The team are in Lincolnshire, where it's all go in the vast fields of winter veg. John Craven learns about the kalette, a cross between kale and a brussels sprout.
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The days grow cold and ever shorter,
but in the fields of Lincolnshire, winter is the busiest of seasons.
It's when all those good, hearty winter vegetables are harvested.
Cabbages, cauliflower, kale, sprouts,
and some stuff that you'll have never seen before.
How they are harvested is changing too.
It may be early days for the technology, but robots like this
very cool contraption could become a common sight
in the not-too-distant future on our farms. No hands!
Tom's investigating why fish numbers are still so low
in many of our rivers.
Perhaps surprisingly, it's become small streams like this, hundreds,
probably thousands of them, in the heart of our farmland,
that are becoming the new front line
in the fight against water pollution.
And Adam's rounding up something a little bit smaller than usual.
Don't worry, you're going for breeding, not for meat.
Just don't panic.
Big skies and big fields.
Acres and acres of vegetables
stretch for as far as the eye can see.
And, in this wide Lincolnshire landscape,
that's a very long way indeed.
We're in the south-east of the county, between Boston and the sea,
where the soil is at its most fertile.
A quarter of the nation's vegetables come from Lincolnshire and if you
thought harvest time was over, you'd be wrong.
Here at one of the UK's largest suppliers of our greens,
they are cutting veg every day of the year, except Christmas Day.
When it comes to Brussels sprouts,
you'll probably, if you like them, have a few of them on your plate
next to the turkey on Christmas Day.
So, look at this. Six tonnes of them.
And there are many more tonnes still to come.
Sprouts can be harvested in bulk,
but some other crops need the personal touch.
And that particularly goes for one of my favourite greens,
They've added a conveyor belt to speed things up and the tractor
can be driven remotely.
But essentially, cauliflowers are still picked in the traditional way,
The family firm was founded by Ted Staples in the 1950s
and now it's run by his grandsons, Vernon and George Reid.
Why is it that cauliflowers need to be individually selected and picked?
Well, cauliflowers, they each grow at their own independent rate.
So we have to hand-pick them and it's a flower,
it's very susceptible to weather.
It's very delicate, it bruises easily.
When you're harvesting with knives, you can easily cut it as well.
It's quite a skilled job.
Right, can you show me how you do it?
You'll need a good sharp knife to start with.
-And then some gloves.
So, this is an anti-cut glove.
It's got some steel fibre woven into the material,
so you can still feel but it gives you protection as well.
Protection if I'm a bit too enthusiastic with this sharp knife.
-Still keep my fingers.
And a waterproof glove.
Right. Thank you.
So, it's hunt the caulie now, then.
Yeah, it is. You have to have a check.
There's a lot of leaf you can see,
which is protecting the curd against the weather.
The problem is you can't see the curd.
So you have to pull the leaf back, feel it with your hands...
I can feel there is a nice, solid curd, the right size.
And then we've got to cut it.
So, put the knife in, cut the base,
nice flat base.
-Trim it a bit.
Then we just expose a little window of curd,
but we don't want to cut the curd.
Right. So, see if I can find one.
This one looks OK, George, isn't it?
Spans my hand here.
If the size feels right, yeah.
Yeah. Oh, it is sharp, isn't it?
-Trim it off there a bit?
-Yeah, a bit more off the base.
Off there, off there.
Hack it back across there. Without damaging the top.
-There's a fine caulie for you!
Only a few thousand more to go, George.
Yeah, yeah. Keep with it!
The cauliflowers are packed right here in the fields.
It's a big task getting them from here to the shops and supermarkets,
and in the run-up to Christmas,
they're delivering more than 400,000 every week.
And it's not just sprouts and cauliflowers,
there are Savoy cabbages, cavolo nero, spring greens, kale,
there's even a Brussels sprout perfect for Christmas lunch.
And this is it, the sprout with a hint of Santa about it.
The variety is called Redarling, although to me, at the moment,
it looks more purpley, but I'm told
it does get redder towards Christmas.
And, in fact, it wouldn't look amiss, would it,
as a Christmas decoration?
And that's not the only unusual crop coming out of these fields.
Recently, a brand-new vegetable has hit the shops, the flower sprout,
So, this is a kalette, but what exactly is it, Nigel?
Well, it's a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale.
It's got characteristics, from a flavour point of view, of kale
but also that mixture of sprout in there as well.
We've all got different tastes.
For me, it's a milder taste than a Brussels sprout.
But other people have said that it's nutty and sweeter.
And is it easy to cook?
Yes, it is. That is the beauty of the product.
It's convenient. So, you can steam it or conventional cooking methods,
but stir-fry within a couple of minutes.
-So, a veg with a future?
It took 15 years to get the kalette, or flower sprout,
on to British dinner plates.
Now, the next generation of our greens are being tested.
And later, I'll be seeing for myself
what the vegetables of the future could look like.
Now, fishing may be one of the most popular sports in the UK,
but anglers right across the country say there is an issue with our
rivers and it's causing real problems.
Early morning on the River Avon in Worcestershire.
While most are still having breakfast,
some hardy souls are already reeling in their first catch of the day.
So you've got just some mixed colour maggots here.
You feed these into the river, upstream of where we're fishing.
-Do you want a go?
Just sort of out towards that sort of bush area, yeah.
Fishing is a relaxing sport, enjoyed by millions,
but under this tranquil surface,
there's quite a bitter row bubbling away.
Anglers say they are seeing a problem
you and I might not even notice.
that is destroying breeding grounds for fish.
Mark Lloyd is from the Angling Trust, the sport's governing body.
Anglers have a unique view of rivers because they understand the insect
life and the fish life that are in the river,
so they have a really clear perception of what's going on
beneath the beautiful surface of rivers,
so they understand the ecology, the insect life,
the habitat where fish lay their eggs
and a measure of the fish stocks.
By going and catching them,
it's a great way of biologically sampling,
and we've seen catches of, particularly salmon,
going down dramatically in recent decades
and a principal cause of that problem is agricultural pollution.
The Environment Agency says
agriculture has taken over from sewage and
even heavy industry as the single biggest water polluter
from major incidents.
But while those events are relatively rare, the problem
of soil run-off is happening daily on a widespread scale.
And three-quarters of it comes from farms.
Well, soil that gets washed into rivers settles down onto the bottom
of the river and that's where a lot of fish lay their eggs.
So salmon and trout, grayling, chub, barbel,
they all lay their eggs in amongst the gravel.
And the eggs, as they are hatching out,
need oxygenated water to flow over the eggs so that they can develop
into young fish. And if lots of sediment is dumped on top of them,
then they get suffocated.
So, it's very important that we keep soil out of rivers.
This satellite image of the Bristol Channel shows how run-off,
much of it from farmland, pours into our rivers.
More than two million tonnes of topsoil every year.
And with it comes manure, chemicals like fertilisers,
that cause rampant growth of weed and algae, and in some cases,
pesticides that can kill the insects fish rely on for food.
And given that most rivers run through farmland,
it's easy to see why there's a connection.
The National Farmers Union says it's aware of the problem and...
Farmers, of course, are not polluting the rivers on purpose,
but that doesn't alter the fact that the pollutants are there
and that's not just a fisherman's tale, there is real hard science
to back that up.
Across Europe, 100% of rivers were meant to have achieved a good health
status by 2015.
But so far, only 17% in England have reached that standard.
That's less than one in five and the steady trickle of run-off from
farmland is a major contributor.
I notice when we walk here,
it does kick up quite a lot of turbulence,
quite a lot of soil and sediment.
Is this one of the problems we're talking about?
It is, although this is relatively clean.
But, yeah, if you kick your way in there,
you can have a fair bit of soil and sediment washing off.
And that is part of the problem here.
'Dave Throup from the Environment Agency is using a spy in the sky
'to spot potential problems.'
If you can get an aerial view of this stuff,
it really does paint quite a stark picture,
so you see like a plume of different coloured water coming along.
And we can use drones to trace that back.
So you can see where this pollution enters the river,
but can you see where it actually came from?
That's one of the challenges.
We've got satellite technology now which will allow us
to see stuff almost in real time
because this is about spotting vulnerable fields, if you like.
-Can I see some of it?
You can see here the brown stuff is mainly arable fields.
So that immediately would sort of attract our attention and then we've
overlaid that with the yellow bits, which are steeply sloping fields.
So, you put those together and that will start to put together a picture
of the more vulnerable areas.
Yeah, and a lot of these yellow bits,
which are the steeply sloping bare soil fields, are next to rivers,
This daily updated satellite imagery enables his team to target fields
where run-off is more likely,
contacting individual farmers and in extreme cases,
taking enforcement action.
Generally, what kind of reception do you get when you go to farms
and farmers and present them with this information?
Generally speaking, I think the reception is good.
A lot of farmers, they don't really want to be messing it up,
so generally speaking, there is a pretty positive reaction, I'd say.
The way we farm clearly has an impact on our rivers.
And there's a growing feeling that it's time for change.
Though farmers are catching much of the blame for this problem,
they could be a big part of the solution
and even make a bit of money in the process.
To find out how, join me later.
-We're in Lincolnshire, a county cultivated
to put food on our plates.
But from horse and plough to man and machine,
the way these fields are farmed
has come a long way over the past century.
With the new year looming on the horizon,
I'm looking ahead to the next big thing in farming, robotics.
We are already seeing robotic milking systems on our dairy farms.
And with driverless tractors, automated fruit pickers,
and all sorts of helping robot hands in development,
could farming soon be fully automated?
When it comes to agricultural technology here in Britain,
Lincolnshire is leading the way.
Welcome to the future.
Meet the robot weeder.
This beast uses a state-of-the-art imaging system to spot weeds amongst
crops and then pull them out.
For farmers like Will Edwards, that means weed-free fields,
without backbreaking labour.
-Room for one more?
-There certainly is.
So, Will, it's had its maiden voyage. Has it worked?
Yes, it worked very well.
So, what made you invest in it?
As we've been getting bigger, and we're doing more and more produce,
it's a case of either hand weeding or mechanical weeding.
We wanted to get something that when we want to go, we can go.
If we have to ring up a labour provider,
we would need probably 20 people.
To organise 20 people just overnight is very difficult.
If you didn't have this, how long would it take to weed this field?
This field and what we've got here would take probably 20 people
probably three or four days.
Being organic and not been able to use herbicides,
the weeds are far more vigorous than any other plants and they just
grow like mad.
Helping Will get to grips with his new toy is farmer-turned-techie
He's the brains behind the robot weeder.
Tinkering with technology has been his family's business
since the 1980s.
So, as the son of a farmer,
did you invent this to make your own life easier?
Yes, I certainly did.
So, how does it work?
-We use a video camera...
..to look at the crop ahead of the machine.
The computer is then analysing those images to find out the exact
-positions of all the plants...
And then we use the information that comes out of that to control
So, we're driving through the crop and hoeing inter-row with some fixed
blades, which take all the weed out between the rows.
The rotor is controlled to cut
between each individual plant as well.
What are you finding?
Are farmers open and adaptable or are they still a bit suspicious
of this technology?
No, they are very open and adaptable.
Traditional farming techniques for the last 20, 30, 40 years
have involved a lot of herbicide usage.
But now, specifically with vegetable crops, the herbicides aren't always
necessarily delivering the amount of control that they need,
so we are seeing more and more take-up of this sort of technology
because of the lack of effective use of herbicides.
Robots for weeding are already here
but there are even more advanced machines just around the corner.
Enter Thorvald, a prototype built by the University of Lincoln.
This robot is designed to do most of the jobs farmers usually do.
What is it? I mean, it looks like great fun, but what is it?
This is one of the world's first agricultural robots.
Professor Simon Pearson is here to tell me more.
Ah, very good. It pays attention, doesn't it?
It does, yeah. It is well-behaved.
It's the first-ever robot in a field of broccoli,
but what is its purpose? What is it designed to do?
Ideally, you will have an iPhone map of a field and you'll point on the
iPhone map and the robot will wander off to the point,
measuring things like nitrogen, soil moisture,
all things that farmers need to know.
And it might even be a robotic harvesting system.
Using the same camera technology as a games console,
this robot is being developed to see in 3-D, so it can monitor,
manage and harvest crops.
It's being trialled on broccoli,
harvested almost entirely by hand all over the world.
And it's great for the farmers, it will make life more efficient,
but what about all those people?
There's no doubt that the industry is very worried about Brexit.
The industry is really trying to find new ways to reduce reliance...
-On the migrant labour force.
-On the migrant labour force.
Yeah, and it's not just in Britain, is it? It's the world over.
It's a worldwide problem but, basically, one robot
will probably replace something in the order of between seven
and 14 people.
So, what's the future for farmers?
What will a farmer's life be like in 20, 30 years' time?
It's going to be digital.
He's got to be an engineer, a crop scientist,
he's got to be an ecologist, an environmentalist,
and now he's got to be a computer scientist and a digital scientist.
Simon thinks robots like these could be roaming
the fields of Lincolnshire within the next couple of years.
With technology to weed and smart machines replacing human hands,
there's an agricultural revolution under way
and it could change the face of farming for ever.
Come by, Thorvald. Come by.
It's not quite the same, is it?
Good Thorvald. Good job.
Once upon a time, before tractors and combine harvesters, alder woods,
or carrs as they are known,
thrived on the margins of the Fens here in Lincolnshire.
The name "carr" comes from an Old Norse word meaning swamp,
and these wet places have a mysterious atmosphere.
It was even said that the dye from the alder flowers was used to colour
the clothes of fairies.
And you can really imagine that this would be the perfect place
to find one, although not in a flimsy dress on a cold day.
Now, there are only a few fragments of these ancient woodlands left,
like this one here at Tattershall.
Ian Froggatt manages Tattershall Carrs for the Woodland Trust.
-Ian, how are you doing?
-I'm not too bad, thanks.
Good. I've seen so much fungi and this wood, lots of different types.
It's a really great place to see it.
I mean... The clue's in the name.
It's a wet woodland and fungus likes dark, damp places to grow,
so this is just ideal for it.
The fungus itself lives on some dead wood, or whether it is in the soil,
and it's this time of year that it pops up those fruiting bodies,
that we think of as mushrooms, to spread its spores,
and then it will die off for the winter.
And as we go into winter, what will happen to the woodland?
So, at this time of year, obviously, leaves are falling,
the trees are shutting themselves down,
getting ready for the cold weather and the short days,
when it is no longer worth them keeping their leaves alive
because there's not enough light to make it worthwhile.
The same is true for a lot of animals that either eat those leaves
or eat the insects that feed on those leaves.
So, getting into the quiet time.
Animals like those that live in this woodland have come up with all sorts
of ways to beat the cold.
Some of them just leave.
Some moths and butterflies will migrate to warmer weather.
But those that stay have to adopt different strategies.
Some will stay active.
Mayflies and stone flies can be seen on the wing in the cold weather.
And gnats which will eat this leaf litter,
particularly when they're young, can be seen even out in the snow,
which can be useful if other animals come out of hibernation
and need to feed.
Some go into the semi-state of hibernation, a torpor, a dormancy,
frogs and toads.
There will be some of those here in these woods,
in the pools and the streams.
Very few go into a true hibernation.
Dormice, hedgehogs and perhaps the most charismatic of all, bats.
These woods are home to 8 of the 17 bat species in Britain.
The Lincolnshire bat group has put up boxes for them to roost.
But when the weather gets really cold,
the bats will hibernate in other places.
Ian Nixon from the bat group is going to show me where.
Ian, bats are one of the few mammals that truly hibernate,
but they're not quite there yet this year, are they?
No, not quite. At the moment, they are just feeding up
and going into the hibernation roosts, but at the moment,
it is just a matter of getting enough food and as much energy
into them as possible, as much fat.
-Build up their fat reserves.
Tattershall Carrs border the disused airfield that was home to the
Dam Busters squadron during the Second World War.
There are still empty wartime buildings scattered about the site.
Deep in the woods,
broken-down air raid shelters have found a new lease of life.
Cleaned out and spruced up,
they've become the perfect winter hideout for bats.
These bat boxes provide extra comfort
over the long, cold winter months.
-We'll look in this one.
'But some residents are happy to get their heads down anywhere.'
There's a bat in there, look.
-Above the door, look.
Do you know what species that is?
-That's a Natterer's bat.
-Can you tell just by looking?
Yeah. You can see the curve of the ears.
Is it in a state of hibernation
or is it just where it's roosting for tonight?
It might just be where it is roosting tonight.
-But it isn't uncommon to find them in here for their hibernation.
I suppose this is ideal, isn't it, for them?
It's dark and few predators,
constant sort of temperature and humidity.
It's quite spooky in here, Ian.
-It is, isn't it?
-Yes. So these are the boxes you put up, are they?
Shall we look inside to see if they are occupied?
Yes. See if there is anything in them.
I can't tell you the species
but I can definitely tell you there's one there.
Let me have a look. That's a brown long-eared bat.
Do you think this one is now in hibernation?
-More than likely, yes.
-And for bats, being in a state of hibernation means true dormancy,
-The heart rate slows down, the breathing slows down...
Absolutely everything, and they drop their body temperature
to within a degree of ambient as well.
So, it could be zero degrees in here and it will be roughly thereabouts.
There's lots of moths in here too.
Yes. Yes, there's these Herald moths.
Gosh, aren't they beautiful?
These moths, in particular, like the same conditions that hibernating
-bats like. It's like an indicator species.
Insects like this can't allow their bodily fluids to freeze
because that will damage all their tissues and it will kill them.
So they'll adopt something called supercooling.
They synthesise sugar, it's mostly glycerol, in their bodily fluids.
That acts as an antifreeze, so even when temperatures get really,
really low, below freezing, they themselves won't freeze.
This is a hot spot down here, isn't it? Fantastic.
-Or a cold spot.
-Yes, a cold spot, exactly.
-Shall we leave them in peace?
-Winter is coming.
These old industrial World War II buildings, rather than being an
unfortunate scar of the past,
now offer the ideal hibernating conditions
for the wood's most enchanting inhabitants.
-Earlier, Tom discovered how four out of five rivers in England
are not meeting clean water targets.
Whilst agriculture may be largely to blame,
farmers could also be part of the solution.
The important thing is not to plant them too deep.
I'm joining beef farmer Simon Rash for a spot of early-morning
Five years ago, we started doing this buffer planting.
Behind you here, you can see the established strip and that has
certainly proved its worth in terms of preventing run-off.
-In normal winter, this is absolutely saturated.
And the surface water will run all the way down the slope and would
naturally go into the river.
With all the stuff that comes out of the cows, or some of it?
With some of that and also unwanted, unused nutrients in the grass,
it would come down and could end up in the river.
By planting these buffer strips,
we are cutting the risk of that right down.
Run-off from farms is fast becoming one of the biggest polluters of our
rivers. It's not just mud, there's slurry too and chemicals,
including fertilisers and pesticides.
How does a sort of strip of trees
stop the pollution entering the river?
How does it work?
Well, it prevents animals getting nice and close to the river
-in the summer.
-So, that can act a bit like a sponge?
Certainly, the tree roots will absorb the nutrients
and they'll stop the movement of water. Definitely.
So, what we are trying to create is as natural a habitat as we can.
In recent years, the old polluters like sewage works
and industrial plants have cleaned up their act,
but agriculture has fallen behind.
So, perhaps surprisingly, it's become small streams like this,
hundreds, probably thousands of them, in the heart of our farmland,
that are becoming the new front line in the fight
against water pollution.
In a corner of Simon's farm,
the run-off from his fields is being monitored as one of four national
studies which are examining ways to reduce pollution.
-It is not often I come to a field and find something like
this in the corner, so what is going on?
We've got an automatic water sampler here.
Professor Adie Collins from Rothamstead Research
is testing water not just from this farm,
but across the whole river valley.
Every day at a set time, we take a litre sample of water,
which then goes back to the laboratory, and at the laboratory,
we analyse the phosphorus and nitrogen content.
What's the source of those pollutants?
So, key sources of pollution are the manures and the slurries that are
applied to the land.
Obviously, they're supported
with inputs from artificial fertilisers as well.
We are seeing just here next to the stream there is an area where
the cows have poached it up a bit.
You can tell there's a bit of dung in it
and it's pretty close to the stream.
-Is that the sort of thing that basically...?
That's the sort of thing that we need to try and prevent.
So the kind of thing we are doing up here,
planting these trees with Simon, really works?
They absolutely do.
Buffer strips can typically reduce sediment input by about 40%.
If you strike up a good working partnership with your farmer
and co-work with them, use their knowledge of the land,
actually we can implement interventions
in a more targeted manner
and actually get us on the right path of change.
In fields above the River Wylye in Wiltshire,
I'm meeting another farmer who's helping that change.
And this is an environmental choice where the motive is not only
a love of nature, it makes good business sense, too.
And it's all about being on the right track.
Twice a day, these 400 cows walk from fields to dairy and back,
churning up farmer Josh Stratton's fields.
So, what we've got here, we've got
cows walking up rather a muddy track.
They've come in from the field where they've been grazing this morning.
What is bad about the muddy track?
There will be quite a lot of run-off of cow manure and also mud which is
very likely to go into the local watercourses.
But now, a scheme called Catchment Sensitive Farming
has part-funded more than £20,000 worth of hard surface trackways,
built from local limestone and chalk.
This is all costing you a bit of money.
Is there any advantage in it? Do you get any return?
There is a real advantage, apart from the environmental benefits.
The cows walk much better, the foot health's much better.
We are very keen on animal welfare.
And our milk buyer is very keen on animal welfare,
so we get a real benefit from that.
Better foot health has saved Josh a fortune in vet bills,
and the paths mean his cows can stay outside all year,
reducing feed costs.
It's worked so well,
he'll replace his remaining walkways in the near future.
I think that you can see from the way the cows move that they're
healthy and they're keen to walk and when they're keen to walk,
they're also keen to graze.
The cows really run out of the parlour to go to their next
patch of grazing. The grass costs us very little to grow,
so it's a great return on our investment.
Farmers are often thought of as custodians of the countryside,
but they are working businesses too.
Asking farmers to be responsible for river quality may seem like putting
another burden on an already hard-pressed industry,
but surely the fact that it can save you soil, save your fertiliser,
and even improve the health of your livestock,
has to make it an attractive idea.
Getting your five a day isn't a problem in Lincolnshire.
Throughout the year, they're cutting and pulling and trimming and packing
all the veggies you could possibly want.
But the world doesn't stand still,
even in the realm of vegetables.
Now, these are all veggies that you've never heard of,
partly because they don't even have names.
This is where brand-new varieties and vegetable crosses
are being tested in the field, quite literally, to see how they perform.
These are the greens of the future.
Dr Jamie Claxton is the man responsible
for breeding these new plants.
What on earth is going on here, Jamie?
What I'm doing here, John, is looking at sweetness levels of kale,
so way using this thing called a refractometer,
which looks a bit like Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver.
-Are you trying to make it sweeter then, the vegetable?
Standard kales tend to be quite bitter.
What we've done with our breeding is we've developed new lines
that have a much sweeter flavour, removing the bitterness,
to make them much more exciting to eat.
So, how many new type vegetables have you got growing here?
Well, in this trial, we've got about 50 different new varieties of kale,
but we are also trialling other brassicas.
We've got loads of different sprouting broccolis, new cabbages,
other types of cauliflowers as well, so it's quite a diverse trial.
And what do you do?
Do you mix them together initially in the laboratory?
All the work to develop these is done in greenhouses.
We are basically cross pollinating different types of kales with other
brassicas to develop new, what we call, F1 hybrids.
We produce a small amount of seed in the greenhouses,
which is then trialled in these sorts of trials,
and then we choose the best three or four from all of these 50 in this
trial and they will then move on to the next commercial trial
to, hopefully, make it into the supermarkets,
but it is a big rejection rate.
It could have happened quite naturally, out in the fields.
Yeah, basically, all of these are very closely related.
They're all Brassica oleraceas, so the same species,
so you can actually cross-pollinate them naturally.
And why is there the need to do that?
We are trying to reinvent an old vegetable, basically.
Kale is renowned for being bitter.
People know it's very healthy, but they eat it because it's healthy,
not necessarily because it's a nice flavour.
We're trying to modernise kale, make it very colourful,
exciting to look at, sweet to eat,
and so that you don't have to boil it,
so that you can stir-fry it or steam it, retain its colour,
and make it look really interesting, but giving those really good
Now, talking about looking really interesting.
I mean, how about...? This is beautiful...
-Can I have a little taste of it?
-Because this is supposed to be a little sweeter, is it?
Yes, from our readings, it is twice as sweet as standard green kale.
It is. It's a very nice taste.
In fact, it is much more of a cabbage taste.
-So, is it a mixture of kale and cabbage?
If I told you that, John, I'd have to kill you.
That top secret, is it?
Yes. We have to protect our investment.
Bearing in mind, each one has taken getting on for eight, nine,
ten years to develop, it's a huge investment,
so we have to make sure we're breeding on the right lines
and doing what the customer wants.
Later, I'll be seeing if they taste as good cooked as they do raw.
As we've seen here in the fields of Lincolnshire,
they gather in the vegetable harvest from dawn till dusk and that,
coincidentally, is the theme of this,
the Countryfile calendar for 2017,
which we sell in aid of Children In Need
and here is how you can get one.
It costs £9.50, including free UK delivery.
You can go to our website,
where you'll find a link to the order page.
Or you can phone the order line...
If you prefer to order by post, then send your name,
address and a cheque to...
And please make your cheques payable to BBC Countryfile Calendar.
A minimum of £4 from the sale of each calendar
will be donated to BBC Children In Need.
Winter makes life tough on Adam's farm,
but no matter how bad the weather,
the animals still need tending and there are plenty
of rare and wonderful breeds to look after.
This is one of my Gloucestershire Old Spots sow's and her piglets.
And, at this time of year, she's growing her winter coat
and laying down lots of fat to keep warm.
And at one time, they became very rare because they didn't suit
indoor pig production.
And my dad started keeping them
and would get laughed out of Gloucester market
when he took some to sell because the farmers thought
they were a breed of the past.
Because people have bought into eating rare breed meat,
it saved these animals from extinction,
which at one time was a real possibility.
I do a good trade with my pork,
beef and lamb, but there is an animal I keep not for its value,
but because it never fails to put a smile on my face.
These are our Runner ducks and they come in a whole array of colours.
I think they're really gorgeous.
They originated from East India and were used mainly for producing eggs
on the old sailing boats.
And now, they are more of an ornamental animal.
Quite funny to look at.
If I move them along, you can see where they got their name.
They are a completely flightless bird.
So they have to run everywhere,
and they run in this very upright position.
Our Indian Runners are thriving,
but I have other breeds of duck on the farm that are
These are my silver Appleyard ducks and they were a breed that was
developed in the late 1940s by crossing various breeds together,
really for meat production.
But now, they've been outclassed by the modern-day duck,
which is the Peking, a very fast growing duck for meat production.
And they've become rare.
But these ducks have got potential.
And what I'd really like to see is more farmers keeping them,
selling that meat into the marketplace, and therefore,
helping the plight of the duck.
What we need to do now is try and make these ducks more
So, I'm heading to Suffolk to meet a champion of poultry
to find out more.
This is a one-stop shop for rare breed ducks, poultry and geese.
What Nick Willis doesn't know about ducks isn't worth knowing.
-Hello, Adam. Welcome.
-Good to meet you.
-What an amazing set-up.
Yeah, we've got a few ducks and geese around.
-A few? How many?
-There's 4,500 birds here.
120 species of ducks, geese and swans.
80 breeds of domestic fowl.
Goodness me. A lot to look after.
It's a full-time job.
So, tell me about the history of ducks.
So, like modern-day pigs came from the wild boar,
where did all these ducks come from?
Well, most domestic ducks came from the Mallard.
They've been modified and bred to be larger, lay more eggs.
And they are now in 80 different breeds and colours.
And what are these ones in here, then?
These are your wildfowl. These are your wild birds that live naturally,
occurring in the wild, all round the country, all around the world.
As impressive and beautiful as these wildfowl are,
I'm really here to see Nick's domestic birds.
In particular, I'm looking for rare breeds that are going to be good for
Goodness me, look at them all!
So, when it comes to the duck, what are the different types for?
There's three different sorts.
There's the heavy breed, which is the meat bird.
Breeds we're looking at, for you particularly, are the Aylesburys
or the Appleyards. There are the egg-laying breeds, Indian runners,
or the Khakis. And there are the fancy breeds,
the Call ducks and the cresteds and all sorts of pretty colours.
I've got a few Appleyards at home.
I really like them as a duck.
Maybe we should look at them.
Have you a few to take a closer look at?
-Yeah, we'll catch a few and see if you like them.
-If you hang on there, Adam...
-Have you spotted one?
-Yeah, I have. I've spotted a nice one here.
Watching the master at work.
Look at that! Goodness me, that was skilful!
-There we go.
-There we are. Feel the size, Adam.
-That's some weight in that, isn't there?
-She's a big, long bird, yeah.
They are a heavy breed.
-They're a heavy breed.
-I can feel the meat on the breast.
-A lot there, isn't there?
-Drakes would weigh more.
You would eat the surplus drakes. She is a breeding duck,
-she'll be for breeding.
You're going for breeding, not for meat, don't panic.
Just don't panic.
So, in a commercial world,
the ducks mature very quickly, don't they?
It's a numbers game, which is why these rare breeds can't keep up.
Yes, it is financially better to have a duck on the table.
You can do it cheaper if you do it in less time.
I think it's a very exciting idea, isn't it?
Breeding these lovely ducks,
ironic as it may sound, to eat.
Therefore, more people will keep them.
That's right. They're rare breeds.
They need looking after.
OK, let's put this girl back with her friends.
There we go, sweetheart.
If I can make the Appleyard ducks commercially viable,
I'll need to come back to see Nick next year to increase the gene pool
of my own flock.
The strange thing is, even though I've kept them for years,
I've never tasted the meat.
That's why I'm visiting Ed Farrell,
whose street food vans make a feast from our feathered friends.
-Adam, how are you?
-Good to see you. This is a lovely set-up.
It's great, isn't it?
So, how popular is eating duck meat in this country?
Well, we don't actually eat a lot of it compared to the French
and also in Thailand and China, where it's their number one protein.
We just don't eat enough of it in this country and we should
because it's a fantastic meat, tastes so good.
Lots of nutritional benefits.
The fat is very similar to olive oil, so it's good fat.
The meat itself is very high in protein
and other vitamins and minerals.
What have you got here?
So, this is the Silver Appleyard, which is the rare breed duck,
and this is the UK commercial duck,
which you can find in any supermarket in the UK.
Striking difference already, isn't there?
Very dark, the Silver Appleyard.
Amazing difference. The colour...
Yeah, absolutely. And the texture of the muscle, it's a huge difference.
I suppose because the Silver Appleyard
takes much longer to mature, six to eight months, isn't it?
-Whereas a commercial duck -
-just over a month?
-Just over a month.
-So, what's the plan then, Ed?
So, what I've done here is I've prepared some steaks,
which is how I prepare it in the restaurant.
Very simple marinade of chilli, mint and olive oil
just to enhance the flavour.
I've never actually cooked this rare breed before,
-so I'm really excited to give it a go.
Well, my mouth is watering already. Let's get it on the barbecue.
So, that's the Silver Appleyard.
That's the Silver Appleyard, the rare breed, and this is
the commercial duck.
How long will they take on there?
They'll literally take a couple of minutes each side.
The suspense is killing me.
OK. Remind me which is which.
-This is the rare breed.
-This is the rare breed.
-This is the commercial one.
-It's shrunk quite a lot, hasn't it?
It's amazing, the difference in size.
-Which one first?
-Rare breed first?
'The moment of truth.'
-I'm really enjoying that.
-It's really nice.
-This is fantastic.
Really strong, meaty flavour.
OK, let's try the commercial in comparison.
This is much softer.
-Really soft, yeah.
-Almost sort of melts in the mouth.
-But the flavour?
-Not as good flavour at all, actually.
This is good, but this is superb.
I love it. I honestly didn't think there would be that much
of a difference, but it's really surprised me.
So, do you think there's a place for it in the market?
I think there is. I mean, duck is an expensive meat as it is,
but if you're a top chef with a really high-end restaurant
and you want that point of difference,
you want your customer to have something really special,
-I think there's definitely a market for this.
Well, it's been great to meet you.
In fact, I'm not going to rush off, let's just eat some more, shall we?
I'm absolutely delighted that rare breed duck meat tasted so good.
If we can get more people talking about them and eating them, then the
ducks won't just be kept as pets in the garden for show,
it will give them a real purpose and more breeders will keep them and
hopefully, that will secure their future and protect them
from extinction forever.
We are in Lincolnshire, where
I've been exploring the future of farming.
But this county has been
forward-thinking for quite some time.
It's well known as the veg pot of Britain.
But did you know that Lincolnshire also lays claim to being
the birthplace of nature conservation?
This is Gibraltar Point.
The name may be unfamiliar, but this place provided a blueprint for
nature reserves all over the UK.
It's all down to one man, founder of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust,
Ted Smith, one of conservation's unsung heroes.
David Attenborough called him a visionary, a diplomat and above all,
Ted made it his life's work to preserve Britain's wild places,
from seashore to mountain top.
The wildlife trusts now have more than 2,300 reserves
and that's all thanks to Ted.
In fact, if it wasn't for Ted Smith,
we probably wouldn't be making programmes like Countryfile.
conservation had been the preserve of wealthy individuals who believed
nature should be fenced off and left alone.
But it was Ted, the humble son of a plumber,
who fought to open these places for people as well as wildlife.
His campaign started here in 1949, with Gibraltar Point, near Skegness.
Barry Wilkinson was a good friend of Ted's and a former head
of the reserve.
So, Barry, when did you first meet Ted?
Well, I was only about 12, I think.
We came down here for a family picnic
and they were ringing birds at the Bird Observatory
and I saw them catch a whitethroat,
ring that and that really got me interested in the Bird Observatory.
But just that day really set me off.
And what was he like?
A very quiet man.
Always ready to guide and pass on information and
he had a huge knowledge, really, of the countryside and wildlife.
And what was it about this particular area that inspired Ted
-to want to preserve it?
-I think he'd always had it in mind,
but there were lots of threats up and down the coast,
from caravan development and other developments.
So, had it not been for Ted, this could now be a caravan park,
or maybe fields of broccoli?
Or even worse, a bungalow estate,
because that was also threatened at one time.
Ted was determined that post-war developments
wouldn't deprive the countryside of its natural beauty.
The work he did in this tiny bird observatory
made a massive difference.
Reserve warden Kevin Wilson is the current custodian of Ted's vision.
-Yes, have to be today.
Is that Ted Smith and his wife?
In this very observatory?
1949 and he would have been writing bird data into this very log here.
No! Is this the actual log?
This is the actual log.
And you can see that this was when the observatory was founded.
The first entry from Ted on the 11th of April 1949,
during which he recorded the first swallow came through at
half past seven in the evening.
-Hasn't he got beautiful handwriting?
-A lot better than mine.
Look at that. It worries me that it's on paper, though.
And it worried me. When I first came to Gibraltar Point,
someone opened a cupboard door and showed me just tens of great big
archive boxes full of paper logs like this.
And I felt a great weight of responsibility
that if all this went up in smoke on my watch, there'd be trouble.
So we've taken great lengths now to actually get it all computerised.
Ted's enthusiasm for recording and preserving nature
helped kick-start the wildlife trust movement right across the UK.
Along with big names like Sir Peter Scott,
in the centre of this picture,
Ted was putting conservation firmly on the map.
Ted was prepared to put in the hard work to promote his passion.
He travelled the length and breadth of the country,
inspiring other people to find wild places in their areas and to promote
them as nature reserves.
Because back then,
these spaces were out of bounds and he wanted to make them accessible
to the public and thank goodness he did, because this is magnificent.
Ted's legacy lives on,
with a new visitor centre recently opened in his honour.
He died just before it was finished, but it does exactly what he worked
so tirelessly to do.
Which is open up new vistas,
so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of nature.
We are in Lincolnshire, where Anita has been getting an insight
into the future of modern farming.
I've always said it, robots and technology will save us.
-Will they save us?
-I hope so.
And I've been looking at the veggies we'll be seeing on our plates
And some that could be heading there in the years to come.
And now I'm going to see whether
some of them taste as good as they look.
What are you preparing here, Lucy?
These are kalettes and they are just stir-fried with bacon.
I'm about to add some pine nuts
to them and some butter, salt and pepper.
Lucy Reid is the unofficial company chef
and often prepares their produce
for taste testing by members of staff.
So, do you think it's the best way to cook this kind of veg?
To either stir-fry or steam it?
Yes, I think they retain their texture and their taste better
and the colour as well, when they are steamed or stir-fried.
Yeah, boiled green vegetables remind me of my childhood, a long time ago!
So, much nicer. Are they crispy?
Yes, and I think the children like them with the bacon in.
Oh, yeah. 'Which is just as well because today,
'it's not the employees who are trying out the veggies,
'it's those most critical of customers, the next generation.'
Some of the staff have turned up now with their children
to try out your kalette with pine nut.
BOTH: And bacon.
And also here, I think, we've got some steamed kale.
I don't like pine nuts.
'The families of the workers here are used to eating their greens
'and their purples.'
Do you like the taste?
'So far, so good.
'But true to form, not everyone is a fan.'
Anybody like to try this?
What do you think of it?
Do you like the taste? Do you like it?
I love my veg, John.
How are you? What a beautiful setting.
You've never heard of a kalette, have you?
-I've never heard of a kalette.
-Well, that's a kalette.
Shall we try it? What do you think, boys? Good?
Shall I have a go? Is it nice?
You're used to giving marks out of ten with Strictly.
-How many for this?
-I'd have to give this ten.
You can have the rest, OK?
That's all we've got time for today, I'm afraid.
Next week, we're going to be in Aberdeenshire,
looking at ways of trying to save one of our rarest mammals.
That's it from us under this beautiful, endless Lincolnshire sky.
Join us next week.
-I like bacon, though.
I think this is a hit.
John, Anita and Ellie are in Lincolnshire, where it's all go in the vast fields of winter veg. John visits a farm where they are harvesting tonnes of caulis and sprouts in readiness for Christmas, and he visits the trial plots where new types of vegetable are being developed, including the kalette, a cross between kale and a brussels sprout.
Anita sees how robot technology designed to pull up weeds could cut down on herbicides and even cut down on human labour.
Ellie visits the ancient woodland at the edge of an old RAF base where bats have set up home in old wartime buildings, and she discovers that it's not just bats hibernating there - butterflies do it too.
Adam talks about his lifelong passion for ducks - one of his favourite farmyard animals, and Tom Heap finds out why many of our rivers and waterways are suffering and what farmers can do to help bring them back to life.