Splattered with mud, blinded by fog, a walk through nothingness, but a fine way to start the year ...

Word had gone round the village that the New Year Walk would assemble outside the shop at 10.30 on Monday morning. At 10.29 there was no one in sight, but in the next two minutes 15 human starters and one dog materialised.

Living proof: a naturalist is no stamp collector

THINKERS OF THE NINETIES; Edward O Wilson, partially blind and obsessed with ants, became the first great ecologist, a pioneer in sociobiology and biodiversity.

LETTER: Lottery link

From Dr Neil Chalmers

Emma Hawkins loves wildlife to death. She is a taxidermist

"Why have money in the bank when you can be surrounded by beautiful things?" Emma Hawkins says, gesturing to a room filled from floor to ceiling with stuffed animals. Bear skins are slung over the banisters and beneath our feet lies a zebra skin; there are cases filled with butterflies, beetles and spiders, and high above our heads glass-eyed sporting trophies peer at us from their wooden plaques.

So, first catch your hare

COLLECTING The Victorians lavishly embellished their homes with stuffed creatures. Now, taxidermy has gone the way of fur coats. Madeleine Marsh explores a dying art

Don't get me started...

I can hardly bear to do this but I'm going to write about screen violence and its consequences. As someone who shies from articles on this subject like a mustang from a rattlesnake it might seem perverse to tip another wagonload on to the slag heap of opinion, but there is a reason. Because, when it comes to this subject there isn't just one slag heap but two - rival spoil heaps of certitude, stacked up by those hostile to television and those defending it. More has been added in the last week with the publication of "new" research by David Gauntlett and a swift response from the Paul Johnson Institute of Moral Panic. This is an attempt to start a small cairn between them.

BOOKS:The world before Attenborough

THE NEW NATURALISTS by Peter Marren, HarperCollins pounds 14.99

Exhibition : THE NATURE OF HISTORY Natural History Museum, London

This cow is worrying me. It's following my every move, tracking me with beady-eyed intensity. Of course, it's only on a video screen - but it's still worrying. It's worrying despite the fact that I know it's being controlled by a surveillance camera. It hangs over my head in a darkened room of the Natural History Museum relaying my movements to two screens. On one is the cow, on the other a staring face which mutates in seconds from a young boy into an old woman. They are the centrepiece of The Nature of History, an installation by artist Simon Robertshaw, which claims to bridge the cultural gap between science and art.

television Jasper Rees Hotshots (BBC1)

There's a hidden agenda to programmes like Hotshots (BBC1). Ostensibly a series which explains the techniques of filming natural history programmes, it is also designed to illustrate precisely what your licence fee goes on: not only how do they do that, but how much did that cost? That shot of a kingfisher feeding its young underground took up x man hours, while the sequence in which a cheetah kills a gazelle required y weeks in the bush. And the bill comes to a z zillion pounds.

Call the next witness - a bird

Today it's natural history time, and a chance to get all your queries about the natural world cleared up by an expert. We couldn't get a natural history expert, unfortunately, but we did at least get an expert ... Yes, all your questions about wild life are being answered today by an experienced lawyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, which I think shows just how experienced a lawyer he is.

LETTER : Gnat-picking

From Dr Ed Jarzembowski

Four legs funny? Now you're squawking

It's the first, animal-based comedy sketch show. And Johnny Morris, no less, has given it his seal of approval. Mark Wareham meets the makers of Squawkietalkie

Cat in hell's chance

On Exmoor they hunt the Beast with onion bags and tins of Kit- e-Kat. Siobhan Dolan takes up the trail of the Big Tabby

RADIO PROGRAMME OF THE YEAR :A hit down memory lane

The most popular film-maker in history got into history, and stayed popular. Glyndebourne rose again, handsomely. Pop ate itself, but survived. Steve Coogan was everywhere, and so was Hugh Grant; only one of them is praised here. The theatre had a thin time, but television drama serials made up for it. People defined themselves on Mondays at 9pm: were you for `Cracker' or `Chuzzlewit'? And again on Saturdays at 8pm: did you really believe that a 14m-1 shot would win?(Or did you do it for love of the arts?) It wasn't the best of years, but it had its moments. And here they are, in the fourth annual `IoS' Awards

Roo hops back from `extinction'

Scientists at the Natural History Museum in London were yesterday trying to find out more about the alleged rediscovery of Gilbert's potoroo, a rat-like kangaroo thought to have been extinct for more than a century. The only information they had w ere press reports which were incomplete.
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