Let’s get back to nature in new Winterwatch

Tuesday:Winterwatch; (BBC Two, 8pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 12:53 pm

We Brits do love a natural history programme, don’t we?

Over the years we’ve been treated to some extraordinary ones, usually fronted by David Attenborough. He’s still going strong too; his latest offering, The Green Planet, can currently be seen on Sunday evenings on BBC One.

But others have been allowed to get in on the act. In 2005, the Beeb launched one of its longest-running shows of its kind. Springwatch debuted on May 30 and proved so popular that the spin-off Autumnwatch followed later that year. But it wasn’t until 2012 that Winterwatch made it to our screens with a one-off special from the Brecon Beacons.

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Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Iolo Williams

Chris Packham was in front of the camera then, and he’s been a stalwart ever since – what’s more, the new 2022 series marks a decade of the show.

“It’s the collective skill, effort and enthusiasm of the team,” says the naturalist when asked what keeps him coming back for more year after year. “It’s great to be in a workplace where everyone is so focused and driven on producing the best programme that they can.

“I think there’s a real synergy when you move into an environment when everyone is giving 100 per cent; then there’s no option but to give 100 per cent even if you thought otherwise.”

Many people hate the idea of appearing live on TV, where every mistake, twitch or fluffed line will be picked up by the millions of people watching at home. But not Packham – it’s an environment in which he thrives.

“I never get nervous but I always get excited,” he claims. “I relish the challenge, because you know things don’t show up at the right time – or sometimes they don’t show up at all – but that is part of the joy of the programme, it’s the reality of wildlife.

“We are obviously tasked with keeping it interesting, keeping the narrative going, but I always think to myself I’m about to have a conversation with a group of like-minded people sat around a table at the pub. That’s my outlook.

“You obviously want that conversation to be entertaining and informative and enthusiastic, and to be honest that isn’t such a great challenge, those bits are the easy bits.

“It’s illustrating it that can be the tricky part because obviously we’re relying on animals to turn up. It’s great fun.”

Packham and co-presenter Michaela Strachan are returning to the wonderfully named Wild Ken Hill near King’s Lynn in Norfolk for the new run, which will be running for the next fortnight.

They’ll be keeping an eye out for the shy and retiring local residents, which include stoats, pine martens and some of the UK’s rarest owl species.

Rather than travelling to Norfolk, programme regular Iolo Williams is staying at home on the Isle of Mull, where he learns more about its population of golden and white-tailed eagles, as well as otters, hares and short-eared owls.

Plus, Packham’s stepdaughter Megan McCubbin investigates the wildlife at Castle Espie in Northern Ireland.

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