Slow Cotswolds

  • BBC's Springwatch comes to the Cotswolds

    Springwatch returns to BBC Two this month, broadcasting live from a new location - and it's in the Cotswolds!

    Presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Martin Hughes-Games and Gillian Burke will host the three-week wildlife extravaganza live from the National Trust's Sherborne Park Estate in Gloucestershire. Not least, the Watches will settle at the Cotswolds site, between Northleach and Burford, to cover the changing seasons for Autumnwatch and Winterwatch.

    With five tenant farms surrounding the village of Sherborne and the constant activity at the working NT estate, the Springwatch team will explore: the eighteenth century water meadow, which is rich in fish life, otters, dragonflies and damselflies; the discused Second World War airbase where arable crops grow and hares and farmland birds such as skylarks, yellowhammers and the 'red listed' corn bunting congregate - as well as reporting from historic oak parkland, riverbank environments where the River Windrush and Sherborne Brook meet, limestone grasslands, wildflower meadows and the miles of Cotswold stone walls that house weasels, stoats, rodents, lizards and colonies of lesser horseshoe bats. In essence, it's a festival of all that's fabulous about the Cotswolds countryside!

    Tom McDonald, Head of Commission, Natural History and Specialist Factual says, "I'm thrilled the Watches have found such an extraordinary home for the next twelve months. The Sherborne Estate is the perfect location to bring the very best of British wildlife to our loyal audience."

    Of course, those familiar with Slow Travel: The Cotswolds are already likely to be aware of the beauty of the Sherborne Estate. It's featured on pages 172-3 of the book. It's not only the BBC Springwatch team that are entitled to enjoy its charm though. As a National Trust estate it is open to all - and, as I mention in the book, I thoroughly recommend a visit. Not least now - in Spring!

    I was there today, and the village and its surroundings are looking quite magnificent. In the book, I mention that the focal point of the village is the very grand Sherborne House, once stayed in by Queen Elizabeth I but now private apartments. That's perhaps untrue on an environmental scale, for the sheer beauty of the Sherborne Brook, used as a sheepwash in bygone days, the River Windrush and the surrounding water meadows draw the eye away from any architecture - except possibly the exceptional prettiness of the traditional village cottages!

    Park at Ewepen Barn, just off the A40, and you'll come across four possible waymarked walks. My favourite is the 2.5 mile 'Family Fun Walk' as it provides a little of everything - views of the Sherborne House, St Mary Magdalene Church and the hills beyond, woodland walks, site of the ancient Beech Avenue (the original entrance to the house) and a stretch through the village with views of Sherborne Brook.

    For a stop-off, do make use of the Sherborne Village Shop & Tea Room (open Mon to Fri 8am to 6pm; Sat 8am to 5pm; Sun/BH 10am to 4pm; tea room closes 45 minutes prior to shop closing times), near the war memorial in the centre of the village and less than a 25-metre diversion from the Family Fun Walking route. Both the shop and tea-room have either won or been a finalist in major national competitions and it really is excellent. On the menu today was homemade Curried Heritage Carrot Soup or Cream of Asparagus Soup, a selection of magnificent sourdough breads and a selection of amazingly fresh cakes. I opted for a Tartiflette pie made by Todenham Manor Farm (also in Slow Travel: The Cotswolds) and a piece of gluten-free toffee cake. Yum. There's also a notable deli and wine selection. And an array of teas and coffees.

    Springwatch will air from Monday 29th May to Thursday 15th June at 8pm on BBC2.

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