London Country Tracks


London

Joe Crowley explores London's hidden countryside, from the bombed out church transformed into a public park to the historic ponds of Hampstead Heath.


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Transcript


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We have a Country Tracks with a difference.

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Normally, we seek out the countryside,

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but today, we're as far from it as you can get - the centre of London!

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I'm seeking out the of the best green space

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our capital has to offer.

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'My journey begins in the Square Mile,

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'London's historic financial centre, seeking out a very special oasis.

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'Next, the short hop to Pepys Street, where a new hotel

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'is showcasing Europe's tallest green wall.'

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It's not just a hotel for paying guests. It's a hotel for wildlife.

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'Leaving the Square Mile, I'll head north to Dalston,

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'where I'll be checking out a farm in a shop.'

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There isn't a project like this in the world.

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'I'll end my journey in the open space of Hampstead Heath,

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'where I'll take the plunge,

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'swimming in its historic ponds.'

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Along the way, I'll be looking back at some unusual wildlife films made here in London.

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Welcome to Country Tracks.

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'London is one of the great cities of the world.

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'Many of its historic landmarks are famous the world over,

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'having survived plagues, fires and bombardment.

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'The city welcomes more than 20 million visitors every year.

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'Many visit London's well-known parks,

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'but I'm on a quest to find green spaces

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'in more unexpected places.'

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London's a massive city. I live here, but I didn't grow up here.

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There's loads of parts that I haven't been to.

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I'm hoping we can uncover some gems on my journey today.

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'Over the centuries, London has sprawled outwards,

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'creating a vast urban landscape.

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'And yet, there are precious pockets of green,

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'even here, in London's financial heartland.'

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I've been cycling round the City hoping to find an oasis

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to set the tone in my quest to find London's best green spaces.

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I hope my destination is just round the corner.

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'This beautiful ruin is St Dunstan's in the East.

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'A church has stood on this site since the 11th century.

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BIRD SONG

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'Today, it's no longer a place of worship,

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'but one of quiet reflection,

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'almost totally reclaimed by nature.'

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I love places like this.

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This has great architecture.

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It's being reclaimed by the trees and bushes, by nature.

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It's just a place to come, sit, relax, leave the office,

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turn the phone off, leave the nagging boss behind.

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Take a bit of time for yourself, just sit, think and relax.

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'The original mediaeval church was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

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'It started only four streets away, where a monument still stands.

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'In the years following, the church was rebuilt,

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'including a tower by London's great architect, Sir Christopher Wren.'

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Catastrophe struck again in 1941, during the Second World War.

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The German bombing campaign, which became known as the Blitz,

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devastated huge parts of central London,

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including right here in St Dunstan's.

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But, luckily, Wren's beautiful tower survived.

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'The ruined church became derelict and abandoned.

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'Then, in 1967, the Architects and Parks Department decided

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'to turn it into a garden.

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'Martin Rodman is in charge of looking after

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'the City of London gardens.'

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Martin, here we are in the centre of the business Square Mile.

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Why was this ruined church turned into a garden?

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The City of London has always had a very passionate and forward-thinking

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Open Spaces Committee.

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Back then, in 1967, when we purchased the space from the Church,

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the Trees, Gardens and City Open Spaces sub-committee had a vision

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that you should see a tree from every corner in the Square Mile.

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After the Second World War, there was the opportunity

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to buy up lots of small bomb-damaged pockets of land

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and many bombed-out churches.

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It's thanks to their vision that we have so many open spaces.

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You can hear a bit of traffic but, considering there's a major road,

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it's pretty good.

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Cladding it with climbers deadens the noise, soaks up pollution.

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You don't realise that Thames Street is just a few metres behind you.

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I've seen quite a few people around, but do people come here a lot?

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They do. They come in their droves.

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We have 330,000 commuters coming into the Square Mile every day.

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No disrespect to Heron Tower and to the Gherkin,

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they're wonderful but you can't tell the seasons from steel and glass.

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It's the right space in the right place.

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People come to see the changing of the seasons and to get away from that office environment.

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'What an amazing sight that church is!

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'It never fails to amaze me just what you can find in London.

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'Even bee-keeping is thriving here.'

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'It's an ancient method of food production

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'flourishing in the heart of the capital.

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'Orlando Clark and Steve Benbow are among those who harvest London's honey.'

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Bee-keeping in the last three years has become almost fashionable.

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People are wanting to produce their own produce, like keeping chickens.

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It's a way of producing a product and putting it on your table.

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The idea of bee-keeping's very popular at the moment.

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In the association I'm a member of in Twickenham,

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we've had over a 40% increase in membership in two years.

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I've ended up with two acres in King's Cross.

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I keep a dozen hives up there, plenty in my back garden.

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I've also got bees on my allotment, over towards Brixton.

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We were asked to install hives for Fortnum and Mason three years ago, here in Piccadilly.

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They're based on architectural designs such as Mogul and Gothic.

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Each has a different facade.

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They're oak with a gold-leaf finial and a fantastic copper roof.

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Height is key to keeping bees in an urban environment.

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They're out of sight, they don't drop down to street level

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and start hassling people.

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They head out at that height,

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drop down to what they're foraging on, then work their way back.

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They'll fly up to three miles so there's plenty in London for them.

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In an average city garden like this, with neighbours on both sides,

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about 15 hives, maybe,

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somewhere in the region of half a million bees in the middle of summer!

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Bees can come in with honey from April to the end of October.

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Beginning of November, I've seen honey coming in.

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I was ten or 12, the first time I'd gone into a reference library.

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I remember picking up three books. One was on ventriloquism.

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Which I'm still no good at!

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The other one... There was one on printing presses.

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The third book was on bee-keeping.

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I was fascinated by that and got the rest of the books on bee-keeping.

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I started keeping bees on the back of my council block in Bermondsey,

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a brilliant place for keeping bees.

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They would head off across London,

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bringing in the most amazing honey.

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So we give them a little puff to say we're coming.

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This generally calms them down.

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They think there's a fire. They gorge themselves on honey.

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They're a bit more passive to deal with - hopefully.

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In the city, I've worked on an average of a hive producing

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about 50 pounds of honey a year.

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My best hives have been producing

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between 120 to 160 pounds of honey over the last three years.

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At this time of year, they're coming in with lime honey.

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It's got a real bittery sort of taste to it.

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I love that honey.

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It's a fantastic honey on fruit or mixed with yoghurt.

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It's a really lovely honey.

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Then, later in the year, you get almost like a butterscotch honey.

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That's really complex and different to honey from the countryside.

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On a day like this, when the sun's shining,

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it's just rained, everything's fresh,

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the bees are working nicely and buzzing around,

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there's nothing I'd rather be doing.

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It's really relaxing, very enjoyable, almost meditative.

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One of the great things about keeping bees in the city is the variation of forage.

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There's usually something in bloom that the bees can be feeding on.

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You've got so many diverse flowering plants and trees,

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people replacing bedding plants in their gardens

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and in these fantastic parks.

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You don't have the same agricultural pesticides and herbicides used.

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The bees seem to thrive a little better.

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And it's great for bees because they continue to fill up their stomachs

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with the most amazing nectar sources.

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You can hear the sound of traffic below

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but above it all is someone is tending their bees,

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often oblivious to the other people in the city and I like that.

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I think it's quite fantastic.

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I think people are interested

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and engaged with where their food comes from.

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I think bee-keeping is another strand of that overall interest.

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'The bee-keepers of London.

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'I'm on a journey through Britain's capital city in search of its hidden green spaces.

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'I've moved on from the secret garden in the ruins of St Dunstan's,

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'and travelled a couple of blocks to Pepys Street,

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'still in London's Square Mile.'

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Most people going along here keep their eyes at street level,

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but if you do happen to glance up,

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you'll catch a bit of green, an enticing peek

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of Europe's tallest living wall.

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'The Mint Hotel on Tower Hill opened in December 2010,

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'a modern building close to the Tower of London.

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'Its unique selling point is an astonishing

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'vertical garden

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'born out of a push to bring biodiversity into the Square Mile.

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'Landscape construction specialist Aidan Lane designed a garden

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'that defies gravity.

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'It's made up of modules of soil,

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'each carefully slotted into place to create a towering wall of green.

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'I'm here as monthly maintenance is carried out,

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'but it doesn't need much work.

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'The plants were carefully chosen to stay fresh all year round.'

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Aidan, this living wall is incredible.

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What's going on right now?

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-These two guys on this hoist?

-They're checking the moisture.

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They're also checking the foliage

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and removing any dead branches that may be there.

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You designed this. What was the brief?

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I was quite keen to have a biodiversity wall.

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Again, having a number of species, which we have here 45,

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rather than having one species.

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It gives more interest for the hotel guests.

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How many plants in total are used on all the walls?

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-In total, about 180,000 plants.

-180,000!

-Yeah.

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How does this help biodiversity?

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I look at it like a little green lung for London.

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The cities and urban areas are under huge stress at the moment,

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particularly in biodiversity.

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We need to get bees into the urban areas, and moths, caterpillars,

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butterflies and invertebrates.

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It's not just a hotel for paying guests. It's a hotel for wildlife.

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-What are the benefits for the wider environment?

-We've got to look at the urban heat island effect.

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You've got a lot of concrete and tarmac. Cities are getting hot.

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It's taking in carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen,

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so you're getting clean air.

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We're also helping to cool down the cities, and that's a big plus.

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How does this help with flooding problems that cities are prone to?

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The green infrastructures, the walls and the roofs will soak up the rain,

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but they will hold between 40% and and 100% of that rainfall.

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If it does release that water,

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it will be several hours after the flash floods.

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How much potential is there to open up roofs and spaces to be green?

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All new buildings are having green infrastructure, which is great.

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The big picture is the retro-fit of existing buildings, getting roofs and walls onto those buildings.

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I'll give you a stat.

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If you took a six-kilometre radius from Trafalgar Square,

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there's a potential 10 million square metres of retro-fitting green roofs.

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Imagine what that would do in terms of biodiversity, water attenuation.

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It's incredible, but it needs commitment from government,

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individuals and companies to make it happen.

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It's been a revelation seeing these visionary projects bringing nature into the urban environment.

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One in an old church, the other here at this brand new hotel.

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Not only is it nice to just see greenery around you,

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but I really believe it makes sense on every level.

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'Walk a couple of hundred yards south and you come to the river.

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'The Thames is 215 miles long.

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'As it passes through London, it creates one of the world's great urban waterfronts.'

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Over the centuries, the Thames has been a source of food,

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a transport artery and a place of recreation.

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As London grew bigger and bigger,

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man's activities had an increasingly negative impact on this great river.

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Industrial waste and sewage had a devastating effect on water quality.

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So much so that, in 1957, the river was declared biologically dead.

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'The good news is that the Thames recovered.

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'It's one of the cleanest capital city rivers in Europe,

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'home to 125 species of fish.

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'Some end up at Billingsgate Market, but when angler Charles Rangeley-Wilson went,

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'he was looking for something specific -

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'wild trout caught in London water.'

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'If it's true that the Thames is cleaning up

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'and its fish are nosing their way up-river,

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'then the fishmongers at Billingsgate will know.

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'They may even have a few fish from the estuary.'

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Red snapper. Won't find that in the Thames.

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Sea trout.

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-Ever get sea trout?

-Like ginger-headed girls. Very rare!

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-Not that rare!

-Aren't they?

-It depends where you go.

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-Have you ever heard of them?

-Yeah.

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-You do see them.

-They show up?

-They are rare. Why, I don't know.

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I'm trying to find trout in the Thames.

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Er... I don't know if Lee does them over there.

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He does have a few sea trout, but why they're rare I don't know.

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-Salmon's coming back.

-It's a lovely river.

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Underestimated now. Years ago, you'd catch the flu out the water!

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-Diabolical!

-It was dead really.

-Terrible.

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-All right?

-Fascinating.

-Fantastic.

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'The Thames was once so prolific,

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'it supported hundreds of fishermen catching thousands of fish for the market.'

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Some amazing stuff here.

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'But in the early 19th century, it was suddenly suffocated

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'by sewage and industrial pollution.

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'Everything perished.'

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You don't have sea trout?

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-Do you know where I can get one?

-You can try Lee's.

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Right, OK.

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-Can I help you?

-Are you Roger?

-Could be.

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I want to pick your brains.

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-Not a lot of 'em, sir.

-All right!

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-I was talking to your man down there...

-Michael.

-..about fish out of the Thames estuary.

-Yeah.

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He says you might know if they come in occasionally.

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We got herrings, we got sprats, we got Dover sole, skate.

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This time of year you get a tremendous amount out of the Thames.

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There's more fish now caught out of the Thames... Yeah?

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-More fish now... What's he want?

-Seven and a half pounds of halibut.

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-Yeah.

-No problem.

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-Right, this time of year...

-Roger's a busy man.

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It's very seasonal fish out of the Thames estuary.

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Another two months, you'll get a load of sprats.

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The Thames has never been so clean for 100 years than it is at this time.

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If you go off Westcliff, which is right on the Thames estuary,

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there's even a colony of about 12 to 15 seals.

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Which is a tremendous sign that it's clear and the fish is good, there's enough for them to eat.

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So it's got better and better.

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Do you ever hear about sea trout in the Thames?

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On the odd occasion. We have had them on the odd occasion.

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We do have them on the odd occasion.

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Thank you very much. That's such good news.

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There's boxes of fish here from the Thames estuary.

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I didn't expect to find a sea trout on a slab

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from the Thames, but he's heard of them so that's fantastic.

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'It's the clue I'd hoped to find.

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'The real test is whether the sea trout can get beyond the Thames

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'and spawn in London's once-dead rivers.

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'This amazing fish can live in fresh and salt water,

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'as brown trout or sea trout.

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'To catch either would be a miracle.'

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'We'll be catching up with Charles later to see whether he finds that elusive fish.

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'My journey through London continues.

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'On the Thames sits the Tower of London.

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'It's been a prison and a place of execution since the 11th century,

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'and remains one of the city's most imposing buildings.'

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This place has seen its fair share of famous people.

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Before she was Queen, Elizabeth I was incarcerated here, Guy Fawkes was tortured here

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and Henry VIII's wife, Anne Boleyn, lost here head here.

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'Today, it's one of London's principal tourist attractions.

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'Those visiting can't help but notice its resident population of ravens.

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'Chris Skaife is Yeoman Warder, as well as the Tower's Raven Master.'

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I look after the safety and the welfare of the ravens at the Tower.

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The first part of the day is to let the ravens out their cages

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so that they can go and find their territories.

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Good morning, Erin. How are you today? Come on, darling.

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Out you go.

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Ravens are fed on a diet of meat,

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and they're fed twice a day.

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The public have a tendency to feed them,

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but they don't really like crisps or cheese and tomato sandwiches.

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There we go, girl.

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An ancient legend says, should the ravens leave the Tower of London

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it would crumble into dust and a great harm befall England.

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I have quite a responsible job to ensure that doesn't happen.

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They are wild birds. We trim their flight feathers

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to keep them on the ground.

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We do that every two to three weeks.

0:23:060:23:08

It's like cutting their nails. It doesn't harm them in any way.

0:23:080:23:12

There are six ravens, by Royal decree.

0:23:160:23:20

This came about in 1660,

0:23:200:23:22

when Charles II was restored to the throne of England.

0:23:220:23:27

Is that good?

0:23:270:23:29

You're like a baby, aren't you? Eh?

0:23:290:23:33

To be a Yeoman Warder, you have to have served in the military,

0:23:330:23:37

a minimum of 22 years in the Army, the RAF,

0:23:370:23:42

the Royal Marines or the Navy.

0:23:420:23:44

We have to be the rank of a Warrant Officer and above before we retire,

0:23:440:23:49

and have one of these, a long service and good conduct medal,

0:23:490:23:53

which is 15 years' exemplary record.

0:23:530:23:55

There's a good girl! Gonna say hello? Say hello?

0:23:570:24:00

CAWS Good girl!

0:24:000:24:03

To be the Raven Master,

0:24:030:24:06

there is no set criteria - of course, you need a love of animals.

0:24:060:24:09

It's not just about the day-to-day looking after the birds.

0:24:090:24:14

It's about their welfare,

0:24:140:24:16

knowing what they're thinking, knowing their characters

0:24:160:24:20

and understanding the birds' day-to-day needs.

0:24:200:24:23

They look at me as their main alpha male, if you like.

0:24:230:24:28

The interaction of ravens with the tourists, we keep to a minimum.

0:24:280:24:33

They are wild birds.

0:24:330:24:35

I keep them wild. They are not friendly towards the public.

0:24:350:24:39

Although we do have some odd public that go up there

0:24:390:24:42

and try to put their finger in a bird's mouth, they will bite.

0:24:420:24:46

I have a fabulous job at the Tower of London. Who can be called the Raven Master?

0:24:460:24:52

It's an honour to live and work inside the Tower of London.

0:24:520:24:57

'The Tower of London's wonderful ravens.

0:24:590:25:02

'So far, we've seen, hidden away among the buildings and streets of central London

0:25:020:25:09

'little pockets of green and a hint of wildlife.

0:25:090:25:13

'In the southwest of the city,

0:25:150:25:17

'Bill Oddie headed to one of the more famous open spaces

0:25:170:25:22

'for a breathtaking early morning sight.'

0:25:220:25:25

I haven't nipped up to Scotland.

0:25:250:25:27

I'm barely five miles from Westminster,

0:25:270:25:33

in Richmond Park, London's biggest nature reserve.

0:25:330:25:39

These are red deer.

0:25:390:25:43

It's barely...half past four in the morning.

0:25:460:25:51

Not surprisingly, it is wonderfully peaceful.

0:25:520:25:56

Very surprisingly, it's wonderfully natural, too.

0:25:560:26:00

I love the way the light's changed.

0:26:130:26:16

In the last half hour, it's gone from blue to pink to orange.

0:26:160:26:20

Some rather splendid stags around.

0:26:300:26:32

You can identify individual stags by the points on their antlers.

0:26:340:26:39

They call them a ten-pointer or 12-pointer.

0:26:390:26:44

Some of these have got more than that.

0:26:440:26:47

Oh, dear, oh dear!

0:26:540:26:56

Look at the state of that!

0:26:560:27:00

It's very hard to believe

0:27:010:27:04

we're almost in the middle of London.

0:27:040:27:07

The heart of the city has to be the river. That's half a mile away.

0:27:070:27:11

The vast majority of the banks along the River Thames in London

0:27:150:27:20

are not natural, they've all been shored-up with bricks and concrete

0:27:200:27:25

to make sure they don't fall into the river.

0:27:250:27:28

This is one of the very few stretches

0:27:280:27:31

of what you could call a genuine wild river bank.

0:27:310:27:35

Even this is in danger of disappearing.

0:27:350:27:38

Why? Not development. Nothing like that.

0:27:380:27:41

It's all because of a rather sinister little creature.

0:27:410:27:46

So, what made all these holes in the river bank?

0:27:480:27:53

A rat? No. I wouldn't keep a rat in a bucket!

0:27:530:27:57

The holes were made by a crab, or rather hundreds of crabs.

0:27:570:28:01

I have one representative here.

0:28:010:28:04

There he is.

0:28:040:28:06

This is a Chinese mitten crab. This is quite a small one.

0:28:060:28:11

They can grow to the size of a dinner plate. They come from China.

0:28:110:28:16

They appeared about 100 years ago.

0:28:160:28:18

Probably in the water ballast of cargo boats.

0:28:180:28:22

The mitten bit, that's these claws on the front here.

0:28:220:28:26

They're sort of furry, and when that gets in the water, it swells up

0:28:260:28:30

and makes them look particularly impressive

0:28:300:28:33

along with these nice white claws,

0:28:330:28:36

for the male to show off to the female.

0:28:360:28:39

But he has been rather naughty.

0:28:390:28:42

He and his chums have been causing an awful lot of damage.

0:28:420:28:46

They make these burrows. The banks are being riddled with these holes.

0:28:460:28:51

They're eroding all along the natural shoreline

0:28:510:28:56

and trees are collapsing.

0:28:560:28:58

Fortunately, I'm going to take a bit of hope.

0:28:580:29:02

A lot of cormorants, a lot of herons around here.

0:29:020:29:05

Crab, perfect food for them, I say.

0:29:050:29:08

Herons? Cormorants?

0:29:080:29:10

'Bill Oddie, and just some of London's wildlife.

0:29:120:29:16

'I've left the Square Mile behind me

0:29:160:29:19

'and my journey's brought me north to Dalston

0:29:190:29:22

'in the borough of Hackney.'

0:29:220:29:25

This is a really busy area - lots of people, lots of traffic.

0:29:250:29:30

Tarmac, concrete. It's not exactly the place you'd look for a farm.

0:29:300:29:35

But I'm told there is one right here in this shop.

0:29:350:29:39

This is Farm:Shop, quite a unique place.

0:29:550:29:58

Part farm, part greengrocer, part community centre, part cafe.

0:29:580:30:02

This is their farm-made ginger beer.

0:30:020:30:05

You'd struggle to find any other place like this in London.

0:30:050:30:10

'Andy Merritt is co-founder of Farm:Shop.

0:30:110:30:15

'The aim is to create a place where food is grown and sold,

0:30:150:30:19

'where urban dwellers can experience food production,

0:30:190:30:22

'get in touch with nature, have a cuppa and maybe be inspired

0:30:220:30:26

'to try something similar themselves.'

0:30:260:30:30

-Andy, I'm Joe.

-Hello.

-Good to see you.

0:30:300:30:33

This place is incredible.

0:30:330:30:35

How come there are fish right here by a main road

0:30:350:30:38

in almost your front room of the Farm:Shop?

0:30:380:30:42

We wanted to do a laboratory of food growing in London.

0:30:420:30:47

So we got this average London shop

0:30:470:30:49

and we're testing to see how much food we can grow.

0:30:490:30:54

Aquaponics is one of the food systems that we're using.

0:30:540:30:58

Talk me through aquaponics. There is so much activity in the room.

0:30:580:31:03

Water dripping, fish feeding, plants growing.

0:31:030:31:06

It's all one system.

0:31:060:31:08

It's basically fish linked up to vegetable growing.

0:31:080:31:12

It's like a mini ecosystem.

0:31:120:31:15

All the poo, basically, from the fish

0:31:150:31:19

provide the nutrients for the plants.

0:31:190:31:21

At the same time, because these plants are sitting on water...

0:31:210:31:26

-Oh, yeah. There's no soil.

-No. They're on air-filtered water.

0:31:260:31:31

It means the roots are nice and healthy,

0:31:310:31:34

feeding off the faeces from the fish

0:31:340:31:38

and filtering the water.

0:31:380:31:40

This whole system's linked together.

0:31:400:31:42

By the time it gets back into the tanks, the water's a bit cleaner.

0:31:420:31:47

They don't look like British coarse fish. What are they?

0:31:470:31:51

They're tilapia, Nile tilapia.

0:31:510:31:54

-The second most farmed fish in the world.

-Are they?

-After salmon.

0:31:540:31:58

A lot of countries eat them.

0:31:580:32:01

-Are they good eating?

-Yeah. They're like a white-fleshed fillet. You get two fillets.

0:32:010:32:07

They're good for aquaponics cos they're immune to diseases

0:32:070:32:11

so they can grow in these small conditions.

0:32:110:32:14

That's how they live on the Nile. It's a big river, but they group together!

0:32:140:32:20

-If you see, some of the fish have got pink heads.

-Yeah.

0:32:200:32:24

They're the ones that are the bosses.

0:32:240:32:28

If you take them out, another fish will take up their mantle.

0:32:280:32:32

-And they'll get a pink head.

-Wow! So it's very tribal.

-Yeah.

0:32:320:32:35

So you can farm the fish. You can eat them.

0:32:350:32:39

You've got your salads, different plants, all in one system.

0:32:390:32:43

I've never seen anything quite like it, especially in this location.

0:32:430:32:47

In the centre of a city,

0:32:470:32:49

we're pretty sure there isn't a project like this in the world.

0:32:490:32:53

'And from shop-front aquaponics, we come to back-yard farming.'

0:32:550:33:00

So, here we are in the polytunnel,

0:33:020:33:04

-where we're growing in something called soil.

-I've heard of that!

0:33:040:33:09

In a polytunnel, it extends our months of growing.

0:33:090:33:13

There's a sense of scale here. It is all very small.

0:33:130:33:16

-It's in very urban London.

-Yeah.

0:33:160:33:19

So, you know, how does that work?

0:33:190:33:22

-If everyone said, "I want salad," you couldn't really do it.

-No.

0:33:220:33:26

Food growing is one part of it. It's also educational.

0:33:260:33:30

Because we're in the city, a lot of people can come in here,

0:33:300:33:34

see how the food's growing, which they normally wouldn't be able to.

0:33:340:33:39

Because normally, you buy your food, it's already packaged up,

0:33:390:33:42

you don't really understand how it's been grown.

0:33:420:33:47

Here, you can see something turn from seed to plant to plate.

0:33:470:33:51

That educational side is very important.

0:33:510:33:55

We want it to be fun.

0:33:550:33:57

The technology is also quite engaging to younger people.

0:33:570:34:02

-They're not particularly interested in dirt.

-Can you keep it going?

0:34:020:34:07

Is there enough in this to make it sustainable from the point of view of paying for it?

0:34:070:34:13

It's a non-profit organisation.

0:34:130:34:15

Because we're in the city, we've got a lot of people around.

0:34:150:34:19

We want to use the space for other things as well as food growing.

0:34:190:34:24

We can do talks. We have bands playing.

0:34:240:34:27

-I noticed a glitter ball.

-It turns into a dance area!

0:34:270:34:30

We're very adaptable!

0:34:300:34:33

We also see the limitations of how much food you can grow

0:34:330:34:37

in a small shop and backyard.

0:34:370:34:39

So we have been looking into using other bigger spaces in London.

0:34:390:34:44

There are warehouses empty around here, and other large buildings.

0:34:440:34:49

-We'd like to turn those into farms as well.

-Great. Let's go.

0:34:490:34:54

'Finally, it's up to the roof to check on the hens.

0:34:590:35:03

'There's a chicken coop in Dalston!

0:35:030:35:06

'Out of reach of those urban foxes

0:35:060:35:08

'and laying plenty of eggs for Andy's shop.'

0:35:080:35:12

-So here they are!

-Yeah. We've got four hens on the roof.

0:35:120:35:16

They've come from a farm that's just outside of London.

0:35:160:35:20

They've been laying ever since.

0:35:200:35:24

-You've got something for them?

-A bit of leftover basil for them.

0:35:240:35:28

Just the rough cuts so we can feed them.

0:35:280:35:32

Let's see if we've got any eggs.

0:35:350:35:37

-Have they laid?

-Yeah. We've got one.

0:35:370:35:41

Pretty good.

0:35:410:35:43

One healthy little egg.

0:35:430:35:46

-Ah!

-Got two more.

0:35:460:35:49

Two more!

0:35:490:35:51

-How many do you normally get a day? One each?

-Three or four.

-So, three.

0:35:510:35:55

Pretty good day.

0:35:550:35:58

Very good! There we go.

0:36:000:36:02

A proper Dalston egg, metres from Dalston Junction.

0:36:020:36:06

-Thanks for showing me round. We should get these on display.

-Yes.

0:36:060:36:10

It's its own little world in there. I can't believe that's in the heart of Dalston!

0:36:230:36:29

Absolutely brilliant.

0:36:290:36:31

'Earlier, we saw angler Charles Rangeley-Wilson embark on a quest

0:36:410:36:46

'to track down wild trout in a London river.

0:36:460:36:49

'After a fruitless search fishing all over the capital,

0:36:490:36:52

'his journey has now pushed him to the city's outer limits.'

0:36:520:36:59

'Right from the start of my search,

0:37:040:37:07

'I had a resigned suspicion that I'd end up on a train to the suburbs,

0:37:070:37:12

'to the far end of the Underground,

0:37:120:37:15

'to a different tidal zone of struggle between the sprawling city

0:37:150:37:19

'and what is left of wild countryside.'

0:37:190:37:22

It's the last day of the season.

0:37:220:37:25

I've been chasing my tail all over London for a week.

0:37:250:37:29

I feel I've been on a ghost hunt.

0:37:290:37:32

Lots of people with stories of trout but I haven't seen any.

0:37:320:37:37

But there's a river I know of, flows under the M25 to Rickmansworth

0:37:410:37:46

and there's some fishing there by the playing fields.

0:37:460:37:50

I've got a feeling, well, I really hope,

0:37:500:37:54

that I'll find my trout there.

0:37:540:37:57

'Of the handful of chalk streams still flowing towards the city,

0:38:030:38:07

'the tiny River Chess in northwest London

0:38:070:38:10

'was always one of the best.'

0:38:100:38:12

Looking for a way in here.

0:38:150:38:16

Just yomp on through the bushes, see if we can find the river.

0:38:160:38:21

Bit of a fence.

0:38:250:38:27

Ah! Looks like Borneo!

0:38:340:38:37

No-one's been along here in a long while. Here we go.

0:38:400:38:44

This chalk stream is right on the margin

0:38:460:38:52

of the countryside that way, the other side of the M25,

0:38:520:38:56

and the very edge of London over there.

0:38:560:38:59

It feels very rural and very unspoilt.

0:39:030:39:07

I know that's deceptive,

0:39:070:39:09

because this river relies for its flow on underground springs.

0:39:090:39:15

And London is just over there.

0:39:150:39:19

I can hear it throbbing away in the background.

0:39:190:39:23

It's something of a tick on the landscape,

0:39:230:39:26

sucking the life out of it, out of these rivers.

0:39:260:39:29

I know this river was a great river 150 years ago.

0:39:290:39:35

And my suspicion is that it's just holding on.

0:39:380:39:43

Let's see what we can see.

0:39:430:39:45

-WHISPERS:

-Oh, wow. It's like a jungle.

0:39:460:39:51

There's certainly some fish down there.

0:39:510:39:53

I think several of them are chub, my friend the chub.

0:39:530:39:57

It looks trouty.

0:39:570:40:00

If there isn't trout at the end of this I'll Napalm the river!

0:40:060:40:10

Conservationist becomes agent of death in a strop.

0:40:100:40:15

It's actually dirtying up.

0:40:210:40:24

There's someone walking a dog up-river, I reckon,

0:40:240:40:28

which is not helping.

0:40:280:40:31

Dog walkers go away!

0:40:310:40:33

Don't you realise that I'm on a mission?

0:40:330:40:36

Come on, trout. Where are you?

0:40:380:40:41

Be here!

0:40:410:40:43

There's a fish right in front of me.

0:40:500:40:53

But it's a chub.

0:40:530:40:56

The one thing about the cloudy water is I can get closer to them.

0:41:100:41:15

Ah, Christ!

0:41:210:41:23

There's a bunch of kids. They've been paddling.

0:41:230:41:26

Some school exercise.

0:41:260:41:29

'The kids have scuppered my chances.

0:41:310:41:34

'As long as they're muddying the water, I won't see any trout.

0:41:340:41:39

'And THEY won't see my fly.

0:41:390:41:41

'I need to find a secret corner,

0:41:410:41:44

'somewhere that's been left alone for a while.

0:41:440:41:49

'I move upstream to the hard shoulder of the M25.'

0:41:490:41:54

TRAFFIC RUMBLES

0:41:580:42:02

I've lost the river.

0:42:020:42:05

TRAFFIC RUMBLES, BIRDS SING

0:42:060:42:10

Good-looking hole,

0:42:250:42:28

but more or less impossible to fish.

0:42:280:42:31

'I haven't given up trying,

0:42:380:42:40

'but I've given up believing.

0:42:400:42:43

'I'm depressed, ankle-deep in an emaciated stream.

0:42:480:42:52

'What I've come looking for seems beyond reach.

0:42:560:43:00

'This was always a personal journey,

0:43:020:43:05

'but I'm surprised how personal it's become.'

0:43:050:43:09

What is this? What is this?

0:43:210:43:23

Wa-hay!

0:43:240:43:26

It's a trout.

0:43:260:43:28

Stay on the line. Stay on the line.

0:43:280:43:31

Get in there. We have done it!

0:43:350:43:37

We have done it. I've proved it.

0:43:380:43:41

They're here. Magic!

0:43:410:43:44

Out of the middle of nowhere.

0:43:460:43:48

I thought I'd chuck the fly and see what happened. Look at that!

0:43:480:43:53

It is such a beautiful fish.

0:43:530:43:56

A trout inside the M25.

0:43:560:43:59

I'm moderately speechless.

0:44:040:44:06

But they're here.

0:44:090:44:11

Holding on.

0:44:150:44:17

Look at it.

0:44:210:44:23

It's the first one we've seen.

0:44:230:44:26

Definitely worth it.

0:44:290:44:31

-It just shows, you see, they're...

-CLEARS THROAT

0:44:330:44:37

The contrast between this fish and the road.

0:44:400:44:44

TRAFFIC RUMBLES

0:44:440:44:46

CLEARS THROAT

0:44:510:44:53

But they're here.

0:44:550:44:57

And they're waiting for us to, um...

0:44:570:45:00

..take a bit more care of the environment.

0:45:020:45:05

Then they'll come back.

0:45:050:45:08

Just on the edge. You've got to reach the edge, reach that hinterland...

0:45:080:45:13

..between where we're rapidly buggering up the world

0:45:160:45:21

and they can just about hold on.

0:45:210:45:24

And if we can learn to throw

0:45:250:45:28

a few less motorbikes and mattresses and bedsteads in our rivers,

0:45:280:45:33

there's no reason why these guys can't come back into London.

0:45:330:45:38

And, I suppose, honour us with their presence.

0:45:420:45:45

I'm going to let him go now.

0:45:450:45:48

Job done.

0:45:540:45:56

Fantastic.

0:46:040:46:06

They're here.

0:46:110:46:13

A lot more chub, but one or two trout.

0:46:140:46:18

'An emotional moment there for Charles Rangeley-Wilson.

0:46:180:46:23

'Hopefully, the continued recovery of the Thames means wild trout

0:46:230:46:27

'will soon be in the heart of the city, too.

0:46:270:46:30

'My journey has brought me to one of London's truly great green areas,

0:46:300:46:35

'Hampstead Heath, in the borough of Camden.'

0:46:350:46:38

Five miles from Piccadilly Circus, up the road from Camden,

0:46:440:46:49

it feels like open countryside - lovely!

0:46:490:46:52

'It could have been a different story.

0:46:540:46:57

'In the 1860s, there were plans to build on Hampstead Heath.

0:46:570:47:01

'Powerful and passionate opposition kept the developers at bay.

0:47:010:47:05

'In 1871,

0:47:050:47:07

'more than 200 acres were sold to the Metropolitan Board of Works,

0:47:070:47:11

'who pledged "to forever keep the Heath open,

0:47:110:47:14

'"unenclosed and unbuilt on."

0:47:140:47:16

'Today, it's owned, managed and protected by the City of London.'

0:47:160:47:22

As capital cities go across the world, London is absolutely superb.

0:47:220:47:27

It has loads of green spaces - parks, commons, little squares, even woodlands.

0:47:270:47:32

On Hampstead Heath, one of the unique features is its ponds.

0:47:320:47:36

Three of them you can swim in.

0:47:360:47:38

I'm going to learn more about their history, and take a quick dip.

0:47:380:47:42

First, the Country Tracks weather for the week ahead.

0:47:420:47:46

.

0:49:500:49:57

'I've been on a journey across London,

0:50:050:50:07

'finding the countryside in the capital.

0:50:070:50:10

'I started in its very centre, exploring gardens in the City.

0:50:100:50:15

'I headed north to investigate an urban farming project in Dalston.

0:50:150:50:19

'Finally, I've arrived at Hampstead Heath, a rural escape in the city.

0:50:190:50:24

'I'm here to explore its ponds. There are dozens on the Heath.

0:50:280:50:32

'Three have a tradition of public bathing, which continues today.

0:50:320:50:37

'Someone who knows all about the ponds - she's written a book about them - is Caitlin Davies.'

0:50:370:50:43

Caitlin, where do these ponds come from? Have they always been here?

0:50:430:50:48

There's 29 ponds on Hampstead Heath.

0:50:480:50:52

A lot of them, like this one,

0:50:520:50:54

go back about 300 years, and even before that.

0:50:540:50:59

Although they look natural, they were built as reservoirs to supply London with water.

0:50:590:51:05

This one here was probably created early 1700s

0:51:050:51:10

by the Hampstead Waterworks Company.

0:51:100:51:13

Some people say it goes back even further.

0:51:130:51:16

In Tudor times, they decided that the City of London could tap the springs on the Heath

0:51:160:51:22

and take water into London.

0:51:220:51:24

-These are naturally spring-fed?

-Yes, but it is a reservoir.

0:51:240:51:28

How many can you swim in?

0:51:280:51:30

Officially, only three. The mixed pond.

0:51:300:51:32

-This one.

-Also known as fourth pond.

0:51:320:51:35

Then there's the Highgate men's pond and Kenwood ladies' pond.

0:51:350:51:39

This one's the oldest one.

0:51:390:51:41

People have been swimming here since the early 1800s.

0:51:410:51:45

Am I right that tradition continues, people swim all year round?

0:51:540:51:59

People swim all year round but this mixed pond is only open to the public in the summer.

0:51:590:52:04

At the Highgate men's pond, they've still got the Christmas Day race that's been running since 1893.

0:52:040:52:10

'In London's far north, intrepid swimmers weakened on Christmas Day,

0:52:100:52:15

'and warmed the Hampstead swimming pool before preparing to dive in.

0:52:150:52:19

'Everyone pretended they were having a grand time in the sunny south.

0:52:190:52:24

'Spectators managed to keep quite warm in the excitement of a race.

0:52:350:52:40

'Hardy competitors seemed happy to take part in an annual event

0:52:400:52:44

'with the water at 41 degrees.'

0:52:440:52:47

What is it about this place?

0:52:500:52:52

Was it because it was a clean water source, people could swim safely? You wouldn't swim in the Thames.

0:52:520:52:59

People loved swimming here because it was fresh water and free,

0:52:590:53:03

but it wasn't safe.

0:53:030:53:05

It was really dangerous because people swam in all of these ponds.

0:53:050:53:10

Going back to early 1800s,

0:53:100:53:12

people couldn't really swim, it was more of an immersion than a swim.

0:53:120:53:16

-How deep is it?

-Now, it's about 12 feet deep in the middle.

0:53:160:53:21

It's much shallower over there, about six foot.

0:53:210:53:24

The depth's varied. At times, it was only four foot,

0:53:240:53:28

which is really dangerous for people diving in.

0:53:280:53:32

You've done so much research, what stands out for you?

0:53:320:53:36

-Some interesting characters must have come here.

-I've been swimming in these ponds for 40 years.

0:53:360:53:42

I'd never asked myself, "Where do the ponds come from?" or "Who used to go there?

0:53:420:53:48

What struck me most was the men's pond, which opened in 1893,

0:53:480:53:53

had the first professional diving stage in the country.

0:53:530:53:57

The history of diving, life-saving, swimming clubs,

0:53:570:54:01

all of this goes back to these ponds.

0:54:010:54:03

'The ponds attract many regular swimmers,

0:54:190:54:22

'like Hampstead local Margaret Dickinson.

0:54:220:54:25

'As I'm new to this, she's a good person for me to talk to.'

0:54:250:54:29

-Hello, Margaret.

-Hi.

-Mind if I join you?

0:54:290:54:33

-No!

-What's the temperature like?

-Not too bad, is it?

0:54:330:54:36

Ah! A bit parky! Not too bad!

0:54:360:54:39

I understand you're a regular swimmer.

0:54:390:54:42

About six days out of seven, most of the year.

0:54:420:54:47

-Most of the year?

-Yes!

-Come January, would you be in one of the ponds?

0:54:470:54:51

-I would.

-Where do you like to swim out of the three?

0:54:510:54:55

Weekdays, I do it mainly here.

0:54:550:54:57

Weekends, I do it at the women's.

0:54:570:54:59

Morning always, before breakfast.

0:54:590:55:02

And how does that set you up for the day?

0:55:020:55:05

It's a cliche, it sets us up for the day. That's exactly what we say.

0:55:050:55:10

Well, it ensures you get a walk.

0:55:100:55:13

And, of course, in winter, it's a token swim.

0:55:130:55:16

Don't imagine that we're going round and round in winter.

0:55:160:55:20

No! It's kind of in and out.

0:55:200:55:22

'I'm impressed by Margaret's tenacity,

0:55:220:55:25

'but I don't think you'd catch me stripping off for a dip in January.

0:55:250:55:30

'Luckily, today, the water is a scorching...17 degrees Celsius.'

0:55:300:55:35

Any tips for me? I'm not used to cold water, so take it a bit slow?

0:55:350:55:40

Yes, don't swim too violently when you first get in.

0:55:400:55:44

If you're not liking it, get out, don't do it just for the camera.

0:55:440:55:48

I make a point of not listening to directors.

0:55:480:55:51

I do my own thing, don't you worry about that.

0:55:510:55:55

I know from dipping my feet in that it's pretty nippy.

0:55:590:56:03

If I try and lower myself in, I'd be here all day.

0:56:030:56:07

So, I think it's all or nothing. Here goes.

0:56:070:56:10

And breathe!

0:56:210:56:23

'This has been a Country Tracks with a difference.

0:56:330:56:36

'Even though I'm a London resident, I found so much I didn't know about its green places and wildlife.

0:56:360:56:42

'A beautiful garden created in the ruin of a bombed church,

0:56:420:56:47

'the marvel of a living wall,

0:56:470:56:49

'fish returning to the city's rivers and a farm in a shop

0:56:490:56:54

'all speak of our yearning for nature within the city.

0:56:540:56:58

'There can be no better example than ending my journey in the cool waters

0:56:580:57:03

'of Hampstead Heath.'

0:57:030:57:05

When you first get in, it definitely takes your breath away.

0:57:070:57:11

But as soon as you swim around, it's not that cold at all.

0:57:110:57:15

And look at it! It is just so peaceful, so quiet, so tranquil.

0:57:150:57:20

And yet, here we are in London.

0:57:200:57:22

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:57:360:57:39

E-mail [email protected]

0:57:390:57:43

Joe Crowley explores London's hidden countryside. His journey begins in the heart of London's city centre at St Dunstan-in-the-East, a bombed-out church that has been preserved as a peaceful park.

At nearby Pepys Street, Joe finds Europe's tallest living wall, an eleven-storey vertical garden on the side of a hotel.

He then heads north to Dalston, to a farm shop that is literally a farm in a shop. Finally, Joe's journey ends with a plunge in Hampstead Heath's historic ponds.


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