In a special edition of Countryfile, Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury explore Hampshire and learn how the county's ancient forests and chalk streams inspired pioneer film-makers.
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Our tiny country has more than its fair share of natural wonders.
From crystal clear rivers
to ancient forests
and picture perfect pastures.
Until a few decades ago, unless you were an enthusiastic traveller
or you live in one of these glorious places,
you could be forgiven for not knowing much about them.
But, then, something magical happened.
A little box in the corner of our room flickered into life
and, in just a short time, showed us wonders we had never seen before.
It wasn't easy to catch those first faltering glimpses,
but when they succeeded, those early film-makers
helped transform the way we thought about our countryside.
In tonight's special programme,
we'll pay tribute to just a few of those dedicated men and women.
And, for one of us, it's a very personal journey.
Long before I found myself in front of the TV cameras,
my dad was telling the world about what is was like
to be a farmer.
-A lot has changed since then, Dad, hasn't it?
-It certainly has.
So, a time to look back at the films that opened up a window
on a whole new world.
Our journey into the past starts in the heart of Hampshire.
This county of contrasts has inspired
more than its fair share of filmmakers.
And no wonder.
Later on, we'll be exploring the ancient beauty
of the New Forest.
But, first, I'm here to see this.
The gin clear water of a chalk stream.
Rare and fragile, there are only 200 of these streams in the world.
Almost all of them are in Britain
and some of the most famous are here in Hampshire.
So, it really is no surprise that this landscape
and, in fact, this very spot,
was the inspiration for one of our most defining nature films.
Made in 1968, it was the BBC's first colour wildlife film
and the public loved it so much, it was repeated eight times.
-'The river is home for many creatures.
'Water rat paddles for the safety of the home bank.
'A tell-tale shell dropped by a kingfisher.
'Now a parent.
'The birds are busy delivering tiny fish to tiny offspring.'
This pioneering film was the first of many
for husband and wife team, Ron and Rosemary Eastman
and it changed the way we saw the natural world.
I'm catching up with their daughter, Liz Baylis,
to find out how they made the film
and to discover more about their extraordinary love of nature.
So, how did your mum and dad start making films?
-How did it all begin?
-It was my dad.
He was a projectionist at the cinema in Whitchurch.
He would sit watching films that somebody else had made every day
thinking he could do better himself. He went off and bought a camera.
Having kingfishers living on the River Tess,
was an opportunity to film them.
-And your mum? What was her role?
-She was the sound recordist.
Luckily, she had an interest in wildlife, particularly birds.
They did everything together.
Ron and Rosemary's vision was to reveal the intimate world
of one of the riverbank's most elusive creatures, the kingfisher.
But, as no one had done it before, no-one knew how to do it
or even if it could be done.
Every step of the way was a test,
not only of their skill and patience,
but also of their ingenuity.
Well, Liz and I are going to have a go at recreating
some of the tricks and techniques that Ron and Rosemary used
to get the kingfishers in exactly the right position.
-It all started with these jars and, Liz, some bait, yeah?
OK. You've laid out some jars last night, was it?
Yes, last night.
What is the ideal tempter for a kingfisher from a food perspective?
They like minnows, sticklebacks and bullheads.
-Let's have a look and see what you've got, shall we?
-There's a stickleback, isn't there?
-Yeah, there's a stickleback and there's definitely bullhead.
These fish are going to be the stars of our show
but as they're from a protected habitat, we'll release them
back into the river once we're finished
and we've checked that we are OK to do this.
For Liz, though, these fellas are small fry
as growing up in a house that often doubled up as a film set,
really was a wildlife experience.
It wouldn't be unusual to come home from school,
walk up the stairs, go into the shower and find a swan,
go into the bathroom and find eels in the bath.
One of the weirdest ones was opening the fridge
and seeing a rattlesnake in there.
-Really?! How many pets have you got now?
-We've got two goldfish!
-'The bullhead shuffles down among the stones.
'It's into this flickering, quiet world
'that the hero of our story makes his entry.
'The kingfisher. The most beautiful bird in Britain.'
So, having caught the bait then, Liz, how did your mum and dad
then contain it so they knew where the kingfishers were going to land?
This is a mock replica of what they would have done.
They would have used a ceramic ceiling light turned upside down,
-covered in cement then gravel.
Yes. We went to the charity shop and just got a glass fruit bowl.
Chicken wire, cement so that it looks like the riverbed
so the Kingfisher isn't put off by it.
Then you place it in the river
so that the water doesn't completely overflow it,
Trickle in. Yeah.
Basically, the fish goes in the middle.
'Inspired as this was,
nowadays kingfishers are protected by law and you'll need a licence
from Natural England to photograph them near a nest.'
It's a way to make sure that, when filming, you know where they'll be.
This set, constructed within the river, did the trick,
allowing the couple to capture detailed footage
of kingfisher behaviour for the first time.
-'She's got one!
'But she's accidentally speared it with her upper mandible
'instead of grasping it between the mandibles.'
But Ron and Rosemary were far from content.
They wanted to get, literally,
beneath the surface of what they saw,
filming a kingfisher capture its prey underwater.
These days, technically it's not too much of a challenge.
You simply use an underwater camera
that's designed and made specifically for the job.
But back in Ron and Rosemary's day, this equipment wasn't around.
So, how did they film underwater
with a camera designed to be on land?
Well, to help us shed light on the subject,
I've got one of the top wildlife cameramen around today, Hugh Miles.
Hugh, thanks for sorting us out with the first hit of that. Lovely!
And Liz has got Rosemary's, book. So, what did she say, Liz?
Well, she documented everything, so she's basically said:
"To film underwater properly, we needed an aquarium.
"We made one two feet long and 1.5 feet wide and deep,
Perspex front and sides, loaded the fish and put it in the river".
Right, so we've got two tanks down here then.
Hugh, we're going to do a bit of old school underwater filming.
Just pop those in there then, shall we, Hugh?
Yeah, hopefully they've got plenty of oxygen.
It's a kingfisher's feast, that!
OK. So we've got another tank there then, Liz.
Give us an idea of how this comes in, Hugh.
Well, one way of filming it is to put another tank by the side
and then a camera in that tank.
-A plastic tank enables you to operate the camera easily...
..and get the shot you want.
We've got the camera, which is good news. Have you got that?
Sorry, Liz, you've turned into a camera assistant!
She's been that before, I'm sure!
That's right, yeah!
So the camera goes in. We know where the kingfisher will dive
because they're in there.
That is all pretty contained. Look at that!
-'In ultra slow motion,
we follow him into the water.'
-'If, at first, you don't succeed...
'He's got it!'
They set the bar really high.
They were pioneers and they did some wonderful films.
Obviously inspiring you to do what you're doing today.
Oh, certainly. Yeah.
And, it's similar to how we're still striving
to show new things in new ways
to inspire the audience to love wildlife.
The Eastmans went on to make many, many films in a career spanning
more than 30 years.
They brought nature into the nation's living rooms.
And they revolutionised the way we saw the world around us.
For their family, though,
these films remain as a very personal reminder.
They're something which I took for granted.
My mum and dad filmed so that everybody can enjoy.
So people that wouldn't normally know
the life of a kingfisher can watch a film and see it.
And my children will grow up
and will be able to see what their grandparents did, which is great.
'Well, there's our kingfisher.
'Charming in manner and graceful in its arrow flight.
'The bird which Tennyson described as
' "the secret splendour of the brooks." '
While I've been exploring the chalk streams of Hampshire,
Julia has been following in the footsteps of a man
who revolutionised the way that we film our favourite animals.
'The New Forest,
'a place where natural wonders await you around every corner.'
This really is a unique animal kingdom,
and one man in particular brought it to the attention of the world.
'The 1961, Eric Ashby created a whole new approach to wildlife filmmaking.
'Eric's goal was to become one with nature,
'totally immersing himself
'in this landscape to capture the creatures that live here
'undisturbed by man, in their own environment and on the own terms.'
'There are new arrivals of a different kind
'in the burrows under the trees.
'And it's not only fox cubs that emerge in the great awakening.
'In the soft light of evening, the young badgers are up and about.
'What characters they are!'
His whole aim was just to be able to share the wildlife
and nature that he loved with the rest of the world.
'Eric spent over four decades making his films in the forest,
'where he lived until his death in 2003.
'To find out more about the man and the forest he adored,
'I'm meeting family friend Frankie James.
'She's about to show me his love affair with wildlife was lifelong.'
These are some of his very, very early photographs.
Yes, these are when he was still a schoolboy
and he used his little basic camera to take photographs,
mainly of birds, eggs and the next, fledglings.
If you had to guess what he was going to be when he grew up, then...
-the clue was right there in front of you, wasn't it?
Roundabout that time, apparently he said to his mother,
"Is there anything you can think of that hasn't been invented yet?"
So he was obviously even then thinking to himself
of doing things differently.
-What can I do? How can innovate?
I've heard he was a patient man, but he didn't see it like that.
Well, no, his attitude was he loved doing it, it was his great interest.
And he said, "I'm not patient, I'm just interested in what I'm doing,
"and if you're interested in what you're doing,
"you don't need patience."
Ultimately, he could have gone anywhere in the world
with his work, but he chose to stay here, in the New Forest.
Well, he loved the New Forest.
He really felt he could have lived another life again
and still not got to the bottom of it all.
It's easy to think of Eric's forest as a timeless piece
of our natural world,
but in fact, as his films showed us, it's anything but.
'Times change. This forest isn't frozen in museum attitudes.
'No petrified forest but a living thing.
'In each generation, man modify it, reshape it, crop it,
'earn a living from it.'
In the 1960s, the Forest was prized for its potential
as a giant wood yard,
feeding our growing appetite for consumer goods.
Today, the value of the natural landscape Eric so loved
is treasured more highly.
These trees are being felled to restore precious heathlands
smothered years ago by this cash crop of fast-growing conifers.
And there are many more ways in which the natural state
of the New Forest is being revived.
This all looks very pretty,
but all was not as it should be with this river, is it?
No, this is a natural drain that was dug 150 years ago to divert
the course of the natural river that was here back then.
By straightening these river systems,
you increase the speed at which the river flows through them,
and it scours out all the sands and gravels and clays
and makes the riverbed a lot deeper,
and it's not replenishing the natural environment
and the nutrients that these richer woodlands need to survive.
So what are you doing with your can?
Well, basically, we're looking for the old course of the river
so we can put this river back into its natural channel.
Standing here, you can actually see the way it curves
and has shaped the ground beneath us.
Yeah, you can see those two trees bearing the distance.
-The river would have run through them?
-Through the middle of them.
-So you mark here?
-We'll mark out the centre of the new channel,
so that when the guys come in, they can see where they have to dig.
-Come on, you have a go.
Look at that! Amateur!
Once an old river system is located,
it's time to call in the heavy machinery
to lay the original channel bare.
This might look destructive, but within weeks, this gouge
in the grassland will once again become a natural waterway,
sustaining not just the life within it
but the wider forest which surrounds it.
One thing that's remained ever-present this landscape
is an animal which featured in another of filmmaker Eric Ashby's
landmark films, voiced by Sir David Attenborough.
'Late August - the antler is now dead bone.
'As the leaves fall off the trees in autumn,
'so the velvet on the antlers withers and dies.
'Now the magpies move in once more, but after insects this time
'but to pull off and eat the remaining strings of dried velvet.'
Five out of the six types of deer found in Britain live here
in the New Forest.
Then as now, the job of looking after the deer population is down
to the forest keepers - men like Jonathan Cook.
-Fancy meeting you here in a beautiful forest like this!
-You'd better show me some of your patch, then.
-Let's have a look.
'And I couldn't leave here without following next footsteps
'to see some of the animals he so loved
'in their uninterrupted splendour.'
Aw, there they are.
'Eric Ashby exposed the marvels of this forest to the world
'over have a century ago.
'The unique footage he captured through his patience and passion
'awoke a yearning in us.
'Every day now, more than 40,000 people make their way here
'to share in Eric's world.
'This place may no longer be a secret,
'but by respecting his ethos of observing these natural wonders,
'it remains a sanctuary for all that his work sought to celebrate.'
Eric Ashby was a groundbreaking filmmaker.
And 40 years ago, another innovative television programme hit our screens.
And the idea was simple. Some presenters would walk along a canal
in the Cotswolds and film any wildlife they saw in real time.
John's been following in those footsteps.
Nearly 40 years ago, four experts and a couple of film crews turned up here
in the Gloucestershire village of Sapperton
to make television history.
The idea, revolutionary at the time, was to film just what they saw.
Incredible. You come into the countryside
and what's the first thing you see? A hunt.
-Morning! Here, boys.
All the team had were public rights of way, their own expertise
and the time to walk and perhaps most importantly to stand and stare.
Today, were back in deepest Britain to find out how they did it.
And with me is one of those four, the botanist
and writer Richard Mabey,
to recreate the experiment.
It's the greater burdock,
which has solid stems.
Natural history filming had become very elaborate.
The first kinds of high technology were beginning to come in.
And you felt very distant from it.
And we wanted to see what it would be like
if you just took a few people out on an ordinary day's walk
in the English countryside, unprepared, unscripted.
We didn't even know the route before we started.
And just to film what happened.
It was that concept then that lead to things like Springwatch
I think it did. I think you can trace a long line of programmes
which tried to get closer to the heartbeat
of what was actually happening at the moment.
One of their innovations was to have a cameraman
with a real eye for nature sitting quietly
on the side of a millpond from first light,
just to see what wildlife would happen by.
This is just a perfect time for a naturalist.
The fish are moving in the water.
And nearly 40 years on, Richard Taylor-Jones from Springwatch
is on the very same millpond to see what he can film.
A kingfisher just flew past with a fish in its beak.
A lovely start to the day,
but I don't know if I'm going to be able to capture it on film.
OK, well, we have our first member of the cast this morning,
down here at the millpond.
Oh, look at this!
The dabchick! Oh, that's just delightful.
Oh, here's a dabchick. A little grebe.
It's...it's got a fish.
I think it's time we had a sit down in the sun, John.
Good idea, Richard,
because one of the messages from your film, wasn't it,
was it's good just to stand or sit and stare,
-see what's going on around.
I'm very surprised by the extent to which the balance between
woodiness and open pasture here seems much the same
as it was years ago. I thought it would have been different,
because there were a lot of elms,
and they were plainly dying,
-so you might have expected...
-You came across a whole stand
-of elms and you are worried about their future, quite rightly.
Well, there's another tree with Dutch elm disease, I'm afraid.
More than one.
Yeah. This one...is on its way.
This one is on its way.
And this stand has had it altogether.
I mean, the whole of this billow of trees up here
is almost exclusively elm,
and it's likely that they'll all be gone in five years' time.
(I've just had the most briefest of glimpses of a kingfisher.
(It just perched upon the branch right next to me.
(And here comes again.)
I've been hearing this bird since I got here.
I've seen glimpses of it flashing past,
but finally it's settled down.
A couple of birds up there.
It's just a big crow.
There was a wonderful moment in the film
when you spotted that hawk, the hobby.
-Ah...no. It's a hobby.
-It's a hobby.
-It's a hobby.
'I think it's the one place in the film where we really funked it.'
John Gooders thought it was a kestrel,
and he being the best ornithologist in the country at the time,
one would have bowed to him, but I knew it was a hobby!
So we had 30 seconds of intense argument about its identity.
What we did wrong was then to go back and tidy it up.
We should have had that real moment of exciting chaos.
"What the hell is that?! Can you see it?
"With my binoculars. Can I find it?"
And that wonderful 30 seconds of muddle would have been
a better sequence than the one we eventually had.
We've got a fantastic coot fight going on.
This is a coot. And look at this, he's carrying nesting material.
Trying to get on with another brood, perhaps.
I think we deserve a little liquid refreshment, don't you, Richard?
I don't know about all this nature -
that's the best sight I've seen all day!
Well, this is where you ended up, on the original film, Richard -
outside the pub, having a pint.
Yes, we were very pleased to arrive here.
I think the experience of doing a programme on the hoof,
shooting the entire thing in 12 hours,
editing it in a few days
and then showing it a few days later,
was a fantastic shot in the arm for natural history television.
And, Richard, down at the millpond, how was your day been?
It's gone very well, thank you. I got treated to a kingfisher.
-And you had the snitch of dabchick as well.
-We did, a dabchick.
All the ones that were seen in our film years ago.
And I found the same thing, that there was a continuity
in the landscape, and I find that very heartening.
Yes, I suspect that millpond is unchanged from when you were there.
And do you know what, there were some huge carp in the water.
And carp are very, very long-lived fish.
And I wouldn't surprise me
if they were some of the very same fish filmed before.
It's nice to know that there is that solid landscape
just sitting there to be enjoyed.
-'Earlier on, I discovered
'how Ron and Rosemary Eastman made their pioneering film
'revealing the private life of the kingfishers
'living on Hampshire's chalk streams.
'To learn more about these walkways,
'I've come here to the River Itchen near Winchester
'to find out about a very English pastime
'that's helped make these rivers what they are.'
Long before Ron and Rosemary Eastman brought the wonders of chalk streams
into our homes, they were well known by a particular group
of enthusiasts, and as you can see,
I've come kitted out to meet one of them.
'These waterways are claimed by some to be the birthplace
'of modern fly-fishing.
'And it's certainly true that their histories are intertwined.
'I'm meeting John Slader from the Salmon and Trout Association.
'He's fished here for over 30 years.'
-Well, what a peaceful scene this is! John, how are you doing?
-How are you?
-Yes, well thanks.
-Have you caught anything yet?
-But there's all was the one that got away, isn't there?
-Well, it's good to see you.
-So, obviously, busy fly-fishing.
The whole point of fly-fishing is to try
and emulate the fly that's dancing on the water.
And you've got these little fake flies
that replicate the different stages.
Very much so.
From a life-cycle point of view, three simple stages -
and nymph, an emerging insect and then the adult fly on the surface.
Well, we've got some flies in this in this box here.
-What's the story behind these, John?
-Well, those are blue-winged olives.
Went in the river and extracted out some nymphs,
and they just happened to hatch out in the bucket.
So let's see if we can do a comparison here.
-Here we go.
-And there we've got the artificial with the real thing.
And as you see, what we're trying to do is not only mimic
what it looks like but also the size.
And of course it's the way it sits on the top of the water,
probably more so than what it looks on a side vision,
because the fish is looking up.
Would you like to have a go?
-I would love to have a go.
-What we're trying to do,
come from the blindside to present that fly over the finish,
hopefully fooling the fish for the fish to come up and take the fly.
And then you've got that satisfying moment as the fish comes up,
takes the fly and then drops down again.
-Which will never happen today. Anyway, let's go on.
-Very satisfying, isn't it?
-It's very relaxing, yeah.
-I'm not having much luck, am I?
-No, but that's fishing for you.
I'm enjoying it!
I'm just playing with the other flies that are dancing around.
-I'm not bothered about catching a fish.
Later, I'll be taking stock of the chalk streams
and discovering more about the threats that face them.
But first, we're back in the New Forest with Julia
on the trail of some of our most elusive mammals.
This forest is teeming with wildlife.
The real skill is finding it. And that's why Eric Ashby was the master.
Earlier, I discovered how Eric captured life in the New Forest
over four decades, starting in the 1960s.
One character in particular intrigued him.
'While badgers are shy and nocturnal, so are rarely seen,
'but I've found that, with care, I could get close to them
'and sometimes I even saw them playing at three in the afternoon.
'To share my experiences with others, I bought a cine camera.'
Eric developed his technique over a lifetime
and he really set the standard
when it came to filming animals in the wild.
'I always arrive long before the badgers emerge.
'I never walk over their sett
'and always put my camera downwind of them
'so that they can't scent me.'
'I'm meeting Manuel Hinge, a modern-day Eric Ashby.
'Manny's going to show me the lengths Eric had to go to.'
So this is a sett that he frequently filmed at?
Yes, this is one of Eric's setts.
In the early days, he would actually have a clockwork camera,
not quite a clockwork camera,
you wind it up and it gives you about 30-seconds run.
You very soon, quickly find out
if you film badgers with this, unadapted,
they won't stay out very long.
Also, the other problem that went with that particular camera,
and including the camera that's in here,
was it was all done on film in those days.
Of course, beautiful film.
-Here is a roll of film that is now out of date.
It would last just over two-and-a-half minutes.
So, every two-and-a-half minutes
you would have to take the film out, reload.
Exactly. Today is quite different.
Today we actually shoot on tapeless, or film-less.
We shoot on to discs and essentially
that is 40 minutes of high-definition film.
So you've got 40 minutes, you've got two-and-a-half minutes.
-Can I have a look at the soundproofing?
-Of course you can.
This box was actually built by Eric himself.
I'll put that back in there.
But the main part of the camera, that was the focusing hatch,
put your hand through there.
Also, all these little bags in here
were labelled by him as to where they went.
-"Against the front of camera."
-"Against camera, top of camera."
That is actually the camera he used. He used a Beaulieu R16.
There it is, the example of his obsession, his passion, his detail.
What are the chances of spotting any badgers right now?
Non-existent. The middle of the day, no.
Also, I wouldn't even come back here in the evening
because there is so much scent around.
There are other places to film badgers,
and Manny's going there later.
It wasn't just in the forest that Eric was an innovator.
He wanted to film badgers underground too,
no mean feat in the 1970s.
Collecting concrete and drainpipes
he built a two chambers full of straw bedding.
One under the garden shed, complete with camera.
He hoped to inquisitive badgers would explore this des res.
And explore they did.
'I had to accustom the badgers to my lights.
'This was the very first badger to except my lights
'and he was only four-foot away from me.'
These first ever shots of badgers underground
revolutionised our understanding of these complex animals.
But in the true spirit of Countryfile,
we want to find badgers in the wild.
I've got over the fact
that we are not going to film any badgers at this sett today,
but if I came back say in five days, what are the signs to look for
to know the badgers are in residence and are actually still here?
Well, there are many signs that show an active sett.
The first thing is you've got a large hole
which is shaped like a cross section of a loaf,
it's D-shaped at the top.
You have a vast amount of earth
that they've been digging out and throwing over this mound.
-So that's them?
..they come out just onto this area here, they groom.
-If you look, there's tiny little hairs.
White tips and black just behind the white tip
which gives them that silvery look if you see them in daylight.
This is their little lounging area.
But also, look, it's on a path that goes away.
I'm sure there's more signs around the corner.
There are some actually unusual signs of badgers
which you wouldn't normally think about.
If you look on this log here, you've got scratch marks.
Lots of scratch marks.
This is where badgers have been climbing over the tree.
Because badgers are Mustelas they have five claws,
not four like the fox, five.
Just here, one, two, three, four, five.
It looks like they've been playing noughts and crosses up here.
Signs are all well and good,
but there's one more thing Manny needs to film these badgers.
That's for us to give him some peace.
As light begins to fade, the badgers emerge.
Since Eric made his films, badgers have thrived in Britain,
along with the wildlife film-makers he inspired.
Now faced with the spread of bovine tuberculosis
in which badgers play a part, the plan is to cull them.
Who knows what the future will hold.
We aren't the only ones taking a nostalgic walk down memory lane.
Adam and his dad have also been looking back at life on the farm.
Farming's my life and I spend a lot of time on camera
sharing my love of the land.
But long before I got in front of the lens,
it was my dad doing the talking.
'Take a lung-full of the fresh Cotswold air.
'Now finding Angela Rippon In The Country.'
Back in the '70s, Dad had his own career as a television presenter,
often rubbing shoulders with telly royalty like Angela Ripon.
'What are you digging for? You look as if you're looking for gold.
'Well, this wheat's slow coming up,
'I was just checking it was germinating.'
Dad's mission in those days was to convince his audience
of the value of traditional ways of farming.
'The Cotswolds were always a livestock-rearing area.
'Today, it's mostly a great big sheet of corn
'and no longer do you see the patchwork of fields of grass
'which, to most people, is the idyllic picture of farming.
'Something which I would love to see come back.'
His plan to make sure our farm bucked the trend
was to keep plenty of animals.
Do you recognise the handsome lad on the right?
We still have animals today,
my children Ella and Alfie have grown up with rare breeds.
Preserving traditional breeds like these rare sheep
are at the heart of Dad's philosophy
and I still rely on his wealth of experience.
You haven't lost it.
I've lost a couple, actually.
In the early days, your mates thought you were nuts.
When I used to take Gloucestershire Old Spots into Gloucester market,
they laughed me out of the market and I used to give them away,
but now you've got a waiting list, haven't you?
We have, yes. It's a niche market.
Named, old-fashioned breeds. People want them.
There's a Portland ram lamb I'd like you to look at.
-I'll just catch it.
I think he's a very nice Portland, nice tanned face,
plenty of gap between the horns there which is important.
A black line on the horn there
which is very popular with some breeders.
-I think he's worth keeping as a ram.
-OK, off you go, fella.
Thanks to people like my dad,
British rare breeds are a little less rare.
He dedicated his life to getting them back
into the heart of farming.
Like most farmers, he has his favourites.
'Of all our rare breeds,
'I think the longhorn is the one with the brightest future.
'It really seems to be staging a comeback.'
That was a very good jump, little man, wasn't it?
A very good jump indeed.
Using pioneering techniques like semen collection
help secure the future of breeds like the longhorns.
They are doing well now.
One of my favourites on the farm nowadays though are the Gloucesters.
We need to tag a freshly born calf.
-But it is quite quick on its feet.
I think you'll have a job, but we can try.
And as usual, he's right. They're not having any of it.
Go on, you mad things. Why are you so stirred up?
You're supposed to be quiet Gloucesters.
-Looks like they're all going whether we like it or not.
Go on, little calf, in you go.
Life's a lot more secure for our rare breeds now
than it was 40 years ago.
There's been some good success stories, Dad, hasn't there?
Well, yes. We were keeping longhorns
and now they are no longer a rare breed.
And the Gloucesters, you were personally involved in saving.
Yes, a group of us got together
and saved the ones from the last herd
down at Wick Court, near Arlingham
and then there was about 50 left in the breed.
-Now there are 700.
-Incredible, isn't it?
Right, let's get these tags in his ears.
There you go.
There you go, little one.
One thing that has changed on the farm
since Dad's day is our machinery.
Dad and his business partner employed five men.
We have the same number in the team today, but thanks to all this
high-tech machinery, we're able to farm twice the land.
-Combines have changed a bit.
-Haven't they just!
Enormous, and you've got one sitting out in the dust!
Of course, some things never change, like hay-making in the summer.
It's as vital to get it right now as it ever was,
because buying it in to feed our animals over the winter,
would cost us thousands of pounds What do you recommend, Dad?
Well, let's have a look.
I reckon that's nearly fit to bale.
D'you reckon it'll go tomorrow, still a little bit of green, isn't it?
-Well, there is a nose on it.
-Got a bit of nose, hasn't it?
-Horse hay, really.
-With this lovely weather, you can't fail.
Go on then, crack on!
It is great having my dad still involved
and he clearly loves it.
And what about the next generation?
Alfie and Ella certainly enjoy living on the farm.
And those crazy dogs, Dolly and Boo, have a great time as well.
And Dad's still taking a keen interest.
This spring barley's looking really well. What's the secret?
We planted stubble turnips in here
and graze the sheep on them all winter
and I think their muck has helped this barley grow
-when we planted it in the spring.
-Well, that's the old rotation.
You couldn't grow wheat and barley on the Cotswolds,
unless you folded sheep first.
Ella, do you like having animals on the farm?
Yeah, well, I love the ponies and the chickens and the dogs
and without the farm I wouldn't be able to ride on the ponies.
-What's the best bit about the farm for you, Al?
Well, I like the animals, but making dens is the best.
Having fun, it's all about having fun.
Fingers crossed for another 40 years of farming on the Cotswolds.
I've been exploring the chalk rivers and streams of Hampshire
and celebrating pioneering filmmakers Ron and Rosemary Eastman,
who lived and worked on them.
In 1994, Ron was persuaded to make one last film.
He finished it just months before he died
and it's never been broadcast.
This is the first time it's been seen on television.
The film highlighted the fragile beauty of the wildlife
depending on chalk streams.
But also dangers, like pollution, that threaten their future.
I really do wonder what Ron and Rosemary
would make of the state of the chalk streams today.
Some have seen an improvement since the '90s,
but many are still in a really, bad way.
Dogged by pollution and mismanagement of times gone by.
This stretch of the River Itchen
is well managed by the Hampshire Wildlife Trust,
but it's essential to keep an eye out for problems.
Angler John Slater's going to show me how to take a spot health check.
Just stand above it and hold the net just downstream
and really give it a good old kick around, get into the gravel there.
How often would you do this then, John?
Well, the Anglers Monitoring Initiative,
we've got people that do this on a regular basis,
once a month, because it's a bit like the canary down a mine,
if you've got a problem in the river,
what's the first thing to show up, a problem with invertebrate numbers,
so by doing it on a regular basis, if we get a problem,
we can call up the Environment Agency
and they'll come and do a closer examination.
Invertebrates, the small marine life living in these rivers
depend on native plants like water crowfoot and ranunculus,
but their well-being is threatened,
both by our growing population taking too much water out of rivers
and by phosphorus pollution, caused by farming and industry.
This means that even on well-cared for stretches of stream
like this one, it's a constant battle to keep the water clean
and the wildlife in good condition.
-So, just talk us through what we've got.
-These are blue-winged olives.
This one here is the mayfly.
The others which are interesting to look at is this one,
which looks to be all encased in a house,
-do you see him walking around?
-Yeah, well, that's a sedge.
It looks like there's quite a lot in there, are you surprised?
I would hope that there was more, actually,
when you look back in terms of historically,
because some of these populations of invertebrates
they've collapsed by as much as 70 percent, so it is a major concern,
because, after all, these are not only food for fish,
but they're there for bird life, etc...
so they've got a lot of mouths to fill.
The Eastmans revealed the wonders of these riverbanks
over four decades ago. Now, they're still a rich resource
but we should never lose sight of how fragile they can be.
If you want to find out how you can play your part
in helping to preserve these unique habitats, then check out
our Countryfile website.
In a while, we'll be revealing
how an ancient Gloucestershire oak
created television history,
but first, if you want to get your hands
on a Countryfile calendar, here's John with all of the details.
With your help, the Countryfile calendar has been raising money
for Children in Need for 22 years now
and if you'd like these wonderful photographs
to be gracing your walls next year,
well you can order the latest copy right now.
Either by going to our website which is bbc.co.uk/countryfile.
Or ringing the orderline on: 0844 811 7044.
To order by post, send your name address and cheque
to BBC Countryfile Calendar,
PO Box 25, Melton Mowbray,
Please make cheques payable to BBC Countryfile Calendar.
Remember the calendar costs £9 and a minimum of £4 from each sale
will go to Children in Need.
Brilliant. There are some wonderful entries in this year's calendar.
Now all of the competition winners had to take a walk on the wild side
and if that's what you're planning in the week ahead,
you'd better know what the weather's got in store.
Here's the Countryfile forecast.
Today, Countryfile has been looking back at some of the natural films
that changed our understanding of the natural world,
and the wonderful wildlife that was captured on camera.
We've been celebrating the pioneering films and filmmakers
who brought the countryside into our living rooms,
and I'm still in Gloucestershire,
this time, in the Forest of Dean, to tell you the story of The Major.
English oak trees were planted to keep the Royal Navy in ships,
like the ones that defeated Napoleon's fleets 200 years ago.
But some of the oaks from that time survived,
and it's the story of one of them that we're here to discover.
Back in 1963, on this very spot,
the BBC made its first wildlife documentary in colour,
though initially, it was shown in black-and-white
because the colour television service didn't really get going
until four years later.
The film was called The Major, and it told the dramatic story
of an old oak tree that had spanned three centuries
and was about to be felled.
It stood right here.
'The ringing stroke of the axe is the bell that tolls for The Major.
'A heart of oak that has beaten the time of the seasons
'through three centuries has only a few minutes left.'
The oak was the central character in the drama,
a strong magnificent tree about to be cut down in its prime.
The Major was at the centre of village life, we were told.
A meeting place,
and a noticeboard.
Good for climbing, or just watching the girls go by.
'The Major looked down each spring on the oldest of all pastimes.'
but the real drama lay in the lives of the countless bugs
and beetles that lived in The Major.
'Successfully hatched from their hiding place on The Major's trunk,
'the caterpillars make no secret of their presence now.'
Bart Venner was a young forester when The Major met his untimely end.
And when it came to the felling,
you were around to tell the director exactly when it was going to go.
Well, yes, because being trained in forestry,
you can hear a tree when it says it's about to fall.
They talk to you, makes all sorts of noises,
and I could say, yeah, you know, get the cameras rolling.
-And they captured it perfectly on film, didn't they?
So why did The Major have to go, then?
The tree itself was a nuisance
to the traffic coming out of the cricket ground
because the size of the tree blocked the view.
-Ah. A traffic hazard, really.
The filmmakers did take a few liberties, didn't they?
Oh, certainly, yeah.
They wanted a village in the Forest of Dean,
and a church in the Forest of Dean,
but the snag is all the churches in the Forest of Dean
are in villages hidden by trees,
so they went over to the Cotswolds, I think it was Eastcombe.
The Major wasn't really at the heart of the village,
-cos there wasn't a village.
-Only a pub.
-And what about the cricket team?
When they filmed the supposed cricket match,
I think the team was brought in as actors,
because the filming would have been done during the week
and our cricket team wouldn't have been free until the weekend.
'For the first time anyone could remember,
'a six had landed slap on the top of The Major.'
But it made quite a tale, didn't it?
Oh, yes, it was, it was great and it put the forest on the map.
It's no surprise that those pioneer filmmakers came here
to the Forest of Dean to celebrate
the life of such a typically English tree.
Once called the Queen of the Forests,
there's just under 20,000 acres of mixed woodland here,
but there's only about half a dozen old oaks left
that predate the hero of this story.
And I suppose what this film, The Major, did,
was to tell millions of people just how important the oak is to Britain.
Oak is very much part of our culture, part of our history.
Everything from oak shipbuilding
to building timber-framed houses is a very English thing.
Lock gates are made of oak. It's a fantastic quality timber.
The Major caused a stir in 1963,
and just a stone's throw away from where the mighty oak stood,
we're now going to put on a film show of our own.
Thanks to the British Film Institute,
which takes care of our national archive,
we've got one of the very first wildlife films from 1912.
And who was the person behind the camera, then?
It was Oliver Pike, who was one of our...not very well-known now,
but he was one of our
most innovative and famous early wildlife pioneering filmmakers.
And he gets very close to the birds, doesn't he?
And I thought cameras in those days were very noisy affairs.
How come he didn't disturb them?
He thought of a noise that would emulate the camera,
and so he got a tin can and put some stones in and shook them,
until he thought that the birds he was about to film
were quite used to it,
and then he would drop the tin down and started the camera,
-and it all went smoothly.
What makes this film so remarkable, Jan?
I think it's because it's such an early example
of a very natural looking colour, an additive colour onto film.
-So it wasn't actually shot in colour?
-So the colour's painted on?
It was added on, yes.
He made these films before cinema, so how would people have seen them?
They would have seen them at the precursors to cinemas,
which where the music halls and theatres of the time,
and here we have a programme from the London Opera House from 1912,
where you can see we have a number of different variety acts.
-And then, after the interval, cinematography!
-A film about bees.
-So, a "bee movie!"
-A "bee movie!"
Before Mr Pike came along, most people would have never,
ever seen wildlife like this.
No, no, no. To show those images of wildlife was incredible.
And it still looks good, doesn't it,
100 years on from when he first shot it.
Just one of the gems in the archive of natural history films,
and if what you've seen tonight has inspired you, here's a challenge.
If you're keen on filming wildlife, we'd love to see your best clips.
You can find details
of how to share them with us on our website.
And if we like what you've filmed,
then we'll put it on the website for everyone to see.
And that's it tonight.
Hope you enjoyed our tribute both to the pioneers who created
the art of wildlife filmmaking and to the landscapes that inspired them.
Next week, we're back with the very latest from the countryside,
so hope you can join us then.
Until then, goodbye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
In a special edition of Countryfile, Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury explore Hampshire. They find out how, just a few decades ago, the county's ancient forests and clear-running chalk streams inspired pioneer film-makers to capture footage of wildlife that helped transform the way we think about our countryside.
Julia walks in the footsteps of Eric Ashby, the man who set the standard for filming some of our most compelling mammals, including badgers, foxes and deer. Matt meets the daughter of Ron and Rosemary Eastman, the filmmakers who first captured the private life of the kingfisher on camera in colour, to find out how they did it.
Meanwhile, John Craven is in Gloucestershire discovering the stories behind two very different wildlife films made there. And Adam Henson takes a walk down memory lane with his father, Joe, looking back at the days when it was his dad in front of the lens telling people about life on the land.