Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury head to the Hertfordshire countryside, where Julia finds out how a super food is providing the perfect habitat for shrimp.
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Hertfordshire - a tranquil and beautiful county.
Sweeping chalk grassland gives way to woodland
and crystal-clear streams, some of them full of nutritious greenery.
Watercress is a well-known superfood for humans,
but the cress here is indirectly providing sustenance
for one of the country's most elusive birds,
which I'm hoping to spot later on.
The Hertfordshire countryside may well appear to be idyllic,
but behind the beauty is a growing problem - rural crime.
But how do you maintain law and order
across huge swathes of countryside? Well, Hertfordshire Police
think that they have found the answer. Rural special constables.
And I'm going to be joining them
to find out how they're helping local bobbies stamp out crime.
And they're not the only ones trying to catch
-criminals in the countryside.
-From the poisoning
of birds of prey to poaching deer,
wildlife crime is a big problem right across rural Britain.
And I'll be investigating claims that we lack the law
and the resources to tackle it effectively.
And on his Cotswold farm,
Adam's struggling to separate his rams from the rest of the flock.
He's so strong! He probably weighs about as much as I do.
Go on, you great big stubborn thing.
Rural Hertfordshire. Its open skies and hidden valleys
are a haven for people and wildlife alike.
Just north of London, this tranquil countryside feels a world away
from the hustle and bustle of city life.
But even in this rural idyll, problems like crime still exist.
It's a sad fact that no matter where you go in the country,
it seems we cannot escape crime.
And worryingly, in the UK, it appears that rural crime is on the up.
A recent survey by NFU Mutual states that agricultural theft
cost an estimated £52.7 million in the UK during 2011.
And metal and chemical theft are growing trends.
It's a worrying state of affairs for farmers and rural communities alike,
but here in Hertfordshire, they've found a way to fight back.
Four years ago, the county became the first in the UK
to introduce rural special constables.
These are volunteers who help support local bobbies
by providing extra eyes and ears on the ground.
'Gamekeeper and estate manager Richard Downs
'has been a rural special since 2010.'
-Morning! How are you doing?
-Pleased to meet you.
That's a nifty vehicle.
-Do you all get a Land Rover to bomb around in?
This vehicle is the only one in Hertfordshire at the moment.
It's funded solely by the Hertfordshire Constabulary.
And where's the kind of crossover, how does it work?
-How much authority have you got? I mean, can you arrest people?
As a special, whether it's a normal special or a rural special,
we've got the same police powers - full police powers.
The only difference being, then, that you're a volunteer.
We're all volunteers, yeah.
The minimum requirement hours, I believe, are 16 hours a month.
-However I'm quite, I'd say dedicated,
-I put in about 80 hours a month, 90 hours a month.
Why do you want to put in that kind of time as a volunteer?
I enjoy it, and also it's a service to the rural community.
I've got all my links with gamekeepers, farmers,
and they feed me information.
What would be the most common crime that you come across?
One of the most common ones at the moment is red diesel theft.
Red diesel is what farmers use in their tractors,
and some people use for heating.
I stopped a vehicle a few months ago,
it had barrels in the back of the vehicle.
When I looked inside, they had red diesel.
I asked the guy if he was running red diesel in his car, he said no,
so I dipped the tank and it came out red.
Which is an offence, because it's rebated fuel.
However because he stole the diesel,
he would be arrested on suspicion of theft of diesel.
And the rural specials aren't just confined to four wheels.
For trickier terrain, there's even a small group that are mounted.
Across the county, 22 specials work alongside Hertfordshire police,
increasing the rural force
and making people like gardener Les Swain feel a whole lot safer.
What kind of things have you had stolen?
Er, well, most garden machinery. Mowers, strimmers,
-Everything possible that you use on garden maintenance.
And how do you feel, then,
knowing now that there is these special constables that are...?
-I'm all for it, definitely.
-And have you noticed a change, then?
Oh, I think so, over the last two years. It's been quiet.
Previously I had an awful lot of stuff stolen.
Too much, unfortunately.
So here in Hertfordshire,
the introduction of rural special constables is working,
and the scheme's been so successful
that it's now been rolled out in other counties across the UK.
From what I've seen here in Hertfordshire, it's a good example
of how rural police really have got their work cut out.
But as Tom has been discovering,
officers across the British countryside
have their hands full coping with wildlife crime.
You may find some of these images in this report upsetting.
A beautiful morning in the British countryside.
Songbirds strike up a dawn chorus.
Deer graze across the grass, birds of prey float high above.
But something's not right. All these animals are under attack.
Crime against our native wildlife is widespread,
and shows no sign of stopping.
There are now thousands of reported incidents every year,
and the reasons are many and varied.
Some animals are killed for entertainment,
others for food or money.
But all is not lost.
Tonight is our first attempt in a long time to work multi-agency,
to start looking at some of the issues up on Cannock Chase,
particularly in relation to deer poaching.
'In Staffordshire, the police are becoming increasingly concerned
'about the growing problem of deer poaching.'
'Officers here are working with other bodies, like the RSPCA,
'to crack down on the criminals.'
'Tonight, they're running an operation
'in the Cannock Chase area.'
'They're hoping to catch the poachers red-handed.'
We've had intelligence
over a period of time which says there's people coming up here
quite regularly taking the deer,
whether that's using hunting rifles or hunting with dogs,
so hopefully we can find some of those people tonight
and get them prosecuted.
With six square miles to cover,
they have multiple teams and nine cars out on patrol.
PC Robert Gidman's job is to stop and search any suspect vehicles.
I'm just going to stop this vehicle.
4x4, only sort of size vehicle that'd be able to transport a deer.
By any chance can I have your details and a quick look in your van
just to make sure you haven't got firearms or anything of that nature?
'With so many resources and organisations devoted to
'a single operation, they really need to get a result.
'But so far tonight, they've found nothing.'
'Deer poaching isn't just a problem in Staffordshire.
'From Scotland to the south coast, deer are being killed
'either for food or to be sold on the black market.'
Well, this has been a real hot-spot, especially this year.
I mean, we've seen many poachers out over the last few months.
'Dickon Featherstonhaugh has problems with poachers
'on his 5,000-acre estate in North Wales.'
We've got the road here that they're using as a base to poach from,
and those with rifles are doing it off the back of pick-ups
from a public highway.
You've got a lot of people out in the middle of the night with guns,
with big running dogs - I mean, these are scary people.
'Back in Staffordshire,
'the police are still searching for poachers on Cannock Chase.'
I think there's a couple of people at the front of it.
Tail light out at the back, so you never know. We'll check it out.
'This van has enough space to carry deer,
'as well as room for the dogs that are often used to hunt them.'
-Can we have a look in the van?
-Yeah, it's just scrap.
'But despite their suspicions, there's no deer
'and no evidence of poaching.
'Time is running out. But the search continues.'
But it's not just deer
that have become the targets for wildlife crime.
Salmon and other fish are also taken for food.
Badgers and hares are hunted down for sport,
and even birds can't escape the criminals.
Stunning golden eagles like this once thrived across much of Britain.
But now, sadly,
they're largely confined to the wilder areas of Scotland.
And although strongly protected, it's thought they're not
spreading into Northern England because of persecution.
'With so many different crimes spread over such a vast area,
'the police and the many other organisations trying to tackle
'wildlife crime have really got their work cut out.
'As they're finding out in Staffordshire,
'having the manpower to tackle it doesn't always guarantee success.'
-'But the team have a secret weapon.'
-OK. Eight satellites now.
-'A remote controlled drone.'
-Camera up slightly. Slightly more high.
OK, camera down. OK. We've got 93 feet in height, 23 feet away.
'It can spot human heat signatures even in woodland,
'at a fraction of the cost of a helicopter.'
'But the only humans it picks up tonight
'are the officers operating it, and our film crew.'
'It's starting to look like all this effort is for nothing.'
'Then, on the other side of Cannock Chase, there's been a breakthrough.
'Our officers have stopped a van with a dead deer in the back.'
Looking at the injuries,
it appears that the dog had attacked this deer
and brought it down,
and someone slit its throat.
It's certainly poaching.
'The dogs are still in the van, and surprisingly calm.
'Three suspected poachers have already been arrested
'and taken away.'
This is what we've been planning for weeks, to try and tackle the problem
that's going on in this area, and it looks like it's been successful.
The resources Staffordshire police
are now using to combat deer poaching
and the way they're working with expert organisations
is a great example of the way wildlife crime CAN be tackled.
But it's not the case everywhere in the UK.
Later, I'll be asking if we've got the money
and the right laws to tackle this threat. And what about the will?
In the end, is it worth all the effort?
In the Hertfordshire countryside, I'm heading to a watery oasis
where a one-time Victorian superfood is being nurtured
to create a wildlife habitat.
This is the Lemsford Springs nature reserve,
and it's kept under lock and key,
so its very rare residents are not disturbed.
These shallow streams are fed by springs
that rise from deep in the chalk.
And that gives them some special qualities.
'Tim Hill is conservation manager.'
Tim, this looks suspiciously like watercress to me.
It is watercress.
There were natural springs here at Lemsford,
and back in the 1860s,
the whole of the flood plain was dug out here, lined with gravel.
The chalk water pours out from the springs
at about 10 degrees C constantly.
Oh, yes! It's a freezing cold day
and actually the water is quite warm!
Not bad at all, is it, for a cold day like this?
Because it's so rich in minerals and incredibly clear,
it provides a perfect growing medium for the watercress.
Growing watercress was big business right up to the 1950s.
Rich in Vitamin C, it was harvested
and sent to London to help prevent scurvy.
By the 1960s, with more exotic salads available,
watercress from here went out of favour, and Lemsford was abandoned.
'That was until the '70s, when the Wildlife Trust took over.
'They found watercress still thriving,
'and harbouring an unexpected creature.'
Tim, what are we looking for, then?
-We're having a look for some freshwater shrimps.
If you have a look in here, you should be able to see.
-So they like to get down at the roots, do they, the bottom?
-And...put your hands out.
-Oh, my God, they're all wriggling! Eurgh!
Aah, that's revolting! And tickling my hands.
So you've probably got about 50 freshwater shrimps there.
And all those shrimps are feeding on this rotting vegetation,
and you can see how well they're doing on it.
And presumably, these little critters
are fantastic for the ecosystem as a whole.
These provide food for so many different creatures.
Particularly green sandpipers, that's what comes here.
The rare green sandpiper.
The rare green sandpiper, yeah, come in here right throughout
the winter and they're feasting on these shrimps.
'Making sure this habitat is just right for the shrimps
'and the sandpipers that feed on them takes a lot of hard graft.
'And it's all done by volunteers.'
'Without all this raking, the watercress
'would spread like a blanket and the streams would silt up.
'But this way, the cress can be left in heaps,
'creating the perfect shrimpy habitat.'
'Time to catch up with Tim again,
'and see if we can spot the real star of the show -
'the green sandpiper.'
-Hi, Tim. What have we got?
Green sandpipers this morning.
Let's have a little look.
You can see they've got this very distinctive bobbing action
as they go, they move their tail up and down as they go.
They're a reasonably chunky bird,
they weigh about the same as a Mars Bar - between 60g and 90g.
Being that size bird, they need to get lots of food in them
during the daytimes.
'Some of the visiting birds have been ringed, and that's allowed Tim
'to identify six individuals that fly in here every day.'
'Those regular feeders make Lemsford Springs the best place
'in the UK to spot this elusive species.'
They're quite a mysterious bird, aren't they?
They are, and that's why so much research has been done
since the 1980s here in Hertfordshire.
In the long term, by ringing the birds
we hope to find out exactly where they're breeding.
-You still don't know that?
-They leave here in about April-time
-and fly off.
Back here from late June, early July time.
And so they're not gone for very long.
The fact they leave here so late means they're going up
into Northern Europe where summer comes late.
That's a green sandpiper calling, can you hear it? Chip-chip-chip-chip.
-Just down here in front of us here.
-Oh, yes, there we go!
So that chip-chip-chipping, that's the territorial call,
just saying, "Keep off, this is my patch."
Presumably their feathers change colour at some stage,
because they don't look very green at the moment.
No, they're very grey-green at the moment.
The grey does blend in with the background very well.
But as the brooding season approaches
they develop their much stronger colours
and that's when they've got that greeny tinge to them.
The watercress, the raking, the millions of shrimps.
All here just for the birds.
And as long as the springs keep flowing
and those volunteers keep raking,
the green sandpipers will hopefully keep coming back.
The seemingly friendly terrain of Hertfordshire
is a pastoral playground for all.
But in freezing conditions at this time of year,
it can very quickly turn deadly.
When someone goes missing, the police are the first port of call.
But searching through huge areas of countryside can be challenging,
not to mention labour-intensive.
So at times like these, some very special volunteers are called in.
He's part of a voluntary force known as Lowlands Search and Rescue.
Every year, they're involved in finding
over 800 missing persons across the UK.
He's a specially trained springer spaniel,
and he and his trainer Jenny are on call 365 days a year.
We've been qualified for nearly a year now.
He qualified December 10th last year.
What kind of people are you generally looking for?
Usually people with dementia.
-It could be despondents, you know, suicidals,
or children that have wandered off.
'In these kind of rescue situations, where vulnerable people
'are at risk, regardless of the terrain, time is of the essence.
'So a dog like Mitch who can pick up a human scent and track it is vital.'
To get out like this and be training like this is so important,
because, to Mitch, it's no different, the training or the real thing.
-He wouldn't know.
-No, no, no.
He doesn't know at all, he's just looking for...
Well, he's just trying to find the person
so he gets the reward of the ball, really.
'So training is essential to keep their skills honed.
'Today we're going to put Mitch to the test.
'Earlier we sent Alice, our production runner, out into the woods.
'Mitch has never been here before, and Alice is setting out on her own,
'so this is as close to a real-life situation as we can get.
'Time to check in to see if she's found a good hiding place.'
Alice, Matt. Alice, Matt. Alice, Matt, are you there?
'We sent Alice off with a radio, but it doesn't seem to be working.
'And it's getting dark.'
Mitch, we proper need your help now, son.
I'll keep trying her, but...
He's so quick and speedy!
And it's in situations like this where a dog will be doing
the work of... well, 100 guys, I would say.
She's definitely not replying.
'We were all starting to get a little bit anxious,
'and I'm getting a sense of what it's like to rely on Mitch.'
You can see how these situations develop.
Because we've got no mobile phone reception.
-The radio's not working,
-Alice is out here somewhere in the woods.
'We're 20 minutes into the search, and still no sign. When suddenly...'
'..to a collective sigh of relief from the team,
'Mitch's behaviour changes, letting Jenny know he's found something.'
Good boy! Hello, are you Alice? My name's Jenny. Hi. Are you all right?
Good boy! Good boy.
-What was that like, Alice?
I'm guessing you could hear Mitch's bell.
I could hear the faint sound of the bell, so there was hope.
'I can only imagine the relief to hear those jingling bells approaching
'if you really are in trouble in a wood like this.'
-We couldn't get any contact!
-So it actually turned out like a proper rescue.
-Yeah, it was.
'And Mitch's reward for all of this? A ball.'
Now, as we heard earlier,
there's a big problem with wildlife crime right across Britain.
But is it being tackled effectively? Tom's been finding out.
Britain's countryside - peaceful and beautiful.
But look closer and you'll find criminals intent on destroying
the animals that live here.
It's not just the police fighting these crimes.
Many other organisations are involved, too.
Whilst tackling badger baiting falls largely to the RSPCA,
and fish poaching to the Environment Agency, the RSPB are focusing
their efforts on tackling the persecution of birds of prey.
'Mark Thomas from the RSPB Investigations Team has brought me
'to a location where, in 2009,
'he ran a four-week covert operation.'
So what actually happened here?
We got a phone call from a lady who had been walking with her children,
and her children had come across a dead buzzard on the ground
next to the remains of a dead pheasant. She thought it was unusual.
We came here the very next day and we located a further four dead ravens.
'The team wanted to catch the person responsible.
'So, dressed in camouflage gear, hidden within bushes,
'they filmed what went on on the estate.'
'They captured footage of a local gamekeeper,
'visiting various locations where they had found the poisoned bait.
'They suspected he was killing birds of prey to protect pheasants
'reared for shooting. The evidence was overwhelming.'
Clearly see the wings here,
and I can identify this as a common buzzard.
'The gamekeeper told police
'he had lost count of the amount of birds he'd killed.
'He was convicted on 17 counts of wildlife crime,
'but after six months of work,
'it wasn't the outcome the RSPB had hoped for.
'For them, the sentence didn't fit the crime.'
-He was fined a mere £1,000.
-£1,000 for all that?
-It just seems very small, even to me.
-We were incredibly disappointed.
We've had cases since where again a gamekeeper's been prosecuted
for trying to kill birds of prey,
and he was told to pay £17,000 in costs,
so there's a real difference between one court and another court,
and that's something that needs to change.
'The RSPB are not the only ones to have made this criticism.
'In a recent Commons report, it was suggested
'there was little consistency in wildlife crime sentencing
'across England and Wales.'
The report blames the lack of sentencing guidelines
for judges and magistrates,
and also very few prosecutors specialising in wildlife crime.
It also criticises the absence of a national wildlife crime database,
so we can't be definitive on how bad the problem is,
or whether it's getting worse.
People working on the ground have their own concerns.
So this is where you've seen them in the past,
-and they could be today.
Sometimes they're right down the left hand side.
This part of North Wales is a deer poaching hot spot.
Sergeant Rob Taylor has found evidence here suggesting
that poachers are using this field to stash dead deer.
So just about here is the area where it was previously.
Describe what you have seen here yourself.
Just the remains. Blood, some entrails and bits of fur.
Although Rob works as a full-time wildlife crime officer,
he feels complicated legislation makes his job harder.
The law is very complex. Very, very complex.
Some of the laws go back to the 19th century.
These are laws we're still using.
There's numerous laws to deal with numerous offences,
so even experienced wildlife officers like myself,
the first port of call for me is get the books out,
and start reading which law I need to use.
The law is currently being reviewed in England and Wales,
but there's no guarantee it will actually change.
On the up side, there is a National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Nevin Hunter is the head.
We're looking at a peregrine here.
I gather this has been one of the success stories.
Yes, they certainly have.
Launched in 2006,
the unit co-ordinates intelligence between all the police forces.
But there are problems here too.
It has a staff of just ten, and funding is due to run out in March.
-Is there certainty over your future?
-No, there is no certainty.
All we're looking for is sustaining what we've got.
We really do focus in on trying to prioritise
the key things we need to deal with.
In the current financial climate, we understand
that we're not going to get a massive increase in staff.
What is really important we can sustain what we've got,
and carry on with some of the good work we've been involved with.
This year is not just make or break for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Some crucial decisions also need to be made
on how we deal with wildlife crime in general.
With crime fighting budgets falling, will the Government want
to stump up the cash to protect animals, rather than people?
Well, even if they don't, there is another option.
There's a trend towards more local decision-making in policing,
as demonstrated by the recent election for Police Commissioners.
So, if you want fighting wildlife crime made a greater priority
on your patch, then that's now your choice.
In Hertfordshire, I'm getting a rather frosty reception.
Three inches of snow, and sub-zero temperatures
have turned the county into a winter wonderland.
So I've pulled on the thermals to go in search
of some rather fascinating local characters.
This is Tring Park Mansion.
It used to be home to one of Europe's wealthiest banking families,
But one of the family members wasn't so bothered about collecting money.
He wanted to collect animals.
Lots of animals.
Look at this, it's amazing.
4,000 animals, all part of the private collection
of one Lionel Walter, second Baron Rothschild.
What are you looking at?
At the age of seven, young Walter announced to his parents
he wanted to start a zoological collection.
His first exhibits were in a garden shed.
When he was 21, he built his own museum,
here in the Hertfordshire countryside.
As you do.
Walter Rothschild paid collectors to travel the world,
and bring back specimens for him.
You've got a lynx from Spain, a fishing cat from India.
Of course, this is before anybody questioned the ethics
of taking an animal out of its natural environment,
and shipping it half way across the world.
It was actually considered a noble thing to do.
After Walter's death in 1937, the collection was donated
to the Natural History Museum, along with two million artefacts.
Today, his noble work still contributes
to our scientific knowledge of the natural world.
Zoologist Paul Kitching is the current manager.
You can question the morality of starting this collection,
but today it's tremendously valuable, isn't it?
Absolutely. This collection forms part of the Natural History Museum.
It is our national natural history resource.
It's a really unusual collection,
and it is certainly more than just a passing hobby, isn't it?
Oh, yes, absolutely. This is kind of a lifetime's work.
Walter Rothschild was no amateur.
He studied natural sciences at Cambridge University,
and in 50 years of collecting and cataloguing,
he identified many new animals,
including scores of insects, dozens of birds, and a multitude of mammals.
And who were his collectors?
Who were these people all over the globe
that brought the specimens back?
Well, with Walter's family connections
and his family's financial ability,
he was able to place collectors all round the world.
In fact, his niece, I believe, said that the map of the world,
with all of the places he had collectors active,
looked like a map with measles.
-So it was that kind of spread.
Walter also collected living animals.
Including 144 giant tortoises.
And a fair number of zebra.
But they weren't all confined to his estate.
He brought back glis glis,
edible dormice from mainland Europe.
And 100 years ago he deliberately released a handful
into the wilds of Hertfordshire.
Today, there are tens of thousands living in lofts across the county.
It turns out other animal collectors have left us
with reminders of their work too.
The muntjac deer, originally from Asia,
is an escapee currently eating its way through our woodland.
But I'm looking for this.
The black squirrel.
Expert Helen McRobie, from Anglia Ruskin University,
promised me a sighting.
Even in the snow.
So, how did the blacks find their way to the United Kingdom?
The Victorians brought them over from America.
-Those lovely Victorians!
It started off, we believe, in Woburn,
where the first sighting of a black squirrel was, in 1912.
Since then, they've been spreading and interbreeding
with the local grey squirrels.
Genetically, the greys and blacks are linked, aren't they?
Yes, they're the same species.
Apart from the colour, they're identical, really.
I've been looking at the genetics of the black squirrel,
and I looked at a particular gene related to fur colour,
and in the black squirrel, there's a chunk of DNA missing,
which means their fur is black.
How do you know where they are?
Last year, I launched a website for people to click on,
and show me where they've seen a black squirrel or grey squirrel.
I also wanted to get red squirrel sightings.
I was also getting some unexpected sightings.
Where I was seeing red squirrels,
people were also saying they were seeing black squirrels.
I thought they can't be black grey squirrels,
so I went to go and see them.
Formby is one of the places where they've been found,
and there were lovely red squirrels, and also black red squirrels.
-So brunettes, almost?
These newly discovered brunette squirrels are part
of a European variety related to our native reds.
They're totally different to the invasive American greys
and their black variation.
Let's perch here and see.
Time for a squirrel stake out.
If we sit here long enough, we're bound to see some, surely.
Normally, of course, they'd be bouncing around the trees.
Yeah. Actually they really like parkland,
and they're often down on the ground in parkland.
'There we go. Anything up there?
'Oh, no, that's a woodpecker.
Well, it looks like we're out of luck.
The squirrels - greys and blacks - have more sense than us,
and they're staying out of the cold.
But while I've been struggling to spot the wildlife,
there's no chance of Katie missing the animals she's gone to see,
and she's just over the border, in Bedfordshire.
On the edge of the Chilterns, Whipsnade Zoo.
It's been here since 1931.
Not only does it house an array of exotic animals,
it's also home to a site of special scientific interest or SSSI.
Here it is - chalk grassland.
Across the UK, we've lost 80% of this habitat over the last 60 years.
But here at Whipsnade, they're working hard to keep it alive.
In spring and summer,
these special habitats support wild flowers,
like ox-eye daisy,
and hoary plantain.
These plants attracts butterflies, like Chalkhill Blues
and Marbled Whites.
At the moment, this may just look like a winter wasteland,
but in a few months, this bleak landscape will be transformed,
thanks to some careful management.
Ben Poulton has been overseeing the conservation of this SSSI
for the past five years.
So obviously we've got a lot of snow on the ground at the moment,
but is there anything that you might be able to find,
underneath the snow today?
There might be some over-wintering perennials.
Let's delve in and have a look.
So, here we have this mouse-eared hawkweed here,
which in spring comes up as a lovely little lemon yellow flower,
about so high.
We've also got the wild thyme here.
But the flora hasn't always been so abundant.
That's because of some rather unusual grazers.
The zoo's free roaming wallabies.
They were overgrazing all year round, so there was no point
where any of the flowers were able to come up and reseed.
I don't see wallabies here now, so what are you doing to manage it?
One of the first things we did was put a large long fence up,
and excluded them back into the main area of the zoo.
Within a year or two, we had fields
of purple and yellow
returning very quickly.
Resting the site was an important process in its regeneration.
But for flowers to flourish in the summer,
the grass still needed to be grazed,
so while the wallabies were banished,
a few other four-legged helpers were invited in,
and it's part of David Tyne's job to look after them.
-Wow, these sheep are fantastic.
-Lovely, aren't they?
-What are they?
-Where are the badger face from?
-They're Welsh mountain sheep.
Lovely. Why in particular are you using these sheep?
Because they're a small breed, they're manageable.
And smaller feet, they break the ground up
and allow the seeds to germinate.
And they're just great sheep, ideal for the terrain.
Preserving this grassland with our native species
is of real importance in the conservation of our natural habitats.
But there are some other, slightly more unconventional animals
getting involved in the relief effort.
Come rain or shine, the keepers walk the elephants daily
in the grounds of the zoo, which includes the SSSI.
In the wild, they'd roam and graze freely,
so this gives them the chance to stretch their legs
and browse on the grassland. ELEPHANT TRUMPETS
Keeper Lee Sambrook's been taking this walk with the elephants
almost every day for 17 years.
So, who have we here?
So, this is Luca.
Luca is 30 years old, she's a female Asian elephant
and she's currently enjoying the snow that we've got on the ground.
It's quite normal for her and she seems to be scooping it up
-and eating it at the moment.
-Is she not feeling the cold?
They're actually very hardy animals.
They're animals that come from countries where it gets
extremely cold at night-time, and an elephant is a fantastic animal.
It can actually kind of shift the heat in its body
to various parts where it needs it most.
Usually there isn't all this snow on the ground,
-do you bring them out here to eat the grass?
We like to graze them.
They do love grass, they're an animal that, in the wild,
70% of their diet would be grass.
So when you've got them out here, is it a good chance
to look them over and check everything's OK?
Yeah, we can take the opportunity when we're out on a stroll.
So at the moment we'll just get Kayleigh to lift up her feet
to make sure there's no stones stuck in the pads of her feet.
It's important that we're able to do things like this with them
-just so we can keep...
-See her teeth.
Oh, my goodness!
She's got the two at the top and the two at the bottom.
-Currently she's enjoying the ice!
-Teeth looking good today?
-They're looking very good.
-She's got excellent teeth. They all have.
And it's important that they're eating this kind of rough forage,
it helps keep the teeth nicely worn down as well.
Very important for them.
It feels like we're on kind of safari in Bedfordshire. Grasslands.
-And elephants... Are we in the zoo?
-Yeah, we are, we certainly are.
As the elephants head back for a well-earned rest,
it's hard to believe this landscape will soon be in full bloom again.
But not before a few more months of hard work by these little fellows.
And, of course, the odd Asian elephant too.
In the Cotswolds, Adam's farm is also in the grip of winter.
And the icy conditions are causing some problems.
Hey, here. Come on.
It's really important the animals have fresh water every day,
but of course at this time of year, this is frozen.
Get these leaves off, Boo.
Right, so I just stamp on it really to break the ice.
It's quite thick.
There's enough there for them to go out for the day,
but if it stays cold and frozen,
we'll have to come back with a blowtorch
and thaw out the pipe that brings the water up to the trough.
That's nice, Boo, isn't it?
Here we are.
It might be cold,
but my Cotswold sheep are well adapted to these conditions.
These are my Cotswolds, they're a really lovely breed.
Traditional to the Cotswold hills here of course,
and there's about 30 Cotswold ewes, the females,
and this is the ram, he's an absolute monster.
And they should all be pregnant now, so I'll be taking him out soon.
The Cotswolds are famous for their wool.
And he's got an amazing fleece.
Even though it's about minus five today, he's toasty warm under here
cos of this lovely wool, it's a great insulator
and full of grease lanolin that keeps him lovely and dry too.
I borrowed him off a neighbour of mine,
Pat Quinn, who breeds fantastic Cotswolds
and he's an absolute corker,
so hopefully you'll have some nice little lambs, won't you, mate?
These ewes are also due to lamb.
They're a mixture of different breeds.
I'm moving the flock into these secure pens
so I can separate our the rams.
The rams have finished their work now,
these two boys in here are done.
And I've got a Suffolk, which I'll just have to catch and take him out.
There he is. Lovely boy.
So, I'm going to take his harness off. He's finished with that now.
This harness has got a chalk on it, and when he mates with the ewe,
his chest rubs on their rump and leaves a mark on them
and they've got lots of different colours
cos we've changed the colour of the chalk,
and therefore we know which ones are going to give birth when.
He's so strong, he probably weighs about as much as I do.
Go on, you great big stubborn thing!
Wants to stay with his wives. Get out, Pearl!
Come on, then.
The Southdown is a much smaller breed than the Suffolk,
like a little teddy bear.
And they cross very well with the Romney ewes
and produce a fantastic carcass.
Right, get him loaded up.
I'll just let the rams out here.
We'll start feeding them now, they're very valuable
and they've lost some weight.
So I want to get them back into good condition.
Make sure they're healthy. Right then, boys.
Come on then.
You'll see your wives again next year.
I've just dropped them in with two quite lame ewes
that we're treating.
Lame sheep don't walk around and feed very well
and these ewes will give birth in the spring so we want to get them
really good on their feet so they produce lots of milk.
Then I'll bring all the other rams in here over the next ten days
and the rams will live together for the rest of the winter,
then all summer, until they go back to their ladies again next autumn.
Here we go, Eric.
Whoops, he's broken my bucket!
What a naughty boy!
Now, I live and breathe farming and I feel very passionate
about what I do, even though Eric's a bit of a naughty boy.
And last summer I was so lucky to be invited to be one of
the judges for Farmer of the Year
and we had three fantastic finalists.
Guy Watson was recognised for being
a pioneer of the early organic veg box scheme.
I was delivering vegetables to local shops
literally out of the back of my beaten-up old car,
and it's grown from those very small beginnings
to now we pack 40,000 boxes a week,
that's roughly one every three seconds.
Henry Edmunds farms 2,500 acres organically,
with wildlife at the heart of everything he does.
Do you consider yourself a conservationist or a farmer?
I'm definitely a farmer because, without farming,
I couldn't do my conservation work. But every farming decision I make
I'm thinking about the environmental effects of what I do.
Tom Rawson was a finalist for inspiring young people
to join him in the dairy industry.
We're hooking up investors, young people in the industry,
ourselves and farm owners and just trying to get together,
add some scale to the business and make it work for all parties.
And now for the big moment - three inspiring farmers
but only one person can be BBC Farmer of the Year.
We were looking for someone who was passionate about their business,
who was inspirational, a great communicator,
innovative and entrepreneurial.
And the man who's won ticks all those boxes,
and it is Guy Watson.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
25 years I've been growing organically
and been regarded as being nuts for quite a lot of that time,
and, you know, it is a great sort of affirmation
and especially the last three or four years have been really tough.
This year's been really, really tough with the weather,
so, you know, it's great, I'm really, really pleased.
It wasn't an easy decision to make,
but Guy Watson really is a great role model for the industry.
Next week, I'm halter training my favourite Highland calf.
I'm delving deep into Hertfordshire
and discovering all sorts of surprises along the way.
Earlier, I met Mitch and his handler, Jenny Anstey.
He's a dog with many talents.
He can sniff out a missing person day or night,
but his abilities don't end there.
Mitch is also a star in the local flyball team.
WOMAN SHOUTS ENCOURAGEMENT
And if you've got no idea what we're on about,
here's something to get you up to speed.
Flyball is a team game for dogs.
It originated in America and arrived in the UK in the '90s.
The sport's popularity has grown from strength to strength,
and it's even played at Crufts.
I think I've got a new recruit here. This is my dog, Annie.
She's just over a year old, and Annie,
this is going to be right up your street.
Loads of tennis balls flying around.
And you're going to run like stink. Ready? Let's go.
Sue Marsh is team captain of the Racing Herts,
one of the biggest teams in the county.
And she's giving me and Annie a crash course.
-This is Annie.
-We're both raring to go. Can't wait for this.
-How old's Annie?
-Annie is... Well, she was a year in July.
-Oh, lovely age to start flyball.
-Is it perfect, is it good?
-Where do we start? I can see you've got everything netted up.
-So you're going to go in and do the whole row of jumps.
Come on. Come on, Annie. Come on. Quick.
-She's like a bullet!
OK, so this time we're going to send Annie over the jump,
the tennis ball's going on the floor and you're going to ask Annie
to collect the ball, bring it back to you.
Then you'll make a big fuss when she brings it back.
Are you ready? Yes, you are. Stand by.
Go! Fetch it. Annie. Annie, fetch. What a good dog!
So are you up for trying a complete lane?
What a good dog! She's powerful. Come on, Annie. Good girl! Fetch it!
-Fetch it! Fetch! Annie!
-Come on. Come on. Yeah!
What a good girl.
Well done, that was brilliant, she's really, really good.
-What do you reckon?
-Would you like a place on our flyball team?
-Annie, what do you reckon? What an offer!
-She's very good.
Brilliant stuff. Listen, in a minute we are going to catch up with
some of the finest teams in the county, which you are going to love.
But first of all, it's time for the Countryfile forecast. Good girl!
Julia and I have been exploring rural Hertfordshire, discovering
the amazing array of animals that can be found
in this part of the world.
I've even had my own dog, Annie, with me,
trying out the county's favourite doggy sport - flyball.
TRAINERS SHOUT INSTRUCTIONS
But before I see the professionals in action,
head of the British Flyball Association Sharon Allcorn
is giving me the low-down on how it all works.
Basically, a doggy relay. Four dogs per team.
They have to run up to the box, trigger the box
and then get the ball.
They have to then jump all four jumps coming back,
and then they pass through the gate, the next dog coming up.
And you've got lots of different types of dog here,
-not just different breeds but also big and small.
-We have indeed.
The small dogs are actually very, very sought-after if they're fast
and agile, because they keep the jump height down for the bigger dogs.
The jump height is denoted by the size of your smallest dog.
Our top team,
we have an eight-inch Jack Russell that can run at 4.3 seconds.
-That sounds brilliant.
For the past eight years, the Hertfordshire flyball scene
has been steadily growing and thrives on friendly rivalries.
The two teams racing today are the Racing Herts and the High Flyers.
They've met eight times in the past year,
and so far it's level pegging, so it's all to play for.
Never ones to miss out on a bit of friendly competition, Julia is
joining the High Flyers and I'm teaming up with the Racing Herts.
-Jane, I hear this is the winning team.
I hope so because Mr Baker is very competitive, you know.
-Now you're joining us that's fine.
-Is that good?
We're going to win. Talk me through our pooches, who's on the team?
We've got Moss here, his brother, Cosmo.
-They're all related, brilliant!
-And we've got Millie, the Jack.
-And is Millie a key player in it all?
-We can't do it without her.
-Millie looks important.
-And we've got Lennon, the Staffie at the end there.
Right, let's check out the competition. Hello. Hi.
-Who's this then?
-This is Riley.
-Isn't he lovely?
Thing is, I'm not sure we've been paired up with the right dogs,
-because he reminds me of someone.
-What are you saying?
-What, with the long brown hair?
-Let me just have a quick stroke.
-Yeah, very similar.
That's funny because little Millie, the Jack Russell...
Look, just like you, stocky, little bit brawny.
And so well-behaved when you give him a bit of ham.
Get back over there, go on! Right, come on then. Game on.
'Eight dogs, two lanes, one winner.
'The first dogs are off. Blink and you'll miss them.
'The incoming dog must reach the gate before the outgoing dog
'passes through it.
'The last ones, it's neck and neck,
'and Julia and I are going head to head.'
Bring it home! Come on, lad. Oh!
We've got to send him again! Riley! Oh!
'I was too quick off the mark and sent Riley too soon.
'The red light indicated he'd passed through the gate
'before the incoming dog had reached it, so it's a foul.
'Whilst we prepare for the extra run,
'Julia and the High Flyers can celebrate.'
We went too early. Riley...
'The foul means one more run.'
Oh, look at this, it's such a sad affair.
Riley running on his own.
Good lad. Oh!
We went too early at the end.
We've won. By default. We've won.
But it wasn't a true win because it was a bit of a mistake.
I think Riley just went a little bit too quickly.
Oh, Riley, I am so sorry, mate. I sent you off too early.
But in flyball, there's a fine line between perfection
-and disqualification. Hello.
-Oh, bad luck. Hello.
You know what? Very, very fast doggy. Fantastic. What a pooch.
-He is known as Riley the Rocket and you can understand why.
Anyway, that's all we've got time for this week.
Next week we're going to be on Exmoor
when I turn detective and try and solve an age-old mystery.
-Oh, Inspector Clouseau.
-And I'll be finding out about
a little-known photographer who became captivated by the area.
If you don't have your hands on a Countryfile calendar yet,
there's still time. Check the website for details.
Bye-bye. See you then. Riley...
-You should have been with me, love.
-Annie's going to get jealous.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury head to the Hertfordshire countryside. Julia finds out how a super food is providing the perfect habitat for shrimp. She gets up early to catch a glimpse of one of our rarest birds feasting on them. Matt meets the county's finest flyball teams before putting his own dog - Annie - through her paces on one of their courses. He also joins the rural special constables helping local police stamp out crime.
Hertfordshire constabulary aren't the only ones trying to maintain law and order in the countryside; officers across Britain have got their hands full tackling crime against wildlife, as Tom Heap discovers. On his Cotswold farm, Adam is busy moving some rather feisty ponies. Also, he reveals the person named Farmer of the Year in the BBC's Food and Farming Awards.