The team re-create a traditional village Christmas. They bring together the village of Clifford Chambers and capture a bygone age of community, sharing and general good cheer.
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For Countryfile At Christmas we're in the sleepy Warwickshire village
of Clifford Chambers.
School children are rehearsing for their Nativity play,
shepherds are watching their flocks
and there's excitement in the air.
Well, you can't beat all of that Christmassy stuff,
but what we really hanker after is a traditional village Christmas,
where the whole community gets together to celebrate.
So that's just what we're going to do.
Invitations have been sent to every house in the parish,
school children have been recruited
and there's a Christmas tree in the local woods with our name on it
for the village green.
It's a time of giving and sharing
so we've decided to offer our guests a heart-warming Christmas taster.
I'll be making a traditional figgy pudding.
Jules has got his four-legged friends in mind for our celebration.
No Christmas gathering would be complete without a donkey or two.
I'd like to think that you've got THEM how you want them.
-My sense is that they've got YOU where they want you.
And whilst we get the village festivities organised,
John is on the hunt for some traditional gifts.
The most famous Christmas gifts of all,
gold, frankincense and myrrh,
aren't all that easy to come across here in Warwickshire,
so my task is to find some local alternatives.
For Adam, Christmas is a reminder of shepherds watching over their flocks,
still a job that attracts the young.
Connor here wants to start his very own flock of sheep,
so we'll be looking at what is the perfect breed for him.
Two miles south of Stratford-Upon-Avon,
the village of Clifford Chambers claims to be the birthplace
of William Shakespeare.
Apparently, his mother was escaping the plague,
which was rife in Stratford at the time.
This was the house in which locals say the Bard was born.
Historical evidence is scant,
but whether or not Shakespeare breathed his first here,
the village of Clifford Chambers does seem a pretty good place
to get the measure of modern rural life.
In Shakespeare's time,
this village would've had more of a feudal set-up,
with the Manor House, the church and workers' cottages,
where people's lives revolved around the village.
But in the 21st century,
is that sense of community here still strong?
'Martin Gorick has been the vicar of the local parish for ten years.'
-Really nice to see you, welcome.
This beautiful church here, does this still provide
-a focal point for community life even nowadays?
Like a lot of rural villages, a lot of communal places have been lost.
The shops are gone, the local school has gone.
There's still a pub, I'm glad to say,
though that's disappearing in a lot of villages.
You must see a lot of rural life, you work in other parishes,
do you get a sense that today there's a thirst for people wanting
to come together in their community, that they don't get anymore?
Nowadays, a lot of the natural points of contact have been lost,
particularly in villages.
You're not gathering in the fields, harvesting crops together.
People are tending to be sitting in front of computers sending
e-mails and working from home
or going off to the office in another town, coming back to the village.
But we've noticed, I have to say, a real desire to come together,
particularly a festival times - harvest, Christmas, Easter,
the numbers have gone up and up.
Not just here, but across the country at those times.
-And is this because people actually need one another?
-It could well be.
So what do you think of our Christmas get-together here?
I think it's a great idea. We're delighted to welcome you here.
It's a really lovely village and you will make it extra special.
-Fantastic. There'll be a few surprises.
And we'll have a sing-song.
-I'm looking forward to the sing-song, I think!
-We'll see you then.
Look forward to it, bye.
So that's the vicar on board, now for the villagers.
80-year-old Maurice Woodfield
has lived in Clifford Chambers all his life,
and when he was a boy,
Christmas here was the most wonderful time of the year.
Christmas started here in about October.
What happened, the headmistress, Mrs Dodd - Miss Dodd, rather.
She had to compile a list of what you would like off the Christmas tree
which was organised by the Clifford manor, which was Mrs Rees Mogg.
There was no expense spared
you weren't restricted to what you could have off the Christmas tree.
Really? So what did you ask for?
Oh, I, oh, I had, the first time, I had a train set.
Lovely train set, a Hornby train set.
And these presents were given to us
just after Christmas at the Christmas party, given to us by Mrs Rees Mogg.
-You must have loved that family.
-Ah, they were fantastic.
It was a well-run village and in those days nobody locked their doors,
you just went and come.
And we had a lovely time at Christmas.
And what's Christmas like these days here?
It's not a community affair like it used to be.
And I don't think these things will ever come back.
-It's more individuals, each household does their own thing.
Well, we're going to have a go this afternoon
at creating this party once more.
-Do you think that's a good idea?
-I think it's brilliant.
-Thanks ever so much for doing it.
-Oh, no, that's all right.
-We've got a couple of donkeys coming.
-A couple of donkeys.
Is mine one of them?
# Little donkey, little donkey
# On the dusty road... #
These children are from the Willows Primary school in Stratford.
They'll be singing some traditional Christmas carols
to guide us through the programme.
And right now, just like their classmates, children
across the country are dressing up as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds,
three kings and innkeepers to tell the story of the birth of Jesus.
As everybody knows, to complete the scene you need a stable and a donkey.
But here in Warwickshire, they've got them in miniature.
Standing tall at a maximum of 32 inches, these mini donkeys
originate from Sardinia, where they were used for carrying heavy loads.
Here in the UK, there are around 300 of them all together.
Miniature donkey fanatics Julia and Robin Boyce own 12.
-I've never seen a miniature donkey before.
-Have you not?
-Well, this is Sparkle.
-Hello, Sparkle! Is she fully grown?
-She's fully grown. She's nine years old.
I can see why they are so appealing.
-But what makes them so special to you?
-They are so gentle.
They are so willing. And I just love donkeys.
From the word go, when I had my first donkey,
all those years ago, I just adore donkeys.
A standard donkey, nearly 40 years ago, was my first one.
And then I don't know
whether you move up to miniatures all down to miniatures!
-Who have got over here? With Robin?
-This is Red.
-Bring him over, Robin!
-Let's have a look. This is Red.
-This is Red, yes.
-I gather that donkeys brought you two together?
-Well, this is true.
I moved in here, and I have a little paddock,
and the girl from over the road came over one day and said,
"I've got a donkey, can I keep it in your paddock?"
-This was the girl from over the road?
-That's the girl!
-And that was what, how long ago?
-30-odd years ago.
And here we are, with the pack of miniature donkeys,
and you are still together?
Little did you know there would be a herd!
'Keeping these little asses in top form takes a lot of donkey work,
'but for Julie, it is a comfort and joy.'
It is probably worth pointing out, Julie, that this regime,
this morning groom, is something that happens every day of the year.
-Would you say they are spoilt?
No, I would just say that they are just looked after properly.
I have to say they are the best-kept donkeys I have ever come across.
I come up here, I brush, I trim, I bath, I tray,
and I could spend several hours a day,
and the time just zooms by, because I just love it.
I would like to think that you have got THEM how you want them.
-My sense is that they have got YOU where they want you.
These little fellas also need donkey pedicures every 4 to 6 weeks
from farrier Ben Hart.
In comparison to a regular horseshoe or pony shoe,
it really is tiny, isn't it?
Yes. There are a lot of fundamental differences.
Obviously, the shape of the foot is quite different.
As you can see, this small pony shoe here, the size difference
and also the shape differences.
-The horseshoe is quite round.
-Much more curved, isn't it?
I suppose the obvious point is that it's a lot wetter here
than it is in the Mediterranean, where they originally come from.
Yes. That's another reason
why we need to keep on top of them regularly,
because the foot will absorb some moisture,
and the donkey's feet are used to dry, arid countries.
It looks brutal, but it doesn't actually hurt.
-It is just like trimming a nail.
It's just like trimming our nails. They grow exactly the same.
'But it's a donkey derby once they are out of the yard.
'They can't resist grazing on some nice juicy grass.'
Oh, how about that?
An idyllic sort of Christmas scene, really.
# The weather outside is frightful
# But the fire is so delightful
# And since we've no place to go
# Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. #
Julie shows her donkeys every year, and they have won hundreds of prizes.
At this time of year, the females are in season, so our next job is
to take one of her boys for a walk to let off some steam.
He won't be allowed near the girls until January.
-This is Candyman and Full Moon.
-Which one's which?
-This is Full Moon.
-And this is Candyman.
-He is your stallion?
-He is the stallion.
So do we need to be careful?
Yes. I'll go in and close the door,
get him on his head collar, and bring him out.
-Even though they're tiny?
-Yes. They are very, very strong!
-Is he going to take you for a walk?
-Right then, come on!
We'll go for a little walk, shall we? A little short pace.
-It's so typically donkey, isn't it?
I've never taken a donkey for a walk before.
But he's definitely in charge.
Especially when he spots the ladies in the field opposite,
and his animal instincts kick in.
There are the girls! How about that?
Oh, he's noticed them!
Good boy! good boy, good boy! Look at them!
You are all just showing off, you lot. Let's face it.
Come January, all of his Christmases will have come at once, won't they?
Yes. Just got to wait for January!
'Now he has got himself all hot under the mane,
'this book should help cool him off.
'We have asked Julie and Robin to bring some of their miniature donkeys
'to the village later, to help create our Christmas scene.'
Well, of course,
the spirit of Christmas involves the giving of gifts.
Arguably, there is no wiser man than John Craven, so who better to
send out on the hunt for today's gold, frankincense and myrrh?
In the Christmas story, gold, frankincense and myrrh
were taken to Bethlehem from the East.
Well, I'm in the middle of England,
so not a lot of chance of finding them here.
I think a little imagination is going to be needed in our search
for the next best things to take to our village festivities.
Let's start with myrrh,
an exotic tree resin with a very distinctive flavour.
Fergus Drennan is a forager,
and at Brandon nature reserve near Coventry,
he thinks he can find exactly what I need.
Fergus, I am looking for something here in the countryside
that resembles myrrh. Any ideas?
I have a really good idea, but we are going to have to search for it.
-What have you found, then?
-Here is the myrrh-like plant.
The clue is in the name. Smyrnium olusatrum.
What we call it in English?
It was a very popular vegetable with the Romans, who introduced it.
And the myrrh-like smells are in the leaf.
-So are you supposed to smell it or taste it?
Smell that and crush it as well.
At first, there's no taste, and then suddenly...
'As if a leaf wasn't enough, now for the root.
'Fergus has cleared the soil off one of them,
'but is it going to have the same impact?'
-It is stuck in my throat, this taste now!
-It can be an acquired taste.
-So... Do we nibble on this now, then?
-Yes. Have a chew.
It is all cleaned up. The root is even stronger than the leaf.
It certainly is. It has got a kind of carrot-y taste, but very strong.
There is sweetness in there,
but the myrrh taste develops afterwards,
and catches you by surprise!
It certainly does! That's myrrh, is it?
I'll put my local version of myrrh into my gift box.
But it's not really an incense,
which is what the three Kings' gifts to baby Jesus were all about,
so as I search now for frankincense,
maybe we can find something that perfumes the air.
Not so far away, at Garden Organic in Royton,
there is an abundance of plants and trees.
It's the perfect place to continue my search.
And, as luck would have it,
head gardener Andy Strachan is a bit of an incense expert.
He even has real frankincense for me to smell.
And it does have a pungent, bitter smell about it,
See, I love that. That is a beautiful, beautiful aroma.
Frankincense, like myrrh,
is a tree resin found in Africa and the Middle East.
And as Andy's is imported, it doesn't really help me.
My problem is that these have come from distant lands, exotic places.
-I've got find something from Warwickshire!
Are we going to be able to do that, do you think?
I think we are, because all trees have sap, and at some stages,
they will have some seepage of sap,
so I'm sure if we look around the trees,
we will find some bits and pieces that might be similar.
Whether they smell as beautiful as this, I'm not really sure.
'So, can we find a British alternative ripe for the taking
'in the depths of winter?'
-So what sort of tree is this one, Andy?
-This is a common cherry.
-There is some resin, by the look of it.
It is absolutely ideal for what we are looking for.
-That is quite soft, actually.
-Like a hard, crusted jelly, isn't it?
It is, isn't it? That is really interesting, isn't it?
Have you considered this stuff before?
No, never! I look at it and think that they are bad wounds,
or damage to the tree. I'd never thought about extracting it
and trying to burn it and see what it smells like.
So it is a really interesting thing we are doing here.
'We've collected a few samples from around the orchard,
'so it's back to the greenhouse to try them out.'
No, there is a definite smell there.
'What about gage plum sap?'
It smells a bit like the oven might be on fire!
'Nothing quite fits the bill so far. Our last hope lies with this.
'Morello cherry sap.'
It is still quite nice,
though, it is not like our first burnt-toast one at all.
No. I think we can say that we've got our very own cherry incense.
I think you're absolutely right.
But the problems these days, especially round Christmas,
people are expecting an incense that smells a bit more Christmassy!
I would agree entirely.
But there is nothing quite like the smell of pine at Christmas, is there?
No, it is absolutely wonderful, and when you bring the tree
in the house, it is just all that smell from outside comes in.
Andy and I have come to a Warwickshire Christmas-tree farm
south of Birmingham to continue our search for a festive fragrance.
We're not sure what to expect,
so we're getting a bit of insider knowledge.
-You must be Geoff.
-Hello! Good to see you. This is Andy.
-How many Christmas trees have you got here, then?
-More than a million!
We should have no difficulty in finding a little sap.
We are looking for sap to make incense, Christmas incense.
Yes. It is rather unusual, but yes, we can find that.
And it turns out there is plenty of it around.
What you think of that, Andy?
That is just perfect for we're looking for, isn't it?
-Got your knife?
-I most certainly have!
They are just like the little tears we want.
You've got high expectations of this, Andy, haven't you?
It should be full of volatile oil,
so it really should go quite quickly.
-That is fantastic, isn't it?
I think it is definitely the best we have come across.
What you reckon, Geoff?
How are we going to capture the smell to bottle it? We can sell it!
-It is a winner, isn't it?
-We need to capture it!
-There's some in my tin.
-We have got quite a bit spare, haven't we, John?
-It is going to be a hit.
-That is just beautiful.
'Just one more job before I head off.
'It seems a shame to leave a forest full of Christmas trees
'without one for our village festivity.'
That's our tree sorted and two of my gifts.
I still have to find a third,
though, and that is gold, somewhere naturally here in Warwickshire.
And I am off in search of that now.
# We wish you a merry Christmas We wish you a merry Christmas
# We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. #
Along with Christmas trees and goodwill to all,
another essential ingredient at Christmas is food.
It's definitely a big deal to me.
# Good tidings we bring... #
I'm walking in the spectacular grounds of Charlecote Park,
one of Warwickshire's great Tudor estates.
And where better to discover the delights of a pudding
which became popular during the time of Shakespeare?
I'm talking, of course, about figgy pudding.
# Oh, bring us a figgy pudding
# Oh, bring us... #
Legend has it that a young William Shakespeare
was caught poaching in the grounds of Charlecote Park
and it was soon afterwards that he left Stratford
to seek his fame and fortune in London.
Food historian Gerard Baker has come to Charlecote to make us
a traditional Tudor-style figgy pudding.
Let's hope he's come by his produce legally.
-Hello, how are you?
I'm well. I'm looking forward to this.
-Well, we've got some tremendous festive treats for you.
I wondered if I can give you a little job whilst we chat.
-Go for it.
-Would you mind chopping up these figs with the scissors?
-And then I'm going to prep some suet.
So, what's the history of figgy pudding?
Figgy pudding was one of many sweet/savoury mixes
that has a timeline that goes back before Shakespeare.
Figs, along with other dried fruit,
would have been used in medieval cookery to sweeten
-because, of course, sugar was so scarce.
We talk about savoury and sweet, you're grating suet,
-that's definitely savoury.
-That's definitely savoury,
although sweet and savoury weren't really distinguished greatly
in the course of meals
in the way that they are today.
The Tudors started that tradition
because they were such fans of sugar.
So they actually had a sweet course at the end of a meal
whereas prior to that, animal fat was often mixed in
with grain and pulses in porridges
along with dried fruits and spices
and those wet, sloppy porridge mixtures from the Middle Ages
evolved into the puddings that we have today.
Right, figs done.
-Excellent. What's next?
What's next is breadcrumbs so what I'm going to do
is cut the end off that square loaf
and just ask you to pull out the crumb from that.
The easiest way to do it
is just to pull the crumb
-out the centre and tear it into the figs.
-OK, got it.
So when did figgy pudding become a Christmas thing?
Well, Christmas pudding and fig pudding were always
traditionally allied to Christian festivals.
Partly because they're expensive,
so they would have been kept for celebratory occasions.
And, of course, partly because
things like the fig is the first fruit mentioned in the Bible
so often there were biblical connections to the way
foods are used and celebrated.
A lot of the things that we do celebrate Christmas with
have their origins in Tudor or Elizabethan times
because that's when we started to get food from the New World,
so we start seeing
turkeys and potatoes and greater spices in variety.
Our traditional figgy pudding comes together by chopping up
the candied ginger, mixing it into the suet then combining it
with our figs, breadcrumbs and eggs.
Last in is the milk.
-Is this too wet now?
-No, that's good.
It needs to be some of the dropping consistency.
Once transferred to a cooking bowl,
our pudding is wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil
and popped into boiling water to steam for a couple of hours.
Right. Now that's cooking,
we've got a lovely thing to show you here which is the Coventry God Cake.
-What is that?
-Well, it's a kind of triangular mince pie.
The triangle representing the Holy Trinity, hence God Cake,
and it's made with a very simple early form of pastry,
quite chunky, but one that will be lovely and flaky
when it's cooked, so I'm going to crack on with these.
-I look forward to that.
-Make plenty for later on.
Yeah, that'll be great. See you later at the get-together.
-I shall be there.
-Smashing, thank you.
-See you later.
I think Gerard's food is going to go down a storm
with the people of Clifford Chambers,
especially if there's a tipple to wash it down with.
Let's see what the wise man John can come up with.
After tracking down British versions of frankincense
and myrrh in the form of pine tree incense...
-'..and the roots of the Alexanders plant.'
There's just one more gift for me to find.
A local source of gold.
Mines in the North of Warwickshire made this county famous for coal,
not gold - there's none of it around here.
But my search for the best alternative
has brought me to these wetlands,
created during the production of liquid gold.
Thankfully, this isn't the liquid gold,
it's just a by-product.
Everyone will have to take my word for it,
but this is a pretty unpleasant smell here.
It's a bit like slurry, really.
'This sludgy, bubbling scum is what's left over from
'the ale-making process and, in rural Warwickshire,
'they've found an environmentally friendly way of dealing with it.'
So, what happens here, then?
Well, we output from the brewery, which we'll have a look at later
and you'll see some of the solids and some of the yeasts
and hops we need to deal with and the spent grains.
It's quite a slurry, so it needs to be broken down.
-Is it still a little bit alcoholic?
-A little bit alcoholic, yeah.
We see occasional ducks going around in circles and, indeed,
a few mad geese running around.
-Once that's dealt with, what happens then?
-These banks are planted
with willow, hazel and alder and the root systems
go through the clay and allow the water to flow through the system.
So the water is actually getting cleaner and cleaner
-as it progresses along?
At the start, it's quite heavy with solids,
and at the end, it's actually good enough to drink.
We may not do that today, but take my word for it.
'So that's what's left over, but where's the gold itself?
'Well, traditionally, ale is a dark brown colour
'but here they also produce a truly golden brew,
'Floran Vialan is the man who makes it.'
This is the colour beer I'm used to drinking
and have been all my life.
How do you achieve that colour?
Well, it's called amber beer and those colours, I brewed it
with a darker malt. The more dark malt you use,
the more darker the beer will be.
-That's very nice.
-For example, that.
-I like that.
But I must say I don't think I've ever tasted a gold ale.
-And that is made with this much lighter malt, is it?
That is very nice and it does taste like a beer and not a lager.
I'll tell you what, I'll have a keg of it.
Well, my quest is over
for Warwickshire versions of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
I've got my gold ale, and, in here,
I've got my Alexander root as myrrh, and pine sap as frankincense.
So I'm off, bearing these gifts to our village party.
I just hope their Christmas tree has arrived in time.
And it's here! All 20 feet of it.
Now all we have to do is get it in that hole.
'This is just one of the eight million
'real Christmas trees which will be bought this year.'
What about that?
One village Christmas tree.
'Here's what's still to come on tonight's Countryfile.
'Adam guides a potential shepherd of the future.'
-So, what's your favourite so far?
-The Balwens, I think.
-Well done you.
'Ellie is making the most of the dark winter skies to go stargazing.'
Surprises me, actually.
I didn't thank you could do something quite as simple as this.
'And we'll hopefully be bringing comfort and joy
'to the villagers of Clifford Chambers.'
Lovely. Now all we need are a few decorations
and Jules is on the case.
# Deck the halls with boughs of Holly
# Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la
# 'Tis the season to be jolly
# Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la. #
'Christmas, undoubtedly the busiest time of the year.
'Everyone's rushing around like mad,
'gathering all sorts of decorations
'to dress the house for the festive season.'
Look at this. Wreaths, stockings, fairy lights, tinsel.
When it comes to Christmas decorations,
the list is potentially endless.
As, indeed, are the queues
because the chances are,
everybody is trying to buy exactly what you are.
But it wasn't always like this.
Rewind to medieval times,
and it wasn't the high street that was so busy.
It was the woods.
Everything you needed to deck your halls could be found in here,
if you knew what to look for.
'Richard Cook is a specialist weaver
'and fashions ye olde Christmas decorations
'out of just about anything and he's going to show me how.'
If you can twist it, turn it, I can weave it.
Yes, yes, no problem at all.
-I'm looking at this willow here.
-There's some willow.
We have some willows, it's...
yep, it's been dampened off, so we can work something with that,
for example, if you just wanted a quick start,
-if we bend it, one, two, three, four, five, OK?
-Go like that?
And it sort of goes twinkle, twinkle, little star,
and that's taken a couple of seconds,
doesn't require any batteries,
just a bit...a few twists with the hand.
-I'm making mine up now.
-That's near enough!
-It's like I say to everybody, have a go!
-You're very kind.
I can see you're underway with some wreaths here.
What are you making those out of?
You can use the stuff that you would take down to the tip on a Sunday.
This is a bit of Russian vine, just give it a twist
and you get the basic of the wreath.
This is just brush, isn't it, the sort of stuff we'd throw away.
Yeah, throw away or burn it or compost it.
What is it about the wreath that makes it
such an important part of Christmas?
Wreaths were used in celebration throughout the year.
Obviously, at Christmas,
it used to show that you've gone full circle throughout the year.
The whole circle of life.
'Decorations are all well and good, but back then,
'the festive period was all about survival.'
Matt, just how important were woodlands to our way of life
-way back when?
-Woodlands were fundamental.
People would have worked in them in the winter,
when they'd finished on the fields, the agriculture was over.
They'd have been in the woods, managing the woodlands,
collecting fuel for the fire to cook on,
to get them through a hard winter.
But why so much activity during the winter?
You'd think we'd leave that for the summer.
That's the time to be cutting trees down, when the sap's down,
the leaves are off the tree, it's stopped growing.
So for managing woodland,
winter is one of the most important times of year.
It is a time to be managing the woodland, yes.
For centuries, our ancestors
would have coppiced trees to make the wood go further.
Oak, hazel and ash naturally regenerate when cut down,
and throw up lots of new shoots.
What would you use that for, for example?
That could be a beanpole, for use in the veg patch, or hazel hurdles.
This is a hazel that's clearly overgrown itself a little bit.
It's what we call overstood,
it hasn't been cut for a very long time.
We could still use pieces like this, but the large, overgrown parts
would go for firewood or charcoal-making.
Working out here in the bleak midwinter is tough,
so the well-prepared would have put dinner on early.
Woodsman Mike Ashton has something cooking to warm us all up.
Look at this! Hi, Richard!
You got down here in a hurry, I don't blame you.
-Hello, Mike, how are you?
-Very well, you?
Now, this is what it's all about, isn't it? A good woodsman stew.
Definitely. This is venison stew,
they'd have caught the venison in the woods.
Could have been rabbit, or it could have been a pheasant as well.
-But this is venison.
-You've got plenty of fuel for the fire.
We fell the trees, we use the ash, this is seasoned ash.
-We'd used some for making charcoal as well.
-Was charcoal that common?
Was it the major fuel of the Middle Ages?
It was common, they'd have used the scrap wood
they couldn't make into good items like chair legs,
put them in the charcoal kiln to use as fuel later on.
(MUFFLED) This is so hot! HE LAUGHS
'Wow, that WAS a winter warmer. But there's no time to relax.
'Matt's set up a traditional pole lathe, and it's my job
'to turn some local wood into some Christmas candlesticks
'for our village do later.'
-A simple case of putting my leg on there?
Right hand at the back of the chisel, left hand steadying it.
-And then draw it down?
-Pushing the chisel in as you're pedalling down.
-Nice, steady rhythm.
-It's quite satisfying, isn't it?
The wood is green wood, it's still got the sap in, it's softer
-and easier to cut.
The standard you're looking for is one of these.
That's very nice, isn't it? OK, that's what I've got to...
-That's what you're aiming for.
-..got to get to.
Right, leave it to me, mate. How long have we got?
# While shepherds watched their flocks by night
# All seated on the ground
# The Angel of the Lord came down
# And glory shone around. #
Animals play a central part in the Christmas story.
The three wise men with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh
were often depicted on camels heading off to Jerusalem.
Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem with a donkey
and ended up in a stable with cattle lowing.
And, of course, there's the sheep.
Modern sheep farmers in Britain don't need to stay out at night
with their flocks for fear of wolves,
but they still need to keep a close eye on them.
Bill Meadows has been farming here in the fields
just behind Clifford Chambers for 21 years.
Do you need to be amongst your sheep quite as much as they used to
in the nativity days?
You don't have to be amongst them as regards
watching them all night in that sense, on the low lands.
But you do need to be with your sheep to make sure...
see their reactions, how they're reacting.
Is one acting in a different manner?
It may have something wrong with it.
It's those observations of signs of problems in them.
We do get predators, foxes will pick them off at times.
Especially if the ewe has got a few lambs or one's weak.
And I suppose when the sheep become valuable, then poachers too?
Yes, that's increased dramatically last year
with the price of lambs in the recession.
-We've seen cases of several hundred vanishing at night.
It's well organised, lorries arrive and load them up away from buildings,
farmers go in the morning and find them gone.
Yeah, that's been a real problem at times.
So you still need to watch your flocks?
Yes, watch them closely and at least bringing them inside now
will keep them safe for the winter and things like that.
Fantastic, in they go.
Bill has kindly agreed to donate a couple of his sheep
for our Countryfile village get-together a bit later on.
And sheep are at the forefront of Adam's mind this week
as he's on a mission
to help a shepherd of the future find his perfect flock.
I'm going to meet somebody who's asked me for advice
on what sort of sheep they should keep on their farm.
'Hello, my name is Connor, I'm 12 years old.
'My dad has 30 acres and he says I could get some sheep.
'I was hoping to contact Adam from Adam's Farm.
'I would like to ask him about what sheep to buy.
'I watch Adam every week on Adam's Farm.
'I reckon he should have his own show, he rocks.'
-Hi, are you Connor?
-Bore da, as they say in Wales!
-How are you?
-I'm fine, thank you, how are you?
I'd love to have a look around your field.
Pop your wellies on and we'll have a look.
'First impressions are that it certainly looks like
'a great place to grow up as a young lad.
'But how about those sheep?'
Have you got any sheep at the moment?
-Yeah, we have three sheep. Two ladies and one ram.
-Is that right?
And how many acres of grass?
We have 30 acres, all fenced and ready to be eaten by sheep.
'He shares the friendly family pet - a Charollais ram -
'with his older sister.'
-He is very strong.
'But now Connor wants his own flock.' Hello, fella.
-Now then. He's friendly. What a lovely spot, look at the sea!
I tell you what, as someone who wants to be a farmer,
this is a young boy's dream, isn't it?
-What an amazing place.
What sort of research have you done,
what sort of breeds do you think you might like?
Well, Balwens, because they're rufty-tufty.
-Well, the Balwen, that's a little Welsh ewe there, isn't it?
The Balwen's the same size as her, a Welsh sheep,
except they're beautifully marked.
They're black with a white tail, white socks and white blaze.
Pretty little sheep, and they're a rare breed.
While you're young, you really want something you can handle, don't you?
The Balwen fleece is a little bit coarse, and not very valuable.
At least they'll be a decent size for you to be able to turn over,
-trim their feet and look after them if you need to.
And the best place to show Connor some fantastic local breeds
is at the Welsh Winter Fair.
But before Connor and his mum and dad arrive,
I want to sample a few festive flavours.
-Would you like to try?
-I'd love to try the salmon. Wonderful.
-All the way from Crickhowell.
-That's our oak-roasted salmon.
That's a lovely little starter.
-Adam, come and try some Welsh sausages.
-Look at this!
Main course, thank you very much. Delicious.
Goodness me, these look wonderful.
Absolutely beautiful, these are Christmas pudding mince pies.
-Goodness me, made out of ice cream?
Look at that, we've done it all, we've even got dessert.
'Delicious! But I mustn't get too distracted.
'I need to help find those sheep for Connor.'
It's all about showtime, panazz and sparkle.
And this one gets extra sparkles. Look at that!
Like a Christmas tree!
Aw, how cute is that?
Look at that!
Isn't it lovely?
If you've got some sheep, you need a sheepdog.
And remember, they aren't just for Christmas.
'The show's a great stomping ground for old hands.'
-How long have you been trimming sheep for?
-About 50 year.
-Ever since you were two?!
-No, a bit more than that!
'And young ones too.'
-Doing well, thank you.
-Can you say ta-ta?
The Welsh mountain sheep have to be really hardy
to survive up in the Welsh mountains
but there's lots of different colours, shapes and sizes.
So those are the pedigree Welsh mountains, the white ones,
and across here are the prettier ones.
These are Torddu and these are Torwen -
a different colour derivative.
This young lady's walking a couple of Balwens along
and that's what Connor's interested in.
'Right on cue, the Owens arrive and I've a treat in store for Connor.'
They've let us come into the show ring here.
These are all lambs and these are the hill breeds,
so all the Welsh hill breeds here to choose from.
So, let's see what you like the look of.
So these are pedigree Welsh mountain. What breed? What particular breed?
Lots of different white Welsh mountains. What do you think to them?
Well, they're a great sheep but we'd like more colour in it.
Sorry to reject you.
Here's some with a bit of colour, what about these?
They're great. We've got a mixture in these sheep
and that's what we want for the farm.
What you've got here are badger-faced and they're two different colours.
There's the Torwen, which has a black body and a white belly,
and then the Torddu, which has a white body and a black belly.
-They're just reverses of one another, really.
But they produce a good-quality lamb, great mothers, real survivors.
-Which do you prefer?
-I prefer those two
because of the colours in their faces.
Yes, that bit of tan in their face. They are lovely.
-Good starter. Let's move on and see others. Here's your Balwens.
What do you think to them?
They're nice. They've got a white and black colour to them
and that's a mixture and what we're looking for. So...
Lovely. They look stunning when you get a whole flock of them,
with that black and white.
They really stand out. Yeah, lovely little sheep.
-One of the smallest Welsh hill sheep.
-So quite small and not a very big lamb for the table.
-But I'm told the meat is very sweet. It's supposed to be delicious.
Sh! Close their ears!
So, try and remember what you've seen here
and have a think about it.
Whenever you've got a flock, looking at them every day,
you really want to love them. They are going to be part of your life
-and so you want to be happy with them every day.
So what's your favourite so far?
-The Balwens, I think.
-Well done, you. We're getting there.
'Connor's head's been turned by the Balwens,
'which I think are perfect for him.
'They're small, so easy to handle, wonderful mothers and very hardy.
'So let's see how he gets on in the auction.'
Can we get a buyer's number, please?
Right, so that's your buyer number - 214.
So you bid and if you get it,
hold the number up and they know who it's gone to.
-There. Look after that.
-Great, thank you.
'Connor has a limit of £240.
'He'll be doing the bidding himself, which is quite a responsibility.
'So all that's left is words of wisdom from his nervous parents.'
-Once you've got to your limit, just stop.
-Yes, there is a limit!
-I'm terrible for going beyond my limit.
-There is a limit, OK, honest!
-Shall one come in with me?
-Don't look at your mother, look at me!
There is a limit!
Right. 402 in the ring.
-Are you excited?
-Are you excited?
'Soon enough, our lot comes through
'and Connor is more than keen to start bidding.'
A cracking pair of lambs this time for you.
Ewe lambs they are. 29 kilos.
'The auctioneer starts the bid off at £150 but with no takers,
'he drops it to 80.'
Right, you're in.
AUCTIONEER SPEAKS RAPIDLY
-£100 bid. 102? At two. 105 bid.
At 108. 110? 110 bid, coming in now 12.
At 112, 15. 115. 18? At 118. 20. Thank you very much, near side.
-At 120. 120 bid. Missed anyone out?
-That's it, you've got 'em.
Anyone else? Cracking good pair of ewe lambs.
At 120. 120 bid. Up for sale at 120.
-Hold up your thing.
-Thank you very much. 214.
Well done. Fantastic! Congratulations!
Hey! Got your first sheep!
'I'm really chuffed for Connor. Hopefully I'll be back next year
'to see how this young shepherd has got on watching over his new flock.'
# We three kings of Orient are... #
Adam helping a new shepherd kick-start his flock.
# Field and Fountain Moor and mountain... #
Earlier on, thanks to the nativity of Willow Primary School Stratford,
we got a bit of dramatic reconstruction
of the moment the archangel Gabriel appeared unto the shepherds.
But the messages from above didn't stop there.
# O, star of wonder, star of night
# Star of royal beauty... #
Another part of the Christmas story that captures our imagination
is the three wise men who travelled from the East bearing gifts.
A curious part of their story
is the rising of a big, bright star in the sky
that they followed hundreds of miles across the desert.
Here in Britain, it's the Winter months that usually provide
the best conditions for stargazing.
I'm meeting Dr Johanna Jarvis, who's chosen one of Warwickshire's
darkest spots for our rendezvous, hence the infra-red cameras.
-Hi, Jo, how are you doing?
-Hi, Ellie. Nice to meet you.
Seen much so far this evening?
Not so far but it's looking good for later. I'm laying in wait.
Winter is quite a good time of year, why is it so good for stargazing?
Well, we get nice, long nights. Very dark nights.
And the atmosphere is nice and still as it's cold.
Just like Earth heats up when it gets warm over the summer,
so does the atmosphere.
The problem is, the atmosphere boils like a pan of water would.
So all that turbulence can result in a star changing in brightness,
changing colour slightly.
So let's say I was to want to start stargazing, what kit would I need?
Don't worry about starting with something like this.
This is worth a few thousand pounds. Don't spend that much.
-Step away from the expensive one.
-What else is there?
-Things you can start with are these.
First point, I would say, get a good pair of binoculars.
That surprises me.
I didn't think you could use something quite as simple as this.
Yes, the name of the game in astronomy
is trying to collect as much light as you can.
You've got two big 50mm lenses on those binoculars
that will collect a lot more light than your eyes can
and it will magnify everything by about 10 times.
-It's a good place to start.
-Start with those.
-This looks interesting. What's this?
-This is the next step up.
Spend a few hundred pounds on this.
Stick it on your Christmas list.
Yes. Doesn't need any setting-up. Take it straight outside.
So, given we're suffering cloudy conditions here,
-is there anything else to look at?
-Technology comes to the rescue.
-What you can see on the computer screen here
is what we should be able to see in the night sky,
were it not for the clouds.
-Lots of software like this is freely accessible.
-Wow! It's incredible!
You've got all the constellations marked out
and one of the most important things at this time of year,
the planet Jupiter.
It's big. It would be very clear, were it not for the clouds.
Is that how we'd see it, that big?
Well, we can actually zoom right in on Jupiter and have a look at it.
That is the view you'd get through a telescope.
-Even just that small one,
you'd pick out the planet as a disk with cloud belts across it
and pick out the four Galilean satellites in orbit around Jupiter.
What other things, during this winter,
would be really good to look out for
and relatively easy for people to find?
A constellation that most people will know is the constellation of Orion.
It actually represents a man out hunting.
He's got two hunting dogs and he's fighting Taurus, the bull.
-All very dramatic.
-I'm sure I've never seen that detail in the sky!
Orion is a really interesting constellation
cos you can track the entire process of stellar evolution.
We've got Orion's belt -
three stars across his middle.
You've got what look like three stars hanging from his belt -
being his sword -
but if you look just with a pair of binoculars,
you'll realise the middle of those three stars
doesn't quite look like a star any more.
That's actually the Orion nebula -
a big cloud of gas and dust -
and you've actually got stars being born inside that cloud.
Your next step from there is the star Rigel,
making up one of Orion's knees.
Really bright, blue star. Prime of its life.
Opposite extreme, you've got Betelgeuse -
or Beetlejuice for astronomers with a sense of humour.
A really obviously red star.
Even with the naked eye, you'll see it as being really, really red.
And that star is very, very close to the end of its life.
We can see how unstable it is but we don't know
HOW unstable it needs to get
-before it blows up in what we call a supernova.
Going back to our Christmas story,
what are the scientific theories around the bright star
that rose for the three wise men to follow?
We've got three theories.
Either it was a very bright comet,
which would move across the sky and potentially lead three wise men.
You could have a supernova - a star blowing up.
Or even just a group of planets all sitting at the same point in the sky.
Around 4BC, you've got Jupiter, Saturn and Venus
all sat very, very close together in the sky.
So with a telescope, you'd be able to separate them
but they didn't have that technology.
So looking with their eyes, they'd see that as one very bright star.
-Very interesting stuff. A new take on the nativity story.
-A science take.
Well, the children are here and their lanterns are lit. Very good.
The locals look like they could be in fine voice.
Before their jaws freeze,
let's find out what the Countryfile forecast
has in store for us for the week ahead.
Welcome back to Clifford Chambers,
where our mission was to recapture the spirit of Christmas.
We've invited the villagers
to get together and join us for a festive celebration on the green.
We were never planning a silent night
but something calm and bright
and we are making the most traditional entrance possible,
on board these wonderful Warwickshire camels!
-It's quite bizarre!
-Although villagers wouldn't arrive on camels,
gatherings in villages like this used to happen in rural communities
at Christmas every year but somehow it's all been forgotten.
This will be the first time it's happened here in years!
-Lead on, wise men!
-I've got a faster one than you!
-And Jules! Sorry!
-PEOPLE CHEER AND APPLAUD
How regal does this feel?
Ooh! Hang on, who's going down first?
-I'm going...ooh! On our way!
-Hang on, John.
-Well done, Jules.
-All right, John?
-Well done, camel.
-If I lean back...whee! That was a bit sharp!
-Hello! Just ride it down.
Oh, very good.
-Ooh! That was pretty elegant.
-That was absolutely delightful.
'We pulled off our descents quite gracefully.'
-Figgy pudding, anyone?
'Whilst Ellie and I catch up with our guests,
'John and Jules are displaying their Christmas offerings.'
-Here we come with our gifts.
-What have you got, John?
Well, my gold, frankincense and myrrh - locally produced.
-This is gold ale.
-I made that.
-Do us a favour.
-Candles in there?
-Candles in there.
-I'll put the wreath out.
-There we are.
There. Very Christmassy!
Well, the Christmas spirit is flowing,
but how is Ellie's pudding going down?
Vicar Martin Gorrick is about to taste it.
-Tell me what the verdict is. I made it.
-Did you? Fantastic, Ellie!
-Really, really good.
-So what do you reckon to our gathering?
I think it's wonderful! Really, really nice.
-Got lots of friends here from the village.
-All excited to be together.
-Sort of cold...
-Yes! But a warm feeling.
A very warm feeling. Really nice.
Do you think you'd do a gathering like this in future years?
Oh, I think so.
If we could get a band out here, sing some carols, it would be brilliant.
Excellent. Good community spirit.
-We like it. I need to restock.
-Where's it all gone?
-I'd better replenish. Nice to see you. See you in a bit.
I'm on the hunt for Maurice.
He's lived in this village for 80 years and when he was a lad,
Christmas was more of a community occasion.
Maurice, can I interest you in a God cake?
Yes, you can. Thank you ever so much.
Before you shove that in your mouth, what do you think of all this?
-It's beautiful. Never seen a gathering like it for years.
-Did you think it would ever happen again?
-I'm ever so pleased.
And here we are, foot of the Christmas tree,
which is sparkling away beautifully.
Everybody's here having a great time.
What did you think to the arrival on the camels?
Well, that was brilliant. You got tears in my eyes with that.
-Aw! Maurice, bless you!
-Great, Matt. Thanks for coming.
-Listen, a very merry Christmas to you.
-And to you.
-Aw, my friend!
-Anyway, enjoy that.
-I will! Thank you!
PEOPLE CHATTER AND LAUGH
-It's a great atmosphere.
-How long have you lived here?
-And never seen anything like this?
-No, we haven't.
What do you think of our miniature donkeys?
Would you like one of these for Christmas?
Here you go! Here's your candle.
Are you going to sing for me in a minute?
I want to hear your singing voice.
What I've got here is a bit of mistletoe. Give us a kiss. Mwah!
-They're nice, are they?
-You haven't got any reindeer, John.
-Not there but how about this one?!
There really is a wonderful Christmas spirit here.
-I think it's been a fantastic success.
-It absolutely has.
It wouldn't be a Christmas gathering without a Christmas song.
-Indeed. Shall we do some singing, everyone?
Here we go, after three, one, two, three!
# We wish you a merry Christmas
# We wish you a merry Christmas
# We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year
# Glad tidings we bring yo you and your kin
# We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year
# So bring us some figgy pudding... #
Well, that is all we've got time for from our village Christmas.
We do hope you're feeling as Christmassy as we are.
Next Sunday is Christmas Day, so there won't be a Countryfile
but we will be back at 8.00 on Wednesday 28th,
when we'll be looking back at some of Britain's finest country estates.
But, from all of us here in Clifford Chambers, it's goodbye and...
# We wish you a merry Christmas
# We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
# Glad tidings we bring to you and your kin
# We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. #
CHEERS AND APPLAUSE
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd 2011
E-mail [email protected]
The team re-create a traditional country village Christmas. They bring together the Warwickshire village of Clifford Chambers and capture a bygone age of community, sharing and general good cheer.
No Christmas scene is complete without animals, so Matt Baker visits a couple passionate about their miniature donkeys. Ellie Harrison makes figgy pudding to bring to the celebration, whilst John Craven looks for the modern day gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Adam Henson has sheep on his mind as he takes a young wannabe shepherd to the Royal Welsh Winter Fayre to choose the animals for his very first flock, and Jules Hudson is in the local woods looking for materials to help deck the halls with boughs of holly.