In Oxfordshire, Matt Baker learns what is being done to halt the decline in the hedgehog population. And the annual Countryfile photographic competition entries are shortlisted.
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The rural Oxfordshire. Picturesque villages, rolling countryside.
But it just wouldn't be England without a country house
complete with a rather eccentric garden.
Every mansion has its impressive gardens
and the ultimate in Jacobean design is topiary.
That's a squirrel, and, believe it or not,
that is a goblin, even though his head's fallen off.
Later on I'm going to be let loose on them with a pair of these.
There's all kinds of winged wonders living here, too.
I'm taking a walk on the wild side to see some of the beasties
that call the Oxfordshire countryside their home
like the solitary bee, but to see them up close
I'm going to need...a Frisbee...
..and some washing-up liquid.
And wild Britain's provided the inspiration
for our photographic competition. You sent him some super images
and now it's up to Chris Packham, Jo Brand
and our very own John Craven to choose the 12 that will feature
in our calendar, sold in aid of Children In Need.
The theme of this year's competition is A Walk On The Wild Side,
and we've come here to Eltham Palace near Greenwich
to select the final 12 photos.
And remember - it's up to you to vote for the overall winner.
I'll be telling you how later, but meanwhile, Jo, Chris -
let's get down to business.
And in North Wales, Tom's investigating
the rise in sea temperatures around our shores.
It's going to have a huge impact on the animals that live out there
and the people who depend on catching them for a living
so as our sea gets warmer, who'll be the winners or losers?
I'll be finding out.
Oxfordshire is one of the most visited counties of England
and, to coin an American phrase, it's located south central.
It's a popular destination because here you get an historic city centre
surrounded by miles of serene countryside.
In honour of our Countryfile photographic competition theme,
today I'm going on a walk on the wild side
throughout this fair county and going in search
of some of the animals and beasties that live here right under our noses.
But without expert help, you'd never even know that they were there.
'Hugh Warwick is a hedgehog-loving ecologist, but he's worried.
'Research says our spiny little friends are in trouble.'
What's happening to the numbers here?
We found that conservatively now,
there's been a 25% decline in hedgehogs
in this country in the last ten years alone
and that actually the figure could be far, far worse.
In some parts of the country, it may be up to 50%.
And why, then?
Were in Bagley woods, just outside Oxford,
and to our right we got the A34.
It's a fantastic way of getting through Oxfordshire as quickly as possible,
but that means hedgehogs cannot cross in that direction.
And then on our other side, we've got suburbia.
Now, suburbia is in many ways absolutely perfect hedgehog habitat.
It is this amazing mosaic of different sorts of environment.
You've got people making efforts for having wildlife-friendly gardens,
they'll probably be trying to attract birds into them,
but inadvertently they'll attract loads of other things,
including hedgehogs. But the problem suburbia faces
is it, too, has become increasingly fragmented.
'But there are things we can do to help hedgehogs in our own back gardens
'and Hugh's got some great tips for those willing to make a few changes.'
Hello, Tracey. Well, listen - this garden feels very welcoming for me,
but obviously this is all about the hedgehogs,
so, Tracey, have you seen any evidence?
Yes, well, actually I saw a hedgehog over there
while we were having a barbecue
and I've never seen a hedgehog before
and when I went to go and have a look,
this little thing with little spikes, eyes hardly open,
was sort of looking up at me and it got me really excited.
Good, how about on that side of the fence,
cos you live over there, don't you? So have you seen any evidence, Mum?
We did a few months ago, didn't we? We found one had wandered
into a cage we had in the garden, but we haven't seen one since.
Right, good. Well, it's a good job we brought Hugh
because he's here to help, so, Hugh, this is kind of...
Well, it's a lovely garden so let's start from here
and work our way around and what's good and what's bad.
The first and most obvious thing here, which is fantastic,
is that this fence has got gaps underneath
it because you look at this big fence and you go, "Oh, my gosh - impenetrable,"
But hedgehogs will be able to make their way underneath the fence
and you start moving around here.
You've got wood which starts to rot, providing shelter, but as it rots
the fungi attracts lots of insects and the insects larvae is hedgehog food.
It would improve things for the hedgehog
if it could move between your garden and all the way through.
I'm leaving the gang to it. I need to check
a motion sensitive camera we set up last night on the off chance
we might have captured a passing hedgehog on film.
We set these nightvision cameras
but unfortunately we've not got a hedgehog.
But look at that. Doesn't that look like a hedgehog? It's it all.
-Are you sure?
-But we've been through all 2055 frames.
-There's nothing on there.
-You can improve your chances.
You can bait the garden with good hedgehog food.
The best thing is meaty pet food, cat food - not bread and milk
even though they'll eat it.
The best thing to do is just the whole idea of communicating
with your neighbours and The People's Trust For Endangered species
and British Hedgehog Preservation Society set up the Hedgehog Street project.
We're trying to get as many people as possible to talk
to their neighbours, start working with their neighbours,
start doing amazing stuff that Tracey is doing,
getting people to start making their garden hedgehog friendly
and porous so they can move through.
The more people sign up the better.
If you'd like more details about becoming a hedgehog champion
just go to our website.
Sadly I've not seen any wildlife yet but thousands of you have.
You've been using it to show off your camera skills for this year's
Countryfile photographic competition themed Walk On The Wild Side.
Last year thanks to you and our Countryfile calendar, we raised
more than £1.2 million for Children In Need.
It's never easy choosing the winning 12 photos
and that's why we're asking for your help as one or two of you
know exactly what it's like to be winners.
With 50,000 entries this year for our photographic competition
there'll be no shortage of strong contenders for the next
Countryfile calendar with its theme of a Walk On The Wild Side.
We've been asking for photos of wildlife,
wild landscapes and even wild weather.
Where do we start?
These previous winners definitely have the eye for it
and they're taking on the gargantuan task of whittling down the list
to just 3,000.
Wow! I think we're going to have our work cut out here.
Then they'll pass on the baton to the final judges.
The teams are working in pairs to go through the images.
Our first team of experts is Michael Mutimer, finalist two years ago
and Mark Blake, one of last year's chosen 12.
The standard is absolutely fantastic.
Take a lot of wildlife images myself and upload them,
search through them on the computer.
Now and again you get that one where you go, "Yes!"
That's what I'm looking for today.
If you open the computer and that's what you've taken, it hits you.
-You're going to use that.
It's absolutely beautiful.
Team two is 2008 finalist Terry Heath
and last year's overall winner Sarah Williams.
That is a walk on the wild side.
They've ditched their shoes and gone into the waves.
-You can't get any better than that, can you?
-No, not at all.
But it looks like some people have taken this year's theme
to the extreme.
Some quite extraordinary ones which probably won't make it through
are some dinosaurs!
It's certainly wild!
Pen Rashbass won the competition back in 2010 and today she's working
with 2009 finalist Tony Lovell.
There's been a variety of things
from jellyfish through to fungi and there are nice stags here.
It's a nice wide range and it's a lot of fun to look at.
I'm really looking for something which I had taken
and if I think, "God I wish I was there and I wish I could see
"that picture" or "I wish I had my camera and was taking that",
then that's a definite yes.
Our last team is 2005 winner Rosie Burke and Geoffrey Hill
We've really got a group that will that nothing slip through the net.
This is one of my favourite ones here
because although the top is cropped we've got this amazing wild head.
We've got an eye and a biting mouth here
and the manes are standing up on end so there's movement.
Plus excitement, so that to me, really represents something wild.
I'm amazed at the quality and quantity of the entries.
I know what it's like to capture wildlife.
You've to spend hours and hours to get a shot.
I can look at all these and say right whoever has taken this has
really put their heart and soul into getting the shot.
Our thanks to everyone who took time to enter and has made
the competition such a success.
I think that's it, Geoff.
-How are we doing?
-That's the last two yeses'.
I think we've earned a drink, Rosie.
Our huge thanks to
the team who brought the colossal amount of photos
down to a more manageable level.
And now it's time to pick the winners.
The final 12 photographs that make up the next Countryfile calendar
and those pictures are somewhere in these boxes.
And this is where we're going to be making the big decision
in the magnificent setting of Eltham Palace not far
from the River Thames near Greenwich.
Accompanying me on the hunt for the chosen dozen are fellow judges
Jo Brand and Chris Packham.
So join us later when we get cracking.
Matt and I are exploring the rolling hills and gentle valleys
Tucked away in a quiet corner of this stunning landscape
sits Chastleton House -
a majestic memory of times gone by.
At first glance, a wealthy stately pile,
but on closer inspection, it's much, much more.
This sprawling manor was built in the 17th century by Walter Jones
the grandson of a wealthy wool merchant.
The wool trade in the Cotswolds was booming,
and this grand house stood as testament to that wealth and power
but it wasn't to last.
After backing the wrong side in the English Civil War
and the collapse of the wool trade, almost 30 years after the house was built
the family found themselves penniless.
Remarkably, the property stayed in the same family.
But unable to afford any further improvements,
the house remained largely unchanged for almost 400 years.
The family owned the house until 1991.
Now it's run by the National Trust
and this 400 year old time capsule is open for everybody to see.
'I'm meeting Sarah Jewell,
'grand-daughter of Barbara Clutton-Brock,
'the last member of the family to live at Chastleton.'
What an absolutely beautiful room.
There's detail everywhere, isn't there?
So this is the Long Gallery and it's what I think
and most people think is the most beautiful room in the house.
It is 72 foot long
and was built for exercise.
Did you ever actually live here?
No, my grandfather inherited the house, Alan Clutton-Brock.
My mother lived here as a child for periods
but I used to visit with my sisters
and come for tea at weekends
and just roam around the house playing
and having great fun exploring
and finding out all the secrets of the house.
If houses could talk this place has a lot to say, doesn't it?
For instance in this room there's the long hobbyhorse
that me and my two sisters would run up and down on
and the exercise horse at the end we would bounce on.
As you wander round, it's very lived-in
and isn't dusted intentionally is it?
The family saying was, "Built in 1610, never dusted since"
and certainly that was a nice thing as a child because you could come
and play and it wasn't all pristine.
When the National Trust took over the property they faced a dilemma.
Restore it to a former glory it never really had,
or leave the house in its charming state of gentle decay.
In the end, they decided to keep it as they found it.
Preservation not restoration has been the focus here -
dusting only once a year!
Wow! What an amazing room. What was this room?
This is the Great Hall and when I was married
this is where we had my wedding party and reception.
-A huge fire burning
and it was wonderful - everyone dancing and eating
and this is the stag, which is actually reindeer antlers.
No-one knows the origination of it
but part of the family history.
There are juxtapositions of old and new all around -
signs of generation upon generation of one family
who lived at Chastleton for 400 years,
whose descendants simply remember it as a great family home.
Later, I'll be exploring the gardens.
They've certainly seen change over the years.
But it's change in our seas that Tom's investigating.
The sea temperature around Britain is rising.
So, what impact are our warmer waters having on life beneath the waves?
'You can't tell just by looking at the surface
'but a dramatic change is starting to take place in the seas'
Some of the marine life we know and love is in decline
while other more exotic species are turning up off our shores.
So what's behind this upheaval in an underwater world?
Changes in our climate are warming up the oceans. Here in Britain
the sea temperature has increased by more than half a degree
in the last two decades and the speed of that change is getting faster.
So, our seas are getting warmer
and it's causing big changes to life beneath the waves.
But what does it mean for those who make their living from the sea?
To find out, I'm going to have to get out and get my waders on!
So where are we off to James?
'James Wilson runs a mussel farming business in north-west Wales.
'He's taking me out to some mussel beds in the mud flats on the Menai Strait.'
Getting quite heavy going.
-It's a bit sticky.
-On the squelchy side.
'James regularly checks these beds for invaders from warmer shores.'
There's a species we're concerned about at the moment -
Didemnum vexillum. It's a sort of brown gelatinous seaweed
and if that settles on the mussels that would cause high mortality
or make them unmarketable.
I gather that invasive species is quite close to hear
at Holyhead already.
At Holyhead it was the first finding of this species in mainland UK.
It's a species that tends to like warmer waters?
Yeah, it's originally from the Pacific
so it's natural tolerances are associated with its original habitat.
If water temperatures warm over here
there is an increased likelihood of it becoming more established.
If this rusty coloured seaweed makes the short trip from Holyhead
these mussels could be devastated.
But foreign invaders muscling in aren't the only concern.
Warmer water brings threats of its own.
Our big concern with rapid climate change is that
the mussels don't have enough time to adapt
to any rapid change in temperature.
That could cause expiration of the species
in a local area very rapidly.
Warmer seas don't just affect mussel beds.
Stocks of fish like cod and haddock could decline too
and they are likely to head north in search of cooler water.
For today though, James has got more pressing problems.
One thing I noticed since we talked is you're getting lower!
You're actually sinking!
I know, I know. It's one of the perils of the job!
But while some creatures could be vanishing,
climate change means we are seeing more of others.
Exotic species, like ocean sunfish, trigger fish and blue fin tuna,
are already being spotted off the south coast
and here in Wales, you've now got a better chance
of seeing some family favourites.
We're heading out into the Irish Sea with marine scientist Peter Evans
to search for signs of these new arrivals.
His research has revealed huge changes
in both our whale and dolphin populations.
The British Isles is blessed with having a third of the world's
whales and dolphin species.
It has 29 species in Britain and Ireland
and of those we have had four new species just in the last 25 years.
Those are all warm water species -
species from the tropics or sub-tropics.
And it's not just these totally new ones you're seeing?
Some of the rarer visitors are becoming much more frequent now?
That's right. Striped dolphins are regular now
in fact you get them regularly off the coast of Scotland
which you couldn't do over 20 years ago
and then common dolphins have extended their range
right up into the North Sea.
But warmer waters aren't the only reason
life beneath the waves is changing. We've had a hand in it too.
I'm meeting Mike Kaiser,
a marine biologist who's spent more than 25 years
studying the life in our seas.
-Would you be Mike?
-I am. Welcome aboard.
-Thank you. The Prince Madog.
-It certainly is.
Climate change certainly has a major impact
but of course fishing activities
have been one of the biggest impact on the marine environment
and currently we are taking about
90 million tons per annum from the world's oceans.
It must quite difficult to disentangle the impacts of climate change
and the impact we are having through fishing?
It's extremely difficult and a real conundrum, very often.
But we can actually do it and we know that sometimes
the effects of climate change and fishing have worked together
to produce some fairly negative outcomes.
Cod would be a particularly good example because they were very heavily exploited
to very low levels when everybody said, "Wow, stop,
"we need to introduce some management",
but of course at that point
it was too late because the environmental conditions had changed
such that the environment
was not particularly favourable for cod larvae.
We still see cod in the shops, but it mostly comes from abroad.
That's not helping our fishing industry.
It's struggled in the last few decades
because of strict quotas and declining stocks,
so could climate change be the final straw?
'Well, not necessarily.'
-Hi there, Shaun.
Got a very attractive-looking display here, but what am I looking at?
Today in, we've got some rock salmons,
we've got rock lings, we've got plaice, scallops, oysters...
'Shaun Mitchell's been a fishmonger in Northwest Wales for 12 years.
'He's certainly seen a change in the catch.
'Local fishermen are now supplying him with new species
'such as black bream, as well as another striking delicacy.'
Something in the back of the van!
Those look pretty fearsome.
Should I be worried?
Uh, no, just don't put your hands anywhere near the pincers.
Look at that.
That is tremendous. What is it?
It's a spider crab.
Amazing! And these are now found in these waters?
Yeah, literally from within a few miles of here.
Wow. And are you seeing many more of these come into your shop?
-Yeah, a lot more.
Tell me how often, how many,
give me a feeling of how often the fishermen are bringing them in.
All the time. Whereas it used to be a fairly regular thing,
now they bring them all the time.
'Shaun's not the only one seeing more spider crabs.
'They're traditionally found in large numbers
'off the coast of France and northern Spain
'but nearby, in Cardigan Bay,
'hauls have increased more than tenfold in seven years.
'Last year, around 120 tonnes were landed.'
Can you sell them?
We sell a few of these to local people
but most of these will go to the hotels and restaurants,
and then whatever surplus is left will go much further afield.
They are a beautiful and amazing creature.
I'm treating them rather gingerly here!
'Spider crabs may look challenging
'but apparently, they taste pretty good.
'They could represent a serious business opportunity
'for people like Shaun, and there's more where that came from.'
On the south coast of England,
fishermen are bringing in more John Dory and Red Mullet
and in the future, it's predicted
they'll be catching more anchovies and sea bass -
all fish which you associate more with sun-drenched holidays in the Med
or southern Europe, rather than our own rather grey and cloudy shores.
Our changing marine life offers new opportunities for those
who make their living from the sea,
but with our underwater ecosystem shifting,
can we make the most of them?
Just as what lives in the sea
is being forced to adapt to warmer waters,
so will those who make a living from it.
And if we want to carry on eating fresh, locally-caught fish,
we're going to have to evolve our appetite too.
I'm walking on the wild side in Oxfordshire,
a county part rural, part urban,
with a centre that boasts a skyline
once described as a city dreaming of spires.
But travel a few miles east of the city, and the bustle is gone.
The sky is empty, apart from the odd bird,
and if you look close enough, the bees.
It's these insects that lure Ivan Wright to Shotover Park.
He's an amateur entomologist
and spends hours studying lonesome creatures
called solitary bees and wasps.
Well, Ivan, you've got an incredible display of bees down here.
I recognise the bumbles on this side. Now, these ones,
-these are solitary bees?
-These are all solitary bees, yes.
The principal difference is they have a much more simple lifestyle.
The female operates quite solitarily in building a nest,
very simple nest, not a colony.
'And they seem to like it here, thanks to its sandy soil.
'It's the perfect habitat to call home.'
Sandy soils are unusual in Oxfordshire. It's a clayey county
but the easy digging in the sands and the good flowers here
suits this particular group of insects very, very well indeed.
And it's these holes, then, that we're looking at.
Yes, you can see small holes, large holes, there's a large one there.
-There's one in there, look!
-Is there one in there?
-That will be...
-It's popping its little head up!
-That'll be the ornate-tailed digger wasp.
-Very yellow face.
Down that hole, there will be a little chamber
that she will dig for each of her eggs that she lays.
She'll put food in each of those chambers, seal them up
and then that is ready for the next year.
They don't see their offspring,
the offspring develop into adults in the hole
and dig their way out the following year.
-It is unbelievable.
They come out, they know where to get their food,
they know how to build a nest, they know how to defend themselves.
It is absolutely extraordinary.
The complex life biology of these insects
is passed on simply in the genetics.
Ivan's spent the last three years carrying out research
on this site of special scientific interest, or Triple-S-I.
And he uses some rather unusual equipment.
It all sounds very intriguing, this, Ivan.
Research using a Frisbee and some washing up liquid.
What's the idea here?
Well, here's the Frisbee.
It imitates a yellow flower
so the bees and wasps are attracted to it.
Without the washing up liquid, you would have surface tension
and the smaller bees and wasps would stand on the water and walk out.
The washing-up liquid just breaks that surface tension
so as soon as they arrive on the water,
they go under and they're sampled.
The whole objective is to understand the site
and get the site protected for particular types of insects,
-so it's a case of sacrificing a few...
..but for the much greater good of the site
and the species and the countryside.
What are you finding out from doing this?
What we're finding
is that the small bees are not able to travel as far as we thought,
and so what it means is,
the smaller bees need their flowers inside the Triple-S-I here,
whereas the larger bees are able to use the hay meadows
that are beyond the Triple-S-I,
so it gives you a much better understanding
of how to manage these different habitats.
Now, our judges - Chris Packham, Jo Brand, as well as John -
are poised and ready to choose the final 12 photographs
that will make it into our Countryfile calendar.
But first, here's how it all started.
Back in May, we launched our annual photographic competition,
a highlight of the Countryfile year,
with the help of Chris Packham
and someone who you don't readily associate with the countryside,
But he's got a farm in Oxfordshire, and among other things,
Chris pointed out to him an aspect of the wildlife there.
This is fascinating, a little pellet like this.
-You say pallet, but I've got another word in my head.
-This comes out through the mouth.
-This is the regurgitated...
Why don't we take a picture of this?
I think it would go very well as the July page of the calendar.
'Well, I think we can do a little bit better than that.'
This year's theme is "A Walk on the Wild Side"
and you've sent in around 50,000 images.
With the help of a panel of past winners,
we now have a shortlist of 3,000
and it's time to choose the final 12.
And this is where we'll be revealing our winners,
in the mediaeval great hall of Eltham Palace,
once the childhood home of King Henry VIII.
I'll be discovering more about this wonderful building later
but first, let's get started on that shortlist.
'And to do that, we're going to need
'some strong personal opinions from our regular judging team
'of Chris Packham and Jo Brand.
'I'll be putting my tuppenceworth in as well.'
Chris is a fantastic photographer in his own right
and when it comes to appreciating the wild,
his credentials go way back.
That's enough of the trailers, let's get on with the main feature. Dee!
Jo is no stranger to photography herself
and she's always got her own unique view.
Who's more attractive?
Yeah, all right, it's that, all right!
So, without further ado,
let's get started.
What we're looking for are a dozen truly stunning pictures
featuring the theme of
"a walk on the wild side through the British countryside"
so Chris, what will you be looking for?
I'm looking for something quirky, original, for sure,
unique, something I've never seen before,
but definitely with an artistic component.
I need it to look nice as well as be interesting.
Jo, what do you think will catch your eye?
Well, as the theme is "A Walk on the Wild Side," I'm looking for
a picture of Lou Reed on a Shetland pony with a clown suit on
and if I don't find that...
It's got to have something artistic about it,
it's got to be framed in a particular way
that just kind of hits you between the eyes.
Well, I'm sure we'll find them. Let's get going.
'First impressions are that the standard is very high indeed.'
How about a nice octopus for 30 days, John?
I think it would take me 28 days to work out it was an octopus.
One thing that people like doing is having animals by a sign
that says "Keep Off" or "No Fishing"
or "Don't stand here if you're an animal."
It's always quite a good one.
Do you think that's natural?
Do you think they might have been placed in that heart shape?
-I don't think so, no. May I examine the molluscular integrity?
They're all living. It would be very difficult
to get all of these animals in this position.
There must be something underlying where they are,
which they can attach to.
What, like peanut butter or something?
Mussels, yeah, they really go for peanut butter(!)
An albino grey squirrel -
intrinsically, a very beautiful animal
but look, it's got a muddy nose!
A lot of people would find that rather appealing.
What, the dirty nose?
A white squirrel with a little bit of mud on its nose.
Unless they've got clean noses, I don't want to know squirrels.
'Well, we're about halfway through now
'and while we give our eyes a rest for five minutes or so,
'it's a good opportunity for me to find out more about our location,
Historian Jeremy Ashbee is going to give me an insight.'
The Royals came here repeatedly
for several hundred years. This is one of their favourite properties.
-And a fantastic roof in there.
-Absolutely amazing roof,
very elegant, sophisticated of its time, the late 15th century,
but also very sturdy, and it needed to be,
because in 1940, during the Battle of Britain,
an incendiary bomb landed on this end of it
and burned its way through the covering
but the whole roof survived.
Then, sort of tacked onto the mediaeval building,
you've got this very large, very 1930s stately home.
Um, yes, that's a slightly weird combination
that you wouldn't expect to see, but I think it's actually
perfectly in keeping with the history of the site.
It was built between 1934 and 1936 by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld.
Very, very rich, very leading figures in society,
and they built it as a luxurious home for themselves
and to entertain their friends.
They were really able to let themselves go
with every sophisticated device for comfortable and luxurious living.
And there's a reason this place is an appropriate venue for our theme,
"A Walk on the Wild Side." Jo's going to tell us more.
The thing I like about this place
is that instead of a mangy old moggy
or a faithful old pooch that broke wind every five minutes,
they actually gave a wild animal the run of the place.
The Courtaulds had a family pet -
a wild lemur called Jongy.
Now, he had his own room on the upper floor of the house,
complete with a hatch down to the flower room, whatever that is.
Jongy was a little bit of a cantankerous old devil, though,
and if he didn't like people, he'd bite them.
Well, I can identify with that attitude.
'So, back to the judging, and Chris is already hard at it.'
Well, no lemurs allowed here, Jo.
-British wildlife only.
-How's it going, Chris?
-Very well, thank you.
Only 1,000 or so to go now.
'And there's always the ones that surprise us.'
I think that man is going to be thinking...
-He put it in the wrong envelope.
-"What happened to my passport photos?
"Why have I got this stunning photo of the English countryside?"
-The passport office are going, "Oh, we've got a sheep..."
-"..that wants a passport."
-It's not even a good passport photo.
So if this is you and you want your passport photos,
'Not a serious contender, but there are plenty of photos that are.
'Join us in a little while, when we'll be fine-tuning our decisions
'and from this lot, picking our final 12.'
Nestling in a quiet corner of North Oxfordshire is Chastleton House.
It's the epitome of shabby chic. A Jacobean mansion
that once oozed majesty
is now a picture of gentle decline.
When the National Trust took over in 1991,
rather than renovate it, they decided to preserve
the lived-in look and feel of the 400-year-old house.
It's an idea they extended to the garden as well.
Over the centuries, family members have come and gone
and at times, the gardens have taken on a life of their own,
as gardener Anna Derrett found out when she took over.
Anna, what was this place like when the National Trust took over?
It was quite neglected.
It had gone through a period of considerable neglect
and you can see here, this is what one part of the garden looked like
so it was very overgrown,
with a lot of wild trees and cherry trees growing in it,
but the ethos here is to represent periods of decline with the gentry,
so what we're trying to do is show romantic neglect
but keep the health and welfare of the garden.
So what makes a Jacobean garden so distinctive?
The Jacobean garden was distinctive
because you only entered certain parts of the garden,
depending on your social status in the house.
So this is the best garden, and it would have been entered by the best,
by the master and his guests from the best room in the house.
-Are we privileged enough to go in it now?
Classed as the best guests?
This is amazing.
Yes, this is topiary, and topiary is very traditional to Jacobean gardens.
Quite often in Jacobean times, you came in and you read your garden,
so they had themes to their topiary,
like the stars and planets or myths and legends,
but over the years, things have morphed into different shapes.
I'm annoyed that my imagination isn't that good. What was this?
Have a go at guessing what you think it was.
That looks like a helter-skelter.
-Yeah, that's right.
-Is that right? Yes!
-Yes, it's right!
-That looks like a teapot, this one over here.
-This is a teapot,
this is a ship in sail,
and you've got a squirrel here.
That's not a squirrel!
'They may look like blobs, but it's intentional,
'all part of the image of romantic neglect
'that the house and gardens represent.
'But they still need a trim from time to time.'
-This is the peacock.
-This is the peacock?
Yep. You're taking off the nice new growth to get a nice smooth finish
on his round front belly.
Are you ever tempted to just take them back to how they were?
You know, recreate the peacock?
If I was to manicure it back to its heyday,
it wouldn't fit in with the philosophy of the garden.
I'm not supposed to be going for it quite so much, am I?
-No, that's fine!
-It's not going to be a peacock by the end of the day.
It'll be a tiny little robin!
As well as the Jacobean tradition of topiary,
17th-century houses also tended to be self-sufficient,
having kitchen gardens to grow produce for the house.
I'm meeting volunteer John Pool, to find out what's been thriving here.
There's a lot of fruit in this garden
and the Jacobeans, we know, liked to show off what they had.
Was fruit another example of that?
Some of the fruits here are quite exotic, aren't they?
Well, yes, that's right,
and the advantage they had is this marvellous wall,
this wall which faces south-west,
warm, cosy, supportive,
and therefore, we can grow on it things that are a bit special
-I can see a lot of peaches on that tree,
which is surprising, bearing in mind the wet summer we've had, isn't it?
Well, this is where I claim, um... success with these peaches.
The problem is that the bees didn't come out of the hive
so the pollination was dreadful
but with the peaches, because they are such a special crop,
I hand-pollinated them,
I took a paintbrush and went from flower to flower,
flitting along like a bee, pollinating the peaches.
The annoying thing is that they're rotting before they're fully ripe
and the other annoying thing is that
they're attracting bluebottles, wasps,
so do we pick them or don't we?
That one's quite hard, but that one does feel soft
-so am I all right...?
-Yes, yes, give it a go.
We certainly could do with picking...
It's kind of now or never, I guess?
-I think that's right.
-Those ones feel rock hard, though!
Now, why don't you try that?
-That's all right, is it?
-Very juicy, very ripe.
I know it's early, but to me, that is absolutely perfect.
Yes, well, you couldn't have said a better word.
Delicious. Cheers, John.
It's almost time to find out who the finalists are
in the Countryfile photographic competition,
but which ones will the judges pick and which will be your favourites?
Let's find out what John, Jo and Chris are up to.
We're at Eltham Palace, and after many hours of debating,
'the original 50,000 entries have been whittled down to about 100.
'Now we have to agree on that final 12.
'I've been looking at landscapes and the weather.'
-I like that one myself.
-Do you, yeah? The composition is good on this one.
Nice colours in this one, isn't there? And again in that one.
'Jo's been picking some flowers. This year, they're as popular as ever.'
-I know which one's my favourite.
-I'm very conscious that we had
-a flower meadow in last year's calendar.
That one's got the bumblebee in
and it's beautifully sharp, and it's so simple.
-My favourite's actually those poppies.
-There's a dead poppy here in the foreground.
-That one there.
-Outrageous! Dead poppy!
Wilted petals, that's not happy, I'm not happy with that.
And Chris has found some fantastic wildlife photos.
I'll finish up this little flurry with a fabulous picture,
-what I think is a fabulous picture of a badger.
How often do you see anything like that in broad daylight?
A badger trotting down a country lane.
And the badger's taking his own walk on the wild side.
-I tell you what, it's a fine spread, isn't it?
Final 24 or so, and we need 12.
'The current calendar raised over £1.2 million for Children In Need,
'so the pressure's on to find another set of winning images for 2013.'
I like Peeping Seal in this envelope of light.
This one up here is one of my favourites.
It's the one I think looks like
a Victorian painting, rather than a photograph.
Does it need a subject? That's my only thought there. Does it need...
-If there was something just there,
if there was an alien or anything...
-Well, I don't know.
This is a bit of a comedy one.
It's a puffin, but it also seems to be, like, surfing on the water.
This is comedy as well, but it's just got a lot of action in it
cos this guy has obviously just got soaked. You can tell
cos he's standing like that, and his mate's getting soaked.
This one, for me... It takes the biscuit.
It's an Arctic Tern. You've the sun
bleeding through its translucent wings, and that beautiful cloud,
it's perfectly placed between the cloud here and here,
and then wrapping up with this Barn Owl flying over a reed bed
and it's the reeds complementing the colour of the owl.
-To me, that's a definite.
-It's a definite.
-That's a definite.
-That for me would be a definite as well.
-Let's have February.
-February, the mussels?
I think most people would prefer that.
-Prefer the simplicity of that one?
-I'm not saying a word.
-Oh, go on.
-All right, that one.
-Let's get rid of this.
-One more to go.
-So I think, take that one out and put those in.
-This is our final 12 for the calendar.
Many thanks, as always, Jo and Chris,
for all your help in picking our winners.
And now, it's up to you at home to select the overall winner.
Whoever that is will receive £1,000 worth of photographic equipment
and it's almost time to pick your favourite.
In a minute, I'll give you the phone numbers to vote for.
Calls cost 10p from a BT landline.
Other operators may vary, and calls from mobiles may cost more.
Don't vote yet, because you may be charged
and your vote won't be registered.
I'll tell you when you can start to vote.
So, here again are those final 12 photos
with their all-important numbers.
If Winter Wanderers is your favourite...
For Love on the Rocks, dial the same number with 02 at the end.
Right, those lines are now open, and you can start voting.
They'll stay open until midnight next Sunday, that's the 9th of September.
But just a warning - if you phone after then,
your vote won't be counted and you may be charged.
You'll find all the details of the phone vote on our website,
along with information about the BBC's code of conduct
for competitions and voting.
There'll be another chance to see our finalists
at the end of the programme. and we'll be revealing
which one of them is the overall winner, thanks to your votes,
and which one is the judges' favourite, on October the 7th.
I've been taking my own walk on the wild side in Oxfordshire,
to find out more about the wildlife that calls this county home,
and my hunt is warming up.
Well, I've hunted for hedgehogs and I've searched for solitary bees,
but the last leg of my journey is set to get even wilder
because believe it or not,
Oxfordshire is home to the UK's largest population of...
And a few alligators.
But don't worry, they're not swimming in the rivers.
They belong to Shaun Foggett.
He has a passion for this fearsome predator,
usually found in more tropical climates.
Well, Shaun, I never, ever thought
I'd be stood in Oxfordshire holding a crocodile!
-It's quite something. How old are these two?
These guys are West African dwarf crocodiles.
We have a two-year-old and a one-year-old.
So how did it all start, this?
I always had a fascination with crocodiles.
I remember watching the David Attenborough shows
where the crocodiles get so close to their prey without being detected
and that made me want to learn more,
and I started keeping the first crocodile after two years of research
about the captive husbandry, and the licensing requirements
that go with it in this country, when I was 21.
We've got 12 of the 23 existing crocodile species,
and we have 83 crocodiles here in total
and we also have 17 eggs in the incubator.
What is the ultimate goal with this?
The ultimate goal, really, is to educate people about crocodiles
and their conservation needs. They're very endangered.
There are several species where there's under 500 in the wild,
one in particular with under 100.
They're not cute and cuddly,
so people don't really give them the time of day
when it comes to the conservation race
but they do need a lot of help where they are in the wild.
Shaun's long-term dream is to get some of these Jurassic beasts
released back into the wild in their native countries.
Until then, they're staying right here, in the heart of Oxfordshire.
Well, if you've been mulling over
which of the "Walk on the Wild Side" photo competition finalists
to vote for, we'll have a reminder at the end of the programme.
And what a shame there isn't a shot of a crocodile in there
but let's find out if things are going to warm up weather-wise,
with the Countryfile forecast.
While Matt's been taking a walk on the wild side in Oxfordshire,
I've been exploring one of its hidden Jacobean gems - Chastleton House.
Its history is described as remarkably uneventful,
with nothing of historical moment ever happening here.
But that's not strictly true.
One momentous thing for lovers of lawn sports happened here, in 1866.
Walter Whitmore-Jones made sense of the game of croquet.
A direct descendent of the man who built Chastleton House,
Whitmore-Jones was a croquet lover,
and an eccentric fellow, to say the very least.
In the 1860s, no high-society tea party was complete
without a game of croquet.
It was being played on manicured lawns across the land,
but one problem persisted - there were no universal rules.
How hard can it be?!
I'm meeting the manager of the Croquet Association, Liz Larsson, to find out.
-I've brought my mallet so that I can join in.
But first, tell me a bit about the rules. How complicated are they?
They can be a bit complex.
Back in the 1860s, the rules that you'd play to depended on who'd made your croquet set,
because all the manufacturers had different rules,
so there was no consistency, and Walter Whitmore-Jones,
who lived here and wrote a set of rules,
he wrote the set that became accepted.
So, where do we start?
I think the first thing is to read the rules.
I was a bit eager with this, wasn't I? I'll be back, Liz.
With a croquet stroke, the roqueted ball is known as the croquet ball,
and the striker's ball is said to take croquet from it.
Interferences with play are irregularities other than errors, and are dealt with...
..a fault is committed if, during the striker's period...
..subject to law 53G...
..the striker is said to take croquet.
There is a lot more to this game than meets the eye.
The aim of the game is for one team to get both their balls
through all six hoops and back again before hitting the winning peg.
-At least that's what I think!
-The first thing is, yellow is going to be your ball.
-You're playing with yellow.
-You want to get through this hoop.
You want to use blue to help you get through the hoop.
So, you want to hit yellow onto blue, and try and get blue
-close to the hoop.
-I want to hit him there.
So then, what you do now is, you want to hit it reasonably hard
so that yellow gets in front of the hoop
and blue gets on the other side.
-Pfff! What can I say?
There aren't that many sports
in which men and women compete on the same level, are there?
In this, you're equal.
Absolutely. And they always have been,
which was why croquet was so popular
and it really took off.
'Croquet may be perceived as an elitist game,
'but it's not all jolly hockey sticks and Pimm's on the lawn.
'It takes skill...
Aw, that was terrible.
'..and sometimes, just a bit of brute force.'
Someone else who knows all about smashing balls around the croquet lawn is Rachel Rowe.
She's been playing since she was 16.
Now 23, she's the youngest ever women's world champion at golf croquet.
I've got my head around the rules. I've had a practice.
Is there any other terminology or etiquette that I need to know?
You'll hear croquet players use quite a few other words,
that make it sound a bit like a different language at times.
Common ones are roquet, croquet,
and then you've got things to describe your shots,
so a roll shot, a stop shot, a rush.
Or just whack it!
Does that count, or not?
-That was very close!
-How are you doing?
-Look at you!
-I thought you two would be a little bit more, you know...
-Come on. In for a penny, in for a pound.
-I've brought you this.
-Hang on, are you allowed high heels on this pitch?
-Oh, all right.
-Thanks a lot(!)
-You do that and I'll get some practice in.
-Whoa, whoa, whoa. Steady with the practice.
-Rachel and myself versus you and Liz.
-Hang on - you've got the world champion.
-I didn't think you knew that!
-No, I found that out already.
Look at this! My mallet's getting caught in the skirt.
That was miles away.
You need at least to go back about 20 metres.
-It's that one, Liz. Yes!
-Right, it's all on me, then.
-Back to you, partner.
-I blame this skirt. I need another shot.
-We'll give you another go.
Speaking of winners, for all those people that are eager
to vote for the winner of this year's photographic competition,
-here's a reminder of the 12 finalists...
..and the all-important numbers for you to vote for your favourite.
If Winter Wanderers is your favourite, call...
For Love On The Rocks, dial the same number with 02 at the end.
For Diamonds At Dawn, add an 03.
For Feed Me!, the last digits are 04.
To vote for On The Move, add 05.
For Lone Stoat, it's 06.
To opt for High Flyer, you need to dial 07.
If your choice is Poppy Pit Stop, then it's 08.
To vote for Owl On The Prowl, add 09.
For Rainbow's End, it's a 10.
If Storm Force takes your fancy, then it's 11.
And for Highland Flurry, add 12.
And you can see those photos again
by pressing the red button.
I think we should have another go, because we're even now.
-The game's over.
-Go on, you can have one more try.
Oh, you didn't even touch the sides. Now, that was impressive.
OK. Well, that is all we've got time for.
Next week, we're going to be on the Furness Peninsula in West Cumbria,
where I'll be taking to the water on board the Hearts of Oak,
the last sailboat to be built in Ulverston, 100 years ago.
But that is now it. I'm not going to have another go.
-You're drawing a line under the game. Bye-bye.
-See you next week.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Matt Baker and Helen Skelton head for the Oxfordshire countryside. Matt's taking a walk on the wild side in search of its wild beasts including the humble hedgehog. Matt discovers what's being done to halt the decline in the hedgehog population which has halved in the last 25 years. While Helen's at the home of croquet - Chastleton House and gardens where she'll be getting to grips with the rules for a match against the estate volunteers.
There will also be the judging of Countryfile's annual photographic competition. Every year Countryfile's talented viewers send in tens of thousands of entries to the programme's photographic competition. This year is no exception - around 50,000 photos will be scrutinised to find the final twelve that will feature in the Countryfile calendar for 2013. Last year, the calendar raised more than one-and-a-quarter million pounds for Children in Need, so there's a lot of pressure on the judges to get it right. As usual, former competition winners will help shortlist the entries before John Craven, naturalist and photographer Chris Packham and writer comedian Jo Brand find the final twelve. Then it's up to the viewers to vote for the overall winner.
Elsewhere, Tom Heap investigates the impact of rising sea temperatures on our marine life.