Chilly new year for Winterwatch

WINTERWATCH will return to BBC Two next year, broadcasting live from a new location in the wildest landscape of the UK – the Cairngorms National Park – which is to be the new, year-round home for The Watches.

SPRINGWATCHPresenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Gillian Burke will host the wildlife extravaganza, kicking off the year in the depths of winter in one of the toughest places in the country for our animals.

The freezing temperatures and blanket of snow make this an extreme environment to call home, and the team will explore how the local wildlife adapts to get through this toughest of seasons.

Winterwatch will only be the start though, as The Watches will come back throughout the year to cover the changing seasons in Springwatch and Autumnwatch, keeping up with some of the key year-round residents such as golden and white-tailed eagles, red squirrels and pine martens, as well as meeting the seasonal arrivals as they flock to this wild landscape in spring and summer.

By staying for a full year, the team will get to know the area like never before, exploring the snow-capped mountains, ancient forests, raging rivers and deep, silent lochs in intimate detail. The Cairngorms are home to some of the most revered and rare wildlife in the UK – and The Watches will follow that life as the seasons change, unravelling exactly what it takes to survive in this great Scottish wilderness.

The Winterwatch studio will be based at The Dell of Abernethy, a lodge built in 1780 which sits on the edge of the Abernethy Caledonian pine forest and is perfectly placed to link viewers to the whole of the Cairngorms. From here, the team will be able to showcase the whole region, seeking out the wildlife that thrives in this challenging habitat, and looking at the people and projects working to conserve it; including the UK’s largest landscape-scale conservation project, Cairngorms Connect.

As ever, the Watches will also reflect the wildlife issues and spectacles across the UK in a series of pre-recorded films for each series – showcasing the diversity of habitats and species that make this group of islands a truly unique place for wildlife.

Michaela Strachan said: “I’m so excited to be going to the Cairngorms for Winterwatch. It’s such a stunning place. Full of wildlife, dramatic, wild and very, very cold! The wildlife always delivers from Golden Eagles to Mountain Hares, Wild Cats to Black Grouse, Ptarmigan, Pine Marten, Red Squirrel, Water Vole, Otter. The Highlands have a wonderful diversity of wildlife and habitats. It’s one of those places in the UK where you can really connect with the natural environment.”

Chris Packham said: “Scotland – land of the brave, home of the wild and hope for the UK’s wildlife. This is the happening zone in conservation and home to the most amazing diversity of sexy species. I can’t wait.”

Winterwatch will return to BBC Two in January 2019. The Watches are produced by the BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit.

Walking in Pooh’s paw prints

OUR local woods are a constant delight – and although Black Park Country Park is spread over 500 rather than 100 acres, it never feels as if Pooh, Piglet and Tigger are too far away.

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If proof were needed that we are not alone in this sensation, you only have to go down to the entrance to the lake to find a new generation of children playing Pooh sticks over the small wooden bridge there.

Or snatch a glimpse through the trees of youngsters building a small den of the sort that Eeyore might well call home.

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All of which makes it all the more pleasurable to be able to savour some of Pooh’s adventures – and his creator’s words of wisdom – via a daily Twitter feed.

Also included are quotes from Christopher Robin Milne, whose relationship with his father inspired the 2017 film Goodbye Christopher Robin.

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The “real” stuffed toys owned by Christopher Robin may be a long way off – they have been on display in the New York public library since 1987 – but down among the trees it’s all too easy to hear the words of those childhood friends echoing among the autumn leaves, whether in search of a Heffalump, getting stuck in a rabbit hole or floating away on the string of a balloon.

As C R Milne put it: “When a child plays with his bear the bear comes alive and there is at once a child-bear relationship. Then the child gets inside his bear and looks at it the other way round: that’s how BEAR feels about it… and sympathy is born.”

Get tough on the waste cowboys!

TOUGHER penalties and stronger investigatory powers should be adopted by the government to clamp down on rogue waste operators, an independent review has warned.

The cost of waste crime to the English economy rocketed to £600m in 2015 and the review, ordered by environment secretary Michael Gove, concluded that compulsory electronic tracking of waste could help clamp down on illegal movements of waste at home and abroad.

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Welcoming the findings, Mr Gove said: “The threat to society from waste crime is real. Criminals are running illegal waste sites as a cover for theft, human trafficking, drug running and money laundering. It is costing our economy millions of pounds each year, and blighting our communities. I welcome today’s review. We are committed to clamping down on these unscrupulous groups and we will set out our next steps in our forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.”

Other recommendations include:

  • A Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC) led by the Environment Agency with the police, crime commissioners, HMRC and waste industry representatives working together to tackle the most serious cases;
  • a national database of registered waste brokers to make it harder for unscrupulous operators to do businesses.

Lizzie Noel who chaired the review said: “Our intention must be to give the criminals responsible real cause to fear the consequences of their actions.”

Between 2011 and 2017, the Environment Agency stopped the operation of more than 5,400 illegal waste sites.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Serious waste crime is the new narcotics – it damages the environment and harms local communities.

“In the last year, the Environment Agency has closed down over 800 illegal waste sites and brought almost 100 successful waste crime prosecutions. But there is still more to be done. This report represents an opportunity to ensure we have the right powers, resources and coordination to win this fight.”

The review builds on recent government measures to tackle waste crime, including new powers for the Environment Agency to lock the gates to problem waste sites to prevent waste illegally building up and powers to force operators to clear all the waste at problem sites.

Examples of recent prosecutions for waste crimes include arrests made earlier this year in London for fraud and money laundering offences across the country, and enforcement action taken in April 2017 after the illegal dumping of 20,000 tonnes of waste at 17 sites across the Midlands, North West and North East.

For more information see the full review.