Helen Skelton travels through East Anglia. She visits the small village of Rede, where she discovers one of the rarest horse breeds in the world - the Suffolk punch.
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Today I'm on a journey through East Anglia.
I'll be meeting iconic animals, intriguing characters
and sampling some of the delights that Suffolk has to offer.
'My journey begins on a farm in the village of Rede,
'where I will be helping to train
'one of the rarest horse breeds in the world,
'and hear of a foal's amazing story of survival.'
The old mare was glad to have, well, not a companion,
but she liked the idea of having another young one, I think.
'From there, it's a short trip to Bury St Edmunds,
'where I'll visit the ancient ruins of the Abbey
'and learn about the origins of our legal system.
'My next stop is near the border with Norfolk,
'where I'll be finding out
'what it's like to own your very own piece of woodland.'
What made you pick this particular bit of woodland?
Because it was breathtakingly beautiful.
'My journey ends on the coast at Orford,
'where I'll taste some of Suffolk's specialities
'and follow food from sea to plate.'
Along the way, I'll look back at the best of the BBC's rural programmes
from this part of the world.
Welcome to Country Tracks.
'The Suffolk countryside prides itself on being an authentic slice
'of real England, with a wide variety of landscape.
'There is woodland, coastline, farmland and ancient towns,
'but few hills.
'In fact, Suffolk is very flat, creating vast skies
'and a great feeling of open space.
'The county is edged with 40 miles of coastline to the east,
'which is largely unspoiled, and dotted with shingle beaches.'
But I'm starting inland, pretty near to Bury St Edmunds.
I've come to this farm in Rede
to meet one of the icons of the county -
the Suffolk Punch horses.
'These beautiful animals are one of the oldest breeds
'of working horse in the world. They have the longest written pedigree of any such breed,
'which specifies their colouring and unique shape.
'Although the Suffolk Punch is held fondly in the hearts of many,
'they are sadly now very rare,
'and are classed as critical
'on the Rare Breeds Species Trust watch list.
'Fewer and fewer are being used for working the fields.
'Thankfully, there are people, like Nigel Oakley,
'who truly love the breed
'and are working hard to increase their popularity and numbers.
'Jasper is a five-year-old Suffolk Punch.'
-How many Suffolk Punches are left?
-In the entire world?
The Suffolk Horse Society in Woodbridge monitors the whole breed.
It still monitors the Australians,
like New Zealand, Australia and so on.
The Americans have a Suffolk Horse Society.
But it's not recognised in England.
-Are you worried about the number of Suffolk Punches that are left?
-I don't think I do.
When I started keeping Suffolks 30 years ago,
there were only something like 240.
Last year, we had 50 live foals,
which was the best year since 1950-something.
He looks great. He's great for working for you,
but why do you think
it's so important to make sure we keep breeding Suffolk Punches?
Well, I think it's essential we don't lose any of our breeds,
whether they are native birds, animals...
Suffolk's a beautiful county. The Breadbasket of England.
All the cereals were grown in East Anglia,
and that horse shaped this county,
because he worked the field, and I think it's a shame
if our grandchildren's children don't have the privilege
to do what we're doing now.
'Obviously, the survival of the Suffolks depends on breeding them,
'which Nigel happens to be good at. There are a couple of foals on the farm.
'One in particular has had a tough start in life,
'but thanks to the amazing support of one of the older mares,
'the foal has survived.'
Right, Nigel, who have we got here?
We've got Philippa holding Pride, a mare that I bred.
She's an elderly mare of 17.
The foal is Max, who Debbie is holding.
Debbie's doing well to hold!
Debbie, bless her, is used to this sort of thing.
Max is a four-month-old foal.
And what's unique about these two,
they aren't really mare and foal, or mother and daughter.
'Max's mother sadly didn't survive after his birth,
'and bottle-feeding isn't a great option,
'as the foal becomes humanised.
'So, Nigel decided to put this mare Pride with Max for companionship.'
We brought the mare in and, obviously,
you don't put them together straightaway.
We let the mare see the foal and let it sniff the foal.
It wasn't long before we realised
it wasn't going to be a problem,
that the old mare was glad to have, well, not a companion,
but she liked the idea of having another young one, I think.
The foal didn't even realise it was a different horse, I'm certain.
It was that young that, from the foal's point of view,
it was very easy to get an adoption onto that mare.
But the mare, not only did she take to the foal as a companion,
but within three days, she started to bag up and come in to milk,
which I've never known with a horse.
And now, she's actually feeding, or was when we last checked it,
feeding full-strength milk to the foal,
so it's nothing shorter than some really good news.
-That's a mini-miracle, isn't it?
-It's a major miracle.
-A major miracle!
-A major miracle.
'It's important to Nigel
'his Suffolks are well behaved and represent their breed well.
'So, training them to work the fields is
'a big part of what he does.'
Nigel, what are you getting Jasper to do?
What I'm getting to do is teaching him to stand square,
go back when I tell him.
Go back. If you're working him, the horse has got to back readily.
Come on. Go on, go back. Don't worry about them chickens. Go back.
Go on. Whoa. That's it, good boy.
And then I want him to stand there without me holding him. Stand up!
If I was ploughing in the field and I wanted to adjust the plough,
the horse should stand there quiet, because if he goes forward,
he'll tighten the chain, so I wouldn't know where I was.
It's like with a dog,
one of the most important things you need them to do is stand still.
-What you're doing is taking the stress out of the horse.
If the horse is content to stand doing nothing,
then he's not going to get stressed
and be told to behave himself all the time.
The secret with a horse that hasn't worked is to do it regularly.
You'd better do ten minutes a day, every day.
-The horse gets handled on a regular basis and keeps to a routine.
There's a good boy. Come up, then. Come up. Oi.
'Today, the horses are only occasionally used
'for ploughing and field work,
'because there have been advances in technology
'that replaced their natural strength,
'as Jimmy Doherty found out.'
For me, this is such a familiar landscape.
It fills me full of joy, because the huge skies, massive horizons,
and it's a space that you can really dream in.
But the weird thing is that, in terms of farming, it's really alien to me.
My farm's just down the road. It's 150 acres.
But I'm pin prick in terms of food production.
I mean, some of the farms here,
some of the fields, are bigger than my entire farm.
I really want to understand how these big boys produce
such huge quantities of food.
-How are you getting on, Ali?
Not too bad at all, and yourself?
-All right, not bad, not bad. Harvest time, busy?
-Very busy. Very busy.
'Ali Kerr's the key man behind this large-scale set-up.
'He's the third generation of his family to farm here.'
-It's like a house in here. Look at this!
-It costs the same.
'I'm here to help him harvest in this 300 grand machine.'
-How do I operate this beast?
-Push the pedal on the floor
and you pull the steering wheel back. Keep it close to you.
Get it so you're comfortable.
This is terrifying. Here we are. Right.
-Have you ever crashed it?
-Don't crash it. The handle is called a joystick.
-The buttons on it control the front.
-Fire it up to full power.
Take the yellow switch, lift it up.
So, your front is now OK.
-Yeah, let's do it.
It's now starting to feed its way into the front of the crop.
You need to press the "A" button on the lever.
-Where's the "A"? Here?
-Yeah. Press that.
Your green light comes on. Let go of the steering wheel.
-And it's now steering for you.
'Nothing is left to chance here.
'It's precision farming, driving down costs and increasing efficiency.
'The harvester is now using infrared beams to line itself up
'with the edges of the crop.
'That keeps it cutting in straight lines.
'No part of the field is missed or overlapped.
'And all the time, on-board sensors are measuring
'exactly how much wheat is being harvested.'
-It's recording the amount of crop coming into the combine.
As you get all that crop coming in, it's bringing it in from 30 feet.
It's recording that volume of crop the whole time.
'The crop output is then matched up with a satellite map
'to tell Ali exactly how well each part of his farm is performing.
'Blue areas are producing high yields,
'the orange ones are doing badly. Ali can target precisely
'where chemical fertilisers are needed, so none get wasted.
'Even the crop itself has been designed for maximum efficiency.
'New varieties of wheat were developed in the 1960s,
'part of what became known as the Green Revolution.
'They were shorter, but higher yielding.'
If you only get a limited amount of sunlight,
you don't want to use it to grow straw.
To feed the world, you've got to grow wheat.
That's what the Green Revolution was.
This was the breakthrough,
reducing the height of the corn and producing higher yields.
By reducing it down,
we can focus more of that sunlight on producing ears.
You weren't looking to produce straw.
-You're interested in the business end, this bit here.
-And not the stalk, which would be wasted.
If the crop was so high,
with the weight of the corn, it would fall over.
-It helps it be nice and sturdy.
-We're trying to produce food,
so we focus on producing food and not the by-product.
'Advances like these have seen yields in wheat
'triple in Britain in the past 50 years.
'That sounds impressive to me.
'Especially when you think what this kind of farming used to be like.
'Just two generations ago, getting the harvest in would have been
'a lot harder work, and a lot less efficient.
'And this is what you used - the horse-drawn binder.'
-It's much quieter than a combine.
-It is at the moment.
Once I start it up, it clanks and bangs a bit.
-You haven't got that engine sound.
-There's something quite graceful about it.
Go on, Al.
'This contraption cut and tied the stalks of wheat into the sheaves.
'It was still the main way of harvesting right up until the 1930s.'
It's taking in the crops and being cut at the bottom.
As they come through, they come bound.
You've lost a part of it!
'It's fair to say that it wasn't always reliable.'
-What is it? Has something spooked them?
-No, he's just being lazy.
-Combines don't have that problem.
'The big breakthrough was designing a single device
'that could thresh the wheat on the move,
'removing the straw and husk and leaving the all-important grain.
'Combining all these jobs in one machine gave us
'the combine harvester.'
-Right, blimey. Go on, lads, go on.
-Alf, get on.
Have you got the break on? Go on, Alf.
Woo hoo hoo!
Come on, lads.
Let's get it harvested. Come on, fellas.
-That's it. Do I look like Ben Hur?
'It's tempting to get nostalgic about the old days,
'when farmers relied more on skill and muscle
'than on science and technology.
'But this shows how hard it was for our grandparents' generation
'to put bread on the table.'
I'll beat that other machine!
Here he comes, whoa, whoa, whoa. Are you catching up yet?
We've just about caught up. How did you get on?
A cinch, no problem at all. I've just done this strip here.
We've got about eight little stacks. Quite impressed, really.
What have you been doing with all your time?
This is what you call the convertible version of yours.
But in terms of getting a harvest in, yeah, it's not brilliant.
But to be fair to it, this machine was designed to collect
a completely different type of wheat.
Not your short, fat variety that you grow - the tall, elegant variety.
-How long do you reckon it'll take
to harvest this whole field?
To harvest it and collect it, a few days,
and then probably another two days to thrash.
-A good week's work.
-For about 15 men.
15 men here. And for you?
An hour. And it's threshed at the end of it.
I have to keep going up and down... That's yours.
Hang on, this is your stuff.
-You carry it back to the barn.
-It's all money.
-Come on, load up.
But I have to keep going up and down and turning round.
-You've got to get it back before it rains.
'Ali's style of farming may not be romantic.
'But ultimately, its efficiency is something we all rely on.'
'After meeting the Suffolk punch horses,
'I reckon the old-fashioned way is still the best.
'It's just a short journey from Rede
'to the nearby town of Bury St Edmunds.
'This is a beautiful market town with a rich and important history.
'The buildings are made up of mediaeval architecture,
'elegant Georgian squares
'and, of course, the Abbey Cathedral and gardens.
'Lying here are the remains of once the wealthiest
'and most powerful Benedictine abbey in England.'
The abbey was established in 1020,
but it wasn't finished until the turn of the 13th century.
This is the magnificent West front.
Although its use has been changed and it's now used for accommodation,
you can still see where the original arches are.
The relationship between the abbey
and the townspeople wasn't always great.
That's because there was such a huge divide
between the riches inside and the poverty outside.
It all came to a head in the summer of 1327 with a series of riots
in which this side entrance was completely destroyed.
The monks were quick to rebuild, and by 1347, this had been resurrected.
'In the mid-1500s, King Henry VIII took hold of the Abbey
'and began to strip it of its valuables,
'including the building materials holding it together,
'so it slowly crumbled, and much of it was lost.'
At first glance, this might look like a load of jagged ruins,
but when you spend a bit of time here,
you start to appreciate that these piles of stones
are a beautiful reminder of the history in Bury St Edmunds.
'The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds was also the location
'of an incredibly important meeting in 1214.
'It secured the future of the Magna Carta,
'a rulebook written by the barons and bishops of the time
'which went on to become the framework
'of our democratic legal system.
'Local businessman and historian Simon Pott begins the story
'at the time of King John.'
These were an oppressed people, the people in Britain at the time,
because King John, while he had many good attributes, I'm sure,
was a bit of a bully and had his own way.
Therefore the barons, the bishops and the Archbishop
wanted to have an understanding
of where the law went, how was this going to develop
in order that people had what we now know as rights?
-So they wanted to rein the King in?
Why did they decide to come here?
This was the biggest place of pilgrimage
in this part of the country, so truly huge.
Bear in mind the size of the Benedictine Abbey, quite enormous.
Therefore, a position in which St Edmund...
And St Edmund's Day is 20th November,
and the reason the barons came here on St Edmund's Day
was because it was a good cover for them all coming and getting together.
They pretended they were coming for St Edmund's Day?
Yes, and they bowed in front of the high altar and paid allegiance
to the King, who they were about to try and stab in the back.
-But they were writing a rulebook for the King?
Then they got together and created this exercise
about the various things they felt they needed
for the people of the country.
The secret meeting of the barons took place here in 1214,
but it wasn't until 1215 they actually met with King John
in the town of Runnymede where he signed the Magna Carta.
It wasn't a quick process, though, was it?
No, no. It'd taken place over some years,
but then this was fundamentally changing the power of the King.
And changing the way that a lot of Europe is governed today?
-And the world.
-Do you think people realise how significant the Magna Carta is?
Because it's a historical document kids learn about.
That's what we're trying to create here.
We're trying to say this was an astonishing bit of work,
an astonishing bit of law-making.
It didn't stay completely unchanged. What happened, at least it created the springboard
for the rest of people who now know and understand and love the rights that they have.
We're walking over towards this plaque. What is this plaque?
This, near this spot, as it says, they met.
On the left-hand side are the various people for whom we really should be
very grateful for the work that their forebears did.
-We're talking about a register of people who came here in 1214.
It's phenomenal to think that those people met here
and created something that had such a legacy for the rest of the world.
'A lot of the abbey remains are still hidden underground.
'When Matt Baker came to this area, he discovered
'another of East Anglia's hidden secrets.'
This is Britain's largest protected wetland.
A stunning 188 square miles of lakes and rivers.
It's easy to forget that this watery wilderness is all man-made,
the result of excavations that began over 1,000 years ago.
This whole area was once manually dug for peat
and when sea levels rose, it all naturally flooded,
creating this waterscape of reeds, windmills, boats and utter peace.
I'm sailing along here isn't just the best way to see
the quieter parts of the Broads, it's the only way.
'Although these waters can get busy with over 12,000 boats each year,
'I'm looking for the one part of the Broads that is hardly ever visited.
'A real treat right off the beaten track.'
Somewhere hidden behind this reed bed is an island.
But because of these reeds, it looks so similar
to everything else, you would never know it was there.
And it's one of Norfolk's best-kept secrets.
It's known as Heigham Holmes.
Even from the air, it's hard to see amongst the narrow channels
and tall reed beds, but these 500 acres are truly cut off,
as getting onto this secret island is far from straightforward.
Thankfully, local farmer John Stafford knows the way.
-John, how are we doing, all right?
-Not too bad, how are you?
-I'm very good.
I tell you what, I am very, very intrigued about this bridge here.
-Is it a bridge, is that what you call it?
The locals know it as Martham Ferry, but it actually is a floating bridge.
-First we'll unlock it.
-Yeah, so we're all padlocked.
And then we pull...this chain here.
-Right. So we just literally grab the chain and pull ourselves across?
-And it hinges...
-In that corner.
-..from that point.
'It's one of just 13 floating bridges in the country
'and it's the only way onto this island.'
It's a brilliant bit of kit, this.
And how long have you been doing this for then,
-how many years have you been coming across?
'There's one last trick to this unusual bridge.'
Here we go.
Here comes the tipping point. Gently does it...
Absolutely superb. I tell you what, who needs modern technology
when you've got something as brilliant as that?
It's idiot-proof, isn't it?
'And that's how you unlock the secret of Heigham Holmes.'
This island was once private farmland,
but since the National Trust bought it in 1987,
it's open to visitors for just one day every September.
For the rest of the year, Heigham Holmes is a wildlife refuge and pasture.
'The only other visitor is the island's warden, Stephen Prowse.'
Well, it's certainly a very quiet spot.
People don't know it's here. I had a job finding it.
Yes, you won't be alone. Many of the locals
in the village up the road here, they had no idea it was here either
when we first started having our annual opening day.
So we manage it as a sanctuary.
The Broads is perhaps one of the last wilderness areas in southern England.
Heigham Holmes is probably one of the remotest parts of that. It's really rather special.
Once a shallow hill rising out of the Fens,
Heigham Holmes became cut off as the rivers rose.
Over the years, its banks have been built up
to stop the pastures from flooding.
So now much of the island actually lies below sea level.
And it does seem to arc a little bit, does it?
Yes, that's right. When I say, "the upland", people laugh,
but it is about a metre above sea level,
but the whole site resembles a fried egg.
You have the white, which is the low-lying area below river level - or sea level, if you like.
Then you have the high level, which is the yoke,
the yellow bit in the middle with the buildings on.
'The open grassland and big skies are quintessentially Norfolk
'but a hidden Norfolk, one that few people ever get to see.'
'I've left the abbey of Bury St Edmunds
'and headed north-east to the village of Flixton.
'My destination is deep within the trees of Priory Wood.'
In recent years, there's been plenty of controversy surrounding woodland.
Who should own it, what should be done with it.
But whichever side of the fence you sit on, there's one thing that cannot be denied.
Woodland is a vital part of our landscape.
Woods are used for recreation, walking and camping,
for shelter and to provide us with raw materials.
They're home to wildlife, store carbon and generate oxygen.
Above all, they are magical, beautiful places.
But what would it be like to own your own woodland?
It's not just a nice idea,
it's actually a reality for an increasing number of people.
Somewhere among these trees is the owner of this woodland, Peter Forster.
'Peter bought this wood a couple of years ago after he retired.'
How on earth did you end up owning a bit of a wood?
Well, I knew from a friend, who owns a patch of woodland in Kent,
that it was possible to buy wood, small acres of wood.
And this is only 3.5 acres.
There are companies that buy areas of woodland and then sell them on
to people such as myself.
It is undoubtedly beautiful,
and I can see why you'd want to spend time here, but...
I was brought up on a farm, and you buy land that is of value.
You buy land that you can grow crops on.
I can't imagine you can grow much here. Why buy it?
I like being out of doors, so it was a love of the outdoors.
I like physical exercise involved in managing a wood, moving wood,
cutting down trees with permission,
supplying my home with wood for my wood-burning stoves.
I want to learn about conservation
and I would love to restore this woodland to some of the majesty
it used to have, because it's declining at the moment.
Woodland can set you back anything from £10,000 upwards,
depending on the acreage and location.
Anyone can buy it, but it's a good idea to get in touch
with companies like the Woodland Trust or Natural England to understand
more about caring for it.
Does it worry you that bits of the countryside can be handed over
to individuals? What if someone did come down here
and have a barbecue every weekend and park a caravan up?
There's quite a lot of responsibility that comes
with owning a bit of wood.
There is. We view ourselves as custodians. I know we own it, we bought it.
But we are holding it, if you like, for the next generation.
While one buys a piece of woodland like this, you have to sign
a covenant with the company who sell it to you,
that you say you won't cover it over in tarmac
and use it as a car park, you won't put up a caravan site.
'Peter has a five-year management plan for this ancient
'broadleaved woodland as agreed with Natural England.
'Part of this plan is to create a glade in the middle
'of the wood by chopping down a few of the trees.
'He's still drying out the log, so I'm giving him a hand stacking them.'
How long did it take you to clear this glade then, Peter?
I've been doing it for the last year
and I've cleared about 10 trees.
It created this area of about 30 metres by 10 metres,
really to allow more light into the lower parts of the wood.
I know it's only a year, but are you seeing much benefit?
Before we had this glade, we'd never seen any butterflies in here,
but this spring, we saw some butterflies,
small white butterflies, and that was very exciting, because it showed
that this intervention was having some benefit.
There's more light.
There's more light, so the butterflies were present.
That must be really rewarding.
It may seem a very small reward, but from my point of view,
it was enormously rewarding for the amount of effort
which it had taken to clear this wood.
Why did you pick this particular bit of woodland, Peter?
-Because it was breathtakingly beautiful.
I knew within a very short time of entering the woodland
that this was what I was looking for.
I think anyone who bought it would buy it primarily
out of love for the countryside, rather than for finance.
There are about 100,000, 120,000 small woodland owners
in the United Kingdom and they're doing a huge amount of work conservation.
They're an unsung army of heroes, because they are planting trees,
putting up bird boxes, digging ponds.
They don't get any money for this, but they get enormous pleasure
and they're improving the countryside.
In all honesty,
initially I was a bit concerned about handing over huge chunks
of the countryside to individuals, but if the people buying woodland
are half as passionate as Peter is, I think we're going to be all right.
It's great news the butterflies have been spotted in Peter's wood
and it was butterflies that brought Miranda Krestovnikoff to a special haven in Norfolk
when she was on the trail of the elusive swallowtail.
I'm on the hunt for five of Britain's most fascinating butterflies.
But today is definitely my toughest challenge.
I'm looking for the swallowtail.
They're rare, elusive and they're completely unpredictable. Nightmare.
But this area of the Norfolk Broads is their main stronghold,
so I am in with a chance.
To help me track them down, Matthew Oates,
our butterfly expert, is on hand.
Why is it that the swallowtails are found here especially?
Well, it needs huge areas of marsh and swamp
and also where a very special plant grows.
What's the food plant they're looking for?
It's a very strange plant called milk parsley, which only lives
in this sort of place. And even then, it's not common.
This plant is so crucial to the swallowtail's survival
that it has to be carefully managed.
Polish ponies have been brought in to graze the sedge,
enabling the milk parsley plants to flourish
and provide food for hungry swallowtail caterpillars.
So the caterpillars are here, albeit rather tiny.
I still haven't seen butterflies.
I think it's time we get out on the water.
-Into the real world.
Our sightings are going to be momentary.
Keep your eyes peeled, then.
'After a couple of hours of searching out on the water,
'I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever see a swallowtail.
'But our luck was about to change.'
One has just gone over. Yes!
Oh, God. Yes!
-Good boy, good boy, good boy.
-Look at that.
-Oh, yes, yes, yes!
-Oh, that has made my day now.
I really thought we weren't going to see one.
'That first glimpse was great, but Matthew and I want to see
'if we can get an even closer look.'
To the right of the kit.
To the right, coming towards us.
-Coming right into the camera now.
-Oh, he's going to land on the...
-No, he's not.
He's not going to land anywhere. He's skittish.
He's going to come and see us.
He's up again, coming towards us.
He's going to come right between us...now.
There he goes. Yes!
-Look at that.
I've never been so excited to see a butterfly in my life, actually.
There has been this build-up, and the fact we weren't going to see it.
This is a tropical experience, this butterfly.
So how old would he be, because he looks quite battered?
My guess is he's a couple of weeks old.
We don't rightly know how long they live for, maybe two to three weeks.
Everything depends upon the weather.
-His right wing is pretty much intact.
There's a little bit of the tail there, which is why they've got this name, the swallowtail,
because of the beautiful tails which do look exactly like a swallow,
apart from the colourings of the rest of the body.
He's lost a lot of his colourings, a lot of his blue.
-Is that just through...
-age. He's an old boy, let's be honest.
-Two weeks is an old boy.
-He's still utterly beautiful.
When you get a magic moment like this,
it really does reach deep into the soul.
-We really are immensely fortunate. It's party time for us.
Well, I have to say, I really had my doubts when we started off here.
Things were not looking good, but those hours of searching
and waiting have really paid off. We got some fantastic and really,
really close-up views of Britain's largest and most secretive butterfly.
I've driven down the coast
to the pretty waterside village
of Orford in search of some food.
With Suffolk's range of landscapes comes a delicious variety
of food produce, and lots of the food and drink
from Suffolk can be followed from source to plate.
There's nothing better than knowing exactly where your food comes from.
'When Polly Robinson moved to Suffolk a few years ago,
'she wanted to make the most of the amazing wealth of produce
'around her, so she now takes people on food safari tours.
'Today, she wants to show me some of the seafood available right here
'on her doorstep and later the best ways to eat it.'
Are you OK?
'We're boarding the Regardless for a trip on the River Or with skipper Peter.'
Polly, what has Suffolk got to offer in terms of food?
Suffolk has traditionally been the breadbasket of England, hasn't it?
There's a lot of big arable farms here.
There are also a lot of farms diversifying
and doing new foodie things.
There's also great fish, great beer, we've got lots of breweries.
Pork is another thing that this area is famous for.
And there's a wealth of small businesses.
I think there's an absence of big supermarkets in quite a wide area,
which has meant that small, independent retailers have thrived.
That has given an opportunity to small food producers as well
to sell their stuff direct.
We're heading out to the North Sea, but where exactly are we? What's this river?
This is both the Alde and the Ore.
The Alde comes into the River Ore at Orford, where we are now.
And it goes out, down to the sea, down towards Felixstowe.
So this is an unusual river. The salt content is really high.
What does that mean in terms of the fish?
It means that things you'd not normally find in a river here,
so we get lobsters, which we'll hopefully find today,
different kinds of crab, starfish and other shellfish.
'Peter Merrion is just one of the local fishermen
'proud to share his trade.
'Today we're hoping to catch lobster in the pots that he has out here
'on the river, and I'm keen to get stuck in.'
You look as if you're ready to pull that pot up yourself?
-I'm going to give it a go.
-Do you want a hand?
I probably will do. It's not too bad.
If it gets too tiring, I'll give you a hand.
How many lobster pots do you have out here?
We have about 12 lobster pots.
-Do you always pull up lobsters in them?
-Not every time.
You're not lucky every time, but on average, we get about three or four.
-How long is this rope?
-It's a very deep river for its size.
-These ones are shore crabs.
So before we put the lobster pot back in, we need to put bait in it.
We've got a piece of mullet head that we caught earlier. Nothing is wasted.
-Put the head in.
-So that's brilliant bait for a lobster.
-It is good bait, yeah.
The lobster crawls in there to eat that and then he gets stuck inside.
Instead of coming back out the way it came in, it moves from this chamber into that chamber,
-and that's where it gets caught.
-You can put it in.
Make sure the ropes are no where near your feet.
-One, two, three, go.
'There are no lobsters in pot number two either.
'Apparently, summer is the best time of year to catch them,
'and in the 20 years that Peter has been fishing this river,
'he reckons the stocks have stayed pretty healthy.
'So fingers crossed for pot number three.'
Oh, look at that!
We've got one. We've got three!
Third time lucky, three in a pot.
-How about that?
When you catch lobsters in a pot,
if you've got one lobster in there, it encourages more into the pot.
Is there a limit on how many you can catch in a year?
No, there's not a limit, you can catch as many as you like.
-As long as they're within a certain size, you can keep them.
And the size is normally 87mm from the eye socket
to the back of the shell.
-Any smaller, they go back in?
-They go back in, yeah.
I think these are all restaurant size, so they're OK.
The lobsters are kept alive until they arrive at a restaurant.
We'll be taking my three back to Orford,
as we continue to follow their journey to the plate.
OK, come on then, little fella. Off to the kitchen with you.
Thank you, Peter - I really enjoyed that. Success.
'Polly has another great seafood treat for me to see -
'the oysters on the beds of the estuary.
'Bill Pinney and his family have been working this water for years,
'with the help of his team of dredgers.'
-Look at those.
-Some of these are huge.
That's a thick-shelled rock oyster.
And that's a flat-shelled oyster.
And that is the native oyster from this country -
it's what's been in these waters for the last 2,000 years.
So why are these doing so well? There's loads of those.
These grow very quickly, they're very hardy.
These are exactly the opposite.
Whereas this one takes about three years to mature,
-this one takes about five or six. That's only a baby one, really.
-Would you say these are taking over in England?
-Very much so, yeah.
There are still some natives, but they are extremely rare now.
-Does it affect what they taste like, their age?
-No, not at all.
Except, obviously it's a bit too much for a mouthful.
We'd use the bigger ones for soup or cooking or something like that.
-I can't see any villages or towns near here.
-That must be good for the oysters.
We've got no sewage coming into the water and no pollution,
so we've got lovely pure water. It makes a huge difference.
Do oysters taste different around the country?
Everywhere you go. Every single site is different, yes.
Even just a couple of miles away it'll be completely different.
Yeah. It's all to do with the local conditions.
Once the oysters are brought in,
they're taken to the tanks for cleaning.
Water passes through a UV light
and circulates around the oysters for two days to kill off any nasties.
Some of them will end up at Bill's restaurant in Orford,
where I'm heading to next.
I'm genuinely excited about the seafood we've caught this morning.
I think you forget what amazing stock we have on our very doorstep.
You know what makes it even more special?
Everything has been caught within three miles
of where I started in Orford.
Soon I'll be tasting the seafood we've caught.
But first, when Matt Baker came to Suffolk,
he met some entirely different animals.
'Paul Rilott has kept alpacas for five years
'and is now responsible for a prize-winning herd of 120.'
-I think they're something else.
-We think so, but we're biased!
Yeah, we really like them.
With the weather being wet like this, we like to make sure
they've got plenty of fuel in the tank to keep them warm.
How did you end up with them here in Suffolk?
Well, about five years ago, I was made redundant
from a plant-breeding business.
We went over to Peru and came across them while up there.
Jude, my wife, said, "Couldn't we do that?"
So we started off with just a few and the following year, we managed
to bring in another 18 Peruvians and a couple from Australia.
The key was to get the right animals, and that's exactly
what we were all about.
They're just packed with character. I mean, their faces!
-I absolutely love 'em. Big eyes.
-The big eyes look right into your soul.
You just got to love 'em.
One thing about them coming here is they don't get as much
vitamin D as they should do from the sunlight,
so we want to give the cria in particular
a vitamin boost to make sure they don't get rickets.
-Talking about the cria, that's the young?
OK, firstly, can I introduce you to Viki?
-Viki looks after the herd for me.
As far as I'm concerned, every farm should have a Viki.
She is like a walking herd book, she knows all of these animals,
all their names, everything we need to know about them, she'll tell you.
-Hang on, all their names?
-Every single one has a name?
-Yes, they do.
All our white females, for instance, they're named after Bond girls.
We've got a Domino, Tatiana, an Honor, Miss Moneypenny, to name but a few.
Come on, girls.
-A mouthful of vitamins.
-Mouthful of vitamins. Good boy, Scratchy.
-Oh! Did you get it? Mmm, good boy!
'There's approximately 20,000 alpacas in the UK, in 800 herds.
'This may sound a lot, but when you compare it to sheep,
'of which there's about 32 million, this is farming on a small scale.'
-There you are.
Alpacas seem to kind of communicate on a different level.
-They're really intuitive with their young.
They only give birth when it's nice weather,
so if it's raining, she won't bother. If it's cold, she won't bother,
she'll hang on till the next day or the next week.
She'll only give birth between 8am and 2pm.
So if it gets to two o'clock and she hasn't had her babe,
she'll hold on till the next day.
That's because the sun's at the highest point in the sky then
and it gives the babe its best chance
to have a feed and to be up and about before dusk.
They've got this lovely noise, like "Oooh!"
This little one - very noisy, aren't you, Pen?
-How is Miss Moneypenny looking?
'Alpacas come in 22 different colours,
'and the fleece is in demand for clothing.'
The first thing you'll notice is it's been a wet day,
but when you open it up, how dry it is in there.
-That just shines, yeah?
This is worth £100 a kilo processed against a sheep's fleece.
-Is it really? £100 a kilo?
-Up against a sheep fleece, which is what, less than a pound?
Not only that, but it's five times harder-wearing than sheep's wool,
so you make yourself a proper suit out of alpaca,
it'll last you a lifetime.
Come, boys! In you go, my friends.
'Now it's time to look at the big boys,
'who Paul constantly monitors, as they're his best studs,
'one of them being the East Anglian champion.'
As a champion, what is he worth?
If you were to offer me somewhere between £20-25,000 today,
I might take it.
-25 grand, really?
-Yeah. Some of the top whites could be double that.
In the States, their supreme champions
will fetch up to half a million.
'Paul can earn £1,500 a time putting these boys out to stud.
'Not all alpacas cost 25 grand. You can pick one up for around £500.
'Alpacas are not just kept for their wool, though.
'Their protective instinct is the reason
'Sue Sharott keeps three to guard her chickens.'
When did you come across the alpacas?
My husband and children went out to buy some more chickens for me
and came back deciding that we were going to have alpacas instead!
-And this is Emma and Sam here?
-This is Emma and Sam.
-Lovely to see you.
How are you? What is it like having alpacas in your garden?
It's a bit unusual.
We got them primarily
because we were told that they would stop the foxes getting the chickens.
-And do they?
-Yes, we haven't lost any yet.
-Fingers crossed it keeps going.
-Quite expensive guard dogs.
-They are expensive guard dogs.
I know Prince Charles has alpacas to guard his lambs, so obviously
it's the up-and-coming animal to have as a guard dog, I suppose.
'If it's good enough for Prince Charles,
'it's good enough for me, and it's planted a seed in my mind
'to buy a couple of these fantastic animals to guard our family flock.'
They really are charming animals,
and it's lovely to see fields full of them.
I'm on my way into Orford village, where local food lover
Polly Robinson has one last stop on our gastronomic tour of the area -
Bill Pinney's restaurant.
It's been here in Orford since the 1960s
when the Pinney family opened it.
And as I saw earlier, some of the produce comes straight here
from the Pinney's very own oyster beds.
I'll be heading in there to prepare some of the food I caught earlier,
but first here's the Country Tracks weather for the week ahead.
Today I'm on a journey through East Anglia.
I began on a farm in Rede,
where I met some beautiful Suffolk Punch horses.
From there, it was a short trip to Bury St Edmunds,
where I learned about the origins of the Magna Carta.
At my next stop, Flixton,
I explored the possibilities of owning a little bit of woodland.
And today my journey ends here in Orford,
where I'm about to taste oysters for the very first time.
My foodie guide, Polly Robinson, has brought me
to Bill Pinney's restaurant for a lesson in seafood preparation.
Honestly, I've never eaten an oyster, I've never opened one, so...
-I'm a total novice.
There's a deep shell - that's the bottom and the top -
and at the end, you have a hinge.
-What we're going to do is put the knife in through the hinge.
Just press it in until you've broken the hinge
and then you just flick the top shell open.
Then give your blade a little wipe.
-Move it along the top shell.
And you cut the muscle, the adductor muscle, on the top of the oyster.
-That looks so clean.
-It's a lovely plump oyster.
And then you...just cut the oyster underneath, and it's ready to eat.
You serve it in the shell?
Served in the shell.
-What makes a good oyster, then?
-The really important thing is the meat.
You can see you have a very nice plump oyster here.
Sometimes when they've spawned or they are out of condition,
they can be rather green and transparent.
But that one you see there is in absolutely prime condition.
-Can I have a go at opening one, then?
-You have to be very careful not to cut your hands.
You need special little knife?
-I think you ought to put gloves on really.
-We don't want blood on the screen.
-That would put people off oysters full stop.
Now, you've got to press it in there.
And you've got to hold that with your left hand,
press that in quite firmly and wiggle it
until you feel you've broken through.
I can see why you don't have much faith in me.
Keep going. Keep going.
-You're through, yes, that's good.
Now push it in a bit further.
Right. Little bit further. Now give the knife a turn, a twist.
Go on, be a little firm with it.
That will crack open then.
Leave your knife in.
Lift it up, wedge it open.
Now run this knife along the top of the oyster -
be careful along the top of the shell,
or you'll cut some of the meat away.
Just run it along there. That's it.
-There we go.
-That's pretty good.
Yes, very good.
How on earth do you throw that back in one gulp?
-That's a big oyster, isn't it?
-Is it? Well, it is a big oyster, yes.
-I haven't eaten oyster for years.
You just don't sometimes, do you?
-Lovely, very nice.
Haven't eaten one for years, but would you eat another one tomorrow?
-Yes, I would, yes. Yourself?
-I've got to try it, haven't I?
When in Rome.
Or in Orford.
-Do I chew it or just throw it back?
-Yes. Sweet but salty?
-Certainly an acquired taste.
'I didn't want to be rude, but oysters are definitely not for me.
'Hopefully the lobsters will be a bit more to my taste.'
These are the lobster we caught earlier today
and they look so dramatically different.
A few minutes in boiling water
and they go from navy blue to bright pink.
-These were just plunged in boiling water?
Just brought up to the boil for about 12 minutes.
-12 minutes and then they're cooked inside?
-They're ready to eat, yes.
We're not going to eat these chaps just yet,
because, although I'm proud of them, they're tiny compared to...
Duh, duh, duh-da-a-a-a!
Look at those beasts.
-Now, that is a lobster isn't it?
-It is, yes.
'And those beasts are actually caught out at sea.
'They're much bigger than the ones we brought back from the river.
'Because of their size, they're easier to prepare.
'After cutting down the centre of the underside of the lobster,
'there's the head meat, the more sought-after tail meat,
'and the best bit - out comes the hammer
'to crush the shell and reveal the tasty claw meat.'
-That's it, and again.
-I've never eaten lobster ever.
See if you prefer it to oysters.
Quite a brave chunk I'm going for.
It's definitely fishier.
I have to say lobster is definitely above oyster for me.
'It's a great experience to follow food directly from sea to plate,
'even if the oysters were a bit hard to swallow.'
You couldn't get more source to plate than this,
we caught the lobster, it's on our plate.
But why is it important that people know about that journey?
I think it's so disconnected now
when we buy food in the supermarket or eat it in a restaurant.
We have no idea where it's come from.
Doing something like we've done today just really reconnecting it
and experiencing what the fishermen go through, seeing that side of it.
Then following through every stage.
And I think it tastes so much better.
I was satisfied with my lobster
until I saw the size of the ones Bill showed me,
and then he told me they can grow up to 50 years old.
-So, sorry, buddy, you're just a baby.
-I'm sure he'll still taste good.
This has been a rewarding day,
but it's also been a reminder of the hard work
that fishermen like Peter do every day to put food on our plates.
I knew I'd have a good time in Suffolk, because I got to come here
and enjoy some of the best the county has to offer.
I've learnt about the plight of Suffolk Punch horses,
heard tales of secret meetings that paved the way for the Magna Carta,
I've discovered the benefits of woodland ownership and,
ultimately, I've developed a taste for some of Suffolk's specialities.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Helen Skelton travels through East Anglia. She starts her journey on a farm in the small village of Rede, where she discovers one of the rarest horse breeds in the world - the Suffolk punch. From there, she heads to Bury St Edmunds to see the ancient ruins of the abbey and learn about the origins of our legal system. At her next stop, near the village of Flixton, she experiences what it's like to own your own piece of woodland. Helen's journey ends on the coast at Orford, where she samples the delicious local food of Suffolk.