Springwatch fans shocked

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SPRINGWATCH fans have reacted with shock and anger to the news that presenter Martin Hughes-Games is to leave the popular BBC series.

More than 1,300 followers of the programme’s Facebook page were quick to voice their horror at his departure – with many attacking the BBC for “political correctness” and airing their concerns that he might be replaced by newcomer Gillian Burke.

The wildlife presenter announced he was quitting on Twitter – prompting an outpouring of support and sympathy from his 50,000 followers.

Hughes-Games has presented on the programme for 12 years and said in his resignation tweet: “It’s good to go when the show is looking strong. Massive thank you for your support.”

The BBC said in response: “Martin has been a vital part of the success of the Watches– both on and off screen– for the past 12 years, so we’re very sad to see him go. We wish him every success in his new ventures. We’re excited to be bringing Springwatch back to BBC2 in May.”

It brings to an end an uncomfortable last 18 months for the presenter who appeared on the show alongside Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and new girl Gillian Burke.

In September 2016 he announced, again on Twitter, that he was being axed by the BBC in order, he felt, that diversity targets could be met.

That claim was denied by the corporation – but many of the show’s Facebook fans said they believed he was being marginalised for reasons of political correctness and hit out at Gillian Burke’s presenting style.

Death of a colossus

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The Buttington Oak in its prime, pictured by Rob McBride @THETREEHUNTER

ONE OF the oldest trees in Wales, thought to have been planted 1,000 years ago as a boundary marker along Offa’s Dyke, has fallen down.

The Buttington Oak was spotted collapsed in its field two miles from Welshpool in Powys by a man nicknamed the “tree hunter” – Rob McBride.

Mr McBride, who records ancient trees in Wales, said the oak had enormous cultural significance as it would have been planted by local people to mark the site of the Battle of Buttington and also as part of Offa’s Dyke – the border earthwork built by King Offa in the 8th century.

“It’s such a pity as this was the largest tree on Offa’s Dyke and the second largest in Wales,” he added.

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The collapsed oak, pictured by Rob McBride @THETREEHUNTER

Landscape masterclass

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Stunning. That’s the word which springs to mind when you first glance through Paul Mitchell’s amazing portfolio of pictures chronicling the seasons in one of Britain’s most famous woodlands.

It’s a magical world which is constantly changing through the seasons, as Paul demonstrates in his startling photographs of Burnham Beeches – that tiny remnant of the ancient woodlands which once covered so much of the country.

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Paul’s ‘album’ contains dozens of uncaptioned shots of the woods throughout the year – draped in snow, dappled by sunlight, looking mystical and enchanting, sometimes intriguing and welcoming, sometimes otherworldy and even scary.

He explains: “The portfolio is my response to this world of wonder and features images made in the icy grip of winter, the vibrancy of springtime, the green canopy of summer, through to the richness of autumn.”

Burnham Beeches was bought by the City of London Corporation in the latter part of the 19th century to safeguard the area from property developers and to protect its future for generations to come.

As Paul explains, the landscape of the Site of Special Scientific Interest was created by human management going back many centuries and has provided grazing land for livestock and fuel via the pollarding of beech and oak trees which has not only helped to  prolong the lives of the trees, but help to give them their characteristic  gnarled appearance.

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Born in East Yorkshire, Paul now lives and runs his own design consultancy in Buckinghamshire and tries to devote most of his free time to photographing the landscape.

He has had numerous exhibitions and has had articles and images published in many photographic magazines.

Tree of inspiration

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NEW DAWN: the gnarled tree in Langley Park

Those who love an early morning walk in Slough’s Langley Park or Black Park may already be familiar with the work of landscape photographer Kevin Day.

The Slough-based photographer has contributed a number of pictures to the gallery linked from the Friends of Langley Park website – and the story of one major photography project is told in an old profile article in Amateur Photographer.

“I often get up at five or six in the morning and go to the park, which is a ten-minute walk away,” says Kevin in the article. “It’s the light that interests me, and the way it affects the landscape. It’s constantly changing, at different times of the day, different times of year.”

The gnarled tree in Langley Park showed how you can return to the same subject again and again and get a different picture every time. But Kevin goes on to explain how the tree was also a symbol of his photographic renaissance.

Today, his personal work continues to complement his professional output and a selection of his nature pictures reflect this. “It’s more of a little hidden gallery occasionally people stumble across!” he says.

For those who share Kevin’s love of those two local parks, it’s a real treat – with 185 pictures to choose from – and the option to purchase copies too.

Miniature mariners

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It’s great to see tiny sailing boats out on the Black Park lake – and other marvellous scale models like this little rowing boat.

The figures look so lifelike it’s sometimes hard to believe you are looking at models, unless there are a couple of ducks around to help put everything in perspective…

The park is home to the Black Park Model Boat Club, a friendly, non-competitive club which is open to new members at any time and covers all aspects of model boating from yachts to scale models.

The club uses the lake at Black Park on Thursday afternoons from 12pm and Sunday mornings. The park itself is signposted from the A412 between Slough and Iver Heath and  has toilets and cafés.

Once a year there is a whole-day regatta at the lake where other clubs are invited and money raised for a local charity.

For more information turn up at the lakeside on sailing days and ask for Frank or Alan, or e-mail the secretary at: secretary@blackparkmodelboatclub.org.uk

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Hedgehog numbers ‘halved’

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HEDGEHOGS are continuing to decline in the UK, according to a new report.

Surveys by citizen scientists show hedgehog numbers have fallen by about 50% since the turn of the century.

Conservation groups say they are particularly concerned about the plight of the prickly creatures in rural areas.

Figures suggest the animals are disappearing more rapidly in the countryside, as hedgerows and field margins are lost to intensive farming.

But there are signs that populations in urban areas may be recovering.

David Wembridge, surveys officer for the conservation charity, People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), said two surveys of the number of hedgehogs in gardens and one of numbers killed on roads show an overall decline.

But he said there is “a glimmer of hope” that measures to create habitat for hedgehogs in urban areas are paying off.

“Numbers haven’t recovered yet but in urban areas at least there’s an indication that numbers appear to have levelled in the last four years,” he said.

In rural areas, the number of hedgehogs killed on roads has fallen by between a third and a half across Great Britain, The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 report found.

Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for the campaign group, Hedgehog Street, said the apparent decline in the rural population of hedgehogs was “really concerning”

Sunrise scoops top award

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Marcio Cabral’s award-winning Cerrado Sunrise

A picture of the vast ecological region known as the Cerrado in Brazil has won first place in this year’s International Garden Photographer of the Year.

Marcio Cabral of Brasilia, Brazil, scooped the award with his winning image entitled Cerrado Sunrise.

Tyrone McGlinchey, managing director of IGPOTY said: “Marcio has captured a spectacular vision of plant life in the Cerrado, displaying the beautiful flowers of Paepalanthus chiquitensis, stretching out on countless filaments towards the first light of the rising sun.”

Gardens and landscape scenes from all around the world have also been commended in the competition, showing nature in all seasons, from rolling hills of golden rice in China to a flower-smelling hamster in Austria.

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Early Dinner by Henrik Spranz shows a wild hamster smelling a flower in Vienna, Austria

Arctic tide of plastic waste

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THE SEAS north of Norway and to the east of Greenland are a one-way street for the plastic waste created by communities along the east coast of the USA, the UK, Scandinavia, and the rest of north-west Europe.

Plastic waste is transported by ocean currents to the Arctic Ocean where it can affect the sensitive Arctic ecosystem, with knock-on effects for humans as the area is home to large fisheries.

These are the findings of a large research collaboration between twelve institutions from eight countries.

“We found that the Barents Sea is the terminal site for ocean plastic pollution, with high loads also encountered in the Greenland Sea,” says co-author Carlos Duarte, a professor in marine biology at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, and the Arctic Research Center at Aarhus University, Denmark.

“It happens to be also the site of one of the most productive cod fisheries in the world. So the concern is that plastic accumulated there could enter the food web, to which humans are linked via fisheries. Other animals can also ingest the plastic, particularly sea birds, which are very abundant in the Arctic,” he says.

The new results are published in the journal Science Advances and are the last piece in the puzzle that now completes the global map of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Scientists collected and analysed some of this plastic waste during a five-month-long cruise of the Arctic Ocean and compared this with plastics collected during similar studies in oceans and seas around the world. They discovered that most of the plastic waste that had collected in the Arctic Ocean was not local and must have come from far away.