BBC Countryfile features Wheathampstead golf course and St Albans' Heartwood Forest

PUBLISHED: 19:00 06 January 2016

BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison and Jody Wilson, Mid-Herts Golf Club course manager, strap on jet packs and undertake leaf blowing duties.

BBC Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison and Jody Wilson, Mid-Herts Golf Club course manager, strap on jet packs and undertake leaf blowing duties.

Colin Hicks

Hitting a golf ball out of a patch of rare grass while being filmed at a local golf course presented an unusual challenge for Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison recently.

The popular BBC show, which was a surprise ratings hit last year, will this Sunday (10) feature Mid-Herts Golf Club in Gustard Wood and Heartwood Forest in Sandridge, after recent filming in Herts.

Ellie apparently got more than she bargained for when she visited the golf course located near Wheathampstead, to explore what is the county’s few remaining lowland heathlands and acid grasslands.

She tried to hit her golf ball from one of its environmentally important hazards, on the fourth hole - rare fescue grass - apparently a more challenging shot to take.

The golf course is species rich with tracts of heather, grasses and wildflowers as well as being home to a range of woodland fauna, including nuthatch and great spotted woodpeckers.

Mid-Herts member Pippa Legg, who is a biologist with a particular interest in botany, said Ellie and her TV crew “seemed determined to have as much fun as they could”.

Ellie will this weekend be seen reporting on how the golf club, which has occupied the site for nearly 125 years, is working closely with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, a charity based in Verulamium Park, on a management plan to continue developing the course into a “mosaic of heathland, acid grassland and secondary woodland”.

She said that the decline of heathland in Herts had been dramatic since 1940, with an estimated 97 per cent loss in area, so that today no more than about 20 hectares of open, dry and wet heath survived.

Over a century ago, common land in the county was grazed by the likes of sheep, but once that traditional management ceased, scrub and bracken started smothering open heathland.

Pippa told the Herts Advertiser that the management plan agreed with the local wildlife trust proposed measures to stymie scrub invasion, and restore areas of heathland heather.

She said: “We will also be trying to propagate juniper bushes, and managing trees so they don’t overwhelm the heather. It was an absolutely wonderful experience having Countryfile here, as they were so friendly and very professional.”

The programme, being aired on BBC One at 6.30pm on Sunday, will also feature volunteers at the Woodland Trust’s Heartwood Forest in Sandridge showing Ellie the outcome of years of hard graft.

The wood has started to flourish since tree planting began back in 2008.

Ellie visited in December, to get some hands-on experience monitoring small animals, re-visit the area she helped plant over five years ago, and plant more trees at the new arboretum.

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