In this special edition, Ellie Harrison tells the story of the Humber river. She explains how it has shaped the landscape, nourished wildlife and been an aide to human endeavour.
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Our rivers are our lifeblood.
Refreshing us, restoring us,
a means of recreation,
a way of trade,
a home for some of our most precious wildlife.
They shape our landscape and our lives.
In this special edition of Countryfile,
I'll be telling the story of one of our greatest.
The mighty River Humber.
It's a big river,
widening on its way to the North Sea to form the vast Humber estuary.
But the story begins miles inland on one of its many tributaries.
Like this, the River Derwent,
sliding quietly by in North Yorkshire.
Even flooded, it's a tiny, tinkling stream by comparison.
But it plays its part in the story of the Humber.
Whilst I'm telling that story, I'll be looking back
at some of Countryfile's finest moments on our rivers.
Like when Matt went on manoeuvres with the RNLI in Scotland.
Remember when Matt and Julia went head to head on the Thames?
I knew that Baker was a dirty player, but really!
Do you need some help with your engine, there?
Turn it off, quick!
And what happened when Jules took the plunge
on a hike with a difference?
HE GASPS AND LAUGHS
The River Humber flows into the North Sea
separating Yorkshire from Lincolnshire.
It begins where two other great rivers, the Trent and the Ouse meet.
It's a river of superlatives.
It handles a quarter of the UK's seaborne trade.
It boasts the largest coastal plain in the east of Britain,
and it drains a staggering fifth of the land area of England.
It all begins pretty small-scale, like here at the River Derwent.
It's one of hundreds of tributaries that winds up in the River Humber.
It's pretty enough.
It's not why I'm here.
I'm on the look out for one of the Derwent's strangest creatures.
Pretty blooming ugly, hey?
That's a lamprey.
A fish. Sort of.
No bottom jaw, just a frightening array of teeth
that it latches onto its prey before sucking the life out of them.
That hasn't put off Dr Martin Lucas, though.
We can't just go on looks, can we, Martin,
with these funny-looking lamprey?
No. Looks aren't everything. But they are really important animals.
They're part of the biodiversity of rivers,
and the Humber and the Derwent are special areas for them, of course.
So, they have backbones, they are vertebrates.
What kind of animal are they? They look so odd, don't they?
Well, we've got jaws, they haven't. That's the big difference.
And they are essentially fish.
They've got a backbone. But they don't have paired fins.
They look a bit like eels. Eels have paired fins, lampreys don't.
Eels have jaws, lampreys don't.
Otters love them as food.
So do predators, like pike, so do fish-eating birds,
and they take lots of them, so, because they are important
in terms of prey for other species, that is a key reason
why we should be worried about them being in good numbers.
And if they're in good numbers, that also tells us
that the river is doing well in terms of its health as well.
In a moment, I'm hoping to get up close to one of these strange fish.
But first, here's a look back at what happened
when Matt joined the RNLI for a gentle day out on the river.
They asked him to Scotland, to the River Awe,
for a day he'd never forget.
On average, the RNLI save 22 people a day at sea,
but flood training, well, that's a whole different loch full of fish.
Today, members of the RNLI are here
to practise their search and rescue skills in flood conditions.
And I'm joining them to see if I've got what it takes.
'I'll be in this safe but wet hands of Robin Goodlad.
'Quite a reassuring name.'
This is the sort of training that we need to find in the country,
that realistic water, that's why we're here, really.
So what's going to be going on?
I see that a couple of lads are ready to go now.
Basically, what we're going to be doing
is what we call swift water rescue training.
All of our crew members have got seagoing experience,
but working in a flood environment is completely different.
You've got hazards such as park benches, fences, railings,
things like that, that you don't get at sea.
So we have to train them with a realistic environment.
Goodness me! That was Nige going through like an absolute rocket.
And you've chosen this section of the river because it's quite fast.
Yes, it replicates the flood environment.
Two years ago, 12.5 inches of rainwater fell
in just 24 hours in Cockermouth in Cumbria.
The RNLI, along with other emergency services,
help to rescue 300 people cut off or swept away by flood water.
Carl Sadler was on the front line.
How much does this kind of thing prepare you
for those real situations? Flood is quite different to rivers.
Yeah, it's, erm, well, when I was in Cockermouth,
it was the volume of water coming straight through the high street
and it just reminds me of this situation here.
Does it really?
Yeah, the actual rocks underneath the water here represents the cars
and the trees underneath the water.
You were in the floods in Gloucester - what was that like?
We didn't have quite the same speed of water as Cockermouth,
but it was the sheer scale, over a number of counties,
and the resources were very thin on the ground.
So, we were continuously on the go for about 72 hours.
And when you first meet a situation like Cockermouth,
you go straight into RLNI mode.
You don't really have time
to get shock or anything, because it's straight in.
At Cockermouth, our recce was just to get in there,
see what's happening,
because we were the first boats into Cockermouth high street.
Before they can think about rescuing people from fast-moving water,
these guys have to learn to survive it themselves.
So, swift water training is vital.
Well, the time is getting closer when I'm actually going to get
into the water, so tell me the best way to get out.
Over the other side we got a big, flat section of water here.
This side is called eddies.
The main flow is that jet in the middle.
We're working between the eddies.
In the water, keep your upper body pointing upstream.
As soon as your upper body and your head goes into the flow,
the current will whip you around and try turning you downstream.
What you've got to do is a lot of backward paddling.
Keep going. Once the momentum is taken out of the water,
you'll find that it's flat and calm. You're not going anywhere.
And at that point, if you try rolling towards the other side,
like a log roll, that will take you over into the eddy.
Right, let's see what happens.
The lovely thing about this is that the RLNI is an arm's reach away.
Here I go.
The current is incredibly strong.
I have to fight to get to the other side.
It's just a wall of water, man.
You're paddling away, doing a little turn,
spot the shore, dig in and go.
But what a feeling. That's invigorating. I tell you what.
But I'm so happy to be doing it in this environment
with the protection of these lads.
Because it doesn't bear thinking about,
that happening for real in a flood situation.
Matt there, riding the rapids with the RLNI in Scotland.
I'm on the River Derwent in North Yorkshire
in search of the elusive lamprey.
Lucky for me, expert Brian Morland is on hand.
These are the juvenile lampreys these are amesites.
I'm really keen to see one. Can I see them in the clear water?
-OK, we'll get one out. That's about three-year-old one there.
If you look carefully, the head end of it, you see it?
-It's the dark section.
All their major organs, the hearts, livers, they're all in the top end.
It's like an enormous tadpole.
You can see, still, that it hasn't got that jaw,
and you can see the gill pores, a little bit.
I'll let it out and put it on my hand.
-And, at this stage, they're actually blind.
They have no eyes at all.
These young lampreys will spend about four years
in this river before heading out to sea.
Then the whole secretive cycle of life begins again.
Struggling up rivers like this is what lampreys are designed to do.
Not quite so easy for a TV presenter, as Jules found out
when he took a hike with a difference.
The rugged surrounds of the Brecon Beacons,
one of the most breathtaking places on our shores.
There are plenty of ways to take in the scenery.
And this is one of them.
This is gorge walking,
and it involves navigating through steep-sided gorges like this one
using a range of pretty exciting methods.
Anything from paddling, scrambling, climbing, you name it.
Even jumping off things like that.
I'm going to give this extreme adventure a go,
but first, I need to get kitted up.
Gary Evans, who's been gorge walking for 25 years,
is showing me the ropes.
So, Gary, what got you into gorge walking? It's a fantastic sport.
Yeah, it's great, just the chance to be outdoors
and to experience the environment first-hand.
You're interacting with the water and with nature itself.
Plus it's important to go with someone that is experienced in this.
There are dangers. There is deep water. There are loose rocks.
-So being led, important.
-I'm in good hands. After you.
-Look at this.
Pretty slippery, isn't it?
Ah! Happiness is a handhold.
-Nice little warm-up, isn't it?
Yeah, good, that means we can move on to some of the tough stuff now.
'Tough stuff? Lovely!
'Gorge walking is traditionally frowned upon by environmentalists,
'but here they do it differently.
'This is green gorge walking.
'A code has been set up to reduce the amount of damage to the surroundings.'
So, what should I be looking to avoid as I follow you up this gorge?
It's what to do rather than what to avoid. Stay in the watercourse
and avoid the banks and the edges.
That's where all the plant life is that we are protecting.
You are so determined to get me wet!
At some point, it's inevitable.
-Yeah, of course, right. Let's head towards inevitability.
This one, we're going to traverse around the front of it,
so we're going to make use of these slippery, and I stress
the slippery rocks in front, and make our way out on the other side.
That's really slippery.
It is, yeah.
Now it gets interesting!
THEY BOTH LAUGH
-OK. You're going to go straight up here now.
One waterfall safely out of the way, now for the advanced version.
This could be tricky.
-This is the real thing, though, isn't it?
-OK! This is proper gorge walking now, isn't it?
-Now we're talking.
Just like this.
WATERFALL HISSES AND CRASHES
And the noise, of course.
-I mean, it's a real sight-sound experience, this, isn't it?
Now, despite Gary's best efforts, I have remained pretty dry
up to this point, but all that is about to change.
I'm up here on top of this pretty high ledge.
Gary's down there acting as safety man in case anything happens
when I jump in. Hopefully it won't.
So, what I'm going to do is jump off here and go and join him.
I must be mad!
Jules, you'll be fine. Just one small step for man!
'One giant leap for Countryfile!'
JULES GASPS AND LAUGHS
There are words to describe how cold I am!
But I can't use them on the telly!
I'm telling the story of the River Humber.
It begins on tributaries like this,
the Derwent in North Yorkshire.
This is a whimbrel, a winter visitor to our shores, and very rare,
seen here feeding on the coast,
but they are sighted at these wetlands near the river.
Wheldrake Ings National Nature Reserve is one
of only a few places in the UK you can see them.
Our problem is that the river has burst its banks.
The whimbrel's roosting sites have flooded.
Craig Ralston and his team have been capturing those that do roost
to find out more about them.
So, what is the exact purpose of catching them in these nets?
The reason for catching them is so that we can fit them
with small metal rings and, in this case, a radio tag,
so we can track them when they're not on the reserve and we know
what they're up to and which parts of the countryside they're using.
These are those radio tags being fitted.
This whimbrel was caught recently in one of the nets.
The tags are telling Craig and his team
more about the bird's feeding habits.
-That's that one in. One for the other end?
-One for the other end.
And the net basically hangs between them.
If we can just pull this back as far as we can
so that the net is really tight.
-And another push in.
There it goes.
-So, all the data you collect from tagging them
with rings, the colourings and from the radio tracking device,
how can that help them?
Because we know that they roost on the reserve
and spend the night here, the reserve is obviously protected
and is a safe area for them. What isn't protected is the fields
where they spend the daytime feeding, which is equally important,
so, because we have been able to track them to those fields,
we can now work with the local landowners to make sure
that they are in agri-environment schemes
so they're being managed sympathetically,
and the birds can continue to feed and come this way,
as they have done for hundreds of years.
Could they not just change their course,
or go and feed somewhere else?
No, the fields that they are using are very specific fields.
They are a certain type of grassland on a certain soil type,
so there are only about 12 of those fields round the reserve,
so if anything happened to those fields, the chances are,
we might lose our whimbrel.
It's a serious as that? Lose that field,
and they just won't stop here and they'll just not come.
Whimbrels are real long-haul birds.
They migrate all the way from Africa to Iceland.
Having these fields
as stopping-off points to fatten up is absolutely vital.
If you put it into human terms, you're going on holiday.
You're going to Australia. The plane needs to refuel on the way.
Suddenly, you find the airport's closed. What's the end result?
It's the same for the birds.
It's a matter of being able to get from the wintering areas
to the breeding areas, so this is absolutely crucial.
And there are other species of birds
very similar to the whimbrel, like the Eskimo curlew
and the slender-billed curlew that are now actually either extinct
or thought to be extinct in the world, because we lost
some of these feeding areas that they needed for their migrations,
so this is really important conservation on a landscape scale.
Whimbrels would struggle to survive without reserves like this.
Without the river, the reserve would dry out.
But parts of our country are losing their life-giving rivers,
as I found out last autumn when I went to Derbyshire
in search of the lost River Lathkill.
I should be knee-deep in water,
but nearly half of its 6.5 mile course is dry,
and has been since the summer, but why?
Well, to answer that, we need to understand
how the river SHOULD work.
We may not realise, but rivers can flow underground as well,
so when it rains up in the hills,
some of the water is absorbed by rocks
and goes into groundwater streams.
Usually there is enough water to re-emerge as springs
to form the river, but here, clearly, something has gone awry.
Across the Midlands, it's been the driest 12 months
since records began in 1910,
leaving a number of rivers at dangerously low levels.
For the Lathkill, though, it's getting worse.
Historically, what's happened to this river?
Well, it's dried up for about 100 years,
but it's getting much worse currently.
The river dries up earlier, dries up more quickly
and a longer length of river is affected each year.
What impact does this have on the local ecology?
Birds and mammals are quite capable of moving to wet areas.
Fish, however, get isolated by the receding water,
so we have to help them.
Every year, the Environment Agency has to rescue
the population of brown trout, moving them downstream
from isolated puddles so they can return to spawn when it refills.
This year, though, the water still isn't back.
One man who might be able to help is hydrogeologist,
Professor John Gunn.
He's been commissioned by Natural England to investigate
if and how flow could be restored here,
and he thinks he may have the answer.
-How are you doing?
-Very good, thank you.
So, can I assume these buildings
are something to do with the disappearing river?
Yes, this is the remains of an 18th-century lead mine.
And underneath here is the drainage level,
a sough, a Peak District term,
and that is where we're going to find some of the water.
So, down there, I'm afraid you have to go.
-Oh, really? Hence your outfit.
-Hence my outfit!
This dale was extensively mined in the 18th and 19th centuries.
These shafts would have been used to ferry valuable lead
up from the mines below.
Now, I'm the precious cargo heading the other way. Wish me luck!
-Ooh! My word, John, that's quite an entrance.
-Yes! Well done, indeed.
Welcome to Lathkill Dale Sough.
Thank you. What's a sough?
A sough was a drainage level that the lead miners constructed.
This one started about 1743.
So, right up on the top was where the pump was.
They used to pump the water up from depth
and let it flow away, down this level here.
And that allowed them to go deep and follow the lead.
-So is this the water that should be running up in the Lathkill?
This is the lower bit of the Lathkill.
Further up, the Lathkill is suffering
because of a completely different sough, the Magpie Sough.
We have got a double whammy.
We've got one sough that's taking the upper flow,
and what little bit is left is being captured by this sough.
So where does this water go now?
There are some springs down there. The bubble springs.
And that's where I think the water's going to come out.
But, somehow, we've got to try and find out,
and one way we might do that is putting a dye into the water.
'John's placed his fluorimeter downstream on the river,
'which can detect traces of this harmless dye, to tell us
'if that's where the water is flowing
'and how long it's taking to get there.'
It's bright orange.
It's bright orange there,
but when you put it in, you see something rather special.
Oh, my goodness!
That is '80s green!
I'm sure I had some socks that colour in the '80s!
I had some shoes that colour!
'It'll take a day or so for the die to flow through,
'so I'll be relying on John for the results.'
Is there anything that can be done
about trying to make sure that it flows most of the year?
The only way that we could get the Lathkill permanently back
on the surface, would be to block the Magpie Sough,
which is the main impacter on the system,
and we also have to seal the bed of the river.
Unfortunately, it's a big job.
'It's not a simple solution. And neither is getting out!
'But a few days later,'
the results prove John right.
The dye emerged 12 hours later at the springs further down the river,
confirming that the underground stream bypasses the dry stretch
of the River Lathkill.
The Lathkill may be dry,
but here, at Wheldrake Ings in North Yorkshire, it's anything but.
Recent heavy rains have caused the nearby River Derwent to flood,
but that's what's supposed to happen.
It's nature's own flood defence system.
And it's just the way the thousands of birds that visit here like it.
When the river floods, it restores these wetlands.
But these conditions have thrown the whimbrel,
the rare visiting bird that roosts on this part of the reserve.
Flooded fields are perfect for ducks, though,
mallard ducks especially.
This one needs a ring on it. OK.
So, if we just pop the leg in there, and squeeze that closed.
-Just to about there.
And then we turn the ring through 90 degrees.
Let me snip it that way. Yes!
-Sorry! Is that all right?
And it's interesting to figure out where they go
and where they've been when they eventually come back?
Absolutely. It's nice to know from a conservation viewpoint,
and this is international conservation,
because obviously we only have a responsibility for these birds
while they're here during their winter, but in the summertime
they're in Arctic Russia, Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland,
so, by being able to plot exactly where they go,
we can work on an international level
to make sure these populations are still here next winter.
-This one's ready to go. Would you like to let it go?
-I'd love to.
Here we go. Are you ready? Into the wind.
-Give him a good launch.
One, two, three. Oh!
Well, I've got many more miles on my journey, too,
to the River Humber, but stay with me along the way
because there's much more still to come in the programme.
Like the time Matt packed a surfboard for a day
on the River Severn.
look how calm everything is on this side.
It's just carnage at the other side of the wave!
And if you're out on the river in the coming week, stay with us
to catch the Countryfile weather forecast.
Take two presenters, put them on two handsome boats
and see if it brings out their competitive side
and their sense of fair play.
Let's find out what really happened
when we set Matt against Julia on the River Thames.
The Thames estuary is much more than just a gateway to London.
It's an area steeped in history and tradition
and they don't come more traditional than a Thames barge.
These boats were the workhorses of their day.
Now, just a handful remain.
But there's no retirement for these girls. Oh, no, not today.
Right, well it's grudge time here on the Wivenhoe.
We're about to go head to head, or keel to keel with Team Bradbury.
And they're definitely team B!
The plan is to race each other up the River Medway to Upnor Castle.
I'm aboard the Cabby, the last wooden barge ever built.
Matt's aboard the Wivenhoe, a steel-hulled boat with an engine.
But today it's all about sail power.
Bradbury calling Baker, come in, Baker, are you there?
How you doing?
Very well. Your crew better be ready.
We'll just spin round. We'll be ready to go.
It takes a moment to swing the boats into position.
We've got four miles ahead of us. May the best team win.
Tell them we're off.
Three, two, one...
These are definitely not speedboats.
We'll be lucky to hit ten miles an hour.
Winning is going to be in the tactics.
Right, we're nicely to windward, so any wind he gets
has already gone through our sails,
so we've already taken all the sting out of it.
We're passing him already.
Like your style, Charlie!
We are stealing his wind!
And we're about to steal some more.
What we are doing is we are now putting up the foresail,
so that gives us an extra sail, so we have one more sail than he has.
JULIA CACKLES EVILLY
And this little sail could make all the difference.
Hang on, lads, how many sails have they got up?
So, is this our secret weapon?
This is our secret weapon, this is, Julia.
-An extra sail! I knew you had it in you!
-We have the power!
Now we're overtaking 'em!
-They're overtaking us.
We don't have the thing sticking out the front.
With a sail on it.
Oh, what a shame(!)
Barge racing goes back 150 years.
It was started by a wheeler dealer called Henry Dodds in the 1860s.
So, how did this Henry Dodds fellow get the racing started, Charlie?
Well, he was the prince of dustmen in London, Victorian London,
and a lot of the rubbish was taken from London in the barges
and dumped out at sea.
So, he decided to offer a prize, I think it was in 1863
was the first barge match, because he thought that barges
racing against barges would improve the way they sailed,
would improve the rig, make them faster and therefore more efficient.
He was a smart cookie, old Dodds.
He knew that barge racing would keep his crews fit
and his boats profitable. Racing like this is his legacy.
And so what's the key of racing her fast and winning these races?
It's all about the way the barge is rigged
and how clean she is and how well she's sailing.
-Have you got high hopes for today?
-I had high hopes until they cheated.
It's just taking advantage.
It's so unfair.
Right, the gloves are off. We can play dirty too.
Start the engine!
Do you think they'll hear it?
Unfortunately, I think they'll hear it
and they'll see our exhaust coming out the side.
I smell a rat. Or is it diesel?
I knew that Baker was a dirty player, but really?
Do you need some help with your engine there?
Turn it off, quick!
Can't you hear me over the ENGINE NOISE?
No, the wind's too strong!
Well, that's big-time cheating.
OK, we've had a laugh. Fair dos, Julia.
We'll switch the engine off and beat you fair and square.
When you do feel the wind behind you
and it fills the sail, you don't half get some speed up in these barges.
It's really surprising, actually.
All the noises, the clunking,
the ropes, the sails,
It's not looking good. They're right on our shoulder.
Yeah, but it's not over yet.
We're neck and neck in the home straight.
Could this be one last gasp for Team Baker?
I think it'll be a close finish, but I think we'll get it.
-You think so?
-Yeah, I reckon.
Well, we're coming around now, into the last corner, right,
and then it's the final stretch up to the finish line.
We're that far ahead now.
He is actually in a faster barge
but I did say we had the professionals on this barge!
I can see the castle. I can see the finish line.
Come on, lads!
We're on the home straight now, and we're inching ahead.
Look at them go. Wow!
Yeah, we got him.
Wahey! That's it, guys! We're over the line!
BOAT BLOWS ITS HORN
In the end, it was Team Bradbury's superior sailing skills
that won the day.
Matt and Julia there, messing about on the river.
But there's more to rivers than just fun and frolics.
They've shaped our industries too, as Julia found out
when she visited the woollen mills of West Yorkshire.
These peaks are the birthplace of a multitude of streams.
The thing about mountain streams
is that they turn into fast-flowing rivers
and the ones around here once powered great industry.
This area was the textile capital of the world.
These valleys echoed to the sound of hundreds of textile mills
employing thousands of workers.
The mills stretched
from the cotton metropolis of Manchester in the west
to the woollen mills of Bradford and Leeds in the east.
The mills may now be silent
but wool is on the up.
Beate Kubitz is going right back to pre-industrial days,
running a cottage industry.
Come on, sheepies.
Come on, sheepy-sheep!
-You're calling them like dogs!
So, I've got to ask,
why Shetland sheep here in the Pennines, Beate?
Well, as you can see, they're all these lovely different colours.
-We've got a moorit here and a fawn katmoget.
The black one. And so basically,
we can create a coloured yarn without having to dye it.
I put it to you, it would be easier just to buy the fleeces.
But, you know, then I'd miss out on all this!
So that's part of the appeal as well?
Yes, yes. My little 30-strong fan club here
and coming out into the moors
and the wind and the rain
and even the snow.
Beate's on a mission to bring home-grown British wool back into fashion.
From sheep to chic.
Beate's business partner Nicola and her team of knitters
are busy putting the finishing touches to their collection.
It's a cottage industry, just like the good old pre-industrial days.
But they're moving with the times, giving woollen clothes a new twist.
If you're thinking blushing bride, think again -
more like the fairy godmother in my case!
Well, I've never tried on a woollen wedding dress before!
In fact, I've never tried on a wedding dress before!
Especially not in THESE kind of shoes!
It's unusual - how did you come up with it?
We'd had brides come to us
and say, "Can you do me something for my wedding?" and we realised
that we needed to market it better, create a full-on collection.
And they come from all over - it's really flattering
when I get brides from London, who've got all the choice there,
and they choose a little shop in Todmorden.
So much for wedding frocks - in true Countryfile fashion,
it's back out into the cold to find out how the waters
that once powered those mighty woollen mills
are being harnessed now.
This is slalom canoeing.
It's wet, it's cold, and it's fast,
but these boys don't mind having a go.
Why is this such a good spot, then, for kayaking and canoeing?
Obviously, we've got the river here and that's what brought the mills,
and the water raced through behind us and powered 100 looms in that mill,
but that's being developed into a white water course.
All right. On a scale of one to ten, today, it's freezing cold,
it's been raining, the water is quite high - how mad are they?
Pretty mad! It's high-level, just about as high as we can get on,
but it's not raining, so we'll only give an eight.
An eight?! Definitely a ten from me!
Slalom coach Les knows how to use the power of these waters
to his advantage. He reckons he can complete
the 300-metre slalom course in just 100 seconds.
Right, OK - I have a stopwatch.
-I'll time you.
I'd better get a shift on, too -
I've got to get to the finishing line!
Still got lots of pep in his step!
-I THINK you might be quite chuffed with that.
-Go on, then.
-What do you reckon, how did it feel?
-85, something like that?
Well, you can certainly see how these rivers came to power
so many massive mills back in the day.
It's great to see all that energy isn't going to waste.
Now, if you've been inspired by any of the wildlife
or wild landscapes you've seen on the programme so far, perhaps
it's time to get your camera out and let us know
what "wild" means to you.
This year's Countryfile photographic competition is under way
and its theme is a walk on the wild side.
The very best entries will make it into our calendar,
sold in aid of Children In Need.
Here's John to tell you how to get involved.
You can enter up to four photos
which must have been taken in the UK.
Please write your name, address
and a daytime and evening phone number
on the back of each photo, with a note of where it was taken.
And then all you have to do is send your entries to...
Whoever takes the winning photo, as voted for by Countryfile viewers,
can choose from a range of the latest photographic equipment to the value of £1,000.
The person who takes the picture the judges like best
gets to pick equipment to the value of £500.
The full terms and conditions are on our website,
where you'll also find details of the BBC's code of conduct for competitions.
The closing date is July 22
and I'm sorry, but we can't return
any entries. So, the best of luck.
There's many ways of getting downriver.
You could sail,
or even swim...
Or you can make like Matt when he packed his surfboard
and headed for the River Severn.
At the moment, it's calm, it's tranquil -
all you can hear is the sound of the birds.
But it is six o'clock in the morning and I'm dressed in a wetsuit
as I'm about to embark on an experience that I will never, ever forget.
And it's all thanks to that.
It's the Earth's incredible relationship with the moon
and the sun that helps create one of the natural wonders of the world.
Here comes the science bit(!)
The moon and the Earth are constantly rotating around each other.
As they spin, both the moon
and the sun exert a powerful gravitational force on the Earth,
physically pulling the oceans back and forth,
creating high and low tides.
But when the sun, moon and the Earth line up together,
something truly remarkable happens.
Their combined force creates extra-high, or spring tides.
The effect on the River Severn at certain times of the year
is so astonishing
that people are prepared to get up at the crack of dawn to experience it.
Like most of the planet's miracles,
if you want to see it, you've got to put a bit of effort in.
Steve and I are going to go and meet it where it starts - way out there.
Known as the Severn Bore, it's a tidal wave which sweeps up the river.
But why does the spring tide create a tidal wave here?
One of my guides for the day has lived alongside this bizarre phenomenon all his life
and if anyone can explain it, it's him.
It's going to be a lot of water,
that's the thing
that people don't understand.
The whole of this area that you can see, it's going to raise
by about ten metres in the space of 40 minutes.
As it comes into this channel, it's funnelled between Wales
and Land's End and it just gets squeezed and squeezed
and it'll build into a big tidal wave.
'It's freezing and the sun is only just up.
'But we're not the only ones mad enough to be out.'
There's a couple of surfers here, we're just zipping alongside now.
All waiting for the ominous arrival of the Bore.
'But I'm very privileged -
'I'm getting a lift to meet the Bore at its source.
'Constantly shifting sand banks makes this one of the UK's
'most dangerous rivers and I've never even surfed before.'
There's a real feeling of anticipation, though, isn't there?
Especially for us, but seeing the surfers as we're coming down,
everybody is waiting for this moment.
'We're minutes away from the Bore now and it's time for me
'to get into the water.
'Luckily, I'm not doing this alone. I'm with Steve King -
'he's the record holder for the longest unbroken surf on the Bore -
'7.5 miles non-stop, so he's definitely the right person.'
What you want to do is just try
and let the tide take you, rather than you fight against it. OK.
'And suddenly, it's on us.'
Oh my word! I can see it! That is absolutely...
It's coming. If you get in now, just hop in.
Oh, she's fresh! Oh!
-Paddle as hard as you can.
-And we're up and on it!
Oh, I've missed it!
I've gone with the second one!
That was it! And it's gone!
What happened, it's broken, but it's broken onto the sand bar,
because it will only break in shallow water.
-So where we were, was a bit too deep.
-Was it? OK.
Because obviously I'm not that brilliant at paddling
and keeping up with it, we do have a little RIB that's
going to take us a little bit further upriver, so we can catch it again.
'It's a race to overtake the wave.
'I'm determined to have another go,
'but unless we get ahead of the tide, I've got no chance.'
One, two, three -
That's it. All right?
-Come over this way. Come over this way with me.
-This is unbelievable!
'So frustrating! Just as I hit my stride, I was off the wave.'
What a feeling that is!
Honestly, it's so high, even though the wave looks really quite small,
when you're up, there's a brilliant view right across.
Right, let's get back in the boat and catch her up!
I want to do that again.
'We're in pursuit of the wave and we're not the only ones here,
'as this is one of the best access points.
'The surfers are flocking - there must be 150 people in the water
'and 1,000 on the bank.'
Yay! Go on, lads! Wicked!
Oh, here we go!
'At last - after travelling 13 miles, we're past the wave
'and ready to try again.'
Look how calm everything is on this side.
It's just carnage on the other side of the wave!
'The pressure's on - we're nearly at the spot where the wave
'is at its biggest, but this is my last chance.
'After this, the river gets too narrow and we'll have to stop.'
'I'm on such a high, I manage to surf it for over a minute,
'but the nearest I get to standing up is this...'
'And as quickly as it began, it's all over.'
Matt there, making his own way downriver.
I'm on a river journey too,
telling the tale of one of our greatest - the River Humber.
My journey started on the Derwent -
a tributary which joins up with the River Ouse.
The Ouse in turn joins up with the Trent,
where the Humber River proper begins.
Here, the story is one of commerce, how the shape
and character of a river can play such a big part in the lives of men.
The Humber is one of the busiest trading routes in Europe.
It's deep, wide channels mean big ships can pass with ease.
The tankers and commercial crafts of today cannot compare with
the traditional working boats of yore - the Humber sloops.
These beautiful craft were the workhorses of their day.
Thousands would have plied their trade up and down
the River Humber, carrying all sorts of cargoes.
Now, just a few remain.
The Amy Howson is one of only six still afloat.
In a moment, I'll take to the water on her, but before that,
I'm off to meet one of the last men alive to have worked on one.
Cyril Harrison is 90 now.
He first sailed on a working Humber sloop back in the 1930s.
He's still sailing and building boats. With a little help!
-Are you ready, Cyril?
Go on, go on, go on.
So tell me about life on the sloops. How old were you when you were working on them?
-Oh, well, I went aboard when I was about 15.
-A young lad.
Yes, well, I left school when I was 13.
-And what was life like, working on them?
-Well, it wasn't a bad life.
You got your good days and your bad days.
It was a lot better you sailing about than having a motor. It was...
-What was your cargo?
Your market goods and then we went on to sugar beet and sugar.
-Were you living on board at the time?
-How was it?
-Yes, it was all right. Not a bad life at all.
-It's how you made it.
-Do you miss those days, working on the sloops?
Well, I do sometimes.
You get into a way of life.
But I've been ashore too long now to...bother about it.
By the 1950s, the day of the sloops had passed.
Road and rail had taken away their trade.
But thanks to a bunch of dedicated enthusiasts,
it's still possible to get a flavour of life under sail.
That's what I'm going to be doing.
But before that, will the weather do us any favours?
Let's find out with the Countryfile forecast.
On this special edition of Countryfile,
I've been telling the story of one of our greatest rivers -
the River Humber.
I started out on one of its many tributaries, the River Derwent.
Now, I'm taking to the Humber itself and I'm doing it in style.
This is a Humber sloop,
a traditional workboat that played a big part in the story of the Humber.
Once, this river would have thronged with them -
thousands of boats, both sloops and keels -
the ones seen here with the square sails,
all carrying precious cargoes.
Before the Humber Bridge over there was built,
they were one of the main ways of getting goods from here,
to Yorkshire, over there.
And much further afield - on sea or river or canal,
these boats were a workaday sight.
They've all gone now.
Well, nearly all -
the Amy Howson here is just one of six left afloat.
-Good to meet you.
-Welcome to the Amy Howson.
-Thank you very much.
Gosh, isn't she a beauty? Over here?
Yes, just step down onto there and then you're in. Nice and safe.
Look at all the space down here.
-Mind your head as you come down.
-Gosh, it's huge down here!
So this is where the cargo went?
Yes, from the ship's bay to the hatch tops.
So there was no living that went on in here?
No, it was purely about cargo.
There's a cabin at the fore for the crew
and a cabin at the rear where the family - skipper,
wife and however many children they had would live.
-What sort of things would have been carried in this one?
Whatever would earn some money, but mostly coal, grain, chalk, bricks.
So this space has seen some serious variation in its goods.
And all had to be loaded in by hand and loaded out by hand,
so it was physical, hard work.
By the 1950s, road and rail
meant there was no call for these slow-moving beauties.
Amy Howson was finally laid up in 1973
and that should have been the end of her story.
So what sort of state was she when you got hold of her?
She was basically derelict. All the hatchings had been smashed.
She was just a rusting hulk, really. She was just scrap value.
-Did you get her for a song, then?
-We got her at scrap value.
-£300 it cost us in 1976.
-A bit more than that to do her up?
It's cost us a lot more, and it still does cost.
Once we're out into the open channel,
the engine is switched off and the sale is hoisted.
We glide silently and effortlessly into the tide.
The crew are all volunteers, getting out when they can
and taking whatever the weather throws at them.
The wind today has really picked up and it's westerly, which isn't
ideal for us, so the sail, as you can see, is going ten to the dozen.
We need to drop it a little bit,
cos we're being thrown all over the place.
Skipper Alan decides it's safer to lower the sail.
We switch back to the engine, which should make steering easier.
Basically, we're heading for the shore.
-That's really got some kick, hasn't it?
-It has, yes.
And you should have been on it when we had the sails up!
I noticed you leaning against it with all your might,
trying to keep it going!
-Goodness, that's really quite tough work.
-It is tough work, yes.
You can never underestimate the power of the water and the wind.
-Feeling that now.
-So much stronger than ourselves.
This is my full weight against this!
-Start easing off now.
-Back to the middle?
And you want to be aiming for... the factory there.
It's a struggle on the open water, but with the sail down,
these boats could easily navigate the canals.
This meant cargo could be shipped as far inland as Sheffield.
What they used to do with these on a lot of the canals,
they would take the lead boards off, take the boom off,
and occasionally drop the mast and then they would be pulled
by horse marines, which were chaps
who used to ply their trade up and down the tow path of the canals
with a big shire horse.
They would put a harness on the horse and a rope on the bow,
and the horse would pull the barge up to where it wanted to be
to discharge its cargo.
Some of the skippers, who didn't want to pay for the horse marine,
or if the horse marine wasn't available,
they would put the harness on either themselves, or usually the wife.
I see! OK... Seems a woman's work was never done.
Man and wife teams were the order of the day.
Whole families would live aboard the boats,
the bulk of their lives spent on the river.
Ooh, this is snug!
Very cosy. So how many people would have lived in here?
You'd get, Mother and Father would have lived in here
and possibly two or three children, depending.
A family of five!
That was the only place, the only means of cooking was on there.
-So that was their heat and their cooking, from the fire?
-Where did they sleep?
-There was two... One bunk there.
That's quite cosy, actually.
That would be possibly two children in there.
This is where mother and father would have slept, in here.
-Oh, that's a bit bigger.
-Rather a large one, you see.
We'd probably call that a single size bed today.
Yes, but don't forget mother and father
-had to be very friendly to sleep in there!
-They sure did!
There's the drawers - that would be for clothes
and things like that, down here.
They would have kept provisions and personal articles
in the cupboard, and there was drawers all over.
-Every single inch is used.
-Yes, it is.
-I must say, it's very ornate.
I had sort of expected poorer,
perhaps more spartan conditions, but it's actually very beautiful.
It feels like a miniature version of a captain's room.
I don't know whether they would have had carpet on the floor before,
-I should think luxuries were few and far between.
Up on deck, the wind has eased just enough for another go under sail.
Which is fine by me, because there's not much better than being
on the Humber in the boats that bear its name.
What a spectacular way to finish my river journey
on this special edition of Countryfile.
Next week, we'll be in Northern Ireland -
a place the Queen visited
on her first official tour after her coronation.
See you then.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
In this special edition of Countryfile, Ellie Harrison tells the story of one of our greatest rivers - the Humber. She explains how it has shaped the landscape, nourished all kinds of wildlife and been an aide to human endeavour.
She follows its course from one of its key tributaries to where it flows out beyond the world famous Humber Bridge to the North Sea. It is a tale of the Derwent, the Ouse and ends with an epic voyage down the Humber itself onboard a sloop - a traditional working boat.
Along the way, Ellie will be looking back at some of Countryfile's finest moments out on the water. Matt Baker joins the RNLI flood rescue team in a training exercise on the river Etive. Julia Bradbury finds out how rivers have shaped our industries when she visits woollen mills in west Yorkshire. And in Wales, Jules Hudson goes on a hike with a difference while Matt takes on the might of the Severn Bore.