Series celebrating the British winter. Jules meets his sailing hero Ben Ainslie to learn about his efforts in clearing the oceans of plastic.
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The days may be some of the shortest in the year,
and the hours are the darkest.
But winter casts its own special spell.
A time to embrace the magic of our wonderful British landscape...
..be captivated by our wildlife...
..and enjoy the bracing great outdoors.
The season may be beautiful, but winter's not without its problems.
All week, we're travelling the length and breadth of the UK...
Optimistic about the state of our forests?
The big threat these days is disease from different parts of the world.
..bringing the very best seasonal stories that matter to you.
When we have a particular disease or condition,
that changes our odour and the dog can identify the disease by
A warm welcome to Countryfile Winter Diaries.
And here's what we've got for you on today's programme.
In a Countryfile Winter Diaries exclusive,
I discover how Olympic sailing legend Sir Ben Ainslie
is fighting to clean up our seas.
It's really disheartening to be out there in a beautiful
ocean, middle of nowhere, and you're coming across
this wasteland of plastic.
And how a simple bin is revolutionising the battle.
That's incredible, to think that's just a few hours.
I'll be revealing how wearing wellies
could be affecting your feet.
And Keeley finds out why surfing is good for body and soul.
-So, are you going to look after me out there?
We're spending all week here on Anglesey,
the largest island in Wales,
and it's as beautiful at this time of year as it is at any other,
not least up here on Parys Mountain, with its astonishing palette of
colours. It's also a brilliant place for a winter's walk.
But, what's the first thing you reach for when you're heading outdoors?
Well, if you're anything like me, it's your wellies.
Mine are always at the ready by the back door
and I suspect most of yours are, too.
From walking the dog to doing the garden, sploshing around in puddles,
or as the height of fashion at festivals,
wellies are our go-to footwear,
but are we wearing the right ones and could they be doing us more harm
than good? Well, Margherita has been stepping out
in the Peak District to see what we can all learn
from a group of footsore boot wearers who practically live
in their wellies - farmers.
The beautiful Derbyshire Dales are home to the town of Bakewell.
Every week there's a livestock market
where farmers come to sell their animals.
But, as well as trading cattle,
some have a more pressing reason for their trip.
Farmers can spend up to nine hours a day in their wellies.
So it's not surprising that there's one health condition that's really
putting the boot in.
To that end, the NHS have had the bright idea of setting up a clinic
just outside the auction room.
It's a walk-in centre for farmers,
and podiatrist Sally Clark is expecting a busy day.
Hi, Sally, can I come in?
-Good to see you.
-So, farmers' feet.
Tell me, what is the state of farmers' feet?
Oh, my goodness. We treat a whole range of conditions.
Farmers damage their feet when they're working.
Very often been trodden on at different times and they've got
joint problems and tendon and ligament problems
from the footwear that they've been wearing in their work.
Farmers are on their feet for long hours each day, and for many years.
With such demanding working conditions,
having the right footwear is essential.
Wellies seem to be one of the tools of the trade when it comes to being
a farmer but I understand that podiatrists
are not too keen on them.
The problems with having a Wellington on
are that it's a waterproof boot.
And because of that, it keeps the moisture in as well as keeping
the moisture out. So they tend to be prone to athlete's foot and fungal
infections of the skin.
We would much prefer them to wear a really well-fitting leather boot
with a bit of support in it than wearing a Wellington.
So, if you don't have the support in a welly,
what problems would that give you, as well?
Well, it can cause structural changes in the foot.
Where the ligaments don't hold the foot in a good position,
you can develop corns and calluses as well as
muscular strains and injuries.
And do you think they would get their feet checked out if you
-Well, that was the initial concern, really,
that they weren't accessing health care as they should.
They were too busy. And so we brought the clinic out here into
-the farmers' market.
-And the auction is so noisy.
-In the auction.
-But this is just the start of the day.
This isn't even noisy yet. No, it will get worse!
Within seconds of opening, the clinic has a customer.
Morning! Come on in.
74-year-old Doug Heathgood is one of Sally's regulars.
Come and have a seat.
He's a local beef farmer who's been coming to the clinic for respite
from a painful corn.
Today he's suffering from a tender toenail.
There's also some fungal damage on your nails.
And that's part of what the white discolouration is on those nails.
It's something that often happens in welly wearers.
Next, Sally tackles Doug's ongoing corn.
They don't have to be very big to cause quite a lot of discomfort.
It doesn't actually have a nerve in it so it can be quite painless,
really, to have that treated.
That now feels soft instead of feeling very hard.
You're going to leave with some very handsome feet, I think.
I hope so!
Next up, it's Andrew Edge.
Do you want to have a seat and we'll have a look at what the problems are
-Take me wellies off?
There's a bit of a surprise when he removes his socks.
So, they are quite interesting feet, aren't they?
A few problems going on there!
All those toes are certainly not in line, are they?
-Andrew has something called hammer toe.
It doesn't straighten fully and it's taking the pressure on the top of
-your toe, there.
-It may be inherited,
but ill-fitting shoes that push the toes out of balance don't help.
Thankfully, Sally's got a neat way of easing the discomfort.
I've made it over two toes,
because it'll keep the pressure off that toe better if it just spreads
the pressure over the other side, as well.
They look like they've seen some hard work.
That's nothing to be ashamed of, though.
It isn't anything to be ashamed of at all, no.
It's not only feet that get checked.
Farmers can have their blood pressure taken,
as well as their sugar levels.
And then there's Fiona the physio to help people like Dawn here who
suffers from arthritis in her knees.
That's going to try and take some of the shock off there.
-And has she given you some good advice?
-Very good advice.
She showed me some exercises to do.
And she's also given me some support for my Wellingtons to ease the pain.
This is a valuable service.
To me, it's assisting a lot of people who would not
get the treatment they get here.
Of course, wellies aren't the exclusive preserve of farmers.
Named after the Duke of Wellington in the early 1800s,
who had the standard issue hessian boot modified,
creating a shorter version from calfskin leather.
Then came rubber boots, which, in the First World War,
were supposed to beat trench foot.
Filtering from the military to the rural and horticultural,
the welly boot has even become a fashion statement at festivals.
And whether they cost a fiver or £500,
if you don't take care about the type of welly you buy,
you could be walking into trouble.
So, what should you look out for?
First off, don't buy a pair of wellies that are too tall.
Some of these Wellingtons are shaped at the top like that so, obviously,
that will cause less friction at the back of the knee.
And what about the sole of the Wellingtons?
If we look at the probably more traditional Wellington,
which would be this one, it does have a very flexible sole and that
doesn't help to give your foot a lot of control.
I wouldn't recommend that for wearing
for really long periods of time.
As well as checking the height and sole,
here are a few more tips for all of us welly wearers.
A heavy-duty sole is more suitable for long periods of wear.
Consider reinforced toe caps if working with livestock or machinery.
The heel must match the full width of the sole for better stability.
Kids' wellies should be well fitted and worn for short periods of time.
If I'm looking to make an investment in a Wellington,
which ones should I keep my eye out for?
-What do you like?
-I quite like this style of boot that has the elastane
top, so there's a bit of stretch in the top.
As a full made-up boot, that might be really quite comfortable.
But I also like this welly,
which is perhaps a little bit more heavy-duty
and has the toe cap in it.
Thank you for that. Some great advice.
Top tips for your next pair of wellies,
get the right wellies for the job and your feet will thank you for it.
Well, thanks, Margherita, I will certainly bear that in mind.
Now, of course, one of the great joys of coming to Anglesey is its
coastline. 125 miles hugs the island,
much of it designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
And this beach is a great example of one which is thankfully free of
plastic. But, sadly, around the UK, of course,
that isn't always the case.
But I've been off to meet an Olympic champion who might just have the
answer to try to save our seas and ocean life
from the horrors of plastic.
Sir Ben Ainslie is a sporting legend.
The most successful sailor in Olympic history.
Winner of four gold medals, including his last,
here in British waters at the London Olympics in 2012.
Now, he's long been a hero of mine, and not just because, like me,
he's a sailor, although clearly a much better one,
but because he is also taking on the Herculean challenge of tackling this
and the estimated eight million tonnes of it that we're lobbing into
our oceans every year.
From water bottles to the microbeads in face creams,
and from plastic straws to fishing tackle,
we're choking up our seas and its marine creatures.
For Sir Ben, the ocean is his life,
and he's leading a clean-up like you've never seen before.
His plans start here in the waters of the Camber Docks in Portsmouth,
where I've come to meet him.
Well, Ben, it really is an absolute pleasure to meet you and, of course,
famously, you know, sailing is a sport that you now champion so well.
But throughout your career you've noticed a growing amount of plastics
in our oceans, which must be sort of heartbreaking, really.
Well, absolutely. Sadly,
over the last 30 years I've been out on the water, yeah,
I've noticed a lot more plastics in the oceans and,
certainly in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia,
it's much more prevalent and a much bigger issue.
It's thought that, by 2050,
there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
That's a very scary statistic, isn't it?
I think was a fantastic material for everyday use and now we've realised,
a little bit too late, probably, that
the fact that it goes into the oceans,
it's out there for hundreds of years and
we can't get rid of it.
Ben is particularly concerned by the plastic that's
gathering in vast amounts at what are known as gyres,
places where circulating ocean currents come together.
The debris can cover hundreds of square miles of the ocean surface.
You know, it's a disheartening view,
to be out there in a beautiful ocean,
in the middle of nowhere, and you just come across
this wasteland of plastic.
Now, I gather you've come up with a fairly novel way
of recycling plastics here.
We've got a Seabin here in the Camber,
which is one of the first Seabins in the UK.
That's collecting a lot of plastic,
up to half a tonne of plastic in a year just in this local area.
Has it surprised you how productive it's been?
Yeah, it has. I think also for the local community as well to see that
and to understand, well, look, even in our own area we like to think
that we are really clean, but actually, the waters that we have
here, we've still got quite a lot of plastics that we're picking up.
So that's great on a local level.
The big issue is out there in the oceans and
that's a great piece of work,
but hopefully mankind is smart enough to work that out
and really make a difference.
The Seabin was recently invented by two surfers in Australia,
and Ben's can be found just beside the training pontoon.
It may not look much, but Amy Munro,
his team's sustainability manager,
says this little device can have a mighty impact.
This is our Seabin. It's been operating for the last three weeks.
-How does it work?
-So, it's on a pump system, just below the surface,
pulls the water,
filters it using this kind of fine mesh that captures micro plastics as
well as the larger pieces of debris, as well.
If I'm honest, I was imagining something a little bit bigger.
It's not huge, but actually it's perfect for it to be managed by one
person. It's not too heavy to deal with.
So, how many times a day or a week are you having to empty it?
Lots. At the moment, kind of three or four times a day.
Well, it looks like it's ready to go now.
Shall we get it out and see what you've hauled in the last few hours?
The Seabin can collect half a tonne of waste a year.
That's equal to 10,000 plastic bottles or 83,000 plastic bags.
Even a couple of hours is enough to show the scale of the problem.
That's incredible, to think that's just a few hours.
Yeah, it's really not long.
-Shall we have a look?
-Yeah, let's have a look.
you can see a lot of these tiny polystyrene balls
-that are attached to the seaweed.
-Gosh, that's amazing.
Isn't that shocking, actually,
the amount of polystyrene in just a tiny bag like that that's actually
So that's really hard, then, because we can't chuck that back in,
because it's so contaminated with these tiny polystyrene beads that
break up so quickly and so easily.
Amy thinks they may be able to recycle it, though.
After washing and drying it off,
the seaweed can be used as fertiliser on local allotments.
It doesn't take long to discover that a lot of this plastic comes
from very close to home. Our shopping baskets.
Hang on a minute.
Come on, that's not been in there that long, surely!
-A bit of broccoli!
-We had a chicken breast wrapped in plastic yesterday
and last week we had a bag of potatoes
so we nearly got a full Sunday lunch!
Just need some Yorkshire puds to go with it!
Were you expecting this sort of haul on an hourly basis?
Not hourly, no. We thought we would collect this maybe once a day.
So we've actually had to put a timer on the bin so that it clocks off
after an hour, because we know it's going to be full in that time.
-To stop it pumping, to stop it drawing more in.
And what about fish? Do they get caught up with this as well?
Usually, they stay away.
We had one fish in, but he just stayed inside in the water and we
just chucked him back out again and he was pretty happy.
your Seabin has highlighted what's going on in just this tiny corner of
Portsmouth Harbour. I can see that having applications in marinas and
harbours right up and down the coastline.
Yeah, I agree and I think the really cool thing about it is how
it's managed to capture people's imaginations and we've had
lots of school groups down and doing ocean plastics lessons with us.
This is great for highlighting what ends up in the ocean,
these tiny bits of polystyrene, the packaging, the single-use plastic,
but actually it's about trying to stop it getting there
in the first place.
80% of the debris in our oceans blows off places like badly managed
landfill sites or is just wantonly dropped in the water.
It all adds up to over five million tonnes of plastic a year.
There are so many easy ways,
easy things that we can do in our everyday life,
from switching to a refillable water bottle to a reusable coffee cup,
to looking at what kind of cosmetics and checking that none of them have
these tiny microbeads in them,
and switching to cotton buds and floss that are plastic-free.
It seems we can all do something to reduce the amount of plastic waste.
Ben wants to have the most sustainable sports team
in the world.
In their education centre,
Amy shows me some of the surprising uses they've found for all that
plastic bobbing around in the ocean.
I wasn't expecting to see anything quite as snazzy
as a pair of trainers, Amy.
And the coolest thing about these is actually that they're made
from recycled marine plastics, ocean plastics, such as fishing nets,
ghost nets, that were pulled out of the ocean.
So they are made from 100% recycled marine plastic.
When you think what we were looking at down on the jetty,
it's hard to imagine you could get something like that out of that
filthy bucket of bits and pieces, but it is possible.
We have the technology.
-But this jacket looks particularly useful.
Is that seriously made from recycled plastic? I mean, how?
Yeah. Even down to the insulation in the middle is also made from
For Ben's team,
it's quite clear that at the heart of everything they do,
protecting our marine life is paramount.
To think that all the materials in this jacket could once have been out
there floating around in the ocean,
causing harm not just to our sea life but also making a real mess and
clogging up our beaches.
Now, thankfully, they've all been repurposed,
given a new lease of life.
And, trust me, on a day like today, it's just as well!
If we all do something now, maybe there is hope for the future.
Thankfully, the Government have just pledged to take on plastics,
but there's so much we can all do as individuals.
As Amy says, we can change our shopping habits and maybe look out
for local initiatives like beach cleans.
They're great fun for all the family,
so check out what's on in your local area.
Now, there are some fabulous beach walks here on Anglesey,
whatever the weather is doing, and of course some great opportunities
to get out during the winter, right across the UK.
But here's our guide to some top winter activities that you, too,
Up in Aviemore in the Cairngorms,
you can be an adrenaline junkie like Matt...
We're off, we're off!
Wa-hey! I pulled a wheelie!
..and try your hand at dog sledding.
He couldn't get enough of it.
I tell you what, they don't hang around.
Huskies are built to survive Siberian winters.
They have phenomenal endurance and can run at a top speed of 28mph.
Oh, they're kicking up some snow!
Come on, girls, get up!
-Just as well Matt managed to stay on.
And I hope you do, too, if you give it a go.
Winter outdoor swimming is enjoying a boom all over the UK,
at places like Clevedon on the south-west coast.
The locals here have been taking chilly dips in the sea since 1928.
It's said to work wonders as a stress buster
and for your circulation.
But don't try it if you suffer from heart problems or asthma,
and don't swim alone.
Sean discovered that, for dedicated winter rock anglers,
coastal areas like North Yorkshire promise rich pickings.
There could be a sniff of a cod as the fish
come closer to shore to feed.
In the rocks, you've got crabs and shrimps.
It's like a big banquet for fish, really.
But it's not for the faint-hearted,
and you need to know the tides and shoreline
like the back of your hand.
Cannock Chase in Staffordshire is the perfect spot for winter
mountain biking. Let loose the daredevil in you with trails
that can test the most seasoned rider.
But if black runs aren't for you,
there are gentler trails for beginners.
And at Derwent in the Peak District,
if you can take your eyes off the tracks,
there are some breathtaking views.
Now, if you're a busy farmer you're sure to be out and about,
whatever the weather.
Adam's been to Northumberland to meet a shepherd who
is on the go 24-7.
But it's not just her.
Her dogs get a pretty good work-out, too.
Ashley Stamper is a 24-year-old hill shepherd working
across 9,000 acres in Northumberland.
She spends most of her time working up on the fell in the harshest of
conditions. But today she's brought the ewe lambs down
to the grassland at Belsay Hall.
-Lovely to see you.
-How you doing?
What a beautiful place to work.
Yeah. It's lovely.
It's nice to be able to split my time between coming to the grass
parks or working up on the hills, as well.
These sheep look beautiful.
North of England type, with a bit of Scotch in them.
With us, down in the south, our farming is very different,
quite easy, in comparison to the hills.
How tough do you find it?
It changes all the time.
You think you've learnt the hill,
then you go up one morning and the fog is right in front of your face
and, all of a sudden you have no idea where you are.
I get a lot more out of it than working down here.
It's a lot more challenging.
So, tell me about these blue marks.
Because we don't have fences, we need to teach the sheep where to
stay, and that's an expression called hefting.
Hefting is where the sheep learn to stay on a certain part of the hill,
so we would call one part of the hill a hirsel, and within the
hirsel we have different cuts of sheep.
The cut is like a family and they learn to stay on that part of the hill.
There's usually two or more marks.
One mark tells you which hirsel or hill they're on and the other mark
tells you which cut they're from on that hirsel.
I know about hefting,
where the sheep learn to live on the hill,
where to find the water and the shade and the grass,
but I've never heard of hirsels or cuts of sheep,
-I have to say.
-OK, so they are traditional names.
And there's a lot more, and I'm still learning them all!
Jim, lie down. Lie down.
You lie down, there. And you,
stop going off the bike when you're not called.
-After Ashley has seen to her cheeky pup Mo...
Sit down there and you stay there.
..it's time to load the lambs that she's been bringing in today.
They're off to a nearby livestock market.
They're counting the lambs onto the lorry and they've got to get the
correct number so they know how many have gone to market,
and Ashley's all across it, she knows exactly what she's doing,
staying quite calm, lovely nature,
and that's the way you've got to be with animals.
Frankie Walton has been shepherding for nearly 50 years.
He's acting as a mentor to Ashley.
What a great team.
Ah! Could you be here every week, please?!
And you get to go to the market as well?
-You'll be putting these in.
-Yeah, I work at the market sometimes.
Fish and chips on a Friday at the market...
-Yeah, what a treat!
Ashley got her break into farming through the Prince's Countryside
Fund, a scheme designed to help UK agriculture.
But she's not from farming stock.
So, tell me about your family background.
Well, my family had absolutely
nothing to do with shepherding or farming at all, really.
Both my mum and dad are some way related
to being in the beauty industry.
Hence, I started as a beauty therapist and became qualified.
I started running a beauty salon in East Lothian.
It was just indoors, and wasn't for me.
And I'll never go back.
I enjoy being outside.
And now you are at university, too.
I'm studying agriculture.
The honours project is in sheepdogs,
because there's not really much data out there that shows how much work
these dogs are doing, so I'm going to look at energy consumption.
Fascinating. Because they are on the go all the time.
-They travel some miles.
-Yeah, they do.
I mean, this little pup's only five months, aren't you, Mo?
And she's had a big day today
and it would just be interesting to see how
much energy she uses compared to a pup that isn't
going to be a sheepdog, and the same for the older guys.
And it's not just that they're a working tool.
It's the companionship, too, isn't it?
Absolutely. When you're out on the hills by yourself and the mist's in
and it's just you and your dog, it is special.
I enjoy the dogs. I'm with them all the time.
Shepherding and dogs are part of the fabric of this landscape.
It's an old tradition in the north country that on Sundays and
especially Christmas Day, shepherds would take their dogs
to the church services with them.
Bolam Church is just a stone's throw from Belsay.
Lay Minister Pam Walker is going to tell me all about those old traditions.
What a lovely little church.
It's amazing, isn't it? We are so lucky.
Tell me the story about shepherds bringing their dogs into the church.
Well, there's certainly a tradition of that happening in the Borders.
The dogs are part of the family as well as their working companions,
so they would bring them into church with them.
Must've been a bit strange for the person carrying out the service to
have lots of dogs milling around.
There are stories of travelling priests, certainly in the Borders,
who would arrive at a church and be really,
really puzzled why his congregation wasn't standing up at the appropriate places.
And that's because, if they did,
the dogs would all stand up and think, "Oh! It's time to go home,"
and that was what would happen.
And it was easier, and kept probably a more holy atmosphere if everybody
-It's really lovely to see how quickly they've settled
down. Although they are working dogs charging around in the fields,
they seem to come into church and just relax.
Because it's a place of peace, I think. Yes.
And what better way to finish the day than back out in the fields
with Ashley the shepherd, watching her flock?
Well, I have to confess I think I've fallen in love
a little bit with that adorable puppy, Mo.
And of course Northumberland is one of the UK's most unspoiled regions.
It has a very similar feel to where I am now at Aberffraw Bay.
Just across the dunes behind me is a surfer's paradise, although some
fairly tricky rips mean it probably isn't the place to test your surfing
skills for the first time,
but there are some wonderful surfing hot spots dotted around the UK's
But it's not just a good physical work-out.
Evidence now suggests that it could be as good for your soul
as it is for your body.
So Keeley's donning her wet suit to find out more.
Portrush, at the very top of Northern Ireland.
A walk along the beach here is guaranteed to blow away the cobwebs.
But it's a far hardier soul who would brave these icy waters.
Today I'm meeting a group of surfers who have taken to the waves a little
later in life, but it's helping them get over
a lifetime of troubled waters.
This plucky bunch of silver surfers are all in their 60s and 70s.
Rather appropriately, they call themselves the Bravehearts.
It looks wild out there. What are you thinking?!
Everybody says that to us.
When we come out here, we don't just come out to look at the scenery.
-We want in it!
-I understand surfing, but surfing in the winter,
in this cold?
At the end of the day, it won't be long before we're in the ground.
So we like going into the water before we go into the ground.
-It makes you feel alive?
-Yes, it does indeed.
They met through the Heart Project, a community venture in West Belfast
that provides health services and activities for the over-50s.
We got into this because we all like to do things.
Leisure centre things, and the swimmers.
We like the exercise.
So, when you are sitting at home, looking at four walls, so,
this keeps us alive.
-And it keeps us together.
-And how does it feel when you get out there?
How does it feel the first time you get in?
Nervous. A bit apprehensive.
Then you get a bit of confidence and away you go and it's like,
-"This is fun".
-So, are you going to look after me out there?
-We'll look after you!
-I'll go and get kitted up.
The Bravehearts' teacher is Hanno.
Originally from Germany,
Hanno came to Northern Ireland to study seven years ago,
and stayed for the surf and spectacular coastline.
To get the circulation going, he starts us off with a basic warm-up.
Swing your arms forward a little.
But then the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Even for this lot, who can put up with most things,
hailstones are beyond the pale.
As we head back for cover,
it's a good opportunity for me to dig a little deeper into why this
activity is so important to these men.
Their home, West Belfast, was, for years,
one of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland.
As Loyalists lived side-by-side with Republicans,
the area was a powder keg for 30 years of the Troubles.
People were restricted in what they could do, where they could go.
They certainly wouldn't have been able to get out to Portrush.
Although the Troubles are over,
a legacy still lingers in the minds of Huey and his fellow surfers.
There was people getting murdered every day and it was classed as
And at the beginning of the early Troubles,
everybody in the area sealed us off with barricades,
more or less protecting for themselves
against outside forces.
It was bad at the time.
But thankfully, it's cleared up a wee bit.
You can get out and the Belfast city centre is coming alive again.
It's thanks to surfing that Huey is regaining his sense of wellbeing.
It sort of gives you an uplift, and me and the people I am with,
we find sometimes forgetting things, and to me,
it sort of helps you against maybe dementia and things like that.
Keeps your brain active and your body active.
Feels as if you're alive.
There is a whole different world out there and go out and enjoy it.
And the team is not alone in finding peace out on these choppy waters.
Surfing as therapy is gaining in popularity.
Therapy centres have popped up across the world,
helping people with everything from depression,
low self-esteem and post-traumatic stress disorder,
to the psychological effects of physical disability.
The team's instructor, Hanno, thinks it is all to do with the calming
effect of the waves.
And you've seen first-hand how surfing in the winter is
For example, in the NHS, they did a trial a couple of years ago.
They had soldiers, I think,
with post-traumatic stress disorder and they found out that those
soldiers, they could lower or take off the medications and they slept
much better. So from a physical aspect,
they were much more exhausted,
but also from a mental aspect, they were just much more relaxed.
And what about these chaps?
So, yeah, they are absolutely bonkers.
They are probably having a great effect on us, to be honest.
We laugh so much with them, so, yeah, it's brilliant,
As for me, back out on the water, I finally get what it's all about.
But it is clear for these five Belfast Bravehearts - surfing,
come rain or shine,
holds the key to putting the past behind them
and moving on to a brighter future.
I will be honest with you, I was not looking forward to that.
But it was so much fun.
The power of the elements and doing it with those guys,
we just laughed from the minute we got in.
So I can see how this would be the perfect remedy to clear the mind.
And perhaps I won't take it up as a regular sport,
but I might just go out and get one more wave.
Well, I don't know if I'm as brave as those guys,
but clearly surfing is having an extraordinary effect.
It is a, frankly, surreal landscape here on Parys Mountain,
peppered with relics of a bygone age when Anglesey dominated
the world copper market.
Copper mining started here back in the Bronze Age
and ended in the 1790s
when miners pitted their wits against nature with nothing more than picks,
shovels and gunpowder.
But it's not just mankind that has left its mark on the landscape.
Of course, animals can too,
but when they encroach indoors during the winter, well,
perhaps we are not quite so enchanted.
There is one creature in particular that's not welcome,
a creature that can take up residence in our homes
and end up trashing our houses, raiding our larders
and posing a serious threat to our health.
I'm talking about rats.
It's the one animal even Sir David Attenborough isn't too keen on and
the population runs into the tens of millions.
Paul is none too happy to discover
they have moved into his smallholding in Wiltshire.
And like so many of us, these critters give him the jitters.
Rats, I absolutely loathe them.
They are sniffing around my henhouse, also around the duck shed,
and try as I may, I just cannot get rid of them.
Yeah, he knows that!
And like my cockerel, I am not alone.
Every day in the UK, there are more than 1,000 calls to pest controllers.
With the arrival of winter, rats
can't resist the warmth of the indoors,
and once they are residents, you're in trouble.
From gnawing away at the wiring in our homes to spreading serious
disease, rats pose a real threat.
And now there is a new breed of rat in town.
Yeah, the super rat.
It's stronger and meaner than ever before because it is resistant to
pesticide. So, how can we best rodent-proof our homes
without causing unnecessary harm to rats and other wildlife?
Where better to find out than this old barn?
A secret training centre tucked away in the south of England where pest
controllers come to learn how to take on their greatest foe...
Just look at that- there's 300 brown rats in there,
all running rampant, and apparently I've got to get in there with them,
and I am petrified of rats.
And where I am standing right now, it absolutely stinks.
I'm starting to choke.
Oh, well, here goes.
Everything here is designed to show trainee pest controllers exactly how
and where rats hole up and move.
Gary O'Connor is a top rat-catcher who tackles rodents every day.
There's 300 rats in here.
Why is it necessary to have so many?
Well, if it is for training purposes, you know,
can you imagine coming into the pest industry, never seeing a rat,
never smelling a rat, this is an ideal situation.
You have been in pest control for ten years.
What is it about it you love?
I have a lot of respect for these rodents, I really do.
They are so clever.
This smell, though, this smell, it is so acidy.
Is it urine?
-It is urine, yes.
I know it sounds strange, but as we go into people's houses,
the first thing you are looking for...
-Is it this?
-Yes, it is exactly.
I'm not even looking for it - I'm smelling it.
I can smell it. And usually,
once you have been in the industry long enough,
you can tell the difference between rat urine and even mouse urine.
Handy as that might be,
I think that's a skill I'd rather not learn today.
Rats don't have weak bladders,
but use their urine to scent mark their territory.
There is a serious threat with the urine, isn't there?
Absolutely. You can get salmonella, E Coli,
there are plenty of diseases out there that rats carry.
Other diseases can be caught eating or drinking food and water
contaminated by rat urine or faeces.
I can see them, they are hiding from us,
there's eyes everywhere looking at us.
So shall we try and lift something like that,
will there be a big nest under there?
There should be some that we can see.
Cor blimey, look at that!
Look at them go!
That was a lot of rats.
That's frightening. That freaks me out.
Six months ago, this was a fully furnished sofa.
-There's nothing left.
you can see the gnaw marks and how they've chewed it.
And they can gnaw through wires?
They can cause fires by chewing through wires, cabling.
The damage they can cause, you know,
I have seen holes where they have chewed through concrete.
You would be surprised what they won't chew.
Telltale signs of rat infestation include...
Droppings shaped like mini torpedoes.
Rub marks where grease and dirt on rats
leaves smudges on skirting boards and surfaces.
as these mainly nocturnal animals scuttle about at night.
And rat holes, as they like to excavate extensive burrows.
But there are some classic mistakes we all make which are like a
"make yourself at home" invitation to rats.
Some students may know this scene very well.
If you just look around the kitchen itself,
what do you see that stands out more than anything else?
-Food left out.
-Now, this itself will attract all kinds of rodents.
It will get up onto the work surfaces,
defecate everywhere and eat the food.
We can see some droppings in that saucer at the back there.
So it's about hygiene, really.
-Hygiene is key.
-Get on top of your hygiene.
-Hygiene is key.
-We all know rats will leave a sinking ship,
but how do you get rid of an infestation?
In the old days, you called in the rat-catcher
and his fearsome colleague,
a specially bred terrier called a ratter.
Nowadays, there's poison, or contraptions like this.
The break back snap trap.
See, I'm not a big fan of those because I do not want to find a dead
mouse or a dead rat.
They are the most humane method.
The pressure on that itself is phenomenal.
And of course, there are rat baits on the market which most people do
-Yeah. This box here, Paul,
is a safe and secure location for poison.
This is what you would use, OK?
If you were going to bait. Especially internally.
The rat goes through into this section here,
there will be a little bait station area here.
-See that down there, Paul?
-Yeah, that is a saucerful of rat bait.
Sometimes when I go round to clients' houses when they self treat,
they will do this. You have got the scenario with the dog in the basket
and the children are running everywhere.
You are just asking for trouble.
You do not do that under no circumstance.
That is definitely a no-no.
But there's one of very big problem for all of us.
The rats are fighting back.
Some rats are proving remarkably resistant to rodenticides.
So much so that the UK has witnessed the dawn of the super rat.
And here at the University of Reading,
Dr Colin Prescott has been tracking down
this terrifying new breed of rogue rodent.
And he is literally chasing their tails.
So, what is going on here?
-What are you doing here?
-Well, here, we're taking some tissue samples.
Initially, we're extracting the DNA from the tail samples,
and then we look for those particular mutations in the DNA.
If they get a resistance gene from both their mother and their father,
they are much, much more resistant.
That's sounding frightening, absolutely frightening.
Scarier still, rats are super breeders.
Sexually mature in five weeks,
females can give birth to a litter of up to 12
at least five times a year.
So when the offspring also get breeding,
you can end up with a population of around 2,000.
So, are your homes in danger of the super rats?
Dr Prescott's investigations suggest that they've taken a fancy
to the south of England, so it looks like I've got a big problem.
That's where I live, just around Devizes,
so my rats are super resistant.
So I am wasting my time going down the hardware store or to my local
farm shop and buying just sort of rat poison off the shelf.
That bait is absolutely useless.
It's just food to them. It's not going to kill them.
For these animals, yes.
There are three powerful rodenticides on the market,
but you won't get them over the counter.
Only farmers, gamekeepers and pest controllers can use them.
But I'm worried.
Apart from my ducks and chickens, I've got owls on my land,
and they can be poisoned by swooping on rats
who've munched the rodenticide.
So, what am I going to do?
Well, in the end, we took expert advice and after a site visit,
they laid some bait traps underneath the duck shed,
the henhouse and the duck pond.
Well out of the way of our birds and other wildlife,
and we have noticed they are not scurrying around any more.
We think the rats have taken the bait, we're getting on top of it.
But in the meantime, we're keeping vigilant.
Yeah, and he is on lookout!
Well, Paul's cockerel seems in fine fettle,
so thank goodness he did the sensible thing
and got the experts in.
But be sure you keep an eye out for those rat invaders.
In the meantime, join us again tomorrow
for more Winter Diary entries, when...
..Keeley investigates how we're battling extreme winter weather
-on the rail tracks...
-We've had landslides.
A railway moved 40 metres towards the sea.
It's a real challenge to look after.
..I meet a tiny horse that is making a big difference...
He is miniature, isn't he?
..and Paul discovers how to grow winter veg in the smallest spaces.
There's a garden in a carton there.
So, until then, goodbye.
Series celebrating the British winter. Jules meets his sailing hero Ben Ainslie to learn about his efforts in clearing the oceans of plastic.