Matt and Julia are in Gloucestershire on the hunt for one of Britain's rarest butterflies. Plus Julia travels through some of the Cotswolds' most beautiful areas of woodland.
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Deep in the heart of the Cotswolds Hills, something is stirring.
These ancient meadows hide a secret.
It's hoped they'll soon be home to something very special indeed.
A wildlife wonder so rare and so fragile it's not been a feature
of this landscape for 50 years.
The Large Blue butterfly is an extraordinary creature
and reintroducing them is a very ambitious plan.
So much so, this site, for now, is top secret.
But it looks like the weather is on our side so fingers crossed
we should be in with the chance of seeing them almost as they emerge.
They actually hatch inside the earth because
they spend the first part of their life cycle
pretending to be red ants and I'll be finding out more
about their wonderful development with the help of some cake.
-Actually, I might just have a little bit.
Like many other parts of England and Wales, the Cotswolds suffered
from the extra ordinarily hot and dry spring that we had.
If with climate change that could be a possible sign of things to come,
what could the impacts be, from forest fires to the future of farming?
That's what I'll be investigating. And also on Countryfile tonight -
Adam's keeping a watchful eye on a hen who's taken some new arrivals under her wing.
Now, if I can pick her off without getting pecked, six little chicks,
including...a little duckling there.
You're going to be a mixed up kid, aren't you, having a chicken as a mother?
And Julia has a close encounter with one of our most elusive woodland creatures.
The nation will be looking at their television screens now
and I guarantee there will be a universal, "Aw".
Even by the standards of the Cotswolds,
these steep-sided valleys and sunlit slopes are something to marvel at.
I'd love to tell you where I am, but I can't.
All I can say is we're a few miles from Stroud in Gloucestershire.
Because this lumpy, bumpy bit of landscape is top secret.
And I mean top secret.
And it's all because of this - the Large Blue butterfly,
one of the most endangered insects on Earth.
Not seen around here for over 50 years, it's now the focus
of a massive effort to bring it back.
There's been several failed attempts at other sites in the Cotswolds.
Now, all rests on this one.
Last summer, 200 Large Blue caterpillars were placed around this area and scientists
chose this site because it was the right habitat, plenty of sunshine and well away from prying eyes.
'Patrick Barkham is a butterfly enthusiast and author.
'He's just one of a handful of people who know what's going on here.'
Patrick, how are you doing, all right?
-Good to see you. You're obviously very hopeful today that we'll clap eyes on these?
I wouldn't like to promise you a Large Blue because they've not been seen here for 50 years.
That sounds massive in itself.
But how big a deal is this whole project?
It's a major deal. It's not just the biggest conservation project, Butterfly Conservation Project,
it's really the biggest and most successful insect conservation project. Probably in the world.
Will we see them in the same area that the caterpillars were placed?
You can see them within a metre of where they spend the winter,
but they will be emerging and flying down the hill towards the bottom.
That's where we will try and catch them.
So, the key is just keep them peeled?
Sheltered spot, sunshine, looking good.
OK, well, we won't know for sure if the project has been successful
until the Large Blues emerge and we are here as and when they do.
But there's one place where they've already been successfully reintroduced.
While I'm near Stroud in the Cotswolds, James has been to Collard Hill in Somerset to find out more.
Pioneering work has been done right here
to bring it back from extinction.
It's taken more than a decade, but the Large Blue
has finally gained a foothold.
It's eggs from here in Somerset that are being used to reseed
the secret site in the Cotswolds where Matt's on standby.
If the scientists get it right there and another colony's established,
then the future for the whole species is as good as guaranteed.
This little guy here is what all the fuss is about.
None of this would have been possible without Professor Jeremy Thomas.
The Large Blue died out in Britain at the end of the 1970s,
but just a few years later,
Jeremy and his team began the work that would bring them back.
They set about reseeding our grasslands with caterpillars
and it worked! Today, he's back to check on his little charges.
So, why had the Large Blue become extinct in the first place?
Well, it's really a victim of modern agriculture.
As farming has become more intensive
so the flatter lands have been ploughed and fertilised,
but so many of the old slopes that used to be grazed were abandoned,
the grass grew taller, there are a large number of creatures of which the Large Blue is a particularly
sensitive one, but like short, open, sparse conditions that lets the sun beat down and bake the ground.
Nowadays the National Trust, working with local farmers, are once again grazing these
slopes to recreate the conditions needed for the Large Blue to survive.
But that's not enough on its own. It took a helping hand from Jeremy to bring the butterfly back.
So, how do you go about reintroducing a whole species?
Well, it was no easy matter.
We had to find a race of the butterfly that was suitable for the English climate and we eventually
located some in southern Sweden and so we had a hunting expedition,
you can't just get the adults of these butterflies
and release them in the countryside so we had to actually collect the eggs and
bring the little caterpillars over and then release the caterpillars, just sprinkle them over the sites.
Today, there are 1,000 Large Blues here,
descendants of those first caterpillars.
It's a good start, but it's just the first step.
Right now is the perfect time to spot Large Blues.
'They're only on the wing for a few weeks in June and July.
'And bang on cue, Jeremy and I spot one.'
This is a very fresh female, almost certainly emerged today.
And as you can see she's sitting on the flower head of wild thyme,
which is where she will lay her eggs later on.
She'll only lay on the tight flower buds of wild thyme.
So, she'll drink nectar from this plant, this flower she's on here,
and that's the only food that the caterpillars will eat.
I imagine that's part of the reason why they were rare in the first place?
It's a really specific relationship.
They have a much more complicated life cycle later on which restricts them even further.
Julia's going to be finding out even more about that remarkable life cycle in a little while.
But for me and Jeremy, all that's left to do is admire the fruits of his life's work.
It must be so rewarding after so much work to be able
to see it so visually, walk through a field of them?
Yeah, I must say, I've been watching for a very long time, but I still
get a terrific kick every year when I see them coming out again.
The Large Blues in Somerset are doing OK, but if the species is to avoid becoming extinct again,
then colonies elsewhere in the country are vital.
That's why this experiment further north is so important.
We'll be finding out later if it's worked.
Here in the Cotswolds, they have experienced an exceptionally dry spring, and they're not alone.
Parts of the country are now officially facing drought conditions
and thanks to this dry weather, a spate of forest fires has broken out across England and Wales.
But are they a one-off or a taste of things to come? John's been investigating.
There are few things more damaging to nature than fire.
It destroys plants and trees, wildlife and habitat.
In the last few months, its effect on the countryside has been disastrous.
In April this year, England and Wales had only one fifth of their average monthly rainfall.
As a result, vast areas of parched woodland burst into flames.
Forest fires broke out on a scale rarely seen before.
Wildfires are continuing to burn in parts of Scotland.
The smoke rising...
From the top of Scotland to the south of England, wildfires raged.
It took thousands of fire-fighters and millions of pounds to put them all out and it left a big question.
As the impact of climate change begins to be felt, will forest fires become
a more regular feature of extreme and volatile weather conditions?
And if so, what lessons can be learned by fire-fighters and foresters
in the aftermath of a huge outbreak like the one here at Swinley Forest?
This was the biggest fire in Berkshire's history.
Over nine days, 500 acres of woodland were engulfed in flames that leapt more than 60 ft into the sky.
It caused damage on a scale that no-one had seen before.
How much of the forest has been lost?
I think about 25% of our holding here
has been destroyed beyond recovery.
-How many trees is that?
-It's at least 100,000 trees to replace here.
Across Britain, small forest fires aren't actually that unusual.
And with a little help, woodland usually bounces back.
But recovering from a fire on this scale will take many years and lots of hard work.
We aim to have most of the plantations restocked probably by this time next year.
But then we'll have another five or 10 years of nurturing
those before they can be left to their own devices.
It must have been a nightmare come true for you, Nick?
Absolutely, John, it was really devastating.
It gave me a cold...
clammy hand on the pit of my stomach
and really did feel emotionally very, very difficult.
It's quite an act of faith putting a tree in the ground and then spending five or 10 years ensuring they get
-the best start. You really put a lot of yourself into that.
-To see it go up in flames?
To see it go up in flames there's an element of, you think, how can this ever recover?
But Nick believes things can be done to prevent wildfires like this in the future.
We will, I think, take some lessons from this.
We will look at how we can design the next phase here with
maybe greater robustness, greater flexibility in coping with fire.
Some cultural changes in how we manage the vegetation, there's a lot of fuel here
that's not necessarily part of the crop we're promoting,
but is a consequence of naturally seeding trees.
The sort of stuff that helps the forest fires spread?
That's right, and it adds fuel to it.
But managing woodland may not be enough and if a fire does break
out again, it will be up to the emergency services to tackle it.
400 fire-fighters from 13 counties battled to contain the flames
at Swinley Forest and for many from urban areas, it was a new experience.
Nick Oxborough was one of the senior officers involved.
A fire on this scale, a huge challenge for your brigade?
Yes, this has been an exceptional fire.
We have had fires, large fires here over the last 10 to 15 years.
This was very exceptional. Where the timber, the trees,
were like this, densely packed, the fire just literally ripped through the whole thing.
It sounds like an express train coming at you if you're at the side
of a platform and a train goes through, it was just like that sound
as the fire ripped through. There's nothing you can do about that.
Climate change experts say that we can expect more of this
kind of thing in the future as the country hots up.
Are we going to be prepared for it?
From a fire service perspective, yes, we will be prepared for it.
We know that you cannot put that type of fire out
with, however much water you've got, you can't just squirt water on it, it will not work.
So it's about being slightly smarter, more proactive in our thinking and planning
and saying "If it burns through there, where will it stop?
"Where can we actually stand and tackle it?"
But how often will people like Nick need to put what they've learnt into practice?
It's virtually impossible to predict the weather and the effect climate change will have on it.
But as they've discovered at Swinley, certain risk factors should be possible to control.
Jonathan, you actually predict wildfires, don't you?
Did you predict this one?
This one's easy. Dry weather, lots of inflammable undergrowth and people,
particularly on that bank holiday, go out into the countryside,
light barbecues, throw away cigarettes.
Arson, negligence, that's what causes them.
To further reduce risk, Jonathan would like to see
more landowners across the country actively protecting their woodland.
I think what we need to do now is to think much more
carefully about the way in which we manage the countryside and recognise that there is this risk of wildfire.
Remove a lot of the undergrowth from forests, things like that?
Well, it's very clear from countries like Spain that if you just abandon the countryside and scrub grows up,
you then have a terrible wildfire problem because the farmers have left for the cities.
And it's much the same in Britain.
If a dry spring causes devastating fires, what's going to happen if we get a very dry, hot summer?
We can't control the weather, but we can find more effective
ways of coping with the results of its extremes.
Drought is another consequence.
More about that in a few minutes.
Deep in the steep, green-sided valleys of the Cotswolds near Stroud is a magical place.
The Golden Valley.
It's all green, really, but what's a little poetic licence when you're surrounded by this?
It's called Golden because of the wealth of old wool merchants that lived here in medieval times,
when wool was making the Cotswolds rich.
And threading its way through the Golden Valley is the Golden Valley Walk -
an easy five miles through some stunning country.
Undoubtedly pretty, but scratch the surface and this landscape can tell you plenty.
What do you reckon this is? Molehill?
Mm-mm. It's an ant hill. And what these mean is that this is ancient, unimproved pasture land.
Some of them have been here for decades.
Better get off.
This is rough pasture, but that's not the reason it's left mostly ungrazed.
Limestone terrain like this doesn't hold water well,
and that's a problem if you've got thirsty animals.
'So, here's the answer.
'A dew pond. A traditional way of gathering the dew
'that rolls off the grass on summer mornings. It also catches rainwater.
'This is the first one built in the Cotswolds for over 100 years.
'But the idea goes back thousands.'
-Hey up, Pete.
I've got to say, the dew pond is looking a little arid.
It is, just a bit, unfortunately, yes.
-It's a problem in the area, isn't it?
-It's a big problem in the area.
The idea of a dew pond is to hold water for livestock and, unfortunately,
with such a dry spring it just hasn't managed to do that.
'Nevertheless, when the rain does come, it will hold water.
'To show me how it works, Pete's brought some stuff from his kitchen.'
If you can imagine that this is the dew pond, the hole that we dug here,
before everything else went in - the ingredients if you like.
-Then what we basically start doing is building up the layers.
'Clay goes in first to form a watertight lining.
'Then lime is added or, in this case, flour, to stop worms from chewing holes into the clay.
'Straw is next, which prevents everything underneath from drying out.
'And then the process is repeated.'
And then, finally, we just need some stone to cap it off.
The idea of the final capping of stone was to prevent
the animals putting their hooves through the clay and actually, er,
-making a hole.
-Or getting stuck?
-Or even getting stuck, actually.
-That could've happened, couldn't it?
-And it should be watertight?
In theory, it should be watertight.
In theory? Shall we test it?
Here we go.
Let's have a little look.
'The water is sitting on top of the mix,
'and the clay is stopping it from seeping to the bottom of the bowl.'
Looks to be holding.
I think you're right.
'The real thing is seven foot deep.
'More than 30 tons of clay were used to build it
'and water or no water, I think it looks great.'
'From dew ponds and open pasture, the walk drops down to follow
'the route of the old Thames and Severn Canal.
'It's long fallen into disuse and nature has taken over.'
Neither do I.
A little further on, you come to Siccaridge Wood -
a patch of ancient woodland that was traditionally coppiced
and which today is managed by one very special resident - the dormouse.
Nationally in decline but doing pretty well here.
Why is this woodland such an ideal habitat for them?
Dormice, when they come out of hibernation,
throughout the spring, summer and autumn they actually need
woodlands whereby they can access a range of foods.
And also, they need a good linkage of branches above
so they can actually move through the tree canopy.
A coppiced woodland like this, where trees are cut on a regular basis,
there's good linkage so they can move around well,
and the act of cutting the coppice means that different shrubs and plants will come up,
which gives them access to different foods throughout the year.
-How long DO they sleep? Longer than me?
They usually go down to hibernation about November, and they'll start to wake up again about March or April.
-That's what I call a good sleep!
-Not bad, is it?
-That's very good, yeah.
Are these pretty good conditions today to see a dormouse?
Well, they're not bad, but dormice are nocturnal.
They'll have been out last night feeding,
which means they should be back in their nest boxes by today so hopefully we should see something.
-Oh, hello, how are you?
-Tell me you've got something in there.
-I'm afraid not.
Have we got an empty one?
That just wouldn't have been the way that it works generally for us, I must say.
'Mick's been monitoring the dormice in these woods for over 20 years.
'His work feeds into the National Dormice Survey -
'one of the longest-running mammal surveys in the world.
'Even with Mick on hand, we're having trouble spotting them today.'
I want to see a dormouse.
I'm feeling lucky about this one.
-Yeah? No? Yes?
Probably cos it was a cold night last night.
Just gone into a mini-hibernation.
He might stay like that for the rest of the morning.
He'll have shut his body down - uses less energy -
but he'll wake up about lunchtime and be ready to go and feed again tonight.
'Mick and Ian are licensed handlers,
'which means it's OK for me to handle them under their supervision.'
What's our climate like generally for dormice?
Well, the winters are too warm and too wet.
They're much happier where it's colder.
That's why this winter, being so cold,
has kept them in hibernation for longer, so they don't wake up early and use up their body reserves.
Because if they wake up and its mild, they come out and there's nothing for them to eat.
'Cute she is, but there's a serious side to this job.
'A good weight means she's come through the winter well and is in tip-top condition for breeding.'
-13 and a bit? Yeah, 13½.
Roll him back into me there.
'Even with experienced handlers, it's important to keep the disturbance to a minimum.
'But this little lady's perked up and doesn't seem so sleepy.'
She's a little bit more active now,
so let me turn her around so you can see her eyes.
The nation will be looking at their television screens now
and I guarantee there will be a universal "aww".
'All in all, the perfect end to a perfect walk.'
Later in the programme...
Adam's spoilt for choice when he goes shopping for some fancy fowl.
We'll have a sneak preview of the entries in our photographic competition.
But will yours be among them?
And there's still time to enter so if you're hoping to take the perfect picture,
you'll need the Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead.
Our unusually dry spring has caused its fair share of problems around here, and the rest of the country.
But if this weather pattern is here to stay,
is it time for our farmers to rethink what they grow?
John has been investigating.
Wild fires are continuing to burn in parts of Scotland.
JOHN: Earlier, I looked at how it our dry spring led to catastrophic forest fires,
and I found out what needs to be done to stop such damage happening again.
But that wasn't the only weather problem.
Officially, in some areas, there's now a drought.
The longest dry spell for a century has created anxious times for farmers,
so what should they do?
Farming has always been a gamble with the weather,
but extreme conditions certainly raise the stakes.
Some farmers in East Anglia are expecting their crops to be down by a fifth.
Many livestock and dairy farmers
started using their winter feed stocks in May.
I'm meeting David Taylor, a farmer whose 700 acres of arable land
on the chalky South Downs certainly suffered.
What effect has the very dry spring had on your barley crop here?
It's had the effect of making the crop much thinner,
in as much as there are less stems per given area,
and that's caused by the fact that, when a seed is sown,
it throws up one stem, and subsequently other stems develop,
so that each seed produces a number of ears, such as these.
You can see that these ones here will never produce an ear. And in a better year, they would have done.
-Look how dry the roots are.
-Very dry indeed.
So, unless there's a lot more rain before harvest time, how much do you think your crop will be down?
It's very difficult to tell. All sorts of figures are bandied about.
Even in a good year, I don't know what sort of crop we'll get.
But I would say for certain we've lost 30% of our crop.
To make matters worse, many farmers like David have contracts to honour.
If they've already agreed to sell a certain amount of their harvest and can't fulfil that,
they'll have to buy in the difference -
and with wheat prices hitting the roof, that's an even bigger blow.
You tend to go through periods of elation and depression in farming.
And if I had an inch of rain tonight, I'd probably feel far better than I do right now,
and that's the way farming is, I'm afraid.
We have to be pragmatic and philosophical about it,
and accept the one thing we can't do is affect what nature gives us.
There ARE farmers who welcome weather like we had in spring.
It means they can take on foreign competition earlier in the season.
This fruit farm belongs to a firm which, every year, grows 8,000 tonnes of strawberries, blackberries,
raspberries and blueberries in the south of England.
And this year's dry conditions and sunny days have been ideal for all these soft fruits,
which were ready for market two weeks ahead of schedule.
But it's not all down to sunshine.
The farm uses half a million litres of water every day, so how does it manage this precious resource?
Your situation is very different from arable farmers,
who can't just water a field like that - you can control your water, can't you?
That's right. All our soft fruit, when it's grown out of the soil,
has a drip system so we can give the plants exactly what they need in terms of feed and water.
On this particular fruit farm, have you got reservoirs?
Yeah, we bought this farm in 1966 and since then, we've built four reservoirs,
and we think now we've got a fairly belt-and-braces approach to water security.
The Environment Agency is currently reviewing the amount of water available to farmers.
They'll be stopped from taking it from free sources if that's found to be unsustainable.
Harry manages his supplies carefully,
harvesting rainwater in reservoirs instead of just taking it from boreholes and rivers.
Do you think more farmers will be doing what you do, and have your own reservoir space?
Yeah, I think it's the only way forward.
I think winter extraction is going to become more and more necessary,
and being able to pump water out of rivers and streams in the summer
is going to be in decline, definitely.
In the UK, there's simply not enough water to go around.
Jenny Bashford is a water policy adviser, so how SHOULD we be conserving such a valuable resource?
If, as predicted, we're going to get longer periods of dry weather,
serious droughts, what can farmers - what can we ALL - do about it?
It's quite difficult to know what is going to happen -
whether we're going to have long periods of drought or get other extreme weather conditions.
I think we've got to learn to build the capacity to cope with those conditions,
not necessarily plan for one condition in particular.
-How do we cope?
-There's a number of different ways.
One is about building more on-farm winter storage reservoirs.
Ultimately, there will be some farmers that will want to make decisions
about whether they continue to grow the crops they do.
It could be that they're growing crops in the wrong place, so they need to think about moving.
They may well do. The circumstances are very particular to local circumstances.
This is not wall-to-wall sunshine -
there are pockets where people are receiving rain and it is enough,
-and other pockets that are very deprived.
-Scotland's had a lot.
Northern Ireland's had quite a lot.
But if we do get more drought than we've ever been used to,
that could change the whole face of British farming, couldn't it?
Farmers tend to work on the short term, which is about weather, and they'll react to the weather,
rather than long-term climate change, which would be viewed over a 50-60 year period.
What's really concerning our farmers and members at the moment
is what is going to happen over the rest of this summer, going into autumn and winter.
If we get the same weather patterns as we appear to be getting for the moment for the rest of this summer,
we should be all right.
-It's a waiting game, but we should be all right.
-Rain and shine?
-Rain and shine.
But if we go into autumn being reasonably dry and have another dry winter,
making it the fourth on the trot of having a dry winter,
we could be looking at a very serious water-resource situation next spring.
Water is such a vital commodity that if we don't manage it more effectively,
crops will really suffer, increasing our reliance on imports.
The pressure is on for farmers to adapt -
pressure that'll only increase if we get more extreme, volatile weather in years to come.
We're in the Cotswolds, hoping to witness history -
the return of the large blue butterfly,
not seen at this secret site in 50 years.
But whether we do or not is due in no small part to these girls - Welsh Black cattle.
I'll tell you why soon, but first we've got to get them rounded up.
These Welsh Blacks are part of a special grazing programme
that's helping maintain all kinds of important habitat throughout the Cotswolds.
Go on, girls! Oh, look at that - bit of fresh grass.
They're owned by Natural England and managed by stockman Matt Stanway.
And why go for the Welsh Blacks?
They're a real tough, hardy breed.
We don't have any sheds, any buildings,
these girls stay outside all the way through the year.
And they don't only just survive on this rough grassland,
it looks quite rich here, but on the rough,
normal grassland, they actually really thrive on it,
so you can see how fat these ones are.
This girl here, she is 19, 20 next year.
-It shows what
a nice life they have, really, up on these hills.
This is like the retired herd, then?
They are, very much, like geriatric cows.
Right, the interesting news is that that's where they're meant to go...
And that's where they are.
'This is real fine dining to these ladies,
'but this pasture's not where they need to be.
'We let them have a quick munch and get them back on track with the help of a feed bucket.'
So what makes these Welsh Blacks
such good grazing partners for the Large Blue?
Well, we tend to graze for the Large Blue in the winter,
so we need cattle which can stand the cold temperatures of winter,
and those last cold winters have been particularly bad, haven't they?
'All through those harsh winters, these ladies were going about their
'business grazing for the Large Blue a few miles from here.
'It's the way they eat that makes them so good at their job.'
The cattle need to graze the turf to a very short length of height, so,
ideally for the Large Blue, we're talking less than two centimetres.
Normally you would assume that would be done by sheep, very short turf,
but cattle, in fact, can take it through to those low levels.
-And stay with Countryfile to discover if those Welsh Black cattle
have done their work when we go in search of the elusive Large Blue.
We've seen the small blue, the common blue, lots of blue butterflies, but no Large Blues.
Nothing so far, Mattias, not a sausage.
Definitely not a butterfly.
And for her wildlife watchers everywhere, we'll have the country forecast for the week ahead.
Now to the farm, where Adam's looking to add to his collection of rare-breed chickens.
One of his hens has been particularly busy.
One of the great things about working with animals
is when there's new life.
I've just brought some food and water to this hen.
She's what is known as a broody.
A chicken will lay fertile eggs if they've got a cockerel with them,
and it isn't until they decide that
they want to hatch the eggs that they go broody, and they'll sit tight.
In fact, this hen decided to go broody,
didn't have any eggs under her.
So I put some fertile eggs from other breeds
under her. Now, if I can pick her off without getting pecked...
Six little chicks of various different breeds,
including a little duckling there.
They're so sweet, and you can see the differences
between the duckling and the chick.
The bill of the duck for filter feeding,
and the beak of the chick for pecking the grain.
You're going to be a mixed-up kid, having a chicken as a mother.
It's fairly common, though, for a broody hen to hatch out whatever eggs
you put under her, guinea-fowl, pheasant eggs, chicks or ducklings,
but not that often they'll hatch out mixed species, so chickens and ducks
in the same hatch, but she's managed it very well.
I keep about half a dozen rare breeds of chickens, too.
It's a passion that my dad had, and he started the collection and I just kept it going.
The chickens we've got on the farm include one of the oldest known breeds - the Light Sussex.
We have also got Buff Orpingtons from Kent.
And Pekin bantams, known for their feathery feet.
One of my favourite breeds is the Welsummer, which comes from Holland.
The thing I really like about these Welsummers are their eggs.
Take a look at these.
They're a lovely, rich, brown colour.
Six chickens, six eggs. And they're delicious to eat.
But these have got a cockerel with them, so I can incubate these to hatch out some chicks.
For some of the other breeds, I'm getting low on numbers and I need to get in
some fresh blood lines, so I'm off shopping to go to another breeder.
I am on my way to a smallholding near Pershore in Worcestershire,
where Sharon Gould breeds poultry.
Just a few months ago, Sharon was given planning permission to live on the land with her family.
I suppose, being on site, there's a bit of an advantage with lots of animals?
It's been so much easier to just be here, keep an eye on the stock,
I haven't got to keep chasing up and down the road wasting fuel and time.
How many different types of animals have you got?
There's about 15 different types altogether.
Ducks, geese, several breeds of chickens, goats, bees...
And I suppose the dream would be to have a house, would it?
Yes, we want a Scandinavian build so that we've got
a nice wooden structure, in keeping with everything else that we do.
One of the more unusual animals Sharon keeps is the rhea,
a flightless bird from South America.
We have not got any rheas at home, what are they like?
They're fantastic, very friendly, lay beautiful big yellow eggs.
-Got a bit of a shock when one laid one on my lap the other day!
Yeah, just wandered over, sat on me and laid this egg.
They're really lovely, but it's British breeds of poultry I'm after.
So, I'm interested bend the Jubilee game. What's their history?
They come from Cornwall, they're Cornish game, that's their proper name.
I've had people come from Cornwall to get them and down from Scotland, because they're getting so rare.
-Amazing. And what are they worth?
-The cock's about £50 apiece, and the hen's £35.
COCK CROWS LOUDLY
-A good pair of lungs.
'The Jubilee variety of these Cornish game aren't for sale, but there are others I'm interested in buying.'
Hey, guys. Yep, there's one.
And there's the other one.
'Amongst this group are a couple of hens from a different variety of the Cornish game family.'
So, the difference between these and Jubilee is what?
The Jubilees are just,
where these have got the dark brown, they're pale cream.
-So, this is just a darker version, really?
-Darker version, yes.
They're very nice. There's some weight about them, isn't there?
The breast on them... That's why they use them for the meat.
Yes. So, how old are these?
These are what you term point of lay.
She's just starting to lay her first eggs.
How do you know that?
-Pelvic bones, just in there. Can you feel them?
-There's quite a gap there, you can get nearly three fingers in the gap.
-That just shows that they're just about to lay their first eggs.
You learn something every day.
I think these will do me well, thank you very much. I'll take these.
'With so many breeds of bird on site, Sharon has quite a collection of eggs
'and some are larger than others.'
Look at these!
-Can I pick one up?
-You can, yes, they're quite heavy.
-They are heavy! So these are rhea eggs?
And how often does a rhea lay?
-They lay every other day.
-Very heavy, aren't they?
They are, very heavy, yes.
-About three-quarters of a kilo.
-Can you have them fried?
You can, but it fills your frying-pan!
-Takes some frying.
-It takes an hour and a quarter to boil one.
'Sharon keeps chicken's eggs in here too, and hatches out 1,000 per year.'
Is this an important part of the business?
Yes, it is. We do some hatching.
I also sell fertilised eggs online, and we put them in the post.
And they don't get damaged in transit?
Sometimes they do, it all depends on whether Mr Postman's kind or not.
'As well as selling fertilised eggs, Sharon also has young chicks for sale.
'They're very cute, but I'm really looking for hens ready to lay their own eggs.
'In particular I'd like some different varieties of Pekin bantams.'
So, what colour do you call these ones?
These are silver partridge.
-There we go.
They're lovely, aren't they? How old are these ones, then?
They're just starting to lay, they're about 26 weeks.
Right. And it was particularly lavender ones I was after.
I've got one of those left down the bottom.
Let's see her, then.
Here she is.
She's lovely, isn't she?
-I think I'll take them all, if that's all right.
I'm terrible when I go shopping.
It's great to see Sharon making a success of her smallholding adventure.
It is dedicated people like her who help keep these breeds going.
Back at the farm, Sharon's chicken's are quickly settling in to their new home,
and I'm expecting some other new arrivals, too.
A couple of months ago, I bought some Golden Guernsey goats from Tim and Marion Collis.
-How are you? Great to see you.
-And you again.
-How was the journey?
-Not too bad, actually.
'When I bought them, the goats were in kid and couldn't travel, so I couldn't take them home at the time.
'The kids are now a few weeks old and today they've made it to the farm.'
Let the kids out, shall I?
There we go.
'These are the last of Tim and Marion's golden Guernseys.
'After nearly 25 years of keeping goats, they've decided to retire.'
And this is the little male.
-He's smart, isn't he?
Nice upright ears. Is he good enough to be a stud, Billy?
He's very well grown. I think he'll make a good breeding male for you.
How many weeks old now are they?
I think he's six weeks now, and so she's about five.
How does it feel now, then?
That's it for the goats for you.
-I'd rather not talk about it, really.
-Really, is it hard?
-Very hard, yes.
Yes, it will be strange for a while now, so it's a new stage in our lives, I suppose, really.
You won't have the tie of staying at home because of livestock.
No, apart from the dog and a few chickens!
Well, it's great to be building my herd back up to strength.
Yes, and it's nice to know they'll be helping to preserve the breed.
Well, a very big thank you to all those who sent in photos
for our Countryfile photographic competition.
The quality of the entries that's been sent in so far has been amazing, but if you haven't snapped
your winning shot yet or simply haven't sent it in to us, here's John with a reminder of what to do.
This year, we've really set you a challenge.
There are 12 different classes for you to enter in our theme of Best In Show.
And here are just some of the entries that have come in so far.
Remember, the very best entries will make up the Countryfile calendar,
which we sell in aid of Children in Need.
The best photo in each class will be put to the viewers' vote -
the person who takes the winning photo
will be declared Best In Show and gets to choose
from a range of the latest photographic equipment to the value of £1,000.
Whoever takes the judges' favourite photo will get to choose equipment to the value of £500.
Our competition isn't open to professionals.
Your entries mustn't have been offered for sale or won other competitions.
That's because we want something original.
You can enter up to four photos, which must be taken in the UK.
Please write your name, address, and daytime and evening phone number
on the back of each photo with a note of which class
you want it to be judged in.
Each photo can only be entered in one class.
Then, all you have to do is send your entries to -
The full terms and conditions are on our website,
as well as details of the BBC's code of conduct for competitions.
Please write to us enclosing a stamped address envelope
if you want a copy of the rules.
The closing date isn't until Friday 12th August.
Sorry, but we can't return any entries.
I don't envy the judges this year.
It's going to be a tough competition.
We've set ourselves a pretty tough task here in the Cotswolds as well,
trying to track down the Large Blue butterfly.
It hasn't been seen in this spot in the Cotswolds for 50 years.
Earlier, Matt revealed ambitious plans to bring it back - several attempts have already failed.
We've seen how fussy these butterflies can be.
They need short grass and warm soils. But there's more.
They could be deep underneath me right now.
But what exactly are they doing?
Unusually for a butterfly, the Large Blue spends
almost all of its caterpillar life underground, masquerading as an ant.
Ecologist David Simcox is here to tell me more.
Right, explain to me what's happening in the subterranean labyrinth down there.
Well, let's have a look at this. I'll try and explain.
There's a caterpillar.
So, just out in the open ground.
Sitting out in the open ground and waits for a passing ant to find it.
When it does, it produces a sugary solution from special glands on its back.
And, whilst the ant is feeding on the sugar, it's making
the ant believe this is one of its own babies
that somehow mysteriously got above ground.
So, the caterpillar's foxing the ant.
Absolutely! The ant then picks up the caterpillar, takes it below
ground and puts it where it thinks it belongs,
-which is in one of its brew chambers.
-Playing very dirty.
Absolutely! The caterpillar then becomes a carnivore and starts eating the ant grubs.
-It spends ten months actually in the ants' nest.
It then turns into a chrysalis - still underground -
and after about ten days, the butterfly emerges.
Can't blow its wings up instantly like most butterflies do
because it's in an ants' nest
so it has to crawl through all these tiny chambers -
the labyrinth you described - out into the outside world.
Crawls up usually a grass stem and blows its wings up
and then flies off and looks for a mate.
-That is some process.
-And that's the full circle.
And it's happening now, hopefully...
-Underneath our feet.
But for that to be happening, conditions on the site have to be
just right for a very specific species of red ant.
Thermometer in - and the obvious question is why.
Why are you measuring the temperature of the earth?
The basis of the whole Large Blue story is ground temperature.
On a site like this, you've got five species of red ant.
Any of those five species will pick up a caterpillar and take it into its nest.
But four of them can detect it's an impostor and will kill it,
so there's only one species
that's called Myrmica sabuleti, which cannot detect it's an impostor
and that's how the Large Blue can survive in its nests.
Myrmica sabuleti needs it warm.
-So, there's one kind of red ant that will accept the caterpillars.
-And it thrives in particular conditions and has to be a certain temperature.
Just ten extra centimetres in the height of the grass can make the ground cooler by five degrees.
That's why grazing animals like the Welsh Black cattle
Matt saw earlier are crucial to the survival of the Large Blue's food source.
What's the optimum temperature for the red ant?
Certainly, on a day like today, we'd be looking at anything over about 25 centigrade.
Well, I think we're in luck. All we need now are the right ants.
David has a curious way of baiting them - with cake.
Let's hope they're partial to trifle sponge.
After nearly 30 years pioneering the reintroduction of these butterflies,
when it comes to the ants, David's got his eye in.
Yeah, that's Myrmica sabuleti.
-That is the right one.
-That is the right ant.
It's all about the first bend on their antennae.
A wasted life, really, isn't it?
This is good for us - the right ant -
-Large Blue comes next.
-Let's hope so.
Let's hope so.
Are the Large Blues going to hatch in the Cotswolds and, if they do,
who's going to see one first, Matt or me?
Find out after the Countryfile weather forecast.
We've been in the Southwest on the hunt for a very special butterfly -
the Large Blue.
They haven't been seen at this spot in the Cotswolds in over 50 years.
Several attempts to reintroduce them have failed,
but scientists are hopeful they've got it right this time.
The site is top secret, but we've got exclusive access,
and today is the day that the butterflies should start to emerge. But will they?
Tell me what you were doing this time last summer here, David?
Well, what we were doing - we were actually making an experimental introduction onto the site.
To do that, we collected eggs from Somerset
and reared the caterpillars for about three weeks in captivity.
Each day, at about four o'clock, you'd bring them down on the site
and then using a paintbrush, gently move them onto the ground.
-So, you're laying eggs, basically?
-In effect, yes.
If successful, it'll mean the Large Blue has a better chance of avoiding extinction a second time.
They're doing well in Somerset, but a breeding colony here in
the Cotswolds vastly improves their chances - their future could depend on what's happening here.
Worst-case scenario, we don't see any today, which will be very sad,
but even worse would be if the experiment hasn't worked. Then what?
I'd be very disappointed.
But we could be in luck - conditions are good.
To give ourselves the best chance of seeing them, Matt and I have split up.
He's a few fields away with self-confessed butterfly geek and author Patrick Barkham.
Patrick's been fascinated with butterflies since he was a kid.
Yeah, he's the small one on the left.
When I was a boy in the 1980s, there were no Large Blues but there was a site called Site X,
where Jeremy Thomas and David Simcox were introducing the Large Blue for the first time.
My dad got hold of the location of Site X - we went along and we found the Large Blue.
You can imagine the thrill on this forbidden site - we were just skipping off the field with delight.
And then this figure strode across and said, "What are you doing here?
"This is private property." It turns out that was David Simcox.
We were like, "We're seeing the Large Blue." He was like,
"I don't know what you're seeing, but it's not the Large Blue."
We were told in no uncertain terms to go away.
Happily, I've met him under happier times now, so...
You can imagine the thrill for a small boy of Site X,
finding this extinct butterfly, a butterfly that doesn't even exist.
Fingers crossed, we'll get to see another Large Blue on the top-secret site.
You've got to be patient, haven't you?
-Patient and have a keen eye.
Come on, you blues.
This is looking pretty good. Sheltered.
Nice. Oh, here we go.
We've got a Meadow Brown. Over.
Well at least you're seeing butterflies. Nothing here.
-Have you got something there, Patrick?
-Yeah, we've got a Small Blue here.
The Large Blue doesn't look large,
but it's twice the size of one of these little ones.
So, this is our smallest butterfly.
OK, we've seen the Small Blue - the common blue.
Lots of blue butterflies, but no Large Blues.
Nothing so far, Mattias, not a sausage!
Definitely not a butterfly.
Well, there's loads of butterfly action around here, but no Large Blues.
It's a perfect day for it. I'm feeling optimistic.
You feeling up here? Left, right, straight up?
-I think up here.
OK, so we've seen Meadow Browns, Small Blues, even the odd moth out and about in daylight,
but still no sign of the butterfly we're all here to see.
And just when you're about to give up...
Look, there's one there.
-Can you see? Sitting in the bush.
'Our search is over - they're here.
What a stunner!
How long have you waited for this?
Well... What to me is so pleasing is this is the first time
a Large Blue has been alive on this site for over 50 years.
Baker boy, we've got one. Come down the hill!
Juliet, you would not believe
how close Patrick and I are to a Large Blue right now.
Fantastic! You've got one as well. Amazing!
The perfect one - basking.
It's closing its wings now.
Honestly, I'm like inches away.
'Ditto that. All right, come down when you're ready.'
So this butterfly didn't officially exist all through our childhood,
and this is the closest I've ever got to one in my life.
I can't tell you how thrilling that is.
It's wings are still soft.
This butterfly keeps its wings soft
so it can emerge from the nest underground - from the ants' nest.
This guy's wings are still soft and floppy
from that emergence because it's only just come out this morning.
-Where are we looking, where are we looking?
-in the hazel bush.
It's a good feeling, isn't it?
It must be a fantastic feeling for YOU.
It's a fantastic feeling, absolutely fantastic.
All of your hard work paid off.
Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. This time it has.
Patrick, as a self-confessed butterfly geek,
what's this moment like for you?
So exciting. It's the most exciting moment in contemporary British butterfly history.
This is the most exciting single insect
you could be seeing in Britain today. It's brilliant.
The Large Blue is back. Now it's down to them.
Hopefully they will breed, and next summer
they'll be thriving here without the help of the scientists.
But today's a day that will go down in Cotswolds history.
And we were part of it.
What a wonderful comeback for the Large Blue!
Such a privilege for us to be here.
Our first sighting in 50 years. Just incredible.
And she's sticking with us for the end of the programme.
That is it from the Cotswolds.
-Next week, John will be here with river deep and mountain high.
-One of your favourite songs!
Yeah, he'll be looking back at some of our best river and mountain stories from the series.
But, for now, from the three of us, goodbye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Email [email protected]
Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury are in Gloucestershire on the hunt for one of Britain's rarest butterflies, the large blue. Plus Julia travels through some of the Cotswolds' most beautiful areas of woodland in search of dormice. John Craven investigates how farmers and foresters are coping after one of the driest springs ever. And Adam gets to grips with some rare breeds of poultry.