Countryfile is in Carmarthenshire, where Matt Baker explores the explosive history of the sand dunes and Helen Skelton visits the National Botanic Garden of Wales.
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a quiet, calm county
where vast countryside meets sweeping sands.
But these dunes were once far from peaceful,
as they've had an explosive past.
We've got the high explosives, TNT,
which is what explodes the bomb apart,
and then the cordite, which is the propellant.
Helen's getting a taste for beekeeping.
I'm just testing it.
It's good. Very good. They'll be happy with that.
-Good. It's all right for the bees, is it?
Tom is on the hunt for otters,
finding out if this recovering species
is recovering a bit too well.
This fishery is my livelihood. We have individual fish in here
which are worth tens of thousands of pounds.
If an otter got into this fishery now,
it could put us out of business.
And from New Zealand,
in a second of a series of special films,
Adam is taking to the water to search for
rare native breeds on a remote island.
What's that there? Look, look, what's that?
-Just to the left and through there?
-Yeah, that's a pig, is it?
-Is it a pig?
-Yeah, it is a pig. It's a pig.
-You're lucky to see a pig.
Carmarthenshire's coastline is a beautiful expanse of sand,
stretching as far as the eye can see.
I'm visiting Pembrey, halfway along an eight-mile swathe of beach
between the Three Rivers Estuary and the River Loughar.
Strolling through the quiet and peaceful Pembrey Country Park,
you would have no idea that 100 years ago,
this place was a crucial linchpin in Britain's war effort.
During World War I, Pembrey was home to a vast munitions factory,
staffed mainly by woman
and producing bullets, shells and high explosives
following the 1915 shell crisis.
It was a very nature of the landscape of this place
that made it so ideal for the purpose.
These isolated dunes not only acted as a screen,
but they also minimised damage in the event of an explosion.
Most of the physical evidence has long since disappeared,
but there are still remnants, if you know where to look.
Alice Piper of Dyfed Archaeological Trust
is finding out more about the wartime role of this site.
-Alice, how are you?
-Not too bad, thank you.
Oh, the mind boggles. The mind boggles of what went on here.
What area are we in, as far as this munitions factory is concerned?
Well, we are up on one of the nitro hills.
This is where they were producing nitroglycerin.
We're up on a high mound here, so that they can make use of gravity
to transport a very volatile, dangerous compound -
nitroglycerin - to the other areas of manufacturing.
So what are you actually doing here, then?
Are you trying to discover as many of these tunnels
and buildings as possible?
We've got funding from Cadw and Heritage Lottery Fund
to do a project with volunteers
to try and discover as much as we can
about the First World War factory that was here.
Essentially, you've got the high explosives, TNT,
which is what explodes the bomb apart,
and then the cordite, which is the propellant,
which fires it out of the gun.
So both are being produced here.
Then, down in this corner here, you've got the filling factory,
which is where they're actually filling the explosives into shells,
ready to go off, then, to the front.
It's such an ironic situation, isn't it,
when you wander around this country park today
-and it's so peaceful and lovely?
And then you look at actually what, in this past,
-this place has experienced.
It's a beautiful site now.
A lot of these tunnels now are very good for wildlife.
You know, you've got bat roosts in a number of these tunnels.
Nature has really reclaimed the site.
The spot was used again during the Second World War,
and finally closed in 1965.
Since then, the landscape has been to work,
burying the past under dense undergrowth.
Part of the area is now a conifer forest,
managed by Natural Resources Wales.
'But Alice's map suggests
'there may be another lost bunker here,
'one that hasn't been seen for decades.'
So, because of the huge mound that's ahead of us,
-you know we're in the right ballpark here, Alice.
Yeah, this is the only place in the area which is really high up,
so this looks like a good candidate for another nitroglycerin hill.
Is it safe, wandering around this old explosives factory?
Well, you have to go with caution.
I can see brick there. I can definitely see brick here.
There's a bit of a ledge, isn't there?
This is fantastic, getting these...
They look like, sort of, retaining walls, don't they,
to create this upper part of the mound?
If I disappear rapidly, it's been lovely.
Yes, nice knowing you.
-That is a tunnel, isn't it?
You can see the brickwork on the entrance there, can't you?
Do you want me to go first?
Yeah, if you like.
Oh, yeah, look. This is a proper tunnel, this.
-There's a lintel and everything across the top of that.
Oh, yeah! Look at that.
There's a pile of sand right in the middle,
-but there's daylight at the other end.
-It's about 13 metres, I would say.
If you go round the other side and start walking,
I'll shout when I can see you.
The ground sort of drops away, doesn't it, on that side?
-Hey, Matt, I can see you.
I can see you. There you go.
This structural remnants are atmospheric.
But to really get a feel for what life and the landscape
would have been like for the women who worked here,
I'm meeting Aveline Weston,
whose relative was a military policewoman here
during the war and kept a diary.
Aveline, who was Gabrielle West and where did she come from?
Well, she was my Great-Aunt Bobby
-and she was born a vicar's daughter in Gloucestershire.
But then the First World War came along,
and her mother was a member of the Red Cross,
and so she was a member of the Red Cross.
That started the whole of her war work.
By 1917, she'd done various things,
but then they were advertising for women police -
looking for women to work in factories.
Right. That's how she ended up here, then?
That's how she ended up here.
Once you were in the police force, you went you were sent, basically.
-I'm with you.
-She started as a constable
and eventually got promoted to sergeant.
What did she write about the conditions?
She said the woman here had...
She went to a lot of factories eventually,
and the woman here had the worst conditions of all.
She said something like, "On a windless night, we'd have
"perhaps 30 girls having a fit from the ether in the air."
Then they used to carry them out and lay them in the dining rooms
and look after them.
For many of the local women working here,
the job and income provided new freedom.
Despite the dangerous conditions,
the diary also describes a sense of optimism.
This was her favourite place.
The women were lively.
She felt she was doing a good job, I think.
They had work to do, they had conditions to do,
they made things better for the women,
and they just had a jolly time.
She talks about concerts in the canteen, and they used to sing.
There was one woman there who used to bang the thing with the spoon.
Apparently this woman was a particularly good mimic
and used to mimic all the police officers
and managers and everybody as well.
They just all seem to have had a thoroughly good time.
Today, it's a peaceful place.
The landscape has healed the scars,
absorbed the bitter chemicals and transformed these dynamite dunes
into a paradise for people and nature.
Now, otters had all but disappeared from our rivers and waterways,
but now they're back.
That success, though, does come at a price,
as Tom's been finding out.
Our countryside is deceptively tranquil.
For many, it's a place of peace and beauty,
but you only have to scratch the surface
to reveal the realities of both surviving in the natural world
or earning a living in the rural economy.
And, to make it more difficult,
nothing ever stays the same for long.
Take the otter, for example.
Just a few decades ago, it was on the verge of extinction in England
and struggling elsewhere in the UK.
But legal protection and banning certain pesticides
had a huge impact, and it's begun to recover.
In fact, it's done so well it's said they can now be seen
in every river in Britain.
They've been so successful, they now live quite close to us.
Otters can be found in this river
just next to a housing estate on the edge of Winchester.
Rachel Remnant is from the Hampshire Wildlife Trust,
and those otters are on her patch.
When I see someone furtling around by the river bank,
they must be from the Wildlife Trust.
-What are you looking at here?
-I'm looking for otter signs.
They're quite difficult to see in the flesh,
but what you can find is their runs.
So you can see where it's been trampled.
You can see the vegetation has been squashed down.
Can you see this depression in the reeds?
It's sort of like a cylinder shape.
That's the shape of the otter's body going through there.
This is the real giveaway. We've got some otter poo.
This is a really important chemical marker.
So they're leaving their scent,
they're saying, "This is me. I'm here. This is my river.
"This is where I'm fishing. This is where I'm living."
How are the otters doing in this area?
They're doing really well.
You will probably find maybe three animals here.
When you do see them in the flesh, they are just amazing.
They're this sort of enigmatic creature
that you're very unlikely to see,
but we know from our radio tracking work
that you can have and otter four metres away from you
and you just cannot see it.
We also know from radio tracking
that they pass through the city in the afternoon
and nobody has seen them.
But when you do see them, it's a really special occasion.
The resurgence of the otter
has been one of Britain's great conservation success stories,
but there are people who think enough is enough.
Otters, of course, eat fish
and they're not too fussy about what type.
But if those are YOUR fish, you may not be too happy about it,
especially when they can be worth a small fortune.
While otter numbers have been growing,
so has the popularity of commercial fishing lakes.
And the majority of anglers are now after just one type of fish -
Incredible as it may seem,
in 2015, £222 million was spent on carp fishing tackle alone.
At these managed fisheries,
individual carp will be caught over and over again.
The largest are worth tens of thousands of pounds to their owners.
But it's not just anglers who appreciate carp.
For otters, fisheries like this are a ready-made banquet.
Simon Scott caught his first carp when he was ten, and he was hooked.
Now, his carp farm in West Sussex is one of the largest in the UK.
After the summer growing season, winter is harvest time.
Doesn't it feel like cheating?
You're not giving the fish much of a chance, taking the water away.
Well, that is the way to harvest a pond, Tom.
-So, have you caught a carp before?
-No, I haven't.
There is a bit of a knack. There we go.
-Well held, sir.
They're pretty heavy, aren't they?
-This fish will weigh about 15lbs or 16lbs.
That would probably be worth £200-£300.
So if you're a fishery owner and you've got a lake full of these,
they could be worth many, many thousands of pounds.
So, what's the big attraction? How come the enormous value?
Well, carp all look different.
If you look at a rudd or a roach or a chub, they look quite similar,
but these fish will all look a bit different.
If I pick this one out, look at that -
it's an absolutely beautiful fish, covered in scales.
If we have a look at a different fish...
This one is a linear,
cos it's got a big line of scales down its flank.
-See if I can get hold of this one.
-They are very wriggly.
-OK. Oh, yeah. Strong too!
-They're powerful fish.
That makes them attractive to the anglers.
You've got that individuality.
So, for the angler, it's the challenge of the catch
as well as the kind of beauty and variety of the fish.
So, you can catch a fish that is a recognisable character.
It might be called Heather or Big Scale or Arthur.
Those fish, they become personalities in their own right.
They're long-lived fish.
Guys might spend three or four or five years trying to catch one carp.
But the damage otters can do to fish can be devastating.
And although Simon has never been bothered by otters,
he's fenced his whole fishery to make sure it stays that way.
So, do you understand that problem that anglers have with otters?
Yeah, absolutely. As a carp farmer,
it breaks my heart to grow these fish for five years
and to see them go into unprotected fisheries.
We have delivered fish bigger than this, 20lb fish,
that have gone into little club waters
only to be eaten the very next night.
That's how much money down the drain?
I liken it to...
If you want to set up a chicken farm,
you put a fence around it.
So what can you do if an otter gets into a fishery?
Well, until very recently, you couldn't do anything at all, Tom.
You couldn't trap the otter, you certainly couldn't shoot it.
You would be stuck.
Even when fisheries are fenced, otters sometimes get in,
and one otter can very quickly destroy a business.
But if you were to protect your stock by killing an otter,
it could be you that ends up behind a fence.
Protecting our endangered species
has undoubtedly had a really positive effect
in bringing many of them back from the brink.
But at some point, does a protected animal become fair game?
That's what I'll be finding out later.
Hidden away in the green and rolling countryside of Carmarthenshire
is a real treasure -
the National Botanic Garden of Wales.
It's an amazing blend of the past, present and future.
This is the first new botanical gardens in the UK in 200 years.
It really is an astonishing place.
The landscape grounds of an 18th-century stately home
have undergone a restoration,
which would make its former gardeners proud.
But for real engineering innovation, you need to see inside this.
Oh, my word!
Now, this massive dome was built to bring
a landscape of Mediterranean plants to rainy old Wales.
Lovely, but let's be honest, it does get wet here.
Do you know what? It even smells like a foreign holiday.
I love these.
This great glass house, designed by Norman Foster, was opened in 2000.
Covering almost an acre,
it houses 1,000 of the world's most endangered temperate plants,
grouped by their country of origin.
Where else can you walk over a bridge from Australia
and step off in South America?
And if you think that was pretty sci-fi,
where I'm heading now is really pushing the boundaries.
The botanical gardens here has its own group of scientists.
And what they've achieved in the labs,
tucked away in a quiet corner of this place,
has never been done anywhere else in the world.
And it's all about bees.
Laura Jones and her colleagues have captured the DNA
from every Welsh plant.
That's almost 1,500 species.
Now, she's using this DNA database to see which plants bees visit
by studying their honey.
Identifying the plant species from pollen in honey
can be quite difficult just by looking at it,
so we're using DNA barcoding
to identify the plants the bees are foraging on
by using the DNA in the pollen.
It's a real breakthrough, as our bee populations are in decline.
Knowing the plants they make a BEELINE for
means we could plant perfect environments
for these important pollinators.
Who'll use your findings?
So, what we're hoping is, then,
we'll definitely be able to feed back to beekeepers
and also create seed mixes for people to use.
Yes, because people do buy seed packets, don't they,
that they think are going to bring bees to their garden?
Yeah, so it's about, sort of, providing
scientific evidence for that.
-Then they go into that one?
-Yes, so then...
'Laura is letting me prepare the latest honey sample
'from the garden's own beehives.'
Oh, the pressure. I feel like I'm sweating.
'The honey is suspended in a conductive gel.'
So, we're going to set this to 120 volts.
'And by running electricity through it,
'the plant DNA will show up under UV light.'
Laura, this is blowing my mind.
'And the results are surprising.'
What we've found from the early foraging results,
so April and May,
is that the bees aren't using the horticultural plants as much
and instead are travelling to hedgeland, woodland species.
Things like hawthorn, gorse, willow.
It's funny, because I know lots of gardeners
who think that the more colourful the plant, the better for bees,
but that's not what you're finding.
It might be that those sort of garden species,
the horticultural species, they're using to supplement their diet
and get a wide variety of pollens.
The honey some Welsh bees are making isn't just delicious.
The botanic garden team's work has helped proved
it can attack human infections - a natural antibiotic.
There's been quite a lot of excitement
about the antibacterial honey found in North Wales.
-Is that anything to do with you guys?
So, we had a PhD student, Jenny, who worked on some of the techniques
that I'm using, in terms of extracting the DNA from the honey.
She did find one honey that had the same sort of antibacterial activity
as something like manuka.
What were they foraging that led to this antibacterial honey?
A big mix of plants in the actual sample.
-Bluebells was one of the ones that came up highly.
So, plant hedgerows, plant bluebells.
Round the corner from the laboratory,
I'm taking a peek at another of the botanic garden's wonders.
This is almost the two ends of scientific research.
At the one end of the spectrum, Laura and her colleagues are
in the lab looking at DNA in microscopic detail,
but this is actually a hard copy of the plant that they have taken
that DNA from, so they're pressed flowers, just like I did
when I was a kid, you probably did when you were younger.
They've got a scientific reference point
here in the hard copy of the plant,
but actually, they've got something very, very beautiful indeed.
Later in the programme, I'll be visiting the hives
providing the botanic garden scientists with their honey.
I mean, the only way to describe what I'm seeing is...
Seriously, this is quite unbelievable.
Yes, you've guessed it.
The Countryfile Calendar for 2017 is on sale now,
which is sold in aid of Children In Need.
Now, last year, your generosity
helped us break the £2 million barrier,
so let's see how far we can get this year.
Here's John with all the details.
It costs £9.50, including free UK delivery.
You can go to our website,
where you'll find a link to the order page.
Or you can phone the order line on...
If you prefer to order by post, then send your name,
address and a cheque to...
A minimum of £4 from the sale of each calendar
will be donated to BBC Children In Need.
Now it's time for our winter warmer.
Late last summer,
we asked some well-known faces, from DJs to comedians...
It's a seal. False alarm, everyone. It was a seal.
..chefs to singers...
# My old man said follow the van... #
..which part of our countryside was special to them.
This week, Falklands veteran Simon Weston shows us around
his beloved South Wales.
The Brecon Beacons is a special place for me.
It was somewhere we got taken when we were kids, with the family.
Even as a young boy, I remember just thinking
just how powerful it all felt here, but just how beautiful.
It's so incredibly lovely here.
And even in the rain, there's something very special about it.
Brecon is probably the one place
that I have a fond memory of my biological father.
There wouldn't have been too many in my life that I can remember,
if I'm brutally honest.
But I do remember him taking my oldest friend and myself camping.
I must have been 10 or 11,
and we used to go off and leave my father here,
and we'd go off along the road there
and walk all the way almost into Brecon from here.
Which was just a great laugh.
I suppose the cherry on the cake for that week was,
as the weekend arrived, so did a great big jamboree of Girl Guides.
They arrived at the top of the valley near Storey Arms,
and they pitched their tents,
and we thought all our Christmases had come at once,
and we were only young boys.
You know, if you've got a good memory,
always look to the good ones. Try to put the bad ones behind you.
And the Brecon Beacons is always somewhere very special.
I was about 17, 18
when I first came here to train with the military.
It was raining then. I thought, "What have I done wrong?"
The last time I was here training was with the Welsh Guards.
We were getting ready to go to the Falklands and, as you can see,
if you've ever seen pictures of the Falklands,
this is fairly similar terrain.
The problem was, we were training, it was quite nice,
it was dry, and the white grass,
and we were hiding from the helicopters that were hunting us
because we were a mortar line,
which meant we lined our mortars up and we were doing live firing.
One of the guys, Mike Dunphy,
decided he'd make a cup of tea and he set fire to the white grass,
and next thing, you've got about 30 men like whirling dervishes,
doing the berserker, dancing around trying to put this fire out,
and the mountainside was getting more and more alight.
Fortunately, we brought it under control,
but my goodness, it was touch and go,
but you look back on it as one of those funny moments,
just one of those funny little stories you tell,
and you just remember your friends,
because a lot of those guys on that mortar line never came home.
SHIP'S HORN BLARES
I got injured on June 8th 1982.
'The first warning came as the plane swept low over the ships.
'Sir Galahad was immediately in flames.
'Two companies of the Welsh Guard were still on board.'
We lost 48 men dead and 97 injured,
out of which I was the worst injured.
I suffered 48% burns.
They didn't want to send me home when I was down there.
They wanted to keep me down and bring me back by ship.
But, being a good Welsh boy, I wanted to come back to all of this.
This is where I was brought up. I'm very proud of where I'm from.
Those people down there, just beyond those trees,
down in the village of Nelson, that's what helped make me,
and those are the people who helped me survive,
because they supported me so incredibly well.
In my darkest days, I had PTSD,
and nobody had diagnosed it.
And a lot of people don't know this,
I don't even think my family know this, as much as I'm saying now,
that I used to come up the mountain just to look down
on the village of Nelson.
This is Senghenydd Mountain.
It overlooks Nelson, which you can't see through the mist and the haze.
But this is a place where I used to come just to get some solitude.
Everybody needs to regroup, so coming up here,
for me, was escapism.
It was an opportunity just to try and regroup.
But it was somewhere that I had always come as a kid,
and I suppose it's the child in your eye.
You don't want to lose the child in your eye,
and you're trying to regain that and regroup with that,
and that's what it was for me,
it was coming up here and trying to get back the happiness
that I had as being a child,
and that's the solitude you seek when you come up here.
Just to enjoy thinking and looking,
and sometimes things just become a lot clearer.
There's a great sense of pride in the Valleys and being Welsh.
We don't own the Valleys. It owns us.
Just in Nelson, all the hills that are around it,
it helps create communities. It helps create environments.
That's what's so special about here.
Wales is very special, you know,
and I am so very lucky to have been born here.
Earlier, we heard that otter numbers throughout the UK have recovered
to such an extent that many fishery owners believe
they're not only threatening their stocks,
but also their entire businesses.
But their cries aren't falling on deaf ears. Here's Tom.
Otters are of one of the British public's favourite wild animals,
and fishing is one of our favourite pursuits.
Put them together and the results can be ugly,
especially if you own a fishery.
But since the 1980s, otters have been legally protected,
and they can't be removed from a fishery, even if they get in.
But now the Environment Agency and Natural England have taken on board
the concerns of fisheries owners
and are licensing otter trapping in some very specific situations.
Dave Webb, from the UK Wild Otter Trust, and Mark Walsingham
are now licensed by Natural England to trap otters.
-So, this is an otter trap, is it?
-How does it work?
Simple double-entry trap,
so an otter can come in from either end of.
When it gets to the middle...
If you want to push that middle plate, Tom,
you'll see how it actually works.
-Both doors come down together.
The new licences only allow the humane trapping of otters
within properly fenced fisheries,
and they can only be released on the other side of the fence.
How often do you think these might be used in Britain, in a year, say?
In the last month, we've had two calls,
but this is a very, very new concept.
Obviously, once people are aware that we can do this,
it's going to be used more, we feel.
We've now got a humane legal option,
and it's only trained operators that can go and set these traps.
In the UK, there's only five people that can do this.
Once we have a better understanding...
'Mark Walsingham owns this carp fishery in Somerset
'and, for him, the otter issue is not a theoretical one.'
This fishery has taken 40 years to develop.
The biggest fish in here is just under 60lb,
so just smaller than the weight of a sack of potatoes. It's huge.
And people pay to come and target that individual fish.
So an otter could kill one fish and undermine the whole of the business.
This fishery is my livelihood,
and my mortgage and my family depend upon the income from this fishery.
We spent a lot of money fencing it to stop that happening,
but if an otter got in here, it could put us out of business.
Really, is this enough? Have we done enough now
to deal with the otter issue in the country?
No, I think, is the very simple answer to that.
I think it's a very important first step.
We don't have even hard and fast numbers
over how many otters are out here in the countryside,
so we need to look at things as a whole
and understand the wider picture
and understand what's appropriate and what, frankly,
the countryside can cope with.
Unlike Mark, some fishery owners have lost their patience
and want to be allowed to cull otters to protect their businesses.
But is it acceptable to allow the killing
of a protected species for purely commercial reasons?
It's a question that resonates across the countryside.
As the numbers of some of our other protected animals increase,
so does their impact on the natural world and rural business.
Badgers are a protected species that some people believe
are responsible for the decline of hedgehogs.
Now they are being culled, in an attempt to reduce TB in cattle,
and licences can be issued for the shooting of buzzards
and other birds of prey where they threaten commercial interests.
Someone who's familiar with this issue
is environmental consultant Derek Gow.
We bring in legislation when a species is endangered.
As it begins to be successful and recover,
do we need to adapt that legislation,
turn it more into management rather than protection?
The simple answer to that is, yes,
there's a case for looking again at wildlife management.
But quite often, if you're looking at effective wildlife management,
and you're looking at something like culling in the long term,
you've got to specifically look at the animals causing you the issue,
then maybe we should look at killing those.
So you accept it could be valid as a last resort,
some form of culling or killing of these species, like otters?
Every stage, when a species like this starts to return and conflicts
with our interest, you hear the same calls, which is, we kill them.
In the past, the only response we had
as a species was for anything that opposed us,
we reached for bottles of poison, traps, steel and guns
and, in the end, it's incredible, at the beginning of the 21st century
that this is the only response we should be applying now.
If you've got an individual otter that keeps getting into a fishery,
and you know it's the same otter,
then you may be looking at a different solution in time,
but as far as the wider population's concerned,
just shooting 30 or 40 of them is just senseless.
So, should we be allowing the culling of otters
that threaten fisheries?
Natural England say that where wildlife poses problems
for people's livelihoods, property or safety,
they can issue licences to address problems at a local level,
and nationally, they can reduce an animal's protection
if it is no longer needed.
But that doesn't apply to otters just yet.
Across Europe, they're still seen as a near-threatened species.
For now, a good solid fence and occasional trap
solves most of the conflicts between fisheries and otters,
but as and when otters and other recovering species
move from being endangered to abundant,
even some conservationists agree
there could be a case for more aggressive management options.
Now, last week, we saw the start of Adam's epic trip
halfway around the world to New Zealand to revisit farms
he worked on 30 years ago with his business partner Duncan Andrews.
This week, he's heading to a remote island,
seeing how early settlers gained a farming foothold
on this far-flung part of the world
by taking some of our classic British breeds with them.
New Zealand has some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth
You can understand why the Europeans
started to settle here more than 200 years ago.
The land is rich and fertile, and there's plenty of it.
It's a farmer's paradise.
New Zealand is divided into two, the North and the South Islands.
They're separated by the Cook Strait, one of the most dangerous
and unpredictable stretches of water in the world.
I'm travelling across the strait to Arapawa Island,
on the hunt for a very elusive breed of goat
that helped put New Zealand on the farming map.
This strait here was named after the famous explorer
Captain James Cook who, in 1770,
was the first European commander to sail through it.
Cook and his crew soon discovered
New Zealand wasn't like any place they'd ever seen.
It appeared to have no native mammals,
and the country was dominated by birds.
But Cook was about to change that.
For the journey, I've got myself a great skipper,
and to tell me more,
rare breed expert Michael Willetts has joined me.
He's as passionate as I am about protecting heritage livestock.
So, tell me about your background, then.
I was brought up in the backcountry and I used to run around the hills
with a butterfly net in one hand and a rifle in the other.
I just loved wildlife and animals,
and the realisation that there was these animals in New Zealand
that nobody really knew about
and they were under threat changed my thinking totally.
So, we're going to look for these goats. Tell me about them.
Cook always carried goats on board,
particularly English goats, because they're tougher.
They kept them for milk for the officers, and they also kept them
to let go on remote islands like this
so a source of food for when they came back again.
Quite standard practice.
So, when they returned,
-there'd be food ready-made on the island for them.
In 1773 and 1777, Captain Cook made voyages
to Arapawa Island with animals on board.
Amongst his special travellers, he had an old English breed of goat.
Cook released some of the goats onto the island.
More than 50 years later, in 1839,
a visitor to the island wrote in his diary
that it was swarmed with goats.
Today, this breed is critically close to extinction.
It's pretty extraordinary, isn't it,
here we are, all these years later, with an ancient British breed,
that its safe haven is on a New Zealand island.
It is almost an ark of genetics.
I wonder what the natives thought of these white men turning up
with these weird animals, goats, that they'd never seen before.
Yeah. I think they were absolutely terrified to start with,
but they soon realised the benefit of goats,
and the Maori chief put a tapu, or protection order, on the goats,
so that shows the respect they had for them.
Whilst we wait to spot these goats,
I take the opportunity to chat with our skipper, Peter Beech.
Peter, back at home, with us coming out of Europe,
there's going to be a lot of change, particularly in agriculture.
How have things developed over here?
When England joined the European common union,
they dropped New Zealand like a hot potato, you know?
So the government cut the subsidies to the farmers.
The farmers, they had to find new markets.
They had to become more productive, more efficient.
I suspect that that is what will have to happen in England,
because then you'll have to compete with this globalisation,
with this global market,
and you'll be competing against New Zealand farmers,
who have learned to farm and produce without subsidies.
There are some little dolphins just here.
About six or eight of them. Wow!
There's two there that have got small ones next to them,
little babies. I think these are dusky dolphins, they call them.
I just hope we manage to get a glimpse of the goats now.
On a sunny day like today, it's likely the goats are keeping cool
in the shade, so they're going to be hard to spot.
But it's not long before we see something.
-So, there's a breed of sheep here too?
-So, where did the originate from?
Nobody's really sure, but the recent DNA research
shows that the nearest sheep that they look like they belong to
are some kept by North American Indians
way up on the North American coast,
and THEY were reputed to come from Spain in the 1500s.
-So, sort of Navajo sheep, something like that?
Exactly. Something like that.
So that's the nearest link, so it's interesting
how wildlife often link where people travel.
Yeah, that connection with livestock and people and history,
it's very entwined, isn't it?
Very entwined, and you can trace people's migration
to the livestock that they carried with them.
-And they're enjoying that person's lawn there.
No goats yet, though.
Let's keep looking.
What's that there? Look. Look, what's that?
-Just to the left of the tree?
-Yeah. That's a pig. Is it? Is it a pig?
Yeah, it's a pig. It's a pig!
You're lucky to see a pig.
-It's quite a big one.
-You hardly ever see them.
That's an Arapawa pig.
Black and tan. It's considered one of New Zealand's rare breeds.
-So lucky to see that. So lucky to see that.
So, that's a definite breed, then? Recognised as an Arapawa pig?
Nobody knows whether they're the pigs Captain Cook let go.
Their DNA shows that they're European,
so they would have come out a long time ago.
Their real history? Not sure.
It's great to have seen the sheep and pigs,
but I've come a long way to see the Arapawa goat.
It's getting towards the end of the day
and we're just about to give up hope when...
There's one. There's one! On the beach, on the beach.
At least we've seen ONE.
-It really is amazing.
I remember my dad used to have some goats
that he called old English goats, and they were very similar to that.
Almost identical, in fact.
There's something moving around in the bushes up there, look.
Have a quick look.
I can see... Yeah, yeah. There are more goats.
A nanny and some kids there.
This is easy, there's loads of them!
Well, there's not, actually.
I think we've seen more than our share.
There must have been a dozen goats there.
They were following each other up the track.
So, on a normal day, if you came out,
how regular is it to spot them like this?
I've been up this coast several times,
I've been here looking for pigs,
with probably 12 people and dogs
for three or four days - never found a pig, never saw a pig.
-And now we've seen one, just like that.
And we've seen all the goats too.
I've been on the coast looking for goats and never seen them,
-so this is special. This is a really special day.
-What a treat.
Knowing how elusive these goats are, Michael wasn't going to let me
travel from the other side of the world without seeing some up close.
So he's arranged to have
a couple of domestic Arapawa goats on standby.
Look what we've got here.
There's some Arapawa goats.
This is the first time I've ever touched an Arapawa goat.
A true old English, delivered by Captain Cook himself.
And reasonable milk, but plenty of meat,
so you can understand why Captain Cook left them
and then knowing that people might return
and then there was a ready source of food.
-They are a meaty goat.
-And a hardy goat.
And this is the backbone of agriculture here in New Zealand.
-It's how it all started, isn't it?
It's really quite an amazing story and, as you say,
it is the birth of a nation, the colonisation, the release of these
animals into the country, the effect on the country, and so it goes on.
It's really very much the story of New Zealand.
I think they deserve their place, don't they?
-They need to be conserved and looked after.
-They deserve their place.
They certainly do.
Next week, I'm back on the mainland where I am seeing
the destruction of the recent earthquake for myself.
Just take a look at this. This is evidence of the earthquake,
where the road has collapsed and there's been a landslip.
I'm also helping with a sheep muster
on some pretty extreme terrain,
and discovering how these mountains are kept so lush and green.
We're at the National Botanic Garden of Wales,
where scientists have captured the DNA of every native plant
and cleverly used it to identify which ones the bees favour.
And up here are some very clever women, who are creating
an amazing piece of art based on the flowers found around here.
I'm told it's usually a HIVE of activity.
Translating the scientists' findings into an artwork for visitors,
50 locals are stitching images of every plant
known to be harvested by the garden's bees.
It's going into the centre...
Glenys Richards-Jones is showing me the ropes.
And you're just sort of coming down towards the centre,
in long and short stitches.
-Did you pick which flower you were going to stitch?
-Yes, I did.
-This is an ivy-leaved bellflower.
-So, just keep going in, like this?
-Yes. That's lovely.
-You do have to concentrate, don't you?
You do, yes,
and you need to concentrate on where it's coming out.
And how long did this piece take?
I think, to sew, it was about five hours.
-You're doing quite well there.
-You are. You're doing fantastic.
The finished artwork being assembled by Marilyn Caruana
is more than mere decoration.
It reflects the botanic garden's scientific work.
Why have you put them in this order?
We have all the trees and plants that the bees visited in preference
at the top,
working their way down to those that they visited less frequently.
We've got some plants which are based from the walled garden
and around in the botanic garden,
and a lot of them are actually in the perimeter,
so they are wild flowers, trees, and very high up on those - dandelions.
So, stop weeding, everybody, you know!
This sewing BEE stitches just a stone's throw away
from the botanic garden's hives.
It's here the scientists collect the honey
for their pioneering research.
-And then your hood comes over...
'These precious bees are looked after by Linda Christie
'and a team of volunteers.
'And even in winter, there's plenty to do.'
It is quite bizarre having quite a big cage on your head.
Mind your step up here because it can be a little bit slippery.
And how many hives have you got in here?
-We have seven hives in here at the moment.
We're going to look at this one, hive number three.
Presumably, at this time of year, bees are not very busy
because there aren't many flowers out, so what are they doing?
So, what they're doing,
they're clustering to keep the queen warm
and to preserve the queen, so she's ready for laying next spring.
During the winter time, the colony goes from the summer numbers
of around about 60,000, and they deplete down to about 20,000.
-Two-thirds die off?
-Two-thirds die off.
But then, come next spring, the queen will start laying again,
and the number in the colony will peak again round July, August time.
To see them through the winter,
the survivors in these hives need
30-40 pounds of honey in their larder.
Without opening the hive to the cold,
Linda has a simple test to find out if they've got enough.
All I do is lift from the back and just feel the weight.
So, this is literally just a measure of you feeling how heavy it is?
-Do you think there's enough honey in there?
-That's really heavy. Would you like to have a try?
Give it a little lift and feel how heavy that is.
-Oh, that does feel very heavy.
So I'm happy that the bees have enough stores
to get them through the winter.
The hives that don't have enough honey are given
a tasty substitute by Julian Caruana.
This is baker's fondant.
Cut a small piece of this off and, very roughly,
if you fill one of these takeaway cartons with this,
you've got about a kilo.
So, is this the kind of icing you put on a wedding or birthday cake?
It's exactly that icing.
-I'm just testing it.
-It's good. Very good. They'll be happy with that.
-It's all right for the bees, is it?
And how often do you have to do this?
We might only have to do it once a year.
-They will only go for this if they are really short.
Can you give them anything sugary?
It depends what time of year you're feeding them.
-At this time of year, it needs to be solid.
If it's in the spring, then you'd give them a sugar solution.
Well, that is going to keep a bee and his friends going
-for quite some time, I think.
-It'll keep Helen going
-for a long time as well!
-Yeah, brilliant. See you.
Well, I can see a few bees buzzing around, which suggests that
it's actually unseasonably mild here at the moment,
but let's see what the weather has in store for us.
Here's the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
We're exploring Carmarthenshire,
and while Helen's been a busy bee at the botanic gardens,
I've been finding out how this stunning stretch of sand
once produced shells and explosives for Britain's war effort.
The site for the munitions factory here at Pembrey was chosen
because nearby sand dunes, like these, gave protection against
the explosive materials that were being manufactured.
These days, though, it's the dunes themselves that need protecting,
but this invading force is a force of nature.
A deciduous shrub called sea buckthorn was grown along the dunes
to protect the woodland planted here after the war.
It's actually native to the east coast,
but over here on the west coast
it's considered invasive.
It's damaging the dunes and the species that live amongst them.
Simeon Jones is the ranger tackling this thorny issue.
When you look at this here, it's so robust, isn't it? It just shoots up.
Yeah, it's a very tenacious plant.
You've got to admire it for its tenacity.
Does it have any benefits to the habitat here,
-as far as you are concerned?
-Well, it does have benefits.
I mean, the berries of sea buckthorn are very nutritious.
Birds love them, so redwing, fieldfare,
even blackbird will come and feed on them.
We don't want to get rid of all of it.
It looks pretty dense that way.
Is the idea then to get it to look
a little bit more like what we've got here on the right-hand side?
Yeah, that's it.
We want to clear some of it
so that we've got the species-rich dune grassland.
If you look under the sea buckthorn, there's a lot of nettle there.
And you just don't get the species diversity.
On this side, you'll have dune flowers,
wild flowers growing, and there are some pretty rare species as well,
so we want to ensure that we keep some of that species diversity.
What sort of area are we talking about?
Because we've got a patch here on this side. How far does it stretch?
Well, Cefn Sidan is about eight miles long,
so from one end to the other, we've got well over a mile
of clearing the sea buckthorn in the fore dunes.
And if I'm going to help tackle eight miles of this spiky stuff,
it's going to take more than a strimmer.
Look at this bit of kit, eh?
That's exactly what you want when you're tackling tough shrubs
on the sand dunes. Right, get me in that crawler!
-Hello. How are you doing?
-I'm all right.
This heavy machinery is making light work of the sea buckthorn.
Just as well, as the short winter days are catching up with us.
And I've had a tip-off that if daytime at Pembrey
is about sand dunes, dusk is all about starlings.
Matthew, you told me to get here at dusk.
-For a special sight.
I did. I'll be honest with you, I'm a little bit disappointed. OK?
Believe it or not,
there are 12,000 to 14,000 starlings in that reed bed over there.
At the moment, well, the sky was supposed to be full of them.
-I'll take your word for it.
-What should it look like?
Well, actually, it should look like this.
One of nature's most spectacular sights.
Tens of thousands of starlings
flying in formation before they roost.
We'd love to see your photos and videos of starling murmurations,
and you might just see them in a future episode.
Tweet us or contact us at...
If you're having more than luck than us,
if you've seen these fabulous birds, do send us in your photographs.
That is all we've got time for this week.
Next week, we're going to be on the Jurassic Coast,
where I'll be meeting a man who's been chipping away
for the last 30 years to unearth life from 150 million years ago.
-I hope you can join us then.
I'm sure I saw one over there, you know.
-I think we're in the wrong place.
-OK. Let's have a look over there.
Countryfile is in Carmarthenshire, where Matt Baker explores the explosive history of the sand dunes. Helen Skelton visits the National Botanic Garden of Wales, discovering how they're mapping the DNA of every flower in the country and how they're preparing their bees for winter.
Falklands veteran Simon Weston shows Countryfile around his beloved South Wales and, in the second part of a special series, Adam Henson is in New Zealand to find out how they farm on the other side of the world. What happens when a protected species recovers to the point it impacts rural businesses and other wildlife? Tom Heap reports on a new initiative aimed at saving fisheries from otters.