Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
Saturday 25 October
Repeated Thursday 30 October
On this weeks Open Country Helen Mark heads to the Isles of Scilly where birds are in song, flowers are in bloom and spring is in the air.
Spring may seem a long way off as we move into the depths of wintery late October but on Scilly it doesn't feel quite so far away. One of the unique aspects of the islands is its climate, the ameliorating effect of the sea means they rarely have frost or snow, which allows local farmers to grow flowers well ahead of those on the island of Great Britain. On Churchtown Farm on St Martins the first scented narcissi are in bloom and the Julian Family who run the farm are carrying on a centuries long tradition of the islands.
Flower farming on the Isles of Scilly began in the 1860s and has shaped the landscape that can be seen on the Islands today. By the turn of the 20th Century over 40 tonnes of flowers were being shipped to markets in London several times a week. Narrow fields with high hedges, which protect the fragile flowers from the effects of Atlantic storms, are reminiscent of the type of smallholding once common across much of mainland Britain.
However in the 1980's flower imports from more exotic climes and the low prices set by supermarkets meant that the transport costs involved and economies of scale put the islands flower farmers at a disadvantage. The Julian's adapted to these problems by cutting out the wholesalers and sending their flowers and fellow farmers direct to customers via the postal service.
As well as the first flowers October also brings many winged visitors to the island seeking a break from colder climes, as well as their dedicated followers. On St Mary's Will Wagstaff is one such ornithologist who knows the islands birdlife inside out and can tell many of the rare breeds who end up on shore just from their call. Many come from America borne on hurricane force winds thousands of miles across the Atlantic, others come from Siberia whilst the humble swallows and robins are migrants from the mainland.
Scilly is all about its wildlife and this is perhaps most apparent in its marine life. The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust have just recieved £100,000 of funds to help protect the diverse range of life found under the sea and Anna Cawthray of Scilly Dive School is just one of the islands inhabitants who spends her time juggling various jobs in order to remain in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
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