Matt Baker and John Craven head to South Wales. Matt is on the coast finding out what's being done to rejuvenate its sand dunes, while John unearths a tale of deception.
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South Wales - an industrial landscape.
But step away and there's beauty.
Open countryside, vast beaches and sand dunes, tall and imposing.
These dunes are so important
that they've been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
But all is not well here,
because they're turning from free-flowing sand
to giant, solid grass hills
and I'm going to be finding out
why they're moving sand on a massive scale
to restore life to these dunes.
I'm inland from Matt, unearthing a tale of deception.
68 years ago, the biggest escape
by German prisoners of war from the United Kingdom took place right here.
70 prisoners tunnelled their way to freedom from this hut
and now, with the help of a digger and 3D technology,
we're going to discover exactly how they did it.
Meanwhile, Tom's hot on the trail of our fastest-growing source of energy.
You might like to burn a log or two
to give your living room a bit of sparkle
but Government and industry are rebranding wood as biomass
and think it could be a good way to generate
lots of electricity to power our lives.
Environmental triumph, or a disaster? I'll be investigating.
And Adam's finding out how we satisfy the nation's sweet tooth.
This is a root crop called sugar beet
and there's around 20,000 tonnes of it down there,
and it's used to make this stuff - granulated sugar.
I'll be following this crop from the harvest in the field
right through to sugar here in the factory.
The vast beaches of South Wales -
glistening waters, lined by golden sands.
Endless rugged dunes hug this land.
We're on a stretch of the coast between Swansea and Bridgend
starting here at Kenfig sands.
This may look like a typical seaside scene,
apart from the hefty steelworks puffing away over there,
but there's a lot more to this place than a bucket-and-spade holiday.
It is, in fact, one of the most important nature conservation sites
in Britain, and that is all to do with these sand dunes.
But the ones here in Kenfig are disappearing.
Over the years,
they've changed from the exotic Lawrence of Arabia-style
dusty hues of yellow to a mass of matted green.
I can't imagine a caravan of camels sauntering across these!
Being overgrown with all this vegetation
is the beginning of the end for these sand dunes
and for what makes this place so special.
With one of the biggest issues being that some rare plants and insects
are being driven to the brink of extinction.
To find out more, I'm meeting botanist Andy Byfield.
So, Andy, what's going on here then?
Think about sand dunes from your childhood.
You remember these windy, open places, lots of bare sand,
lots of sand pricking the backs of your legs and that sort of thing.
Those days are over.
What's happened over the last 20 or 30 years
is that the sand dunes have become vegetated.
Wind the clock back 50 years,
nearly half this place was just open, bare sand.
The situation today is that the vast bulk of it
is covered with thick, choking grasslands.
Is it purely the problem that the grass has locked itself into the sand?
Yes, it starts open but if you don't do anything to it,
the vegetation starts to grow up and eventually,
you get a few brambles coming in, a few brushes and ultimately,
if the process continues, you get to a stage where willows
and birch trees and that sort of thing come in.
You go from a beautiful, romantic open habitat,
a very wild, windy, mobile habitat to a very stabilised woodland.
And it's this stabilisation that's now threatening
the future of many rare plant species.
These things have evolved to grow on bare sand.
They've just spent millennia doing that.
Things like this one - it's a classic dune plant.
You can see two things here, actually.
There, you can see the variegated horsetail and there,
a beautiful plant, that's the brick red form of the early marsh orchid.
That's one thing. What else have we got here?
That is the marsh helleborine.
The Americans call it "the chatterbox orchid"
because its lower lip sort of shakes as though it's sort of freezing.
The numbers of these must have drastically reduced?
Yeah, the classic one is the fen orchid,
which is this beautiful lime green orchid.
We know really only a few decades ago
-there were as many as eight or nine sites with the orchid.
And it's gone from eight or nine sites down to just one site
-in just a few decades.
I can't think of any orchid in Britain
that's declining more rapidly than that.
But here at Kenfig, the fight back is under way
with a rather radical new project.
The diggers are in,
removing the top layer of grass to loosen up the sand.
Once the grass is removed,
the wind will blow freely through the dunes again,
distributing the seeds of the precious plants
that we're rapidly losing.
Reserve manager David Carrington is the man with the battle plan.
We like to call it rejuvenation.
We're sort of breathing life into
a dune system that's become over stable.
The diggers are giving mother nature a hand
but those of us out enjoying the coast can play our part too.
There are areas of the reserve where the only bare sand we've got
is because of people's footfall.
There is that tendency, where you've got some precious habitat,
to say, "Oh, keep off it, don't touch."
But it's not necessarily the right approach on a sand dune site,
where movement of sand and erosion and recovery, you know,
is critical really to the special plants and insects.
How often will you have to keep digging here?
It does depend a bit on the funding.
The Welsh Government have provided funding for this project.
Ideally, every few years,
there'll be another area that's done and we'll create another site.
-Lee, is it all right to come up and have a chat?
-Yeah, no problem.
I love driving diggers and I love building sand castles.
-Is it all right if I have a little seat?
Right, you're going to have to tell me where to dig and what to do.
So, you're just taking off this corner here, are you?
-Just taking that off, yeah. So if you get this down here now.
-There we are, we should be good to go.
-And then we lift her up...
Well, while I'm having fun on the sand dunes here in Wales,
Tom is finding out why burning wood is coming back into fashion.
Britain by night - a land shining with man-made light.
It's a power that's created increasingly by renewable energy.
And our small island is leading the way
in the latest green fuel to find favour.
That revolutionary renewable isn't wind, solar or wave,
but mankind's original fuel - wood -
or, as it's being called today, biomass.
Some think it can make Britain and the world a cleaner, greener place.
Others fear it's an environmental time bomb.
'To find out the truth, I'm going to follow two very different projects
'from start to finish.'
-Hi, Tom, good to meet you.
-Very nice to meet you.
'My journey begins here, in the woods of Richmond Park.'
I did actually feel the ground shake there!
'Biomass refers to any plant life harvested for energy,
'but most currently comes from wood.
'So here, they're felling trees to use as fuel,
'feeding a local business converting to biomass.'
So, I see there's great excitement, great drama in doing this,
but in what way is it actually good for the environment?
Well, for this species of tree in particular,
these have a detrimental effect on the wildlife in the park.
It's a non-native tree, the Turkey oak.
By removing them, it'll bring the light levels back into the woodland,
we retain all the native trees,
they then flourish, they put on girth,
put on a larger crown, more leaves, more insects,
which has a knock-on effect for the birds and the bats.
So as far as you're concerned, the demand for wood to burn -
biomass as it's called - is actually helping you to manage the place?
Absolutely. I'm sure that biomass boilers are fitted in
because of the climate change agenda
and that's looking at global conservation.
If you put the markets into your local woodlands
you're actually doing local conservation as well.
The use of biomass has shot up by 17% in the UK
in the last year alone - a rise driven by the race
to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
But in what way can burning wood be considered green?
Well, wood really has two destinies.
If it falls down and begins to rot like this,
that emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The same happens when you burn it.
The difference is that if that process of combustion is used
to create energy, you've avoided using a fossil fuel to do that
and also, whether it rots or whether it's burnt,
that carbon dioxide is reabsorbed when you plant more trees.
It seems like everyone's a winner. Or maybe not...
Some critics are concerned that the figures don't add up.
They say we're actually creating a carbon debt
by quickly releasing carbon into the atmosphere
that new trees will take decades to reabsorb.
All this at a time
when we should be urgently reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
What most people do agree on is that small-scale schemes like this one
do make environmental sense.
What's proving more controversial are big projects
that are driving a huge surge in the demand for biomass
and that's where I'm heading next.
On his farm near Wetherby,
Gareth Gaunt is part of a cooperative
being paid by Britain's largest power station
to grow 2,000 acres of willow to feed their biomass machine.
I'm meeting him on site, a few miles from his own farm,
where the willow's only three years old
but already ripe for harvesting as an energy crop.
-Is this one ready to go, ready to be cut?
-Yes, this one is ready.
-This one is three years old and ready to go.
-With the big beast here?
With the big beast here. Here's your...
-It looks like one hell of a toy! Hi, are you in control of this?
-This is Dean. Tom.
-All right, Tom?
-Can I have a go?
-Yeah, if you want.
You'd better give me a lesson, then.
Throttle up to the top.
-Right up to the rabbit, here?
This operation is certainly impressive
but it's also taking up some land
that was previously used for growing wheat and barley -
staple food crops - and this is another concern for critics.
Yeah, that isn't bad at all. Let's call it a day there.
Yeah, well done.
How do the figures compare between growing willow like this
and growing an arable crop?
Well I'm making about £400 a hectare now on willow.
Previously, when I was growing wheat, some years I was losing money.
Doesn't it mean, though, that you would be producing less food in this country?
It is, whether you like it or not, a sort of food versus fuel battle.
It is, but I think if farmers really examined
some of the poorer-quality fields that they're not making a profit on,
I think they could improve the yields on some of the better quality land.
I don't think we need lose any land mass for growing food.
So the country can produce a bit more fuel
-and the same amount of food going forward?
How you grow biomass is where the debate starts over its green credentials
but the scale on which we use it is where things really heat up.
Some critics are claiming that big business biomass
could become dirtier than the fossil fuels it's set to replace
and that's what I'll be investigating later.
Whilst Matt's exploring the sand dunes
along this part of the South Wales coast,
I'm heading inland just a little to the home of a
man who made the most of the area's natural resources
and created an industrial landscape.
Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot,
known to his friends as Kit Talbot,
was an extremely wealthy and very savvy Victorian estate owner
who boosted his fortune by exploiting the minerals, the coal and the iron,
that lay beneath his land.
He built ironworks and dockyards over there by the coast
and the place was named in his honour - Port Talbot.
He lived here, on his estate covering 850 acres of woodlands, scrub,
grassland and streams - a vivid contrast to Talbot's industrial port.
I'm meeting local historian, John Adams,
to hear more about this gentleman wheeler-dealer who,
from his mansion, owned all he surveyed.
Well, quite a place that Kit built for himself!
It really is a statement of how rich and powerful I am.
Yes, he was a very wealthy man.
He was a commoner but a wealthy commoner.
He really grasped the opportunity of the Industrial Revolution, didn't he?
He realised that there was money to be made for himself
and basically to benefit the district.
For instance, he was a pioneer in the introduction of the railways.
He invested heavily in the docks.
Much of the estate is on the coalfield.
So apart from agriculture, increasingly,
money was to come from beneath the soil and there was the coal,
there was the black band ironstone,
there was the limestone, all used for smelting.
A real Victorian entrepreneur, really.
A real Victorian entrepreneur.
And with all his achievements,
I'm surprised he wasn't offered a peerage or something like that.
But he was offered a peerage.
In 1869, Gladstone offered him a peerage, which he turned down,
and he was offered one on two further occasions.
At the end of the day, I think he preferred to be
head of the commoners rather than at the tail of the aristocracy.
With the fortunes he made on top of the one he inherited,
Kit Talbot could well afford to model his Margam estate
exactly to his tastes.
And though he died in the 1890s,
the landscape he created here has changed little.
Except, that is, that there are now several rare breeds living here,
some that you won't find anywhere else.
Park manager Mike Wynne is showing me
some of their really special residents, Glamorgan cattle.
So how is it that you have the only surviving herd here?
In 1979, an article appeared in Farmers Weekly,
and a Major Savage from East Sussex claimed to have the last
remaining herd of Glamorgan cattle, and this gentleman
was in his 80s at the time and wanted to give up farming.
And eventually, the West Glamorgan County Council purchased
seven females and three males from this last herd.
Well, you have a fine-looking bull there at the moment.
Is he a Glamorgan?
This is a Gloucester bull which we obtained about two years ago
-from Adam Henson's farm in the Cotswolds.
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust thought that the Glamorgan cattle
were quite closely related to the Gloucester cattle, so this
is why we decided to introduce a Gloucester bull into the herd,
to see what we get, really.
So, at the moment,
things are looking quite good for the survival of this breed?
Well, it's early days and we've got a lot do to increase the numbers,
but, yes, we're hoping so.
And that's thanks in no small measure to our Mr Henson.
But it's not just local rare breeds the Margam estate is keeping alive.
Roaming this parkland is an animal from China which is now
so rare that it's extinct in the wild - the Pere David deer.
How did they get from China to the UK?
They were effectively discovered in the Western sense
by French Jesuit missionary Pere David, and he arranged for some
to be sent to Europe, to France, to Germany and to the UK, in the 1860s.
And all the Pere David that now exist in the world
are descended from those animals.
How many are there now left in the world?
I believe there are between 2,000 and 3,000 left in the world.
2,000 or more of them now exist in China,
they've been reintroduced, but they are kept in reserves and parks.
We maintain a herd of about 45 here at Margam.
Now, I must say, Mike, they're not the most attractive of deer species.
Well, yes, the Chinese name translated into English means
the four unlikes.
They're supposed to be made up of part coq, part ass,
-part camel and part deer.
-Well, they seem to be thriving here.
Why do you think that is?
Well, Margam was selected as a suitable location
because we have got some marshy wet ground,
which replicates what they would have been used to in China.
So that's a real success story, isn't, for conservation?
Yes, a real success story.
Kit Talbot could never have guessed that one day his great estate
would be owned by the local council, but it means that his land
and the huge impact that he had on it will continue to be preserved.
Sand dunes like the ones on the South Wales coast
are for ever on the move, unless, that is,
these shifting, whispering sands have been too well stabilised.
But sticking out from the North Sea coast, there is a three-mile stretch
of land that's moving westwards at the rate of two metres a year.
It's Spurn Head at the mouth of the River Humber,
and Katie's been there to see what life is like.
Though this spit has been here for hundreds of years,
it's a very dynamic piece of land. It's always on the move.
The sea may have shaped it and built it,
but it also has the power to move it.
Despite this constant shift, people still live and work here.
There's a permanently-manned RNLI lifeboat station at the point,
and piloted boats are on hand to guide vessels through
one of our busiest shipping channels.
Out there on the horizon, just over two miles away,
you can just about make out a Met mast,
which is a piece of equipment used to measure weather conditions.
It also marks the point where the coastline was in Roman times
and that shows you just how much
this landscape has changed over time.
On average, the Spurn moves west up to two metres
or nearly seven feet every year.
It's all down to longshore drift, a natural process that never rests.
I'm meeting geologist Dr Jan Zalasiewicz
from Leicester University to find out more.
-Longshore drift, a classic geography term.
-It is, yes.
Can you explain that?
Well, the Spurn is a classic spit which is formed by material
being washed by the sea out of these cliffs of boulder clay.
The waves attack them.
They break them down, literally, at the rate of one or two metres year.
The mud and the sand and the pebbles are washed out.
The waves will carry the pebbles up the beach like this,
normally coming at an angle, and then the backwash comes
and it will simply drop back down the beach here.
The next wave will come, pick it up, take it diagonally again,
and down it goes again, and so it will go on travelling.
It'll do a zigzag along the beach and simply will carry on.
So more and more material will be taken from one side
of the beach right along, and that is how the spit will form.
It helps the spit form. It's an ongoing conveyor belt
which is always coming out of the cliffs, that's the supply,
and it's carrying on down.
And it's just travelling. It will travel for miles and miles.
In the past, man has tried to check this movement
and prevent erosion by protecting the land
from the sea's natural passage.
The Victorians set up a series of sea defences to hold back the waves.
They were maintained by the MoD until the late 1950s.
Since then, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has been
responsible for the management of the Spurn,
now a designated national nature reserve.
Andrew Gibson is the full-time warden in charge,
and he's going to show me around the reserve.
-Now, the sea is just over this bank here.
-It is, it's over on our left.
When you've got your spring tides,
-is the sea actually washing over this bit of land?
-It will come over.
Believe it or not, that's what we want.
We want it to wash over and move westwards,
which is what it would do naturally.
-You want nature to shape this land.
But we need to manage it for our own benefit as well.
And it's striking that compromise between the two things.
Out we get! Oh, my goodness, it's blowing a gale!
So, what's the important thing
about this bit of road and that bit of road?
That's your traditional tarmac road, which we'd say, bad road.
This is good road.
This is a removable interlocking concrete block.
What it allows it to do is, you can see the sand
migrates over this very easily, and if the dynamic coastline,
as it moves, washes it away, we can pick this material up
and put it back in the recycler and bring it back out.
Whereas the tarmac road is fixed. It's hard. It needs a sub-base.
It's a hard scar on the landscape, shall we say,
whereas what we need is dynamism.
Flexible roads are one way of meeting
the challenge of living on the Spurn.
Keeping the scrub down is a different matter.
When the grass gets too long, you need the right tools for the job.
-So, why do you have sheep here?
-To manage this, to manage the grass.
This is fixed dune, it's got its own unique, species-rich grassland,
very much like chalk grassland.
And these sheep are needed to take off all this longer grass,
otherwise it becomes very rank and long
and the flowers in the spring, the orchids, can't come through that.
You could come in and cut it and take it off manually,
but we use these guys.
It's a much more sustainable way of doing it.
These Hebrideans are built for this type of environment
but life on the spit is not for the fainthearted.
It gets a constant battering from the wind and the waves.
Andrew Wells and his wife Sue have been braving the elements here for 15 years.
So, Andrew, why did you decide to come and live here?
Well, basically, we were looking for a small dairy farm that we
could afford and because of the location of this place,
its remoteness and its closeness to the North Sea,
and the erosion problems down here, it was a very cheap dairy farm.
And we ended up as the last dairy farm in this area.
They were coming 40 miles every day to pick our milk up and then
going 40 miles back and it was just obvious that it wasn't sustainable.
So I sold the cows in 2008 and we now make a living doing a bit
of beef farming, but we make the most of our living from bed-and-breakfast.
What's it like to live here?
Well, I'll tell you what it's like in the summer.
I used to come down here to fetch my cows in,
first thing in the morning, in the summer at about 5:30,
and you would look down there and you could see the sun rising over
the sea and you look over there and you could see the ferries
coming in up the estuary.
I just used to stand somewhere around about here every morning,
just for a minute, then I would get on with my day's work, and at
the end of the minute, I used to say to myself, "You lucky, lucky man."
-Because it's absolutely gorgeous in the summer.
-And in the winter?
-It's pretty bleak!
Summertime it ain't but even in the depths of winter,
this wild and windswept spit of land has a charm all of its own.
Back on the South Wales coast, I've been seeing how engineering
has given conservation a helping hand to rejuvenate its sand dunes.
Well, this is the effect of the work that was done last year.
You can see there is still an enormous amount of open sand
and a lot of water, evidence of an incredibly wet year.
But fingers crossed, with a lot of wind and a much drier year,
this place should look like the Sahara of Wales come next January.
Later, I will be finding out for myself how running up
and down these dunes is helping to maintain them,
when I join the local college rugby team out on a training exercise.
But first, Tom has been discovering how we are burning wood
and crops to help fight climate change.
But as the use of biomass increases, could it actually
damage the very environment it is supposed to protect?
I have been visiting two very different biomass producers.
In Yorkshire, a farmer growing willow crops to satisfy
the demand of Britain's largest power producer.
And at Richmond Park in London, a small-scale scheme,
selling on the waste wood from routine forest management
to an expanding local business.
Although, as I'm discovering, it's not your average pub or cornershop.
Well, if you are wondering what this emerging building is,
step out here and the sight and sound should give you
a bit of a clue.
Yup, we're in the heart of Heathrow Airport.
There's a Jumbo just taking off.
And this entire building, the new Terminal Two,
will be at least partly heated and powered by burning wood.
25,000 tonnes of woodchip will be burned here every year, all coming
from forest management projects within 100 miles of the airport.
So when passengers are coming through here in
a year and a half's time,
how much are they going to be kept warm by wood?
So 20% of all of the heat
and also the electricity for the new Terminal Two will come from wood.
Heathrow is a big energy consumer, so this is one of the steps
we can take to cut our carbon emissions from the airport.
But in the grand scheme of things,
projects like this can only generate a small amount of power.
Surely something much bigger would be even better, wouldn't it?
Drax in Yorkshire is Britain's largest power station
and its biggest single polluter, burning coal to provide us
with the electricity we use every day.
But you might be surprised to learn that it is also increasingly
turning to renewable energy.
A massive transformation is taking place here as Drax
changes its diet, changes the fuel it consumes,
that means an awful lot of building.
Not least, this extraordinary space-age structure,
which is to store that most traditional of fuels, wood.
There will be enough in one of these to keep a million homes
powered for three weeks.
'From the outside, it looks big.
'From the inside, it is something else.'
-Impressive, isn't it?
'Head of Environment Nigel Burdett is giving me the grand tour.'
It's an extraordinary space.
So if I was here later this year, I would be buried in wood, would I?
-You would indeed be buried in wood, yes.
Feels a bit like a Bond villain's lair, doesn't it?
-Very much like that, yes.
-Inside the volcano!
The willow I helped harvest earlier will be used to feed this
ambitious project, as are many other farms
and forests all brought on board to help supply this 7 million tonnes
of plants and wood that will be burned here every year.
What we have been doing over the last decade or so has been
gradually increasing the amount of biomass through the plant
and we are mixing biomass in relatively small amounts with
coal, so up to about 10% of our total throughput has been biomass.
Into the future, we are looking at a fairly major transformation,
taking three of our six units
and converting each of those to 100% biomass.
So, rather than being a minority biomass, it will be close to half and half?
Close to half and half in the next few years, absolutely.
Biomass gives you a very good saving compared to coal.
And we think the amount of CO2 emitted, 70% to 80% saving
compared to the coal we are burning at Drax at present.
This sounds like great news.
But groups including the RSPB claim that when you create
biomass on this scale, its carbon savings can disappear.
You get the danger that wood
is from unsustainably managed, intensive forests,
a long way away, because you can't source enough from your local area.
That then all has to be shipped,
potentially halfway across the world, it has to be processed,
it has to be delivered,
and you have already got a lot of carbon emissions right there,
plus you are probably not taking just waste wood,
you are probably taking, or are in danger of taking, whole trees,
and that is where we know we incur the biggest carbon debt,
because that wood is all being burned,
all that carbon is going into the atmosphere
and the atmosphere sees it as a greenhouse gas, just like any other.
Although Drax do use some local suppliers,
like the farmer I met earlier, 90% of its biomass
will be imported from forests in Canada and the USA.
But they insist this doesn't affect its green credentials.
We have a very important,
robust sustainability policy in place, which ensures that
all our wood is coming from forests which are essentially replanted
and we are not taking any more material from that forest
-than is actually growing.
-And that really is the case, is it?
If I went over there, to those forests,
I would be able to see more trees growing than are being taken away?
-That is the absolute plan, yes.
-Right, it's the plan, or is it the reality?
We do have a reality indeed, yes. We do audits as well to make sure that
we are in fact taking material from sustainable forests wherever we can.
All the signs are that biomass looks set to play an increasingly
important part in our energy mix and many are embracing its potential.
To take big chunks out of our carbon emissions,
we need to think big.
But when it comes to burning wood and other plant material,
greater scale must be accompanied by greater scrutiny.
What is being burned? How is it transported?
What is being planted in its place?
Without the right answers to those questions,
the green credentials of this fuel just go up in smoke.
We've been exploring the shores of South Wales.
Hidden inland, beyond the coast's undulating dunes,
is an astonishing story that I am about to uncover.
Towards the end of the Second World War,
in a prison camp on the outskirts of Bridgend,
German captives drew sketches of saucy ladies on the walls.
The alluring pictures were a distraction.
Because, in great secrecy, an audacious plot was being hatched.
In 1945, this stretch of coastline saw a mass escape -
the biggest breakout by German prisoners of war on UK soil
during the Second World War.
70 of them escaped through a tunnel,
which they dug right under the noses of their guards.
A dramatic story of deceit, courage
and, for them all, ultimate recapture.
It became known as the Welsh Great Escape.
Using the latest computer technology,
I am going to update this remarkable event.
It all happened here at an old farm that had been
converted into a prison camp.
It was in this hut that the German prisoners of war
hatched their plot to escape.
And in this room, beneath where a bunk would have stood,
was their secret gateway to freedom. This was the entrance of the tunnel.
It has been blocked up for decades, but we think the tunnel still exists.
So I have called in a crack team to help me unlock its secrets.
We have been granted special permission to dig down to it.
Nick Russell is a world-class laser mapping specialist and for the
first time, he's going to bring the escape tunnel to life in 3D.
What we have now got available to us is an instrument called
a 3D laser scanner,
and that lets us record a three-dimensional model of the tunnel,
so we will be able to reconstruct the escape,
if you like, by flying through the hut and down the tunnel.
Brett Exton has been studying the great escape for 12 years
and hopes to make some new discoveries.
We are hoping we might be able to find all manner of things.
A second or third tunnel would be ideal.
-This one might have collapsed, even!
-It could well have collapsed by now.
Nick and the digger are busy excavating a way into the tunnel, so
there is time for me to find out some more about the prisoners themselves.
Well, what do you know, Brett, about the men who were prisoners here?
Well, initially, when the prisoners came here in November 1944,
there was about 2,000 of them brought here.
And they were from all manner of the German military.
You had army personnel, you had Luftwaffe, you had sailors,
and so forth. So they were all ranks.
And when did these 70 men escape?
Well, they came in November 1944 and on March 10th, 1945,
they escaped through a tunnel.
So that only gave them five months to undertake an incredible feat
-of German engineering.
-How did they do it?
How did they hoodwink the guards?
There is all sorts of different methods that they used.
The one for the tunnel itself,
directly above the tunnel entrance, they drew a scantily-clad lady.
As the guards came in to do the exploration of the room,
they would have been distracted by the scantily-clad lady.
It is clay, the soil, isn't it? How did they get rid of that?
Well, that is really ingenious,
because inside the toilet block,
they fastened onto the end of the wall a false cavity.
They made a cavity, put a little air vent in the top corner of it,
and as the soil came out of the tunnel, they would have
squished it into a ball and I've got one in my pocket to show you.
That is a genuine clay ball.
Then they would have taken the vent out of the wall
-and plopped the ball behind it.
-And nobody spotted it?
-Nobody spotted it.
The clay lay undetected until about the 1980s,
when the wall collapsed and all the soil spilt out.
By the night of March 10th, 1945, the tunnel was finished.
The men were ready. At 10 o'clock, the first prisoners made a run for it.
By the next morning, 70 of them
were at large in the South Wales countryside.
Some got surprisingly far.
I'll mark the prison camp with the sentry there.
Well, four of them went about a mile up the road from here.
They found a doctor's car.
Obviously, cars would have been a luxury during the war.
And they had trouble getting the car started,
so they were pushing the car down the road when some guards
coming the other way back to the camp noticed them.
But the prisoners managed to convince them they were Norwegians.
And they said to the Norwegians,
"Get in the car and we'll give you a push start."
So the guards from the farm actually got the first four off and running!
They got hopelessly lost, ended up in Gloucester,
abandoned the car, went on foot towards Birmingham...
-And then got captured.
-Then got captured.
What was the furthest distance that anybody got?
Well, some of them managed to catch a train
and they got down as far as Southampton.
-They made it to the coast.
After a week, the last of them
were recaptured in a village just 20 miles away.
We've managed to find a lady who 68 years ago was there
when the final three German soldiers surrendered in her sitting room.
And she will be telling us the story later in the programme.
Down on the farm,
Adam is rounding up his flock for a routine pregnancy scan.
It is vital he has plenty of new lambs in spring,
so he is hoping for some good results.
Today we are scanning about a third of our ewes already in lamb,
which is about 250 sheep.
It is a skilled job,
so we have called in sheep scanner Wally Chandler.
-Good to see you. It's been over a year.
-Yeah! Yeah, it certainly has.
-It was your first year, wasn't it?
-It was my first big season.
-And have you had a bit of experience since?
-I have, yes, certainly.
I finished that season, so I scanned quite a few out of the UK.
And then I went to New Zealand at the end of June,
-for the best part of two months.
-And that was brilliant.
So how many thousands of sheep have you scanned?
-Well, in New Zealand, I did about 52,000 in 28 days.
That was pretty good going. So that's about 2,000 a day.
-Some days were easy. My biggest day was 2,500.
One of the things we are worried about this year is a disease
It's spread by midges and can cause infertility
and deformity in unborn lambs and calves.
And often when the scanner is here,
he can tell if the ewes are empty
and if that is a higher than usual number,
then there is a risk that might be Schmallenberg.
Have you found any signs of it this year, Wally?
So far, everything has been absolutely fantastic.
I mean, admittedly, I am not going to go and see fused limbs on my scanner.
I will see aborted pregnancies and pregnancies that are about to abort,
and I'll see a dead lamb, but I'm not going to see a fused limb.
So if the pregnancy is fine when I scan it, that's all I can say.
From my point of view, everything is going really well.
And there's lots of lambs around, lots of lambs.
You're just like a breath of fresh air, Wally! Such a positive man!
This one's empty... I'm joking!
No, she's a late single.
With the Schmallenberg virus already affecting some farms,
you never know how the year will turn out.
And arable farming is no different.
It can be a huge gamble
and its success or failure is in the hands of mother nature.
Last year was the wettest year on record in England.
And farmers had a pretty tough time of it.
And now, the start of the new year, there is snow on the ground
and there are still people out harvesting root crops.
And there is one root crop that I know very little about.
And most of us eat it most days.
And I'm hoping over here in the Eastern counties,
they're going to be lifting some today.
MUSIC: "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies
If you haven't guessed already, that crop is sugar beet.
The average person consumes 2.3 tonnes of sugar in their lifetime.
And it is our love and addiction to the stuff
that creates such a huge demand.
Here we are, this is the stuff I'm after. Sugar beet.
And I'm going to be following it from the fields to the factory,
all the way through to a bag of sugar.
'Ken Rush and Jamie Gwatkin have worked in the sugar beet
'industry most of their lives and even on a snowy morning,
'nothing stops them lifting the crop.'
-Hello, Adam, how are you?
-Very well, thanks. Hi, Ken.
-Goodness me, it's all go!
Absolutely. I tell you, even on a day with two inches of snow,
-everything is happening in the fields still.
-And you help co-ordinate it?
We do, yeah.
Well, I'm the administrator of the Bury Beet Group,
which is a group of 34 farmers today, delivering 153,000 tonnes
of sugar beet into the Bury St Edmunds factory.
Now, a lot of people imagine sugar comes from sugar cane from abroad
and wouldn't realise that it is grown in this country.
Well, I don't know if you are aware, but 50% of the sugar that is
consumed in the UK is grown from sugar beet, rather than
cane sugar, which is grown in the Afro-Caribbean countries.
And how long have you been involved in growing
and delivering sugar beet?
Well, this is my 60th year.
Which is making me age a bit,
but I still enjoy the job,
and I hope I can do a few more years yet.
And what was it like in the old days, how has it changed?
Well, I've got a hook here and it's changed.
In the old days, we used to have to get sugar beet
out of the ground like this
and chop the tops off,
put them on a heap, then somebody would come along with a fork
and put them in a horse and tumble, that's how we started...
-..when I first left school.
Well, you did that very skilfully, you haven't lost the touch,
and now you've got this massive machine that's worth what?
'The harvested sugar beet is stored in heaps and another
'specialist piece of equipment is used to load the lorries.'
Oh, this is a pretty fancy bit of kit, Ken.
Yes, it's a new, comparatively new, machine to this country over the last few years,
a load of 30 tonnes in around four to five minutes on average.
And time is of an essence, isn't it, Jamie?
Absolutely, I mean, the most critical thing is to deliver
the sugar beet into the factory as soon as possible.
Well, that's where I'm off to now. I'm off to the sugar beet factory.
It's great to see you both and good luck with the rest of the harvest.
-Thank you very much.
'The lorries travel a short distance to the factory
'where the long process of turning this root crop into granulated sugar begins.
'Agricultural business manager Dan Downs has kindly offered
'to show me around.'
-Got our protective clothing on now.
I've often driven past the factory here and seen the steam
billowing into the sky and wondering what goes on in here.
-It's pretty busy, isn't it?
-Yes, we're going well at the moment.
We have 550 lorryloads a day coming into this site,
so anybody who travels round near this factory at some point
will have followed a beet lorry at some point.
And so we weigh the lorries in and that's where
we test for the amount of sugar in each individual load of beet.
And then where does it go?
And then, from here, they go up to be offloaded up onto the big area
of concrete where it gets ready for going into the factory.
-Can we have a look at that?
-Yeah, let's go.
Goodness me! What a sight! That is a serious scale, isn't it?
Yeah, like, we've got about 20,000 tonnes of beet here,
Adam, on here at the moment. Really what happens is,
this factory processes about 13,000 tonnes of beet a day
and about just over half of this will disappear.
How do you get all this sugar beet into the factory?
It actually all starts with a yellow loading shovel
and it pushes the beet into a central flume that washes
the beet round by using lots of water at high pressure
and then we clean the beet off.
'These machines remove soil, stones and any unwanted material,
'before they're washed in what is basically a huge washing machine.
'Once they're cleaned, they're shredded.'
These are the same beet that you saw in the park,
they have now been sliced up in big slicing machines.
You can see them on the belt behind you, carrying on for processing.
We then mix those with hot water
and it's just the same as you'd have a teacup at home -
the sugar naturally comes out of the slices of beet into the water
and then it goes on from there to the next stage in the process.
'And it's these huge vats that extract the sugar from the beet.
'Eventually crystallisation occurs and the granules are formed.
'The sugar is then packed by a neighbouring factory,
'where it's ready for the shelf.'
We've now come from the main factory into the final packaging plant
here in Bury St Edmunds, so we've come all the way from the field,
all the way now to here, which has only been an average of 28 miles
from the farm, all the way to getting fine, white crystal in the packet.
It's just a great story, isn't it? From when the farmer planted
the beet back in the spring, I suppose it's a year's hard work
to get to the final product from those dirty beet I saw this morning.
-It's just fantastic.
-That's the full story.
'Next week, I'm back on the farm,
'tending to my animals in some challenging conditions.'
'I've left behind the dunes at Kenfig
'and travelled seven miles along the coast to visit
'what is the granddaddy of the whole dune system - the Big Dipper at Merthyr Mawr.
'Its soft sand and steep incline
'make it the perfect natural training ground.
'Many sporty sorts have endured a muscle-burning workout
'on these dunes, even Olympic gold medallist Steve Ovett.'
Go on, Tom, off you go. Big dive. Good dive, well done.
Back you come, bring the ball back.
'And if it's good enough for an Olympic champion,
'it's good enough for Bridgend College Rugby Club.'
-So, Dean, you're one of the coaches of this lot.
You've trained on sand before, I'm taking it?
I've trained here before, yes.
All of this comes from training on the sand?
I don't know about that, yeah, it's very tough.
Why do you like to bring your lads down here?
It's just going to improve their fitness and their skills as well.
When they're tired, it's good decision-making.
And some of these lads have got a match tomorrow.
I think a few of them have, yes.
So you've got to be a little bit careful.
Don't tell the club coaches!
'The lads practise their gameplay over and over again,
'up the strength-sapping Big Dipper.
'These individual training benefits are about to become clear to me.'
Matt, we're subbing you in, in you go, into the second row.
Here we go, lads, ready?
Oh, it's lovely, it was high!
'I feel slightly guilty for setting them off on yet another drill, but who knows?
'Maybe one day with the help of their local dunes,
'some of these lads will be scoring in the Six Nations.
'Well, it was a good warm-up but they're not finished with me yet.
'Can I hold my own in a race to the top?'
Yeah, I'll let the wingers crack on, I'll pace myself.
Now, in a moment, John will be revealing
the results of the 3D mapping of the tunnel dug by 70 Germans,
but while I crack on with the rest of this hill, why don't you
have a look and see what the weather is got in store for the week ahead?
On the south coast of Wales, I've been discovering
the story of the Welsh Great Escape.
During the Second World War, 70 German prisoners
fooled their guards by digging a tunnel
out of their rural prison camp.
For the first time in almost 70 years,
we're going to bring the escape tunnel back to life
with the help of Nick Russell, a 3D imaging expert.
We're hoping to reveal new secrets of this incredible prison break
but before the tunnel's ready to be scanned, there's a chance for me
to meet someone who remembers the story very well and with good reason.
She helped detain the final fugitives.
'Elaine Jones was 18 at the time.'
Tell me exactly what happened, that Saturday night.
Well, as usual, we were sitting,
listening to the Nine O'Clock News and waiting for the play to start.
-This is the BBC Home Service. Here is the news...
We heard them announce on the news that the last three German prisoners
were still at large.
Before the news bulletin finished,
there was a knock on the door. My mother thought that someone
had come to ask for something from the shop but next minute,
the three Germans walked into the room with the farmer who had
met them on the mountain road.
Elaine's mother, the local postmistress,
phoned the local police while the farmer set off to get help.
They were obviously three very cold, tired men.
They'd been living rough
and eaten what they could forage in the fields.
'Amazingly, for an hour, the women guarded the enemy.'
When the police arrived, they thanked my mother profusely for her kindness
and shook hands with us before being handcuffed and marched out.
What's your great memory of it all?
Well, the fact that it happened to us as it did, I suppose,
because it's not the sort of thing that happened very often.
Back at the site of the prison camp, our excavations are going well.
The tunnel is still there.
Brett Exton, who's been studying the site for 12 years,
is itching to get in and have a look.
It's going to be an exciting moment for you, isn't it?
Oh, absolutely, I've waited all my life for a moment like this.
Oh, my word!
It's the first time he's ever seen inside.
Is it what you expected?
I'm almost speechless. It must go a good 30 feet down.
That is German technology for you, from the Second World War, isn't it?
Nick is anxious to get his 3D images but first how about this?
Well, Nick, you're a man who appreciates technology.
Just before you start your 3D experiments, what do you reckon to this?
It's something I've brought along and I think it could give us
a bit of tunnel vision.
-Is it working, Nick?
-It's fallen over.
So much for my bright idea but now it's Nick's turn.
It's time for the lasers.
I'm going to go down the hole, Dave,
if you can pass me the laser scanner, once I'm in position.
The scanner fires invisible lasers up the tunnel
and before long, the first images are coming together.
That is pretty impressive, isn't it?
Because of the way the scanner operates,
there's no darkness.
We can see absolutely everything in the tunnel,
so you can see the detail of those pit props and every little stone
and then, right at the back, you can see where a bit of the roof
has come down but it does tantalisingly seem to continue.
-Is there any trace of a second tunnel?
-There's just one tunnel.
It does curve around a bit to the right at the end.
'Brett's search for another tunnel will have to continue.'
So this is just your preliminary data, isn't it, Nick?
I look forward to seeing the finished product.
And a couple of days later, the final 3D model is ready
and here it is now exclusively on Countryfile.
The tunnel reveals its secrets in great detail for the first time
since those 70 men scrambled through it in 1945
and made history in the Welsh Great Escape.
-Well, what a story that is.
-Isn't it, yeah? Fantastic.
And to think that when they escaped,
they could well have been running over all of these dunes.
-Just like you now!
-I don't suppose you fancy recreating that bit?
No, I don't! But what is wonderful, I think,
is that we can use 3D technology now
to recreate those events of so long ago.
And it's a lovely way to end the programme
because that is all we've got time for this week
because next week we're going to be in the Yorkshire Dales,
trying to recreate authentic Wensleydale cheese.
-Hope you can join us then.
-Bye for now.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Matt Baker and John Craven head to South Wales.
Matt is on the coast finding out what's being done to rejuvenate its spectacular sand dunes to prevent them from turning in to giant grass hills. Further down the coast, Matt is put to the test when he joins a local college rugby team who use the dunes as an outdoor gym.
Further inland, John Craven unearths a tale of deception. In 1944, seventy German Prisoners of War tunnelled their way to freedom from a prison camp in Bridgend. It was the biggest escape attempt on British soil. John discovers how they managed to do it right under the noses of the guards and he helps to create a 3D model of the escape route. He also meets a woman whose family aided the capture of two of the escapees.
Elsewhere, Tom's on the trail of our fastest growing source of energy - bio-mass and Adam's investigating a winter crop.