Browse content similar to 04/03/2012. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
The Stroud Valleys - a bustle of high, steep hills
pretty villages and glorious Gloucestershire countryside.
50 years ago, the author Laurie Lee described these valleys
as "greener and more decently lush
"than is decent to the general herbaceous smugness
"of the English countryside."
Later on, I'll be getting my own inspiration from this place,
but don't hold your breath
because my choice of words aren't quite as flamboyant as his.
Ellie knows this landscape better than most.
For me, the Stroud valleys have everything -
steep hills, beautiful countryside and a long established bohemia.
It's also the place that I grew up.
I'll be joining a group of artists as they combine
their love for the great outdoors with their passion for art
on one of my favourite walks.
John's lifting the lid on labelling.
There are various welfare symbols on food labels,
but do we really understand what they mean?
Should shopping with welfare in mind be made easier?
I'll be investigating.
And as spring approaches, Adam's got his work cut out down on the farm.
For any sheep farmer, lambing is a big event in the farming calendar
and we start lambing our first flock in a couple of weeks' time.
Today is when we'll find out if these girls will produce the goods.
The five Golden Valleys.
Golden because of the wealth that was created
from the legacy of the wool trade.
The valleys take in
some of Gloucestershire's most delightful countryside.
I'm starting my journey in a village
often referred to as the queen of the Cotswolds - Painswick.
Amongst her mellow stone buildings,
she's perhaps most famous for her churchyard,
which has been described as the grandest churchyard in England.
Built in the 15th century,
St Mary's Church is at the heart of village life here.
Its spire, added in 1632,
keeps a watchful eye over the surrounding landscape.
Look at these beautiful, old steps.
Just think of the people that have been here
and worn them down over time.
The views from up here are just incredible.
This is the point where the five valleys converge on Stroud,
but I'm not just here to take in the scenery,
because St Mary's Church punches well above its weight
when it comes to something that is now just below my feet.
These bells are run by the Ancient Society of Painswick Youths -
the oldest and noisiest society in the village.
Formed in 1686, they're still going strong.
Deborah Foreman, the tower captain,
fronts the team of Painswick regular ringers.
From a bell ringer's perspective, Deborah,
why is this so special, this church?
-Because of the number of bells that are here.
-How many are up there?
-14 bells altogether.
We've got more bells than Gloucester Cathedral, they've only got 12,
and more than Westminster Abbey because they've only got ten.
There's not many churches in Britain that have 14 bells.
-So, why so many?
-Because of the prosperity
and competition as well with Stroud and Bristol.
They used to have lots of competition between bell ringers.
-There's a massive trapdoor here.
-You're standing nicely in the middle.
Is that to get them out?
-Yeah, get them out and in.
-There's some big bells up here.
-That one is enormous.
-That's the tenor.
That's about 2,600 in weight, a ton and a bit with all the stuff on.
When you add up all the different bells,
there must be this incredible weight up here?
Yeah, I wouldn't like to think about it falling down.
But that's exactly what did happen in 1883,
when the spire was struck by lightning
and the entire wooden bell frame collapsed.
It was replaced by the giant Meccano steel frame that you see today.
But the original timbers weren't wasted. They were used to build
the lych gate on the west entrance.
Well, what a welcoming sound that is. It's beautiful, isn't it?
-A full house today then.
-Yeah, full house.
-I'll move you around here to your tutor.
Won't try and put you off, I know you're in the zone.
Alan's going to teach you. He's ringing the tenor at the moment
of the bells that we're ringing.
I was going to shake your hand but you've got a bell in it.
-A bit busy at the moment!
-Come round and take your coat off.
OK, yes, of course.
-I'm raring to go, Alan.
-That's it, thumbs in line,
hands down, stand behind the rope.
-Here we go.
-Shall I just go up with it?
-Then down with it?
-Is that too hard?
-No, that's perfect.
This is called rounds, from the highest note to the lowest note.
You're ringing the lowest one.
I can't work out which bell is mine, not on the sound.
-Bong - that's the one.
Everyone in the surrounding villages will be like,
"That's not the usual bong at the end."
-It's the Baker bong.
One. Let stroke. I'm going to stand it at hand stroke, I hope.
-BELLS STOP RINGING
-And there we are.
Well, initiation over, time for the bad boy of bells -
the big tenor.
-Is it possible?
-Course it is.
We'll do it together like we did the last one.
-Right. You've got to jump on the box.
And take the rope.
Is this going to take me off the ground?
-If you hang onto it, yeah.
-Have you all had a go at this?
-Why am I nervous?
-Oh yes! There it is.
-Away you go, Matt.
Pull it hard. Get your whole body weight on it.
Straight down, that's it, and let a little bit out as it pulls you up.
That's it. Put your brake on. That's it. Lovely.
-That was super.
Right, well, I'll think I'll leave them to it
as I'm off to visit another spectacle of St Mary's.
Yew trees. Legend has it that St Mary's has 99 of them,
but every time the 100th is planted, the Devil pulls it out.
Whatever the number, churchyards across the country
kept yew trees as a way of keeping out livestock.
They were also seen as a symbol of life.
Some of these trees are 300 years old.
They came as little cuttings from a nearby estate,
but maintaining them is expensive
and so as soon as they encroach on the pathways,
they have to be pruned.
But the excess isn't wasted because yew contains a chemical
used in the treatment of breast cancer,
so all the cuttings from this churchyard are taken away
and processed into making the drug.
The 99 yew trees of St Mary's churchyard are a drop in the ocean
compared to the abundance of flowers at my next stop off.
On the edge of the village,
the Rococo Garden is currently awash with snowdrops.
This six acre flamboyant garden was created in the early 18th century,
but fell derelict in the 1950s.
Now restored, it's a rare example of garden design history.
Today, it's a public garden. There's loads of people around
enjoying the vistas, but has it always been open to the locals?
No, I mean, it's interesting that when we go back into the history,
they used to have this wonderful tradition
where on one Sunday in springtime
they would let the villagers come up and pick a posy of snowdrops.
In many ways that was the reason why
we started reopening the garden in the early 1980s,
so it's nice to revive that tradition.
Luckily, they didn't pick them all.
These days, this place is awash with over 8 million snowdrops.
I would never condone going out and picking snowdrops willy-nilly
but as I'm only here for one day, Paul has given me permission,
like the villagers of yesteryear,
to pick a posy for somebody special.
Later, I will be heading out into the hills of the Golden Valleys,
but my feet won't be taking the strain...
these electrically-powered pedals will be. But before we set off,
John has been looking at the complications we all face
when it comes to food labelling.
Especially when we want to know how our food is produced.
Right, here we go!
Oh, it's kicked in! That's absolutely unbelievable!
For many of us, how our food is produced has become
just as important as quality or even price.
In a survey carried out recently for Countryfile, 90% said
the welfare of animals was a key issue when they were buying food.
With so many more people wanting to shop ethically these days,
what we need when we are buying food is some kind of reassurance
on the label that the food has been produced to the standard we expect.
The trouble is, it can get very confusing.
But there are some labels that come with specific standards
for animal welfare.
Three of the main ones are Red Tractor,
Freedom Food and the Soil Association's organic mark.
But do people know what they mean?
-What about the Red Tractor symbol?
-That rings a bell somewhere.
-It's like Fair Trade.
-Not really, no.
-I'm being thick, in't I?
And if you saw a Soil Association symbol, what would that tell you?
-Not sure about that one.
-What about Freedom Foods? RSPCA.
Oh, they're controlled. They're looked after properly.
I thought they were the same thing.
I'm not sure what the difference is between them all.
Clearly, there is confusion and that can give other, unofficial labels,
a chance to muscle in on this ethical market.
-What about this one?
-Oh, who's that on there?!
Never seen him before!
Do you think that means welfare standards have been high?
-I should think so, yes. I think so.
-'In fact, it means nothing.
'What is it that sets the three main farm assured labels apart
'when it comes to animal welfare? Let's start with the Red Tractor.'
The Red Tractor scheme was set up 12 years ago by UK farmers,
producers and retailers, all working together to make sure,
they say, that the food we buy meets a high standard.
I'm meeting David Clark of the Red Tractor scheme
on one of their approved farms in Wiltshire.
When shoppers see Red Tractor on the label, what should that tell them?
Well, it's a shortcut to good quality food made to proper
production standard that consumers expect.
In what way are these cattle raised above the standards expected by law?
The first thing to say is that it's important
we make sure the law is complied with.
In the UK we are in a position where we can say
we have been doing that for two decades now.
Not least because of the work of the farm assurance schemes.
On top of that we have standards over and above the legislation.
What extra do you provide?
We ask farmers a lot of small things across the scope of husbandry,
but things like the way veterinary medicines are used and recorded,
animal health planning,
pro-active planning of animal health and welfare.
How does the Red Tractor scheme compare with our other two labels
when it comes to the welfare of cattle?
Certainly there are big differences in the length of time
they can be transported.
For Red Tractor, it's the same as the legal requirement,
anything up to 28 hours.
But for both Freedom Foods and the Soil Association,
it's a maximum of eight hours, much less.
There are differences over putting cattle out to pasture.
Neither the Red Tractor nor Freedom Food labels
have requirements for this.
But the Soil Association does insist cattle get out into the fields
and eat some grass.
The Red Tractor label isn't just about animal welfare,
it stands for better safety and environmental protection
and products stamped with the logo
are likely to cost less than the others.
But the scheme has faced criticism for having lower welfare standards
than, say, Freedom Food.
Freedom Food is the RSPCA's farm assurance and food labelling scheme
and it aims to deliver standards of animal welfare
that are above and beyond those that are legally required.
Julia is head of farm animals at the RSPCA.
How much more do they offer in terms of animal welfare?
The Freedom Food scheme requires all its members to apply
the RSPCA's welfare standards for farm animals.
How different is that from what is required by law?
We have a number of points of difference
and these are areas that scientific research
and practical experience tells us are important for animal welfare.
-Give me an example.
-Well, we try to be evidence-based.
In pigs, for example,
we require more space than the law and Red Tractor ask for
and, importantly, lots of enrichment in the animals' environment.
Whether indoors or outdoors,
pigs are naturally very intelligent and inquisitive animals.
To give them a boring environment is not good for their welfare.
We insist on materials given to them
so they can root and explore their environment
and, also importantly, bedding and a comfortable lying area.
These are points of difference important for animal welfare.
At this farm in Devon,
the pigs are reared to the standards laid down by the RSPCA.
How does that set them apart from the others?
Let's take the case of controversial farrowing crates,
metal pens used for sows around the time of birth.
Freedom Food farms allow them but are phasing them out by next year.
The crates are still allowed under the Red Tractor scheme.
But under the organic label, they're banned.
When it comes to straw bedding,
the Red Tractor mark doesn't require it as standard.
But Freedom Food and the Soil Association's organic rules
insist on it.
Unlike the other two labels, RSPCA's Freedom Food was set up solely
to guarantee standards of animal welfare.
But does that make it better?
In a few minutes' time, I'll be comparing it and the Red Tractor
to the third of our three labels,
the Soil Association's organic brand.
Stroud is at the centre of five valleys.
Being a local girl,
I've spent a lot of time taking in the views around here.
One of my favourite stomping grounds is Rodborough Common.
It's a beautiful, if not stark, place.
Walking is very much part of rural life around here, so too is art.
In this part of the Cotswolds in the Stroud valleys,
there's a thriving community of artists.
One group loves their art as much as their walking
so they've combined their two passions into art walks.
As well as using conventional methods, this group also take
an experimental approach when it comes to capturing the landscape.
It should be an interesting day.
What we're looking at is to try to avoid looking at the drawing
but to look with great intensity at the landscape
and let your hand follow where your eye's moving.
But if you don't look down, if you take your pencil off the paper,
it'll end up in a random place.
It might well do.
I can already feel this is not a good piece of work because...
Don't make judgements about it!
Is the intention to become better artists or a better observer?
The act of doing it is enough. It's not meant to be a finished piece.
It might well be something else later on
but at the moment, it's, er, the exercise is in doing it.
It feels like a party game...
Like passing balloons between the knees.
'Hang on, I thought you weren't supposed to be looking down!'
-Did you not enjoy party games?
-Can I look down yet?
-Oh, my word!
Looking good. That's really nice.
What do you think?
-OK, so, what's next?
-We are slow walking. This way.
(I'm not sure what we're doing here.
(Or even why I'm whispering!
-Do I need to whisper?
-What are we doing?
We're experiencing the moment, recording it,
and just being really aware
of this moment where we are.
Artists are thought of as visual people
but I'm actually, at the moment, drawing the sound of that skylark.
-It's a way of helping you concentrate.
You try and take in not only what you're seeing
but as many of your senses as you can.
-Do you get funny looks, doing this?
-We get funny looks all the time!
-What is that?
It's a Heath Robinson DIY...
a couple of paint trays and rollers
but I can move the paper backwards and forwards
and kind of record movement and also time because, you know,
they're long drawings which are a record of a specific walk.
For these artists, it's not necessarily what you produce
but how you do it.
Part of the fun is to let the countryside steer and inspire you.
I thought I knew this landscape pretty well,
I spent my young years growing up here.
But the more I've looked at it for the purposes of art,
the more I realise I haven't seen it all.
That's what Hockney said a few weeks ago.
Observe, observe, observe and you see much more.
You all right there, Tom?
-This looks very old-fashioned. What's this?
Yes, it's a combination of things.
It's an old camera out of a studio
but today I'm doing some pinhole photography,
so if you look on the front, there's no lens.
It's just a bit of tinfoil with a needle making a pinhole.
It changes the quality of the image
so these grasses I am taking a picture of
will be blowing in the wind against the static background.
Just experimenting, really.
A fairly complicated piece of kit but everyone's got a phone with a camera.
Indeed, and your task is to take four images now
and we'll put them together in an experimental way
-for you to see at the end.
I just want you to take one photograph pointing south this way,
and then another photograph pointing east,
and one pointing west and one north.
It's a piece of equipment for you to use.
-That's got the crew in it.
-That will be fine.
-That's real, isn't it?
-The tripod over there.
-Let's have one of you in there.
-We put those photos together, is that how it works?
This could be an interesting result. I am looking forward to seeing this.
These art walks provide true inspiration,
whether you're a novice like me, or a professional artist like Lucy.
She likes to keep her work at arm's length.
Why is it so long, your implement there?
Because you've got less control. It's about mark-making.
With this, there's no way you can get fiddly with your drawing
because you've got no control, the stick's wobbly.
You're not going to be precious
but you can stand back, see what you are drawing.
It's as if it's been printed out large for you.
You can see the scale, I suppose.
Lucy, as a professional, why do you come on these walks?
It's a chance to share the drawing experience with other people
and to discuss what work we're doing together.
It's the inspiration of being in nature
and it can feed back into whatever you're working on at the time.
-Do you want a go?
-Give us a go.
I promise I won't add to it and only detract.
Gosh, it's very fiddly.
A few houses in there.
Another house. This is really difficult!
Oh, Lucy, I'm doing this no good at all.
Maybe I will pass that back to you!
Thanks very much. Cheers.
Their methods might be a tad unconventional
but the results speak for themselves.
And I have to say,
I'm rather chuffed with the way my montage of photos has turned out,
all taken with my humble mobile phone.
Earlier, we heard how food labels
can help you find out about standards of animal welfare.
Is it time we had a simpler system for explaining how your food
is produced? Here's John.
Our supermarket shelves are awash with food labels selling us
a slice of the good life.
But how much do they really tell us?
Certainly the demand for ethically-produced food is growing.
In our Countryfile survey, 90% of those questioned
said animal welfare was an important factor when out shopping.
In a survey for the EU, 89% said they thought there should be clearer
labelling on food when it comes to welfare standards.
Earlier, I looked at the welfare guaranteed by the Red Tractor
and Freedom Food labels. But what about the organic mark?
The best known standards for organic food have been drawn up
by the Soil Association which started back in the 1960s.
But what does buying one of their label products tell us
when it comes to animal welfare?
Helen Browning is the association's chief executive.
When the word organic is seen on a food label,
what precisely does that mean?
It means it's met tough standards that are aspiring to be
the best they possibly can be in terms of animal welfare,
environmental care, the healthiness of the product.
All of those things are encapsulated in the organic standards.
With chickens, how different are your standards from everyone else's?
We're trying to make sure they've got the opportunity
to have a really great life,
plenty of room, that they are not stressed, they do not feather pick.
For meat birds, they are grown more slowly,
they have a 2.5 times longer life so you get better meat quality
and better health in the birds.
-But that does put the price up.
-It does put the price up,
but a lot of people care about animal welfare
and are prepared to eat meat less often
but to know when they are eating it,
they're eating something that has had a genuinely good life.
We've already seen how the organic label compares with
Red Tractor and Freedom Food over the welfare of cattle and pigs.
What are the facts about chickens?
Well, when it comes to the space they're given,
there are obvious differences.
Red Tractor specifies a maximum of 19 chickens per square metre.
For Freedom Food, it's 15.
And under the Soil Association's system, it's a maximum of 11.
There are differences too which affect the birds' quality of life.
Freedom Food farms have to give chickens natural light,
straw bales and objects to peck on.
The same is true for the organic label
plus birds must have access to pasture
for the last two thirds of their life.
But the Red Tractor doesn't require the farmer
to offer any of these things.
In the end, each of these labelling schemes has its pros and cons.
Some may have higher welfare standards but as consumers,
we have to balance that against other issues such as price.
Even so, for some, these labels still aren't good enough.
Compassion In World Farming thinks there's scope
for a simpler system of labelling backed up by the law.
In my shopping bag,
I've got lots of food with all kinds of reassuring labels
which, to be honest, a lot of people find confusing.
When it comes to animal welfare, the labels often are confusing.
What should people be looking for if they're concerned about welfare?
For the better animal welfare choice, for better standards,
-go for Freedom Food or organic.
-What about Red Tractor?
Red Tractor will give you an assurance that the meat or milk
has been produced to minimum government guidelines
and recommendations, generally speaking.
When I show people my sausages,
which has the Farm Fresh thing on,
which doesn't mean anything,
they thought it meant the animals were well looked after.
It doesn't mean that and that's why we need better labelling laws,
we need to tell people how their food is produced.
We need European legislation so we can understand from the label
whether the produce has come from a factory farm or has been kept
in better welfare conditions.
But getting all the countries of the EU
to agree on a common standard for welfare, that will be impossible?
We already have legal requirements
to label eggs according to how they are produced,
whether they're from caged hens or free range,
so surely we should be rolling that out to meat and dairy products.
We need a groundswell of public opinion, consumer opinion,
to demand clarity in the marketplace, better transparency,
better information about how their food is produced.
It's true there's been a huge increase in the sales of eggs
from uncaged hens since mandatory labels were introduced.
But finding a system that works
for more complicated, high welfare systems
could be quite a bit tougher.
In the meantime, there are labels out there that can help us.
We just need to know what they all mean.
Later on tonight's Countryfile,
Ellie is on a shopping trip where four legs are better than two.
-That will keep him in straw!
Adam is keeping an eye on the new arrivals down on the farm.
It's a sweet little calf. Like a great big teddy bear!
And are we in for some springlike weather in the week ahead?
Find out with the Countryfile five-day forecast.
While Ellie has been getting all artistic
on a walk through the Stroud valleys,
further north, also in the Cotswolds,
Jules Hudson and his new puppy Yollo
are in search of some performing artists
with their feet firmly set in farming.
Look at this.
"Hard-working groom wanted,
"must have experience of working with horses,
"willing to muck in and out and be available to start immediately.
"And a natural entertainer would be an advantage."
Intriguing, isn't it?
This might look like your average farm,
but it's home to one of our greatest rural shows.
Husband and wife Totty and Nell Gifford
combine two of their greatest passions.
The muck and mud of the farm and a love of all things theatrical.
Stable number one, this is us.
It's not your average stable. Quite colourful. Come on!
There we are.
Ah! Look at these!
A sort of juggling baton.
You don't see many of those in a stable either.
Now, Totty, from what I've seen so far,
this doesn't strike me as any ordinary farm.
What's the story? What's happening?
Well, these are part-farm horses, part-circus horses.
So they're working horses but they're also performing?
-Where did the circus idea come from?
Well, it was Nell, my wife's love.
She got a job working in Germany with Yasmine Smart.
That's some pedigree! The Smarts, their name goes before them.
And I'm a farmer's son.
So I saw this advert and thought,
"Yeah, horses, mucking out, that's all fine for me."
Yollo here, being a pup, of course,
doesn't know much about anything yet.
He's certainly never seen a goose before.
-Who's the goose?
-That's Brian, Brian the goose.
-Does he perform as well?
Yes, he does, he goes behind the Shires with me,
I long-rein the Shires round the ring
and Brian is in between me and, basically, the cart.
-It's a fascinating bit of diversification, isn't it?
Circus and farming are very closely connected.
You had pigs in circuses, cows in circuses,
and we're trying to achieve a circus that brings entertainment,
affordable entertainment, to the rural areas of England.
How do you fit it all in?
-You would say that, being a circus performer!
With the season reawakening,
it's time to dust off the cobwebs of winter
as the show gears up for another 20 weeks on the road.
So it's lights, camera, action for the first rehearsal of the day.
Luckily, though, I'm not the only newcomer here.
This is Willow, a six-months-old barn owl.
Six months? Hey, Yollo, same as you.
He's shaking his head!
-What is he going to be expected to do?
-At the moment,
it's all still in training but hopefully,
with our tightrope walker at some point in the act,
then the owl's going to appear
and fly in silently and land on the tightrope walker.
-On the tightrope walker?
-Just for the "oof" - impact.
'This fanciful, fantastical farm wouldn't be complete
'without the farmer's wife.
'It was always Nell's dream to create this wonderful spectacle.'
Well, I joined a circus when I was 18
and I just fell in love with the whole way of life
and the animals and the travelling
and I just kind of decided then and there, when I was 18,
that I wanted to have my own circus and be a circus director one day.
-What was your vision?
-I think it was for a village green circus
with a white tent, with ponies and dancers and magicians
and musicians, a kind of circus
-from a children's storybook about a circus.
Yeah, like a kind of enchanted circus,
-a kind of miniature jewel of a circus.
-How do you persuade people
to come to a circus? In the past, there's been a lot of bad press
with animal treatment and so forth.
Yeah, the thing is, we only have horses and they're our horses
and those horses are looked after to a professional standard.
Their welfare is absolutely everything to us.
They are having fun and the boys are having fun with them
and it is a way of life
and I think people can see that, there is nothing cynical about it.
People have a really unsophisticated,
lovely reaction of excitement when the circus comes into their village.
'Amidst the animals, the magic is brought to life
'with a wardrobe of bespoke costumes.
'So what's the theme for this year?'
2012 is going to be called The Saturday Book.
Basically, it is going to be a variety show with lots of surprises,
a very Victorian sort of feel and a lot of comedy.
'Well, if it's a bit of clowning around you're after, I'm your man,
'and I've been given the chance to take part in rehearsals.
'Showing me the ropes is Rebecca Townsend.
'She's seven-times UK vaulting champion.
'But before I have a crack at this,
'I've got a lesson on the Feisty Bernard -
BOTH: One, two, three!
'And in no time, I'm looking like a true professional - well, almost!'
Gorgeous! Looking pretty.
'Now for the real thing.
'These stunning Ardennes horses are traditionally used for logging.
'Strong as elephants, they've been specifically chosen for the show,
'as have the outfits.'
We use this to get the horses used to the sparkle.
-Would you... Would you like to wear it?
-It's a tutu.
I think you should wear it!
D'you know what? I think, one step at a time.
'And it's even more nerve-racking to know
'that Nell's watching over my every move.'
Just hook your legs over the handles, that might help,
-like I showed you.
-That's it, perfect.
The more in tune you are with the horse, the better it's going to be.
That's kind of the fascination of it and the art of it, really,
so that the horse and the rider become one.
Great. Rest your head between your knees and drop your hands down.
It's quite good for your lower back.
It's a nice little yoga session. Sit up and lift your legs down.
OK, so swinging up to knees,
and softly landing on the front of your feet. Brilliant. Really good.
-It's almost as if you're pushing forward.
-As if you're riding normally.
How about that?
-This audition's going very well.
-There you go.
A new member for the troupe!
I think he needs a tutu but, you know, practice makes perfect.
-Lots of weight on your shin.
-My left shin?
Yes, and take your right leg out the back.
Gorgeous! Straighten it. Come on, you can do better than that! Lovely!
Really difficult. There's much more movement than you'd have thought.
Even if you're used to riding,
it's a real surprise, how difficult it is to balance.
-And that's out there. Wah!
-Get that man a tutu! Brilliant!
The cast and crew have another month of rehearsals
before the show goes on the road,
but whether or not I'll make it - well, the jury's still out.
We've had a fantastic day and despite what everybody says about
working with children and animals, I might change my mind on that!
Winter's drawing to a close, and as Adam turns his attention to lambing,
it's out with the old and in with the new.
Many of my ewes are pregnant,
and I'm about to discover how many lambs they're carrying.
But just as I'm preparing for these new arrivals,
another chapter is ending.
I'm taking the remainder of my lambs born last spring to market,
lambs which I've kept for much longer than usual.
The idea of keeping these lambs later is that the price will be higher.
Most British lamb is sold during the summer and autumn,
and at this time of year,
there's not much lamb about, so the prices should be high.
Well, that's the plan, anyway.
They've been feeding through the winter on turnips
which I've grown specially,
and today I find out if the experiment's worked.
Well, if we've got our maths right, that's 186 lambs off to market.
It's quite exciting. DOG BARKS
Cirencester Livestock Market.
Hundreds of animals are for sale, in all shapes and sizes.
Coming here gives me a real buzz.
It looks like organised chaos,
but the livestock stewards really know what they're doing.
There go the sheep that way, and now the cattle the other way.
It's not organised chaos - it's chaos!
Go on, then. Somebody go. Lead the way.
What the market stewards and auctioneers are doing now
is sorting the lambs into types,
so there's some with woolly heads and some with clean heads,
and so, they look even in a pen, they'll sell better.
So he's just sorting them out for me there now.
Many of my lambs will go straight to slaughter.
Some will be bought by other farmers to fatten up first.
I'm hoping to get between 65 and 80 quid for each one,
and as the auction gets underway, prices are looking healthy.
That was £93.80 per lamb.
Look at these. Good lambs here. 60 kilos. Start me off...
The auctioneer is telling the dealers how many lambs are in the pen,
and how heavy they are - live weight -
and then the dealers have got to be like walking calculators
because they've got to work out how much they'll pay for these lambs
and what they'll get for them once they've been slaughtered,
so the skin has to come off, the bones come out, the guts come out,
leaving the meat. They've got to work out the value of that meat
and whether they can make a profit.
It's a really tricky job.
-I'm selling at...
-But what will the buyers make of mine?
This is my first pen of lambs, and there's quite a lot of interest.
-..Three, four, five...
-Price is rocketing up. It's quite good.
I'm hoping for 75 quid.
-At 76, they go at 76.
-Well, they've gone for 76 quid.
Down to the next pen of 40.
Trade's even better than I'd hoped for.
72 quid a lamb for this big pen.
And the rest of my pens don't disappoint, either.
Thank you very much. Thanks, Chris. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you.
All those lambs sold very well. My best pen made 83 quid.
The next one's a 77. They went down to £70 for some of the rare breeds,
the Norfolk Horns, but I'm pleased. It's gone very well.
All in all, a great day's work.
Overall, if you include all my lambs I've sold today,
I'll be taking home a cheque for about 13 grand.
The gamble for us was, did we sell them in November for 55 quid
or do we wait until now and sell them, and that gamble has paid off,
and if you take off all the costs, we'll be 1,500 quid better off.
Back on the farm,
another season of lambing will begin in just a few weeks,
but they won't be the only infants on the farm this spring.
With this warm sun on my face,
it really feels like spring is just around the corner.
The days are getting longer, the snowdrops have come out in flower
and, very excitingly, we've had our first few calves.
This little Highland is just a few days old.
It's going up to Eric here, my new bull,
the one with his ring in his nose.
The bull has just given him a tap, saying, "Out the way, boy."
That little calf isn't Eric's.
It's by my previous bull.
She's a wonderful mother.
She's following it around and keeping it close to her.
The Highlands are fantastic at mothering their calves.
You have to be careful when they're newly born
that they don't see you off or charge you,
but now she's settled with it and it's a few days old, she's fine.
It's a sweet little calf.
Like a great big teddy bear.
Eric has calves that are due soon too,
so my Highland herd is doing well,
but the big work over the coming weeks is lambing
and, on a misty Cotswold morning,
I'm about to find out if we're in for a good year.
There's one major thing
that can mean the success or failure of a sheep flock,
and that is the amount of lambs that you can raise successfully,
and on a lowland farm like this, you want all your ewes to rear twins.
We don't wait for them to be born to find out.
Instead, we scan the ewes so we know how many lambs they're carrying.
For years, my scanner was Richard Chantler.
In the 1980s, he was one of the first
and went on to ply his trade all over the world.
But when he died last year, his son Wally decided to take over,
and this is his first visit to my farm.
-Hi, Wally. How's it going?
-Very well, thank you.
-How long have you been sheep-scanning?
It's my third season.
What were you doing before you started scanning?
-I was a French polisher.
-And you've taken on your dad's mantle.
-That's right, yeah.
-Best I can.
-And what sort of round was he doing, then?
-It was about 80,000. 80,000 sheep, about 10,000 cows.
I've got over 50,000 sheep and a few thousand cows, I suppose.
But, yeah, I've got the majority of it.
How did you pick up all the work?
I went through his address book and your number was in there,
so...I phoned you up!
-And are you as good as he is?
-I-I'm as accurate, but I'm slower.
Good for you. How confident are you?
Are you going to be worried at lambing time
when we'll be ringing you up, moaning?
I'm going to be really worried! Sleepless nights.
Lots of sleepless nights. I might just leave the country!
Right, I mustn't stop you. I know time is money on this job.
-Thanks very much.
-He's getting paid so much a ewe. Is it 30p a ewe(?)
Oh, no! I'm putting it up for you guys.
-But it's been that since 1985.
-It has. Yeah.
And diesel prices, you know, I think I...
I know, that's very competitive. As long as you get them right!
Spot on, spot on.
The art is to be as quick and accurate as possible,
and it all helps me to plan for the season ahead.
These are the last couple of hundred ewes on the farm to scan.
The lambs grow very fast in the last six to eight weeks of gestation.
In fact, 75% of the foetal growth is in that last six to eight weeks,
so if a ewe is carrying twins or triplets,
she needs a lot more grub than a ewe that's carrying one.
So, we scan them all, sort them into groups
and then feed them the right amount of food,
and also, at this time of year, you'll find out which ones are empty,
known as barreners, and they go off to market.
I've never quite understood what you're looking at on the screen.
-It's just a whole shade of blobs, as far as I'm concerned.
To be honest, that's how I felt when I first started.
But it is quite easy.
The denser the material, the whiter it is,
so bone is going to show up really white.
-Now, there's bone there.
And you can see... if I move my hand round,
-and there's a body there. See the legs?
-Yes, sort of.
And a skull on the end, there.
If I move my hand back, we've got a first one. So first one, second one.
-It's still just gobbledegook to me.
Which is why we employ people like you, Wally.
All in all, Wally's scanned about 600 of my sheep,
and as the final one leaves the crush,
it's time to discover how well we've done.
So, overall, our commercial flock is about 180% lambing,
so if a ewe has one lamb, it's 100%. If they all have two, that's 200%.
I understand from Wally that, nationally, the national flock,
is low on its lambing percentage this year, it's well down,
and so we've done well.
Next week, I'll be moving the first of my ewes into the lambing sheds,
and it'll be all hands on deck as the arable farming season
kicks into action.
Just a stone's throw south of Adam's farm are the Five Valleys of Stroud.
Earlier, I was in Painswick, ringing the bells at St Mary's Church.
At the Rococo Garden, I met Paul. As well as being garden director,
he's also keen to encourage people
to explore the surrounding hills on wheels,
and he hopes these electrically assisted bikes might be the answer.
OK, so Paul and I are going to see
how well these bikes fit into the valley around here,
so we've got the Stroud Valley Cycle Club here. Nice to see you all.
We're taking part in time trials.
We've got Peter and Pat at the back - give us a honk.
There they are, on the tandem. Are we all under starter's orders?
Time trial begins in three, two, one, go!
We're going to have to speed up... There we are.
The camera vehicle has to speed up because we're going at such a lick.
I'll tell you what, Paul, they don't mess about, do they, these.
How did you go from gardening to cycling?
I've always loved cycling
and I just felt that it's impossible to get round the hills
if you're not used to cycling, so I thought,
"How on earth can we get people on a bike, cycling round here?"
-So, electric bikes was the obvious answer.
How far can you go on a full battery?
-I reckon you can get 30 miles here, with all the hills.
Paul's plan is to persuade businesses in the local area
to install charge-up points,
so if you fancy pedalling further afield, you won't run out of juice.
-Come on, guys! Whenever you're ready(!)
-Where are they?
If you're not fit enough to tackle this terrain, fear not.
These bikes take most of the strain,
allowing you to sit back and take in the view.
-It does take your breath on some of the bigger hills.
But the joy is, you're getting the exercise without it killing you.
We've got up that hill in no time.
Look at this, we're just cruising along.
And there we are.
'One by one,
'the Stroud Valley Cycle Club came rolling in shortly afterwards...
'..albeit slightly more out of breath than we were.'
-Are we the first tandem?
-You are the first tandem(!)
That was a good time trial, everybody. Good time trial.
Now, in a moment, Ellie will in the largest of the valleys,
Chalford, where some of the locals are taking a step back in time,
but before that, the Countryfile forecast.
'The Golden Valleys of Stroud.
'Earlier, I was creating art
'on one of my favourite walks through the valleys,
'while Matt took on this challenging terrain
'with the help of an electric bike,
'but it's a different mode of transport
'that's tackling the steep hills in this picturesque village.'
These days, it's easier and more convenient than ever
to do the weekly shop - just a few clicks of the mouse
or a walk from the car to the supermarket and back again
is pretty much all the effort required.
But for some people in this Cotswold village of Chalford,
once they've got their groceries,
they still face a long and gruelling climb up a steep hill to their homes,
which was why some of them have come together and got...
So, how did this scheme get started, then?
Chalford's got a long history of donkeys,
and the local businesses
always used donkeys to deliver things.
Four years ago, I decided to get a donkey and use it as a lawnmower,
-and the scheme just developed from there, really.
So, off we go, then. Where did he come from?
-He came from Adam's farm, actually.
-Oh, did he?
How was he when you got him?
He was nine months old, he was a bit jumpy and didn't like to be led,
but he's come on a lot since then, and now he's brilliant.
-Come on out and get your groceries.
Now, why would you use donkey delivery?
It's so brilliant, isn't it?
Coming here, delivering for me on a Saturday morning - lie in,
croissants if we want them. Anything we forget,
we can just ring the shop and say, "Tell Anna to put it on the donkey."
-It's much better than getting
-the stress of the supermarket on a Saturday morning.
And the dogs don't mind?
Oh, no, they love it. The donkey's part of Chalford life now.
-Thanks a lot.
Every Saturday, Chester is harnessed up to do the weekly delivery round.
With Anna, he covers an exhausting three to four miles,
up and down the village's steep hills and narrow pathways.
-Oh, it's tiring.
'For some customers, like Rita,
'Chester provides a valuable service, often acknowledged with a treat.'
There you go, Chester. You lucky thing.
It's wonderful to see Anna come up with the donkey
-on Saturday mornings with my croissants and cigarettes.
-For Chester's upkeep.
-That'll keep him in straw.
-Look at this, walking along the street.
-Hey, hey, hey!
-When was the last time I saw you?
-It was a long time ago.
It's my history teacher, lives in Chalford, here.
I live at the top of the hill.
-Just out for a walk.
-Do you use the donkey service, Mr Godwin?
-I must admit I don't.
-Could we persuade you otherwise?
You could persuade me, yes. I'm quite happy to support the donkey.
-And the village shop.
-And the village shop.
-It's good to see you.
-It's so nice to see you.
-It's been a long time.
-About 16 years.
-Nice to see you.
-Nice to see you.
-See you again soon. See you!
Talking of history, Anna and Chester have revived an age-old tradition
of using donkeys to haul goods all over the area.
'Bakers in Chelford had their own donkeys,
'used to deliver bread until the mid-1940s
'when motorised vehicles took over.
'Right. One last delivery.' Hiya!
-It's unique. It's something completely different.
And it's preserving a tradition, really.
Of how it used to be.
'And it's back to the stables.'
Up, up! Come on!
-Come on, then. Here's your friend.
-Hello, Teddy, have you missed us?
-Are they happier when they're together?
-Oh, yeah. Much better.
And then underneath is the important bit. This is a pack harness.
And this... It keeps the weight off the spine.
So it's got a raised bit here, and that's really important -
obviously you don't want to damage the donkey
by carrying heavy weights on the spine.
It's actually really hard to get a pack harness,
and, um, I've looked all over the place.
-So that's where Emily comes in!
-Yeah! Hi, Emily.
-So what are you doing here, Emily? Let's have a look at this.
At the moment I'm taking just a profile of the front of Teddy,
so that, er, we've got a shape to work to.
Because donkeys get wider as they go further back.
So we'll get a shape here, and then we'll work to
the back of the pack saddle, so that'll be about here.
So take another shape,
and we'll draw those on a large piece of paper.
Let's have a look at that. Look at that!
So you sort of simply draw round it, put it on there...?
Yeah. So this is his front shape, and this is his back shape.
So this one's a lot wider. This is sort of the system I'm thinking of.
-So we've got two arches onto a wooden rail on each side.
-And then backed with felt,
so that there's protection on the donkey's sides
for when you're carrying the panniers. Yeah.
An interesting project, isn't it, for a saddler?
-Like a challenge.
Chester, you've had such a busy day! Hasn't he been good?
He's been brilliant. Let's go back to the field.
Come on. That's it!
-There you are!
-How are you doing?
-Not bad, give us a hand!
-This is Chester!
-Chester, you're a lovely lad.
-Do you want me to get the gate?
-There we go.
-Good boy! How about that for a view?
-Is it time for him to be let loose?
-Enjoy his freedom?
-It is. You're free! You leave that rein alone.
He's on everything!
-I'm going to hide these from him - snowdrops.
-Aww! For me?
I was told I could pick them for somebody very special.
-You shouldn't have.
-Anyway. That's all we've got time for this week!
Next week we're going to be in North Kent.
Julia is back and she'll be finding out why Kent is so special.
For snails and from donkeys to goats -
I'll be finding out why it's boom time for them.
And I'll be on the Pilgrims' Trail to Canterbury. See you then! Bye-bye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd