Andrew Marr with James Rebanks, Melissa Harrison and Merlin Sheldrake
The first episode of the new season. Andrew Marr and guests stop to consider the natural world and the changing seasons. When James Rebanks first learnt to work the land, at his grandfather’s side, the family’s Lake District farm was a key part of the ancient landscape and was teeming with wildlife. By the time he inherited the farm, that landscape had profoundly changed. In English Pastoral, his follow-up to best-seller The Shepherd’s Life, Rebanks assesses the revolutionary post-war farming methods – and the unintended destruction they caused. He looks at what can be done to restore rich soil and flourishing fields. Since the start of the pandemic, novelist and nature writer Melissa Harrison has been documenting the wonder of the natural world, bringing the sights and sounds of her Suffolk countryside to homes all around the country. In her podcast The Stubborn Light of Things she plays close attention to what’s happening on her doorstep, from the arrival and departure of the swifts, to the bloom of the hawthorn, to the hunt in the undergrowth for glow-worms. A collection of Harrison’s monthly nature notes from The Times are due to be published this November. A much underrated and unnoticed part of the natural world are fungi, according to the biologist Merlin Sheldrake. In Entangled Life he celebrates the ingenuity, extravagance and strangeness of fungal networks. Neither plant nor animal, fungi are found throughout the earth, in the air and in our bodies. They can live on a speck of dust or spread over miles of underground mazes. While fungi gives us bread and life-saving medicines, they have also transformed our understanding of the way plants communicate with each other via the ‘Wood Wide Web’.