Gillian Burke, picture credit Hannah Couzens. 2MP

TV nature star backs species fightback mission


A £2-million University of Cumbria project to reintroduce 10 threatened flora and fauna species across the lowlands of South Cumbria has been hailed a countrywide catalyst by a leading television nature presenter.

BBC Spring and Autumnwatch personality, Gillian Burke, says the National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported mission will make it easy for people to get behind compelling fightback plans to save three native animals and seven plants.

Back On Our Map (BOOM) will show how ambitious goals have the capacity for communities to get excited and once that happens it becomes infectious, said the star of natural history TV.

The presenter, producer and voiceover artist added: “BOOM can and absolutely must be a catalyst for other similar projects across the country. I think it’s inspirational. I know that word gets used a lot, but I do believe it is."

Cornwall-based Ms Burke said she could not wait to make a first visit to the fringes of Morecambe Bay and discover more about crucial work to throw lifelines to a diverse list of endangered wildlife.

She explained: “The plants are as exciting and interesting as the animals. They’re easy touch points for people to get behind, to capture imaginations and really make a point that nature has incredible resilience and power to bounce back, if just given a bit of space and maybe a tiny helping hand, as in the BOOM project”.

“It’s always encouraging when we are reminded how resilient the natural world is. In my time with the Watches, and also outside of this work, I’ve been really lucky to report about species that have made a comeback.”

Ms Burke explained how an ‘obscure little hermit crab’ that became extinct after the Torrey Canyon oil spill disaster in 1969 had quite literally clawed its way back, with huge public support from Springwatch viewers, who named it St Piran’s.

BOOM’s work will focus on reintroducing hazel dormouse, Duke of Burgundy and small blue butterflies and plants Goldilocks aster, greater and oblong sundew, green-winged orchid, maidenhair fern, spiked speedwell, as well as aspen trees.

Championing community involvement, with support from Morecambe Bay Partnership, BOOM is offering a wealth of opportunities post lockdown. Training is being rolled out to 145 volunteers, who will then work with local groups, including young people and residents at Haverigg prison.

BOOM is offering a wealth of opportunities post lockdown. Training is being rolled out to 145 volunteers, who will then work with local groups, including young people and residents at Haverigg prison.

Covid’s lockdown has brought a reconnection with nature with one survey finding two thirds of adults, a massive 68 percent, agreeing it had made them feel happier during lockdown.

Ms Burke said people had been given a unique opportunity to reconnect with the natural world and that they could hear and appreciate birdsong was ‘as magical as it was beautiful’, explaining it was ‘normal to care’.

“We mustn’t let go, what we mustn’t lose sight of, is how important that was for so many people and the fact that nature was there for us - and we must now be there for it.”

BOOM lead, Jo Sayers, said she and the whole team had been bowled over by Gillian Burke’s enthusiastic backing.

She added: “We would love to welcome her to Cumbria and show her what we’re up to.

“It’s been challenging during Covid to engage with some of our communities, but plenty of work has been going on in the background with individual volunteers and remotely with local school children.

“As restrictions continue to ease, BOOM is now forging ahead with its important work.”

David Renwick, director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We’re really excited to see how BOOM’s mission progresses and we’re in great company with Gillian in our shared enthusiasm.

“Being able to put rare plants such as the fantastically named green-winged orchid and hazel dormice ‘back on the map’, for people to learn their tales, is something we’re very proud to support.

“We know that the UK’s fauna and flora are incredibly important to National Lottery players, and we hope that the species’ fightback is hugely successful and offers those players that have made this funding possible a chance to discover these fascinating specimens.”

Find out more on:

For interview requests please contact Jo Sayer, 07712 871283, 

Picture of Spring and Autumnwatch presenter Gillian Burke by Hannah Couzens, please credit photographer

Picture shows behind the scenes filming of Spring and Autumnwatch presenter Gillian Burke, picture credit Josh Tarr

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund:

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 

Note to editors:

A quarter of Britain’s native mammals are “at imminent risk of extinction”, according to the scientists who have compiled the first official Red List of endangered species global Red Lists of threatened species

The 11 mammals include the wildcat, red squirrel, water vole, hazel dormouse and hedgehog.