Britain's landscape has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Wild plants, bushes and trees have disappeared, and strange new plants have become familiar. Brand new six-part series, Wild Things, opens up a completely different view on the world around us. Along with one of the biggest British natural history projects ever undertaken, this series reveals how plants offer an understanding of changing British wildlife.
Wild Things is presented by new faces - Royal Horticultural Society gold medallist and garden designer Chris Myers and his Labrador Lottie, and they are joined each week by one of Britain's top botanists Dr Trevor Dines and Lichenologist Sally Eaton. From remote mountain tops to murky urban bogs, their wild plant hunts take them all over Britain as they attempt to unlock the secrets of the wild - often in the most unlikely places.
The Spanish bluebell is threatening our native bluebell - and eradicating that unique smell. We are seeing a decline in the Juniper berries which are used to make our beloved gin. And London appears to be providing a sub-tropical haven for some exotic plants to grow. Each week holds strange and exciting discoveries for Chris and the team as they search our cities and countryside to discover what grows where in Britain today and why.
Bold experiments and innovative approaches - from controlled explosions in military no-go zones on the Salisbury Plains, to oven-roasting microscopic bears that live by our roadsides - help explain why some plants have moved in, others have disappeared, and most importantly, why this matters to the rest of us.
Following the remarkable natural history project, the team uses a new scientific survey of wild plant maps, from the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI), dating back as far as back 1962, allowing them to investigate our wildlife and examine the changes that have taken place in the British landscape and flora over the past 50 years.
Wild Things offers a colourful and engaging window onto our ‘green and pleasant land', and a crucial snapshot of Britain's biodiversity from the ground up. The series also presents some surprising and challenging information about the state of our natural history, looking ahead to reveal what the future may hold for our natural environment and the great British backyard.
NB For presenter information, please scroll down the page.
Prod Co: Cwmni Da
Exec Prod: Neville Hughes
Series Prod: Arwyn Evans
Comm Ed: Jill Fullerton-Smith
Episode 3, Monday 4th February 2013, 8:30pm, C4
Hitting the streets of London in the third programme, the team reveal why it is also the capital for new Wild Things. Millions of people come to London every year but it's not just people who are coming and going, strange and new plants are moving in too. The team discover that the chewing gum on London's streets is actually a living organism, and that all the concrete is attracting plants from the Amazonian jungle into the back alleys of the capital.
Episode 2, Monday 28th January 2013, 8:30pm, C4
With access to Salisbury Plain, the team investigate why a fenced-off military no-go zone provides the perfect conditions for wild things to grow. Using explosive stunts and underground experiments, they set about exploring how wild plants have developed their own defence systems to survive - with battle-ground manoeuvres creating perfect conditions in the soil. Exploding a poppy reveals the secret to the long life of their seeds and going deep into a puddle uncovers a real microscopic battleground - with each tiny wild thing trying to make the most of the temporary conditions. Britain's most explosive plant takes on a British Army assault rifle and demonstrates it has an even faster ballistic system.
Episode 1, Monday 21st January 2013, 8:30pm, C4
The team head to the Midlands and the heart of Britain's road transport network, in Birmingham. It might seem like an unlikely starting point to look for wild things but in the last 50 years these roadsides have become Britain's latest nature reserve. Exploring the hard shoulders and soft verges they discover: how Danish Scurvy-Grass has become the fastest moving plant in Britain using a fast car, a slow motion camera and polystyrene balls; how a very familiar British flower, has come under threat from a roadside imposter and they find the world's smallest bear living in the last place imaginable.
Chris Myers, Landscape Designer
Chris Myers is a rising star in the world of landscape design with an unmistakable passion for wild plants. Also a part-time farmer, his roots are firmly in Yorkshire and whenever he's back home he heads into the wild landscapes around him looking for inspiration to mimic Mother Nature in his show garden designs. Already a multi-Gold-medallist designer, this down-to-earth northerner has now set his sights set on the prestigious Chelsea Flower show. Through this series Chris will be going ‘over the garden fence' and asking his team of experts some tough questions about invading aliens and disappearing species as well as trying to find out about the simple power of plants today and what they can tell us. He might use plants, but does he really understand them? Will these investigations fuel him with the next creative seeds to sow a winner?
Sally Eaton, microscope-wielding lichenologist
From the early days of her first microscope, Sally was always conducting some kind of experiment - from sprinkling sugar in the carpet so flies would lay their eggs, to leaving a glass of milk on the window ledge in the excited hope of seeing fungi growing on its surface. After traveling the world, from living with Orangutans in the rainforests of Borneo, to chasing snakes, catching geckos, and watching lemurs in Madagascar, Sally Eaton studied for her MSc in Plant Taxonomy and Biodiversity at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, and the most fascinating element of all during that year was the world of lichens. For Sally, it was the discovery of a whole new miniature world occupying rocks, tree bark and plants, that led her to studying and working with these very small and once unseen bits of life. Sally is currently a research assistant at the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh and chair of the Education and Promotions Committee of the British Lichens Society and a trustee of the Species Recovery Trust.
Dr Trevor Dines, the adventurous plant expert
There is no plant in Britain, Trevor hasn't mapped. Trevor is one of the most widely respected botanists in Britain. He was at the forefront of the huge body of work overseen by the BSBI, which was the remarkable record of plant distribution and the biggest British natural history project of its kind. The results culminated in the New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora (2002), which Trevor co-authored having scoured vast areas of the British Isles recording plants as well as co-ordinating the collation of nine million different records from volunteers all over the country. Trevor has also managed to find time to hot air balloon over the rainforests of Cameroon to study tropical trees, go plant hunting in Tibet and South East Asia but his stomping ground is still Wales where he currently works for Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity.