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Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Springwatch TV hat-trick for Pensthorpe Nature Reserve
By Martin Barber
BBC Norfolk

Chris Packham and Kate Humble at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, Norfolk (Photo: Martin Barber)
Chris and Kate return to the Pensthorpe estate for Springwatch 2010

Springwatch, the prime time TV wildlife programme, has confirmed it will return to Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in north Norfolk for a third season.

Presenters Kate Humble and Chris Packham will be based on the estate near Fakenham, reporting on the latest wildlife drama from around the UK.

"It's absolutely brilliant news... and a great coup for Norfolk," said Deb Jordan, owner of Pensthorpe.

Springwatch 2010 is on air for three weeks from Monday, 31 May, on BBC Two.

"Springwatch has proved that nature is endlessly fascinating. It doesn't matter if it's really familiar species like blue tits, as the story changes every year," said Kate Humble, speaking to BBC Norfolk.

"They are incredibly engaging characters and we do get wrapped up in their lives.

The Springwatch Unsprung team answer viewers' questions

"Obviously we have concerns every year that nothing going to turn up, but that's part of the joy of making Springwatch - the uncertainty... it's totally up to the will of the wildlife as to what's going to be in the programme.

"It's brilliant to come back to Pensthorpe and this year we hope to broaden our net and explore more of Norfolk.

"As anyone who lives in Norfolk knows, it's one of the finest wildlife areas in Britain," she added.

Business boost

Norfolk has a strong reputation as a TV and film location, which brings a boost to local business.

"Pensthorpe's range of habitats showcase Norfolk's wildlife at its best," said Lydia Smith, director of Norfolk Tourism.

"The reserve's role as the Springwatch hub has really helped raise awareness of the county as one the UK's top bird watching and wildlife destinations.

"It also helps people to realise they can come here at any time of the year and they'll be something for them to see.

"There are obvious benefits at places like the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and RSPB reserves in terms of increased visitors numbers.

"But other local attractions, accommodation and pubs all benefit too - quite often all year round," she added.

The Pensthorpe reserve, located in the Wensum Valley, welcomes more than 90,000 visitors a year.

Covering more than 500 acres the location features a wide range of habitats including ancient woodland, wetland, wildflower meadows, marshland and scrub.

Chris Packham

Chris has been visiting Norfolk's wildlife since the early '80s

The River Wensum, which runs through the reserve, is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Europe's highest nature conservation designation.

The river is home to the endangered white clawed crayfish, otters, brown trout and the regionally threatened bullhead.

Enjoying nature

During the time Springwatch is on air, enthralling around four million viewers a night - the day to day business at Pensthorpe carries on as usual.

Hundreds of visitors make the most of the reserve's wildlife, just with the added frisson of excitement at possibly spotting a TV presenter roaming in the estate's habitats.

"One of the nice things about being at Pensthorpe is that it's open to the public while we're there and there's that sense of we're sharing the experience together," said Kate Humble.

"People can see where we are, they can see us rehearsing and making a mess of things - which causes no end of hilarity for the public and no end of embarrassment for me and Chris!

"But the whole idea about Springwatch and British wildlife is that it's for everybody. It should be something that's collaborative between people, between wildlife and everyone should be able to share it in and enjoy it."

Chris Packham and Kate Humble will once again be joined on the Pensthorpe estate by former Springwatch producer turned presenter Martin Hughes-Games, who will be putting more viewer's questions to the team and leading the charge in Springwatch Unsprung on the red button.

Springwatch action man Gordon Buchanan will be on the search of illusive animals from around the UK and Simon King takes his intrepid OB unit to Dorset.

Great fun

Chris Packham and Kate Humble at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve

"It's great fun to have Chris and Kate around, showing an interest in all our wildlife and bringing to our attention species and nests that we may not otherwise have realised that we had here," said Deb Jordan.

"Springwatch and Pensthorpe share core values in helping people to engage and gain an understanding about nature and wildlife, leaving them wanting to know and do more.

"It is so important that we encourage the next generation to spend more time outdoors enjoying nature.

"When stories are unfolding on a daily basis there is also a sense of tension and uncertainty especially if there is likely to be the demise of a well loved fledgling that we have all been following.

"As owner of the reserve you can feel quite guilty when a kestrel eats the darling of last night's show!"

The programme plans to use more than 50 hidden wildlife cameras around Penthorpe, linked by more than 12 kilometres of fibre-optic cable.

The specialist wildlife camera team, headed up by former University of East Anglia student Nigel Bean, will allow the programme to record more than 500 hours of footage during their stay in Norfolk, allowing viewers to follow a range of intimate animal stories - live - without disturbing the animals themselves.

Series producer Roger Webb said: "It's great to be heading back to Pensthorpe. We had high drama with murder on the wader scrape last time, but I'm confident the stars of Springwatch 2010 will give even more powerful performances.

"We're hoping an investment in mini cameras and nest boxes will see a host of new stars - barn owls, kingfishers, otters and a little bird that would definitely make Chris' heart flutter, the bullfinch - are all on our wish list.

"But of course we can only do our best to plan, because as is the case every year it's nature that writes the script!"

Full coverage of Springwatch and the build up to the series will be available from BBC Norfolk, on radio and online.





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