The Seasons

Sunday, 30 May 2010, 7:00PM – 8:00PM on ITV1

Episode Four ��” Winter

In this brand new four part series for ITV1, everyone’s favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, goes back to his roots to find out how our changing seasons affect everything around us. The series reveals the profound and far-reaching impact that each season has on our wildlife and landscape, and how they shape the way we all live.

In the fourth programme Alan takes us through winter, when the scarcity of food means nature has to be at its most inventive to ensure wildlife and plants survive through until spring.

The programme’s broad scope encompasses how climate change endangers hibernating mammals, the history behind the year’s most magical festivals, and how the cold dark days affect our mood and health.

Alan explains that keeping warm is a constant requirement for all mammals in winter, and they use various means to achieve this. The programme shows sheep in Yorkshire who can survive buried in snow for two weeks by living off the fat they have stored in their bodies. Amphibians such as toads and frogs spend the coldest days submerged in mud at the bottom of ponds, while smaller mammals, such as bats and hedgehogs spend the winter months in hibernation.

The Seasons shows that of all the mammals we humans have taken the most radical steps to protect ourselves from the extremes of winter. We are cocooned in our centrally heated hermetically sealed homes and workplaces, but Alan reveals the downside to this comfort. We have created the perfect breeding ground for germs, which is why cases of flu, colds and bronchitis rise during the winter months.

Alan looks at the seasonal festivals of Christmas and Hogmanay, and he explains how midwinter festivals were held in Britain long before Christianity reached our shores.

Lerwick in the Shetland Islands is Britain’s most northerly town, and gets very little daylight in winter months. Every year, towards the end of January, the inhabitants hold a huge party, called Uphelier, in the belief it will help kick-start spring. The programme shows the awe-inspiring celebrations, as a torch lit procession culminates in the residents setting fire to a Viking long-ship.

Alan explains that for people who work on the land the closing days of winter are a chance to prepare for warmer days. Dry stone walls, damaged by winter frosts are repaired, and fields are ploughed in preparation for new crops.

As the season, and series, draws to a close Alan says: “The whole joy of the year. is its progress from season to season. A series of fascinating changes that makes up life on these islands.”

ENDS

Sunday, 16 May 2010, 7:00PM – 8:00PM on ITV1

Episode Two – Summer

In this brand new four part series for ITV1, everyone’s favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh goes back to his roots to find out how our changing seasons affect everything around us. The series reveals the profound and far-reaching impact that each season has on our wildlife and landscape, and how they shape the way we all live.

In the second programme Alan takes us through the great British summer, the season many of us look forward to the most.

Alan tells the programme that in the summer he feels “more relaxed, more expansive”. He says: “It’s not just plants that flower, we humans flower then too.”

The programme reveals that summer means so much more to our lives than seaside holidays, messing about in boats, or hoping rain doesn’t stop play.

Alongside stunning photography, Alan shows how our countryside dramatically changes throughout the summer months, with a rich profusion of colour carpeting the landscape, wildlife producing, and protecting, their young, at a time when we all enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities.

Alan says that one word in particular sums up summer for him: “flowers”. He explains why it is no accident that flowers are so many different colours and so many different shapes; as with everything in nature, it is to ensure their very survival.

This is a time of abundance, the best time for animals to produce their young, but the programme shows this is also a time of danger as predators take full advantage of any youngsters that stray too far from their parents.

One creature that doesn’t take any responsibly for its young is the cuckoo, well known for laying its eggs in other bird’s nests. The programme features rare footage of a cuckoo chick pushing eggs out of a reed warbler’s nest it has been hatched in, while the reed warbler looks on.

*Summer is a time when we love messing about with water, we see schoolchildren investigating the wildlife found in our streams, the joy of discovering what creatures are lurking in rock pools, and of course the traditional British seaside holiday.*

Our coastline comes to life in the summer, with amateur sailors enjoying the calm seas and sunshine. But as Alan explains it is also a time when conditions can change rapidly and makes summer the busiest time of year for the RNLI.

The Seasons looks at the impact the sea has on our island’s weather, the reason why our summers are cooler than those on the continent and why the south coast boasts more sunshine hours than the rest of the country.

Summer is when our thoughts turn to holidays, but for some it is their busiest season. We meet cockle picker Keith Marland who has worked at this back-breaking and at times dangerous job for 35 years, to provide cockles that are at their largest and juiciest in the summer. In Cambridgeshire, Felicity Irons cuts down rushes along the River Ouse which will be woven into a variety of traditional products, and ancient order Swan Uppers take their annual census of swans along the Thames.

Alan tells the programme that the sun was an important symbol of worship in ancient times, and how this lives on at Stonehenge, where Druids still celebrate the summer solstice on the longest day of the year.

He also reveals that the hottest days of summer are named the ‘dog days’ after Sirius the dog star which shines at its brightest in mid-summer. In the 19th century it was believed that during this time ‘the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics and frenzies. ‘

In Scotland’s wild Falls of Shin, wild salmon end their incredible journey from the sea to return to the river they were born in. The programme shows one of nature’s most incredible sights as the salmon leap against wild torrents to reach their birthplace where they will lay their eggs.

Our coastal cliffs are a hive of activity in summer; Britain has some of the largest seabird colonies in the world. The programme shows the spectacular scenes on Rathlin Island off the coast of Northern Ireland where over a 100,000 seabirds come in from the Atlantic to breed on the craggy cliffs. Once they have raised their young the birds return to the Atlantic and won’t come back until the following spring.

Alan tells the programme: “Many of the birds we’ve been used to seeing in our gardens will leave soon too. It’s a sure sign that summer is nearly over.”

As the season draws to a close Alan says: “It’s sad to say goodbye to the lazy days of summer, but we wouldn’t want summer all the year round would we? Familiarity would breed contempt and we wouldn’t enjoy those rich colours of autumn.”

Sunday, 9 May 2010, 7:00PM – 8:00PM on ITV1

Episode One ��” Spring

In this brand new four part series for ITV1, everyone’s favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh goes back to his roots to find out how our changing seasons affect everything around us. The series reveals the profound and far-reaching impact that each season has on our wildlife and landscape, and how they shape the way we all live.

In the first programme Alan leads us through the start of the natural year, spring, a time of hope and optimism is under every foot and around every corner new life is just waiting to begin.

Alan’s natural enthusiasm for the subject, alongside stunning photography, brings the subject of spring to life, exploring and vividly displaying its transformative effect as it sweeps from south to north between March and May, affecting everything from scallop fishing in Dorset to stags shedding their antlers in the Scottish Highlands.

The programme looks at why spring arrives when it does in Britain and why weather is so unpredictable at this time of year.

Its broad scope encompasses how spring heralds a time of reawakening, highlighting the rich profusion of wildlife and plants emerging after the long winter days across our skies, hills, rivers, forests and coastline.
Alan says: “Spring isn’t just about what you can see. It’s a feeling in the pit of your stomach and you can smell it too. Not that acrid sour smell of autumn, but a sweetness on the breeze that’s all its own.”

Alan explains how the seasons underpin and drive patterns of behaviour that affect humans as well as occur in nature. And he looks at the way our ancestors’ seasonal rituals still influence today’s springtime celebrations.

Alan describes spring as ‘nature’s dinner gong’ and he investigates the fundamental importance of insects in the food chain that jolts into life in spring. He tells the programme why so many early spring flowers are yellow as well as taking in the riot of other colours that carpet our forests as the season progresses.

Alan also looks at the impact of mankind on the natural patterns of spring flora and fauna ��” and what some are doing to try to repair the damage.

Alan says: : “In springtime, our islands seem like a magnet for everything beautiful in the waters and the skies to come here”

The Seasons shows puffins in Wales attempting to find their mates from the previous year, which are some of the 16 million birds that return to Britain to breed annually, most having flocked north from Africa. But rising temperatures, overfishing and damage to habitat have led to an alarming drop in numbers of some returning species, such as the cuckoo which has plummeted by 40 per cent in the last decade.

Modern, intensive farming methods have ripped away vital wildlife habitat and food sources leading to the decline of creatures such as the bumblebee. But Alan finds signs that has improved in recent years and meets the Hampshire farmers who plant hedgerows and sow wild flowers to provide springtime home and sustenance for wildlife on their land.

Spring’s period of abundance is the best time to breed and the programme highlights how wildlife gets a bit frisky with footage of a myriad of courtship rituals from the black grouse in the highlands of Scotland trying to attract a mate with the stylish curve of his tail feathers to the dance of the adders and ‘mad’ march hares fighting over a mate. Alan also talks about his love of birdsong and why the dawn chorus is a key part of birds’ efforts to mate in spring.

And, for humans, Alan explains that stripping off layers of clothing in response to the slowly warming sun isn’t just about getting a tan ��” it’s also nature’s way of increasing our levels of Vitamin D, which our bodies crave to build strong bones and teeth, because levels have been depleted during the winter.

As Alan tells the programme, the seasons barely register on the working lives of many today. But he meets people whose jobs are enormously influenced by springtime, such as the ordnance survey map aerial photographer whose work begins in earnest in spring’s clearer, longer days.

Ian McGrandle shares his unique perspective on the season’s impact on Britain and reveals why he would not want to live anywhere else.

He says:: “The UK is beautiful. Whether it be the urban areas of London or the wild parts of Scotland, I still see it in all its beauty.”

Alan tells the programme how the ancient legend of a Saxon goddess explains why a bunny dishing out eggs is at the heart of our modern day Easter celebrations.

He also looks at how the springtime festival of May Day, a celebration of fire and fertility originally celebrated by the ancient Celts, lives on today.

As spring draws to a close Alan says its greatest gift is to transform our countryside and, he adds with a wry smile, ‘tip us gently into the seemingly endless days of the great British summer’.

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