The Countryfile team visit Abergavenny, famous for its markets and its food. Matt Baker is looking at the history and heritage of the old mining town of Blaenavon.
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Where echoes of former industry can still be heard in the valleys...
because the coal mines here in South Wales are long gone.
that where the mines have scarred this land,
And where the coalfields end, the green hills begin.
a town famous for its market and its food.
And their giant vegetables made of cotton.
I've got to get this big boy up there.
While we are exploring Wales, Tom is investigating rural crime
but the so-called sport of using dogs to chase and kill hares
still goes on, bringing with it trespass,
So, what is being done to stop it? I'll be investigating.
Helen is meeting the handlers representing Scotland
No, I'm not going there just to make up the numbers.
That's for sure. You're going there to win it? Yes, always.
And John's in Essex to launch the Countryfile calendar.
And reveal the photographer whose picture you chose
I've come here today to meet the winner, but, as yet,
The rich natural beauty of the valleys of South Wales,
where steep green and heather-clad hills rub up against
a starker landscape, one whose turbulent past
The green hills around Abergavenny give way to a different
landscape near the town of Blaenavon...
..one shaped by an industry that changed the world.
I'm talking coal, but all that remains is the odd mineshaft
but everything that you can see here was changed by coal.
Blaenavon is a World Heritage site, because back in the 18th century,
it was home to a gold rush - black gold.
They mined coal in vast quantities,
and it brought about a change on a scale not seen before.
And these hills bore the brunt
of mankind's insatiable drive for progress.
There's very little of what you can see here
There's a little bit of the skyline there,
but coming in front of that, that has all been worked.
That's all been turned over for coal and for iron ore,
which really only represent about 5% of the rock sequence.
really, only about 2% is workable coal seams.
So there's a lot of waste for them to get through,
and it's the sort of sandstones and mudstones that are associated
with the coal seam that you have got to dump on the hillsides
The English industrialists who came here in the late 18th century
They snapped up all the mineral-rich land they could get their hands on.
Those little square blocks coming off - that is a bit of coal seam.
So this is one of just a thin seam, but it is one of many,
No, the great thing is that you've got all the ingredients you need
You have got the coal, which you use as a fuel,
you've got iron ore itself... It's heavy, that, isn't it? Yes, it is.
It is much heavier than you'd expect for its weight.
Then you've got limestone, that you use as a flux,
and that takes out the impurities from the iron ore.
And you have got water here for powering your machinery too.
So, all the ingredients that you need for getting the Industrial Revolution
kick-started are here, on the edge of the South Wales coalfield.
In 1789, the first major coal-fired furnace was built in Blaenavon.
It wasn't long before the Welsh sky blazed red.
Smelting went on day and night to meet the huge demand for iron
from international railway construction and a war-hungry Navy.
But the quality of the coal here meant it would go on
to overtake iron as the focus of production.
Welsh steam coal would help turn Blaenavon into a boom town.
By 1921, 13,000 people were living here,
all attracted by the chance of working underground.
Des Harris followed in their footsteps.
I was 15 years of age when I first came down the mine. Were you, really?
15 years of age. What, did your father work or...?
My father worked underground, my grandfather worked underground,
The only work around when I left school was down the mines,
and started work in the mine on Monday.
Very hard, dangerous, dirty, dusty work, but it was OK.
Thousands of tons of coal were extracted from Blaenavon's
making South Wales one of the major coal producing regions on Earth.
the men at the coalface were poorly paid.
Their rewards were found in a sense of community.
I used to enjoy working down the mine.
You were with your friends, what have you, and then you went back up.
And you just got on with the job. It was very enjoyable.
It may sound mad, but if I had my chance over again,
I would do it all over again. Would you, really? Oh, yes.
36 years underground, and I would do it all over again.
With increased competition from abroad and new fuels like oil
and gas, the Welsh coal industry went into decline.
By the 1980s, mines all over had closed.
The village I come from, I could name everybody in that village.
You are talking 1,000 people. I knew them all.
Go there now, I don't even know anybody now. All gone.
Blaenavon's pit closures meant the death of the town.
When the work stopped, spoil heaps were just left as they were.
Things went quiet, and new life began to stir in this landscape.
I have actually got some specimens in a pot here. Very good.
In true ecology style. Let's have a closer look, then.
The mottled grasshopper. It's quite variable in its colours.
Colliery spoil is black or grey. The darker ones will blend in.
They have adapted well to that sort of darker environment.
The difference in the colour is quite something.
Look at that vivid green and then you have got that very coaly black.
Absolutely. We have seen quite a few butterflies flying around.
The Grayling butterfly is principally a coastal butterfly.
Inland, it is found in these areas of colliery spoil,
where it is dry and provides similar conditions to the sandy
environments you find round the coast, such as sand dunes.
Perhaps those species might not even have been here
if it wasn't for the mining that took place. Absolutely.
If we're after variety, bare spoil is the bees' knees
in terms of habitats, and for people walking in the landscape,
there's nothing better than seeing the variety of wildlife around you.
The mines may have gone, but the spoil heaps remain.
And this land, laid to waste by industry,
Now, hare coursing has been banned in the British countryside
that hasn't put a stop to this illegal sport.
The East of England's expansive flatlands, home to brown hares.
Something has been through here. There's just a little path.
British hare numbers have fallen by 80% in the past 100 years,
But in some places, they're still common, like here in Lincolnshire.
Not that that makes them easy to find.
There, there, there. There he goes. Wow! Great.
There he goes, down the line. Fantastic.
are at the centre of a major illegal blood sport
The traditional pastime of hare coursing
Dogs are pitted against a hare in a contest of speed and agility.
but the Hunting Act of 2004 banned the sport in the UK.
Today, the only way to hare course legally this with one of these.
Simulated hare coursing events are run by Paddy Weaver.
The same in principle as traditional coursing,
but with a plastic lure on a zigzag track, mimicking the twists
One dog will wear a white collar, and one dog will wear a red collar.
And the one that runs the truest course wins. But I'm the judge.
So I gather you used to do it when it was legal? Yes, I did, yes. Why?
I were brought up with it. It was in the family.
Didn't you think it was cruel in any way?
No, because when the dog catches a hare, it's dead.
If you go and shoot it, you might only wound it.
So this is a way of keeping it all alive for you? We're trying, yes.
The 2004 Hunting Act may have banned hare coursing,
While some remained happy with these simulated chases,
others were determined to pursue real hares, regardless of the law.
some people are still illegally setting hounds against hares.
In places like Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, there are
hundreds of calls a year with 30 or 40 vehicles at a time, sometimes.
'Alan Roberts is with the Police National Wildlife Crime unit.
'He's concerned about the type of people hare coursing attracts.'
Very often, the people that are involved in coursing have got
other criminal records. Sometimes quite scary people?
There are plenty of reports of incidents where
they have literally confronted the farmer, threatened them,
beaten them, attacked their vehicles, this sort of thing.
They travel all over the place to commit the crime.
They travel all over the place to go coursing.
This hobby that they have is like the glue
that joins these people together.
It seems hare coursing is bringing some serious criminals
to the countryside, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.
I have been out here on some days and middle of the day, and I have
seen six, seven vehicles driving across the middle of the field.
'This Lincolnshire farmer says he regularly has hare coursers
'on his farm, and that led to one particularly perilous confrontation.
The vehicle that was on the corner here, to our right,
I got out of the buggy and approached the vehicle.
They started the vehicle up and just drove straight for me.
They ended up hitting me hard on the side of the leg
of the front of the bumper of the pick-up.
And so I was left in a heap on the floor,
just up the field margin here, and I had to pull my legs
out the way, otherwise the rear axle of the vehicle
'Despite his injury, Andy drove after the vehicle.
'Then it tried to ram him off the road.'
The third time, they tried to reverse and knock us into the dyke.
They just then sped off into the distance.
Like other farmers, Andy still suffers threats
and intimidation from these criminals.
It's clear that hare coursing has come a long way
from its roots as a traditional countryside sport.
So, gangs are going to great lengths to keep this sport alive,
risking imprisonment for them and injury to others.
So what's being done to tackle them? I'll be finding out later.
Monmouthshire, a borderland county known as the gateway to Wales.
Good, fertile land for growing and for grazing. Come by!
He also founded the internationally renowned
You know what you're doing. You've done that before.
I think I have - a few times. How long?
I think you've definitely got the measure of it now.
What prompted the idea to come up with a food festival?
As you say, 15 years ago was the time of BSE, followed by foot and mouth.
fires at night, burning of the carcasses round here.
a lot of people lost animals so it was a pretty depressing time.
The idea for the food festival came from wanting to celebrate -
to do something positive about farming in this area,
and celebrate the good food that is produced.
It's not all about the food though is it? No, it isn't.
I've got something to show you. Lead the way. Yeah.
Well, that, would you believe, is a sheep? I know it's a sheep.
But what's it doing up there and what's it made of?
Rag rug made of bits of cloth put together.
The story behind that sheep... That is my sheep.
there's something a bit funny with him, apart from its mournful look.
Yes, a mournful face. A full-on view. One, two, three legs!
Yeah, that is a bit odd. Only one back leg.
Yes, what you think we call that? Peggy.
So, that's based on your sheep - Tripod -
and it was made for the festival? Absolutely.
And this marriage between the art and the food
is an important part of the festival.
to look at the decorations in the Market Hall.
She's quite lovely. Yeah, absolutely. Unique but lovely. Yeah.
'Just down the road in the heart of Abergavenny is the old Market Hall,
'normally busy with shoppers and stallholders,
'but today is the day the big arts get hung.'
Well, it's pretty obvious what this year's theme is -
'And coming up with the new one is a big challenge for
Bet? Um, the nuts there, on the table behind me.
'This year's theme is Garden of Plenty -
'And it's the community spirit that brings it to life.
'Turn back the clock four weeks, and 60 volunteers of all ages
'and abilities were beavering away to realise Bettina's vision.'
Ooh, ooh, let me help. Let me help. Let me help.
One of your beans is loose. Thank you
Well, that's what happens when you have giant vegetables.
I know. They've got a mind of their own. Look at this monster here.
Bettina, that is a magnificent pumpkin. How do you start?
I always think about it a year in advance.
I mean, it takes about a year to think,
"Because everyone loved the birds and the hares last year.
"I think I don't know how to top that one."
And you just think, "Are vegetables going to be quite as exciting?"
But I think they will be. I think they will be.
You've certainly got the scale. Most of the fabrics
are hand-dyed. It's all sort of calico,
silk, velvet that has been specially dyed or painted.
It doesn't always go to plan, does it?
No. We hoisted the giant turkey last year,
Oh, no. And his tail feathers broke. Poor turkey. I know.
'The Cinderella-style pumpkin is going to need all hands on veg
'if we are going to get it to the rafters.
'But first it needs a few finishing touches.'
and she's going to be laughing at you letting ME do the sewing.
'Luckily, once this beauty is hanging from the ceiling,
'no-one will notice the dreadful Bradbury stitch.
'All we've got to do is get it up there.
'Cue the cherry picker. Or should that be the pumpkin picker?'
All this for a pumpkin. Who'd have thought it?
MUSIC: "Also Sprach Zarathustra" Richard Strauss
This is Bradders and the giant pumpkin.
And another hanging vegetable. Yeah. Yes. Brilliant.
'So, how do you follow aerial vegetables?
'With underground cheese, of course!'
I'm in the changing rooms of the Big Pit - Blaenavon's last coal mine.
The colliers finally hung up their boots in here
it's been preserved as a World Heritage site
and a museum. But something is still brought up from the bottom
Sue, how and why are you maturing Cheddar at the bottom of the mine?
We are maturing it, Matt, in a big stainless steel caskets...
Right. ..300 feet below ground in a safety shaft.
And what do you put this flavour down to?
and that's all it needs to change the cheese
from a very great cheese to an absolutely brilliant cheese.
Had you heard that mines were a good environment?
Yes, there was a lot of historic data
about what miners ate in their sandwiches.
That was known as miners' wedding cake.
How important is it for you to be using the mine
that has been the lifeblood of this community?
Having the cheese bringing a new, different kind of life
into the area, it's giving something for the community to be proud of.
This year, Countryfile is teaming up
with the institution that is One Man And His Dog.
Adam was in Wales catching up with competitors here.
She's in Scotland meeting a couple more hopefuls.
dramatic mountains loom over barren uplands,
and glorious glens carve their way through rural lowlands.
who, along with the help of their trusty sheepdogs,
can whip a field full of sheep into shape in no time.
One of them is young, fresh-faced and keen.
The other is an old hand, defending champion no less,
they're hoping to bring a title back to Scotland in One Man And His Dog.
First out of the pen, Rory Marshall and his working dog, Tess.
This 15-year-old will be competing in the under-18s class.
You could say he was destined to take up trialling.
Growing up on a farm with 800 blackface sheep,
was going to pick up a few nifty herding skills.
'And as for five-year-old Tess, she's from champion stock.
'Her grandmother, Fly, was a One Man And His Dog winner in 2004.
'So, how's Rory feeling about this year's competition?'
but ever since, I've gotten a lot better.
What made you want to get involved in competitions?
It just really interested me and it looked really fun, so...
Because, I mean... Well, Tess is certainly having fun. Tess.
How often do you and Tess train? Most nights when I can.
Obviously I've got schoolwork to do as well.
Do you work harder on your schoolwork
I'd have to say harder on my training.
I think people probably underestimate you, Rory,
because you are a novice, but you work with hill sheep.
These are very stubborn wild sheep, aren't they? Yes, very.
'Rory's been trialling for less than 12 months.
'His first was a small local trial at the end of last year
'and now look at him go. He's really got Tess under control.'
'It's great to see a youngster like Rory
'keeping this traditional skill alive.
'But, of course, more farmers these days
'are swapping four legs for four wheels.'
I thought a 15-year-old lad like Rory would prefer petrol power
'I wonder if me and my machine can be any help to the light-footed Tess?'
'Thank goodness for Tess. I think I'd better leave it to the expert.'
I'm not sure if I helped or not there, Rory.
Why do you prefer working with dogs to the quads?
I find them reliable, and they're much more fun than quads -
'is definitely making a promising young partnership.'
'In fact, Team Scotland is shaping up to be quite the double threat.
'Joining Rory is a man who really knows how to work a field -
'He is the current singles champion and definitely one to watch.'
'He's been trialling since he was 11 and when it comes to form,
'Ian's spoilt for choice with his two champion dogs, Mo and Gus.
'Not only that, he's got a shed load of youngsters
Now, Ian, you have form, don't you? You are a supreme champion.
Gus has performed well for you. Mo has performed well for you. Yes.
Who are you going to take to this competition?
Gus injured himself about six or eight weeks ago,
He's almost there, but we'll see in the time of the competition.
Look at them. They're both so loyal, aren't they?
Undivided attention focused on you, Ian. Yeah.
So, when will you decide which one is going to go?
Probably the day of the competition. Really?
Just see how he is, and we'll go from there.
I'm kind of spoiled for choice, to be fair.
That's not a bad position to be in. How many dogs have you actually got?
Seven. Seven? Yeah. And at what age do you start training them?
Maybe six, seven months old. Just depends.
They'll start chasing sheep or looking to work at different stages.
So, if you want, we can have a look at Tess.
Yeah, let's get Tess out. She's just starting chasing sheep.
So, what do you do then, at this early age, to kind of...
Oh, she's not that keen to come out. A bit camera shy. Tess. Tess.
Come on, Tessy. What are you doing with them at this stage?
She just goes round the sheep, it's just what's natural at this stage.
OK. And then I'm kind of assessing what I need to do.
What things I need to sort and what things to leave alone.
Let's take them to the farm and see them in action.
No problem. This isn't about you yet. Next time. Tess. Tess.
HE WHISTLES So, Gus will rest his ligaments,
and I'm sure Mo, over the next half hour, will try to convince you
that you should use her in the competition. Yes.
Your dogs are obviously great what they do, but Border collies
in general are good at rounding up cattle and sheep, aren't they?
It's been bred into them over hundreds of years.
I suppose they've selected the best herding dogs. Is it that simple?
We had Border collies, and they were rubbish at rounding up sheep.
There's a lot of training goes into it as well.
It takes a lot of time to train them.
But generally it's the instinct. You want to breed with the best dogs.
I know we keep referring back to the competition,
but competition aside, how useful are they day-to-day on the farm?
You couldn't do without them on a sheep farm.
I always think a good dog's worth about five men
'It's easy to see why Ian's dogs are so prized.
'When you've got a flock of more than 600 sheep,
'you'd be in big trouble without them.'
'But now it's time to see how much natural talent youngster Tess has.
'Ian's leaving her lead on just in case she gets a bit too close.'
Tess is having a field day here, isn't she? She is.
Yeah, but when they're pups - she's only five months old -
you've got to let them play. It's just like kids.
all the little bits - the good bits and the bad bits.
I'll start actually to put some command on her.
Tess! That'll do, Tess. That'll do, Tess. Attagirl. Good girl.
'Ian puts all his success down to the dogs.
'But is this modest Scot holding back?'
You're the one to watch in this competition.
But no, we try our best and see what happens.
If anybody enters any competition, you want to win it.
I can't tell of this is your game face and underneath you're like,
No, I'm not going there just to make up the numbers anyway,
that's for sure. You're there to win it? Yeah, always.
'Next time, I'll be meeting Team England,
'while Adam's getting the low-down on the Irish competitors.'
MATT: Now, earlier, we heard how hare coursing
has changed from a countryside tradition
So, what's being done to stamp it out?
'The centuries-old sport of hare coursing,
'where swift hounds pursue an agile hare,
'was outlawed by the 2004 Hunting Act.
'Since then, this sport has been pushed into the shadows.'
still very much alive in Britain's countryside.
Big, sometimes violent, gangs trespass on farmland,
and in their wake comes a lot of other criminal activity.
'Recently harvested fields, together with level landscapes,
So, what are the police doing to control the sport
and the criminal behaviour that comes with it?
'I'm joining the Lincolnshire Wildlife Crime Team.
'They're part of Operation Galileo - a collaboration between
'Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk forces
'to crack down on hare coursing across the counties.
'Nick Willey is heading out on patrol.'
So, what is it you're really looking for today, Nick?
We're looking for people travelling into the county
poaching activity, running dogs on land, illegally chasing hares.
The team will respond to calls for service from members of the public,
from landowners, farmers, gamekeepers.
Is it easy to police? No, it's not easy to police at all.
Prior to last season, our incidents went up to over 1,000 incidents.
Really? It was quite clearly... Yeah. Wow.
Quite clearly, although we try to combat it, it's very hard to police.
'The sport may be rife, but the incidents are spread over
'a vast area, and the officers involved in Operation Galileo
'So farmers like Andy, who we met earlier,
'often take their own steps to protect their land.'
Because we haven't got any metal gates here,
we put these big bales that weigh about half a tonne apiece
across the gateway, and it stops them coming in.
What you think about the law and the police today?
Is there enough deterrent to put people off?
It's frustrating from our point of view as a farmer,
in that we have our property here that we're trying to protect,
and we get these coursers coming all over the fields
We'll phone the police to come and help us,
and you might get a police vehicle here in 20 minutes,
it might be five hours, it might be two days.
And, you know, a lot of times we complain
to the police about the response is not quick enough,
and these guys are doing the job as well as they can,
but the problem is higher up in the police that they're so undermanned.
What about the law? Is that fit for purpose on this?
I think in this situation, it is very difficult to prioritise
where hare coursing comes in the crime league, if you like.
And if there's other more serious incidents,
But when it endangers public life and endangers human life -
then, yes, that is a lot more serious offence.
'This isn't just an issue of resourcing or priorities -
'getting the evidence needed to convict someone of hare coursing
'were actually prosecuted for running him over.'
It sounds like a slightly odd question,
do you think you would have been able to charge them
for a coursing-related offence, or would it have been
a lot harder to get the attention of the legal system?
It would definitely have been a lot harder,
'Working in some of the remotest parts of the countryside,
'is a problem the police come up against time and time again.'
and really gathering that evidence is very, very tricky.
But that is one of the aims of Operation Galileo.
'the police are doing their best to catch the coursers red-handed.
'Another team has intercepted two suspicious cars
'in a service station just outside the Lincolnshire border.'
Tom from Countryfile here. How many dogs did they have and what kind?
POLICEMAN ON RADIO: 'I think they had three
'And they were both what we would refer to as lurchers.
'They were just visiting friends, apparently.'
And I gather one of them had an ASBO preventing them
from entering Lincolnshire, and so I guess that's a pretty
serious business if he does cross the border?
'Yes, his ASBO prohibited him from entering Lincolnshire
'with a dog, and that's valid for two years.
'he's about 100 metres into Cambridgeshire...'
Yeah. Smart lad! Thanks very much indeed for your help.
Sorry we weren't there to see it ourselves,
'when there's direct evidence of hare coursing -
'But as we've heard, that evidence is difficult to gather,
'so the police also do as much as they can
'using everything from trespass to driving offences.'
We look at every other offence that we can, whether it's people
that have had tickets for no seat belt, for using a mobile phone.
committing the offence of hare coursing,
cos we give them a ticket and we're on their case, then so be it.
'Tackling criminals for crimes they CAN prove
'rather than for hare coursing is paying off.'
We're just two weeks into it, but, I mean,
last season's Operation Galileo was, without a doubt, a success.
And we've had 186 prosecutions at court.
'Using direct evidence and disruption,
'the police believe they are already deterring criminals.
'And working together across their boundaries,
'forces are hoping to crack down the activity altogether,
'rather than simply pushing it elsewhere.'
Operation Galileo isn't going to end hare coursing,
making it much harder to pursue such a damaging crime.
'Autumn is coming, and subtle changes are taking place.
'There are fading colours, different smells,
'Two centuries ago, it would have been much different.
'Back then, heavy industry filled the air.
'There are still those if you know what to look for.'
South Wales was a global superpower when it came to iron production,
and to make iron, you need iron itself, lime and coal.
And all those were in plentiful supply from up there in Blaenavon,
But the question is, how did they get these precious resources
that fuelled an Industrial Revolution
and changed the world from up there...
'The solution was nothing short of incredible.
'A network of tram railways spun out across the landscape,
'like a spider's web from the mines and forges.'
The most terrific and terrifying route -
'at a gradient that seems almost impossible.
'It was this tram road that helped make Blaenavon the most important
'through this woodland has been captured
'on canvas by local artist Michael Blackmore,
'who also knows a thing or two about the trams.'
Fancy seeing you on a tram road like this! How are you? I'm very well.
Pleased to meet you. How exactly did the trams work?
Quite simply, the laden ones going down would pull the empties back up.
And of course, up there, you'd have had a brakeman. What's a brakeman?
He would hold the brake. He would watch the trams coming down, OK?
Right, he'd watch the trams coming down, make sure they were all OK.
It's difficult to imagine the scene now, isn't it?
This is such a beautiful, scenic route.
But back then, it would have been dirty and noisy and smelly.
I don't know about smelly! It would've been dirty and noisy.
Coal and lime... But I know what you're saying.
It would have been a totally different environment
Everything was here - the minerals were here,
limestone for fluxing in the furnaces.
The only thing that was opposed to them
was the fact that they had to get it up.
'The system was well worth the time and investment,
'But the tram road was only half the story.
'The network had to connect in Newport,
'a gateway to a changing world.
'So the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal was built.
'Enterprising mine owners could now shift tons
'Llanfoist Wharf is where the trams unloaded their cargo.'
This is one of the oldest railway warehouses in the world,
And the trams would come right here, through the pillars.
And then the iron, the coal and the lime would get loaded onto boats,
25 tons' worth, which would get towed to Newport docks by horse.
'The wharf would have been constantly busy.
'There would have been hundreds of workers unloading trams
We might be right next to a canal, but look high up we are.
There were these massive, massive barges,
laden with precious materials, tons and tons of materials.
And they had to get down from here. Cue a stroke of engineering genius.
'make it easy to descend the hilly terrain.
'The route is still here, but these days, it's a bit blocked.'
It's a good job this lot are on the case, then.
'The stretch of canal just needs a bit of TLC.
'And these are just some of the 300 local volunteers lending a hand.
'The Waterworks project started in January,
'and since then, they've completed hundreds of metres of pointing,
'to get this part of the canal looking shipshape.
'Steve Price is head stonemason on-site
'and he's got some special stones to lay in this lock wall.'
I can see a nice little gap for these. Yes. I hope they fit.
You're the head stonemason, so... it's all your responsibility. OK.
Right, do you want to grab this end of the stone? Yeah.
Looks like a good fit on that one. Yeah. Perfect!
So apart from this magnificent bit of work here,
The grand plan is to open up the bottom stretch
to get it back and navigable. So we've got eight locks in total...
on this bottom section. And we've got two bridges to lift.
So eight locks and two bridges? Yeah. That's quite a lot.
It's not much, is it(?) I don't know, it sounds like a lot to me!
'Work's going to continue for the next two years
'and it could keep this canal going for another 200.'
The votes are in, and a winner has been chosen.
Here's John with the nail-biting finale
of the Countryfile Photographic Competition.
'The Countryfile Photographic Competition
'is one of the highlights of my year.
'with had a truly inspiring selection of pictures
'And today's the day we reveal the results of all your endeavours.'
I've come to Langdon Hills Country Park in Essex
there's a very good reason for being here.
Now, as always, the calendar is the culmination of months
'The 12 pictures for the calendar are chosen from the entries
I keep forgetting what the theme for this is. It's Our Living Landscape.
'And judging regulars Chris Packham and Jo Brand
'kicked off the process with a sort of masterclass in the New Forest.'
How have you got on? Well, I'm just...I'm on number 47
And, as yet, I've not been wowed. How about you?
Eight photographs? Yeah! You've taken eight photographs?
No, actually, that's all I can find at the moment. Right.
'Once Jo and Chris had provided their unique brand
'of inspiration, it was down to you. And you didn't disappoint.'
The challenge of taking the perfect photograph
of Our Living Landscape certainly struck a chord.
You sent us more than 55,000 pictures.
'The entries were whittled down with the help of a talented
I want to robin doing something a bit different, but...!
'it was up to Chris, Jo and me to find the standout gems.'
Does that qualify? The tree's living, isn't it?
All the photographer needed to do here was kneel or crouch down,
include the feet, lift them a little bit against the backdrop of that,
'The subjects spanned from the coast to the countryside,
'from flora to fauna, from sunshine to snow.
'And finding just 12 for our calendar was incredibly tough.'
We don't have one here which is yelling out
that first flush of growth of the year.
We have got flowers a-go-go, I suppose.
And I love this one... I love this one. ..that you chose.
'But eventually, we did find our winning dozen, and one of them,
It's a fantastic photograph, isn't it? It is. It ticks every box.
All the panels, all of the colour, the people silhouetted here.
You've got the birds behind, it's got the sunset.
And then this structure across the front of it framing at all.
Yeah, it's joyful, it's very bold, and I mean,
I love shots of the sea and I just think it looks wonderful.
So congratulations to Tim Clifton for taking the picture
Tim Clifton wins £500 worth of photographic equipment,
But it was up to you at home to choose the overall winner.
And you did just that, in record numbers.
And I've come here today to meet the winner,
but as yet, he doesn't know that he's won.
'An amateur snapper with an eye for composition,
'Bill Robinson spent his working life
'as a car mechanic and a caretaker.
'Now retired, his real passion is photography.'
So is this place one of your favourite spots, Bill?
Yeah, it's a favourite of mine. I come here about twice a week.
And yeah, just to photograph the trees and the undergrowth.
So you always bring your camera? Oh, yes.
Just in case you spot something really good.
And this, Bill, is your now famous dell,
looking rather different, isn't it? It certainly is.
Back in May, it was just a flush of bluebells. And it was glorious.
But at the time, I nearly walked past.
And you had second thoughts? I had second thoughts
For me, it's a privilege to come here
and see this wonderful woodland that gave you your inspiration.
Thank you very much. But it's not the only reason why I'm here.
Because Countryfile viewers really liked your photograph.
Oh, right. In fact, they voted you and the dell
of the Countryfile Photographic Competition.
Well, I'll be blowed! So, many, many congratulations!
Well done, well done. Thank you very much. How about that?
Well, how many thousand was there, that entered? 55,000-plus. 55!
And you're top of the heap. Well, what can I say?
And hot off the presses is the Countryfile calendar for 2014,
with your wonderful picture on the cover.
Isn't that fantastic? Yeah. I'm overwhelmed.
No, I'm really overwhelmed. I feel quite humbled, really.
Never, never had anything like that before. First time ever, that is.
'have pride of place on this year's calendar,
'he also gets to choose £1,000 worth of photographic equipment
'so he can take more fantastic photos like the dell.'
Whether you sent in photos or just voted for your favourite,
we'd like to say thank you to everyone who's contributed
to this year's competition and to the final calendar.
To order by post, send your name, address and cheque to...
Please make your cheques payable to "BBC Countryfile Calendar".
It costs £9, including free UK deliver.
A minimum of £4 from the sale of each one
will be donated to the BBC Children In Need appeal.
The calendar for 2013 was a record-breaker.
It raised £1.3 million for Children In Need,
and let's hope this one for 2014 does even better
and helps make a difference to the lives of even more children.
Well, a huge congratulations to the winners
and a very big thank-you to everybody who took part.
Now, in a moment, I'm going to be getting up some speed
what the weather has got in store for us in the week ahead
Good evening. Nice conditions for many people today, but changes
coming ahead. It was an unremarkable month, but we're seeing above
average rainfall. You can see this mix of a high pressure in the East
stand the low pressure in the West. We have still got south-westerly
wind withers, which will keep it mailed over western areas. It will
bring strong wind to North West Scotland. There will be some patchy
missed and fog in the south-east as we start tomorrow morning. A bit of
drizzle in the West, but the most significant rain in the north of
Scotland. Crucially, temperatures above what they would be for this
time of year, between 16 and 19 Celsius. Then choose the, some
showers overnight coming in from the west once again. The worst of these
probably in Wales. Ideal start to Tuesday. The cold front that is
withers will bring a fresh feel, but Tuesday. The cold front that is
nothing too significant. A bit of rain and mist and hillfort in the
south-west. Brighter in the North and East of Great Britain.
Temperatures still above-average, about 16 to 19 Celsius. But we will
see more of a change on Wednesday, courtesy of this high pressure
pushing from the North Atlantic. There is a cold front behind this
coming in from the south-east. A big temperature drop in the second half
of the week for all of us. Northerly winds will play the part across
easterly areas. But still some sun winds will play the part across
in the forecast, particularly for the South and East of England.
Longer spells of rain across northern Scotland. There could be
the odd bit of snow across higher ground. On Thursday, the wind gets
stronger down the east coast and it will get considerably colder. Still
pleasant enough for some sunshine and dry weather and frosted,
particularly in the west of the country. Some of the wind could be
deal force at times, particularly in country. Some of the wind could be
the south-east of the country. The wind will stay strong into Friday.
Bit of uncertainty of whether we will see more spells of rain
returning to those parts. The north and west in the centre of the
high-pressure, so temperatures will recover during the day on Friday.
We're in the once-industrial heartlands of South Wales,
a landscape shaped by coal and iron ore.
The World Heritage town of Blaenavon was built on them.
piles of debris left aside after the coal and iron ore was dug.
The pits have gone, the spoil heaps just a reminder,
but you'd be wrong for thinking that they had no purpose any more.
the Camel's Back BMX track is part of a project
to regenerate Blaenavon's industrial wasteland for wildlife, visitors
When did you take the stabilisers off your bike? Four. Four.
And what do you think of this track? It's cool.
How does it feel to ride this course?
It feels a bit... It feels a bit nice on the jumps.
Who have you got over there from your family? Erm...
my auntie, my nan and my mum, and my dad's over there. And my brother.
Your dad looks like he's quite sporty. What about your mum?
SHE LAUGHS No, I can't, no!
The whole of this landscape is a World Heritage site,
but off-road motorbiking has been a big problem.
to encourage people to whizz round using nothing more than leg power.
and, of course, there's a lot of erosion
And this does tend to get the young people off the motorbikes
onto something which will probably harm them less
and giving them the same opportunities to use those skills
And they're certainly making the most of it.
'it's been a while since I've ridden a BMX,
'so I'm having a refresher, with course designer Jason Carpenter.'
Nice and steady. If you want to put your feet down, put your feet down.
Now let it go a bit, let it go a bit, that's it. Whoo!
Now, you're going to need a bit more speed than that.
'Well, thanks to the local BMX-ers' advice,
'I'm getting back into the swing of it,
I tell you what, if there's one way of spinning back the years,
So we've got some times for you to beat. Oh, my word.
Jason, 24.2 seconds. He designed the course, I've seen him.
I don't think you've got a chance. Let's not even go there.
I'm thinking maybe the six- or the eight-year-old...
Come on! I just hit me pedal on the ground! Come on! Come on! Come on!
I can't believe I'm in anticipation with a six- and an eight-year-old.
30, yeah. I'm over the moon with that! I'm happy with that.
Is it really 32?! 32.6. Well done! You are a star.
Listen, lads, it was down to you two that I got that time.
Cheers. I think if you'd had one of those helmets... I know.
That's it. Next week, John is in sumptuous Somerset
looking back at some of the best bets.
And he will be witnessing a natural spectacle
If you want to get your hands on a calendar, check out the website.
Which, of course, is sold in aid of Children In Need.
Right, on your bike. Yeah, I will do.
To be honest with you, it's getting dark, I better go.
My mum will be worried. I bet she will! See you!
The team are in Abergavenny, a town famous for its markets and its food. Matt Baker is looking at the history and heritage of the old mining town of Blaenavon, seeing how the old spoil heaps have become rich habitat for a surprising number of creatures. The spoil heaps have also been made into a world-class BMX bike trail - Matt takes on some local young people in a time trial. He also sees how one old pit is now producing cheese rather than coal.
Julia Bradbury is combining her love of food and art; she is at the Abergavenny Food Festival, where a group of artistically minded local people get together to make huge sculptures based on the food on show.
Julia also explores the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, and joins the team of volunteers restoring the waterway and bringing it back to life.
Helen Skelton is in Scotland, meeting two of the contestants in this year's One Man and His Dog. John Craven heads to Essex to surprise the winner of this year's photographic competition - and to launch the Countryfile Calendar for 2014. Tom Heap is in Lincolnshire, investigating the criminal gangs behind widespread illegal hare coursing in the countryside.