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BBC Countryfile filming the Forest Research mobile tree health laboratory.
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The BBC Countryfile film team with Forest Research staff in the woodlands at Alice Holt.
The BBC Countryfile film team with Forest Research staff in the Straits Inclosure at Alice Holt.

Forest Research was delighted to welcome Countryfile to the Alice Holt Research Station last week.  Not normally in the public eye, the forest scientists opened the doors on their cutting edge laboratory facilities and world leading expertise on forest science.   Providing evidence and advice to policymakers and woodland managers, this gem in the heart of Forestry England’s woodland site is at the frontline of research into climate change and pests and diseases.

A two-day extravaganza of filming across the site saw presenter Tom Heap exploring the forest with Caroline Gorton from Forest Research’s Tree Health Diagnostic and Advisory Service to take bark samples and use lateral flow test kits to detect for the presence of Phytophthora.   Retreating from the torrential rain into the mobile laboratory, Forest Research’s latest acquisition to provide a rapid response to outbreaks, Caroline demonstrated how to process samples in the field and even use a Granny Smith apple to “bait” the organism. Tom was suitably impressed with what he coined our “green ambulance” – and it wasn’t just that it provided welcome shelter from the persistent downpours!

Tree health scientist being filmed taking a bark sample.
Tree health scientist Caroline Gorton being filmed for BBC Countryfile as she takes a bark sample for testing.

Returning to our world class Holt Laboratory, he saw how the team would process and test the samples.  Max Blake, Forest Research’s Head of Entomology, explained to Tom how beetles of all shapes and sizes could be imported unseen in everyday items and showed the characteristic galleries created by Ips typographus beneath the bark of susceptible spruce trees.  There was also an “up close and personal” encounter with one of the infamous beetles under a microscope.

BBC Countryfile presenter Tom Heap climbs the flux tower at Alice Holt.
BBC Countryfile presenter Tom Heap climbs the flux tower located in the Straights Inclosure within Alice Holt forest.

To round off the visit, climate scientist Matt Wilkinson took Tom on a climb up the flux tower at the Straits Inclosure to find out more about how we monitor flows of carbon in to and out of the forest.  He explained how this work informs our understanding of how forests both here and around the world are reacting to climate change and how the science can guide our actions.

Watch the programme “live” on BBC One at 18:35 on Sunday 20th November 2022, or catch up later on the BBC iPlayer, to see what made it into the final cut!

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Event details

Sunday 20 November 2022
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