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
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
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.
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
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