The Wild Places Of Essex Review: Secret Gardens

February 10, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

tv-stars-3halfwild place300x210NATURAL WORLD – THE WILD PLACES OF ESSEX: Wednesday 10th February, BBC2 & BBC HD, 8pm ALERT ME

Spending a year in Essex isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but travel writer and environmental enthusiast Robert MacFarlane is on a mission to discover some hidden treasures.

Being an Essex girl myself, I could have told him that our treasures aren’t usually hidden – they’re on display every in Romford every Friday night.

But Robert had more important things to worry about than spotting binge drinkers in Billericay, he’s been searching for real wildlife (the kind Essex had before it became industrialised).

Robert doesn’t seem to have a mission statement that’s too specific; he’s simply roaming around Essex finding wildlife, with no particular species in mind and no conclusion that couldn’t be gleaned from the title. Meandering through woodland areas as though in a children’s fairytale is all well and good but it makes for boring documentary films.

Nevertheless, what he found may come as a surprise to those who aren’t too familiar with Essex and have only a stereotypical idea of the area. Robert visited Billericay to discover a forest floor blanketed with bluebells, Epping Forest to watch deer roam freely and Tilbury Power Station to watch peregrine falcons swooping across the sky.

The soporific narration and Robert’s lack of an engaging screen presence may lead to sporadic dips in your concentration, but it’s enjoyable to watch his childlike sense of wonder as he strolls around the forests.

If you’re going to catch this episode of Natural World, then it’s definitely worth watching in HD as the photography is quite beautiful. Robert & Co haven’t quite reached Attenborough levels but it’s certainly close. And unlike Attenborough, who often focuses on large and impressive natural displays, their attention is drawn to looking closely at the smaller details of the Essex landscape.

It was actually inspiring to see such repsect for the nature that’s right on our doorstep. Roaming through the grounds of the late writer Roger Deakin, Robert describes what fascinated both of them was the ‘undiscovered country of the nearby.’ This film may well serve as food for thought for some people but mostly it’s a great advertisement for Essex tourism that screams, ‘Look! Essex can be pretty too!’ And as Robert shows, it really is.