Springwatch can bring rewilding and green farming to the masses

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

The return of Springwatch to Norfolk has been hailed as an "exciting opportunity" to showcase the benefits of rewilding and regenerative farming to a massive new prime-time TV audience.

The BBC's flagship nature programme will be broadcast from the Wild Ken Hill estate near Snettisham, starting next week.

Presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan will uncover the secrets of the creatures roaming its diverse woodlands, heath and wetlands, including Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs - and the beavers reintroduced to its "rewilded" area last year.

An aerial view of Wild Ken Hill, a patchwork of habitats between the main A149 coast road an the sho

An aerial view of Wild Ken Hill, a patchwork of habitats between the main A149 coast road an the shores of the Wash - Credit: Wild Ken Hill

However, the estate is equally keen to show how insects, songbirds, lapwings and predators are thriving on the farmland which covers half the estate and is managed using "regenerative" practices geared towards soil health and biodiversity.

Springwatch has previously made its home at the RSPB's Minsmere reserve in Suffolk and the Pensthorpe Natural Park near Fakenham.

But Dominic Buscall, project manager at Wild Ken Hill, said the show's decision to be based at the working estate in west Norfolk was a valuable chance to raise the profile of the growing rewilding and regenerative farming movements.

"It is a great opportunity to tell our message to a mainstream audience," he said. "It is definitely about rewilding, and the beavers will feature, but there is also the regenerative farming side of the project.

Red poll cattle on the Wild Ken Hill estate, on the west Norfolk coast near Snettisham

Red poll cattle on the Wild Ken Hill estate, on the west Norfolk coast near Snettisham - Credit: Les Bunyan

"Farmland is equally as important as the conservation area. There is going to be content in the series that focuses on the farmland birds and songbirds that you tend to find on farmed landscapes. 

"I think the overall programme this year is hoping to tell a story of hope and nature recovery which is really exciting - and hopefully we can showcase some of the tools we can use to achieve that."

Most Read

Around 50pc of the 4,000-acre estate is agricultural land, with the rest split between the rewilding area and traditional conservation features within an integrated "land use project".

The regenerative farming aspect includes stopping insecticide use and reducing chemical sprays, and using minimum tillage and cover crops to protect and enhance soil health, while integrating grazing livestock to help the nutrient cycle.

Meanwhile, hedgerows and wildflower mixes and field margins are managed to encourage insect and birdlife.

"We embrace the opportunity and the challenges of taking new and alternative land management tools to a new audience," said Mr Buscall. "That is really important to us.

"If we are going to fix these things in the public eye, then we need discussions about biodiversity and sustainable food production to be common.

"We are not the first people to do any of this - there are great rewilding areas that came before us, and regenerative farmers up and down the country.

Exmoor ponies on the Wild Ken Hill estate, on the west Norfolk coast near Snettisham

Exmoor ponies on the Wild Ken Hill estate, on the west Norfolk coast near Snettisham - Credit: Les Bunyan

"We genuinely care about taking these concepts mainstream. Secondly, the exposure will be helpful in making our overall project more sustainable, because with greater awareness people will hopefully want to come and visit us. We know that nature-based tourism will be an important part of our diverse business in the future."

The return of Springwatch to a conservation-minded Norfolk farm was also welcomed by the WildEast movement, which aims to inspire nature recovery across the region.

Hugh Somerleyton, owner of Somerleyton Estate near Lowestoft and one of the founding trustees of WildEast, said the TV show was an "exciting opportunity" to show a massive TV audience how rewilding and conservation can be integrated alongside food production within a hard-working farmed landscape.

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

"WildEast was delighted to hear Springwatch is coming to our region, and specifically Ken Hill," he said.

"Dominic Buscall was one of the first farmers to get in touch and support WildEast and they are an exemplar farm. Ken Hill's combination of regenerative farming and wilding is achievable at any scale and is something all farms should consider.

"Hopefully Springwatch will strengthen the general feeling of the need for change and collaboration. By watching this, I would hope that more people might think they can do more, and see more relevance from their own contributions."

  • Springwatch returns from Tuesday, May 25 for two weeks, when it will be broadcasting live at 8pm every evening from Tuesday to Friday on BBC2.
Tamworth pigs grazing at Wild Ken Hill, on the west Norfolk coast near Snettisham.

Tamworth pigs grazing at Wild Ken Hill, on the west Norfolk coast near Snettisham - Credit: Les Bunyan

Dominic Buscall at the Wild Ken Hill estate

Dominic Buscall at the Wild Ken Hill estate - Credit: Wild Ken Hill

A lapwing

Lapwings are one of the farmland bird species being encouraged at the Wild Ken Hill estate - Credit: RSPB

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter