Bill Oddie is to return to BBC2 nature series Springwatch, five years after he left in contentious circumstances.
Oddie will appear as a special guest when the programme returns for its tenth anniversary run later this month, taking a look back at how British wildlife has fared over the last decade and asking what the future holds for some of the UK’s best-loved species.
The presenter, who has battled depression for much of his life, left Springwatch just before Christmas in 2008, telling the Daily Mirror soon afterwards: ‘I’m really going to miss working with [co-hosts] Kate [Humble], Simon [King] and the team but after four amazing years of really intense work it feels like the right time to take a breather and recharge my batteries.”
But he later claimed he had been frozen out by the BBC following an unspecified “incident” during filming on Brownsea Island in Dorset.
The naturalist said he had telephoned his producer and asked her “It’s as if you’ve been told not to talk to me,” to which she supposedly replied “We have.”
“In January, I was called in, and was told, ‘We won’t be asking you to do Springwatch next year’,” Oddie told The Lady magazine in 2012. “So that was the big shock. No one explained why.”
He said that following the news he had been struck by a bought of depression.
“After I was told I wouldn’t be asked back, I started slipping into a depression that got worse and worse… now, of course, the BBC was splendidly off the hook.
“They could issue a statement saying they were terribly sorry Mr Oddie wasn’t well and that they wished me the best. This, of course, was the reason Mr Oddie wasn’t doing Springwatch. But it wasn’t.”
Following Oddie’s comments to The Lady, a BBC spokesperson said: “Bill’s health and wellbeing has always been an important consideration for us. When we realised he was unwell we pulled back from his filming commitments and the projects were put on hold.
“Once he was well enough we were able to resume filming. He has since done several projects with the BBC, such as Autumnwatch and, more recently, [the 2011] Christmas special. We are always open to working with him.”
Hosted by Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games, the new series of Springwatch will be broadcast live from the RSPB’s Minsmere nature reserve on the Suffolk coast, between Monday 26 May and Thursday 12 June.
The area boasts internationally important wildlife habitats, from sand dunes, shingle beaches and saline lagoons to reedbed heathland, woodland and grassland, and is home to rare birds such as marsh harriers, avocets and bitterns, as well as badgers, otters and red deer.
The team will also be reporting on topical news stories from around the country, including the exploits of a young urban fox family in Brighton, the arrival of cuckoos from Africa and a look at how our resident animals have coped with a record-breaking wet winter.
Springwatch begins on BBC2 on Monday 26 May