Ellie abseils with a team from the National Trust to help give Cheddar Gorge its annual clean-up and make sure there are no loose rocks.
Browse content similar to Somerset. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
The Somerset landscape is still in the grip of winter.
The famous Cheddar Gorge is cold and quiet...
but not entirely.
When I was asked if I wanted to help out with some important
conservation work, this wasn't quite what I had in mind.
Matt's meeting some Channel Island dwellers far from home...
How beautiful the Guernsey herd are as well.
Just as a temperament, they are so agreeable
and they've got such a wonderful way about them.
..Tom's flooding a house to find out if we could all make our homes
a little bit safer...
If you're living in an isolated community and you are living
at flood risk,
I think it's really important that you take some responsibility.
..and Adam's on call with the emergency vet.
Calves should be born
two front feet, nose first, diving out forwards.
That's the most streamlined position for a calf to be born.
But this one is backwards.
Named in earlier times as the place people dwelled in the summer.
But this is winter...
and across the tors and open plains, little stirs.
I'm in Cheddar, home to the breathtaking Cheddar Gorge.
At 400 feet high and three miles long,
it's one of the natural wonders of Britain.
Oh, yeah! Wow.
It's hard to get your head around the scale and the beauty
of this place.
Towards the end of the last ice age, as the ice melted from up on
the Mendips, huge torrents of water and rock carved through this
limestone and, over a period of tens of thousands of years,
created the gorge.
And I must say, it's absolutely magnificent.
It may look wild and unruly, but, like much of our countryside,
it's very carefully managed.
Ian Clemmett is the head ranger for the National Trust here,
who own and manage this half of the gorge.
What are we taking down here, Ian?
Well, we're just getting down
some growth that we don't want to see here.
What we're trying to do is open out the area and allow light to get
back in, allow the grassland that's already here to flourish.
What are your star species here?
The star species, I suppose,
probably most people know about is the Cheddar pink.
It's a very, very small carnation. It is pretty much local to here.
If it gets too much shade, it will die out, you would lose it.
It's a challenging site, this, isn't it? And in the middle of winter.
It is, yes, we need to come out here at this time of year.
Obviously, through the summer, there will be sap in the trees,
it will be physically harder for us to cut and also, of course, we'll
have birds nesting, we'll have the plants growing,
we don't want to be scrunching everything up and causing damage.
There's plenty of help in the fight against the ever-encroaching scrub.
From the traditional two-legged volunteer
to the four-legged wild variety.
We've got some feral sheep and we've got some feral goats.
The goats were introduced in about mid-2000s by Longleat,
on the other side of the Gorge here,
to keep the scrub under control.
And the feral Soay sheep, back in 1991,
left on a roadside, there were just eight of them
back in those days, but they have done remarkably well.
We know they do take off the bark of some of the trees, but,
to be honest, all added up, on balance, it is the best thing.
Everything is going in exactly the right direction, in fact.
The next job is beyond the reach of even four legs...
but we've hit a snag.
Now, the director had the idea of dangling me 400 feet off
the top of the gorge, but this morning an enormous storm blew in
with 50mph gusts of wind and torrential rain,
so that put paid to that idea.
But undeterred, for you, the Countryfile viewer, we're carrying
on regardless and I'm now being sent just 100 foot up the gorge.
Still not a walk in the park.
'I'm off to join Rob Tucker,
'the man in charge of this part of the operation.' Hey, Rob.
-Hi, Ellie, how are you?
-What are you doing, just hanging around here?
So this doesn't look like there's much vegetation to clear on
that sheer rock face. What is the aim of the game?
Well, primarily here, we're looking at any vegetation that's pushing
off any rocks, so looking for vegetation,
looking for gaps in the rocks, and anything loose, we'll take it off.
So this isn't so much about conservation,
it's more about safety.
More about safety, exactly.
Falling rocks are a real hazard to the general public, so Rob and
his team do this work in winter when there are far fewer tourists around.
'Seems to me the weather is more of a problem today.'
-I'm going to be quite slow, is that all right?
-Slow is good.
-Fine by me. Slow and steady wins the race.
Safety doesn't take a holiday.
That's a good one, good one.
-I feel like I'm sort of holding on for dear life.
-I can't really do this.
-Yeah, you can.
-I can't, I can't.
-I can't, I can't, I can't.
-Let go. I want to give you some confidence, let go.
Hand on your head, hands on your head!
-Thank you very much.
It's perilously wet.
The rain is belting down. Easy to lose your grip.
But after catching my breath, it's on with the work.
Wow! It sounded like a gunshot as it went down there.
You can see how important it is to get these things off.
There's loads of them going! So what are you looking for?
You're kind of looking for natural break lines, areas of erosion,
areas of plant invasion,
liquid in the sap in the roots just getting bigger and growing
that has made the rock loose.
Here's a perfect example of that.
Look, it's only a little piece there,
it's got that soil behind it and then there's the responsible plant,
little, tiny, tiny thing, look, just as small as that.
Soil all behind it and it's prized that piece loose.
Enough of the small stones, I'm after the big stuff.
What's the biggest rock you've ever taken off?
I did one in a quarry quite near here and it was probably
-the size of a Mini.
We had to use a big bar to do it but it was just teetering right
on the edge.
-There's one, Ellie, one for you.
Oh, it's big, that's quite big.
Just make sure no-one's down below us and off it goes.
See the size of that? See you later.
Nice. Here's a biggie. Look out below.
Oh, it's heavy, too.
-You've got some, Ellie.
-Get it out.
-You're an expert.
-It's been there one-and-a-half million years.
And I come along with my crowbar and it's all over.
Cheddar Gorge may have been shaped by Mother Nature, but it's
a team effort to keep it a safe and special place to visit.
From sky-high specialists, dedicated volunteers,
even an army of four-legged helpers,
Cheddar Gorge is in good hands...
Now, few people understand the devastation of rural flooding
quite like those here in Somerset.
But now that we're all paying to protect the homes at risk,
could the money be better spent? Here's Tom.
Britain faces a recurring battle.
Pictures like this seem ever more common.
Roads turned into rivers, homes destroyed,
land lost to the floodwaters.
'Each time the waters recede, thoughts turn to solutions.
'Countryfile has looked at plenty of ways to prevent it, from
holding back water in the uplands...'
-I'm actually helping if I throw this in, am I?
-Yeah. Be my guest.
'..to flood defences and dredging rivers downstream.'
But here at the Building Research Establishment in Hertfordshire,
there's a solution I haven't seen before...
Fighting floods on your own doorstep.
Guess what? Heavy rain's forecast.
This house is designed from the ground up to take a battering and
it could benefit you whether you live in a flood-risk area or not.
Since last year, the insurance industry has been paying a levy to
make insurance more affordable for those who live in high-risk areas.
The levy is the equivalent of everyone who
has homes and contents insurance paying around £10.50.
That £10.50 means dry houses are subsidising wet ones.
So it's down to the reason it could save us all money if
flood-prone houses are better protected.
So what's special about this house?
It's a normal, mid-terraced Victorian house
but it can resist two foot of water
on the outside and also deal with flooding on the inside.
The idea is that you can clean it up and dry it out and be back in
in a matter of days, rather than months.
And all at a much lower cost.
Waiting for me inside are two champions of this brand-new concept.
Dr Peter Bonfield is a top engineer and Emma Howard Boyd is
head of the Environment Agency.
They're part of a team that has developed
a flood-resilience action plan and delivered it to the Government.
Peter, why are you so keen on this kind of work?
Well, I found, Tom, that one in six buildings now across our country is
at risk of flooding. That's homes,
businesses, schools and other properties.
What's the current state of our homes at the moment?
Well, some are in good shape but nowhere near enough, and we've
got to really make resistance to water coming through the wall
and through the doors during flooding much more commonplace and
if water does get in, we've got to
make it much simpler and much quicker for
people to get back on their feet and back in their homes and businesses.
Emma, you're from the Environment Agency and people associate
your organisation with the big stuff, the sea walls and
the flood barriers. Why are you interested in people's homes?
There are going to be times where there is some flooding that
will take place in communities and everybody has to look at
taking some responsibility for living in a flood-risk area.
Is this of particular relevance to people who live in rural areas?
Our funding for flood defences is based on the number of houses
that we can protect.
So if you're living in an isolated community and you are living at
flood risk, I think it's really important that you take some
responsibility for making sure that your house is resilient.
Seeing is believing, so time for a tour.
The flooring actually is a wood effect,
it's ceramic tile, and what's important is,
underneath the floor, and if you go down, right at the bottom,
there's this material and that's actually a membrane that goes
right at the bottom and that stops water coming up through the floor.
Then we wrap a membrane around the wall here, up to about
this level, and again that stops water coming into the home.
'The kitchen units are waterproof and the oven and fridge are
'high up out of harm's way.
'So are all the plug sockets.'
Now, I have to ask about the elephant in the room,
or in this case a little bit of sanitary ware in the room.
-I take it this is for demonstration purposes.
So what's cunning about this loo?
The valve acts like a one-way cat flap.
Material can go out of it but it can't come back in.
One of the nasty things in flooding is horrible things from the sewers
-come up from your toilet, but they wouldn't with that in place.
Does all this cost a lot of money?
To assume that all this costs more is not correct.
And, anyway, if you look at the overall costs of having to
re-repair buildings again and again and again,
then taking this seriously and making this more commonplace
ultimately is going to reduce costs.
Much of what I've seen in there seems like common sense, so how come
only 25,000 homes nationwide have these kind of measures in place?
Especially when you consider there are 400,000 homes at
the highest risk of flooding.
To find out what barriers there might be to Peter's ideas,
I've come to the Somerset Levels.
This rural area hit the headlines during the floods of 2014.
Hundreds of homes flooded and many had to be evacuated.
The flood danger is imminent. Evacuate to north of the coast.
Bryony Sadler is no stranger to television cameras.
Her heartbreak conveyed the despair of
a community to an entire nation.
That's it, we've officially lost it all.
Three years on,
life is back to normal after an insurance claim of almost £300,000.
It looks absolutely beautiful now but what was this room like
-shortly after the flood?
Every room in the house was completely stripped back.
It was nine months before Bryony and her family could come home.
The house was repaired and restored, along with wooden floors and
carpets, things which are not resilient to flooding.
I'm quite surprised by that, because, you know,
you're in the Somerset Levels,
it flooded badly then and I think it has flooded before, hasn't it?
-Not to the extent.
This house was built in 1892 and it's never had
a drop of water in it in all those years.
We could have put loads of resilient measures in, but you just
don't need it on the Somerset Levels because it shouldn't happen again.
-It shouldn't, but it might.
-No, never! Not in my lifetime.
Bryony is confident because she decided to tackle flooding
on a much bigger scale -
fighting a determined and successful
campaign to get the local rivers dredged.
There's now a long-term plan for managing Somerset's rivers
but even if she did think her home was at risk,
making it flood resilient isn't that simple.
We could have had a plastic kitchen, you know,
you could have gone to those kind of measures,
we could have put a stone floor down, but that's not what we had.
You know, the insurance company would only pay for the things
that we had, so you have to have like-for-like.
I can see why flood resilience is not a quick fix.
Flood victims face financial and emotional obstacles.
The uncomfortable truth is that we're likely to see more
extreme weather and, though Bryony is confident, it could happen again.
And if people won't defend their property and insurance
companies keep paying out for the resulting damage,
all our premiums could go up.
So should we be doing more to encourage people to defend
their own homes?
That's what I'll be finding out later.
The verdant dells and pastures, carpeted with lush grasses.
These Somerset fields are at the heart of something very special.
And it's all to do with these beauties - Guernsey cattle.
Now, you don't often see huge herds of brown and white Guernseys
in the UK. In fact, there's only 80 herds on the mainland
but they have been the heart of this particular farm for decades.
And Perridge Farm near the Somerset village of Pilton is doubly special.
It's run by Judith Freane and her husband, Clive, and is home to
an organic Guernsey herd, one of only a handful in the whole country.
And even though Judith grew up on a farm,
she never planned on becoming a farmer.
I went off at 18 to become a nurse in London and then I
travelled across to Australia
because my mother was Australian, so I went to see all the family.
Then a few months later, I went to Magnetic Island off the coast
of Townsville and I met Clive.
-Who is now your husband.
-Who is now my husband.
And was he into farming then?
He'd gone to agricultural college and trained to be
a farmer and then my parents rang
to say they were potentially going to sell
the dairy herd and I thought, "Oh, I wonder if they'll give me a go."
So nursing, then, was put on the back burner completely?
It was put on the back burner.
Did they run Guernsey cows at the time?
They did, they had a lovely herd of 40 at the time.
You're continuing the line, then, of those early Guernseys.
Yes, and we breed cows that are quite small because we want
them to live for a long time. That's our basis.
So they don't produce as much milk as most cows, but they're
a low yielding but low input system.
And as far as the organic idea, I guess back in the day, your
parents ran it in quite an organic system, without even realising it.
They did, yeah!
Do you know what my dad said when we started our conversion?
-He said, "Farming always goes full circle."
And he's absolutely right.
And how beautiful the Guernsey herd are as well.
Just as a temperament as well,
they're so agreeable and they've got such a wonderful way about them.
-They're very relaxed, very laid-back.
'Milk is the mainstay of Judith and Clive's business and I'll be
'sampling some of their prize-winning yoghurts later on.
'These Guernseys are shaking things up in other ways.'
Now, as part of the dairy system, in order for the cows to be
providing milk, they need to give birth.
Now, the female calves are reared and would go back into
the milking herd but, in making the most of the male calves,
Judith and Clive made an interesting discovery.
In the dairy industry, male calves often have little value,
their meat deemed less suitable for beef production,
but Clive found this wasn't the case with Guernseys.
We had a Guernsey steer that was three years old,
so quite a large animal.
We were offered £200 for it, not a lot of money, and we decided
that we would have the animal killed and butchered ourselves.
We gave away or sold to friends and neighbours and, within weeks,
people were ringing up asking for more meat.
And we entered the Organic Food Awards in 2001 with
a joint of beef and, lo and behold, we won.
This is a piece of meat that's up against other beef breeds,
we're not talking about dairy breeds here?
No, this is any organic beef from the UK.
One of the judges was absolutely staggered that we could
produce such good-quality beef from a dairy breed.
It must give you so much pleasure to know that you've kind of struck
gold with the system that you run now.
-It was a tremendous feather in our cap.
And bearing in mind that the whole point of this was never to
try and produce beef.
No, it's a by-product of the dairy industry.
So just what is it that makes this beef taste so special?
The farm's on-site butcher, Jason Morgan, is going to tell me.
The colour, it's just absolutely beautiful.
Vibrant red and interestingly, the fat is quite creamy, isn't it?
-Yeah, yeah, very creamy, nice and yellow colour.
And the marbling on there. I guess, from your perspective,
that's what giving it the flavour, yeah?
Yeah, yeah, it's sweeter, just got a stronger flavour.
And it's all happening on site as well,
so you're very aware of what these cows are eating,
-the environment that they're coming from.
-Yeah. The animal welfare,
which is a big factor.
Organic, grass-fed, it all makes a massive difference.
Well, I've seen how the beef is reared, I've seen it cut up,
but obviously the only way to really sample it is to taste this,
and I think Judith is here with some beautifully cut burger.
Oh, it's lovely. That is beautiful.
And it's a very deep flavour but it's really light at the same time.
-Give us a bit, then.
-Here you are, try a little bit, yeah.
-Mm, good day's work.
'And the quality doesn't end here because later I'll get to
'sample the prize-winning yoghurts and I'm told I'm in for a surprise.'
Now, it's time for our winter warmer.
Late last summer, we asked some well-known faces, from DJs to
-It's a seal. False alarm, everyone, it was a seal.
..chefs to singers...
# My old man said follow the van. #
..which part of our magnificent countryside was special to them.
This week, comedian and former teacher Romesh Ranganathan
shares his discovery of the joys of an active country life.
To be honest, I had very minimal
experience of the countryside growing up.
It wasn't something that my family were particularly interested in.
I mean, I grew up in Crawley.
The first time I came to Devon was about ten years ago.
I just thought it was sort of really picturesque and beautiful in
a way that I hadn't sort of seen before.
You're sort of stood up here,
you're looking around, you're seeing sort of outstanding
natural beauty and you're thinking,
"This is really peaceful and lovely...
"except for the fact that I'm here with a massive group of teenagers."
I was a maths teacher at Hazelwick School,
but I also ended up becoming the head of sixth form
and part of the programme of events for the sixth formers was,
at the end of the their first year of A-level,
getting involved in activities they wouldn't normally get involved in.
Anything from mountain biking to rock climbing
to walking across the Moors.
We're at Dartmoor National Park.
This is where we used to bring the sixth formers.
And we'd do, like, a big circuit, basically, we'd come here,
look out, the kids would have been moaning almost incessantly
the whole way up here and then what was really nice here is,
you'd sit here and you'd look out and you'd say to the kids,
"Look at that, it's amazing, isn't it? Isn't it beautiful?
"You don't see that very often," and then they'd say,
"Do you mean to tell me that we're only halfway through the walk?"
So I had to pretend that this was the sort of thing I was
into doing on the school trip because I don't want them to
think that I'm being cynical as well. So I was like,
"Yeah, come on!"
But I didn't know if I was going to like it or not.
When, actually, I'm thinking, "Oh, this is actually really nice,"
but I can't go through that journey in front of them because then
they think, "I thought you said this is something you do all the time."
So I just had to pretend. I was like, "Yeah."
So it is quite nice to actually be able to come back and just
take it all in again.
I want to have a go at kayaking...
without a bunch of students laughing and pointing.
I don't think that's too much to ask.
So I'm going to Ansteys Cove
to meet Ash Hone, who is an outdoor adventure specialist.
-Hey, Romesh, how are you, mate?
-Hi, man, how are you doing?
-You all right?
-Good to see you.
-Nice to meet you.
I mean, I'm getting memories now because this is exactly
the spot where I used to come with the sixth formers.
OK. Fond memories?
Erm... Yeah, I mean, the kids were quite harsh because of my...
You know, a member of staff making a mistake is hilarious to a student.
The problem I faced was, I didn't realise how difficult
I'd find it to get into the kayak. I stumbled and I fell into the water.
And then it became very difficult for the children to focus on
the experience because Rangas had fallen into the sea.
How easy is it to fall in?
If you stay in the central line of the boat and just sit still,
you'll be fine.
-Legs in. Make sure you get right back in that seat.
-OK, I'm in.
-Let me just come this side.
-Yes, I'm in, mate!
I think I'm doing good. You know, I got in the boat.
-Really excited about that.
-I think you've got a lot of potential.
But I still am contending with my lack of ability, though.
Last time I came here, I didn't actually look at this,
cos I was so busy being in charge of a trip.
But, you know, this is amazing, right? What are we looking at here?
This is a big chunk of Devonian limestone.
From the period of history, prehistory,
called the Devonian period. So it's 350 million years old.
It was once a warm coral reef somewhere down near the equator.
-So Devon's got a period named after it?
Is there a Cornwallian?
No, there isn't, that's one thing we've got over the...
-Yeah, you should rub that in their faces.
-Yeah, we should do.
Whoa! What's this through here?
The sea created this little natural gully.
-How far can we go in here, then?
-Let's have a practice, shall we?
Seems like a good way to find out.
-Nice. And join me as we paddle out.
-What would you give that out of ten?
-Take your paddle with you.
-Take it with me?
-OK, well done, mate.
-Sorry, yeah, thank you.
-Thanks very much.
-Congratulations, made it.
-Yeah, I feel good.
-Now on to the next part of our journey.
What is that? Just have a beer or something?
One of the sort of more extreme activities that we got
involved in on the trip was coasteering.
You have to sort of jump into the water and then come up
through this sort of gap in the rocks.
And all the kids made it through and then I jumped into the water,
went through the gap and I became stuck.
So make your way up here and we're going to do a deep-water entry.
All right? Let's give it a go.
You're sort of negotiating tricky terrain.
You're making your way through.
Three, two, one, go.
OK, thumbs up, Rom. Nice one, mate.
You sort of feel like a bit of an action hero, really.
It's about exploring, really.
We're going to head into an old sea cave that's had the roof blown off.
Now what I'm hoping is, without the pressure of being a teacher on
a school trip, I'm going to do this, I'm going to step up to
the challenge and I'm really going to show what I can do.
So we're going to step across the top of these boulders here, OK?
I'm going to go first.
Take your time, mate.
And a big step over.
All right, well done, buddy. Cool.
Oh, now, this is coasteering, mate.
Oh, come on. Like...
Oh, my God, dude.
When we did this with the kids, they did a jump but nowhere near
as high as this, and I lied and said that I couldn't do it because
of insurance and that I was one of the supervisors.
-Right, OK. You'll be absolutely fine.
-Let's do it.
-Put your hand on my shoulder.
-OK. It looks like...
Am I not going to hit that rock there?
No, you're going to be super fine.
-Is it normal to be scared?
Three, two, one, go.
-Nice one, mate.
I actually really... I did properly get into it.
You know, doing the jumps and everything like that,
I properly enjoyed it, it was really nice.
You know, as much as I sort of complain about the kids and
stuff, I look back on my last time here with fondness,
it was enjoyable to run the trip, it was enjoyable to see those
students going through that and it was actually enjoyable as
well, for me, doing those things for the first time myself.
So I do have really warm memories from my time here.
MATT: Earlier, Tom was given a sneak preview inside an
ordinary-looking house with special powers.
It can defend itself against a flood.
TOM: A flooded house normally means a ruined house. Not this one.
It's built to take a torrent.
And even if the water does get in,
it's not a disaster because it can drain away easily.
It's the difference between a minor inconvenience and a serious trauma.
But take-up around the country of these so-called
flood-resistance and resilience measures is slow.
Most flood victims claim on the insurance and put their house
back exactly how it was before.
But should that change?
'Angus Stevens is a loss adjuster who works on the front line
'in rural areas, like here on the Somerset Levels.'
Given that we are on the Levels, maybe it would be good to get
some height to look down on what's happening at the moment.
-It could be even gustier up there.
-I think it will be.
In his 20-year career, he's seen the effect of floods, fire and storms.
His job is to evaluate the damage to a property on behalf of
After a flood, wouldn't it make sense for the insurers to
incentivise the property to be rebuilt in a flood-resilient
and resistant way rather than just putting it back to how it was?
That's what the Government would like to see and insurers
would like to see because that would assist in speeding people
getting back into their house.
I think the challenge that you will get and that we tend to see
out in the field is that people's houses are their homes and
they do not necessarily want to see plastic architraves,
cables hanging down the walls from sockets.
It's what people want to live in,
it's their daily environment and it's very easy for other people to
look at that and think, "Well, that's what we'd like to do,"
but until you're actually in that position, it's hard to face that.
If people won't do it for themselves,
then should insurers make sure the repair work is flood proof?
The main principle behind insurance is to ensure that you put
the policyholder back into the same position they were in
prior to the claim.
The policy isn't there to pay for improvements,
general maintenance or undamaged areas.
Of course, we're all paying now because, under the recent scheme,
all householders help to subsidise the insurers of those at flood risk.
Certainly, and I think different parts of the country are
always going to be affected by different sorts of perils,
whether it's sort of storm surges on the East Coast,
whether it's gales and storms in Scotland and the North West,
so I think to say, "Well, because you live in
"a flood prevalent area and therefore, you know, you're not
"going to have insurance or you're going to have a higher premium,"
Flood resilience is such a new idea, your insurance policy doesn't really
recognise it yet, so you won't get a discount on your premium.
It needs to prove what it can do first.
And that's something our demonstration house in Hertfordshire
could help with.
It's an unusual job for the local fire service - they've
agreed to help us flood a terraced house.
I've invited Bryony Saddler along,
who understands more than most the misery caused by flooding.
Her home on the Somerset Levels was destroyed in 2014,
so asking her to deliberately let water into
a perfectly good home goes against her every instinct.
Doesn't sound good, does it?
Spent all this time trying to keep the water out.
Well, there's a wall of water behind that door and I'm going
to get you to open it any minute.
'The door is holding up pretty well.
'That's a lot of weight bearing down on it.'
Go on. Whoa!
It's really scary having to let water in,
it's just completely not what you're meant to do - is it? - in a home.
Really interesting to see how it all kind of spreads out and goes
down the right channels that it's meant to do.
-What do you think about these kind of measures?
For the right houses that have flash flooding, those kind of floods.
But it's a really great example to see what actually can be done
to prevent this in the future.
Because normally this would be a disaster, whereas here it's
an inconvenience, isn't it?
Yeah, clean it and a couple of days,
not the nine months that we were out.
And this house can still take a lot more water yet.
Let's see if we can get the firefighters
to squirt a bit more in.
Oh, fancy seeing you here! Bring a bit more in.
Most of us love our homes the way they are and are reluctant to
change them, but surely if you live in an area of high flood risk,
these alterations are a win-win.
More peace of mind for you and hopefully lower insurance bills
for all of us.
'Farming is big business.
'Across the UK last year, we farmed a staggering 10 million cattle.
'That's a lot of beasts to look after.
'Farmers couldn't do their jobs without the vets who work to
'keep their animals healthy.
'Sadly, though, things don't always go to plan,
'and there are some scenes in Adam's film that you might find upsetting.'
I have a huge amount of respect for our farm vets.
It takes at least five years to train and qualify and then
they can be on call all day and night and have to turn out in some
horrible weather conditions, often to some very stressful situations.
I'm following vets from a large veterinary practice in
15 out of the 39 vets work on farms,
supporting farmers with animal welfare day in, day out.
And I'm heading to a farm where two vets are busy trimming the feet
of cattle, a routine procedure which means getting their hands dirty.
Something vets Beatrice Yates and Sarah Metcalfe know only too well.
So, is this an important part of looking after dairy cows?
Yeah, really important.
So obviously, lame cows is a welfare issue,
so just for the welfare of the animals, you want them to be sound.
And what are you looking for in the foot, then,
that might cause the lameness?
So, you can tell, this foot is quite overgrown and also these
heels have obviously got sort of overgrown tissue on them,
which can harbour bacteria and dirt, which then can set up infection.
So what's Sarah doing there, then, Bea?
So, she's modelling out the outside claw and then she'll do
the same on the inside claw, so you can see a before and after here.
And this is one of the points where cows are very likely to go lame.
They have a lot of pressure coming down through that point and it's
a very common place for bruising and it can lead to an ulcer in
the sensitive part of the foot, which is really, really painful.
And then what she'll do is she'll clear up all the bits that are
dirty and have got bits of mud and things stuck in them and then
we'll look for, like, tracks of infection or abscesses or
anything like that, which are the common things that we would find.
We both do a lot of foot trimming now within the practice and
really enjoy it. Satisfying work.
Yeah, it's really rewarding if you get them right,
when they've been lame.
Another happy patient that's ready to return to the herd.
She looks like she's walking better already.
Before I get to see the next cow treated,
an emergency is called in, a calving, which is far from routine.
It's a short drive to the farm.
Hi, gents. All looks pretty intense.
Yes. We just had a breached calving, so the calf is coming backwards.
Vet Will Somerville from the Malmesbury practice is already hard
Calves should be born two front feet and nose first, diving out forwards.
That's the most streamlined position for a calf to be born,
but this one is backwards.
So the vet could feel its tail and its back legs were tucked under
itself and he's managed to get his hands in front of those and
pull the back legs, so now it's lying in a position that it can
come out backwards and then they put on what's called a calving jack.
It's this mechanism that just slowly eases the calf out.
It looks a little bit brutal but, actually, it's a very good way
of pulling the calf out so that it doesn't get stuck at any time.
The calf won't budge.
There could be complications, so Will has to think on his feet.
So what's the plan, then, Will?
We're going to have to do
a Caesarean because if we carry on pulling...
The cervix is not opening as we are
doing it and we're going to tear her.
And can you give her some drugs to dilate the cervix?
You can put some tablets in there but I have never found them
to work that well, so actually it is generally, if the cervix isn't
opening, we're going to have to do a Caesarean.
Caesareans aren't common practice across the industry.
Most calves are delivered without complication.
I've only ever seen one before.
Obviously a vet on call needs to be totally prepared,
so Will here has got all this gear in the back of his car.
He came out for what could have been a reasonably simple calving,
it's now turned into a Caesarean, so it's a major operation,
so he's got all the kit with him, this is now a surgery procedure
and this is where his expertise really comes into play.
A farmer wouldn't be able to do a Caesarean on a cow.
Will injects the cow with some pain relief and antibiotics.
Incredibly, the procedure will be done while the cow is standing up.
So the calf will come out of the side of the cow here and
the room in the gut is on one side,
the womb is on the left-hand side here,
so the vet will shave the hair and then make an incision through
the skin and then into the womb and then pull the calf out.
I make it sound easy.
Next, the site of the incision needs to be prepared.
Will starts by washing her with antiseptic and then gives
the area a shave for a clean surface.
He then injects her with a local anaesthetic.
I've got the shakes but I'll say it's because I'm cold.
Do you feel the pressure?
-I am now as someone's got a camera on me, yes.
-She's being very good.
She's being very good.
Tricky things about this one will be that the calf isn't coming
in the normal direction forwards,
so it might be that we have to cut the uterus inside the cow as I
haven't got the back legs to help me lever the uterus out of the abdomen.
It may be a cold winter's day but Will's stripping off to put on
a surgical gown as he also needs to be as sterile as possible.
The vet is now cutting with a scalpel through the skin of the cow.
And through the muscle.
She's obviously still having contractions,
so heaving her belly out, which is making it more difficult.
You have to be very careful as well
because you've got three muscle layers.
And then the rumen is very close to where we're going here,
so if you go too far, the surface of the rumen can sometimes seem like
an extra muscle layer and if you cut into the rumen that is bad news.
-That ingress of gas is good.
That means we're into the peritoneum, into the abdomen.
The peritoneum is the gap between the muscle wall and the womb.
SQUELCHING So that's the air coming out now.
Oh, good girl.
So it's coming upside down.
They've got to try and get the head out at the same time but
the head keeps flopping back and then getting stuck, so Will's just
grabbing the head to put it up and then, with a bit of assistance...
It's a huge effort.
Any signs of life? Nothing there.
-Any sign of life?
-No, dead cow.
So the calf, unfortunately,
it is dead and you can see why it couldn't come out.
It's got a massive great backend.
It was sitting with his legs under itself and managed to get
the legs back, they just wouldn't come, which is why
he had to go for a Caesarean but unfortunately we've lost the calf.
The important thing now is to save the cow and get this cow
stitched up and safe and comfortable.
It's quite important at this stage that we want to try and get
an airtight seal in the muscle layers because when we opened
her up and there was that ingress of gas into the peritoneum,
there is still a lot of gas in there
and that needs to be absorbed and what we don't want
is it to start coming through the muscle layers and
coming under the skin because then we can get
a lot of emphysema under the skin in this area,
which can predispose them to a bit of infection there.
-Do you enjoy this?
-Yeah. No, it's...
It's a shame when it's a dead calf but I do find that emergency
work like this is very rewarding.
You do feel at the end of it that you've done something...
-Yeah, you can make a difference.
Is your adrenaline slowing down a bit now?
Yeah, a little bit, the shaking is now less due to
the adrenaline and more due to the cold, I have to say.
The cow will now be kept in
isolation where she will be constantly monitored
and hopefully make a full recovery.
In modern-day agriculture, the health and welfare of our
animals is absolutely essential and, as farmers, we rely on vets
for advice and consultancy but it's also very reassuring to know
that they're there day or night in the event of a crisis.
Many a childhood memory harks back to long days playing outdoors.
Adventures at every turn.
Running through woodland and scrambling up trees without
a care in the world.
And just maybe you were lucky enough to have a treehouse.
The treehouses I remember were pretty basic affairs.
Tucked away out of sight in the woods,
a place with a rope swing and somewhere to make
a mean mud pie but this model is anything but child's play.
There's cosy heating, a fully fitted kitchen,
electricity at the flick of a switch. 'And not forgetting...'
It's 20 feet off the ground!
It's a novelty, for sure, but could you really live here?
Simon Parfitt thinks so.
He's a man on a mission to get us living in trees.
-How you doing? You all right? Good to meet you.
'Simon is an architect who specialises in eco builds.'
What's the appeal of treehouses for adults?
Oh, my goodness. It's the sense of wonderment, the sense of adventure,
being a little boy again. I mean,
I was lucky enough to grow up in the Peak District,
-I'm a real country boy...
Basically I spent my entire time building dens, building treehouses.
It's an incredible spot here, lots and lots of trees around and this
is sort of the main tree with the house. Does it damage the tree?
No, no, I mean, it's really important to us,
this is what it's all about.
A lot of thought and design goes into making sure these trees
are not damaged in any way.
The principal thing for us is we don't attach to the tree,
we stilt the building around the tree.
I've had a little look round your treehouse already
but I feel like I could do with a guided tour and you can
convince me of treehouses for adults.
Come on, then, let's go on to look.
Simon's big on recycling.
He uses reclaimed materials to create these bespoke features.
Even, for example, the doors and windows in here are bought
second-hand off the internet from a house that was going to be
crushed up and I was like,
"Well, they're great windows, let's put them in something."
The ultimate in recycling, that, isn't it?
'Even so, these treehouses aren't cheap.
'Prices start at a cool 150 grand and you've got to provide the land.'
This place is absolutely incredible but isn't it just
a plaything for rich people?
Well, it is a plaything, that's the whole point.
To bring people here, to get them experiencing, living closer to
nature, high up in the canopy where you get a different experience.
And to get them engaged with this kind of small space,
how you can live differently, how you can use materials differently.
It takes around four months to build one of these treehouses for
I'm heading to Simon's workshop in the little town of Bruton
where the adventure begins.
Whilst it's hands-on in the yard,
inside Simon uses the very latest hi-tech software to finish the job.
This is a good way to show you because I've got
a physical model of it on the computer.
So we're standing in the main compartment, we have the main
way up, through tri-folding doors,
we've just come off the deck behind us.
Behind the kitchen is a little bathroom and the stairs climbing up
to a separate, again, piece of the treehouse which goes up and
under a branch, which has got a bedroom and a bath in it.
What's your ambition for the treehouses in the future?
Do you hope that more people will be living in treehouses?
I think it's nice to give people the chance to experience this
kind of space.
It's not just simply about living in a treehouse,
it's about living in a small space, using space differently,
utilising natural materials. That's where my realistic ambition is.
And do you ever reflect on the fact that you were a child making dens,
and here you are all these years on making professional treehouses?
Yeah, yeah, no, I mean, it does make a lot of sense.
It's like the university of life.
-Perhaps could have dispensed with a few years at...
Prepared you well.
If you think about it, we all have a connection to the trees.
It goes way back to our ancestors.
Maybe Simon is unlocking our
deep-rooted connection to the canopy.
And maybe the children were onto something all along.
I'm in Somerset, visiting Perridge Farm near Pilton.
They do things a bit differently here.
For farmers Judith and Clive Freane,
home is where the herd is and their herd of 100 Guernsey cattle
have been winning praise and prizes for the past 16 years.
Well, we've already heard how their Guernsey beef has been a surprise
hit but it's their yoghurt that has really put this place on the map.
And they tell me that I will never have tasted anything quite like it.
What started out on the kitchen range has become a full-blown
hi-tech operation but the yoghurt is still made to
exactly the same recipe.
When did yoghurt become such a big part of the business?
Is this something that your mum and dad did back in the day?
-So whose idea was it?
-It was my idea.
The milk price collapsed, there was an awful lot of farmers who
decided to convert to organic and there was a surplus of organic
milk, so as a small herd of only 100 cows, I knew that we had to
do something with the milk to make it a profitable enterprise again.
I thought, "I'll try yoghurt."
We started doing 48 litres a week and we are now doing 4,000.
To produce all this yoghurt takes a lot of milk and work starts
early, 365 days a year.
The Guernseys produce a total of 700 litres every day and there's
no hanging about.
Every morning, the still-warm milk is pumped straight from
the parlour to the production line through a series of polythene pipes.
First, the raw milk is pasteurised.
Once in these big vats,
it's then heat treated to kill off any potentially harmful bacteria.
When the milk is cool enough,
good bacteria is added and fermentation begins.
It's this process that turns the milk into yoghurt.
'So far, so familiar.'
The consistency is beautiful.
How many pots of yoghurt are you making a week now?
About 15,000 units a week.
At who's in charge of the different flavours, then?
-Whose ideas are those?
-I'm afraid they're mine.
They're yours, are they?
Wonderful. And where do you get your inspiration from?
I just have to think up new things that we can use and then see if
there's actually a viable product.
And here's where it gets a bit unconventional.
For, alongside regulars like butterscotch,
strawberry and vanilla,
Judith's been experimenting with
some - shall we say "unusual"? - flavours.
OK, we're going to play a game.
Ellie and I have agreed to be guinea pigs for a taste test like no other.
-One, two, three.
-Down the hatch.
-Beetroot! Of course it is, beetroot!
-Is it beetroot?
-Well done, that's one to you.
-I'm a big fan of beetroot.
-I knew it was a root vegetable.
-OK, random number two.
-Down the hatch.
-OK, one, two, three.
I thought I could get carrot but I'm going to go with parsnip.
-Carrot and turmeric.
-Oh, you're good, you're good!
-OK, the really, truly random one.
I thought it had a tang to it, almost like a lemon and garlicky.
-Nut, is it nutty? It's nut, isn't it?
-Grows in the sea.
-Yeah, no, I'm getting that.
Seaweed flavour! Good for your health.
Oh, my word, that is a great game.
-You've got to supply a blindfold with every jar.
-I'll try, I'll try.
That's all we've got time for this week.
Next week we're going to be on the Isle of Man,
-where I'll be trying out the oldest horse-drawn tram.
And I'll be exploring a part of the island's enchanting history,
-so we'll see you there.
-Right, what are you going to go in for?
Beetroot for me.
Yeah, I need to nail this seaweed and work out why I didn't
quite grasp it. There we go.
It is the time of year when the Cheddar Gorge has its annual clean-up, but Ellie hadn't reckoned with dangling from a rope to do it. She is abseiling with a team from the National Trust, high up on the cliffs, making sure there are no loose rocks that could fall on the public. Back on terra firma she helps the volunteers clear back the undergrowth and hears how rare Soay sheep do their bit too. She also meets a carpenter and ecobuilder who is on a mission to get everyone living in trees.
Matt visits one of the only organic herds of Guernsey cattle in England and discovers that, although these are dairy animals, the beef they produce is pretty special. Their milk is used to produce yoghurt, but not the kind Matt is used to. He dons a blindfold for a taste test to see if he can guess the far-out flavours.
Adam is on call with the farm vets, ready at a moment's notice to deal with any emergency. And, as the environment agency says it cannot protect everyone at risk from flooding, Tom Heap asks if people in rural areas should be more self-reliant.