Matt Baker and Clare Balding find out what it takes to turn a working animal into a prize winner in Mid Wales, while John Craven judges the Countryfile Photographic Competition.
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A rich, rural landscape nestling between two rivers.
Fertile fields that have been farmed for generations.
We're on the Monmouthshire side of the Wye Valley.
Tonight's show is country life at its best.
I'll be down on the farm finding out
just how you turn working animals like these into prize-winners.
I'll be in the thick of it as the rosettes are handed out at the Monmouthshire Show.
It all started back in 1790 with a ploughing competition here
and now this is Wales' largest one-day agricultural show,
and the best place to see pedigree livestock.
But that's not all that happens here,
because later on I'm going to be giving this a go.
And I'll be at a mansion in Berkshire
for the biggest event in the Countryfile year.
The judging of our annual photographic competition.
The theme this year is Best In Show
and with a staggering 55,000 entries,
there's certainly going to be plenty to choose from.
There are 12 different classes and the very best pictures
will adorn the nation's walls in the Countryfile Calendar for 2012.
And later on, I'll be telling you
how you can vote for your particular favourite picture.
And, with a badger cull looming,
in an effort to control the spreading of bovine TB,
Adam's on a mission to find out about the animals that share his farm.
I've set a night vision camera going here
to try and get some shots of badgers.
if it was in the right spot,
we might have some badgers.
Oh. Oh, dear.
It's mainly sheep!
'The Wye Valley runs along the English-Welsh border.
'It's a place of outstanding beauty.
'For one day every year, crowds come from far and near
'to a 100-acre site here for a very special event,
'the Monmouthshire Show.'
'For those taking part, it's not only a big day, it's a long one!'
It's early, very, very early which isn't unusual on a farm,
but today is a little bit special
here on Bowley Farm on the outskirts of Hereford.
'Led by Dad Terry, the Joneses run a breeding herd of 16 beef cattle
'and their family has been farming here for over three decades.'
-Come on, then.
-It's too early for her. "What the hell are you doing?"
Come on, Ebony.
'Today's one of the biggest days of the year for the family.
'Three of their Limousin cattle will be competing at the Monmouthshire Show.
'Limousins were introduced to the UK from France 40 years ago
'and have become the farmers' favourite with good reason.'
She's got all the strength up here, hasn't she?
She is a big, strong thing, but then quite lean. She's not fat.
She's not fat. She hasn't got a lot of belly on her. There's no waste.
And you've got lovely eyelashes, too.
'Ebony, Fraggle and Butterfly are prize-winning specimens,
'boasting a bucket-load of rosettes between them.
'But they'll need to look their best if they want to add to that collection today.
'So the first order of business for these girls
'is a nice, refreshing shower.'
You've got to be careful because if you get in close,
it sprays back in your face.
Ooh, that's a big, mucky bottom!
Right, I think that's her done.
'With all three cows washed and on the wagon,
'that's it for the first stage of show prep.'
That's that for now, but I'm told that once we get to the show,
that's when the real hard work starts.
'It's a 20-mile journey across the border into Wales,
'where the showground is already bursting with life.
'The competition's fierce, so we're going to have our work cut out,
'but Fraggle, Butterfly and Ebony aren't exactly helping us!'
I washed all of that!
'Looks like it's back to square one for Catherine and me.'
-Are you the chief groomer?
-Erm, yes, You could say that.
I am the chief groomer, yes.
When they get prepped for the show ring, they'll have the hairspray
-and everything, and gel.
-Their vanity case is quite big, as you can see!
-Catherine's not joking.
I haven't seen a make-up case this big
since my last shoot with Matt!
And they're all at it!
How large and luxurious a cow's coat looks can swing a competition.
And with some impressive bovine bouffants appearing all around us,
it's time for me to learn the tricks of the trade.
-Right, hairspray time.
This is where the pattern work starts. What we do is zigzag.
-Then it just stands up. Simple as that.
-Yeah? Shall I have a go?
-Have a go.
-I like to be creative.
It just adds to the fullness.
The presentation of the beast. We'll back-comb the tail as well.
It's half past nine now. We met at five.
-You're going to keep going at this for another hour or so?
-It's got to be about more than just making pretty patterns?
We like to keep the heifers for breeding and we sell the bulls
in the spring and autumn.
We like to think it does add to the value at the end.
If they've got a red rosette
or a championship behind their name it does help to the value, really.
The other benefit to coming to the show -
-farming can be quite a lonely business.
You come to the show, you see everybody.
It's quite a good social event.
We've met so many people over the years.
All of us children, we've been able to show cattle since,
as soon as we were old enough to get on the end of a halter.
Able to walk even, we were there, calf-handling.
We've literally grown up through it.
I'm worried I'm going to do it wrong.
Dad will soon tell you.
I'll let you do it and I'll check out the opposition.
Massive, massive bull. Look at him.
So this is, this is erm...?
It's a giant hairdryer, in effect.
-Does he like it?
-He loves it.
-He has one of these every time he's washed.
-And what's he called?
-He's called Adam.
-Adam? Big Adam.
A full-bodied redhead called Adam? Reminds me of someone else I know.
There's a bit of hairspray on on the tail here,
it looks like candyfloss. Look at this. That's fantastic.
So, that's the competition.
A lot of hard work has gone into making sure
they look their best.
I still fancy Ebony's chances, though, don't you?
Essentially, it doesn't really matter what I think.
It does matter what this man thinks.
This says Eric Gethin, who's going to be in charge of judging Limousins.
We are looking here at a commercial cow
who's a bit of Belgian Blue, a bit of Lim.
So, what are you going to be looking for?
I'll be looking for a very feminine female.
I like my cows tall, long and clean.
Not too big at back ends.
And when you see a really good specimen walk into the ring,
do they have a bit of X-factor about them?
Oh, yeah, a lot of X-factor about them, really.
Give a bit of a show?
They're showing off a little bit, especially the females.
With the competition fast approaching,
I know which three show-offs I'm going to be rooting for.
The Joneses are getting ready to take three heifers into the ring.
They've got their work cut out. So have the judges.
The programme theme today is Best In Show.
It's also been the theme
for this year's Countryfile photographic competition.
All the entries are now in and it's time to begin the hunt
for this year's finalists.
As always, the response was overwhelming.
This year you sent in a staggering total of 55,000 photos.
To make sure that every single one was examined,
we sought the help of eight of our previous finalists.
They whittled them down to a short list of just 3,600.
More than anyone else, they know what it means to win.
I'm Pen Rashbass, I won last year's photo competition with Going Home.
Winning was really unexpected.
I just put in my picture just on the off-chance and when it did win,
I was really amazed.
Being in people's houses for a whole month,
your picture on the wall, is really, really flattering.
With 12 classes to get through, we've paired everyone up
and they'll go through three categories each.
Wow, there's an awful lot here, I feel quite overwhelmed.
Yeah, having Landscapes, Birds and Farm Life,
I think we've got the biggest category of the lot.
So, we've got the Country People,
Water Worlds and Working Animals.
We've got quite a lot of sloping water.
-We're doing Wildlife, Leisure and Pleasure.
-In All Weathers.
And In All Weather, as well.
A lot of people's shots are wonderful.
But they have suffered because of focus problems and things like that.
We've been looking at Plant Life,
The Lighter Side of Country Life and Insects and Spiders.
There's some amazing shots and I'm impressed at the quantity
and the quality of the entries.
What we do have here is a superb shot of a hedgehog that's taken
by a little nine-year-old girl and it's an absolutely beautiful shot.
-The camera is wonderful catching the spikes.
-I like that.
Oh, look at that, Tony, excellent.
-What's the magnification on that one?
-Everything's in detail.
-It's very different, isn't it?
-Really close up on that one.
-Are you short-listing that?
-Macro lens with a cricket.
-Yes. All right.
I mean, really, there's four simple rules to a very good photo.
The focus, composition,
the exposure and just having something for a "wow" factor.
-That's it finished.
I don't think we have! Have you seen that lot behind?
It really is a tough task.
Out of the 55,000, fewer than one in ten will make it through
and the pressure is starting to show.
Cheryl's getting a little hysterical.
Richard's feeling the heat. And Rosie, well,
she's just limbering up.
We are nearly at the end of the Landscape category now.
There's been some nice pictures, hasn't there?
There's been some great ones. Ones that I wish I'd taken.
I wish I'd been there at the time. There's some fabulous pictures.
Any image that's quite soft isn't going to get chosen,
whereas one that's sharp is going to get chosen.
For example, on these two images here, it's of a kingfisher,
which is a lovely bird. One of the images, unfortunately, is soft,
the colours aren't very vibrant,
whereas the other image is very sharp, it's got some action,
the colours are amazing. There's a fish in the beak.
It will be the sharper image with the better colours
that will go into the "yes" pile.
I think this year's calendar is going to be really, really something.
I've been going through the Plant Life
and some of the Insect pictures, the quality is so good.
After heroic levels of hard work and concentration,
they've finally selected the photos that have made the short list.
Somewhere within these sealed boxes are the 12 photos
that will go on to win a coveted place
in the Countryfile Calendar for 2012.
And this is where we're going to make the final selection.
A beautiful, historic country house.
Dorney Court, not far from Windsor Castle.
This place has been here for nearly 600 years.
A picture-perfect setting for looking at some great pictures.
Later in the programme, I'll be joined by regular judge Chris Packham
and a new face to the panel, Janet Street-Porter,
as we get down to the serious business of choosing the 12 finalists.
Now, the Government's decision to back a cull on badgers
to stem the spread of bovine TB in cattle has divided public opinion.
Many farmers blame badgers for infecting their cows,
others say that it's down to cattle movements.
But how much do we really know about this much-loved creature?
Adam's off to see what he can learn.
My farm is packed with Wildlife and I love to see it,
but there's one animal that lives here that's causing real concern.
And because they spend the majority of the daylight hours underground,
many of us don't know much about them,
let alone get to see them.
Whatever you make of the link between badgers and bovine TB, the fact is,
British badgers are not the rare or endangered species they once were.
I need to know more about this nocturnal creature.
I love to see badgers as much as anybody.
But for farmers like me, who have seen TB claim the lives
of so many of our cattle, we are in a real dilemma.
This is open grazing pasture
and it's almost impossible to keep badgers and cattle apart.
That's one of the setts just down there.
Badgers have been given increasing levels of legal protection
over the last 30 years and as a result, their numbers have grown.
But there aren't any exact figures for how many
roam our countryside today.
There hasn't been a national survey for more than a decade.
We've had badgers on this farm ever since I was a boy,
but bovine TB has only really become an issue since 2002.
And since that time, we've lost 64 cattle to the disease.
Go on, lovelies!
Go on, then!
Farmers are advised to keep badgers and cattle separate
wherever they can and, particularly in the winter,
what we need to do is lock up our feed stores,
put electric fences around the cattle yards,
keep troughs out of badgers' reach.
And in the summer, what I do is put my minerals
in these holders so that it doesn't get covered in badger slobber
before the cows lick it.
But how can I be sure these measures work when I know
so little about the way badgers behave?
I've set a night-vision camera going here to try
and get some shots of badgers.
Hopefully, if it was in the right spot,
we'll have some badgers.
Oh! HE LAUGHS
Oh, dear, it's mainly sheep!
I think they probably quite like coming and lying on this sandy bit.
Oh! There's a couple of seconds of badgers there.
I'll leave it for another night, see if I can get some more.
There's a place near here at Woodchester Park,
where they've got far more experience than I have at spotting badgers.
That's where a lot of the government research on badgers is carried out.
They've been studying them in Gloucestershire since the '70s.
The overriding purpose was to gather information on their role in the transmission of bovine TB.
The study also revealed a lot about how badgers live.
I'm meeting Professor Robbie McDonald
from the Food and Environment Research Agency.
-Good to see you again.
-Nice to see you again.
-In the woods.
-Welcome to Woodchester Park.
I've got a few setts on my farm. A similar situation to this,
and some of them out in fields.
Are they quite particular about where they live?
Anywhere that's got a bit of shelter and ideally on a slope
so that they can dig into it, that provides the ideal habitat.
Are badgers indigenous to the UK? Have they always lived here?
Oh yes, this is a native species,
it's one that's been around here since the end of the last Ice Age.
It's very much part of our native fauna.
There seems to be a bit of a feeling out there
that the badger population is growing.
Are there lots of them or not?
There's historically almost certainly been
an increase in badger numbers.
Across the country, we are probably looking at about 300,000 animals,
something like that.
And what about their social structure?
How do you know how far they travel?
Yes. Sociality is a really important part of badger life.
We've got some low-tech
and hi-tech ways of studying badger society here. I can show you.
You've got here a bucket of these plastic chips,
some golden syrup - other brands are available!
And we have peanuts here, which is what the badgers like to eat.
So we can mix up the peanuts and the syrup with these chips.
And when the badgers eat that mixture,
they won't be able to digest these, so these come out in the faeces.
So we feed a different colour chip at each of the main setts
and then we can go out and survey where these chips turn up
and that allows us to map the territories of the animals.
We've been doing that here for about 30 years
and the remarkable thing is how stable the social group territories are.
These animals tend to stay put.
'The more hi-tech side of Robbie's research has proven
'how determined these creatures can be to get at food.
'Infrared cameras have caught footage of badgers in farm buildings.'
This shows some badgers actually on a pile of cattle feed.
When I imagine the secret life of a badger to be a nervous animal
that scoots around at night,
they're in there, rolling around, happy as Larry.
And I suppose, you can't blame them.
Where there's food, that's what they're after,
they're going to go in there, aren't they?
It's an easy meal.
It's been really interesting to learn more about the ecology
of the badger from Robbie, who's a scientist.
But when it comes to the human emotions,
it's a totally different story.
And so to understand the passion that some people have for badgers,
I'm off to meet a man who dedicates a huge amount of time to them.
Retired policeman Tony Dean
has been watching the same badger sett for 28 years.
-Hi, how are you?
-Welcome to Slad Valley.
-I'm looking forward to seeing these badgers.
-You're hoping. Same as me.
What's the chances of them coming out tonight, Tony?
I'm a little bit doubtful with this very strong wind.
We might have to wait a little while, but hopefully...
What have you got in the bag? Food for them?
-Yes, peanuts, sultanas, bread and peanut butter.
-The lucky things.
Isn't there plenty of grub for them?
No, it's such a dry spring and summer
that the food chain has gone completely.
-Their main food, people don't realise, is earthworms.
Every badger needs 200 to 300 worms a night. Desperate times at the moment,
and they are scraping cowpats to pieces
looking for worms and beetles.
With fading light, we walk up the bank for a better view
of the badger sett.
Tony throws out some titbits, and all we can do is be patient,
but we don't have to wait for long.
(That's one poking its head out down there now. It's amazing.)
(What do you find the most fascinating thing
(about watching badgers?)
Because I can get so close to them.
When I am here on my own,
I can sit on this bank
and those badgers will come, even the adults some nights,
will come within six foot of me.
As long as I'm quiet and make no sudden movements,
they'll even sometimes take the food out of my fingers.
For me, there's a real conflict in my heart.
I love wildlife, and it's a real treat to come here and see badgers.
But, I'm a livestock man, too, and I love to see healthy animals.
Bovine TB is a terrible disease, and wherever it comes from,
whether it lies in wildlife or in farm animals, between us,
we've got to get on top of it.
Very difficult times.
-Good night, then.
-Thank you very much.
Today, we are in the green pastures of the Wye Valley
at the Monmouthshire Show.
It's one of the biggest events in the Welsh farming calendar
and I'm going behind the scenes to meet the country people
at the heart of rural life.
Around here, it's all about livestock,
and taking a prize at the county show can make all the difference
when it comes to selling your animals.
But what makes a champion handler?
Well, I'm about to find out.
Megan Watkins may be just 11,
but she's a veteran when it comes to showing sheep,
and she's going to tell me what it takes to be a prize-winner.
Right, Meg. Who've we got in here, then?
This is the show bunch, so we've Magey in here,
and some of the other show sheep as well.
I see, these are Texels, aren't they?
So we're looking for Magey, or Magic.
-Where is she?
-She's that one.
-Shall we get in there and grab her?
Perfect. She's very well-behaved.
Right, so let's have a lovely introduction to Magic.
-Tell us all about her. How old is she?
-She's a five-year-old ewe.
So what sort of things do you do to her?
Obviously, preparing her for the show.
Basically, you have to wash her face and legs
to make them really stand out.
OK. Right, so we've got brushes, sponges, soap.
Hello? Do you want a little brush as well? Who's this?
This is Lucky, he is one of our breeding tups.
-He's huge, isn't he?
And all we do is we just wipe the face just to start off with.
And just get it a bit wet.
She's very tolerant.
She's done this many a time.
Magic! With a bit of a soap and a scrub,
she looks three years younger and sparkling.
There we are, behind the ears.
So you've got all of these sheep on the farm then, Meg.
How do you decide what makes a really good show sheep?
They've got to stand out, so if they are a ewe, especially,
they've got to have a nice, pretty head.
I've been doing it with Magey for ages now,
and I find I know how she's going to stand when she stops and everything.
And then that she's, like, a lot better,
and you have to have sheep that's good at walking,
and that isn't Magey's strongest point.
How do you feel just before you go into the ring?
I find it nervous before I go into the ring,
but then it's just really exciting.
Well, you're obviously a very good young handler
and you have a wonderful relationship with all the sheep
-and they all just want to be with you.
Later on, we'll be finding out how Megan got on with Magic
at the Monmouthshire Show.
Come on, come on! Move along at the front!
Now, John, Chris, and our new judge, Janet Street-Porter
have their work cut out choosing the 12 finalists
for the Countryfile photographic competition
with its theme, Best In Show.
And here is John with a reminder of how it all started back in May.
Chris Packham launched the competition at the Shropshire Show
and inspired some young farmers to capture the spirit of our theme,
Best In Show.
After that, the entries started to flood in.
We had a fantastic response in all 12 classes.
You sent in a staggering 55,000 photographs -
so many, that we asked some of our previous finalists
to narrow them down to a short list.
Well, now we're down to just 3,600 entries,
and we brought them all here to historic Dorney Court near Windsor,
which has been the home of the Palmer family for more than 400 years,
and they very kindly allowed us to use the Great Hall for the judging.
And joining me on the panel to pick the 12 photos that will grace
the Countryfile Calendar for next year is Chris Packham,
wildlife expert and old friend of the competition,
and a new face this year, Janet Street-Porter.
Well, I'm thrilled that I've been asked to be a judge,
because I spend a huge amount of my time living in the countryside.
I've got a house up in Yorkshire, I walk everywhere,
and I always take a camera and take photos.
I've been married to a photographer and I lived with a photographer,
so I've been photographed millions of times.
I love photography.
Well, this is some room, isn't it!
A lot of ancestors are going to be looking at us
as we make our judgments.
-Welcome, Janet, and welcome again, Chris.
What sort of things are you going to be looking for?
I'm looking for pictures
that I could look at for a whole month,
which means I'm going to be pretty picky.
It's hard to look at the same image without just taking it for granted.
-The usual criteria for me.
I want someone who has been thinking about their photography,
exercising their imagination
and putting artistic content into it.
I think the other criterion is,
it's a picture you wish you'd taken yourself.
There's always that thing about great photography where you think,
"Why didn't I think of that?"
Well, shall we get on with it? We've got a lot to do.
First up, Janet is looking at the Landscapes class.
Chris has got Birds and I've got In All Weathers.
This just about sums up In All Weathers.
-This is the British summer this year.
-Yeah. That's been my summer.
I love pictures of trees when they look really magical
and mysterious, and this one really does.
I've found some photographs of my favourite birds here. Bearded tit.
What an absolutely stunning creature that is.
Woodcock on a wall.
Oh, I'll think twice about eating another woodcock.
Woodcock are one of the finest creatures,
eating a woodcock... Oh, no!
-They are a game bird.
-I know they're a game bird, but...
Well, they're a game bird.
-I know, now I've seen it, I won't eat any more woodcock.
Excellent, I'm taking you up on that.
No more woodcock consumed by Janet.
-Do they taste nice?
-Don't...don't... draw the process out.
-JOHN AND JANET LAUGH
You know, amongst all these dozens of photographs,
there are two virtually identical pictures.
I tell you what, for what it's worth, I'm going for Charles.
-It's really hard, what d'you think?
-Well, I prefer this one, I think.
Oh, no! Now there's one for each!
You've got the deciding vote between Charles and Ralph.
-It's your category.
God, they both come from Yorkshire. I don't want to offend them.
-I'm going to choose that one.
-You're going for Ralph!
-It is really tough.
'Sorry, Charles. There wasn't much in it.'
The next three classes, Plant Life,
Lighter Side Of Country Life and Farm Life.
Just a buttercup, growing on how many people's lawns?
And the striking colour. I really like that.
-I like the composition of this one.
-Yes, that's very good.
Yes, I like that.
Scarecrows. I've got a scarecrow for every occasion.
'We're halfway through, so next are Leisure and Pleasure,
'wildlife and working animals.'
Tell you what's not in my category, Leisure and Pleasure,
is any photographs of allotments or vegetables.
Now, I am so obsessed with growing vegetables that every time
I grow a vegetable in my garden in Yorkshire,
which is interesting, I take a photo of it.
-I took a picture of my first peas?
There was enough for half a plateful.
I think I know that hole.
I've seen water voles photographed outside that hole so many times.
This is Brian, and there's Sheila.
It's almost like I know these animals personally.
Novelty is essential, I think, when it comes to photography.
'Final classes are insects and spiders,
'Water Worlds and Country People.'
What about this as an animal? Now, look, Janet, come on.
-The tussock moth caterpillar.
-My house is a war-zone.
I'm fighting rabbits, moles, mice, caterpillars,
cabbage white butterflies.
Why can't you live in harmony with these creatures?
Because they're killing my vegetables.
If I listen to another programme telling me to love my slugs,
I think I'll puke.
'So be warned, insects and wildlife out there,
'it's probably best to avoid Janet's garden.'
Well, we're making pretty good progress,
but we still have hundreds more to look through before we pick our final 12.
'So join us later when we select one photograph
'from each of the classes to make up the Countryfile calendar for 2012,
'and you'll also get the chance to vote for the overall winner,
'the Best In Show.'
There's some fantastic photos there,
and I'm sure you've already picked out some that are your favourites.
But while the judging continues, I'm back at the Monmouthshire Show,
surrounded by top-notch specimens,
real show-stoppers of a different kind.
The event's one of the highlights of the rural calendar,
with over 2,000 animals on show and competitors
travelling from as far afield as Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall.
But perhaps no-one shows more dedication
than the owners of these guys.
24 hours ago, before the show officially opened
and the other animals poured in, it was the goats who got here early to take part
in a milking competition.
And I got a crash-course from veteran handler John Powell.
You catch hold of the teats,
you close your finger and thumb on the top and squeeze.
Hold that together, and then with your fingers, press.
MILK SQUIRTS AND SPLASHES
-It sounds like a symphony.
-Do you feel confident, Clare?
No, not at all.
Oh, Tulip, I'm so sorry, you poor thing.
There's a definite knack to this.
Oh, no! And I'm not sure I've got it yet.
John, how much should I be getting out here?
You should be getting about half a gallon.
-I'm not sure that's half a gallon.
-No, that's two cups of tea.
Now, when I said these guys took dedication to a whole new level,
I wasn't kidding.
Because with night drawing in and an early start of competition in the morning,
most people stay here on site,
even bedding down for the night alongside their farmyard friends.
No thanks to my efforts, Tulip triumphed, winning first prize
for giving most milk, and she wasn't the only one taking home a rosette.
Megan, the young handler Matt met, earned a second place.
And after all my hard work with the Jones family,
Ebony the cow also came in second.
I'm a bit disappointed, because I thought she'd won.
There was even better news to come as Butterfly won her class,
bur Fraggle had a mountain to climb
when she found herself in the Best of Breed final
up against Adam the bull.
Poor little Fraggle.
Oh, she's won! Good girl!
You knocked out the big boy! Well done, Fraggle!
So young Fraggle here has won best young heifer,
Best Female and best overall winner.
It's been a good day, and there's lots more competition still to come.
In a few moments on Countryfile,
Clare's the hot favourite in a scurry-driving challenge.
She's up against James, and the underdog isn't sounding confident.
I've got no chance. The equine expert that is Clare Balding.
The judging of the Countryfile photographic competition
is reaching its climax.
But is your entry among the finalists?
-I think I might go for that one.
-I'm going for that one.
Well, it's two-to-one.
And will the weather be picture-perfect?
Find out with the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
If ever there was a place of beauty that takes your breath away,
then this would be it.
But it hasn't always been like this.
Mark O'Brien and his partner Liz Vice have just landed
first prize in a competition to find the Wye Valley's most beautiful
and environmentally friendly farm.
They were honoured at the Monmouthshire Show
for their work in transforming their land from a run-down overgrown wilderness to a prize-winner.
The couple put wildlife at the heart of everything they do here.
It's an outstanding place, this. It feels beautiful to be here.
But how did it all start for you?
I was always interested in wildlife when I was a kid, you know.
I didn't have toys. I loved birds and fossils and things.
And I just wanted, really, to look after a bit of land,
and that's how it's all started, really.
We've ended up with all this.
And how about the girls you've got here, the longhorn cattle,
because there'll all part of the management?
Yes, they're vital for the grassland management, really,
because it has had some damage done to it by modern farming,
so I'm just trying to restore the grass
and not put any muck or fertiliser on.
And it's all organic now?
It's all organic. It produces a great quality food product.
-Now, he is an absolute beauty.
-Yes, he is a blackfoot bull.
I presume he's got a name as well?
His name's Blackbrook Stig, like Stig off Top Gear.
Yeah. He used to run around quite fast, I think, when he was younger.
The meat from these longhorns brings in essential revenue to Mark and Liz,
but there's another little business that's grown out of all the work here - charcoal making.
Liz is bagging up the last of their new batch.
-So this is your charcoal factory, then?
Are you going to hop in there, Matt?
-Do you want me to?
-And shovel a bit out.
OK, if you need me to. No problem.
Here's a dust mask, you'll need that.
OK, and I'm just shovelling up on to the top of here?
Yes, this is the riddle,
and what Liz is going to do is riddle out the dust.
The finer particles will fall through as I riddle it,
leaving the larger lumps ready for bagging.
Most of the charcoal that's in the shops that people buy,
it comes from mangrove swamps and rainforest regions,
and these areas are cleared forever and destroyed.
Our charcoal is sustainable because our woodlands are coppice woodlands,
and when you cut the trees, they re--sprout again. They don't die.
You go back 20 years later, cut the same trees,
and you get more wood for charcoal again. It's much more sustainable.
When Mark and Liz won their award,
the first person to congratulate them was their great friend, Humphrey Smith.
Impressed by their love for nature, he dug deep into his own pockets to start them off on their journey.
I knew Humphrey Smith, because he was chairman of the Wildlife Trust.
He phoned me up and said "I've got £50,000,
"and I'm going to get you a woodland so you and Liz can manage it."
-What? Hang on!
-That's what we thought!
He phoned you up and said, "I'll give you £50,000?"
He said it can be anywhere you want, anywhere in the world, wherever you want.
-It was like winning the lottery.
Humphrey was the start of everything, really.
The couple then sold their house,
enabling them to buy all the livestock.
They regularly open their gates to school kids,
but my visit here's almost over.
Before I go, I want to take in some of the views
that have helped the farm win this prestigious award for its natural beauty.
We want to preserve it for future generations.
We're just caretakers here, who are only here for a short time.
Kids today are not connecting with a lot of countryside issues
and where food's from, so we think that's very important,
because in the future they'll be the people looking after the environment,
so we need to teach them now, before it's too late.
The moment when we'll be revealing our final 12
in the Countryfile photographic competition is almost upon us.
The judges' favourite photo in each category will make up the Countryfile calendar for 2012,
but will you agree with their choices?
Let's see how they're getting on.
Well, out of the 55,000 photographs sent in,
we're now down to the final 20 in each of the 12 categories,
and now it's crunch time.
Which ones stay and which ones go?
'We have the almost impossible task of getting them down
'to just a handful of favourites in each class,
'and then deciding on the photo we like the very best.'
It's not easy!
'I've been looking at the classes In All Weathers,
'and Farm Life.'
Certainly an awful lot of lambs and sheep,
and that was probably the most appealing of all the lambs.
This is a sort of classic farming picture.
This is how shepherds, farmers and their dogs get about these days.
A classic pastoral scene here, and this one, which is my favourite -
a tractor going underneath this treescape. Most unusual.
For me, it's a one-tractor race. I love the tangle of trees and the fact that this
red machine, something man-made,
is emerging from this natural tangle.
'Next up, Chris has been deliberating over his favourite class,
'Insects And Spiders.
'He was equally passionate about his Wildlife shortlist.'
The pin-sharpness. Oh, the vibrancy!
Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!
You might have just convinced us, Chris.
'But, with Birds, it was more difficult,
'and he didn't have all his own way.'
I might go for that one.
I'm going for that one.
Ah. It's two-to-one.
'So, that just left his final class, Plant Life.'
I like the richness of this one. For me that's the most painterly
and artistic of them.
Poppies are on two of them,
and I like the contrast between the sharp, spiky teasels here
and this out-of-focus tableau of poppies behind.
This one, just one of those photographs.
I just want to be there. The richness of life.
And then this one, again, pretty arty -
the hyper-reality of a tiny little seed that's come from a dandelion.
Personally, I'm leaning to this one,
because to me, this says richness of life and colour.
I completely agree with you!
-That's a bit of a world first, isn't it?
'Janet's classes included The Lighter Side Of Country Life,
-'Water Worlds and Leisure And Pleasure.'
-It's really tough,
because I think if I had to choose two, I'd choose these two.
And I like those because our overall theme this year is Best In Show.
Exactly, and that fits in very neatly.
'But when she judged the Landscapes class, it was simply a matter
-'of what you might call
I'd have to choose this, as a rambler.
I'm always very pleased to see a stile,
otherwise I've got to leg it over the top.
And also, I'm very keen on black-and-white photography,
and I'd worry if the calendar was all colour pictures.
I think that's a strong picture.
And you wonder where it's going to take you, don't you, the stile?
A bog - that's what usually happens!
This is, in terms of the composition, almost perfect.
Look, it starts in the middle, you come down here, you go here, and you go up here.
It's a lovely shape.
If you two are going for that, I'll join in,
because I think that is pretty stunning as well.
'All in all, an incredibly difficult challenge for us,
'and we've been hugely impressed by the quantity and quality of your photos.
'After a whole day of judging, with plenty of lively debate and some very hard decisions,
'we finally agreed on the 12 fabulous photos
'that will make up the Countryfile calendar 2012.
'And here they are.'
It's going to be a real cracker.
Thank you, Janet. Thank you, Chris, for your comments and help in picking these wonderful pictures.
And now it's up to you, because we want you to pick the overall winner.
The photographer with the most number of votes
gets to choose from a selection of the latest photographic equipment worth £1,000.
We've given each of our finalists a number, and we'd like you to vote for your favourite.
Calls cost 10p from a BT landline, other operators may vary,
and calls from mobiles will be considerably higher.
But don't phone yet, because your votes won't be registered and you might be charged.
I'll tell you when you can start to make your choice,
but here is a reminder of the final 12.
You can start voting now,
and the lines will stay open until midnight next Sunday -
that's September 18.
But if you vote after the lines close,
you may still be charged and your vote won't be counted.
You'll find all the details of the phone vote on our website,
along with information about the BBC's code of conduct
for competitions and voting.
There'll be another chance to see our finalists
at the end of the programme, and we'll reveal who won your vote,
and the photograph chosen as the judges' favourite, on 9th October.
Thanks to everybody who's entered this year's competition.
We really have had some super shots sent in.
In a moment, we'll return to the prize-winners at the Monmouthshire Show,
and Clare and James will be having a go at scurry racing.
Before that, here's the Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead.
Today, we're exploring the Monmouthshire side of the Wye Valley,
countryside blessed with outstanding natural beauty, and also,
one of the biggest agricultural shows in Wales.
I'll be meeting up with James later. But, first, he has a bit of a challenge to take on.
There are some things in life I'm really comfortable with,
walking in a wood or foraging in a hedgerow.
But there's one thing I have no experience with.
Horses. Not just the one. Two of them.
Oh, and there's this chariot thing attached to the back.
And they want me to ride it.
The things they get me doing!
This is scurry driving.
'It looks pretty dangerous. Excellent(!)
'To put me at my ease, I'm counting on champion scurry driver, Lucy Scott.'
Tell me about scurry racing,
because I've never even heard of it before.
We have two ponies and a cart. It has four wheels on it.
They're very basic carts.
We don't have brakes, we don't have nice suspension,
so it's going to be a bumpy ride for you.
It sounds hardcore.
And we have a course of cones, normally about 12 cones, and we have balls on top.
so, the fastest through the course of cones without knocking the balls off wins.
-It's very fast and furious.
-Is it dangerous?
-Yes, it can be dangerous.
We're going at high speeds, turning sharp corners,
so we do rely on the groom behind to hold the wheels on the floor.
If you're going left, they have to get right over the wheels on to the left...
-To stop you tipping over?
-To stop us tipping over.
-Is that the bit I'm doing?
-I'm a glorified weight?
-Fantastic! I can do that, I'm sure.
Let's hope I can, anyway! Here goes.
-OK. Hold onto the front. Walk on!
And then over to the left.
-Are you happy with that?
-It's a bit like sailing.
But with horses and no water!
Left, left! Left, left, left.
My bum is not entirely on the seat. Is that all right?
As long as you have one cheek on the seat you're fine. Over to the right.
Now left! Now right!
'This is a lot more tiring than I thought.'
That's it. You've got the hang of it!
Well, James, I think you're ready.
-OK. Ready for what?
-You'll soon find out when we get there.
'What James isn't prepared for is that he's going to be competing against me.
'And when it comes to racing, we've got previous.
'A few weeks back, with a bit more horsepower, he beat me hands down...'
That wasn't you! That wasn't you!
'But not necessarily playing fair and square.'
-Oh! So, we meet again!
I decided that, because the last time we did a challenge you cheated,
by getting somebody else to drive, not telling me you couldn't drive, I thought we'd have a rematch.
Aren't you an adept equestrian horse expert?
I am, but I don't really do this very often.
-I will be happy if you want to have a head start.
-No, no, no.
-You know me and fair play. I'm good to go.
-You and fair play!
Right, let's get into the arena and do it!
'So, here we go. The inaugural Countryfile scurry race.
'A champion jockey versus a botanist with no propensity for horsemanship.
'Should be a belter!'
'I'm first up with driver Philippa and horses Wallace and Gromit.'
They're really good.
I've got no chance.
The equine expert that is Clare Balding.
I need to know what that woman's time is.
-57.01, ladies and gentlemen.
57.01 is the time to beat.
'I've certainly got my work cut out here.
'Next up, little old me.'
Have they started?
Jeez, they're flying.
He's doing great, he's doing great through the slalom,
really shifting his weight properly.
Right, right, right, go, go, go, go!
Over to the left!
Now we've got a gallop.
How's the time? 44...
They might beat us.
-And it's pretty fast, 56.265.
He's got me again. He has, too.
Well done. I'm quite impressed with that.
That was very, very good. Did you enjoy it?
It was fantastic, and don't feel too bad,
because it's the only trace of masculinity I've got left -
if I was to lose to a girl on a My Little Pony pink chariot
it would be the end of the world.
Well, you can take this very macho Scurry Driving Association shield of honour.
I'm thrilled for James, absolutely thrilled for him.
Congratulations, and talking of winners, before we say goodbye,
here is a final reminder of how to vote for your favourite
in the Countryfile Photographic Competition.
Lines close next Sunday evening,
and all the details are on our website.
Well, that's it from us this week at the Monmouthshire Show,
but next week we'll be joining a team from the RNLI International Flood Rescue.
Exciting stuff. Join us then.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Matt Baker and Clare Balding find out what it takes to turn a working animal into a prize winner when they visit Mid Wales. Clare is at the Monmouthshire Show, where the cattle are being primped and preened for the show ring, while Matt is down on the farm discovering how a young sheep handler makes sure her animals catch the judge's eye.
John Craven is joined by wildlife presenter Chris Packham and former newspaper editor Janet Street-Porter to judge the annual Countyfile Photographic Competition, with its theme of Best In Show. He reveals the final 12 photos destined to take pride of place in the Countryfile calendar for 2012, and explains how you can vote for the overall winner.
Plus, with a badger cull looming in an attempt to halt the spread of bovine TB in cattle, Adam Henson attempts to learn more about these elusive and controversial creatures which share his farm.