Behind the scenes at BBC Springwatch 2021 in Norfolk

Springwatch presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan being interviews by the local media. Pict

Springwatch presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan at Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk, from where they will be broadcasting Springwatch - Credit: Danielle Booden

In the back of an outside broadcast truck, in a cathedral-sized barn, the bank of screens flickers.

A kestrel sits on her nest, a swallow tends to her brood and when a blue tit stretches her legs and primps her feathers, you catch a glimpse of her newly-hatched chicks.

BBC Springwatch is getting set to bring the wonders of nature from the Norfolk countryside to our living rooms and laptops from Tuesday evening.

Presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan will be broadcasting from Wild Ken Hill, where thousands of acres of farmland, woodland, heath and wetland are being given back to nature.

The estate, which stretches from The Wash north of Snettisham as far inland as Sedgeford, is pioneering an approach where rewilding and reintroducing beavers and native breeds of cattle works alongside regenerative agriculture to restore the landscape. 

The rewilding area at the Wild Ken Hill estate in west Norfolk

Guided tours have been launched for visitors to explore the rewilding area at the Wild Ken Hill estate in west Norfolk - Credit: Wild Ken Hill


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"I know this part of Norfolk relatively well because I've been coming to the coast since the '80s," said Mr Packham. "I've seen tremendous changes in that time, both positive and negative.

"I'm inspired by the fact people are making changes, are embracing change.

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham at Heacham Bottom Farm where some of the programme will be filme

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham said he hoped other farmers would take rewilding and regenerative agriculture on board to help declining wildlife - Credit: Danielle Booden

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"So in a way I see the endeavours here at Ken Hill Farm as being quite brave, they've given over a portion of their land to rewilding, rewilding has unfortunately become controversial in some circles but they're not rising to that, they're saying this is what we're going to do, we're going to get on with it."

He added: "What I hope in the long term is that this farm prospers and other farmers come to see that prosperity and then some of those ideas filter out into the wider landscape because you don't have to go too far from Ken Hill Farm to find farms which are old school and that's where the critical declines are continuing to take place - so I think hats off to the people here for having the bravery to take those steps."

A beaver gets to work at Wild Ken Hill, on part of 1,000 acres of land which is being handed back t

A beaver gets to work at Wild Ken Hill, on part of 1,000 acres of land which is being handed back to nature - Credit: Wild Ken Hill

Birds of prey prowl the skies, hares crouch in their forms with leverets spread around them and the woods ring with birdsong. Beavers toil by night to manage the woodlands, while rare bats feast on abundant insect life and barn owls stalk the fields.

"It's incredibly inspiring," said Ms Strachan. "I've interviewed Lloyd, the naturalist here and he said, they don't always get it right but they're trying different things, they're experimenting , they're learning along the way and they're just doing their best to make a difference.

Springwatch presenter Michaela Strachan at Heacham Bottom Farm where some of the programme will be f

Springwatch presenter Michaela Strachan said she found Wild Ken Hill 'incredibly inspiring' - Credit: Danielle Booden

"Just walking around the couple of days that we've been here you really do see an awful lot of wildlife. You've got these hedges, you've got the bits that are left for wildlife, the margins, and it makes such a huge difference."

She added she had been thrilled to see hares and marsh harriers but seeing the beavers, which live in a wooded enclosure on the estate, were at the top of her wish-list.

Dominic Buscall, Springwatch Project Manager, at Heacham Bottom Farm. Picture: Danielle Booden

Dominic Buscall, project manager at Wild Ken Hill, who is looking forward to spreading the rewilding message to a prime time TV audience - Credit: Danielle Booden

Dominic Buscall, project manager at Wild Ken Hill, said: "Its an opportunity to take our approach to a prime time audience. It includes rewilding, it's also about regenerative farming. And it's also about showing a bigger audience there is hope for nature to recover."

Technicians have spent weeks setting  up more than 30 remote cameras. Fibre optic cables stretch out to the chalk downs, into the woods and off to the wetlands. Footage from the barn is beamed straight to the BBC's wildlife unit in Bristol to be edited.

Behind the scenes at Heacham Bottom Farm where some of Springwatch is being filmed. Picture: Daniell

Behind the scenes at Springwatch, where remote cameras are monitoring a clutch of birds' nests at Wild Ken Hill - Credit: Danielle Booden

Millions will be tuning in to the BBCs flagship nature programme when it begins its 2021 run. Chris said nature had offered "respite and solace" to many through the pandemic. But while watching on TV or online offered "almost the same peak of intensity", a wet, late spring meant it was impossible to predict what they might see.

"It will be unique and something special will come out of it but don't ask me what that will be," he said. 

Behind the scenes at Heacham Bottom Farm where some of Springwatch is being filmed. Picture: Daniell

The wonders of Norfolk's wildlife will be broadcast to millions from Wild Ken Hill, when Springwatch 2021 gets under way - Credit: Danielle Booden

Springwatch begins on BBC on Tuesday (8pm) and will be broadcasting live from Tuesday - Friday for three weeks.

Chris and Michaela will be hosting the Norfolk part of the show, while Iolo Williams will be presenting form the Highlands of Scotland and Gillian Burke from Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

Springwatch presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke and Iolo Williams

Springwatch will be broadcast from the Wild Ken Hill estate in west Norfolk from May 25. Pictured are BBC presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke and Iolo Williams - Credit: BBC/Jo Charlesworth

Wild Ken HIll is the show's second foray into Norfolk. From 2008 - 2010, the team broadcast from Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham.



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