SORREL DOWNER

Journalist, film producer, and media consultant, mixing it up for TV, online, newspapers and magazines. I cover travel & tourism, lifestyle, and design. Mainly. This is the HQ for previous work, and an introduction to current projects. I work all over the world and live on a farm in Cadiz which I write about at www.somewheresville.org.

Wild Places of Essex

AGB_EMAIL V.1a

First shown BBC2 Feb 2010, AGB Films for BBC Natural World, Wild Places of Essex was inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s book The Wild Places.

The rationale behind it was as follows: “We have become disconnected from the natural world. England seems safe, suburban, its wild spaces sliced up by roads, dotted by car parks and visitor centres – rendered tame. But there is a parallel world, and we’re beginning to rediscover it: the rich strange, elemental and forgotten wilderness on our own doorstep.

This is Essex, with its ancient forests, heath, corrugated fens, desolate 300-mile coastline, cockleshell beaches, mudflats, salt marshes and shifting spits; an edge, a place of change where  “the land is constantly ceding to the sea, or weaving with it”.

An overlooked county, it is populated by a vast cross-section of British wildlife from roe deer, basking seals, foxes, adders, boxing hares and water vole; redshank, curlews, peregrine falcons, osprey and great migratory flocks of seabirds and waders.

As the coast demonstrates the power struggle between land and sea, the proximity of these pockets of wilderness to the most densely populated region of the British Isles, encapsulates the shifting relationship between man and nature.

This place, these thoughts are explored by Robert Macfarlane, author of the recent award-winning bestseller, The Wild Places. Described by The  Sunday Times as “a descriptive writer of breathtaking power”, and by the Guardian as having “authority and passion capable of persuading even the most reluctant armchair adventurer to join him on his journey.

Macfarlane not only tracks and watches Essex wildlife, but plunges in: swimming in the night sea, sleeping on the sea wall as crashing waves send redshanks and curlews up in sudden clouds, under a sky filled with the creaking of bird wings and the lights of planes, and hikes through storms, bewitched – overwhelmed – by the “fierce, chaotic, chastening kind of wildness” England still has.”

“There couldn’t be a stronger / more counter-intuitive focus than Essex”, says Macfarlane, “no place that better illustrates the unexpected, sudden juxtaposition of the wild, the ‘beyond-world’ of birds and creatures, ‘rarely more than a turn of the head or a turn in the road away’.

“Essex illustrates perfectly how, across England, we misunderstand, overlook and underestimate the power of our own wild places. This film reveals our misconceptions, and brings reassuring and surprising news – and hopefully will encourage us to act fast to protect our last remaining native wildernesses.”

“We need wild places because they remind us of the world beyond the human…the experience of landscapes can give people a sense of bigness outside themselves that has now in some way been lost.” Wallace Stegner.

Written by Robert Macfarlane, produced & directed by Andrew Graham-Brown. Photography Robin Cox, Film Editor Nigel Buck, Researcher Peter Fison, Associate Producer Sorrel Downer.

This is the HQ for archive features, and an introduction to current projects. See also somewheresville, the travel blog; Vimeo for videos, LinkedIn for skills and contact details, and Joy Soup for multimedia content news, reviews and services offered.

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