John Craven and Ellie Harrison head to Northern Ireland to explore the wild, natural beauty of the Antrim coast. John discovers how the landscape has been shaped by farming.
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The Antrim coast. There is a wild beauty about this place.
Rugged cliffs stretching for 80 miles,
broken only by nine deep green glens, each with a character all of its own.
This has to be one of my favourite parts of the British Isles.
The coastline is stunning
and the glorious glens reach down to it like giant fingers.
I will be discovering just how the way that these glens have been farmed
has helped shape this landscape.
While John is exploring the Glens of Antrim, I'm taking to the water.
This coastline is home to some of Northern Ireland's most
glorious scenery, and what a way to take it in!
I'm lucky enough to be one of the first people
to try out a new kayaking trail,
and I've been promised some hidden gems on the way.
Meanwhile, Tom is investigating the controversy over
the use of antibiotics on farm animals.
But is it really a concern
for human health? Well, earlier this year,
a scientific discovery put that question very much in the spotlight.
And Adam is keen to add to his herd of Irish moiled cattle.
My dad has passed on a lot of rare breeds of cattle to me,
but these are the first that I've introduced to the farm myself.
They hold a special place in my heart. I need to get them in calf,
so that means looking for another bull.
County Antrim lies in the north-east of Northern Ireland.
Its nine glens are splendid, remote valleys,
which many visitors just pass by as they head along the famous
coastal road, one of the best in the world.
As well as the stark beauty of these glens,
there is a sense of timelessness here.
A feeling that not very much has changed for many centuries.
I've travelled to a village at the foot of one of the glens
to meet someone who can tell me
more about what makes this place unique.
'Andrew McAllister's family have been living and working in the glens
'for over 400 years.
'He runs a grocers shop and funeral directors in the village.'
That's quite a combination, Andrew, grocer and funeral director!
You look after them when they're living,
and when they pass on to the next stage.
The great thing about an area like this
is the same families have tended to live here
for multiple generations.
These same families have owned the same land,
owned the same businesses, and have lived in the same area.
It is very unusual in the UK and Ireland today
to have this continuity of population.
You're quite close to Scotland here,
-Yes, about 15 miles.
The coast road was built in the mid 19th century
and until then, this was a very remote place indeed.
And it was much easier to get to the Mull of Kintyre
than it was to get to Ballymena or Antrim.
Up until then, it was horses on narrow tracks, over mountain passes.
It is a very beautiful area.
Are you making the most of it as far as tourism is concerned?
I think we still have a lot of work to do.
We have a landscape, a culture, wildlife, the sea,
which means that this area
has to be one where tourism will become more and more important.
Leaving Andrew and the coast behind,
I'm heading into the glens themselves.
Andrew's cousin, James McHenry,
is a hill farmer in the spectacular Glenariff.
He and his wife, Anne, have just over 200 acres
of wild terrain near the mouth of the glen, just three miles from the sea.
James is a third-generation farmer. He learned how to manage
this extreme landscape from his father.
-You are very much a Glensman, aren't you?
-Yes, born and reared here, yes.
-Do you reckon this is the best one?
-Glenariff? Of course it is.
Of course it's the best glen.
-They all have different characters.
-Glenariff's known as
the Queen of the Glens. The others haven't got the view,
they have no waterfalls.
What is it about this place that appeals to you still?
Just the beauty and the tranquil situation.
And I think most of the farms like yours
have been owned by the same family for many generations?
It is very rarely that any land would come up for sale here.
Subsequently, if any smallholdings would come up for sale,
they'll get some price, like!
With land coming onto the market so rarely, the farms here
are valuable assets. But it is a harsh place to work,
and sheep are obviously the mainstay on these hills.
The sheep have actually helped shape the look of this landscape.
They have surely, John.
With sheep being here, it helps to keep the gorse in control.
In some places, the gorse has got out of control.
Is that because some of the farms have been abandoned?
With unemployment being very high here and the economic downturn here,
some young people have been forced to leave.
Four or five young people in this valley have gone to Australia.
There are two or three more in the Middle East.
And if this trend continues, it will lead to land abandonment.
So, what is going to happen to your farm, do you reckon, James,
when you decide to quit?
I just don't know what is going to happen.
Because I don't have any family coming at all.
We have got quite a nice piece of land here
and I'm thinking of looking at a young chap to come to run the farm.
-Think you'll find one?
-It will be difficult.
This impressive waterfall is just next to James's farm.
And there are lots of them here,
because one thing this area certainly isn't short of is water.
It rains a lot in the Glens of County Antrim.
And while this can spoil an afternoon out for the visitors,
some of the locals, like Eamonn Matthews, are making the most of it.
Eamonn's family have a long history here.
He has a full-time job, but works in the evenings and weekends
on the family farm in Glenarm. He is keen to show me
his latest project, which actually welcomes the rain.
-Well, it's certainly wet enough today!
-It certainly is, John.
Just the place for water and rain.
And just how are you utilising all this water?
Well, this has been called the spring field.
Our family have been here for 400 years.
We have a spring. My father has looked
at doing something with it.
It is a free resource we have on the farm.
With the renewable ethos, we are looking at a hydroelectric scheme,
and we have actually installed one.
The spring is lifted over there, then taken where it's filtered.
It goes straight down to a turbine house,
to a wee turbine at the bottom.
-Shall we go into the turbine house? It might be a bit drier!
'The force of gravity alone brings the spring water down to the bottom
'of the farm, where it powers the turbine, producing electricity.'
It is actually an awful lot smaller than I thought it would be!
It is a very compact wee unit, so it is. It definitely does the job.
It powers everything on the farm?
The power generated is about 11.7 kilowatts.
So that is enough for the farm,
and the excess is then sold back to the grid.
From that, I am paid for every unit I produce.
So you are actually seeing the meter going the other way round.
It's pound signs, John, so it is!
On a wet afternoon in County Antrim, it is easy
to see why Eamonn is proud of his mini power station.
This kind of entrepreneurial spirit
and enthusiasm amongst his generation is what is needed
to keep farming alive in the glens for years to come.
The farm has been here for 400 years, and I will certainly not be
the first to sell up and end 400 years of tradition.
Now, most of us know that these days,
doctors are far less likely to prescribe us with antibiotics.
But is the same kind of restraint being shown
when it comes to treating the animals that we eat?
Tom has been investigating.
'Modern farming is big business,
'working to low margins on a large scale
'to feed our insatiable appetite.'
When we go shopping, many of us expect cheap food.
Chicken for a fiver, a couple of quid for some pork,
and maybe some reasonable steak for under a tenner.
We demand competitive prices,
but one of the things that make that possible is antibiotics.
They are a vital tool in keeping animals free from disease
and the vast majority go straight into their food and water.
In fact, figures for the most recent year suggested
we use 349 tonnes of these drugs in our farm animals.
That's about the same as 250,000 of these chickens.
Some of these are exactly the same drugs
used to treat us when we get sick.
In the last decade, antibiotics, which are critically important
to human health, have been increasingly used on animals.
The advantages are obvious.
Fewer sick animals is better for welfare,
down the line means cheaper food and greater profits for farmers.
So, everyone is a winner. Well, maybe not.
Because some experts are now warning that the routine use
of antibiotics is breeding drug resistant bacteria,
superbugs, in effect,
which could threaten the health of not only animals, but us, too.
So, why do farmers need all these antibiotics?
Well, on Adam's farm,
they are specifically used to treat infection.
We routinely check our animals every day
and if there are any sick ones, we will administer antibiotics then.
We have to get permission from the vet, he has to sometimes
inspect the animal, and it is prescription medicines only.
Once Adam has that prescription, it is up to him
when he carries out the treatment.
But he feels he does that responsibly.
There's no reason that we can't use too much -
if we are given a bottle and told how much to administer,
we could overdose. But we would be fools if we did,
because it is very expensive stuff, so we use the right amount
to do the right job, and are advised by our vets to do so.
But when you have a lot of animals, treatment only
when they get sick isn't always an option.
'Vet Keith Warner tends to hundreds of thousands
'of chickens on this farm in Herefordshire.'
-Wow! This is quite something, quite a spectacle.
How many birds are in here?
There will be 30,000 birds in this building.
Under British law,
antibiotics are only available on prescription.
So, for animals, it is down to vets like Keith to decide
when and where to use them.
On antibiotics themselves, what is the regime here?
The regime in this company, in this building, will be
to use antibiotics in the event of any disease,
where we, as vets, identify the bacterial cause.
Is the critical thing, when you've got quite a few birds
living close to each other like this, you've got to get on top
of the disease before it starts, because otherwise,
-it'll spread very quickly?
-As a poultry veterinary surgeon,
my job in the main is in prevention, rather than cure.
Across the UK, though, the majority of antibiotics
are administered before an animal is actually sick.
It is this preventative use that is concerning many critics,
including the European Commission,
which is now considering a ban on the practice.
So, does that mean in an environment like this, antibiotics
are being used as a preventative measure routinely, or not?
No, not routinely.
There is preventative medication used.
But it is used on a risk based analysis.
If we understand that there is a risk to animals
of getting disease, we may use antibiotics to prevent that.
But the more antibiotics are used,
the greater the chances of diseases becoming resistant to them.
So, is prevention really better than cure?
No, I really don't agree with that. That suggests that all humans
might as well take antibiotics all the time as well,
in case we got ill. We have seen
a general trend towards using more
of the critically important antibiotics,
those which are highly important in human medicine.
And that has happened because we have got resistance to
some of the drugs that have been overused,
but also, there are commercial advantages in the sense that
with one of these drugs in particular,
there is no withdrawal periods, so the farmers can inject the cow
in the morning, and still put the milk into the tank in the afternoon.
So, a bit of a vicious circle on farms.
The bugs become resistant to one antibiotic,
so you have to use a stronger one, and so on.
We have seen several new types of antibiotic resistance
develop in the last decade. New types of E coli,
new types of salmonella, in pigs, for example,
and E coli in almost all farm animals,
which are highly resistant to antibiotics.
'But where is the proof that antibiotic resistant superbugs
'really are developing in animals?
'To find out, I'm visiting a lab at the University of Cambridge
'to meet veterinary scientist Mark Holmes.'
We are currently surveying over 1,000 dairy farms
up and down the country, including Scotland,
and we are looking for MRSA in the unpasteurised milk
that is collected in the bulk tank on those farms.
And what we're looking for is evidence
that they are resistant to the type of antibiotics
that are used on farms.
Each milk sample is tested for antibiotic resistant bacteria.
In this case, MRSA.
And Mark has got the results from two different farms to show me.
So what we've got here are plates with a special agar
that changes colour when there's a colony of MRSA there,
so if you look at this plate,
you can see there are some purpley or dark blue coloured colonies,
they are MRSA.
and here, I think it's another sample,
so that is a similarly a same amount of milk plated out onto the dish
and you can see there, there's actually hooching with MRSA.
Every one of those blue dots is a colony.
How worried should we be, because I look at that and think,
my goodness, you've put milk on this and look at the evidence of MRSA,
which is something people are frightened about, in milk!
Well, I think one of the interesting things is if I had shown you
the same amount of milk from a supermarket plated onto a plate,
we wouldn't have found any growth at all
because pasteurisation or the heat treatment of milk
that normally goes into the human food chain
completely kills all the bacteria in milk.
So what you're saying is there is virtually no risk at all
from pasteurised dairy products?
Very small risk that you might get colonised with, say, MRSA
if you drank unpasteurised milk,
but pasteurisation of milk kills the bacteria.
Elsewhere, similar results have been found
with antibiotic resistant bacteria in meat and poultry.
Bacteria like E coli and salmonella
are quite common on raw meat and chicken,
but so long as these products are cooked properly,
the bacteria will be killed whether it was drug resistant or not.
Now, the danger might come from bacteria on undercooked meat
that was then beaten.
If that were a drug-resistant strain,
it would be much more serious.
So, are these drug resistant bugs
actually making the jump from animal to us?
And if so, just how serious is the threat to human health?
That's what I'll be investigating later.
We're exploring the enchanting County Antrim in Northern Ireland.
Whilst John's taking a drive inland through the glens,
I'm up on the rugged north coast
discovering what makes this area so spectacular.
Later, I'll grab a paddle
and take to the sea to witness some of its hidden gems.
But first, like a million visitors every year,
I've come to the Giant's Causeway.
It's a geological jewel in Northern Ireland's crown,
and its only World Heritage site.
It's made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns,
that were formed during the cooling period
after a volcanic eruption 50 million years ago.
Now, if legend is to be believed,
it was created by a giant called Finn McCool,
who built these enormous steppingstones
to walk over to Scotland to do battle with a rival giant.
Giant's Causeway has placed a mystical charm over this landscape,
but in the last few years, it's been a bit of a building site
with the creation of a brand-new visitor centre.
Creating a 21st-century structure
on a World Heritage Site is always tricky.
Plans to design a building to complement the landscape
began in 2006.
Five years on, and the solution is half built.
Graham Thompson is the a project director.
What considerations did you have to take into account
-with this building?
-This building is small and modest in scale.
It needs to be part of the landscape and blend into the landscape,
so the design is very resonant of that.
And that's the clever part, because the building materials
being used to blended into the landscape is simply glass and grass.
One of the most exciting things about the building is the roof.
The roof's going to be accessible, but it's also going to be grassed.
The difficulties are compounded by the need to have local grasses
because this is a World Heritage Site,
so we've collected lots of grass seeds from local fields
and also mixed those with other grasses
so there will be something for people to walk over.
The new centre is due to open in July, 2012.
As well as promoting the Causeway,
it will also be used to showcase the whole of Northern Ireland.
Most people appreciate the Giant's Causeway
by taking a walk onto it, standing on a hexagonal column
and drinking it all in.
But that's so last year!
Why see it by land when you can enjoy it by sea!
I am off to get a giant's eye view.
A new canoe and kayak trail is being launched along the rugged coastline,
opening up 70 nautical miles of Irish watery adventure.
Experienced kayaker and local Robin Ruddock is going to be my guide.
-Welcome to the North Coast and the trail!
-Thank you very much!
So tell me, how did this trail come about?
Over 30 years ago, I wrote a guide for sea kayakers up here,
but really it's only purists, specialists who have done that,
so what I've done is recently put together this trail.
How many people have done this route, then?
You would be the first to actually follow the guide,
so we'll use the guide today, and you're breaking new ground.
-Wonderful. I'm the guinea pig!
-You are the guinea pig.
-Do you need to be quite experienced to go at it?
-It can be.
We are open to the North Atlantic,
and you'll see today conditions aren't perfect.
This will give people a good idea of what it's like on the Causeway Coast.
It is a bit breezy, isn't it, today?
So life jackets on and we're set.
I feel like a pioneer!
The plan is to hug the coastline and paddle about 15 miles of the trail.
I've done some kayaking before, but Robin's promised
some unrivalled views, even through the mist.
Our first stop is the foreboding Dunluce Castle.
Robin, this is amazing!
It's actually part of the old Kingdom of Dalriada.
-See up above the cave, where the wall's missing?
There were having a huge banquet in the castle,
and in a storm, that whole wall fell into the sea,
along with the cooks.
A few more paddles away and we reach the dramatic white cliffs.
These are old limestone cliffs.
These are much, much older than the basalt.
You can see weaknesses in the chalk.
-There's a cave on your left coming up.
That's an old volcanic vent.
That's where the lava broke its way up through the chalk
and poured out onto the surface.
You'd never get these views from the road on top of the rocks above us.
That honour only comes from a boat.
And you can get even closer in a kayak.
We call this the Wishing Arch.
It's the biggest sea arch on the Causeway Coast.
So if you want to have a wee private wish
-as we go through...
-You know, I sure will.
It's so huge. You're paddling under it, you really feel dwarfed.
On we go, and the views keep coming at us.
Although I get the feeling we're being watched,
and not just by the wildlife.
There's a beautiful feature coming up, called the giant's face.
Every time you paddle on, you reveal something new, something amazing!
-You see a big nose up to your left?
-I sure can.
-You see the mouth and the lips?
-Yeah, and a funny chin.
We're setting quite a pace now,
and just as we round the headland, I get my giant's eye View.
The Causeway. What a way to see it.
It's mind-boggling that I was standing there earlier on today,
and it looks like an entirely different place
seeing it from the seaward side.
It's a different landscape altogether
when it's set in this geological context.
-There's more basalt columns there, just on the right.
Those are the organ pipes.
When you look at them, it's just exactly like a cathedral organ.
Whoa! That was a face for the sea.
The Atlantic has suddenly got choppy, and the rain's coming in
but we're undeterred. We've reached Port Moon.
It was used as a base to transport crates of fresh fish out to ships
en route to the Liverpool markets.
There's still evidence of that industry all across the landscape.
That used to be a salmon fishery, and about 10 or 15 years ago,
that shut down and the building started to fall into disrepair,
so we were able to get permission from the landlords,
the McNaughton family,
and that's going to be on the trail for kayakers and for walkers.
They'll be able to stay there for about a fiver a night.
Our final stop is Carrick-a-Rede, which means rock in the road.
The rock is connected to the mainland by an 80ft bridge.
This is no extreme walk.
The bridge was originally erected by fishermen
to get across to catch salmon in their nets.
The island of Carrick-a-Rede is actually an old volcanic plug,
and this was their way of getting the nets out,
off this rock out into the sea.
It's been an amazing day.
It's like Ireland's been hiding this beautiful secret,
this epic coastline that you just cannot get a sense of from the land.
I feel so jammy to have been one of the first people on this trial.
I need no further inspiration
to tempt me to discover more of this coastline.
I hope the new visitor centre at Giant's Causeway
and this new kayak trail will inspire more people
to explore it to ensure its rich history stays alive.
Earlier, we had fears that the use of antibiotics in animals
is putting human health at risk, but how real is that danger? Here's Tom.
I've seen how the amount of antibiotics used on farm animals
is leading to fears
about the emergence of drug resistant superbugs.
But is it really a concern for human health?
Well, earlier this year,
a scientific discovery put that question very much in the spotlight.
Mark Holmes is leading research at the University of Cambridge.
He's already shown me how he's found MRSA bacteria in cows' milk,
which is resistant to antibiotics.
But in June his tests revealed
something else that he hadn't expected.
We have discovered a new version of MRSA,
and what I've got here are some genetic fingerprints.
I have got seven that are human, seven that come from cows,
and what you'll see here is, if you look at number four for the human
and then we look at number 12 for the cows,
those have an identical set of bands.
And from that, we know that the bug is travelling
between people and cows.
So you've discovered there is an overlap between some strains
of cow MRSA and human MRSA, but do you know which way it's travelling?
Well, to be utterly sure, positive about it, no,
we don't know which way it's going.
We're currently doing the research.
The circumstantial evidence is that it's coming from cows
and into people.
This is some of the strongest evidence yet
that drug resistant superbugs like this new form of MRSA
can be passed from animals to us.
It does sound a little bit worrying,
because this whole area of bugs moving from animals to humans,
we know from pig flu and bird flu,
is a big public health concern, isn't it? Does this feed into that?
I don't think the work we are doing here is direct,
in-your-face evidence that there is a problem there,
but to me it is hinting that there may be a bigger problem
around the corner,
and if this happened to an antibiotic
that was absolutely essential to human survival,
then we would have lost irrevocably
one of the antibiotics that we depend on for human health.
So if antibiotic resistant bacteria can make the jump from animals
to humans, how concerned should we be?
According to the Health Protection Agency, at the moment,
we shouldn't be too worried.
I don't think that disease outbreaks as a result of resistant bacteria
selected in animals are likely, but at worst,
the individual person's gut gets colonised by resistant bacteria,
and then individually later have those bacteria in an appendicitis
or in a urinary tract infection,
which as a result is harder to treat.
But that's not an outbreak.
So, as things stand,
its unlikely we'll get an epidemic of untreatable superbugs
spreading across the population.
However, drug resistant bacteria
could become a much more serious threat in the future,
if we over-prescribe antibiotics.
Strange, then, that we seem to be encouraging their use.
Britain is the only country in Western Europe
that allows the advertising of animal antibiotics
direct to farmers,
and here are some of their tempting sales techniques.
This once suggesting it would be like a cosy drink down the bar,
or we've got three difficult targets, one simple solution,
conjuring up the idea of a cure-all magic bullet.
Whilst the National Farmers Union
believes that as animal professionals,
their members have the expertise to interpret the facts from the froth,
other groups aren't as convinced.
We really shouldn't be allowing this to continue.
It's counter-productive, and I'd far rather farmers were given
sober, factual information rather than emotive images
in order to sell something to them which they don't always need.
Richard's not the only one concerned.
The British Veterinary Association
also wants these sorts of adverts banned.
But not everyone feels the arguments against them are quite so clear cut.
It's positive points are that it increases people's knowledge
about what the tools are in the toolbox.
Like you say, the potential negative is that people get overexcited
about a particular product.
But we as vets sit there in the middle to control that.
We've certainly found no evidence
that vets are unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics.
But these adverts do illustrate
the difference between the use of drugs in animals
and the way doctors prescribe antibiotics to us.
The question is whether that needs to change.
The regulation of the use of antibiotics in the UK
is fairly robust, and although there's some evidence
of resistant superbugs emerging,
there's no real immediate threat to public health.
Perhaps the bigger concern is what could happen in the future.
Striking the balance between animal health today
and human health tomorrow is difficult.
But the fear is if we use too many antibiotics on farms,
then a drug-resistant superbug could emerge
that really would have a widespread impact on us.
Later on Countryfile,
I'm heading to the treetops to find out what's being done
to preserve one of Northern Ireland's most mysterious features.
Oh, what a view!
Ellie is taking a salty soak
to discover the healing properties of seaweed.
I might get used to this.
And there's the Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead.
In the Cotswolds, one of Adam's most prized herds is weighing on his mind.
For months, he's been on the lookout for a new bull.
But could the search finally be over?
The thick haze that surrounds the farm
is a reminder that winter's fast approaching.
We check round the stock every day, but on a foggy day like today,
I have a job to find them.
Soon, I'll be moving most of the animals into winter housing,
including one of my rarest herds.
These are my lovely Irish Moiled cattle.
They were an Irish smallholder's breed,
so an animal that's quite small that could convert rough forage
into good quality milk and beef.
So they were a dual-purpose animal.
After the war, we streamlined agriculture and went
for the black-and-white dairy cow, producing masses of milk
and big Continental beef breeds.
These little dual-purpose animals couldn't compete,
so they became rare.
At one time, there were only 20 left in the world.
Now there are about 500 breeding females,
so they're coming back, and I really like them.
My dad passed on a lot of rare breeds of cattle to me,
but these are the first ones I've introduced to the farm.
They have a special place in my heart.
But if I'm going to keep this herd going,
there's a problem that needs solving.
This is my Irish Moiled bull. And I've got him here,
shut away from those other two cows,
because he's related to them. And I need to get them in calf,
so that means looking for another bull. I could buy semen
and artificially inseminate the cows instead,
but it doesn't always work,
so I'd rather find a new bull to do the job properly.
After months of searching, I've made some progress.
I've found an Irish Moiled bull
for sale in the village of Honeybourne, close to where I live.
I'm very lucky to find one so close.
It could be the answer to my problems.
The bull's at a smallholding belonging to Clive Landshoff,
and I can't wait to check him out.
-So how old is he, Clive?
-He was born in 2006, so he's five years old.
He's lovely, isn't he? He's a nice-looking bull.
And he's very beefy round the back end.
Quite good for a Moilie. What about his markings? He's a bit pale.
-I prefer the dark ones.
-To be honest, so do I.
He's all right, though. He's got a nice red nose and red ears.
'I like the look of this bull, but there's more.'
So if you're selling the bull, Clive,
what will you do next year for the cows?
I'm going to crossbreed them.
-Probably with Aberdeen Angus.
I want to make life easier. I'm not getting any younger.
I want an animal I can take at any stage of its life
into the local market, sell it and get a good price.
I can see where Clive's coming from, but when the breed's so rare,
it seems a shame not to keep the bloodline pure.
I'm starting to wonder
if there's room for a few more cows at my place.
How much do you want for them?
£3,500 later, I've got myself a deal.
I'm really pleased with that.
A bit more than I bargained for, but I got a fantastic-looking bull
and three cows to go with him. That'll boost my herd at home.
All I have to do now is check
that the cows haven't got TB before they're moved.
But Clive's never had TB on this farm before,
so it shouldn't be a problem.
Clive's isn't the only farm I'm visiting this week.
It's on a more personal note
that I'm heading to the Brecon Beacons in Wales.
Every winter, I get my ewes scanned to find out if they're pregnant.
For years, I've entrusted the job to Richard Chantler.
A farmer himself, he sold me a few sheep too.
But on a trip to New Zealand earlier this year, Richard sadly died.
I've never had a chance to visit Richard's farm before.
It's now being run by his wife, Penny.
I'm heading there now to see how she's getting on.
Penny, hi. Lovely to see you.
-It's fantastic to be here.
-Great to see you. Pity about the day, though.
-Shall we look at your sheep?
'Richard and Penny have specialised in New Zealand Romneys,
'the same breed as my own commercial flock.'
So you've recently shorn them.
Yes, we sheared them about two-and-a-half weeks ago.
It's so lovely to see the ewes.
I've been buying rams off you and Richard for a long time,
-but to see where they came from is fantastic.
Now, I understand that on Richard's last trip to New Zealand,
he had found two rams, and you've had them imported.
Yes, they came in on September 9th, into Heathrow,
cargo hold of a passenger plane coming to Britain.
And we went and picked them up from Terminal 4.
Richard bought the rams just before he died,
so they're his final contribution to the farm.
They're also the product
of one of the most advanced sheep breeding programmes in the world.
Here they are. Let's have a look. Hello, boys.
-If we can get them into this pen, you can have a closer look.
Let me jump in and have a look. How old are they?
They were born in September 2010.
So they're only just a year old. They're well grown.
They certainly are.
Let's have a look at your fleece. There's a good boy.
Lots of crimps to the inch, indicating fine fleece. Lovely.
-And he's still got his baby teeth.
-He has, yes.
-You're still a baby!
-They are well grown!
Richard was always telling me a Romney ram will serve a lot of ewes.
-What sort of numbers are you working with?
-120 is what we'd recommend.
-And many will serve more than that in one service.
At college, we were taught 40 ewes to the ram,
-but 120! Lucky boys!
And it's today that the boys become men.
We're introducing them to the ewes for the first time.
He doesn't want to leave his friend. Where's this one going?
This one's going in the other field.
Now, I know you're best friends.
But you've got a bit of business to do.
'Though it doesn't quite go to plan.'
Go on, go with your girls.
'Maybe it's jetlag, but the rams are completely unimpressed.'
Go and find love.
-He's not interested at all!
-He's not, is he?
Doesn't seem to be working.
It doesn't at the moment. Maybe they don't like the audience!
Perhaps that's the problem.
I hope it is.
Come on, boys.
Oh, look, there we go. That's a good sign, that one there.
-He's being quite polite.
-He is, he's being a gentleman.
There we go. That's it, yes! Fantastic.
Excellent. So that's one down, only 102 to go.
'Joking aside, it's an important moment for Penny.
'A lot's been invested in these rams,
'and she's counting on them to continue
'what she and Richard have started here.'
Richard would be proud.
This is his last bit of Romney breeding, isn't it?
But it'll definitely go on.
'I'm glad Penny remains so positive about the future. Before long,
'I'll definitely be back to buy some offspring from the new rams.
'Meanwhile in the Cotswolds, there are some new faces on my farm too.'
In this shed is one of my donkeys,
who's been pregnant now for 11 months.
Last night, I had a bit of a treat.
This little donkey foal was born. And it was here this morning.
Thankfully, she's got this shelter, and she came in.
It's a lovely little female. Aren't you sweet?
At a day old, this baby's settling in just fine.
'But along with the highs on the farm, there are also the lows.'
Oh, no. The bull's got it?
'A few days before my new Irish Moileds are due to arrive,
'I've had some devastating news.'
So just the bull has failed and the cows are OK,
but you can't move them off the farm now, can you?
And the bull will just have to go for slaughter. Oh, what a disaster.
All right, Clive. Bye-bye. Well, that's an absolute disaster.
That was Clive on the phone.
They've had the results of the TB test for the cows and the bull,
and unfortunately, the bull has TB and he has to be slaughtered,
so I can't have him. And I can't have the cows either,
because now Clive's farm has closed down.
Absolute disaster. I can't believe it.
Farming's never easy, but some days are harder than others.
Hopefully, next week won't be so tough,
as I follow the journey of my wheat from farm to plate.
Earlier, I got a taste of farm life
in the beautiful nine glens of County Antrim.
Now I'm heading further west,
on my way to one of Northern Ireland's most spectacular features.
This incredible avenue of beech trees is known as the Dark Hedges.
It stretches for about half a mile.
Just look at the way the branches form strange,
almost sinister patterns as the trees mingle together.
It makes you wonder why on earth it's here.
All around, the hedges are just normal length
on all the country roads around here.
But here, you have this strange procession of trees.
If it looks familiar to you,
that's because a picture of the Dark Hedges
is in the new Countryfile calendar.
And here's the man who took that photograph, Bob McCallion.
When we were judging the competition,
-that picture really stood out.
-I was pleased with it.
Quite surprised to get it into the calendar.
Well, you're a local man.
-Is this a favourite location?
I would normally photograph the north coast,
but I came down here one evening and saw a similar scene to this.
With the snow?
Yeah, you've got the evening light in December and a bit of snow
and the symmetry of the trees.
I was impressed, and decided to come back a few more times
through the seasons and record what was happening.
Which was what you did with the winning photo.
That is quite something.
The tractor, to me, helps to make the photograph.
The sun was setting, and I wanted to bring out the red of the tractor.
I couldn't believe my luck,
because the driver's face appeared in it.
He was quite pleased with...
It has a sort of mystic quality about it.
People do compare it to something
like a scene from Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter, Sleepy Hollow.
It can feel quite spooky.
There's a local story of the Grey Lady, the ghost of the Dark Hedges.
It may have been a story put about by the local farmers
because they didn't want
their daughters coming here at night for courting.
But do people actually believe in the ghost?
They believe it to the extent
that some people won't come up the avenue at night.
Here's the stump of a tree. Quite a lot of stumps along here.
They do come down quite often.
This was in 2007 on New Year's Day, after a storm.
Just broke above the root.
I think, on average, one every year comes down.
It was the danger of falling trees which led the local farmers
on whose land the Dark Hedges stand to take action.
They called in tree surgeon Dominic Harrison,
and together, they've set up a preservation trust
to conserve this outstanding natural feature.
-That looks easy.
-It does. Give it a go!
-My turn now.
Go on, John.
'I want to get a fresh perspective on the hedges,
'so I'm going to follow Dominic high into the treetops.'
-Oh, what a view!
-Spectacular, isn't it?
What are they doing here?
Well, they were planted originally as an avenue
that went up to the house at the end of the road.
No-one knows whether it was a hedge that got out of control
and was neglected or whether they were trees that were planted.
So how many were there originally?
There would have been over 200 when the avenue was complete.
Now there are about 100 remaining.
And what is the average life of a beech tree, then?
It is said 300 years.
100 years to grow, 100 years to live and 100 years to die.
So all of these are approaching death?
They're approaching the end of their life, yes.
What we are trying to do is implement a replanting programme,
where, as the trees blow down, we'll then start to replant.
Will you bring in some full-size trees from elsewhere?
We're running tests at the minute to try and grow from seed
the progeny of these original trees, to try and preserve their genealogy.
But from seed, that is going to take a lot of time, isn't it?
It's going to take a long, long time, yes.
What is to be done on this particular tree?
The focus today is dead-wooding, really.
There's a dead limb there that's right over the road
so we have to remove that. There's another one up above my head.
So, there are several bits and pieces to do.
I think it might be better if I got out of the way, then, don't you?
I'll leave you to it.
It would certainly be a tragedy
if the Dark Hedges were to gradually disappear,
not least for Bob McCallion whose photograph
is one of the highlights of next year's Countryfile calendar.
While I've been up in the trees, Bob has been searching
for new angles down on the ground.
I just took some during the day, looking down the avenue.
-I usually would take up the way.
-That's the big house?
-Yeah. Nice bit of dappled light.
-Lots more lovely pictures, Bob.
-Do you plan to enter the competition next year?
-I'll enter it, yes.
You'll have to find a new location.
My wife said I should go somewhere else.
If you would like to buy a Countryfile calendar
with Bob's photo in it and lots of other lovely ones,
we sell it in aid of Children In Need and here's how you get one.
The calendar cost £9, and a minimum of £4 from each sale
will go to Children In Need.
You can order it right now on our website.
Or you can call the order line.
You can also order by post. Send your name, address and cheque to...
Please make your cheques payable to BBC Countryfile Calendar.
In a moment, Ellie is going to be going in search of
one of the oldest living species on the planet, and that's seaweed.
First, whatever your plans are for the week ahead,
you'll want to know what the weather will be like.
Here's the Countryfile forecast.
John and I have been discovering the diverse and spectacular sights
of County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
I've paddled along this stunning coastline to enjoy
its most precious geological jewel, the Giant's Causeway,
while John's taken a scenic drive through the Antrim countryside.
After all the sightseeing, I've worked up a bit of an appetite
and I've been told that I can't leave here until I've tried
a local salty delicacy that's guaranteed to impress my palate.
Algae - or seaweed, if you prefer.
It's been harvested off these shores for hundreds of years.
Mac O'Neill has eaten it all his life.
His favourite picking spot
is off a group of islands called The Skerries.
Mac says he's too old to row out to The Skerries these days,
but he's keen to show me his favourite harvest spot,
so he's organised a lift. This promises to be a rare treat.
Mac's used his Irish charm to hitch us a ride.
I just realised what is going on, we're getting a lift.
We're getting a tow.
You're going to go on a bit of Irish waterskiing.
Out of a rowing boat, you know.
A fisherman by trade, Mac used to fish off The Skerries.
He worked on a big motorboat,
but used his rowboat to get closer to the shore
to pick dulse - a type of seaweed.
Did you ever row the distance from the land?
Yes, lots of times. It's not a hard row, only a mile-and-a-half.
If you work it out with the tide, the tide takes you there
and the tide will bring you back again, you know.
We have arrived at The Skerries
so we are ditching our ride to get in closer.
The temperature of The Skerries during the summer is warmer
than other parts of Northern Ireland so the rocks are home
to a particularly interesting flora like laver -
an algae traditionally eaten on bread.
But there's also some diverse fauna.
-Legend has it that there are some rabbits out here.
-How do they get here?
-I picked a few tame ones and put them on it.
They've stayed on it ever since.
So, tell me what you used to do when you used to harvest the seaweed.
If we can little bit closer, there are a couple of big sunk rocks there.
When the tide goes out, the dulse comes up, lying on the top
and you can gather it, you know.
We're just not getting the right tide today.
-This is a wee bit too breezy now.
So what would you do on those sorts of days?
Pick the dulse straight from the rock?
Picked the dulse and then go ashore.
Then throw it up on the rocks there and let the sun dry it.
And once it's all dry, how do you eat it?
We would eat it just the way it is, you know. Salty. Drinking pints.
Best served with a pint!
'So seaweed can make a tasty bar snack, but that is not all.
'Back onshore, GP Prannie Rhatigan is a self-confessed
'seaweed fanatic, particularly when it comes to eating it.'
-Hi, Prannie, how are you doing?
-Hello, very well.
So, what are you harvesting here?
Well, I just spotted some absolutely beautiful nori.
The slimy-looking one?
Well, it is, but you would recognise it if you enjoy sushi.
That's what's wrapped around your sushi roll.
Gosh, how many different types of seaweed have we got here?
Oh, there are 600 around the coast of Ireland.
-Yes, and most of them would be edible,
but palatable would be a different matter.
There are probably 14, or so, around this coastline
that we would harvest easily and in season.
That's dulse and that's an absolutely
beautiful seaweed as well.
-If you'd like a little nibble of that one.
Straight from the rock.
Mmm. It's strange. It has a sort of blood, iron taste.
Oh, that is incredible because this seaweed has the highest
content of iron of any of them that we'll harvest today.
In fact, they say, with the research that is done,
they say it is higher than steak.
Well, the proof's really in the tasting.
To show me just how versatile seaweed can be,
Prannie's prepared a picnic feast on the beach...in November.
So, what type of soup is this?
-It's a very seasonal pumpkin and squash...
..along with lots of seaweed, and I brought you
-a condiment which is a mixed seaweed, to sprinkle on top.
You could almost wrap yourself in a blanket with it.
-It is just so thick and so warming.
-Oh, that is lovely.
It is really good with a little bit of bread which, of course,
has the dulse in it.
-So this is being treated as a herb in this case?
-Yes it is. It is.
The soup and the bread is fantastic,
but what else have we got for our picnic meal?
OK, we have the little dulse and cheese scones, here.
And this is a local cheese which has dulse in it, as well.
And then, if we still have a bit of room,
we are going to have a little bit of carrot cake.
It's packed with the nori.
'And it doesn't just taste good. Scientists are exploring
'the potential health benefits of seaweed too.'
Just here in the University of Ulster, there's some
very interesting research going on in the area of osteoporosis
and in the area of inflammation,
and I hope that those results will contribute further
to our understanding of just how seaweeds work
and just how important they are.
But there are some that don't need scientific approval.
They've already declared seaweed a superfood
that can help with weight loss and even stop your hair thinning.
So could this slimy sliver of marine weed be the secret of health,
happiness and eternal youth?
The Victorians thought so.
They regularly took seaweed baths because,
if it purified the sea, it could purify them too.
Apparently the oils in seaweed can help with joint pain,
skin conditions and can relax you after a very hard day.
In the name of holistic therapy,
I am prepared to undergo a clinical trial of my own...
all by myself.
This is Fucus serratus, and the hypothesis is that it's going to
make me feel younger and, with any luck, look younger.
The things I do for Countryfile.
Normally on Countryfile, we are up hill and down dale
just head to toe in full wet weather gear
and not lying in a hot bath listening to power chords,
but I might get used to this.
'As for the results of this experiment,
'I think I'll have to do a bit more research.
'And as for the aching bones...'
Well that is it from the beautiful Antrim coast.
Next week we will be in the Vale of Aylesbury
looking at how the landscape has inspired
some of our best loved writers.
John will be investigating the fuss over fracking,
finding out why this method of getting gas
out of the ground is so controversial.
Hope you join us then. Bye-bye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
John Craven and Ellie Harrison head to Northern Ireland to explore the wild, natural beauty of the Antrim coast. John discovers how the landscape has been shaped by farming, and explains why this stretch of coastline is one of his all-time favourites.
Ellie gets to view the whole area from the sea when she becomes one of the first people to try out a new kayaking trail. She then goes on the trail of one of the oldest species still living on the planet.
Tom Heap investigates claims that the use of antibiotics on animals could be putting human health at risk. Meanwhile, Adam goes in search of a new Irish moiled bull to join his prized herd.