What’s on in September 2020? Here is our pick of the best countryside TV, film and radio to enjoy this month
Sir David Attenborough examines biodiversity loss on Extinction: the Facts on BBC One. Photographer: Sam BarkerBBC
Extinction: the Facts
13 September, 8pm
This hour-long documentary sees David Attenborough address the data and science behind the Earth’s loss of biodiversity. Last year a UN report revealed that around one million species are threatened with extinction; here, leading scientists discuss what this means for both our planet and humanity as a species. Unsurprisingly, it’s not good news, with food and water security threatened, increased risks of pandemics and reduced ability to control our climate. The rate at which this biodiversity decline is occurring is eye-watering and unprecedented – and it is driven by our destructive practices. Many of us thought that the danger lay years in the future but in fact, the crisis is here and now. The question is, what can we do to turn the tide and restore stability to our planetary home and its eco-systems? This is heart-rending but essential viewing.
James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph)Channel 5
All Creatures Great and Small
1 September, 9pm
The latest and much-heralded adaptation of James Herriot’s popular series of novels about a veterinary practice in the Yorkshire Dales has finally hit our screens. Nicholas Ralph stars as James Herriot, Samuel West is the eccentric Siegrid Farnon, owner of Skeldale House and the late Diana Rigg is delightful as the wealthy Mrs Pumphrey. It’s a warm, gentle and funny adventure in the rural 1930s, with beautifully shot scenes of the gorgeously rolling Yorkshire Dales, a jaunty score and a goodly number of cows and fellow creatures.
Matt Steedan and Bryan Jones at Swanage lifeboat station in Saving Lives at Sea (Blast! Films Ltd)BBC
Saving Lives at Sea
17 September, 8pm
Following the volunteers of the Royal National Lifeboat Association, series five of this documentary opens with the crew at Swanage lifeboat station, where brothers Matt and Gavin race to save two paddleboarders before they are swept into a fishing lane. In Withernsea in the north east, a local fisherman is missing at sea and the crew scour the North Sea to find him. And a Blackpool RNLI wedding doesn’t pass without incident…
The residents of Brithdir Mawr are striving to save their off-grid homeBBC
Saving Our Eco-Village
BBC One Wales
2 September, 7.30pm
Follow the eco-community of Brithdir Mawr as they work to save their self-sufficient lifestyle at the foothills of the Preseli Mountains. The 17 residents enjoy the good life of growing their own food, rearing animals and providing their own power and water, while living in converted sheds and barn around a shared farmhouse, but all this is threatened by the soon-to-expire lease on the land. The off-grid community has just a few months to raise the funds to buy the landlord out, or lose a way of life that has sustained the community for 25 years.
Incredibly swifts feed and mate in the air (RSPB images)
Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald
Vesper Flights is the second book by acclaimed author Helen Macdonald of H is for Hawk. This series of essays explores humanity’s connection with the natural world, celebrating both its beauty and its fragility. In this broadcast, she reads from her essay on swifts, a species that nests “in dark and cramped spaces” and yet, once fledged, explodes in an astonishing display of aerial agility, flying for life and mating on the wing. It’s a lovely and lyrical reading, available for one month only, with further readings from the collection to follow.
Iolo Williams tracks wildlife in the Cambrian MountainsBBC
Iolo: the Last Wilderness in Wales
The least-populated area in Wales, the Cambrian Mountains are home to a wealth of wildlife. This watery habitat is the source of six mighty rivers – the Rheidol, Ystwyth, Teifi, Tywi, Wye and Severn all have their origins here – and contains a raft of reservoirs, including those in the Elan Valley. Iolo Williams explores this lakeland on foot, tracking elusive pine martens in conifer forests, ospreys fishing on Llyn Clywedog, curlews breeding near reservoirs and goshawks nesting in the Twyi forest, among many other fascinating species.
Alasdair Mac Colla of Clan Macdonald of Dunnyveg in Blood of the Clans
Blood of the Clans
Mingling documentary with dramatic re-enactment, this new series brings to life the violent history of the civil war that tore Scotland apart in the 17th century. Conflict erupted when the Scottish Parliament led by the chief of the Campbells declared war on Charles 1. Clans loyal to Charles rose up in rebellion and an ancient feud between the Campbells and the Macdonalds came to a head again, unleashing all hell and threatening the stability of the British state. Neil Oliver presents this engrossing and embattled saga, which features stunning and dramatic footage of the Scottish Highlands.
The popular shared-use path alongside the Union Canal in Edinburgh is entirely traffic-free
Costing the Earth: Autopia to Utopia? Car-Free Cities
8 September, 3.30pm
Jheni Osman investigates whether our experience of a car-free lockdown could be a harbinger of things to come – could we transition from streets clogged with traffic to happier cities enjoying clean air and healthy citizens? What would be needed to effect this? Can wider pavements and better bicycle lanes offer healthy, emission-free ways to get around? Will we soon be zooming about on e-scooters, with goods transported underground? Jenni looks at changes occurring in Milan, Bristol and Birmingham, and considers what the future could hold.
Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) perched in tree in spring. (Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)
The Essay: A Birdsong Garden
24-28 August, Radio 3
Available on BBC Sounds after initial broadcast
Geoff Sample is a field recordist, natural history author and sound artist, with a special interest in birdsong and the cultural history of hearing music in nature. This five-part audio series, each piece just 15 minutes, is a mix of memoir, natural history, folklore, birdsong and spacious soundscapes created in his remote home in Northumberland. Geoff takes us through the four seasons of the year, considering how living close to and listening intently to nature can enrich our lives. Hear the Vale of Whittingham come alive in May with a dawn chorus trilling with redstarts and warblers; note the silence of the nightingales during a solar eclipse in summer; listen to the first notes of a young chiffchaff and the cacophony of pheasants and mallards over an autumn river; sink into the sounds of tawny owls on a winter’s night.
A group of flamingos performs a courtship dance in a salt lake on the arid Altiplano region of the High Andes in Planet Earth: A CelebrationBBC
Planet Earth: a Celebration
31 August, BBC One, 8pm
Available on iPlayer after initial broadcast
Join Sir David Attenborough on a round-the-world trip to the wildest places on earth to see some of the most spectacular wildlife. The BBC Natural History Unit has brought together the most astounding stories from Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II, accompanied by a thrilling musical score by Hans Zimmer and Jacob Shea, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra and featuring Mercury Prize winner Dave on the piano.
European otter (Lutra lutra) resting on seaweed covered shoreline rocks
Open Country: Dawn Walk
A wonderfully reflective and meditative series of coastal dawn walks with wildlife filmmaker John Aitchison in West Scotland, in which otters, white-tailed eagles and roe deer enjoy the early morning while a rich dawn chorus provides a beautiful backdrop.
Anita Rani and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall return to battle in War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita on BBC OneBBC
Friday 28 August
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani return to tackle the crisis of single-use plastic, and assess what, if any, progress has been made in the year since they first addressed the subject. In this programme, they take on the companies that make tea bags and sandwiches – in Britain, we eat an astonishing six million pre-packed sandwiches every year and drink 100 million cups of tea every single day – to find out how much plastic tea bags contain, and whether sandwich boxes really are ‘widely recycled’. In Berwick, the Oliver family are challenged to go plastic free on a budget, to see whether it is feasible. Meanwhile, how do we manage the explosion of single-use plastics in the wake of coronavirus?
Anglo-Saxon gold artefacts uncovered in a field in Staffordshire in 2009BBC
Treasures of the Anglo-Saxons
Art historian Dr Nina Ramirez reveals the codes and messages hidden in Anglo-Saxon art. From the beautiful jewellery that adorned the first violent pagan invaders through to the stunning Christian manuscripts they would become famous for, she explores the beliefs and ideas that shaped Anglo-Saxon art. Examining many of the greatest Anglo Saxon treasures – such as the Sutton Hoo Treasures, the Staffordshire Hoard, the Franks Casket and the Lindisfarne Gospels – Dr Ramirez charts 600 years of artistic development which was stopped dead in its tracks by the Norman Conquest.
Huw Edwards presents a documentary exploring the roots of Welsh historyBBC
The Story of Wales
Thirty thousand years in the making, this story begins with the drama of the earliest-known human burial in western Europe. Huw Edwards delves into the biggest prehistoric copper mine in the world, and visits the site of an Iron Age hillfort. He reveals the true scale of the Roman occupation, and shows how Welsh saints carried the light of the gospel to the rest of the Celtic world, and left a mark on their homeland that we can all still read today.
Writer Tom Fort drives the 92-mile length of the A303 – the road that passes Stone Henge en route to Devon and Cornwall – in a lovingly restored Morris Traveller. Along the way, he meets up with a Neolithic traveller who knew the road like the back of his hand, gets to know a section of the Roman 303, uncovers a medieval murder mystery and discovers what lies at the end of the Highway to the Sun.
Puffins at the Wick on Skomer Island in A Wild Year. BBC – Photographer: Drew Buckley
A Wild Year
Focusing on three distinct regions within Britain – the Pembrokeshire Coast, North York Moors and the Fens – A Wild Year captures the rhythm of these unique habitats over the four seasons. The first episode focuses on the sea-spritzed coastline of Pembrokeshire, home to spectacular wildlife from grey seals to colourful puffins. The Atlantic ocean shapes the seasons here, in a region where farmers grow the earliest potatoes while sheep graze clifftop pastures. In the Fens, water also shapes the landscape, but here we find an ancient mosaic of wetlands covering hundreds of square miles, brimming with wildlife. Migrating whooper swans flock here in their thousands to spend the winter, while in spring, ‘mad’ march hares box away over-eager suitors. The final episode takes place in the 550 windswept square miles of the North York Moors, where heather-clad upland is interspersed with remote homesteads that raise tough Swaledale and cheviot sheep, animals bred for the moorland life.
Helen Macdonald explores the wild spaces that survive beside the M25BBC
The Hidden Wilds of the Motorway
Author Helen Macdonald goes in search of the wild worlds hidden besides Britain’s busiest road – the M25. This congested artery has looped around London for nearly 35 years, and in that time nature has had adjust and adapt to its dangerous, noisy presence. Great tits are altering the pitch of their call to be audible over the motorway’s roar; deer have had to find a safe crossing to avoid its hazards. Macdonald begins her investigation south of the Thames at Kent’s Junction 1 and travels clockwise, discovering a wealth of wildlife, from autumn fungi and brown trout to kestrels and foxes. Along the way, she unearths unusual artistic connections to the motorway, including the landscape paintings of Samuel Palmer, which caused the motorway to be diverted, and the novels of JG Ballard, whose dystopian novels were influenced by the waysides and forgotten corners of our urban infrastructure.
Get hooked on fishing with Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer. Photographer: Parisa Taghizadeh
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
Series 1 and 2
In these funny, reflective and beautiful series, comedians and lifelong friends Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse exchange anecdotes and reminiscences while travelling the country to fish in Britain’s lakes, rivers, streams and seas. The locations they visit are often spectacular, and the set-up is appealing laid-back, and Paul and Bob settle down to while away the day angling, chatting and catching the occasional fish. Paul’s lifelong passion for the pastime is nicely set against Bob’s more novice enthusiasm, and their respective energies and tempos, set against nature’s tranquility, create a lovely flowing show that manages to be amusing and lively yet calm.
Mackenzie Crook’s low-key, gentle comedy about the escapades of longterm friends and misfits Lance and Andy has the warm, lulling appeal of a quiet pint with a pal. The detectorist duo spend much of their time in the rolling landscape of Suffolk, scanning the fields for hidden treasure while shooting the breeze, and Crook’s love of nature shines through in the shots of wildlife and the verdant setting.
Why are weasels so often associated with villainy? In an effort to reveal their true nature, this film follows the adventures of Twiz, an orphaned weasel, and visits a garden in Yorkshire where a first-time stoat mother tries to raise her family .
Larry and George Lamb explore the land on two wheelsChannel 5
Britain by Bike with Larry and George Lamb
In the second series of this laughter-filled travelogue, Larry Lamb and his son George explore more of the country’s best cycle routes, excavate Roman ruins, encounter exciting wildlife, and even sleep in a spooky haunted castle, uncovering some family history along the way. Episode one sees father and son in Northumberland where they cycle beside Hadrian’s Wall before joining an archaeological dig, then ride on to Craster for kippers. In the next episode, the pair load their bikes on the ferry to tour the tropical Isles of Scilly, where they make fudge using local gin before heading to St Mary’s to row in the oldest pilot gig on the Isles. A race through the Peak District is next, with a stop for some springtime sheep washing, then it’s on to Snowdonia in Wales for an exhilarating zip-wire ride. In Northern Ireland, the Lambs spot seals in Stangford Lough, and in the final episode, the pair land on soft white sand on Barra in the Outer Hebrides to take on the epic 185-mile Hebridean Cycle Way.
Lloyd Buck with his golden eagle Tilly in a Natural World episode celebrating eaglesBBC
Natural World: Super-Powered Eagles
This study of the eagle examines the science behind the bird of prey’s formidable abilities. Bird specialist Lloyd Buck puts his golden eagle Tilly to the test in a series of experiments; and viewers can follow the dramatic story of a family of bald eagles.
David Attenborough reads JA Baker’s highly regarded work of 1967
David Attenborough reads from The Peregrine, a classic of British nature writing written more than 50 years ago, in which JA Baker records his obsessive attempts to follow, study and understand a pair of peregrine falcons as he walks the fens landscape of the Essex coast.
Witness the highs and hardships of fishing the Cornish coast
Cornwall: This Fishing Life
This six-episode series follows the fortunes of the fisherfolk of Cornwall, introducing viewers to the fishing families of Megavissey, the Newlyn fleets that compete to catch the Cornish sardine (formerly known as the pilchard) and the big and small boats that fish the coast. What will the future hold for these communities post-Brexit?
Sean Fletcher explores the Welsh coastline in Wonders of the Coast Path on ITVITV
Wonders of the Coast Path
Presented by Sean Fletcher, this new six-part series explores the fascinating regions along the Wales Coast Path, from the marine wildlife of Cardigan Bay to copper smelting in the ancient Great Orme Mines in Llandudno. Sean walks the paths and meets the people who help to make these places so special, while sampling beach cookouts and spotting local wildlife. The series offers a great opportunity for an armchair adventure, as Sean leads the way around this spectacular coast.
Kurtan and Kerry Mucklowe return for more offbeat adventures in series three of This CountryBBC
Returning for its third and final series, this mockumentery set in a Cotswold village catches up with its heroes, hapless cousins Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe and ever-hopeful local vicar Reverend Seaton. In episode three, an infamous Mucklowe family member returns to the village, causing Kerry to re-evaluate her living arrangements. Meanwhile, the vicar and Kurtan help Len get back on his feet.
Discover the eco-pioneers who have changed our view of the world in Green Originals (Getty Images)
This wide-ranging series asks today’s green thinkers to talk about the people who have inspired them, the pioneering scientists, campaigners and communicators of the last 60 years who have swum against the tide to influence our opinion and behaviour on the environment. Profiles of Rachel Carson and James Lovelock sit alongside those of Joni Mitchell and Margaret Thatcher.
Does the grey squirrel deserve its reputation as a remorseless invader?
Nature’s Great Invaders
In this five-part series, Derek Mooney examines Britain’s non-native invasive species and the complicated attitudes they engender, from the ubiquitous grey squirrel and the ring-necked parakeet to Japenese knotweed and ash dieback fungus.
Wildlife film-maker Andrew O’Donnell and his pal Mark Taylor have made it their mission to explore Scotland in a series of off-the-grid adventures. The two begin with an ambitious attempt to cross the bare and boggy terrain of Rannoch Moor by Canadian canoe – via the waterways that link Loch Ba, Loch Laidon and onto Loch Rannoch – in just five days. Other challenges include crossing Scotland’s deepest loch on inflatable packrafts, cycling from John O’ Groats to Cape Wrath
on a tandem bike, and canoeing along the River Forth to Stirling.