John Craven heads to the Cairngorms in Scotland to look back at some of the team's most memorable visits to the jewels of the British landscape - its rivers and mountains.
Browse content similar to 10/07/2011. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Mountains, foreboding, rocky peaks towering dramatically over lush green valleys.
Britain's highest peaks may have been conquered long ago,
but many are the last remaining pieces of true wilderness.
And rivers, the watery veins and arteries flowing through our countryside.
Whether river deep or mountain high,
these are the jewels of our countryside
and for this special edition of Countryfile,
I've come to somewhere which has them in great abundance -
the Cairngorms in Scotland.
The 25,000 acres of the Rothiemurchus estate
stretch from the River Spey to the summit of Braeriach,
Britain's third highest mountain at over 4,000 feet.
As well as meeting the Laird of this vast estate and discovering just how it's managed,
I'll be revisiting some of our favourite Countryfile moments
that have taken the team up hill and down stream.
Here's just a taste of what's to come.
It's downhill all the way for Matt in North Wales.
Oh, look at that view!
Julia takes a swim on the wild side in Oxfordshire.
I'm just desperately staying afloat
cos I don't want to put my foot in anything slippery.
And Adam helps herd sheep down the slopes off the Lake District.
Hey, hey, hey. Come on, sheep.
At the heart of the Cairngorms National Park in the eastern Highlands
is the Rothiemurchus estate.
More than ten million trees in a natural forest,
and the fastest flowing river in Scotland.
But facts and figures only hint at its beauty.
This is the place to get away from it all,
to hear the sound of silence,
and even on a summer's day like this, when it's raining
and the clouds are crashing into the mountains,
it's quite magnificent.
And hardly surprising that one of the most iconic images of Scotland
the Monarch Of The Glen, was painted only a couple of miles from here,
by Sir Edwin Landseer exactly 160 years ago.
And things have hardly changed.
Since the 16th century, the estate has been in passed down
through the Grant family.
The 17th laird of Rothiemurchus is Johnnie Grant.
This is a fantastic skyline. Are you laird of all you survey here?
I'm not so much laird over it,
I'm responsible for most of what you see here, yes.
Presumably, over the centuries,
the responsibilities changed, really, for a place like this?
Back in the 16th century, the laird was kind of next to king, really,
was responsible for everything, up until the 19th century.
If people starved, it was the laird's fault.
So, you know, big responsibilities in the old days.
Now what we're interested in here at Rothiemurchus is biodiversity.
In terms of wildlife and nature,
we are signed up to international agreements
by which we actually have to keep this place in improving condition.
And that is a major responsibility,
especially when you have large numbers of people
who want to come and enjoy it.
It may be in private hands,
but much of the land is accessible to the public.
Later, I'll be heading down the mountain
to see what's happening on the rivers
that criss-cross the estate.
As you've heard, this part of Scotland
has the UK's third highest mountain, Braeriach, over there.
But in the shadow of the highest peak in Wales,
Matt rode a train that lets gravity take the strain.
The summit of Mount Snowdon marks the highest point in England and Wales.
It stands 3,560 feet above sea level
and sits within the Snowdonia National Park
in the north-west of Wales.
It's a breathtaking, mountainous landscape
and holds a special place the nation's heart.
But, here in Blaenau Ffestiniog
a new landscape has been formed,
not by ice, but by centuries of heavy industry.
These hills are formed by slate.
Slate has been mined in North Wales for hundreds of years,
and in the 19th century, over half the world's slate was Welsh.
Today, with open cast mining, slate production continues,
albeit on a much smaller scale.
These days, the slate produced is transported by lorries throughout Britain.
But back in the 19th century,
they had to solve the problem of transporting the slate from here,
13 miles to the ships which were waiting to transport them worldwide.
The solution was to build a railway,
but it was before the days of oil or steam, so they relied on gravity.
This engine is part of the Ffestiniog Railway,
hauling tourists through the breathtaking scenery of Snowdonia.
Originally, the railway was built to carry slate
from the quarries in Blaenau Ffestiniog to the port of Porthmadog.
And today we're going to recreate that very journey.
And while we can rely on gravity to take us down the mountain,
we need this beautiful steam engine to get us up there first.
None of this would be possible without a group of enthusiasts
who've spent months restoring the wagons.
-Is it full?
-How are you?
-Very impressive indeed.
Lovely little wagons these, aren't they?
Yes, these are the old wagons the railway used to ship the slate
from the quarries down to the port.
When the train is running down the hill by gravity
these guys have to work the brakes
and make sure the thing doesn't go zooming off.
-And that's what these levers are?
-This is the very basic brakes.
And very effective they are, too.
Where's the best place for me, then?
I think the best place for you today, Matt,
is with our head brakes man, Iain,
who will be at the top end of the train.
Iain, how are you? What's the idea? Where shall I sit?
Because there isn't any seats.
There are no seats.
You sit on the side of the wagon, so get yourself up there.
And we can get off.
'150 years ago, horses would have taken the empty wagons up the hill
'where they would be loaded with slate from the quarry.
'Today, we're steaming along nicely,
'but soon, we'll be unhitched from the engine
'and gravity will take over.'
The steam engine has now decoupled so all of these 30 wagons
with us at the front are about to free-wheel down the hill.
Right, brakes off.
'I'm the privileged passenger on this 13-mile coast down to the sea,
'and while these seating is hardly first class,
'riding the gravity train is by invitation only.'
It is quite an odd feeling as you feel it getting faster and faster.
It feels like a roller-coaster.
You want to put your hands up in the air.
That was a lovely little tinkle, that one.
Oh, yes. We were saving that one.
Oh, we're moving now, we're moving now!
Porthmadog, here we come!
Oh, look at that view!
Oh, there's something wonderful about this kind of travel, you know.
Everybody's on the side, waving away,
-we're just zipping through the countryside.
-Is that Snowdon over there?
-Yeah, the peak up there, that's Snowdon.
Right, so, here we are, then. Our destination, the end of the line.
We can put the brakes on fully, come to a grinding halt.
We've dropped about 200 metres from the very top, gradual gradient,
all the way down here to Porthmadog.
The destination...of the slate.
And... that... is it.
-Lovely. Iain, thanks ever so much.
The railway remains a testament to the generations of people
who dedicated their lives to exporting Welsh slate all over the world.
Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorms may be a private estate,
but it welcomes up to 400,000 visitors a year.
Most are attracted by the tranquil wilderness of the mountains,
lochs and rivers.
But it's a difficult balance between catering for tourists
and preserving the special landscape.
Everything we do
is to enable people to enjoy Rothiemurchus
in a way which helps us look after it.
-So, opening up the estate to visitors creates jobs for people.
Presumably, this is all very useful
when it comes to raising money to keep the estate going?
That's a huge struggle. It's how do you look after,
and pay for conservation? You can't have environmental sustainability
unless you have economic and social sustainability.
But I think that if we can go on enabling people to enjoy the right thing here
in the right way, it'll be something which actually, hopefully, will be the answer
to how you keep it looking really special.
Well, a more traditional way of having fun in a river,
especially on a hot day, which this one isn't, is to go for a dip.
And Matt and Julia went wild swimming in Oxfordshire.
I'm going to find out what attracts people to wild swimming for fun
while Matt takes to the water with the river swimming convert, Karen Pickering
who's best known for winning medals in indoor pools.
So, Robert, what is the difference between wild swimming
and gentle, family river swimming?
Well, I think gentle, family river swimming is wild swimming.
I mean, there's all kinds of wild swimming you could do.
Very hardy swimming in the winter,
but basically, wild swimming is not concrete, not chlorine.
And what is it about swimming in a river that's so intoxicating?
Well, just look here. You've got sunshine, you've got trees,
you've got live water coming down.
But before you take the plunge, you want to make sure the water's clean.
The Environment Agency grade rivers for cleanliness. A is the best.
This is probably B.
-For a lowland river, pretty good.
You also need to check that it's safe.
The easiest thing to do is to find a local swimmer
who will tell you what the hazards are,
and preferably go in front of you.
I'm not going to be taking any risks so I've enlisted the help of Karen Pickering,
four-times world swimming champion,
who, today, has swapped the pool for the river.
-Well, Karen, we are fully suited up here, aren't we?
I'm sure people watching this at home are thinking,
"What does it matter? I used to jump in there in my pants."
But we're fully suited, and you always wear this when you wild swim.
When kids come into the water, and on a beautiful day like this,
they don't feel the cold and they're out on the side, drying off, and it's fine.
But if you're in the water for any length of time,
even when it feels comfortable like this,
you'll be grateful you've got a wetsuit on
as it's surprising how quickly you can lose heat and that's when you can get into difficulty.
So, Robert's leading the way.
'I'm only going in for a short splash around, so no wet suit for me.'
The only thing is, you don't quite know what's under your feet
so I'm just desperately staying afloat
because I don't want to put my foot in anything slippery.
Is the visibility sometimes a problem?
That was probably one of the biggest shocks I had
when I first swam in a river because I couldn't see my hand,
I'm used to seeing the bottom of the pool.
For you, then, you know, looking at this seriously,
do you just get your head down, just swim for miles?
You've just got to be careful
because the river changes every day, so you don't know which bits are deep,
you're not sure what's underneath. There might be swans,
they can get a bit angry. You've got to look out for fishermen, boats.
So you have to be really aware and be sensible.
We're swimming breaststroke because were talking,
-but would you have your head down doing front crawls for a couple of miles?
The fastest stroke is front crawl so if you're racing, it's the best stroke to do.
If you're having fun and enjoying yourself, then it doesn't matter.
It's lovely. And it helps with the wetsuit,
-doesn't half keep you afloat.
-I'm not even kicking.
It keeps you warm and it's added safety because they're so buoyant.
As well as safety, there are also some legal considerations.
In Scotland, you can swim in any river as long as you behave responsibly.
Elsewhere, you mustn't trespass on private land,
and in only 4% of rivers,
is the right to swim undisputed.
So, if in any doubt, check with the landowner.
The water is so invigorating, really fresh. It feels lovely and clear.
Silky smooth and cold on the body. Really makes you feel alive.
I'm swimming against the tide now. Good exercise, too.
I wonder how Matt's getting on.
Seems he's got a bit of a race on his hands.
I've got a challenge on here. Karen's not using her arms.
He still loses.
Well, come on, she is four-times world champion.
Coming up on Countryfile, Julia has designs on an Italian classic.
James discovers a new treatment, made from an age-old Welsh symbol.
And we'll have the weather forecast for the week ahead.
From beautiful rivers to our highest mountains,
we're revisiting some Countryfile highlights.
-'Trying to find a woman missing...'
-Both can be dangerous places to be,
especially in cold weather, as Ellie discovered
in the Lake District back in the winter.
I'm here to find out how visitors to this landscape are kept safe.
I'll be spending the day
with one of the region's 12 mountain rescue teams,
who between them, respond to more than 600 emergencies every year.
What kind of incidents do you get, Mike?
There's a huge variety of incidents.
You might just think it's climbers and mountaineers,
but the most frequent accidents are walkers,
twisted ankles and lower leg injuries.
There's a wide range of incidents happening in the mountains
because people are doing so many different things now.
-Can it be a case of life or death?
-Absolutely, every team...
You join a mountain rescue team
because you think you're going to help and make a difference,
that's why people join mountain rescue teams.
I think it was 26 deaths in the Lake District mountains last year.
That's got to get into perspective to the thousands of people
actually out in the mountains.
One man who was lucky to escape with his life is Al.
Two years ago, he was at the centre of his own rescue drama,
after a climbing accident.
Today he's returning to the scene for the first time.
-This is the spot then.
-Yes, I was climbing up there.
I was very close to the top when apparently I fell off
and I landed amongst the boulders just here.
-That's not a soft landing. Solid rocks.
-That's an enormous height.
-Probably about ten metres.
It's far enough to hurt.
That's an understatement.
Al was in a bad way with serious injuries.
Duddon and Furness mountain rescue gave him urgent medical attention
and organised an airlift.
Today, I'm going to find out first-hand what it's like to be rescued.
We're at Stickle Pike, one of the many peaks that tower above the valley,
to take part in a training exercise.
I'm going to put myself in the shoes of an injured walker who's fallen down a steep hill.
-Yes. I just have to lay out awkwardly.
Mike sends out an alert and the mountain rescue is scrambled.
At base, the team are gathering,
but all they've been given is a rough location for the injured walker.
Their job is to find me and get me off the mountain safely.
We've got a young lady fallen, near Stickle Pike,
on the side of the hill.
They're on their way, but the clock is ticking.
In cold weather, an injured person can develop signs
of hypothermia in less than an hour.
Not been here all that long and already I can feel the chill.
It's about four degrees today and not that windy,
but by sitting here and not moving,
the cold has started to seep into my bones.
Further down the valley and the rescue team are getting closer. Their vehicles can only get so far.
OK, have we got everything? Let's go.
The team are now on foot
and they don't have any detailed information about my location.
All they know is that I'm up here somewhere and they better start looking.
They're relying on just their eyes and ears,
but they know these mountains well
and it's not long before I'm spotted.
Precise position of casualty is 100 metres west of summit cairn, over.
'Now the real work starts.
'My injured leg has to be made as secure as possible
'before I'm moved.'
Just so everybody knows, we've got a lower leg injury.
On the left, left leg,
so can we be as careful as we can to not make it any worse? Thank you.
'To make it as realistic as possible,
'I'm going to be lowered down on a stretcher.'
Ready? One, two, three, lift.
'But the rough terrain is going to make it tricky.'
Ready, steady... lift! Take it steady!
'It's a case of one step at a time.'
Stop, stop, get out the way.
Please get out of the way.
Just one more metre.
'And although there's nothing wrong with me,
'being cocooned like this makes me feel strangely vulnerable.
'But the team's hard graft pays off.
'After half an hour, we've made it back to the road.
'It's mission accomplished.'
That was an extraordinary journey. It's a real strange mix of emotions.
Feeling daft with people helping you, and then the journey itself.
You're really locked into a position, and you have to go to your happy place a bit.
Now, I just feel grateful that I've been in these
incredibly safe hands and I've been saved.
And I'm not even injured! It's amazing!
Well, if you don't want to brave the mountains like Ellie,
maybe fishing on Scotland's freshwater lochs and rivers is an easier bet.
It's worth 130 million a year to the economy,
and the Rothiemurchus Estate is a big draw for anglers.
Alf, one of the countryside rangers here is releasing
rainbow trout into one of the lochs.
There's around 100,000 of them swimming wild, here.
Some will be taken by anglers,
but others will be caught by another regular visitor here, the osprey.
The osprey is also known as the fish eagle,
and that's why it is doing well here
because of the abundance of food in the rivers and lochs.
Roy Dennis from the Highland Foundation For Wildlife
has been studying ospreys in this area for 50 years.
I've been following the populations
right from when we had one pair in 1960,
until now, we have about 240 pairs in Scotland.
They've re-colonised England and Wales.
But the other amazing thing is, in 1960,
we didn't even ring the chicks,
we were so worried, and they were so precious.
Nowadays, we have birds with satellite trackers that can
tell us where they are, anywhere in the world, every hour of the day.
So where do they go to when they leave the UK?
Well, this bird is almost certainly going to be one of the ones
who fish here this morning, is Red 80,
and he winters on the Casamance river in Southern Senegal.
And nowadays, we can tell the hour that he sets off to come over
the Sahara, back home.
But the really exciting thing, this spring,
is that for the very first time,
we have tracked a bird back at two years old.
So it came from Rothiemurchus, this estate,
went and lived in Senegal all last summer, grew up in Africa,
and then this late-spring it headed back.
And it should be here,
because male ospreys come back to where they were born.
As well as being havens for wildlife and anglers, some of our rivers -
like the Thames - are also favourite spots for sailors and boaters.
When Julia went to Windsor, she met a dynasty of boat-builders
who use the wood from the great oaks of the great park.
For centuries, wooden boat builders have lived and worked along the Thames,
catering for local gentry
and big events like the Henley Regatta.
In the 19th century, there would have been
about 600-boat builders in this vicinity.
Today, there's just a handful left,
but the enthusiasm for wooden boats is very much alive.
I'm meeting Robin Ford to find out more.
We've lost the sun for a moment.
-Now, you're a boat enthusiast.
What's the big event for you guys? Is it the regatta?
It's not the regatta. I think the regatta is a fantastic event,
but the real event is the Thames Traditional Boat Rally,
which started about 34 years ago.
A group were worried about the craft disappearing.
The first rally was really just a barbecue and a party, 27 boats.
The next year they had 80. Now, we have 200.
One of the major supporters of that boat rally was Peter Freebody,
a prolific boat builder and a philanthropist.
He bought his boatyard in the early '60s at a time
when wooden boat building was declining completely,
and he hung on there and built a complete market for traditional craft.
-For storing them, maintaining them and building them.
-He rebuilt the industry?
He rebuilt the industry pretty single-handedly.
Sadly, Peter passed away recently.
But examples of his excellent workmanship live on in his boatyard in Hurley.
This is Peter's legacy, and today it's his children
who are keeping the 300-year-old family tradition alive.
Richard and his sisters, along with a team of seven,
make and restore wooden boats just like their dad used to.
This is actually one of Dad's last completed dinghies that he built.
-My dad's nickname for my mother was Duckie.
But this isn't his boat?
It wasn't his, it was for a customer, exactly.
That's lovely. She is beautiful.
So, Julia, here we've got basically the last boat
that Dad hadn't quite finished,
and I was working alongside him in the build of this.
You can see, he hasn't quite finished what we call riveting up the nails.
These are the timbers, and they would be steamed
and then moulded into position.
-What would this boat look like, in the end?
-Identical to Duckie.
And you didn't go to engineering college, or university.
-You've done no formal course?
-No, not at all.
Your dad passed it all down?
Absolutely. It's in the blood, and a lovely thing to be involved with.
You're probably not going to sell this boat.
But a boat like this, like Duckie, what sort of price are we talking?
12-foot dinghies go for around £12,000.
-£1,000 a foot?
For wooden boat lovers, this place is like a sweetie shop.
There's something to suit every taste.
I've just spotted an Italian beauty that's in for restoration.
Ah. I'm not going to call you Richard, now.
I'm going to call you Ricardo.
Of all the boats, this would be the one for me.
They're something special. This is a 1965 Riva Ariston.
The fittings, everything about them is just spot on.
How much is this going to cost me, Ricardo?
Riva Ariston, in this condition, roundabout £130,000.
-Try it for size, Julia! Hop in.
Ah, tasty. Very tasty.
Now if I were to buy a boat, like businessman Lawrence Green has,
I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to take this on.
-So, Lawrence, you haven't owned a boat before?
-This is our first foray into boating.
-This is your first boat?
Absolute first boat, yes.
-It's a Venetian water taxi.
Richard tells me, the only one on the Thames.
I can understand, I can believe that!
What did it look like when you first laid eyes on it?
What made you fall in love with it?
It was in a warehouse
covered in at least an inch-and-a-half of dust.
But it needed saving, frankly.
-Can you drive a boat?
-No. Not as yet.
Right. When's the first lesson?
Two weeks before this is launched.
-So the L plates will be firmly on for a while!
We're back to Wales now, to the Brecon Beacons,
where James Wong saw how hill farmers are growing, at altitude,
something that couldn't be more Welsh
to help combat the effects of Alzheimer's.
What you do think of when you think of Wales? It might be dragons.
It could be male voice choirs.
It might be rugby, which I was always a little bit rubbish at.
And of course, there's always the sheep.
But to me, as a confirmed plant geek,
the one thing I think of is the humble daffodil.
But there is more to this Welsh icon than meets the eye -
or in this case, the mind.
The daffodil produces many chemicals, one of which is galantamine.
The drug, originally found in wild snowdrops, combats Alzheimer's,
the most common cause of dementia.
But it's expensive, and difficult to make.
The Stephens family farmed predominantly sheep until 2004,
when they decided to try growing daffs
as an alternative source of the drug.
My son decided he wanted to be a farmer when he grew up,
and hill farming is not a really commercial,
viable alternative going forward,
so I was looking for diversification opportunities for a Welsh hill farm.
We're off the beaten track, there's no passing trade, a farm shop wouldn't work,
we needed a crop that had an industrial application.
Presumably, the conditions here mean the things you can grow are limited.
It's full of stones, high altitude,
so it's cold, not the easiest place to plough and cultivate.
You're right. Some daffodil-growing experts
have considered me to be mad, but I'm not growing daffodils, I'm growing galanthamine.
What's the market like for the product?
Currently, the market is worth about 8 billion.
The problem with Alzheimer's disease is it's increasing at a terrific rate.
That's set to double in the next 20 years, then again the following 20 years.
Anything that can tackle those numbers has to be a good thing.
Galanthamine is only found in a few varieties of daffodil,
and only in significant quantities when it's grown at altitude.
This stresses the plant and causes it to produce the chemical.
The smell of some of these varieties is really intoxicating.
The thing is, I wouldn't be tempted to start knocking up a home remedy out of these,
because they are extremely toxic.
Armed with my daffodils, I'm off to a trial site
high in the Brecon Beacons to meet Professor Trevor Walker.
His research has gone a long way
in treating some of the 465,000 people affected by Alzheimer's in the UK.
It looks like we've got a picnic set up here, Trevor.
What are we going to do?
We're going to see if there's any galanthamine in these varieties you've picked for us.
We'll cut these bulbs off.
We'll squeeze some juice out of them
and take that juice back for filtration.
So you're already looking for the presence of galanthamine in different plants.
What sparked off that hunch?
We had a eureka moment when the wife of a colleague was diagnosed
with Alzheimer's at the age of 58,
and we decided we'd do something about it,
we'd make galanthamine available as an anti-Alzheimer's drug,
to do something about the extortionate costs
and the tremendous cost of care.
If you could delay someone going into a home for a few years,
you've made a great saving.
-Look at that! Look at that!
-That's absolutely perfect.
-We'll take that back to the girls at the labs.
You'd never think that bit of plant juice would contain such an important drug that can change lives.
Now, for the first time, the daffodil fields are able to commercially supply galanthamine.
Currently, people like Keith Worwood get the drug elsewhere.
He was diagnosed two years ago.
So how do you take galanthamine? Is it a pill or an injection?
It's a pill. It's a little thing, about that big.
Right. So a single pill day has this huge impact on your life?
It's unbelievable! Unbelievable.
The work these guys are doing here, growing these daffodils,
you think they just look pretty, but it's so important to so many people.
It is. Especially me!
You might think you'd need to trek into the Amazon
or into the heart of Siberia to find botanical cures for major diseases,
but who'd've thought the humble daff would be such a giant
at treating a debilitating disease that affects so many people?
Still to come, Matt and Julia explore the Fens by paddle board.
-Look at you!
-It's all coming back to me now.
And we'll have the Countryfile weather forecast.
Here in Scotland, cool, clear water filters through the rocky Cairngorms.
But across the countryside, waterways have not always been so clean.
To Hampshire now, where Matt helped to put the finishing touches to a successful river restoration.
The River Itchen flows through the heart of historic Winchester
and on into the Hampshire countryside.
At 28 miles, it's much, much shorter than the Severn,
and it's nowhere near as famous as the Thames.
The river wasn't always this peaceful.
Centuries ago, a channel was opened up so ships could carry coal
and wool to and from Winchester.
Nature has since reclaimed these man-made sections of the river,
but at a price.
Large chunks of the banking have given way, and big stretches have become choked with weeds.
When Hampshire Wildlife Trust were looking for a special project to mark their 50th anniversary,
they thought what could be better than restoring this section of the river back to its former glory?
But it's certainly come with its challenges.
The project's costing around £2.5 million
and will take five years to complete.
Already, it's breathing new life into the river.
-Hi, how are you doing?
-So what's going on here, then?
Today, we're harvesting some plants from the opposite bank,
the section that gets overgrown.
We're taking them upstream and planting them
along some banks which we've recently repaired.
'And I'm here to do my bit.'
So it's on with the waders, a life-jacket, just in case, and off we go.
So what is so special about these reeds?
These plants are called sweetgrass.
They're going to be really good for binding the banks together
and preventing erosion in the future.
Yeah. And how much of this are you taking out?
From this section, we've got two or three truckloads, but lots of plants from elsewhere as well,
and we've got about a kilometre of bank upstream that we need to plant up, so we do need a lot of plants.
And that's where I'm off to with my basket-load right now.
John, how're you doing? This is a lovely little site. It's like a floating wheelbarrow.
'John Millican's an engineer who's bringing his skills to the restoration project.'
This is great!
'This bit of the river is teeming with wildlife,
'thanks to the army of volunteers helping make the difference.'
OK, so to plant this down, we just make a little...
It's like putting plants in your own garden.
Just make sure it's nice and secure.
-OK. This is some of the stuff that...
-The Glyceria that you took earlier.
Looks quite messy, but believe me, this will do very well.
These plants tie the whole bank together.
They're almost nature's glue.
They'll stop the bank from becoming eroded
and produce a fantastic habitat for plants and lots of animals and birds.
-We had a poke around earlier before you turned up.
-We've had some fish in these trays.
-Oh, yeah, look at these!
-There's several species here.
These really are terribly common.
-We've also got these.
-Are those bottom feeders?
-Those sit on the bottom, yeah.
Fantastic to see, to get this diversity of fish.
There's also trout and salmon and a host of coarse fish.
-In these chug streams.
But what is it like to own a piece of the queen of rivers?
I'm off to find out.
Anthony, how are you?
Very well. Very well.
I'm just trying out my rod.
It's an almost-new rod and a new line, and it's marvellous.
I've done a quick up and down the river to check how things are ready for the season.
-How did you come to own this stretch of river?
-My father bought it at auction in 1970.
We did a lot of work when we took it over.
-It was all but full of shopping trolleys and prams, that sort of thing.
-Was it really?
All but choked with weeds, but we did a lot of work,
and now for the last 40 years, the association has been maintaining it
and doing all the work in the river and on the banks.
What's the biggest fish you've caught in here?
-I guess that's what everyone asks!
The biggest fish that's been caught by a family member or friend
was six and a half pounds, caught further down the river there,
-and I'm very envious.
'Thanks to the ongoing restoration,
'the Itchen will truly live up to its claim to be the queen of rivers.'
The Cairngorms National Park in the Eastern Scottish Highlands
is the biggest in Britain, twice the size of that in the Lake District.
With about a third of the park getting on for 3,000 feet above sea level,
its peaks have an arctic quality. Perfect for an animal we associate with Lapland and Christmas.
Reindeer lived in the Highlands up until around 8,000 years ago, when,
because of climate change or hunting or both, they became extinct.
Now, they're back again.
It's the only place in Britain where you can see them in their natural habitat.
They were reintroduced in the 1950s by a Swedish reindeer expert
who brought them here to the Rothiemurchus estate.
-So reindeers aren't just for Christmas?
-They certainly aren't!
We have them all year round.
They look a bit scruffy at the moment, if I may say so.
They do, and you know why that is,
they've got such a big, thick winter coat, and that's got to come off to reveal a dark summer coat underneath.
Their antlers are getting furry.
They are, they've got their velvet antlers that've grown from nothing.
Nothing to this height in a couple of months.
They'll be fully grown in a couple of months.
So, these are...
Everybody gets covered in reindeer hair this time of year!
-Are these males?
-Yes, they are. These are all males.
Some are young, like a year old, and some are mature males
we have trained to harness and can pull sleighs and do Christmas for us.
So where are the girls, then?
The girls are up on the high tops, in the mist with their young calves.
They seem to do better on the higher ground at this time of year.
They're suckling their calves. The calves are getting the good, natural vegetation.
At Christmas, they're used as Santa's reindeer around the country.
They are. These big guys here with their lovely antlers,
beautiful in their red harness.
Harness them up and off we go.
You'll have to feed one. They've got really soft noses. I'll give you a bit of food.
Thank you very much. There you are.
-And I'll see you next Christmas with Santa!
And how about this for a set of antlers?
It's great to see reindeer back again in the Scottish Highlands.
For centuries, Herdwick sheep have grazed the slopes of the Lake District,
and Adam went to help one farmer
bring his herd down for their annual shearing.
Lying in the south of the Lake District,
Coniston Water is flanked by dramatic fells and countryside
and it's home to a rather woolly character.
Herdwick sheep are an icon of the Lake District,
and are vital in helping shape this landscape.
The Fells rise up to 2,500 feet, and the Herdwicks can roam across
thousands of acres, so rounding them up is different to working on
my farm in the Cotswolds,
where the fields are relatively flat and small.
Anthony Hartley is the fourth generation of his family to run this Herdwick flock.
95% of all Herdwick sheep are found around the Coniston Fells.
So these sheep have a huge responsibility for the way this place looks.
They do, yeah. They keep it looking like it is.
-Keeping it grazed.
-All those little grazing mouths.
How many sheep have you got?
Um, well, about 1,200 ewes.
Crikey, it's quite a flock.
So when you're gathering the Fell, you do a little at a time, really.
We do. Two of us gather together, and we just gather a section we can manage between us
to gather the sheep off that area.
-What have we got here today? Couple of hundred?
-About 200, yeah.
And their hardiness, a lot of it is to do with the fleece.
It is, yeah. It keeps them warm. It's like got two layers on.
When you open into it, you can't see through to the skin.
A jacket and a waistcoat, we call it! That keeps the weather out.
It's amazing. Anthony's like a mountain goat, the way he runs around,
and sheep know all the nooks and crannies to hide in!
I'm going to whiz over here and get these.
HE WHISTLES Come on, sheep!
Anthony has called in freelance shearers
to give his sheep their annual buzz cut.
It's incredible watching these guys shearing. They're so fast.
I always struggle with shearing, so this is my chance
to improve my technique with advice from an English champion.
Pop that leg there like that. Just hold that one.
-Then straight down there like this?
-Down the left side.
The Herdwicks are quite woolly, aren't they?
-OK. All right?
You'd've thought that coarse wool, you know,
that they'd be more difficult to shear,
-but it glides easily, doesn't it?
-Yeah, they do, yeah.
I might give you a job!
Oh, there. Lucky sheep.
-This is really rough.
-You'd've thought it'd be silky, but it's not.
It's like a scouring pad.
Does he go down that? Yeah.
What's this worth to you, then, this wool?
Um...they're paying us seven pence for the dark wool
and eight pence for the light fleeces.
-Goodness me. A kilo?
-A kilo, yes.
-And how heavy is a fleece?
Well, um, kilo, kilo and a half. Not much more than that.
-You're not getting much more than ten pence a fleece.
What do you pay the guys to shear them?
Um, around 80 pence to £1 a sheep.
-Crikey! So you're losing 70, 80 pence a sheep!
-Yes, we are, yeah.
We shear them for the welfare of the sheep.
So what's the loss? If you've got a few thousand sheep and are losing, what, 70p a sheep...
-That's right, 70p a sheep.
-That's right. It's a lot of money.
Why can't anything be done with it, just because it's so coarse?
Yeah, it's very coarse fibre and very difficult to dye,
so it's just carpet wool, really.
They use it for insulation as well.
As a way of farming, this all seems pretty unsustainable.
We need to find more ways of using British wool.
Right now, the very survival of the Herdwick sheep as a breed
relies on the dedication of hill farmers like Anthony.
The mountains of Scotland might be having their fair share
of rain this year, but elsewhere, we've had prolonged dry spells.
Parts of the country are still experiencing drought conditions.
It's leaving farmers praying for more rain. Whatever the weather, we're fascinated by it.
It's a national obsession.
Here, we like to think our forecast for the week ahead is one of the best on television.
It helps us decide whether to take a brolly or sun cream, or both.
Although we all talk a lot about the weather, how much do we understand?
Where do clouds come from?
Do we really get tornadoes in this country?
Where's the wettest spot, and where can we go for the most sunshine?
A brand new show to BBC One called The Great British Weather will reveal all.
It goes out this Wednesday at 7.30pm,
and I've been learning about it from three people in the know.
BBC weather presenter Carol Kirkwood,
BBC Breakfast's Chris Hollins
and comedian Alexander Armstrong.
So, a new weather show on BBC One instead of just a forecast.
That's right. It's a live show. We'll do it every week from a different location,
talking about a different weather topic as well in front of a live audience.
-A live audience?
-They kept that quiet!
It's a fascinating subject. We're all obsessed with weather.
All of us. We talk about it every day, don't we? None of us know what it holds.
-Steady on, Xander!
But yeah, we're obsessed with it.
It's shaped our character, shaped our history.
It plays a massive part in our lives.
Stepping out of the safety of the BBC studio, Carol heads for the clouds.
Here we go! Ooh! Yee-ha!
It's just great!
Oh, I love this!
It's beautiful and cold and it's very windy.
-What were you doing that for?!
-To collect one. If you watch the show, you'll find out how to make a cloud.
-We will help you.
-Did you have a bottle to collect a cloud in?
We scooped up that cloud.
Chris dons his walking boots to trek up Lake District Fells
in search of a good drenching in England's wettest place.
-When does it rain? 211 days every year.
In the Lake District, and we had a scorcher!
It was like, oh, no!
What about all these myths about the weather, Alexander?
We're going to try to uncover these myths.
How delightful for shepherds are red skies at night? Really?
What's the other one? Cows, do they sit down when it's about to rain?
-I think they're lazy.
-They are! Lazy cows. It's a massive problem.
You missed out on a few adventures. Swimming with sharks.
-You've been swimming with basking sharks.
Did you see any basking sharks?
Well... I can't tell you, John.
I can't tell you. You'll have to watch. We haven't given up yet, let's put it that way.
If someone said to me, I'd be looking for sharks in a wetsuit in the water, they'd be mad!
What have they got to do, basking sharks, with the weather?
All to do with the Gulf stream, that warms up the water
and that helps plankton to grow, and who feeds on plankton?
-They love it.
-I got there in the end!
-Well, sort of!
You can watch The Great British Weather
this Wednesday on BBC One at 7.30.
It's live, so let's hope they get some good weather.
Here's the main man,
getting in a bit of practise.
This is a real treat for me.
Thank you very much, John, a phrase that has passed into legend, much like the man himself.
Can't believe I'm about to say this, but if you're out and about in the next few days,
perhaps you'd like to know what the weather has in store. Here's the forecast for the week ahead.
The Cairngorms. Five of the six tallest mountains in Scotland.
All framed by still, glass-like waters.
It's been the perfect setting to look back at some memorable moments
that have taken us up to the highest peaks and down our most beautiful rivers.
There are no mountains in Cambridgeshire, but they do have plenty of water on the Fens.
And Matt and Julia found a great way to explore these man-made waterways.
The lodes, which criss-cross the fens with water, were once bustling,
transporting goods from the fenlands out to nearby Cambridge and Ely.
Nowadays, though, they are peaceful backwaters, a small oasis for budding sportsmen.
Right, I've got my shorts on, and I'm holding this paddle
cos I'm off for a different view of the Fens.
Not from a boat, but from a board.
Now, the surf certainly isn't near.
We're nearly 40 miles inland, but apparently, this is one of the best ways to see this place.
-Roly, how're you doing, all right?
-Very well, thanks, Matt.
-Look at you, man of the reeds!
-Are you jumping on the side here?
-Brilliant stuff. So this is a really unusual way of getting around.
I think when people see it for the first time, they're surprised,
but it's a fantastic way to see the Fen.
I fancy having a go.
I've got the board here. I want to learn how to do it.
Yeah, you're fine. Spread your feet out a bit now.
-That's pretty good, actually.
-Keep your knees bent!
That's your first lesson about having straight legs.
Keep your knees bent and look ahead, you'll be fine.
-Quite responsive, isn't it?
-Very much so.
If you keep paddling on that left-hand side as we go over those lilies,
just keep your knees bent, that's it, so if you look ahead,
you should be able to see down through the water as you go along.
-You should see the fish.
-Oh, we're going, we're going!
-It's like a fish tank.
That's what most people say when I take them for a paddle.
It feels like you're floating over the top of a giant aquarium.
You must come across loads of wildlife as well,
-cos you sort of creep up, you're so silent.
I think we get to paddle from spring through to autumn,
so you see all the migrating nature that comes through here.
What kind of big fish have you got in here?
We've got pike and perch, a lot of roach.
Occasionally, there'll be tench or carp along here.
Hey, talking of wildlife, look what we've got here!
A lesser spotted Bradbury!
-Hello, Baker boy!
-How're you doing?
You're looking very good on that. He's got it all sorted out.
I knew he would have, a couple of hours, like a little otter!
I'm really enjoying it. You've had a little go.
I had about three minutes.
-It's a bit like being on a door on water.
-Very much so.
-I wonder if it'll come flooding back to me. Do you reckon I'll go overboard?
-Hang on. It's good.
-Are you on?
-Feet wide apart, yeah?
-Bend the knees. There we go.
-That's good. You're there, you're doing it.
-Hang on, I'll move back.
-There we go. Avoid the lilies! Don't get caught.
-Look at you!
-It's all coming back to me now.
-Where are we going to go?
-Where do you want to go?
-Let's head up there.
-Have you seen any eels?
I haven't, but it's like gliding along the top of an aquarium.
It's lovely. I could be wearing a long skirt to do this in.
That's about it from the special edition of Countryfile.
This is one of the most photographed views in Scotland.
Which reminds me, don't forget to enter our photographic competition with its theme of best in show.
You can find the details on our website.
Next week, we'll be in Bedfordshire,
exploring the landscape
that inspired John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
Hope you can join us then. Goodbye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
John Craven heads to the Cairngorms in Scotland to look back at some of the team's most memorable visits to the jewels of the British landscape - its rivers and mountains.
Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury discover the delights of wild swimming in Oxfordshire, while Adam Henson helps a Cumbrian farmer bring his Herdwick sheep down from the mountain for shearing.
James Wong is on the slopes of the Brecon Beacons learning about the medicinal properties of a Welsh icon, and Ellie Harrison discovers that amid all the beauty lurks danger when she goes out with the Lake District mountain rescue team.