I spent a fantastic and humbling day with two of the Peak District's Search and Rescue dogs and their handlers. You have to be a full member of a Mountain Rescue team before you can even begin to think about training a dog for search and rescue. Then add on two intensive years of dog and search training and you may pass NSARDA's gruelling assessment
Such demanding conditions ensure that these dogs have a 96% success rate, finding casualties hidden, trapped, avalanched and even underwater. Every year they save lives. Please support your local mountain rescue, or Search and Rescue Dogs Association (NSARDA).
The full story of my day out is in the March edition of Countryfile Magazine - in stores now!
photo by Andrew Fox
I'm excited to announce that I've just been commissioned to write a new book! It's called A Spotter's Guide to the British Landscape and will reveal the secrets of things like ancient burial mounds, village greens, Roman roads and Norman churches. I'll be grafting away at it for the next few months, and it's set to be published in 2016.
To take my mind off all the hard work ahead, I took a trip along Offa's Dyke (not really along, more like down and then up and then down and then up again). Ye gods, it's hilly. And an absolute must for tree-lovers. I think some of the oaks remember Offa himself.
My job is awesome. And then every now and then, it gets more awesome. 'Hey, Mary-Ann, d'you fancy going to Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in the history of the world? It's in Ukraine, which is a bit dodgy these days, but y'know, you like that kind of thing, don't you?'
OF COURSE I WANT TO GO. So I went. Now I'm back, and thanks to our fab team, just as healthy as when I went. Can't say too much more except: the documentary will be on your tellyboxes soon(ish). Here are a couple of pics:
A five minute insight into my life on the road. Hope you enjoy. If you like this, I may make it a series
My series of 'Adventures on your Doorstep' articles for the Daily Telegraph continues - I've been canadian canoeing, galloping around on giant horses in the Lake District, off on a trip to Dartmoor for a spot of low-tech camping.
First up was a go at Orienteering. Does the word give you flashbacks to miserable days in the rain with the scouts? Banish those memories! It turns out orienteering is ACE!
It's challenging to mind and body, there's the element of competition, the freedom of running wherever you like over unprepared ground (no annoying marshalls and trail run bottlenecks), and if the Thames Valley Orienteering Club are anything to go by, it's all super friendly.
Read the full Daily Telegraph article, my first for the Adventures on your Doorstep series, and see more pictures of me looking sweaty here.
Photos by Julian Andrews
The brand new History 2 series is premiering in the UK, Thursday 9pm on H2! We're showcasing some of the most impressive, surprising and awesome engineering solutions ancient civilizations came up with - from Roman Swiss Army knives, to Alexandria's colossal lighthouse, to 2,000 year old mining technology...and to the tiny instruments that meant folk from long ago could have a go at brain and eye surgery.
**for those of you who were paying attention and noticed that I totally screwed up and said that 'Hagia Sophia' means 'Divine Wisdom' in Turkish - I'M SO SORRY!!
Yep, it means absolutely nothing in Turkish, becuase it's GREEK. It means Divine Wisdom in Greek. What can I say - it had been a long day and it was a slip of the tongue and the editor used the wrong take. Doh. I didn't see the final cut before it went out....
The lovely Olivia Parker at the Daily Telegraph's Weekend section asked me about my Perfect Weekend. This is what I told her:
photos by Andrew Crowley
Mister Joe Craig is responsible for the colour-arrangement of the bookcase. I can't find a blinking thing on it, but it does look quite cool.
ONE WORLD MEDIA AWARDS 2014
I was delighted to be asked to present an award at the One World Media Awards celebrating the best in international journalism.
The Awards recognise the important role filmmakers, writers, producers and broadcasters play in promoting justice and understanding of people across the world.
I was presenting the New Voice Award for the best journalist under the age of 32. The deserving winner was Patrick Kingsley who has written some very powerful and accomplished pieces on Egypt for the Guardian. Congratulations also go to the other two talented shortlisted nominees, Leslie Hook and George Arbuthnott.
December 2013 ITV1
I dived the chilly, treacherous waters off Cornwall for Britain's Secret Treasures on ITV1.
It's an incredible story: Colossus was one of Napoleon's 74-gun warships, and in December 1798, she was sailing back to Britain with a cargo of Ancient Greek pottery destined for the British Museum, and hundreds of wounded soldiers from the victorious Battle of the Nile.
She reached the Isles of Scilly and anchored, waiting for fair winds to get her to the south coast. But a terrible winter gale blew up, her anchor cables parted and she was dashed on the shallow rocky shores of the Isle of Samson.
Pounded by wind and wave, she soon broke up. They managed to get all the men bar one off, and salvaged some of her gear immediately. The rest of the wreck was excavated and surveyed in the 1970s and 80s....OR SO THEY THOUGHT!
In 2000, local divers stumbled across a wreck site 1/2 a mile or so from the Colossus. The incredible debris field, five upright cannon and the timbers of the hull were all still in situ.
This was half of the Colossus - she had travelled hundreds of metres after breaking up before settling on the seabed. The finds from this 'stern site' are extraordinary - they reveal details of life at sea and the late C18th weapons our navy used, where hand-to-hand combat was still part of naval warfare.
The site is in just 15m of water, and has an underwater heritage trail. You need a visitor's licence to dive the wreck, but any Scilly dive charter will sort that out for you. Colossus is certainly of the most incredible archaeology sites open to the public!