Episode 4 Home Ground


Episode 4

Magazine celebrating rural life in Northern Ireland. Gavin Andrews meets an award-winning beef farmer to learn what it takes to produce high-quality beef for the supermarkets.


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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Home Ground,

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the show bringing you a real taste

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of all things rural

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in Northern Ireland.

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Yes, tonight Gavin and I bring you

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the pick of the crop.

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We've been digging beneath the surface to bring you some

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great stories from around the countryside.

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Here's what's coming up on tonight's programme.

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Ruth finds out about farming for adults with learning difficulties

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and how the future of one important scheme might be in doubt.

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We delve into the world of taxidermy and meat the Dutch woman

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using it to bring nature back to life.

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And I get the Lycra and trainers on to find out about sport

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and our archaeological past.

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This site was built on purpose by a local community so what we're doing

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here today is actually pretty appropriate.

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But first, think of spring, and lambs jumping around the fields

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are probably somewhere in that picture.

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But they aren't the only new arrivals on our farms.

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I'm here in Kircubbin to lend a hand with this year's calving.

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There isn't much Sam Chesney doesn't know about beef.

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He supplies the leading supermarkets here but to get to that point,

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he needs this time of year to go according to plan.

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Over a ten-week period, he expects 150 new calves on the farm.

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Sam, how busy a time is this for you at the minute?

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Busiest time of the year, Gavin.

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You've just come in time because

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we have lots of cows calving,

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the sheep have all finished

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and we're still waiting on

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these ladies to calve now.

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Like any expectant father,

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you're not getting much sleep, I'm sure?

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No, we don't really sleep too much this time of year.

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We calve for about ten weeks in a batch and it's all day, all night -

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nine o'clock, half two, six o'clock.

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And whenever it happens, it happens, but you have to be here on call.

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And you've coordinated it all that happens at the one time?

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Is that just for handiness's sake for you?

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It's for everything, it's for labour, handiness.

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When you are on the ball all the time,

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you have less losses, and it is easier to feed

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a batch of calves that are all the same size and the same age.

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You can appropriately tailor your market for those animals

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going forward in 16 months' time.

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And this whole set-up here,

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-it's almost like a maternity ward, isn't it?

-Exactly.

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We have cows in other houses and as it comes to calving,

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we bring them into these straw pens...big, large pens.

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We group them about nine or ten to a pen

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so there's plenty of room to relax

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and, you know, come forward to calving,

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their udders develop more, their rear end develops wider.

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Their pelvic muscles slacken so that the calf can be easily born.

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This lady is coming across for a look. Is she nearly ready to go?

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She's looking signs that she may start.

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You see her tail moving about on her back.

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Is it just years of experience to know when it is going to

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happen and when to intervene as well?

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I think it is years of experience.

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The animals are worth so much and you don't want any suffering,

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you have to know when to ring the vet.

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We always say ring earlier rather than later.

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If we think the calf is too big or you can't easily manage,

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we would get the vet.

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We have had a couple of Caesareans this year,

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mother and babies are doing fine.

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While most of what happens is nature taking its course,

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it is a carefully planned and managed process.

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We've synchronised batches of cows, we've AI'd them all,

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artificially inseminated a lot of cows in the one day

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to make them calve in a batch before the burst of grass comes.

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So it's all tailored... It's not just one thing,

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it's lots of wee things add up to make the whole package.

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We don't want cows calving in the middle of summertime,

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because the grass is tailoring off. We want them to calve now

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because the grass gets better so the cows produce more milk,

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so the calf gets more milk so the calf grows quicker.

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So it's lots of wee things.

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Once the calf is born,

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the aim is to get it tagged and out into the field

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as quickly as possible.

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Right, Gavin, we're going to tag this calf

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and it's for traceability.

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So every calf has got an individual number, so they'll go back to

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a computer that is held at the Department of Agriculture

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and they will know that calf belongs to me and its mother's number

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and its grandmother's number and so on and so on.

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We take a wee tissue sample, this goes into these pliers

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and a wee sample of ear tissue is put in this wee phial.

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On the wee phial is the ear number of the animal and it goes off

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to a lab and is tested for a disease called BVD

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which does not affect humans but it's an animal disease.

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Likewise that wee sample can be used for DNA and lots of other things

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for traceability, so it's very important we have this.

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Why is it so important for you?

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Traceability is the big thing.

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Consumers again, going back to consumers, are very important,

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they want to know exactly where their meat comes from.

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The scandal of horsemeat going back three or four years ago -

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it wasn't beef we were actually eating, it was horses.

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The Northern Ireland traceability system is second to none

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in the world.

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We can trace animals right back to the batch that it's in.

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You go to the supermarket, pick a batch of beef up,

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and you can trace it back to me.

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We stand over our product.

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It's just another layer of quality, isn't it?

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It's very important, quality is utmost here.

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Northern Ireland produce is built on this, whether it's beef,

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lamb, pork, whatever, vegetables.

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Northern Ireland products is built on the quality we produce.

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Less food miles, traceability, carbon footprint -

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all those things that for the consumer are very important to have,

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we have it here, but we have to keep reinforcing it.

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This is another step forward - taking a tissue sample.

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And for you quality means a good price?

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Quality is good price, yes. We need to...

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Our best market is supermarkets, that's our best premium price.

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Probably the best price in the world for beef in Northern Ireland

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is from the supermarkets in the UK.

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But they demand lots of layers of traceability, hygiene

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and different things. We produce that, so we deserve the price.

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So are we going to go and shock this little one?

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We're going to have a... I'm not going to do it,

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you're going to do it.

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-I feel sorry enough for them without...

-No, no.

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It's very painless, it's just like getting your ear pierced.

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You haven't got your ear pierced?

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-Neither have you, I see.

-Neither have I.

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-Right there?

-Yes.

-Tight?

-Yes, go.

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Quick, quick. Harder.

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-Do I click?

-That's it, let go.

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There you go, that's it.

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Sorry, boy. He took that well.

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And there is the sample.

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There we go. So we can trace this wee man

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-back to this very shed.

-There's the wee sample.

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And at this time of year,

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getting the new calves to good grass will give them the best start.

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-They don't know where to go.

-They don't know what's going on.

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They're only learning.

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Do you have to be careful with them, are they still a wee bit protective?

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They would be very protective.

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If you want to catch a calf, you would get other mothers

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coming to gang up on you, never mind the mother of the calf.

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Come on, dear. Come on.

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Go on.

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This is the joy of beef in this part of the world,

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that lush grass that we get here.

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It couldn't be healthier than that, that beautiful fresh grass.

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On a day like that, you wouldn't want to be anywhere else, would you?

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No, not really. Beautiful day.

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Showers forecast, but it takes showers to grow grass.

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And fresh grass means happy cows and that means a happy farmer.

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You may think that taxidermy is all about hunting trophies

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and antlers above the fireplace but I have been to County Down

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to find out how it's being used to promote conservation and learning.

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Cockerels, badgers, foxes and owls -

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they might not enjoy each other's company in the wild,

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but in this Bangor studio, they're not complaining.

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Oh, my goodness.

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Look at this.

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-You must be Ingrid?

-Hi, Jo.

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-Pleasure to meet you.

-Hi.

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-What an amazing studio.

-Thank you very much.

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Wow. You kind of just feel like

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you're being watched from every angle.

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It's not often people get this close to this amount of animals.

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It's just incredible.

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And who is he?

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This is a roe deer

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that was actually brought to us

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from Scotland

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and I'm currently working on him.

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As you can see,

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I was finishing up around the eyes,

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getting the detailing right before the skin has to dry

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which is a process that takes about two weeks' time.

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Ingrid receives specimens from wildlife groups,

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park rangers, museums and members of the public,

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before transforming them into works of art.

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I like this fella.

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There's a bit of a Donald Trump kind of look about him, is there not?

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-He does have a bit of a fashionable quiff, doesn't he?

-Yeah.

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He is a Chinese golden pheasant.

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I mean, look at the colours, nature is just incredible.

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Do you do many pets?

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I try to talk people out of it, mainly because whenever

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people come to me, they come to me in a moment of grief and their

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initial idea is that I can bring the animal back

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and although I'm good at taxidermy, I can't do magic.

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Look.

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It's spectacular.

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It's a courting bee-eater, so it is the male offering the female a piece

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of prey, and the whole wire suspension goes through the bird,

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-through the beak, bee, beak, and back into the legs.

-My goodness.

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Ingrid works for museums and conservation charities and is

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passionate about using nature for education.

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I could spend all day admiring these works of art

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but Ingrid has work to do.

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So what have we got here?

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We have an unfortunate window collision victim,

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a little starling that we're going to be working on.

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So we'll take a scalpel.

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The perception is that you are cutting open animals

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and blood and guts...

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It really isn't as bad as most people think.

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I thought I would be more squeamish about this but it's fine.

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As I said, there's no real blood or guts or anything,

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because obviously the specimen has been frozen.

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I'm glad it's not a rat, all the same.

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Some specimens are more interesting to work on than others, I suppose.

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But in regards to wildlife education, everything has its place.

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Even rats.

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So once you've got the skin away from the carcass,

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what do you do with the body then?

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The body doesn't get used, I just take measurements to make sure that

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I have the right size and everything of the form that I'm making.

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And then obviously the skin gets cleaned, washed, tanned.

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Now this process does take time.

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Typically how long from start to finish?

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Well, a bird skin can tan in 24 hours, but mammal skin such as foxes

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or things like that can take easily two weeks

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before they are workable and the tanning process

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is a process that stabilises the protein in the skin

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so it basically turns the skin into wet leather.

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While our little bird heads off to the tanning bath,

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Ingrid has another one ready for the next stage.

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Using measurements of the body, Ingrid has created

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a mould that the skin is placed over.

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Wires are then inserted to give the bird its shape.

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I've put too much pressure on the wire.

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Here's how not to do it.

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I've put too much pressure on the wire and I've actually bent it.

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Not all is lost.

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Can you redeem?

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It should be doable.

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Let's have a wee look.

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I think I'll stick to the day job.

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Sorry, Ingrid.

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So with the blow dryer, you can hold it by either the legs or the wires,

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whichever you prefer, and you just work until all the feathers are dry.

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What have you worked on - what was the best thing?

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Anything that is used for education is the best thing for me.

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Anything that inspires kids about nature, wildlife,

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and obviously the importance of taking care of it,

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for me is the best thing.

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It really doesn't come down to a specimen.

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Sparrows can be just as impressive as peacocks in my eyes, because...

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Size doesn't matter?

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No, size doesn't matter.

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-Everything is beautiful in its own right.

-OK.

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So is this your favourite bit, then, when you get to pose it and...?

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Definitely.

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This is the part where all the patience and the work comes in

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and eventually rewards when you have something that just looks

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like it's alive.

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This will now take many hours and I might revisit it tomorrow and think,

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"Hold on, the pose isn't quite right."

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or, "The feathers don't quite sit right,"

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so it will be a process of returning and brushing and keeping up

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until it's... Well, until it's perfect.

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It's beautiful.

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It's preserving that moment in time and getting

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a close-up look at nature at its absolute finest.

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Now the farming life can be hard at the best of times, but for adults

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with learning difficulties, it is extra tough.

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Ruth has been to County Fermanagh to visit one farm opening its doors

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and giving people with disability the chance

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to get stuck in to work.

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I'm here to spend time on a very special farm.

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Two days a week,

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Simon and Jennifer host adults with learning difficulties.

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Ben and Matthew are here today and I've been roped in to helping

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in the cow shed.

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So how often are the boys here, then?

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The boys are here two days a week. They've been here for the last

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six months and we've seen great improvements.

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What sort of things have you seen develop and improve?

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Certainly, Matthew and Ben have been

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more confident around the animals.

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When they came at first they were

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afraid of the chickens, you know,

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but now they're able to walk...

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-And now they're here.

-Now they're here walking amongst the cows.

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They've just been in great form since they've came here.

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Do you think people can be a wee bit sceptical

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about how well this might work because it is dirty and cold

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and, you know, you've got sharp things and you've got danger?

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It certainly wouldn't work for everybody now,

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but certainly for half the population of Northern Ireland

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who live in the countryside, it would suit them better

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than obviously somebody coming from the town.

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'As I found out,

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'they're keen to get on with lots of tasks around the farm.'

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They were painting this last week.

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Uh-huh.

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Were you painting this?

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That's brilliant. Very good.

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Did you do all this yourself?

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Nice colour.

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It's a nice colour, isn't it?

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They really enjoy... Well, Ben, in particular, the animals,

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and Matthew the tractor.

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But now Ben is starting to take increased interest in the tractors.

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But that's what we're seeing all the time -

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every week you see their interests grow.

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-What's next, then?

-What's next? We're going to do the sticks.

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You've been very patient.

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He's doing the sticks and the thatch.

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OK, let's go and do that, shall we?

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The boys themselves, they love to lift big weights.

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It's very therapeutic for them, we find it gives them

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a sense of confidence.

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"I am a big guy, I can lift this big weight," you know.

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Although it might not be that big really,

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but it's just exercise as well, it's great for them, you know.

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Which presumably has a knock-on effect to everything else?

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It affects their physical and mental health as well.

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Have their parents seen a difference over the six months

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-of them being here?

-I think they have.

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We've had great feedback from the parents,

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-especially about Matthew and Ben here.

-Yeah. What sort of things

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-are they noticing?

-They're noticing that they're sleeping better

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and they're more concentrated with things

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and they're a lot happier about life, you know.

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I guess a bit of fresh air, a bit of exercise.

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There's something to look forward to each week as well.

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Why did you get involved with this in the first place?

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We have two boys, David and Mark,

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who have autism and a learning disability

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so back when David was only about ten or so, I was looking...

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what will he do when he leaves school?

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I came across a farm down in the south that was doing sort of

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similar things like this and we went and visited it and we came

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back and we thought that we could do something similar.

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So that's how we started.

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Jennifer and Simon are part of the social farming scheme

0:18:270:18:30

which operates on both sides of the border.

0:18:300:18:33

There are 15 farms involved at the minute but with lots more

0:18:330:18:36

interested in taking part.

0:18:360:18:38

However, the funding is piecemeal and there are questions over

0:18:380:18:41

the continuing future of the service.

0:18:410:18:44

So is that the problem as to why more farms aren't signed up

0:18:460:18:50

to this, because there's just not the money?

0:18:500:18:53

It would be a key issue in terms

0:18:530:18:54

of getting that sustainable

0:18:540:18:55

funding, so across Northern Ireland

0:18:550:18:57

we would have pockets of activity

0:18:570:18:58

with different farms engaged,

0:18:580:19:00

but in terms of it being

0:19:000:19:02

a regional practice,

0:19:020:19:04

it isn't well-established yet and that's what we're moving towards.

0:19:040:19:08

Is one of the issues that it's very expensive?

0:19:080:19:11

Because it's very much a one-on-one thing. Whereas maybe other provision

0:19:110:19:15

in towns or cities, everybody's coming to a centralised place and

0:19:150:19:19

it's not as active, there's not as much resource involved in it?

0:19:190:19:23

I suppose it is a more bespoke service that you are catering for,

0:19:230:19:25

a smaller group of people when they come out,

0:19:250:19:28

and that's the benefit of it,

0:19:280:19:29

that you are getting that interaction with the farmer and with

0:19:290:19:32

the number of participants that are out -

0:19:320:19:33

that is a small group that are doing the activities, it's not

0:19:330:19:36

well suited for 50 people to come out for a morning or the full day.

0:19:360:19:40

But it shouldn't be prohibitive, the cost.

0:19:400:19:43

It is in line with other opportunities and is just something

0:19:430:19:46

that needs more consideration as to how it can be funded.

0:19:460:19:49

Social inclusion is the main benefit, being in your local

0:19:490:19:52

community instead of going to a big centre in the local town.

0:19:520:19:56

There's farmers out there who want to deliver,

0:19:560:19:58

there's people who can benefit from it, so it seems straightforward

0:19:580:20:02

in that sense but obviously funding has to match up with that.

0:20:020:20:05

Through opportunities like this, we're increasing choice.

0:20:070:20:10

For people who want to engage in it, the opportunities should be there.

0:20:100:20:13

-But you just need the money to get it there?

-Yes.

0:20:130:20:16

Has it given you both more of a hope for the future for your own boys?

0:20:200:20:24

That is a lot of the reason.

0:20:240:20:26

We hope to improve the lives of our children by doing this ourselves.

0:20:260:20:29

It would probably suit better for them to go somewhere else more

0:20:290:20:32

than our own farm because this is home for them.

0:20:320:20:34

But there are other social farmers in County Fermanagh as well,

0:20:340:20:38

so we're hoping that our boys will maybe go to their farms

0:20:380:20:41

and we will still hopefully host other young people.

0:20:410:20:45

So it's about keeping young people who are from the countryside

0:20:450:20:49

-in the countryside?

-Yes, that's right.

0:20:490:20:52

A lot of parents are fearful of the future and really do lack

0:20:520:20:57

a hopeful future for their loved ones and that is very difficult

0:20:570:21:03

to hear. So, yes, what we're doing is hopefully making the future

0:21:030:21:08

a lot more hopeful and brighter for people with learning disabilities.

0:21:080:21:12

Northern Ireland is dotted with lots of ancient monuments, but you

0:21:170:21:21

probably don't expect them to be visited by Lycra-clad gym bunnies.

0:21:210:21:25

Well, I've been taking part in a new scheme aimed at getting us

0:21:250:21:29

to move more and learn a little bit about history too.

0:21:290:21:32

The Giant's Ring, one of Northern Ireland's best-preserved ancient

0:21:390:21:43

sites, sits outside Belfast and marks the start of the countryside

0:21:430:21:47

as well as telling us a lot about our own history.

0:21:470:21:50

We refer to it as a henge, it is a henge monument.

0:21:520:21:55

And this was built

0:21:550:21:56

about 6,000 years ago.

0:21:560:21:58

You can really appreciate here

0:21:580:21:59

the scale that we're talking -

0:21:590:22:01

banks that are four metres high.

0:22:010:22:03

It spans a distance of 200 metres.

0:22:030:22:06

So it was a considerable effort by the people who built this,

0:22:060:22:09

it was very significant to them.

0:22:090:22:10

There's a lot of information we don't know

0:22:120:22:15

about these type of sites. They're quite rare -

0:22:150:22:17

we only have about 11 of these across the entire Northern Ireland

0:22:170:22:19

and this is probably one of the best preserved ones.

0:22:190:22:23

We think that they were ritual and religious.

0:22:230:22:27

They were built... They're not defensive, they were built by...

0:22:270:22:30

As you can see, it's scooped out there from the insides,

0:22:300:22:32

sort of a dish profile, so they dished out from the interior

0:22:320:22:36

to build up a bank so it wasn't defensive.

0:22:360:22:38

But it is an enclosure,

0:22:380:22:40

so we do think it was for community gatherings.

0:22:400:22:42

But today it's being put to a different use.

0:22:440:22:49

The idea is that we're trying to get people out and get them

0:22:490:22:51

active and we've got a sports coach here who's going to beast them

0:22:510:22:56

and make them understand and realise,

0:22:560:22:58

"This is a shared space, it's free,

0:22:580:23:00

"it's open, it's on the doorstep and why not use it?"

0:23:000:23:02

Why do you think people don't use it?

0:23:020:23:04

It's a good question.

0:23:040:23:06

Maybe we need to promote it more, maybe it's one of those things

0:23:060:23:09

that you just don't appreciate what's on your doorstep.

0:23:090:23:11

Maybe people think that to get fit and healthy,

0:23:110:23:15

you need to go to the gym.

0:23:150:23:17

And we're here to show you that you don't.

0:23:170:23:19

These sites are here for you to use and you don't need anything,

0:23:190:23:22

you don't need a commitment, you don't need anyone telling you

0:23:220:23:24

what to do, so come along and join in and get fit, get outdoors.

0:23:240:23:28

Today we'll be doing a lot of stuff today

0:23:300:23:32

that anybody who's here can take home,

0:23:320:23:35

use it in their back garden, use it in a field in the Giant's Ring,

0:23:350:23:40

in a park, a forest, anywhere.

0:23:400:23:42

So that's what we're aiming to today.

0:23:420:23:44

Up to 25% of children at the age of 11 are now obese,

0:23:450:23:50

which for me stems actually

0:23:500:23:51

from their parents,

0:23:510:23:53

it's not from the kids.

0:23:530:23:54

So if we can be re-educate the

0:23:540:23:56

parents, if we can get them involved

0:23:560:23:58

in being outside, using our green spaces, you said it as well,

0:23:580:24:02

we just don't appreciate what we have here.

0:24:020:24:04

Well, I suppose there are people that might say this is

0:24:090:24:13

a place of great historic significance.

0:24:130:24:16

Is it inappropriate to use it as an outdoor gym?

0:24:160:24:19

We think basically the total opposite.

0:24:190:24:22

This site was built on purpose by a local community that worked together

0:24:220:24:25

to build this site, it was very significant to them.

0:24:250:24:27

And while there's a lot we don't know about the site, we do know

0:24:270:24:31

that it was used for community gatherings and such.

0:24:310:24:34

So what we're doing today is actually pretty appropriate.

0:24:340:24:37

We are bringing people together here, we're getting them active

0:24:370:24:39

and bringing communities together, basically,

0:24:390:24:42

so it's quite appropriate.

0:24:420:24:44

Alternative uses for our heritage.

0:24:440:24:47

Yes. OK...

0:24:470:24:50

Getting people out here, actually getting them physically out to these

0:24:500:24:54

spots, I suppose you get them to appreciate the history inadvertently

0:24:540:24:58

almost without throwing facts and figures down their throats.

0:24:580:25:01

Exactly, that's what we're hoping through this project actually

0:25:010:25:04

is to draw attention to these sites in the first instance of

0:25:040:25:07

just having activity here and getting them out and then if they

0:25:070:25:10

get interested in archaeology and history after that, then fantastic.

0:25:100:25:14

But these are special places and we want people to appreciate them

0:25:140:25:17

for whatever reason that might be.

0:25:170:25:19

This is only one of a couple of projects we have this year.

0:25:200:25:23

We have another couple of events at different historic monuments.

0:25:230:25:25

-How many?

-Well, we have about 190 of these State Care monuments alone,

0:25:250:25:30

so we've a lot of scope there, a lot of potential.

0:25:300:25:33

The aim here is to combat rural isolation and unhealthy

0:25:350:25:39

lifestyles. However, the Giant's Ring has been the site of some

0:25:390:25:42

antisocial behaviour, a reputation that Stefanie is keen to change.

0:25:420:25:46

We want all of our visitors to feel welcome and safe when they

0:25:480:25:52

come to the site and obviously we want it used for different reasons,

0:25:520:25:56

various reasons, we want people to come here and appreciate it

0:25:560:25:59

for whatever reason.

0:25:590:26:01

So we would like to discourage any kind of activity that makes

0:26:010:26:05

people feel distressed or that doesn't respect other visitors

0:26:050:26:09

and the heritage as a place.

0:26:090:26:11

We'll hit this nice and hard.

0:26:110:26:13

The rain is on today but those who have turned up to brave it

0:26:130:26:17

seem pretty keen.

0:26:170:26:19

Go. 20 seconds on, good.

0:26:190:26:21

Keep your tempo high. Keep your tempo high.

0:26:210:26:24

What do you think puts people off exercising out in the countryside...

0:26:270:26:32

LAUGHTER

0:26:320:26:33

..apart from the rain and the wind and the cold?

0:26:330:26:36

What puts them off?

0:26:380:26:40

I guess obviously weather-dependent is obviously one thing

0:26:400:26:44

in Northern Ireland but from the perspective of...

0:26:440:26:47

The hardest part of any kind of exercise

0:26:470:26:49

is getting out the door.

0:26:490:26:50

Once you get out the door

0:26:500:26:52

and you get into the fresh air and an open space,

0:26:520:26:56

that initially gives you a sense of awakening energy, ready to go.

0:26:560:27:04

It's just trying to convert that into an exercise.

0:27:040:27:07

I don't think people necessarily always consider outside

0:27:070:27:10

and free space as an option, erm...

0:27:100:27:13

Again I think it's a matter of trying to communicate that

0:27:130:27:16

information and people knowing where they can go to that are going

0:27:160:27:20

to be free areas.

0:27:200:27:21

If you're interested in taking part, you can find out more online.

0:27:230:27:27

Come on.

0:27:290:27:30

Let's go, quickly.

0:27:300:27:31

Double time. Double time.

0:27:310:27:34

That's a high-five, that is.

0:27:370:27:39

99, 100.

0:27:430:27:44

-How do you feel after that?

-You're a laugh.

0:27:440:27:46

My legs are still sore but I learned a good bit

0:27:460:27:48

about history too, it's a great initiative.

0:27:480:27:50

Yeah, it was a great day. Now that is just about it for this episode

0:27:500:27:53

and this series of Home Ground.

0:27:530:27:55

We'll be back in September, we'll see you then.

0:27:550:27:57

See you then, bye-bye.

0:27:570:27:59

It's the final episode in the series, and Gavin is in the Ards Peninsula to meet an award-winning beef farmer to learn what it takes to produce high-quality beef for the major supermarkets. Jo meets an ethical taxidermist who uses her work to educate the public about nature, and also works up a sweat when she meets a group who are using the Giant's Ring as an outdoor gym. Meanwhile, Ruth is in Fermanagh to hear about a scheme that gets people with learning difficulties working on a farm - a vitally important scheme whose future funding is uncertain.


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