Suffolk: Minsmere to be the heart of this year’s BBC Springwatch

The entrance to the Minsmere nature reserve. The entrance to the Minsmere nature reserve.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
5:22 PM

Suffok’s world famous Minsmere nature reserve is to be at the heart of the BBC’s Springwatch broadcasts over the next two years.

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Extra camera hides have been installed at the reserve and a temporary wooden studio has been built on the top of Whin Hill overlooking the Island Mere with views towards Eastbridge.

The arrival is expected to prompt a huge interest in wildlife in the county – and officials at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are preparing for an influx of visitors.

Minsmere is one of the richest areas for wildlife in the whole of Britain.

Its best known feature is probably the Scrape, just behind the sea wall, which provides a habitat for a wide variety of waders, gulls and terns.

It is this area that was one of the first places in Britain to see avocets – which now feature in the RSPB’s badge – breeding back in the late 1940s.

They are now joined on the Scrape by a wide variety of breeding and passage species – and even a few escapees from private collections (flamingos have found it an attractive place to spend the summer).

Minsmere also has hundreds of acres of reedbeds which are home to rarities like bitterns, marsh harriers, and bearded tits as well as more common birds like herons, mute swans, various species of ducks and cormorants.

There are also many acres of woodland and the RSPB reserve is next to the National Trust’s Dunwich Heath reserve which is home to a wide variety of heathland species.

While Minsmere is mainly known for its birds, the reserve is also home to important populations of mammals, reptiles, insects and amphibians – not to mention a huge variety of plants and trees.

It has one of the largest red deer herds in the country, a herd which was controversially culled in the winter because its numbers were threatening to damage fragile habitats.

Springwatch will be based at the reserve this year and next year. There are hopes it could also return in 2016.

For the past three years it was broadcast from the Ynys-Hir reserve in west Wales and before then it came from Pensthorpe, near Fakenham in north Norfolk.

The main programmes will be broadcast from the reserve and hosted by presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games.

Many remote cameras will be set up around the reserve – and the arrival of the Springwatch team has been the subject of speculation among visitors to the reserve for many months.

Minsmere has featured on Springwatch, and other natural history programmes, before. What makes these productions so ambitious is that much of the programming will be live.

The broadband and 3G reception in that part of Suffolk is very poor – and guaranteeing coverage must have been a major challenge.

However solutions discovered over the last three years in Wales are thought to have enabled programme makers to be confident they would be able to broadcast direct from Minsmere.

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