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Spring Special

A snapshot of spring, including dolphins in Cardigan Bay, one of the UK's last remaining hay meadows, a Roman fort in Alderney, and a large vegetated shingle spit.

This special programme travels the length and breadth of the country to provide a snapshot of spring - from shoreline and shingle to farmland and fell, we discover signs of new life as the season unfurls. Including dolphins in Cardigan Bay, one of the UK's last remaining hay meadows, a Roman fort in Alderney, the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe, and a look at the start of the shellfish season.

1 hour

Last on

Mon 23 May 2016 00:30

Alderney Bird Observatory

Alderney Bird Observatory

Matt heads to the tiny island of Alderney to meet the couple bringing new life to an old Roman fort. They’re turning the oldest building in the Channel Islands into the newest bird observatory in the country. Just a couple of months ago John Horton left his job as a wildlife crime officer and came to start a new life on the island as the observatory warden. Matt Baker is put to work as an apprentice warden, getting stuck in with the ringing of spring migratory birds.  Later, Matt finds out about the other winged species making an appearance this spring, with Alderney’s resident moth expert David Wedd.  

Find out more about Alderney Wildlife Trust

Find out more about Alderney Bird Observatory

Cardigan Bay dolphins

Cardigan Bay dolphins

There’s something stirring in the waters of Cardigan Bay, signs of new life, as pods of dolphins return to breed this spring. These waters are protected as they're home to the largest population of dolphins in Europe. Those in the know say there are few places where they’re so easily seen in the wild. Ellie Harrison joins Katrin and Kathy from the Seawatch Foundation on one of their dolphin monitoring missions. But, after hours at sea, will the team get lucky? 

Find out more about the Seawatch Foundation

Spring meadow conservation

Spring meadow conservation

Few springtime sights are as stirring as a flower meadow in full bloom. John Craven visits one of the UK’s precious remaining hay meadows. At 45 hectares, North Meadow in Wiltshire is one of the largest and most important meadows left in the UK. It’s an ancient site that's teeming with life. In fact, it has the largest UK population of rare Snake’s Head Fritillaries. We catch up with the conservationists preserving the delicate balance of this scarce and diverse habitat. John hears how the North Meadow’s uninterrupted agricultural history has created a rare environment that’s lasted for more than 800 years.

Find out more about North Meadow

Adam, Boo's puppies and the ostriches!

Adam, Boo's puppies and the ostriches!

New life comes in many forms down on Adam’s farm. The crops are growing and wildlife is flourishing. We check up on all the newborns, the lambs, the chicks and Boo's pups, who're finally outside getting their first taste of spring. Adam heads over to Northamptonshire to meet Nick Dean, who rears the world¹s largest breed of bird. Nick holds a dangerous animals license to farm ostriches and at this time of year they start laying. The males can become protective over the eggs, so extra care needs to be taken. Adam helps collect and incubate the eggs and finishes the day by frying an egg on an extra large paella pan.



For fishermen, spring heralds the start of the shellfish season. Anita Rani meets the pioneers bringing new life to one of our most traditional of industries. Every day they go out, weather permitting, and come back in with their catch. But that’s where the similarities with other fishermen end. Tired of the unstable prices when selling to middlemen, ‘Dreckly Fish' sell their catch fresh and direct via Twitter. Anita spends the day in Newlyn, Cornwall, out on the water hauling in the lobster pots with them. 

Recipe: Cornish lobster, tomato & basil salad.

Recipe: Cornish lobster, tomato & basil salad.
And here is the recipe for that lovely looking Cornish lobster, tomato and basil salad, let us know how it tastes!
Presse of tomato

1kg ripe vine tomatoes

500ml bottled water

8 basil leaves

1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced

½ tsp celery salt

Tabasco to taste

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp caster sugar

Lemon juice to taste

Salt to taste

Put the vinegar and sugar into a pan and heat it gently to dissolve the sugar. Allow it to cool. Halve the tomatoes, remove the seeds and place the rest into a blender. Add the basil, garlic, water, salt and celery salt to the blender along with the water. Blend the ingredients together lightly so the mix remains chunky. Add the Tabasco and lemon juice to taste and pulse it again quickly. Transfer the contents of the blender into a cloth suspended over a clean bowl to catch the clear liquid that runs out. Allow the cloth to hang until all of the liquid has drained from the pulp in the cloth. Chill the presse well before serving it.

Cooking the lobster

2 lobsters, approx 750g each

2 carrots, diced

2 celery sticks, diced

1 onion, diced

1 fennel bulb, diced

6 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp fennel seeds

3 star anise

1 litre water

100ml white wine

1 sprig basil

Put the vegetables, spices and water into a pan and bring it to the boil. Simmer the stock for 5 minutes, add the wine and bring the liquid back to the boil. Remove the stock from the heat, add the basil and allow to cool before storing until required. Prepare the lobsters by killing them humanely and separating the claws and tails from the head. Store the heads in the freezer for future use. Remove the intestinal tract by twisting the central tail fin and pulling it out gently. Put the stock back onto the heat (with vegetables in) and bring it to 76 degrees C. Add the claws to the stock and remove the pan from the heat. When the stock lowers to 70 degrees C, add the prepared tails and leave them in the pan for 9 minutes (larger lobsters will require more time). Remove the lobster from the stock and take the meat out of the shells.

To serve…

Take a variety of British heritage variety tomatoes at room temperature, cut them into wedges and season with salt. Tomato presse, chilled. Lobster, sliced. Edible flowers and small basil leaves.

Nuclear nature

Nuclear nature

Richard Taylor-Jones takes us to the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe. Orford Ness is a former top-secret military base in Suffolk. But the buildings designed to invent the ultimate weapon are crumbling. Ruination is being redesigned by nature and bombs have made way for beasts. New life has taken over. We’re up at daybreak to watch the best of the spring show - boxing hares and the exotic escapees that thrive at Orford Ness, Chinese water deer.

Find out more about Orford Ness

Blencathra in spring

Blencathra in spring

This spring sees the culmination of a year-long love affair. Outdoor enthusiast and filmmaker Terry Abraham has spent the past 12 months climbing, camping & capturing the moods of one of Britain’s most beloved mountains, Blencathra. After the success of his documentary ‘Life of a Mountain – Scafell Pike’, he decided to tackle what’s known as ‘the people’s mountain’. Using drone footage, star lapses and amazing sunrises as illustration, Terry takes us on a cinematic tour through spring on the mountain, detailing how it bursts into life after the long dormant winter. You can see Terry’s new film on BBC 4 this autumn.

Find out more about Terry Abraham

Sketching spring

Sketching spring

We meet Michelle Campbell in her canal-side cottage in Mytholmroyd. Michelle takes us to one of her favourite vantage points, to sketch spring scenes. We then head back to the studio to see Michelle finish off one of her works ready for her upcoming spring exhibition.


Role Contributor
Presenter Matt Baker
Presenter John Craven
Presenter Ellie Harrison
Presenter Adam Henson
Presenter Richard Taylor-Jones
Presenter Anita Rani
Executive Producer William Lyons
Series Producer Joanna Brame


  • Sun 15 May 2016 19:00
  • Sun 22 May 2016 08:05
  • Mon 23 May 2016 00:30