Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury are in Bristol, a city with the countryside on its doorstep. Matt is in the Avon Gorge, searching for some of the rarest plants in Britain.
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Step away from the hustle and bustle of city life
and there's beauty to be had.
A green and pleasant land right on your doorstep.
I'm going to be on the search for some of the rarest plants
in Britain, but I'm not going to find them up here.
Basically, what I've got to do is...
I tell you what, I'll leave that as a bit of a cliff-hanger.
But you don't have to go to the extreme to find wildlife here.
I've got wind of some very exciting news.
Apparently, this place, Bristol Docks,
has become home to one of our most elusive mammals, the otter.
I've got myself a camera and I'm going to try
and capture the evidence for myself. Fingers crossed.
Pigs are at the heart of Tom's investigation.
These two sows look very contented. We've discovered that
thousands of farms on the European mainland are ignoring new pig welfare laws.
It raises questions with echoes of the horsemeat scandal.
Could illegally produced meat be ending up in our shopping baskets?
I'll be investigating.
And Adam's in search of something special.
These are Vaynols, a very rare breed of cattle.
They can be quite nervous and jumpy so I can't go too close.
Around 20 years ago, they were virtually extinct.
I've come to this farm in Leeds where they've been doing a huge
amount of work to help preserve the breed.
# Well if you ever plan to motor west... #
Sandwiched between Gloucestershire and Somerset, just south
of the mighty Severn Estuary, it's a city wrapped up in countryside.
It took shape around the Avon, a river that carved the hilly landscape
that makes for strong thighs and distant views.
The water also carved out a corker of a chasm in this landscape.
This side of the Clifton Suspension Bridge is a suburb of Bristol,
the other is leafy countryside,
but I'm here for the bit in between -
the steep-sided abyss of the Avon Gorge.
Nearly 300 feet high, the gorge stretches for one-and-a-half miles.
I'm here in search of some of its rare inhabitants.
These rock faces are the last remaining stronghold
in the UK of some very rare species of plant, but even in this isolated place,
they're being overpowered by an unstoppable force...
Clearing it back is a perilous task that
falls into the hands of a group of extreme gardeners,
and later today, me.
But while they are getting ready for my vertical descent,
I'm meeting Mandy Leivers to find out why these plants
are worthy of all this attention.
So, Mandy, what are these rare plants?
Well, there are over 30 nationally rare and scarce plants
growing here in the Avon Gorge,
which makes it one of the top three sites for rare plants in England.
The site itself is internationally important.
It's what's known as a special area of conservation.
'Mandy has brought along photos of some of the rarest flora.'
We should really call it the round-headed leek,
that's its proper name,
but because it just grows here in the Avon Gorge and nowhere else
in the rest of the country, it's known as the Bristol onion.
And we've got another one which is called the Bristol rock cress,
and again, that's just found here and nowhere else in the rest of the UK.
But these plants are part of a community of limestone
grassland plants that strive here on the rocky ledges below us.
They're really well adapted to living in these harsh conditions.
The small rare plants are at risk from big ones taking over the cliffs -
brambles, weeds and vegetation
that escape from the city's gardens.
Mandy is going to show me one of the rare ones she is trying to protect.
-So, big drumroll. Here it is.
-Oh, that's it there?
-It's quite a titchy little thing.
-It is, it's very sweet.
So what is it, Mandy, about this gorge,
that allows these plants to grow here and nowhere else?
We think what happened is that after the last ice age,
there was an ice sheet that came down as far as the M4 corridor.
As the climate warmed, there was a land bridge between Britain
and Europe, and these plants would have come over from
southern Europe, and as the climate warmed, they would have covered
the whole of southern Britain.
As it got warmer still, trees would have come in behind them
and the trees would have grown in the flat places
and shaded out the grassland plants.
The only places that these plants were left were in these rocky places
like the Avon Gorge, so it's really the fact that we've got rocky ledges, thin soils,
green slopes and constant rock falls which have allowed these plants
to survive, really as little pockets of precious plants.
Apparently, I've got to go over the edge here today, and I noticed this
sign as we passed it - "Warning, cliff edge, risk of serious injury".
Well, it's a very long way down, it's about 90 metres.
-Have you been over yourself?
-I haven't personally, no.
-Well, I'll tell you all about it when I go over.
-I've been too scared to go over there.
-Have you? Oh, great(!)
I'll also be finding out about some special agents who have been
recruited to help digest the scrub.
Now, the scandal over horsemeat in our food has shocked us all,
but as Tom has been finding out, it's not the only concern
over illegally-produced meat being imported from Europe.
With over 10,000 farms nationwide producing over nine million pigs
each year, the British pig industry is a vitally important part of our agriculture.
Pork production isn't just vital to the farming economy,
it's crucial to consumers, too.
Last year, we munched our way through around 200 tonnes of sausagemeat,
making bangers the nation's favourite meat-based dinner.
So, whether it's bacon, a joint of pork, sausages,
or even a nice pork pie, it seems we have a love affair,
in this country, with pork, in all its forms.
Our farmers adhere to some of the highest welfare standards in the world.
In 1999, that meant we banned the keeping of breeding sows
in closely confined pens, known as sow stalls.
Since January 1st, Europe's animal welfare laws have moved
more into line with our own,
which should mean pigs spending more of their time in contented groups
like this, rather than the majority of their lives in individual stalls.
Good news for pigs? Well, you might think so.
But many countries are still not complying with the new law.
For the British pig industry that swept away the sow stall system
14 years ago, this is frustrating.
For a start, it is more expensive to keep pigs in communal pens like these.
Young gilts that aren't in pig, gilts on this side, you can see for yourself,
they're a lot bigger. We like them in a really nice condition...
'John Rowbottom has been a pig farmer in the heart of Yorkshire
'all his life.'
What do you feel about the way Europe is or is not enforcing
-the new law?
-Well, it's a bit of a disaster.
We've spent a lot of money putting in a system like this,
taking out the old system.
A large amount of money - 14 years ago, we made the investment.
When we did it, the systems hadn't been tried and tested.
We've proved the systems.
We've spent all our money doing it, it's very simple for them
to do it now. They can pick the systems off the shelves and do it.
John converted his farm back in 1998, but he still has
some of his old derelict sow stalls left, awaiting demolition.
So, what am I looking at here?
You're looking at sow stalls that were banned in this country
14 years ago, and as you can see from the state of them,
-we haven't used them for 14 years.
-How did they work?
The sow went in there, board down the back,
-and that was it, she's in there and can't get out.
-For how long?
That's the whole of the gestation period, she'd be in there.
So, four months...in a place like this.
-Can't turn around?
-Eating that end. That feels very much like a cage, doesn't it?
Yeah, it does.
In the rest of the EU, a third of member states still haven't
fully complied with the new regulations.
It means that many farms on the Continent are still rearing
pigs illegally, caged in stalls like this,
despite having had many years to convert to the new system.
And this isn't the first time that mainland Europe has failed to
enforce new welfare standards.
Last year, new legislation banning battery cages was introduced,
but by the time the new law came into force, it was estimated
that as many as 50 million hens were still housed unlawfully.
The Prime Minister told Countryfile then that action had to be taken.
With other European countries, what we ought to do is take them to
court if they don't put in place the changes that they've signed up to.
We all sit there at the Agriculture Council
and we agree these rules on pig stalls
and these rules on hen cages and the rest of it,
and if they don't put those in place, they are in breach of the rules.
We should have no compunction in actually getting
the European Commission to really target those countries.
But a year on, history has repeated itself,
with the issue of banned sow stalls replacing battery cages.
Number 10 told us DEFRA ministers have now met with the EU Commissioner to stress
the importance of other countries abiding by the law.
For many British pig farmers, though, it's too little, too late.
We've been waiting for years for Europe to comply with
the same regulations that we have. We've spent a fortune.
They're due to catch up with us and it's not happening.
It was supposed to happen on January 1st, or be COMPLETED.
It was supposed to be completed by January 1st,
and it looks to me as if they are only just starting!
So, with millions of pigs still being reared in illegal
conditions, what are the authorities in Brussels doing about it?
Frederic Vincent is from the European Commission.
For us, the legal deadline for sow stalls was 1st January 2013.
We've been putting pressure for some months now on the member states
on the sow stalls issue.
It means that one third of the EU member states will get
a warning from the commission, saying, you have to comply,
you have to tell your farmers to comply with the directive.
But as these warnings are being issued,
our farmers are still losing out, while many of their counterparts
on the Continent continue to ignore the new welfare laws.
So how can we be sure that their pigs aren't ending up
in our sausages?
That's what I'll be finding out later.
Bristol claims to have more green spaces than any other British city,
so it stands to reason it should have a lot of wildlife.
And it doesn't disappoint.
Peregrine falcons, badgers, lesser horseshoe bats, kingfishers,
they all share a Bristol postcode.
We're all aware of urban wildlife.
Some people take a greater interest than others, but here
on the Bristol Docks, there has been a genuine wildlife surprise.
Here's nine seconds of proof.
It's an otter, right in the heart of the city.
Bristol City Council caught the footage completely by accident
as part of a general survey of wildlife in the harbour.
For a city centre-based ecologist like Becky Coffin,
the chances of seeing an otter were very slim. Until now.
So, they're right here, Becky, in your patch in Bristol.
-It's a bit weird, isn't it?
-It is. It's really exciting, actually.
Otters have been my favourite animal since I was really young,
so to even find out that they're here, it's really exciting.
And how many are there and where do you think they've come from?
We don't know entirely how they've come into the floating harbour area,
but we expect that as the wider populations have expanded, that some
of them have found their way in and now are fairly active in this area.
Otters are notoriously elusive -
we're not likely to see one splashing around here, are we?
No, they're actually nocturnal animals,
so you're very unlikely to see them here during the daytime.
What does their presence tell you about their habitat here?
It tells us two things, really.
First of all, the water quality is good enough to support fish,
-which is the main component of their diet.
-So that's why they're here.
Yep. But it also tells us that there are
features about the built fabric of the docks area that actually provides
them with nooks and crannies where they can rest up during the day.
-Do you suspect there's more than one otter?
-It's very difficult to tell.
The camera trap that we've got is only showing one otter.
Um... You can make assumptions, from the amount of spraint we found,
that there COULD be more than one otter.
Growing numbers of otters in urban and rural areas is cause for celebration.
Pollution almost wiped them out in England in the '70s.
Now they're back, which means our rivers are much cleaner.
But are they clean enough?
Research by Cardiff University's Otter Project has highlighted
serious concerns for the health of otters in the UK.
'Rose Moorhouse-Gann carries out post-mortems on otters found dead
'in England and Wales.
'She's meeting me in Bristol to share the findings,
'exclusively with Countryfile.'
And what exactly are the issues?
We have a new piece of research which suggests that there
are reproductive abnormalities that are becoming more and more common.
-Baculum weight has decreased with time.
-What's the baculum?
The baculum is the penis bone of a male otter.
-I have one here to show you.
-OK, so this is of a mature male otter?
-That's from an adult male.
-And these are getting smaller?
They're getting lighter.
Presumably that might have an impact on the reproductive health of the otter?
We can't say for sure what the consequences of this are,
-but they are likely to be negative.
-That's quite worrying.
It is quite worrying. It is quite worrying.
The exact cause of this change is a mystery, but studies point towards
modern hormone-disrupting chemicals making their way into river systems.
They're found in pesticides and chemical waste
-and pharmaceuticals, as well.
-So pretty prolific?
What's next for the Otter Project? Where do you want research to go?
We'd like to broaden the suite of chemicals that we
test for in the otter tissues.
It's really important that we keep on top of anything that might be
-affecting our wildlife.
-I'll let you have that back, Rose.
Thank you very much!
Well, Rose's project is fascinating, but today,
I'm more interested in live otters.
I'm still amazed otters are here in the centre of Bristol.
I'd love to catch a glimpse of one.
So I've got hold of some BBC kit to help me.
You may know that Bristol is home to the world-renowned
Natural History Unit, so from the city that brings you Planet Earth,
Planet Earth Live and Africa, I'm going to attempt to film
one of the world's most elusive mammals with this.
Local skipper Ron Bygott is assisting in our otter experiment by
letting us put a camera on his boat, bang in the middle of the harbour.
-Where is she going?
-OK. And why have you picked this spot?
Why do you reckon this is the right one?
Well, the camera can be angled down towards the pontoon down there and
it's possible that any otters in this area might come up to that pontoon.
-If they get out onto it, you'll get a really good shot.
-OK, there we go.
She's fairly fixed on there.
How valuable is video footage to you, Becky?
The camera trap footage we've got from the survey
we carried out was time-stamped,
and that told us it was actually present quite early in the evening,
which suggests that it's probably resting up somewhere very close by.
-So it's teaching you about patterns and behaviours?
You're very secretive about where you put your cameras, aren't you?
Yes, we are. Otters are a protected species and we need to protect them
as much as possible.
We also need to protect the equipment whilst it's out.
-You'll look after our camera, won't you, Ron?
-I certainly shall.
I'll find out if it films anything later on.
Meanwhile, as night falls, my search for urban wildlife continues.
Maybe I'll have more luck in the dark.
Some people dedicate hours and hours to the wildlife on their doorstep.
Not because they're being paid, but because they're passionate
and a little bit kooky.
Graphic designer by day, wildlife photographer by night.
Meet Ian Wade.
He crossed paths with a wild resident of Bristol
during a stroll to his local curry house.
It was his first encounter with an animal that is adapted to
city living as well as any human...
..the urban fox.
A lot of people think foxes are scary,
a lot of people think they are a pest, they're dangerous.
It depends on their experiences, really,
and what they read and what they believe.
Obviously, it's a wild animal, it needs to be treated with respect.
You've identified certain foxes, you know certain foxes now.
Yes, definitely. The one I started with was called Freddie,
I named him Freddie. That's the one I spent a year photographing.
The one which is around tonight is called Charlie.
What are the chances, do you think, tonight?
Pretty good, I'd say really good.
I've smelt the scent marking from him. Here.
-What have we got here?
-Is this the smell?
-Yeah, if you come here, you can smell it.
-Oh-ho-ho! Oh! Whew!
-It stinks, doesn't it?
-Oh, that really stinks!
Yeah, that's fresh, so he's probably done that as he's come down here.
Bristol used to have one of the largest fox populations in the world.
Mange disease killed 95% of them in the mid '90s,
but numbers are now recovering.
There's no denying that foxes are more controversial
than ever at the moment.
But for Ian, at least, they're endlessly fascinating.
Everybody says you see loads of urban foxes in Cotham,
you're bound to catch one. Typical Countryfile luck - not a sausage.
Let's hope we've had more luck with our otter cam
down at the harbour side. Here's the premiere.
We all got very excited by that splash in the top right-hand corner.
Let's have another look.
Hm... I think it's a fish.
Oh, well, at least we know there ARE otters in the city.
I've been exploring the Avon Gorge,
home to rare plants that you won't find anywhere else in the UK.
Later, I'll be stepping over the edge to clear scrub that's
pushing these small cliff dwellers from their home,
but first, I'm off to meet some four-legged special agents
who have been brought in to assist.
Only a tough, robust and adaptable animal could possibly handle
this sheer terrain to consume this scrub. So, what have we got?
Well, ponies, no - the sides are just too steep. Sheep?
Well, it's the wrong food and they'd just get caught up in all of the brambles.
No, no - there was just one animal fit enough for the job...
Cashmere goats. Their mission - to graze this.
I'm joining the team on their daily check-up,
to try and catch a glimpse of them.
They tend to prefer up at this end where they've got further views
and they don't feel so constrained with trees around them.
In 2011, a ten-acre steep-sided gully was fenced off for them.
The goats were brought in - code name, Operation Cashmere.
Ben Skuse and Chris Westcott were the lads who helped them to move in.
-There they are.
-Oh, they're up there, are they? Some bonny lads amongst them.
They are indeed, aren't they?
So, how many goats have you got involved in Operation Cashmere,
and where did they come from?
There's six billy goats here, and we got them from another conservation
project on the Great Orme, that's run by Conwy Council.
Ben and I went up in June 2011 and we helped round up all their goats.
In return for that, they gave us
the six billy goats we've got here today.
And are they doing a good job?
How does their maintenance technique differ to what you'd be doing with power tools?
They're doing a fantastic job.
Ten years ago, this area would have been entirely wooded,
and we've been in and been cutting down the scrub,
and it's been growing back and it's been a real management headache.
We really needed a sustainable
and more natural solution to dealing with this scrub.
-That's where the goats came in.
-And they kind of stunt the growth?
Yeah, absolutely. You can cut something off at ground level
and it will soon come back quite vigorously,
but in the summer, any new leaves that will come on these stems
and stalks, they'll come along and strip them and strip them and strip them.
Gradually, they're stunting the health and vigour
of this scrubby stuff more and more and more,
and just allowing the rare grassland to compete more.
How does it work out that they're leaving the stuff that's really important to you at the moment?
You never see them, head on the ground, like a sheep would,
eating the grass, pulling the grass out,
it's always off the ground, the leaves and the bark,
and that's the kind of stuff we want gone.
-There's a bit of butting going on behind you.
Well, later on, I'll be doing my own impression of a mountain goat
as I scramble down the side of the Avon Gorge.
But first, here's what else is coming up on tonight's programme.
'Adam's got his hands full of fancy fowl...'
My little Pekins are really lovely.
Ornamental chicken, really.
There's a cockerel and a hen.
'..Julia challenges some hardy souls to brave the winter waters.
'But will she follow suit?'
I like that, gloves and a hat, that's the way I would do it.
'And will it be any warmer in the week ahead?
'We'll have the Countryfile five-day forecast.'
Now, earlier we heard about the European pig producers
ignoring legal requirements on welfare.
So, given the currant scandal over horsemeat, how confident can we be
that meat from these pigs won't be turning up on our shelves, too?
We used to think processed food with beef on the label contained,
well, meat from a cow. Now, we can't be so sure.
So, has confidence shifted in processed food?
Do we now trust less things like processed meals and burgers?
To find out, we've commissioned our own Countryfile consumer survey.
We asked the British public...
The results were pretty compelling.
We found that 62% of the British public still had
confidence in processed food from the UK, but that figure dropped to 28%
when we asked about food from the rest of the European Union.
That's still better than food from the rest of the world,
where there was just 14% confidence in the safety,
ingredients and welfare of the products.
Whichever way you look at it, the level of trust in processed meat products isn't great,
but what really surprised us was the lack of trust in food from
the rest of Europe, a major source of meat for the British consumer.
So, are we right to be worried,
and how could we regain some of that consumer confidence?
For a start, it would help to know exactly where our food comes from.
We already know that the European supply chain has not
done its job in stopping horse getting into the beef products, but
I've discovered another problem with European food production -
pigs being reared under illegal welfare standards.
What is to stop meat from those animals ending up in the UK, as well?
I'm on my way to ask one of Britain's major pork pie
manufacturers if he is confident that the way
he sources his meat is robust enough.
This is where we do ale, one of the largest pies, yes.
The company Vale of Mowbray makes more than a million pork pies
John Gatenby is the man in charge.
Roughly what proportion of what comes through here
comes from the Continent?
Mostly from Holland and some from Germany.
When it comes to Germany, I gather that 30% of their farms still
use sow stalls. Does that trouble you?
We obviously talk to the factories and they
assured us that 100% of their pigs come from stall-free herds.
We buy from these people every week and so
if we had any doubt about them, we would not be buying from them.
John is confident about the European producers who supply him,
but is trust in your suppliers enough?
With hundreds of thousands of tons of pig meat imported from the EU
every year, can we really guarantee that nothing is getting through?
Zoe Davies from the National Pig Association thinks not.
Do you think illegally reared pork could still be entering Britain?
We import 60% of the pork that's eaten in the UK,
so it is inevitable that some of that pork product
coming in will come from illegal systems.
We know that 25% of sows in Europe are still being reared in stalls.
So, who is to blame for the fact that we could still be getting this
illegally reared meat into the country?
It is the responsibility of the entire food chain to make sure
that only pork that comes from legal compliance systems enters the UK.
The National Pig Association may not have faith in the supply chain,
but the British Retail Consortium does.
It told us that their retailers will only import meat from animals that
have been raised to British welfare standards,
and they have the documents to prove it.
Peter Loggie from the National Farmers Union in Scotland also
had his doubts, so he challenged the supermarkets to verify
the source of their fresh pork.
Tell me how you went about investigating
the whole pork supply chain.
What we were aiming to find out was whether the supermarkets could prove
their claims that they were buying only pig meat from compliant
farms in Europe.
So we went to the supermarkets, bought some product,
took them the labels and asked them to trace it.
They all did provide us with information.
there are some that are certainly better than others.
In the case of the tracings that were going back to Denmark
and to the Netherlands,
there was a fairly robust trail that went back to quality-assured farms,
farms that are members of schemes where they are checked.
With the French material, that was not the case
because they don't have a quality assurance scheme in France.
Overall, Peter was pleasantly surprised by the amount of evidence
provided by the supermarkets,
and according to the British Retail Consortium, they can all back that up
with regular and comprehensive auditing on the pork supply chain.
But as we all know, that type of thoroughness did not stop
horse turning up in beef products.
Now we're having to resort to forensic science to find out
what is in our processed food.
We've got some samples of burgers here.
What we can do with these is extract the DNA from them
and find out what species are actually present in them.
At Worcestershire Scientific Services,
Paul Hancock and his team DNA-test everything from steak and kidney pies
to beef burgers, and recently,
they have been asked to take part in the nationwide screening for horse.
It looks distinctly unattractive now, doesn't it?
Have you actually found any horsemeat in this lab?
We have had a couple of positive samples in the last week or so.
Obviously, we are doing our bit to reassure consumers
and ensure that the meat going into the food chain is appropriate.
But the very fact that we have to resort to forensic testing
raises questions about the traceability of our food.
What do you think about the fact that in order to be sure about what
is in our food, we have to rely on science like this?
Obviously, there are systems in place to ensure traceability of meat,
but unfortunately there will always be people who will take advantage of
that, so it then comes down to us as the enforcement laboratories
to police it.
Science can give us hard facts, but it's simply not practical to
test every meat item on Britain's shelves.
For us to have confidence in the system, we need to trust the law
and be sure that it is being properly enforced at every stage.
In the UK, that is being applied by the Food Standards Agency,
but what about the rest of the EU?
How can we be certain that our European neighbours aren't
supplying us with horse dressed up as beef, or sending us
meat from pigs reared under an illegal welfare standard?
When it comes to food operators, it is up to the member states to check
what is being done on the ground in the respective member states.
We don't have a kind of EU army of inspectors
going all over Europe to check.
It is up to the member states with their respective food authorities,
the FSA in the UK, for example, to check what the
food operators are doing and if they are respecting the rules.
Whenever you have a problem at EU level,
the European Commission intervenes and helps the member states
to work together to try to solve the problem.
But the big question is, are our European neighbours checking
and policing food production in their own countries properly?
The FSA told us that when it comes to the EU, it is...
We must be careful not to get things out of proportion, though.
There is no suggestion at all of any adulterated pork meat and also
no evidence so far of illegally produced pigs entering Britain.
And when it comes to the horsemeat contamination, it is
only in a tiny fraction of beef products.
But what we are seeing are European laws which are failing to
deliver, and serious concerns about the effectiveness
and complexity of the EU supply chain.
Plus, of course, there is the issue of trust.
Our survey shows there is greater confidence in meat produced
and processed in the UK than that coming from Europe,
or indeed the rest of the world.
That may be good news for British farmers,
but it is bad news for the retailers
and food processors in the UK who rely so heavily on meat from Europe.
If you want to know more, you can find the full
results of our consumer confidence poll on our website.
Preserving and conserving native rare breeds is Adam's real passion.
This week, he is off to see a herd of cattle that is so rare,
only a few years ago, they almost became extinct.
But he's got his chickens to sort out first.
Just as the weather drifts through the seasons,
so do the animals on my farm. At the moment, it is
my chickens that are sensing spring is in the air.
I've got a lot of my chickens in here.
They are a mixture of lots of different breeds
and we've got cocks and hens, males and females, mixed up together.
At this time of year, the hens are starting to lay
and the cockerels will be mating with the hens.
What I want to do is to sort them out into their breeds,
so that the chicks that hatch from the eggs are pure of that breed.
I've just got to catch them.
And my little Pekins are really lovely. Ornamental chickens, really.
They come in all different colours. These ones are lavender.
They lay a very small egg, although they are quite good mothers -
they will sit on the eggs and incubate them themselves.
So there is a cockerel and a hen.
And this is the Indian Game cockerel. He is only a young one
but his plumage is looking beautiful.
It's really shiny, and at this time of year, in the spring,
the cockerels are thinking about mating
and they start crowing a lot,
and they are warning off the other males, "This is my territory.
"These are my ladies," as well as calling to the hens to attract them.
Just like you hear song birds singing in the spring,
they are doing exactly the same thing.
Spring has sprung. Babies are on the way.
This is the Buff Orpington cockerel.
That's the spur that the cockerels use to fight each other with.
You can see his spur is very long and thick and strong,
and incredibly sharp.
Look at the way it's making a hole in my finger.
Amazing when they fight, how they can hurt each other,
and he is a smart-looking fella.
So there we are. These hens will start laying in the next
couple of weeks, I hope.
The cockerel will be mating with them, so the eggs will be fertile,
and when we hatch out the chicks, they will be pure Indian Game.
Some of the chickens I keep are quite rare,
but there is another animal on the farm that's very rare.
These are my Bagot goats.
They are the rarest breed of goats in the country.
They came from Blithfield Hall in Staffordshire,
that was run by Lady Bagot, and she gave a handful of goats to my dad
way back in the '70s, and we have had them ever since.
But it is thought they may have originated from
Richard the Lionheart's crusade and he brought them back from that.
With only around 300 nannies left in the country,
there are not very many people that keep them, and I have sold four
up to a farm in Leeds, so I'm going to load them up now.
And these are the ones I have selected.
I have just got to catch them.
It is really important
when you are preserving rare breeds that they are spread
around the country geographically,
because if there is an outbreak of disease like foot and mouth,
if they are all in the same district, they might get wiped out totally.
My Bagots are off to Temple Newsam, near Leeds.
It is a beautiful, Tudor Jacobean house that has had ties
with Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scots and garden designer Capability Brown.
When they arrive, they soon settle in nicely and as a bonus,
all these goats are in kid, so, hopefully, a herd of Bagots
will soon be established here.
It is also home to many rare farm animals, but one breed of
cattle in particular is so scarce, it is in danger of being lost for ever.
I'm meeting farm manager David Bradley and one very special lady.
Goodness me, David. I never thought I'd seek a Vaynol on a halter.
You don't see many of them and this is it.
When they first came down to the farm at home,
that was a long time ago. When was that?
That would be 25 years ago with that. I'd gone down to
buy a Gloucester bull off your dad and he showed me these on your
farm there, and I just thought, "My heck! I don't want any of these!"
They were wild, crazy.
It has taken a good lot of years to get them quieter,
then each generation of calves that comes on
-gets that little bit better.
This one is a black one but generally they are white, aren't they?
Most of the herd, overall, is white
with the exception of about four black ones in the herd.
-How many Vaynols are there now?
-About 35 altogether and that is it.
-That is it?
-That is it.
-Goodness me! That's almost extinct!
I thought my Bagots were rare but with just 35 Vaynols in existence,
the team here are keen to do all they can to ensure their survival.
Like my goats, they want to establish satellite herds across the UK
but they also want to take part in the Rare Breed Survival Trust's
embryo-flushing project in Scotland. It is a type of IVF for cows.
Before they can do that, the vet has to carry out one important check.
Right. We have sorted out the Vaynols, a few other cattle have come
with them but that doesn't matter,
and now we have to get them into the cattle crush for the vet.
These girls had been running with a bull, so a week ago,
the vet examined them and two were given the equivalent
of the morning-after pill to make sure they were not pregnant.
The vet is back to make sure it's worked.
When most farmers bring their cattle in to be
pregnancy-tested by the vet, they want the cows to be in calf.
But here, they want the opposite.
They want these cows to be empty because they are going up to
a farm in Scotland, where they will do a thing called embryo transfer.
And what they're going to do is flush the cows,
remove the eggs from them
and then they will mix those eggs with sperm from Vaynol bulls,
and they will take the fertilised embryos and put them into other
cows from a different breed and use those cows as surrogate mothers.
Therefore, the calf that then is born is a pedigree Vaynol.
A cow can only give birth to one calf a year, so this cow could
only have one Vaynol calf every year, but by flushing her,
they will be able to get half a dozen Vaynol calves
and, therefore, accelerate the expansion of the breed much quicker.
-What is the result on this one, Sophie?
She's not pregnant. So she can go to Scotland now.
Wonderful. Good news.
-So that one is OK, too?
-Yes, she's fine, she is ready to go,
-she is empty.
So that is number two ready to go to Scotland.
This is quite a special cow.
She was born to artificial insemination
and from a bull that produced a semen 30 years ago.
What's the situation with this one, Sophie?
Well, the third one is in calf, actually.
She's about 60 days in calf, so she will have to stay here.
Because the last cow is pregnant, she will calve on the farm here
and join the other two next spring.
So two out of the three cows can go to Scotland,
but they can't go yet.
Because I bought the Bagot goats on to the farm,
because of movement restrictions and quarantine,
they can't move any animals off the farm for six clear days.
So they will be going up in a week or so's time.
Hopefully, next time I catch up with these ladies,
they will be part of a much bigger national herd of Vaynols.
Next week, I'll be finding out how science is helping to protect
and preserve another special breed -
the Hackney horse.
Just on the edge of Bristol, I've been exploring the Avon Gorge,
an internationally important conservation site.
Home to 30 rare species of plant.
For some, it's their only habitat in the whole of the UK.
Despite the vertical cliff faces, the rare plants here
are under threat from rapidly encroaching scrub
stealing their food and sunlight. It could kill them off.
To aid them in their fight for survival,
I'm taking to the ropes under the watchful eye of Angus Tillotson.
He's a rock-climbing gardener.
Right then, Angus, so what is the plan here?
What we are going to do, Matt, is drop down on the ropes a bit
and just clear a bit of vegetation off and try to open up some of
the little ledges so that the tiny, little plants which are native here
don't get shaded out by more competitive species.
It seems like you go to quite an effort to help out those
tiny, little plants.
It seems ridiculous sometimes,
but they are all small cogs in a big machine.
It's like that scene in Karate Kid
where they are looking for that lone bonsai.
Now, glad to see you are keen with the loppers.
There are a couple of things to think about
before we start doing that.
The second most important thing you have to be careful of is
-cutting these two ropes.
The most important thing you've got to be careful of is cutting
-these two ropes.
-So when we are working,
-we tend to try and work to the side of us.
-Once you get a handful of ivy, do you just let it drop?
Phwoar! This is the way to enjoy this gorge.
It is nice enough in a car to come through it
and I'm sure everybody who drives along are constantly looking up,
but to see from a bird's eye view is pretty special.
No time to hang around, though. We have a job to do.
Let's drop down another level. Just be careful where you are treading.
You don't want to be doing any damage with your feet.
Yes, you've got to be careful
-when some of these plants are the size of a 5p piece.
Ding-ding! This is unwanted shrubbery.
This is looking a little bit more interesting down here.
Matt, we've got a bit of a bigger ledge and a bit more soil
and there's some rock rose just in there, looking
a little bit sad for itself.
Rock rose is one of the plants we are here to protect.
You can see all the leaves that have been dropped on top of it.
A case for clearing out, then.
Sometimes, it's just a case of brushing away
some of the leaves that build up.
I'm sensing the start of a new business here.
Weeding hanging baskets. What do you reckon? Extreme ones.
-It could be a goer.
-Giant hanging baskets. Coming across!
-What was that?
-Are you OK?
-Must have just twanged a bit of the rope up there.
-What a difference.
-That is great and that has really opened it up.
Considering we are only using these, there is quite a lot to do
-when you look along there.
-It is a long-term project I think, yeah.
-That is right. Persistence.
It is an enormous task,
part of a five-year plan. From autumn to spring each year,
a team of five climbers work the cliffs, trying to
save the special plants that live here.
Do you ever garden at home?
-Not very much, really.
-So this is your garden?
-Yes. That's right, yes.
I would like my wife to appreciate that point,
that I do some gardening.
I think that's a great job on the ledge,
and the face below is all quite clear so...
-A tidy up job now, is it?
-Yes, I'm afraid so.
Let's drop down and tidy up at the bottom, shall we?
-It is gorgeous now, isn't it? It really is.
I feel the need almost just to hang here and have a gin and tonic,
-Yes. That would be great, wouldn't it?
Seems like Rob, our cameraman, has already had one.
Even though that whole exercise was quite a bit of effort,
it does feel good to give those special plants that are still
clinging on there, just that extra chance of survival. Right.
Let the clean up operation begin.
In a moment, Julia will be finding out how a bunch of hardy
locals found a new use for a disused quarry,
but it feels like rain here, and speaking of which,
let's find out what the weather has got in store for the week
ahead with the Countryfile forecast.
Just three miles outside Bristol City Centre
lies a disused limestone quarry.
In 1912, the same year the Titanic sank,
the quarry closed and was left to fill up with water.
The sides of the lake are steep,
plunging to six metres at the deepest point
The old quarry holds up to 11 million gallons of water.
I'm going to do a little temperature check now.
I don't think it's going to be very balmy.
Let's have a look.
Oh, yes. Lovely.
So that is just over five degrees centigrade,
which is about 41, 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
Back in 1919, someone took a look at all of this and went,
"That's a great place to swim."
Might want to reconsider that today.
It was the beginning of the Henleaze Swimming Club.
Since 1919, thousands of swimmers
have been for a dip or a dive in the lake.
The club is still going strong with nearly 1,800 members
and another 720 names on the waiting list.
The lake's only open for wild swimming between May and September.
It's February now, but don't worry. By the end of the programme,
there will be some brave, or should I say foolish, bodies in that water.
MOUTHS: Not me.
'First, I want to find out
'how the swimming club has kept going for 94 years.
'Long-serving members Derek Klemperer and Janet Cocks
'are going to fill me in,
'and where better than inside the club's most historic building?'
-Hello, good morning.
It is very, very cold in here, and this is the ladies' changing room.
-You must be made of stern stuff.
-Yeah, but it's winter at the moment.
-This is true.
But of course, it hasn't always been a changing room, has it?
No, it was a First World War troop billet,
and also a first aid centre,
which the club managed to buy in the early '20s,
so it is a historic building.
-Very much so.
-And it should really be Grade II listed.
-Incredible history that goes with it, doesn't it?
And you've been involved since, actually before day dot, for you?
My parents actually were founder members of Henleaze Swimming Club,
and this is where they met.
My childhood memories are, that's all we ever did,
came here everyday, we didn't do anything else, I don't think.
Derek, when was the last time you took a dip?
Oh, he always goes in every summer, don't you?
I'm a great summer swimmer,
but I don't go much for the cold water in winter.
Now, talking about expert swimmers
and lovely-looking people all around,
who's this handsome fellow here?
This is David Prowse, isn't it? Dave Prowse is...
-Isn't he the Green Cross Man?
-He is the Green Cross Man.
-He's Darth Vader!
-Darth Vader as well.
He was a local lad, you see.
Who would think that underneath all those black cloaks
-was that gorgeous body?
-He's a lot older now, of course.
But that is a lovely picture of Dave Prowse, who used to come down here.
-He was one of our superintendents.
-So he worked here?
-The girls loved it.
HEAVY-BREATHING GROWL: Move to the side of the lake.
Do the breaststroke now.
The lake's closed for swimming over the winter
but we've found some crazy - sorry, willing - volunteers
who want to break the rules and brave the water out of season.
Let's meet them.
Julia. And I couldn't let our volunteers get into the water
without some expert advice.
George Cselco and Robin Hunter-Coddington
laugh in the face of cold water.
They swim in the Serpentine Lake in London's Hyde Park all year round.
Yes, even when it snows.
Good day, isn't it?
-Lovely day for it.
-Oh, the sun's come out. How lovely. Good.
-Robin, George, welcome.
I'd like to introduce you to our volunteer swimmers for the day.
So Robin and George are winter water babies.
This is what they do all year round,
so I thought they might be able to offer some useful tips and advice.
Mark, why don't you swim all year round here?
Well, historically, we have had people who swam through the winter
but we are looking at reintroducing it,
and it would be really good to hear your tips on how we should do it.
-Start in the summer!
-And keep going.
Every day and you'll get used to it, eventually,
after about three years.
George, what's your tip for keeping my hands and my feet warm
because, unfortunately, I can't swim with my boots,
but that's my part that always freezes immediately!
Well, I'd suggest, just wriggle your toes and fingers.
I'd recommend double-hatting.
-Yeah. Most of the heat comes from the head.
Well, we've got towels and tea.
We're going to keep you warm when you do get out.
-I look forward to that.
-Best of luck!
Our winter swimming expert is in!
A nice, steady motion down the stairs.
I like that, gloves and a hat. That's the way I would do it.
How was it?
Cold! Very cold, but lovely.
Lovely? Is that the coldest you've ever been in?
I think it's the coldest I've ever been in, yes.
The temperature is...
according to my watch, 5.8 degrees.
Very vigorous stroke there.
Wow! This man looks like he's planning on spending
-quite a bit of time in there.
-Mr Baker, you are just in time.
-What's going on?
Get yourself a towel.
There we are. I'm not going to use these. These are just for people
-when they come out?
-No, these are their towels.
-Are you coming out, sir?
-I think that will probably do, won't it?
Yes, sir. Come on out, come on out.
That's it from a very nippy Bristol, a very beautiful lake.
Next week, we're in Northumberland
and I'm discovering the origins of your accent, actually.
Hol', man. What you talking about, like?
-Yeah, that one.
Come on, sir. Very good, sir. And I'm going to be finding out
about the first country pile that was powered by hydro-electricity.
-You could do with a bit of warming up, couldn't you?
He's powered by hydro-electricity! Come on, luvvie!
-Good work! Well done!
-Let me shake you by the hand.
-That was lovely.
-I enjoyed it too.
-Your hands are surprisingly warm!
Well, yours are cold. That's why!
-That's what you call a hardy perennial.
-There you go.
-See you next week!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury are in Bristol, a city with the countryside on its doorstep. Matt visits the Avon Gorge, where some of the rarest plants in Britain are clinging on to life. Julia is on a mission to find the wildlife making the city their home. She heads to the harbourside in an attempt to catch a glimpse of one of our most elusive mammals - the otter. She also meets some hardy folk from the Henleaze Swimming Club who take to the water for a winter swim.
Elsewhere, the scandal of horse meat in our food has shocked us all, but Tom Heap finds out it is not the only problem when it comes to illegally produced meat being imported from Europe. And Adam's finding out what's being done to preserve and conserve one of our rarest breeds of cow.