Woodland TV

Some light relief for the weekend – a TV review……

Amongst other signs of an upsurge in interest in woodlands has been the appearance of a number of programmes about them, of which I was reminded by a recent rerun. Woodlands of course have been a staple of wildlife TV for years, but what made these new programmes different was their focus on people as a part of the woodland habitat.

It could be argued that such a focus actually began with the ‘Woodland House’ episode of Grand Designs featuring Ben Law, ten years ago now, but in truth there has been little in the intervening years (apart from occasional ‘revisits’ to Prickly Nut Wood). Until last autumn, that is, when in quick succession we had ‘Jimmy’s Forest’, with Jimmy Doherty; ‘Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home’, and ‘Tales from the Wildwood’ with Rob Penn. Just for fun, I thought I’d give my personal take on all four series.

Grand Design’s ‘Woodland House’ set the standard, showing the general public that building attractive and comfortable homes from locally-sourced materials was not just possible, but affordable too. Ben Law’s wider philosophy towards his woodland came over well, and Kevin McCloud was clearly deeply struck by the project.

Jimmy Doherty is a lovely guy and has done great things in the field of food production. However, for me, ‘Jimmy’s Forest’ felt a bit contrived; many of the activities shown gave the impression of being set-up for the cameras rather than ‘fly on the wall’ footage of what was happening anyway. Indeed, I wondered how much time Jimmy actually spent in his wood when the cameras weren’t there.

I had high hopes too for KM’s ‘Man Made Home’, after the wonderful Grand Design’s episode described above, and the initial discussions of why he wanted a cabin in the woods resonated perfectly with the sort of thinking behind for example the Thousand Huts project. However, alarm bells rang early on when the milling of an oak tree merited just a few seconds of airtime. Though there was an emphasis on reuse & recycling, one had to wonder whether driving a pick-up round the country in pursuit of an aero engine cowl to build a hot tub was really all that ‘green’……

‘Tales from the Wild Wood’ not only had a slightly off-putting title, but a bit of a shaky start: who can forget Pablo (was it Pablo?), the Spanish forestry ‘expert’, and his extremely dodgy approach to freeing a hung-up ash. However, after this things settled down and the programme became a thoughtful exploration of many pertinent woodland issues (worth a second series, BBC 4).

So for me, Grand Designs & Tales from the Wild Wood jointly take the ‘Woodland BAFTA’. I’d like perhaps to see something a bit more ‘edgy’ in future programmes if we get them – examining why, for example, there is so little diversity in our approach to woodland management, which apart from anything else leaves us dangerously exposed to future uncertainties.

And of course from a woodland crofts perspective, these programmes all took a very southern focus. I have suggested to BBC Alba that an exploration of how woodland crofts could make the pattern of Scottish forestry more like that in Scandinavia and elsewhere would make an interesting subject for their excellent Eòrpa series, but have yet to hear more……

One thought on “Woodland TV

  1. Andy Barbour

    Nice !
    Of the 7000 species native to the uk around 4,000 are edible,and some enter the category of superfood,given the high incidence of omega ‘s and anti oxidants .
    Could be a good series in this? ;-)


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