Millions tune in to Springwatch

MORE than four million viewers tuned in to the first night of the BBC's Springwatch programme from Pensthorpe on Monday.The cameras rolled at the reserve near Fakenham and 4.

MORE than four million viewers tuned in to the first night of the BBC's Springwatch programme from Pensthorpe on Monday.

The cameras rolled at the reserve near Fakenham and 4.1 million people switched on their TV sets - 300,000 more than before when the event came from Devon.

The reserve is the home of the celebrated series, where presenters Bill Oddie and Kate Humble, helped by 50 secret mini cameras, will be keeping close tabs on the reserve's diverse wildlife for the next three weeks.

Miles of fibre-optic cable have been installed at the 200-acre base and will acquaint viewers with the reserve's muntjacs and roe deer, red squirrels, badgers, foxes, stoats, the enigmatic corncrake, and endangered water voles as well as a wealth of lapwings and plovers, skylarks and oystercatchers.

Chiara Minchin, production team assistant, explained the crew were trying to put together a basic running order for the show, but said the beauty of the programme relied mainly on the spontaneity of the animals. “There is a wonderful family feel to the show,” she said. “We always make sure the animals are well, the crew behave and that ultimately we bring a great programme into the homes of our viewers. It's enormous fun.”

It is the first time that the programme has broadcast from Norfolk and it coincides with the reserve's 20th anniversary.

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Presenters Bill and Kate, who visited the estate, said they had moved from their well-known Devon farm to Pensthorpe because of the site's unique range of diverse habitats, including ancient woodland, wetland, marshland, breckland (habitat for ground nesting birds,), wildflower meadows and a river.

“Pensthorpe is an amazing place with its combination of good things to see and do as well as wonderful conservation projects going on behind the scenes,” said Bill.

“I'm thrilled that this is to be the new home of Springwatch.”

The river is a haven for rare white-clawed crayfish and bullhead, as well as brown trout and otters.

Pensthorpe also features 300 acres of farmland being transformed into a Conservation Grade farm by owners Bill Jordan, of Jordan Cereals and his wife, Deb, who purchased the reserve and farm in 2003 from founder Bill Makins.

“It is fantastic news for Pensthorpe, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary, that BBC Springwatch has chosen us as its new home,” said Mr Jordan. “It is also great news for Norfolk, which is the UK's premier bird watching destination and is blessed with many internationally important nature reserves.

“We are working very closely with the Springwatch team to ensure that the best of the Wensum Valley's natural world is revealed to a national TV audience.”

The programme runs from until Thursday, June 12. For more details check or