The BBC Natural History Unit produces a wide range of programmes that aim to immerse a listener in…
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The first of two programmes exploring our relationship with the landscape and the value of getting to know 'a local patch'.
Three wildlife enthusiasts share their experiences of their local patch and its wildlife. For wildlife cameraman, John Aitchison, the local patch is the sea loch which is just a stone's throw from his home on the west coast of Scotland. For wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, the suburban back garden in Newcastle upon Tyne is his local patch, and for wildlife artist writer Jessica Holm, it's the woodland on the Isle of Wight where she spent four years studying red squirrels.
Recordings from each location are weaved together, highlighting the value of getting to know a patch of landscape so well that it's like having 'a second skin', as Jessica Holm says.
Walking along the shore from his home, John reflects on the memories which are trigged by familiar sights: the stone where the seals haul out, the stream where he's watched the otters bathe, the patch of grass where the lapwings shelter. With time, the unfamiliar has become familiar; his closest neighbours are the curlews, oystercatchers and sea otters.
For Chris too, time has bred familiarity and memories of the past are bound up with this garden. His memories are of the sounds of the past - the houses sparrows which used to be so common, the wind sighing among the leaves of the cherry tree, the swifts arriving in the summer. The recordings he has made in his garden also demonstrate how the landscape has changed; the house sparrows once so common are now hardly ever heard in his garden, but the recordings allow him to reconnect with the past, relive memories he associates with the sounds, like his children sleeping in their pram.
It is 20 years since Jessica Holm has visited Newton Copse on the Isle of Wight where she spent four years studying red squirrels, and yet the landscape feels the same. She even finds the paths she made to the trees where she had stapled live traps to catch the squirrels she was studying. Walking among the trees she explains, 'I think when you get really attached to a place, it never leaves you ... it becomes part of the fabric of you. And even though I haven't stepped foot in this copse for 20 years, it feels exactly the same as it did all that time ago.'
The programme reveals the emotional and spiritual strength each of the three derives from a connection with the landscape that comes through time spent in a landscape, through observing, watching, getting to know a landscape, becoming familiar with its colours, moods and character.
It's a revealing and fascinating insight into the power of experience and the relationships between people and place, between Man and Nature.