The Chronicle

Autumnwatc­h brings positive nature to a season of discontent

Michaela Strachan, Chris Packham and Gillian Burke explain to why the show is the ideal antidote to the troubled times we’re in


AS temperatur­es dip and British wildlife begins to nestle down for the winter, the hard work is only just beginning for the BBC’s Autumnwatc­h team.

Returning for two weeks as part of the show’s annual run, the BBC2 staple is once again set to highlight the wonders of the natural world – albeit with a number of Covidrelat­ed tweaks.

“It’s not just a job for us, we absolutely live and breathe it,” says Autumnwatc­h presenter Michaela Strachan. It’s a statement made all the more poignant by the fact Michaela, 54, found herself locked down in South Africa, where she lives with her family, for the show’s Springwatc­h edition.

“To not be able to be part of the team because I couldn’t get there was extremely frustratin­g,” she reflects.

“But I have to say, I felt part of the team because I watched it every day, I was so proud of what they managed to achieve at such a difficult time.

“I have a particular­ly fantastic location this year. I can forget about the anxiety and the stress; I’m here now and I’m absolutely chuffed to be part of the watches and part of the team.”

The show will feature footage from remote cameras, alongside pre-recorded features and new live segments from presenters across the country.

Autumnwatc­h 2020 will see Michaela broadcasti­ng from Tentsmuir Forest in Fife, Scotland, a location renowned for its picturesqu­e landscape and thriving seal population.

“I’m going to miss Chris (Packham, her co-presenter), I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be very different,” says Michaela of the new Covid-friendly setup, which sees all four presenters bid farewell to the central studio.

“But because I am doing baby seals, oh boy am I going to go on and on about how cute they are!” she laughs.

Joined by co-presenters Chris, who is set to report from his home in the New Forest, Iolo Williams from the Centre for Alternativ­e Technology in Wales, and Gillian Burke at RSPB Old

Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Iolo Williams and Gillian Burke

Moor in South Yorkshire, the show is set to showcase the true beauty of Britain’s native wildlife.

“Can I be honest with you?” enquires Chris, 59.

“Thinking back to Springwatc­h, we faced an enormous challenge technicall­y to get the programme on the air. We all faced a challenge in terms of having to adapt to a new way of working.

“Communicat­ing with one another was far more difficult. We couldn’t just go and meet in the portacabin as we normally would. And I think that sometimes, those sorts of tests bring out the best in people because they make everyone sit up and try harder.”

With live cameras located on a wild Scottish island in the Firth of Forth set to capture dramatic footage of grey seals pupping, this time around the show hopes to act as a beacon of light in amongst the uncertaint­y of Covid.

“The last thing we want to do in our programme is just throw all the negativity at you and add to the Covid problems, the recession problems, the Brexit problems, America problems – because obviously the election is happening during Autumnwatc­h,” Michaela remarks.

As the nation swaps sundrenche­d parks for centrally heated homes, Gillian points out that exposure to nature might just provide the dose of positivity we need.

“Hopefully, being able to bring nature to our audience is going to give them that little respite from what has otherwise been a really challengin­g year,” she says.

Autumnwatc­h returns to BBC2 on Tuesday at 8pm

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom