The Nature of Britain
Alan Titchmarsh is better known as a horticulturalist, tv presenter and an author. However, he also has a keen history in natural history as the landmark television series, The Nature of Britain, demonstrates. The programme looks at 8 different types of landscape in all, and looks at the flora and fauna associated with that landscape. This second programme of the series looked at Farmland Britain and the part that it plays it not only providing food, but shaping the landscape and providing natural habitats.
Farming first began in Britain nearly 5 thousand years ago, but farming methods have changed a lot since those times. Around three quarters of Britain is farmland resembling a patchwork quilt of fields separated by hedgerows, walls and fences. The fields turn different colours with the seasons and according to the crops that are grown – the natural beige of barley; bright yellow of oil seed rape; pale blue of linseed and glorious red of a poppy field.
During the programme we saw:
- the wonder of tens of thousands of rooks swirling and flying in formation as they prepared for migration;
- boxing hares in contention for a female in heat;
- how cows’ manure is the home of many fungi that release their spores into the air and that flies and dung beatles thrive on the manure. The dung beatles are the preferred food of the horseshoe bat.
- that spiders and ladybirds control the population of aphids living on wheat stalks;
- the presence of a thirty-mile dry stone wall on an island in Scotland, that is used to protect the land from the sea, but where sheep live with the seals and prefer seaweed to grass.
- that the edges of farmland are being used to grow wild flowers and house natural habitats.
In the last 15 minutes of the one hour programme, there was a local feature. In the West Midlands area, a farmer in Dunchurch had been encouraging the natural habitat since the 1960s and encouraged children to visit his ponds, woods and hedgerows to discover birds, bugs and fungi.
The BBC have teamed up with the Open University to encourage learning and involvement in projects to monitor the wildlife seen close by.