Open Country

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Episodes

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Helen Mark collects more stories from the British countryside.

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Richard Uridge returns to his old stamping ground - and has a close encounter with a dead squirrel.

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Richard Uridge visits an oasis of calm amid an urban Hertfordshire environment and learns, among other things, the art of wooden spoon making.

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Richard Uridge encounters Victor Hugo, green turtles and knitted stockings on a visit to Guernsey.

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Richard Uridge visits the North Wessex Downs where he joins conservation volunteers and learns how to butcher a pig.

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Helen Mark goes tree-felling in Sherwood Forest.

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Helen Mark goes Cuckoo in Marsden.

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Helen Mark visits the Gower Peninsula in South Wales and experiences a spectacular sunset and a blustery dawn chorus.

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Helen Mark explores rural life across the length and breadth of the British Isles.

/ From the Shetland Islands to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, Helen Mark explores rural life.

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Richard Uridge uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

/ Helen Mark discovers the secret underground life of Northamptonshire.

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Richard Uridge uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

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Richard Uridge uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

From the Shetland Islands to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, Richard Uridge explores rural life.

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Richard Uridge explores rural life across the length and breadth of the British isles.

Repeated Thursday.

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Richard Uridge explores rural life across the length and breadth of the British isles.

Repeat.

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Richard Uridge explores rural life across the length and breadth of the British isles.

[Rpt of Sat 6.10pm].

/ Helen Mark uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

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Helen Mark explores rural life across the length and breadth of the British Isles.

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Richard Uridge uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

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From the Shetland Islands to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, Richard Uridge explores rural life.

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Richard Uridge explores rural life across the length and breadth of the British isles.

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Richard Uridge uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

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Helen Mark explores rural life across the length and breadth of the British Isles.

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Open Country uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

From the Shetland Isles to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, open country explores Britain's rural life.

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From the Shetland Isles to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, open country explores Britain's rural life.

From the Shetland Isles to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, the programme explores Britain's rural life.

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From the Shetland Isles to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, the programme explores Britain's rural life.

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More stories and characters from the British countryside.

[Rpt of Saturday 6.10am]

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More stories and characters from the British countryside.

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The programme uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

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We celebrate the oak - the tree that built Britain.

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Richard Uridge takes a 'from dusk 'till dawn' journey around the island of Mull with landscape photographer Colin Prior.

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Richard Uridge makes a spiritual journey to the island of Iona.

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From the Shetland Islands to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, Open Country explores Britain's rural life.

[Rpt of Sat 6.05am]

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From the Shetland Islands to the Channel Islands, from Ireland to East Anglia, Open Country explores Britain's rural life.

2006101920061022

Richard Uridge uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

[Rptd Sun 6.05pm]

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A tour of the British countryside.

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Helen Mark visits Sutton Fen in north Norfolk, recently purchased by the RSPB as its 200th reserve.

She learns about the fen's history and its new purpose, and hears the booming of the bitterns.

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Countryside magazine

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Helen Mark visits Sidmouth in Devon to see how rare certain species of fish have become and how they might be protected.

2007111020071115

Countryside magazine.

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Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark visits North Wales to meet Ian Strurrock, who has spent his life searching for long-forgotten varieties of apple tree and rescuing them from the brink of extinction.

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Matt Baker reports from the Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby.

This popular holiday resort is home to a Goth Festival twice a year, attracting over 4,000 visitors dressed in black from head to toe.

2007120120071206

Matt Baker visits the last working slate mine in England at the top of the remote Honister Pass in the Lake District.

The mine has a contentious recent history, and its future is uncertain.

2007120820071213

Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker explores the old tin mines of Cornwall, the last of which was shut down nine years ago.

As the price of tin soars, however, plans to reopen the South Crofty mine are going ahead.

But does the county's economic future lie in tin or tourism?

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Matt Baker meets Richard and Jason Clarke, who operate the last fishing boat working out of Great Yarmouth.

The brothers are fourth generation fishermen, but they fear that they may be the last to follow the family tradition.

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The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal, near Wrexham, is the UK's only 2008 nomination for World Heritage Site status.

Helen Mark reports.

20080531

Countryside magazine.

Elinor Goodman visits Eymet in the Dordogne to find out why so many Brits have decided to make this part of rural France their home.

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Countryside magazine.

Elinor Goodman visits Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire, where mountain bikers, riders, walkers, and rare plant species all compete for space.

How can the common's owner, the National Trust, balance all these interests?

20080614

Helen Mark rides the Poacher line in Lincolnshire and asks why rural railways are vital to the countryside.

20080619

Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark rides the Poacher line in Lincolnshire and asks why rural railways are vital to the countryside.

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Elinor Goodman visits Glastonbury.

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Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark asks whether animals which have become extinct should be re introduced into the wild in Scotland.

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Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark looks at the work of wildlife police in Tayside, for whom crimes against animals carry the same weight as those against people.

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Matt Baker discovers why bees make the Devon countryside so special.

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Helen Mark follows a mobile library van in Herefordshire to find out how traditional rural services survive in the age of internet mail order and downloading.

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Helen Mark visits Tory Island off the coast of Donegal, a tiny isle steeped in Celtic legend and home to some rare wintering birds.

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Elinor Goodman visits the Chilterns to find out if this part of the UK really does offer the best rural life in Britain.

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Countryside magazine.

Elinor Goodman finds that there is more to West Sussex than stately homes when she visits Markwell Woods, Horndean Parish and the surrounding areas where the next great oil rush may be about to occur.

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Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker goes hopping in Kent, exploring how this essential ingredient in a pint of bitter has influenced the landscape of the Weald and Downs.

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Countryside magazine.

Elinor Goodman explores Lambourn in Berkshire and finds out why horse trainers are having to recruit staff from as far away as India and Brazil to help prepare future champions for the race track.

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Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker goes to Bournemouth to investigate Europe's first artificial surfing reef.

20081025
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Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark finds that spring is in the air on the Isles of Scilly, with the scented narcissi flowering and bird watchers making rare sightings.

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Countryside magazine.

Food critic Charles Campion goes foraging for lunch on the Kent coast.

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Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark investigates the mysterious spate of cockle deaths in Cornwall that have puzzled local cockle farmers and the Environment Agency.

20081115
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Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker investigates traditional freemining in the Forest of Dean.

2008120620081211

Matt Baker finds out about a new project to revive the hydroelectric plant at Grassington in Yorkshire and others like it using a 2,000-year-old invention called Archimedes' Screw.

2008122020081225

Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker reports from a valley in Yorkshire.

Matt Baker reports from a valley in Yorkshire in which an unusually high number of monks and nuns have taken up residence.

2008122720090101

Reporting from the tiny Channel island of Sark.

Reporting from the tiny Channel island of Sark, which has thrown off the last vestiges of feudal rule and has voted for the first time for its own government.

2009010320090108

Matt Baker visits Northumberland to see how the fledgling red kite population is faring.

Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker visits Northumberland to find out what the new year might bring for the fledgling red kite population.

2009011020090115

Helen Mark visits the Black Mountains.

Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark visits the Black Mountains to find out how the credit crunch is affecting people living in one of the most sparsely populated areas of the UK.

2009011720090122

Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker visits the first wild beaver colony in the UK, at Lower Mill Estate nature reserve in Gloucestershire.

Beavers are set to be reintroduced elsewhere in England and in Scotland, and Matt finds out what they might bring with them.

Matt Baker visits the first wild beaver colony in the UK, in Gloucestershire.

2009012420090129

Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker finds out about the role of Morris Dancing in the life of the Cotswolds.

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Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker travels to Essex to see the vast area that the RSPB is turning into a nature reserve.

In a hungry world, can we justify the surrender of prime farmland to the birds?

Matt Baker travels to Essex to see the vast area the RSPB is turning into a nature reserve

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Helen Mark finds out how whisky production has shaped Speyside in Scotland, with the opening of a new 'green' distillery in Roseisle.

Helen Mark finds out how whisky production has shaped Speyside in Scotland.

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Helen Mark finds out how whisky production has shaped Speyside in Scotland, with the opening of a new 'green' distillery in Roseisle.

Matt Baker investigates Cumbria's industrial coastline, which is being given a makeover.

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Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark visits Scotland's rivers to find that the freshwater pearl mussel, already endangered, now faces new threats from unscrupulous thieves who kill all the mussels they gather in the hope of finding a precious pearl inside.

Helen Mark visits Scotland to find that the freshwater pearl mussel faces new threats.

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As Snowdon emerges from a tough winter, Helen Mark meets the people and wildlife that make their home on the highest mountain in Wales.

Helen Mark meets the people and wildlife that make their home on Snowdon.

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Countryside magazine.

Caz Graham joins the tenth anniversary celebrations of Keswick's Theatre by the Lake, which has inspired a revival of Cumbria's literary heritage.

Caz Graham joins the tenth anniversary celebrations of Keswick's Theatre by the Lake.

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Matt Baker investigates how the parklands and wetlands of the Lea Valley are being transformed for the 2012 Olympics into the largest urban park created in Europe for more than 150 years.

Countryside magazine.

How the parklands and wetlands of the Lea Valley are being transformed for London 2012.

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Helen Mark joins archaeologists and descendants to explore the legacy of Abraham Darby, who 300 years ago kick-started the Industrial Revolution from a smelter on the banks of the River Severn.

Helen Mark joins archaeologists and descendants to explore the legacy of Abraham Darby.

2009041120090416

Helen Mark finds out if Canon Frome, an eco-community in Ledbury, could offer a solution to the challenges faced by those who wish to live sustainably outside of cities without building village suburbs.

20090502

Countryside magazine.

The extensive survival of historical records for the Worcestershire village of Rushock enabled historian Peter Edwards to complete his first research project in the early 1970s.

Helen Mark joins Peter as he revisits the village and people and charts the highs and lows of farming in the last 400 years.

In 1972, Peter found a treasure trove of historical documents outlining the farming history of the small rural parish of Rushock.

When he matched the dusty maps and land agents' reports to the fields and farms of the village, a new interest in social history was born.

He spent many months traipsing the fields of the parish looking for agricultural clues to the past and getting to know the people who worked the land.

What changes will Peter see on his return, and will he find the people who helped his research all those years ago?

Helen Mark joins historian Peter Edwards to visit the Worcestershire village of Rushock.

20090509

Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker visits one of the most beautiful yet hard to build railway lines in the country, from Settle to Carlisle.

It was completed in 1876, and over the five years it took to build, hundreds of men, women and children died in the navvy camps set up along its path.

Today it stands as a monument to their work and tragic deaths but 20 years ago it could easily have closed.

A vigorous campaign was set up to save the line and today the numbers who use what is known as Britain's most scenic railway route are increasing.

Matt discovers the history of the line and why it remains so vital for the rural communities it links.

Matt Baker visits one of the railway line between Settle to Carlisle.

20090516

Helen Mark takes to the sea to find out how the perilous conditions of the north Devon coastline have affected life there from prehistory to the present day.

She tours Baggy Point with National Trust archaeologist Shirley Blaylock in search of the first coastal dwellers, attempts the perilous crossing to Lundy Island and crosses the Cornish border to hear the story of Parson Hawker, the eccentric vicar of Morwenstow and purported scourge of the wreckers.

Helen Mark explores the north Devon coastline.

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Matt Baker visits the Brecon Beacons in Wales and learns some survival skills with an ex military trainer who teaches him how to light a fire and set traps.

On a freezing cold day where he's battered by the elements, the bush tucker meal prepared by Adrian Bream of fried squirrel and local herbs is a welcome energy boost as he learns the basics of bushcraft in one of Britain's harshest environments.

He meets some of the residents of the villages in the National Park who are aiming to be carbon negative in five years' time by involving the whole community in several green schemes that make use of some of Wales' greatest natural resources, its rivers, waterfalls and woodlands.

The Welsh Hill pony is also viewed by conservationists as a vital natural asset to the landscape of Wales.

The semi feral ponies are put on the mountains to graze and keep paths and tracks passable, but Matt hears why they are under threat because their numbers are dwindling.

Matt also takes a taxi tour around the area to test the cabbie on his local knowledge as part of a new scheme to encourage visitors to leave their cars at home and use trains and taxis to travel around the Park as a further way of reducing carbon emissions in the area.

Producer: Maggie Ayre.

Matt Baker visits the Brecon Beacons.

20100703

Helen Marks visits Northamptonshire where a new centre is opening for young people to learn about horses and the countryside as a way of developing their confidence.

The work that the Seeds of Change organisation has done so far with young people has had surprising results.

Vulnerable teenagers with low self esteem and some young offenders have been learning how to interact with horses as a way of managing their own emotions and behaviour.

Some of those young people have since gone on to work in agriculture and now the centre is expanding its programme to teach rural skills such as horticulture.

Helen meets some of the new students at work with the horses.

Producer: Maggie Ayre.

Helen Mark discovers a new centre in Northamptonshire for vulnerable teenagers.

20100710

The plans to begin culling badgers in an area of Wales have divided the rural community.

In a special programme, Welsh poet and author Owen Sheers talks to people in Pembrokeshire about the tensions that are running high among neighbouring landowners, some of whom support the decision to cull badgers within a trial zone to try and eradicate TB in cattle.

Producer: Maggie Ayre.

Welsh poet and writer Owen Sheers hears about plans for a badger cull in Pembrokeshire.

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Helen Mark visits Pluckley, a village with the reputation as the most haunted in Britain.

While genuine ghosthunters, with an interest in all things paranormal, bring with them a welcome boost to local businesses, this reputation is not without problems.

In recent years the village has seen an increased police presence due to the sheer number of visitors, particularly around the time of Halloween.

There have been problems of anti-social behaviour which last year led to the parish council cancelling the Halloween festivities.

For this week's Open Country Helen meets some of the villagers, both believers and sceptics, about their experiences in Britain's most haunted village and the impact this has on village life.

During the course of one evening, Helen chats with several residents and finds out about the 12 ghosts that are said to haunt Pluckley before heading back to her hotel room at the haunted Elvey Farm Hotel.

What is life like in Britain's most haunted village? Helen Mark is in Pluckley to find out

20101113

In Open Country this week, Helen Mark visits the Whitelee Plateau in Ayrshire, once a treeless bog grazed by very hardy sheep and cattle but now transformed into a vast conifer plantation of ten million trees.

The 'greening' of the Whitelee Plateau was part of a tremendous shift in land use in Scotland, nearly trebling tree cover in just forty years.

Historian Ruth Tittensor saw the importance of this change in the Ayrshire landscape and recorded the thoughts and feelings of local people affected by the coming of the forest.

She documented enormous social and environmental change, and takes Helen to meet people who remember the plateau before the coming of the trees.

Producer : Moira Hickey.

Helen Mark hears how a forest of ten million conifers changed Ayrshire's Whitelee Plateau.

20101120

In a year that has seen a record rise in the number of people seeking medical help after eating poisonous fungi, Richard Uridge visits the New Forest to hear about the variety of wild mushrooms to be found, the dangers of picking the wrong ones and the problems this can also cause to the ecosystem of the forest.

Richard joins mycologist, John Wright, to hear about his lifelong passion for wild mushrooms and joins him on a forage in the forest to find out how to know what to look for when picking fungi.

Mrs Brigitte Tee is the only person liced to pick and sell New Forest mushrooms.

She tells Richard how her love of wild mushrooms began when she first spotted them from the saddle of her Welsh mountain cob pony over 35 years ago.

Today Mrs Tee is one of the leading authorities on edible wild mushrooms, and supplies a variety of top clients including Fortnum and Masons, the Langham Hotel in London and chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

It is the popularity of TV chefs and cooking shows that Forestry Commission Keeper, Howard Taylor, thinks has increased the public's passion for fungi.

He joins Richard to explain the importance of the relationship that fungi have with other trees and plants in the forest and the dangers of over-picking the many wild mushrooms that grow there.

As well as the obvious dangers of picking poisonous fungi, Howard's remit as a Keeper is also to protect the landscape of the New Forest and the rise in numbers of wild mushroom pickers may lead to an upsetting of the delicate balance of the Forest.

Before Richard leaves the New Forest, he and Mrs Tee are joined by John Macarthur, chef and director of the New Forest Cookery School.

John runs Mushroom Masterclasses and demonstrates to Richard some of the wonderful ways of cooking with wild mushrooms.

Richard Uridge goes foraging for fungi in the New Forest.

20101204

In this weeks Open Country Richard Uridge visits the Norfolk Coast.Better known as an area of coastal erosion, Happisburgh is proving that community spirit is far from eroded as teams of volunteers work tirelessly to protect the local landscape and those who come to enjoy it.

Navigation reform could've seen the Happisburugh lighthouse fall into disrepair but a team of volunteers campaigned to keep it working and 20 years on it's still beaming across the Norfolk high seas.

In view of the red and white tower, a small porter cabin is home to 'Coast Watch' and it's revolving volunteers who daily scan the cliff tops and ocean for ramblers or ships in distress.

And should the alarm be raised, the lifeboat station is on call 24 hours just as it has been for over 40 years to rescue those in need.

Produced by Nicola Humphries.

We explore how the UK's only independent run lighthouse in Happisburgh has survived.

20101218

Helen Mark is in Dorset to hear how the area around Studland Bay could be affected by a proposed Marine Conservation Zone and how one fishy resident has stirred up passions locally.

As parts of the sea around Studland and Swanage are being considered as a possible Marine Conservation Zone, Helen finds out about the possible impacts on the local community; in particular to some of the residents of Studland Bay The bay is home to a colony of breeding sea horses and opinions are divided as to whether the delicate seagrass which is home to these creatures can be harmed by the anchoring of boats.

Helen hears from the Seahorse Trust, a charity which has been researching and monitoring the seahorses, and Dr Ken Collins, an expert in seagrass.

Helen also hears from some members of the local community who are concerned about the effects a possible no anchor zone could have on the economy of the area and their way of life.

Helen Mark is in Dorset to find out how marine life can impact on the local community.

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The River Thames was recently selected as the winner of the international Theiss River Prize, an award which celebrates outstanding achievement in river management and restoration.

Fifty years after being declared biologically dead, the Thames scooped the prize thanks to a dramatic turnaround in its environment.

Environment organisations now say that the Thames is the cleanest it has been in more than 150 years, with almost 400 new habitats being created to allow wildlife back to the river which is now teeming with fish, and home to returning salmon, otter and sea trout populations.

Helen Mark begins an exploration of the Thames at Woolwich in South East London with author, Iain Sinclair, who has described the river as a story of ruin and revival and the very lifeblood of London.

Travelling west along the river to the Millennium Bridge, Helen meets up with Fiona Haughey.

Fiona describes herself as an inter-tidal archaeologist and the river as one of the world's largest self-excavating sites and Helen joins her in a beachcombing search for some of the river's neolithic roots.

Further along the river banks at Putney Bridge, Helen finds a group of volunteers from environmental charity, Thames 21.

Led by Vic Richardson, the group are working on Project Habitat, an initiative to enhance certain areas of the River Thames by building artifical islands and river banks to encourage suitable habitats and attract wildlife.

Leaving the city behind, Helen heads out into the Berkshire countryside where she meets Alastair Driver, conservation manager with the Environment Agency.

Cycling along the river through Sonning-on-Thames, Alastair tells Helen how this particular stretch of water near his home now runs crystal clear in the summer and how sheer hard work along the whole of the Thames has resulted in this amazing clean-up story.

Finally, Helen joins volunteer river warden, Dick Mayon White from the River Thames Society, a charity which aims to protect and preserve the river.

Dick takes Helen for a stroll along a stretch of the river near Port Meadow and explains why it means so much to him and why it is so important to preserve the river for future generations.

Helen Mark discovers a dramatic transformation to the waters of the River Thames.

2011011520110120

Snow, biting winds and a tent made to the design used by nomads in Ulaanbaatar...

but Richard Uridge hasn't travelled to Mongolia for this week's Open Country, he's high up on Exmoor.

He meets Hen and Leo - who are braving winter on the moor in pursuit of their dream of a low impact, but not entirely low-tech lifestyle - their pig-farming neighbour and the man who made their yurt.

Producer Steve Peacock.

Meet those who are braving the winter to live like nomads in their yurt high up on Exmoor.

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Portbury Wharf lies on the land between Portishead and Royal Portbury Dock, adjacent to the Severn Estuary.

Helen Mark visits the area's newest developing nature reserve and discovers how local residents are making a unique investment to their natural habitat.

Look one way and you'll see a new housing construction, look the other and your eyes will be met with acres of grazing marsh land, hay meadows, and hedgerows rich in insect life stretching out to the Gordano Valley.

The two are not only linked by their proximity but also by what is thought to be a first of it's kind investment arrangement.

In signing up to live in the new Portbury Wharf housing development, residents are also signing up to pay an annual levy that buys them a stake in the nature reserve on their doorstep.

The residents contribution allows Avon Wildlife Trust to employ a warden and a community officer to pass on wildlife knowledge and organise activities for the Portishead community.

But not everyone wants to pay the levy and there's a fine line between encouraging public use and preserving natural habitats.

Helen Mark meets the local residents who are getting muddy down on the reserve and keeps a look out for traces of their wildlife neighbours including the water vole - Britain's most nationally threatened animal.

Helen Mark meets Bristol city dwellers developing a nature reserve on their doorstep.

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Ponies have roamed the moors of Dartmoor and Bodmin for years and are as much a part of the moors as the heathers that grow there.

But is the very survival of the Dartmoor pony, which is the symbol of the National Park, now under threat? Helen Mark is on Dartmoor to meet some of the people whose lives revolve around the ponies and who are fighting to preserve them and ultimately the moorland on which they roam.

Is the iconic Dartmoor pony under threat? Helen Mark is on Dartmoor to find out.

2011032620110331

Richard Uridge explores the Edgelands around Manchester with poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, who urge us to love the disregarded spaces between the city and countryside.

EDGELANDS By Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts is published by Jonathan Cape

Richard Uridge explores the Edgelands around Manchester.

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The shores of the Durham coastline were once as black as the coal that was tipped into the waves that crashed onto them.

But in recent years an amazing transformation has taken place.

Helen Mark finds out about the Durham Heritage Coast.

Helen Mark visits the transformed landscape of the Durham Heritage Coast.

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Helen Mark is in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire to find out how horses and the natural landscape of Royal Deeside are helping wounded and serving military personnel.

Set up by ex-marine Jock Hutchison and his wife Emma, Horseback UK is a charity aiming to provide a safe and secure environment for soldiers returning from active service or those that have already left, many of whom have suffered injury or acute stress as a result of active service.

The charity uses equine therapy and the value of the great outdoors and nature therapy to provide part of the rehabilitation process for serving personnel and veterans from the UK military.

Helen hears from Jock about their hope that those who have lived their lives on the edge will benefit from the opportunities available to them in the peace and tranquillity of the countryside and the quality of life this offers.

Fundamental to this is the relationship with the horses and the style of Western riding which gives these guys the experience of being a cowboy high up in the saddle and looking down on countryside that they might previously not have noticed as they passed through.

Mixing equine therapy, nature therapy and adventure training the aim is for people to learn about opportunities in the Scottish countryside, including game-keeping, horsemanship, fishing etc.

while getting to know their local community.

Helen hears from Jay Hare and Rick Anderson, two of the people who have benefited from the centre, and also from Eric Baird at the nearby Glen Tanar Estate, one of the areas that is supporting the charity by encouraging people there to become involved in conservation work.

Fundamental to the work of the centre are the horses and the way in which they are used to integrate the people they carry on their backs into the community and countryside of the Royal Deeside landscape.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark is in Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire to find out about Horseback UK.

2011042320110428

Richard Uridge is in Herefordshire at the annual film festival to hear why it's important to bring the cinema experience to rural areas.

On a farm outside the city of Hereford, he discovers a recently rehoused international film archive containing 80,000 documentaries including several old films on life in the Herefordshire countryside dating back to the 1930s that are being preserved as part of our rural heritage.

Richard Uridge visits Herefordshire's rural film festival.

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Dale Farm Traveller site in Essex was started in the 70's.

It's now the largest Irish Traveller site in the UK and as the site has grown so has local opposition.

Today Basildon Council have issued a notice of eviction but the Travellers say they will not leave without a fight.

Helen Mark looks beyond the headlines to ask what this means for the countryside.

Some argue that with the urgent need for housing in the South East we need to look again at our greenbelt land.

The Travellers themselves argue that they are very much a part of the countryside and that they would rather be homeless than be moved into towns.

Whilst Basildon Council argue that we cannot let rules be bent by some, especially when the precious green areas that surround our biggest urban areas are at stake.

How we use our countryside in the future and how we see the Gypsy and Traveller communities as part of this will be a debate which is hard to solve.

Helen Mark visits a Traveller site in Essex and asks who should live in the countryside.

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The Wye historically has been England's greatest salmon river.

However stocks have declined massively as a result of drift nets at sea, estuarine putchers, and continuous removal of stocks caught on rod and line.

In the early sixties a few hundred barbel were released in the River Lugg.

These found their way into the Wye and quickly established themselves from Hay on Wye down to Brockwier.

Today The Wye holds a remarkable population of very long large finned lanky and hard fighting barbel.

The barbel year starts in June but recently some good barbel rivers have declined as a result of otter and mink predation, fish eaten by migrant populations and fish being washed out of or back to main river during flooding.

There are also those who blame the barbel for the decline in salmon.

Richard Uridge goes in search of this hardy fish, asks whether the salmon will ever return and along the way finds some of the most idyllic spots the River Wye has to offer.

Richard Uridge travels the River Wye looking for barbel fish and tranquil waters.

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It's been dubbed the foot and mouth of the tree world.

Phytophthora ramorum or sudden oak death as its commonly known is ravaging forests across the UK resulting in millions of trees being cut down.

The disease has spread from the South West to Wales, the peaks and even as far north as the Isle of Mull.

But experts say they are finding fewer and fewer new outbreaks.

Today on Open Country, Helen Mark visits The South West, the region that's hardest hit, to find out what impact this disease is continuing to have on the countryside and whether there are signs that we are finally getting on top of it.

Presenter: Helen Mark.

Producer : Anna Varle.

Open Country investigates the latest on a disease which is ravaging forests across the UK.

2011111720111119

Today on Open Country, Richard Uridge visits what's known as the jewel of the Channel Islands.

Herm stretches just a mile and a half long.

The whole island is leased by one couple, who own everything on it from the hotel to the beach cafes and all the houses.

58 people live on the Island and all work for the same employer.

Richard Uridge finds out what it's like to live in such a close-knit community and to all work for the same company.

Presenter : Richard Uridge

Producer : Anna Varle.

Richard Uridge meets the 58 residents of Herm who all live and work for just one employer.

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In the second of two programmes on the Channel Islands, Open Country visits Jersey to find out what it was like to live on the Island during the German occupation in World War 2.

The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be seized and for five years, residents lived under Nazi rule.

Now a file of papers which spent decades stuffed in the back of a wardrobe has been found revealing graphic accounts of some of those who were deported to Germany after being caught in acts of resistance.

Richard Uridge investigates why these accounts are only just coming to light.

Presenter: Richard Uridge

Producer : Anna Varle.

Research sheds light on acts of resistance in occupied Jersey during the Second World War.

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British Waterways is responsible for over two thousand miles of canals and navigable rivers across the country.

Next year, it is just one of many bodies preparing to become a charity due to Government cuts.

As part of this new status, the organisation is launching a recruitment drive for volunteers to train as lock keepers.

Today's Open Country, is from Caen Hill locks in Devizes, one of the most impressive and iconic canals in the country.

Jules Hudson finds out how important volunteers will be in maintaining our canals and what the future holds for British Waterways.

Presenter: Jules Hudson

Producer : Anna Varle.

A major recruitment drive is launched for volunteers to help man our waterways.

2011122220111224

This is one of the busiest times of year on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland Coast.

Almost 1,500 seal pups are being born and almost half of these will die in their first three weeks.

Since 1951, wardens have been counting and tagging the pups born on the Farne Islands.

During this time, the number of pups born has trebled, from 500 to 1499, making it the largest English colony of Atlantic grey seals.

When the survey began, scientists knew almost nothing about how seals bred, what they ate or where they went during the winter.

Those early studies on the Farnes were groundbreaking, setting the standard for all later seal research around the world.

The local port, Seahouses, used to be a major fishing town.

During the 1960's and 70's, thousands of seals were shot because they were thought to be a threat to local fish stocks.

Now the town relies more on tourism than fishing.

Jules Hudson visits the Farne Islands to find out more about the research project and to investigate the impact the seals are having on the fishing industry and the local area.

Farne Island is home to the largest colony grey seals, 60 years on we look at the impact.

2011122920111231

The fisherman’s gansey (a word thought to derive from ‘guernsey’) is a seamless woollen pullover worn by generations of seamen for work and at leisure. It was comfortable, practical and tough enough to provide some protection from the elements, and every community had its own pattern (possibly in an effort to identify drowned fishermen) although these patterns were seldom committed to paper. The ganseys of the Moray Firth coastline, the 500 miles between Duncansby Head and Fraserburgh, have become the focus of a three-year project aiming to preserve the heritage of the fishing communities and save the gansey from becoming a historical curiosity. Project workers are working to save existing ganseys, helping local knitting groups to create new ones and encouraging modern interpretations of this most traditional of garments. The gansey, it turns out, is more than a fisherman’s jumper: it’s a potent symbol of lives past and of a community in danger of losing touch with its early fishing roots.

The coastal communities of Moray Firth discuss the importance of preserving the gansey.

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Helen Mark visits the Scottish Highlands to see how a river can shape a village's fortunes

Knockando woolmill, near Aberlour on Speyside, has produced fabric since 1784. Its original machinery has supported families down the centuries and the mill has retained a place at the heart of the local community, working with wool from local sheep and weaving tweed and blankets for the flocks' owners. A break had to come, though, for renovation and renewal work which, it is hoped, will allow it to continue its work into the next century and beyond. The trust which runs the mill is determined that it should continue to be far more than a living museum, so Helen Mark visits Knockando just as the restoration work comes to an end to ask where it might market its products, whether anyone nowadays has the skills to keep it alive, and how the Knockando community can be involved in its survival.

Presenter: Helen Mark.

Producer : Moira Hickey.

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This is the year of the London 2012 Olympic Games. In just 6 months time, 60,000 people are expected to flood into Weymouth and Portland every day for 2 weeks to watch the sailing events. GB has topped the Sailing medals table at the last three Olympic Games. British sailors will be hoping to repeat the feat at London 2012, battling their rivals in Weymouth Bay. Weymouth and Portland have been preparing for this moment since the location of the sailing events was announced over five years ago. The area has seen major developments in terms of the roads, the marina and the esplanade. For this week's Open Country, Helen Mark visits the area to find out how it has prepared to host such a major event and what impact these changes are having on local residents.

Presenter : Helen Mark

Producer : Anna Varle.

With six months to go, Helen Mark investigates if Weymouth is ready for the Olympic Games.

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It's been seven years since hunting with hounds was abolished. But it's claimed the country's hunts, which no longer chase a live animal but a trail of artificial scent instead, are in the best shape anyone can remember. So is the ban working? On Boxing Day, three hundred hunts took place across the country and Agricultural Minister, Jim Paice announced there'd be a vote on whether to repeal the act when there's time in the parliamentary calendar. So on today's Open Country, Helen Mark investigates what the latest is on both sides of the debate.

2012012620120128

Jules Hudson visits an Afghan village in Norfolk used to train soldiers deployed to Kabul.

Deep in the countryside of eastern England, British troops train in a mock Afghan village designed to look, feel, and sound like the real thing. The 30,000-acre training complex allows soldiers to prepare themselves for the cultural and tactical challenges operating in Afghanistan. The facility, built in 2008, is meant to replicate a typical village in Helmand, with houses, shops and open markets, and the exiles playing the role of villagers.

In July 1942 about a thousand men, women and children were compulsorily evacuated from the site north of Thetford. It is an area of heath forming a large part of the unique Norfolk- Suffolk Breckland landscape which was cleared to make way for an army training area where troops could manoeuvre using live ammunition.

On today's Open Country, Jules Hudson visits the site to investigate how important the village is in preparing the troops for Afghanistan and finds out how those displaced from their villages in 1942 feel about the evacuation 70 years on.

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Jules Hudson discovers a hidden landscape, deep beneath the East Anglian fens.

Jules Hudson discovers an ancient landscape buried deep beneath the East Anglian fens which gives, possibly, the best idea yet of what life was like here thousands of years ago. Several wooden boats, spears, swords and other items have been found on the site of a brick quarry, preserved in silt and peat, and researchers say that this is one of the most important Bronze Age sites ever to be found in Britain

Jules hears from David Gibson and Mark Knight of Cambridge University's Archaeological Unit about the history of the Fenland environment and what the discovery of the six boats tells them about the utilisation of the landscape's river system. Amongst the objects that have been found are ancient eel traps, used by some of the first fishermen, and Jules meets Peter Carter who is possibly Fenland's last eel fisherman. Peter takes Jules out on the fens to explain how the the eel traps that have been unearthed at the dig site were made and used and how little this ancient technology has changed over the years. And Maisie Taylor, an expert in prehistoric wood, explains the technology of the boats that have been found and her excitement at the fact that six have been discovered so close to each other. Could there be more?!

Presenter: Jules Hudson

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

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To celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Dickens, Helen Mark visits the Medway towns to find out how important a part the Kent landscape played in Dickens' life and works. Except London - no part of the British Isles features more prominently in Dickens' life than Kent. "Kent Sir - Everybody knows Kent - apples, cherries, hops and women" Mr Jingle, Pickwick Papers. Anyone who's ever thumbed through the likes of Oliver Twist, David Copperfield or The Pickwick Papers will know that the landscape and people of 19th Century Kent provided rich pickings for Dickens. In particular, the clutch of towns around the River Medway including Chatham and Rochester are referenced frequently in Dickens' works. It was growing up here that the author was at his happiest, stockpiling memories he would recycle in later years. Presented by Helen Mark and Produced by Anna Varle.

Open Country explores the importance of the Kent landscape to Charles Dickens

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Flat Holm is the most southerly point in Wales. The Island sits just off the Cardiff Coast. In 1982, the Flat Holm Project was established. The aim was to manage Flat Holm as a local nature reserve and to encourage visitor access and opportunities for education. The Island has a long and varied history having been used by man since prehistoric times. It was farmed for some 800 years and stopped in 1942. It has been fortified twice, most recently during the 2nd World War. The Island has many buildings and structures of historic interest, many are listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments. In this week's Open Country, Helen Mark finds out what life is like for the wardens and volunteers who live on the Island all year round and what is done to prepare the Island for the influx of tourists in the summer. Presented by Helen Mark and Produced by Anna Varle.

Helen Mark investigates the Flat Holm nature reserve off the Cardiff coast.

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Helen Mark explores the landscape around Wenlock Edge in Shropshire.

As the excitement mounts around London 2012 Helen Mark visits Much Wenlock, the birthplace of the modern Olympics, and explores the landscape around Wenlock Edge.

In the small market town of Much Wenlock in rural Shropshire, Dr William Penny Brookes came up with an inspirational way to promote healthy living to local people by devising an annual Games event which led to the rebirth of the Olympics at its classis home in Athens. The Wenlock Olympian Society has continued with the games which are still a unique annual attraction to this day.

Helen Mark hears from some of the people taking part in, and involved with, the Games and also explores the 'living entity' that is Wenlock Edge. This wooded, limestone escarpment stretches for around 17 miles from Craven Arms to Much Wenlock and finds out more about the history, archaeology and wildlife of this incredible landscape.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

*2007121520071220
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Bethan Bell visits Aviemore to see what effect climate change is having on Scottish ski resorts.

The lack of snow is forcing the local tourist industry to seek alternative means of attracting holidaymakers.

*2008010520080110

Helen Mark explores the Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dean.

This series of large sculptures, which includes a giant's chair, a large stained-glass window and a wallpapered tree, was begun 21 years ago by Martin Orrom, who wanted to encourage people to reconnect with the forest environment.

*2008011220080117

Countryside magazine.

In the first of two programmes from Dumfriesshire, Helen Mark visits Wanlockhead and Leadhills, two of the highest villages in Scotland.

She goes panning for gold and sees wild salmon spawning.

*2008012620080131
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Matt Baker visits the New Forest.

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Caroline Sarll visits Tower Colliery in South Wales to find out how a mine is closed down and the land made safe.

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Matt Baker visits two post offices in North Yorkshire.

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Caroline Saarl travels to Longwood Community Forest to meet some of the Ceredigion Young Carers taking time out from their stressful lives to learn about having fun in the outdoors.

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Elinor Goodman visits Eymet in the Dordogne to find out why so many Brits have decided to make this part of rural France their home.

*20080626

The countryside magazine visits the North Kent coast to examine the battle the coast has fought with the sea over the centuries.

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Countryside magazine.

Elinor Goodman visits Glastonbury.

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Elinor Goodman meets the finalists in England's first Green Village competition.

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Matt Baker finds mud, fish and relics in the Bristol Channel.

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Caz Graham visits Northumberland to see how fire has shaped the landscape.

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Helen Mark sails the length of Lough Foyle to find out how the return of a ferry route has reunited the land.

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Matt Baker discovers the latest attempts to save red squirrels from extinction.

Countryside magazine.

Matt Baker visits Cumbria to discover the latest developments in the fight to save the country's red squirrels from potential extinction.

*2008112920081204

Helen Mark visits Mourne in Northern Ireland, a place fabled in song and literature and mooted as the country's first national park.

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Helen Mark chats with owners of small woodlands and the creator of the nation's newest and largest forest, Felix Dennis, who is creating the forest of Dennis.

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Matt Baker discovers the Second World War secrets of the Peak District.

Nestled away in the Peak District are two Second World War 'training grounds'.

The first is the Derwent Valley, with the wide open dam that heard the roar of Lancaster bombers as they prepared for the historic Dambuster raids.

The second is the lesser known Burbage Valley, where in secrecy, British and Canadian troops were trained for war, leaving their battle scars across the landscape.

Burbage Valley is also home to one of the first bomber decoys in the country.

In an extroadinary bid to distract German bombers, a mini-Sheffield was built.

This hoax site comprised an elaborate arrangement of lights and fires contained in baskets and trenches that were designed to replicate Sheffield's railway marshalling yards as seen from the air at night.

This 'model city' was set into action by brave Sheffield men who had to run straight into the decoy to activate it, knowing full well that if they were successful it could mean that they were running to their own graves.

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Countryside magazine.

Helen Mark visits Kielder Water in Northumberland as England's largest reservoir celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Kielder Water is Europe's largest man-made lake.

It was constructed to service the industry in teesside, but just as the dam was being built, that industry was in decline.

A valley was flooded and people lost their homes.

Twenty five years on, Helen Mark finds out whether the new man-made landscape has been a success for local people and the environment.

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In the second of two programmes from Dumfriesshire, Helen Mark visits the town of Sanquhar.

She goes dog sledding and hears of Robbie Burns's close association with the town.

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Helen Mark visits the Western Weald on the border of the South Downs, a unique landscape rich in history.

Campaigners are fighting for the area's inclusion in the South Downs National Park.

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Matt Baker spends the day with a shepherdess in Ashdown Forest.

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Helen Mark visits the south Shropshire town of Church Stretton nestling in the hills that earned it the nickname of Little Switzerland.

The town is currently divided over the issue of building affordable homes, which residents say will compromise the town's beauty and not help the local community.

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Helen Mark investigates willows grown on the Somerset Levels.

Traditionally used for basket making, these are increasingly being harvested for charcoal.

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Helen Mark looks into the demise of rural pubs in Yorkshire and finds a family-run pub in Rippondale which is maintaining its popularity and continuing to serve its local community.

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Helen Mark visits Exmoor, where local farmers and businesses are saving rare butterflies.

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Horse ownership is increasing all over the UK.

Helen Mark visits Yorkshire villages to meet a variety of horse owners of different ages and from very different walks of life.

She finds out why they have taken up riding and asks what effect this will have on the countryside.

* Camel Valley Vineyard2008041920080424

Helen Mark investigates the UK's increasing share of the wine market for consumption at home and abroad.

Both red and white wines are produced at the award winning Camel Valley Vineyard, but their speciality is a sparkling wine which cannot be called Champagne so instead rejoices in the name of Cornwall.

* The Hastings Fishing Fleets *2008042620080501

Helen Mark finds out how sustainable fishing is raising the profile of local food in Hastings.

The town has maintained a successful fishing industry for centuries, and now the fishermen want to show their continued commitment to sustainable fishing.

They want to see Marine Stewardship Council certification, which already covers mackerel and herring, also apply to all Dover sole caught.

02/05/200920090507

Helen Mark joins historian Peter Edwards to visit the Worcestershire village of Rushock.

03/07/201020100708

Helen Mark discovers a new centre in Northamptonshire for vulnerable teenagers.

04/12/201020101209

We explore how the UK's only independent run lighthouse in Happisburgh has survived.

06/08/201120110811

Ordnance Survey, the organisation responsible for mapping every inch of land in England, Scotland and Wales, was set up in 1791 as a military mapping service based in the Tower of London.

It was used to create maps of Britain during the Napoleonic Wars to protect England from the French invasion and the art of map making subsequently played a major role in both World Wars.

Now based in Southampton, the agency has moved from the paper-based hand-drawn maps of its origins, to technologically advanced digital mapping systems in order to cope with the constant changes to the landscape of the country.

Helen Mark visits the Kent coastline to discover how war has shaped the landscape and how important these maps have been in the past and today.

Helen Mark visits Kent to discover the history of the Ordnance Survey after 220 years.

07/05/201120110512

Helen Mark takes a ride on the new Welsh Highland Railway, which eaves Caernarfon and takes in the stunning Snowdonian landscape, before arriving at its destination in Porthmadog.

Along the way Helen hears about the back-breaking work undertaken by hundreds of volunteers to get the railway up and running and about the history of slate mining in the area, which used to rely so heavily on the railways.

She also stops off at the RSPB's Osprey Project at Glaslyn to catch sight of the only breeding pair of ospreys in Wales.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark takes a ride on the Welsh Highland Railway through the landscape of Snowdonia.

09/05/200920090514

Matt Baker visits one of the railway line between Settle to Carlisle.

10/07/201020100715

Welsh poet and writer Owen Sheers hears about plans for a badger cull in Pembrokeshire.

13/11/201020101118

Helen Mark hears how a forest of ten million conifers changed Ayrshire's Whitelee Plateau.

18/12/201020101223

Helen Mark is in Dorset to find out how marine life can impact on the local community.

20/11/201020101125

Richard Uridge goes foraging for fungi in the New Forest.

28/08/201020100902

Richard Uridge visits Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight where the Dabell family have owned and run a theme park on the clifftops for more than 150 years.

In that time much of their and their neighbours' land and property have disappeared over the cliffs due to erosion.

Richard finds that there's a defiant spirit to the people who live in fear of the sea claiming their homes as well as a love and reverence for the power of Nature.

Producer: Maggie Ayre.

Richard Uridge investigates the disappearing village on the Isle of Wight.

28/11/200920091203

Helen Mark is in Northern Ireland to follow the Ballinderry River from mountain to lough.

30/04/201120110505

Barra, Vatersay and Mingulay are three of the southernmost islands of the Outer Herbrides and their shared history is one of survival by moving with the times.

In 1912 the last inhabitants of Mingulay left the island for Barra after the turbulent seas had claimed a boat full of the fishermen who the island relied upon.

Today Mingulay's waters are back in discussion as it has become a proposed area of conservation due to ancient corals which lie beneath.

The islanders of Barra fear that this conservation zone will make it harder for them to make their living from fishing these waters but Scottish Natural Heritage feel the risks to the coral are too high to let activities go on unchecked.

The debate is a heated one but as Helen Mark discovers it is part of a long history of independence from interference from the mainland, a unique past which makes the island stronger today than it perhaps ever has been.

Helen Mark visits Barra in the Outer Hebrides to hear about island life past and future.

30/10/201020101104

What is life like in Britain's most haunted village? Helen Mark is in Pluckley to find out

A Journey Through The New Forest2009111420091119

Matt Baker joins the team involved in a unique restoration project which is using a light railway to help restore areas of New Forest wetland that have been missing since Victorian times.

He takes a wander along part of the 800-metre long rail line, learning more about the project which it is hoped will see the return of habitat and wildlife lost to the forest for years.

Matt also joins the team involved in the hugely successful British-built Steam Car ahead of its triumphant return home to the New Forest after smashing the 100-year-old world land speed record for a steam-powered car.

Finally, Matt reduces his hoof-print even further and rounds off the day at nature's pace by meeting the Suffolk Punch horses of the New Forest Horse-Drawn Omnibus.

Matt Baker discovers some alternative methods of transport in the New Forest.

Aberdeenshire2003092720031002

As the wild mushroom industry sits on a knife edge between bumper crop and abysmal pickings, Helen Mark visits the Muir of Dinnet in Aberdeenshire to meet some local fungi fanatics.

Open Country sent them on a mushroom hunt to see what fungal fancies they could find.

The Muir of Dinnet is situated on the north side of the River Dee and surrounded by two lochs, Davan and Kinord.

To get a full picture of the surrounding countryside Helen met up with Ewen Cemeron, from Scottish Natural Heritage.

Helen found Dick Peebles down near Loch Kinord rummaging for mushrooms.

Dick owns Caledonian Wild Foods, a Glasgow based company that specialises in supplying the catering industry with a vast variety of wild foods, especially mushrooms.

Dick is mad about mushrooms, whether picking, protecting, researching or simply speaking about them; his enthusiasm is infectious.

Unfortunately mushrooms were some what thin on the ground in the Muir of Dinnet so Helen headed north to Culbin Forest in Morayshire where she met up with keen mycologist Liz Holden.

Liz has recently written a list of English names for the 3000 species of fungi found in Britain.

Previously the mushrooms had only their Latin names which are almost impossible for the novice to remember.

Thanks to Liz's work names such as Lemon Disco and Rooting Poisonpie are now common place in the mushroom world!

Back at the Muir of Dinett near Loch Kinord, still faced with a lack of chanterelles and ceps, Helen met Ann Miller who has found a unique way cultivating mushrooms.

As Anne explains growing Shittake mushrooms on logs and Oyster Mushrooms on toilet rolls is much easier than many people would think!

With the group back together again and comparing bounties, Jimmy and Amanda Graham were kind enough to cook them for us! James is a top Scottish chef and the husband and wife team own the acclaimed restaurant Ostlers Close in Cupar, Fife.

Being big mushroom enthusiasts, they refuse to buy mushrooms and the menu always revolves around what mushrooms have been gathered that day.

Ardtornish20101127

In Open Country this week, Helen Mark visits Ardtornish Estate in Morvern, in the western Highlands of Scotland.

The estate, covering around sixty square miles of hill, woodland, rivers and lochs, has been in the Raven family for three generations, and Helen is here to see how the way it is managed has changed over the years.

The present trustees are harnessing the power of the rainfall, which is never in short supply in this part of the world, to supply electricity to the National Grid.

Estate manager Angus Robertson and farm stock manager James Laurie discuss the changes they have seen at Ardtornish, while Faith Raven, who was born as her father bought the estate, tells Helen why change and continuity can go hand in hand in the Highlands.

Producer: Moira Hickey.

Helen Mark visits Ardtornish estate in Morvern, in the western Highlands of Scotland.

Ardtornish20101202

Helen Mark visits Ardtornish estate in Morvern, in the western Highlands of Scotland.

Atlantic College At 502012112920121201

Felicity Evans visits Atlantic College in South Wales - set up to promote peace.

The 12th century St Donat's castle in South Wales was once home to media mogul William Randolph Hearst - subject of Citizen Kane. Fifty years ago it became the home of Atlantic College, a unique educational establishment bringing together students from around the world in the hope of promoting peace and understanding and to overcome the problems of the Cold War. Felicity Evans explores the campus grounds, meeting students past and present, to find out how an alternative education has influenced their lives. She asks how serving the community and working on the land - including running the organic farm and lifeboat unit - has helped shape their views and plans for the future.

Beasts Of Brighton2012111520121117

Helen Mark finds surprising wildlife in the city of Brighton.

Helen Mark visits Brighton to find surprising wildlife in the city. She finds an urban flock of sheep grazing on ancient chalk downland areas in the city. Their gentle nibbling is kinder to wildlife than mowing and ensures that green spaces stay clear for wildlife and people. Helen meets a volunteer shepherd in charge of watching the sheep through the winter months.

Nearby, Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Wildlife Project works with excluded school pupils growing vegetables and gardening for wildlife. Helen is shown the project's tree house, outdoor clay oven, turf sofa, and traditional bee hive. Now a thriving garden run by an army of volunteers the original piece of land, hidden away behind Moulsecoomb railway station, had been left overgrown and derelict for nearly twenty years.

Down on Brighton's beach Helen joins Huw Morgan from Sussex Wildlife Trust as he splashes around in rock pools with children from a local school. Their city centre school lacks green space for them to explore so the beach is the perfect place for them to run free and learn about marine wildlife and sustainable fishing.

Producer Beatrice Fenton.

Blue Moon2009122620091231

Helen Mark celebrates December's Blue Moon with artist Elspeth Owen, who is living outside and walking every night as part of an eccentric and unique project.

When there are two full moons in one calendar month, the second of those moons is called a Blue Moon.

Elspeth Owen, who is in her 70s, has decided to live outside between the first full moon (on the 2nd of December) and the second full moon (on the 31st).

She wants to discover something about the dark, about fear and about using her senses differently.

For this Open Country special, Helen Mark visits Elspeth, who lives in the Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester, when the sky is at its darkest - mid-way through her project.

Helen Mark celebrates December's Blue Moon with artist Elspeth Owen.

Bluebird's Return To Coniston Water20100508

Matt Baker is in Coniston to find out about the planned return to the water of Donald Campbell's iconic boat, Bluebird, and what this will mean to the village which has protected it since it crashed in 1967.

When Donald Campbell died on Coniston Water in January 1967 attempting to break his own water speed record, it was to many people the end of an era.

They would always remember where they were when the iconic images of Bluebird crashing and disintegrating on the lake appeared on TV screens and the story broke across the world.

On 8 March 2001, after 34 years underwater, Donald Campbell's ill-fated craft, Bluebird, was raised from the deep by wreck finder and engineer, Bill Smith, and later that year on 28 May Donald Campbell's remains were recovered.

In September 2001, he was finally laid to rest in the churchyard in Coniston.

Now his daughter Gina, who shares her father's addiction to speed, wants Bluebird restored to her 'beautiful, magnificent self', in the hope of inspiring the next generation of racers, engineers and adventurers.

She joins Matt in Coniston to explain why and how it is of the utmost importance that both her father and Bluebird remain in Coniston, a community which took Donald Campbell in and made him him one of its own.

Bill Smith, the man responsible for raising Bluebird from Coniston Water, takes Matt to the spot from which he dived to the bottom of the lake and discovered the wreck when he was grabbed on the foot by Bluebird's tail fin.

He describes the moment when he also discovered Campbell's body after Gina Campbell had asked him to look for her father.

Anthony 'Robbie' Robinson has lived in Coniston all his life and was a member of Donald Campbell's team on that fateful day in 1967.

Standing on the jetty at Pier Cottage, from where Campbell left on that fateful morning, he tells Matt how it felt to watch Bluebird flip over and disappear into the lake.

At Donald Campbell's graveside, Matt meets Steve Hogarth, vocalist with Marillion whose lyrics inspired Bill Smith to first dive for Bluebird back in 1996.

Although only 8 years old at the time, the memory of his mother crying when the boat crashed never left Steve and found its way into song years later, a song which he was invited to sing at Donald's funeral....'Three hundred miles an hour on water, in your purpose built machine'.

Gina Campbell has now given Bluebird to the Ruskin Museum and, more importantly, to the village and people of Coniston who protected her father and the crash site for so long.

Matt hears from the curator of the museum, Vicky Slowe about what this means to the museum and the local community.

Who will take the seat in that famous cockpit? What will this mean for the community of this quiet Cumbrian village which has become synonymous with the names Campbell and Bluebird? Where behind the Black Bull Inn and Hotel the Coniston Brewing Company turns out Bluebird Bitter and where walkers and visitors can enjoy the views over the lake from the Bluebird Cafe.

And how will it feel to stand on the shores of Coniston Water and watch Bluebird fly again?

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

What will the return of Donald Campbell's boat Bluebird mean to the people of Coniston?

Bluebird's Return To Coniston Water20100513

What will the return of Donald Campbell's boat Bluebird mean to the people of Coniston?

Border Mires Of Keilder2009041820090423

Matt Baker investigates the work of the Border Mires Project, which has spent one million pounds and uses 21st-century machinery to undertake the difficult work of restoring the fragile ecosystem of the 10,000-year-old Border Mires of the Keilder Forest in Northumberland.

Home to rare dragon flies, damselflies and plantlife, the Border Mires also store carbon more efficiently than the many trees of the forest that surround them.

Bosworth Field2004011720040122
Bosworth Field2010032720100401

- BOSWORTH FIELD

The Battle of Bosworth was the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, a long and bloody conflict which ended when Richard III became the last king of England to die on the battlefield signalling the end of Plantagenet rule and the birth of the Tudor dynasty.

According to 'history' , the Battle of Bosworth was thought to have taken place around the site of Ambion Hill near Market Bosworth in Leicestershire.

Yet for years controversy has raged over the precise location of the battle and recently the search for the exact location culminated in the discovery of 'extraordinary and unexpected' evidence.

So where actually was the Battle of Bosworth and what it it mean for the town and region ?We hear the story of the battle and talks to the people who have spent years investigating the various theories and scouring the countryside around Ambion Hill to pinpoint the exact location of the battle and of Richard's death.

She meets actor Robert Hardy, Patron of the Richard III Foundation, who feels that Richard was the innocent victim of Tudor spin.

Robert has published several books on medieval warfare and social and military history and has himself walked the various possible sites of the battle during the course of the investigation.

Glenn Foard, Project Officer for the Battlefields Trust, takes Helen to an unremarkable field on farmland in Leicestershire, but one which yielded the most incredible and conclusive evidence yet to pinpoint it as the exact site of the battle.

Helen hears from the farmer who owns the field about what it means to him to own this piece of land where the scale of the find is said to transform the significance of Bosworth to a battle of international importance.

Helen also joins the people from the Wars of the Roses Federation for a lesson in medieval warfare and hears about their regular battle reenactments.

Will they move their battle too? And how will this discovery change the perception of the battle for the people who visit the Bosworth Battlefield Centre on Ambion Hill?

Helen Mark reveals the true location of the Battle of Bosworth.

Brian May's 3-d Village2009103120091105

Queen guitarist Brian May uncovers the story of an Oxfordshire village captured in time by Victorian photographic pioneer T.R.

Williams.

May has been fascinated by 3-D images since collecting cereal packet picture cards as a boy.

He was particularly intrigued by a set of stereoscopic images of village life taken by photographic pioneer T.R.

Further investigation revealed all the images to be 3-D pictures of the tiny Oxfordshire village of Hinton Waldrist, taken in the 1850s.

Brian joins presenter Helen Mark for a time-travel tour of the village.

Together they discover how the people and wildlife of this Thames-side community have changed since Williams recorded these evocative images of blacksmiths, spinners and farm workers.

Kerry Lock of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust describes the waxing and waning of wildlife over the past 160 years, while Nicola Verdon of the British Agricultural History Society examines the telling detail in photos taken at the height of farming's golden age.

To discuss the past, present and future of 3-D photography Helen is also joined by Brian's collaborator, the photo historian Elena Vidal and by David Burder of the British Stereoscopic Society.

Has the boom in 3-D cinema and the launch of a 3-D digital camera come at just the right time for a revival of interest in T.R.

Williams and a re-birth of the art of stereoscopic photography?

Buckinghamshire20021205
Christmas In Norfolk2012122020121222

Helen Mark is in Norfolk where preparations for Christmas are underway. In Great Hockham Helen meets Vincent Thurkettle whose life has been defined by a love of trees and the great outdoors. During the early part of the year, Vincent tends his fields of Christmas trees, which are allowed to grow with wild flowers at their roots, before spending his summers diving for sunken treasure off the coast of Britain. Returning to Norfolk later in the year, Vincent begins his Christmas tree deliveries and Helen joins him as he sets off.

In the coastal town of Cromer, a rather more unusual Christmas tree has appeared in the churchyard and Helen meets fisherman, John Davies, to find out about the 150 lobster pots that were used to build the tree which now lights up the town and celebrates the town's fishing heritage.

Helen also finds out how to decorate a Christmas tree for garden birds before heading back to Great Hockham where Vincent Thurkettle has finished the day's deliveries. Vincent, who also spends a week each year chopping wood to heat his cottage and cook his food gives Helen a lesson in how to lay the best wood fire and where the chestnuts will soon be roasting.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Conservation Grazing In Cornwall20100904

Helen Mark is in Cornwall to find out why the reintroduction of cattle to graze the Penwith Moors of Cornwall and improve the area's bio-diversity has upset some of the local community.

She meets up with archaeologist Craig Weatherhill at the Tregeseal Stone Circle to hear about the damage he says is being caused to these ancient monuments by the horns of the non-native Longhorn breed of cattle being grazed on the moors.

Craig also tells Helen about the difficulties faced by horses and their riders from the newly erected gates and fences which they have to pass through.

At Carn Galva, one of Cornwall's most unique and pre-historic landscapes, Helen meets up with Peter Bowden from Natural England and Jon Brookes of the National Trust who explain the reasons for the conservation grazing scheme and how important it is to this ancient landscape.

This heathland is of national and international importance and the grazing scheme is intended to open up footpaths the natural way, avoiding the need for heavy machinery and herbicides, and fences and cattle grids have been put there to keep cattle in and not people out.

However, when Helen joins Ian Cooke and Steve Yandall of the Save Penwith Moors campaign, she hears about their concerns for the environment and how emotional they felt to have barbed wire fences appearing out on the moors.

But when she arrives at Trengwainton Farm near Penzance, farmer Stephen Bone takes Helen to a part of his land that his father fenced and grazed 40 years ago and which soon became waist high in bracken when the cattle were taken in.

Stephen is actually now busy re-fencing his land ready to graze animals there as part of the Conservation Grazing Scheme.

He tells Helen that he has offered an olive branch to those opposed to the scheme by suggesting that he take his livestock in during the busy summer months and school holidays.

Finally, Helen meets up with Stephen Warman who has been brought in to try and resolve the situation and to narrow the gap between the two opposing sides.

Where do they all go from here in order to manage the moors in the best way for all those who care about this landscape?

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark is in Cornwall to find out about some new features of the landscape.

Conservation Grazing In Cornwall20100909

Helen Mark is in Cornwall to find out why the reintroduction of cattle to graze the Penwith Moors of Cornwall and improve the area's bio-diversity has upset some of the local community.

She meets up with archaeologist Craig Weatherhill at the Tregeseal Stone Circle to hear about the damage he says is being caused to these ancient monuments by the horns of the non-native Longhorn breed of cattle being grazed on the moors.

Craig also tells Helen about the difficulties faced by horses and their riders from the newly erected gates and fences which they have to pass through.

At Carn Galva, one of Cornwall's most unique and pre-historic landscapes, Helen meets up with Peter Bowden from Natural England and Jon Brookes of the National Trust who explain the reasons for the conservation grazing scheme and how important it is to this ancient landscape.

This heathland is of national and international importance and the grazing scheme is intended to open up footpaths the natural way, avoiding the need for heavy machinery and herbicides, and fences and cattle grids have been put there to keep cattle in and not people out.

However, when Helen joins Ian Cooke and Steve Yandall of the Save Penwith Moors campaign, she hears about their concerns for the environment and how emotional they felt to have barbed wire fences appearing out on the moors.

But when she arrives at Trengwainton Farm near Penzance, farmer Stephen Bone takes Helen to a part of his land that his father fenced and grazed 40 years ago and which soon became waist high in bracken when the cattle were taken in.

Stephen is actually now busy re-fencing his land ready to graze animals there as part of the Conservation Grazing Scheme.

He tells Helen that he has offered an olive branch to those opposed to the scheme by suggesting that he take his livestock in during the busy summer months and school holidays.

Finally, Helen meets up with Stephen Warman who has been brought in to try and resolve the situation and to narrow the gap between the two opposing sides.

Where do they all go from here in order to manage the moors in the best way for all those who care about this landscape?

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark is in Cornwall to find out about some new features of the landscape.

County Clare In Ireland2005101520051020

This weeks programme travels to County Clare in Ireland, home to folklorist Eddie Lenihan.

Eddie takes Richard to the newly built motorway just outside Ennis to show him a rather ordinary, stunted hawthorn bush.

But this is no ordinary bush - Eddie tells Richard that this is a fairy tree, a meeting place for the fairies of Munster, a staging post as they gathered to do battle with the fairies of Connaught.

In fact the motorway was diverted at the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds to accommodate the tree.

This motorway and the bush symbolise perfectly the meeting of two cultures: post-industrial modern Ireland and rural traditional Ireland.

Cumbrian Power2009082220090827

One of the proposed sites for the new generation of nuclear power stations is farmland near the villages of Kirksanton and Silecroft on the Cumbrian coast.

Helen Mark finds people there fighting the plans, but also some who support the idea.

Kirksanton lies south of Sellafield, and this rural community, which nestles between the most southerly fells of White Combe and Black Combe, was shocked to hear of the plans.

Many villagers believe that the development would destroy the tranquility and beauty of the area they love.

Others welcome the plans and the one opportunity they may bring to reinvent the Millom area as a centre for excellence in the nuclear industry, providing jobs, improving infrastrucure and ensuring young people have a future in the area.

Helen considers what would be gained and what would be lost.

Helen Mark visits rural Kirksanton, a possible site for a new nuclear power station.

Devon Farm Vet2012051020120512

Jules Hudson explores how the role of the farm vet has changed in recent years.

Jules Hudson shadows a farm vet in Devon. As the landscape has changed and farms have grown larger the role of the farm vet has changed also. A large part of their role is now on disease prevention rather than simply treatment and they can be crucial in spotting disease outbreaks like foot and mouth which have devastated the countryside in the past. Jules shadows newly qualified vet Jen Hall to find out what's involved and how important the relationship with the farmer can be in protecting animals and the countryside.

Producer: Anne-Marie Bullock.

Doggerland2009071820090723

Helen Mark explores a land lost beneath the waves off the Northumbrian coast.

‘Doggerland' is the name for a huge area that, ten thousand years ago, before the end of the last Ice Age, linked the British Isles with Denmark and Northern Germany, a time when the Thames was a tributary of the Rhine.

Besides speaking to archaeologists who are investigating Doggerland, she is joined by the storyteller Hugh Lupton who imagines the myths of those long-lost hunter-gatherers.

Helen Mark explores the history of Doggerland, a land lost beneath the waves.

Helen Mark explores a land lost beneath the waves near Craster on the Northumbrian coast.

Archaeologists and storyteller Hugh Lupton evoke the contours of Doggerland, reclaimed by the North Sea at the end of the last Ice Age.

Helen Mark explores the history of Doggerland, a aland lost beneath the waves.

Drought2012040520120407

As parts of the country face a hosepipe ban for the first time in 20 years, Jules Hudson is in Berkshire to find out how the drought is affecting the county.

Presenter: Jules Hudson

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Jules Hudson is in Berkshire looking at the effects of the drought.

Dunluce Castle2009082920090903

So many stories are told about Dunluce Castle and its surrounds that it is hard to separate fact from fiction.

Helen Mark visits the ruins on the north Antrim coast to try to establish some facts at the first major archaeological dig to be held there.

The archaeological team have been astounded by the wealth and quality of their finds, which include an entire lost merchants' town and the location of a 13th-century settlement.

Helen also goes underground to find how the sea caves and their legends have inspired a photographer to capture their image.

But does Helen's experience of unexplained howls add more to the myths than to dispel them?

Helen Mark unearths some new truths about Dunluce Castle in County Antrim.

Eel Pie Island *2010011620100121

People who have heard of Eel Pie Island, in the Thames off Twickenham, probably associate it with trad jazz, free love and the birth of the British blues boom of the 1960s.

Indeed, Ken Colyer and the Rolling Stones often played in the island's crumbling hotel ballroom before they were famous and the place did have a decidedly bohemian reputation.

These days it retains a special air, even though a suburban housing development has replaced the hotel.

Helen Mark explores the nature reserve, the boatyards and the homes of some of its residents, including inventor Trevor Baylis, and the authors of a new history of the island.

Helen Mark discovers rural bliss and community spirit on Eel Pie Island in the Thames.

Eels2012070520120707

Helen Mark is in Gloucestershire to find out about the mysterious eel.

Helen Mark is in Gloucestershire to find out more about one of our most fascinating creatures, the eel, and hear why efforts are being made to save this endangered species.

When eels arrive in the UK as tiny babies, called elvers, they do so at the end of an exhausting 4,000-mile marathon swim from the Sargasso Sea where they have spawned. For generations, their arrival was greeted with much anticipation by fishermen on the Rivers Severn and Wye where they were caught at night and often used in dishes and delicacies.

But the eel is in trouble and has been placed on the Red List of Fish to Avoid by the Marine Conservation Society who class it as critically endangered. However, others believe that the decline in the number of eels is not just a result of over-fishing but is also due to the way in which rivers are managed and flood defences are erected, so blocking the eels migratory route, and that by leaving them to their own defences the eels' fate will be sealed.

Helen Mark meets some of the people involved with trying to save this precious and mysterious creature including fisherman Richard Cook who has a life-long passion for eels and who is now taking tanks of eels into schools to teach the children who look after them for a few weeks about the importance of the fish, our rivers and the environment. Eventually, the children will release the eels back into the river as part of a restocking project.

Helen also hears from Bernadette Clarke of the Marine Conservation Society about the reasons why they felt it was important that eels should be classed as critically endangered and placed on the Red List. And Helen meets Andrew Kerr of the Sustainable Eel Group which is working to devise a recovery plan to protect and preserve the eel.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Fair Isle Birds20100724

In Open Country this week, Moira Hickey visits Fair Isle, Britain's most remote inhabited island, to find out how it became a world leader in the study of birdlife.

Since 1948, when a bird observatory was first built there, it has led the way in research into seabirds and in recording rare migrants, blown on to this tiny island midway between Orkney and Shetland.

For its seventy inhabitants, the bird observatory has become crucial to the viability of Fair Isle as a place to live: visiting birders feed the economy and help keep fragile air and sea links in business.

With the opening of a brand new observatory, Moira Hickey visits Fair Isle to get a taste of what attracts ornithologists from around the world.

Moira Hickey visits Fair Isle for the opening of a new bird observatory.

Fair Isle Birds20100729

Moira Hickey visits Fair Isle for the opening of a new bird observatory.

Fair Isle Knitting2010073120100805

Fair Isle is famous for its knitting, but is it a dying tradition? Moira Hickey reports.

In Open Country this week, Moira Hickey visits Fair Isle, famous around the world for its knitting.

With a plentiful supply of wool from the island's hardy Shetland sheep, knitting kept many families from starvation, and the craft is still economically important for Fair Isle.

Yet with Shetland schools soon to drop knitting from the curriculum, can it survive for much longer? Will Shetland's children still learn to knit, and if they don't, will it really matter? Moira Hickey visits Fair Isle to look at the importance of knitting to the islanders, and to ask what the future holds for this traditional craft.

Finding Neverland2012122720121229

On the edge of JM Barrie's Kirriemuir, Helen Mark discovers the real Never Never Land.

Helen Mark takes us on a journey to the real Never Never Land.

Peter Pan first came to life on the glittering stage of London's Duke of York Theatre on 27th December 1904, but he began life far away from the hustle, bustle and glamour of the West End in the market town of Kirriemuir near Dundee. Helen Mark visits the birth place of J.M. Barrie who immortalised this "wee red toonie" as "Thrums" in his popular (pre-Pan) novels Auld Licht Idylls, A Window in Thrums, and The Little Minister. Helen also takes us out into the landscape that is believed to have inspired Never Never Land and the adventures of Peter Pan himself.

Producer: Nicola Humphries.

Firth Of Lorne2009072520090730

Helen Mark reports on the dispute between fishermen and conservationists over the wildlife-rich waters of the Firth of Lorne on the west coast of Scotland.

Dotted with tiny islands, the Firth of Lorne on the west coast of Scotland is a yachtsman's dream.

Fishermen also covet the Firth's prawns and scallops, whilst conservationists fret over threats to the extraordinary reefs, the sea bird colonies and the whales and dolphins that pass between Mull and Jura.

Helen joins local wildlife biologist Tessa McGregor for a boat trip around the Firth, meeting fishermen, farmers and naturalists, all of whom are anxious to reach a balance that preserves livelihoods without further threatening this precarious natural environment.

Scallop dredging is currently banned in the Firth, much to the displeasure of local fishermen who have to sail further and into more dangerous waters to bring home a profitable catch.

The Scottish government may reverse the ban, but a local diver tells Helen that such a move would cause further damage to the sea bed, the rocky reef and the aquatic life that depends on it.

On her voyage around the Firth's tiny islands Helen will also be meeting the local Luing breed of cattle and seeing the beehive huts used by the first generation of Scottish monks.

Helen Mark on the battle between fishermen and conservationists over the Firth of Lorne.

Helen Mark reports on new peace proposals to resolve the long-running battle between fishermen and conservationists over the wildlife-rich waters of the Firth of Lorne on the west coast of Scotland.

Rich blue waters dotted with tiny islands, the Firth of Lorne on the west coast of Scotland is a yachtsman's dream.

Fishermen also covet the Firth's prawns and scallops, while conservationists fret over threats to the extraordinary reefs, the sea bird colonies and the whales and dolphins that pass between Mull and Jura.

She joins local wildlife biologist Tessa McGregor for a boat trip around the Firth, meeting fishermen, farmers and naturalists, all of whom are anxious to reach a balance that preserves livelihoods without further threatening this precarious natural environment.

The Scottish government looks set to reverse the ban, but local divers tell Helen that such a move would devastate the sea bed and the aquatic life that depends on it.

Foot And Mouth - Ten Years On20110514

When Foot and Mouth disease struck the UK in 2001, it caused a major crisis in agriculture and the British countryside.

Hundreds and thousands of sheep and cattle were slaughtered in an attempt to halt the disease, footpaths were closed and the countryside effectively closed down.

Cumbria was one of the worst affected areas of the country and many farmers found themselves at the very heart and soul of the crisis as mass livestock burials and plumes of black smoke from burning pyres destroyed their livestock and their lives.

Ten years on, Helen Mark visits Cumbria to find out how they have coped with the crisis since then.

Some farmers chose to rebuild their lives in completely different ways but many continued to farm whilst also diversifying into other areas.

Helen hears from farmer, Trevor Wilson about life after Foot and Mouth and from vet, Iain Richards, who found himself in the thick of the outbreak, travelling from farm to farm to diagnose sick animals.

Once the disease was confirmed, Iain would then be declared a 'dirty' vet and would have to remain at the farm until the animals had been destroyed.

Helen also meets Andrew Nicholson who, with his wife Karen, had only been farming in Cumbria for a few years when the disease broke out.

Andrew lost many of his valuable Herdwick sheep but now has one of the most remarkable stories to tell of how he dealt with the crisis.

And Helen visits the former airfield which became the burial ground for thousands of slaughtered animals and hears from Frank Mawby and director and retired farmer, William Little, about the way in which the local community voted overwhelmingly to turn the site into what is now the Watchtree Nature Reserve.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Ten years after the countryside was devastated by Foot and Mouth, Helen Mark is in Cumbria

Foot And Mouth - Ten Years On20110519
Gloucestershire Wildlife Er2009120520091210

Helen Mark visits Vale Wildlife Rescue, a hospital where wild animals and birds are taken when they're found injured in Gloucestershire and the surrounding region.

Perhaps surprisingly, the hospital provides good indicators of the health of local wildlife: it's possible to tell which species are flourishing by the numbers brought in.

They also run wildlife rehabilitation courses for people who want to know what to do when they come across an injured animal or bird.

Helen talks to the staff, and meets patients and long-term residents, including owls, buzzards, foxes, deer....and a skunk.

A colony of skunks has sprung up in the nearby Forest of Dean and one was recently brought into the Rescue centre.

The family who captured the skunk tell of their adventure, and why it is that skunks are now to be found living wild in the UK.

Helen Mark goes in search of the wild animals of Gloucestershire.

Gone Fishing On The Banks Of The Weir2003122020031225
Growing Tents Not Crops On Gower20091219

What does it mean for the future of agriculture when farmers find that tents are more profitable than crops? Helen Mark visits the Gower Peninsula in south-west Wales, one of the UK's most popular holiday locations, to explore the long-term impact of tourism on farming.

Gwent Levels2012082320120825

Helen Mark explores the Gwent Levels, an extensive low-lying area of the Severn Estuary.

Helen Mark explores the Gwent Levels, an extensive low lying area on the north side of the Severn Estuary in South Wales registered as a Historic Landscape of Outstanding Interest. The area has a rich archaelogical past and tell a fascinating story of the recent social history of Wales and the battle between man and river, as well as being home to Magor Marsh, the last fenland on the Levels.

Helen meets Kevin Dupe, Reserve Manager of the Newport Wetlands to find out how the Reserve fits into the history of the area and Chris Hurn who gives Helen a sense of the interaction between man and wildlife, a sense of change, and an idea of the friendships had on the Levels. Artist, Jill Hobbs, tells Helen how she uses her love of this landscape to create her own representations of it and Helen also climbs the tower at Redwick Church with Rick Turner for a birds eye view of this landscape. Archaeologist, Nigel Nayling, gives Helen a sense of the ancient history of the area and gamekeeper, Paul Cawley explains the importance of conservation for such an important area.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Elizabeth Pearson.

Hampstead Heath Ponds2012071920120721

Jules Hudson takes a journey around the unique swimming ponds of Hampstead Heath.

Jules Hudson explores the waters of Hampstead Heath which have been used for over 200 years by champion swimmers and year round bathers. How and why did they come to be and what stories can they tell? How has the landscape around them changes and what is it about them that still draws over a quarter of a million visitors a year? And what does the future hold for them?

Jules Hudson is joined by Caitlin Davies who has swum in the ponds all her life to find out more about these unique ponds.

Presenter: Jules Hudson

Producer: Lizz Pearson.

Haweswater2009091220090917

The village of Mardale was flooded in 1935 to create Haweswater reservoir to provide for the needs of Manchester.

When water levels are really low the walls of Mardale reappear.

Helen Mark meets Booker-nominated novelist Sarah Hall to talk about the power the landscape has had on her writing, including her first novel, Haweswater.

Helen joins Ian Winfield from the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology as his team count the fish in the lake using hydroacoustic equipment.

Haweswater is now managed to protect the rare Shelley and Arctic Char which are found in its waters.

John Gorst from United Utilities explains that the fish are recovering in numbers since it was realised that low lake levels in summer were having a detrimental effect on their ability to breed.

Helen also meets Spike Webb from the RSPB in the only valley in England which is a permanent home to a golden eagle.

Helen Mark meets Booker-nominated author Sarah Hall at Haweswater Reservoir in Cumbria.

Helen Mark meets novelist Sarah Hall at Haweswater Reservoir in Cumbria to talk about the power the landscape has had on much of her writing, including her first novel, Haweswater, which fictionalised the flooding of the valley - and the disappearance of the village of Mardale - in 1935 to create a reservoir to provide for the needs of Manchester.

Today, when water levels in the reservoir are really low, the walls of Mardale reappear.

Haweswater is now managed in order to protect the rare Shelley and Arctic Char which are found in its waters.

Helen also meets Spike Webb from the RSPB in England's only valley which is a permanent home to a golden eagle.

Helen Mark meets booker nominee Sarah Hall at Haweswater Reservoir in Cumbria.

Hay Meadows20110702

When we hear about the threat to some of our precious and important habitats, our minds often turn to the polar ice cap or the rainforests of the Amazon.

But one of our most threatened natural environments is right here in the UK and that is the traditional upland hay meadow - fields packed with grasses and wild flowers, alive with bird song and the buzz of bees.

Sadly these meadows have almost disappeared from our landscape.

There are less than 4 square miles of this habitat left in the UK and around 40% of that is in the North Pennines.

A lot of hard work is currently being undertaken to protect and preserve what we have left.

For this week's Open Country Helen Mark travels across the north of England, meeting and chatting with some of the people who are working to preserve these precious habitats.

Rebecca Barrett of the North Pennines AONB tells Helen about the work they are doing with farmers such as Karen Scott from Low Way Farm in Middleton-in-Teesdale to save the hay meadows.

This work involves harvesting seed from a donor field to sow elsewhere in the hope that the hay meadows of the future will begin to grow.

Vet, Neville Turner, shows Helen his former beat where he has travelled over a million miles in 30 years in his work , always accompanied by his trusty camera which captured a year in the life of an upland hay meadow.

These photographs now accompany a touring play 'Sward! Story of A Meadow' and Helen catches up with the Blaize Theatre Company and its artistic director, Mike Bettison, in the Yorkshire village of Reeth as they prepare for their afternoon performance.

And Helen meets hay meadow expert Professor John Rodwell, who tells Helen about his concern over the decline in our upland hay meadows....after all, who needs a hay meadow museum?

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Which of our precious natural habitats is under threat? Helen Mark finds out.

Hay Meadows20110707

When we hear about the threat to some of our precious and important habitats, our minds often turn to the polar ice cap or the rainforests of the Amazon.

But one of our most threatened natural environments is right here in the UK and that is the traditional upland hay meadow - fields packed with grasses and wild flowers, alive with bird song and the buzz of bees.

Sadly these meadows have almost disappeared from our landscape.

There are less than 4 square miles of this habitat left in the UK and around 40% of that is in the North Pennines.

A lot of hard work is currently being undertaken to protect and preserve what we have left.

For this week's Open Country Helen Mark travels across the north of England, meeting and chatting with some of the people who are working to preserve these precious habitats.

Rebecca Barrett of the North Pennines AONB tells Helen about the work they are doing with farmers such as Karen Scott from Low Way Farm in Middleton-in-Teesdale to save the hay meadows.

This work involves harvesting seed from a donor field to sow elsewhere in the hope that the hay meadows of the future will begin to grow.

Vet, Neville Turner, shows Helen his former beat where he has travelled over a million miles in 30 years in his work , always accompanied by his trusty camera which captured a year in the life of an upland hay meadow.

These photographs now accompany a touring play 'Sward! Story of A Meadow' and Helen catches up with the Blaize Theatre Company and its artistic director, Mike Bettison, in the Yorkshire village of Reeth as they prepare for their afternoon performance.

And Helen meets hay meadow expert Professor John Rodwell, who tells Helen about his concern over the decline in our upland hay meadows...

after all, who needs a hay meadow museum?

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Which of our precious natural habitats is under threat? Helen Mark finds out.

Heather Moorland2011091020110915

75% of heather moorland is found here in the UK.

The North York Moors are perhaps best known for their glorious purple carpets and on Open Country Jules Hudson explores the past and the potential future of this rare habitat.

Heather moorland relies on management.

Created over centuries of sheep grazing and man management the blooms require regular burning to remain healthy and attractive to the varied wildlife that makes its home on the moors.

Sometimes controversially this management is often only made possible with the finance brought in by grouse shooting.

As the slopes and bogs of Spaunton Moor come alive with the vivid colour of the heather the grouse are also reaching their prime.

Today at places like Spaunton eight days of shooting allows the moor to be managed and preserved for both the grouse and many other species of birds and invertebrates all year round.

The spectacle of purple is testament to the effective nature of management but can conservation and hunting really work in harmony?

Jules Hudson visits the North York Moors to see how heather moorland is being revived.

Herefordshire Churches2012041920120421

Where might you find the spot where Saint George killed the dragon and the oldest complete set of medieval bells? The answer lies in the Herefordshire countryside and in the history and legend attached to just some of the beautiful churches that can be found there. The Bishop of Hereford once said that 'The Diocese of Hereford is blessed with so many beautiful church buildings. Most of them stand at the centre of communities they have served for a thousand years or more."

Helen Mark travels around the Herefordshire countryside to meet some of the people involved with the churches that are still at the heart of of the rural communities that they serve. She finds out about their history and heritage, the legend and folklore, their past, their present and what the future holds for them.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Anne Marie Bullock.

Helen Mark meets some of the people involved with the rural churches of Herefordshire.

Hicks Lodge/national Forest2012110120121103

Helen Mark visits a restored open cast mine in Leicestershire, now a haven for wildlife.

Helen Mark visits Hicks Lodge, a restored open cast mine in Leicestershire, now a haven for wildlife, walkers and cyclists and other more unusual visitors. Over 100 different bird species have been recorded at Hicks Lodge, which is run by the Forestry Commission and is situated in young woodlands at the heart of the National Forest.

Helen meets Area Forester, Alan Dowell, to find out more about Hicks Lodge and the various walking routes and cycle trails that are available and joins local cyclist, Marc Stapleford for a bike ride through the site of what is now the National Forest Cycle Centre. Helen also hears from Chief Executive of the National Forest, Sophie Churchill, about the background to the Forest itself which covers 200 square miles of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. They are joined by retired Geography teacher, Dot Morson, and one of her former pupils, Mark Knight. Both are local residents who have seen the landscape around them transformed over the years. And

Stuart Malcolmson and Racheal Bailey of the National Forest Mushing Team give Helen a lesson in dog sledding - one of the more unusual pastimes to be found on the site of a former open cast mine!

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

High Peak2008051720080522

Helen Mark visits the Peak District to see the battle to save peat bogs vital to the area's ecosystem.

High Speed Rail2011010820110113

The proposals for high speed rail in Buckinghamshire that are provoking protest campaigns.

Richard Uridge travels the route proposed for high speed rail in Buckinghamshire to find out what is so special about the countryside there that inspires people to battle to protect it.

Horseback Uk20111105

Helen Mark is in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire to find out how horses and the natural landscape of Royal Deeside are helping wounded and serving military personnel.

Set up by ex-marine Jock Hutchison and his wife Emma, Horseback UK is a charity aiming to provide a safe and secure environment for soldiers returning from active service or those that have already left, many of whom have suffered injury or acute stress as a result of active service.

The charity uses equine therapy and the value of the great outdoors and nature therapy to provide part of the rehabilitation process for serving personnel and veterans from the UK military.

Helen hears from Jock about their hope that those who have lived their lives on the edge will benefit from the opportunities available to them in the peace and tranquillity of the countryside and the quality of life this offers.

Fundamental to this is the relationship with the horses and the style of Western riding which gives these guys the experience of being a cowboy high up in the saddle and looking down on countryside that they might previously not have noticed as they passed through.

Mixing equine therapy, nature therapy and adventure training the aim is for people to learn about opportunities in the Scottish countryside, including game-keeping, horsemanship, fishing etc.

while getting to know their local community.

Helen hears from Jay Hare and Rick Anderson, two of the people who have benefited from the centre, and also from Eric Baird at the nearby Glen Tanar Estate, one of the areas that is supporting the charity by encouraging people there to become involved in conservation work.

At the heart of everything are the horses and the way in which they are used to integrate the people they carry on their backs into the community and countryside of the Royal Deeside landscape.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark is in Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire to find out about Horseback UK.

In Search Of Wild Boar2003121320031218

Helen Mark uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

Ireland - Peat2012081620120818

Helen Mark is in Ireland, looking at attitudes down the centuries to the peat bogs.

The peat bogs of Ireland's midlands have become a battlefield, with opinions divided on how they should best be managed in the future. Helen Mark looks beyond the present-day arguments and travels to Counties Longford, Roscommon and Offaly to find out how attitudes to the bog have evolved over centuries. From the Iron Age Corlea trackway, an oak road discovered just a few years ago, perfectly preserved in peat, to startling evidence of early Christian links with Africa and memories of childhood days spent peat cutting , Helen explores what the bog has to tell us - and what it might have in store for the future.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Moira Hickey.

Island Revival2011082020110825

Just off the coast of Mull lies the tiny island of Ulva.

For 200 years it has been virtually abandoned.

The Highland Clearances saw the removal of most of the 800 people who had been scraping a living from its shores and its farmland.

Today a shot of energy is pulsing through the island, giving this beautiful place a chance of economic and natural revival.

The manager of the island, Jamie Howard has just married field biologist and broadcaster, Tessa McGregor.

Together they've come up with a plan to turn Ulva into a paradise for nature tourism.

They've identified the island's extraordinary variety of unusual plant and animal species, they're helping archaeologists reconstruct the nine thousand year history of human habitation and they're replanting the native woodland and reconstructing abandoned buildings.

For 'Open Country' Helen Mark will be joining the energetic couple in the middle of a crucial summer for the island's future.

Can they use the short tourist season to attract people and money into Ulva to fund their grand revival plans?

Producer: Alasdair Cross.

The isle of Ulva was abandoned 200 years ago.

Helen Mark finds out why it's now thriving.

Isle Of Bute2012090620120908

Helen Mark goes 'doon the watter' to explore the Isle of Bute, off Scotland's west coast.

Helen Mark explores the landscape and waters of the Isle of Bute off the west coast of Scotland where, for over 200 years, visitors have gone 'doon the watter' to take advantage of the island's relaxing atmosphere and healing properties. Suggestions have been made that Bute should be designated as Britain's first 'blue space', an area defined by blue sea, sky and fresh air which all have a therapeutic effect. Boarding the ferry at Wemyss Bay, Helen joins Shiona Lawson, one of those whose family would take the ferry each year to go 'doon the watter'. Shiona recalls that back then the beaches seemed to go on forever and the sun seemed to be always shining and remembers an island that had such an effect on her that she eventually moved to live there. At the harbour to meet Helen is James McMillan. James is a 'Brandane', someone who was born and bred on the island.

Helen then meets up with Roddy McDowell who runs Kayak Bute and who takes Helen out on the waters around the island and gives her a lesson in sea kayaking , an experience which Roddy describes as crossing the boundary between the green space and the blue. Helen then hears from archaeologist, Paul Duffy, about the rich heritage of Bute. Walking from the car park at Scalpsie Beach to the seashore, Paul takes Helen on a journey through 8000 years of history in 8 minutes. Finally, wildlife photographer Philip Kirkham gives Helen a lesson in photography on the shoreline in front of his house under the big skies of the island he loves.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Isle Of Mann2003100420031009
Keighley And Worth Valley - The Railway Children At 402010080720100812

It was back in spring 1970 that Lionel Jeffries and his film crew first descended on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in West Yorkshire to begin making the classic British film, The Railway Children.

To this day, the film remains a firm family favourite with many people remembering the images of the children sitting on the fence waving to the Old Gentleman or running down the embankment to stop the train after a landslide.

The film's closing scene remains a tear-jerker as the steam clears on the platform to reveal Mr Waterbury standing on the platform being greeted by his daughter played by Jenny Agutter.

To the people living along the Keighley and Worth Valley though, the real star of the film was their railway.

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is a standard gauge branch line, joining the national railway network at Keighley and running 5 miles along the Worth Valley to Oxenhope with the stations of Ingrow, Damems, Oakworth and Haworth along the way.

Helen Mark begins her journey along the 5 mile stretch of the Keighley and Worth Valley by catching the train at Oxenhope with Jim Shipley, former Station Master at Oakworth Station.

Many of the film's classic scenes were filmed at Oakworth Station and several local people were used as extras.

Jumping off the train at Haworth, Helen meets up with Graham Mitchell, who 'starred' as himself opposite Bernard Cribbins' s portrayal of Perks the Porter.

Graham reveals more about the history of the railway which was built by local mill owners back in 1867 and eventually bought outright by local people who opposed its closure by British Rail in the early 60s.

The line eventually reopened in 1968 and two years later The Railway Children arrived.

The railway never looked back.

Helen joins Bill and Betty Black for a picnic lunch overlooking the embankment from which the children would sit on the fence and wave to the Old Gentleman at the back of the train.

40 years ago the couple had a picnic in the same spot with their children while they watched the filming take place and they remember the impact the film had on the local community.

Finally Helen arrives at Oakworth Station where much of the filming took place, in particular the final tear jerking scene as Mr Waterbury emerges from the steam onto the platform to be reunited with his family.

Helen hears from David Petyt, current Station Foreman and one of the 350 volunteers who run the railway, and David Pearson who was 15 years old at the time of filming and who played a part in that final moving scene.

Generations of families now visit the valley to see where the film was made and travel on the steam trains that still play such an important part in the life of the valley.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Forty years after The Railway Children left, Helen Mark visits the Keighley and Worth Valley

Lakeland Adventures2012110820121110

Helen Mark is looking for adventure in the Lake District.

Over 80 years after the publication of 'Swallows and Amazons', Helen Mark visits the Lake District to find out why the lakes and landscapes that inspired some of Arthur Ransome's most famous stories are now the setting for a variety of different and often more daring adventures. From trails to triathlons, ghyll scrambling to zorbing and aqua rolling, there is now something for everyone to be found on the Lakeland fells.

On the lower slopes of Helvellyn, around 1200 people prepare to take part in a trail run designed to test and exhilarate them as they make their way through some of the most dramatic views that Lakeland has to offer. Helen meets the organiser, Graham Patten, to find out more about the people who travel miles to take part and also why the National Park is so keen to promote the area as the UK's Adventure Capital. It's a far cry from the more genteel adventures of sailing, camping and fishing experienced by the Walker children, John, Susan, Titty and Roger, who Arthur Ransome wrote about.

Out on Coniston water Arthur's cousin, Richard Ransome, tells Helen how his own childhood, growing up in the area, was very like something from his cousin's books and how he feels that the magic element of imagination seems to be missing from the adventures of today. Helen is given a demonstration of ghyl scrambling by a group of adventurers who describe the thrill this gives them. And finally, Helen meets John Nettleton and Jenny Massie, whose own adventures climbing and running on the screes and fells of this landscape began at a time when they almost had their own bit of Lakeland to themselves.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Lancashire - Shale Gas20111208

Does the British landscape hold the key to a new and revolutionary form of energy? Jules Hudson is in Lancashire to find out about shale gas, a by-product of shale rock which forms much of the geology of the county's landscape.

Using a technique known as 'fracking', which involves using a high pressure combination of water, sand and chemicals, the rock is then fractured in order to release the gas.

For Cuadrilla, the company responsible for the drilling, these are exciting times.

But opponents to the process are concerned about the environmental damage this may cause and also about the possibility of earthquakes after drilling was halted earlier this year following two quakes close to Blackpool.

Should we unlock the vast resources of shale gas deep under our landscape? Jules Hudson visits Lancashire to meet the people responsible for the drilling and to find out what is so special about the Bowland Shale.

Presenter: Jules Hudson

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Does the Lancashire landscape hold the key to cheaper gas bills?

Lancashire: Shale Gas20111210
Leeds-liverpool Canal2010091120100916

Helen Mark travels along a stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and hears from just a few of the people whose lives revolve around it.

Stretching 127 miles the canal crosses the Pennines, and climbing to 487 feet at its summit, the canal has 91 locks including the unique 5-rise lock at Bingley in Yorkshire.

Helen hears from Vince Moran of British Waterways about the reason for the recent closure of almost half of the canal from Wigan to Gargrave following the prolonged spell of dry weather earlier this year.

She also chats to boaters who have made the canal their home.

Mike Clarke of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Society tells Helen about the canal's history and about his involvement with the Short Boat Kennet, one of the last unconverted boats which worked on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Kennet is on the Register of Historic Vessels and serves as a reminder of the canal's heritage.

Helen then joins Don Vine from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust on a boat trip to an area between the canal and the River Aire where a special project is underway to improve the habitat for otters, before meeting up with John Fairweather at the unique 5 Rise Lock at Bingley for an insight into life as a lock-keeper on the longest canal in the UK.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark explores life along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Living In The Woods2003101120031016
Lough Neagh2010071720100722

Helen Mark takes to the waters of Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland.

Helen Mark is in Northern Ireland where she takes to the waters of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the UK, measuring over 20 miles long, nine miles wide and containing over 800 billion gallons of water! Six major rivers flow into the Lough and only one, the River Bann, flows out.

Five of the six counties which make up Northern Ireland have shores on the Lough which is also a source of fresh water to many people.

Eel fishing on the lough has played a huge part in the lives of local people for centuries whilst the lake is also at the forefront of the sand extraction industry.

Yet although the lough has been described as extremely enigmatic, it has remained very much a place of extraction with very little put back in to it over the years.

Seven years ago, a group of local people came together to do something about this and recently their hard work was rewarded when the Lough Neagh Partnership received an award for Outstanding Achievement.

Helen hears from some of the people involved and starts her journey by boarding the Island Warrior from Sandy Bay to Rams Island, formerly a rat-infested strip of land on the lough and now a haven for wildlife and a popular tourist spot.

She hears from Gerry Darby about why the Lough Neagh Partnership was formed and also from Island Warrior skipper and volunteer, Michael Savage, about the labour of love carried out to transform Rams Island.

Helen then continues her journey around the shore hearing from heritage officer and archaeologist, Moira O'Rourke about some of the stories she has unearthed in her shoreline walks and from Kieran Breen of the Lough Neagh Heritage Boating Association about his passion for keeping alive the age-old spirit of the Lough Neagh by building some of the old traditional working boats used on the lough.

Helen rounds off her day along the shores with a visit to Coney Island, the only inhabited island on the lough, where she hears from the island's only inhabitant about the changes he has seen during his 12 years on Coney.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Lughnasa Festival2012080920120811

Helen Mark is in Ireland to celebrate the ancient Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa.

The festival of Lughnasa (pronounced Loon-asa) is an ancient Celtic celebration of the harvest, with its roots in County Meath in Ireland. The god Lugh is said to have established the festival in honour of his foster mother Tailtiu, who had exhausted herself by clearing forest land for agriculture. Helen Mark visits Teltown in Meath, which is said to have taken its name from that of Tailtiu, to see how Lughnasa is celebrated there today.

Presenter : Helen Mark

Producer : Moira Hickey.

Mendips Canal2012120620121208

Countryside magazine featuring the people and wildlife that shape Britain's landscape.

Countryside magazine featuring the people and wildlife that shape the landscape of Britain.

Mersea Island2005100820051013

A few miles south of Colchester lies Mersea Island, though technically it's only cut off from the mainland at the highest tides.

The name means "island of the pool or mere" and you get there by crossing a road known as the Strood which was built around 1300 years ago.

It's only five miles long and a couple of miles wide, and although it's a popular spot for Essex weekenders, remarkably unspoilt.

And although holidaymakers bring prosperity to the area, the island is also a focus for farming and fishing.

Mistletoe2010122520101230

Owen Sheers visits the annual Mistletoe Festival at Tenbury Wells.

Owen Sheers is in Worcestershire to learn about the Druidic custom of gathering in the mistletoe.

Each year it is harvested and blessed at the Mistletoe Festival in the town of Tenbury Wells.

Producer: Maggie Ayre.

Monmouthshire And Brecon Canal2012042620120428

As the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal celebrates its 200th anniversary, Helen Mark takes a boat trip to find out about the canal's importance to the South Wales landscape. Helen is joined by David Morgan from British Waterways to find out more about the canal's history and Helen and David help local brewer, Buster Grant, to deliver his celebratory ales to local pubs in the way that they would have been delivered 200 years ago. Stopping off en route, Helen finds out more about the lime industry in the area from Nigel Gervis who still produces lime today which is used in maintenance work on the canal's locks and bridges. Helen also meets Ceri Cadwallader from the Blaenavon World Heritage Site to find out about the Forgotten Landscapes Project and the importance of the canal's industrial heritage and its place within the communities of Monmouthshire and Brecon today. And Helen jumps aboard a second boat with ecologist, Mark Robinson, to find out about the wildlife that now inhabits the banks of the canal.

Finally, Helen and David join forces to roll out the barrel as Buster's beer arrives at its final destination.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark takes a trip along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in its 200th year.

Moray Firth2012091320120915

Richard Uridge goes whale-watching in Scotland's Moray Firth.

Open Country visits Scotland's Moray Firth, testing the health of its marine mammal population

The beaching of twenty six pilot whales in Scotland's Firth of Forth made headlines, and highlighted the importance attached by many of us to the creatures which live, largely unobserved, in our seas. In Open Country this week, Richard Uridge travels further north, to the Moray Firth, to test the health of its mammal populations, and to try to fathom what it is about these creatures which strikes such a chord in humans.

Navigation Skills2012051720120519

More of us are being encouraged to explore the British countryside but how many navigation skills should we have before we venture out? Helen Mark travels to Northern Snowdonia to meet the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation who are called out to an incident every 3 days. Some they say are simply avoidable with people venturing out unprepared and lacking the navigation skills to get themselves back on track when lost.

Helen joins a navigation course to test her own skills which she admits may be rusty since her Duke of Edinburgh award to see if the compass is mightier than the GPS. She asks how to ensure people are properly equipped without putting off newcomers from the countryside.

Produced in Birmingham by Anne-Marie Bullock.

Neptune's Army Of Rubbish Cleaners2011090320110908

The 'Big Society' is alive and well in Pembrokeshire conservation.

As grants are cut more organisations rely on volunteers to help keep our rarest habitats thriving and Skomer Island is no exception.

Neptunes Army of Rubbish Cleaners are a group of divers who give up their time to keep the Pembrokeshire coastline clean.

Manmade debris at the bottom of the sea can affect marine life and their work removing fishing tackle and other litter helps to keep the sea healthy.

This is vital work when you have such rare habitat as Skomer Island to protect.

Here there are guillemots, razorbills and puffins who rely on the sea for food.

Skomer also uses volunteers.

Assistant wardens spend a week at the time helping with the running of the island and conservation work such as surveying.

In the future many more volunteers may be needed to help preserve wildlife and ecosystems.

Richard Uridge explores the Pembrokeshire coast around Skomer island from the bottom up.

North Devon Coastline20090521

Helen Mark takes to the sea to find out how the perilous conditions of the north Devon coastline have affected life there from prehistory to the present day.

She tours Baggy Point with National Trust archaeologist Shirley Blaylock in search of the first coastal dwellers, attempts the perilous crossing to Lundy Island and crosses the Cornish border to hear the story of Parson Hawker, the eccentric vicar of Morwenstow and purported scourge of the wreckers.

Helen Mark explores the north Devon coastline.

North Wessex Downs2003032920030403
Northamptonshire Inspiration2012050320120505

Richard Uridge discovers the Northamptonshire countryside around Rockingham Forest.

Richard Uridge is in Northamptonshire to discover the inspirational landscape around Rockingham Forest.He meets musician, Nick Penny, who explains to Richard how he records the nightingales that frequently return to Glapthorn Cow Pasture and works with these sounds and other birdsong to create sound diaries of the landscape.His friend and collaborator David Garrett, takes inspiration from the Northamptonshire countryside for his poetry which began with 'Rose of the Shires, a tribute to the county he loves. And artist, Claire Morris Wright, takes Richard for a walk in the forest behind her house in the hamlet of Laxton and explains how important the feelings and textures of the landscape are to her in her work, whether in prints or clay.

Presenter: Richard Uridge

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Northumberland Castles2010041020100415

Matt Baker visits Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland where he meets the Duchess, Jane, and Frenchman, Christian Perdrier.

After spending 12 years at Disneyland Paris, Christian has joined Jane at Alnwick to 'awaken a sleeping beauty' that he says is Alnwick and the castle that towers over this market town in Northumberland surrounded by an unspoilt landscape.

Matt is shown around the famous Alnwick Garden, created by Jane herself and set around a cascading fountain.

This is the only place in the world to have a section devoted entirely to a poison garden, where every plant grown is a potential killer and is also home to the world's largest tree house.

Leaving Alnwick Matt meets folk singer-songwriter, Jez Lowe, born and raised in the North East who draws inspiration from the daily lives of the people and places of the area for his music.

Matt then travels on along the coastline to the imposing Bamburgh Castle which stands on an outcrop of volcanic rock.

This medieval fortress has around 4,000 years of continuous occupation and since 1996 the Bamburgh Research Project has been working on the castle, unearthing many exciting finds including the 7th century Bowl Hole cemetery.

Finally Matt heads south where, in stark contrast to the grandeur of Alnwick and Bamburgh, he arrives at the iconic ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle.

Dunstanburgh is the largest in Northumberland and here Matt meets poet and historian, Katrina Porteous whose work is inspired and influenced by the Northumberland coast, and the cultural and natural history of the area.

Over the course of a year, Katrina visited Dunstanburgh Castle several times in all weathers, observing its seasonal changes.

The result was the epic poem, 'Dunstanburgh' which draws on the history and local legends of the castle.

Can a man from Disney transform Alnwick Castle? Matt Baker goes to find out.

Northumberlandia20110723
Northumberlandia20110728
Northumberlandia20110804

How are the people of Cramlington reacting to the open cast mining in their area and to the creation of the largest replica of the human body in their landscape? Will it attract tourists and put Cramlington on the map or will they become the laughing stock of Northumberland?

For this week's Open Country, Jules Hudson visits Cramlington in the north east where work has started on a giant sculpture of a naked woman which is to be carved into the Northumberland landscape.

It will be made from 1.5 million tonnes of overburden from the Shotton open cast mine, near Cramlington.

It will be 400 metres long and will stand higher than the Angel of the North.

The sculpture, known as Northumberlandia, will form the centrepiece of a 29 hectare public park on the Blagdon Estate and, once developed, it is believed it will be the largest human form to be sculpted into the land, in the world.

But these plans have prompted opposition from some, as did the plans for the open cast mine.

From the car park of the Snowy Owl pub, Jules hears from landlord Colin Ward about his thoughts on his newest and nearest neighbour, before heading off to check on progress.

Taking the route along the leg, knee and thigh of Northumberlandia, Jules arrives on the sculpture's forehead with Mark Dowdell and Iain Lowther of the Banks Mining Group to find out about their reasons for embarking on such an ambitious project and what they hope it will bring to the local economy and community.

But not everyone is happy.

Back at the Snowy Owl, Jules meets Tony Ives who set up a local opposition group, SCRAM - Support Cramlington Residents Against Mining.

Tony tells Jules why he is so unhappy with the idea of Northumberlandia, which has been given the alternative nickname of 'Slag Alice' by some people who are against the idea.

However, at nearby North Shotton farm, tenant farmers Julie and Robson Philipson are looking forward to the completion of the sculpture and the park.

Despite losing much of their farm to the open cast mine, and being left with only two of their fields, Julie and Robson are adapting to a different way of life on the farm and are excited about the prospect of Northumberlandia opening in 2013.

Presenter: Jules Hudson

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Is the largest replica of the human body in the landscape a good idea for Northumberland?

Nottinghamshire2004120420041209

A piece of fabric used by a king to declare war on his own people gives this week's Open Country its starting point.

Helen Mark looks out from the roof of Nottingham Castle towards the mound, later christened Standard Hill, to which Charles I rode in great ceremony to raise the Royal Standard in August 1642.

Historian Dr Trevor Foulds explains the huge significance (and ultimate farcical quality) of the act which effectively began the Civil War, and also of the flag itself, which represented the power of the king over his subjects, the old order which was itself, of course, soon to become history in its turn.

The royalist symbols on the flag told anyone who saw it that this was a king quite separate from, and infinitely superior to, his subjects.

Those symbols - a shorthand form of communicating power - find an echo on the walls of Church Hole, part of the Creswell Crags cave complex where Britain's earliest examples of Ice Age art have been found by Sheffield University's Dr Paul Pettitt and colleagues in the field.

Overlooked by generations of archaeologists, these drawings, which include etchings of what are thought to be reindeer and bison, give an insight into why early man created such works of art.

For the most part incomplete and so hidden away that they were not apparently drawn to be viewed, it seems that the artists were expressing a sense of belonging to a group of fellow hunter-gatherers, and fulfilling a spiritual need in evoking the animal on which they so heavily relied for life.

This sense of belonging to a group finds very clear expression in miners' banners and Paul Whetton, a lifelong NUM member, tells Helen how his colliery colleagues at Bevercotes saved to pay for their own, and what it meant to be chosen to carry that banner at the miners' gala in Mansfield.

On strike for 12 months in the 1980s, Paul feels that the solidarity felt by miners gathered behind a banner is similar to family feeling - gathering below a banner provides a sense of support, of belonging, of unity, of strength and of working class power.

Holding up a banner, he says, is like holding up pride in yourself, in your industry and in your community.

Just down the road from Paul's home, at St Paulinus' Church in Ollerton, Reg Pritchard and his wife Dorothy have created a stained glass window in memory of the miners who worked, lived and died in the Nottinghamshire pits.

Reg's father, uncles and grandfather were miners and, seeing what it had done to them, he chose to leave Ollerton and escape the industry.

But he is, he says, imbued with the mine and put into the window his emotions about his family and his pride in what miners gave for the community.

Now that most evidence of the industry has been erased from the landscape, Reg - and people like Joan Seger, whose idea the window was - wanted to make sure that the work, so integral to the community, was never forgotten.

And anyone looking at the window, with its two miners and Christ each carrying a lamp, should know instantly what story is being told.

It's as simple, as symbolic and as easily understood as that royal standard raised by Charles over his people in Nottingham.

Orkney Energy2009070420090709

Helen Mark drives a chip fat-powered car around the Orkney island of Westray as she meets the pioneers determined to turn their island into the first community in Britain to be entirely self-sufficient in energy.

The local kirk is powered by a wind turbine, holiday homes are heated by ground source heat-pumps and local farmers and fishermen are making their own fuel from cattle manure and cooking oil.

Helen also takes to the water to discover more about the enormous energy resource contained within the tides and currents of the Orkney Islands.

Can a parade of new gadgets harness the power without disturbing the birds and mammals that feed in the rich waters of the Pentland Firth?

Helen Mark meets the Scottish islanders determined to become self-sufficient in energy.

Helen Mark meets the Scottish islanders determined they become self-sufficient in energy.

Ospreys Of Rutland Water2009080820090813

Our growing population in the UK is creating more demand for water and so several new reservoirs are planned and others extended.

Helen Mark explores Rutland Water to investigate the controversy it caused in the 1970s when plans to flood two villages and vast swathes of farmland were announced.

Now it is home to thousands of wildlife species, including the rare osprey.

Helen finds out about the success of the reintroduction project there and gets within touching distance of three new chicks as they are ringed.

But once again farmland has been sacrificed for the lagoons.

She explores how well new species are taking to the man-made pools and investigates who wins in the battle for food, water and wildlife.

Helen Mark looks at the battle between water supply and wildlife at Rutland Water.

Owenstown2009110720091112

The philanthropist Robert Owen brought about sweeping social reforms in his model village of New Lanark.

Workers in the mill town were given improved housing and working conditions while the children were taken out of the mills and schooled instead.

But his vision for a self-sufficient community was never fully realised in his lifetime.

Matt Baker explores new plans for Owenstown, a new town of 20,000 planned just a few miles from New Lanark.

The co-operative society will be encouraged to foster a sense of community and the town will be carbon neutral, generating its own power from wind and waste.

Matt also visits the nearby village of Rigside; once riding high on the jobs and prosperity of the coal pit, it is now facing severe decline and hopes that some of the excitement and prosperity from Owenstown will benefit their area.

However, the site chosen for the new town has no natural resource to provide jobs, unlike Rigside's mine and New Lanark's river to power the mills.

Matt asks how the planners envision starting their town from scratch.

Matt Baker explores plans to create a new Lanarkshire town based on Robert Owen's ideals.

Portland Quarry2009020720090212

Stone from the Isle of Portland envelops London's most prestigious buildings, so why do some locals want the quarrying to stop? Helen Mark finds out.

Helen Mark finds out why some Isle of Portland locals want quarrying to stop.

Post-flood Cumbria2010032020100325

In November 2009, much of the UK experienced some of the heaviest rain for years.

One of the worst affected areas was Cumbria, where rivers burst their banks and torrents of water raced through the streets of towns and villages and devastated the surrounding countryside.

For a while, images of the devastation dominated the media.

But what happened next? Matt Baker visits the area to find out how the clean-up and rebuilding operation is going and talks to people whose lives and businesses were badly affected.

He starts his day in Workington, where the main bridge collapsed, leading to the tragic death of a local policeman and effectively splitting the town in two.

Work is now underway on a new temporary road bridge which will finally enable people to travel from one side of the town to the other without an 18-mile detour.

Matt joins Chris Tomlin of the Lake District National Park out on the fells to find out just where all the water came from that caused so much damage.

He also hears from local farmers about the devastation caused to their land by the thousands of tons of gravel and debris left behind by the water.

Matt visits Wordsworth House, the birthplace and childhood home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, where he helps out in the clean-up operation in the 18th century-kitchen garden.

He is also taken around the streets of Cockermouth by Mike Park, team leader of the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue team who helped to rescue people from their flooded homes and businesses.

Matt Baker visits Cumbria to see if life is returning to normal after the floods of 2009.

Resistance2010110620101111

Owen Sheers explores Wales' secret military history from World War Two.

Author and poet Owen Sheers visits South Wales, the setting for his book Resistance, which was inspired by the tales he heard growing up of a secret rural army, trained to hold off a potential German invasion during the second world war.

It is seventy years since the formation of the Auxiliary Unit.

Winston Churchill told them 'You are my secret army, so you dare not take a bow.' Their battleground was to be the field, the hedge, the ditch, the wood.

Perhaps fortunately, they never got to put their training into action, as life expectancy for the auxiliers once the Germans had invaded was said to be between seven and ten days.

Ripples Of The Ballinderry River2009121220091217

Helen Mark visits Northern Ireland to find out about an exciting new community project taking place along the banks of the Ballinderry River.

Along the way Helen meets people who have grown up with the Ballinderry and who are taking part in a very special project, protecting the environment and the wildlife around it and reconnecting people with the river.

Helen begins by going on a hunt for the endangered white-clawed crayfish, once a common sight in rivers and lakes and now on an ever-increasing list of globally threatened species.

She also meets local people involved with RIPPLE, a project designed to encourage people to get more involved in planning the future of their river, and takes to the water with canoeing enthusiasts.

Further along the river, Helen meets local sound artist Paul Moore to hears the river sing, before finishing her journey on the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles and the winter home for a huge number and variety of birds.

But are there as still as many arriving as the 90,000 that wintered here in the late 1980s?

Helen Mark is in Northern Ireland to follow the Ballinderry River from source to lough.

Rutland Water2004103020041104

is the largest man made lake in Western Europe.

It's home to 20000 birds and last year successfully introduced young ospreys from Scotland.

Created to provide water for the conurbations of the East Midlands, it has blossomed into a major tourist attraction for fishermen, sailing clubs and birdwatchers.

Sheklands2002122820030102

Helen Mark collects more stories from the British countryside.

Sherwood Forest2011040920110414

For this week's Open Country, Richard Uridge is in the Birklands area of Sherwood Forest finding out about its ancient past when he visits Thynghowe, an ancient open-air meeting place where hundreds of Vikings gathered to make important decisions.

Presenter: Richard Uridge

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Richard Uridge finds out that there's more to Sherwood Forest than Robin Hood.

Show Of Hands2010042420100429

Helen Mark visits the landscapes that have inspired award winning folk group Show of Hands who have won many awards for their music depicting rural life in Dorset and the West Country.

Helen meets singer/songwriter Steve Knightley in his home town of Topsham on the Exe Estuary in Devon.

He talks about his love of the area and explains why he chooses to sing about the countryside and its people in a way that's earned him the reputation for being 'the gravelly voiced spokesman of the rural poor'.

The group's song Country Life encapsulates many of the harsher realities of contemporary rural England.

Helen meets some of the characters who feature in those songs that have been described as 'music on an inspired and intelligent level...

about the desecration of British country life.'

Among them is Dave Kerley, a former fisherman who has given up commercial fishing and now runs a fish business on dry land.

Knightley's song The Dive tells the story of how Dave and his father used to dive for scallops until one fateful day when their dive nearly went tragically wrong.

Giles Frampton, a long time friend of Steve's, feels strongly about rural poverty and deprivation.

His own experiences of seeing the decline of villages and market towns and the closure of his family's butcher shop are the references for the song 'The Cold Heart of England'.

The life of the small farmer is frequently referred to in Show of Hands' music and Helen visits a Dorset hill farmer where Steve Knightley's mother spent several years as an evacuee during the second world war which he records in his song, 'The Vale'.

Produced by Maggie Ayre.

Helen Mark visits the landscapes that inspire award-winning folk group Show of Hands.

Skye Scavengers2009042520090430

Matt Baker joins an archaeological dig to find out just how idyllic life was for Neolithic man on the Isle of Skye.

When the ice sheets finally released their grip on Britain, the Isle of Skye was one of the most attractive options for the new human settlers.

Until now, evidence of these mesolithic islanders was sparse, rotted by the wet climate and the acidic peat soil.

Matt joins a dig which is gradually revealing the lifestyle of these early residents.

Matt Baker finds out just how idyllic life was for Neolithic man on the Isle of Skye.

Snowdonia2012112220121124

Helen Mark discovers the myths and legends of the landscape of Snowdonia.

Helen Mark discovers the myths and legends of the landscape of Snowdonia. A recent million pound appeal by the National Trust successfully enabled the Trust to buy one of Wales' most iconic farms, Llyndy Isaf, and the land around it on the shores of Llyn Dinas. As well as being important environmentally, legend states that the area is the setting for the mythical battle between the red and white dragon, the red dragon being the victor and claiming the honour of becoming the country's national symbol.

Helen also visits Ty Hyll, the Ugly House, a cottage saved from dereliction in the 1980s by the Snowdonia Society. The true origins of the house remain shrouded in mystery, although legend tells of it being built by two outlaw brothers as a 'Ty Un Nos', a house built overnight between sunset and sunrise with walls, roof and a smoking chimney. Under ancient law anyone succeeding in doing this could claim the freehold.

What other mysteries surround this stunning landscape?

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Snowdonia: Search And Rescue Dog Association2011121520111217

The Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) Wales is a specialist element of Mountain Rescue in England and Wales responsible for the training and deployment of dogs to search for missing people in the mountains and on the moorlands of Britain as well as lowland, rural and urban areas.

When someone is missing in a rural or mountain environment, a dog team can be more effective than 4 teams of people, covering large areas much faster and effectively.

For the handlers and trainers who bring their dogs along to be trained in this work, this work is voluntary and something that they do out of their sheer love of the great outdoors and, of course, the reward of working so closely with their dogs to search for missing people.

Helen Mark joins some of the experienced, and not so experienced, dogs and handlers at the foot of Cader Idris in the Snowdonia National Park to find out what this work involves, how important it is to the search teams and to the people they help and to hear why 'one man (or woman!) and their dog are such a fundamental part of the British landscape.

Helen meets Helen Howe, an experienced trainer and handler, who explains how the dogs and their handlers are trained to search and rescue missing people.

It can take around 3 years to train a new puppy to become a fully qualified Search Dog and Helen Howe explains how this is done.

Between then, Helen and Cluania have had several successful finds.

However, it is impossible to train a search dog without the invaluable help of a team of people called 'dogsbodies' and Helen Mark then meets up with Emmer Litt who has been volunteering herself as a 'body' for over four years.

At each training event, Emmer spends her time hiding out in the hills that she loves with a good book and a flask of tea waiting to be 'found' by the dogs in training.

Without the help of people like Emmer it is impossible to train a search dog because they need someone to search for and so Helen joins trainee handler, Rob Johnson, and his dog Skye as they set off in the hunt for Emmer who is now hidden somewhere under Snowdonia's autumn sunshine in the foothills of Cader Idris.

Finally, Helen joins handler Iain Nicholson and his dog, Mij, who is a trailing dog.

Together they demonstrate for Helen how Mij works in a scent specific way by following the actual scent of the person that is missing.

Iain and Mij work from the place that the missing person was last seen and have been extremely successful in locating people in more lowland and urban areas as well as helping out with the Mountain Rescue Teams of the Lake District.

Being part of SARDA is extremely important to the handlers and dogs that are involved but their continued presence on the British landscape is just as vital to the people that they help to rescue each year.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark joins a very special training day in the Snowdonia National Park.

Somerset Levels2003040520030410

Richard Uridge uncovers more stories and characters from the British countryside.

Today, he meets a mud-horse on the Somerset Levels.

South Wales Valleys2010040320100408

The rivers of the South Wales coalfields were once so black with mining and industrial waste that in places no fish could survive.

But miraculously, salmon have now returned to all of these waterways and rivers such as the Ebbw and the Taff now have fish running up from the sea to spawn.

25 years since the end of the Miners Strike signalled the eventual closure of the coalmines, the physical environment of the valleys of South Wales is very different.

Gone is the industrial landscape and the air thick with coal dust.

Gone too are the pit wheels and steel works, taking with them employment and a way of life.

But this has all been replaced by a greener landscape and healthier environment and the challenge facing the people of the Valleys now is to make the best of what they have on their doorstep to restore the social and economic fortunes of the former coalfields and bring a healthier way of life for themselves and those people who visit this part of the world.

Helen Mark begins her day by joining keen cyclist, Ralph Jones, on a bike ride through the beautiful Afan Forest following the tracks that run along the now disused railway lines that once served the long-abandoned coal mines.

The area has been regenerated and the colliery tips have gone.

The landscape is now green and forested and plays host to hundreds of visitors each year who come to walk or cycle in the area.

Just a few miles up the road, Helen visits the Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike and Ponds Centre.

Following the closure of the local pits in the 1970s, the local community took their future in their own hands and took advantage of the beautiful scenery on their doorsteps and the rain water from the sky and created a series of ponds along the narrow valley.

Fishing and canoeing are now the most popular sport, along with miles of old flat railway trackbed lines and steep mountain slopes, providing days of cycling and hillwalking.

Helen then leaves the Afan Valley and takes the Heads of the Valleys Road to the River Taff in Merthyr Tydfil where she meets keen fisherman, Tony Rees.

Tony has fished the rivers of the valleys for 60 years and remembers a time when it was impossible to fish the River Taff below Merthyr because the waters were so black.

Now, thanks to natural cleansing and a concerted clean-up effort along the rivers, salmon travel along Taff from as far away as Cardiff.

Finally, Helen heads across to the Ebbw Valley to find out about the Valleys Regional Park and the Ebbw Fach Trail, a coming together of local communities to form a 7-mile long environment and heritage trail which will highlight the transformation of the area from heavy industry to a greener landscape.

Later this year, a new memorial will be unveiled along the trail, in memory of the 45 men who lost their lives in an explosion 50 years ago at the nearby Six Bells Colliery.

The memorial will name all 45 and also be dedicated to all those affected by the mining industry.

Helen Mark visits the transformed valleys of the former South Wales coalfields.

Stargazing20100821
Stargazing On Dartmoor And Kit Hill20100826

For this week's Open Country, Helen Mark goes in search of the Perseids Meteor Shower, described as a 'celestial firework display' and visible each year from mid-July and reaching its peak around August 12th.

Helen hears all about this spectactular shooting star from amateur astronomer, Shona Owen, before joining naturalist Paul Gompertz from Devon Wildlife Trust for some nocturnal wildlife spotting at Castle Drogo, the last castle to be built in England.

Heading across Dartmoor towards Kit Hill in Cornwall, Helen meets up cyclist, Jim Pascoe, who takes Helen for a ride out into the darkness of the moors and explains why he does what he does under the cover of moonlight.

We also hear from Brian Byng who studies megaliths by moonlight.

Brian explains to Helen how many of the ancient burial sites found on Dartmoor are linked to the stars and aligned with astronomy.

Finally, Helen rejoins Shona and her group of amateur astronomers at Kit Hill, close to the Callington Space Centre in Cornwall for the meteor shower's peak.

How different the countryside seems under the night sky.

Helen Mark is stargazing in Devon and Cornwall for the Perseids meteor shower.

Sussex Visions2009071120090716

Matt Baker takes a fresh look at one of Britain's most visited landscape.

His first step is to join the Natural Navigator, Tristan Gooley, to learn how to travel the Sussex Downs without a map or compass, relying instead on the angle of plant growth and the tracks of animals.

The beauties of the Sussex landscape lacked a certain something in the late-18th century, according to local landowner, 'Mad' Jack Fuller, and so he embarked on Britain's greatest programme of folly building.

His pyramids, observatories and towers continue to dominate the landscape.

Matt joins local writer John Naish for a tour of Fuller's follies.

Matt will also be examining the literary landscape of Sussex, from the pre-war works of Edward Thomas and Virginia Woolf through to the darker visions of the landscape from sci-fi writers like John Wyndham and contemporary thriller writer, Peter Moore.

Matt Baker takes a fresh look at one of our most visited landscapes.

Tales From The Serpentine2009090520090910

Matt Baker starts the day with a splash when he joins the early morning swimmers at the Serpentine Lake in London's Hyde Park.

For almost 300 years, the Serpentine has played a role in the history of London and formed a central part in the lives of the people and wildlife who use it on a daily basis.

Matt takes a walk around the lake, chatting to the people involved with the lake today and with the wildlife that live in and around it and finds out more about a recent project to improve water quality.

Created in 1730 when Queen Caroline ordered the damming of the River Westbourne, the 40-acre body of water has been the playground of poets and queens, a meeting place for the fashionable and the not so fashionable, and a favoured spot for swimmers.

These range from the 10,000 people in the mid-19th century who were described as a 'mass of human flesh in motion' to the early morning bathers of today, described by AA Gill as 'shelled turtles'.

Matt also takes a trip on the solar-powered shuttle boat that silently and effortlessly glides from one side of the lake to the other, ferrying visitors from the boat house on the north shore to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain on the south.

The day ends with a chat with 'Captain Hook', aka actor Jonathan Hyde, before he takes to the stage in the current production of Peter Pan, running in the specially-commissioned state-of-the-art Kensington Gardens Theatre Pavilion.

Matt Baker visits London' s Hyde Park to discover the history of the Serpentine Lake.

For almost 300 years, the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park has played a role in the history of London and formed a central part in the lives of the people and wildlife who use it on a daily basis.

Created in 1730 when Queen Caroline ordered the damming of the River Westbourne, the 40-acre body of water has been the playground of poets and queens, a meeting place for the fashionable and the not so fashionable, and a favoured spot for swimmers, from the 10,000 people in the mid-19th century who were described as a 'mass of human flesh in motion' to the early morning bathers of today, described by AA Gill as 'shelled turtles'.

Matt Baker starts the day with a splash when he joins the Serpentine Swimming Club.

He then takes a walk around the lake, meets and chats along the way to the people involved with the landscape and wildlife around it and finds out about a project to improve the ecological quality and environment, which has included the planting of several floating reed beds.

Matt also takes a trip on the solar-powered shuttle boat that silently and effortlessly glides from one side of the lake to the other, ferrying visitors from the boat house on the north shore to the Princesss of Wales Memorial Fountain on the south.

The day ends with a chat with 'Captain Hook', aka Jonathan Hyde, before he takes to the stage in the current production of Peter Pan, running in the specially-commissioned state-of-the-art Kensington Gardens Theatre Pavilion.

The A4420040508

We take for granted the roads we drive along, their routes and the flora and fauna along them.

They are traditionally the conduits for trade and ideas as well as for people traversing the country.

Richard Uridge follows part of a rural road, the A44 as it winds its way from the coast of mid-Wales at Aberystwyth to Herefordshire, Worcestershire and beyond.

He meets Professor Richard Moore-Colyer on what used to be the main road for the cattle drovers out of Aberystwyth but was superceded by the A44 in the 1830s when a less mountainous route was preferred.

Until the 1960s it remained nothing more than a track but it was decided to tarmac it when tourists began to be drawn to the beauty of the area.

Further into mid-Wales, the A44 is bisected by the Monk's Trodd, an ancient road which is now a footpath.

It covers 25 miles and joins the ruins of two Cistercian monastries.

It runs along a plateau and has outstanding views to the north where you can see Cader Idris and to the south the Brecon Beacons.

Richard's next guest, Liz Fleming-Williams thinks it is one of the most symbolic places in Wales, signifying Wales' wildness and is one of the few wild places south of Hadrian's Wall.

This wildness was protected in part by the large numbers of dams and reservoirs that were created in the area one hundred years ago this year to provide Birmingham's water.

The dams stopped the area from being used for forestry and this in turn protected the blanket bogs and upland habitats which are so precious.

Monks Trodd

The Elan valley

It's difficult to drive anywhere and not notice the roadside verges on your journey.

In Powys the county council have had more complaints about roadside verges than any other issue.

In 1999 they cut the flora back rather earlier than usual there was outcry from the community.

Pressure from the public and conservationists led to a project being set up and so far it has been a great success both in deciding how these habitats can best be protected and working in partnership with all of the concerned groups to ensure the best action is taken.

Michelle Delafield of the Powys Living Highways Project looks after verge management on Powys' minor roads.

85 stretches have been designated as nature reserves some are only a few feet long and others stretch for miles.

They have been so designated because they contain a particularly rare species, (this might be a type of flower or butterfly or even a dormouse population) or include a vast diversity of species.

The Powys Living Highways Project

Wiz Clift is an expert at finding free food from the so-called “Larder Hedgerow”, and also at cooking delicious meals with the produce she finds.

Her restaurant situated on the A44 near Worcester is a haven of local seasonal produce.

She takes Richard away from the more polluted roadsides of the A44 to a quiet country lane where she searches the verges and hedgerows to find some wonderful spring ingredients such as wild chives, hedge garlic and nettles for salads, quiches and tarts – sometimes made using abandoned pheasant eggs found by the roadside too.

The Dark Peaks2011102920111103

On the 22nd July 1937 the 6 man crew of Heyford K6875 were briefed to carry out a night cross country exercise from RAF Leconfield in east Yorkshire, the weather that night was poor, with low visibility.

The crew were seen to fire flares to illuminate the ground beneath to hopefully see a feature they could recognise, this proved fruitless as the aircraft flew up the Vale of Edale striking Broadlee Bank Tor just below the summit.

Jim Watson's Uncle Jim Barker was one of the crewmen lost that night and in 2002 Jim set out to find the site where his Uncle had lost his life.

He was aided by Douglas Rowland who had witnessed the crash as a young boy in 1937 and could clearly remember the spot which he had clambered up to the next day.

Douglas was able to present Jim with a brass plaque which he had rescued from the Heyford all those years ago.

Jules Hudson joins Jim and Douglas as they retrace the journey they took to the crash site.

Nor is the Heyford the only plane which lost its way in these treacherous peaks.

Pat Collins has written about the many hundreds of wartime crashes and the invaluable lessons they have taught airline pilots who have come after them.

He and National Park Ranger John Owen take Jules to one of the largest sites, the Super Fortress on Bleaklow.

Jules Hudson visits the Peak District to discover its tragic aviation history.

The Devil's Beeftub2011082720110901

17th Century Scotland was a troubled time.

Immortalised by Sir Walter Scott the cavernous 'Devil's Beeftub' and the spectacular 'Grey Mare's Tail' waterfall became hiding places for Border Reivers and Covenanters as the countryside became a battleground for clans and religious factions.

Alistair Moffat has written about the infamous Reivers.

They hid the cattle they stole from either side of the border in the 'Beeftub' as it provided a perfect vantage point to see any approaching armies.

Theirs was a lawless time and knowledge of the landscape was vital for survival.

Today the landscape is being carefully restored to a time before intensive cattle and sheep grazing had created the open vistas we see today.

The Borders Forest Trust are attempting to plant thousands of native trees and work with farmers like Jim Mitchell to integrate todays community with conservation for the future.

Just down the road is the 'Grey Mare's Tail', one of the highest waterfalls in Scotland.

Today it is home to feral goats and rare plantlife but in the 17th century it provided a hiding place for the Covenanters, those who objected to the interference of the Stuart Kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church.

The National Trust now own the site and as well as the human history and wildlife the area also features some extremely old fossils.

Helen Mark explores the Devil's Beeftub and Grey Mare's Tail in the Scottish Borders.

The Forest Of Bowland2010051520100520

Is there more to the Forest of Bowland than the Pendle Witches?

Helen Mark is in Lancashire to explore the Forest of Bowland, an area often described as England's last great wilderness.

Helen meets members of the Pendle Forest History Group, who strongly believe that the history of the area in which they live has more to offer than stories of witches, and who have been unearthing more about the rural heritage of their landscape.

Helen then joins ornithologist, Stephen Murphy who gives her an insight into the life of the 'breathtaking' Hen Harrier, the iconic bird which is Bowland's emblem.

Will Helen be lucky enough to be able to spot just one of the ten male Hen Harriers in England today?

At Halstead's Farm near Slaidburn, Helen meets up with Helen Wallbank who has been unearthing and recording the ancient limekilns along the Hodder Vally, a feature of the landscape all around which can tell so much about the history of the rural communities of Bowland.

And as the day draws to a close, Helen joins David Fisher in caves and along riverbanks searching for some of the 10 species of bats that inhabit this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

The Hanbury Crater2009112120091126

In the Staffordshire countryside, just a few miles from Burton-on-Trent, a wire fence surrounds a deep crater measuring over half a mile wide.

Nearby signs warn passers by of the sudden drop and that the land contains unexploded bombs which, in the event of an explosion, could cause injury or death.

This is where what is widely believed to be the UK's largest explosion occurred on November 27th 1944 when an underground ammunition store at nearby Fauld blew up detonating 3-4,000 tons of explosives and devastating acres of countryside, killing 70 people, hundreds of sheep and cattle and completely obliterating a nearby farm.

The Cock Inn in Hanbury was so badly damaged that it had to be completely rebuilt.

For 18 people whose bodies were never found the crater remains their graves, marked by a granite memorial stone close to the perimeter fence.

On the 65th anniversary of the explosion, Helen Mark visits Hanbury, the scene of this wartime tragedy, and talks to local people and survivors about their memories of that day and how the explosion changed their lives and the landscape around them forever.

For over 40 years, nothing would grow in what became known to locals as the 'bomb hole' until slowly nature began to reclaim the Hanbury Crater.

Helen is joined by the Time Team's Professor Mick Aston and together they visit the crater and go underground at Fauld Gypsum Mine, which dates back to Roman times.

The mine was connected to the ill-fated ammunitions store by the reservoir supplying the steam to operate a nearby plastic factory.

The greatest loss of life occurred among the factory workers and those underground, who were either drowned or gassed as tonnes of mud and toxic fumes engulfed them.

How could such a tragedy happen?

Helen Mark and Time Team's Mick Aston investigate the story of the Hanbury Crater.

The Isle Of Mull - 12008050320080508

Helen Mark explores the Island of Mull, the second largest of the Inner Hebrides.

She visits the town of Tobermory, location of the children's TV programme Balamory.

Visiting a bird hide, she hopes to get a glimpse of Britain's biggest bird of prey, the sea eagle.

She also looks into the history of the island with the help of the Mull Historical Society and finds out more about the island's second biggest industry after tourism, fish farming.

The Isle Of Mull - 2 *2008051020080515

Helen Mark explores the Island of Mull, the second largest of the Inner Hebrides.

She boards a yacht to explore the seas around the island's northern coast, where whales, dolphins and porpoises are regular visitors.

She also visits Arnamurchan Point, the most westerly point on the British mainland.

The New Face Of The Clyde2009112820091203

The people of Cumbria are embarking on the massive clean-up operation after record rainfall and devastating floods over the past days.

But flooding has become an all too familiar experience across the UK.

In this week's Open Country Matt Baker heads to Glasgow to explore the River Clyde.

The waters of its White Cart tributary can rise by 20 feet in less than 12 hours.

It's flooded significantly 20 times in the last century and Matt meets residents who have given up barricading the doors and accept living upstairs until floodwaters recede.

But a massive engineering project is now underway to reduce the likelihood of flooding.

Matt finds out where the water will go and just how the surrounding wildlife will be affected.

Matt also explores the changing face of the Clyde.

Traditionally it's been seen as an exit point from Glasgow.

The massive shipbuilding industry and the docks meant both the ships and their goods left from the city.

For Glasweigians too they headed to the river only to go on their holidays 'doon the watter' to the seaside.

But now the image of the river is changing.

Shipbuilding has declined so industry's dominance of the waterside has waned.

1.5 billion pounds has been invested to regenerate the Clyde and residents and visitors are being encouraged to rediscover it as a destination in itself.

Matt Baker jumps aboard one of the new riverboat tours to see the city from a new perspective and see how tradition and the new wave of business and leisure sit side by side.

Matt Baker finds how the River Clyde is being prevented from flooding Glasgow.

Helen Mark visits Northern Ireland to find out about an exciting new community project taking place along the banks of the Ballinderry River.

She meets people who have grown up with the river and who are now helping to protect and conserve its environment, the landscape around it and the wildlife that depend on it.

As she travels along the river from its source in the Sperrin Mountains, Helen gets up close and personal with the endangered white-clawed crayfish, once a common sight in rivers and lakes and now on an ever-increasing list of globally threatened species.

She also meets several local people involved with RIPPLE, a project designed to encourage people to get more involved in planning the future of their river, and takes to the water with canoeing enthusiasts.

Further along the river, Helen hears from local sound artist Paul Moore and hears the river sing before finishing her journey on the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles and the winter home for a huge number and variety of birds.

But are there as still as many arriving as the 90,000 that wintered here in the late 1980s?

Helen Mark is in Northern Ireland to follow the Ballinderry River from mountain to lough.

The South Downs - An Inspirational Landscape20110716

The chalk hills of the South Downs and the rolling Sussex landscape are rich in history, culture and a traditional way of life.

The valleys, the woods, the hills and the coastline have inspired people, poets, artists and musicians down the centuries.

For this week's Open Country, Helen Mark takes a musical journey across Sussex and the South Downs talking to some of the people who have put their love of this landscape into song and music or simply been inspired creatively by its existence.

Helen is joined by John Copper, his sister Jill and her husband Jon Dudley, of the singing Copper Family.

The family, who come from the coastal village of Rottingdean in Sussex, are a living, breathing folk singing tradition.

They have lived and worked in this area for over 400 years as farm workers and shepherds and throughout the generations have seen many changes in this landscape.

Their songs have been handed down from generation to generation and are still being sung today in the same way that they were sung hundreds of years ago, but at the heart of this music is the countryside around them, the natural beauty of the South Downs and a traditional way of life.

Bulgarian composer, Dobrinka Tabakova, tells Helen how she composed a piece of music to accompany the words of poet Francis William Bourdillon.

'On The South Downs' is a symphonic poem which aims to paint a sonic picture of the beautiful South Downs and captures a day's walking on the Downs.

Dobrinka was commissioned by the 'Friends of West Sussex Young Musicians' to write the music which was first performed by cellist Natalie Clein and the Chichester Pro Camerata orchestra in 2009 and Dobrinka tells Helen how, while writing the piece, she experienced a slow falling in love with the landscape around her.

And musician Matt Hopwood describes how after several years he found himself drawn back to a place he would visit as a teenager, Edburton, a small village at the foot of the South Downs.

It was here that Matt spent months in the isolated village church and found inspiration from his surroundings to write music for his new album.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark is in Sussex to find out about the inspirational South Downs.

The South Downs - An Inspirational Landscape20110721

The chalk hills of the South Downs and the rolling Sussex landscape are rich in history, culture and a traditional way of life.

The valleys, the woods, the hills and the coastline have inspired people, poets, artists and musicians down the centuries.

For this week's Open Counry, Helen Mark takes a musical journey across Sussex and the South Downs talking to some of the people who have put their love of this landscape into song and music or simply been inspired creatively by its existence.

Helen is joined by John Copper, his sister Jill and her husband Jon Dudley, of the singing Copper Family.

The family, who come from the coastal village of Rottingdean in Sussex, are a living, breathing folk singing tradition.

They have lived and worked in this area for over 400 years as farm workers and shepherds and throughout the generations have seen many changes in this landscape.

Their songs have been handed down from generation to generation and are still being sung today in the same way that they were sung hundreds of years ago, but at the heart of this music is the countryside around them, the natural beauty of the South Downs and a traditional way of life.

Bulgarian composer, Dobrinka Tabakova, tells Helen how she composed a piece of music to accompany the words of poet Francis William Bourdillon.

'On The South Downs' is a symphonic poem which aims to paint a sonic picture of the beautiful South Downs and captures a day's walking on the Downs.

Dobrinka was commissioned by the 'Friends of West Sussex Young Musicians' to write the music which was first performed by cellist Natalie Clein and the Chichester Pro Camerata orchestra in 2009 and Dobrinka tells Helen how, while writing the piece, she experienced a slow falling in love with the landscape around her.

And msician Matt Hopwood describes how after several years he found himself drawn back to a place he would visit as a teenager, Edburton, a small village at the foot of the South Downs.

It was here that Matt spent months in the isolated village church and found inspiration from his surroundings to write music for his new album.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark is in Sussex to find out about the inspirational South Downs.

Trailblaze On The South Downs20110709

Why has a new scheme to encourage people onto our national trails upset some people? For the first of two programmes from Sussex, Helen Mark has her running shoes on along the South Downs Way to find out about a project to encourage long-distance runners out into the countryside.

The scheme has sparked controversy with a petition launched against the installation of electronic boxes on several of our 15 national trails.

Trailblaze is a pilot project which has been launched by events company Endurance Life in partnership with Natural England to allow runners to take up the challenge of a long distance route whenever they want to rather than as part of a large event.

The aim is to run as far as they would like to go, whenever they choose, and enter an electronic timing tag into boxes fitted at points along the way which records their progress.

The scheme is currently operating on several of our national trails and the organisers say that this has been created by a team of trail runners who feel that the joy of running is increased greatly when it takes place in a stunning landscape.

But walkers and outdoor enthusiasts are questioning the need for this scheme.

Many people are concerned about the aesthetics of the scheme and what they see as the 'commercialisation' of the countryside.

The electronic boxes, which appear at various points along the trails, have caused concern amongst traditionalists who see them as unnecessary and ugly and there is also concern about the pressure on the footpaths and how much the natural environment will be affected and damaged.

For this week's Open Country, Helen Mark dons her running shoes and heads out onto the South Down Way where she meets Stuart Mills, a keen runner who has taken up the Trailblaze challenge.

Helen also hears from Andrew Barker of Endurance Life and Tess Jackson, from Natural England who are behind the scheme about their reasons for setting it up.

Nigel Buxton, whose home is close to the national trail and who moved there specifically to enjoy walking on the chalk of the Downs, tells Helen about his unhappiness with the electronic boxes that are found along the South Downs Way and Helen hears from outdoor writer, Mark Richards, about his concern for the welfare of the paths that we walk.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Trailblaze On The South Downs20110714

Why has a new scheme to encourage people onto our national trails upset some people? For the first of two programmes from Sussex, Helen Mark has her running shoes on along the South Downs Way to find out about a project to encourage long-distance runners out into the countryside.

The scheme has sparked controversy with a petition launched against the installation of electronic boxes on several of our 15 national trails.

Trailblaze is a pilot project which has been launched by events company Endurance Life in partnership with Natural England to allow runners to take up the challenge of a long distance route whenever they want to rather than as part of a large event.

The aim is to run as far as they would like to go, whenever they choose, and enter an electronic timing tag into boxes fitted at points along the way which records their progress.

The scheme is currently operating on several of our national trails and the organisers say that this has been created by a team of trail runners who feel that the joy of running is increased greatly when it takes place in a stunning landscape.

But walkers and outdoor enthusiasts are questioning the need for this scheme.

Many people are concerned about the aesthetics of the scheme and what they see as the 'commercialisation' of the countryside.

The electronic boxes, which appear at various points along the trails, have caused concern amongst traditionalists who see them as unnecessary and ugly and there is also concern about the pressure on the footpaths and how much the natural environment will be affected and damaged.

For this week's Open Country, Helen Mark dons her running shoes and heads out onto the South Down Way where she meets Stuart Mills, a keen runner who has taken up the Trailblaze challenge.

Helen also hears from Andrew Barker of Endurance Life and Tess Jackson, from Natural England who are behind the scheme about their reasons for setting it up.

Nigel Buxton, whose home is close to the national trail and who moved there specifically to enjoy walking on the chalk of the Downs, tells Helen about his unhappiness with the electronic boxes that are found along the South Downs Way and Helen hears from outdoor writer, Mark Richards, about his concern for the welfare of the paths that we walk.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Why has a new scheme to encourage people onto our national trails upset some people?

Trouble On The Teifi2009081520090820

Matt Baker reports on the dispute going on between anglers and canoeists on Welsh rivers.

The River Teifi, almost exactly in the geographical middle of Wales, is set against a backdrop of heather moors and rugged Cambrian mountains.

Matt visits the valley town of Llandysul in Ceredigion, which lies along the banks of the river.

The people who use the river are in bitter dispute, because Llandysul is one of the most popular places in Wales both for freshwater angling and for white-water canoeing.

The anglers have to pay to fish in the river, and the canoeists want access for free.

The canoeists are campaigning to change the law to allow full access to use the river, and the anglers are unhappy about it.

In fact, this is not just an isolated problem - the Welsh Assembly is conducting an inquiry into this issue across all rivers in Wales.

Urban Wildlife2012080220120804

Jules Hudson visits West London in search of the wildlife that calls the city home.

From Dover to Dundee, London to Leeds and Cardiff to Cambridge, there is much more to our towns and cities than concrete and cars. Take the time to listen and look and a world of wildlife is there just waiting to be spotted. As Britain's largest city London is alive with wildlife and Jules Hudson takes a journey across West London in search of just a few of the feathered, furry and winged residents that call the city home.

As the day begins, Jules meets David Lindo, aka The Urban Birder, who takes Jules for a walk across Wormwood Scrubs, the 183 acres of open land close to the prison of the same name. This is David's patch, his 'garden' where he says he has had the privilege of seeing Meadow Pipits, Woodpeckers, passing Northern Wheatears, Honey Buzzards and even nesting Skylarks. Leaving David doing what he does best, looking up to the skies, Jules joins Jan Hewlett at the Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve. Cut off from the surrounding area by railway tracks in the late nineteenth century, this reserve in a corner of Chiswick has developed into a lively ecological community which became one of London Wildlife Trust's first reserves when it was saved from development by a local campaign. Jan takes Jules on a walk through the woodland of the reserve, which is home to an array of birdlife, butterflies and bats, as well as hedgehogs and field voles, to the pond to discover what creatures thrive there.

Leaving Jan taking in the peace of the Triangle, Jules continues his journey to the home of Kelly Gray where he finds some surprising residents in her back garden. Longing for the rural lifestyle, Kelly has brought the countryside and the idea of life on the farm to Brentford. Introducing Jules to Rosie and Jim, the pigs that share her back garden with the ducks and chickens she also has, Kelly explains why she took such such a huge decision to bring the countryside in to her West London garden.

No urban wildlife story would be complete without the gardener's best friend, the hedgehog. Jules rounds off his journey with a visit to the home of Sue Kidger in Twickenham from where she runs her hedgehog hospital, caring for orphaned and injured hedgehogs with the aim of releasing them once again to secure gardens. With Sue is Hugh Warwick, self-confessed hedgehog obsessive who tells Jules about an initiative to safeguard the future of hedgehogs whose numbers have been declining rapidly in recent years. As Hugh says, a hedgehog friendly garden is a wildlife friendly garden.

Presenter: Jules Hudson

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Watership Down Under Threat2012041220120414

Helen Mark visits the Berkshire site made famous by author Richard Adams. Development is now planned, but should literary status override housing need?

A planning application to build 2,000 homes south of Newbury has met fierce opposition from a local community. Armed with an international bestseller, Watership Down, the campaigners and author Richard Adams believe the site of the original warren, Sandleford Park, should remain as open countryside.

To explore the issues and mark the 40th anniversary of the book's publication Helen follows the path taken by the fictional rabbits Hazel and Fiver. It takes her across the real landscape that follows the Berkshire/Hampshire border.

It's a truly stunning part of rural Britain, but is there room for sentimentality when we have a serious housing shortage? Open Country investigates the arguments for and against.

Producer: Clare Freeman.

Watership Down under threat. Helen Mark visits the legendary site at risk of development.

Helen Mark visits the legendary site at risk of development.

Western Irish Lake District20100814
Western Irish Lake District20100819

To the north of Galway in Ireland lies the Lake District....but not a Lake District that Alfred Wainwright might instantly recognise.

This is the Irish Lake District, where three major lakes can be found - from north to south they are Loughs Carra, Mask and Corrib.

Unusually all the three lakes are located almost entirely on low lying limestone, which is notoriously a leaky rock.

Because of this, the lake system encompasses some of the most fascinating hydrology and lake shore features.

Helen Mark begins her exploration of the lakes with geologist, Mike Simms, at Lough Mask where the shoreline resembles a vast empty egg box, a feature formed by the rise and fall of the water on the limestone.

From here, Helen travels to Lough Carra where she takes to the water with ecologist and farmer, Chris Huxley.

The bed of the lake consists of marl, a calcerous deposit, which gives the lake its distincitive and characteristic appearance.

Lough Carra is a wildlife sanctuary and home to a wide variety of wild orchids but in recent years the lake has been threatened by pollution caused by modern intensive farming methods.

Loughs Mask and Corrib are connected by an underwater stream with water draining from sinkholes on the shore of Lough Mask to springs in the village of Cong.

Before the 1840s and the building of the Cong Canal, these would have been among the largest in the world but they were robbed of their peak flows by the canal which ultimately failed because it was constructed on the leaky limestone.

Helen hears about the ill-fated canal from historian, Gerard Moran, and along with caver, Pat Cronin, she descends the stone staircase to Pigeon Hole, one of the many underground caves and passages that connect Lough Mask to Carra.

Helen ends her journey at Lough Carra, the second largest lake in Ireland, from where the water eventually empties into Galway Bay.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Helen Mark explores the features of Loughs Carra, Mask and Corrib in the west of Ireland.

White Cliffs Of Dover2012072620120728

Helen Mark meets Dame Vera Lynn to discuss an iconic landmark, the white cliffs of Dover.

In a year in which the world will be looking in on Britain as we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee and host the London Olympics, Helen Mark goes in search of the people whose lives are inextricably linked with the White Cliffs of Dover.We find out about this iconic part of the British landscape which has played such an important part in our nation's history and discovers why it still holds a special place in the nation's heart.Brian Whittaker and Rob Sonnen of the National Trust tell us why it is so important that landscapes like the White Cliffs are preserved for the nation. Jon Iveson from the Dover Museum tells Helen about the vital part that Dover and the White Cliffs have played in Britain's past and geologist Melanie Wrigley of the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership, which was set up to conserve and enhance the coast and countryside of Dover and the White Cliffs as the gateway to England, takes Helen for a walk on Shakespeare Beach in search of fossils.

Helen also meets Kaimes Beasley of HM Coastguard who tells her about the vital role that they play in ensuring the safety of the seas around the cliffs over which bluebirds have never really flown....or have they? Finally, Helen meets Dame Vera Lynn, whose wartime anthem firmly placed this most iconic of British landscapes in the hearts and minds of the nation.

Presenter: Helen Mark

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Wildlife Crime2010121120101216

Richard Uridge is on the trail of wildlife poachers in Cumbria.

Richard Uridge joins South Cumbrian Wildlife Crime Officers, volunteers and members of the local community on the trail of poachers in an attempt to crack down on wildlife crime.

Wildlife Officers receive several wildlife crime reports a month, many of which relate to deer poaching which is becoming big business for criminals, particularly in the run up to Christmas.

This year has also seen hundreds of sheep rustled across Cumbria and hundreds of ewes and lambs have been stolen in several separate incidents.

Richard hears from Bob Jarratt, of the local Deer Management Group, about the extent of the problem of deer poaching in the area and meets up with some of the people affected by wildlife crime and poaching including Keith Loxam, Warden of Hay Bridge Nature Reserve, who recently lost a prize stag, and farmer Andrew Allen who has been the victim of sheep rustling twice in the last 6 years.

Estate owner, Myles Sandys of Graythwaite Hall tells Richard about how the success of 'Poacher Watch' has helped put a stop to the problem of losing deer from his land.

Later, as night falls, Richard joins Wildlife Crime Officer, PC John Baldwin and Bob Jarrett from the Deer Management Group on their latest poacher watch operation, as they scour local hotspots in at attempt to thwart the poachers' next move.

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.

Winter Wildlife Crisis2009013120090205

Helen Mark investigates the sharp frosts and winter storms which have devastated the delicate wildlife of Cornwall.

The sharp frosts and winter storms which have devastated the delicate wildlife of Cornwall

Yorkshire2012083020120901

Jules Hudson is in North Yorkshire discovering the fascinating history of Richmond Castle.

Jules Hudson is in North Yorkshire to find out about the history of the landscape around Richmond Castle and the surrounding Dales. Founded by the Normans around 1070, just a few years after the Battle of Hastings, Richmond Castle was a formidable addition to the landscape and firmly stamped its authority on the people and the surrounding land. The town of Richmond slowly grew up around it and the castle still sits imposingly above the River Swale. During the First World War, the prison cells at Richmond Castle were used to hold the Richmond 16. The graffiti that survives on the walls of these cells includes that written by these conscientious objectors, sixteen men who were among the first in this country to refuse to fight on moral or religious grounds.

Jules also hears about the landscape history of the Dales around Richmond and the ways in which people down centuries have used the land, including the rich heritage of the lead mining industry.

Presenter: Jules Hudson

Producer: Helen Chetwynd.