Countryfile is in Cambridgeshire. Ellie Harrison takes a peek behind the scenes at Newmarket, the home of horse racing, while John Craven goes on a literary journey.
Browse content similar to Cambridgeshire. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Cambridgeshire - a county of contrasts...
..from the man-made flat lands of the Fens
to rolling hills and heath land.
It's a place where horse racing reigns supreme.
It's a centuries-old tradition -
hundreds of jockeys up at the crack of dawn
to train on this historic heath land.
It's here that the sport of kings was born.
I'll be taking a sneak peek behind the scenes at Newmarket,
the home of racing.
John's on the trail of one of our unsung literary giants.
He was one of the greatest poets of our countryside.
John Clare was born here in the village of Helpston,
and he wrote about the landscape all around him.
I'll be exploring that landscape and asking,
as we approach the 150th anniversary of his death,
why only now is he getting the critical acclaim he truly deserves?
And is our thirst for adventure threatening the landscape we love?
Whether you're out here mountain biking,
climbing or simply walking,
as more of us flock to the countryside,
are we in danger of destroying the very thing
we've all come here to enjoy?
I'll be investigating later.
And Adam's newborns need plenty of TLC.
These are North Ronaldsay twins, just a few days old,
and what baby lambs need is lots of milk,
but because of the cold spring,
their mothers are struggling to give them enough.
Cambridgeshire - a patchwork of fields and vast, open fen land.
I'm on the border of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, in Newmarket,
the antithesis of a one-horse town.
For the past 350 years, it's been an equine epicentre.
What makes Newmarket famous isn't really its racetrack -
58 other towns have them - but its historic heath land.
And that's what makes Warren Hill Gallops one of the best
training grounds for horse and rider in the country.
While most of us are still contemplating breakfast,
this place is alive with the sound of thundering hooves.
These gallops are the heart of the whole racing scene
that Newmarket is built on.
I'm meeting Nick Patton, whose job it is to maintain the heath land.
-What about it is so good?
-We been here since the 1600s.
It's a fantastic bit of land.
It's so free draining, fantastic grass gallops.
There's everything here that the trainer wants.
It must take a lot of work to maintain this.
-That's your job, right? You and your team.
-What have you got to do to keep this up?
-It's a 365-day-a-year operation.
We've got 2,500 acres here
and 90 miles of all-weather artificial gallops,
and of course, you know, we've had a long, hard winter,
and even in the hardest winters
we'll be able to keep the artificial gallops open and operational,
so when airports and highways are closed,
we're still getting horses out here to train.
So, we're on grass here now. Surely that's just a bit of mowing, is it?
Yeah, you would think so.
This is one of our peat moss gallops that we've got here.
Ever since the Second World War, a layer of peat has been added to it.
-What, every year?
-Not every year. Every second year now.
And worked into it.
So it always retains that little bit of moisture,
so even in the driest conditions,
it still adds a bit of cushion for the horses to gallop on.
To keep the legendary gallops in fine form, Nick employs
a team of heath men to make sure the going is consistently good.
As well as the peat moss grass gallops,
there is an all-weather artificial track.
It looks more like the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag to me.
-It's predominantly sand...
little bits of PVC rubber, all joined together with wax.
We're trying to mimic a turf surface,
-so it's got a bit of spring and bounce to it.
-What is that for?
Every now and again we just check the compaction of the surface,
so we will push that in and feel how compacted the surface is.
We'll rotovate it a bit deeper or work the surface a bit deeper
if that's a bit firm underneath.
There are currently 80 racehorse trainers exercising
just over 2,500 horses on these gallops every day.
William Haggas has been training his horses here for 25 years.
What is it that makes Newmarket so good?
We've just got everything here.
Absolutely. We got every grass gallop you can imagine.
We've got... We can go right handed, left handed.
We've got all-weather surfaces that go right handed, left handed,
uphill, downhill even. We've got everything.
A trainer's job has got so many things involved with it,
I guess anything from finances to physio,
but this moment where they're really letting rip
and galloping, that must be a special thing for you?
It's a joyous thing, doing what we do. It's fantastic,
especially good in the summer when it's light and warm.
No better job than this.
The historic heath land may be at the heart of race horsing,
but later I'll be visiting its headquarters,
the place where the racing rule book was written.
Now, while we're exploring Cambridgeshire,
Tom is over in the Peak District enjoying a bit of R and R.
These days, it seems like everyone wants
a part of the British countryside. Last year alone,
there were nearly 1.5 billion visits to our natural landscape.
For more and more of us, our countryside is a playground,
a beautiful space where we can satisfy our need for peace
..or hunger for adventure, but as it gets more popular,
are we in danger of ruining the natural world we love so much?
With one in ten holidays in the UK now involving adventure sports,
gone are the days when people only went to the countryside
for a leisurely stroll.
Now we cave, climb, or for the more adventurous amongst you,
there are things like power kiting...
And then something I'm trying for the first time today -
So, you realise we're standing in snow meltwater at this point?
Snow melt? It's not a hot tub, then(?)
It's not the warmest water in the world.
In the search for new ways to explore the countryside,
thrill-seekers are now wading up rivers and mountain streams
to satisfy their thirst for adventure.
-There you go.
But the sport has come under attack for its impact
on delicate parts of the landscape.
I love it coming straight down the sleeve(!)
And out the bottom. Yeah!
I'm joining Nottinghamshire County Council worker Phil Baker
at Hagg Farm Outdoor Education Centre
to find out what the issues are.
Clearly, in an area like this, there's things like
bank-side erosion - there's where you get in, where you get out -
There's very vulnerable ferns and bushes around that you can see,
but this here is one of the side cloughs
that we deliberately instruct groups not to go up.
And because it's a small, narrow cascade,
there's lots of sensitive things around
-which you could easily tear off.
And you can see where the moss is very close to the stream,
and if you climbed up there, you'd wear that away straight away.
And it's kind of...no need.
-And there's noise, of course, and disturbing nesting birds.
Does that mean there are certain times of year when you avoid it?
Yeah. Basically, we work very hard with the National Trust
to set up some operation procedures
that means we only do it on a seasonal basis,
that we have restricted numbers, restricted use,
so there is a whole bunch of control measures in place
-that the Trust are happy with.
-Let's give it a go.
You only live once!
-That is bracing! Whoo!
Well, it's not just gorge walking that makes a few people uneasy.
There are loads of new adventure sports, fads if you like,
and many people have concerns about those, too.
There have been complaints about the new craze of coasteering -
a combination of swimming, climbing and diving around our coastline -
causing rock falls.
Some fell runners have upset farmers by leaving gates open
and disrupting livestock.
Even something apparently as benign as flying a kite can be damaging.
The shadow can disturb ground-nesting birds,
and there is a risk of me trampling on them.
Most of these activities are fairly niche, though.
But there's another extreme sport that attracts
thousands of us into the countryside each week.
It feels a bit perilous, so nice and tight, please.
Climbing is on the up.
In the last 20 years, the British Mountaineering Council
has seen its membership triple from 25,000 to 75,000.
Oh, it's slippery.
The sport, pioneered in the 19th century,
was once only the pastime of the upper classes.
Now it has mass appeal,
and people are flocking to the crags in their thousands,
as local climbing instructor Ed Chard knows only too well.
So, Ed, you've been climbing around here for a few years.
What changes have you seen in that time?
Well, the increase of climbers.
The sport is radically changing over the last few years.
More and more people are coming to areas like this,
and it's just very accessible.
I think people are recognising the value of climbing,
that they can come and they can have excitement on short edges like this,
but be in this fantastic environment as well.
But has this popularity damaged the landscape?
According to the BMC, quite the opposite.
It sees climbing now has more guidelines than
almost any other adventure sport, and as the numbers have grown,
so has environmental awareness.
I think with any activity when you come to the outdoors,
you have to be switched on to your environment.
Lots of organisations are working together to make sure
that we keep this environment as it is.
A lot of us will cycle or walk to the crag.
There's not lots of impact.
What about birds nesting in the cliffs?
-Do you have to be careful about them?
I think climbers are very aware of our environmental surroundings.
Ringed ouzels are the sort of mountain blackbird, if you like,
and will nest on edges very much like this,
so we'll get together and we'll say, "Let's stay away from that area.
"Let's do that ourselves. There's lots of other rock to climb.
"Let's let those birds fledge." And we'll share that information
with RSPB and all those other folks, you know.
Of course, not everyone sticks to the rules,
but if we act responsibly,
the impact of these sports should be minimal.
Yet, as I'll be finding out later,
there are more mainstream activities that can be cause for concern.
I'm in North Cambridgeshire, in the village of Helpston.
It's here that a man described as one of the poorest and most troubled
of the great English Romantic poets found inspiration.
John Clare was born in 1793,
and spent most of his life in this cottage.
He was a son of a humble labouring family,
and though he had little education,
he had no trouble in finding the words
to write about the countryside that he loved.
Up this green woodland-ride
Let's softly rove
And list the nightingale
She dwells just here
Hush! Let the wood-gate softly clap
For fear the noise might drive her
From her home of love.
At one point, John Clare, who was known as "the peasant poet",
even outsold Keats.
His family home is now dedicated to his life
and his rich imagination,
and I'm meeting the curator, David Dykes, to learn more.
David, can you set the scene for me? Apart from John Clare,
who else would have been living in this quite small cottage?
We had six children, his wife, his sister, his mother and father.
So, you've got three generations of Clare family in this small cottage.
And he was writing his poetry while all the mayhem was going on?
That's why he'd walk out into the fields
and write his poetry where he got his inspiration.
All nature has a feeling
Woods, fields, brooks
Are life eternal
And in silence they speak happiness
Beyond the reach of books.
And this humble boy from this little cottage found himself
-in London as a literary star.
That's where he got the name "the peasant poet",
because he didn't fit in there, and nor did he fit in here,
and when he came back here, fame came at a cost.
People didn't believe he'd written the poems.
They thought somebody else had written them for him.
And this is a diary that he kept in 1825,
and in it he records some of the people who came
and looked at him and said,
"Are you actually the person who wrote the poem?",
and so became almost like a sideshow.
-So, he didn't cope well with celebrity, then?
-Absolutely not, no.
And nor did he make money out of it.
He was always just a labourer who wrote poetry.
It's as if there were two John Clares -
one placed by the literary elite alongside Wordsworth and Byron,
and the other, scraping a living alongside his illiterate
fellow farm workers.
One of his modern local admirers is Penny Stevens.
Penny, what is it that makes Clare's poetry so special to you, today?
It's because he looked at the world around him all the time,
every bit of nature, every hour of the day, every animal,
every species, all the insects and birds,
-and he described them so beautifully.
-In a way, then,
-he was one of the very first environmentalists.
He wrote very personally and very, very beautifully.
And in his poetry, he used an awful lot of local dialect, didn't he?
He did. My favourite is the word he uses for the long-tailed tit,
the little birds, and he calls them bumbarrels.
And for the haw round fields
And cloven rove
And coy bumbarrels
Twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerows
In the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs
And start again.
But could that be one reason why he fell out of favour?
Because a lot of people outside this area probably
-didn't know what the words meant.
-I think so.
Now we love it and celebrate the use of the old dialect,
but in those days, maybe some of the educated people thought it
was a bit peasantry, a bit uneducated.
-Because all the other Romantic poets were quite posh, weren't they?
Clare loved the woods
and the flat lands.
They represented freedom.
But that joy was to be short lived, because the common land,
the open fields where his family had toiled for centuries,
was taken away from them.
During the 19th century, right across the country, Enclosure Acts,
approved by Parliament, put much of that land into private hands.
This denied Clare the right to explore the countryside
that defined his writing.
He had long struggled with his mental health
and in his early 40s was sectioned and sent to an asylum in Essex.
He continued to write poetry but after a few years absconded,
walking for four days back to his beloved village of Helpston.
A few steps from his cottage, perhaps a little too close,
there's the Bluebell Inn,
and what with his love of ale
and his increasingly fragile mental state,
things started to go downhill for John Clare.
To cope with his black moods,
he spent a bit too much time in the pub, drinking
and playing folk songs that he'd picked up from Gypsies
who lived in the woods.
He was admitted again to an asylum and eventually,
the words stopped flowing.
Someone wrote to him at the asylum saying, "Why no more poems?"
He writes, "Dear sir, I am in a madhouse.
"I quite forget your name.
"You must excuse me for I have nothing to communicate,
"I have nothing to say."
A tragic end for a man who'd found so many wonderful words to say.
John Clare died at the age of 71,
and this is his grave in the village churchyard at Helpston.
And there's an inscription which reads "a poet is born not made".
And this man, the peasant poet, is now being rated
so long after his death as one of England's greatest.
But John Clare isn't the only unsung hero
to have called this beautiful area his home.
James has been finding out about a little-known
but crucially important Victorian naturalist
who devoted his life's work to the flora and fauna of Cambridgeshire.
Nestled in the heart of the Fens
is the pretty village of Swaffham Bulbeck.
It was the home of Rev Leonard Jenyns,
a man who left an extremely precious gift for us today.
He was born right here in Bottisham Hall.
You could be forgiven for not knowing who Leonard Jenyns is
because his work has been almost totally eclipsed
by a good friend of his, Charles Darwin, a man we've all heard of.
One man has almost been completely forgotten by history,
and the other one is a household name, and I'm here to find out why.
Dr Richard Preece knows everything there is to know
about Jenyns and Darwin,
and I'm told it's got something to do with catching beetles.
-Hi, there.. You must be Richard.
-I am. You must be James.
I understand we're going bug-hunting. I've got my net.
-Indeed. Shall we go? It's just round the corner.
So they were proper super-geeks of their generation.
-They did great science, they were great friends.
Yet we know one really well,
and I've never even heard of the other.
How does that happen?
Well, Jenyns was offered the opportunity to go on the Beagle,
this voyage around the world, collecting specimens and so on.
He considered this for a day
and decided that his calling in Swaffham Bulbeck
was the higher calling,
but he did recommend Darwin, who was the younger man,
nine years younger, and the rest is history, as they say.
So where do beetles come into this story?
Well, both Jenyns and Darwin were avid beetle collectors,
-So, where did he collect these beetles?
He collected some of them right here, as well as in the Fens,
but we can go and have a look.
OK, this looks a good place for beetles. Shall we give it a go?
-Yeah, rotting wood. Good sign.
If I turn it, you see if you can catch them. Oh, look. What's that?
-There we are! That is a beetle.
-OK, there we are.
They say, "Don't work with children and animals,"
and one appears on cue. It's amazing.
Darwin could have been right here, looking at the same things,
my hero, and here, 150 years later, I'm doing the same thing.
So, in 1831, Darwin set off on an ambitious voyage around the globe,
and his findings would revolutionise our understanding of life on Earth.
But back home in Cambridge, Jenyns set himself a remarkable task -
making an encyclopaedic record of our own flora and fauna.
He was a full-time vicar and devoted to his flock,
but he spent every moment of his spare time
combing the local landscape, recording the different species
and documenting their habits in his legendary notebook.
-So, here's the infamous book.
-Indeed. This is it.
So this is, essentially, an inventory of all the animals that were
known in Cambridgeshire in the second quarter of the 19th century.
So, you have a snapshot of what the ecosystem looked like
at the time - a Noah's ark in written form.
I think the extraordinary thing is his handwriting. Look at this.
It looks like it's been printed in some kind of handwriting font,
and it shows what a methodical mind this guy must have had.
Well, he records all sorts of animals in these notebooks
that are today extremely rare.
For example, what are we talking about?
Well, one example is this fish called the burbot,
which he says here is common in the Cam
and in the navigable cuts communicating with that river.
So this is one of the last burbot ever collected in this country.
Still lives on the Continent,
but in Britain it became extinct in about 1970.
-And that's the last one.
Jenyns has left us vital information to understand
how the nature around us has changed,
but that wasn't his only contribution.
So, in all of these recordings,
did he discover anything new to science, the ultimate goal?
Yes, he did.
He was very interested in land and freshwater molluscs,
which is an interest very close to my own heart, and he recorded
lots of land and freshwater snails, including some little pea mussels,
these tiny little bivalves that occur in streams and ponds.
-So are pea mussels still common today?
-We'll go and have a look for them.
-Let's do it.
Pea clams sound extremely small, but Richard's a world expert
on molluscs, so I couldn't be in better company.
-So, when you say small, how small are we talking?
Most of the species are between 2 and 3 millimetres.
-They say pea clam, but that's a lot smaller than a pea.
-A lot smaller than a pea.
I'm not sure if snail-hunting is going to be my forte,
but I'm willing to take up the challenge.
So we're looking just below the surface of the mud?
Just get the very top couple of centimetres of the mud.
-OK. Just skimming away.
-Just skim away. There's a stickleback.
-We don't want him, so we'll put him back.
-It's teeming with life.
It looks a very nice little stream.
-Tip out what you've got onto the tray.
-OK. You go first.
It's got all sorts of things here, look. You need to look carefully.
I'm beginning to get a feeling of exactly how methodical
and thorough this guy had to be
to even find this stuff in the first place.
-So, that is a pea mussel.
-Hold that up and I'll get up close.
-It doesn't get any bigger than that.
-It's like a tomato seed. It's tiny.
That is as big as that particular species gets.
-These pea clams look like tiny bits of grit.
-This one's dead.
-So it's opened up?
-It's opened up.
-You can see the gaping...
-A proper clam shell shape.
-It's like a bonsai clam.
-There you go.
-It's exactly the same proportions, just tiny.
-So there it is.
Who needs Darwin's exotic giant tortoises
when you have almost microscopic nano clams?
Jenyns' notes are crucial
to understanding the world we live in today.
By comparing the species he saw over 100 years ago
with what we can or can't find now,
we get vital clues as to how things like climate change
and agriculture transform the natural world we know and love.
I think you need to be a really special kind of person
to not only be that excited about nature,
but also that dedicated to this almost creepily level
of methodical detail of which he noted it down
in this 19th-century version of a spreadsheet,
but it's that detail and that dedication
that means that information is so useful and so valuable to us today.
Newmarket, the headquarters of British horse racing.
The Jockey Club Rooms have been the countryside's seat
of Britain's most influential racing body for more than 250 years.
There's a world-famous private members' club
few people have had the privilege of stepping inside.
Within these four walls, a rare glimpse into the proud
and quirky history of British horse racing.
Rooms steward Alan Medlock is giving me
a guided tour through the corridors of power.
Decisions made here shaped horse racing as we know it today,
and this chap, Henry Rous, wrote the rulebook.
He was the man who pulled all the rules and regulations that existed
by word of mouth, and wrote them down and invented the handicapping system.
They pull together the registration of silks
and the colours that horses ride under, and also weighing.
So he was the man who put all this structure into racing.
And it still exists to this day.
-So he deserves his place on the wall?
-Absolutely. An essential part of the industry.
Another horse, another horse...
Well, this is the Coffee Room, the spiritual home of the Jockey Club.
What about in here? What are these little cubby-holes?
These were the areas where people would meet and congregate,
-What does that mean?
Probably this group here might be offering,
say, 7-2 if you bet 5,000 guineas.
Another group might be offering slightly better odds
if you put 10,000 guineas.
And in 1827, we know that, in one bet,
a gentleman called John Gully,
a notorious gambler,
lost £40,000 on one race.
-In today's terms, that's £2.8 million.
So, who were these people? Why did they have so much money to gamble?
Landed gentry and dukes and peers of the realm,
and knights, and goodness knows what else.
-So, fortunes were won and lost here?
-And probably estates.
Well, we're going into the Morning Room now
and of all the pictures in here,
the most important one is this one of Eclipse.
When they started to keep a record of bloodlines,
a crucial aspect of breeding horses, he is number one.
If you buy a thoroughbred horse anywhere in the world,
96% of the bloodlines can be traced
back through the male line to Eclipse.
Goodness, he's the grand-daddy of them all.
He is the grand-daddy of them all. When he died
and they performed an autopsy on him,
they found that he had a 14.5-lb heart.
The average horse is 10, 10.5lb,
so you've got a 40% supercharger.
What's this? This looks a bit macabre.
It's one of the hooves of Eclipse that was presented
to the Jockey Club in 1832 by King William IV
to mark the work that the Jockey Club were doing in racing.
This is a snuff box?
Snuff box, ink wells, they were made in different forms,
but this one, I would imagine, would be a stuff box.
While the Jockey Club no longer makes the rules, it still invests
money to ensure the long-term success of this sport of kings.
And later, I'll be going back to school to meet the wannabe riders
hoping to capitalise on that investment.
Now, earlier, we were in the Peak District
asking about the impact of adventure sports on our countryside.
But what about some of our more popular pastimes? Here's Tom.
Our appetite for adventure sports seems insatiable.
Adrenaline junkies flock from far and wide
to bag the perfect crag and shred the toughest trail.
But as the countryside gets more popular,
and we get more adventurous,
questions are being asked about the impact on our natural world.
We are out here doing all sorts these days - power kiting,
caving or, if you like your thrills a little bit more gnarly,
there's mountain boarding.
But all these pale into insignificance against
the most popular adventure sport of them all - mountain biking.
Go on, son.
Go on, son!
Nearly one in four of British households now own a mountain bike,
and the sport has never been so popular.
But not everyone I met in the Peak District is happy about it.
If it got much busier with the bikes, it would be tricky,
especially in the very popular weekend tourist areas.
The worry is that you've got to preserve paths, haven't you,
and a lot of the trees are getting damaged,
because tree roots get damaged, and that's the danger.
And some bikes just rattle through at the speed of knots.
It's great that mountain bikers use the countryside
and use paths like this, but I do think that they have to be
more aware of people walking,
and with their animals especially.
It's clear there's some concern about the increasing number
of mountain bikers in our countryside.
But are they as bad for the paths and landscape as some people think?
-So, why is it you like it so much?
-It's the places it takes you to, Tom.
John Horscroft is a local mountain biker here in the Peak District.
He's all too aware of the bad press.
What do you think most people out here think about mountain bikers?
The caricature that has perhaps built up over the years
is that mountain bikers are just adrenaline junkies
with their brains switched off
when they're riding through a majestic landscape like this.
It's just wrong.
I'd like to think we were beginning to be viewed as much a part
of the countryside as everyone is,
but, yeah, there is some friction between different user groups.
We all have to share these paths, and I hope that, in time,
we can all get on.
What is the damage that mountain bikes can do to a landscape?
I think where you're leading me is,
do mountain bikes do more damage than the passage of feet?
And I personally think that's a red herring.
I think that some of the evidence points to the fact that
walkers widen trails,
while mountain bikers deepen them.
But it's a red herring.
We use trails, they get eroded, we fix them.
You can't just come out to a place like this and treat it as a right.
You've got responsibilities as well.
Certainly here, at Wimble Holme Hill, mountain bikers have joined
forces with other users to fix paths and maintain the landscape.
According to John,
mountain biking is far less destructive than many people think.
It's now widely suggested that something rather pedestrian
is actually causing more damage.
The Peak District National Park is smack bang in the centre
of England, and it's home to the start of the Pennine Way.
It's visited by 10 million people each year,
the majority come to walk.
One of the people who deals with this is the National Trust's
countryside manager, Simon Wright.
So, which activity causes more damage, mountain biking or walking?
In terms of overall numbers, walking,
but it's a different sort of damage that you get from a bike,
and we are increasingly seeing more damage on bridleways,
and off bridleways as well, from bikes,
but the bulk of our work so far
has gone into alleviating the pressure from walking.
Just because that many footfalls are...
You can even see it here. Cause erosion.
It's just pressure on very, very vulnerable soils in some cases.
A lot of our ground is peat,
and it's just sheer numbers in quite often a tightly controlled area.
They walk the same routes all the time.
Nobody wants to walk on long heather if they can walk on short grass.
Overall, what is your attitude to people having
an appetite to get out here?
It's something we would actively encourage.
We want people to enjoy the countryside.
That's one reason why the Trust has been given land
to look after for the nation.
So maybe it's not WHAT we're doing in the countryside
that threatens its future, but the sheer volume of us who are using it.
We'd like to know what you think.
To share your views, contact us via the Countryfile website.
Some come to our natural world for nerve-jangling thrills,
others for calm and communion with nature.
Both are legitimate and, if done sensitively and responsibly,
this landscape will be preserved for us all to enjoy.
JOHN CRAVEN: Spring on Adam's Cotswolds farm.
The fields are buzzing with new life, and the animals are putting
their parenting skills into practice, often for the first time.
And it doesn't come naturally to all of them.
When one poor mum is confused about her role,
Adam's shepherding skills come in handy.
Hello, little fella. Are you shivering under the wall there?
It's been a very difficult lambing season for us,
with all the rain, snow and freezing conditions.
Thankfully, we lamb the majority of our flock indoors, that is
apart from primitive and hill breeds that we've got out here.
They lamb outside.
They Herdwick here is probably one of the toughest
breeds of sheep in the country,
and then there are breeds like the little North Ronaldsay
that come from the Orkney Islands,
and they're primitive because they've been isolated on hills or islands
around the country, and have remained unchanged through history.
This is a little Castlemilk Moorit, and the great thing about them,
apart from their lovely wool, is they're wonderful mothers.
The ewes have got their lambs sheltered,
they'll chase off the foxes,
you know, just great sheep.
But for first some first-time mums, it doesn't come naturally.
One of the Herdwicks has a straightforward delivery
but it doesn't seem to know what to do next.
So I move in to help clear the airways
and remove the birthing fluid.
What she needs to do now is lick this lamb dry
and encourage it to its feet.
This first few hours of life, really,
it's very important they make a strong bond.
Oh, no! She just knocked it away.
I'll see if she comes around and starts to mother it.
If she doesn't, I'll get her into the sheds and put her in a pen
and suckle it on, and make sure they're OK.
Like my primitive ewes that are lambing outside,
so are my Highland cows calving outside,
and this is one of Eric...my Highland bull's second batch of calves.
He had some last year, and this is the first one born this year.
It's a little heifer and it's really lovely.
It's got the same colouring as Eric, and if she'll let me
get nice and close to it...
There we are.
There. I'm not hurting it.
There's a good girl.
You have to be quite careful with young calves, particularly Highlands.
But what I need now is the sun to start shining and the grass to grow,
and for these cattle to have a lovely summer.
They haven't had good weather on their backs since last May.
There's a good little baby.
It's not an ideal start for many of the animals on my farm.
The cold spring early on prevented the grass from growing,
and the result is poor-quality pastures with little goodness.
Most of my animals rely on grass as their main source of food,
so I need to do something about this.
This is a nearby farm to mine,
and it's a great example of two different types of grass.
On the bank there, we've got old, permanent pasture
that's very pale and yellowy-brown in places,
where it's been burnt off by the easterly wind,
similar to the majority of the grass I've got on my farm.
And then on this side,
there's lush, green grass that was probably planted in the autumn.
It's fresh seeds and it looks fantastic and, thankfully,
I've got a farmer nearby to me who's offered me
some grass similar to this, but before I take my sheep over there,
I've got to get it tested to make sure it's suitable.
And as there's a man that specialises in just that.
Barry is a mineral adviser, and he's an expert in this field.
-How are you today?
-All right, good, yeah.
-This is quite nice pasture here.
-We've certainly got some grass,
which a lot of people don't have at the minute.
-It's obviously an ex-dairy farm, and it looks good.
Because it looks good, it doesn't necessarily mean it IS good, does it?
Well, grass is a good feed, but it's not always a complete feed.
So, if we take some samples of this and send this to the laboratory,
we can get an analysis back to show how good the copper levels,
the iodine levels, the trace element levels are across the board,
because if they are deficient,
it will of course affect the stock and their performance.
-So, shall we cut some grass?
-How much do you need?
It's in great shortage, so it won't be too much!
-ADAM LAUGHS I'll hold the bag.
So, now we've got the grass, what happens?
We take that, we send it off to the laboratory tonight.
They'll analyse the grass, it will come back within a week,
or thereabouts, and I can come back to you then and suggested
a product which will suit your farm, to get the best out of this grazing.
And that's a bucket with minerals
-and all the trace elements in it that the stock will need?
And we will vary the levels of those trace elements to match
-Wonderful. Thanks, Barry. I'll leave you to it.
-Thank you very much.
Hopefully, I'll be able to get my animals
onto fresh, green pasture soon.
But for some of my stock, their time has come to leave the farm.
This is a Gloucester steer, or castrated male,
just over two years old.
I've been feeding him up all winter and now he's ready for the butcher,
so I've just got to load him up.
Go on, there, fella. There we go.
I've also got three Gloucester Old Spot pigs to load up
with the help of my son Alfie.
Go on, piggies.
I like to supply locally,
and a nearby abattoir and butcher is having these.
Gary is on hand to help me unload them.
-There's the paperwork.
-Lovely. Thank you.
-Three pigs and a steer.
-We'll have the pigs off first, OK?
-Go on. Keep going.
There's a good boy. Go on.
Lovely. So, where does all the meat go, Gary, that you're slaughtering?
A lot to local butcher shops, farm shops.
And are you doing the butchering here or do you just send the carcasses?
-We do both.
-I've got these three pigs
that are going to a local butcher,
just carcass ready, and then a steer to unload now.
-OK, we'll have that into the other...
There's a good boy.
So this steer will now just wait here in a holding pen
next to these other cattle before it goes through to be slaughtered.
And the animals seem very relaxed, quite content.
There doesn't seem to be any fear or distress in them at all,
and I like to bring the animals to the slaughterhouse myself,
or one of the guys from the farm, and it isn't without emotion.
You know, I do feel for them, but I've seen them born,
we know how they've been reared
and now we know that they've been slaughtered cleanly and quickly.
And that's how it all goes.
I'm heading back to the farm.
The last job of the day is to check on that Herdwick ewe and lamb.
They still have a love-hate relationship.
She doesn't want to be separated from her lamb for too long,
but just as it looks like they're getting close, she rejects it again.
They need some extra encouragement to help them bond,
so in the lambing shed, I've prepared a space
where they have no choice but to get intimate.
The first thing I need to do is just check she's not going
to have a second lamb, so I do that by just holding her stomach
and just bouncing it... So there's nothing else in there,
and now I'm going to tip her over and suckle the lamb on.
There we go.
They're so woolly, these Herdwicks.
Just plucking a little bit of wool away from around her udder
so the lamb can find the teats easier.
There we go.
I'll just grab my lamb.
So this ewe definitely loves her lamb,
she calls for it when it's missing.
She doesn't quite understand the whole concept of it suckling on her
and getting too close,
so I'm going to suckle the lamb on,
it needs this sustenance,
but she'll then get used to the sucking sensation on her teat,
and once the lamb is stronger and it knows where to find the milk,
it'll get under her and suckle
and hopefully in a day or two, they'll be absolutely fine.
There's always work to be done.
Always something different happening on the farm.
It never gets boring. But often, it's full of challenges.
Next week, I'm shopping for a new bull
that could give Eric a run for his money.
JOHN CRAVEN: In the heart of Cambridgeshire
stands Ely Cathedral, majestic, awe-inspiring.
Once it was surrounded by water,
and it's always been known as "the ship of the Fens".
It's easy to imagine how this great building,
appearing through the mists,
offered the promise of refuge and safety to weary pilgrims.
For centuries, the cathedral has dominated the surrounding landscape,
and I'm here today to watch and to listen to
a remarkable experiment involving its world-famous octagon tower.
Created in the 14th century,
it's a masterpiece of medieval design and engineering.
Well, I've just climbed 165 steps to the top of the octagon,
and I'm now amongst the angels.
Now, seven sides of this tower are said to represent everyday life,
the seven days of the week, but the eight side represents eternity,
hence the angels.
The angels guide the faithful to the heights of heaven,
with Christ at its centre.
Centuries ago, the Benedictine choir stood in exactly this spot,
and from here, their voices reached up
to the uppermost heights of the tower. In medieval times,
the monks had their choir stalls directly underneath the octagon.
In fact, some of them would be up there, 50 metres high,
and the idea was that voices unite heaven and earth.
Well, it's an interesting theory, but would it really work?
We're going to try it out now with the help of the choristers
and their director of music. What do you think, Paul?
Is it possible to hear voices from right up there?
It's a story we've heard a number of times.
Whether we're actually going to hear it well
and whether it's going to work at this kind of distance
is something we just don't know,
because we've never tried it before. We've got four of our choristers
right up there in the angel windows, we've got the main group down here.
We're going to do it!
# He's got the whole wide world in his hands
# He's got the whole wide world in his hands
# He's got the whole wide world in his hands
# He's got the world in his hands
# He's got the tiny little hedgehogs in his hands
# He's got the tiny little hedgehogs in his hands
# He's got the tiny little hedgehogs in his hands
# He's got the whole world
# He's got the whole world in his hands
# The whole world in his hands. #
-It worked, didn't it?
-You did it.
-Yeah, well done.
Now, there's a very good reason why
the choristers have just been singing about hedgehogs.
For centuries, this cathedral has been a sanctuary for pilgrims,
but now it's also just about become a safe haven for hedgehogs as well.
Out in the cathedral grounds, head gardener Aine Rodriguez
is putting the finishing touches to a temporary hedgehog pen.
This is an example. We've made three separate houses,
-because apparently, they like their own space, John.
-And the houses have been made from recycled wood.
-You built this?
Yeah, from offcuts of wood.
Not quite as elaborate as the building I've just been in.
No, not at all. That's taken centuries.
-Well, that's awesome.
-All we need now are some hedgehogs.
So, here come the new arrivals.
-Let's take them to meet their new home, shall we?
Heading up the release scheme at the Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital
is Rebecca Willis.
How long would you like them to be in the pen for, then?
Ideally 10 to 14 days, if possible, just to acclimatise them.
They've been in a hospital environment, some for many months,
so this is what they need just to give them a bit of a boost.
-What's that little blue tag on him?
-He's known as 45.
This is his number all throughout.
When they come in to us, we track them from day one,
when the person will bring them in,
because they've been underweight or injured.
They're given a tracking number and the idea is that if you,
or anyone else, sees this one,
you know it's one of ours, we can come straight back.
A little nose coming up there.
Hedgehogs are in serious decline, aren't they? How bad is it?
Oh, it's serious.
If you look back to the 1950s, there are estimates of maybe 32 million.
Today, we're lucky if we've probably got a million left in the UK.
They're being hit, motor cars, hedgerows are disappearing,
where you would naturally find them.
If we should find one in our back garden, what should we do?
OK, if you find it at night, that's not a problem.
-That should be normal, healthy behaviour.
-Just leave it?
If you want to put food out, that's great. If you want put cat food out.
Water is super. Most importantly, if you find it out during the day,
you've got to contact someone straight away.
-If you see one in the daytime?
-That's not right. That's dehydration.
That might be parasitic load, it could be injured.
To find out more, visit the Countryfile website.
-I think it's time to introduce this one to its new home, don't you?
And while the hedgehogs are settling in,
Ellie is across at Newmarket meeting the jockeys of the future.
But before that, let's find out what the weather is going to be like
in the week ahead with Countryfile forecast.
I'm in Newmarket, the historic home of horse racing.
But Newmarket isn't just home to one of our finest racecourses,
it also produces some of the world's leading jockeys,
so who are the runners and riders of the future?
To find out, I'm going back to school.
The British Racing School is a centre of excellence offering
apprenticeships in racehorse care.
Run with military precision, this place isn't for the fainthearted.
Gemma Waterhouse is going to show me the ropes.
So, what does a standard day look like for the students?
They're up super early, at 5.30am,
and they come straight down to the yard
and they have a few horses to muck out every day.
They ride for just over an hour before they're back in,
make their horses comfortable, put their tack away
and up for breakfast.
They've got about half an hour to get that down their necks
and they pull out again for another hour or so, back in the yard.
-Make the yard look beautiful.
Everything has got to be perfect,
and then they're back up around midday, when they have their lunch
and they've got two hours to chill out and probably get a bit of sleep.
The live here, don't they?
-It must be tough being away from home so young.
For a lot of them, this is their first time away from home,
and it can be tough and they do get homesick,
and we often get a lot of tears in those first few weeks,
where they're missing home and finding it hard,
but at the end of the course, we get a lot of tears when they're leaving,
because they're sad to go and they've really enjoyed it
and made some amazing friends, friends for life, so yeah, it's tough
at the beginning, but they're always sad to leave at the end as well.
The course is open to anyone from any background
between the ages of 16 to 25,
whether they've ridden before or not.
Places are in high demand,
with around 850 applicants regularly applying for 220 places.
Rebecca was one of the lucky ones. So, how tough is this course?
-It's pretty tiring.
It's just...just getting up in the morning,
you just kind of lie there for five minutes and you're like, aw...
But then once you're up, it's fine.
What were you doing before this?
Straight after high school, I did three years of A levels,
because I failed one year, and ended up re-sitting,
but it was never for me.
I'd always just worked in bars and stuff, waitressing,
and doing my horses on the side, in the night-time and in the morning.
Rebecca and the other determined students
hope to turn their hobby into a full-time career.
It's Rory MacDonald's job to make sure they have everything in order.
After all, these are the Formula 1 of horses.
And what we're looking for here is attention to detail.
Because these are expensive animals
and it's very important that they understand that detail matters.
They need to take pride in what they do,
so it's not just about the horse, but it's about themselves.
They are very privileged to do this job, I think,
and it's important that they get that across.
And I think they are very proud of what they do.
How long have this lot been here with you?
They have been here eight weeks.
They're due to finish in a week's time,
-so if we haven't got it right now, something's gone amiss.
And then, after this week, where's their future?
Well, they will go and work in trainers' yards,
starting as stable staff, and then hopefully establish
a good and happy and successful career in racing.
Once they've passed muster with the boss,
the students take the horses to the straight gallops.
All the staff at the school are either ex-jockeys
or industry professionals, and Julie here passes on
her professional experience in a rather innovative way -
four wheels and an earpiece.
This kind of tuition you can't shout from a van.
First of all, the rider is unlikely to hear you.
The instructor speaks into a radio
and both of these guys can hear the instruction that's being given.
It's very effective and keeps everybody calm.
So, this is one on one? This is really invaluable for the students.
Yeah. Every day, this is what happens here.
They ride two lots and they have one-on-one tuition.
The riders are videoed, so they have video review,
so they can see exactly what they're doing well
and what they're doing not so well.
So, the filly that's being ridden here, she's quite a tricky filly.
Rebecca here is riding her very well.
Rebecca is a very good rider, in fact.
And it's all about keeping your hands down near the horse's withers,
and she's very happy, the filly. She keeps pricking her ears.
There's a little bit of dip in the gallop here, which often,
the horses just try and take advantage of and get ahead.
She's doing a great job.
Rebecca is almost at the end of the course,
and after three hours' hard graft already,
it's nearly time for her and the others
to have a well-earned breakfast.
Are you amazed how far you've come in this short time?
Oh, yeah, definitely.
I never thought I'd be this good on, like, just eight weeks.
I could always ride,
but it's a lot different from what I was doing, so it's really good.
-You looked fabulous to me.
Hopefully, Rebecca and the others will go the distance,
making it out of the stable yard
and into the famous winners' enclosure at Newmarket Racecourse.
I tell you, John, those jockeys are so dedicated.
You'd make a good jockey, I think.
With the 5.30 starts, they'd have me at the first hurdle, I'm afraid.
-See any stars in the making there?
You never know. I might even put money on it, you know!
Well, that's it from Newmarket. Next week, we'll be in Hampshire
where Matt will be taking a trip along
the newly established Shipwrights Way.
And I'll be out on its mudflats
helping conservationists find and record our native oysters.
-See you then.
-Bye for now.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Countryfile is in Cambridgeshire. Ellie Harrison takes a sneak peak behind the scenes at Newmarket, the home of horse racing. She finds out what it takes to maintain the course and meets some of the jockeys of the future.
In the north of the county, John Craven is on a literary journey in the village of Helpston. It was the home of one of our greatest countryside poets; John Clare wrote about the landscape around him. John Craven explores his countryside and discovers why Clare never received the critical acclaim of his contemporaries.
But John Clare wasn't the only unsung hero to have called this place home; James Wong finds out about a little-known but crucially important Victorian naturalist - Rev Leonard Jenyns - who devoted his life's work to the flora and fauna of Cambridgeshire.
For a lot of people, the British countryside is a playground; a beautiful landscape where we can satisfy our need for peace and relaxation or our hunger for adventure. Tom Heap investigates whether its popularity is in danger of ruining the natural world that we love.
Down on Adam's farm, the fields are buzzing with new life, but some of the new arrivals need a helping hand.