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Farming's made our landscape what it is.
From the crops we grow, to the animals that graze our fields.
It's shaped my life too, and at the heart of it all,
for me, are our rare breeds.
Countryfile's been following me here in the Cotswolds week in, week out.
But today, I'm leaving the farm behind.
I'm heading to one of the most remote islands in the UK
where my passion for rare breeds all began.
North Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands.
And I'm taking Dad, too.
Last time we were there together, I was a young lad
and Dad was just setting out to save some of our rarest sheep and cattle.
On this visit, we'll find out how things have changed
and we'll be taking a look back at some of the highlights.
From the highs of life on my farm...
We're going to be mates, me and you.
..to the lows, and the loss of some of my precious stock.
We've lost our stock bull.
-It's hopeless, isn't it?
To happier times and the downright delightful.
She now loves it and it's suckling with all
it's little brothers and sisters.
This is the Countryfile Rare Breeds Special.
Back in the '60s and '70s, the UK's domestic farm animals
were in a state of disarray and Dad decided to do something about it.
He helped start up the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in 1973.
A couple of years after that, he brought me here,
North Ronaldsay, to pick up some extraordinary seaweed-eating sheep.
A big moment in my life.
What was the idea behind the project then?
Well, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust had just been launched
and I was founder-chairman.
The whole of the breed of North Ronaldsay sheep
was on this one Island.
So a foot and mouth disease outbreak or an oil slick wiping out
the seaweed on which they live would have been the end of a breed.
So, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust decided that we ought to have
another island to create an alternative breeding sanctuary.
They sent me up to buy an island.
I had six to choose from and I chose the island of Linga Holm,
just off Stronsay, and then the following year
I came up to buy the sheep and brought you with me.
-It must have been a right pain having an 8-year-old with you.
-It was great.
I really enjoyed having you with me actually
and of course, I had Dad's 16 mm camera as you know and so I
used to film you and then you used to film me and it worked extremely well.
It was great fun getting all those sheep on to the steamer
and getting them to Linga Holm
and we brought 100 back to the Cotswolds to found 10 other flocks.
And never lost a sheep.
It's brilliant, isn't it?
I remember being on the steamer,
getting the sheep out and putting them on to the barge.
-A health and safety nightmare. You couldn't do it now.
-Crazy, isn't it?
I mean, what a success story! What's it like being back?
Oh, it's so lovely.
It's particularly lovely for me being back with you.
The two of us here, you know?
-It's a lovely trip down memory lane.
-It really is.
A few months back, I went on a mercy mission of my own
to help someone with a flock of sheep from another island
off the west coast of Scotland.
The Boreray is the most endangered breed of British sheep
they're classed as critically rare on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust list.
So I've jumped at the chance to come and see a small flock
and hopefully I'll be able to offer a bit of advice.
Andrea Hale keeps four Boreray on her smallholding near Chelmsford
but when you consider there are 300 worldwide, every one is important.
-How are you?
-Lovely to meet you.
-Really nice to meet you.
-Thanks for inviting me.
It's a real pleasure for you to come and see them.
I'm always excited to see other people's farms,
-particularly rare breeds.
-You've lovely Hebrideans.
They're a real mixed bag as well.
Where are the Borerays?
The Borerays are over there.
They're separate. We can go and see those if you'd like.
Great, let's do that.
They'll come running.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, here we go. Look at them go! Goodness me!
You see, they're survivors.
We should definitely get races going and bet on them, I think.
They are very lively. Why did you decide Borerays?
At the time when we were thinking Boreray,
one, because they are similar to Hebridean.
They come from the same islands.
And I love working with Hebbies, they're easy to work with. Friendly.
And they actually come up to you which is quite nice.
But thinking they would be the same, we've found out since,
they're really not. They are so flighty.
It's actually quite a problem at lambing time
and obviously while they are pregnant.
My advice would be to let them lamb and make that bond,
-the strong bond with the lamb and let them get on with it.
Outside? Not inside?
Outside. I would, if I were you.
Yeah, probably if you bring them in now, while they are like this,
they'll just fret and stress and won't want to be in here.
-So, do you reckon we'd be able to get hold of one?
Doesn't look like these sheep will play ball. Time for Plan B.
Right, well, the idea is that we're going to run these sheep
into this makeshift pen so that we can get a closer look at them.
But they are very lively so fingers crossed.
Come on, girls.
Come on, off you go.
Come on. Go on then.
Nice and calm. Good guys.
In you go, in you go.
That's all right, we got three.
Mind your knees!
Wow. Are you OK?
We got one!
Unbelievable! Well, there we are, they are some lively sheep.
But amazingly, once you get hold of them, they're really quite calm.
I'll just tip her up and have a look at her feet.
How do you manage this bit?
This is where my confidence goes actually
because it's just knowing how much to cut off and, you know, how deep to go.
I don't want to do too much.
I've seen you do it you just go straight in there and know what you're doing.
it's quite nice to show me, then I'll know for future.
Sure. Well, I might, I used to, in the old days, used to trim my sheep routinely every year.
But I've been told more recently that they need that edge
along the side of their foot so don't cut that off.
And just trim very, very gently.
You really don't want to be drawing blood.
And I would hardly intervene. I'll let her go.
-Thank you for letting me look at them.
No, well, after seeing them flying over my shoulder,
it's really exciting, I'm really looking forward
to bringing them on and lambing time as well now I've got some advice.
It's a little bit more confident, so, yeah.
I think you're doing everything you could.
You've got it all right
and it's great having people like you looking after these rare breeds
because, that's the only way they'll survive.
If you need more tips, I'm on the end of the phone.
Really good to know. Thank you.
When Dad and I came up to North Ronaldsay back in 1975
to safeguard the future of the island's sheep,
we were put up by Tommy and Christine Muir.
I must admit, I don't remember much about it!
So we stayed here then, it's very distant memories for me.
It's 36 years ago and the house was full of children
so you were just another little red-headed lad.
-Is that why I had to share a bed with him?
It was. There weren't enough beds for everyone.
I do remember ending up on the bedroom floor
because he kept pushing me away because I kept kicking him.
That's what the thump was then?
A mad Englishman coming to buy sheep. Did you think, "Here we go"?
It was good fun and it all went well.
We knew that they wanted to keep the old breed of sheep going
and we had no trouble getting the number that was required.
And I still have the list of all the men that I bought sheep from.
My goodness, after 36 years?
All the crofters.
It was important because it was dangerous for the sheep.
It's a bit faded I'm afraid but can you read it?
Oh yes. Hugh James.
-He's no longer here.
-John Cutt's not.
No longer here.
George has left for Stromness.
Are there any of them left on the island?
-Well, Jenny's still here. She's 90, it's an historical document now.
-Yes. It is.
-We've got the living descendants of those sheep which is incredible
and they're bright little animals.
A wild lot.
Put a big Cotswold in a field
and leave the gate open it will take it a week to realise but stick
a North Ronaldsay in, first it will go round
the perimeter looking for holes, looking for gaps to escape from.
And you have to watch for fences because they can jump so high.
Oh, yeah, they're lively little animals.
They don't jump so much but if they can find a way out, they will.
They will get out.
They're very bright. They're quick to outwit me. No problem.
They're so ancient, aren't they?
You can tell the way they stare at you. They own the place, not people.
While I leave my dad to catch up properly with Tommy
and Christine, I'm going to go and explore the island.
But first... Back in February I was on another mission
but this time it was to find a big bad bull!
If you need to buy a new bull, often you can't just pop down the road.
You have to scour the country high and low to buy very good quality
and where I'm going now, they should be top notch.
Oban. People travel far and wide to experience not just the beautiful
surroundings here but the annual spring Highland Cattle Sale.
I've set myself a budget of £1,500
and I'm hoping to take a really cracking bull home for that money.
I'm meeting Angus MacDonald.
-Angus. How are you?
-How are you?
He's got one of the best herds with the most sought-after animals in the UK.
Our very own Ellie Harrison met Angus last year.
Where's the farm boy Henson when you need him?
He'd be loving this.
She helped him move his Highlands over to their winter pasture
on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.
I was envious. I wish I'd been with you. Beautiful.
You missed out on a good day that. It's not always like that, mind you.
I don't know whether you've had a chance to see my cattle on
the television, what do you reckon to them?
I've seen your bull and I don't really think much of your bull
but I've only seen your cattle in the crush
when you've been TB testing but I'm quite sure they can be improved
by bringing a bull from Scotland down to your place,
especially from the north-west corner here.
-I need your advice, the bull is half your genetics, isn't it?
It's in all your calves and your farm for a while.
And generations onwards. It's important to buy the right bull.
What was wrong with my bull? I thought he was nice.
I think that your bull, what I saw, he wasn't nice.
His horns were far too low, his head was too low.
I don't like a bull that's got an incorrect head.
And his head was going down with the horns
and I find that produces heifers with low horns.
I'm not looking to pay mega money for the big prize winners.
What I want is a good standard working bull.
You want to spend about £10,000, do you?
Somewhere in the region of £1,500.
I'm a poor southerner. Not a rich Scotsman.
You southerners have to dig a little bit deeper though, you know?
So can you give me a few top tips?
I certainly can. I'll show you a few bulls.
It may seem more like a beauty parlour than a livestock auction
but there is method to the madness.
Presentation is key and you can see the guy here,
he's combing the bull.
A nice centre parting down his back line.
Then blow-drying them having washed them this morning.
There's a lot of competition here so you want your bull to stand out.
A huge amount of attention to detail.
-I've seen you looking at him. You're obviously fond of this.
-I like this one.
That yearling bull is an exceptional yearling.
He's going to do something in life, whether it's with you or somebody else,
he's going to do very well.
He's only a year old and I've got some quite big cows. Will he manage?
He'll certainly reach your cows, if he doesn't,
I'll go down and lift him up myself!
Now, as soon as I walked in, he caught my eye.
He caught your eye? If you can buy it for £1,500 or not.
Somebody has to see that later on in the day.
I doubt it.
The horns should be coming straight out and then up?
Straight out, level with the top of the head and slightly upwards.
And a warm welcome to
the 120th Show and Sale of Pedigree Highland Cattle here.
Well, I've seen some really lovely bulls.
It's the first half a dozen through the catalogue that I'll be looking for.
Time to do some serious bidding.
With just 1,500 quid to spend, I'm going to have my work cut out.
At 700, 700, 700, 700, 700.
700. At 700, 700, 700, 700.
There's something really exciting about coming to a cattle auction.
Maybe I'm just a bit sad, but I love it.
Right in the middle there. Lot number?
Plenty of animals are getting sold. And for good money too.
The centre, there, 3,000.
This is the one I'm really after. Number three.
Just shy of 1,000 kilos of pure muscle.
Four, six, eight! 2,000.
What am I doing?!
2,000, 2,000, 2,000. 2,200.
Adam Henson, 2,400.
It's mine. A little bit more than I hoped to spend,
but, I reckon he's the best bull here.
You always get buyer's remorse, you feel guilty.
-Oh, what have I done?!
Nothing like getting excited in the sale ring. God!
Not as excited as some, though. This one goes for six grand.
6,000! At £6,000!
You've got it for 6,000, sir.
Makes me feel a little bit better about what I've just spent.
Here he is. This is my new bull.
You're all mine. His name is Ehrlich, which is a Gaelic name. I think, I'll just call him Eric.
£2,400, and he was second in his class.
And the bull that beat him sold for £6,000.
I'm really pleased with him. Absolutely magnificent animal.
He'll do me proud.
Oh, you've got a long journey home, mate, I'll see you in the Cotswolds.
A long way away from Eric and the Cotswolds is where I am today.
I'm lucky enough to be helping the locals in an old island tradition.
Because these sheep are so wild, the only way to gather them
is to use lots of people.
And they walk along the beach like a line to stop the sheep running back at us.
They'll go through down to that end of the beach
and back again had into the pund, which is the pen.
And this is called punding.
And today, we're punding for shearing.
We've gathered this end of the beach, we've trapped them now, by putting up these hurdles.
And we're going to try and get them to turn right angles and run up into the pen.
There are some people hiding behind the wall. Once they're in the pen,
they'll shut the gate a bit quick before they come out again.
Here they come. Look.
These guys have picked up stones to chuck into the water
to chase them up hill. It's working.
They're all running into the pen now.
OK! Shut the gate!
Is that it?!
Fantastic! We lost a few, but that's the majority of them! What a great job!
They're pretty slippery characters, these North Ronaldsay sheep,
but I've got some other animals on my farm
that are equally as hard to get hold of, my Exmoor ponies.
And a couple of winters ago, I brought in some help to give me a hand with them.
Because my Exmoors are so difficult to handle,
I'm getting some advice from Kelly Marks.
It's a bit chilly up here. Nice to see you.
She's a former champion jockey, but now trains temperamental
and wild horses, using a technique sometimes called horse whispering.
-They're quite nervous, these young foals.
-Yes, but they're gorgeous.
-What a lovely group.
-I've got these ones out on the field,
but I've also got a young filly foal in the loose box,
and I didn't think you'd want to work with them out here.
No, much better to be in a safe, enclosed area so they can't come to any harm.
Horse whispering, is that what this is about, or not?
It's just safe,
gentle ways of working with horses in a non-violent way. It's brilliant.
Well, these Exmoors run with their mothers all summer
out at grazing, and we then wean them,
but really, their first experience of being handled
-is when we grabbed them and branded them.
-No. Not ideal, that could be why Exmoors
often get a reputation as being very difficult,
because of their first experience being so traumatic
-that some never forget it.
-I'd like to see how you get on.
I'm looking forward to it. It'll be good fun.
Let's meet Venus.
VENUS NEIGHS She's not too happy.
I want to see if Kelly can calm Venus down
so I can get close enough to handle her.
Venus here looks a real challenge.
She's beautiful, isn't she? But she's pretty stressed.
-When was she weaned?
-Four or five days ago.
She's still missing her mum.
Yeah. So I'll just make some approaches to her.
I want her to know that I'm not going to hurt her,
but they start to appreciate that you're less dangerous
if you come slightly close, and then she looks at me and I move away.
And then... Can you see her looking at me now?
And this is just a start, because what I'd like to do, is just work like this.
And gradually, be able to get that little bit closer.
I'm at an angle, so I'm less threatening again.
I move away. And what I'd like to see her do, as well,
is just lick and chew on cue.
And that's the adrenaline coming down.
She's looking at me in a slightly new light.
As somebody before that she thought was really threatening.
What I'll do is gradually gets closer and closer.
-Give me some time in here and come back, and I'll show you how far I've got.
So, while Kelly works with Venus, it gives me a chance
to give my herd of Exmoors some extra hay.
They graze some of the roughest pasture on the farm
and really help to keep the gorse down.
In the stable, Kelly is making actual contact with Venus,
using a stick with a length of pipe lagging.
What you do is you work your way up,
so she barely notices when it's not the pole any more.
And it's you. Good girl.
I've been gone about an hour now,
and I'm intrigued to see how Kelly is getting on with this little foal.
-This is just extraordinary.
Cos this morning, this horse was climbing up the walls here,
and was shaking and whinnying and terrified.
Now, Kelly's got it calm, got a rope on its neck
-and is about to put a head collar on it.
-There we go.
All in a few hours. She will let me?
In fact, Kelly thought I should have a go at putting the head collar on.
-Look at that.
-Brilliant. You're a horse whisperer.
I'm now officially a horse whisperer.
Whatever that means!
Yeah, I must say, yeah, I feel made up that this is happening,
and I can do this so quickly. It's really fantastic.
I think we're going to be mates, me and you.
Coming up on Countryfile,
I'm meeting North Ronaldsay's only vegetarian sheep farmer...
You wouldn't think with so many sheep, you could love them all, but I do.
..a look back at some of the special moments from my farming year...
You're going to be a bit of a mixed up kid, having a chicken as a mother.
..and will the weather be special this week?
We've the all-important Countryfile forecast.
-All right, Billy, which one shall I grab?
-Pick a good one.
-That one looks good.
-Yeah, that's a good one.
-What about you?
-I'll go for that one.
'Today, I'm looking at the all-important role of preserving Britain's rare breeds,
'and meeting some of the characters of North Ronaldsay.
'I've been fortunate enough to help out in the annual pund,
'where they round up all their sheep.' Sit down.
'Now, it's time to shear them.'
Take a comfortable seat.
Head under the leg.
OK. Right, then, Mrs.
And then start along?
Start along the back leg.
-If you fold that over.
-Away you go.
-Work your way along.
This is a first for me.
We use hand shears at home for just clipping out the dirty bits
-around their bottom, maybe. But not for shearing the whole sheep.
Lots of sand in them, so we tend to use this one,
-cos the electric ones get blunt very, very quickly.
What's this? A boy or a girl?
That's a boy, I'm afraid.
-Be a bit careful then, around his bits and pieces.
How long have you been shearing sheep like this for?
Probably about 50 years. Half a century.
Amazing. That's why you've got forearms like Popeye!
-You're as tough as the sheep.
They've been around for 5,000 years, I haven't!
These sheep are truly remarkable
and are as happy living off the mineral-rich seaweed
as they are grazing the grass.
So when you shut them out on behind the seawall,
do they ever try to get back to fresh grass inland?
Not in the winter, but in the springtime,
when they smell the grass growing,
they're very keen to get into the grass in the fields,
and sometimes, they find a piece of Dyke that's lower than...
it ought to be, and they've been known to stand there
and the next one will come and jump over its back to get in there.
They're very smart animals, I assure you.
-They are, aren't they? A bit like leapfrog.
-Yeah, there's no size in them.
-Let's have a look at her.
See what do you think.
Looks good to me anyway.
-Pretty good, yes.
From one of the rarest breeds of sheep, to a rare breed of cow.
And one of the most visually stunning animals in my herd.
White Parks may be off the danger list,
but they're still a minority breed.
At one time, they got down to only 60 breeding cows in the country,
but thankfully, they're back up to around 500 now.
But last winter, we had a TB test
and I lost virtually half my White Park herd,
and I was absolutely devastated.
The TB test was going well. Then, suddenly...
-It's a reactor?
Oh, I can't believe it.
One after the other, our White Parks were condemned.
-Yeah, I'm afraid this was a positive as well.
Dad was very upset.
We've lost our stock bull.
Hopeless, isn't it?
All we've got left now are three cows, this one,
who I think is barren, and we've got one there that's calved
and another one that's due to calve, but it's hardly a herd.
But things are looking up.
We're clear of TB now, and at last, we can rebuild our herd.
So I'm off down to Devon with Mike, my stock man. We're going shopping.
This farm near Tiverton specialises in White Park cattle,
they have one of the biggest herds in Britain, and I'm hoping to take a few off their hands.
Coming down the drive, I've never seen so many White Parks in one herd.
No, we've got a fairly large herd.
-We've over 100 here now.
-We've spent 15 years building it up and it's proving reasonably successful.
And why White Parks out of all the British breeds?
Very small numbers and also, it's an economic breed. I think you can make money out of it.
That's because some of John's animals go to top restaurants in London.
Their meat has a marbled appearance and great flavour.
The ones we've come to see are on the other side of the valley.
This is the kind of shopping I like best.
I just hope I don't spend too much.
-Just up in the field, we walk up the lane and look over the fence.
'These cattle could cost me nearly ten grand.'
They look lovely sitting in the sunshine, don't they?
Quiet and relaxed. They're quiet, you know. They're good.
-I think the secret is to handle them a lot.
No use turning them out in a big field and leaving them for winter.
You need to get them in, feed them and look after them.
How many breeding cows are on the farm?
-At the moment, we have 30.
-And how many have you got to sale?
-You've spoken to Mike on the phone. Half a dozen or so?
-There's eight here for sale.
They're all in calf.
We've pregnancy tested them and they will calve from July onwards.
-Let's get in and take a closer look, shall we?
-OK. Let's go back to the gate and we'll walk in.
'These cattle have been clear of TB for nearly three years
'and their general health is good, too.
'We can pick up to eight from this group.'
'Mike and I need to get in amongst them to choose the ones we want.'
I really like...Kylie.
OK, so we'll tick Kirsh and Kelly.
She's a no.
-What's that bottom one there then?
-That's Kit Kat.
-Kit Kat. Right.
Katerina, Karat, Kiora and Kirsty we need to find.
-Lovely head on that bull.
-He looks good, doesn't he?
-He does, yeah.
-He's come on nicely.
Kiora going round the back.
'We still need to choose our favourites from the final few.'
And what's that one over there?
So, out of those four, then, which would you leave behind?
The one down there, I think, is my least favourite of the four.
Kiora. Better get this right.
-Do you agree with that?
-I would, yeah. Absolutely bang on.
So, money-wise, then?
We were talking about 950, but if they calve, 1,150 I thought.
But we've got six weeks or so to move them.
-So it's up to you, really.
TB testing, how soon can you do that?
-We'd do that next week.
So we'd get a result by the end of next week.
-So we could move them straight away?
'I'm now the owner of a beautiful herd of ten White Parks.
'And they're all thriving.
'Just as the sheep are, here on the island of North Ronaldsay.'
These are all the fleeces drying on the wall.
Farming on an island like this
is a world away from my set-up in the Cotswolds.
And there's all one woman on North Ronaldsay who keeps sheep in a rather unconventional way.
'Dr June Morris has a large flock of Ronaldsays
'but she doesn't sell them for meat.'
Come on, girls.
Come on, girls. Come on.
-They recognise your voice.
-Oh, they do. Come on.
Come on, girls.
They're all just so friendly.
-And you treat them as pets. You don't eat them?
Oh, no, I've been a vegetarian for well over 30 years. I wouldn't dream of eating them!
And I wouldn't sell them either.
So they just all stay here as a happy little group.
Most of these are rescue sheep.
They've all come in because they were in trouble.
And why North Ronaldsays? Why have you got that passion for the breed, then?
I think they are so different to any other sheep. They're bright and lively.
You can make an association with them like this.
They learn very fast.
And there's this fascination about their
being possibly the purest of the ancient breeds
and they seem, to me, to be like living history.
They were described by a scientist who did some work
as a genetic treasure.
And I think that about sums them up.
-A genetic treasure.
-Everyone is different.
Look, little Dinks is coming. She was the one on the shore.
She'd be dead by now if I hadn't taken her in.
And her mum is this one.
They are just so tame.
They're very friendly, my sheep.
I mean, they are such little survivors, then.
So different to the ones on the shore.
When you're trying to pund them, they run around like maniacs.
But they do tame up very quickly.
This is all part of their brightness.
-You just absolutely love them, it seems.
I mean, I just...
You wouldn't think with so many sheep you'd love them all, but I do really.
'A breed of sheep very close to my heart is the white-faced Dartmoor.
'It was back in October 2009 that I bought my first flock.'
'Colin Pearce has been keeping white-faced Dartmoors for 60 years
'but now, as he reaches the autumn of his working life,
'he's scaling down his operation.
'The plan is to walk Colin's Dartmoors a couple of miles back down to the farm to load them up.'
They look lovely, Colin.
Well, you know, it's a privilege to have these sheep.
It's important, too, that they are taken on to other farms.
We now only have something like 1,700.
-1,700 white-faced Dartmoors left in the world.
In the early 1800s, there was as many as 100-110,000 recorded, so that is a worrying statistic.
-Especially when you have a passion for something like I do
to sustain it.
'Colin's son, Paul, is giving us a hand to round up the sheep.'
They've not altered much over time because father has told son,
if he listens, what he should keep
and that's probably the saddest point on Dartmoor,
now that information is not being passed on
because the farmers are moving away.
-We should get them down to the yard, shouldn't we?
-Yeah, we've got a little journey to make.
-They find their way down the road OK?
-They know their way down.
They like going up. They like coming down.
Come on then.
Across the fields now.
Across the fields. Nearly halfway down, a different piece of Dartmoor.
'As Colin has had a couple of hip replacements recently,
'we need to take it easy and it's a good time for me to pick his brains.'
For you, they're in your bones, in your blood, in your family.
They are, yeah. Too much so, really.
I get a bit emotional about it, I suppose.
When there's a forecast about snow on the hills or something,
I'm really pulled around to think, "What about my animals, are they OK?
"Will we get to them? Is there enough food?"
And I feel it's really important, Colin,
to take some of these sheep away off the moor to a safe haven,
because if any disease hit this place the breed would be wiped out, wouldn't it?
It would be. It's a brave decision what you're doing.
-Giving them a lifeline maybe.
-I hope so.
You are scaling down a bit, Colin. Why is that?
I can't walk so fast and time is moving on for me
and time for a bit of space for myself.
And continue with my other passions, writing poetry and photography.
-You're a poet, as well?
-Well, I try to be a poet.
You can't help but be a poet really as you see what surrounds you.
Not like the great poets for sure, but enough to satisfy my emotions.
'I feel I'm touching winter again.
'It must be the darkness and the rain.
'Brief is the sunset light and daytime bright.
'The moor's all washed, it's not surprised
'as it puts on its overcoat disguise.
'Water pumping over granite rock.
'Confining the wandering flock.
'Old walls of stone weaved and shaped unseat,
'fall and slip, sinking into sodden peat.
'A gap spotted by an indigenous sheep leads into another
'piece of barren waste too damp upon to sleep.
'Where the stepping stones of a bygone race
'are eroded and displaced.'
When I've got these sheep back home on the top of the Cotswold Hills,
I'll have that in the back of my mind.
'So now is the time to have a closer look at the sheep.
'They've got great wool, are very hardy and make wonderful mothers.'
I'll do udders. You do teeth.
They are lovely sheep. We've got 15 here.
They are all sound in their teeth and their udder
and Colin has picked out a nice broad section across the breed
and I think they'll do us well on top of the Cotswolds.
Right, let's load them up.
'This is an historic moment.
'The first flock of white-faced Dartmoors to leave their home in hundreds and hundreds of years.'
-I promise you we'll look after them.
-I'm sure you will.
'It's the end of an era for Colin
'but the start of a new one for the sheep.'
Still to come on Countryfile,
Dad and I catch up with an old friend
on North Ronaldsay after nearly 40 years.
-You remember my wee boy?
-Yes, I do remember him well.
I become Guernsey's newest milkmaid.
-Look at that. That's not bad, is it?
And, from Orkney to Orpington,
you'll want to know the forecast for the week ahead.
'I've been involved in rare breed conservation for a long time
'but I'm now meeting the conservationists of the future.
'Under the watchful eye of Dr June Morris,
'these students from Manchester Metropolitan University are studying the behaviour of Ronaldsay sheep.'
The second day that we were here, one of them untied my shoelaces.
It was a double knot and it's trying its best and it looked like it was not going to succeed but it did.
It untied my shoelaces. Just that kind of intelligence, I suppose.
-And, for you guys, an extraordinary place to come and study.
It's a brilliant opportunity to be able to come up here.
We wouldn't have got this anywhere else.
We wouldn't be able to study such a wonderful breed that's very unique.
There's no commercial breeds that show the same behaviours
or live the same sort of lifestyle as these do.
You see them on the rocks at high tide.
It's really impressive, the way they move across these rocks.
It's more like goats that you see in the Himalayas than normal sheep you see on an island.
So what is it specifically that you are studying?
Our main focus is to map the sheep on the south side of the island
so that any population that comes at risk of disease, you know where they are,
if there are natural boundaries to stop disease transmission between the population.
That's amazing really because when my dad came here all those years ago, about 35 years ago,
he bought up sheep on the island to take them back to mainland Britain really to spread the population,
to stop disease, just like you are studying now, really.
They're showing your passion. Keep studying. There's one.
But it's not all just about sheep.
There are plenty of other animals that I look after.
The chickens we've got on the farm include one of the oldest known breeds, the Light Sussex.
We've also got Buff Orpingtons from Kent.
And Pekin bantams, known for their feathery feet.
One of my favourite breeds is the Welsummer,
which comes from Holland.
The thing that I really like about these Welsummers are their eggs.
Take a look at these.
A lovely, rich, brown colour.
Six chickens, six eggs. And they're delicious to eat.
I can incubate these to hatch out some chicks.
With some of the other breeds, I'm getting low on numbers and I need to get in some fresh blood lines,
so I'm off shopping to go to another breeder.
'I'm on my way to a smallholding near Pershore, in Worcestershire, where Sharon Gould breeds poultry.
'Just a few months ago, Sharon was given planning permission to live on the land with her family.'
I suppose being on site is a bit of an advantage with lots of animals.
It's so much easier to just be here and keep an eye on the stock.
I don't have to chase up and down the road, wasting fuel.
How many different types of animals have you got?
About 15 different types altogether.
There's ducks, geese, couple of breeds of chicken, goats, bees!
I'm interested in the Jubilee game. What's their history?
Well, they come from Cornwall. They're actually Cornish game, that's their proper name.
I've had people come from Cornwall, and down from Scotland,
to get them, because they're getting so rare.
Amazing. And what are they worth?
The cocks are about £50 apiece, the hens, 35.
Good pair of lungs!
'The Jubilee variety of these Cornish game aren't for sale,
'but there are others that I'm interested in buying.'
Come on, guys. Yep, there's one.
-And there's the other one.
'Amongst this group are a couple of hens from a different variety of the Cornish game family.'
So, the difference between these and Jubilee is, what?
The Jubilee, where these have got the dark brown there,
they're pale cream.
-So, this is just a darker version?
-Darker version, yes.
-Very nice. There's some weight about them, isn't there?
Incredible. The breast on them.
-That's why they use them, for the meat.
How old are these?
These are what you term point-of-lay.
She's just starting to lay her first eggs.
-How do you know that? What are you feeling for?
-Just in there. Can you feel them?
Can you feel, there's quite a gap there? You can get sort of three fingers in the gap.
It shows they're just starting to lay their first eggs.
OK. There you go. You learn something every day.
I think these will do me well. Thank you very much. I'll take these.
Sharon also has young chicks for sale.
They're cute, but I'm looking for hens, ready to lay their own eggs.
In particular, I'd like some different varieties of Pekin bantams.
What colour do you call these ones?
-These are silver partridge.
-There you go.
-They're lovely, aren't they? How old are these ones?
They're just starting to lay. They're about 26 weeks.
Right. It was particularly lavender ones I was after.
I've got one of those left down the bottom.
Oh, yeah, well, let's see her, then.
There she is.
She's lovely, isn't she?
-I might take them all, if that's all right.
I'm terrible when I go shopping!
It's great to see Sharon making a success of her smallholding venture.
Back on the island of North Ronaldsay, Dad's organised
for us to meet someone that took me out on his fishing boat
all those years ago - Ian Dalziel.
It's been a long time, it's been a long time.
Hello, Adam, nice to meet you.
Do you remember my wee boy?
Yes, I do remember him well, I do remember him well.
-Grown a wee bit since then!
-That's a long time.
It doesn't seem that long, does it? It sure doesn't
And, do you remember going out in the boat?
We started quite early that morning
and you were very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!
Raring to go!
I remember it being really exciting. And holding a big lobster.
I remember that well. You were told, if you lost that lobster
you were going back in the water to take him back!
Are you still fishing?
No, I retired from the fishing a couple of year now.
Other commitments. I don't have the time. Age is catching up a wee bit.
You islanders are pretty tough beasts, aren't you?
As hard as the sheep.
Oh, man, if you say so, I'll believe you!
-It's great to be back here, isn't it?
You'll maybe take a liking and come back to see us often.
I hope we do.
I hope you do, as well, I hope you do. Nice to meet you, Adam.
Here on the Orkney Islands, the weather can change very rapidly.
But, wherever you are in the country,
if you're a farmer in the middle of harvest,
you'll want to know what Mother Nature has up her sleeve.
So here's the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
Today, we're looking at the contribution rare breed animals have made to my farm,
and exploring the island of North Ronaldsay, where my passion for rare breeds really began.
This place hold special memories for my dad and for me.
Because it was here, nearly 40 years ago,
that we came to buy some very special sheep indeed.
But it was another island, far from here, that I went to find out more
about one of the rarest breeds of animals on my farm - the Golden Guernsey goat.
And, where better to start than at Peter Girard's Farm?
He has one of the largest herds of Golden Guernsey goats on the island.
Hello there, how are you? Lovely to see you.
I'm so excited to be here, for my discovery of the Guernsey goat.
What's this one called?
She's Primrose. She's a good goat.
She's won competitions for us, so we're pleased with her.
One of the elder ones in the breed.
How many have you got?
We got 18, I think, altogether, with kids at the moment.
More kids on the way, so we'll have 20 by the middle of the year.
-You're just about to start milking?
-About to start milking, yes.
We've milked all the others. She's the last one we've got to milk,
so you've turned up just at the right time!
Have you milked a goat before?
Yes, but we don't milk ours at home. We let the kids suckle the milk.
I'm no expert, so give me some tips.
OK. It's slightly different from a cow. Slightly finer udder.
We don't actually pull at any time, just squeezing, really.
And what we're doing is closing the forefinger and the thumb
-round the top and just squeezing, and release.
MILK RATTLES INSIDE OF PAIL
How much milk are they giving?
Well, this one will give about four litres in the morning
and about three in the evening, so about, in total, 6-7 litres, this particular one.
Golden Guernsey milk's supposed to be a lot richer, isn't it?
Yes, that's right, it is. It's full-cream milk. It's really nice.
Put it in a jug in the fridge, and you'll see cream on top.
The next morning, you can pour it on your cornflakes.
What do you do with all the milk?
We sell milk as raw milk. We make yoghurts,
we make cheese with it, soft cheese.
And we're experimenting, making hard cheeses, too.
-Quite a little business, really.
-Yes, it just about supports the feed and the upkeep of the herd.
It's a rare breed, so we really want to keep it alive.
There was a Golden Guernsey donkey, at one stage. That's extinct.
I don't want to tell my great-grandchildren there used to be a Golden Guernsey goat.
Yeah, sure, absolutely. I'm with you on that.
So, let's keep this thing going. It's such a beautiful, docile goat.
You've experienced that already, from the milking.
-So quiet, isn't she?
-And that's not bad, is it?
Not bad. That's pretty good.
Milking done, I'm keen to see the rest of Peter's herd.
There's your mates, look!
Just let them go again, then, Peter?
That's fine, yeah.
I mean, look at this, up this rock.
They love going up there, climbing. That's one of the things with goats.
They like the heat being reflected off the granite.
We've had Golden Guernseys at home for years,
and our numbers are quite depleted, so I'm looking to get some more.
So I know the basics of the Golden Guernsey,
but what are the finer points? What should I be looking for?
Make sure the goat's registered, from the original herd,
and you can follow the pedigree to be sure it's a pure Golden Guernsey.
After that, you're looking at the breed points, as we call them.
It should be either a straight line up from the nose towards the horn,
or slightly dished, but never actually a kind of Roman nose.
How hairy should they be?
They vary from being kind of short-haired, to quite long.
Most of ours are kind of long-haired ones.
And they've got these skirts or trousers down the back.
That really gleams when you've got them all groomed in summer,
and, yeah, lovely goats - ideal. They just love human company.
People talk about their dogs and their cats, but these animals are just as affectionate.
There are less than 1,000 of the breed left in the UK.
70 years ago, it could have been a different story.
German occupation of the island during the Second World War
put pressure on food supplies.
The Golden Guernsey goat became an attractive proposition.
Fearing the breed would be wiped out,
one woman went to extraordinary lengths to protect them.
She died in 1972, but Carolyn Drewett remembers helping her as a child,
and hearing stories of those dark days.
Very interesting. You know, it was a very hard time.
It was very difficult.
My dad tells me the story that she used to have to hide them
in caves or in cellars, so they didn't get eaten.
What she did, at night time,
everybody who had animals at the time,
they had to barricade them in, to make sure they were safe overnight
from the population in general, because everybody was starving,
especially towards the end of the occupation.
-And would there have been any Golden Guernseys on mainland UK, then?
Miss Milbourne exported in 1965, to the mainland,
and those would have been the first to go.
So, she really was responsible for saving the breed from extinction?
Yeah, she really was a pioneer of the goats.
That, for me, was one of the highlights of the last few years.
Finding out about an animal in its homeland gives you a real insight into its history.
There have been plenty of other special moments,
and here are just a few of them,
starting with my local breed of cow, the Gloucester.
When the cows are relaxed, the calves are relaxed,
they just learn that temperament from their mother,
so she's stood there, now, and the calves have settled down.
This lamb's only an hour or so old,
and it's already up on its feet and running around.
Very ancient, primitive breed.
Very, very hardy, aren't you?
Sit, Sit. Sit! Look at that!
You're going to be a bit of a mixed-up kid,
having a chicken as a mother.
All right, all right, all right! They are just so vicious!
A farmer, a spinner, a weaver and a tailor, walking sheep through
Stow-on-the-Wold, to champion British wool.
That's it from the Orkney Islands.
Next week, we're in the North Pennines.
Matt will be heading to the fells
and Clare will discover why more women are taking to grouse shooting.
Hope you can join us then.
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