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.
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
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
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
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.