TV: The latest chapter of Springwatch promises a 'wildlife-packed snapshot'

·6-min read
Chris Packham, Iolo Williams and Michaela Strachan
Chris Packham, Iolo Williams and Michaela Strachan

The latest chapter of Springwatch promises a 'wildlife-packed snapshot' of the UK during the season of renewal. Gemma Dunn finds out more

Springwatch is back - and this year it turns its attention to the restorative power of nature.

A staple in the BBC schedule, the Bafta-nominated show (the first instalment in the annual 'Watches' series) will serve up three weeks of live programming designed to inspire audiences to immerse themselves in the best of this season's wildlife.

From pre-recorded films to dozens of live cameras capturing nature's most unpredictable moments, expect everything from an insight into the birth of wild badgers to the romance of cuttlefish to a sneak peek into the homes of the greater horseshoe bat.

It's another chance to take comfort in nature, says host Chris Packham. And he, for one, hopes audiences "haven't forgotten" the crucial lessons learned in recent years.

"I guess part and parcel of our remit is to remind people that it was only two summers ago when they were furiously tweeting and posting about very simple joys of nature they were encountering around their community," begins the naturalist, 61, who returns to the fore alongside his stepdaughter Megan McCubbin, Michaela Strachan and Iolo Williams.

"They had that bit of extra time to look at things, rather than see them, and listen to things, rather than just hear them," he adds, referencing the pandemic. "And so they recognised that nature was everywhere, not just in the countryside, but in the hearts of our cities - and that it was interesting!

"It also played a significant role in stabilising people's mental health. So I think that we are, this season, going to be saying to people, 'Look, don't forget what you learned, there's still an enormous value in engaging with nature'."

It's a matter that features prominently this series, with the introduction of Mindfulness Moments: a 90-second film, free from music or voiceover, that allows viewers to immerse themselves in the sounds and images of pure nature, from frolicking fox cubs to the crashing waves of the Cornish coast.

It's simply about reminding people to reconnect, says Strachan, 56.

"I mean, most of us are still absolutely baffled about what's going on in the world right now..." reasons the presenter. "But it's so important to connect with nature, with the environment, with our natural world, because it brings so much peace and so much solace.

"As Chris said, so many people reconnected with their back gardens and their local wildlife when it was lockdown, and so we've just got to make sure that people don't let go of that again. That their lives don't get so busy and so hectic that they forget to notice what's going on in their own patches."

"There's an opportunity with people working from home more and more frequently," McCubbin, 27, agrees.

"Just by not having that commute and being at home with your gardens, you are seeing more and experiencing more. There are still people holding on to it, it's just keeping that grasp, I suppose."

The line-up of heart-warming stories, all while in the height of breeding season, should provide encouragement aplenty.

And of course viewers are invited to get involved via social media, asking questions and sharing their reactions from the comfort of their own home.

"We have recorded some amazing stories and watched dramas unfold in nests, ponds, and forests across the UK..." Packham teases.

"Audiences will also get a peek into the life of young boars, who explore and affect the forest around them from a very early age. And we also have a great story about the breeding journeys of colourful puffins at Skomer Island."

So where else will we find the show's presenters this spring?

Veteran duo Packham and Strachan will be at Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk, with cameras and stories highlighting the diversity of wildlife in the area. Uniquely for this season, remote live cameras will be rigged on a bee colony, offering special insight into the bees' society and hierarchy too.

Williams will return to one of his favourite wildlife havens of all time, the Isle of Mull, which is home to 22 pairs of white-tailed eagles and 30 golden eagle territories, as well as a wide range of marine life.

And finally, McCubbin - the show's latest recruit - will take viewers on a spring road trip across the North of England, travelling from wild Kielder Forest, to Hauxley Nature Reserve and then concluding her journey in Newcastle.

It's a journey the zoologist is keen to share, having established a relationship with a younger audience since joining the show back in 2020.

"I've been astounded by the number of messages that I get saying, 'It's nice to see the younger generations represented'. And I feel genuinely really honoured to be that for lots of people," she muses.

"I try, with my pieces, to make them slightly different and get the adventurous side out, and I think young people really resonate with that. A lot of people in my own age group have got in contact to say how great it is (too), so I'm very grateful for that opportunity."

McCubbin follows in the footsteps of proud stepfather Packham (the star was in a relationship with her mother Jo for a decade, before splitting when McCubbin was 12).

And with over a decade on the nature series, and a few years shy of four decades in the industry, Packham's career is certainly one to shadow.

He hopes this series of Springwatch (which comes after a great run of viewing figures) will be one of its best yet, with a piqued interest from its core audience and beyond.

"I mean, we're not a programme which is necessarily for hardcore wildlife experts," he realises. "But we're very inviting and we want people who've got even the most cursory interest in the subject to sit down for an hour and take a look at what's living in their backyard.

"So the fact that more (people) seem to be coming over, and our social media activity is higher than ever, suggests that in fact, probably people are sticking with it - and we just want to make sure that that continues," he finishes.

"Obviously if they do, then outside of the Watches, they're more likely to want to look after their communities and maybe campaign occasionally to protect that community if it's ever in danger."

Springwatch returns to BBC Two, tomorrow at 8pm

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