Tag Archives: BBC

More of Mull on the TV this Xmas

Mull and TV is the same as feast and famine… or buses. You wait ages for yours to arrive and then two or three of them all turn up at the same time! Just a few months back we had a slew of programmes which featured aspects of the Isle of Mull. Geologist Iain Stewart was crawling all over Scotland looking at the history and geology, whilst the BBC’s AutumnWatch was focusing on the wildlife.

Then nothing…

More Mull on TV this XmasBut you can’t keep a good subject out of the media for long, so it was little surprise to see Mull and its islands reappear on last night’s “Three Men go to Scotland“. It was a bit of a rambling show where the editor had clearly played pretty fast and loose with the order of the footage. It seemed to allow the presenters, Rory McGrath, Griff Rhys-Jones and Dara O’Briain to hop between Mull and the mainland as if they were in a Tardis rather than a beautiful old sailing boat.

But in the limited time available for the show the three protagonists managed to spend time in Duart Castle learning about Clan MacLean. It then jumped back to the mainland to visit Inverawe smokery and a spot of scallop diving just outside Oban harbour before returning to Mull to go check out the always impressive Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa.

It was then on to the Ledaig Distillery (or Tobermory Distillery if you prefer). Rory McGrath was on a blagging mission to ensure an (un)healthy supply of the local brew, before heading off from Tobermory and around the Ardnamurchan headland to the north, despite a false start when they caught the boat’s propeller in a local lobster pot just outside Tobermory bay.

Clearly they shot quite a bit of footage on Mull that didn’t make it to the finished programme as Griff Rhys-Jones mentioned visiting Ulva which didn’t make it into the final edit. It would be nice to be able to see the material that never makes it to the final cut on the BBC’s iPlayer website, rather than being forever lost for lack of time in the main TV show.

RSPB Warden Dave Sexton on Springwatch Xmas SpecialBut, just like the buses, there was more on Mull this festive season in the form of the Springwatch Christmas Special. Towards the end of the 90 minute show the programme revisited RSPB Warden Dave Sexton who monitors the eagle population on Mull.

It seems that the BBC has a wildlife fund which contributed cash in 2007 towards the eagle revival programme on the island and Dave explains how the money has helped towards the overall success of the project. It’s well worth viewing this segment before the catch-up service on the BBC iPlayer site expires.

Autumnwatch returns to Mull to report on… Robins!

It’s quite amazing how much attention the BBC is giving the Isle of Mull of late. As if the marathon wildlife report from the island on last week’s Autumnwatch wasn’t enough, they had even more in this week’s show.

Dave Sexon of the RSPB on Mull doesn't talk about Sea Eagles, instead focusing attention on garden birds such as the Robin.Presenter Kate Humble told TV audiences during Thursday’s programme, “One of my favourite places in Britain is Mull,” adding “and where did you go last week without me? You went to Mull!”. That was the preamble to a further report on Dave Sexton of the RSPB on Mull, not talking about sea eagles but, somewhat surprisingly, the often overlooked garden birds like the little Robin.

You can view the clip here until next Thursday on the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service or download the WMV version and you have up to 30 days to watch it.

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
Twitter: mullescape

Mull ‘Raptor Island’ says BBC’s Autumnwatch

No doubt, if you’re a fan of all things nature-related you probably caught last week’s episode of Autumnwatch on the BBC. Presenters Chris and Martin headed up to Mulll, ostensibly for the sea eagles, but it was actually quite a bit more than that. They also checked out the coastline and other interesting fauna dotted across Mull’s shoreline.

BBC Autumnwatch presenter Martin Hughes-Games hits paydirt on his search for Mull's wildlife. In this case he spots Otters.If you missed it, you have seven days to catch it on the BBC’s iPlayer service after it’s broadcast or, if you download the WMV file instead (under the Download button and click for Windows Media Player) you can view it up to 30 days after.

News to me, they mentioned that Pine Martens have been verified as back on the island and breeding, possibly sneaking back on Mull courtesy of a lorry and the CalMac ferry. Unfortunately badgers and foxes are totally absent on Mull, the presenters explaining that they were probably there until they were eradicated in the Victorian era. It’s odd that such recent events as what happened on the island during the Victorian era were never recorded for posterity.

An Otter caught by the BBC's Autumnwatch cameramen visiting the Isle of Mull, relaxing on top of the seaweed after perhaps one too many crab. Time to relax and digest.Presenter, Martin Hughes-Games explained why he felt Mull was such a good place to visit for Wildlife watching. “I can honestly say I haven’t see so much wildlife in such a short space of time ever,” adding, “Now is a really brilliant time to go up there and do wildlife watching. There are three reasons for that. One is the midges aren’t there. The other is there are less people so it’s much easier to get around and the third thing is that the days are much shorter and the animals have to pack in their lives into a much shorter space of time. So they’re more obvious. They’re feeding, they’re playing.”

So, if you thought a holiday on Mull was limited to the summer months… well think again. Certainly not if one of your reasons for visiting are to see the raptors like the eagle and hen harrier, plus many other birds, deer and otters.

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
Twitter: mullescape

Isle of Mull forests… anything but natural?

I have a soft spot for any TV or radio programmes covering geology or natural history. That’s how I found myself sitting in the audience at this year’s Edinburgh Science Festival listening to TV geologist Dr Iain Stewart expound on how Scotsman (James Hutton) was a big influence on our understanding of how the entire world’s ecosystem works. But Iain also flagged up his plans for a new TV programme focusing specifically on the evolution of the Scottish landscape.

Dr Iain Stewart's latest TV show explains why we have so many foreign trees currently covering Mull.I managed to catch up on the programme, ‘Making Scotland’s Landscape‘ last night (thanks once again to the BBC’s iPlayer) and learnt some rather interesting facts about the distinct lack of trees we see, not just on Mull, but all over many parts of Scotland.

According to Iain there was a cooling event some 4,000 years ago which added more rain. This caused many parts of Scotland’s forests to die back, leaving us with about 25% forest coverage at the start of man’s change from hunter-gatherer to farmer. Pre-farming there may have been as few as 10,000 people covering the whole of what we consider modern Scotland, but some speculate that by the start of the modern age that could have risen as high as 500,000…certainly enough people to put huge pressure on the land and resources, including the indigenous trees and the firewood they provided.

By the 1500s, stocks of indigenous forest were so depleted that wood was being imported from mainland Europe. It all paints a fairly grim picture of how our forebears didn’t so much care for and maintain the land, as exhaust it totally.

By the start of the 20th century and the onset of the first great war, it became clear to many that the country had to be proactive in protecting wood stocks. But it got off to an inauspicious start with most of the land being populated with fast-growing Sitka Spruce, so closely planted that virtually nothing lives beneath its canopy.

Fortunately, by the 1980s there were more enlightened souls in the Forestry Commission who recognised that creating a forest mono-culture of foreign trees is hardly a long-term solution, and they began to introduce a wider variety of indigenous varieties into tree plantations across the country.

In terms of the Isle of Mull, as you holliday there you can’t fail to notice the large tree covered estates. There’s still a lot of monoculture going on that won’t be superceded for many years to come. But the hope must be that for future generations of holiday visitors, the landscape that will meet people visiting the island will be one which more accurately represents the type of forest that would have once been abundant all over the country just a few thousand years ago…. minus the wild boar, bears, wolves and beavers, not to mention dragons, unicorns and centaurs of course!


You might also like to listen to Dr Iain Stewart’s radio programme for BBC Scotland. Called ‘Walking Through Landscape‘ the 39 minute show is also being podcast, which, usefully, means that you can save the audio and, should the opportunity arise, use his programme as a sort of walking guide.

In the first show Iain visits Ariundle oakwoods, in Sunart, which is fairly easy to get to from Mull using the CalMac Lochaline to Fishnish ferry crossing. Ariundle is a lush green space, full of plant and animal life. But they’re also incredibly rich in archaeology. Iain seeks out the stories of human and natural history the old oak trees have lived through, and, perhaps ironically, learns that if it wasn’t for 18th century industry, the woods wouldn’t be around today.

You can download the audio here but, as of posting you’ve only got three more days to do so.

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
Twitter: mullescape