Matt Baker and Helen Skelton brave the rain in Cumbria to visit the World Sheepdog Trials, while John Craven investigates controversial proposals to change planning regulations.
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In the land of mountains, moorlands
and lakes lies a valley of wide open spaces and fertile fields.
This is the eastern corner of Cumbria. Its farming heart.
I am in the Eden Valley.
This place is sometimes called Cumbria's best-kept secret.
But not any more. Thanks to the World Sheepdog Trials, people
have flocked here from all over the globe to watch the experts at work.
High above the valley in the fells, far away from the sheepdog trials,
I'll be getting a taste of sheep farming at its most extreme.
When the winds howl, the rains pour and the snow falls,
life here can be pretty tough.
So, just how is this piece of hi-tech kit going to help?
I'll be finding out.
While back at the sheepdog trials, just as the rain really gets going,
Helen and I go head-to-head in a challenge of our own.
We've got this in the bag.
Farmer's daughter versus farmer's son.
And I'll be taking a close look at radical new proposals
to change our planning laws.
They could lead to many more houses being built.
Would that ruin some lovely parts of our countryside
or revive many rural communities? That's what I'll be investigating.
Also tonight, Adam's herd is facing another test for bovine TB.
He doesn't want to lose any cattle, but one in particular is on his mind.
Eric has got a real place in my heart now.
If he got TB and had to be put down, that would bring a tear to my eye.
The lush green slopes of the Eden Valley.
A hidden jewel...
set between the rocky peaks of its better-known neighbours,
the Lake District and the Pennines.
And at the heart of the valley is the 75,000 acre Lowther Estate.
Today, the estate is host to the World Sheepdog Trials,
an international event that will draw crowds of up to 40,000 people.
It's the latest event in the estate's 800-year history.
Once the Lowther Estate was so large,
you could walk from the east coast to the west coast
without ever leaving it.
But by 1957, life wasn't so sweet.
In a bid to avoid inheritance tax,
the roof was stripped off this once magnificent castle.
The building, left to rack and ruin.
Now, thanks to a £9 million grant, it has been restored and the rest
of the estate is not doing too bad either.
I'm meeting estate manager Richard Price to discover
how they are making this historic estate fit for the 21st century.
Where is the money coming from for all of this work?
The actual castle project is being put into a trust,
the Lowther Castle Gardens Trust.
And the money for that is coming from the public sector,
large funding organisations like the North West Development Agency
and things have moved forward very fast.
And very proud of what is happening with that.
It is very much the hub and the crown of the estate.
And how much does having the World Sheepdog Trials here help?
It means a lot for the local community.
It brings a lot of income into the local community.
While the World Sheepdog Trials are bringing 240 shepherds
from around the world to Lowther,
they do have plenty of their own sheep to look after.
The estate runs 5,000 of these mule sheep.
They have a hardy Swaledale mum and a lean, muscly,
Blue-faced Leicester dad making them rugged for this environment,
but ideal for the table.
John Harrison is the estate's head shepherd.
He's working hard behind the scenes to get
the huge amounts of sheep ready, in the right place for the trials.
So, John, are you tempted to have a go at the trials this year
because you could? Former English national champion.
Well, I mean, it would be nice to but I haven't
competed for about 10 or 12 years now,
so I've probably lost the edge.
It would be nice to have a go, I must be honest.
Sure. There are handlers coming from all over the world.
I'm not sure what they'll make of the mules.
It will be interesting to find out really.
The interesting thing is, every handler
gets a different set of sheep.
This is a nightmare for you to keep things moving around?
We have over 1,200 sheep to get ready for the trials in the next four days.
Luckily, we have a good, strong committee
and a lot of helpers to help as well.
There is a lot of work involved,
early mornings and late nights unfortunately.
What does it mean to you as head shepherd to have the world trials?
It's tremendous that it has come here.
And also for the local environment.
You know, with all the people coming in and the local community,
it is fantastic for that as well.
Back at the trials, the competition is well under way.
I have arranged to meet up with Katy Cropper who won
One Man And His Dog in 1990.
'Well done, lass, that is what I call a good trial.'
The first woman to do so.
Katy, here is the BBC Television trophy.
That is something to keep, isn't it?
Wonderful, wait a minute.
She now lives and works right on the doorstep in the Eden Valley.
What a wonderful thing to have the World Sheepdog Trials here.
Yes, it's gorgeous. This is God's country.
As you can see, it's the most stunning, stunning scenery.
The trial field looks fantastic.
There is a tremendous feel to it.
It couldn't be more perfect for the trial. It is not easy.
Field number one is quite a tricky course.
Some of those sheep are quite contrary.
I actually did the course the night before the actual trial.
How was it?
Lovely. I think I should have won it!
There are some right rough ground going from the shedding ring
to the pen so you wouldn't be wanting to wear your Jimmy Choos
because it really is quite rough.
But for the dogs and the handlers, that win this,
it is a big deal, isn't it, the World Championships?
-And it can be quite lucrative.
-Oh, I'm sure.
Depending on who the person is that wins with their dog,
you never know, the dog will be worth a lot of money.
We've got the best dogs and the best handlers from all over the world.
But not the best of the weather.
Heavy rain is affecting the trials.
Later I'll be meeting a couple of the international competitors
who have braved the Cumbrian climate.
In just a couple of weeks' time, the Government's consultation
on making radical changes to our planning rules comes to an end.
The proposals couldn't be more controversial.
But what difference will they really make? John has been to investigate.
England's planning laws rose out of the ashes of World War II,
to prevent a free-for-all in building.
But fast-forward to today and they've created a bureaucracy
with 1,300 pages of planning guidance,
causing delays which cost the economy an estimated £3 billion every year.
Now, the Government has decided it's time to speed up the whole planning process,
in a bid to get more homes built and kick-start the economy.
All those pages of guidance will be cut to just 52.
But these proposals have exploded into a war of words
between ministers and deeply concerned heritage groups.
The protection for the green belt...
I'm not a left-winger. I'm not a fanatical.
..rather than replacing...
What's causing the uproar is the Government's idea that
councils should have a presumption in favour of what they call
sustainable development. In other words,
they should be more likely to approve new housing than turn it down.
So, would these new laws ride roughshod over the countryside,
or would they throw a vital lifeline to rural communities
with an uncertain future?
To try to shed some light on what the proposals could mean,
we've picked two villages in Somerset with very different prospects for the future.
First, East Coker in the south of the county,
a quintessentially English village.
-Good morning, John.
-Good morning, what a beautiful day.
1,400 people live here including Martin Sowerbutts
who is taking me on a visit to the local church.
Here we are, John.
If we go up the tower I can show you what we are talking about.
Right up the top, there.
'But we're not just heading up high to get a bird's-eye view
'of this lovely village of 900 homes.'
Many more to go?
About halfway I should say, John.
Martin wants to show me a development site for up to 3,700 houses
which could be built right on their doorsteps.
Well worth the climb! What a view!
Fantastic, isn't it?
So where exactly is this proposed development going to be?
You see the brown field ahead of us, it will span across there,
to the left, behind this tree.
To the outskirts of Yeovil?
It will join on to the outskirts of Yeovil
and go right across to the houses on the horizon.
It will look like, essentially, gravy pouring down from Yeovil
into the Vale of East Coker.
All the area they're going to build on is grade 1 agricultural land.
The finest and most fertile available.
It accounts for something less than 5% of all agricultural land in England.
And to build on that, well, I think it's criminal.
Although sites like green belts will still be protected,
proposals to defend premium farmland like this have yet to be approved,
leaving them at risk of development.
Many see East Coker's case
as the sort of battle that could take place right across the country,
if the new changes go through.
To give you some idea of the effect it'd have, I have a photograph here
which gives a representation of what it would look like if this development went ahead.
You can see all of the houses here would be covering that area there.
'Although this artist's impression has been done for those opposed to the development,
'it's undeniable that this many houses will have a dramatic impact.'
So how far is this village going to take it?
Well, we didn't want it, but we think in some ways we're a test case.
With all the assets East Coker has got, the heritage, the farming,
the quality of the land, if we can't actually make our case stick,
then we think that nowhere in the country's going to be safe,
particularly under the new planning framework.
The Government says new planning guidelines will put power back in the hands of local people.
Here, in South Somerset, they're not so sure about that.
The woman who represents East Coker on the district council
says her colleagues have little alternative but to do what the Government wants.
My preference would have been to spread the houses amongst the villages,
because I believe that protects the school,
the shops and the pub
and other community facilities,
but what the Government wants is to have the development
on the edge of towns with employment land
and with retail provision within that area along with the houses,
and so that is what the district council's had to put into their plan.
What you're saying is, it's not really your local district plan,
it's a plan that the Government is imposing on you.
Certainly, if we don't have a local plan which goes this way,
developers will be able to come along and say,
we are going to develop here, or wherever,
and we won't be able to refuse them
because we haven't identified somewhere else more suitable for them to go.
I certainly don't want it to be a free-for-all for developers.
The council say the development would bring benefits to the area,
but can't be specific until plans are finalised.
So are existing businesses positive about the proposals?
-Could I have the local paper, please?
-No problem. That's 70 pence, please.
I suppose you'll be glad when the new houses are put up, good for business?
No, we don't think so, actually.
We believe with the size of the estate it's going to be,
they'll bring shops with them,
possibly a mini supermarket, and we think it's going to draw customers away from us.
'In East Coker, it's hard to find people in favour of the proposed development,
'and that's the big concern about these possible planning changes,
'that they simply won't take into account
'the views of local people if they're against development.'
But in other places, there are those who believe these plans could actually work in their favour.
I'm on my way now to a village about 20 minutes away called Queen Camel,
where the people there are wanting new houses.
People power is working here,
because the community is doing what it appears the Government wants them to do, namely, ask for more housing.
Parish councillor Rosemary Heath Coleman helped put together a plan
for the future of their village.
We've been selected by the Government as a guinea pig
for a neighbourhood development plan.
How many affordable homes do you need here now?
Well, that's still a question to be answered,
but if I said to you 20-ish,
we will build, I hope, according to the need.
And that's the difference.
Here, we're talking about a few affordable homes wanted
by the community to help sustain their village, whereas in East Coker,
they fear a whole new town will be forced onto their doorstep.
While the children of Queen Camel enjoy playtime,
the village has been given a £20,000 government grant to plan for the future.
-You have got a lively school here.
-We certainly have.
What difference do you think the neighbourhood plan is going to make?
It will be good to have our numbers rising again.
We have fallen over the last few years,
though we've turned a corner now and we are beginning to increase again.
So, the whole point of the neighbourhood plan
is that it's going to allow people who can afford to live in the countryside
to be here with their young children.
Absolutely, that's what we want.
You want a real mix in the countryside,
not just lots of old people, young families, too.
So is this what the new planning regulations will bring about,
or is it more likely to be mass development of the kind feared by East Coker?
Well, in fact, there may be a third way,
that no-one's anticipating, as I'll be revealing later.
It's grey and it's cold.
I'm on my way to meet some hill farmers.
Not these guys. They wouldn't know one end of a sheep from another!
But what they're doing could make a real difference to the way hill farmers work.
These guys aren't playing around with a kid's toy.
This is £30,000 worth of military technology that's been adapted for civilian use.
We'll find out more about that a bit later on.
Here are a couple of farmers who stand to benefit.
Father and son Chris and Richard Harrison.
Unlike our men in black, they know all about sheep,
and when I caught up with them, the sun was actually shining.
I'm here to help bring these Swaledales down off the fells.
It's the time of year when the lambs are weaned off their tired mums,
and we couldn't do it without the help of a good working dog.
Chris, I'm in awe of your dog. How easy was she to train?
Meg, she was a natural, really.
She more or less trained herself!
From about eight months old, she used to run left, right, sit, stop,
and you just had to add commands to it.
So "get away" is go right?
"Get away" is go to the right, "get by" is go to the left.
I'm doing well if I can get my dog to sit in one place for 30 seconds.
Meg, get away!
-She's not moving.
Meg. Get away!
You haven't got the right tone of voice.
She's looking. She just listens to me, really.
Meg, get away, Meg.
I thought she was just out of range, but you're right, it is me!
'I've got to crack this,
'because I'm taking Matt on at the sheepdog trials later.
'Chris reckons it's all in the name.'
We tend to give dogs names with just one syllable.
My dogs have been called Twig, Rock, Meg.
It's for command reasons, really.
When you shout, if it's just one sharp word, they can understand.
So Meg's good. We had a Bob.
But we also had a Mandy.
Bob's a good name for a dog, but I'm not too sure about Mandy.
-She was a nice dog, I'm not sure she was that efficient.
-I'm not doubting she was a nice dog!
So if I'm going to beat Matt Baker, I need a woman's dog.
I think so. You need a dog that will listen to a woman.
Insert your own punchline there!
Well, Meg doesn't listen to a word I say,
so I'm hoping Jack will pay more attention.
I doubt it very much. He doesn't listen to me very much.
How old is Jack?
-He's just turned two.
-So he's a bit more mischievous?
He is a little bit, yes. He's a young dog but he's still learning, just as I am.
-Say his name.
Bye. Go on, they're looking!
Well, Richard's bound to do better.
He's had more practice than me.
But I am trying.
Maybe I'll be more use down on the farm.
'Things can get tricky when you stand in the wrong place.'
That was my own fault. I knew that!
Remember, though, this is the first time these lambs will have been without Mum.
They really sound like they're saying, "Mum!"
You're going to be fine.
You're going to love it out there.
These lambs will stay on low ground, grazing and growing up.
Their mums are back off up the fells to winter on high ground.
And I mean high ground.
Near 2,000 feet.
With the kind of winters they get round these parts, that's harsh.
Remember these two?
Well, they reckon their fancy flying machine could be the answer to our hill farmers' prayers.
When the snow gets deep and the tractors won't budge,
then this bit of kit comes into its own.
It's designed to fly over hard-to-get-to terrain.
Just the job when your sheep are thousands of feet up.
A special camera underneath streams live video pictures back to a laptop,
but the cute bit is, you can tell this flying shepherd exactly where to go.
Can you get it to fly from A to B?
I can indeed. I can demonstrate that now.
I can set some waypoints up here.
Then what it will do, if I now set this waypoint active,
what it will do now is fly between the three waypoints that I've set.
-You can now see on the camera it's turning to the right.
The craft flies right over Chris the farmer's flock.
The tiny white dots you can just about see are his sheep.
-Can you send the camera over our heads?
-Yeah, that's very easy to do.
You grab the centre of the orbit we're currently on.
-Set it active, and there we are.
We're quite small, aren't we?
We are. With this current camera, we will look very small.
We can see there are people there.
The technology was developed to be used in war zones like Afghanistan,
so the Cumbrian hillside shouldn't be a problem.
But what does our farmer Chris think of it?
The cost of this is probably out of the way
for the hill farmer, but maybe a contractor who has one of these,
and say there's the Commons or the Lakeland fells where there's vast, open spaces,
where you can't get to with a quad bike,
maybe the commoners could get together
on a day when they're going to gather the Commons and get the contractor in,
send him out to have a look to see where the sheep are at,
so they could save time by going to certain areas on the moors and Commons.
-So just hire one?
-Just hire one for the day.
This is a prototype, but it's already attracting the interest of outfits like the mountain rescue.
It would make a difference in terms of getting people off the mountains?
You could imagine a scenario where somebody's thrown a quad bike over.
At the minute, the option is you put runners,
fast-running guys will go up the hill and follow the track and see where the guy is.
Well, we just throw this in the air, let it go hunt him down,
and then we can go in with a vehicle ready to rescue the guy.
After about 20 minutes aloft,
the craft is ready to land all by itself.
-Quite a robust little thing, isn't it?
So, I think we all agree it's got a future,
but does that mean the end of the working dog?
I don't think so.
I don't think it makes you worry about early retirement just yet.
You're all right, Meg.
There'll be a few dogs back at the fourth World Sheepdog trials
that'll be pleased to know that.
At the Lowther Estate, behind the scenes,
the competition is in full swing.
Growing up on a sheep farm, sheepdogs have always been a big part of my life.
It's a real treat for me to be here.
I trained my first one when I was 14.
This is where all the handlers hang out before they nip off to the post.
This is Karin and Lyn, how did you get on out there,
-as you're from Norway?
-I was pleased with the run,
pleased with the dog, but it won't be enough.
Right. It's a long way to come, isn't it,
for one shot?
Is the sheepdog trialling world quite similar in Norway, as to what you're experiencing here?
It's nearly the same, the same type of courses,
the sheep are a bit more heavy.
-Same rules but the sport is not as big as over here.
There are handlers from America,
from the Faroe Islands, and even Japan and Brazil.
This is the Brazilian team over here.
-Good to see you, how are you?
Now, it's going very well for one particular member of your team.
We could expect to do well, but maybe not that well.
Right. And what do you make of Cumbria?
The farm area and stuff, it's pretty.
And the environment, we enjoy ourselves very much in the world trials.
And you're the breeder of the dog that currently has the second highest score in the world.
Yes, shouldn't have sold it!
This is a lovely touch, you have your crook in this.
Actually, I brought this for my wife.
-While you've been here?
Oh, isn't that lovely?
She gave me the visa to come by myself so I have to bring something back.
You keep smiling and wish the team all the very best.
Hopefully your score will remain in the top two. We'll keep our fingers crossed.
Now, the second part of John's investigation.
Earlier, we heard a tale of two villages.
East Coker, which is facing the prospect of thousands of new houses forced on it,
and Queen Camel, where the community's driving a project
to build 20 affordable homes. Two very different examples
of the way Westminster
would like to free up the planning laws.
The Government says that its proposed changes to planning
are aimed at making more land available for housing,
and so boosting the economy in the process.
But already there's a lot of land that's been given the go-ahead
for housing, but where nothing is happening.
Not only are there enough brownfield sites out there
to build around 750,000 homes,
up to half of which may be in the countryside,
there are also countless rural sites that have been bought, but not developed.
This is a rather nice place for a walk, isn't it?
It is lovely at the moment.
Did you know that they have, back in 2009,
obtained consent for 1,200 homes?
To be built on these fields?
Quite a significant part of it would be built on.
So why are there no houses here then?
It's difficult to know - lots of developers will have land
that they have planning permission on, but won't necessarily be building.
There may be many reasons - generally developers will hold on to land bank stock.
So how big is this land bank at the moment?
There is some talk that there is probably enough consent
for something like 700,000 homes throughout the UK.
So that's about two or three years' supply
of new homes that are not being built.
So if firms can't afford to build on land that's already earmarked for housing,
what difference will relaxing the planning laws really make?
Local building contractor David Pinckney thinks the changes could be just enough
to kick-start the house-building industry again.
I think the principle behind it is very sound.
Anything that cuts down and simplifies the planning process
is certainly going to help contribute to more development opportunities.
It will be interesting to see how that works in practice.
Do you think this idea of speeding up the planning process
will create more jobs in the building industry?
I think it will in the long term, yes.
If we can speed up the process and encourage development,
it will certainly lead to significant jobs of projects such as this.
We're able to create over 1.5 permanent jobs for every home we build.
If we are able to meet the demand that's required, certainly in rural communities,
we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the industry.
But even if more houses are built, will those who need them most be able to afford them?
I'm going to meet a couple where houses in their village
are way out of their price bracket.
How do you feel about a situation where young people
just can't afford to live in the places where they were brought up?
I think it's quite bad, really.
When you're brought up somewhere, you really enjoy it as a kid,
got memories and stuff there.
And when you can't live and have your own child live that life,
it's quite sad, really.
House prices here are just out of your reach, are they?
Yeah, completely. They're way out.
'But there is hope for Chris and Katie and baby Jack
'because they live in Queen Camel,
'where, as we heard earlier, there are now hopes of building around 20 affordable homes.'
And the new houses that are being planned here,
I think there'll be an opportunity to part-buy and part-rent.
-That will get you a bit more stability.
Then you can own so much of the house as well.
So, will you be very disappointed if you don't get one of these houses?
-I would be, yes, very disappointed.
From what I've seen, it appears whilst these changes
have the potential to give communities like Queen Camel
a new lease of life,
a combination of vague language and putting more power
in the hands of developers
may also leave it open to abuse.
It seems inevitable that the new planning regulations
will take some protection away from rural areas
but only when we see it work in practice will we know the true impact
on the countryside.
Shortly on Countryfile,
Helen's on the hunt for buried treasure deep underground.
It's really quite gorgeous, isn't it?
At the Sheepdog Trials, we go head-to-head in the show ring.
But, it's the rain that's winning.
And, what about the weather for the week ahead?
The Countryfile forecast will reveal all.
As well as its rain, Cumbria is rightly famous for its sheep.
But that's not the only kind of farming around here.
Business is booming for a new brood of farmers,
supplying one of the biggest free-range egg producers in the country.
Katie's been to find out more.
14.5 million eggs come through this packing plant every year.
Most of them come from farms that are less than 30 miles away.
It's a huge hi-tech operation.
But in this story, it's not the egg, but the chicken that comes first.
That's because all the eggs come from free-range chickens.
But just what does it take to be free range?
Well, these beauties must be free to roam,
with at least an acre for every 800 hens.
Like these girls in here.
There aren't any cages,
just water, food and a lot of room to move around.
It might look a little bit packed
but they do have the option to go outside.
They just don't always choose to do that.
That's because of nurture, rather than nature.
The chicken is a descendent of the Red Junglefowl,
originally from northeast India and southern China.
They are happiest in the protective cover the jungle provides.
So, that's where these come in.
-Should I hold the tree?
-I'll hold it, how about that?
We are essentially trying to create a jungle, is that right?
Not exactly a jungle but yes, the principle of a jungle.
And why are you doing that?
It's to improve the welfare of the hens.
To try and de-stress them a little bit.
Have you found any results yet, are these chickens enjoying having more trees to roam around?
There doesn't seem to be a lot of feather pecking going on,
which is a sign that they are not stressed, are contented and generally quite happy.
Feather pecking being they peck each other.
They peck the feathers out of each other.
It's not something we've got a problem with.
This isn't just a scheme dreamt up by Patricia,
free-range egg producers across Cumbria
are planting trees to provide happier habitats for their hens.
It's backed up by scientists and big egg buyers, too.
Joy Clachan is a farmer and a scientist.
Her research is part of a nationwide study
backed by one of the biggest purchasers of free-range eggs, McDonald's.
Our research found they feel at home in this environment.
It provides everything they need,
the shade, the shelter, the protection.
As you can see, the birds absolutely love it
and express so much natural behaviour.
And is it not - sorry to sound cynical -
a PR exercise for McDonald's?
Not at all, no. For us, it's about proving
that commitment to improving animal welfare.
Working in collaboration with our suppliers and their producers.
The egg explosion in Cumbria is a triumph that came from adversity.
The county was one of the worst hit by the outbreak of foot and mouth ten years ago.
It forced many livestock farmers, like Patricia, into a rethink.
We decided we needed to think about other options
so we didn't have all our eggs in one basket
and we decided to look into another means of farming,
and this was what we decided on.
-How many hens do you have now?
-And you started with?
-4,000 in the first year.
And we liked it so much that we decided to expand.
Once collected, the eggs from Patricia and 37 other farms
from all over Cumbria come through here.
It's a hi-tech operation. Owner Dave Brass is giving me a guided tour.
This is where the eggs come in.
This machine takes a picture of the eggs,
it also senses which way round the egg is,
because we want to put the eggs into the egg box point down.
Do any eggs ever break? It's going very fast, this machine.
In half a million eggs a day, we lose maybe a couple of dozen.
Next piece of equipment is a crack detector.
There are a lot of little hammers in there,
and they hit the eggshell very gently and listen to the echo.
Now, the machine, the computer, knows where every faulty egg is and every good egg is.
This is the bee's knees, state-of-the-art machinery.
We use car-building robots to put eggs in boxes.
If all eggs in this country were produced in a free-range way,
would there be enough eggs for the whole country?
In theory, yes.
You got to remember that free range takes land,
and an area the size of Dorset would be required for all of that.
So it's fitting that within the rest of agriculture in the UK.
While the egg-packing technology may be thoroughly modern,
it's thanks to ancient, Asian ancestors,
that the egg producers of Cumbria are giving their hens
a free-range future.
It's TB testing time again on Adam's farm.
It's a moment all cattle farmers dread,
but will Adam get the all clear this time?
Today is a big day for us on the farm.
We're TB testing.
We've gone clear now for 10 months,
and today is our routine six-monthly test.
And usually, when the cattle have been out at grass all summer,
we go down with TB again, so, I don't feel that optimistic, to be honest.
And I've got good reason to worry.
I've lost more than 70 cattle to this disease in the past 10 years.
These are my beautiful White Park cattle,
the herd was really depleted because of TB.
We were down to three cows.
So I went to Devon and bought seven new White Park heifers.
They've all calved now and it looks like a really lovely herd, I'm really proud of them.
But I heard some very worrying news the other day.
The farmer in Devon where I got the cattle from had his routine TB test.
He hadn't had TB for two years, he had 20 reactors.
20 animals that had to be slaughtered.
So today, this herd, I'm very, very nervous about.
Although the cattle were tested before leaving Devon,
you can never be 100% sure they're disease-free.
Cattle are creatures of routine, and on TB testing days,
we're stirring them up, moving them around,
there's bulls around that get upset, they start roaring at one another.
And the cows are already worried about their calves.
And I feel pretty stirred up as well.
Not an easy day.
White Parks are classed as a minority breed,
and I've worked hard to help conserve them.
Losing any would be a disaster.
So, as the vet arrives, it's time to start the test.
And then, straightaway...
This is one of the cows that we bought from the farm
down in Devon, and she's a reactor.
First cow of the test, and she's reacted.
It's an absolute travesty. Complete disaster.
'This one isn't looking good either.'
-It's another one, Adam.
-It's another one?
That's a new one too, isn't it?
You try and try and build up your herd again,
and you've got to buy in cattle if your herd is almost depleted.
We've always bred our own replacements.
And what have we done?
We've either given them TB when they got here
or we've re-infected our herd.
This is something my dad has seen many times before,
and it doesn't get any easier.
Today, this is just a total disaster,
I mean, to get two so far, out of the new heifers, is just awful.
-And I just don't know how we're going to go on.
I feel terribly guilty, I may have reintroduced TB to my farm.
What can you do?
To make matters worse, these two White Parks are suckling calves
and that leaves me with a bit of a dilemma.
It's a tricky situation with the calves, because they haven't got TB,
and we can decide to keep them on the farm and rear them
or we can have them slaughtered,
because they may be at risk of carrying it.
And I can't make my mind up at the moment,
I'm afraid I can't think straight.
So now, these animals that have reacted to TB have to be tagged
and they take a sample of skin from their ear which is the DNA of that animal,
to stop any higgery-jiggery-pokery with the tags,
to make sure that the animal that's got TB goes to slaughter.
All looks well for the rest of my White Parks,
until one of my original herd gets tested.
This is one of our home-bred cows.
A heifer who's running with the bull now.
She hasn't been with the visiting cows for very long,
only the last couple of weeks.
And strangely, it makes me feel a bit better that we had it anyway,
so we haven't introduced it to the farm by bringing cattle with us,
it's just on the farm and it seems like it's here to stay.
But we've lost another White Park.
Watch the calf. Mind the calf!
The vet doesn't find any more reactors among the rest of my cattle,
but there are a couple that are borderline.
This animal has got lumps, but they're not big enough
to make it a reactor, it's what's known as an inconclusive.
And so she will have to be tested again in 60 days,
-but like the rest of the herd will be.
All that's left now are the last few of my highlands.
It's not often I have favourites,
but Eric has got a real place in my heart now.
If he got TB and had to be put down, that would bring a tear to my eye.
And thankfully, it's good news for Eric.
I'm not alone when it comes to the terrible effects of this disease.
Last year, around 25,000 cattle were slaughtered
due to bovine TB in England.
It cost us taxpayers around £90 million.
The Government is currently deliberating on whether
to sanction a badger cull in England to control the disease.
'A solution, whatever it might be, can't come soon enough for me.'
Right, so that's it, the test is over,
we've got three reactors that will have to be slaughtered,
and two are what are known as inconclusives.
They'll have to be tested again before a decision
can be made on them. So, it's a real shame.
I was really hoping that we were shot of it now.
We've gone 10 months clear of TB and the animals have been
out at grass grazing all summer, and they've got it again.
So we go on this continual circle.
After some time away from the animals,
I've had a chance to think about the reality of the results
and I've decided what to do with my White Park calves.
I've isolated these three cows that reacted to the TB test.
They have to be isolated to stop the risk of them
spreading TB to the other cattle that are healthy,
and they'll be slaughtered in 7 to 10 days' time.
One of the dilemmas I've got now is that these two cows have got
two calves that they're suckling, and there's a risk that these calves
might have TB, so do I just decide to put them down, to slaughter them?
Or do I rear them by hand-feeding them bottled milk
and have them in a loose box to stop the risk of spreading TB to many of my other cattle?
And they're such lovely little calves,
I think I've got to give them a chance and I hope
the outcome is positive,
that these calves will survive and get through the next TB test
and I will be able to return them to the herd as healthy animals.
Next week, I'll be visiting the shortlisted farms
for this year's Farmer Of The Year
as part of Radio Four's annual Food And Farming Awards.
This is the high country, the roof of England.
Where craggy mountains meet vast open moorland.
And where market towns touch the clouds.
Like this one. Alston is one of England's highest,
we're 1,000 feet up and more than 15 miles from the next town.
If it's remoteness you want, you've got it.
There's been a settlement here since Roman times,
those boys on day trips
from Hadrian's Wall knew they were on to something.
Because the area around Alston is loaded.
It's not so much a case of there's gold in them there hills,
as zinc and silver and most important of all, lead.
Lead is what put the area on the map.
Mines sprung up all over the place, and if you know where to look,
you can read its history in the hillsides.
Even just looking at this bit of the landscape,
you can tell that it's quite a heavily mined area, can't you?
Yes, this whole top end of the valley
is scarred, even where there are bits that have been grassed over.
Right the way up to the top and around the corner,
it's all lead workings going back 300 years or more,
and you can see the landscape hasn't recovered.
All that brown waste, it's all waste heaps there, and the place
is practically hollow with the amount of lead that's been taken out.
Miners flocked to the area, the population exploded,
but there was nowhere for them to live.
Solution - build homes, lots of them.
These were wonderful houses by the standards of the day.
Although it was just one room up, one room down,
for a family of up to 10 or 11,
it was much better than anything the workers had been used to,
and they had outhouses at the back and toilets,
and they had large gardens in the front
where they were encouraged to produce their own vegetables,
just for the sake of getting fresh air and exercise after
being cooped up in the mine all day in the pitch black and the dust.
They could come and be out in the sunshine, would you believe, and be healthy.
Even so, a miner's life expectancy was just 45 years of age,
and most of that would have been spent underground.
To find out what life was like down there,
I'm joining a team of local mine explorers.
Alistair, it's a lovely, sunny day, yet we're going underground. Is it going to be worth it?
It certainly will be, there's a lot to see down there,
so, once we're kitted up, we can make our way in.
OK. Boiler suit on, helmet on, are we ready, team?
Lead the way, Alistair.
These old mines can be dangerous, so it pays to have experts guide you,
but once you're in, a whole new world opens up.
There are beautiful dry stone tunnels.
You can still see the rails used to wheel out the lead ore.
Here and there, pit props hold up the roof.
But mostly, it's narrow passages, blasted out of the hard rock,
flooded and dark.
But shine a light, and the space glitters.
The miners weren't down here for the views though.
They were working eight-hour shifts in pairs.
It was hard graft and slow going.
Alastair, these are everywhere. Are these sort of drill marks?
Yes, the miners would've drilled in here by hand in this part of the mine.
Once the drill hole was complete, they'd put gunpowder into the hole,
pack it with clay, and then put a fuse in.
When the rock was blasted, it blasted this piece of rock away,
and leaves the drill hole there.
They'd blast about two foot a day.
It could take years to reach the veins of lead ore,
but if they struck it rich they'd work around the clock,
and all they had to work by was candlelight.
-You can see on the wall there, can you see the dollop of clay?
That's what the miners would've used for their candles.
They'd put the clay on the wall and then stick a candle in as a holder,
and that allowed them to work hands free and see what they were doing.
So the candle was their only form of light?
Only form of light, yes. One candle per miner.
What's this bit? It's totally different, isn't it?
This is known as a horse whim chamber,
and when the mines were working there's a shaft on the far side there
that goes down to lower levels, and there would be a pony walking round in here,
driving a winching system that would haul material up and down the whimsey shaft.
Is this machinery? Was that often used?
Yes, this is the remains of the actual winching system.
So that stuff is potentially 300 years old?
Yep, yep. Original timber and materials there.
A time capsule, albeit a little rusty and rotten now.
We've been going nearly an hour
and still no sign of the galena, the valuable lead ore that kept so many miners busy.
But it is there, you just need a keen eye.
So this is it, is it? This is what they were looking for?
I've got a sample here. That's the actual galena itself
so you can see when it's first exposed it's quite shiny.
It's really quite gorgeous, isn't it?
It does have a certain percentage of silver within it as well,
which helped make the mines profitable in the area.
There's still plenty of lead ore here, it just became uneconomic to mine it.
Cheaper foreign lead put paid to our home-grown industry at the start of the 20th century.
An industry which had flourished since Roman times had gone.
You could spend hours down there and you might get lost
but you definitely wouldn't get bored.
Shortly, I'm going to be sharpening my shepherding skills with the help of a few experts,
and fingers crossed it'll be enough to beat Matt in the sheepdog trials.
But, before that, here's the Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead.
This is the North Country, where the Pennines rub up against the Lake District.
Hidden between the two is the Eden Valley,
my home and host to this year's World Sheepdog Championships.
I'm here to take on Matt in a sheepdog championship of our own.
Matt is very proud of his farming heritage, but so am I,
and I know he likes to think of himself as a bit of a dab hand when it comes to handling sheep.
I, however, have no experience handling sheep.
That's why I'm calling on you, Mark. You're my guru for this,
because I'm throwing down the gauntlet to Baker on my home turf so I've got to win.
-We'll do our best.
I've enlisted the help of local farmer Mark Elliott.
Together with his trusty dog Spot, he's one of this year's hot favourites.
-To get him to come over, I say, "that'll do"?
-"That'll do, Spot", yes.
That'll do, Spot.
Be a bit more assertive.
-That'll do, Spot!
-That'll do, Spot. Spot! That'll do.
That'll do, Spot.
-That'll do, Spot.
-He's not really listening to me, is he?
'One word from me...and Spot does just what he wants!'
How do I get him to go right?
-The basic ones - for the right hand side it's "way".
-And for the left it's "come bye".
That'll do. That'll do.
Come bye. Come bye.
-Ask him for the way.
'Hmm, this could take some doing.
'Luckily, Mark's going to be right by my side for the showdown.'
-Lie down, lie down!
Spot, that'll do.
Right, let battle commence. May the best presenter win and never mind the weather.
-Come on, Spot. Here we go.
-How are you doing, Helen? All right?
-I'm very good.
-You're fully trained up then, I understand?
-I'm good. Well, I say that.
-You've had a lot of training, I hear?
-Well, not with this dog unfortunately.
My dog Meg is no longer with me so I borrowed Tim from a good friend of mine, Gus Dermody,
and not only have I borrowed his dog, I've borrowed his outfit as well
-because the weather has taken a turn for the worst.
-So Gus is a judge...
You're literally in the judge's pocket?
-Yes, absolutely. Actually, can I borrow your crook as well?
-Yes, you can have that.
-I'm fully kitted out now.
-Right, well we're ready for this. Aren't we, Mark?
-Spot is poised.
Will Spot listen to you, do you think? Because I've got no idea about Tim.
Apparently Spot isn't too familiar to the female voice.
-So Mark's going to walk with me and echo what I say.
-You're just going to talk like that.
But there is a problem because we'll be lucky if the dogs can hear anything we say over this weather.
I'm hoping I've got beginner's luck.
An expert in the field, Matt's first to take on the course.
Pretty wide around the pen here.
-You've got to keep them flowing all the time.
'It sounds simple - get five sheep through a gate and into a pen -
'but these girls are stubborn customers.'
-So through the obstacle, bearing right, and now they need to head for the pen.
-Lie down. Lie down!
-Yep, he's got them in the pen.
-Oh, well done!
Yay! Good boy.
-What a good lad!
Not a bad start for Helen and Spot.
-Oh, we've gone wrong.
-That's not too bad. The dog's going the wrong side.
-He's keen, isn't he?
-Come bye, you.
Good control there, keeping the ship nice and calm.
Lie down, lie down.
-Oh! It's a clean pen.
-It's a very good pen.
-Well, I thought that was impressive.
-I certainly was impressed.
-My word! Helen, what are you doing on this field?
You should be up there, competing!
I think it's fair to say I had a very good teacher who chipped in now and again.
-To be honest, we could have left Spot to his own devices.
-He was quite happy out there on his own.
He thoroughly enjoyed it. Look, the sheep are sticking around. They want to know who's won.
Gus, what's the result?
Really, you were level pegging, but on a technicality you got it
because Helen went and moved from the post, from the pen when you set the dog off.
-Yep, unfortunately for you...
That's a made-up rule, I didn't even know about it!
Thanks ever so much. That's all we've got time for this week.
Next week we're going to be in the Mawddach estuary in Wales
and we'll be revealing your favourite entry of the Countryfile photographic competition.
But, from Helen's neck of the woods, it's come by for now. See you.
You looked so cool until that gag.
It's undermined the victory!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Matt Baker and Helen Skelton brave the rain in Cumbria to visit the World Sheepdog Trials. Matt discovers the beautiful Lowther Estate, where the trials are held, before taking on Helen in a sheepdog challenge. While she is in Cumbria, Helen also gets a chance to find out about the difficult and dangerous life of the lead miner, and discovers how a military spy plane has been adapted to help hill farmers.
John Craven investigates controversial proposals to change planning regulations; could they threaten the future of the countryside, or revitalise rural communities? And it is a nervous time for Adam on his farm when his cattle, including his precious White Parks, are tested for TB.