Broadcast date: Monday, 11 October 2010, 8:00PM – 8:30PM
Episode 1: Deciduous Forest – Ray Mears in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
I love the forest. The more time I spend within it, the more connected to this secret world I become. Five hundred years ago, three quarters of Britain would have looked like this. We’re lucky that there are still places today where we can witness this incredible wildlife first hand. – Ray Mears
In the first episode of the series, Ray Mears explores the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, using his tracking skills and expert wildlife and plant knowledge to reveal its secrets to viewers; from the rare sight of wild boars and their piglets foraging, to finding the wild-growing edible ingredients for a uniquely British salad.
Situated between the Severn estuary and the gorges of the river Wye, it’s one of Britain’s few remaining ancient forests and covers 27,000 acres. The diversity of trees and plants in an ancient forest is not only beautiful but also provides food for a variety of animals.
Ray visits in the spring when the forest is bursting with life and carpeted with radiant bluebells. He is hoping to see creatures that, until recently, were extinct in this area – the elusive goshawk, the magnificent wild boar and the hazel dormouse.
He reveals that deer are actually the reason why the forest exists today; in the 11th century, the area was protected as a royal hunting reserve where kings could hunt wild boar, red deer, roe deer and fallow deer.
Recently, the loss of habitat caused by the construction of new roads and poor woodland management means that the common dormouse is not so common anymore. Ray meets female wildlife ranger Elizabeth ‘Sid’ Davis, who shows him the nest boxes which have been set up to help the mice hibernate. He is delighted to discover that the boxes are working well and that the dormice are now thriving in the area.
The rich habitat of the forest is home to a variety of birds, mammals, insects and plants. But recently, one important forest inhabitant has been missing; the wild boar was a favourite quarry for the Royal hunt and 300 years ago, the last boar was hunted out. They have recently been reintroduced to the forest and Ray is delighted to see some boar and their piglets feeding in the forest.
That’s something very few people in Britain have seen. It’s an animal that really should be in our landscape but the challenge will be for us to learn to live alongside it because I think we’re going to see a lot more of these animals in the future. – Ray Mears
On his journey through the forest, Ray also sees adders, wild goshawks and fallow deer, and takes advantage of the abundance of available plants to make a delicious wild salad of saxifrage, wood bittercress, wild garlic, small leaved lime and cherry blossom.