Series celebrating the British winter. Keeley Donovan meets the four-legged volunteers whose noses can mean the difference between life and death for stranded walkers.
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JOHN CRAVEN: This is the toughest time of year.
But it can also be
the most spectacular season
in the entire calendar.
Winter is upon us.
It's a time when days are short, and temperatures can plunge.
But there are still plenty of ways
growers can make the most of the season.
It's the time when the British weather
throws everything it's got at us.
And while some animals are hibernating,
others are bringing new life into the world.
All this week, we're travelling the length and breadth of the UK.
And what a great space, it's huge!
Bringing the very best seasonal stories that matter to you.
It has been devastated by wild boar.
-Welcome to the farm.
Right, you lead the way.
The very warmest of welcomes, this is Countryfile Winter Diaries.
And this is what we've got coming up
on today's programme.
Keeley tracks down the dogs that can mean the difference
between life and death.
BELL JINGLES ON COLLAR
-Straight to him. Straight to him!
Paul discovers what avian flu could mean for all of us.
How long does it take before it's dead?
And I'll be finding out how you can have an affordable home in the
beautiful British countryside.
What better place could there be
to embrace winter than here in Scotland,
in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park?
In its 720 square miles,
there's coastline, mountains,
and of course, lochs.
Now, taking a dip in a Scottish loch
at this time of year might seem a bit extreme,
especially with average sea temperatures
of between 6-10 degrees Celsius.
But, there are people who do believe that outdoor winter swimming is
actually good for you. So, what will it take to convince Jules Hudson?
Now, I have to confess,
that on a drizzly, freezing cold day like today,
the idea of taking a dip in those
icy waters could not be less appealing.
But for a growing number of people, well,
they actually think not only is it good fun,
but it could actually be good for you. So, are they crazy?
Or do they know something I don't?
Here at the historic seafront at Clevedon
on the banks of the Severn Estuary,
members of the town's Lake and Sea Swimmers Club regularly meet
for a morning dip in the Bristol Channel.
And if you think these hardy folk look familiar,
that's because they are currently being featured in a BBC One
channel ident by award-winning photographer Martin Parr.
Until recently, they were just
a bunch of die-hard outdoor enthusiasts -
now, they're known all over Britain.
Today, the sea temperature is a chilly six degrees Celsius,
but that won't stop keen cold water swimmers Gavin Price
and Tom Bullimore from taking the plunge.
How are you?
Now, the burning question, guys - why do you do it?
I mean, you've got a fantastic collection of people behind you,
who are about to get in there
and experience a chilly dip this morning.
It's social and it's fun,
and there's a lot of health benefits from it.
I use it to get rid of my aches and pains,
and to really get a shock into the body,
the adrenaline rush you get, as well.
Now, Gavin, how long have you been swimming for?
I've been swimming about five or six years.
And what prompted you to take the icy plunge?
Well, first of all, it was my wife.
She signed up for the Long Swim,
which is a swim they've been doing here from about 1928.
And she signed up to it, and I thought, well, yeah, the sea's here,
-I like swimming, why don't
-do it as well?
There's a strong tradition of wild outdoor swimming at Clevedon,
stretching back many decades.
And there's no doubting their passion.
But WHY do they do it?
Absolutely lovely, I feel really alive, and it really makes me...
You are absolutely frozen.
Yeah, but inside, your core is warm.
-It gives you such a lift, I feel great.
I love the cold and the company.
We were in yesterday, we're in today,
we'll be in later in the week.
So if I finally take the plunge,
do you think it could change my life forever?
I reckon it would cheer you up a bit, yeah.
I like to think I'm fairly cheery already, what's it going to be like
if I get wet every morning?!
Well, I have nothing but respect for that lot.
Brave, crazy - it doesn't matter.
They love it, and they are convinced
of the benefits to their health.
And let's be honest, they all look pretty fit and healthy.
But what about the science?
Surely that can help us prove that all this really is worthwhile.
To find out, I'm heading to the School of Sport,
Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham,
where brother and sister physiologists Rebekah and Sam Lucas
are going to subject my body to the cold in their environmental chamber.
Essentially, a big fridge.
So, what am I going to have to wear?
-Not a lot!
The first thing we'll put on you is this harness.
-From this, we'll be able to measure your heart rate.
As my body temperature plummets,
they'll be monitoring my vital signs using the latest gadgets.
We'll also be able to measure your deep internal temperature,
from you swallowing a pill.
-That's proper James Bond, isn't it?
-It is. Yeah.
That's incredible. So when I get home tonight and sit in
a nice warm bath, you'll know exactly where I am!
-We could do!
-The chamber is set to two degrees Celsius -
that's four degrees colder than the sea at Clevedon.
Oh, my goodness, the floor... is absolutely frozen!
Within a few minutes of being in here,
my body is already reacting to the cold.
It's definitely cooling down.
-I can feel myself on the edge of wanting to shiver.
And look, there are goose bumps all over my arms.
So, it's getting gradually cooler as we move down your arm,
and your finger is at 12 degrees.
One benefit of the cold is that the body burns more calories,
as it works harder to maintain core temperature.
The mask measures the amount of oxygen I'm consuming.
With these blue triangles, this is when we first put it on,
and you can already see it start to climb.
So we can see already that your shivering is consuming more oxygen.
So it's burning these calories.
So tell me, how's the magic pill doing?
I can see it up there on the screen.
-"Core pill temperature".
-It's dropped slightly.
We're at 37.2 degrees Celsius now.
We started at 37.5.
Hypothermia occurs when the body's core temperature
drops below 35 degrees Celsius.
So, I'm still in the safe zone,
even though my extremities are telling me something very different.
So my core has only dropped 0.3,
but my fingers have dropped over 20 degrees.
Yes, so your fingers now are below 10 degrees Celsius,
so they'll be feeling quite painfully cold.
I am PAINFULLY cold, now.
I mean, of course, the swimmers
are hitting that cold barrier in an instant.
I'm still not convinced why they love doing it,
but I can certainly see that your body can cope with it,
if you're used to it, and it can of course burn off
more calories in the process.
Cold water swimming is also thought to boost circulation,
and release endorphins, giving you that natural high.
Armed with the science, I'm keen to give it a go back at Clevedon.
Now, my body's not quite ready for these very low temperatures,
so I'll be wearing a wet suit, to avoid cold water shock.
However, by contrast, Tom, with his years of swimming here,
is already thoroughly acclimatised.
-I'll be with you.
-Are we ready?
Ah, it's beginning to get into my wet suit!
-It's getting up to the thighs...
Three, two, one.
Cor, my hands are absolutely frozen!
Go on, keep going.
How are we feeling?
'I wonder what that magic pill is saying now?'
It's a good incentive to swim back as fast as possible!
-I'm walking in.
The pain in my hands...
-Your body is built of iron!
What can I say? I'm just going to get my breath back! Whoo!
That was a really good idea, despite all my instincts.
-Time to get warm, well done.
-Let's have a coffee.
Well, you certainly won't catch me
having an outdoor swim at this time of year,
but you could well find me hiking up a hill.
In winter, our hills and mountains are transformed into magical white
landscapes, enticing walkers onto their slopes.
But when things go wrong, the consequences can be serious.
Luckily, help is on hand, of a four-legged kind.
Keeley is in Derbyshire,
finding out how specially-trained dogs are saving lives.
Britain's wild places,
like the 555 square miles of the Peak District National Park,
are some of our most inspiring natural wonders.
But what happens when a walk in the park turns into disaster?
Imagine getting lost in this.
In 2015, Mountain Rescue teams in England,
Wales and Scotland received well over 2,000 calls for help.
If we hadn't got there in time, then it certainly could have been fatal.
The first day of 2017
saw a couple rescued from blizzard conditions
in the Scottish Highlands.
They were forced to spend the night in a white-out,
after the clouds suddenly closed in, and it began snowing.
With mountain weather our most unpredictable,
these dedicated teams are essential.
We're there as a safety net.
We're there just in case it goes wrong.
We're always after new recruits,
but it takes a certain type of person to be a mountain rescuer.
You need to be prepared to get up in the middle of the night.
Rescuers deploy every weapon in their armoury to keep us safe,
but during winter, when the weather's at its harshest,
the only way to find stranded people...
Come on! ..are these guys.
Good girl, good girl!
Here in the Peak District National Park,
the local Mountain Rescue teams use trained search and rescue dogs,
to help them locate stranded and injured walkers.
Today, they're training new recruits,
along with more experienced finders.
'Nick Sheppard is a Mountain Rescue dog trainer.'
-Hello there, Nick, how're you doing?
-So, who's this then?
This is my Mountain Rescue search dog, Dolly.
And why do you use dogs?
In winter, you know, as you can see today with the weather,
you haven't got good visibility.
The dogs, with their nose, they can see round rocks, round scrubs,
round mountains, even if we can't see them.
'Dogs' noses have around 300 million receptors,
'and the area of their brain set up to process smells is,
'proportionally 40 times larger than ours.'
So, how many rescues has Dolly done, then?
You get called out, on average, 50-60 times a year.
Our most recent successful one was two nights ago.
-So what happened?
-There were two ladies from Sheffield,
they went for a walk over Kinder,
and I think they just got the timing wrong with the darkness,
and they got lost, and one of them fell into the bog.
And it was dangerous, by the time we got there it was dark,
and they were very, very cold.
Right in the middle of Kinder Scout,
they couldn't have been any more lost if they tried.
-And Dolly found them?
-Dolly found them, yeah.
If it wasn't for Dolly, what turned out into a four-hour search,
possibly could have been a 24-hour search.
'Perhaps the most amazing thing of all
'is that Nick and Dolly are volunteers.'
So how did you get into this? Because this isn't your job, is it?
I'm a joiner by trade, and I was doing a garage door for somebody,
and he had a rescue sack with "Mountain Rescue" in the garage.
And I said, "I'd love to volunteer for it".
But I was convinced Mountain Rescue people had to be paramedics,
not joiners. And he says, "No, you're fit, you're strong,
"would you like to go out at three o'clock in the morning
"when you're called out?" I says, "Yeah".
'Dolly, Nick's family dog, joined the team.'
First and foremost, they're family pets,
and we're Mountain Rescue volunteers,
who are quite happy to put the time in to train our dogs.
'With up to 70 call-outs a year, the team always needs new recruits.
'Could you and your four-legged friend be up to the challenge,
'like new trainee Mia?'
OK, Dan, so what stage is Mia at?
So Mia's at stage one at the moment,
so she's just learning the game that she'll rely on to actually go out
-and find people.
-Shall we test her out, then?
Give that a go. Come on then.
Come on then.
'In the first stage, dogs are trained to search out and retrieve
'a favourite toy, over a short distance.
'Nick's volunteered to lurk in the mist with it.'
And so what's she doing at the moment? She's sniffing him out?
-Right, Mia, no pressure!
-The camera's on you, girl.
-Straight to him. Straight to him!
For her, the whole thing's a game, isn't it?
It is, yeah. They don't care whether it's a missing person,
all they think about is they'll get a reward for doing this.
'Once Mia becomes really proficient at this,
'Dan can take the next step in her training.'
At the moment, Mia, she's barking at the bodies.
As she develops through her training,
we'll introduce what we call "return indication",
so then she'll go in to the body, bark at the body, come back to me,
and bark at me, and draw me in to the body,
so I can find the person there as well.
That's quite impressive for such a young dog.
'While Mia's still got a lot to learn, Dolly's already a pro.
'I'm about to test out her super nose.'
On a day like today, you and I couldn't see
if anyone was lost on here, could we?
No. Any more than 50 metres, no.
And these are fairly typical winter conditions for mountains.
-Day in, day out.
-Yeah, it actually makes it better for Dolly.
A little bit of wind, not so much heat,
this is where these dogs come into their own.
The stronger the wind, the longer that scent and trail will become,
it makes it easier for the dog.
'I hope my trail is a good one because I'm going
'nearly half a mile out into the misty peaks.
'I've volunteered to be quite literally a dogsbody.'
This is me. Nick has left this for me.
Because volunteer dogsbodies could be out for hours,
so they use these to keep warm.
I've only been here for a few seconds, and it's already freezing.
I hope Dolly has got a nose as strong as they say,
because I can't see more than around 20 metres away from me.
Dolly searches in a zigzag pattern.
She's trying to pick up my scent trail.
She found me! 'Mission accomplished,
'and Dolly is straight off back to Nick to tell him where to find me.'
Woohoo! Go on, then, good girl. Come on, then.
Where is she? Yes, good girl.
Well done, Dolly, job well done.
The dedication and bravery of the rescue teams and their dogs is
just incredible, especially as they're all volunteers,
heading out in all kinds of conditions to help save lives.
I know in my job just how quickly the weather can turn for the worst,
so what happens if you get caught in an avalanche?
We'll find out later.
Even at this, the hardest time of year,
it's easy to see the attraction of rural life.
Having a home in the country is what many people dream of,
and that beautiful house there is where one of
Scotland's great heroes, Rob Roy, was born.
But these days, a lack of affordable homes right across rural Britain
means that those dreams just can't be reached.
Margherita, though, has been to Kent to meet some homeowners
who have found a solution.
And it sounds like the stuff of which fairytales are made.
Once upon a time there were three little pigs, who lived in a house
made of straw, that could be blown down by a huffing, puffing wolf.
But our houses have come a long way since then.
This one could withstand a hurricane. Now, looking at it,
you might imagine this property is built from stone or brick,
but it's actually built entirely from straw.
It's as strong as they come, though, and it contains all mod cons.
The house belongs to former city-dwellers,
Andrew and Harriet Wishart.
Ten years ago, they packed in the rat race and moved to the country.
Now they share their lives with chickens and alpacas.
But what made them decide to build their house with straw?
The reasons speak for itself -
straw is a fraction of the cost of bricks and mortar.
For the actual building of straw part, it was quite a saving,
largely because you can do so much of it yourself.
We had a carpenter come in and do the roof,
so that got on nice and quick.
But sort of everything in between we did, which saved us a lot,
took us a lot of time.
'Sourcing the straw you'll need to build an average three-bedroom house
'would cost around £600, whereas the equivalent cost
'in bricks and mortar would set you back £10,000.'
That's been fine, actually.
We've managed to arrange insurance really very quickly.
And were you builders before you started on this project?
Oh, gosh, no. No experience whatsoever.
No, I was a software engineer and project manager.
I worked in insurance.
And can you tell me about this lovely little square behind you,
-Yes, this is what they call a truth window.
We actually had people stay here and they've said for the first couple
of days, they didn't actually realise it was a straw-built house,
and then they sort of noticed that and asked about it.
So what would your top tip be for building a house of straw?
Go for it. If we can do it, anyone can.
And there's nothing to hold you back.
There are now a few companies offering mortgages on straw houses.
Andrew and Harriet love theirs so much they're building another,
and it needs plastering.
It's plain to see that when you build with straw,
you've got to get your hands dirty.
You just press it and smooth it into the wall with your hands.
-Any direction you like.
-The kids must love doing this, just really getting messy.
They had great fun - a couple of mud fights -
but they had great fun helping us do it, so it was lovely.
And how long will it take to plaster a wall like this?
If you could do a coat in a day, would be fine, but
one of the lovely things about it is it can be a very sociable activity.
How long did it take you to learn all this?
A lot of it is just watching videos.
A lot of it is trial and error.
There's a whole straw-baling community out there that will
provide support and advice for you.
Can you believe you are actually building your own house?
Is this something you would have ever imagined doing?
Could straw be the answer to the current housing crisis,
the lack of new-built homes?
Right now, there are five million tonnes of surplus agricultural straw
in England from the summer harvest.
That could be used to build over 10,000 homes each year,
and, with straw's great insulating properties,
help keep us toastie and warm through winter.
Barbara Jones is a builder who's been involved in over 500
straw-build projects in the UK,
but there's one thought that's been troubling me.
Is it a fire risk if you're using straw?
You would kind of think that's the first thing I'd be worried about.
I know, and it's actually the most common question - is it a fire risk?
And this is definitely a fire risk.
But in this form.
THIS is not a fire risk.
Because you can hear how dense that is,
there's not enough air in there for it to burn.
The average three-bedroom home would use around 350 bales
in its construction. The bales are slotted together like bricks to
make up the backbone of the walls, but they need little prep first.
If I put that against another similar bale,
the high points will hit each other and then we'll have gaps between.
So that's not a great idea.
We're trying to create a flat surface.
Yeah, so I'm looking for the string first of all, which is here.
-I'm going to get hold of the straw, pull it towards me.
And then what you want to do is batter it a bit.
Use the heel of your hand.
-And you just bash it, the two together, just where the string is.
-So that what you're doing is you are squashing the corner
into more of a square. Now we've got no choice
but to take the high points out.
OK, I'm seeing that's neater now.
Yeah. The last thing to do is to just batter it again.
'In just a few minutes, the bale is flatter and ready to be slotted
'into a wall.' And if straw is brilliant installation
and readily available to us as a resource,
why aren't more builders getting involved?
Well, look at us.
This is so very different from the regular building site.
That's why. It's too different.
Barbara, do you think this will be the stuff of more of our houses
-in the future?
-There's no reason why we couldn't be building
every single house out of straw.
So, if you too really put some huff and puff into it,
you could build yourself a fairytale straw house that won't blow down.
And if you want to find out more
about how to build your own straw house,
you'll find details on the Countryfile website.
Now, at first glance,
a woodland in winter time might not appear to be a hive of activity,
but delve a little deeper and you'll be surprised at what secrets
are waiting to be discovered,
as Helen learned when she turned detective in Worcestershire.
This is the Wyre Forest.
6,000 acres, or 2,500 hectares, of stunning ancient woodland.
I've been invited to join the forest study group,
a dedicated team of super-sleuth wildlife detectives
investigating the mysteries of the natural world.
And I've come prepared.
Harry Green has spent the last 20 years crawling around
on his hands and knees in the fallen leaves of West Worcestershire
to search for teeny tiny creatures.
Right, Harry, what exactly are we looking for?
Well, we're looking amongst the leaf litter here for tiny little things
called land caddis.
They are curious little insects and the larvae live in small cases,
only a few millimetres long.
Do you find land caddis all over the country?
No, you don't. When we first started looking for these,
they were found in Wyre and roundabout,
going down to the city of Worcester in that area.
They've not been found anywhere else in the country.
I came prepared, because they're very small.
You don't seem impressed by this piece of kit.
-I thought I ought to have brought my deerstalker hat to go with that, really.
Actually, I don't even need that - is this one?
Yes, the first leaf you've turned over,
-and there's an old land caddis case, yes.
-Right, I'm going to keep going.
It's not just the creepy crawlies that are getting special attention -
the secrets of the trees themselves are being investigated,
and getting the full forensic treatment.
Clocking up 20 years in the study group, Mike Averill.
He likes to spend his summers surveying dragonflies,
but on this wintry day,
he's here to measure the impressive Catshill sweet chestnut tree.
Mike, what a stunning tree.
Hello. Yes, it's a fabulous tree.
It's probably about 450 years old, we think.
And what do you learn by measuring it?
Well, it tells us how much the tree has progressed over the years,
whether it's decaying, whether branches are dropping off.
It's like a health check, it's sort of an MOT, if you like.
We measure it at regular intervals, every ten years or so,
and we measure it at this set height.
Right, well, let me help.
If ever a tree were going to be in Harry Potter, this was it.
We know the last time we measured it officially, it was 9.6.
I think we're going to be something like 9.7.
'It's a slow grower.
'This tree has expanded ten centimetres in ten years.'
Sometimes trees can actually reduce in their diameter,
because they decay and bits drop off,
so that's probably about right for a tree of this age.
Some of our nature detectives
are always on the trail of another mystery.
Former teacher Rosemary Winnall is dedicated to recording
the Wyre Forest's wildlife wonders, but keeping a close watch
on her own garden led to a remarkable fungi find.
Well, I first saw it in the year 2000 and I didn't recognise it
as a species I knew, so I sent some specimens off
to the mycological research lab in Kew Gardens.
And the experts wrote back and they told me it was a wax cap,
they said they thought it was completely new to science.
-Isn't that good?
Yes, new species.
So what is this called?
This has been named gliophorus reginae.
-And can you eat them?
No, I don't think so.
I know you will never forgive me if I don't say
this is what it looks like at its best.
This place is a real treasure chest, isn't it?
What else have you found around here?
Well, you won't believe this, but one day, last summer,
I spotted a water shrew just in that little pond just there.
You've been here 15 years - how many times have you seen a water shrew?
Once. Last year.
-It's amazing that you managed to get a photograph.
I've got the photograph to prove it.
You can tell a water shrew by looking at the colouration.
The division between the black upper fur and the white belly fur
is very distinctive. I've got a remote camera there,
which, wonderfully, has a close-up lens attachment,
so it means now I can film small mammals.
Obviously I'm hoping for a water shrew.
Whether one will come back here again, I don't know.
But in the meantime,
I'm getting lovely pictures of common shrew and pygmy shrew.
-Your own reality TV series going on right down here.
-Cameras catching anything going on.
It's a little mini world down there, with all sorts of surprises.
And this is the latest from Rosemary's hidden camera -
a wood mouse, fellow shrews, and a wren have all taken the bait here.
Far from being a quiet season,
it's worth looking carefully when you're out and about this winter.
Who knows what other mysteries are out there?
Winter is also proving to be a busy time for Britain's poultry farmers,
but not in a good way, because bird flu is back again.
The last epidemic to hit Britain was in 2014.
It cost the British economy £100 million.
And now, with all poultry on lockdown,
Paul is keen to find out how he can help keep this killer at bay.
Hello. There you go.
Now, the best bit about having a smallholding is
you get to keep chickens, and it's a real delight in the morning
to say hello to these girls and collect the eggs.
Especially on the weekends, with the kids,
because the race is on to see how many we can collect.
Oh, look, there she is. Sitting on her eggs.
I feel a bit guilty, really.
Sorry, Mum, but I'm taking these.
There's two there, and they're lovely and warm.
Oh, look, there's one there. One's rolled down here.
That's my omelette sorted.
I keep chickens on a very small scale,
but bird flu has affected me and other smallholders in Britain.
And at its devastating worst,
an outbreak could potentially affect the price of eggs,
which is bad news for us all.
After a number of outbreaks in Europe at the end of 2016,
the government issued an order that all poultry must be kept inside
or in covered pens, like mine.
I've dropped netting down one side and I've put a roof over it,
just to stop any wild birds and ducks coming in.
I've also added antiseptic footbaths around my chicken run
to prevent potential cross contamination.
Avian influenza is a really tough disease.
Normally a virus needs to be inside its host or it dies,
but this one can be transmitted via bird droppings, and survive
in the environment for 50 days.
It doesn't like warm weather or bright sunlight,
but thrives in the cold of winter.
I don't have to make a living from my hens, but for those who do,
bird flu is a real worry.
Outbreaks in 2014 and 2015 resulted in nearly 200,000 farmed birds
being culled. Sarah Smith runs a business supplying young
free-range chickens to smallholders like me.
-Lovely seeing the deer.
We've been running this business for about seven years now,
this is our seventh season rearing birds.
And how many have you got?
We've got about 2,000, just at the minute.
Gosh! Obviously all free-range, but they're inside right now.
We're keeping them inside because the main thing is
-to prevent contact with the wild birds.
-So it looks bare, doesn't it?
-Yeah, and very quiet.
'With the restrictions in place,
'unfortunately this is the closest we can get.'
It must be very worrying for you right now.
Yes, I mean, obviously...
-This is your livelihood.
-Yes, it is our livelihood,
so depending how things go, it could be a serious problem.
The continuing restrictions could have dire consequences for
free-range farmers across the UK.
If the birds are forced to remain inside for more than 12 weeks,
they will lose their free-range status.
The current housing order started on 6th December, 2016, so they have
until 28th February before their eggs stop being free-range.
There's me worrying about my five chickens and three ducks,
and poor old Sarah Smith could lose everything through this disease.
There are 900 million chickens and countless wildfowl in Britain.
Their health needs to be constantly monitored if we're going to
keep a lid on the recent outbreak.
That job falls to the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
Ian Brown has been looking into bird flu there for over 20 years.
At the moment, Ian's lab is testing one or two suspected bird flu cases every day.
Once a bird has the flu, how long does it take before it's dead?
-They will die in that period of time. And, of course,
the virus will spread very fast through the flock of birds.
What are the first signs you look for with bird flu?
Things like swollen head, their cone may change in colouration,
they might get haemorrhages on their legs,
as you've got large numbers of birds showing these symptoms very quickly.
I gather it's water birds, ducks, that are the biggest carriers.
Yes, that's right. The wild waterfowl species are the species
that have actually brought this virus into Europe, so all across
Europe we're finding dead waterfowl species with the virus.
The latest strain of the virus not only spreads very fast,
it mutates all the time.
Scientists are playing a game of catch-up.
We have to be reactive.
You have to be one step ahead.
If you can be one step ahead of the virus, that gives us
good possibilities to eventually get on top of the outbreak,
and reduce that infection problem.
'Unlike previous strains of the virus,
'it's not contagious to humans, but given its capacity to mutate,
'that can't be ruled out in the future.'
Is it too early to tell if it's starting to burn itself out?
The prediction would be, with still lots of migratory waterfowl here,
the virus is going to be here for a while.
So it's very difficult to tell when it's going to peak,
but I think we need to be alert and vigilant,
certainly for the next several months.
From what I've seen here today, it looks like we are in safe hands,
but you never can tell what's going to happen in the future.
So if you're a smallholder,
or you just keep chickens in your back garden,
be vigilant and look out for the signs.
And here's hoping the monitoring work of the Animal and Plant Health
Agency means the situation doesn't escalate over the next few months.
Earlier in the show, Keeley met a mountain rescue team and their dogs
on a foggy day in the Peak District, but what happens
when the weather gets even worse and the snow comes in?
Well, what better place to find out than here in the land of the brave?
The Scottish Highlands, home to Britain's tallest peaks.
The mountains here experience 100 days of falling snow every year.
The Cairngorms, in the heart of the Highlands,
offer some of the best skiing and walking opportunities in the UK,
but the weather can change in an instant.
Up here, even the most experienced adventurer can quite quickly
find themselves in a life-threatening situation.
No-one knows that more than Bob and Cathy Elmer,
who were rescued from the Cairngorms just weeks ago after a New Year walk
-went badly wrong.
-The snow was at times up to our waist,
you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, so we decided
to get the survival bags out and get down for the night in them.
They were lucky they had the right kit and, as Damon Powell,
the chair of Scottish Mountain Rescue, explains,
keeping safe is all about preparation.
Tell me I'm not going to need this.
It's an essential piece of kit when you go up the hill.
The only thing that really,
really looks after you when you get on very hard snow or very hard ice,
and it's partly there in case you fall, to stop you sliding,
if you know how to use it.
The other thing that's vital is something to be able
to keep the wind off me and keep the weather off me.
And I use some sort of bothy bag,
which is just like the fly sheet of a tent,
and it keeps the wind off.
As well as having the correct gear,
checking the forecast beforehand is also crucial.
The weather up there, even in the last month,
has been well over 100 mile an hour winds.
And 100 mile an hour wind is likely to pick you up and throw you around.
-The most extreme of the UK weather.
-It is. It's the Arctic, basically.
It's the nearest thing we have in the UK to the Arctic.
Arctic or not,
today Damon and his team of volunteers are heading up to the
top of the Cairngorms to train in avalanche rescue.
It's 4,000 feet above sea level, and so cold at the peak
that snow still lingers in August,
and there's plenty around today.
So we are putting our crampons on.
Is it going to get a bit more difficult?
The snow is really hard cos it's ten degrees colder.
Actually, your boots just won't go into it,
-so you now need crampons as the only way not to slip.
I'm safely kitted out, but there are potentially graver dangers
out there facing hill walkers, when the weight of fresh snow
overlying old is just too much for the mountain slope to bear.
The result - winter's greatest peril, an avalanche.
Last year in Scotland, over 200 were recorded.
46 of those were triggered by people, so training is essential.
And we carry an avalanche transceiver that enables us to
find each other if we do get buried under the snow,
along with a probe to locate them exactly in the snow,
and a shovel to dig them out.
And what we're training on today is using the avalanche transceiver
to find people buried underneath the snow.
Damon's colleagues have set us a challenge
to find a buried transceiver. Our hand-held device
should pick up a signal once we're within 50 metres.
Now it's in search mode.
We've already got some information coming up,
and it's giving me an arrow,
which is the direction to walk in, and it's giving me a distance.
So it's saying it should be about 18 metres in that direction.
And what we now need to do is start following the arrows
-in the direction it tells us to go.
-OK, let's have a go.
With a survival time of around 15 minutes, speed is of the essence.
As we walk, it's going down and down.
And you can hear, now we're getting very close,
it's starting to take us right down.
And this point, we're then down on our hands and knees and moving the
transceiver along until we can get the lowest number possible.
So we're down to one metre there.
It's starting to go back up there, so if you come back to here,
mark that. So that's the point that we're going to mark,
and we think that they're buried underneath here somewhere.
-If we start digging down.
-There you go.
there should be a transceiver on the end of that. There we go.
'The biggest risk in a rescue situation
'is triggering a further avalanche.'
What's the reality if you do get caught in one?
The reality if you get caught - they're not soft and fluffy.
It's not cotton wool. Think more concrete and bricks and mud.
They're horrible, horrible things, you really don't want to be in them.
You will be chucked around and battered by big lumps of ice,
maybe up to the size of a car.
Avalanches are the worst case scenario.
Getting caught in a blizzard is more likely.
If the weather worsens, there are simple things that can
keep you safe, like this bivvy bag.
Hello. I tell you what, it's toastier in here,
and if you were stuck out here for hours and you were waiting to
get rescued, this would be your life-saver.
This is what you want to have with you, this will...
You might not be perfectly comfortable for the night,
but you will survive it comfortably.
Around us, there's lots of people digging holes.
What are they doing?
Lots of people practising and learning the skills they need
in winter to look after themselves. So they're all digging snow holes.
A snow hole is an even better version of this.
Whatever the weather is doing on the outside, it's calm and it's quiet,
and the temperature just sits at zero.
Which might sound cold, but actually is a lot warmer
than what's going on outside and around you.
-So that's the best option.
-I don't believe you that it's warm,
-so I think you're going to have to...
-So we'll go and try one.
To qualify for winter level training,
volunteer rescue teams must spend a night in a snow hole.
So what's the best way of getting in here, then?
-Are you going to go feet first?
-I mean, it's not the comfiest,
but it's a lot warmer than it is out there.
-It is, yeah.
That is the best thing to get into in the mountains in winter
in the middle of the night.
I wouldn't have thought of doing this in a million years.
No! If you want, you can pull the door shut.
If it's all right with you, I'll leave the door open for now.
I feel a bit safer with the door open.
Our winter weather can be at its most extreme in the Cairngorms,
and yet these courageous volunteers are willing to come to our aid
if we get into trouble.
The most important thing I've learned from these guys is
be prepared. Take the right kit with you,
check the forecast before you go, and know your limits,
and that will help keep you safe on Britain's mountains.
From an avalanche of snow to an avalanche of snow water,
because this waterfall is at its most spectacular now that the snow
has melted high up on the mountains.
And that's all we've got time for today,
but here's an idea of what we've got lined up for you tomorrow.
Like Jules, you could pick up some top tips to keep your dog fit this winter.
It's 39.2 kilos.
Margherita gives us some insight into the farms of the future.
-Welcome to the farm.
Oh, my goodness!
And I'll be discovering how a manor house garden can provide inspiration
for even the smallest of gardens.
So, hope to see you then, but for now, goodbye.
Keeley Donovan is in the Peak District to meet the four-legged volunteers whose noses can mean the difference between life and death for stranded walkers. Margherita Taylor travels to Kent to meet a woman who thinks she may have a solution to Britain's rural housing shortage. In order to test the health benefits claimed for outdoor swimming, Jules Hudson takes the plunge in the wintry seas off Somerset. And, as the disease threatens to sweep the country once more, smallholder Paul Martin finds out what we can do to help combat avian flu.