Trees A Crowd

A Science, Nature and Arts podcast featuring
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Episodes of Trees A Crowd

Mark All
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In part two of this conversation with Dr George McGavin, we find out that he has not one, but five bugs named after him - one of which was given to him by the ‘world cockroach expert’! If there’s a better measure for knowing how influential you’ve been in your field, we haven’t heard of it. George and David go on to discuss the human flesh-eating larvae of the botfly, and the memory of cutting open the poisoned insides of a dead harbour porpoise, alongside other poignant thoughts about man’s impact on nature. Indeed, George reflects on the biggest issue facing wildlife - that there are just too many humans, and that, with that, money seems to trump nature every single time. But, make sure you stay tuned in until the end to hear about spider penises, George’s uncanny David Attenborough impression, and the incomprehensible, destructive power of Tibbles the cat - who single-paw-edly wiped out an entire species!For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dr George McGavin is a zoologist, entomologist and broadcaster, and currently serves as President for the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Best known for hosting documentaries including ‘Lost Land of the Volcano’, ‘Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor’ and, most recently, ‘Ocean Autopsy: The Secret Story of Our Seas’, he is also well known to television viewers for his frequent appearances on BBC One’s ‘The One Show’. Sitting down to chat in post-lockdown June, in the heart of Windsor Great Park, David Oakes and George enjoy one of the first in-person meetups they’ve each had in months! George discusses how his stammer impacted his early life, how he was inspired by the likes of Aubrey Manning, and how he quit his much-sought-after tenured Oxford University position to chase a wildlife documentary making dream… (without telling his wife!) Covering insect biodiversity, mankind’s stubbornness to change, exploration of rainforests, and more, the topics covered here are as wide ranging as George’s documentaries, all shared with gleeful anecdotes, including his hope to delve deeper into the world’s faeces - but you’ll have to wait until the end for that particular ‘nugget’!For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Happy World Manta Day! To celebrate the wonders of our ocean’s Flappiest Friends, this special episode explores the experiences and encounters of Manta Trust patron and legendary explorer-cameraman, Doug Allan. Described by Sir David Attenborough as one of the world’s greatest natural history cameramen, Doug Allan’s work speaks for itself. In fact, head to our website now to see some footage of both Doug and Manta Rays in action. In this discussion, David Oakes discovers how, although training to become a marine biologist, Doug truly learned to dive by harvesting fresh-water pearls. Doug has spent roughly a decade living in the Antarctic, readjusting his internal thermostat suitably to openly profess that his “ideal temperature” is a barmy -18℃! As well as Manta Rays, Doug has had close encounters with Polar Bears, Orcas, Narwhals, Emperor Penguins and more (indeed he almost had his brains sucked out by a Walrus), but it was life on Everest that truly struck him to the core. Doug’s lengthy experiences in the most extreme of environments, and at our planet’s poles, make him the perfect witness of Earth’s changing climate. All this and an introduction from Dr Guy Stevens, CEO of the Manta Trust, to tell us how Manta Rays are getting on at the moment.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
In the final of three episodes focused on Animal Conservation, David Oakes speaks again (you’ll remember him from his Narwhal-centric episode at the top of this season) to Mark Carwardine - zoologist, conservationist, broadcaster and photographer. Having been out on foot patrols upon most of the planet’s continents, Mark explains the realities of being a wildlife ranger. The risks of poachers, animals and accidents; the reality of spending weeks on end away from civilisation, safe drinking water and emergency medical support, and; the impact this places, not simply upon the individual, but also upon one’s family. Having lost a friend to this most noble and most dangerous of professions, Mark explains why anti-poaching rangers should be considered the real “heroes of conservation”.For further information on this and ot her episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Georgina Lamb is the Chief Executive of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. The charity was founded by her grandfather, the late great artist Sir David Shepherd, and funds key conservation projects across the world. This conversation touches on the history of Shepherd, a man who dedicated his life to force change, and whose paintings are the stuff of legends - one even featured on the wall of the living room in “Only Fools and Horses”! As the second in our series on Wildlife Conservation, this episode moves on to discuss the impact of the foundation, and the work it’s doing with chimpanzees, snow leopards, rhinos, painted dogs and how the DSWF sits in the greater picture of conservation, working within the framework of CITES. Georgina explains how they’re working with rangers to fight the illegal wildlife trade, where products like ivory are often worth more than gold and cocaine on the black market. She explores how the foundation sticks to its roots by harnessing the power of art to communicate their message, and explains how the memory of her grandfather is always with her, reminding her that “giving up is not an option”.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Will Travers OBE is one of the UK’s most influential animal rights activists, founding the Born Free Foundation in 1984 with his parents, originally under the name Zoo Check. As most of the world has been placed under strict lockdown and quarantine rules, we’re beginning to get a glimpse into what life must be like for animals trapped in zoos, forced to live in confined spaces under lock and key “for not much more than our own amusement”. Born Free’s latest campaign, “Creature Discomforts”, tackles this issue with the help of the animators at Aardman. Will talks about the distress and anxiety caused to animals when they’re not allowed to roam their natural habitats, and how we’ve “distorted and warped” our relationship with wild animals. Later in the conversation Will discusses the reprehensible poaching and canned hunting industries, and the threat they pose to animals like Lions. The discussion moves onto the life of George Adamson, the realities of filming “Born Free” in the sixties, and the financing of wildlife protection, before ending on a note about Will’s late father - his ever-present guide to knowing what’s right and wrong in the world.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
As kismet would have it, it’s WORLD OYSTER DAY! Before we found out oysters even had their own day, we wanted to celebrate these slippery salt-water molluscs because it turns out, when gathered together, they’re quite amazing and could provide natural solutions to many of mankind’s biggest environmental problems. Familiar voice, friend of the show, marine ecologist and fisheries biologist, Bryce Stewart, kicks us off with an answer to the most important question asked this week, “Why don't you chew an oyster?”. From there we go into the cleaning power of oyster reefs - learning that a one-acre reef can daily filter 36 olympic swimming pools worth of water! Then Professor Rowan Lockwood, chair of geology at William and Mary University in Williamsburg, Virginia, explains how she uses the fossil records of oysters, and a technique called sclerochronology, to figure out how to restore the populations in the modern Chesapeake Bay. Rowan explains how oysters aren’t just filtration machines, they are ecosystem engineers, building three-dimensional habitats for other species to live in. And, as seems to be the case for all experts in their field, we drool over the deliciousness of oysters - because you simply have to eat your study!An extra massive thank you to John Hartoch for lending his versatility of voice to Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" at the very tip-top of this episode. Thank you John.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
“Bats are awesome and endlessly fascinating” - and it’s a good job too, because this is the second part of a two-part conversation all about the flying mammals! After rain stopped play last week, this in-depth conversation with Prof. Kate Jones (UCL’s resident bat expert and Harrison Ford worrier) picks back up by pitting megabats against microbats. From there we discuss how the US army attempted to militarise bats, how bats are helping to save humans billions of pounds, how to make your garden more bat friendly, and we dig deep into the sonic war that has been taking place for millions of years, pitting bat-kind against their age-old nemeses, the moths!For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Part Indiana Jones, part David Attenborough - and a real live descendant of Charles “Origin of the Species” Darwin - Professor Kate Jones is a professor of ecology and biodiversity at UCL. A previous recipient of the Leverhulme award, she spends a LOT of time researching the relationships between animals and humans, in particular keeping an eye on mammals and the infectious diseases they may happen to pass onto us (think SARS, think Ebola, oh, and think COVID-19.) On top of that, she is one of the world’s experts on Chiroptera, aka BATS, and has led massive bat monitoring studies with citizen scientists all over the world with the Bat Conservation Trust. This is a two-part interview, but even by the end of part one, you’ll agree that perhaps the most infectious thing about bats is how simply incredible they are. For instance: without bats there would be no tequila, and while some bats drink blood, others catch fish from the surface of the water, or pluck songbirds from the air, mid-flight, at night! And, did you know, that 1 in 5 mammal species on this planet is, you’ve guessed it, a bat!For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
In this outtake from last week's full episode with the American historian and naturalist Dr William C. Tweed, we discover that the law of the jungle is far from obvious as we explore the history of the Grizzly Bear in California, and the fact that it is incredibly "...hard to kill yourself at 2mph". Enjoy!If you're still reading this then please don't forget to leave us a review wherever you download our podcast, and please, please, PLEASE, head along to for a whole catalogue of episodes featuring individuals who are just potty about our natural world. See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dr William C. Tweed is a lover of Big Trees - the Giant Redwoods of California to be precise. An historian and naturalist, he has a career spanning over 30 years working for the US national park service, and after holding several roles at the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, spent a decade as its Chief Naturalist. Whether it’s describing what a Giant Redwood is through a comparison to the miniscule mosquito, or a deep dive into numerous secret histories of mankind's fascinations with these trees, William will have you captivated, falling in love with, and longing to hug, the giant sequoia. In exploring the tree’s many wonderful evolutionary features, and the serene images he paints of the Sierra Nevada, William explains that our passion for sequoias starts with our love of that which is “big, and old, and rare”, and then continues to grow tall. William explores the history of the “Father of the National Parks” himself, John Muir - how his religious upbringing inspired his writing (his works serving as a “secular Bible” for those devoted to nature) - and how the Sierra Club is still following firmly in Muir’s footsteps today. Among William’s teachings are plenty of digressions and distractions - charming moments of a mind as fascinated by nature today as he has ever been.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
The third and final of our "Wildlfower Women" trilogy comes in the form a scene of Shakespearean serenity, unfolding upon the banks of the River Ouse (if you can excuse the sounds of nearby building works!) Serena Manteghi played Ophelia to David Oakes’ Hamlet late last year, a role punctuated by one of the most well-known pieces of poetry about flowers. In this conversation, the pair muse over the mythology of the flowers that are highlighted in Ophelia’s infamous Act 4 speech. From rosemary (for remembrance), to pansies, fennel and violets, learn what each flower signifies and why Ophelia might not be so mad after all.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Rosalind Forbes Adam is the founder and project leader of the Woodmeadow Trust in York, formerly the Hagges Woods Trust. The idea of “raising tomorrow’s ancient woodland” was born from a question all husbands have surely asked their wives at some point - “do you want to make a wood?” The concept of the wood has changed since the idea first emerged. Rather than looking 400 years into the future, the aim now is to address something much more immediate - the catastrophic decline in biodiversity in the UK. In this episode, full of wonderful words of wisdom, find out how Ros hopes to create a link of habitat meadows between the River Ouse and the River Derwent, why wood meadows are not just beautiful, but ecologically practical, and learn how Ros is inspiring others to turn their fields or lawns into similarly “wild” environmental landscapes.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Jennie Martin is an ethnobotanist and conservationist with a particular interest in ethnomycology and nature literacy. The founder, and 15 year executive director, of the award-winning charity ‘Wild things!’, Jennie has designed and delivered a variety of programmes that support conservation and nature connection, from habitat restoration projects to projects that support the elderly in accessing the great outdoors. When David first made contact with Jennie neither of them were aware that, beyond an interest in botany, they had something in common; Jenny was a student of David’s Great Aunt, a woman who is, Jennie says, one of her heroes! In this interview, Jennie explains the difference between botany and ethnobotany, extols the virtues of fungi, explores the topic of traditional knowledge, and suggests a number of ways to connect with nature - but whether it be foraging or forest-bathing, she asks that you do it sustainably and safely. Whether you’re easily seduced by nature, or you need help focusing in, Jennie’s overarching message is simply to get out there and to take it in! (This is the first of a set of three interviews all focused upon wildflowers.)David speak withFor further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
In this bonus episode of "Trees A Crowd", David Oakes looks into the world of wildlife crime and discusses the benefits of one of the largest planned community buyouts the country has ever seen. Kevin Cumming, the Langholm Initiative’s project leader, and Gavin Graham, a local resident of Langholm Moor, speak about their hopes to bring 10,500 acres (about 5,600 football pitches) of moorland, just north of Gretna Green, just north of the England-Scotland border, into community ownership. Incorporating peatland restoration, ancient woodland preservation and the increase of wildlife biodiversity, they hope to turn this area of grouse moorland into the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. David also speaks with Mark Avery about why he, Chris Packham and Ruth Tingay founded their non-profit organisation, "Wild Justice", to uphold and to challenge existing legislation in order to help make initiatives like that at Langholm possible.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Dara McAnulty is a 16 year old naturalist and writer from Northern Ireland. His love for nature burgeoning at a young age, he began collecting feathers from his garden floor in Belfast. Compelled to share this passion, he began writing a wildly successful blog, joined the likes of Sir David Attenborough as an RSPB Medal winner, received the BBC Springwatch Unsprung Hero Award and has become an ambassador for the Jane Goodall Foundation. His first book, ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’, is a brave nature-infused coming-of-age story that not only delves into his love of the outdoors, but also his autism and battle with mental health. We join Dara at Murlough Nature Reserve as he walks along the winding paths of sand and forest, marvelling at the flora and fauna - including the troublesome sea buckthorn. Funny, articulate and humble, do not let his age fool you, Dara is passionately knowledgeable and explores issues of conservation, education, the global stock markets and even the possibility of mining the moon. Illuminated by a poetry recital by Elinor Lawless, this conversation will help you to reassess the world around you, “Stop. Go outside, and just stare at the ground for a little bit, and take in all that you see”.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
In part two of our conversation with Ireland’s favourite naturalist, Éanna Ní Lamhna, the broadcasting force of nature explains how St Patrick is not to blame for a lack of snakes in Ireland, why one local shop has never sold a mole trap, and why certain trees are dying out in the country. Recorded on the Emerald Isle, on the southern outskirts of Dublin, this conversation is littered with little lessons and intriguing anecdotes, as Éanna embodies her mantra, that if we better educate people about the natural world, we’ll care for it not because government policy says we have to, but because we want to. Listen in for a healthy dose of inspiration, laughter, and a little folklore to boot.For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Éanna Ní Lamhna is undoubtedly Ireland’s favourite naturalist and broadcaster. She has served as the president of the Tree Council of Ireland, secretary for the Irish part of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and as president of An Taisce, the Irish National Trust. She’s worked on the radio show ‘Mooney Goes Wild’ since 1995, and has published a number of books about wildlife and education. During part one of this incredible conversation (recorded in early 2020), hear how an endless emphasis on daisies, daffodils and dandelions led her to writing a book determined to broaden the floral vocabulary and knowledge of young people - “how can you appreciate the exotic, when you don’t know the ordinary?” This conversation heads into a favourite topic for the show - climbing trees, and how children are doing it less and less, and it also explores Ireland’s many links to the natural world, through poetry, stories and in particular place names. You’ll hear quite quickly that with a wealth of knowledge and an unmistakable passion comes modesty, as Éanna charts her success down to “an accident”... but we know the truth! For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Alastair Humphreys, named as one of National Geographic’s adventurers of the year, has walked, cycled and climbed over seemingly every surface of the planet. He began his adventures in his early 20s, and since then has cycled more than 46,000 miles around the globe. Unusually for a professional adventurer, Alastair is now cutting down on his flights, and finds himself falling in love with Britain’s landscape. As such, we meet him two weeks into his month-long cycle around Yorkshire, where his only goal is to “see what happens”. Although he would quite like it all to himself, Alastair believes the outdoors are something we should all share and explore - that we shouldn’t worry so much about getting out there, living minimalistically and challenging ourselves. Find out how 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan came in the midst of his four year long travels, and how those events, incredibly, almost passed him by. Alastair explains how he’s constantly pulled between wanting to be a hobo, a vagabond, and wanting to find a place he can truly call home - and then once he’s done that, head north to take a selfie on the moon! For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
The uninterrupted world premiere of Bella Hardy's song "Curlew", as featured in our "World Curlew Day" episode - This release also includes an introduction from Bella, atop Kinder Scout. Many thanks to Bella for agreeing to create this song for the podcast - it's hypnotically beautiful. Hopefully, the song will soon be available to purchase from as soon as it's back from being professionally mastered. Thanks too to Si Homfray for providing the artwork to accompany this episode - prints can be purchased here: See for privacy and opt-out information.
Why the duck is everyone wacky about this wonderful wader? In this special episode of Trees A Crowd, David Oakes calls on friends in lockdown to discuss the wonders of an incredible bird, the Curlew. Featuring field recordings from sound-recordist Chris Watson, a world premier of original music by folk-singer Bella Hardy and poetry recitals by Natalie Dormer and Sam West, this is more than just affectionate “waffle about a wader”. David Lindo, aka “The Urban Birder”, environmentalist and writer Mary Colwell, farmer and conservationist Patrick Lawrie, the CEO of Wader Quest, Rick Simpson, Jennifer Smart from the RSPB, and Lucy Walker from Britten Pears Arts will tell you why they love this bird and what needs to be done to save it. You will also hear from several previous Trees A Crowd guests; namely, Sir John Lawton, the President of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Dr Richard Benwell, the CEO of the Wildlife and Countryside Link and Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess. For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
In the third and final episode of the Castle Howard trilogy, you’re introduced to head of gardens and landscapes, Alastair Gunn. Starting in one of the estate’s rose gardens, we meet a stunning, rare, white china rose, thought to be a devoniensis, planted over 40 years ago. Alastair has been on the team for just over two years, coming from managing the gardens at Hatfield House, but he’s very much committed to bringing life back to the gardens with a mandate to renovate, restore and ‘zhuzh things up’ - a challenge he’s clearly than risen to. Alastair explains the challenges of working in a different parts of the country, with different soil and vastly differing seasons and conditions. From roses to rhubarb and Read Dead Redemption 2, this conversation is full of interesting and funny moments, including an idea to pioneer Japanese Knotweed Gin, or crumble (for the under 18’s). For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
In the second episode of the Castle Howard trilogy, meet the head of forestry, Nick Cooke. Nick has been part of the team looking after the estate since 1975, and over the years has had to figure out how to maintain the extensive forests, all-in-all covering over 60 miles of pathways. Arriving in the ‘70s to take up a placement at the castle’s Ray Wood, Nick stood open-mouthed as he faced the estate’s obelisk and knew that he would be here for a long, long time. On a walking tour through bluebells and briars, Nick points out the oakwoods that call the castle home, the rhododendrons remaining from an ornamental garden, and gestures towards the mixed woodlands where wildflowers are thriving. Of the 816 hectares of land, 550 are designated ancient woodland sites - but they are much more than that now, under Nick’s care, the 300-year old site has been transformed into a stunning botanical collection, a producer of timber, a tree nursery and an area rich with biodiversity. This conversation takes so many paths, from hornbeams, to sowing seeds and contraception for squirrels - you won’t be disappointed! For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
We begin this trilogy of episodes at Castle Howard, with Nick Howard himself. Most recognisable to the public from the television show “Brideshead Revisited”, but for Nick the Castle Howard estate was his childhood home, a place where he felt such a distinct sense of freedom roaming around its gardens - at least until the cowbell was rung to call him back in for lunch. Nick now oversees care for its grounds with a desire to better connect the caretaking practises with the will of nature. As he guides you around each of the estate’s stunning features, from The Temple of the Four Winds, to the Mausoleum and Pyramid, Nick gives an insight into the estate’s history, and how it links back to his ancestors who made the castle a reality. Stay tuned for the story of Ferdinand and Imelda, two extremely territorial swans who’ve taken ownership of a large stretch of water in the grounds, who join the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, Lord William Howard, and many others in calling Caste Howard their home. For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
David, speaking here as an Ambassador for the Woodland Trust, is joined in conversation by Luci Ryan, an ecologist and Lead Policy Advocate for conservation on behalf of the Woodland Trust. HS2 ltd - the company behind the Government's highspeed rail project - is quietly about to start moving the soil from five ancient woodlands. The move goes against both conservation principles and guidance from Natural England. With this in mind, David talks to Luci about the complex communities found in ancient woodlands, how this project seems to be going ahead despite the ongoing pandemic and associated government advice, and how this is a time to preserve our unique British habitats, not destroy them. For further information on this and other episodes, visit: See for privacy and opt-out information.
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Podcast Details

Created by
David Oakes
Podcast Status
Feb 21st, 2019
Latest Episode
Oct 5th, 2020
Release Period
2 per month
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour

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