Ellie Harrison explores the literary landscape of the Vale of Aylesbury, the setting that has inspired some of Britain's greatest writers and poets including Milton and Roald Dahl.
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The Vale of Aylesbury.
Rolling English countryside, reaching down to the Chilterns.
This historic Buckinghamshire landscape is an inspiring patchwork
of ancient woodland, chalky grassland and grand estates.
It's easy to see, then, why it's a setting which has captured
the imagination of some of our greatest authors and poets.
It was where John Milton found his Paradise Lost,
where Enid Blyton brought Noddy to life,
and where Roald Dahl first saw the Fantastic Mr Fox.
But it's not just fictitious animals that form part of this landscape.
After serving their country, Jules discovers what happens
when our faithful old horses decide to hang up their shoes for good.
You ought to have that as a souvenir.
You ought to take that back and put it on the wall of the station.
John's finding out about a controversial new source of energy.
Two miles beneath the surface here,
there's natural gas trapped in rock,
and getting it out involves a technique new to this country
called fracking, which has been blamed
for creating earthquakes and fireballs.
But is fracking quite as bad as some people would have us believe?
I'll be investigating.
'And Adam's on the trail of his very own wheat harvest.'
So there's about £4,500's worth going off down the drive,
and that's a year's hard work.
Hopefully, the cheque will be arriving soon.
From its wide chalk valleys to golden beech woodlands,
the countryside around the Vale of Aylesbury is ripe
with rural splendour.
And it's inspired some of our most famous writers to capture
the essence of the landscape in their work.
The war poet Rupert Brooke loved to walk in the Chilterns,
often stopping at his favourite watering hole for some liquid inspiration.
Rumour has it that the Aylesbury Vale even caught
the attention of one William Shakespeare.
It's thought that he wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream
while staying in the Chilterns.
And in this modest cottage in Chalfont St Giles,
the poet John Milton completed his masterpiece Paradise Lost.
With over 10,000 lines of verse,
it might not have oodles of easy reading appeal,
but this guy's work was in the top ten of its time.
Oh, you must be Ellie!
'Curator Ed Dawson is so passionate about Milton's work,
'he reckons the poet could win a war of words with Shakespeare any day.
'Milton came here to escape the Plague,
'by which time he was completely blind.'
He was overwhelmed and down in the dumps.
He then buried himself in his great, epic poetry.
And it was here that he finished it off.
Was he inspired by his surroundings here in the Chilterns?
Well, he had the countryside and the rolling Chiltern Hills explained to him.
He would have understood what the garden and surroundings looked like,
the flowers and so on.
He would have been able to use his imagination to enhance that,
because, after all, in Paradise Lost,
you have these great descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by a man completely blind.
And here's the A-level English bit.
Apparently, he was a great neologist, whatever one of those is.
Neologism is the coining of words.
-And there are 530-odd down to John Milton.
What sort of words did he create?
Well, "pandemonium" is the most famous.
Which, of course, is Satan's headquarters in Paradise Lost.
-Oh, I see.
-That's where it first appears.
But humble and ordinary words like "padlock" and "fragrance"
and "terrific" - look them up in a good, encyclopaedic dictionary,
and they all come back to this extraordinary man.
Milton was certainly a whiz with words,
and 400 years later, his language lives on.
Later, I'll be finding out
how nature inspired one of our best-loved children's authors,
but first, fracking may not be a word you're familiar with, yet -
it's the key to getting at the wealth of natural gas
we have trapped under the British Isles.
But at what cost? John's been investigating.
They say there are untold riches trapped in the ground
beneath our feet - a new source of power deep down.
It could be the answer to all our energy prayers.
But so far, it hasn't had the best press.
Controversial drilling operation...for natural shale gas
has been suspended after a small earthquake near Blackpool.
Drilling for shale gas has been put forward as a great new hope,
a way of helping to meet our future energy needs,
of keeping the lights on.
But just what is it? And why are we hearing about it only now?
'To find out more about this brand-new energy source,
'I am meeting Professor Mike Stevenson.
'He is a top scientist with the British Geological Survey.'
Just what exactly is shale gas?
Well, the gas is the same kind of gas you get in the North Sea,
it's methane gas. It's exactly the same kind of gas,
but coming from a different kind of rock.
Here, the gas is in shale, which is very fine grained,
and it has gas in between the particles.
You have to break it up to get the gas out.
And how much shale gas do you think there could be underneath the UK?
In this country, the British Geological Survey
has come up with a figure of 150 billion cubic metres.
That's an awful lot.
It's an awful lot, but that's just what we think might be there.
What you can actually take out could be an awful lot less than that,
could even be only 10% or 5% of that.
But it could be potentially very important.
It could be, yes, because it would be our own home-grown gas,
as opposed to gas we import.
Gas companies are hoping methane reserves could be even higher,
but getting at it is tricky.
The way it's done is called fracking.
That means that water and sand and a specific chemical
will be pumped into the very hard rock to fracture it.
That will release the natural gas, which can be brought to the surface.
A special drill is sunk down thousands of feet, then it turns
at right angles to bore horizontally along the shale deposit.
Small explosions open up fissures
into which the water is pumped at pressure.
It's this technique that is revolutionising the industry.
Gas that was once impossible to get at can now be reached.
It's boom time in a business worth around £20 billion a year globally,
and Lancashire could have some of our biggest reserves.
Well, this is an exploration rig. How do you know where to put it?
Well, this area has had a lot of history of seismic work,
where people have looked at and basically mapped underground.
There have been a few other exploration wells here
in the late '80s and '90s.
That is how we looked at this licence area to start with.
Can we expect to see exploration rigs
popping up all over Lancashire now?
The rig is only here during the drilling phase.
This rig will drill a well
and then it will move someplace else and drill another well.
Once the wells are drilled, then they go into the production phase,
and the only thing that is left is just the wellheads,
which are only about two metres high.
So there is not something sticking up
that you can see for a long way on the landscape.
And, if you do go ahead and produce methane from down here,
will that be cheaper than bringing it in from the North Sea?
It has reduced the price of gas.
The price of gas in North America now
is about a third of what it is here.
-And is that because of shale gas?
'He claims there could be more than 50 trillion cubic metres
'of shale gas in Lancashire alone.
'That's ten times more than
'all the UK's conventional gas reserves put together.'
And it's not just here.
There are potentially rich sources of it right across the country,
from Scotland to Devon.
Here in the Mendip Hills of Somerset,
there have been mines and quarries since Roman times.
Now, most of them are worked out.
But many people round here are really concerned that the Mendips
could be the next area to attract fracking for shale gas.
It may not look much on a gloomy day like today,
but this quarry is in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
For campaigners like Nigel Taylor, shale gas seems like bad news.
Right behind me over my shoulder here is a site of special
scientific interest which dates back 700,000 years, geologically.
Above it is a botanical site of special scientific interest.
This is unique on the Mendip Hills. It's such a fragile ecosystem here.
Fracking's not going to affect that?
Can you give me the assurance of that?
If you're breaking up the rocks below us and turning around
and rupturing the limestone, pulling it apart,
the backwash of it could come up into the fissures,
could go into the caves.
If you imagine the Mendip with layers of water disappearing
through different passages,
at all different heights through the Mendips -
the Mendips are 1,000 feet tall -
You're talking... If the water levels are dropping through
the limestones and merging at the base in the springs there,
we don't know yet what level they are drilling at.
Until somebody can give us satisfactory answers,
nobody's going to be happy.
So, are we right to be pressing ahead?
Later, I will be hearing about concerns about fracking
close to our most beautiful cities.
And I'll investigate why the process is even to blame for earthquakes.
The Chiltern Ridgeway in Buckinghamshire.
An ancient old trade route that has relied on horse power for centuries.
In the rich, golden beach woodlands lying just below these hills,
the majestic workhorse is still very much a part of this landscape today.
Nick, you're a professional forester,
but you decided to use working horses in your day-to-day life.
It can't be easy.
Easy, no, it is hard work.
But it's a choice of conscience,
an ecological choice as well.
And it is fantastically traditional.
It is, it's something that has been happening in woodlands
for a couple of hundred years - oxen before that.
-Who is this lovely old boy pulling these logs?
-This is Silent.
He's a 21-year-old Clydesdale,
and has been doing it for a good few years.
-Working hard for your living. So how old is he again?
-He is 21.
How many hours a day would you expect him to work?
He will work an eight-hour day like us, but will do two hours on
and maybe a half hour's rest, another two hours, rest again.
So we're not overworking him.
It does vary, depending on how far we have to drag these logs
and how big a log we have to move.
A horse can happily work for around 20 years,
but then, like the rest of us,
they want to hang up their shoes and retire.
Which is the case for one very special group of horses
that I am now off to visit.
The Horse Trust is where
many of the nation's hardest-working horses come to retire,
including many from the police and military.
What does the trust focus on today?
We provide education and training, we also fund clinical research,
but here at the home of rest, we focus on offering
the time in respite for working horses, so horses
that would be the taxpayers' responsibility, like army, police.
Well, it's all very noble, but how did it start?
We're actually the oldest equine charity in the world,
we're 125 years old.
We were started in 1886 by a lady who read the novel Black Beauty
and was inspired by the plight of the working London cab horse.
So she rented a field and started loaning healthy horses
to cab drivers whilst offering respite care to their animals,
bringing them back up to health and then swapping them back.
We weren't implying there was cruelty in the way the horses were treated,
not malicious cruelty. Rather, they were just overworked,
and the drivers were doing their best to care for them in difficult circumstances.
'For some, however,
'it really has been a tragic case of animal cruelty.'
This is Duke.
Back in 2008, he was caught up in the infamous Spindles Farm case.
He and many other farm animals
were subjected to some bouts of horrific animal cruelty.
It has been described as
one of Britain's worst cases of animal cruelty.
32 horses were found dead and 111 other animals had to be
rescued from a farm in Buckinghamshire last week.
Even though the trust has helped nurture Duke back from the brink
of death, he has ongoing issues with colic,
and today, the vets are going to try to diagnose his problems
by passing a camera down him.
He is looking a bit dopey now.
First, the vet inserts the scope up poor old Duke's nose.
He then has to swallow it in order to inspect
the intestine further, all of which is pretty uncomfortable.
Colic - basically, there are various causes of it.
It means pain in the abdomen.
In some cases, it will be fatal, unless they have surgery.
In some cases, medical treatment will resolve the issue.
Fortunately for Duke, all his cases of colic have been medical
and we have been able to resolve them with painkillers and drugs.
This looks nice and healthy. Just stop for a second.
Just have a look at that. All right.
-He's just feeling that a little bit in his gullet.
-Bits of hay.
Little bits of food material,
you see that nice, furry, carpet-like lining of the intestine.
You can see a few ulcers here, just those little red spots.
I wouldn't anticipate that that would cause
the sort of symptoms that you have described.
'It's good news that these ulcers aren't serious,
'but what is troubling him is still unclear, and he'll need further investigations.'
-Good man. There we go.
-I've got it, that's it.
-Terrific. Good boy.
Hopefully, Duke's problems won't escalate,
and he'll make a strong and swift recovery
so he can hook up with the other residents out at pasture.
Adding to those numbers are four newcomers that have just
been retired by Greater Manchester Police.
They are 17-year-old Jack Pridey, followed by Nickleby,
the oldest and longest-serving of the bunch at 19 years.
Oliver is a 17-year-old chestnut gelding, and finally, Fairfax,
the youngest at 14, and the flightiest.
But before they retire, there is one last job to do,
and that is to shake off those working shoes for good.
-So, that's it, the very last time the shoe will be on those feet.
Do you know what?
I kind of think you ought to have that as a souvenir.
You ought to take that back and put it on the wall.
OK, thank you!
Between them, these chaps have a combined 50 years of service
with the Greater Manchester Police, working in all situations,
including the recent public disorder and football matches.
Saying their final goodbyes are head groom Ann Firth
and officer Shane Wilson, who rode these boys regularly.
Ah, the last time you're going to feed them.
It's a bit of the moment, isn't it? I won't start you off!
Now, you have memories of these horses working hard
on the beat in all weathers, all times of day.
That's right, I had Nickleby for a year and Jack for six months.
Which was your favourite of the two? Impossible to say!
They are both totally different characters.
Jack is a very loving horse and shows you a lot of affection,
where is Nickleby is a solid police horse.
In the space of two weeks with my colleague
on patrol, we detained two burglars on two separate incidents.
On horseback?! It's a bit like the Wild West in Manchester, isn't it?
And how long have you worked with the police force for?
20 years in January. Exactly 20 years.
So you have seen these deliveries happen over the years
to various parts of the country.
-Does it get any easier?
-No, it doesn't.
It's wonderful, but it is a very emotional time.
I love the welfare of the horses, and to see them come back
into a natural environment like this is absolutely wonderful.
Aww. Hey, at least you can keep an eye on them! They're in good hands!
Absolutely, it is wonderful.
All of the hard-working retired horses at the trust are here
to live out their lives in as much comfort as possible.
And for Duke, a moment of freedom.
Poor old Duke, who we saw earlier with his endoscopy,
has now recovered from his jab and is raring to go.
Good lad. Look at that.
That is the sort of thing that kind of makes me tingle.
A horse like this that has had such a difficult and trying life,
now out here in this gorgeous environment
on a lovely winter's afternoon like this.
Doing what horses should do - relaxing,
and enjoying the evening sunshine.
A good old roll!
Earlier, we heard about the huge resources of natural gas
still trapped beneath our feet.
But the method used to get at it is proving highly controversial.
So, is it safe? Here's John.
It's reckoned there could be trillions of cubic feet of gas
locked away down deep beneath our landscape.
Enough, perhaps, to keep our lights on for decades.
But getting it is tricky and controversial.
It's claimed it can lead to flaming taps, polluted water,
and even earth tremors.
A controversial drilling operation for natural shale gas
has been suspended after a small earthquake near Blackpool.
What happened in Lancashire has been blamed on hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking. That's the high-tech method of breaking up the shale
thousands of feet down to get to the gas.
It was May this year when those tremors were felt,
and fracking was stopped immediately.
The company concerned has held its hands up.
No doubt the earthquakes were caused by your fracking.
Two of them, we did five altogether, and two of them
did have seismic activity that was related to the operation.
They were very small, they don't actually rate
as an earthquake that would cause damage or injury or anything.
But what we have done with this study is looked at different ways
of doing the treatments a bit differently,
and also being able to monitor all the operations so you can see
anything coming, before it even becomes
something small like the ones we already had.
A report into the tremors is currently being studied by the Government, so, at the moment,
only test drilling is happening at this Southport site.
It's miles from where the earthquakes happened,
but tremors aren't the only concern about fracking.
What about the cocktail of chemicals, water and sand
being pumped into the ground?
The city of Bath. People have come here to take the waters
since Roman times.
There are fears that, should the quest for shale gas come to
the nearby Mendip Hills, all this could be under threat.
How would fracking here in the Mendips affect
the water in Bristol and Bath?
I'm concerned that, if they're going to start drilling
down into the Mendip plateau, and interfering with the aquifers,
they are going to pollute the springs
and water that runs across to Bath.
They're going to back flush their fluids,
and that could break out into the watercourses underground.
70% of the water that people in Bath and Bristol drink,
and the surrounding areas, comes from the Mendip Hills.
And one of the biggest tourist attractions around here
are the Roman baths and Bath itself. Could they be threatened?
If the water is interrupted by the fracking methods
and is diverted underground,
or if we lose the source of its actual heating -
because bear in mind it is coming off the Mendips,
going deep down into the underground systems and being super heated
before it goes to Bath - what happens if that water gets diverted?
We end up going to have a cold bath in Bath.
And what about those spectacular flaming taps?
Could flammable gas really get into our water?
Well, those pictures from America of flames coming out of water taps,
that's pretty frightening.
Most geologists feel
the chances of methane from that far below coming almost two miles
up through very compressed, very high density rocks, is unlikely.
-Would it be possible? To see flaming taps in the UK?
-I don't think so.
Certainly not natural amounts of methane could cause that.
That still leaves fears over earthquakes.
Mike Stevenson says we really shouldn't be worried.
There are natural earthquakes in this area,
as there are all over Britain.
In the last 15 years,
there have been 30 earthquakes
of the size that happened here due to fracking.
-In the UK?
-Yes, and they happen naturally.
So we need to know what is a natural level before we can start
blaming people for causing earthquakes.
Because fracking is so new, I can well understand all the concerns,
even though scientists are saying it is highly unlikely that aquifers
will be contaminated or that we will see flames coming out of water taps.
But the gas industry says
the chemicals it's using are all perfectly safe.
But there is another concern,
and it is nothing to do with how they get the gas out of the ground.
I personally am not so concerned about the process of fracking.
I think with a very stringent and very carefully-developed
regulatory framework, we can deal with those sorts of sets of impacts.
My principal issue, and the game changer for me
in terms of shale gas, is the relation to climate change.
Prof Kevin Anderson is a climate scientist
who thinks using shale gas is a backwards step.
The UK Government has very stringent commitments
to make significant reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions.
20% by 2020.
Yes, but more significantly,
we would have to have
a de-carbonised electricity system by 2030 -
the Government's own committee on climate change say that.
So we can show, mathematically,
you cannot reconcile the development of shale gas in the UK
with the Government's commitment to climate change.
-Is that because it is yet another fossil fuel?
-It is, yes.
It may be slightly better than coal, but it is a high-carbon fuel,
and we should now be making the transition rapidly to zero or
very low-carbon fuels, and shale gas cannot be part of that portfolio.
For others, shale gas could be as important to our energy needs
as the discovery of North Sea oil and gas.
The Government believes it can ensure this new power source is both clean and safe.
I have been hearing a lot of concerns about fracking.
So, you can guarantee there won't be gas or chemicals
getting into our drinking water?
There is no question of relaxing any of the environmental
regulations that we have in order to protect clean water.
Most have been established at European Union level,
and that has given us very good, clean water.
We intend to keep it that way.
Shale gas could have an impact on your 20% target for reducing carbon.
I don't think shale gas would have an impact adversely on our target,
precisely because in the long run we would be looking to use
gas in the context of carbon capture and storage to generate electricity.
Obviously, if we can decarbonise our electricity supply,
rely on renewables, nuclear, and on clean coal and gas,
by carbon capture and storage,
then we can go on using these deposits
for a very long time to come.
Undoubtedly, shale gas has huge potential,
but, at the moment, carbon capture just is not commercially viable.
And for many, there are still serious questions to be answered
before shale gas can be seen as an answer to our future energy demands.
Later on show, Adam discovers how his wheat gets turned into bread.
It's just incredible, I've never seen anything like it.
I'll be on the trail of children's author Roald Dahl,
a man who managed to create
a flushbunkingly gloryumptious world of whimsy
that I've never grown out of.
And we'll be tracking down
the Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead.
Magnificent beech woods and charming brick and flint villages
are quintessentially Chilterns landscape.
But the beauty of Buckinghamshire's buildings comes
from the ground beneath,
and I'm going to see just how the clay that's unique to the Chilterns
goes from underground to overground.
In a region short of building stone, the rich, red clay
harnessed from beneath the hills make perfect bricks.
The land belongs to the Matthews family,
who have been hand making bricks in the area for the last 90-odd years.
Stuart Brown is a clay digger
who has been digging very big holes for them since he was a lad.
Stuart, is this pure clay you've been digging out?
No, this is what we call loam. We mix this with the clay.
We use about a quarter to a third of it,
-depending on how strong the clay is.
-How strong the clay is?
When you dig the clay from the top of the ground, it's a lot stronger
than when you get in the ground, because it is a lot milder.
And how do you know what proportion of each you need?
-It's like a sixth sense.
-And what's going to happen
when you end up exhausting all of the clay and loam that you have?
Well, there are other sites to move onto.
It's in pockets, like small veins. Some of it's big, some small.
Once you start, you can then follow the veins through the land.
'A bit like surface mining, really. The clay here is pretty special.
'Normally, clay forms gently in layers of mud in a lake,
'but this stuff was created
'when a glacial flood tore through the Chilterns,
'dragging mud and rocks along with it, spreading its deposits.'
But it's not just the clay from down there
that is important in making the bricks.
The trees that tower above me here also play their part.
It was once a major industry, but now this place is
one of a handful of traditional brick makers left.
The beech trees from the wood are used
to fire the kilns that harden the bricks.
I'm meeting Jim Matthews, who runs the place.
So, you are still using a lot of the same resources
and skills that your grandfather would have used.
It's pretty much exactly the same as it was in his time.
There are a few other things like forklifts and electric motors,
but the process is the same.
And your grandfather was a bit of an eco-man himself.
He was very passionate about particularly the habitat
and maintaining the woodlands.
He actually wrote this book, which is like a journal for us
as a family to keep...
It is beautifully written. Look at that!
It has almost instructions to us that have been passed down.
"Think twice before you destroy."
So, we are careful to replant far more than we take,
and we have actually replanted
a net gain of 35 acres of native species, broadleaf woodland,
in the last 15 years.
As was his granddad's wish,
the whole operation is run with conservation in mind.
By replicating the traditional methods used,
the factory makes bricks that preserve the look so typical of the area.
The wood-firing leaves a distinctive smoky effect that you just don't get
with modern oil-fired kilns. But as well as the bog standards,
they make ornate specials,
often matching original bricks hundreds of years old.
It's like Geppetto's workshop in here!
Andy Hales will show me how.
-Good and cold.
-Just roll it. Roll it away. That's it, let go.
Now, pick it up.
Yeah, little bit of a drag. Now, bang it down hard.
This is quite culinary.
Wire bow that little bit of excess clay off.
Once these beauties have been shaped, it's time to bake them
in a hot kiln for 24 hours at 1,000 degrees centigrade.
That's gas mark 36 to you and me!
-There we are.
-And I could sell that one.
The distinctive reddy hues of these Chiltern bricks have been used
on many a stately pile.
Hampton Court and Mapledurham House all boast
a bit of traditional Buckinghamshire brickwork.
But from grand houses and little cottages right back to ground level,
this might not look like a lot at the moment,
but the boys return all the land from which they got their clay
back to wildlife ponds, to agriculture and to native woodland.
Not only are Jim and the boys maintaining
the tradition of hand-making the bricks that characterise the area,
but they're also leaving a legacy for the landscape.
Now, over in the Cotswolds,
it's been a busy year for Adam out in the arable fields.
Today, he's on a journey to discover what happens to his milling wheat
once it leaves the farm. But before he does that,
the animals need a bit of attention.
Not you, cow! You're staying out!
Come on, goats!
As the winter months are drawing in, the days are getting shorter,
the nights are getting colder and wetter,
it's time these goats came into the shed.
Like many of the other animals, we house them for the winter.
Goats have got hair, not wool, so unlike sheep,
they haven't got a greasy, woolly fleece to keep them warm all winter.
They really come from arid countries, where it's warm and dry.
So, they suffer from the cold a bit. Come on, girls.
They're all females out here, apart from one Billy goat,
who's got an unusual way of attracting the ladies.
At this time of year, male goats really stink.
They're covered in pheromones, and rather disgustingly,
they wee on themselves. You think it makes you smell lovely, don't you,
but it doesn't. You stink!
Goats are one of the first animals to be domesticated, or tamed,
and they're so good at coming to a bucket of food,
you can pretty much do anything with them.
And food is exactly what I'm using to entice them
to their new home for the winter.
Come on, goats!
This is their winter housing, and it's a nice, airy, open shed
with lots of natural light and movement of air,
which is important for the health of the goats.
You don't want it too foggy in here,
otherwise there's a risk of them getting pneumonia.
And they like to be in groups, goats. They're herd animals.
They don't like to be isolated.
They just live like this happily all winter.
There's just one last job I've got to do.
Believe it or not, they need a pedicure, which we do twice a year.
Goats can get quite long toenails that curl right over,
and we just trim off the excess hoof.
Sometimes when they grow right over, it traps in dirt,
and they get foot rot.
These ones are very good feet.
There you go, all done.
With the goats all settled in for the winter,
it's time to put in a bit of halter training with my cows.
This one I've got, is a Belted Galloway, and Mike's got a Gloucester.
Belted Galloways come in three colours.
Black and white, red and white and dun and white.
This one is obviously black and white, and she's well marked -
a lovely big belt round her middle and over her tummy.
And she's called Paprika. She's a bit fiery.
And while she's small like this, while she's little,
I'm stronger than she is, and she learns to respect the halter
and learns that she can't get away.
But this Belty, when she's mature, she'll weigh as much as that bull.
And obviously be quite difficult to control.
Then, you can slip a halter on them and they seem to remember,
so if you've got a problem with them,
something in their eye or mastitis
or you just want to take them to a show,
you just put a halter on, and off you go.
That's the plan, anyway.
There we go, job done.
With the calves safely back indoors, I can turn my attention to my wheat.
It's been in these stores since August,
and is now ready to come out.
I'm hoping the milling wheat will make the grade
and could be turned into flour for making bread.
We've worked hard producing it,
so I don't want it ending up just as animal feed.
Martin's just loading a lorry-load of milling wheat.
This was grown on the farm. We've got about 700 tons of it.
Milling wheat is grown to quite a high specification,
particularly the protein. It needs to be over 12%
to be able to make it into bread.
We've got in the store here, we've got about 700 tons below.
Once it comes into the store, the job isn't done.
We have to look after it, it has to be kept cool and dry
so it doesn't go mouldy.
But once it's on the lorry and gone, it's a weight off our mind.
Because this is a precious load for us.
It represents 12 months of hard graft.
This milling wheat is really valuable stuff.
The price fluctuates all the time, depending on the world market
and what the grain prices are in Europe.
At the moment, it's worth about £155 a ton.
This lorry holds 29 tons, so there's about four and a half grand's worth
that'll be going off down the drive.
That's a year's hard work, and hopefully,
a cheque'll be arriving soon.
And this is normally the end of the process for us.
We sell our grain to a merchant and we never see it again.
But I'm keen to find out what happens when it leaves my farm.
I'm on my way to Southampton Docks,
to one of the largest mills in the UK.
That's where my wheat's going at the moment.
I've heard it's an amazing set-up.
It's supposed to be huge, so I'm really looking forward to seeing it.
Wow, this place is bigger than I expected.
There must be some pretty impressive machines behind those walls.
I can't wait to get inside.
I'm meeting Gary Sharkey.
He's worked in the grain trade for 27 years,
so he knows the industry inside-out.
So, this is the first stop as my wheat comes to the mill, is it?
Yes, as each lorry arrives at the mill,
it comes here to the weighbridge.
We take samples from each lorry, and then it goes
straight into the laboratory behind us for testing and analysing.
-Can we have a look in there?
-Yes, we can.
So, what we're looking for here
is the cleanliness of the grain, the smell.
What we'd like to make sure there isn't in there are things like mice,
insects, stones, rat droppings,
as an example we found before.
-And smell is important, then?
-Smell is very important.
Let's have a little smell, then.
You don't want it to be mouldy. It smells pretty good to me.
We've had in the past, actually, we had one sample many years ago
where it took on the taint of a creosote fence
from outside the farmer's shed.
So, it takes on a lot of smell, it can.
Yep, a good, clean sample.
Lovely. Just like the stuff from my farm, I expect.
Fortunately for me, my wheat does make the grade, and begins its journey into the factory.
Goodness me. When you think of a flour mill,
a lot of people would think of Windy Miller
and his old windmill, wouldn't they?
This is multi-million-pound technology these days.
We're producing lots of different flours on site.
This is a control panel that runs all four mills.
You can see we have quality data
-all the way through to the finished flour on the end here.
Like something out of Star Trek. How many types of flour are you actually producing?
We produce over 200 types of flour on this site alone.
But the machines are so noisy.
You can't hear a thing!
So we communicate using our own sort of sign language.
From what I gather, this is what's happening.
The grain passes through the top of this machine and the wheatberries are broken open.
It's then sucked up some pipes, five floors to the top of the mill.
It's sifted and then ground down in these machines to extract the flour.
The wheat's shaken up in this large container.
Basically, it's one massive sieve.
It's just incredible, I've never seen anything like it!
The flour now starts the next part of its journey, into the bakery.
This is the flour that you saw leave the mill.
And now we're here at the bakery.
And this will be added to what to make the bread?
Typically, water, yeast, salt, they're the main ingredients.
And how many loaves are you putting through this place at one time?
A typical bakery line will produce between four and 10,000 loaves,
depending on its size, each hour.
-Wow, that's a lot of bread, isn't it?
So, can we see some loaves being made?
The whole process takes about three and a quarter hours,
-but we'll do it a bit quicker for you.
-Thanks very much.
A lorry-load of wheat like mine will make around 50,000 loaves of bread.
Wow, that's the biggest dough mixture I've ever seen.
Uniformity is crucial. Every piece needs to weigh the same.
914 grams. Excellent. Well within our specification.
-In the bin?
-In the bin, please.
OK, so here we are at the front end of the oven,
and the bread's ready to go and travel through the 48 degrees.
-So, in these trays, there's loaves ready to go?
-In each... Here we go.
-The dough's already started to rise.
-Already started to rise.
To provide that perfect loaf at the end of the oven.
So, here we are, the final product. Go ahead, try one.
-Is that all right?
It's amazing to think that all the work that's gone into
growing the wheat and then coming here with the process,
it's huge, isn't it? Over a year's work.
Over a year's work for you, and maybe another year of marketing
it before the actual flour sees us in the bakery,
so coming up for two years.
Next time I'm tucking into my sandwiches, I'll think of you.
I thought it was me doing all the hard work! Great stuff.
Next week, I'm back on the farm,
putting the rest of the animals to bed for the winter,
and I'll be finding out the results of my TB test.
Recently, local girl Helen returned home to Cumbria
to one of the country's oldest traditional agricultural shows,
and while she was there,
she was able to surprise one show-goer in particular.
# We are rowing around Lakeland
# What a pleasure and a joy
# The hills, the fens, the valleys
# I have loved since a boy
# Generations quickly pass
# Nature's beauty stays the same
# A piece of Heaven here on Earth
# And Lakeland, that's the name. #
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
It's been a great day.
I spent it amongst the hills at home,
in a very special place, untouched by time.
I'm in Wasdale in wild West Cumbria, and it's here you'll find
England's highest mountain,
somewhere hidden in the clouds, its deepest lake, and this,
one of the best little country shows in the land.
The Wasdale Shepherds' Meet dates back to the 1700s.
It's stayed true to its rural roots.
There's hundreds of Herdwick sheep on show, there's vintage tractors,
old farm machinery
and these, the traditional tool of the hill shepherd - the crook.
They take crooks seriously in these parts.
Competition for first prize is fierce.
The guy they all have to beat is Dennis Wall.
How do you get this from a sheep's horn?
Well, this is a sheep horn as we would get hold of it,
straight from the sheep, so to speak.
So, we boil it and flatten it.
We can then put it in blocks like that,
and incorporate in this jig. That's a bottle jack. And that's ten tons.
So we then jack it up, and when it reaches that top bar,
it'll simply force the horn into the shape of the blocks.
It's got nowhere else to go.
Once you've got your basic shape, it's time to file it down.
Don't tell Dennis, but I'm getting a few tips from his main rival,
Dennis is just loitering behind us, Bob, but he's your competition.
Yes, strong competition, yes, yes.
I hear he's got a bit of a reputation.
He wins, I win, six of one and half a dozen of the other.
I can never imagine Man United and Man City
being underneath the same tarpaulin!
-You don't mind working alongside him?
-No, not at all!
No, it's friendly rivals.
I think I may have caught the bark!
Oops, I think I'd better beat a hasty retreat,
but I'll be back later, not so much to see who's won - nope,
I've got a special surprise for one of the show-goers.
Wasdale's a proper shepherds' meet.
Tracey Harrison is a local lass, and her Herdwicks have done well today.
So, you've won all these today?
Yeah, these are all our gimmer sheep.
As you can see, we've got quite a few red rosettes,
so we're really pleased.
But there's been a lot of good competition.
I think there's more sheep here than I've ever seen been shown,
so it's good for the shepherds' meet, it keeps everything going, keeps people coming back.
And what makes you come and show your sheep?
It's a day out!
And you work all year to breed your sheep, and you look after them,
and it's chance to show them off. A social event, see everybody,
and it also promotes your stock for when you sell them at the market.
One of the highlights of the show is the fell race,
one of the toughest in the calendar.
Near 2,000 feet sheer up Kirk Fell.
Looking on is the greatest fell runner of them all, Joss Naylor,
shepherd and living legend.
-Are you still running now?
I did the mountain trial about three weeks ago for the 49th time,
and I enjoyed it.
I hope next year I'll be fit enough to do my 50th one.
-I'll have to keep working at it.
-How old are you now?
75, but age doesn't matter, I don't think about that.
Will you carry on training or just do events?
I still do my training. I like to get out in the fells.
-I don't do a lot of events.
-Did you not fancy doing this today?
It's too snotty and that. It's a young man's run, that, today.
I've been up and down there dozens of times.
We can't see because of the fog. What's it like up there?
Up there, it's hand-on-knee stuff for a lot of people.
If you started walking, you'll walk the lot after that.
Anybody who sets off up there running and they start walking,
that's them finished until they get to the top,
because they don't get to start running again - it's that steep.
It's one of the steepest mountains in the Lake District.
It'll be very, very greasy underfoot, and they'll have to be very careful.
I've seen a few people come down with bloody knees already.
-Nice to see you.
-Well done, mate. Magic.
-It's cleared up, up there.
-That's good. The top is clear.
Well, maybe I should give it a go, then.
Get this tackle on the way, lass!
Fell running can be dangerous. Only a few weeks ago,
it claimed the life of one of the sport's true greats, Bill Smith.
Apart from a few cuts and bruises,
no-one has come to any grief at the show today,
and away from the fell race, Dennis's crooks have come out on top.
I think it's first! It's a Herdwick horn as well.
They also made this year's Countryfile calendar.
The picture was taken at last year's Wasdale show by this fellow,
Derek Young, and he's about to get a bit of a surprise.
-Here you are again, Derek, taking photographs.
It was a bit different this time last year, though, wasn't it?
It certainly was. It was a lovely day last year.
Unfortunately, today, our sunshine is in liquid form.
We can see last year's picture in the calendar. How does that feel?
Very pleased, very pleased with it.
Right then, come on, tell me about these crooks.
What was it that caught your eye
and made you think, "I'm going to snap these"?
I took a picture of the crooks a few years ago when I was here.
It was OK, but I always felt it could be better.
So, last year I came back and I took the picture and thought it looked OK,
particularly because the winning crooks had been set up so nicely,
and it was facing such a lovely, low sun.
I was very fortunate.
Well, I can tell you that not only has your photograph made
the calendar, it was actually judged the judges' favourite.
-Huge congratulations. Here's a signed picture for you.
John Craven has autographed it on the back, especially for you.
Brilliant, thank you.
And you also get £500 worth of photographic equipment.
We can get you a new rain cover.
He had a little sandwich bag before!
When the show is over and the last of the rosettes have all been won,
there's one final act, a song -
a traditional Lakeland air, sung by this man, Pat Temple,
the last of his kind, the last of the old-style shepherd singers
who sang at the end of shows like Wasdale.
# Work and leisure hand-in-hand
# A treat for the world to see
# We're roving round Lakeland
# What a pleasure and a joy
# The hills, the farms, the valleys
# I have loved since a boy
# Generations quickly pass
# Nature's beauty stays the same
# A piece of Heaven here on Earth
# And Lakeland, that's the name. #
If you'd like Derek's prize-winning By Hook Or By Crook hanging
on your wall in July next year, well, you need to buy
a Countryfile calendar, sold in aid of Children in Need.
Here's how you can get your hands on one.
The calendar costs £9, and a minimum of £4
from each sale will go to Children in Need.
You can order it right now on our website, that's...
Or you can call the order line on...
You can also order by post. Send your name, address and check to...
Please make your cheques payable to BBC Countryfile Calendar.
In a moment, I'll be visiting a few of the locations
that inspired some of Roald Dahl's best-loved children's stories.
But first, here's the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
Earlier, I heard how the landscape here in the Vale of Aylesbury
inspired many a poet to write.
I visited the home of John Milton,
who was to Buckinghamshire what Shakespeare was to Warwickshire.
The landscape didn't just inspire highbrow poetry,
but also lashings of lovely children's literature.
Enid Blyton wrote the Famous Five here.
But it's another literary great that I'm here to find out about,
a man who managed to create a flushbunkingly gloriumptious world of whimsy
that I've never grown out of.
Roald Dahl, a man remembered as one of the most successful
and beloved children's writers of all time,
who lived here at Gypsy House in Great Missenden.
His works are littered with references
to the village and his surroundings.
The shiny red pumps of the garage on the high street gave inspiration
for Danny The Champion Of The World.
"My father owned the filling station and the caravan
"and the small field behind, but that was about all he owned in the world."
And there's yet more magic within the bricks and mortar of this place.
This house was the inspiration for Sophie's orphanage in the BFG,
which I have to say is one of my personal faves.
This museum was opened to honour the man himself,
and I've got a golden ticket to delve into their private archive
and take a sneaky peek at some of his original scribblings.
I'm meeting archivist Jane Branfield, wearer of white gloves
and privileged bearer of keys to a world of pure imagination.
Jane, he really was inspired by the natural world
and his landscape, wasn't he?
Yes, Roald always had a tremendous love of nature,
and you can see this even from when he was a very small boy.
-We've got all the letters he wrote to his mother.
And these early ones...
-Look at the handwriting, it's very neat for a young man.
Notice he signs them all, "Boy,"
-probably because he had three sisters.
-The boy of the family.
The letters are full of references to the nature walks
he goes on with his friends. In this letter,
he's particularly smitten with Mr Nicholl's lecture on owls.
"Mr Nichol gave us a fine lecture last night on birds.
"He told us how owls eat mice, they eat the whole mouse, skin and all,
"and then all the skin and bones goes into a sort of little parcel
"inside him, and he puts it on the ground, and these are called pellets.
"And he showed us some pictures."
-This here is one of Roald Dahl's ideas books.
This is the original idea for James And The Giant Peach.
As you can see, it's very faint and it says,
"The cherry that wouldn't stop growing. A fairy story."
So, it was going to be a cherry to begin with.
Yes, yes, it was. We know that from other sources, too.
And then he settled on the peach, I think because it was softer.
Those animals could burrow in a bit better. Yeah, easier to cave into.
Dahl would lock himself away in his writing hut in the garden
to pen his magical tales.
And rumour has it, he'd tell his children that wolves
lived inside, so they were too scared to come in and distract him.
From his home at Gypsy House, Dahl would walk here,
through Angling Springwood.
The name itself sounds pure fairytale, doesn't it?
It was here that he apparently took inspiration for Fantastic Mr Fox.
And so the story ends,
here at the local church in the village that meant so much to Dahl.
"We have tears in our eyes as we wave our goodbyes.
"We so loved being with you, we three.
"So do please now and then come and see us again,
"the Giraffe and the Pelly and me."
That's it from the literary landscape,
here in the Vale of Aylesbury.
Next week, I'll be off-roading with a difference
around the shores of Loch Lomond,
and Matt will be swimming with horses
around the islands of the loch.
I hope you can join us then, bye-bye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Ellie Harrison explores the literary landscape of the Vale of Aylesbury, a setting that has inspired some of Britain's greatest writers and poets. It is where Milton found his Paradise Lost, where Roald Dahl created The Fantastic Mr Fox, and where Enid Blyton's Noddy first met Big Ears.
Jules Hudson is with The Horses Trust as they celebrate their 125th anniversary and take custody of four retired police horses from Greater Manchester Police. Ellie also spends time with one of the country's last hand-made brick makers as he turns the red clay of the Chilterns into bespoke bricks.
John Craven is in Lancashire investigating 'fracking' - a highly controversial method of getting natural gas from the ground. Adam follows his crop of wheat from field to mill to bakery, and Helen Skelton visits one of the last of the old shepherds meets, the Wasdale Show.