Award-winning film director and Somerset resident Alastair Fothergill OBE is bringing Sir David Attenborough’s Wild Isles on tour.

Who can forget the incredible Wild Isles series that graced our screens last year? With Sir David Attenborough reminding us that ‘Nature is just as dramatic and spectacular in the British Isles as anywhere I’ve seen elsewhere’ he ensured that over 5 million of us tuned in each Sunday evening, with a further 7 million catching up on BBC iPlayer since. What many people perhaps don’t realise is that the film crew, Silverback Films who are behind the series, are based just up the road in Bristol, and that many of the scenes from the Wild Isles series were in fact filmed here in Somerset.

With so many of us eager to learn more about the nature on our doorstep, Silverback Films are now going on tour with Wild Isles Live this May. In advance of their show in Bristol, I was invited to meet with Somerset-resident and co-founder of Silverback Films, Alastair Fothergill OBE who not only produced the Wild Isles series but has also brought many BAFTA and EMMY award-winning nature shows to our screens; Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and Chimpanzee to name just a few.

Great British Life: Sir David Attenborough and Alastair Fothergill OBESir David Attenborough and Alastair Fothergill OBE (Image: Silverback Films Ltd)

On arriving at Silverback Film HQ, I was welcomed into the reception area and greeted by a huge smiling portrait of David Attenborough who graces the walls alongside several trophy-laden shelves. I was shown into the aptly named ‘Gorilla Suite’ and was joined by Alastair who has been in the Natural History programming arena for 40 years, having originally launched his career at the BBC in 1983 before creating the Bristol-based production company in 2012. ‘After being responsible for the original Blue Planet series in 2001, I always felt that an amazing series could be made here in the UK. Bristol is the ‘Green Hollywood’, and all the best wildlife films are made here so I promised the BBC that if I could raise the money it would be just as impressive as the planetary series. As you can imagine, it takes millions of pounds an episode to create these types of series and so we needed to raise a lot of money to make it feasible. We’re very thankful that Wild Isles was partly funded by the RSPB and the WWF who joined as co-production partners. For all of us, the real dream of Wild Isles was to move the dial of public appreciation.’

There are some hard-hitting facts delivered throughout the series particularly when David informs the viewers that Britain as a whole is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. ‘The figures in the UK are quite depressing,’ said Alastair, ‘but we do make these films predominantly to inspire people. It is still really amazing here in the UK and it’s important that local people realise that they may not be able to do anything to help the polar bears directly, but they can do something closer to home in Somerset for their otters or their starlings for example.’ At the mention of starlings Alastair remarked on the huge changes that have been seen in the wetlands across our county, ‘The Avalon Marshes in Somerset is one of the most important water area in the UK now and it really demonstrates what you can do when you give nature a chance. People often say to me, ‘you must get depressed at the loss of our natural world?’ and I always say ‘no, I love my job particularly because I have seen nature restore itself’. The Avalon Marshes near Glastonbury are a great example of restoration. Just thirty years ago they were mostly being dug up for peat. Today they are home to a wonderful range of rare birds - marsh harriers, over five species of herons and egrets and tens of bitterns ‘booming’ in the summer… it’s our equivalent to the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Great British Life: A male toad grabs firmly onto a female as he attempts to fertilize her eggs in a pond in SomersetA male toad grabs firmly onto a female as he attempts to fertilize her eggs in a pond in Somerset (Image: Silverback Films Ltd)

With our county being used as the filming location for the spotlights on both the dragonflies and the toadlet migration in the Wild Isles series, I wondered why Alastair didn’t choose to film the starling murmuration scenes on the Somerset Levels, ‘With the starlings roosting in such a massive area of reeds at Ham Wall it can make filming very tricky-the birds can roost almost anywhere - so we crossed the border into Devon where they choose to roost in the trees. By using thermal cameras to see the birds at night we could then watch the barn owls hunting at night - that was a big spectacle! I do however have on good authority that the bitterns at Ham Wall will steal starlings from the reeds at Ham Wall but filming that would have been very challenging!’

Talking of challenges, our conversation inevitably turned to our farming community. David quotes in episode 3 of Wild Isles that ‘95% of our Britain’s hay meadow habitats have been lost since the 1930’s’ and I wondered what Alastair’s thoughts were, ‘The positive story is that farmers are really aware of it. They realise that for their survival and the health of the soil they need to stop flogging it. They need to find a different economical model to make it pay - for some that could be embracing tourism or creating a higher quality product that can be sold at a higher price. Farmers appreciate how special nature is and they are absolutely not the enemy in conservation.

Great British Life: A mayfly nymph hatching out of a chalkstreamA mayfly nymph hatching out of a chalkstream (Image: Silverback Films Ltd)

Hedgerows are really good for nature so many farmers are now leaving the strips on the edge of fields for wildflowers which entices really good insects which in turn helps to manage the aphids. If you increase biodiversity on your farm, then most of it is in turn supporting you on your farm. The farmers are the heroes of conservation in the UK, they get a bad rap - but they are a responsible community. I hope the ELM scheme (Environmental Land Management) will financially reward farmers to be conservationists. With so many people living in crowded cities; we need to remember how important the countryside is for mental health benefits - think of the footpaths and the wilderness areas; these are all provided by the farmers - rather generously in fact. Ultimately, we are all on the same side.’

With the Wild Isles Live tour visiting the county this May, what can we all expect to see? ‘We’ll be taking you behind the scenes whilst delivering a wonderfully immersive experience - a little like the original show only this time you’ll be viewing a huge screen with a massive sound system which means you really will be face to face with a Sea Eagle!’ The tour promises to appeal to all age groups, taking the audience on a captivating journey through the British Isles’ most breathtaking landscapes, ‘and by being held at the Bristol Beacon, you are not only seated in a beautiful building, but the acoustics are very 21st century. The sound of nature will be something else and in combination with George Fenton’s beautiful score from the Wild Isles theme tune, well, the Bristol Beacon will show off the sounds of the show just beautifully.’ The show culminates with a Q&A with Alastair and his team ‘and we’ll also be talking about the Save Our Wild Isles Campaign which is designed to show people what they can do to make a change in their own backyard-because as David says, ‘no matter where we live, we can and must play a part in restoring nature to our isles. Never has it been more important to do this for ourselves and for our wildlife - It is our responsibility.’

Tickets for the Wild Isles Tour at the Bristol Beacon on Saturday May 11th are available from

Great British Life: A kingfisher catches a minnowA kingfisher catches a minnow (Image: Silverback Films Ltd)

Save our Wild Isles Campaign

WWF, the RSPB and the National Trust are working together to bring nature back from the brink.

As the TV series showed us, our wild isles are home to some truly special wildlife and habitats, but with our nature in crisis, what can we do to help?

To help nature on your very own doorstep in Somerset you can follow these top tips from the Save Our Wild Isles team:

1) If you have a garden, set aside areas of longer grass and temporary no-mow areas. If you don't have access to a garden, could you pot an additonal planet in a window box, balcony or courtyard? Every plant will make a difference!

2) Create a home - Can you provide the right environment for bees, bats, and birds so that nature can come and stay with you?

3) Cutout the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides - to ensure a variety of wildlife this is a must.

4) Go peat free with your compost when planting. Peatlands store carbon and are wildlife hotspots.

5) Create wildlife corridors within your outdoor space. Can you encourage wildlife to traverse from your garden to next door for example?

For more advice, and to join the Save Our Wild Isles campaign visit