Cannock Chase Countryfile

Cannock Chase

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famed for its herd of more than 800 fallow dear.


It's a diverse landscape of barren, open heathland


Surrounded by the industrial towns of the Midlands,


the Chase is a little, green gem, nestled in the middle.


Millions of people come here to explore the area every year.


Some come on foot, some come on horseback


and 24% of the visitors come here on their bikes.


The agricultural land in Staffordshire is good,


fertile grassland, perfect for cattle and dairy farming.


It's 100 years since the country council bought up


thousands of acres in an attempt to secure food


And I'm going to be celebrating that centenary with a couple


of first-time dairy farmers, keen to make a go of living off the land,


Tom's in East Anglia, exploring the power of citizen science.


They say a job shared is a job halved,


but what if you're being helped by hundreds or thousands of people?


Well, today we're looking for invasive Spanish slugs.


But this kind of citizen science is being used to tackle everything


from ash dieback, to bird numbers, to invasive ladybirds.


But does it really work? And is the science robust?


Meanwhile, Adam's away from the Cotswolds,


finding out about farming on the other side of the Irish Sea.


This year, Ireland suffered the worst ever fodder crisis in living memory.


There was a lack of this stuff - grass.


It was so bad that cattle starved and even died.


But now, one man up here in the Irish mountains can grow this,


fresh, green fodder, every day of the year, whatever the weather.


And as you can see, the cattle absolutely love it.


At just 26 square miles, Cannock Chase in Staffordshire is


the smallest mainland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


It may be small, but more than half of it is open access land,


which means it's quite easy to find your own bit of breathing space.


It also means it's very easy to forget that Stafford,


Stoke on Trent and Birmingham are just a stone's throw away.


Considered to be a national treasure,


it's the locals to the Chase that feel a duty to protect it.


Photographer Steve Welch set up a community project to document


So, where are we? What section of the Chase are we at?


We're on the Sherbrook Valley at the moment.


And is this one of the best views of the Chase?


I mean, to the right, we can see to Leicestershire and Castle Donington.


We've got Derbyshire, Dovedale, Staffordshire, across to


We've got the whole range of the four counties in the distance there.


Steve's enlisted volunteer snappers to head out twice


a year in spring and autumn to take photographs at 56 fixed points


It takes people to places they wouldn't normally go to on the Chase,


but also we do little photography workshops for them


to just hone their skills a little bit


and take better pictures. And they get a free lunch as well.


Free sarnie and a photography lesson. Absolutely, yeah.


Right. Let's get taking some photographs then.


Well, we're doing this panorama here, five or six pictures which were


stitched together to make a 180 degree panorama,


and that's what we're going to do today.


'The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team use the volunteers'


'photographs to decide how best to care for the changing landscapes.'


For many people, Cannock Chase is like their back garden,


So, it's no surprise this rural gem is popular,


attracting five times more visitors per square mile than


That's a lot of people, and protected habitat like this lowland


so how do you keep everyone happy and manage the landscape?


The answer has been to empower the people who love using


the Chase to look after it themselves,


So, Christine, you offer free dog training lessons,


It's definitely owner training lessons.


You should always teach the owner to teach the dog.


But there's quite a lot to be aware of in this area, isn't there?


you've got the deer rutting, you've got birds nesting in the spring,


There's so much going on over here that your dogs need to be


And also you've got so many different varieties of people.


You have to be very aware of the cyclists especially,


cos you don't always hear them coming,


so your dogs really do need to be under control.


And then if the dogs and the owners behave themselves


they get a little certificate, is that right?


You wouldn't work for nothing. No, I would not.


You wouldn't expect the handlers and dogs to work for nothing either,


whether it's titbits for the dogs or certificates for the handler,


Perfect. I might stick around long enough to see if I can get one.


The dog training is a paw in the right direction to protect


And another team of enthusiastic volunteers are doing their bit


The Chase Trails were created by mountain bikers who wanted


a bit more of a challenge, and now there are 14 miles of runs


that twist and turn through the forest.


So, what are you doing? Well, basically,


we're doing a bit of maintenance repair work on this section.


Yeah. It's one of the sections that gets a lot of use.


We're looking at well over 100,000 riders a year.


And it's obviously quite important to keep the mountain bikers away


from the dog walkers, away from the ordinary walker,


away from the horse riders. Indeed, yes.


We've built trails that are well away from the Heritage Trail, for example,


and that keeps mountain bikers away from the rest of the public.


You've got your own little patch. Indeed, we have.


Excellent. Well, I suppose I better really try out a trail. Indeed, yes.


Enjoy. Keep up the hard work. Thank you.


I'm not going to tackle the Chase Trails on my own.


Mountain biking instructor Veronica Swinerton is keen to get


and offers bike rides just for women.


and I think it's really lovely to encourage ladies and help them


get confident, help them feel like they've achieved something,


The important question is, how do I stop?


Always use your left brake, which is your back brake.


You're supposed to be encouraging me, not scaring me.


Well, this is a little bit tricky here, Julia,


and it's called The Stegosaurus. It sounds dangerous.


So perhaps, next time, with a bit more practice,


you could come down here. You're the professional. I'm the amateur.


Actually, I'm quite scared as well, so there we go.


I'll be watching you in awe, Veronica.


I can see why you didn't want me to do it.


And you've certainly got experience, grandmother of seven.


Seven. Eighth on the way. Eighth on the way. Amazing. Super Gran!


Right. Time for a cup of tea. I think it is.


The work of the volunteers here at Cannock Chase really


demonstrates the value of people power in the countryside.


there's a whole new range of opportunities out


there for those that want to do their bit for the natural world.


I'm delving around in a garden in Norfolk,


joining the search for alien invaders.


If we find any suspects, we'll shoot them...


This slightly slimy activity is actually a slug hunt


and these are my able research assistants.


How are we getting on in there? Are you finding anything?


Someone want to take a snap of it? Yeah, sure.


'Annie, Lily-Anne and Rhiannon are looking for Spanish slugs,


'an invasive species in danger of taking over


That is not a slug. That's a...woodlouse. Yeah.


Oh, no, you're right. It's a woodlouse, yeah.


'By joining hundreds of other slug spotters,


'the girls are getting involved in crowd sourcing,


'a way of using people power to gather information,


'making them part of a growing number of so-called citizen scientists.'


There's plenty more good slug habitat over there,


so you can go and rummage around over there. OK.


I'm going to sit down and add this one to the collection.


Well, this is more than a good bit of nature investigation.


There's some real science going on here.


These are the slugs we found in this garden...


and these are the invaders that people are worried about.


The real thing about the Spanish slugs is they tend to occur in really


abundant quantities, and that's what you need to be careful of.


you can take pictures and send them off to a website.


'Using hundreds, even thousands, of enthusiastic volunteers


'means you can collect far more data than a small


'It's become an important research tool and is being used more and more


And this is where the girls should come to report their discoveries,


where you get advice on whether ones you've found


And it's by no means the only citizen science project on the web.


Here I've got iSeahorse, which helps to save those strange creatures.


And, in many ways, it's not a new idea.


When Charles Darwin was putting together his theories 150 years ago,


of the species by means of natural selection.


Social media and smartphone apps mean citizen science is easier


than ever, and it's becoming a must have for many research projects,


Wild birds have also been the subject of a citizen science


project long before that term was ever invented.


The Garden Birdwatch Survey, run by the British Trust for Ornithology,


has contributed to a wide range of scientific discoveries thanks


to amateur members submitting weekly reports on the birds


How useful do you think that Garden Bird Watch has been?


Well, it's been a great project. It's been running since 1995.


We have 14,500 volunteers who give us the data,


and the projects it's been used for are great.


People like the Zoological Society of London have used the data.


We've seen massive declines through it, like the house sparrow decline.


about being involved in a project like this?


I love it. I think it's a great way to get people involved in science,


and it's a great way for us to get data that we wouldn't


necessarily be able to get a hold of otherwise.


But citizen science doesn't just help us


judge the scale of a problem, it can also be part of the solution.


One novel approach is to combine citizen science with online gaming,


and I'm in a cafe to meet one of the pioneers.


Scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory are investigating


the devastating problem of ash dieback disease,


They've developed this, Fraxinus, an online puzzle where you have


to rearrange and match patterns of coloured leaves.


Is the human eye really good at this stuff? Yeah, it is.


It's actually much better at trying to identify very complex


patterns and data than any computer that you can programme. Wow.


It's nice to hear we've still got a strength over the machines there.


The clever thing is that the leaves represent real DNA


samples from the fungus, so by playing the game you can help


the scientists discover the genetic make-up of the disease


and trees which could be resistant to it.


How important is this in terms of fighting


By trying to identify and confirm some of the natural variation,


we can really start to answer some of the fundamental


questions of this project, such as how variable is the fungus


out there in the natural environment?


so you might have a clue of how to fight back? Yeah.


So, then it gives you much more information


to try and replant partially resistant trees.


You know exactly what you're facing out there in the wild.


Well, my score's going up. You're doing really well.


I might singlehandedly have saved the British ash tree here.


I don't think so. Maybe I'm part of a team.


'So, turning members of the public into DIY scientists has huge


'potential, not just to gather information,


The question is, is it right that we're trusting some of the job of


solving critical scientific questions to online gamers and amateur sleuths?


Well, that's what I'll be investigating later in the programme.


Cannock Chase in Staffordshire is a well-loved blend of protected


landscapes, but surrounding the Chase and throughout the county,


Farming is in my blood, with both sheep and dairy farms in the family,


but how do you get into the farming business


if you're not due to inherit land or you don't


Well, tenant farms can be the answer.


But the landlords in question can often come as a surprise.


More than 60 county councils and authorities across England


which are rented out to new or established farmers.


Here in Staffordshire, county farms are celebrating their centenary,


so what better way to mark the occasion than with a fair few


There's 102 council farms across the county.




This one was taken over a year ago by young dairy farmer


Giles Bristol and his girlfriend, Emily Wilson.


Did you grow up on a farm yourself, then?


I had three uncles in dairy farming and...


spent all my holidays there working and loved it.


I knew from a very young age that this is what I wanted to do.


If the belief's there then hopefully you can make it happen.


Exactly. My brother-in-law runs a dairy farm


and there's nobody that works harder than he does.


I mean, you haven't made life easy for yourself,


choosing this line of work, have you?


No. That's right, it is 365 days a year.


The policy of renting out council-owned farm estates


dates back to the early 20th century,


created to tackle the decline in agricultural employment.


It also provided opportunities for ex-servicemen


But more recently, in many parts of the country,


councils have been selling off their farms.


Staffordshire County Council has cut the number of farms it owns,


and there are always new tenants waiting for their chance.


when your whole life turned around and you ended up as a farmer?


Erm, we met through previous work and...


because not coming from a farming background,


that I'd have the opportunity to farm in my own right.


Is it everything that you hoped it would have been?


Yes, it is. It definitely is challenging.


It has its ups and its downs, but working together as a couple,


it's... You pull each other through and you do see the rewards,


and it's nice seeing the milk in the tank every day.


At the moment, it's mainly a one-man show,


I start a job as a research analyst on Monday.


Yeah, that's it. And I want to fulfil my career aspirations.


'The couple have nine more years on their lease to make


'a go of their dairy business on this starter unit.


'leader of the county council, and farmer himself, Phillip Atkins,


'is glad to see new people coming into the industry.'


So, Phillip, you are very supportive of the likes of Giles


and Emily getting involved in this kind of farming.


Well, they're the future of farming. That's the way it's got to be.


How involved does the council get in what goes on on the farms?


Cos it's kind of a partnership, is it?


Oh, it is. And it's very key... It's a hard-nosed business as well


because the farmers who come to us have to pay a rent,


commercial rent. The council makes a profit,


which then goes back into frontline services.


What are you looking for with the likes of Giles and Emily?


Cos there's quite a few, aren't there? Yeah.


There's a couple of farms up next week where people are going


to be interviewed and they need a business plan, show their


enthusiasm for it, and innovative ideas that they've got as well.


Well, you are beautiful and you're obviously very happy here...


With the cost of buying rural land so high, giving opportunities


to young people eager to start up on their own means the average


age of a new county farm tenant in Staffordshire is just 32.


What would you say to anybody that's about to receive the news


that their application has been successful?


What would you say to them about the first year?


It will be challenging, but I'm sure that anyone expects that.


I know you've had problems with TB. I mean, how bad has it been?


We've certainly been hammered hard with weather,


which hasn't helped us. The TB's been a big impact.


We've got sort of 60 cows and we lost 12 of them through TB,


so it's a large percentage, which really affects our income.


What advice would you give this pair, Phillip?


One piece of advice would be never give up. Always keep at it.


There's a great community spirit he just described in farming,


and particularly in Staffordshire, but just never give up.


I've had hard times, but you do survive, and it's well worth it.


Within ten years, Giles and Emily will have to move on to


a bigger place where they can expand their business,


letting the next generation of farmers


have their chance on this starter farm.


Well, later in the programme, I'm going


to be meeting the farmer who moved out of this place,


doubled the size of his acreage and drew up a whole new plan.


Cannock Chase is so tranquil and peaceful,


it's hard to think it was once home to 40,000 soldiers


and played a key role in the First World War.


The clues to this history are mostly hidden.


Jules Hudson has been to uncover them.


In a quiet corner of the country park,


archaeologists and volunteers have been careful excavating roads,


trenches and houses, a landscape in miniature.


What they've uncovered is absolutely extraordinary.


This is a scale model of the Belgian town of Messines.


Now, in 1917, this was the scene of one of the most important


Allied strategic victories during the First World War,


and this model tells the story of that victory.


Messines had been a key German position on the Western Front,


The model replicates the hillside exactly, showing main roads,


zigzag trenches and bombed out buildings.


It was built by the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in 1918,


a year after they were part of the Allied attack


which finally managed to take the town.


Archaeologist Martin Brown is in charge of the work here.


He's also excavated the equivalent real trenches in Belgium.


How does this scale model compare with what you understand


It's absolutely spot-on, to the point that I realised


when we were doing the excavation that I was excavating


This looks as if it's just sort of been kicked around and ruined,


as if it should have been a model village with everything up here,


but of course this is, presumably, exactly how it was at the time.


This is as it was, cos initially, when we saw some little bits,


we thought, "Oh, it's been vandalised."


Because as you open it up, you realise, "No, this is deliberate."


So, you've got some buildings that would have had


some where you've got surviving up to first floor level,


And this is depicting a town that has been shelled out.


with trenches right in amongst the ruins of the town.


This is fantastic. This is real close-in defence,


You see all these little trenches running back here? Yeah.


and those are the entrances to the cellars that the Germans have


strengthened out to make into bunkers and dugouts.


This model both commemorated the Allied victory


and was used to train men for future trench warfare.


Other similar models of Messines, like this one in Belgium,


Success at Messines in 1917 was possible


because, as Allied forces on the ground prepared for the big push,


others were secretly digging 8km of tunnels under the German defences


On the morning of the 7th of June, the whole lot went up,


it's estimated that some 10,000 German troops literally ceased


to exist, vaporised by the force of the explosions.


Explosions that were heard, it is said, in London.


This film from the time shows just one of the huge craters.


So, what's the model doing here on Cannock Chase?


this hillside was home to two complete towns,


each housing 20,000 soldiers preparing to


This bracken is hiding practice trenches.


concrete bases for the hundreds of wooden huts long since demolished.


This one has recently been restored and returned to the site.


In total, half a million troops trained here.


Typical of them was Private Erskine Williams,


who left a remarkable legacy which his daughter still treasures.


he was called upon to be a stretcher bearer,


and sometimes he actually had to bury the dead.


Did he talk about his time on the Western Front? Not at all.


In fact, I didn't even know where he'd been during the war


until after he died, when I found his diaries.


Now you've brought along this selection of material


from his diaries, and it starts rather neatly with a photograph.


I believe that's him on the right-hand side. That's right.


Standing outside one of the huts here on Cannock Chase.


The very same sort of hut, yes. That we're sitting in now. Yes.


But what I love about this collection is that he sought to illustrate


and he produced this series of beautifully original postcards.


This is fabulous. Here he is training and he annotates them.


"Jumping into trench. Part of the last day at the range.


"It's a series of advances from 600 yard.


"Keep advancing then lying flat to fire, up again, forward,


"get in the trench, fire over the parapet, on again etc."


And I can't imagine him actually doing any of these things.


Are there any of these pictures which are now family favourites?


Well, the one I like is peeling taters.


I don't know whether you've come across that. Peeling potatoes.


Oh, here we are, "Peeling taters." That's it, yes.


"This takes place before breakfast. I generally do some."


Erskine didn't see action at Messines,


but he did go there after the battle to help bury the dead.


Take a last look at this, because almost 100 years after it was


built, the Messines model is being re-covered.


Where do you want this lot? Anywhere here. Anywhere there.


Now, the map of Messines is changing before our eyes.


What we're doing now is laying a membrane down to protect


it from root growth, a layer of sand,


then there'll be a rabbit-proof membrane, another layer of sand,


and then we'll backfill it with the soil


it seems like a bit of a shame. Is there no way of preserving it?


we've actually had a 3D laser scan of the whole site,


so we'll be able to build a 3D model to enable visitors,


when they come up to the Chase, to see what it was like.


But unfortunately, because it's so precious but so fragile,


it's just, we can't leave it exposed to the elements.


Well, let's hope that in another 100 years,


when the bicentenary comes along, another generation might be


able to uncover a little tiny bit of it and see what we've seen.


Now, to many people, the First World War may seem very distant,


but the model map here on Cannock Chase serves as an important


memorial for those from all sides who fought at Messines


nearly 100 years ago, all those miles away in Belgium.


In just a few days' time, the model itself will be covered once again,


Earlier, we heard how many of us are becoming DIY researchers,


gathering information from slug numbers to bird movements,


which can contribute to important national surveys.


It's called citizen science, but does it work? Here's Tom.


an area hard hit by the fungus that's causing ash dieback.


We know that the fungus and the disease is present in this wood.


We're coming to a bit of a stand of ash here.


who's coordinating a project called AshTag.


They're asking members of the public to identify diseased or


spreading and even identify trees which have resistance to the fungus.


Members of the public can then mark their chosen tree with


then enter the details on the AshTag smartphone app,


Roughly how many people have been engaged in this?


We've had really good feedback from the app since we launched last year.


We've had well over 1,000 photos submitted and we've had 70


cases confirmed by the experts as likely cases of ash dieback.


Do you think this can really yield important research?


The AshTag project has been a great way of collecting a huge


amount of data that wouldn't have been collected otherwise.


People all over the country have been able to submit this data,


The scale of data that we're collecting is potentially huge.


'But when you're relying on untrained amateurs to collect data, there's


'always going to be a question over the reliability of the information.


'at least some of the sightings have been verified by professionals.


I'm trying the simplest of data gather exercises, bird watching,


I think those coming in were a mixture of greylag and Canada geese,


so these days, I can enter it onto my computer


and it knows exactly where I am and that data can be uploaded.


But I'm not an expert so how reliable is actually what I'm putting in here?


The data from this app is used to track bird numbers


I'm joining Nick Moran from the British Trust for Ornithology,


to find out how they stop bad information ruining their results.


Yeah, the water rail's just re-appeared


So, that's it doing a bit of swimming and wading


and scurrying back there in the reeds, is it?


Yeah, the water rail, they're really nice.


So, I don't put that in here, would I? That's right. New species, right.


So, you can add your water rail. So that just goes in there, does it?


is that I struggle to tell the difference between that and a moorhen


so if amateurs like me are doing it, how do we know that the data's good?


For the more interesting species or the more unusual species,


we've got validation thresholds that will actually flag it up to you when


you go to upload that and say you've seen something a bit more unusual.


And then at the point of the local recorders using the records,


and make sure there aren't any mistakes slipping into the database.


have on the information that's being entered?


The only caveat that we really say is that you need to be


confident of the ID, so if you're not sure what it is, the best


thing to do is to leave it unrecorded.


and hearing things that I'm not even noticing.


Are you happy that experts in the field are being


We recognise there's hundreds of thousands of people out there


who can identify at least a range of the common species,


those records can count for science and conservation too.


So, to avoid the danger of garbage in, garbage out,


you've got to have some expert quality control


and it's also about how you set up the study in the first place.


This laboratory in Oxfordshire is home to world-leading


experiments into everything from plant disease to global warming.


It's the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology


and it supports more than 70 citizen science projects which gather


wildlife observations from volunteers.


In her spare time, she is a volunteer citizen scientist herself,


What have you learned are some of the pitfalls of citizen science?


I think sometimes projects are a little bit too complicated.


Citizen science is about public engagement and gathering data


to make sure that the data that people are providing is


something you can really make use of because people are going to spend


time and energy, their own time, gathering this data for you


and then it's really important that you make the most of that data.


Do you sometimes see citizen science experiments that you frankly


Well, I think sometimes a project may be more about public


engagement than it is about citizen science.


Sometimes, the actual gathering of data might not be part of what


and then it's just really important to be honest about that, that this


is an engagement exercise, not a scientific data-gathering exercise.


Gathering data using total amateurs isn't exactly new,


the chance to take part in real research projects.


There's no doubt that one of the advantages of citizen science


is it breaks down the ivory tower of research


and allows organisations to show their warm and friendly public face.


And whilst there are risks with getting carried away with


too much amateur involvement, if it's done properly,


it really can aid our understanding of the natural world.


The Southwest of Ireland, where the scenery takes your breath away.


The sight of cattle feasting on lush, green pastures is a welcome one,


because back in the spring, it was a very different scene.


This year, Ireland suffered its worst ever fodder crisis.


Poor weather conditions meant the grass didn't grow


Steve Collins is originally from Essex but moved to this


farm near Bantry in County Cork to rear a herd of 50 Dexters.


They're the smallest breed of cattle in the British Isles


and can thrive on poor-quality mountain grass.


Goodness me, pretty remote spot, isn't it?


Yeah, it's way out there. Wonderful.


They've got a good shine on them, they're in good condition.


But you had a horrible spring over here, I understand.


Yeah, the local farmers, they had to buy in lots of fodder,


you know, silage, cut grass, hay, straw and some of them


had to buy it in from France or Spain, I think.


I don't know if anyone actually lost animals


but they certainly bankrupted themselves and across Ireland,


cattle died and some farmers committed suicide because of stress.


Not being able to feed your herd, there's nothing worse,


Dexter is a traditional Irish mountain breed.


They were bred for this environment, so they're quite a small cow


and they're quite light, so they don't really smash up the mountain.


just fall in the bog, they wouldn't be able to move,


whereas the Dexters, they're quite light on their feet


and they adapt, they've got a very thrifty appetite.


So, it seems a little bit ironic that down in the valleys, where the


pastures are lush and green and the cattle are big breeds


suffered in this fodder crisis in the spring, but you were OK up here.


Yeah, I think that's an interesting point because


what we're trying to do here is develop farming for the future.


Farmers down in the valley who are used to huge amounts of inputs


and bring in lots of silage or having


lots of fertiliser on their silage landing,


cutting large amounts of silage to keep their big, industrial


cattle alive during the winter, once the weather messed them up


and they couldn't get that grass, they were in real trouble.


Yeah, absolutely, let's go down and have a look.


Steve has used his Dexters to rip up the rough grass.


He's then sown clover, which returns nutrients to the soil


Goodness me, this is very different to what we were just stood on.


Yeah, as you can see, you've got thick, thick clover. Incredible.


Yeah, and it was grazed about two and a half months ago


so, you know, it's growing quite fast.


Still a bit of rough grass coming through, does that matter?


Yeah, there's a bit. It's not ideal but the Dexters will graze that.


Once their nutrition is balanced and they've got a good appetite,


then the Dexters will graze that off and it's getting less


so in the end, there'll just be grass and clover.


And do you rely on this totally for the winter feed?


No, this will take me through a certain period


but then it will run out, but then I've got another


system of feeding that will take me on after that.


Steve's embraced a system that ensures fresh fodder every day,


So, this is the fodder system. Oh, yes. There we go.


so it takes barley grain like this, just dry barley,


and you have all these different trays


and you start at the other end and you put a jug in each tray.


After six days, it appears like that.


So, very, very quickly, it goes from this to this.


Yeah, so that's four days' growth, five days' growth, six days' growth.


And it's this that saved you through the horrible spring


and so once a cow or cattle is eating the essential nutrients


they need, they're healthy and they've got good appetite,


and if they've got good appetite, then you can feed them loads of


straw and they can get their energy and roughage from cheap straw.


So, this is really the icing on the cake


but it makes the whole thing work. And your Dexters love it?


Oh, yeah, they love it. Once they know it's coming, they'll be around.


Shall we go and feed them? Yeah, let's go.


OK, I'll drive it up if you could open the gate. Yeah.


Were your neighbours in this fodder crisis jealous seeing you


feeding your cows like this? I think, yeah.


Last year, in the height of the winter


when people were having to buy silage in from Spain


and they saw us just dealing with this and straw, I think,


yeah, they were starting to get quite interested.


And, in fact, now I've teamed up with a local farmer just over


trying to actually provide a route to market for these special cows.


Oh, I'd love to meet up with him. I'm sure, yeah, he's an affable guy.


30 miles that way, you say? About there, yeah.


I'm bound to get lost again. Great. Nice to see you.


Steve's friend, Paddy Fenton, shares his passion for Dexters.


This native breed not only survive on poor mountain pasture,


He's working with researcher Cillian Kelly to establish


the benefits of rearing Dexters in environmentally-sensitive areas.


Paddy, what a wonderful bit of scenery this is. What area are we in?


We're in the nature reserve on the north-western tip of the Dingle


peninsula on the South coast of Ireland.


We're looking straight out at America.


And the cattle are being brought up the hill here, what's happening?


Peter's gone down to bring up the cattle.


and a special type of dog to be able to work this country.


Cattle, if they're not handled properly, can go a bit feral,


so I'm very lucky that Peter has the skill base that he's able to


They may not be as tough as the Highlands or the Galloways,


but in terms of their effect on such a sensitive environment as this,


So, Cillian, that's where you come in because it's a partnership


between the Dexter cattle and conservation grazing.


Some of the habitat types we have up here are quite sensitive.


There's a 462-hectare site that's made up of lots of different


habitat types, so we've got heathland communities,


grassland communities and some blanket bog, so we want to try


and understand how the cattle impact on these sensitive areas.


I see some of them have got collars on, what are they?


That's right, they're GPS-tracking collars.


and they record a position every two hours and so that allows us


to get a picture of where the cattle go


and how much time they spend in each habitat type, then afterwards,


we can come in and survey those habitats


and see what's happening to the vegetation.


Now, I've been told that Dexter beef is delicious.


Dexter beef is stunning. Beautiful, wild flavour.


I need to go and taste some. You're welcome to come down to us now.


Have you got some on the go? We have some on the menu for this evening.


And as the sun sets in Dingle Town, what better way to end the day


than to sample one of Paddy and Steve's Dexter beef burgers?


So what makes this Dexter beef so special?


The fact that it's so well flavoured and, in eating it,


we're helping the propagation of a wonderful Irish breed of cattle.


And looking after that amazing environment too. Indeed.


It's as good as you said it was going to be.


Absolutely delicious. Wonderful. Well, it's been great to meet you.


All the best and good luck with the project. Cheers.


Thank you very much, lovely to meet you. Happy days, happy tummy.


Next week, I'm visiting a lucky young woman who's won the right to


manage a ?1 million farm nestled in the heart of Snowdonia.


We're back across the Irish Sea in the predominately agricultural


young tenant farmers running their first business, a dairy farm,


through a start-up opportunity from the local council.


And there's good motivation to succeed,


because on county farms, you get a ten-year lease to establish your


starter farm before you progress onto a bigger project like this one.


Before Giles, Gareth Acreman ran the dairy farm but now,


at 112 acres, Gareth's new farm about 10 miles away is nearly


So you've got some lovely beef stock here, Gareth, and this is a


very different plan to the one that you had on your first county farm.


We switched over from dairy farming to beef. Why?


I've always been a dairy farmer and then keeping beef cattle


alongside, I could see where my passion was.


We were just waiting for the opportunity to push that


business further and that's when the county farm came up.


And it obviously works well with the lifestyle,


the whole kind of county farm structure,


because here you are now with your second.


I've lived in the area all my life, farmer's son, tenant farmer,


so I knew, at some point, I would want to work for myself


and the only opportunity you can get into the industry is a rented farm.


Yeah. Now, we've been here for over 12 months,


it's as if you've been here for ten years.


Yeah. It is, we just fit in really well.


Gareth's not alone in his challenge to establish this as a new


His partner Lucy and two-year-old son Rhys also live on the farm.


I mean, obviously, a great life for him, he must love it here.


He would much rather be outside, he's definitely taken after his dad.


Yeah. He's definitely the next generation.


And, so you get ten years with your starter farm,


how long do you get with this? Or do you not know that? Another 16.


Another 16? Great. It is going to be our home for a while, hopefully.


And where do you see it all kind of progressing?


Just more of the same, or expanding, or...?


Yeah, just getting bigger and more beef cattle,


and it would be nice to be able to convert the buildings


down at the house into some sort of small business there as well.


there'll be more muscle, to get stuck in! Definitely!


I know, for one, that farms are family business,


and it's great to see that Rhys is keen to help out.


Yeah, you WERE the same, because that's not the first time


that you've answered that question, is it?


Because this is you, 20 years ago on Countryfile!


'So, what is it with boys and tractors?'


Erm, I'm just fascinated by them, really.


THEY LAUGH 'You found it!'


'I really like helping out on the farm.'


It's a good help for my parents, really.


Gareth was obviously born for farm life,


and he's learned a thing or two along the way.


Is that all of them? Hang on, there's one left.


They're now eating your front lawn.


100 years on from Staffordshire launching their tenant farms,


Gareth, Lucy and little Rhys are proof that county farms


are needed across the country, giving people the opportunity


to make their own way in the farming world.


Now, every farmer needs to plan for the year ahead,


than with the Countryfile Calendar for 2014?


It is packed full of the very best photos from this year's competition,


and here is how you can get your hands on one.


The calendar costs ?9, including UK delivery.


via our website at,


To order by post, send your name, address and cheque to:


Please make cheques payable to BBC Countryfile Calendar.


A minimum of ?4 from every sale will go to Children In Need.


on getting out and about in the countryside in the week ahead,


then you will need to know what the weather has in store.


So here's the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.


Good evening. The weather is looking pretty mixed for the week ahead. We


certainly have a mixed weekend of whether my finishing on a sunny


note, but the cloud is gathering in the Atlantic, so all change


tonight. -- mixed weekend of weather finishing. As the night goes on,


those temperatures will then climb. It will be warmer with more cloud


arriving with outbreaks of rain, so by dawn, temperatures in the West in


double figures. A grey start tomorrow morning with that rain. The


southerly breeze picking up as we go through the morning. The rain


turning patchy and lighter as it moves South and East, and the cloud


breaking up behind that across Scotland and Northern Ireland, so


some brighter spells at 3pm. Still pretty breezy with strong winds


blowing in some blustery showers but the cloud holds on further south


across parts of England and Wales. Patchy rain. Temperatures up on


today's values with 13, 14 degrees, and more rain clinging to the coast


of Kent and Sussex and into Essex. Southern areas of Great Britain sea


areas of rain moving across on Monday night and into Tuesday.


Clearer skies further north, so probably the lowest temperatures


here in towns and cities. Further South, a touch higher. The rain will


clearer way at first on Tuesday with things turning drier and brighter.


But staying more unsettled further north, with strong winds lowering in


some frequent and heavy showers, which will continue to be wintry


across higher ground. More sunshine further south with temperatures at


around average. High pressure on choose day night is trying to build


in, with some clearer skies. -- Tuesday night. You can still see


some tightly packed isobars so Wednesday will be another windy


day. The wind particularly picking up in the North. The rain then turns


heavier and moves south. But ahead of that, many areas should be dry


with some bright spells again and highs of 11 or 12 degrees. For the


end of the week, we will stick with spells of very strong winds. Many


showers will be across northern areas. Further south, a bit drier


and brighter with high pressure not to far away. A weather front


clearing through at first on Thursday, so potentially some rain


to clear away from the south-east. Some of the strongest winds on


Thursday assisting down the North Sea coastal areas. A scattering of


showers in the North but for many, Thursday should be dry with some


sunshine. With the breeze, temperatures cooler than this would


suggest. Towards the end of the week, the high pressure on Friday


looks like it should build in. Some weather fronts still not too far


away sitting to the North, but you can still see those very tightly


packed isobars to the north-west giving strong winds at times.


Further south, dry with some sunshine. If you have some Children


in Need events on Friday, the the wild and windswept


countryside of Cannock Chase. While Matt's been celebrating


the centenary of the county farms, I've come to the outer fringes,


to Shugborough, the ancestral home of the late


5th Earl of Lichfield - better known as the world-renowned


photographer, Patrick Lichfield. It was here that Patrick first used


a camera, at the age of seven, taking pictures of his beloved home,


his family and their pets. Then he moved on


to the world of glitterati, photographing celebrities


and the aristocracy. The stunning Georgian mansion


was made possible by Patrick's As a naval officer in the


mid-18th century, he captured a Spanish galleon and made off


with its treasure, and he used the money to develop


the house and buy more land. With its beautiful river gardens


and its lavish interiors, this was certainly gracious living,


Georgian style. But believe it or not,


this magnificent estate is one of the largest council


houses in the country. When Patrick's grandfather,


the 4th Earl, died in 1966, the whole estate passed


to the National Trust, They, in turn, leased it to


Staffordshire County Council. running a house on this scale


is a huge responsibility. So, Corinne, how does


a cash-strapped council possibly manage to maintain


such a magnificent property? Every year, we know


that to maintain Shugborough and all our collections


and our landscapes, and it's a challenge to start


making money to offset that cost. So, where do you begin with


such an enormous task? Well, I think


we're very innovative here. We have weddings, corporate events,


day visitors, educational groups. We have around 20,000 schoolchildren


that come on visits every year, which really helps towards


the costs. today, Shugborough


is the most complete working historic


estate in the country. There's a working Georgian farm,


where rare breeds are reared. A water mill, producing


fine wholegrain flour. And even the blacksmith's


forge is back in use. Slowly, the council is taking on


even bigger restoration projects. It was actually abandoned in 1959,


and up until eight years ago, But now, as you can see,


it's very much back in service. Today's green-fingered gardener


is Derek Higgert, who's lovingly tended the beds


here for the last six years. This was no ordinary garden


in its heyday, was it? No, it was one of the best learning


horticultural societies in England. Young lads, garden boys,


used to come here to work for free. You know, to learn all the skills


of growing unusual fruits and veg. Behind you, here,


we have a vine house So there would have been glasshouses


attached to these walls? Yes, there would, yeah. And heated


from behind in the bothies. They used to have fires lit


on the other side, so the lads would be keeping themselves warm


as well as heating the walls. And then, underneath


the head gardener's house, they had a boiler room


where they used to generate steam because they need


that heat and warmth. They were very unusual fruits


to be growing in this country. Yeah, if you had


a pineapple on your table, you were one of the richest


people in England. It was a great symbol of wealth,


wasn't it? Yeah. You're only scratching the surface


here, aren't you? Our ambition is to turn it


back into its heyday, 200 years ago,


and get it running back as it was. How much do you think


it's going to cost? Millions. How are you going to raise the money?


We've tried a little bit this year. We've been growing our own


vegetables and selling flowers and things like that


from the garden. Just over ?1,000. You definitely need to


grow some more pumpkins, Derek! At Shugborough,


it's a constant battle to preserve the past


and protect the future. These are the old servants' quarters,


and this handsome clock, dating back 250 years,


is their crowning glory. As with anything old,


it's getting a little creaky It's normally caretaker Chris Child's


job to maintain the clock. But today, I'm in charge


of the wind-up operation. Chris, how do I know what


time it is? What it's set to now? that I've had for 15 years of it,


you'd have had a look at the fingers on the clock


outside before you came up. You see, I did look,


I looked up at the clock, So, I'm going to need


a bit of help, then. Er, Bradders calling Baker Boy,


are you there, Baker Boy? Yeah, I'm here, I'm stood under


a clock with a walkie-talkie. Can you tell me, please,


what time is on the clock right now? At the moment, it says 25 to 4.


So, obviously, it's the wrong time. 'It is, clever clogs!


That's why we're here!' OK, I'm going to start


moving the hands around. Tell me when


I hit the markers, please. You're going the wrong way.


Story of my life! That's a good pace.


That's quarter past. Stop! Ooh, a bit too far!


Back a bit. What do you think of


my clock chiming skills? I thought they were very impressive,


very impressive. Thank you. Quite low ceilings up there. Yeah?


But lovely. Lovely noise, isn't it? Yeah, it is. Are you winding me up?


SHE GROANS Anyway, according to this, it's time


to say goodbye, so come on. It certainly is. Next week,


we're going to be in Suffolk. We're celebrating the centenary


of the birth of Benjamin Britten, Yes, and I'll be with some of the


county's best loved but rarest farm animals, the magnificent


Suffolk Punch heavy horse. Hope you can join us then. Time to


go. Time to go. It's time to go!


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