In Buckinghamshire, Matt Baker visits Waddesdon Manor and learns about the Rothschild family, while Ellie Harrison discovers creatures great and small.
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Buckinghamshire, a green and pleasant land.
The sweeping slopes of the Chilterns and ancient,
mystical woodlands as old as the hills.
Treasured by many for its luscious landscape, but there was one
remarkable family who adored and shaped this county like no other.
And I'll be learning more about their lasting legacy.
Ellie's taking a stroll in a deep, dark wood.
I'm on the trail of a magical,
monstrous creature that's rarely seen in the wild.
He's behind you, Ellie!
But something else is heading for these woodlands,
as Tom's been finding out.
Britain's new high-speed train, HS2, is on its final approach,
and, for those here in Buckinghamshire and beyond
who believe it will harm our countryside, time is running out.
So, how will it affect our landscape and our wildlife?
I'll be investigating.
And Adam's on a mission back at the beautiful Balmoral Estate.
Now that Eric, my Highland bull, is out of action,
I'm looking for a replacement,
and it's a great honour to be invited back to the Queen's
summer residence, here in Scotland, to help me find a replacement.
I like the look of that little calf but...bit young yet.
Wide chalk valleys meet golden beech woodlands.
A patchwork of pure Englishness.
The rolling Chilterns slope gently to the Vale of Aylesbury below.
Of all of the landowners in Buckinghamshire, there was
one family, in particular, that had more impact on the landscape
than any other, the Rothschilds.
In fact, they owned so much of this county,
it was often referred to as Rothschildshire.
They owned a whopping seven manors in the county,
all thanks to the profits from their huge banking dynasty.
In the 19th century, this lot were one of the richest
and most powerful families in Europe.
How the other half live, eh?!
Today, I'm exploring Waddesdon Manor,
the country home of Ferdinand de Rothschild,
an avid art collector and one-time high sheriff of Buckinghamshire.
Senior Curator Pippa Shirley is telling me all about him.
So, Pippa, Ferdinand, he didn't inherit this house at all, did he?
It was simply him loving the landscape
-and wanting a large piece of it.
Absolutely...and when he started here, there was nothing,
he had a completely bare hill.
-But he wanted to live in Buckinghamshire
because he needed a country house and various members of the family
had already built in Buckinghamshire, so it was familiar.
Ferdinand spied the site whilst out hunting and started from scratch.
Literally, chopping the top off the hill.
Sculpting elaborate driveways, terraced gardens
and the extravagant turreted chateau all in record time.
He buys the land in 1874 from the Duke of Marlborough,
so it's part of the Blenheim Estates.
And then the foundation stone is laid in 1877
and it's slept in for the first time in 1880.
Disraeli, the Prime Minister who visited
while the house was under construction, famously went
back to London and said that in his view the Almighty would have
achieved the creation of the world in less than seven days
if he'd had the assistance of the Rothschilds.
Was this his permanent home?
No, no, this is a weekend cottage, essentially.
This is used at weekends and the summer.
-And he brings...he uses it for house parties.
So, he brings friends, family,
it's kind of a gathering spot for his political, his social circle.
So, the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, comes here a lot.
We've got wonderful photographs of him sitting on that very terrace.
Erm, and Queen Victoria famously came,
we think because she was curious about what her son got up to...
..during these famous house parties,
when the wine flowed and the food was fantastic.
Waddesdon Manor was a perfect playground for Ferdinand
but it also gave him opportunities to improve the lives of others.
He transformed the village of Waddesdon, with new houses for
employees and tenants.
He built the reading room, a school, a village hall and a hotel.
He even piped in pure, clean drinking water from the Chilterns.
What a character in the area, then.
Yes, and very much respected
and, I think, loved, even, in the area,
but he's quite kind of a complex personality, Ferdinand,
in lots of ways,
and I think there's quite a strong sense of melancholy that runs
through his character, which partly goes back to the fact that,
you know, he lost his wife, Evelina, after only a year of marriage.
The building of Waddesdon and the ploughing of his energies
into this place is partly because he never gets over her loss.
He grieves for her for the whole of his life, really.
So, Ferdinand's tragic loss became Buckinghamshire's gain.
His was a labour of love that left behind not just
the magnificent manor but a vision for the whole area
that remains to this day.
Now, few of the locals would have a problem with
the impact the Rothschilds had on this landscape but the same
can not be said for the plans for Britain's latest high-speed train.
Since the Industrial Revolution railways have been
part of our rural landscape and now there could be one more.
The plan is for a high-speed rail line, HS2,
to run from London to Birmingham and beyond,
potentially bringing economic
and transport benefits to the whole country.
The bill to enable phase one of HS2 has just passed its latest
vote in Parliament with overwhelming cross-party support,
so it's on the home straight towards becoming reality.
It's a controversial plan,
some say the economic case for the new train simply doesn't add up.
But tonight we're looking at how to manage the environmental impact of a
line which would run through some of England's most idyllic countryside.
Matt Jackson is from the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust.
-Hi, Matt, I've found you in your hide, good to see you.
-Well done, hi!
-So what can you spy out there today?
-I'm afraid there's not a lot.
It's more butterfly action than bird action this morning.
The high-speed line will follow the route of a little-used
railway on the eastern edge of Calvert Jubilee,
a former clay pit and municipal waste tip that's been reclaimed
by nature and is now an important reserve for birds and butterflies.
So what are the species you're most proud of here?
We've got things like turtledoves,
we've had a lesser spotted woodpecker recorded in recent weeks.
Don't just gloss over the turtledoves,
they're pretty rare in our countryside now, aren't they?
Turtledoves are very rare!
And what impact do you think High Speed Two would have on them?
The turtledoves, unfortunately, are almost certain to go.
The train line's going to come straight through the scrub
that they've been nesting in.
What do you think are the big wildlife impacts,
sort of, along the length of High Speed 2?
Well, across that area, from London to Birmingham,
you'd be surprised just how varied our countryside is.
So, through the Chilterns, for instance,
it's going to carve through ancient woodlands.
Here in the Aylesbury Vale,
it's carving through an area called the Bernwood Forrest.
And if I were to look out of here in, let's say, ten or 15 years' time,
when it's all up and running, how different would it be?
Erm, the lake itself will not be affected,
so that will stay the same.
What will be different is that you'll be looking out
on a very changed landscape at the far end of the reserve.
It's going to have security fencing
and of course the big difference is going to be the noise.
Not only of the trains but there's going to be a maintenance depot
just off the side of the nature reserve here,
that's operating 24/7 once the trains are up and running.
So, the tranquillity that makes it
so popular for the bird watchers will have evaporated?
Yes, it'll have gone.
Its use as a quiet spot in the countryside for people to come
and enjoy, that's going to be gone forever.
HS2 Limited, the company owned
and set up by the government to build the line, knows that its
management of the project is under the microscope.
Peter Miller is in charge of the plans to minimise
and compensate for the line's impact on the environment.
Overall, do you think the environment will be
harmed by the building of High Speed 2?
We've spent a great deal of time thinking about the impact
of the railway and, of course, a long linear
piece of infrastructure will, inevitably, have an effect
on the natural environment.
I gather, overall, you've got this phrase
"no net loss" of bio-diversity.
So, overall...that nature won't lose.
I wonder if you can explain that a bit, how it works in practice?
Our approach is to think along the lines of "no net loss",
so that we're able to maintain the habitat for species
but those habitats will occur elsewhere, alongside the railway.
What, you're trying to recreate that similar habitat somewhere
away from where you're going to destroy it?
Yes, that's right.
That means that those species can migrate into the new habitats.
We think that's going to be a
really effective plan for helping bio-diversity.
HS2 has already taken on board
some of the criticisms about its plan by modifying the line's route.
In the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, for example,
they've extended a tunnel.
But just down the road, the proposed route brings the trains out
of another tunnel, right in the heart of a centuries-old, ancient woodland,
called Mantle's Wood.
Perhaps we can start by showing the minimum track width along any
part of the route, and what that takes up, we can measure that out.
-And that width is?
-We believe it's 22 metres, that's the standard bit.
-Tell me when to stop.
Richard Barnes from the Woodland Trust is showing me
how wide the actual track will be.
-Am I getting close?
-A bit more.
So, this is the bare minimum
but the scar could actually be far wider, in reality.
Yes, and in this particular woodland, an ancient woodland,
it's actually going to take out a total of six hectares,
which is the biggest individual loss at anywhere along the line.
With the route, as it stands,
phase one will run through at least 27 areas of ancient woodland.
What is so great about ancient woodland for you?
One of the ways of imagining it is that they're like our natural
cathedrals and castles.
They're our, sort of, cultural heritage,
they've been around for so long and they're irreplaceable.
One of the ideas I've heard is that you can actually move
some of the soil of an ancient woodland and even the root balls
of trees and take them to a new place
and you've taken a lot of the benefit with you, is that true?
That's not really true.
I think, at best, it's a salvage operation of last resort
when you know you're going to lose the woodland.
Ancient woodland is irreplaceable, you can not translocate it.
You're at best moving the soils and some of the components in the soil.
From the soil to the treetops, a woodland like this is a unique
eco-system supporting a huge variety of plants and wildlife.
It's not just animals that are out and about now that could suffer.
These woods are also home to some very rare creatures of the night,
as Ellie's been finding out.
I'm in another ancient woodland just a few miles from Tom
and there is something rather enchanting
and mysterious about this place.
Finemere Woods has this thrilling atmosphere as a very old
and very wild place, which supports its rich mosaic of insects,
birds and mammals.
I'm meeting Matt Dodds, Bio-diversity Officer
from Aylesbury Vale Council to tell me more about one very
special mammal that has made this woodland its home.
So, Matt, what are we hoping to see here today?
Well, we're here to look at the bats.
Erm, we've been developing a bat monitoring project in the woodland.
We've found out that it's one of the most important
woods in the country for bats.
Particularly, some very rare bats.
Matt and his colleague, Hannah Bilston,
set up the North Bucks Bat Trust
12 years ago to examine the way specialist woodland bats
use bat boxes in an ancient woodland setting.
So, we've used these five different types of bat boxes
and found that these two, the biggest boxes,
these seem to be the boxes that the bats really prefer.
Possibly because they do like congregating in these really
big maternity roost groups.
What have you discovered about their roosting routine?
So, from doing the experiments and doing box checks, radio tracking,
we've also had temperature sensors installed within the boxes,
we've found on average they're sort of in the boxes
maybe for between three and five days and then they switch
and maybe go into a tree in the wood or maybe into another bat box.
But they're more reliant on the tree roost than
they actually are the other bat boxes.
And how about their numbers, how are they doing?
The numbers are relatively stable.
There's good numbers of Natterer's and brown long-eareds,
different colonies of the two species using the wood.
They're a very charismatic animal, very alluring.
They are, they're such an interesting species to study,
yeah, they're fascinating.
-Is there any way that I can have a look for some?
Bat expert Matt is going to show me how to get to grips with this.
Talk me through this kit then, Matt.
-So, this is a receiver.
-OK, how does it work?
Er, well, there's a transmitter attached to the bat,
just between its shoulder blades,
and that emits a little pulse of sound, about once a second, and then
we can follow that pulse of noise back to where the bat is roosting.
It must be hard to get something onto a bat,
-they're tiny, aren't they?
-Yeah, it's a tiny little transmitter
and it fits just between their shoulder blades,
so it doesn't interfere with them too much and it's not too disturbing.
That sticks on with special glue,
which then falls off after about 14 days.
Oh, so it's not on them for very long, then?
No, no, it's designed to do that,
-so that it minimises the disturbance to the bat.
Shall we try and find one?
-Switch it on!
-There you go.
-They must be within range.
Yeah, we're pretty close.
There we go, let's get the kit going on.
So, wherever it's quiet.
-It's quiet that way so it's sort of louder this way.
Straight down there, I think.
It's quite difficult in woodland cos the noise changes
depending on what's in the way.
-Bouncing off trees.
-So it can get quite confusing.
-This is addictive, this, isn't it?
This is good.
I found it.
It's just stuffed in that woodpecker hole up there, the entrance.
Oh, perfect. You're going to stick a tiny camera in there?
-Yeah, a tiny little camera, yeah.
It's quite a long way up.
I can see them, I can see them. Bechstein's bat.
-Can you see them?
-That's not easy to see.
-How many are we seeing there?
It's probably about four in shot there,
all hanging upside down looking directly down at the endoscope.
So we're looking up the tree.
up to where they're roosting at the very top of the feature.
It's one of the first times we've filmed them in their roost.
That's fantastic. What a great piece of kit.
-That was amazing.
-I've never seen Bechsteins before.
Not many people have. They're extremely rare bats.
Do you see any threats to these bats in the future?
Well, they should be relatively secure.
The only problem is HS2, which is
a massive project which is going to bisect the three or four woodlands
that they occur in at the moment,
so we're really worried about the impact of that.
'With that in mind, the bat group are recording the behaviour
'of the bats, so that disturbances in the future can be monitored.'
So, as the dusk falls on Finemere Woods, the birds, bees and
butterflies are settling down for the night
and hopefully the bats are coming out to play.
Unfortunately, so too are the midges, so I'm going to need this.
'This is the first summer survey for this team,
'who are all licensed to handle these delicate creatures.
'The first thing they need to do
'is set up the eight-metre high mist net.
'And, as the sun sets, it's not long before we find our first bat.'
Got a Bechstein's.
It's amazing to be this close to it.
This is one of the rarest mammals in Europe.
-So this is one that we've ringed before.
-This is one of yours already.
-It's rung on the left wing, which means it's a female.
'Although the bat has already been ringed,
'Matt and the team are hoping to radio tag it as well.
'For this to happen, the bat needs to be a certain weight,
'with the tag weighing no more than 5% of its body weight.'
-So that's eight grams. That's fine.
-So we get to see the tag going on?
-Yeah, we can get a tag on.
So you're covering up the head here.
Yes, I'm just covering up the head, just to stop them struggling.
Yeah, keep them nice and calm.
Now, I'm just finding the gap between the shoulder blades there.
Why are they so rare?
They are completely dependent on ancient woodland,
but, as ancient woodland has got smaller and smaller and smaller,
so the numbers of Bechsteins have got smaller and smaller.
Tags are really tiny,
so we just snip off enough to just slightly expose the skin.
I'm holding my breath.
'And with the tag firmly in place, it's time for its release,
'and, as we don't want to disturb the bat any further,
'it's lights off.
'Let's hope Matt, Hannah and the group get all the information
'they need from this exceptionally rare creature.'
What an honour to hold that Bechstein
and release it back into freedom.
One of the rarest mammals in Europe.
That was great.
I just hope that they can cope with whatever upheaval comes their way
and go on to flourish.
As we've heard, the biggest upheaval those Bechstein bats
are liable to face in the foreseeable future is the coming of HS2.
The wood where they live is just a couple of hundreds yards
across a wildlife meadow from a little-used, single-track railway
that's the proposed route of the new high-speed line.
The line doesn't run through the woods,
but the bats depend on foraging across a much wider area to survive,
frequently flying along these hedge lines.
Local naturalists believe the new HS2 running through will
act like a barrier and could threaten local extinction.
Habitat fragmentation is a problem for bats,
birds and butterflies all along the line.
HS2 has spent a lot of time
and effort making plans to minimise the impact on the environment.
Plans which are documented in its environmental statement.
This is it. More than 50,000 pages of it.
Thankfully, we didn't have to print it off for ourselves, but some people
have read it all and quite a few of them think it's not detailed enough.
Although the high-speed line has cross-party support in Parliament,
because of its potential economic and transport benefits,
the Commons Environmental Audit Committee is among those who believe
that HS2's environmental statement leaves a little to be desired.
The Committee is chaired by Labour MP Joan Walley.
What do you think about High Speed 2's environmental statement?
We don't think that the environmental statement done
so far by HS2 is really fit for purpose.
40% of the land affected has still not been properly surveyed,
so how can you reach conclusions out of that,
when you don't have a full audit of the environmental biodiversity
that we're talking about?
Are the funds put aside for the environment protected?
If at a later stage, for example,
there's going to be huge cutbacks to HS2
because it's not affordable,
our report really wants to make sure that those cuts will not
really be felt in terms of the work that should be
spent on environmental protection.
There needs to be clear forms of accountability, I believe,
for that to actually happen,
and it's not there in the detail that it needs to be at the moment.
'So what does HS2 Limited make of the Audit Committee's report?'
Do you think the Environmental Audit Committee's criticisms
I think the Environmental Audit Committee's comments
were very welcomed.
Really? You like being told off?
I don't think we were told off.
I think what's interesting about that is that being
scrutinised in that way is really important.
The emphasis that has been
provided from the Environmental Audit Committee actually is
providing some guidance for us going forward and I think that's useful.
The Environmental Audit Committee has said you need more stringent
enforceable standards on the impact on the natural world.
Do you agree?
the undertakings that we will make before Parliament will be binding.
I think that's a really important thing for people to understand.
Because it is binding, we will have to deliver on our plans.
I gather you can avoid some environmental safeguards
if you deem them impractical or unreasonable.
Who's deciding that?
These plans will be scrutinised by a special Parliamentary Select
Committee and through that process, those plans will be confirmed.
'One of the big green selling points of HS2 is the potential to
'reduce carbon emissions by getting people out of their cars
'but the Environmental Audit Committee was also
'concerned that those benefits would be limited
'until the electricity it uses will become carbon neutral.'
But whatever HS2 does to help the environment,
for some people there will still be a downside.
Looking after rural Britain is about much more than
caring for biodiversity.
Along most of the route of the line,
it isn't ancient forest or even havens for wildlife.
It's this. Farmland.
The plans for habitat creation mean valuable agricultural land
won't just be lost on the line itself.
A major concern for the National Farmers Union.
Quite often it can be raining, it can be frosty,
foggy up on these hills.
'Robert Brown's family has been farming this land for a century.
'The proposed route of HS2 runs right through it.'
-This line is about to run, I guess, where we're standing now.
Um, and it runs through the block of 88 acres of winter wheat.
-Through that wood there?
-It goes through this wood here.
So that's a pretty big impact on your farm.
Is that the only impact, the actual line itself?
No, it's not the only impact.
HS2 came out two weeks before Christmas
and sat us round our kitchen table with maps,
saying they were going to tip
1.93 million tonnes of spoil on our farm.
And it's going where? Describe what it will look like.
It's actually going from where the farm yard starts,
on level hay-making fields,
up to a plateau where the line of trees are, as ski slopes.
They're going to go up to about nine metres high apparently
and then down to this railway line here.
What do you feel about that in here?
It's just a complete nightmare to me. It's a complete nightmare.
I try not to think about it because, you know,
all what we've worked for all these years and got what we got here
and they just want to wipe it out with a train line.
I'm just totally devastated. I really am.
Farmers and landowners along the route will be compensated for
the loss of their land, but, as we've heard, it's not just about economics.
Whether we're talking about farmers or biodiversity, for many,
the big concern is surviving the upheaval.
The final decision on HS2 will be taken by our MPs next year,
but it looks likely,
and most environmental groups have shifted to damage limitation mode,
ensuring there's enough money, expertise and political will
to make this massive infrastructure project as benign as possible.
Elsewhere in Buckinghamshire, I'm looking at the effect of one family
on an entire landscape - the Rothschilds.
Waddesdon Manor was the vision of Ferdinand de Rothschild,
who loved this bit of the county so much, he bought it.
But the family legacy runs much deeper than the wonder of Waddesdon.
For a start, there was cousin Walter
and he was quite a guy!
Yep, that's him riding the giant tortoise,
as he set up the zoological museum round the corner in Tring.
His zebra-drawn carriage was probably down the vet's for its MOT.
Now, it's cousin Charles whose work in the early 1900s protects
the British landscape as we know it today.
I'm finding out more from Stephanie Hilborne of the Wildlife Trust.
Charles founded the nature conservation.
He founded what became the Wildlife Trust
and he was the first person, a real pioneer, at looking
scientifically at our whole country to find the best places for wildlife.
So how did they find these special places?
Interestingly, he did it rather like we do it now, which is
you combine science
and look at it from an overview national perspective, with going out.
He put an article in the Times
and got all the local natural history societies to go out
and find these places and then he brought in his mates,
like Neville Chamberlain, who became the Prime Minister
and the Speaker of the House of Commons,
and everybody was engaged in looking for these sites.
You know, in the end they came up with 284 of the best.
'The places they found became
'the UK's Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
'In uncovering these, they found one species at risk
'which was particular to the Chilterns.'
People filled in these forms. I've got one of them here.
Questionnaires, are they?
Yeah, a little questionnaire, which seems a bit simplistic now,
but was asking why this place was special, and they discovered
this amazing boxwood, the best boxwood probably in the country.
And boxes depend incredibly on the Chilterns as an area.
It needs chalk and limestone.
This is a stronghold for the box.
And so, having decided they would save it, it says,
for instance, that,
"We would charge the trustees with this pious duty of its preservation."
Well, the question is, was Charles recognised for his efforts?
John has been to find out.
The gentle ups and sweeping downs of the Chilterns.
It's an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
and one of the most heavily-wooded places in Britain.
And hidden within these woods there's a rare treasure of nature.
The remnants of a species of tree which is rooted in our history,
but which most of us know nothing about.
It's been largely forgotten
and now it's in very real danger.
The box tree.
There are only three officially recognised native box
woodlands in the UK.
They thrive on the chalky conditions found at Box Hill in Surrey,
the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire
and the largest stronghold of the three, here in the Chilterns.
A pretty rare place in this country. A box tree wood.
Yes, it's quite unusual to see box growing like this.
'Sarah Wright is from the Box Woodland Regeneration Project,
'which aims to preserve and champion this often overlooked tree.'
It's very slow growing.
It's got a very dense hard wood as a result.
The bark, you can see, is quite distinctive.
Yes, almost like a scale, isn't it? Like crocodile skin.
How old do you think it is?
Well, what we can do to estimate the age of a tree is
we can use a forester's tape.
-A forester's tape you put round the tree at breast height...
..and it converts the circumference to the diameter for us.
Five centimetre diameters is equivalent to 100 years of growth.
-That's telling us that it's 13 centimetres' diameter.
-That's approximately 200 to 250 years old.
So it's been here all this time in a bit of woodland
that's been largely forgotten.
Very much so.
The timber of this rather unassuming tree is
regarded as one of the best for carving because it's so hard.
Many woodwind instruments used to be made from box.
Local lacemakers use boxwood bobbins to produce intricate
Bucks Point lace.
And, if you're a chess player,
you may have unwittingly found yourself in a Chilterns checkmate.
There's one industry that boxwood revolutionised - printing.
Thomas Bewick was an English engraver famous for carving
illustrations on to boxwood blocks,
used alongside metal type to produce pictures and words on the same page.
It's a technique used to this day by illustrator Chris Warmoll.
I became a fan of Thomas Bewick when I was a very young boy
because my father had this book filled with pictures of animals
and birds which I thought were fantastic.
Although they look incredibly detailed and complicated,
the process, once you get going, is actually fairly fast.
Boxwood is the ideal medium for making wood engravings because
it's very hard, but also very smooth
and has a very consistent grain
so that you can cut away nice, clean cut marks.
Almost like drawing, the way I'm doing here.
I actually enjoy engraving country scenes, animals and birds,
All the things that Bewick did.
Boxwood is an unsung hero of our craft heritage,
but for how much longer will it be around?
A disease called box blight is damaging what limited stocks we have.
It's a major concern for Liz Beale from the RHS.
What are the tell-tale signs?
What you can look for are the black streaking, which are the
lesions of the fungus on the stems and the leaf markings here as well.
So you get a leaf spot.
You also see defoliation coming up from the base
-and it can actually kill a mature tree.
-So all the leaves disappear.
-It really is dieback, isn't it?
At the moment, there's not anything that can be done to eradicate it.
It's more managing the disease
and trying to limit its spread in this kind of environment.
For this young specimen, that means destroying the blighted
branches to avoid the disease spreading.
It tends to hit saplings the worst, so it's hard for trees to recover.
In a bid to restore this important part of the landscape, Sarah from the
Box Woodland Project is making the most of what the Chilterns HAVE got.
-What's happening here, Sarah?
Layering is a way of creating new box plants.
I've dug a trench.
I've clipped the leaves off
and what I'm going to do now is just peg this down.
-You're pegging the branch down into the ground.
-This will keep the branch in the ground.
What we're doing here is we're mimicking what a tree
-naturally likes to do.
It creates a substantial plant very quickly.
When it comes to the autumn,
hopefully this will have rooted into the ground.
We'll be able to sever it from the parent plant and we will have...
-Created a brand-new little tree here?
The idea is that we're going to create Chiltern-sourced
native box plants that can be used for the restoration
and creation of new box woodlands in the Chilterns.
So the future might be OK for box trees round here?
Yes, we hope so, yeah.
-Let's hope that this little one survives the blight.
From boxwood in Buckinghamshire to bulls at Balmoral.
Adam's back in Aberdeenshire to find a new Highland.
'Last week, I was lucky enough to meet some of the Queen's beautiful
'Highland ponies, including a very sweet new arrival.'
First time up on his feet. He's a bit wobbly.
But this time I'm back for business.
A few months ago,
my lovely Highland bull Eric was no longer capable of doing his job.
I didn't have the heart to send him to slaughter,
so he's now retired at my sister's farm and I've got to find
a replacement for my lovely Highland girls back home.
But to follow in Eric's rather large footsteps,
he's got to be a good one.
Rugged good looks, great sense of humour and a loveable nature.
Lustrous red hair, broad shoulders,
firm body, sturdy legs.
But that's enough about me. Eric really is a bull with the X factor
and those are big hooves to fill.
So I wonder whether Her Majesty's Highlands will cut the mustard?
I know it's a long way to come for a stock bull
but last time I visited I was very impressed by the herd,
so I'm really keen to find out what they've got for sale.
Dochy Ormiston is stockman for the Queen's herd of Highland cattle.
I met him last time I was here during the winter months
and there's not much he doesn't know about this tough breed.
-Dochy, good to see you.
-Hello, Adam, pleased to meet you again.
I was told you'd be out feeding your cows. They're looking lovely.
-Aye, and I see you've brought the good weather with you again.
It's always like that here, isn't it?
You seem to bring it with you, aye.
So, you've got some lovely calves on the ground now.
We've done very well this year off a new black bull we bought.
And there are some bull calves in here you'll be
-selling in the future?
-We'll wait and see.
They're looking like it at the moment anyway,
-so they're looking quite good.
-And does Her Majesty love them?
Yes, aye. She comes out and we talk about them.
And the calves are just the most delectable calves in the world,
-aren't they? They're like big teddy bears.
-Teddy bears, yep.
But if you try and cuddle them, will the cows have you?
-No, they're not bad.
-That's the thing I do want in a bull.
I want something handle-able and reasonably quiet.
Our old Eric is quite an act to live up to.
-We want something that's a good bull.
-We'll find one.
-There's no pressure, Dochy!
-No, not at all.
And how many bulls are you selling?
When I gave you a call, you said you'd virtually sold out.
This is probably the best year we've had. We've sold six and maybe seven.
-We'll see how today goes.
-And is his mother in here or any relatives?
-This is his mother here.
-She's a nice cow.
-She is a nice colour, isn't she?
-Nice red cow.
And what about the horns?
The females have got to look like a good-looking woman.
They've got to look round the field and stand out to you.
The other thing too, you've got to look at them every day,
so they have to look nice, aye.
-And nice feminine upward horns.
-Nice up horns.
The full sister, Sophie, she's done very well at the shows with her.
-That's her over there.
How many shows has she won?
I think she's won about four or five shows and an inter-breed.
-Beaten all the other breeds.
-You're spoiling me now.
I'm getting excited about this young bull.
'So we've met the girls. Time to meet the boys.'
This is when things get serious. Business.
'this big boy isn't quite what Dochy had in mind for me.'
So is this big fella for sale, then, Dochy?
-No, that's one of our stock bulls.
-He's really lovely, isn't he?
Is this something to aspire to, then?
This, I would say, is probably what you're looking to breed like.
He's good along the top. He's got a straight back on him.
There's no hollows in through his shoulder here.
He's got some width about him, hasn't he?
-This is the bit that counts in here.
-All the meat around the back end?
-Good depth here. God, there's some width down there. Look at that.
-It's like a billiard table.
-There's a bit of power to him, yeah.
Just getting to his prime now, five, six year old.
I really like him.
You don't want to find him a good home, then?
He might be too expensive for you, this one, Alex.
'Sounds like this tremendous bull isn't for sale
'so let's meet one Dochy is willing to part with.'
-He's only 14, 15 months old.
-He's only a baby.
But it's all there if you put your hand on him.
He's got some meat about him, hasn't he? He's got some width.
-He's full through the shoulder.
There's no hollows or nothing on him.
There's a bit of power through his brisket.
He handles very well through his hips.
-Yeah, he's got a bit of depth there, hasn't he?
-You been feeding him well, Dochy?
-Not really, no. Just heather really.
He's losing all this down, this fluff, isn't he, at the moment?
You can see here how he's got the two different kinds.
The long stable hair and the down coming through it too.
Like you say, that will all come out.
So this downiness is the insulation. That's what keeps him warm.
And then the rain and sleet and snow runs off the long hair.
-I like the look of him. Can I see him walking up?
We'll just take him for a walk the now.
You haven't done a lot of this with him, though?
No, this is only the fourth time he's been in a halter.
-But he seems to be very quiet.
-He does, doesn't he?
I'll walk up behind him and get him going. Go on then, fella.
Let's see if this little chap has got the right moves.
A good bull starts from the ground up.
Strong, well-balanced feet are essential if he's going to
get around all my cows, and his weight should be evenly distributed.
Looking good so far.
Just check his assets.
His testicles need to be even-sized and firm.
No lumps and bumps. They're fine.
And then good teats.
Although the bull obviously doesn't need to suckle calves,
he will be throwing that into his daughters that will
then go on and suckle calves, and four good evenly spaced teats.
He's so quiet. A lot of bulls would be kicking me now.
He's just stood there. I like that.
Lovely. 14 months old. Is he going to reach my cows, though?
-I would think so.
-Unless your cows are awful big.
They're a fair size. Do you have to sell me a couple of bales of hay
so he can get his front legs up onto them?
Someone will have to put him up to it!
That's my one concern, that he might not get to them,
because Eric, a very lovely temperament, good size,
he's got me some good calves,
so this fella has got some... living up to.
He'll be fine. It's all there. It's in his bloodlines.
When you're buying stock, you're not supposed to be too gushing,
because otherwise people think they've got you over a barrel,
and I paid about £2,500 for Eric, which I thought was a fair price.
What sort of value are you putting on this fella?
Round about that sort of money too.
I think he's something special, very nice, very quiet.
And you've got to pay for quality.
I suppose, as my dad always said,
a bull is an investment for the future, isn't he?
The bull's in your park now!
-So do you want him or not?
-I like him. I want him.
Thank you very much!
Me and you are going to be mates. I love him already.
And now he's just got to win the hearts of the nation.
We'll turn you into a superstar like old Eric.
There's one thing we still haven't found out, and that's his name.
So how about one approved by the Queen herself?
Meet Archie I of Balmoral.
Heading for a new life in the Cotswolds.
I just hope he grows a bit!
The Cotswolds isn't just where I farm, it's where I was born
and brought up and lived pretty much all of my life.
It's very close to my heart,
and there are great places tucked away on the farm,
like this lovely old shed with a shepherd's hut at the end
and this wonderful valley with a stream running through it
where we used to play as kids. I just love it down here.
But now we want to hear about those places
that are very close to your heart.
Secret Britain is back,
and we want you to e-mail us with your suggestions of those
untold stories that are special to you, for a completely new series.
We know that you know Britain's countryside better than anyone else.
We want to hear about those secret places
and wonderful wildlife spectacles few people get to witness.
Over the summer, Ellie and I will be exploring some of the secret
places and people of Britain that you tell us about.
So this is your chance to share those locations
that are special to you with us all.
We're looking for a lost treasure revealed only at low tide,
a wildlife spectacle,
a neglected country craft,
or simply one of our best-known landmarks with an unknown story.
It's the personal connection of you
and your family to the secret places and people of Britain
that we're seeking, so share your ideas with us.
Please e-mail your thoughts with photos too, if you can, to...
You'll find all the information you need on the Countryfile website.
For over a century, the Rothschild family have been heavily
involved in conservation, nurturing and preserving the landscape.
Today the work being carried out on their farmland is more
important than ever before.
This farm on the estate is one of only a few in the country
carrying out cutting-edge environmental experiments.
Depending on the outcomes,
what you see here could be the model farm of the future.
James Bullock is a scientist who basically measures the weather,
the water and the soil, to see how we can best improve our farmland.
We're aiming to see how we can use certain activities
such as putting in field margins of wildflowers,
adding flowers to grasslands, digging ponds to enhance
things like carbon storage in the soil against climate change, to help
increase crop yields, to improve the quality of water coming off
the land, so not just biodiversity, but also the wider environment.
And water as well. I mean, this is a big part.
There's been lots of concern about water coming off farms being
polluted with high nutrient levels,
so we looked at how these margins filter the water, not so good,
but digging ponds, we dug a number of fairly small ponds in the corners of
fields that act like sedimentation tanks, so the sediment falls out,
takes the nutrients out, and the water coming out is much cleaner.
Funded by the Government, these experiments could shape
future policy for the way farmers use their land.
To the untrained eye, this might look like a normal field,
but its margins are a playground for biodiversity.
Marek Nowakowski is the man who takes
the science from the boffins and makes it workable for farmers.
The tussocky structure, good for over-wintering insects,
good for small mammals, so this is very much a living part.
Then we get into, if you like, on the dartboard, the double tops,
or the double 20s, this is, again, tussocky,
but we've put in this things like oxeye daisy,
meadow buttercup just behind you, vetches.
So what we've put into this is a pollen and nectar source,
so we're getting two for the price of one.
Soon, these wild flower margins will be in full bloom,
providing food for insects that will spread into the crops to pollinate
and eat the pests.
And as far as increasing wildlife, Marek has seen instant results.
Look, look, there's a run here,
it might be quite difficult to see,
but what will happen is the field vole
will actually start munching through these stems of cocksfoot
and he sat there and munched and spat bits out and left bits.
So that is small mammal, therefore barn owl.
Small mammal provides a nesting home for the bumblebee,
so if the bumblebee wakes up in the spring after hibernation,
which they do, and we have flowers for pollen and nectar,
it literally walks out of its front door
into a massive spread of pollen and nectar.
The chances of its breeding success go up quite dramatically.
90% percent of the wildlife has gone from farmland
because the habitats have gone.
The simplist in me says, sow the habitats back.
But is it feasible to give up margins for wildlife
that we could be growing food on?
If we starve and wildlife benefits,
we're out of balance as much as we are now.
It's finding this balance between feeding people,
but not at the expense of wildlife -
that's the bit that I get up in the morning for.
Al Brooks farms the Waddesdon Estate
and is the man who actually puts all this theory into practice.
He's got nearly 8% of his land
tied up in these environmental experiments.
-You all right?
-All right, how you doing?
-Nice, straight furrows there, beautiful.
-We try, we try.
-How's it going?
-I think it's going all right.
-The scientists are telling me it's doing OK.
It's been a very interesting journey for me,
it's been a real learning curve, if I'm honest.
I've always had a sort of environmental angle to the way
I like to farm, but the last three years have been a serious education.
Obviously, to start with, you'd have had some major reservations.
When you're asked to put such a proportion of your land
into environmental measures, what am I going to be doing?
Am I going to be losing out financially?
The reality is that, you know, we have some biggish kit,
we have some small corners
and running around in these corners, we're not gaining anything,
they're actually becoming money-losing rather than profitable.
-So by doing what we're doing here,
we're giving environmental delivery, we're not losing financially,
we're improving the aesthetic of the farming that we're doing
-and of the land that we manage.
-So knowing what you know now
and having experienced what you've experienced,
would you ever go back to the way you were farming five years ago?
I'd be really hard pushed to do that.
For Al, sewing his unproductive field edges with wildlife in mind
seems to be working.
He's still managing to grow affordable crops
and at the same time benefiting the environment.
Aylesbury Vale, the green and rolling vale in Buckinghamshire,
sheltered by the Chiltern Hills and its ancient Ridgeway walk.
And at its southern tip you find the magical Wendover Woods.
But not all is quite as it seems.
This mysterious and beautiful woodland
is not only a place for wildlife and plant life to thrive,
but for the imagination to run wild.
And if you go down to the woods today,
you'll be sure of a big surprise.
And in more ways than one!
On Countryfile, we see many unusual creatures,
but none quite as intriguing as what I'm searching for today
here in the forest.
One very famous children's author is only too aware
of what can happen when you take a stroll through the deep, dark wood.
The Gruffalo wasn't initially going to be about a Gruffalo at all,
it was going to be about a tiger.
I just couldn't get anything good to rhyme with tiger, really,
so I thought, "If I create a monster,
"he can rhyme with whatever I want,"
and in this case he rhymes with,
"Silly old fox, doesn't he know?
"There's no such thing as a Gruffalo!"
"He has knobbly knees and turned-out toes
"and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose.
"Oh, help! Oh, no! It's a Gruffalo!"
Well, as scary as he is, it is his birthday
and everybody deserves to celebrate.
He's 15 years old, so these special Gruffalo trails
have been set up around the country in his honour.
I'm finding out how these trails
are inspiring young families all over the UK to venture out into the woods.
Learning Ranger Charlotte McGowan is going to tell me more.
Here we are, the Forestry Commission owning the nation's woodland
and we've got The Gruffalo,
one of the best forest stories you can get. It's so exciting.
It captures every child's imagination,
every adult's, too, I think.
So what can they see and learn about on the trail?
It's to get children engaged with the forest.
It's using their senses and actually doing things,
so they can find mini beasts, they can look at forest homes,
think about where the animals live.
Forests are so much more, it's not just trees,
it's about the wildlife, as well.
Well, we can see families in the woods ahead,
-shall we go and join them?
-Oh, yes, let's.
Is that a logpile house you're making?
No, this is a mouse den.
Oh, this is the mouse den? We've changed it up.
What is it, do you think, about The Gruffalo
that seems to be universally loved by children?
I just think it's just a big adventure and he adores it.
Anything that can get children learning about trees, plants,
beetles, I just think that's so important.
-I found a leaf.
-You found a leaf? Lovely!
-My favourite is The Gruffalo.
"A Gruffalo? What's a Gruffalo?
"A Gruffalo? Why didn't you know?
"He has terrible tusks and terrible claws
"and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws!
"Where are you meeting him?
"Here by these rocks, and his favourite food is roasted fox."
What's great about these trails is that they are hands-on,
so they teach children about nature.
Today, they are making Gruffalos out of pine cones
and mini beast hotels to replicate the snake's logpile house.
Are you not making one, Steve?
-I'm not, I've got a good band of experts here.
I'm going to dig in, I couldn't not.
So talk to me about what the idea is behind
what the children are making today.
It's recreating an actual habitat, a deadwood habitat.
It's to attract insects, ground beetles,
slow worms are attracted by ants and things like this.
Also carnivorous animals such as centipedes.
But it's not just about having breeding habitats
or even feeding habitats, it's over winter habitats.
-How would this help out creepy crawlies?
-It's excellent for earwigs.
Things like ladybirds will easily go into the scales on the pine cone.
I've got my very own mini beast.
But I've heard that there's a monstrous delivery on its way.
"All was quiet in the deep, dark wood,
"The mouse found a nut and the nut was good."
It was quiet until he showed up.
Blimey, look at that, he's a beast!
You can find these stupendous sculptures in woodlands
up and down the country to celebrate the Gruffalo's 15th birthday.
That is it from Buckinghamshire and our magical woodland adventure.
It's been brilliant spending time
with the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
How's that looking? Lovely.
Next week, John will be in Snowdonia to see how the hand of man
has influenced the landscape,
and to get the best view of that landscape
he's going to need a head for heights. We'll see you then, bye-bye.
Countryfile is in Buckinghamshire where Matt Baker visits Waddesdon Manor and discovers the Rothschilds, a family that shaped the landscape of the entire county. He explores the legacy left behind by Charles Rothschild, founder of the Wildlife Trust, and he gets his hands dirty on the estate's farm, where cutting-edge environmental experiments are taking place to inform the government's HLS schemes. Ellie Harrison is in Wendover Woods discovering creatures great and small: from tiny, rare Bechstein bats to a monstrous, mythical beast, rarely seen in the wild, but loved by children everywhere! John Craven is finding out about the much-prized and now incredibly rare box wood, which changed the face of printing as we know it. Britain's new high-speed train, HS2, is now on its final approach, and Tom Heap asks the developers of the new line whether they can live up to their environmental promise of no loss to biodiversity. He also meets people from Buckinghamshire and beyond who believe it is bound to have a negative impact on our countryside.
Adam Henson visits HM the Queen's Balmoral estate in Scotland on a mission to find a replacement for Eric, his highland bull.