Series charting a year on Upper and Lower Lough Erne in the west of Northern Ireland.
Chapter 1. Spring
The landscape begins to emerge from winter and retired school teacher Pat Lunny takes a boat trip to his usual haunts around the islands on Lower Lough Erne, just above his hometown of Enniskillen.
Across the lough on White North Island, Amy Burns from RSPBNI moves highland cattle to some of the charity’s other island reserves.
At Ely Lodge, Dublin-born painter Lorna Smyth begins a year-long project of painting landscapes around Lough Erne. She explains her process of taking sketches to form a ‘collage of memories’ which she then converts to oil paintings in her home studio.
As the Erne gears up for better weather, Enniskillen Royal Boat Club members take part in the Head of the Erne rowing race while on the Broad Lough, retired engineers Robert Navan and Mike Kingston search for sunken Catalinas.
In the woodlands of Castle Archdale, nature writer Dara McAnulty enjoys spring with his family and at Drumgallon Row, while members of the community group the Erne put a new skin on their traditional hand-built Irish currach called the Menapian.
Chapter 2. Summer
It’s summer, and the Erne is busy with summer visitors. Over the next few months, it is transformed into a giant watery playground welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world. But away from a busy tourist season, nature is also buzzing away enjoying the longer days and warmer weather.
In early summer, mayfly begin to hatch, and fisherman Michael Shortt is fly fishing for trout. It is also the nesting season for curlews, and Amy Burns from RSPB NI is travelling to island reserves to install cameras and measure and monitor the eggs.
At Castle Archdale, nature writer Dara McAnulty is pond dipping. He catches a dragonfly nymph and explains how it uses a jet propulsion system to get around the pond. Later in the programme he watches adult dragonflies and talks about how he has experienced bullying at school because of his autism and love of nature.
On the lough, the members of Row the Erne are rowing their hand-built traditional Irish currach to Devenish Island for an evening picnic and swim.
It’s summer solstice, and painter Lorna Smyth joins a group from the Share Discovery Village who are paddling to Trannish Island, and in the island town of Enniskillen, Pat Lunny watches his grandson take part in his first open-water swimming race.
We meet French chef Pascal Brissaud, whose Watermill restaurant is on the bank of the Upper Lough. Summer is a busy time of year, but he relishes in the challenge of looking after people, and when things get too busy, looking at the lake calms him down.
Chapter 3. Autumn
It is autumn and the trees around the Erne slowly transform into oranges and reds. The lowering sun and shorter days bathe the lough in a golden light and shorter days bring spectacular sunsets, where reflections on the water create an endless sky. Autumn is the Erne’s final hurrah before winter takes hold.
Frankie and Eddie Roofe have been fishing on the lough since they were boys, when their dad caught a pike so big it ‘looked like an alligator’. Later on, they take part in the annual Erne Pike Classic fishing competition and the pressure is on to repeat their previous success of catching fish over 20lbs in weight.
Autumn is one of nature writer Dara McAnulty’s favourite seasons and the team learn about mushrooms and fungi and the ‘wood wide web’. The episode also introduces Joe Kelly, a baker who has moved back from America and juggles running an artisan bakery with spending as much time as possible on his parents’ island. And the show travels underground to examine the marble arch cave system carved out by rivers that will eventually flow into the Erne. The caves are a gateway into a hidden world.
As Dermot and Pat Lunny watch a truly spectacular sunset, Dermot talks about his experience with Parkinson’s disease and how being on the water helps his mental health. ‘It sucks being old,’ Pat chimes in ‘but on nights like this – well, it doesn’t suck quite as much.’
Chapter 4. Winter
The Erne is slowly falling under its winter spell. Early morning mists and vast tranquil silences are punctuated by the faint calls of birds migrating from colder climates to spend their winters on the Erne. The whopper swan’s honking call is a magnet for nature writer Dara McNulty, and down at Portora lock gates, commercial fishermen Eugene Brazil and Roy Shaw are cleaning and checking their nets for European silver eels.
At Enniskillen castle, painter Lorna Smyth is putting the finishing touches to her exhibition of Erne landscapes. She has been painting all year across the seasons and now her work is ready to show the public.
Winter is a busy time on the Lough for RSPBNI, there are regular surveys to be done of the influx of migratory birds and habitats to be managed for breeding waders like curlews ahead of next year’s breeding season.
Winter is also wildfowling season on the lough. Wildfowlers hunt the wild duck, a practice that has been carried out on the lough for centuries. The wildfowlers talk about their sport and how they feel that it is not in contradiction with their love of nature.
French chef Pascal Brissaud is also out on the water enjoying a crisp still winter’s day and Row the Erne are busy stealing winter days before their traditional handbuilt Irish currach, Is taken out of the water until spring. They also take out local school children and celebrate the winter solstice with a dawn row and Christmas lunch on the boat.