Modern Times: The Great British Garden Watch, TV review: Amateur Attenboroughs are the stars

Lucy Cohen's gentle but affecting film focused on people who spend serious time recording creatures great and small in their gardens

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The Independent Culture

Imagine a world where Springwatch's Chris Packham is God, wild animals are kings and us Homo sapiens come some way down the pecking order. Oh, and cats are mortal enemies. That’s roughly the dynamic we saw played out in The Great British Garden Watch, Lucy Cohen’s gentle but affecting film about "amateur Attenboroughs", people who spend serious time filming and recording creatures great and small in their gardens.

As frequently with the excellent Modern Times series, the (human) subjects, and their varied motivations were the stars. We met Jason who’d spent thousands on technology to monitor nests and sleepless nights fending off the cat to see the chicks fledge. “I’ve gone through life really appreciating the little things,” he said, chocked up, talking about family illness that had affected his childhood.

"LB Loxley" (real name Lee Barton) explained how his alter ego had helped him follow his dream of being a wildlife presenter, with the help of his wife Amanda behind the camera. We felt for him when a commission to film wild boars not quite go to plan. "Dead as a dodo" he said of the project as none of the critters showed up. 

For Mark and Rod, the foxes in their back yard had become like family, with names and personalities. They also took it upon themselves to care for their fox family. “For a nano-second it was like winning the lottery,” said Mark after a homemade homeopathic remedy served up in sausages cured a bout of worms. For Mark, suffering from chronic pain, watching and photographing the animals was a daily remedy.

It was just the adults who were at it. We watched 12-year-old Findlay and Harley,10, meticulously audit the species in their garden. Then there was 15-year-old Georgina who delighted in finding dismembered bunnies on her school playing fields – “there are bits of rabbits everywhere,” she said – a sign that she would have finally caught a much-coveted fox on camera. You sensed that with kids like these around, Packham should be looking over his shoulder.