of the landscape, by wearing GPS trackers attached to special collars. En route she encounters St Patrick’s Way – an 82-mile walking trail which spans two counties and connects Christian heritage sites between Armagh and Downpatrick. Helen walks a section of the route, with a journalist-turned-nun as her guide. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Emma Campbell.
12/1/202224 minutes, 40 seconds
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Matlock Bath Illuminations

In 1897, the Matlock Bath Illuminations were first held to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Supposedly, a young Princess Victoria looked out of her hotel window and saw candle lights reflected in the River Derwent which flows through the centre of the village, and so the idea for illuminated boats was born. Today, the tradition continues - with a parade of boats made and rowed each year by the local Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders' Association. Helen Mark meets the boat builders and discovers how industry, leisure and tourism here have been built around the River Derwent and the warm springs of Matlock Bath. These thermal springs feed the Matlock Bath Lido and have brought visitors here to experience their healing capabilities since the 17th century. Today the open air lido at the New Bath Hotel has been re-opened and is providing local people and visitors with a chance to be reinvigorated by the traditions of this place and to discover the secrets of the waters beneath. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Helen Lennard
11/17/202224 minutes, 33 seconds
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The Mushroom Man

"Mushroom fans, foragers like myself - and mycologists even more so - hate the word toadstool because it's basically just yet another example of British prejudice against mushrooms." Writer and forager Daniel Butler leads the charge against British mushroom ignorance as he steers a small group - plus dog - into the woods of mid-Wales. They're looking for tasty porcini, or penny bun mushrooms, to cook and eat. They find so many we can't tell you where they went. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Miles Warde
11/10/202223 minutes, 59 seconds
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Tolkien Land

Tolkien once remarked that reviewers, "seem to think that Middle-earth is another planet!" In fact the Shire, Isengard and the horses of Rohan are much closer to home than you think. Tolkien had a car in the 1930's and used to drive out of Oxford and visit sites that definitely filter into the books he wrote. Now Miles Warde has been out with Tolkien expert John Garth to find traces of Tolkien Land at Faringdon Tower and the Rollright Stones. There's also a brief appearance for Sarehole near Birmingham, where the young Tolkien grew up, plus archive of the great writer talking about where his books may have been based. John Garth is the author of The Worlds of JRR Tolkien - the places that inspired Middle-earth. The producer for BBC audio in Bristol is Miles Warde
11/7/202224 minutes, 4 seconds
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The Plock

The Plock of Kyle is a promontory on the North West coast of Scotland, beside the Skye Bridge and close to the villages of Plockton and Kyle of Lochalsh. This old community parkland is a striking landscape with native woodland, meadows and rocky coastline, but it is an area tourists tend to just drive through to get to Skye. Helen Mark discovers how a local community trust is working on projects designed to put Plock on the map. There are plans to reconstruct a village, based on archaeological evidence of the Vikings presence in the area. Park ranger, Heather Beaton, gives Helen a tour of the Plock's newly restored meadows, ponds and nature trails. She extols the benefits of scything and gives Helen a lesson on how to improve her skills. Heather aims to hold an annual scything festival. Helen also ventures under the Skye Bridge, to the small island of Eilean Ban, which was the final home of naturalist and writer Gavin Maxwell, author of The Ring of Bright Water. Otters are regularly spotted around the island and a small museum maintained by a local trust commemorates his life story. Many local people still recall the heady days of protests over the cost of tolls on the impressive Skye Bridge when it opened in 1995. Helen talks to leading rebel and Highland councillor, Drew Millar, who remembers driving sheep across the new bridge in protest and spending a night in jail for non-payment. Thirty people were convicted of non-payment. After nearly a decade of dissent, the protestors finally won and the tolls were dropped. Drew says the protest shows that peaceful civil disobedience can be successful. Produced by Kathleen Carragher
10/27/202224 minutes, 9 seconds
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Frampton Country Fair

The terrier racing is the highlight, "because they are so badly behaved". But before then there are the otters, plus the otterhounds, hunting from horseback with an eagle, and impressive gundog displays. The Frampton Country Fair has been running since 1986, set on the Frampton estate near the River Severn in Gloucestershire. Miles Warde speaks to everyone behind the scenes - including Rollo Clifford, Lib Smith and Sharon Sugars - and many of the exhibitors taking part. Expect a proud and defiant spirit about countryside pursuits. Produced in Bristol by Miles Warde
10/20/202224 minutes, 6 seconds
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Gedling Colliery: From Pit to Park

Gedling Colliery, in the Nottinghamshire coalfield, closed in 1991 after nearly a hundred years of activity. At its peak, the pit produced more than a million tonnes of coal a year and thousands of local men worked there. It was known locally as 'The Pit of Nations’ because of its diverse workforce from the 1950s to the 1980s. In this programme, Rose Ferraby visits the site of the old pit tip, which has been converted into a country park. She meets a local historian and a former mine worker as well as members of the Friends of Gedling Country Park. Down in the valley Rose visits the slurry lagoon, where waste water from washing the coal was piped out. The former industrial waste site has been converted into a thriving nature reserve with the help of the Gedling Conservation Trust. Presented by Rose Ferraby Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Heather Simons
10/13/202224 minutes, 40 seconds
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Beefeater Bend on the Tour de France

Over a decade ago, two friends from Essex decided to break off from work and drive down to the Alps. Neither knew much about cycling but the plan was to watch the Tour de France dressed in peaked caps and cravats. Probably best not to ask why. By 2014 when the race came to Yorkshire, they'd moved on to full Beefeater outfits - red jackets, black hats, white gloves, matching shades. They love dancing to europop at the side of the road, and in 2019 they were voted the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) fans of the year. Miles Warde joins the Beefeaters as they load up their shopping trolleys at the bottom of Alpe d'Huez for one of the toughest and hottest stages of this year's race. They are pushing up to Bend 20 where they'll reclaim a little space from a German called Herbert who has been looking after their beer, then set up their generators and loudspeakers and dance for six hours. Unlike other bends on the Alpe - Dutch Corner, Norwegian Corner, Cymru Corner - Beefeater Bend is completely non-national. Everyone is welcome, and everyone comes because everyone loves europop in the blistering sun. "The nicest programme I've made." Miles Warde
8/25/202226 minutes, 17 seconds
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Cornwall with Helen Glover

Helen Glover returns to her beloved childhood patch of Newlyn and Penzance in Cornwall to explore the area where she grew up and discover how it’s changed since she was a girl. Helen is a double Olympic gold-medal winner and her love of physical activity and the outdoors was shaped by her childhood environment. She recalls running along the prom as part of her training as a schoolgirl athlete, and reflects on fond memories of her Dad’s small but legendary ice-cream business, wheeling supplies up down the road in an old pram. Helen also visits the Penlee Lifeboat with long-time RNLI Coxswain, Patch Harvey and meets the Battery Belles, an outdoor swimming group who plunge into the sea every morning. She considers how the cliffs she’s known all her life are gradually changing through relentless erosion, and speaks to the director of an art school who ran a mass painting event to raise awareness and funds to protect the landscape he loves. She also meets an artist who had a very near miss when the cliff he was painting under collapsed shortly after he left. Helen also reflects on the sad fact that her favourite beaches are now littered with plastic, and catches up with a young beach cleaner who devotes hours to picking up and making art from other people’s waste. Contributors include: Tina Riggall of the Battery Belles; Landscape painter Paul Lewin; Henry Garfit of the Newlyn School of Art; Patch Harvey, RNLI; Louis-Matisse litter picker and artist. Please scroll down, on the R4 Open Country webpage, for related links. Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol - Karen Gregor
8/18/202224 minutes, 22 seconds
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Finding Balblair

Helen Mark is in Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands, where she discovers the "lost" village of Balblair, visits the spectacular Corrieshalloch Gorge and tours the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Kathleen Carragher
8/11/202224 minutes, 28 seconds
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Radical Essex

Emily Knight uncovers an unexpectedly radical story, hidden in the Essex countryside. In the 1940s, men and women horrified by the violence of war, disconnected, disillusioned and despondent, began to turn to the land - and each other - for healing. A new way of life was needed, and a new movement sprang up. Part pacifist philosophy, part radical Christianity, part utopian idealism, the Back-to-the-Land movement of the '40s and '50s saw groups of people coming together to take over pockets of farmland, working collectively, sharing the hardships and the joys of communal living. But this isn't just a farming movement. It's a story in which pacifist philosophy overlaps with new forms of Christianity, where the literature of DH Lawrence and George Orwell meets a working-class intellectualism, fired up by the possibility of real social change. It's a world of big dreams, hard graft, close communities, and a flowering of music, poetry and theatre, all under the arched roof of a crumbling Essex barn. In a world ravaged by climate change and Covid-19, could we see a similar movement springing up today? Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol : Emily Knight
8/4/202224 minutes, 11 seconds
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A new road for Kerrera

It's so close to the mainland that most people don't even realise it is there, but Kerrera in early summer is a jewel, and Antonia Quirke - who lives a couple of miles away - is curious about the impact of a new road. Early one summer morning she and producer Miles Warde take the ferry from Oban to find out what has changed. Antonia Quirke is a broadcaster and author. She moved to the west coast of Scotland at the start of lockdown for love. Produced for BBC audio in Bristol by Miles Warde
7/28/202223 minutes, 57 seconds
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Uncharted Stories of the Causeway Coast

Helen Mark is in Northern Ireland to hear little known histories about the Causeway Coast. A new project is gathering stories from the local community to add to a digital map, before they are forgotten forever. Produced by Beatrice Fenton.
7/27/202224 minutes, 47 seconds
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Aberystwyth Inspiration

Writer Niellah Arboine returns to her university town of Aberystwyth, to remember the landscape which inspired her writing so much. She recalls how shocking it was to arrive in a place so different from her South London home. Niellah meets three other creatives working in Cardigan Bay, and explores their connections with place, art and the natural world. Produced by Beatrice Fenton
7/15/202224 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Search for Summer Snow

Andrew Cotter and Iain Cameron first met on twitter, though neither will admit who made the first move. They've been walking together since 2016 and are often looking for snow. Iain researches snow patches across the Highlands and Andrew seems to enjoy coming along for the ride. On a marvellous early sunlit morning they climb the Grey Corries with producer Miles Warde and try to work out how much snow will survive the summer heat. Iain Cameron is the author of The Vanishing Ice. He's been drawn to the white patches of the Scottish Highlands since 1983. Andrew Cotter is a sports reporter and the author of several books about his dogs, Mabel and Olive. Produced for BBC audio in Bristol by Miles Warde
7/11/202224 minutes, 20 seconds
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The Book, the Fish and the Dove

It's fast approaching 400 years since The Compleat Angler, arguably the most famous fishing manual ever to have been written, was first published. Often referred to as the “bible” of the angler, it has sold more copies than the St John’s Bible and only been out of print once. Its author, Sir Izaak Walton, was a fisherman, writer and philosopher. Open Country celebrates the life, writing and legacy of Walton by visiting the cottage in Shallowford which he bought and is now a museum, and joining a group of fishermen on the River Dove where Walton loved to fish with his great friend Charles Cotton, to learn about "The Art of Angling" and the legacy of Walton. Presenter Helen Mark. Producer Sarah Blunt.
6/30/202224 minutes, 5 seconds
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Cornwall’s Steam Heritage

Ian Marchant finds the streets of Camborne alive and hissing with the sound of steam traction engines. It’s Trevithick Day, commemorating Richard Trevithick, the inventor of the first steam-powered vehicle. As Ian finds out, the invention was a step towards the mechanisation of farming and road building, as well as the development of railways. Ian visits the preserved East Pool Tin Mine and hears how Trevithick’s innovation in high pressure steam-pumping engines contributed to the 19th century mining boom in Cornwall and around the world. He finds out how Trevithick's inventions have left their mark on the British landscape. Back in Camborne, Trevithick Day culminates with steam engines saluting the great man’s statue in a whistling drive past. Peep peep! Presenter: Ian Marchant Producer: Sarah Swadling
6/23/202224 minutes, 23 seconds
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Erland Cooper's Orkney

Composer Erland Cooper takes us on a tour of his Orkney homeland - with help from artists, poets, some Neolithic monuments and around a million swirling sea-birds. Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol : Emily Knight
6/16/202224 minutes, 17 seconds
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Bath Workhouse Burial Ground

Helen Mark visits a field on the edge of Bath, once used as the burial ground for Bath Union Workhouse. Over 3100 bodies of people who died in poverty between 1858 and 1899 were buried here in unmarked graves. For over a hundred years, the site has been unrecognised and those buried here forgotten. Now a group of local residents, artists, and descendants of those buried here are remembering what happened. Helen hears how the group is planting trees and wildflowers, putting up a plaque, and commemorating the lives of people who were buried anonymously. Produced by Beatrice Fenton
4/28/202224 minutes, 27 seconds
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The Wash

Helen Mark visits the Wash, a vast bay in East Anglia, where the interests of fishing and conservation are finely balanced. The Wash has been fished for centuries for cockles, mussels and brown shrimp, but it's also visited by thousands of migratory birds, as they crisscross the globe. Fishing in the bay has been sustainably managed for the last 30 years, but next year things are changing, causing uncertainty and concern for the Wash fishing fleet. Produced by Beatrice Fenton.
4/26/202224 minutes, 20 seconds
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Mammoth Hunting on the Norfolk Coast

This week's Open Country is a journey along a stretch of familiar coastline, but also back in time, to a far less familiar landscape. Emily Knight explores the Deep History Coast of North Norfolk, where the crumbling shoreline has given up some of the most impressive fossil remains ever discovered. To help her get a sense of the landscape that came before this one, she meets palaeontologist and author of "Otherlands", Dr Thomas Halliday, who explains what this ancient place would have looked like, how it might have felt to walk through it, and who you might have met along the way. One of our companions on this stroll through time might have been a true giant of the past - four metres tall and weighing in at ten tonnes - the West Runton Mammoth. It's the most complete mammoth skeleton ever found, buried in the shifting sands of the beach for hundreds of thousands of years, before being discovered after a storm in 1990. While we stroll along a sandy beach, the West Runton Mammoth would have strolled instead along a muddy river-bed through a dense forest, surrounded by sights both familiar to us, and extraordinary: seven-foot tall deer, rhinos and hyaenas. Dr Tori Herridge, evolutionary biologist and elephant expert from the Natural History Museum, is on hand to talk about the life and death of this impressive creature, while local fossil-hunter Michelle Smith gives Emily a lesson in safe and sustainable fossil-hunting. Alongside these extraordinary animals were people too - of a kind. Not quite our ancestors, more like our very distant cousins, Homo Heidelbergensis and Homo Antecessor both made their mark along this stretch of coastline. Dr David Waterhouse from Norfolk Museum explains how we think they might have lived, and what that tells us about our own origins.
4/14/202224 minutes, 33 seconds
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Husky Sledding in the Cairngorms

Helen Mark travels to the rolling hills of Aberdeenshire, home of the Cairngorms National Park. Popular with walkers, hikers, nature-lovers and 'munro-baggers' alike, these hills are undoubtedly a beautiful place to visit. But you can ditch your hiking boots for this episode of Open Country, because Helen's exploring in a different way: from the back of a husky-pulled sled! At the reins is Wattie McDonald, husky-lover, musher, and a veteran of the extraordinary 'Iditarod': the gruelling thousand-mile sled-race across the frozen wastes of Alaska. With his team of sixteen dogs, Wattie navigated treacherous frozen lakes, snow-covered forests, and his own exhaustion to make it across Alaska in one piece: one of very few Scots ever to do so. Back in his home country, the trails are a little shorter and a lot less snowy, but Wattie's up for the challenge nevertheless. As long as his dogs are happy, so is he. But the real stars of the show are the dogs themselves: Siberian Huskies - a whole kennel-full of them. Krash, Krazy, sweet uncle Kaspar, the veteran one-eyed Keely, and the Pandemic Pups, Kovid and Korona. They're a cuddly bunch, always up for a head-scratch or a tummy-rub, but more than anything these working dogs simply love to run. With their help, Helen speeds through the landscape. Here's hoping the brakes work! Produced by Emily Knight
4/7/202224 minutes, 24 seconds
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California's Giant Cousins

Not far from Offa's Dyke in mid-Wales there stands a grove of Coast Redwoods - the oldest and largest of its kind in Europe. Brought over from their native California in the 1850s, the trees - which are still in their infancy - tower above others nearby. The author Tracy Chevalier ('Girl with a Pearl Earring') visited these woods with her husband, plant writer Jonathan Drori, 30 years ago. In her 2016 novel, 'At the Edge of the Orchard' she tells the story of how the trees were collected and brought to Wales by her hero Robert Goodenough. The Redwood Grove stands next to a pinetum which includes other varieties of Redwood, Fir, Cedar and Cypress. It is here that the infamous Leylandii tree was first registered, after two varieties of Cypress, which would not meet naturally in the wild, cross pollinated, creating the fast-growing evergreen. In his book, 'Around the World in 80 Trees', Drori tells the story of how the tree went on to be the source of so many neighbour disputes. In 1958 the Redwood and Pinetum was donated to the Royal Forestry Society by Charles Ackers, who planted many more Coast Redwoods on the site in the 1930s. His daughter, Torill Freeman recalls visits to the woods as a child, and explains why her father dedicated the woods to her mother. Presented by Felicity Evans Produced in Bristol by Natalie Donovan Photo Credit: Website photo taken by Jonathan Drori
1/29/202225 minutes, 2 seconds
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Goats on the Gun Batteries

Purdown is a large green hilly area on the edge of Bristol and is one of the highest points of the city. It's marked out by two buildings: the telecom tower and the large yellow dower house - a familiar sight to anyone who regularly drives along the nearby M32. In this programme Helen Mark explores the area, finding out about its significance in World War II, and meeting the goats which are now helping to preserve the remains of the gun placements put there to protect the city from bombing raids. She also learns about the history of Stoke Park estate, and goes on a hunt for hidden artwork in the woods. Produced by Emma Campbell
1/20/202224 minutes, 43 seconds
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Ancient Dartmoor

Dartmoor is one of the UK's most significant archaeological landscapes. In this episode of Open Country, Ian Marchant explores some of its most interesting sites. He meets the National Park's lead archaeologist and finds out about a new research project being carried out by an academic from Leicester University, who is using cutting-edge new technology to discover structures which may have been left by Dartmoor’s earliest farming communities more than five thousand years ago. Ian also meets a present-day farmer, who tells him what it's like to farm in field systems first laid out by his predecessors from centuries gone by. Meanwhile an artist and ecologist explains how his art is inspired by Dartmoor's landscape and its wildlife, and Ian finds out why Dartmoor hill ponies may be a form of "living archaeology" themselves. Produced by Sarah Swadling
1/13/202224 minutes, 35 seconds
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Classic Rock

Jack's Rake is a famous diagonal groove up a Lake District rock face. It's tough, but not too tough - so can a newby climber manage it? Helping Emily Knight up the face is Anna Fleming, author of Time on Rock, plus Langdale native Bill Birkett who's made a few first ascents in the Lakes. On the way they talk about the rock, the attitude, and the kit. The producer for BBC audio in Bristol is Miles Warde
1/13/202223 minutes, 52 seconds
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Reflections and Connections

A wildlife cameraman, a sea swimmer, a poet and a professional tree climber reflect on their relationship with their local landscape; sea, loch, rocky beach and woodland on the cusp of a new year. From a new understanding of home to the discovery of one’s real self, their reflections are inspiring, insightful and powerful. Produced by Sarah Blunt for BBC Audio in Bristol.
12/30/202124 minutes, 16 seconds
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Bright lights and bees at Blenheim

In this edition of Open Country, Helen Mark explores the landscape at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. The 2000 acres of parkland were landscaped by Capability Brown, and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The grounds are also home to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and earlier this year a colony of rare bees was discovered in its ancient woodland - surviving descendants of indigenous honeybees which were previously thought to have been wiped out. There are also 12,000 acres of farmland, where a new project is underway to try and make the estate carbon neutral. As dusk falls, Helen winds her way though Blenheim's illuminated trail, where more than a million sparkling lights and lasers light up the winter landscape. Produced by Emma Campbell
12/23/202124 minutes, 48 seconds
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The Wall

In AD122 following the orders of the Emperor Hadrian, work began to protect the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. Hadrian’s Wall was more than just a barricade. Stretching almost 80 miles from coast to coast and featuring mile castles, barracks, forts, ramparts and settlements it is testimony to the vision and skill of the Roman Empire. As the wall approaches its 1900 Anniversary in 2022, Open Country heads to Northumberland to explore our relationship with walls and their importance with an archaeologist, artist, naturalist and drystone waller. Produced by Sarah Blunt for BBC Audio in Bristol. For more information about Hadrians Wall 1900 Anniversary
12/16/202124 minutes, 25 seconds
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Wizards and steam trains on the West Highland Line

In 'Wizards and Steam Trains on the West Highland Line', folk musician Ingrid Henderson explores the communities and landscapes which influence her life and work. She lives in Glenfinnan, on the shores of Loch Shiel, where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard before setting off on his much-romanticised, doomed mission to reclaim the English crown for the Stuarts. But in recent years Charlie has been almost supplanted by a fictional rival - Harry Potter. Thousands of tourists are drawn to the area, eager to see the Jacobite steam train, aka Hogwarts Express, crossing the magnificent Glenfinnan viaduct - an iconic scene in the Potter films. Ingrid talks to Jacobite historian, Charlie MacFarlane, about this clash of cultures and - up at the viaduct - chats with Harry Potter fans who have travelled from as far afield as China, Brazil and the USA to see the Hogwarts Express. She finds out about the history of the West Highland Railway Line with museum curator, Hege Harnaes, as it celebrates its 120th anniversary and takes the train to the fishing port of Mallaig, at the end of the line. It's her home town, where her musical career started. Former schoolteacher, Denis Rixson, recalls the heyday of the town's fishing industry and Ingrid describes how the coast and waters of this part of Scotland have inspired some of her work. Produced by Kathleen Carragher Photo: Alan Wilson, Friends of Glenfinnan station
12/10/202124 minutes, 27 seconds
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Memorial walks and woodlands

Leicester was hit hard by the pandemic with long lockdowns and many families affected. At Watermead Country Park close to the city they have chosen to remember those who lost their lives, the essential workers and everyone who has played their part in these hard times. Trees have been planted along a new memorial walk in this park, which was once a huge quarry. Roo Peake helped to crowdfund for the walk in memory of her friend and fellow charity member at Leicestershire Masaya Link, Michael Gerard. Helen Mark meets her, along with the Head of County Parks Richard Hunt and Head Ranger Dale Osborne, to discover more about how this park on the edge of the city is constantly adapting as it grows from reclaimed industrial land to a thriving habitat for wildlife and sanctuary for people nearby. Helen then travels to the National Memorial Arboretum in the National Forest to find out about the beginnings of a national Covid memorial which will use trees and water to heal the scars left by industry and help the whole country find a place to remember. Produced by Helen Lennard
12/10/202124 minutes, 27 seconds
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Kerdroya - The Cornish Labyrinth

Will Coleman of Golden Tree Productions is creating a major new piece of landscape scale art at Colliford Lake on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. Kerdoya is a labyrinth celebrating and built from the humble Cornish hedge. Helen Mark visits Will to discover why the Cornish hedge is at the heart of Cornish culture and landscape. She discovers that the emerging labyrinth on the edge of the lake is providing jobs, training and respite - as well as inviting visitors to appreciate the art of hedge-making and the permanence of these ancient structures in Cornwall’s lanes and fields. Produced by Helen Lennard
12/10/202124 minutes, 23 seconds
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A Tot of Rum

Kinloch Castle, an Edwardian hunting lodge on the Hebridean Isle of Rum, was built in the 1900s by a Lancashire textile magnate, Sir George Bullough. The estate had its own hydro electric scheme, Japanese gardens and palm house, reputedly stocked with humming birds and an alligator! In Kinloch's grand hall Sir George installed a magnificent orchestrion, an early form of home entertainment centre. One of the largest ever built, it has 264 tuned pipes which can recreate the sounds of flutes, trumpets, clarinets, baritones, trombones and piccolos. Sir George used it to summon his guests to the dining room. Today the orchestrion, like the rest of the castle, is in a sad state of disrepair, boarded up and at the mercy of winter storms. Fiona Mackenzie ,who lives on the neighbouring Island of Canna, finds out more about the castle's history and talks to a group of campaigners who are passionate about restoring it. She meets conservationist, Ali Morris, who spends much of her time on Rum's spectacular hillsides, working on the Red Deer Research project which has been running since 1953. It's the rutting season, - a noisy, busy time of the year! Four families moved to Rum, last year, in response to an appeal for newcomers to boost the island's population which had fallen to just thirty. Fiona finds out how some of them have been settling in. She also talks to Fergus McGowan and his fellow entrepreneurs who have recently launched a drinks venture on the island. Using local botanicals, including sea kelp, spruce and meadowsweet, they've hit on the bright idea of making rum on Rum! Produced by Kathleen Carragher
12/10/202124 minutes, 4 seconds
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After Dark on the Brecon Beacons

Long winter nights are a time for hot drinks, closed curtains and snoozing by the fire. Well, not for everyone. In the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales, people are up and about all through the night. Emily Knight finds out what they're up to. The Brecon Beacons are recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve - one of two in Wales and only seventeen in the world. With minimal light pollution, it's possible to see nature as it once was - before the background glow of electric lights got in the way. Head out into the rolling hills at night and you'll see something you'll never be able to see from a city, even on the clearest of nights - the sparkling streak of the Milky Way, cutting the night in two. There's plenty more to be found by the light of the stars. From moth-trappers to starling-spotters to astro-photographers, well-armed with scarves and flasks and head-torches, the dark quiet landscape is alive with activity - if you know where to look. Presented and produced in Bristol by Emily Knight
12/2/202124 minutes, 23 seconds
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Britain's Forgotten Rainforest

Did you know that we have rainforest, lush, green rainforest, right here in the UK? Many don't, yet it's once of our most ancient - and threatened - habitats. Gnarled trees, twisted with age, covered from root to tip in mosses and lichens, epiphytic ferns dripping from every branch. Once existing in a vast swathe right down the west coast of Britain, "temperate rainforest" is one of the world's rarest habitats. There are species living here that can live nowhere else, but it's been gradually encroached on by humans for centuries. Now clinging on in small pockets, you can find patches of rainforest if you know where to look: in places like Dartmoor, West Wales and the west coast of Scotland. But there may be other patches out there - quietly enduring the passing centuries. Helen Mark takes a walk into the secret forests of Britain to find out how we can save them. In Wales, projects are underway to save and expand the Celtic Rainforests, rescuing them from invading rhododendrons, and employing some hardy (but elusive) Highland Cattle to help keep the weeds in check. And a new project is launched this year, aiming to find and map the full extend of the British rainforest for the first time. They need your help to track down every last bit of it. Presented by Helen Mark Produced in Bristol by Emily Knight
11/11/202124 minutes, 6 seconds
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Until the land runs out

This is the story of a young man called William Henry Quinn who returned from war and walked from Cornwall to Scotland. He also went to Wales, the Cotswolds and the Yorkshire Dales. It's a tale for anyone who has ever tried to regather themselves with a little help from time and landscape, but the truth of his journey is not quite all it seems. There are letters, photos and various objects including a marlin knife, all of them belonging to Lottie Davies. Miles Warde met Lottie Davies out on Dartmoor to find out who Quinn really was, and whether he walked until the land ran out. With contributions from actor Sam Weir and narrated by Kate Chaney. The producer for BBC Audio in Bristol is Miles Warde
10/28/202124 minutes, 23 seconds
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The right to paddle?

Did you buy a kayak or perhaps a paddle board after lockdown? And do you know where you can go now? According to Nick Hayes - who lives on a houseboat on the River Thames - you can only legally access around three to four percent of England's waterways. Scotland has the right to roam. Nick is the author of The Book of Trespass and uses his canoe to go shopping and take out his rubbish too. This is fine on his section of the Thames, but he has been confronted on other rivers .... so who owns our waterways, and what exactly are the rules? With further contribution from Ben Seal of British Canoeing, and produced in Bristol by Miles Warde.
10/21/202124 minutes, 16 seconds
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How to build and paint a bird nest

Blackbirds, wrens, reed warblers, yellowhammers, sparrows and crows - this is a programme about British birds and the places where they live. One day botanical painter Susan Ogilvy found a strange object on her lawn. It was damp and green, and had been blown out of a tree by a storm. Once it had dried it fluffed up into a beautiful chaffinch nest. Susan was entranced and began to paint it. "Birds follow their own architecture but they use the materials they find around them - twigs and grasses and leaves, and they use them in the spring when they are young and bendy. When we see them in the autumn they've dried up, so everything has become much more brittle." Over the last five years she's painted another seventy abandoned nests, and she's been increasingly helped by neighbours who find them, plus a local expert, Deon Warner. This programme is as much about Deon as it is about Susan herself. Together they stride out across the local Somerset landscape to see what they can find. Produced by Miles Warde with readings by Emily Knight.
10/14/202123 minutes, 57 seconds
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North Channel

The North Channel is the stretch of water which lies between Scotland and Northern Ireland. At its narrowest, it's just 13 miles wide. In this programme, Helen Mark explores the stories surrounding the journeys which are made from one side to the other. She meets one of the crew working on the passenger ferries which plough back and forth and learns what life is like for those whose working lives centre around this journey. She hears about the sad story of the Princess Victoria - a ferry which sank making the crossing in 1953, with the loss of more than 130 lives. There have been suggestions for a fixed crossing, either a bridge or a tunnel, for more than a century - an idea recently revived by Boris Johnson. Helen asks an architect whether it could ever really happen. She also meets a woman preparing to try and make the crossing under her own steam, by swimming between the two coasts - braving the cold, the currents and the jellyfish. Helen reflects on her own personal relationship with the North Channel - having been born on one side, but lived most of her life on the other - and asks whether this narrow strip of sea serves to connect or divide the people on either side. Produced by Emma Campbell.
8/26/202124 minutes, 56 seconds
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A Fabric Landscape

Fashion designer and judge of The Great British Sewing Bee, Patrick Grant, has a dream: he wants to create a line of jeans made in Blackburn. It sounds simple, but Patrick wants to go the whole hog - growing the crop to make the fabric in Blackburn, growing the woad to dye it blue in Blackburn and finally processing the flax into linen and sewing it all Blackburn. In this programme, the writer and broadcaster Ian Marchant travels to a tiny field of flax on the side of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, where Patrick and a group of passionate local people are trying to make this dream a reality, and bring the textile industry back to Blackburn. But why? Blackburn and the area around it has been shaped by the textile industry for centuries, with the carcasses of old cotton mills littering the landscape. Ian visits Imperial Mill to hear what life was like for workers there in the industry's heyday. He finds out how Patrick and the team have been inspired by the visit of Mahatma Gandhi to Lancashire 90 years ago and learns why cotton made for a complicated relationship between Imperial Britain and India. Presented by Ian Marchant Produced by Heather Simons
8/19/202124 minutes, 35 seconds
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People and Stone

Archaeologist and artist Rose Ferraby explores the connections between people and stone on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, where as a child she used to watch adders basking in the old quarries and hunt for crickets on the limestone cliffs. There’s a waymaker on the coastal path; a swirling ammonite fossil emerges alongside deep cut letters and chisel marks. “For me this sums up what stone is“ says Rose, “a meeting place of people and earth.” Over the years, Rose has become increasingly interested in the links and stories which connect people and stone, and in this programme she returns to Dorset to meet a geologist, a fossil collector and a father and son whose quarry has been in the family since the 17th century. She also follows a trail of dinosaur footprints and braves an underground tunnel as she explores the relationships between people and stone. Produced by Sarah Blunt for BBC Audio in Bristol.
8/12/202124 minutes, 20 seconds
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Northumberland Sound Walk

A conversation between the Tipalt Burn and Hadrian’s Wall, a legend about treasure that is buried under Thirlwall castle, the conflict between urban and rural life, the significance of the wall, hidden and lost sounds and the migration and transformation of stone are all themes which feature in an immersive sound walk through a Northumberland landscape. Open Country meets several of the artists, poets, musicians, singers, storytellers, composers and writers who were involved in creating this four-mile walk near the village of Greenhead. We discover how they were inspired by the landscape and community of this area and find out how their work was realised. The story begins in December 2020 when Green Croft Arts commissioned 14 artists with strong links to Northumberland and Cumbria to explore the theme of ‘Collision and Conflict’ for a geolocator sound walk which was launched in the spring of 2021. Participants are invited to downloaded an app onto their phones, and then follow a route marked on a map through the landscape. The artistic responses – a mix of music, storytelling, spoken word and sounds - are linked to specific locations along the route. They are triggered as the walker approaches and can be heard through headphones. It’s an extraordinary immersive journey exploring the past and present, local and global, landscape, hidden sounds, community and culture. Producer Sarah Blunt FOR MORE INFORMATION Green Croft Arts
8/5/202124 minutes, 7 seconds
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Windsor Great Park

Travel writer Ash Bhardwaj revisits his childhood haunts at Windsor Great Park. The 16,000 acre park is only around twenty-five miles from central London, but has an impressive range of different landscapes and wildlife habitats - from traditional formal flowerbeds to ancient woodland, a deer park, farmland and even a site of special scientific interest. Ash meets the deputy ranger to learn about the history of the park, and finds out about the role played in its post-war evolution by the most recent head ranger, the late Duke of Edinburgh. A conservation specialist from Natural England shows Ash how to tell the age of an oak tree by measuring its girth, and explains the intricate ecology of the rare species of fungi and insects which thrive in the wildlife habitats provided by the trees - some of which have been growing in the park since the time of the Norman Conquest. Ash also meets up with a florist whose choice of career was inspired and influenced by having spent so much of her own childhood playing among the park's shrubs and flowers, and he visits the stables that are home to the horses which pull carriages up and down the famous Long Walk, with its views of Windsor Castle. The visit leads Ash to reflect on how much difference having access to Windsor Great Park made to him, growing up as he did in a garden-less flat above a restaurant. He concludes that the park was largely responsible for sparking his lifelong interest in the countryside and the natural world. Produced by Emma Campbell
7/29/202124 minutes, 27 seconds
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Journey to the Source of the Ancholme

Ian Marchant tracks the River Ancholme to its source. Others might prefer the Limpopo or the Zambesi, but Ian is drawn to the subtle mysteries of the canal-like Ancholme in Lincolnshire, arguing that there are delights to be found if you take a close look in your own back yard. And there are plenty of delights. If historic boats are your thing then there's Humber Sloop Amy Howson, an ochre-sailed ship moored at the mouth of the Ancholme, in the care of the Humber Keels and Sloop Preservation Society, or Brigg Raft, a five metre Bronze age raft designed specifically for the slow moving waters of the Ancholme. Brigg was always, it seems, a good place to keep a boat. The town is an island, created by two channels of the Ancholme encircling its centre. Brigg Raft and the even more astounding Brigg Log Boat (nearly fifteen metres long) were discovered in 1886, lurking in mud at the site of what is now Glanford Boat Club. There are still around fifty boats moored at Glanford Boat Club, a vibrant social centre. Just off the course of the Ancholme is Stow Minster, which has, etched into its stone, two images of Viking longships: further evidence of visitors by boat to central Lincolnshire. But will Ian make it to the source in the Lincolnshire Wolds? And how would he know if he got there? Produced for BBC Audio by Mary Ward-Lowery
7/22/202123 minutes, 35 seconds
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Durham: Time and the Tides

With its beaches, rugged cliffs and imposing headlands, the Durham coastline is a dramatic landscape, stretching from Sunderland to Hartlepool in North East England. Today it's designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty owing to its Magnesian Limestone grasslands, wildflower meadows and ancient woodlands. But this coastline was once the site of several of Durham’s last deep coal mines and notorious for its ‘black beaches’ and heavily polluted landscape. In the late 1900s, after the closure of the pits, it was transformed in a multi-agency clean-up to remove well over a million tonnes of colliery spoil which had been tipped onto the coast. Today it's “a wonderful conglomeration of human and geological layers” says archaeologist and artist Rose Ferraby. Rose along with poets Katrina Porteus and Phoebe Power revisit this landscape which inspired a book of illustrated poems and prose as part of the National Trust’s People’s Landscape project which explores the role landscapes have played in social change. We hear from a former miner and a litter picker, discover beauty in an abandoned mattress, watch a butterfly through the lens of a child’s camera, uncover a kaleidoscope of colours, catch up on memories of life working underground and wind-blow corn cockles above ground. Producer Sarah Blunt. Further Information: People’s Landscapes Durham Heritage Coast Beach Cleans Sea Change Katrina Porteus, Two Countries (2014)
7/15/202124 minutes, 17 seconds
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Magnet Fishing

Magnet fishing - using strong magnets to hunt for treasure in canals and rivers - is a craze which is growing in popularity. A group in Edinburgh have been given permission for the first time by Historic Environment Scotland to ‘fish’ the city’s waterways, and Helen Mark is there to try her hand. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Beatrice Fenton.
7/8/202124 minutes, 36 seconds
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Rare British breeds and their owners

Lincoln Longwools, Dorset Horns, Chillingham wild cattle and Gloucester Old Spot pigs – photographer Amanda Lockhart has been travelling the country looking for rare British breeds. She has approximately 200 markers on her map and is slowly ticking them off. We catch up with her on a very hot day looking for Large Black pigs. With contributions from Liz and Cameron from Edington Pigs; plus Annabelle and Jonathan Crump who own Gloucester cows. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Miles Warde
7/1/202124 minutes, 6 seconds
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An Obsession with Forsythia

Monique Gudgeon is on a mission to create a botanic garden. And what better way to get started than to build a new National Plant Collection. In creating a garden from scratch, one of her priorities is to bring in species which both work with the surrounding Dorset landscape and that are in need of conservation. There is a huge diversity of garden plants that need to be looked after so cultivars aren’t lost when they go out of fashion. National Plant Collections were created by the charity Plant Heritage to ensure these plants are preserved and documented for the future. Of the plant groups that don’t currently have a custodian, Monique decided to choose forsythia - deciduous shrubs often overlooked as just a hedging plant which burst into vibrant yellow flowers in early spring. In the process of sourcing and propagating all the varieties needed for a collection, Monique has become utterly fascinated by them and their history. Helen Mark hears the story of Monique’s successes and failures so far, and explores what it takes to build and maintain a National Plant Collection. We also meet people behind other collections and hear what drives their particular fascination with a group of plants, and how they fit in to their landscapes. We hear the stories of Benjamin Matthews, one of the youngest holders of a National Collection and how his love of hostas led to an unlikely friendship; Lucy Skellorn who has been collecting the irises bred by her great-great grandfather Sir Michael Foster; and Anne Greenall who has a spectacular collection of hydrangeas which thrive in her windswept coastal garden in west Scotland. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Sophie Anton
6/24/202124 minutes, 36 seconds
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Dawn on the Sea Loch

It's not yet dawn when wildlife cameraman John Aitchison strolls down to the shore where he chips off the ice on a kayak, before he can set out across the sea loch near his home in western Scotland, in search of the early signs of spring. He travels through the darkness following a trail of light caused by the reflections of the moon in the calm water. His journey takes him across the loch and along the far shoreline before he heads for an island and then returns home. As the sun rises he encounters seals and otters, watches shelduck chasing one another, listens to curlew and skylarks, and catches sight of his favourite geese: white-fronted geese which will soon leave and head to Greenland. As he paddles across the loch, John reflects on the landscape of interlocking fingers of water and rock, and on how it was formed. "How much has this landscape and its wildlife changed over time?" he wonders. As time and the seasons pass and winter changes to spring, the geese will depart and other birds will arrive - like the swallows which migrate from Africa and nest in the shed by John’s home. The sea loch is a link between the north and the south, between Greenland and South Africa, between the geese and the swallows. John spotted the first two swallows arriving a few days earlier and suddenly the world seems a much smaller place and our responsibility to look after it so evident. “Imagine if the swallows didn’t return”, he ponders. But this year they have. The seasons are changing, and after such a long winter we can look forward to summer once again. Presenter John Aitchison. Producer Sarah Blunt.
6/17/202124 minutes, 17 seconds
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Tales from the Black Mountains

Travel writer Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent moved to a cottage deep in the Welsh Black Mountains at the end of October last year, arriving just two hours before the autumn lockdown began. She’s pretty much been in lockdown since that day so, unable to go anywhere or see people, has spent the months exploring the mountains from her new front door. She’s walked hundreds of miles, OS map in hand, exploring this new landscape - its ancient sites, high ridges, wooded valleys and peaty uplands. Antonia immerses us in this place and its wildlife, and hears stories from her new neighbours - people who know every crease of the hills and every bird call, as well as the area's history, myths and legends. While reflecting on this exploration, she explores the process of the unknown becoming home. Producer: Sophie Anton
4/29/202124 minutes, 10 seconds
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Songs of England

English Heritage manages some of our most important historic sites, such as Stonehenge and Hadrian's Wall. In this Open Country, folk singer and song collector Sam Lee explains how he has paired these sites with relevant or revealing folk songs from the British Isles. We meet Sam at Stonehenge, to hear him perform the song 'John Barleycorn'. From Salisbury we travel to Hadrian's Wall with The Brothers Gillespie and the borders song 'When Fortune Turns the Wheel'. At Whitby Abbey Fay Hield performs the tragic tale of 'The Whitby Lad' and at Ironbridge, the birthplace of industry, Abel Selaocoe sings about the impacts of the industrial revolution in 'The Four Loom Weaver’. The aim of English Heritage and the musicians of the Nest Collective is to connect us to the people who inhabited these historic landscapes through the power of song. The music gives voice to how people felt and how they lived in a way that the monuments and buildings we have left cannot. Their hope is that by hearing these stories from the past we can connect with the landmarks we see today, even when we can’t visit them in person. Produced by Helen Lennard Photo: English Heritage/Andre Pattenden
4/26/202124 minutes, 30 seconds
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Canna is four miles long and one mile wide. It has no doctor and the primary school closed a few years ago. The islanders depend on a weekly ferry service for post, food and medical supplies. Fiona Mackenzie and her husband, Donald, have lived on the island for six years. Donald is the harbourmaster and Fiona is the archivist for the priceless collection of Gaelic music, photographs and literature stored in Canna House. She's also an accomplished folk singer - the ideal guide for an Open Country visit to the island. The folklorist and Gaelic scholar, John Lorne Campbell, bought the island in the 1950s. His family was part of Scotland's landed gentry, but he was opposed to sporting estates and absentee landlords and wanted to develop Canna as a flourishing, Gaelic-speaking community. He lived in the island's Big House with his wife, Margaret Fay Shaw - a Gaelic song collector. Canna House became a bohemian Hebridean retreat with a constant flow of colourful visitors including Compton Mackenzie, the author of Whiskey Galore. Campbell's vision for Canna never fully materialised and he gave the island and its archive to the National Trust for Scotland in 1981. It is run as a sheep and moor farm and has a population of just 14. As well as her archive work, Fiona Mackenzie gives visitors impromptu history and nature walks. She and Fiona Hutton, owner of the island's only guesthouse, take the listeners on a tour of some of the island's sights of historic interest. Fiona and her neighbours also discuss the rewards and challenges of living in a small island community, particularly during the Covid lockdowns. Down at the shoreline, she finishes the programme with a treat for the listener, a 'Song for Attracting Seals' – .and she promises it does work!
4/26/202124 minutes, 8 seconds
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Stormont Estate

Stormont's parliament buildings, on the outskirts of Belfast, often features in the national news as the focus of raucous political debates and protests. But the building is also set in the middle of several hundred acres of magnificent parkland. Most of it was closed to the public at the height of the Troubles, but from the late 1990s, as the peace process developed, it has become a treasured public space. In the past twenty years, the Stormont Estate has developed its woodland and added environmental trails and wetland areas as well as an outdoor fitness gym, running paths and a large play park. It's now one of Northern Ireland's most popular outdoor parks and is also used regularly as a venue for charity and public events. It has been a particularly important fresh air 'escape' for local people during the Covid lockdowns. Helen Mark talks to Stormont's Head of Estate, Nigel Bonar, about the challenges of looking after a parkland which is also a workplace for politicians and three thousand civil servants. Author Jack Gallagher remembers the excitement of visiting Stormont as a child of the 40s and describes the contrast between its green open spaces and the grey blitz-damaged streets where he lived. We hear about some of the significant moments in Stormont's history and former politician, Monica McWilliams, pays tribute to the late Mo Mowlam who was instrumental in opening up the park to the public when she was Secretary of State during the peace process negotiations in the mid-1990s. Her lasting legacy on the Stormont Estate is the 'Mo Park', the play park enjoyed by thousands of children every week. Producer: Kathleen Carragher
4/26/202124 minutes, 30 seconds
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The voices of the women who mend the nets, gut the fish and fix the lines of Britain's fishing fleets. “I started at seventeen as a v-boner. I was everywhere, on the barding, skinning, heading. My last job was in defrost. I was the only one woman in defrost.” Dawn Walton This rarely heard community have been recorded by landscape photographer Craig Easton and include a trawler skipper called Sheila Hirsch with a gripping account of 'going over the wall' or into the sea. "I've been lucky," she says. "I've been over the wall three times, and each time I've been alright." Produced in Bristol by Miles Warde
4/22/202124 minutes, 30 seconds
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Twelve months of Open Country

Helen Mark looks at some of the highlights from the last twelve months of Open Country. This includes contributions from Olympic rower Helen Glover and her husband Steve Backshall in their garden in Buckinghamshire, and Dame Julie Walters talking about her attachment to Warley Woods in Smethwick. Helen heads up into the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse on the most Westerly tip of Scotland with light keeper, Davie Ferguson, and from her family farm in Binevenagh she and Seamus Byrne share their passion for the huge flocks of Whooper Swans which make that part of Northern Ireland their home from September until March. Brett Westwood brings us bird song from the woods close to his home in Stourbridge, and Sybil Ruscoe is on top of Cleeve Common gazing out at the view. Artist Frances Anderson reflects on the experience of cross-channel swimming, and beneath the water Jack Greenhalgh and Tom Fisher are capturing the sounds of insects and plants. Back in Scotland the mountain of Ben Shieldaig is where we find artist Lisa Fenton O'Brien as she explores the mountain's unique temperate rainforest habitat, and singer-songwriter Kitty Macfarlane serenades the wildfowl from the banks at RSPB Hamwall. With the United Kingdom back in lockdown let Open Country bring the outdoors into your home. Producer: Toby Field
2/4/202124 minutes, 18 seconds
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Julia Blackburn and the Suffolk coast

The writer Julia Blackburn has lived much of the last forty years on the Suffolk coast where she has written biographies, poetry, radio plays and accounts of her own life. In recent years it is the landscape that has captured her imagination and her most recent book, 'Time Song', tells of how she became fascinated with the area known as Doggerland - a mass of land that once joined Suffolk and Holland and which is now submerged beneath the waves of the North Sea. Helen Mark joins Julia for a virtual walk along the Suffolk coast, starting at Sizewell and the shadow of the nuclear power station and along to the marshlands at Minsmere with all its accompanying bird-life. From there it's onto Dunwich where Julia once found a human skull, and onto Covehithe where she came across a bit of Mammoth vertebrae. For Julia these objects are part of the 'visitable past' and they become a means of telling stories about this precarious landscape. They finish in Pakefield where, in 2001, two men discovered a fragment of flint that provided proof of human settlements dating back 700'000 years. For Julia these objects tell a story of a fragment of time, which combined with the huge skies and the muddy sea make it a magical place. With contributions from Alex Pilling from RSPB Minsmere and Professor Martin Bell from the University of Reading. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Toby Field, with additional recordings by Sophie Anton and Alex Pilling.
1/28/202124 minutes, 11 seconds
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From tower blocks to stately homes, the office to the garden shed, schools, hospitals or even a prison cell. Windows of all shapes and sizes admit light and connect us to green or urban landscapes, and if you are very fortunate – wildlife! During the winter months and through lockdowns, we are spending more time indoors and perhaps looking out of a window. For this Open Country, we meet 3 people who each have a unique relationship with windows and who live and work on both sides of the glass to understand why they are so important to our mental health and well-being? Interviewed are Professor John Mardaljevic from Loughborough University, window cleaner Amy Owens and retired psychologist Marco Del Aberdi. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Marcus Smith.
1/21/202125 minutes
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Snowdrop Country

Over the past decade there’s been an explosion in “Snowdrop Mania” – galanthophiles, or snowdrop fans, desperate to get their hands on the newest species of snowdrops, paying hundreds, or even upwards of a £1000 at auction for a single bulb. Two years ago, Radio 4 producer Polly Weston heard of a man in Somerset who had discovered and named many of the most sought after varieties – Alan Street. Polly pictured following him around the countryside in search of the snowdrop which might make him his fortune. The truth turned out to be very different. Alan works for a family-owned nursery, where new varieties of snowdrop seed themselves around a little woodland – thanks in part to the huge number of species they already grow, working in collaboration with the family’s bees. Alan’s lost count of the number he’s discovered and named – “50, 70, 100 or more perhaps… I’ve more than enough.” Yet he still keeps looking. He isn’t interested in money – the auctioning of snowdrops to the highest bidder makes him uneasy – and has spawned the unfortunate side effect of snowdrop crime – people stealing snowdrops. As we record, 13,000 are dug up one night from an abbey in Norfolk. Alan is ever vigilant. Once upon a time, snowdrop bulbs were only ever swapped by galanthophiles, just for the love of it. Through the seasons, Alan tends and protects this small landscape, and cultivates each of his newly discovered, and rare varieties. We begin to realise the meaning behind each one – many are named after people, many of whom Alan knew and have now gone. It takes years for new varieties to become established and ready to be shared. But as we follow the progress of Alan’s snowdrop landscape through 2020, we approach a snowdrop season which has never been so meaningful or welcome.
1/14/202125 minutes, 2 seconds
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Brett Westwood and Wyre Forest

Brett Westwood and Rosemary Winnall take a walk through Wyre Forest in Worcestershire in search of wild service trees, lemon slugs and land caddis. Producer: Toby Field
1/8/202124 minutes, 20 seconds
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Winter at Binevenagh

Helen Mark is used to travelling all over the UK recording for Open Country, however this year she's mostly stayed at home in the north-west corner of Northern Ireland. In April she introduced us to her family farm in Limavady as winter gave way to spring. Now as 2020 draws to an end, we join Helen as she rediscovers the coastal lowland landscape which surrounds her home, overlooked by the dramatic peak of Binevenagh. The area between Derry Londonderry and Castlerock has been an overlooked landscape, but is full of historical intrigue and is one of the best places in the UK to experience the wildlife spectacle of overwintering Whooper Swans on Lough Foyle. The Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust has just been awarded lottery funding to restore and reconnect people to aspects of this landscape. We go to find the pillboxes and other relics from the Second World War to hear about when Lough Foyle was one of the main bases for the Allied Forces in Europe. The mountain of Binevenagh towers above these lowlands and Helen’s farm. She climbs the peak to hear more about its history, wildlife Through the programme Helen and her guests reflect on how this extraordinary year has changed our sense of place and how we experience our local landscapes. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Sophie Anton.
12/31/202049 minutes, 23 seconds
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Frank Turner and the Meon Valley

In 2012 punk and folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner was on top of the world. He had his first gold record, headlined his first arena show, and to top it all off he performed at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. But as the press requests and celebrity party invited poured, Frank chose to step out of the limelight and head home, back to Winchester and the Meon Valley where he spent the first part of his life, to walk the South Downs Way. For this programme Frank returns to the area to find out more about its rich Saxon history and its unique wildlife habitats, and to explore how this area shaped him as a person and as a musician, with songs like 'Take Me Home' and 'Wessex Boy' drawing so strongly from the landscape. There's even time for him to speak to his Mum! Producer: Toby Field
12/26/202024 minutes, 19 seconds
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The Lighthouse on the Headland of the Great Seas

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, on the westernmost tip of the UK mainland, is one of a number of 19th century “Stevenson” lighthouses and has a unique Egyptian style of architecture – inspired by the ancient Lighthouse of Alexandria. On a clear day there are spectacular views towards Skye and the Outer Hebrides. On a dark, stormy night it's a desolate, forbidding place. The Ardnamurchan light is operated remotely from Edinburgh by the Northern Lighthouse Board but a local community trust recently bought the site and wants to develop its tourism potential. On a wet and windy day, Helen Mark is shown around the site by the trust's manager and retained light keeper, Davie Ferguson. Despite sophisticated new technology, mariners still rely on lighthouses for guidance and Davie leads Helen up the dizzying climb to the lantern room to show her the modern LED light which casts its beam 24 miles out to sea. The area's connections with the lighthouse are deep rooted – its construction provided employment for local people during the potato famine and the keepers and their families were important members of the small crofting community. Former lighthouse keeper, Ian Ramon, now acts as a guide, tells visitors what life was like when the light was run on paraffin and when being caught asleep on shift meant instant dismissal! As well as enjoying the stunning scenery and feeling the power of the wind and waves, visitors can tour the small museum and take shelter in the tearoom when the storms are sweeping in from the Atlantic. For many, the biggest attraction is the giant red foghorn which sits at the bottom of the lighthouse. It hasn't sounded for many years but the trust's recently appointed project officer, Stephanie Cope, tells Helen of her hope that it may, one day, blare out its warning signal again. Ardnamurchan Point is also part of a network of viewing areas set up by The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust along the west coast of Scotland. Volunteers record sightings around the peninsula in the summer months and arrange exhibitions and talks for visitors. Siobhan Moran, from the Trust, talks to Helen about the project's links with the lighthouse and the importance of Ardnamurchan as a whale watching site. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Kathleen Carragher
12/17/202024 minutes, 2 seconds
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Kitty Macfarlane and the Somerset Levels

Singer-songwriter Kitty Macfarlane explores how the landscape of the Somerset levels has inspired some of her music, from clouds to curlew, bitterns to eels. Kitty meets Gavin Pretor-Pinney of the Cloud Appreciation Society at Burrow Mump to talk about the importance of looking up, and to Steart Marshes to speak to Mary Colwell author of 'Curlew Moon' about the importance of wetland habitats to the local birdlife. She speaks to Andrew Kerr, Chairman of the Eel Sustainable Group about her work surveying eels and their extraordinary life-cycle, and in RSPB Ham Wall she reflects on the plight of the bittern and the meeting of mankind and nature. Plus there are exclusive live versions of Kitty's tracks 'Starling Song', 'Lamb' and 'Glass Eel'. Producer: Toby Field
12/10/202024 minutes, 39 seconds
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Rediscovering Redesdale

Helen Mark is in Redesdale in Northumberland to find out about a project to restore and celebrate the landscape of these historic borderlands. Redesdale is one of the most peaceful parts of England and a stronghold for many of our native species, though for centuries it was a lawless frontier where families on both sides of the border, the Border Reivers, raided each other’s lands. The Revitalising Redesdale landscape partnership is restoring and connecting the habitats and the rich cultural heritage across the valley, including the peatlands of Whitelee Moor and archaeological sites stretching back to pre-history. One element of the project is to look for new evidence of the location of the infamous medieval Battle of Otterburn, which inspired several border ballads which have been passed down the generations. Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell and her Dad Mike live close to the banks of the river Rede; they describe their close connection to the Northumbrian ballads, and how this distinct musical tradition is linked to its landscape. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Sophie Anton.
12/3/202048 minutes, 56 seconds
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Eilean Shona

Eilean Shona, a small wooded island in Loch Moidart, on the West Coast of Scotland, is owned by Vanessa Branson, sister of Richard. Over many years she has restored deserted crofters' cottages, the schoolhouse and the Big House, replanting trees and managing the wildlife. It's famed for a unique collection of pine trees planted in the 19th century by a former owner, Captain Thomas Swinburne. Vanessa runs artists workshops and retreats as well as a holiday business. The island has a famous literary connection with J.M Barrie who is reputed to have written the screen play for 'Peter Pan' while staying there. Vanessa tells Helen Mark that living in such a remote, exposed part of the UK has made her much more conscious of the threat of climate change. She talks about the growing number of severe winter storms and dry hot summers which are increasing the risks of tree diseases and forest fires. Vanessa says she is very conscious of controversies over Scottish land ownership and describes herself and her family as Eilean Shona's 'custodians', preserving and looking after the environment and respecting its past. She believes it also has a valuable role as a cultural centre where writers, artists and film makers can work. James MacLellan, grew up on Eilean Shona. His family worked there for generations and he recalls being the only pupil in the island's school. He remembers helping his father when it was a working estate and he talks about the pressure on families living in tied cottages. Jonty and Sarah Watt have recently given up their commuter lifestyle in the south of England to become the island's estate managers. They talk about the challenge and attraction of moving from Sussex to the Hebrides. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Kathleen Carragher
11/26/202024 minutes, 7 seconds
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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
11/19/202024 minutes, 35 seconds
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The Sea

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.
11/12/202024 minutes, 12 seconds
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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.
11/5/202024 minutes, 13 seconds
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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
10/29/202024 minutes, 8 seconds
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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 For more information
10/22/202024 minutes, 19 seconds
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Cleeve Common

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
9/3/202024 minutes, 40 seconds
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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
8/27/202024 minutes, 10 seconds
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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
8/20/202024 minutes, 29 seconds
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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
8/13/202024 minutes, 23 seconds
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Green Pavements

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
8/6/202024 minutes, 18 seconds
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Restoration in the Lake District

Ian Marchant talks to people involved in re-imagining the landscape and culture of the Lake District, with lines both sinuous and straight. Lee Schofield of the RSPB has been part of a project to re-meander Swindale Beck, which had become canal-like after years of 'improvement'. Lee is used to the fruits of conservation work taking years, but this time, the results were virtually instantaneous. The team finished work one Friday when it started raining. A flash flood over the weekend brought calls from the onsite supervisor, afraid of disaster: the whole valley was flooded. Lee arrived back on Monday morning to find the river had become a gentle, naturally sinuous stream, with shallow gravel pools for the salmon to use as spawning grounds. The hay meadows on either bank no longer fill with stagnant standing water, and sand and stones don't get washed downstream. Jim Bliss is the Conservation Manager of Lowther Estates and he is just beginning the estate's journey into ecological restoration, taking up fences, and selling the flock of 5000 sheep. Now they have Longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs and soon, they hope, reintroduced beavers. There are also bees, which Jim hopes will be a measure of the success of the restoration, responding to the increased biodiversity of the flora with a bigger crop of honey. Ian loves trains and so does Cedric Martindale, who is keeping alive a dream he has had for twenty-five years, to restore the Penrith to Keswick Rail Line. Nina Berry is a distinctive new playwright based in Cumbria, inspired by the landscape she grew up in. She's been commissioned by Paines Plough and Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, to write a new play in the series: Come To Where I Am. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
7/30/202024 minutes, 20 seconds
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Dawn Walk

It’s just before dawn in late May when we join wildlife cameraman John Aitchison as he steps out of his home to be greeted by a rich chorus of birdsong before strolling across his garden towards the woodland and then the shoreline beyond at the start of this coastal walk near his home in West Scotland. As John approaches the shore he spies one of his regular neighbours; an otter, scouring the weed near the edge of the shoreline for food. The otter is not alone, John also spots a roe deer swimming near the far shore, as well as a group of Canada geese which are wary of the otter and keep their distance. In a shelter belt of trees, John pauses to enjoy the songs of a song thrush and a willow warbler; one a resident bird here all year round the other a summer visitor from Sub-Saharan Africa. Further along the shoreline, John passes a stunning bed of flag irises; vivid yellow against a green background. Out at sea a group of porpoises dive for fish. As the sun breaks through the skyline there’s another wonderful surprise when a white tailed eagle appears; a huge bird with a 6 foot wingspan which lands briefly on a rock in the shallows. As he approaches the end of his walk, John makes a discovery near the water’s edge, is serenaded by skylarks and has a surprising close encounter with a very special mammal. Producer Sarah Blunt
7/23/202024 minutes, 11 seconds
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Ben Shieldaig

On the West Coast of Scotland, the village of Shieldaig nestles in the shadow of a mountain. On the steep sides of Ben Shieldaig is a very rare habitat called temperate rainforest. Under the trees the air is humid and the rocks are soft with moss. Recently, the mountain has been bought by the Woodland Trust, which aims to cover the whole area in trees through a combination of natural regeneration and some planting. Unable to leave her home in lockdown, Helen Mark meets locals online for a virtual tour of this magical place. She learns about the history of the village and its once isolated community, and find out what the future will hold. Produced by Heather Simons Image : Steve Carter
7/16/202024 minutes, 42 seconds
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Landscapes in lockdown

With the country in lockdown, archaeologists have had to cancel plans for excavations which would have allowed them to explore the history of our landscapes. Unable to put their trowels into action this summer, many are finding alternative methods of research. In this programme, Helen Mark finds out how some have turned to "virtual archaeology", using new technologies to continue to make discoveries about the past. She also hears about a new educational project, set up to help with home-schooling, which is using archaeology as a means to teach other skills - and in the process introducing the subject to a new generation, and perhaps inspiring the archaeologists of the future. Produced by Emma Campbell
7/9/202024 minutes, 30 seconds
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Julie Walters on Warley Woods

Dame Julie Walters shares memories of her favourite childhood park, Warley Woods in Smethwick. It's an urban green treasure with one hundred acres of woods and parkland. But while most parks are looked after by local authorities, Warley Woods is entirely managed by a Community Trust. One third of its income is dependent on the generosity of local people who donate money, another third comes from the golf course and onsite shop, while the remaining third is funded by the Council. So, when Lockdown forced the closure of both the shop and golf course and threatened people's ability to donate, the fear was that the pioneering Community Trust would fail putting the future of this historic site in jeopardy. Producer: Karen Gregor
7/2/202024 minutes, 13 seconds
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Closed Country: Changing seasons

The signs of spring are everywhere, transforming our gardens and fields with splashes of colour and signs of new life. Unable to travel to explore new locations and landscapes as she normally would for Open Country, Helen Mark takes a walk around her own family farm on the edges of Lough Foyle in Northern Ireland, spotting the signs of seasonal change. She talks to wildlife experts and local farmers, finding out how the rhythm of the seasons affects their relationship with the land. Produced by Emma Campbell.
5/7/202024 minutes, 54 seconds
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Closed Country: A Spring Audio-Diary with Brett Westwood

It seems hard to believe, when so many of us are coping with lockdown and more, that the power of nature continues unfettered: Spring, in all its fecundity, is altering our landscape as it always does. To chart this time of great change we gave the naturalist, Brett Westwood, a microphone at the end of March and asked him to record a nature diary. He lives in urban Stourbridge in the West Midlands, which doesn’t sound an obvious setting for a spring journal but actually it’s perfect: What he sees at close quarters, with his expert eye, is available for us all if we know where and how to look. His sightings include feather-footed flower bees who live in the brickwork of our houses, buzzards that might steal frogspawn from your pond, bee-flies which coat their eggs with dust before shooting them at the nests of solitary bees, and mistletoe... which doesn't sound as intriguing, but it really is: Brett can explain why our behaviour is causing it to spread further than ever before. Note: The podcast contains extra material that couldn't be squeezed into the original programme: see the 'related links' box below for how to access and download the BBC Sounds App. Producer: Karen Gregor
4/30/202035 minutes, 21 seconds
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Birmingham Tree City of the World

Birmingham is one of only fifty-nine cities around the globe to be awarded the status of 'Tree City of the World'. This is an international framework for a healthy, sustainable urban forestry programme, an award that's all down to the passion of Birmingham's citizens for trees. Helen Mark meets tree planters young and old from near and far; tree wardens, who are kind of like traffic wardens, but for trees (and just as fierce: really, don't mess with their trees); an academic who runs the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (he really loves trees) and an arboriculturalist who gets to work at 6.30 every morning in his mission to extend Birmingham's canopy cover. Helen finds out why the city's tree-focussed ambitions go well beyond just planting trees. All these people know you have to take care of trees for their whole life, not just plonk them in the ground. They also know that urban trees suffer more than those planted in the countryside, so they need extra tenderness. Helen also finds herself in a once-famous garden that has re-wilded itself. Once the immaculate BBC show garden of TV gardener Percy Thrower, this patch of tree-laden wilderness-heaven is in a secret corner of Birmingham's Botanical Gardens. She thinks on the whole, he'd approve of the trees. Although maybe not the weeds. Recorded in early March. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
4/23/202024 minutes, 41 seconds
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The Music of the Surrey Hills

Ian Marchant meets musicians inspired by the landscape of the Surrey Hills, including concert pianist Wu Qian, who found it terrifying when she first arrived from China aged 12. She soon learned to love the place and co-founded an international music festival which incorporates into its programme inspiring country walks in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Ian meets Julia and Henry Pearson, who help to run the festival and live in the picturesque village of Shere, with its thatched cottages and 'terminally cute' setting. They are music lovers and keen walkers, so the festival is a perfect fit. Since the programme was recorded in early March, the festival has been cancelled, but imagining the concerts in the 'cathedral in the woods' at Ranmore Church, is still a piece of 'enchantment'. Ian was born in this area and remembers being told that the view from Newland's Corner was the best in England. It was, in fact, what England should look like, according to his father. Ian now knows this isn't quite true, but it is how people all over the world picture the English countryside: rolling hills, woods, clear, babbling streams and a vista that extends to the English channel. Ian meets sound artist Graham Downall who has created music/soundscapes to reflect the locations of five sculptures which have been placed in the landscape, and he discovers that the tipple of choice at this festival isn't to be found in the Worker's Beer Tent, but in the sparkling white wine which is produced from the chalky slopes of Denbies Vineyard near Dorking. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
4/16/202024 minutes, 54 seconds
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Small Fish - Big Project

How a little known fish, rare and remarkable, is driving a huge project on the River Severn. Weirs may look dramatic and sound wonderful but, for fish, they are nothing more than a barrier, preventing progress upstream. That's why you'll see anglers, both human and heron, hanging around weirs for an easy-ish catch. One fish in particular, previously found in healthy numbers on the Severn, has suffered. It's the Twaite Shad, sleek and fast, but not fond of leaping. However, a project called Unlocking the Severn is well underway to install gigantic fish-passes at four weirs. These will allow the Twaite Shad to swim through and reach their spawning grounds in significant numbers for the first time since the Victorians installed weirs to improve navigation during the industrial revolution. Because of Covid19, the sound-quality of this programme will be a little different: all the interviewees recorded themselves, on their phone voice-recorders, in their own homes... many thanks to each of them for persevering! See the 'related links' box below for more info on the entire Unlocking the Severn project. Producer/Presenter: Karen Gregor
4/9/202024 minutes, 13 seconds
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Closed Country: Helen Glover in her Buckinghamshire back garden.

We were going to kick off this series with Helen Glover exploring Newlyn in Cornwall: on an RNLI lifeboat, and with open-water swimmers... However, at the last minute, Covid19 stymied our plans. Instead of the wild open countryside of Cornwall, she's reporting from the confines of her back garden, on the River Thames, in Buckinghamshire. Luckily, she's married to the naturalist Steve Backshall, so she has access to a ready-made expert who helps to explain the wildlife in their midst. Producer: Karen Gregor
4/2/202024 minutes, 11 seconds
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Halsway Manor

Helen Mark heads to the Quantock Hills to visit the national centre for folk arts and meet some of the people taking part in a 'Winter Warmer' celebration of music and dance. She meets musician Becki Driscoll whose track 'Cold Light' was composed in the summer house at the Manor, and asks Chief Executive Crispian Cook about the history of this residential haven for folk arts. Helen catches Moira Gutteridge for a chat just as she's about to lead a walk, and high on top of the Quantocks she speaks to Philip Comer, Chair of the 'Friends of the Quantocks' about the area, the grazing rights on common land and why it's not a good idea to feed the wild ponies. Roger and Nanette Phipps tell Helen why the spot for the Maypole is currently taken up with flower bulbs, and how according to local legend dragons may still lurk in the surrounding hills. There's also time for a spot of sword-dancing which is not as easy as it's made to look. The music is performed by Becki Driscoll, Ted Morse, Peter and Moira Gutteridge and Mary Rhodes. Producer: Toby Field
2/6/202024 minutes, 31 seconds
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Helen Mark visits Tintagel in Cornwall to cross the new bridge which now links the castle to the mainland. She discovers its links with the legends of King Arthur, the way that this myth has shaped the buildings we now see in this landscape and the people who live there and finds that the real historic importance of this part of the UK is only just beginning to be understood.
1/30/202024 minutes, 46 seconds
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Ryebank Fields

Ryebank Fields is a small patch of land in Chorlton in the south of Manchester. Spanning around eleven acres this overgrown piece of grassland has become a favourite spot for the community's families to wander, explore and play. But this much-loved spot is now under threat. The owners, Manchester Metropolitan University, want to sell the land for development into housing and invest the money back into their existing inner-city site. Campaigner Julie Ryan tells her she used to play there as a child before taking her own children there. She says it's her go-to place when she's stressed out, and together with campaigner Tara Parry they take Helen Mark on a tour. Tara describes Ryebank as the "green lungs" of Manchester and talks about why the land could have a future as a community garden and orchard. Steve Silver and Helen walk around the oak trees that he planted at the turn of the Millennium and says that he'd love it to be renamed "Silver's Wood" in the future. All three herald Ryebank as a habitat for wildlife and plantlife. Archaeologist Dr. Michael Nevell shows Helen the historic Nico Ditch and separates fact from folklore about its status and significance. Dr. Rebecca Taylor tells Helen about her work looking into the benefits of semi-wild green spaces in cities and how planners could consider the non-monetary value of these spaces in the future. Helen also speaks to Michael Taylor from Manchester Metropolitan University who argues that the money from the sale of Ryebank can be invested back into the University's inner-city campus and cites the sustainable measures that will be put in place as part of any development. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Toby Field
1/23/202024 minutes, 41 seconds
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The Chilterns - a new National Landscape?

Ian Marchant visits the Chilterns to test out some of the ideas for new ‘National Landscapes’ in the recent government-commissioned Glover Review into England’s National Parks. What barriers do some people face when it comes to visiting the countryside? (Hint: it’s not just owning a pair of wellies). And why does spending a night under the stars for every child matter for the protection of the countryside? Ian meets the author of the new review, Julian Glover, in a wet wood above Wendover, just a stone's throw from the Prime Minister's country residence, Chequers. Julian is confident that the government will support his recommendations, one of which is to improve access to the countryside for people from diverse backgrounds. This includes High Wycombe born-and-bred Sadia Hussain, who loves the countryside but understands some of the barriers faced by people like her parents, who settled here from Pakistan. To them, the countryside has a different meaning and set of associations. And it also includes Layla Ashraf-Carr, a Chiltern Ranger. Born in Singapore, Layla suspects the Malay side of her family might have preferred her to be a lawyer or a doctor rather than a custodian of the natural landscape. Ian also meets farmer Ian Waller, who loves his worms and his flock of Herdwick sheep, and historian and teacher Stuart King, who can explain how the landscape of the Chilterns allowed the local furniture making industry to flourish. Producer Mary Ward-Lowery
1/16/202024 minutes, 26 seconds
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Planting Trees to Save the Planet in Cumbria

Helen mark meets teenage environmental campaigner Amy Bray in her native Cumbria as she plants trees to help halt climate change. Amy has inspired her community to take action with a no plastic shop and helped to raise awareness with a mass fell climbing. Helen helps her as she takes on her latest challenge - to plant more trees and help to create natural flood defences as well as absorb carbon
1/9/202024 minutes, 46 seconds
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Skateboarding in the Woods

Ruth Sanderson discovers a skateboarding camp, deep in the Forest of Dean. Camp Hillcrest mixes urban pursuits with forest living, and Ruth visits when the residential camp is in full swing. Kids come to be fully immersed in everything about skating culture, all in the idyllic setting of the Gloucestershire woods. The owner, Tom Seaton, tells Ruth how he has discovered this combination of urban skate vibe mixed with forest school activities engages children who otherwise wouldn't be attracted to the countryside, and gives them a unique experience. Produced by Beatrice Fenton
1/6/202024 minutes, 17 seconds
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In the Bleak Midwinter: Holst's Cotswolds

Helen Mark visits the Cotswold village of Cranham and its surroundings: countryside that was home to the composer Gustav Holst, and now features a walking trail named after him. Holst grew up among these gently rolling hills, and created several of his works – including the Cotswolds Symphony and his classic arrangement of In The Bleak Midwinter – thanks to inspiration gleaned from his years in the area. Exploring his old haunts, visiting the church where he had his first job as organist and treading the same hills where Holst used to practice his trombone, Helen discovers how the landscape influenced the composer; and how his own influence lingers on in the area today. Produced in Bristol by Lucy Taylor.
12/26/201924 minutes, 33 seconds
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Bristol and the transatlantic slave trade

Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley examines how the transatlantic slave trade has shaped Bristol and meets some of the historians, artists and cultural figures who are redressing how the legacy of slavery is presented and how the city's story is told. Jasmine speaks to Olivette Otele, the newly appointed Professor of the History of Slavery at the University of Bristol about why the University has decided to examine its past and what this might mean for the city's wider approach to its colonial history. Jasmine meets Stacey Olika, Donnell Asare and Ade Sowemimo who are working on a project at Bristol Museum to tell the story behind how some of the objects on display which they hope will present a clearer and more honest narrative about the cultural significance of the objects and the legacy of Britain's colonial past. Historian Madge Dresser has been talking about Bristol's relationship with the slave trade for some time and she tells Jasmine that after one of her talks in the late 1990's someone defaced the city's statue of Edward Colston. Lynn Mareno talks about how when she was growing-up in Bristol in the 1960s she was regularly subjected to racism, and how Bristol needs to deal with its past in order to move forwards.. Edson Burton is an writer, performer and historian and he tells Jasmine that whilst this work has been going on for years there have been significant steps forward in recent years, but he cautions against presenting these issue as the opinion of one united voice. Jasmine ends the programme in Henbury at the grave of Scipio Africanus, one of the few recorded enslaved people who lived in Bristol. Presenter: Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley Producer: Toby Field
12/19/201924 minutes, 24 seconds
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Painshill in Surrey - lost and found

In the 18th Century Charles Hamilton created Painshill, an early example of the English Landscape Garden. He redeveloped land in Cobham in Surrey to create a circuit garden with buildings inspired by his grand tours and he introduced plants being brought to Britain by traders. He aimed to create a living work of art with changes in mood and creating a 'hide and reveal' of the features. It was hugely influential with visitors from the USA and across Europe coming to view and recreate his new style of garden - seen as a work of art in itself. Yet the land was sold and passed through different hands and became overgrown, the buildings crumbled and Painshill forgotten about. In the 1960s a teenage local history enthusiast, David Taylor, read about the place and rediscovered it one dramatic night. He wrote an article for the local paper urging an effort to chart what was there before it was lost entirely. His words inspired a stronger momentum and the land was bought by the council and work began to research the original vision and recreate Hamilton's Painshill Park. The work has lasted decades and while featured like the Gothic Temple, crystal grotto and Turkish Tent have been done, the Temple of Bacchus interior is the new challenge for 2020. Helen Mark finds out more about how Hamilton's influential vision was almost lost and how those involved just can't give up working to restore it. Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock, BBC Radio and Music Production Bristol
12/12/201924 minutes, 48 seconds
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The Secret Life of Pigeons

“They’re wonderful creatures, wonderful creatures with wings.” Says 11-year-old Callum Brooks, who has just recently started pigeon racing. We join Callum and other pigeon fanciers from all over the UK as they give us an insight into the highs and lows of pigeon racing and find why a sport that was once a popular pastime of the working classes is now falling out of fashion and is in danger of disappearing altogether. We discover the art of breeding a winning bird from Clive and Jill in Radstock. Head to the back of the Larkhall Inn as pigeons are marked up ready for a Saturday race. Then spend a morning with the Convoyors as they prepare for the liberation of 5000 birds. And finally join Trevor and his son Simon on race day as they anxiously wait to find out if they have won, or even if their pigeons will return home at all. Produced by Nikki Ruck
12/5/201924 minutes, 39 seconds
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Witham Navigable Drains

Some people dream of canoeing up the Zambezi, or exploring Venice by gondola, but Ian Marchant has always dreamed of the world's least romantic waterway: the Witham Navigable Drains, near Boston in Lincolnshire. And there is romance and beauty here. And grand sluices, mighty pumps and a box or two of maggots. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
11/28/201924 minutes, 11 seconds
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Arnos Vale Cemetery

For the first time, Open Country is entirely based at a cemetery. Helen Mark explores Arnos Vale in Bristol - forty-five acres of green space and woodland which provide a vital wildlife corridor in the city. First established 180 years ago as a 'garden cemetery' with architecture in the style of classical Greece, Arnos Vale quickly became the fashionable place for Victorian Bristolians to be buried. It was one of the first places in England to install a crematorium, a state-of-the-art development in its day. But during the latter part of the 20th century it fell into disrepair. Neglected and overgrown, it almost closed for good. A campaign to save it has resulted in a cemetery which today is much more than just a place to bury the dead. As Helen finds out, it has a whole life of its own. Wildlife thrives in the trees and undergrowth which almost swallowed the gravestones during the years of neglect. Now restored as a working cemetery, it also has a cafe and a shop, and is a venue for everything from yoga classes and craft fairs to film screenings and even weddings. Producer: Emma Campbell
11/25/201924 minutes, 47 seconds
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Community Resilience in Toppesfield

Across the country, rural communities are finding their local services under threat, but in the north Essex village of Toppesfield, residents are finding creative ways to keep their local amenities open and village life thriving. From the volunteer run village shop to the community funded pub and locally founded microbrewery, the villagers of Toppesfield are working hard to keep this rural community fired up with community spirit and much needed local establishments. Helen Mark meets the locals who have generated and supported these projects and the organisations that are on hand to help, to find out what lessons could be shared with other rural villages. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock
11/14/201924 minutes, 21 seconds
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One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill: a famous landmark that connects us emotionally and confounds us archaeologically. Otherwise known as Crookbarrow Hill or Whittington Tump it's instantly recognisable to anyone driving near junction 7 of the M5, the exit for Worcester. For generations this distinctive hill, with a solitary tree on top, has become a symbol of homecoming, an emotional way-marker. But ask around and nobody seems to know much about it. It's a Scheduled Monument, on private land inaccessible to the public, and it's never been excavated. However there are enough clues to warrant some educated speculation. So, for Open Country, Karen Gregor climbs the Tump with three local experts to pick their brains. She also speaks to Henry Berkeley who owns the Spetchley Estate on which the hill stands, and to locals who have personal stories to tell about it. Scroll down to the Related Links section to click through to these interviewees' organisations. Adam Mindykowski - Historic Environment Advisor for Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service. Wendy Carter and Harry Green - Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Henry Berkeley - Spetchley Park Gardens and Estate The music in the programme: Chris Flegg - A Hill So High The Stands - I Will Journey Home Oysterband - One Green Hill Produced by Karen Gregor
11/7/201924 minutes, 12 seconds
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Folklore and Ghost Stories in Northumberland

Jez Lowe is a singer and writer and in this Halloween episode of Open Country he explores the slightly sinister song and story of Northumberland. This is a county filled with history; from Roman walls to Border battles, and that may be one reason why it is also a place of legends, mythical creatures and ghostly stories. In Northumberland National Park Jez learns about the history beyond the iconic Hadrian's Wall. Further into the park he learns about the murderous Duergarr and meets Rachel Unthank to hear about the traditional song that depict maidens turned into serpents and cruel sisters. The mist and moors and castles of the county lend themselves to tales and songs with magic at their heart and at Featherstone Castle Jez uncovers the historical truth behind some of Northumberland's most spooky tales and finds out why we all love a good ghost story.
11/6/201924 minutes, 32 seconds
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Rick Stein's Cornwall

Rick Stein’s first business venture in Padstow was a nightclub which he bought in the 1970s but it was soon shut down due to the rowdy behaviour of the drunken fisherman. To avoid bankruptcy he turned the nightclub into a restaurant and that’s where everything changed for him. Some of those burly fishermen who caused the trouble under the influence of too much alcohol became his suppliers and his business took off. Over forty years on for Rick Cornwall and Padstow "remains pleasantly old fashioned and just that little bit different" and in this edition of Open Country he revisits his favourite places. To help tell his story Rick talks to local fisherman Rob Thompson who when fishing with his father Tony in the 1970s used to supply the catch of the day. Artist Kurt Jackson and Rick visit Hawkers Cove and Nicola Hooper tells Rick why they’ve adopted a more traditional, old-fashioned way of farming. Rick’s friend Dave Brown, who played with bands in the 60s and 70s from Elkie Brooks to the Stones, is still playing but now with a local ukulele band, ‘The St Merryn Ukes’. Presenter: Rick Stein. Producer: Perminder Khatkar.
10/24/201924 minutes, 34 seconds
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Jarvis Cocker's Edale

On a wet and windy summer's day Jarvis Cocker takes you to the remote village of Edale and Kinder a landscape he has fallen in love with. He first came across the Peak District while he was a pupil in his native Sheffield and came out on a school trip which he says no–one wanted to go on. However, after two days of exploring he says something happened – something clicked in his head and he didn’t want to admit it but he started to enjoy the landscape. Over the last 40 years it’s a region he has regularly visited and explored and is now truly hooked. To introduce more people to this landscape especially people from the cities, Jarvis along with artist Jeremy Deller and the National Trust who own Kinder Scout has created a trail ‘Be Kinder’. The trail winds its way along a route stretching almost two miles from the tiny railway station in Edale to the foot of the plateau of Kinder Scout to mark the 1932 mass trespass on Kinder Scout. This mass trespass was all about allowing working class people access to the countryside something Jarvis wants to rekindle as he wants everyone to discover the magic and beauty he has found in this landscape. The presenter is Jarvis Cocker and the producer is Perminder Khatkar. Contributors: Jeremy Deller, actress Maxine Peake, Gordon Miller and MEP Magid Magid.
9/5/201924 minutes, 5 seconds
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Darwin’s Landscape Laboratory

Helen Mark goes to Down House in Kent, the home of the naturalist Charles Darwin, to find out how he used plants in his garden and the surrounding landscape to develop his theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin lived at Down from 1842 until his death about 40 years later. His famous theory was published in On The Origin of Species in 1859, some 20 years after his voyage on the HMS Beagle. Head Gardener Antony O'Rourke explains how Darwin went on a 'voyage of the mind' at Down, and spent much of his life devising experiments using local flora and fauna to rigorously test his theory. Darwin made forays into the surrounding chalk down landscape to observe native flowering plants like orchids and primroses. We visit the Down Bank nature reserve to hear why Kent is such a hotspot for orchids and how it provided the inspiration for the final paragraph of On The Origin of Species. Producer: Sophie Anton
8/29/201924 minutes, 37 seconds
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The Centre of the Earth

In this week’s Open Country, Helen Mark journeys to 'The Centre of the Earth', an urban nature reserve in Birmingham, next to Winston Green Prison. The Centre of the Earth is Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust’s purpose built environmental centre in Winston Green - just 1.5 km from Birmingham City Centre. Situated in what has historically been one of the country’s most deprived, urban areas, this little pocket of green is a special place for the community and a thriving home to all kinds of wildlife. Through tender love and care from the dedicated volunteers, there are otters, smooth newts and a wild flower nursery that helps populate other urban sites across the city, including the visitor’s garden at the prison next door. It's also inspired a local school, which has students who between them speak over 40 different languages, to develop their own nature space. And then, last but by no means least, there’s the Golden Sparkles community group… Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Nicola Humphries
8/22/201924 minutes, 24 seconds
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Southwell's Workhouse

Helen Mark visits the last surviving workhouse, the minster and a very special apple tree to find out how these important landmarks in Southwell have impacted on the lives of those who live there. Michael Perkins lived in the workhouse in 1948 with his mother and six siblings when they became homeless. Now aged 75 he goes back to the workhouse and revisits the room he lived in – he remembered “the pink brick walls and always feeling hungry“. The workhouse was a place of last resort for the poorest and opened in 1824 and was built by Rev John Becher a resident and clergyman of Southwell Minster. Robert Merryweather’s great grandfather was fortunate and didn’t need to turn to the workhouse as aged just seventeen it was him and his family who pioneered the 'Bramley apple' from the original 200 year old apple tree planted in Southwell . But, Emma Rose a dancer, says she probably wouldn’t have escaped the workhouse had she been born a 100 years ago – last year the young single mum found herself homeless. After visiting the workhouse she choreographed a dance inspired by the stories of mums being separated from their children which was a common practice in the workhouse. Today, the workhouse is owned by the National Trust and is one of the last remaining workhouses where visitors can get a glimpse of what life was like for those who lived there. This year for the first time the infirmary which was added onto the workhouse a few years later, has been restored and gives an insight into how the sick and dying were treated. Presenter Helen Mark Producer: Perminder Khatkar Dance choreographed by Emma Rose. Filmed by Artist & Filmmaker Benjamin Wigley from ARTDOCS with sound design by CJ Mirra.
8/16/201924 minutes, 7 seconds
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The Isle of Eels

Earlier this year, Helen Mark visited the Isle of Eels in the heart of the Cambridgeshire Fens for its annual eel day festival. She joins the parade of eels through the streets and takes part in the World Eel Throwing Competition (which thankfully involves no real eels). She also learns about the life cycle of the eel and discovers how this extraordinary fish is intimately bound up with the history and culture of Ely. Producer Sarah Blunt.
8/15/201924 minutes, 13 seconds
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Inspiration On The Island of Jura

The Island of Jura in the Inner Hebrides is one of the most sparsely populated places in Scotland. This dramatic and mountainous landscape is home to around 200 inhabitants but much more than it's fair share of artists, musicians, makers and writers. George Orwell chose the remote location of 'Barnhill' on the island to write his masterpiece '1984' near the end of his life. Although it is hard to detect the famous 'Paps' and seascapes in his dystopian vision it was Jura which allowed him the space to get his ideas on to paper. Today Jura is home to a number of creative people who have found the inspiration and solitude they need to create and these musicians and makers have also found each other, forming a collective called FL:EDGE. Helen Mark meets Giles Perring, Amy Dunnachie, Kirsten Gow and Gini Dickinson to hear more about the history and future of Jura.
8/1/201924 minutes, 45 seconds
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Rockfield Studios

Music Journalist Laura Barton visits Rockfield Studios to hear how this farm based facility became the birthplace to some of the greatest albums of all time. Rockfield Studios lies just outside just outside the village of Rockfield, near Monmouth in Wales. It began its commercial recording life in 1961 and in 1965 was acknowledged to be the first residential recording studio in the world. It’s played host to many of the world’s biggest artists including Iggy pop, Coldplay, Oasis and Black Sabbath and in 1975 it was the primary studio used by Queen for recording their legendary track ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – but it began life as a family farm and still holds on to these rural routes. Laura spends the day with members of the studio's founding family and hears the stories of how this rural landscape and local community found their way into the ground breaking albums that were produced there. Presented by Laura Barton Produced by Nicola Humphries
7/25/201924 minutes, 26 seconds
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Family Monsters Garden in Swaffham and Chelsea

Helen Mark visits the Escape Project in Swaffham, Norfolk, to find out why a group of volunteers are helping create a garden full of monsters for the Chelsea Flower Show. These monsters represent the kinds of problems facing every family, and a garden is the perfect place to talk about them together. The Family Monsters Garden, designed by Alistair Bayford, has been inspired by 'Escape', a community allotment which welcomes people to spend time outdoors to benefit their wellbeing and especially their mental health. Escape is funded by the charity Family Action which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The 'family monsters' theme is designed to start a national conversation about some of the family problems we may all face, but rarely talk about. At Escape you can plant seeds, do a bit of weeding, harvest vegetables and fruit, and make friends over Susan's homemade soup or pizza baked in the handmade, dragon-covered clay pizza oven. Although if the mason bees are still nesting in the clay, you'll have to wait another week or so. It's a wildlife haven and a soothingly busy, green place to be. Sometimes a volunteer (like Gavin) gets so hooked on gardening they take up their own allotment. Volunteer Sarah has found she's become a bit of a celebrity because of the Chelsea buzz, and William is hoping the limelight will turn into extra funding to support the project, which has been a lifeline and a source of joy for him. Team leaders Karen and Katy know that long after memories of the Flower Show have faded, they'll still be planting lettuce and purslane, with their green-fingered extended family. Helen visits before and after the show to find out about its longer-term impact. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
7/18/201923 minutes, 10 seconds
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Ulva - An Island for the People

Ulva is an island just off the coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. It was once home to up to 800 people but after the 'clearances' of the 19th Century it gradually declined to just 5 inhabitants today. Helen Mark visits Ulva one year after a community and government buyout was completed to find out about the plans to rebuild the abandoned houses and make this place a thriving community once more.
7/11/201924 minutes, 49 seconds
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Exercise Shallow Grave

Mary-Ann Ochota joins Archaeologist of the Year, Richard Osgood and his team of veterans and local archaeologists as they unearth Saxon artefacts and develop life changing skills. An idyllic site in Gloucestershire has yielded some important 6th Century artifacts and is vulnerable both to ploughing and ‘night hawking’. But what’s going on above ground is just as valuable as what lies beneath it. Lead by former Marine Dickie Bennet, ‘Breaking Ground Heritage (BGH)’ uses archaeology and heritage to develop projects that encourage physical and psychological well-being amongst former members of the armed forces. Working alongside trained archaeologists, participants bring their skills of attention to detail and resilience whilst also building their own recovery pathways, empowering them to regain control of their lives. Produced by Nicola Humphries Presented by Mary-Ann Ochota Photography by Harvey Mills More information on Breaking Ground Heritage can be found at
7/4/201924 minutes, 15 seconds
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Sussex Weald Ironworking

Ian Marchant visits the Sussex Weald, once the epicentre of the international arms trade, owing to its ironstone reserves and subsequent iron-making expertise. It's a personal story too: 'Marchant' is one of the Sussex names associated with metal-working migrants from Belgium in the late 15th century. Hammer and furnace ponds and former forges are now dotted about the landscape, rich habitat for wildlife, according to naturalist Richard Jones. A walk on the Weald is a treasure hunt for history-of-iron enthusiasts (of whom there are an unusual number in Sussex). They frequently come across previously undiscovered remains, some dating back to medieval times. Ian takes a walk at Newbridge with Jeremy Hodgkinson and Roger Prus, who can interpret the bumps in the woodland that most people would pass without noticing. They might be old furnace sites or even remains of buildings used by iron workers. He meets Emma O'Connor to explore the Anne of Cleves House collection of iron artefacts in Lewes. These range from items with military uses to all kinds of domestic and industrial products, most of which are beautifully preserved and attest to our ancestors' habits of recycling, repairing and preserving the things they owned. Ian visits Glynde Forge, where blacksmith Ricky Delaney demonstrates the living craft of working with metal in Sussex. Will Ian discover that forging metal is in his blood? Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
6/12/201925 minutes, 13 seconds
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Stonehenge and its community

Helen Mark finds out how Stonehenge continues to influence and shape the next generation of makers and trades people in Amesbury and the villages around it. Helen meets a thatcher, the cob wall maker and a frame maker who are all in their own way keeping a traditional craft going. But their skills have also ended up inspiring artist Linda Brothwell who has captured their stories and their lives in her latest work. The makers have no idea what Linda has made and are going to have to wait to see the exhibits when Stonehenge hosts this very first contemporary art exhibition. The producer is Perminder Khatkar.
5/9/201924 minutes, 34 seconds
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George Eliot Country

‘She was a woman ahead of her time, she pushed every boundary.’ For this week’s Open County, Helen Mark heads to the Warwickshire landscape of Nuneaton where she walks in the footsteps of one of Britain’s greatest authors and through the locals who are celebrating her legacy today, Helen comes face to face with the woman herself – 200 years after her birth. Mary Anne Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880) is best known by her pen name George Eliot. An English novelist, poet, journalist, translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era, her novels reflected the landscape and the lives of those she lived amongst. 200 years on from her birth we meet the community that continue to celebrate her life today and the shifting landscape that still holds traces of Mary Anne’s rural beginnings. Presented by Helen Mark Readings by Eleanor Charman from Sudden Impulse Theatre Produced by Nicola Humphries
4/25/201924 minutes, 3 seconds
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Changing Tides at Morecambe Bay

The Eden Project plans to bring its distinctive building design and appreciation for biodiversity to Morecambe. It's hoped that this Eden Project of the North would not only bring many visitors to the wider Morecambe Bay area but that it would also help us to understand the incredible ecosystem within the bay. Until now the Bay has often been feared after tragedies such as when 23 cockle pickers were drowned in 2004. It is the UK's largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and sands and this ecosystem creates a feeding ground and habitat for many species as well as supporting a unique method of fishing on foot and tractor. Many of those fishermen know how to work and cross the bay safely but Cedric Robinson is the man intrusted as 'The Queen's Guide to the Sands'. In this role he has been helping people cross the bay for 55 years and he has seen the bay changing. Helen Mark meets Cedric and hears how the Eden Project and the Morecambe Bay Partnership hope to transform the bay into a place of fascination for all with landscape art, iconic buildings such as The Midland Hotel and proposed Eden Project and the stories of those who know the bay best.
4/11/201924 minutes, 44 seconds
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Surfing on Scotland’s North Coast

The reef break at Thurso on the rugged North Coast of Scotland is one of the best waves in Europe. Helen Mark meets Thurso's surfing community, from the pioneers who began surfing in the 1970s on empty waves, to the up-and-coming young surfers hoping to make Scotland's national squad this year. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Sophie Anton
4/4/201924 minutes, 33 seconds
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The Pub at the End of Easdale

Easdale is a small, car-free island in the Firth of Lorn in Scotland. Once a centre of the British slate industry, Easdale Slate was exported around the world and the island was home to hundreds of quarry workers. After the quarries were flooded the island was nearly deserted by the 1960's but today over 60 islanders live there permanently and Easdale has become a thriving community again. Right at the heart of that community is the 'Puffer Bar and Restaurant' and its owner is looking for someone to take over. No cars, no street lights and no noise except the sound of the sea and the exceptional wildlife. It could be the perfect job. Helen Mark discovers what it takes to run the islands local and why Easdale is an island where everyone is welcome.
1/31/201924 minutes, 50 seconds
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The Changing Thetford Forest

After the First World War the nation's timber stocks were at their lowest level with many trees being taken for the trenches and also used for coffins. 2019 marks the centenary of the Forestry Commission which helped create new woodlands to replenish stocks. Among them was Thetford Forest in Norfolk. Writer Ian Marchant explores how it was created and what it looks like now. Things don't stand still though and some of the original species are being replaced with others that can weather climate change. The people and animals aren't standing still either. Although they weren't originally encouraged to use the forest today visitors are crucial. Ian gets up early to join the cani-cross club - human runners who attach themselves to dogs to race as a team - and the alpaca walkers.
1/17/201924 minutes, 14 seconds
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The Strawberry Line Community

The first trains ran on the officially named Cheddar Valley Line after opening in 1869. A branch line providing a vital local link for farmers and growers along the Mendip Hills and on through the moors of the North Somerset Levels. Their trade was destined for the mainline and then on to Bristol, Exeter, London and beyond. While the railway line was a vital economic link for passengers, its function developed for the the transportation of products particularly from local quarrying and agriculture, including a hectic month in high summer when strawberries rushed from the Mendip farms along the line, destined for the rest of the UK. Then in 1963 what is now known as the Strawberry Line story could have ended. Along with many branch lines it was closed under the axe of the Beeching cuts. Over the years, the landscape consumed the track and it all but disappeared from the landscape it once dominated. Then, a few decades ago, local people got together and took it upon themselves to resurrect the line for the benefit of wildlife, for the benefit of local communities and as a green transport route. The Strawberry Line was reborn. Local wildlife expert Chris Sperring MBE walks along the line to offer a glimpse into the function of the Strawberry Line today. It would be easy to go back in time and reflect on the past but this is a story about the future. From slow beginnings slowly the line brought the community along it together with a common purpose that of being part of this linear feature in the landscape. From a national cider producer who has created a permissive path through its orchards, to a cafe managed and run by people with learning disabilities. A local wildlife group manages the track for the benefit of everyone who uses it, as well as for the nature which now finds its home there. And a local heritage centre, run and managed by community volunteers, provides the history of this local line with a national reach. But, as they say, nothing is new and the Strawberry Line is now poised to play another role in a much more ambitious project to connect this least known area of Somerset to a regional, and national, network once again. Producer Andrew Dawes Presenter Chris Sperring MBE
1/3/201924 minutes, 19 seconds
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Reservoirs and lost villages

In this programme Helen Mark is in Derbyshire to hear the stories of the reservoirs of the Derwent valley. Under one of them, Ladybower, lie the remains of two villages which were demolished and flooded to make way for a new reservoir in the 1940s. After an exceptionally dry year, water levels have dropped so low that the stones of the past can once again been seen emerging from the mud. Helen meets the people who have travelled to the area to catch a glimpse of a long-gone community, and learns about the fascination the story of the lost villages holds. Meanwhile, further up the valley, are the remains of another village - largely ignored by the tourists. Birchinlee, or "tin town" as it was known, was built to house the navvies working on the construction of the other two reservoirs of the valley - Dewent and Howden. Helen meets an archaeologist who shows her how traces of this once-bustling settlement can still be seen in the landscape today. Produced by Emma Campbell
12/27/201824 minutes, 39 seconds
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Moorland on the mend

In July this year, pictures of burning moors were everywhere in the news. During one of the hottest summers for decades, hundreds of acres of moorland went up in flames, destroying fragile ecosystems and wrecking wildlife habitats. Nearly six months on, how are they starting to recover? Caz Graham returns to some of the areas near Manchester which she first visited when the fires were at their height. She finds the landscape looking very different from last time, with scorched and blackened earth repopulated by new green shoots. She meets the organisations and volunteers involved in work to restore the moors, and learns about their efforts to fireproof them for the future. Producer: Emma Campbell
12/20/201824 minutes, 23 seconds
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Leicester’s hidden gem - Bradgate Park - bought for the locals, but where’s all the archive?

Just 5 miles from Leicester City Centre is Bradgate Park, 850 acres of natural landscape, an ancient deer park which was the home of Lady Jane Grey the nine day queen who was convicted of high treason and executed at the Tower of London. This year marks Bradgate’s 90th year and over the last 18 months local residents and photographers have been encouraged to take pictures of everything from the 600 deer to the wardens, the visitors and wildlife to start to create an archive. Because despite the rich history and significance of the landscape Peter Tyldesley, director of ‘Bradgate Park Trust’, a charity who runs the park discovered there was virtually no archive and quality images of the park. Taking up the challenge Helen Mark with help from Rob Doyle from the Leicester Photographic Society, gets tips on how to take a perfect image. Along the way she meets volunteer Joy Braker who has been visiting the park since she was a child and is now restoring a walled garden to get it back to how it would have looked in the days of Lady Jane Grey. Helen also meets Charles Bennion, whose great grandfather a local businessman bought the park in 1928 for the people of Leicestershire. Charles named after his great grandfather shows Helen the original deeds to the park and a family scrap book from the 1920’s. The day ends with local performer Andy Griffiths who has been inspired to write a song about Bradgate Park and Helen hoping that her Open Country image that she took at the start of the day might just be good enough to make it into Bradgate’s 90th Birthday archive. The producer is Peminder Khatkar.
12/13/201824 minutes, 11 seconds
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Benjamin Britten's Aldeburgh

The composer Benjamin Britten is closely associated with the Suffolk coast at Aldeburgh where he lived and worked for most of his life. This episode of Open Country explores how this landscape and the sea inspired some of Britten's most famous work. Lucy Walker from the Britten-Pears Foundation describes how Britten became rooted in Suffolk and how important it was for him to write music specifically for the people and places in Aldeburgh. Two of Britten's well-known operas Billy Budd and Peter Grimes are about people who made their living from the sea - we hear from fishermen in Aldeburgh about how the industry has changed since Britten's day. Britten often walked along Aldeburgh beach to think and compose in his head. An open stretch of this shingle ridge just north of the town is now home to the Scallop, Maggi Hambling's 15-foot stainless steel sculpture dedicated to Britten. Maggi tells the story of how Scallop was inspired by Britten and his achievements, and the row that erupted in the local community after it was installed. Producer: Sophie Anton
12/7/201824 minutes, 27 seconds
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Life on the canals at Foxton Locks

Life on the canal is not just a place of leisure and tourism as Helen Mark finds out that more and more people are now full time residents on the water. For this Open Country Helen chugs along on ‘Ardley Way‘ a 60 foot narrow boat with Pete and Bev Ardley who are full time residents at Foxton Locks in Leicestershire. Will Helen be convinced of this lifestyle? Meanwhile ,Carolyn Watts is taking her lock keepers assessment, will she remember everything she’s been taught and get the narrow boats through Foxton locks and become a qualified lock keeper? A nurse by profession she started volunteering last year as the canals have always have always been part of her families history. Foxton Locks consists of 10 locks all after each other and is the steepest and longest flight staircase of locks on the English canal system explains Alex Goode, the Site Manager whose father worked there too. Every year he and his team are responsible for almost 5000 boats going through the locks. The day ends at Bridge 61 as Helen meets Sarah and Shane Kennedy the newest members of the boating community; they’ve never been on a narrow boat, never holidayed on one but decided to buy and live on one permanently this year. As the depth of winter approaches are they still confident they’ve done the right thing? The producer is Perminder Khatkar.
12/6/201824 minutes, 24 seconds
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Ash to Ash

Ash trees are prolific in our landscapes and have long held an important place in our culture. Their long, straight trunks have been shaped into spears, wheels, oars and arrows amongst many other tools which have aided our evolution. The tree has also been revered for its healing powers in the past but today it is the ash itself which is in danger. Ash dieback was first found in the UK in 2012 and it is now found across the UK. Most of our ash trees will disappear from the landscape in the next few decades so in Kent, where the disease has already had a devastating impact, the 'Ash Project' has been set up to remember the tree and its cultural importance. Helen Mark visits to see 'Ashes to Ashes' a sculpture by Ackroyd and Harvey made from ash at White Horse Wood and finds out about attempts to save the ash trees which show signs of immunity in the hope that we might be able to return ash to our landscapes in the future.
11/22/201824 minutes, 50 seconds
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The Suffolk Maharajah

Elveden is a quaint rural Suffolk village with an intriguing history as the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire was buried here in 1893. For almost two decades the village has attracted coach loads of Sikhs from all over the country and the world flocking to see the graveside of Maharajah Duleep Singh. Bobby Friction, a broadcaster and DJ who is Punjabi Sikh has grown up hearing stories all about the last King of the Sikh Empire. He visits Elveden for the first time for Open Country to see for himself the graveside on the day that marks 125 years since Duleep Singh died. Bobby finds out more about the Maharaja and travels to the adjoining town of Thetford where the Maharaja has become an important part of the landscape. The producer is Perminder Khatkar.
11/15/201824 minutes, 19 seconds
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Herodsfoot, Thankful Village

Helen Mark visits the 'thankful' village of Herodsfoot in Cornwall. At its centre is a war memorial that looks like any other, to the extent that most people in the village had no idea that it was not a memorial to the fallen. All thirteen of those who served in World Ward One returned alive. The story of the men of Herodsfoot is unique in Cornwall and has been made into a community play to mark the centenary. But there's another reason why the people of the village were safe from the perils of the frontline, by an accident of the Cornish landscape. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery
11/9/201824 minutes, 24 seconds
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The Windermere Boys

Helen Mark discovers the true story of the ‘Windermere Boys’, the three hundred child holocaust survivors who found rehabilitation and a new life in the Lake District nearly 70 years ago. Arriving in the immense and beautiful Cumbrian landscape many of them thought they'd found paradise. Helen meets the survivors, the community that welcomed them and the children that are keeping their memory alive today. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Nicola Humphries Photo Credit: Another Space/LDHP More details about The Lake District Holocaust Project can be found at
11/1/201824 minutes, 2 seconds
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Liverpool Giants

The famous cityscape of Liverpool can seem familiar to visitors and locals alike. But the arrival of three giants is about to transform the way it's seen. A 50 foot giant man has been shipwrecked on a Wirral beach and will make a raft to travel across the Mersey while a 'Little boy giant' and his dog Xolo will soon wake up and stride through the streets exploring. The marionettes are powered by 'Liliputians' and have enchanted thousands of Liverpudlians who line the streets to see them with people from all over the world. The spectacle is the idea of French theatre group Royal de Lux and it's the third and final time the giants will visit the city - each time telling a story about Liverpool. Helen Mark is literally chased through the streets in a bid to get close to these creatures. She asks why the people have taken the giants to their heart and why the company wanted to return so often. Ten years since it became the European Capital of Culture many say the city has a new confidence and can hold it's head up high. Presented by Helen Mark and Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock of Radio and Music Production Bristol.
10/25/201824 minutes, 39 seconds
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The Malvern Hills

Helen Mark visits the Malvern Hills. She meets a landscape historian, who shows her how human history has left its marks on the topography - if you know where to look for them. She finds out about the inspiration which the composer Edward Elgar drew from the area, and learns how the landscape is reflected in his music. Malvern is famous for its spring water, which has been bottled in the town since the 17th century. Helen meets the man who bought one of the springs by accident - and then went on to revive the Malvern spring water brand. The area is also known for its gas lamps, which are believed to have inspired C.S. Lewis in his description of the entrance to Narnia in 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. Helen finds that there are some very 21st century developments afoot for the Victorian gas lamps, and meets the man who's worked out how to power them using something which is in plentiful supply on the hills - dog poo! Produced by Emma Campbell.
9/6/201824 minutes, 53 seconds
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Childhood Holidays in Pembrokeshire

Charlotte Smith goes on a trip down memory lane, visiting St Davids in Pembrokeshire. It's the area where she spent many of her childhood summer holidays - but a place she hasn't been back to in forty years. She meets the family still running the farm and campsite where she used to stay as a child, learns how to forage for food in rock pools along the shore, and discovers that the 21st century has found a new use for a disused slate quarry. Life may be very different from how it was in the 1970s, but Charlotte finds nostalgia in the unchanging nature of the Welsh landscape. Produced by Emma Campbell.
8/30/201824 minutes, 55 seconds
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Purton Hulks

Helen Mark discovers the fascinating world of the UK's largest ship's graveyard Purton Hulks, the largest collection of maritime wrecks above water in Britain. What began as the intentional beaching of a small fleet of semi-redundant timber lighters in the winter of 1909 to strengthen the nearby eroding canal bank eventually grew into 81 vessels that and today represents the largest collection of maritime artefacts on the foreshore of mainland Britain - including boats that hold scheduled monument status, the same protection afforded by Westminster Abbey and Stonehenge. Resting on the banks of the River Severn they still provide a barrier of protection for an important stretch of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal which runs alongside the village of Purton in Gloucestershire. Following an on-going programme of research carried out by a dedicated team of volunteers, the stories of these ships have finally been revealed and their future is being protected for generations to come. Helen Mark uncovers the fascinating history of these stranded ship and the emotional resonance that they still hold for visitors today as she meets with those who care for these ships and manage the special landscape that surrounds it.
8/13/201824 minutes, 33 seconds
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The First Lundy Marathon

Lundy Island sits just off the North Devon Coast in the Bristol Channel. It has a fascinating history which dates back to the Bronze Age and has been home to pirates and outlaws. Previous owners have even had their own stamps and coinage produced but today it is managed by the Landmark Trust and the island and its surrounding waters are recognised for their rich wildlife and habitat. David Lindo visits the island as it holds the very first 'Lundy Marathon'. 250 trail runners will brave the rocky coastal paths over a distance of 14 miles and they hope the sport they love can work in harmony with this precious and remote habitat.
8/2/201824 minutes, 42 seconds
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The Boat Builders of Pin Mill

Writer Jonathan Gornall has attempted to row across the Atlantic twice. On the second attempt he nearly drowned but his relationship with the sea has continued. Today he spends his time at Pin Mill in Suffolk where he has just built a small sailing boat for his daughter and he hopes the boat will teach her to love the sea too. Helen Mark meets him and the boat building community who live beside the River Orwell to discover the great history of sailing which remains at the heart of Pin Mill today. 'How to Build a Boat' by Jonathan Gornall
7/26/201824 minutes, 48 seconds
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The Great Exhibition of the North

Helen Mark explores landscapes of the future, of the imagination and of the past, at the Great Exhibition of the North, which is centred in Newcastle and Gateshead. It's a three-month celebration of the impact of northern England's creators, inventors, artists and designers. Helen meets environmental artist Steve Messam to hear his sound sculpture 'Whistle', a series of steam engine whistles echoing around the city walls. There's Naho Matsuda whose 'data poetry' is created by people's interaction with the cityscape and displayed on a split-flap display board at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. Helen will follow one of GetNorth's story trails with the multi-award winning author David Almond and investigate public transport of the future with Sophie Connor of Ryder Architecture. And she'll find out how local children respond to highlights of the exhibition. Producer Mary Ward-Lowery.
7/19/201823 minutes, 50 seconds
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Humphry Repton and his Red Books

On the bicentenary of Humphry Repton's death Helen Mark finds out all about the landscape gardener and his red books. Humphry Repton is the last English landscape designers of the eighteenth century, often regarded as the successor to Capability Brown. He created over 400 designs across Britain and Ireland and it was Repton who coined the phrase 'landscape gardener'. His trademark was the red book in which he kept detailed designs and sketches. However, as Helen discovers in Norfolk where several of his designs are, the red book for his very first commission Catton Park is missing. She meets Gill Renouf, Chair of Friends of Catton Park, can she shed any light? And just how important were these red book to find out Helen goes to Sheringham Park, Repton's favourite work designed towards the end of his career and talks to Sally Bate, Vice Chair of Norfolk Garden Trust. Finally, onwards to Cromer, Northrepps where Helen meets Simon Gurney who has something very special to show Helen -the red book for Northrepps which Simon has been using to restore his Repton landscape. So maybe with all this focus on Humphry Repton on his bicentenary year which the Garden Trust is leading, perhaps the mystery of the missing Catton Park red book might finally be solved. The producer is Perminder Khatkar.
6/28/201824 minutes, 11 seconds
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Gertrude Jekyll at 175

Gertrude Jekyll was born in the late 19th Century and, as a talented gardener and craftswoman, managed to forge a highly successful path in a male-dominated world. This year marks the 175th anniversary of Gertrude's birth. Helen Mark heads to sunny Godalming in Surrey, to visit the home and gardens where Ms Jekyll defined her gardening style, bred new plant varieties, developed a life-long partnership with the architect Edwin Lutyens, and became the 'celebrity gardener' of her day. Uncovering Gertrude Jekyll's talent, determination and focus, and considering her legacy today, we look at the impact this iconic gardener has had on Britain's private landscapes.
5/10/201824 minutes, 38 seconds
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Swansea Copper and Choir

Helen Mark explores the site of the former Copperworks near Swansea. As the huge mechanical puppet 'The Man Engine' visits to celebrate that great history of innovation and industry we look at how the geology of Wales has shaped its landscape but also its culture. Professor Daniel Williams tells Helen about how heavy industry here had a global impact and how it continues to influence Welsh culture. Perhaps the best example of this is that iconic sound of the Welsh Male Voice Choir, many formed around the mines and associated industry and were of necessity all male. Today that distinctive sound remains even though the mines and copperworks have closed and we hear from Huw Roberts of the Morriston Male Voice Choir about why it is important that this sound remains part of Swansea's culture. Doug Evans and Ray Trotman, former workers at the Copperworks take us on a tour of the site to tell us about why song was so important to them and what they feel about the remains of industry we can see today. Geoff Dendle wants to see the site preserved as testament to the huge contribution Swansea made to global industrialisation and Will Coleman explains why his 'Man Engine' celebrates that huge endeavour but also recognises the great human cost which mining and heavy industry had on the landscape and the people here.
5/3/201825 minutes, 4 seconds
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Inspired by flowers, Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire is famous for vast fields of tulips, but this week Helen Mark meets people in the country who have a more personal relationship with flowers, including a family whose snowdrop wood is the location for a naming ceremony for their daughter, conducted by a Druid named Kevin. Helen contemplates the fading of memories with a Greek artist and choreographer, resident in Lincoln, who makes photographs using flower emulsions. There's a beekeeper who trains new recruits and packs her garden with as many flowers as she can to provide the bees with sustenance; a former IT manager turned English flower-grower and the only elderflower farmers in the UK. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
4/26/201824 minutes, 45 seconds
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Young people and landscape, Doncaster

Actress Dominique Moore visits forests, moors and parkland around Doncaster to find out how young people here are using the countryside. Rural landscapes in this area tend to be sandwiched between motorways, airports and industrial parks, but there are places to escape for a breath of fresh air, if you look carefully. And in Bawtry Forest, you won't just find trees. You might also bump into a couple of tanks or a helicopter from a film set, at the home of the largest paintballing centre in Europe. Owner Karl Broadbent says that young people think about the outdoor spaces through the prism of the computer games they play at home. Being tied to a screen can adversely affect your mental health, according to young graduates Megan Humphries and Helen Earnshaw, who are part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's 'Tomorrow's Natural Leaders' scheme. They are setting up an eco-therapy project to enable people to improve their mental well-being in the outdoors at the Trust's Potteric Carr Reserve. Dominique also meets 19 year old Suzanne Lines, an apprentice with Flying Futures, at Hatfield Moor. Learning survival skills on the National Citizen's Service course helped her discover a passion for the outdoors which she had never suspected. Now she leads groups of young people in alternative provision education, building fires and searching for adders on the Moor. The last visit is to meet the lions at Yorkshire Wildlife Park, which hosts 'ranger' training for young people on week-long courses in animal husbandry. The large carnivores are always popular with teenagers, according to Rachel Ford. But it's a shock for Dominique to go behind the scenes and visit the Meat Store. Hand-feeding the wallabies, on the other hand, is hard to resist.
4/19/201824 minutes, 34 seconds
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Coventry Edgelands

Helen Mark explores the landscape in between the city of Coventry and the countryside which surrounds it. These 'edgelands' are often ignored yet they are also places which inspire artists and writers and can tell us about how we live today. Tile Hill is the place which the artist George Shaw depicts in his work and inspired by him poet Liz Berry has written about these 'edgelands' and the stories they contain. Jonny Bark is a photographer who has recently explored this theme in his work around Coventry and writer JD Taylor has spent time travelling around these overlooked places in search of who we are and how we live in 21st Century Britain.
4/12/201824 minutes, 28 seconds
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The Isle of Gigha

Ian Marchant has always longed to visit the Inner Hebridean island of Gigha, off the west coast of Scotland. For a writer and hippie like Ian, it sounds like a dream: an island owned and run by its own community of fewer than 170 people. No more exploitative or neglectful landlords; everyone has a say in how things are done and they all live happily ever after. But also, no more wealthy and benevolent landlords, no more cash injections when things get tough. And, everyone has a say in how things are done. It's a dream - or a nightmare - that has come true on the Scottish island of Gigha. In 2001 the islanders took their destiny into their own hands and made a successful bid to buy the island. Ian finds out how the landscape is changing and how the people here are adapting to a new way of living. Interviewees include Tony Philpin of the local Coast and Countryside group; owner of Achamore House Don Dennis; Alasdair MacNeill, whose family were once lairds of the island tracing back to the eleventh century; Joe Teale who approves of the buy-out and runs the island's only shop; and Elaine Morrison, the manager of the Heritage Trust. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
2/8/201824 minutes, 31 seconds
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Konnie Huq goes back to Kew Gardens

Ealing girl Konnie Huq finds out more about her favourite green spaces in London - Kew Gardens and Northala Fields. Konnie's late mother often took the family to Kew Gardens as it reminded her of her childhood in Bangladesh. Konnie goes back to Kew to revisit memories of her mother with her sister Nutun, before meeting scientists and horticulturalists to discover more about the work that goes on behind the scenes. She also gets a sneak preview of the newly renovated Temperate House that's been closed to the public for 5 years. Konnie has two young sons and their favourite London park is Northala Fields in Northolt. She finds out how this award-winning park was created from rubble from the demolition of the old Wembley Stadium, which created its four dramatic conical hills.
2/1/201824 minutes, 33 seconds
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Wild Cats in the Highlands

Strathpeffer in the Highlands of Scotland is one of the few remaining strongholds of the elusive Scottish wildcat. The species is now considered to be rarer than the tiger with estimates of between 40 and 400 wildcats left in the wild. The reason that these estimates vary so widely is that the creatures are very hard to spot and that they are often mixed up with large feral or hybrid cats who are also responsible for diluting the remaining gene pool. Feral cats also cause problems for the wildcats when they bring disease into the few remaining areas where experts believe wildcat populations exist. That's why the Scottish Wildcat Action team are working on a 'Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release' programme. with the help of the local community, to ensure domestic cats do not interbreed with wildcats or spread disease. David Lindo meets the team at Scottish Wildcat Action in Strathpeffer to see first hand how this programme works as the wildcat enters the vitally important breeding season from January to March.
1/18/201824 minutes, 40 seconds
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Finding Fossils on the Jurassic Coast

The crumbling Jurassic Coast in Dorset has already helped us to discover some of the most interesting species from deep time, revolutionising our understanding of dinosaurs and the prehistoric landscape. The latest important fossil to be found along this stretch of coastline is not a huge dinosaur but a tiny mammal. Grant Smith recently found the fossilised teeth of a small rodent like creature which date back to the early Cretaceous period, around 140 million years ago. The sophistication of these teeth have made scientists reassess the time frame for mammal development as they indicate a far more developed mammal species who would have lived alongside the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period. The new species which Grant unearthed is mankind's earliest ancestor and has been named 'Durlstotherim Newmani', after keen amateur palaeontologist and local landlord Charlie Newman. The landlord of the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers founded his own fossil museum in the pub, and pointed Grant to the location in Durlston Bay at which he found the specimen. The rich history of scientists and academics being ably assisted by passionate amateurs on this coastline is echoed further down the coast at Kimmeridge where Steve Etches, a retired plumber, has just opened his incredible collection of fossils to the public at the Etches Collection. It is a history of collaboration which goes right back to one of the earliest fossil hunters Mary Anning and as Helen Mark discovers the work of the people who live along this coastline in enhancing our understanding of deep time is now being rightly celebrated.
1/11/201824 minutes, 36 seconds
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Torridge and Taw, North Devon

The writer and walker Linda Cracknell joins Helen Mark along North Devon's exposed and rugged coast to seek out the traces of her maritime roots. Her family sailed out of Braunton on the Torridge and Taw. This estuary, which drains large parts of Exmoor and Dartmoor, has the second largest tidal range in the world, and Linda is fascinated by the intertidal zone that's exposed at low tide, a place of wrecks and wader birds. Particularly treacherous is the Bideford Bar, a shifting bank of sand and shingle that sits at the entrance to the estuary, and which has claimed many lives over the years. Helen rows out towards it with the Appledore gig racing team, who love to rise to the challenges the estuary poses. Helen and Linda also meet the Hartnell family who farm Braunton's Great Field, an unenclosed system of narrow strips that dates back past medieval times to the Saxons. Forming the buffer between the sea and the Great Field are Braunton Burrows, a richly varied sand dune habitat, home to orchids and many other rare plants. Botanist Mary Breeds and her husband John, former warden for the Burrows, show Helen and Linda the plants, while Army landrovers rattle by on training exercises. Producer: Mark Smalley.
12/21/201749 minutes, 7 seconds
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Rewilding at Knepp Castle

Helen Mark travels to Sussex to explore the wilderness at Knepp Castle Estate. Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell have turned their estate which was once intensively farmed over to a rewilding project since 2001. Isabella takes Helen to her favourite part of the landscape which has undergone the greatest change since they started restoring the land back to it's natural and uncultivated state. Helen also goes bird ringing and cattle mustering on the state, now home to long horns, free roaming deer, pigs and Exmoor ponies. She meets a couple who retired and moved to the South Downs for an idyllic country life only to discover the view from their house is more than they bargained for. So is re-wilding the estate really working and should we be doing it? The producer is Peminder Khatkar.
12/14/201724 minutes, 45 seconds
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Red Squirrels in Formby

Helen Mark is in Formby in Merseyside, a part of the country that is regarded as a haven for the native red squirrel. She discovers what it is about the landscape and the practices conservationists have adopted, which some find controversial, that's allowing the native reds to thrive in this part of the country. Continuing along the Sefton coastline Helen meets a local resident turned poet; she discovers what makes Formby's sand dunes so special and finds out about the claim that Formby had the first known life boat in existence. Producer: Perminder Khatkar.
12/7/201724 minutes, 53 seconds
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Visions of Birmingham

Adrian Goldberg travels around Birmingham meeting with fellow Brummies, all of whom have a special vision for the future of Birmingham's landscape. He begins on a huge piece of blank wasteland in the very heart of the city centre which is waiting to become the home of the Birmingham terminal for HS2. He's joined by Waheed Nazir from Birmingham City Council to consider how the anticipation of HS2 is already changing Birmingham's skyline as well the city's sense of its own future. Adrian joins the Birmingham Trees for Life team in a park on the far Eastern rim of the city. The team have coordinated the planting of over 70,000 trees in Birmingham over the past 10 years with many groups of children and volunteers. His next stop is to Britain's first retrofit zero carbon house, just 2 miles out of the city centre in Balsall Heath. Architect John Christophers has a special interest in Sustainable Architecture, and his recently built family home is an inspiring vision of how existing housing stock could be transformed to become carbon neutral homes. When an architectural critic from The Times visited this house he said: "I have seen the future, and it's in Birmingham". Adrian's next visit is to the Apple Day at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. This is the brain child of HR manager Antony Cobley who has led an initiative to plant orchards and gardens around the hospital grounds for patients and relatives to the hospital. Sutton Park is one of Europe's largest urban parks and is 9 miles to the north of the city centre. Here Adrian joins a group of Rangers and volunteers on a project to transform a dense wood of holly which hasn't been coppiced for over 200 years, to an open woodland of ancient oaks and newly planted rowan trees. Presented by Adrian Goldberg Produced by Rosie Boulton.
11/30/201724 minutes, 52 seconds
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Border Country

The Irish border is currently the focus of intense negotiations around Brexit. Nobody knows how a soft or hard Brexit will work in practise but most agree that a hard border will negatively affect both the economies and relationships of the Republic and Northern Ireland. Helen Mark delves beneath the politics to discover the wildness of the land along the border and talks to the people who live there and cross the border daily. The border has inspired artists and writers such as Garrett Carr and Rita Duffy and Helen meets them to explore the borderlands and try to understand the unique history of the places along the line from Lough Foyle to Carlingford Lough.
11/23/201724 minutes, 58 seconds
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Serpentine on the Lizard, Cornwall

Helen Mark meets people whose livelihoods depend on the unique landscape of the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. She finds rock that looks like snakeskin, otherwise known as serpentine, and hears a dragon breathing. Possibly. It's all a bit reptilian. The Lizard is the most southerly point of England and it's probably not named after serpentine, the snakeskin-like rock that's found here, and nowhere else on earth. It's a peninsula that's almost an island, cut off by the Helford River on one side and the coast on the other, surrounded by some of the cleanest water to be found in the UK. It's kept that way by the rocky coast that makes it dangerous for ships to come too close and muddy up the sea. Salt has been extracted from the seawater here since the Iron Age, and seaweeders still harvest sea spaghetti and pepper dulse from its shores, both for gourmet consumption. Other gourmet items are the organic 'destination pasties' of Gear Farm, which also has an Iron Age heritage to protect in the form of a fort and geophysical evidence of nearly fifty roundhouses which once graced its land. Helen meets Don Taylor, who loves the mystery and magic of serpentine and makes it into sculptures inspired by the shape of the rocks he finds in the cliffs. And there's artist Bridget Leaman, whose home is perched on the cliffs by Lizard village. The landscape here inspires her paintings, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Producer Mary Ward-Lowery.
11/16/201724 minutes, 22 seconds
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Bell-ringing in Devon

Meditation, a celebration, a warning, the marking of a solemn occasion, music: bells are a public sound that changes according to the landscape. And bell-ringing in Devon is unique: it all sounds a bit trance, according to Mary Ward-Lowery. She hears other mind-bending sounds in this programme, including the noisy tramping of ants' feet and the peaceful fusion of bells and birdsong. With artist Marcus Vergette, sound recordist Tony Whitehead, an award-winning band of Devon call-change ringers, oh, and a steeplejack who spends his life mending church towers rocked by centuries of bells swinging the mortar loose.
11/9/201724 minutes, 3 seconds
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Climbing High Pike with Sir Chris Bonington

High Pike in the Lake District is far from the highest peak Sir Chris Bonington has scaled yet from its summit he can see some of the most magnificent views in the Northern Fells and the place he calls home. Helen Mark attempts to keep up with one of the UK's most renowned mountaineers as they climb High Pike together and discovers, not just his incredible story of love and loss but also his passion for the area of Caldbeck itself.
11/2/201724 minutes, 51 seconds
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The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

How do you keep history alive? It's claimed the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh - fought in 1547 between the Scots and the English - has largely been forgotten despite being the largest Battle fought on Scottish soil. Helen Mark travels to Musselburgh in East Lothian to see re-enactors gather from across the UK to live as the forces did and fight to the (acted) death to remember the battle in front of an audience. The current Duke of Somerset - who descends from the leader of the English troops braves a return to Scotland to see the event. The areas on which the original battle was fought may not give many clues if it were not for the efforts of the Battlefield Group who fight to protect sites like this and mark their significance in our history.
10/26/201724 minutes, 48 seconds
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Tughall Mill, Northumberland

Tughall Mill in Northumberland has just been bought by the National Trust for £1.5million so what do you get for that amount of money? Helen Mark gets an exclusive first look around the 200 acre site which includes a stretch of the coast which is home to a breeding colony of little terns - our second rarest seabird. She meets the rangers who've been camping on the shore for months protecting the terns from tides and predators - using an interesting array of defence methods. Beyond the shoreline lies a working farm and a mixture of pasture, woodland and the Long Nanny burn which the Trust is currently surveying to identify which species nest at the site. The land used to belong to the Duke of Northumberland estates and is home to a historic mill. Esteemed poet Katrina Porteous lives nearby and has taken a keen interest in the buildings, along with Harry Beamish. They join Helen to explore the buildings while the Trust decides what might happen to them. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock.
9/7/201724 minutes, 31 seconds
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The Gardens at Glyndebourne

Helen Mark swaps her anorak for a frock as she visits the summer festival at Glyndebourne to discover how its famous gardens inspire singers, artists and opera-goers. Set within the South Downs National Park, the gardens and surrounding landscape have become an integral part of the experience of going to the opera at Glyndebourne. Garden adviser John Hoyland and the garden team give Helen a tour and share how each distinctive themed area is created and maintained. As the audience begins to arrive for the evening performance, Helen talks to conductor William Christie and singers Danielle de Niese and Joelle Harvey about the unique way music and setting come together at Glyndebourne. She also meets Executive Chairman Gus Christie who introduces her to a recent addition to the local landscape, Glyndebourne's controversial wind turbine, and explains why he's passionate about reducing their carbon emissions. Producer: Sophie Anton.
9/5/201725 minutes, 4 seconds
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The Brecks - East Anglia's Secret

Helen Mark visits East Anglia's best kept secret, the Brecks around Thetford - a combination of sandy heathland, England's largest lowland forest and some highly productive farms. Scraped clean by the last ice age, the poor sandy soil meant the Brecklands that straddle Norfolk and Suffolk were marginal land, sandy and unproductive. Rabbits were a major industry, reared on vast warrens for meat and fur, their dung collected for fertiliser. Fields were snatched from the heathland for a season, then left fallow to recover. Visiting the large farm operation at Elveden Estate, Helen hears how the use of fertilisers and irrigation has allowed the land to become extremely productive for high value crops like onions, carrots and potatoes. Thetford Forest was planted with conifers after the First World War to create England's largest lowland forest, squeezing out much of the original heathland, home to rare plants and birds, such as the stone curlew. At Weeting Reserve, run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Helen is shown one of these distinctive birds, also known as goggle-eyed plovers. The Brecks is also home to Grimes Graves, a prehistoric flint mine, that provided the highest quality stone implements before the invention of metal. Will Lord, who brings the Brecks' Stone Age past alive for visitors, knaps a great lump of flint into a very sharp hand axe for Helen. To her cost, she finds out just how sharp it is. Producer: Mark Smalley.
8/31/201724 minutes, 42 seconds
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Huw Stephens at Green Man Festival

Huw Stephens is our guide to the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons. As a DJ Huw has been to many festivals but the Green Man is a favourite. Set in his homeland of Wales the festival is not just about rock music but also about the place in which it is set. This year festival goers are invited to spend time on the site before the music starts to get back to nature and settle into the spirit of the place. Huw meets festival goers, musicians, local food producers and druids to try to understand why hearing music in the great outdoors can be such a powerful experience.
8/24/201724 minutes, 16 seconds
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Ballooning in Bristol

The International Balloon Fiesta in Bristol has been running for nearly 40 years, drawing pilots and tourists form around the world. Helen Mark has been invited to Ashton Court to help launch one of the crafts and take flight in the direction determined by the wind. During the journey she'll find out how so many navigate around one another, and why those involved are so passionate about this way of travelling. Drifting through the skies with her will be 'The Flying Archaeologist' Ben Robinson who can reveal hidden histories in the landscape below that often go unnoticed. But all her plans are at the mercy of the weather. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock.
8/17/201724 minutes, 55 seconds
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Eliza Carthy in Robin Hood's Bay

Eliza Carthy is one of England's finest folk performers. In this episode of Open Country Eliza explores her hometown of Robin Hood's Bay on the North Yorkshire coast. Famed for shipwrecks, smugglers and fossils Eliza uncovers the true history of the place she calls home through those who know it's history and secrets best.
8/10/201724 minutes, 29 seconds
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Lincolnshire Bike Night

Leathers, green beard, a Harley and pension: guest presenter Paul Murphy meets some of the people behind the longest running bike night in the UK. Lincolnshire's roads are long, straight (Roman) and quiet, perfect for motorbikes. Every week between March and October, about a thousand of them ride out in the county for a pub supper and a cup of tea. It's a sight you don't easily forget. Graham Sugdon started Lincolnshire Bike Nights in 1989 when his hair and beard were long and black. He's a third generation biker and hopes he'll be riding into his eighties, like his Dad, Bernard. Frustrated by the 'No Bikers' signs at venues, Graham set out to persuade landlords that bikers could be good customers. Twenty-eight years later he's still organising weekly 'rides out'. It is about landscape - the pleasures of experiencing it at speed. Steve Smith, landlord of the Ferry House Inn in the Trent-side village of Burton upon Stather, always looks forward to bike night. These customers may have tattoos, ZZ top-style hair and green beards, but they're unfailingly polite, their bikes are immaculate and they don't drink and drive. These leather-clad cruisers appreciate a nice bit of landscape. Presenter...Paul Murphy Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
7/27/201723 minutes, 56 seconds
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Loch Tay and Ben Lawers

Helen Mark is in Perthshire to climb Ben Lawers above Loch Tay for a better view of the southern Highlands. Scotland's 10th highest Munro, it's home to rare alpine wildflowers, and loved by walkers. The landscape's been shaped by centuries of grazing, first by cattle and in more recent times by sheep. Helen visits the sites of the old shielings, the summer dwellings used by farming families after driving their livestock up for the pastures. Back down at loch level, Helen visits the locality's annual Kenmore Highland Games, and finds out what a crannog is. Visiting the Scottish Crannog Centre she learns why these ancient fortified dwellings were built over the lochs, on wooden piles. Up on Ben Lawers overlooking Loch Tay Helen also finds out about the ancient 'cup and ring' markings engraved on boulders long before even the crannogs were built. We might not know their purpose, but that doesn't stop us from guessing. Producer: Mark Smalley.
7/20/201725 minutes, 4 seconds
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The Dark Side of the Lune

Ian Marchant associates the landscape at the mouth of the River Lune with his friend and musical partner, Chas Ambler, who died nearly two years ago. In this personal exploration of his connection to the life of the river, Ian talks to poet Paul Farley about how to value un-romantic landscape. He meets Fiona Frank, one of the founder members of the Lancashire Co-Housing project , to discuss living in an 'intentional community' on the banks of the Lune. Lancaster has a little-known connection with the slave trade, which Ian discusses with Anthea Purkis from the city's Maritime Museum. Ian also visits Michelle Stevenson - or Chel - to talk about how she invited Chas to move into her family home at Glasson Dock for the last few weeks of his life, an act of extraordinary generosity. And if that isn't enough to reaffirm his faith in life, Ian meets haaf net fisherwoman, Margaret Owen, at the isolated north bank of the river, Sunderland Point. An unusual, moving and funny edition of Open Country exploring the dark side of the Lune.
7/13/201724 minutes, 12 seconds
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BBC Monitoring at Caversham

For 75 years a stately home near Reading has eavesdropped on the world. As BBC Monitoring changes, Caz Graham hears why the organisation is leaving Caversham. Caz speaks to staff past and present to hear about the vital daily work conducted behind the grand portico, amidst splendid grounds, listening in to and translating radio broadcasts since 1943. Retired staff recall being on shift when major world events occurred, such as the deaths of Stalin, Franco and Brezhnev. With its roots in short wave technology, Caversham's sensitive radio aerials and satellites could be retuned to listen in to countries around the world. Current manager at BBC Monitoring, Chris Greenway, describes the organisation's work today, for example tracking social media and the broadcasting activities of Islamic State (IS). Producer: Mark Smalley.
7/6/201724 minutes, 32 seconds
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When Andy Murray steps out onto Centre Court to defend his 2016 title at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club in Wimbledon it will be the culmination of a year's work by a team of people who dedicate their lives to this iconic sporting landscape. Alison Mitchell takes a break from the commentary box to go behind the scenes of this iconic sporting venue. Starting on the roof of the broadcast centre she speaks to Ashley Jones from Wimbledon Museum about how the grounds have moved twice since the club was founded in 1868, and explains how a broken piece of garden equipment led to the inception of the Championships. Alison describes the Centre Court commentary box as an 'Alice in Wonderland' moment, and squeezes through its narrow doors, ducking under its low ceilings to speak to John Barrett about his life-long relationship with the Championships from visiting as a boy, to later playing there, and then his many years commentating for the BBC including that epic 1980 men's final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. She goes court-side with Head Groundsman Neil Stubley to talk about the upkeep of the playing surface, before joining Johnny Perkins on 'Henman Hill' to find out how this patch of spare ground has become an integral part of the Championship experience. For podcast subscribers there's also an interview with Ronald McIntosh about how his first assignment at Wimbledon turned into the longest-running match in tennis history with John Isner triumphing over Nicholas Mahut 70-68 in the final set, an encounter now marked by a plaque at Court 18. Producer: Toby Field.
6/29/201729 minutes, 23 seconds
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Stonehenge and Mental Health

Helen Mark asks whether time creatively spent in Stonehenge's prehistoric landscapes can help Wiltshire residents with long term mental health problems. It's called the Human Henge project, and for one day a week for ten weeks the participants have been given the opportunity to get an insight into the lives of ancestors lived long ago. Helen accompanies the group on the final day when they're able to enter the inner circle of Stonehenge, the culmination of their work together. Helen hears how the idea for the project began with the Restoration Trust, a charity that links heritage sites with mental health in what it describes as 'culture therapy'. English Heritage who operate Stonehenge have supported the project, as has a leading expert on Stonehenge, the archaeologist Professor Tim Darvill of Bournemouth University. Tim argues that the site may well have had a healing function in the past as a focus for rituals and ceremonies, and is glad to explore that aspect of it today. The participants themselves describe how they've benefitted from being out of doors, from getting to know each other and having a focus besides indoor drop-in support groups. More than one participant says what's helped her is being treated as someone with a brain, glad to learn something new about her locality and its ancient past. Producer: Mark Smalley.
6/15/201724 minutes, 40 seconds
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Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh is the largest lake by area in the British Isles. It supplies 40% of Northern Ireland's water and today it is home to the Lough Neagh wild eel fishery. The Lough Neagh Fishermen's Co-operative sell most of the eels they catch here to markets in Holland or London but they also try to encourage local people to enjoy this delicacy. Helen Mark joins the crew onboard for the first fishing trip of the season and discovers the history and folklore which surround this stunning but sometimes treacherous piece of water.
5/11/201724 minutes, 32 seconds
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Blencathra: The People's Mountain

Terry Abraham could be likened to Alfred Wainwright in his love of the Lakeland fells. Blencathra was known by Wainwright as the 'mountaineers mountain' and he devoted more pages to this fell than any other in his pictorial guides. However, since the proposed sale of the mountain in 2014 it has become known as the 'Peoples Mountain'. The owner, the 8th Earl of Lonsdale, put the mountain up for sale at a price of £1.75 million and a community group called Friends of Blencathra was set up in a bid to raise enough money to buy the mountain. In 2015, the mountain was taken off the market but the sense of ownership felt by the local community remains. Helen Mark meets Terry and the local people who live within the shadow of this iconic peak.
5/4/201724 minutes, 32 seconds
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The Future of Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire is home to one of our most enduring legends, that of Robin Hood. David Lindo learns how the man in green tights who stole from the rich and gave to the poor is still important to the people who live within the Sherwood Forest area, and to the many visitors who come here. The truth about the man behind the legend remains in dispute but the ancient oak trees remain. Some, like the Major Oak, are up to one thousand years old and need support to remain standing. They provide precious dead wood habitat for many species and this is one reason why the RSPB are taking over the management of the national nature reserve and building a brand new visitor centre to help people understand how precious this ancient habitat is. The forest landscape was created and preserved by medieval Kings and David visits King John's Palace in Kings Clipstone to find out how the ruins we see there today could be part of a much bigger story about the real time in which Robin and his Merry Men would have roamed the woods. And Robin Hood is also the inspiration for Sherwood's anti-fracking campaigners, they fear that trees like the Major Oak could be affected if planned seismic surveys in the wider area lead to drilling for shale gas.
4/27/201724 minutes, 31 seconds
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Skiving at Poverty Bottom, Newhaven

Ian Marchant travels back to Newhaven in East Sussex, to learn to see a familiar landscape through fresh eyes. He grew up round here, bunking off school with his mates on the South Downs and the derelict Newhaven Fort (now beautifully restored). There's a weird mix of things to look at in panorama here: a glimpse of the iconic Seven Sisters (white cliffs, anyone?), stereotypically English rolling green hills, the industrial business of the ferry port to Dieppe and a new and massive biomass incinerator that upset local residents when it was built. But it's all potentially beautiful, depending on how you look at it. While his friends the Bugman, the Starman and the Painter were all busy looking at bugs, stars and landscape, what was Ian doing? Since he left the town, the South Downs has become a National Park and the air above it is now an International Dark Skies Reserve. It's time for Ian to return to the birthplace of Wreckless Eric to find out.
4/19/201724 minutes, 15 seconds
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Learning from the Wild in Dartington

Helen Mark travels to south-east Devon, to the Dartington Estate. This 14th century estate was reinvented by an off-shoot of the Bloomsbury set in the mid-1920s as a centre for personal growth, innovative education and rural regeneration, inspired by the environment. It still has the arts, ecology, sustainability and social justice at its heart and aims to be 'a laboratory for living and learning with the purpose of pioneering deep personal and societal change'. Helen Mark finds out about the extraordinary history, present and future of a movement and community inspired by the landscape of Dartington.
4/19/201724 minutes, 17 seconds
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The Mildenhall Treasure

In January 1942, Gordon Butcher was ploughing a field in the village of West Row, near Mildenhall in Suffolk. His plough hit something solid, and on further investigation discovered a circular piece of metal. Sensing he'd found something significant he went and found his boss Sydney Ford, and for the rest of the afternoon he and Ford pulled piece after piece from the ground. What they found was in fact a Silver thirty-two piece set of Roman tableware, and it remains the greatest find of its kind in the UK. 'The Mildenhall Treasure' as it became known went on display in the British Museum, and the story of this extraordinary find was captured by Roald Dahl in a short story of the same name. Helen Mark visits the find site to find out about a new joint-project between the British Museum and Suffolk County Council which aims to identify exactly where the treasure was buried and why, and to better understand the archaeological context of this find. Richard Hobbs from the British Museum tells the story of the Treasure, and Faye Minter and the detectorists talk about their work on the find site and how they've grown up with stories about it. She visits Mildenhall Museum in which a replica of the find is housed and finds out what this incredible Treasure still means to Ford's Grandson Sydney Holder. Producer: Toby Field.
2/2/201724 minutes, 28 seconds
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Underground Bristol

Think of Bristol and the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge and St Mary Redcliffe church may be on your list to visit. But what lies beneath? Tunnels, caves and waterways lie hidden, explored by some and missed by many. For those who know tickets on rare open days are snapped up like hot cakes. Helen Mark invites you to explore some of these gems that lie out of sight to explore the myth and history behind them. She starts at the Redcliffe Caves whose 'rabbit warren' under the streets above reveals more about the city's ancient trades but has a modern life as a film set and theatre location. Yet the magical Goldney Grotto - lined with shells from faraway lands - could conjure images of fairytales but has its closest connection to Robinson Crusoe. While Clifton Rocks Railway - which had to remain hidden within the gorge cliffs - failed as a business, it had two new lives helping to save the lives of others. No wonder there's so much curiosity about these hidden places! Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Anne-Marie Bullock.
1/26/201724 minutes, 9 seconds
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London: A National Park City?

There's a campaign gaining ground to make London a National Park City. But what exactly does that mean? David Lindo meets the campaign founder Dan Raven-Ellison to find out and goes on a journey across London to see for himself why anyone would think the UK's biggest city could qualify for such a title. Along the way he finds a ghost of a river, an enthusiastic ornithologist, and some paddlers who call Regents Canal their breathing space.
1/18/201724 minutes, 31 seconds
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Barton-upon-Humber Clay Pits

Helen Mark finds out about the flooded clay pits that make up the landscape around Barton-upon-Humber. Standing on the south side of the Humber Bridge, the pits look like a series of holes punched into the landscape, or a piece of lace attached all the way along the Humber bank. The pits were excavated for the fine clay they contain, to make beautiful red bricks to build local houses that are still so typical here, and tiles which were packed into barges and taken off to London to feed the housing boom of the nineteenth century. There are two tile-works alive and kicking at Barton, still making traditional tiles in exactly the same way they have for the past two hundred years. The clay digging that used to take half a year of hard labour with a wheel barrow is now done in a couple of weeks by a digger, so it's not quite the task it once was. For a small town, Barton has a vibrant present and a big industrial past, manifested by the Ropewalk, a museum and cultural space housed in what the managing director, Rachel Benet, calls the town's 'cultural quarter mile'. It is a narrow red brick-and-tile building a quarter of a mile long, designed to allow the manufacture of rope in one long, straight piece. But it's the clay pits that have made the biggest mark on the landscape around Barton-upon-Humber. Many of them are now wildlife reserves run by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, home to bearded tit, bittern and marsh harriers. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
1/12/201723 minutes, 38 seconds
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Winter Solstice at Newgrange

Many people will be aware of the celebrations which take place at Stonehenge for the summer solstice but at Newgrange in Ireland the winter solstice is celebrated by an equally incredible Neolithic monument. To celebrate this years winter solstice Helen Mark visits Newgrange to experience for herself the light of the rising sun on the shortest day of the year as it floods the inner passage revealing the carvings inside. Along the way Helen will discover the precision skills required in order to achieve this solar alignment and the many myths and legends which surround the monument as well as what it means to people celebrating the winter solstice today.
12/22/201624 minutes, 28 seconds
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Wordsworth's County Remade

The Lake District was known as 'Wordsworth's County'. Today the poets words are being used to rediscover his homelands with a new app designed to get visitors to explore the lesser known areas celebrated in Wordsworth's work. Helen Mark visits the Lakes one year after Storm Desmond devastated the area to discover how the community and landscape has recovered and how the land of one of our most celebrated poets is being reimagined for visitors of the future.
12/15/201624 minutes, 28 seconds
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Whitelee Windfarm on Eaglesham Moor

Eaglesham Moor, which extends over thirty square miles just south of Glasgow, has arguably been viewed by those living around it as a rather inhospitable landscape where only the very hardy would go. This dramatic high plateau has had many uses over the centuries, including farming and forestry, however the most recent change is the addition of Whitelee Windfarm, the biggest onshore wind farm in the UK. Helen Mark explores the land between the 215 turbines to discover the human history of the moor and the changes to this landscape before and after the wind farm. She sets out on the new walking and cycling trails that have transformed access to the moor to meet local residents, as well as a farmer who can trace his family history at Eaglesham Moor back over 500 years. Much of the moor is made up of important peatland habitat which was damaged by afforestation before the wind farm was built. As a part of their contract at Whitelee, ScottishPower Renewables has been restoring previously forested areas back to bog habitat using an innovative technique. Helen goes to see this work in action and talks to the team about the challenges of building a renewable energy project on a carbon sink. Helen also visits the Whitelee Operations Centre to ask ScottishPower Renewables about some of the concerns about the construction of wind farms.
12/8/201624 minutes, 44 seconds
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Belvoir Castle and its 'Capability' Brown Landscape

Helen Mark is in Leicestershire, to discover how the 'Capability' Brown plans for Belvoir castle have finally come to fruition. Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, regarded as one of the greatest landscape architects, laid out his vision for how the landscape around this ancestral home should look, back in the 18th century. Some work was undertaken, but then a fire destroyed Belvoir castle. It was assumed all the Brown maps were lost too and plans for restoring the landscape were forgotten. However, the current Duchess of Rutland, Emma Manners and her team found the lost 'Capability' Brown plans. They have just finished restoring the landscape around Belvoir Castle, now a completed 'Capability' Brown garden, just in time to mark the 300th anniversary of his birth. The producer is Perminder Khatkar.
12/1/201624 minutes, 12 seconds
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Sathnam Sanghera goes home to Wolverhampton

Wolverhampton, at the heart of the industrial revolution, has never been known for its beautiful landscape. The story goes that when Queen Victoria passed through she asked for the curtains in her carriage to be drawn because she was so offended by the sight of the town. Writer, Sathnam Sanghera grew up with a railway running through his back garden and an industrial estate running alongside his street. For this edition of Open Country he returns to his home town, now a city, and finds a burgeoning natural scene, he goes birdwatching at Smestow Valley, discovers why otters are thriving along a particular patch of the Staffordshire and Worcester canal and even canoes in a thriving local waterway. The producer is Perminder Khatkar.
11/24/201624 minutes, 37 seconds
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David Lindo on the Isle of Man

David Lindo is the Urban Birder. He loves the birds he finds in parks and open spaces in the city but for this weeks Open Country he sets sail for the open spaces and cliffs of the Isle of Man, a landscape he has always wanted to visit. Stuck out in the middle of the Irish Sea The Isle of Man is a birders paradise with rare sightings of elusive birds such as choughs, hen harriers and falcons. David crosses the Sound to visit the Bird Observatory on the Calf of Man where the Manx Shearwater is making a comeback and hears about how to keep the sea god Manannan happy.
11/17/201624 minutes, 27 seconds
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Snowdonia Marathon

Helen Mark follows Snowdonia Marathon and meets some of the people tackling this challenging course. Starting and finishing in Llanberis, the race encircles Wales' highest mountain of Snowdon, and rises to over a thousand feet in places. Andy John, Bishop of Bangor is taking on the Marathon for the third time, and he describes the sensation from running the course as being lost in the landscape but found in yourself. But he's dreading the twenty-two mile mark when he'll reach the 1200ft climb at Bwlch y Groes or "gap of the cross", before descending back into Llanberis for the finish. Helen stops at the ten-mile mark to meet Arwyn Owen at Hafod y Llan farm to find out how Hydro-Electric Power is the new cash crop in this rugged environment. She also meets Phil Owen at Llechwedd Caverns to discover how the area became the slate-mining capital of the world. Both Phil's Father and Grandfather worked in the mine, but Phil became a musician and serenades Helen on his ukulele, three hundred feet below the surface. Helen hands out water and energy gels with volunteers from the Snowdonia Society at the halfway point in Beddgelert and speaks to Margaret Thomas about Esme Kirby, the remarkable woman who set-up the organisation, before returning to Llanberis to greet a weary Andy John as he's crosses the finishing line.
11/10/201624 minutes, 36 seconds
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Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean

Helen Mark travels to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire to encounter some of the wild boar who have made a home there in the last ten years. The Forest clearly suits them because their numbers are growing exponentially, with over 1500 feral animals at the last count. The population can almost triple in a year, and with no cold winters or culture of boar-hunting in the UK, the wild boar here have nothing to fear, except the Forestry Commission's marksmen. Adult males can reach twenty stone, run at thirty miles an hour, and can jump or barge through all but the strongest of fences. Also they are not afraid of humans, so unlike deer, you can't just shoo them out of your garden. Helen meets Dr John Dutton of the University of Worcester, who has made a study of human/boar social interaction in the Forest of Dean, and Kevin Stannard and Ian Harvey from the Forestry Commission, who have been landed with the task of managing numbers on their land. Then there's Simon Gaskell of the Real Boar Company, who farms boar and sells it as charcuterie. He knows exactly what they're capable of. He describes one of his boar, a beast called Julian, as 'the great white shark' of the woodland. Julian would appear out of nowhere and charge for no apparent reason. But they're not all so bad-tempered, even though they are classed as a 'dangerous wild animal' for farming purposes. Along unfenced verges, in gardens and on common land, Helen finds evidence of the boar everywhere. And if you're out for a stroll in the heart of the Forest, it's hard not to imagine them watching you from the cover of the undergrowth. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
11/3/201623 minutes, 47 seconds
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Off Grid in Mid-Wales

Guest presenter Ian Marchant meets people who live off-grid in his part of the world, near Presteigne in mid-Wales. There's Bob, who started his off-grid life on the hippy trail in the sixties, driving over-land to Afghanistan and bringing back the first Afghan coats to the London fashion scene. Now he lives in a wood, still making jewellery and living in his van. For him, there's adventure in every aspect of his life, even the washing up, especially if you have to do it in 'horizontal snow'. Goffee-the-Clown has built himself an idyllic cottage, but somehow he can't bring himself to move in. He prefers the simplicity of his pale blue retro caravan with its wood-burner and collection of spider-webs, idyllically situated on the bank of the River Usk. There are the Hoopers, a family of four who run an efficient small-holding as carbon-lightly and self sufficiently as is possible. They did have a brief spell in a house, but despite the fascinations of the washing machine, they were delighted to be back living off-grid up a mountain. And there's Briar, who has just moved in to her new home, a yurt she has built herself, snugly insulated with duvets and brightly-coloured rugs and fabrics. Everything she needs is to hand, and there's water from the spring nearby. Knowing she can rely on her own strength and skill to live anywhere makes her happy and gives her confidence. And the cost? This luxurious construction cost her roughly twenty quid to build. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
10/27/201623 minutes, 42 seconds
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Bellaghy - Seamus Heaney's Homeplace

Seamus Heaney grew up in Bellaghy in Northern Ireland and his poetry features many of the people who lived there and the views he saw there. Helen Mark visits Bellaghy to discover the real places which inspired so many well loved words and meets the people who live there to find out what Heaney's work means to them.
9/8/201624 minutes, 29 seconds
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Hoylake: Green Belt and Greens

A new golf resort has been proposed for Hoylake in Wirral. Helen Mark explores how this will affect the local green belt and the birdlife and wildlife that live there. Helen speaks to Andrew Needham from the Council for the Protection of Rural England about what constitutes green belt land and why a golf course may be permissible. John Hutchinson from the Hoylake Golf Resort Committee talks about his opposition to the resort and how it will destroy a much-loved piece of land. Dr Hilary Ash takes Helen bird-watching for some of the thousands of Black Tailed Godwits that use the existing land as part of their migration. Craig Gilholm shows Helen around the Royal Liverpool Golf Club and recalls how the Natterjack Toad almost halted the Open in 2006, and local resident and golfer David Stacey explains why the lure of a new Championship Golf Course would be an asset to the area. Cllr Gerry Ellis says this proposed resort is the biggest issue he's faced as a Councillor and explains why he's less optimistic now that the resort will ever go ahead. Producer: Toby Field.
9/1/201624 minutes, 36 seconds
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Helen Baxendale visits Belper in Derbyshire

Guest presenter Helen Baxendale visits Belper in Derbyshire, to explore the landscape for traces of the town's industrial past. Belper is part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site (as designated by UNESCO in 2001), so she expected to find the river-power and the ironstone that made the town a perfect site for Jedediah Strutt to locate his mills in the eighteenth century. More surprising is the vibrant artistic scene and a large helping of community spirit whose roots can be traced back over to Strutt. Helen also explores a nature reserve that bears the scars of industry, with rivers dredged to feed the mills, flood plains damned and built up and a former landfill site that looks as wild as the rest of the reserve. Closer scrutiny suggests that local flora and fauna are less willing to make their home on the former rubbish tip, even though it is entirely covered in soil and vegetation and doesn't appear to leach into the surrounding environment. Helen Baxendale is an actress best known for her roles in Cuckoo, Cold Feet and Friends. She also has a keen interest in the environment and family roots in Derbyshire. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
8/25/201624 minutes, 49 seconds
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Spurn Point Lifeboat Station

Helen Mark spends the day wit the only full-time lifeboat crew in the UK, based on Spurn Point. This unique landscape is a strip of land, 3.5 miles long and only 50m wide in places. Until recently the station was occupied by the station staff and their families, but the fragility of the Spurn Point sandbank that links it to the mainland means it is no longer fit for so many people. And if you want to visit, you have to park up and walk 3 miles, since the storms of 2013 washed parts of the road away. The lifeboat stations covers the treacherous inshore waters of the Humber and 100 miles out to sea, as far north as Bridlington and south to Skegness. There's an average call out rate of once a week, but the crew have to be ready 24/7. Helen meets Ben Mitchell, the 29 year old 2nd Coxwain who is in charge this week, plus crew members Ed Kilsby, Liam Dunnett, Glen Peterson and Kim Platford. She also visits the manager of the Spurn Point National Nature Reserve, who explains why this tiny strip of land is of national importance to wildlife. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
8/18/201624 minutes, 19 seconds
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The 'Man Engine' in Cornwall's mining landscape

The largest mechanical puppet ever made in the UK "The Man Engine" has been striding out across Cornwall to celebrate 10 years since Cornwall's mining landscapes were awarded the status of UNESCO world heritage sites. Standing 10 metres high this 'Man Engine' will visit each of the 10 heritage areas across Cornwall and Helen Mark meets him and his creator Will Coleman in Liskeard and Minions on Bodmin moor. Helen speaks to some of the people who live here about what tin mining means to them today and to their sense of history. Former miner Mark Kaczmarek tell us about life in the mines today at Camborne School of Mines and we hear songs from Nick Hart from 'The Story of Cornwall' that make up the soundtrack to this incredible landscape and the industry which began here.
8/11/201624 minutes, 25 seconds
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Orkney Wildlife in Crisis

The Orkney Isles are one of the best places for wildlife in the country. Species such as seals and puffins which are hard to find in other parts of the UK can often be spotted in Orkney with ease. Helen Mark visits to discover for herself the incredibly rich beaches, cliff tops and moorland on the islands. Despite the display of rare species on offer Helen finds that even here marine life is increasingly threatened by an array of problems and once thriving populations are now in decline. She talks to Martin Gray, the Orkney beachcomber who has dedicated his life to cleaning up the shores of his home. She learns how to capture the flight of the Arctic Skua on paper with artist Tim Wooton. Helen visits the 'sea bird city' at Marwick Head and discovers how their decline, as well as that of the harbour seal, is being tracked using mobile technology. Can conservationists learn enough about the feeding habits of the most threatened species to halt the decline? The nature lovers of Orkney continue to hope they can.
8/4/201624 minutes, 20 seconds
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Capability Brown at 300

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown is heralded as the Shakespeare of gardening who in the eighteen century designed an estimated 170 landscapes including Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle and Highclere Castle. To mark the 300th anniversary of his birth, Helen Mark discovers how his naturalistic landscapes changed the face of the countryside in the eighteenth century and continue to endure today. She visits Wrest Park in Bedfordshire to identify the trademarks of a classic Capability Brown landscape and finds out how these gardens became the height of fashion for the ruling classes, and how Brown turned himself into a brand. Helen also visits Brown's grave in the village of Fenstanton and finds out how they're marking his life through music and literature. Producer: Toby Field.
7/28/201624 minutes, 24 seconds
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Biodiversity at Heathrow

Helen Mark visits Heathrow Airport to discover what steps they take to encourage biodiversity and assesses the impact the proposed third runway will have should the decision be made for it to go ahead. Heathrow has thirteen sites of Conversation, and Helen speaks to to the Airport's Biodiversity Manager Adam Cheeseman about the species he finds there including the Black Bee. Environmental Operations Manager Russell Knight explains how they've encouraged fish species to return to their rivers, and how they plan to create a green fringe around the proposed new runway. Helen also asks how much difference biodiversity can make to a project of this scale. She visits Colne Valley Park, part of which will be taken up by the new runway, and asks Stewart Pomeroy about the challenges of balancing the needs of the Park with the need for development, and to Mathew Frith from the London Wildlife Trust about the potential impact on the Park's bird and fish species. She also speaks to Colin Rayner who farms land around Heathrow about what life's like for him now and what he thinks the future will be should permission for a third runway be granted. This programme has been amended since first broadcast. Comments made that St Mary's Parish Church and the Great Barn at Harmondsworth were under threat from the proposed third runway were not correct and have been removed. Producer: Toby Field.
7/23/201624 minutes, 25 seconds
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The Dolphins of Cardigan Bay

Patrick Aryee travels to West Wales to meet the dolphin-watchers of New Quay, and to encounter some members of the largest group of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of the UK. New Quay is home to the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, which was set up in 1996 by Steve Hartley, a former fisherman, because he wanted people to know about the amazing array of marine wildlife he saw from his fishing boat. Fishing trips turned into dolphin-watching trips, and now Steve takes researchers out regularly to monitor the marine wildlife. The Centre has become a hub of scientific research and is now part of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. It's manned by volunteers and just a couple of paid scientific officers. Dolphins are a key part of the economy of the area, bringing tourists and visitors who hope to catch a glimpse of these charismatic animals from the harbour wall. Patrick, a guest presenter on Open Country, has had a fascination for marine mammals since his childhood, when his parents took him to a safari park. But he's hoping to see dolphins in the wild for the first time. Another first is a chance for Patrick to try coasteering with Jethro Moore, who describes the activity as 'everything your mum told you never to do beside the sea'. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
7/14/201623 minutes, 45 seconds
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Bishop Auckland, History in Production

'Kynren' is set across a landscaped stage which is the size of 5 football pitches and involves over 1000 local volunteers. Organizers hope that it will transform Bishop Auckland and bring many visitors to the area for years to come. The story will explore 2000 years of British history from Roman times through the Saxons and Vikings to Industrial times and beyond. Helen Mark hears from the local volunteers about what it means to them and discovers the real history behind Bishop Auckland. She visits Binchester Roman Fort, Escomb Saxon Church and the shut down collieries to see how history remains clearly written in the landscape as well as in this ambitious new production.
7/7/201624 minutes, 23 seconds
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Midsummer Music in Orkney

Orkney has a great heritage of music so for this weeks Open Country Helen Mark visits the St Magnus International Festival of Music and Arts. Now in its 40th year St Magnus was founded by the late Orkney-based composer, and Master of the Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. This years festival will celebrate his legacy as well as shining a light on new talent from the islands. During the summer months Orkney enjoys 'Twilight All Night' due to its latitude, Helen discovers what this means for the people who live there and the festival. She meets local musicians and composers to find out how the unique landscape, history and wildlife of Orkney inspire individual creativity and how music contributes to the community spirit so integral to island life.
6/30/201624 minutes, 25 seconds
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Dawn Chorus across Europe

Brett Westwood presents a special programme as Open Country joins forces with the European Broadcasting Union and RTE in Ireland to follow the Dawn Chorus from East to West across Europe. Sunday 1 May was International Dawn Chorus Day and from midnight until six am, Brett Westwood sat in RSPB Ham Wall in Somerset broadcasting about what he heard. The silence of the night is broken by belching Moorhens, booming Bitterns and even a Marsh Frog before Dawn breaks to reveal a huge cast of Coots, Little Grebes and even Brett's first Cuckoo of Spring, to name but a few. But as the Dawn moves West, Brett speaks to Alexander Khaburgaev in Russia about the Starlings of Moscow which imitate cab drivers from a hundred years ago, and Jason Aloisio describes how tackling illegal hunting has allowed the sparrows of Malta to thrive. Helge Søfteland and Niall Hatch witness a thrilling spat between rival Capercaillie, and Rob Buiter and Eric Dempsey report on Bluethroats in The Netherlands. Producer: Toby Field.
5/12/201624 minutes, 24 seconds
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Tennyson's Lincolnshire

Helen Mark explores the Lincolnshire Wolds through the poetry of Victorian Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The Lincolnshire Wolds are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, remote and in some ways little-changed since Tennyson was born here, in the village of Somersby, in 1809. Helen meets dialect speakers, like Tennyson, whose 'first language was Lincolnshire'. She'll find out how he might have described the landscape and how it appears in some of his dialect poems. She meets some rare farm animals that would have been familiar to him and visits a rookery he describes in his famous poem 'Maud'. We'll hear direct descendants of those very rooks! Producer: Mary Ward-Lowery.
5/5/201624 minutes, 23 seconds
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Southwell Races, Nottinghamshire

Helen Mark spends a day at Southwell Races in rural Nottinghamshire. It's one of the smallest and most rural racetracks in Britain, but it's also one of the busiest. Helen follows a day in the life of the race-track, meeting some of the people who make it happen. She talks about dreams and 'babies' (two year old horses) with trainer David Brown as one of his horses has a swim in the pool. There are the Travelling Stable Lasses, jockey Andrew Mullen (no, he hadn't eaten anything all day), racehorse trainer Ollie Pears, who has several legs of horses for sale if you'd like one. There's drama, as Helen joins the race-course vet as they race alongside the horses just in case one of them takes a fall. And she learns how to choose a horse to put your money on. Or not. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
4/25/201624 minutes, 33 seconds
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The National Forest: 25 Years

Helen Mark visits the National Forest as its marks 25 years since it started to create huge areas of woodland. The entire area covers 200 square miles across the boundary of the East and West Midlands over the three counties of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire. Helen explores how this regeneration through nature has impacted upon the lives of the people in the area. She begins by planting our very own 'Open Country' oak tree. Producer: Perminder Khatkar.
4/22/201624 minutes, 14 seconds
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Old Oswestry Hillfort

Helen Mark visits the Iron-Age Hillfort in Oswestry, Shropshire to discover why it's the "Stonehenge of the Iron Age" and how plans for housing might affect the landscape. Dr Rachel Pope tells Helen why the size and scale of the Western entrance ramparts help make the Hillfort one of the most important Iron-Age monuments in England, and why it's a symbol for community and trade rather than defence. Dr George Nash explains how the site was used to train soldiers in trench warfare and mortar practice during World War One. John Waine links this to soldier and poet Wilfred Owen who returned to his home-town of Oswestry for training and may have written 'Storm' in the shadow of the Hillfort. Helen meets Sarah Gibson of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and goes in search of Yellowhammers and Linnets which nest in the ramparts, and finds out how the Violet Oil Beetle hitches a lift on the backs of bees. Following Shropshire Council's decision to include a piece of land near the Hillfort in their plan for development, Bill Klemperer of Historic England explains how they hope to minimise its impact should an application for housing be made. But for Rachel Pope the Hillfort has so many tales to tell that any erosion to the landscape around it would devalue its setting. Producer: Toby Field.
4/21/201624 minutes, 27 seconds
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Gainsborough's Nodding Donkeys

Forget Texas! There's oil in the plains of Lincolnshire. But not many people seem to notice. Helen Mark travels to the market town of Gainsborough to discover more about the nodding donkeys that pepper its landscape. Oil wells sit comfortably fringed by a housing estate, the leisure centre and the golf course. It turns out that the East Midlands is the UK's second largest inshore oil producing area, courtesy of the Gainsborough Trough, once a deep and dirty patch of sea. Now it produces twelve hundred barrels of high quality oil a day, mostly pumped up by nodding donkeys. Whereas fracking attracts protest and controversy, local people seem quite content to live alongside these nodding pumps, perhaps because they look so benign - friendly even - and work away quietly with apparently little human intervention. Helen meets local teacher and long-distance runner Nigel Bowler, for whom the donkeys are a landmark on his running routes. There's artist Verity Barrett, who loved the pumps as a child, part of the 'scenic route' on trips to visit her granddad. Julie Barlow from i-gas explains the business of oil extraction and geologists Malcom Fry and Paul Hildreth slice through the soil to bring alive the geological layers that led to the Gainsborough Trough. Then there are Daniel Ashman and Louise Hammond, who've spent the last week camping outside a new exploratory oil boring site near the village of Laughton, as part of an anti-fracking protest. As the dustbin lorry and the postman do their rounds of the Park Springs Housing Estate on the edge of Gainsborough, another few barrels of oil are drawn up from 1500m underground. The nodding donkeys aren't bad neighbours, it seems. 'I think they're wonderful' says Paul Hildreth. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
4/13/201623 minutes, 55 seconds
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Welsh Valleys after Coal

Felicity Evans asks how the valleys of south Wales near Caerphilly have fared since the mines closed. She visits new parklands that have been planted where the collieries once stood. She begins at Senghenydd, site of two mining disasters just one hundred years ago, one of them the worst ever experienced at a UK mine. Former teacher in the village and now a broadcaster, Roy Noble reflects on the legacy of the disaster, and how it's still remembered even though a primary school has been built on the site of the mine, since the pit was closed nearly 50 years ago. Felicity also visits two other parks in the Caerphilly area which have been created on the sites of former collieries: Parc Cwm Darran which was planted in the 1980s, and Parc Penallta, which has been developed since the Millennium. How do residents relate now to their local landscape, and the memorials to the industry that once defined the region? Producer: Mark Smalley.
3/4/201624 minutes, 39 seconds
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Return to the Fens

In the final episode of this series Helen Mark visit Woodwalton Fen in Cambridgeshire with writer Simon Barnes to discover the lost landscape which inspired Charles Rothschild to draw up the Rothschild list. This list of wild places in need of preservation helped establish modern conservation ideas and in 1912 Rothschild established the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves for Britain and the Empire, the first society in Britain concerned with protecting wildlife habitats. Today the bungalow on stilts which Rothschild built lies at the heart of the Great Fen. This 50 yearlong project aims to join another early nature reserve at Holme Fen to Woodwalton by creating a mosaic of wetland habitat. Helen finds out how this vision is already attracting wonderful wildlife and how the long term residents of the fens are now enjoying a growing appreciation of the landscape they love. With a changing climate the fens offer natural solutions to flooding and nearby at Must Farm archaeologists have recently discovered how Bronze Age man embraced a watery landscape and thrived. In the future the Great Fen hopes it too can offer man viable alternatives to drainage which are beneficial for all the fen inhabitants.
2/11/201624 minutes, 23 seconds
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Scowles in the Forest of Dean

Helen Mark is in the Forest of Dean in search of mysterious geological formations known as 'scowles'. These semi-natural features in the landscape are thought to be unique to the Forest of Dean but are plentiful in this area. They are crater-like features in the woodland that have been eroded over time by water-action and exploited by miners through the centuries for their bounty: iron-ore, coal, and ochre have all been found in abundance in the Forest of Dean. Helen descends into the mysterious, mossy world of the scowles and comes face to face with one of it's inhabitants: a large cave spider and looks for the greater and lesser horseshoe bats. These two species thrive in the craters and caverns of the the Forest. Tales of mining and the blast furnaces that smelted the iron-ore lead Helen across the Forest before she finds herself on a film set. The visually stunning nature of the scowles have led to television and movie crews visiting the area to film in this mysterious, other-worldly landscape. They have become the backdrop to some memorable moments in the TV series Merlin and Dr Who and most famously in the recent Star Wars film, The Force Awakens that was filmed in a part of the Forest called Puzzlewood. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
1/28/201624 minutes, 44 seconds
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Somerset Peat: Past, Present and Future

Helen Mark uncovers why peat makes the Somerset Levels a special place to visit, not just for the wildlife. Since earliest times humans have exploited this natural resource. Its wetlands once supported Lake Villagers whose secrets lay buried deep beneath the feet of the modern archaeologist keen to uncover what these wetlands preserves for millennia. A mere 50 years ago the extraction of peat was a major industry employing hundreds of people. It was cut for fuel, for horticulture, even animal feed. That industry has all but faded into history and Helen visits one of the last remaining extraction companies. Once this landscape was scarred by man, littered by trackways and industry, yet today what remains of this scarred is being managed to return it to another use. Helen discovers the memories of those who walked this peatland landscape are enjoyed by a new visitor, the nature watcher. Producer Andrew Dawes.
1/21/201624 minutes, 2 seconds
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Yorkshire in the Dark

Yorkshire looks different in the dark. Helen Mark looks up into the heavens and deep underground for a new understanding of England's biggest county. Off-road cycling in the Dales becomes a lot more thrilling when you strike out into the dark and, armed with an infra-red nghtscope you realise just how busy the forests of the North York Moors National Park are after sunset. Helen will also be discovering how the Brontë sisters filled the long nights in the Haworth Parsonage and mining precious Blue John in the caverns of the Peak District. Producer: Alasdair Cross.
1/14/201624 minutes, 47 seconds
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River Tay

The Tironesian monks of Lindores Abbey were forcibly removed by Protestant firebrand John Knox in 1559 but they've left an extraordinary legacy for Tayside. The orchards they planted with native French varieties of pear, plum and apple were subdivided as the nearby town of Newburgh took shape. Every autumn the locals set out their stalls and sell purple pyramids of unusual plums and cartloads of the apples that can ripen on the trees beyond Christmas. The monks are also credited with the creation of the first Scotch Whisky. There's certainly documentary evidence of them supplying potent quantities of aquavitae to the Scottish Court in 1494. Caz Graham follows the tracks of the Tayside monks and meets the local man aiming to create the first Lindores whisky for 500 years. Further up the River Tay Caz explores Britain's biggest reed bed in search of the desperately shy Bearded Tit and meets the last of the salmon net fisherwomen. Now 80, Nan Jarvis spent decades dragging nets through the silvery Tay in search of the King of Fish. photo courtesy of the RSPB.
1/7/201624 minutes, 41 seconds
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The Northern Lights at Christmas

For a Christmas special Helen Mark visits the snow covered landscape of Swedish Lapland in search of the mythical, and often elusive, Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. In Sami culture the lights are thought to emanate from the souls of the dead and must be treated with immense respect. Traditionally the Sami remained indoors during a display but today the chance of seeing the Northern Lights brings many visitors to this remote part of Sweden. Helen Mark hears about the mythology which surrounds the Aurora and travels by sled, snowmobile and foot to try to catch a glimpse for herself. Along the way she uncovers a dramatic mountainous landscape.
12/17/201524 minutes, 20 seconds
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Lincolnshire Coast Revival

On the 5th of December 2013 the Lincolnshire community saw the worst flooding in 60 years. A tidal surge two metres above normal levels flooded coastal nature reserves and Gibraltar Point visitor centre was severely damaged. Two years on and Helen Mark finds a remarkable transformation taking place here and along the coastline with a series of iconic buildings and art installations including a new marine observatory, a cloud watching bar and a new visitor centre built on stilts to protect it from future floods. The impact on wildlife and habitat is still being assessed, local farmers have lost productive land but there are signs of hope. At Donna Nook the seal colony continue to thrive and Helen visits as the last of this year's pups are being born.
12/10/201524 minutes, 25 seconds
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Pendle Hill, Lancashire

Why do witches and radical pacifists haunt Pendle Hill, one of Lancashire's best known landmarks? Helen Mark hears about the witch trials of 400 years ago, and the visionary Quaker founder, George Fox - all of whom are indelibly linked to this strikingly whale-backed hill. Producer: Mark Smalley.
11/26/201524 minutes, 32 seconds
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Prehistoric Gower

Writer Iain Sinclair seeks the UK's oldest burial site in a cave along south Gower's windy clifftops. The 'Red Lady of Paviland' was interred in a cave 26,000 years ago, the bones decorated with red ochre. But, as he tells Helen Mark, "she" was in fact a he, buried with jewellery and alongside a mammoth's skull. This was at a time when the Bristol Channel was a tundra landscape. Best known for his psychogeographic journeyings through unloved modern landscapes and wastelands, such as the M25 perimeter, Sinclair explains to Helen why he's drawn back to the ancient past in this part of south Wales, a place of childhood holidays, and the subject of his latest book, 'Black Apples of Gower'. He's joined by archaeologist Ffion Reynolds, who's a specialist in prehistoric sites, and antiquarian bookseller Jeff Towns. Producer: Mark Smalley.
11/20/201524 minutes, 45 seconds
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Tollesbury Wick in Essex

Helen Mark visits Tollesbury Wick on the Essex coast. Situated on the mouth of Tollesbury Fleet and the Blackwater estuary, a giant sea wall snakes around the coast protecting both village and ancient grazing marshland. Helen meets the Wildlife Trust warden who cares for 650 hectares of unspoilt 'humpy bumpy' marshland and gets a surprise when she finds out what those bumps actually are. She learns about the seafaring history of the place from a descendent of boat builders and discovers how it was the Dutch who shaped this English Landscape. Meanwhile, 'wild writer' James Canton and renowned sculptor, Roland Piche describe how Tollesbury Wick comes alive in art and literature. Tollesbury native Flavian Capes lives in the middle of this vast, salty landscape and discusses being at the mercy of the tides. Producer: Ruth Sanderson.
11/18/201524 minutes, 50 seconds
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Big Chill in Llanthony

Twenty years ago The Big Chill festival pioneered the concept of the boutique festival. Helen Mark meets founder Pete Lawrence as he returns to the magical Llanthony Valley where the first festival was staged. Together they explore the history of this unique landscape which has attracted artists and seekers of solitude since the 13th Century. The imposing ruins of Llanthony Priory have been painted by Turner and it is here where Pete first decided to hold an event characterised by music in keeping with the surroundings. Just down the road is the Maes-Y-Beran camping ground where the event took place, 500 music lovers congregated on Wyndham Morgan's farm in 1995 and Ariane Morgan has fond memories of that time. Helen takes Pete to remember that day along with some of the musicians and festival goers who were there.
10/29/201524 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Peak District

Helen Mark is in the Peak District to meet Mountain Rescue Team who keep visitors safe should they come a cropper when enjoying the rugged countryside. The Peak District is one of the most popular destinations in the world as over half the UK's population lives within an hour of the area. Helen takes to two wheels to discover the network of traffic-free cycle tracks, before meeting the Buxton Mountain Rescue team on one of their exercises. The summer is one of their busiest of times and they regularly train so that they are ready for any situation that they are faced with. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
9/3/201524 minutes, 29 seconds
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The Glenfinnan Gathering

The Glenfinnan Gathering is an annual Highland games event that takes place on the shores of Loch Shiel, on the west coast of Scotland, in the shadow of the Jacobite Monument every August. It has now been running for over 50 years and commemorates the raising the standard by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. The Gathering features traditional Highland games events: hammer throwing, caber tossing, traditional dancing and piped bands. It's a chance for people from the local area to compete with their friends and neighbours. Helen Mark meets the organisers, competitors and spectators who all make this event a vital part of the local calendar and discovers what links these folk to the landscape and the history that they celebrate. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
8/27/201524 minutes, 32 seconds
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Cornish Alps

From a ferry, Helen sees the sharp, conical peaks that dominate the coastline, known locally as the Cornish Alps. The skipper, John Wood, explains how they were formed from the spoils of the clay industry. Helen takes a closer look at one of the largest of the spoil heaps near St Austell, known as the Sky Tip, and talks to primary school teacher Ann Teague and local landlord Andrew Dean about why they think it is such an important landmark. They explain how they see beauty in the scarred industrial landscape, and are campaigning to prevent a new town being built near the peak. Helen then comes across a reunion of former clay workers at the Wheal Martyn museum, where she meets Arthur Northey and Colin Knellor. They started working in the industry as boys of fourteen and as well as recounting stories from their lives working in clay, they tell Helen that they would welcome development on the brownfield sites where the clay mines once stood. From a viewing platform high above a quarry, Helen looks down at the lunar landscape of a working clay mine. Her guide is Ivor Bowditch who worked as a mine captain, then as a spokesperson for the china clay industry. He shows Helen what the mining company has done to regenerate the land after the clay has been taken from it. One of the main projects is a series of clay trails through the landscape, which Helen then explores with a group of walkers. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Beth McLeod.
8/20/201524 minutes, 29 seconds
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Jersey Shores

Jersey doubles in size when the tide goes out. Helen Mark discovers what the retreating waters reveal, from the evidence of our Neanderthal ancestors to the extraordinary marine life of the island's reefs. At La Rocque three local guides take her across miles of treacherous shifting sands to Seymour Tower, built to defend Jersey against the French but used by the German occupiers. On the north coast she meets Dusty, the first red-billed chough to be born in the wild in Jersey for a hundred years and in the south-east she searches for evidence of the Neanderthal people who left more evidence of their existence here than in the rest of the British Isles combined. Producer: Alasdair Cross.
8/13/201524 minutes, 58 seconds
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Thomas Hardy's Dorset

Thomas Hardy is one of England's most enduring writers. 175 years after his birth a new film of 'Far From the Madding Crowd' has recently been released and like the original version from 1967 it features scenes shot in the beautiful Dorset countryside. For Hardy the heathland, forests and rivers which surrounded his birthplace at Higher Bockhampton near Dorchester were more than a backdrop. Landscape in Hardy's novel is central to the narrative and it is his vivid descriptions of the stunning setting in which he grew up that lend authenticity and magic to what he wrote. Helen Mark visits Dorset to discover the countryside which Hardy disguised as 'Wessex' in novels such as 'Tess of the D'urbervilles', 'Return of the Native', 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and 'Jude the Obscure' and hears how this landscape is now inspiring new writers in their work.
8/6/201524 minutes, 26 seconds
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Rathlin Island

Helen Mark visits Rathlin Island situated just off the North Coast of Antrim. Despite having a population of just over a hundred people, Rathlin Island is a thriving community. Its rugged landscape is home to a population of farmers and fishers, and supports thousands of sea birds. Each year around thirty thousand tourists flock to the island and Helen discovers what its like to live there during the busy summer months, and once the tourists have left and the island is quiet once more in the winter months. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
7/30/201524 minutes, 34 seconds
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The North Antrim Coast

Helen Mark takes to the seas to explore the North Antrim Coastline, taking in Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede from the water. She meets Robin Ruddock who teaches people to kayak along this coast and is joined by experts from Ulster Wildlife who tell her about the Living Seas project and the richness and diversity of marine life found in the waters off the North Antrim Coast. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: martin Poyntz-Roberts.
7/23/201524 minutes, 33 seconds
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Ospreys in Cumbria

Caz Graham goes in search of Cumbria's regular visiting ospreys at a selection of locations in the Lake District. Once extinct in England, Ospreys are now thriving in the UK. Breeding pairs are well established in Scotland and for several years they have become regular visitors to the Lake District. Caz travels to Foulshaw Moss, a nature reserve on the side of the busy A590, just south of Kendal, where a nesting pair have made their home and are raising three chicks. Whilst there she encounters a host of rare butterflies, dragonflies and moths, along with a big fat toad sheltering from the summer sunshine under a corrugated iron canopy. She also finds several slow worms trying to keep cool and unnoticed by predators that maybe roaming. A few miles from Foulsahw Moss is Esthwaite Water and here Caz meets with Natalie Cooper from the National Trust. Natalie recounts the relationship Beatrix Potter had with the area and in particular Estwaite Water itself as it is just a short distance from Hill Top Farm, where she once lived. Then Caz takes to the water, cutting through Jeremy Fisher's lily-pads as she goes in search of the lake's own resident Ospreys, and visits the parts of the lake that the birds are known to hunt. But will she find them? Presenter: Caz Graham Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
7/22/201524 minutes, 28 seconds
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Celebrating Golowan in Cornwall

Golowan is the Cornish tradition of lighting Midsummer Bonfires. This ancient tradition which hopes to prolong the summer sun for a good harvest was revived by The Old Cornish Society. Helen Mark meets some of their members to learn how they hope to keep the unique identity of this place alive and well. On Bodmin Moor and Kit Hill there are reminders of man's habitation going back 5000 years. The fires they light on Bodmin Moor each year hark back to pre-historic times and scattered around the moor are Neolithic monuments which bear testament to man's long history in this 'ritual landscape'. Writer Philip Marsden explains how his search for the 'Spirit of Place' began on the moors and then spread deep into the heart of the Cornish landscape and its people.
7/9/201524 minutes, 43 seconds
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The Lengthsman with Antony Gormley

The Landmark Trust exists to save endangered important buildings and to enable people to inhabit them. For their 50th anniversary they invited one of our most celebrated artists Sir Antony Gormley to create a sculpture at 5 iconic locations across the country. The centre point of these 5 pieces is The Lengthsmans Cottage in Lowsonford which sits on the side of the Stratford-Upon-Avon canal in Warwickshire. Each work of art has been composed in direct response to the landscape which surrounds them and here the figure perches on the very edge of the lock gazing down into the depths of the rushing water as the calm yet industrious life of the canal unfolds below. Helen Mark meets Sir Antony Gormley as he returns to the site for a final inspection and he explains how for him this figure represents our need to reconnect with our industrial heritage, man's essential drive to make things. As the programme unfolds we hear more about the secret life of the canal, the people who keep it running and the wildlife that live along it. Perhaps an unlikely spot to find the work of such an influential artist, Helen discovers that the canal in fact provides a perfect gallery as those who use it can view and react to the figure as they float by.
7/2/201524 minutes, 37 seconds
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The ancient sport of hound trailing in Cumbria

Helen Mark visits Cumbria to watch the exciting and ancient sport of hound trailing. At the May Day races, she meets owners Wendy and Russell Dawson who treat their dogs like royalty. Cared for like athletes, they eat chicken and rabbit, and are bathed before a race. They are trained from pups to follow a scent, but it's a gamble if any will have the instincts of a champion. Helen walks the trail, which is scented with aniseed and paraffin, and meets owner Margaret Baxter who explains why this traditional male sport is now dominated by women. The actual races can be up to 10 miles long, which the dogs run in about 35 minutes, and from high up on Kirkstone Pass, the owners and followers watch - and place bets - as the dogs speed towards the finish line.
5/14/201524 minutes, 35 seconds
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Landscape Art in Northumberland

Caz Graham visits the Northumberland countryside to discover stunning art in the landscape, produced by Iranian artist Khosro Adibi. Khosro is a visual artist from Iran. He's lived in Europe for several years now and has created site-specific environmental sculptures and land art pieces in the landscape. He has been artist in residence at Tarset in Northumberland since August last year. His work involves carving directly into sandstone, reminiscent of the pre-historic cup and ring marks that can be found in Northumberland. Caz also meets some archaeologists who spot similarities in Khosro's work to the ancient markings that are found in the area. Presenter: Caz Graham Producer Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
5/7/201524 minutes, 24 seconds
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The Solway Shore

Caz Graham visits the shores of Solway Firth to discover the folk and wildlife that live around the stunning coastline. Caz pulls on her wellies and heads to the shoreline at low tide with the help of Ann Lingard. Ann is a 'low-tide' guide and leads Caz on a tromp through a rarely explored landscape: one of rock pools and rare reefs. Ann shows Caz the home of the honeycomb worm, Sabellaria. The creature creates a reef close to the low water mark and it is exposed at low tide. They also visit a submerged forest that the sea reveals when the tide rolls back. Caz meets former miner Tom Norman to find out more about the Solway coast's industrial heritage. At the site of the former Haig Colliery in Whitehaven Tom recounts tales of mining under the sea dating back to the 1700s. Mining was enormously important in shaping the industrial past of Whitehaven and the towns along the coast. It, along with fishing, was the main employer in the area. Further up the Solway Firth, where England and Scotland are a stone's throw away, Caz is given a lesson in Haaf Net fishing by Mark Messenger and Mark Graham. They are two of a dying breed fishing using a method that dates back to Viking times that involves standing chest-deep in the Solway Firth with a wide net to catch salmon and trout. Presenter: Caz Graham Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
4/23/201524 minutes, 24 seconds
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The Hoo Peninsula

In the marshy landscape of the Hoo Peninsula you can find much of British history. Saxon and Roman remains point to mans first efforts to hold back the sea and use this land for agriculture. The Churchyard in Cooling provides the backdrop for one of Dickens best known works 'Great Expectations'. In Cliffe you can find the remains of an Edwardian explosives factory and at the RSPB reserve on Northward Hill what is left of a radio station used in the Second World War. Today the military history of the area remains but at Lodge Hill the unused Ministry of Defence site has now become home to a substantial nightingale population. This is the great irony of The Hoo landscape, we can clearly see the imprint of heavy industry at places like Grain where we find essential power stations and infrastructure yet it's isolation has also made this place attractive to birds and rare wildlife. Helen Mark explores this unique part of Kent and uncovers just some of the stories which exist beside the container ports and farmland.
4/9/201524 minutes, 44 seconds
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CS Lewis Nature Reserve, Oxfordshire

65 years after the first publication of The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe, Helen Mark discovers a real life Narnia in the form of a tranquil Oxfordshire woodland that once belonged to CS Lewis. It is said that Lewis enjoyed wandering here while writing his children's book series which includes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and that he and his brother 'Warnie' planted trees amongst the woodland. The reserve - now owned and managed by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust - was Lewis's back garden. At that time, the area of Risinghurst was a rural escape on the fringes of Oxford. Today, with the A40 nearby and surrounded by houses, this small area of land has managed to keep its sense of stillness. Lewis's red brick home 'The Kilns', still nestles to the edge of the reserve. Today it is cared for by The CS Lewis Foundation and as Helen discovers, it still holds strong memories for CS Lewis's former secretary and friend, Walter Hooper. CS Lewis was laid to rest in the grounds of the church where he worshipped, just a short walk away, at Holy Trinity Church Headington Quarry. Including interviews with Reserve Warden Mark Bradfield, local historian Mike Stranks, Rev David Beckmann and Walter Hooper. Presented by Helen Mark Produced by Nicola Humphries.
4/2/201524 minutes, 28 seconds
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Shetland is the most northerly part of the UK. The archipelago of islands is home to 23,000 people, who are nearer to Norway than they are to Edinburgh. Helen Mark travels to Lerwick to visit the annual Up Helly Aa fire festival, during which a thousand torches are set alight, and which culminates in the burning of a replica Viking longboat. She also finds out about the wildlife and archaeology of the islands, and visits Scalloway to learn about the "Shetland Bus" - a secret WW2 operation which used undercover fishing boats to send supplies and munitions to the Resistance in Nazi-occupied Norway. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Emma Campbell.
2/5/201524 minutes, 34 seconds
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Churchill's Chartwell in Kent

To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill, Helen Mark heads to Chartwell in Kent to explore the family home and gardens. Churchill bought the home in 1922 to live in with his wife Clementine and their children and remained here until his death in 1965. As well as making structural changes to the grounds he used it as an inspiration for writing and painting and it's been maintained to reflect how he kept it. Helen asks what Chartwell tells us about the man - to so many a great leader - but also a father, husband and nature lover. Producer: Anne-Marie Bullock.
2/2/201524 minutes, 41 seconds
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The Ring of Gullion

Helen Mark visits the Ring Of Gullion in Northern Ireland to discover it's ancient geographical features that are now attracting visitors from all over the world. The Ring Of Gullion is in South Armagh, near the border with Ireland. For years the area was an area that was dangerous during the troubles and so overlooked by tourists, but the locals have aware of it's beauty, wildlife and ancient history, packed with myths and legends for centuries. Now the area is trying to attract visitors and put itself firmly on the map as an area with plenty to attract visitors from all over the world. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
1/29/201524 minutes, 33 seconds
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The Purbeck Clay Mines

Helen Mark explores the clay mining history of Dorset's picturesque Isle of Purbeck. Purbeck may look like an unspoilt rural holiday destination, but in reality it is an area steeped in industrial heritage - dictated by the clay mining industry which began as far back as Roman times and took flight when Sir Walter Raleigh bought tobacco to England and created a demand for clay pipes. The landscape is sculpted by traces of this industry and tales from the days of picking clay out by candle light are still shared by mining communities to this day but in the 21st century it's diggers and trucks that do the hard labour that ensures Purbeck's clay goes worldwide. Featuring interviews with author Chris Legg, Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum Chairman Peter Sills, Learning & Interpretation Officer at Purbeck Corfe Castle Pam White, former Mines Manager Norman Vye, retired Mines Forman Mickey White and Chris Cleaves, Safety Director UK Ceramics & UK Ball Clays GM. Produced By Nicola Humphries.
1/15/201524 minutes, 11 seconds
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Wiltshire Wellbeing Group

Helen Mark meets the people who have found the courage to embrace outdoor life. The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust has been running the Well Being Programme since 2008, in partnership with Wiltshire Council Public Health, providing support for people suffering from mental and emotional stress. The programme is available to anyone experiencing issues such as persistent low mood, depression, anxiety or long-term mental health conditions - this includes people who may be experiencing mental health issues on top of physical or mental disability too. Joining them at one of their regular weekly sessions, Helen meets those whose lives have quite literally been transformed by this project - and by embracing the landscape on their doorstep have also found their way back to a happier life. Produced by Nicola Humphries.
1/8/201524 minutes, 10 seconds
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Suffolk Coast

Helen Mark travels to Suffolk, to explore the landscape of the coast and the lives of the people who live near it. She hears about the lost city of Dunwich, which in Medieval times was a thriving commercial port, but was gradually claimed by the sea, leaving only a village still standing today. She also hears about the birds which can be found on the RSPB nature reserve nearby, and meets an artist whose life and work are inspired by the sea. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Emma Campbell.
1/1/201524 minutes, 28 seconds
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Dart Estuary

The Dart Estuary is one of South Devon's longest and most spectacular ria valleys. The surrounding area is a honeypot for visitors, and the boat trip along the estuary is one of the most popular attractions. Helen Mark visits during the calm tranquillity of winter, taking a boat from Dittisham to Dartmouth exploring the Dart's industries, habitats and naval history. Helen meets skipper Dave Eggins at the village of Dittisham and they embark down the river soaking up some of the sights on the way. Their first stop is to meet oyster farmer Pat Tucker at a very important time of year as he harvests his oysters for the French market at Christmas. They join him on the first day of a low tide, as the oysters can only be harvested on 25 days of the year when the water is low enough to reveal them. Next Helen and the skipper pop over the river to meet Nigel Mortimer, Estuaries Officer from the South Devon AONB. He sheds light on some of the characteristically important habitats of the estuary such as mudflats, saltmarsh and reed beds and they see if they can spot any of the regular visiting wildlife. Using nets they take a closer look into the mud to see the important worms, snails and bacteria which recycle the organic detritus from the river basin, and which many other species depend on. Helen gets back on the boat to head to the port of Dartmouth where the estuary widens into a deep water harbour. No trip on the Dart would be complete without delving into its long and colourful naval history. She meets David Lingard Chairman of the Dartmouth Museum and retired Royal Navy Commander at the historic Bayard's Cove. He reveals how international trade has shaped the fortune of Dartmouth and other settlements along the Dart over the centuries. Although this global maritime trade may be consigned to the past, the Dart is still used by the Royal Navy today. The Britannia Royal Naval College is an imposing building overlooking the lower estuary with a close connection to the Dart. We meet Lieutenant Commander Sue Bryson on a college jetty to hear about how the estuary provides an excellent environment in which the cadets gain essential seamanship, warfare and leadership training. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Sophie Anton.
12/27/201424 minutes, 15 seconds
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Christmas Trees at Castle Howard

This week Caz Graham visits Castle Howard in Yorkshire. Famous as the setting for 'Brideshead Revisited' the country estate has been gearing up for the festive period for months. In the heart of the Howardian Hills, the estate has around 6,100 acres of farmland. Much of the produce ends up in the farm shop on the estate. There is also 2000 acres of woodland and at this time of year there is only one tree that people are after: Christmas Trees. Caz meets Nick Cooke, the man in charge of making sure that the trees reach the customers in good condition and also responsible for supplying some of Yorkshire's largest towns with their towering Christmas trees. Caz discovers why the Howardian Hills are perfect from growing Christmas trees and gets an insight into what happens in the winter on a large country estate. Presenter: Caz Graham Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
12/18/201424 minutes, 14 seconds
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Nature Reserves in Cumbria

Caz Graham visits two Nature Reserves in Cumbria to find out what happens on wildlife reserves in winter and meets the people working away to maintain these conservation areas. It's cold outside: many birds have flown south for the winter and the smaller mammals have gone into hibernation, but there is still life to be found on nature reserves, if only in the form of teams of conservationists maintaining the area for next year's visitors. Caz heads first to Foulshaw Moss, an expanse of peat bog that has been restored over the past decades to ensure the peat continues to grow and squelches her way around the wet habitat. She then heads to Roudsea Nature Reserve to find a team at work preparing the woodland for the tiny, hibernating dormice that make the area their home. Presenter: Caz Graham Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
12/15/201424 minutes, 19 seconds
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Belfast Hills

Helen Mark makes a trip to the Belfast Hills and hears from the people who live and work in the landscape to discover how their lives have been shaped by the tough environment. The Belfast Hills form an arc around the edge of the city, visible from virtually anywhere in Northern Ireland's capital. Largely ignored by many of those living just a few miles in the city, the hills have always been a bustling centre of life. In fact without the linen industry that thrived in the Belfast Hills, the city would not have prospered. Farming was common, mainly dairy and beef cattle, along with pigs and sheep, and the flax that grew in the hills fed the linen industry. Mills sprung up along with vast 'bleaching greens' to weave and finish the linen before it was taken down to the city to be sold. Helen Mark meets with several local voices that have contributed to the Belfast Hills Spoken History Project: Roy Thompson has farmed in the area all his life; Joan Cosgrove and Rosalind Shaw provide memories of their childhood growing up and running riot in the Belfast Hills. And how has the area changed? Helen finds out how the Belfast Hills are now a destination for those hoping to enjoy walking and the views across the whole of the city. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.
12/4/201424 minutes, 15 seconds
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Brownsea Island, Dorset

After a trip to Brownsea Island in 1818, George, the Prince Regent declared "'I had no idea I had such a delightful spot in my kingdom'. It may only be 1.5 miles long and 0.75 miles wide but this 500 acre island is full of history, mystery and wildlife. Felicity Evans takes a boat across and meets Claire Dixon of The National Trust, who took over the island in 1963. As Claire explains, many previous inhabitants have left their mark on Brownsea. Colonel Waugh and his wife Mary were walking along the beach in the early 19th century when she got her umbrella stuck in the sand, pulled it out and discovered clay. They built the village of Maryland and started a pottery. At a newly excavated site, you can see some of the cottages that were built for the potters. She also tells the story of the eccentric recluse, Mrs Mary Bonham Christie who threw all the inhabitants off the island and patrolled the beaches with a shotgun. She handed it back to nature and for 45 years, animals, birds and the rhododendron ran wild. Then it's a walk to spot red squirrels with ranger John Lamming, who's lived on the island for over 30 years. Brownsea is one of the few places you can see this highly protected animal and in autumn they are easy to spot, burying food on the woodland floor. Felicity then heads to a low hide over the saltwater lagoon, to meet Reserve manager, Chris Thain, of the Dorset Wildlife Trust to see and hear about the huge diversity of birds that frequent this area. Finally, to the flattest part of the island where Lord Baden Powell hosted his first experimental Scout camp in 1907. Next to a huge memorial stone to the movement, Scout Commissioner, Kevin Philips explains how Brownsea is still visited by thousands of Scouts and Guides every year. Youth group leader and Girl Guide, Amanda Shorey encourages Felicity to have a go at den building, low ropes and archery, just some of the activities going on in The Outdoor Centre. Presenter: Felicity Evans Producer: Julia Hayball.
11/27/201424 minutes, 16 seconds
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Steart Peninsula, Somerset

Felicity Evans visits Steart Marshes on Somerset's Steart Peninsular just as the sea wall is breached to transform this landscape. Rising sea levels are putting the squeeze on wildlife along the coast and also leaving coastal villages under threat of flooding, but earlier this year, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (The WWT) and the Environment Agency began the creation of the UK's largest new wetland reserve. The sea wall was purposely breached to create an inter-tidal range that will see the development of salt marsh - a habitat that is currently under threat. As WWT Warden Alys Laver explained, in making the breach, Steart Marshes will create safe habitats for rare species whilst also offering a flood defence for the nearby villages. It will also provide an accessible nature reserve for the local community right on their doorstep. For PhD student Adam George of the local Bridgwater College, it's a unique opportunity to study the effects - and possible benefits - of salt marsh creation whilst for Steart's dedicated volunteers - including 14 year old Jo - it's a chance to watch a whole landscape change in their lifetime.
11/20/201424 minutes, 9 seconds
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Lee Valley

Where can you find a hill that looks like an Inca monument but which is in fact an old nitroglycerin factory? The answer can be found in the Lee Valley, a green and watery wedge that grows and flows from Hertfordshire and Essex through northeast London to The River Thames. Occupying a liminal space between rural countryside and the industrial, the Lee Valley presents a surprising landscape - where nature has come back reclaim the monuments of an industrial past. Helen Mark travels down the Lee Valley and its waterways to explore how for centuries it was a crucial thriving hub of industry before falling into decline until more recently experiencing regeneration of its natural spaces. She visits the Royal Gunpowder Mills, Kings Weir Cottage, Glasshouses, The Waterworks and the Lee Navigation to meet people who work on and live by the Lee Valley's historical waterways; people like Barbara the wife of one of the navigation's last weir-keepers. Presenter: Helen Mark Producer: Melanie Brown.
11/13/201424 minutes, 29 seconds
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Orchards in Herefordshire

Felicity Evans visits the autumnal orchards of Herefordshire and discovers how centuries of cider production have shaped this landscape. For at least 350 years there has been cider production in this area and there are over 800 orchards across the Wye Valley, which make a significant contribution to the beautiful countryside. Norman Stanier's family have lived in this area for generations and are deeply rooted ('scuse the pun') in the apple industry here. He shares his passion for this landscape and explains how centuries ago these local enterprises caught the eye of Gladstone's government as they sought to do away with the 'Yankee Apples' and how today, this area has become 'The Big Apple' of the UK. Featuring visits to a variety of cider and perry producers - from small scale ametuer production to award winning artisan ciders and global scale distribution from Europes largest cider factory. Produced by Nicola Humphries.
11/6/201424 minutes, 17 seconds
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Elmley Nature Reserve

As Open Country returns for a new series, Helen Mark ventures to The Isle of Sheppey where she becomes immersed both in the marsh swathed landscape of Elmley Nature Reserve and the infectious enthusiasm of the man who oversaw its creation. Elmley is the only National Nature Reserve in the UK to be managed by a farming family and this unique status is down to the forward thinking of farmer Philip Merricks. Bumping along the ridge of the reserve's sea wall in his trusty 4x4, Philip introduces Helen to this historic Kent landscape, accompanied by the flight of lapwing and wigeon. It's an area that is believed to have inspired Charles Dickens in the writing of 'Great Expectations' but as Helen discovers, it has also inspired an even bigger story of ground breaking conservation. During the 1980's, farmers were paid compensation for turning land over to wildlife but Philip felt that this was unproductive for both farmers and wildlife and so wrote - what he calls - a fairly strong letter to the House of Commons Select Committee that had been tasked with finding a solution to what was becoming a rural battle ground. Remarkably, Philip's letter found its way into Parliament and his ideas were held up as a potential way forward. Thirty years on Philip's enthusiasm and dedication to this one of a kind nature reserve is as strong as it ever and now - with the support and care of long standing farm manger Steve Gorden - Philip's daughter Georgina and son-in-law Gareth are moving forward with sharing this special place with visitors and encouraging that passion for farming and conservation that Philip began decades ago. Produced by Nicola Humphries.
10/30/201424 minutes, 14 seconds
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Dennis Potter and the Forest of Dean

"Strange and beautiful, a heart shaped place between two rivers" is how television playwright and author, Dennis Potter described the Forest of Dean, where he grew up. On the 20th anniversary of his death, Felicity Evans explores the landscape that shaped much of his work. The Forest has a rich industrial heritage which Forester and Freeminer, Rich Daniels explains at the former site of the New Fancy coal mine. The old spoil heap now provides spectacular views across the Forest. In the distance, you can see Cannop Ponds and the pit where Dennis' father was a miner. Then it's to Berry Hill, the place where Potter grew up and visited frequently with his own family. Firstly to "Spion Kop", the Potter family home where artist John Belcher now lives and then onto some of the locations used in Potter's work. Felicity meets historian and verderer, Ian Standing who talks about his role in upholding Forest law and culture and shows us the oak trees that Lord Nelson planted. Finally from the ancient forest to the very modern as we visit a nearby café in Coleford to talk to teenagers from the Forest Youth Forum about what it's like to live in the Forest of Dean today. How does the landscape affect them? Dennis Potter was concerned that the "New Foresters" would have no sense of community and not realise how special and unique it is. Were his fears unfounded?
9/11/201424 minutes, 15 seconds
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The John Muir Way

A young boy - John Muir - spent his early years in Scotland, playing along Dunbar's coast and scrambling across rocks. This early fascination with nature and 'wild places' later saw him campaign to protect them. When his family emigrated to the USA it led him on a path that would see him appeal directly to the president and help create the National Parks. Today he's known by most American schoolchildren but he is not so widely known in the UK. Helen Mark sets off on the new coast to coast John Muir Way from Dunbar to Helensburgh, named after the man but leading through his native country. She visits the town where he revelled in nature, hikes along some of the route with poets who've planted trees and created new writing inspired by his work and takes in Helix Park and the Kelpies - a dramatic modern designed landscape - far from the wilderness which Muir revelled in but which is bringing together thousands from the local community into the outdoors. Presented by Helen Mark and produced by Anne-Marie Bullock.
9/4/201424 minutes, 43 seconds
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The Needles, Isle of Wight

Helen Mark visits one of the Isle of Wight's great attractions, those famous chalk cliffs, The Needles, at the western end of the island. These iconic white stacks march out to sea, back towards the Dorset coast, that they used to be joined to a mere 10,000 years ago. Tony Tutton of the National Trust shares the great views across the Solent with Helen, describing how treacherous the waters beneath them can sometimes be to competing sailors, and how vicious the winds can be. Helen also unpicks a Cold War secret that lurks amongst the Needles: in the 1950s, the Victorian gun battery here became the test site for the British space missile programme. We hear from former rocketeer Mike Elliott, who used to work on the Black Knight system. By contrast, Jamie Marsh, Reserves Officer with the Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, shows Helen the impact of the sea at Bouldnor, where old oaks, part of a landslip wood, are being rapidly undercut by the sea - the nearest to a mangrove swamp that you could hope to find in the UK. Producer: Mark Smalley.
8/28/201424 minutes, 15 seconds
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Cheshire Salt

Look at any map of the district around Northwich in Cheshire and you'll see that it's dotted with numerous lakes, called flashes. What have these got to do with salt? Felicity Evans is astonished to learn that they've been created by the unregulated extraction of rock salt, which has been exploited for industrial as well as culinary purposes since the 1700s. We'll hear that salt crystals were evaporated from brine in huge pans at numerous salt works across the county, the firewood for which saw the loss of the county's forests. Meanwhile, the rock salt was hewn deep underground then, just as it is today. In fact, Felicity goes underground at Winsford when she visits the Salt Union's massive caverns, so vast they have a similar volume to that of fifty St Pauls cathedrals. Felicity meets salt historian and archaeologist Andrew Fielding, as well as Kelly Fletcher, Heritage Officer with Middlewich Town Council. Industrial archaeologist Chris Hewitson shows Felicity around the Lion Salt Works, which open to the public next year, while at Winsford rock salt mine, Felicity goes underground with mine manager, Gary Sinclair. Producer: Mark Smalley.
8/21/201424 minutes, 27 seconds
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Chalk Streams

Revered by fly fishermen, Helen Mark visits the famous chalk streams of Hampshire and Wiltshire to find out about their particular ecology. With their trademark gravel beds and gin-clear waters, chalk streams are one of the very few habitats that are almost entirely exclusive to England. Helen begins at Salisbury's Harnham Water Meadows, close to the city's cathedral, with its well known limestone spire, from the spot where Constable painted his view of the scene. She hears that the meadows act like a sponge, and without them absorbing the heavy rainfall last winter, flooding in the Salisbury area would have been considerably worse. She meets Jan Fitzjohn and Tim Tatton-Brown, Trustees of the water meadows, who tell her about the winter 'drownings' of this low-lying land, which gave a distinct economic advantage to southern England's once vital sheep and wool industry. The irrigation of the water meadows achieved this by encouraging the early growth of spring grass, known as the 'first bite'. We also meet grazier Rob Hawke, whose sheep today feed on the pastures, in the shadow of Salisbury's spire. Then, in the Hampshire village of Nether Wallop (the Wallop being a tributary of the celebrated trout stream, the Test) Helen finds out about the patient art of fly fishing from writer Simon Cooper. Producer: Mark Smalley.
8/14/201424 minutes, 15 seconds
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The Bournville Legacy

As the Cadbury family sought to expand their growing chocolate business in the late 19th century they also developed their vision for a better quality of life for the people of Birmingham. Buying 300 acres of land they created a model village they called Bournville, helping people escape the slums to good quality housing with gardens and fruit trees, green open spaces, churches and sports facilities. Today the Trust that runs the estate has expanded it to a thousand acres and residents often speak of being able to smell the chocolate from the factory. Felicity Evans visits the South Birmingham town to see how George Cadbury's work and ethos continues today. She visits some of the first houses built and talks to lifelong residents and former Cadbury workers about what made the area special. She visits Rowheath Pavilion, 90 years after its creation, to hear how it still hosts sports teams and community events but also looks out for those in need of support. She also ascends the village's carillon tower, built by George after an inspiring trip to Belgium. The 4-octave, 48 bell instrument is still played each Saturday. Carilloneur Trevor Workman explains how it's one of only a handful in the UK and gives a demonstration of how it should be played - with gusto! But modern residents of Bournville aren't the only ones to benefit. The new village of Lightmoor is being developed near Telford to establish the same community benefits George envisioned. But can community still be formed in the modern day and without the original chocolate factory. Presented by Felicity Evans Produced in Bristol by Anne-Marie Bullock.
8/7/201424 minutes, 45 seconds
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Slate Mines, Snowdonia

Snowdonia's slate once roofed the world, employing thousands of workers across scores of mines in North Wales. But that was in its heyday, in Victorian times. Today, whilst the industry still exists, it employs just 350 people. Helen Mark finds out what's become of the abandoned slate quarries and caverns today. Some are now places of leisure, with zip wires above ground, trampolines in underground slate caverns, and with scuba diving opportunities in flooded quarries, but others, as Helen discovers at Dorothea mine, are rapidly being reclaimed by nature. Producer: Mark Smalley.
7/31/201424 minutes, 17 seconds
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Butser Ancient Farm, Hampshire

How did people live on the land 2,000 years ago, during the Iron Age? Helen Mark finds out when she visits Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield in Hampshire, very much a living experiment in practical archaeology. Founded 42 years ago by Peter Reynolds, Helen hears that Butser still operates as a kind of laboratory that looks into how our ancestors lived. For example, Butser's thatched roundhouses are built according to the exact dimensions found at digs in the vicinity, along the wooded hills and valleys of the South Downs. Butser director Maureen Page shows Helen the sheep they keep, which are genetically close to those kept by Iron Age farmers. Experienced thatcher and roundhouse builder, Dave Freeman, demonstrates how to lay Norfolk reed as a roofing material. However, we hear the reed isn't from Norfolk or anywhere in the UK, but from Turkey. This is because our reeds simply aren't up to the job, affected by chemical runoff from the fields into our waterways. Meanwhile Butser's resident experimental archaeologist, Ryan Watts, shows Helen the canoe he successfully made last summer from a fallen oak, hollowing it out with fire, and finishing it off with bronze axes that they cast on site. Producer: Mark Smalley.
7/24/201424 minutes, 30 seconds
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Hafod, Mid Wales

Once, the Hafod estate near Aberystwyth was one of Wales' most popular attractions, but that was 200 years ago. Then the grand stately home burnt down, and by 1950 the landscaped grounds (inspired by visions of classical Italy - unlikely as that might sound, given the extremely high annual rainfall in mid-Wales!) had fallen into disrepair, off the map, and out of the guidebooks. That's when the Forestry Commission bought the estate and planted it with conifers. As Felicity Evans finds out, in recent years there's been an ongoing programme to restore the fine paths through the estate's wooded hills, and preserve the ancient parkland trees that still remain. This makes it a fascinating place to visit. She's shown around by estate manager, David Newnham, landscape historian Jennie Macve (who's written a history of Hafod, and its remarkable founder, Thomas Johnes) and the botanist Ray Wood. Felicity also visits the nearby Llywernog Silver Lead Mine to meet Peter Lloyd Harvey who shows her how this mine reveals a very different attitude to landscape in the early Victorian period: it was far from being a tourist attraction for visiting gentry. Producer: Mark Smalley.
7/17/201424 minutes, 17 seconds
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Rural Murals in Dumfries and Galloway

"Turn right at the psychedelic hay barn". The new landmark is easy to spot and has brought a smile and a surprise to many passing through Newton Stewart. The British landscape has inspired thousands of artists and Helen Mark travels through Dumfries and Galloway to see how teams of street artists have been working on 'rural murals' adorning old hay barns, slurry tankers and horse coats offered up by locals as a new canvas. While they may divide opinion, those on the Mull of Galloway say it's helped connect them with the rest of the region. She also stops off at the carved 'rosnes benches' - designed to make you stop, lie down and take a very different perspective on your surroundings. Presented by Helen Mark. Produced in Bristol by Anne-Marie Bullock.
7/10/201424 minutes, 33 seconds
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Tour de Yorkshire

With the whole of Yorkshire gearing up to welcome the pelotons of the Tour de France, Helen Mark heads for the scene of Le Grand Depart in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Travelling at a somewhat slower pace than the Yellow Jerseys, she soaks up some of the history of this beauty spot in 'God's Own County'. The first stop is to Aysgarth Falls, a cascading flight of tumbling waterfalls carved out by the River Ure. National Parks Ranger Cathy Bergs tells us about the geology of the 'triple falls' and some of the many creatures which call it home, and lets us in on the frantic preparations being made for the coming onslaught of people for the Tour de France. From there, it's 'on yer bike!' with Gia Margolis and the Wheel Easy cycling club - "a club for those who don't wear lycra", for a trip to the infamous Buttertubs Pass. One of the toughest climbs on the UK legs of the Tour route, Gia explains what makes it such a haven for cyclists and tries to convince Helen that the impossible climb is worth it! At the top, Helen peers into the 20 metre deep limestone potholes which dot the countryside - the 'Buttertubs' themselves. Historic Environment Officer Robert White helps us separate fact from fiction, and tells us about the history of lead mining in the area. But while the mining industry might be consigned to history, the mines themselves are not! Our final stop is at Hard Level Gill Mine, where we meet local heroes Pete Roe and Tony Harrison. They are part of a caving group who delve beneath the Dales to explore the ancient mine-shafts, mapping them and repairing them. We venture inside the mouth of one shaft, and imagine life lived kilometres below the surface of the beautiful Dales. Produced in Bristol by Emily Knight.
7/3/201424 minutes, 40 seconds
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Life on Coquet Island

Helen Mark visits Coquet Island, a sanctuary for some of Britain's rarest nesting sea birds. It's also home to the world's first 'puffin piano'... Coquet Island is an RSPB reserve which due to the rarity of some of its winged visitors, is protected under European Law and no-one is allowed to set foot on it without special permission. There's no running water and no mains electricity, but every summer a small, dedicated team of wardens and volunteers lead by Paul Morrison take up residence on Coquet Island to ensure that the thousands of birds who migrate there will thrive and live secularly for the duration of their stay, including Britain's rarest nesting sea bird, the roseate tern. Just a mile off the coast of Amble, Northumberland, the reserve is also rich in human history and has been occupied since the 7th Century, initially as a monastic cell and later a lighthouse station. The buildings now provide simple accommodation for those who come to care for the birds. There's no running water or mains power but should they become stranded, assistant warden Wesley Davies has created a board game called 'Coquet-opoly' to while away the hours... and that's not all... Many thousands of nesting Sandwich, Arctic and common terns accompany the roseates in May, June and July, whilst thousands of puffins occupy the main part of the island - and this year they will be treated to their own, fully functioning piano... Each year Wesley creates new items for these naturally curious creatures to play with (there's also been an Olympic stadium and a pirate ship), the filming of which feeds into social media outlets to raise awareness about the valuable conservation work that takes place on Coquet to protect this precious environment.
5/15/201424 minutes, 47 seconds
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Brooklands Racetrack

With the growing Formula 1 schedule and following, there's an increasing appetite for motor racing. Helen Mark heads to Weybridge in Surrey to visit Brooklands - claimed to be the world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit to hear how one Hugh Locke-King's passion for speed led him to have the track designed and built on his land, almost bankrupting him. The site was used for land speed records even before the first race and also became a centre for aviation development. It reached its heyday in the 1920s and 30s but World War II saw it taken over by the Ministry of Defence and its decline as a circuit. Enthusiasts from the Brooklands Society fought to preserve it - both by digging the track free of overgrowing weeds and by getting it listed - and the museum continues to celebrate the records and achievements marked in its history. Malcolm Campbell's grandson Don Wales shares about his family's love of the track. Helen Mark heads to the track in style - in a 1929 four and a half litre Bentley - to see how it's used today. Members of the Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) take tests, both of vehicles and drivers, around planned courses but how will Helen fare on her spin up test hill and the historic banking? Produced in Bristol by Anne-Marie Bullock.
5/8/201424 minutes, 46 seconds
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The Avon Gorge, Bristol

With Brunel's iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge towering over head, pull on your hiking boots and join Felicity Evans as she steps away from Bristol's busy city streets and delves into the dense undergrowth of the Avon Gorge. As a haven for rare plant species, it's been classed as one of the top three botanical sites in England and with peregrine falcons circling overhead and goats roaming the land below, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in the most wild of rural landscapes - but in reality you are just a stone's throw from Bristol's City Centre. Felicity meets with botanist and rock climber Libby Houston, who for over 30 years has explored the craggy edges of the Avon Gorge, identifying and even discovering rare plant species - one of which, 'Houston's White Beam', bears her name. Further along the gorge Felicity joins Ben Scouse as he does his daily check on his six 'hairy conservationists' otherwise known as the six billy goats who have been bought in to graze the land in order to support the cultivation of the rare plants. Looking upwards, author and naturalist Ed Drewitt takes Felicity peregrine spotting and reveals their history with the gorge and their royal connections and finally, Merchant Venturer Francis Greenacre explains how this land - so close to a city - came to be preserved as a wild and wonderful open space.
5/1/201424 minutes, 31 seconds
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Walking on Water, Isles of Scilly

Without quite walking on water, Helen Mark uses a very low spring tide to walk between Tresco and Bryher, two of the Isles of Scilly. She meets people who delight in what is revealed on the seabed, such as 3,000 year old Neolithic field walls, indicating the time when the islands were a single landmass. Local harbour master Henry Birch stands with Helen at the mid point between the islands which normally sits 5 meters below the sea. Helen hears how it's all possible because of what must surely be one the best words to have up your sleeve during a game of Scrabble: syzgy, which is when the sun, moon and earth are aligned creating the extreme highs and lows known as spring tides. Producer: Mark Smalley.
4/24/201424 minutes, 37 seconds
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Heritage Cotton Mills, Derbyshire

Helen Mark visits the Derwent Valley, an area dotted with old, looming cotton mill structures to discover what the future holds for these 'industrial giants' of the landscape. At the turn of the 19th Century, Britain was world leader in cotton manufacturing and home to the largest industrial complexes on the planet. The last spinning machines closed in 2003 and the UK now produces zero amount of cotton, but the awesome brick structures still tower over the Derbyshire Countryside. Stretching 15 miles down the river valley from Matlock Bath to Derby, the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site contains a fascinating series of historic mill complexes, including some of the world's first 'modern' factories. But how can these structures remain relevant rather than redundant? Visiting Cromford Mills, The Belper River Gardens and the beautiful natural landscape that surrounds these giant structures, Helen meets the people whose passion keeps this history alive.
4/17/201424 minutes, 20 seconds
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Brecon Beacons, Waterfall Country

Felicity Evans visits the waterfalls and swallow holes at the western end of the Brecon Beacons, and discovers that besides its natural beauty, it's an area with a rich industrial heritage. Today its deep, mossy ravines are of great interest to walkers and potholers. But the waterfalls, Felicity discovers, gave rise to local industries - including a gunpowder works, and the silica mines provided firebricks that were shipped around the world. She even walks behind one of the waterfalls, Sgwd Y Eira, the waterfall of snow. Producer: Mark Smalley.
4/10/201424 minutes, 28 seconds
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British Raj in the Peak District

We might think we know the Peak District quite well, but in reality it has many secrets and many stories still to tell, such as its connection with British Imperial India. Helen Mark travels with National Park Ranger Chamu Kuppuswamy as they discover the Indian heritage tucked amongst the wild hills of The Peak District National Park.
4/3/201424 minutes, 32 seconds
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Chelford Cattle Market

Helen Mark travels to Chelford Cattle Market in Cheshire, along with hundreds of buyers and sellers from across the UK. It was first formed over a century ago and has weathered the storms of the foot and mouth outbreak and BSE crisis which resulted in many others closing down altogether. It still nestles on the edge of the village of Chelford, next to the station, as livestock used to be delivered by rail. Like many others though, it has plans to move out to newer facilities closer to the motorway network. The market has sales of more than just cattle - sheep, pigs, poultry and goats but also machinery and horticulture. Helen joins auctioneer Gwyn Williams as he balances 'on the plank' above the pigs and sheep but even from that vantage point the subtle nods and winks of the bidders can be hard to spot for a novice. Not everyone is a buyer though. Helen meets some farmers simply scouting the market for prices and for many it's a great social occasion and an opportunity to catch up on gossip. But keep that between us. Produced in Bristol by Anne-Marie Bullock.
3/27/201424 minutes, 45 seconds
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Common Ground, Dorset

For thirty years, the arts and environment organisation Common Ground has used Dorset as a kind of laboratory for its work celebrating local distinctiveness, before rolling their projects out elsewhere around the UK. Helen Mark hears from Common Ground co-founder Sue Clifford why they began Apple Day events near her home in Shaftesbury, as a way of celebrating and protecting old apple orchards. Helen also meets the sculptor Peter Randall-Page who was commissioned to carve some small wayside sculptures along a footpath above Lulworth Cove, and the composer Karen Wimhurst reflects on Confluence, the three year music project she was involved in that celebrated the river Stour, from its source to the sea. But now that the Common Ground co-founders are retiring, Helen also meets Adrian Cooper, who's taken the helm, and is steering the organisation into new waters. Producer: Mark Smalley.
2/6/201424 minutes, 35 seconds
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Helen Mark visits the small Gloucestershire village of Adlestrop that inspired Edward Thomas' famous eponymous poem when his steam train unexpectedly stopped there 100 years ago, on the eve of war. Helen meets Ian Morton of the Edward Thomas Fellowship to find out more about the poet who died in combat in 1917, as well as people who live and work in this beautiful corner of the Cotswolds. She visits Daylesford, the nearby large organic farm operation, makers of their own Adlestrop cheese, and hears about the Wychwood Forest Project. Producer: Mark Smalley.
1/30/201424 minutes, 29 seconds
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Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage

Helen Mark explores the aviation heritage of Lincolnshire, a county criss-crossed with former airfields, and finds out how they are being used today. She visits Woodhall Spa's airfield, once home to the Dambusters squadron and until recently, a sand and gravel quarry. Bordered by nature reserves, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust aim to buy the airfield and return it to the heathland it once was, as described by local Victorian naturalist, Joseph Burdett-Davey. Evidence of its past remains in the form of concrete and tarmac runways, lakes which were formed by sand excavation and more surprisingly, alien plants that arrived on the kit of the Australian and New Zealand air-crews who worked here in the 1940s. Helen meets Dora Garner who lived on the edge of the airfield in 1942. She recalls playing on the planes, writing messages on bombs in chalk, and one morning discovering the nose of a Lancaster bomber three yards from the bedroom window, after it slipped its moorings in the night. Open Country takes a trip to the Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby to meet Harold Panton and his family. Harold and his brother Fred built a chicken farm on the old runway there, which now sits side-by-side with their privately owned museum. It's the only place in the country where you can still take a taxy-ride in a Lancaster Bomber. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
1/23/201423 minutes, 52 seconds
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Falkland Centre for Stewardship

The Falkland estate in rural Fife is very different to traditional family-owned estates in Scotland. Felicity Evans meets Ninian Stuart, who is using his inheritance to increase public access to the woods and fields that make up this 1,900 hectare estate, which is 35 miles north of Edinburgh. She hears how Ninian's set up the Centre for Stewardship which actively involves schools, playgroups and many others in Fife's wider community to make the most of the estate's varied landscape. It's a former royal hunting estate where Felicity meets Dr Simon Taylor who's been researching Falkland's Trenches, now understood to have been a way of funnelling red deer towards the royal hunting parties. She also meets playgroup leaders who bring children to the estate's woods so that they can benefit from playing in nature. Ninian Stuart explains why he's using some of his prime arable land for the benefit of people who'd like to start new smallholdings from scratch. Producer: Mark Smalley.
1/16/201424 minutes, 19 seconds
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Strangford Lough

Helen Mark goes to Strangford Lough, one of the richest marine environments within the United Kingdom, to meet the people who love its isolation and beauty. She talks to Michael Faulkner who moved to Islandmore on the Lough after his business collapsed. For him and his wife, living alone on the island was a time to reflect. This was also the place Michael's father escaped to for family holidays. He was Brian Faulkner, the last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1971-72, who presided over some of Ulster's most tumultuous times. To find out about the wildlife of the lough, Helen meets Andrew Upton, manager with the National Trust and a keen bird watcher. Helen finishes her day listening to flute player Ben Healey who is keen to keep the heritage of Irish music alive. These are some of the people who work, play and rest on Strangford Lough. Produced in Bristol by Perminder Khatkar.
1/9/201424 minutes, 13 seconds
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The Legacy of Flodden Field

The Battle of Flodden was a turning point in the history of the UK, setting the stage for the subsequent Union of the Crowns between Scotland and England in 1603. The border village of Branxton lays claim to having the "smallest visitor centre in the world". Housed in a converted telephone box, this unique project - dedicated to the Battle of Flodden - is the brain child of Clive Hallam-Baker a battle expert who lives just opposite. Flodden was the largest battle fought between England and Scotland. However today, Clive reflects on the joy of being a 'borderer' - living happily across the land of two countries. Lord Joicey owns much of the land that bore witness to the Battle of Flodden. His estate is located in England but in working the land itself he shares the same issues as his neighbour just a mile away in Scotland. He values his cross border friendships and discusses the geographical quirks of this border that lead to his wife coming 'up' from Scotland to marry him in England. Archaeologist Chris Burgess has been working with groups from both sides of the borders to understand more fully the landscape where the Battle of Flodden took place. Volunteers have come to commemorate their past and to enjoy each other's company in the present. Just a few miles from the battle ground is the border village of Crookham. Here, the United Reformed Church has created a peace garden and centre for reconciliation. Designed by Dougie James, Rev Dave Herbert and Rev Mary Taylor explain how this is a truly cross-borders initiative which they hope will provide a quiet and peaceful place for people to relax, reflect and perhaps find closure.
1/2/201424 minutes, 5 seconds
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Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire

Helen Mark visits Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire to talk about how the estate's shoot forms part of the landscape management and a desire for locally-sourced produce. It also provides the farm shop and restaurant with festive fare, including pigeon burgers. James Birch is Doddington's owner, (his wife's family have owned the estate continuously for around four hundred years). Shooting has always been part of life here and even now there's a full-time gamekeeper, who doubles as security guard and fly-tipping preventer. The game from the shoot is used in the restaurant and is cooked by Chris Maclure, senior sous-chef, who makes sure nothing goes to waste. Helen talks to university lecturer- turned-florist Rachel Petheram, who loves the challenge of using only locally-grown flowers and herbs in her Christmas displays. Helen also goes beating with Will Birkett, a young gamekeeper preparing for a day's shooting with his gun dogs. Producer...Mary Ward-Lowery.
12/26/201324 minutes, 2 seconds
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Royal Haslar Hospital

The Royal Haslar Hospital in Gosport was created in the 18th century to provide care for the sick and injured from naval conflicts. It later treated other military personnel and in the last few decades before its closure in 2009 went on to treat civilian patients. The site bursts with centuries of history, having seen patients from battles including Trafalgar, the Crimean War, both World Wars and many others. The staff treated allied troops and prisoners of war. Felicity Evans explores the site, hearing from former staff who treated patients at different periods and have become fascinated by its history. She takes in the range of buildings from the Admiral's house, to the medical wards - including G block where those with shell shock were treated - staff quarters and the memorial gardens and she pays tribute to the thousands buried in unmarked graves in the Paddock. The site is held with high affection locally and Felicity also speaks to the developers behind plans to reopen the site, building on its heritage of health care. Presented by Felicity Evans. Produced in Bristol by Anne-Marie Bullock.
12/19/201324 minutes, 40 seconds
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Shropshire Union Canal

Felicity Evans travels along the backwaters of the Shropshire Union Canal meeting people who've adopted a new area as their own. Starting out near Beeston she joins Wirral Autistic Society who have adopted a 2 mile stretch of the canal, which they've used regularly, to maintain its upkeep. She sets to work and finds out how it's changed how they feel about the area. Along the way she helps monitor the hedgerows which were introduced when the canals were created to stop stock entering the waterways. Now many sections are in poor condition but they need to be improved to help a rare moth which has adopted it as its own. Travelling on to Ellesmere Port and the National Waterways Museum finds out who still use the canals and how a new generation are learning the traditional skills to rebuild and restore heritage boats. Produced in Bristol by Anne-Marie Bullock.
12/12/201324 minutes, 36 seconds
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Romney Marsh

Tales of smuggling and 'lookers huts' unfold as Helen Mark explores Romney Marsh in Kent. Historically, this great coastal marshland was the result of reclamation of land from the sea, and is the site of an on-going battle to drain it and keep the sea from taking it back. Throughout the centuries life on the Marsh had been difficult, but by the 19th century the economy and the landscape was dominated by sheep; the Romney Marsh sheep. Today, alongside the sheep the area boasts a Nuclear power station at Dungeness, sitting in stark contrast to the shingle landscape of the National Nature Reserve it neighbours. This, along with the 14 medieval churches which dot the landscape, is what gives Romney Marsh it's unique character. Produced by Perminder Khatkar.
12/5/201324 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Birds of Lindisfarne

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is probably best known for its medieval religious heritage and in the summer months pilgrims from all walks of life flock to the island and swell its community of 160 to over 650,000. But in the winter it's the birds that flock here, taking refuge on this holy land during their winter migration. Helen Mark arrives on Holy Island just as the birds do and learns about their unique relationship with this island. Bird Historian, Ian Kerr has been visiting the island for more than 30 years and knows of 318 species that have been recorded. He also knows the long and complex relationship the birds have with this landscape and the generations of islanders. Legend has it that St Cuthbert laid down rules for the protection of nesting Eiders, making him Britain's first conservationists - whilst in later centuries, islanders recruited Goldcrests to clear their cottages of spiders and flies. Laura Scott is a ranger at the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve which annually welcomes over half the world's population of pale bellied Brent Geese. They are attracted to the mudflats and the special grasses that grow there. Whilst the birds come for the special habitats that the island provides, they bring with them many gifts. For Rev David Peel, a United Reformed Church Minister and long-time birder, they are a reflection of God's beauty and design, offering moments of transcendence. For award winning Northumberland based writer Ann Cleeves, author of ITV's Drama Series 'Vera' and BBC's 'Shetland' series, the birds are an integral part of building a landscape and creating an atmosphere and Holy Island - a place that she first visited with her retired RSPB warden and keen birder husband Tim - is full of this rich bird life and atmosphere.
11/21/201324 minutes, 16 seconds
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Moseley Bog

Felicity Evans visits the land that inspired Tolkien's Middle Earth and discovers how this Birmingham Bog also kick started the Urban Wildlife Movement. From the ages of four to eight , J.R.R. Tolkien, author of 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings', lived with his mother and brother opposite Sarehole Mill on the Wake Green Road in Birmingham, a short walk from what is now Moseley Bog and 'Joy's Wood', a local nature reserve. As a boy, it is into this unexpected patch of woodland that Tolkien would disappear - both literally and in his imagination. Years later he would cite this period of his life as the inspiration for the landscapes and characterless of his now legendary books. A century on, urban development of the ever increasing Birmingham City has stopped short of this special site. This rural idyll, just three miles from Birmingham's city centre was preserved by local mum, Joy Fifer who launched a local campaign in the 80's which went on to start a national urban wildlife movement. It is now cared for by enthusiastic volunteers and enjoyed by the local school children who still disappear into this land and their imaginations - much as Tolkien did so many years before them.
11/14/201324 minutes, 8 seconds
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Geocaching in Salcey Forest

The sport of geocaching has become increasingly popular. The modern twist on a treasure hunt involves using GPS to solve clues and follow trails to find caches and the rise of the smartphone has seen its popularity soar. Helen Mark joins hundreds of geocachers in the Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire where people have travelled from across the world to be at the 'mega-event'. The ancient hunting forest was used by Henry VIII but also once saw elephants roam the land. Will the clues help her find out more about its history? Produced in Bristol by Anne-Marie Bullock.
11/7/201324 minutes, 36 seconds
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Restoring Mountsorrel's Long Forgotten Railway

Helen Mark rides a mile and quarter of old railway line that the local people of Mountsorrel in Leicestershire have been restoring over the past six years. It was Steve Cramp who was out walking one weekend that first noticed the over grown and disused railway- he then had a crazy idea to restore the track to it's former glory. Built in 1860 it was used to carry granite and stones from the quarry.Helen spends a day on the railway track and discovers how the project has benefited some volunteers coping with illness and bereavement and even meets a volunteer who comes from Paris to help carry out work on the track. Producer : Perminder Khatkar .
10/31/201324 minutes, 20 seconds
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Celebrating the Plum

Once strewn with apple, pear and plum orchards the Vale of Evesham has been famous for its fruit since the middle ages. Helen Mark visits the Vale to see the work being done to continue the area's heritage of fruit production. In Pershore she spends the day at the annual plum festival, a celebration of the close association the town has had with the fruit for hundreds of years. Here, she meets comedian and conservationist, Alistair McGowan, and hears about his memories of growing up in the area and lifelong fondness for plums. After the boom years of fruit production in the Vale at the end of the nineteenth century, the 1950s saw a decline in the industry and, since then, almost 80% of the orchards have closed in the area. Helen meets Edward Crowther, whose family has run fruit businesses near Evesham for many generations, and hears about the changes in the Vale during the last century. She joins John Porter at Hipton Hill orchard and learns about the work his conservation group is doing to arrest the decline in the number of traditional orchards in the area and restore them to their former glory. Produced by Beatrice Fenton.
9/12/201324 minutes, 45 seconds
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Laurie Lee Land

Helen Mark explores the newly safeguarded 'Laurie Lee Wood' and meets the people who inhabit the 21st Century 'Cider with Rosie' Landscape. Earlier this year Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust had an unprecedented response to its appeal to save a plot of ancient woodland. It had once belonged to Slad Valley's beloved son, Laurie Lee. Having become too much for the author and playwright's remaining family to maintain, the trust launched an appeal to take it over. In this week's Open Country Helen Mark meets the people who saved this land and the community that still find inspiration in this valley today including Julie and Simon Cooper at 'The Cider Farm' where they now handcraft frames for old master paintings, artist Amanda Lawrence who draws inspiration from the natural landscape and captures her work in glass and writer Adam Horovitz who is capturing his own 'Cider with Rosie' experience on paper.
9/5/201324 minutes, 32 seconds
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Beer Quarry Caves

The history of Britain's cathedrals is celebrated but much less so that of the quarries and quarrymen, who hewed the stone they're built of. On this week's Open Country, Helen Mark rectifies that. With her hard hat to hand she goes underground in the South West. She explores Devon's Beer Quarry Caves which supplied Exeter cathedral with the highest quality limestone, reserved for some of the finest carvings in this and many other medieval churches. Helen meets John Scott who fought hard to make sure that the Beer Quarry Caves weren't demolished in the 1980s. John is a master storyteller who conjures the underground world of generations of anonymous masons and quarrymen at the caves, which are open to the public. They're joined by master mason Peter Dare.At Exeter cathedral the archaeologist John Allan shows Helen the tracery windows and high ribbed ceilings, all carved from the characteristic creamy white Beer stone. Producer: Mark Smalley.
8/29/201324 minutes, 23 seconds
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Skiffs on Loch Broom

The skiff - a four-person, coxed rowing boat - was traditionally a common sight in the seas off Scotland's coastal communities. Changes in the populations of these towns and villages, many losing their traditional links with the sea altogether, has meant, though, that the racing of skiffs was becoming less common - until, that is, the advent of the self-build kit skiff. Named the St. Ayles skiff (in honour of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, where the idea was born and which is built on the site of St. Ayles Chapel in Anstruther), the huge popularity of the kit skiff has taken the coastal rowing world by surprise. Communities up and down the coastline have banded together to buy, build and then share their own skiff, with some villages buying more than one and women particularly well-represented in the sport. Helen Mark visits Ullapool for a trip out on Loch Broom in the Ulla with the village's over-forty women's crew, enjoying the calm before attending the opening of the inaugural St. Ayles Skiff World Championships. Crews from around the world, linked only by the fact that they have all bought and built their own St. Ayles skiff, have come together for a week's racing and a celebration of coastal rowing. All agree that the skiff has brought unexpected bonuses to their communities, uniting people in fundraising, in boatbuilding and then, finally, in getting out onto the water together.
8/22/201324 minutes, 25 seconds
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The Ants of Longshaw Estate

Helen Mark visits Longshaw Estate in Derbyshire to meet some very special ants... The northern hairy wood ant has an international, near-threatened conservation status with England's two main populations found in the Peak District (including Longshaw) and in the North York Moors. In a cutting edge experiment in communication and conservation, Samuel Ellis, a biologist from the University of York, will be attaching a one millimetre radio receiver to each ant in a bid to understand how the ants communicate and commute between the vast network of nests. 'The way the ants use this network has important implications for how they interact with their environment. And the way information is passed through the network may even have implications f