Thursday, 26 April 2012

A pair of pink sunglasses with one lens missing. A can of Carlsberg. A handbrake, a torn off bumper and a jagged rusting paint tin. These are just a few of the things which lace the pasture of the horses we filmed today living in a world far removed from ‘My little pony’. 

Neglect and abandonment of horses has shot up steeply in the last few years and we’ve been to Teeside where the problem is so acute the police are heavily involved. On patrol with the local PC, we saw foals on the loose, tethered horses living in a perfect circle of mud having eaten  all the grass they could reach and porch dwelling ponies. And not just a handful: round every corner was another shot which didn’t come from the manual of equine husbandry. The policeman compared the phenomenon to tough looking dogs saying ‘big’ men now want a ‘status stallion’. But some help was on hand in the form of a mobile clinic set up by the British Horse Society. Their offer of castration and identification – snip and chip – enticed a line of lucky ponies and generally hard up but well intentioned owners. 

Still, the council estate beside the urban dual carriageway didn’t look like the ideal horse habitat but maybe that’s elitist and the ‘noble steed’ shouldn’t only be the plaything of the rich. If you can’t afford rolling paddocks alongside classy livery perhaps love, time and scrubland can give a horse a good home. See what you think.

CountryFile Sunday evening 13 May BBC 1

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I don’t know how many of you have read a children’s book featuring the Berenstain Bears called the Big Honey Hunt. It features hapless Dad, enthusiastic son and long suffering Mum all chasing a bee – a generally fruitless endeavour. A familiar sensation as we struggled to find and film a brave bumble amongst today’s hailstorms and thunder claps.

We are investigating the possible link between pesticides and dropping bee populations and have uncovered some striking new work at a UK University. They’ve tagged nearly one thousand bees with radio frequency id tags – equipping each bee with its own one millimetre square swipe card. So when they fly off to forage, in the words of the great Brian Hanrahan, ‘they can count them all out and count them back’ and the ones who’ve ingested a pesticide cocktail appear less likely to return – Missing in Action. Seeing them in the lab was easy and I got to try my shakey hand at super-gluing the tiny tags on their furry backs. It’s brilliant bench science with a whiff of Wallace and Gromit – not in the sense of being amateurish but rather the use of ingenious practical wit. The pesticide makers insist these laboratory linked experiments do not accurately mimic a bees exposure to the toxin in the real world.

Back beside the damp blackthorn hedge, one of our enthusiastic bee spotters did eventually spy a little blighter and we ran back to see a fuzzy speck high up in some neighbouring cherry blossom. You’ll catch it on the show – if you don’t blink.

CountryFile Sunday 6 May BBC1 6.15pm

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Just back to Hotel in Pickering, beside the North York Moors, with one boot and sock drying beside the radiator after sinking knee deep into peat bog. Couldn’t curse though as I am filming for Countryfile on the bizarre world of peat. How come that we are spending many thousands of pounds of public money to preserve and re-grow it by millimetres when a few miles away it’s being dug up by the tonne to put into compost bags? It’s even more weird when you see that armies of people, helicopters and diggers which have been drafted in to the war effort to protect the peat as our battered shield against climate change,and compare that to the industrial extraction elsewhere.
We visited a waste reprocessing site this morning where they were turning garden and kitchen waste into peat replacement compost: old plants to grow plants. Great pictures with huge trucks and loaders looming out between steaming piles of rotting veg. Got to try my hand at sifting unwanted plastic etc from the conveyor belt. In 2 mins I turned up a babies changing mat, an old shoe and a fire engine toy in the ‘green’ waste! It was like a low budget Generation Game.
Got my hands on a nail gun this afternoon as we helped build dams to block erosion gullies in the peat bog. it was in an zone between Dalby Forest and Fylingdales military early warning site. I hope they can see incoming enemies as in the short term it played havoc with our sound gear.

CountryFile Sunday 29 April BBC1 6.25 pm