The Countryfile team celebrate the festive season with a woodland Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire as they switch on the holiday illuminations.
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It's Christmas time in a Gloucestershire woodland.
Robins are singing in the chill winter air
and the mistletoe is ripe with berries.
Whilst homes are ready to burst with Christmassy cheer,
there's still a lot of work to do here.
This is the Countryfile Christmas Special.
And we're here decorating a mile of these trees
in a suitably festive fashion.
Yes, but not with baubles and tinsel.
We're in the process of setting up a magical lighting display
that's going to make these magnificent trees
look even more enchanting.
And it wouldn't be Christmas without a social gathering, so the whole
Countryfile team is on the way
and they're bringing some new friends.
John's are rather prickly.
Just how cute is he?
By rights, he should be fast asleep right now,
but he's just not big enough, he's not put on enough weight
to survive hibernating through the winter.
I'll be meeting volunteers who are looking after little fellas like him.
Ellie's not fattening up hedgehogs.
She's got us in her sights.
But don't worry, it's not me that's doing the cooking.
I've asked a very lovely Michelin-starred chef
to be my friend for the day
and we're planning something Christmassy - partridge and pears.
Tom's getting into the Christmas spirit too.
Christmas trees, a sprig of mistletoe
and a bit of fizz always help to pep up my Christmas.
And, as I'll be discovering,
they're also bringing some seasonal cheer to our farmers.
So, I know what I'm brining to the party, but what's Adam's plan?
I'll be seeing how my local agricultural university
prepares for Christmas, and I'll also be seeing
if some of the students here can carry a tune.
# Hark the herald angels sing
# Glory to the newborn king. #
We've got the whole programme to get these woodlands looking sparkling.
Is that enough time for you?
Yeah, I think I can do it. What are you going to do?
Me, I'm going to go find out more about this place.
You've got a lovely canvas to work with.
-Stunning, I know.
-Don't mess it up.
Westonbirt Arboretum lies in the heart of the Cotswolds
and is home to our national tree collection.
Whatever the season, there's always something to see
in this treasure trove of trees from around the world.
And at Christmas, this woodland is just magical.
The arboretum has seen more than 180 winters
and it's home to more than 16,000 trees.
Established in 1829,
the arboretum was the vision of wealthy landowner Robert Holford,
a man with a passion for landscaping
in the great age of Victorian plant-collecting.
With 3,000 varieties, there's a tree here to suit everybody's taste,
with the oldest dating back to the Roman invasion 2,000 years ago.
And even with all of these trees, the arboretum is planting
300 new ones every year, so I'm off to see where they start out life.
Penny Jones is the propagator here in Westonbirt.
Penny, how are you?
I'm very well, thank you.
I understand this is the engine room of the arboretum.
It is the engine room, it's where all the seeds are processed
ready to be grown into trees to go out into the collection.
How many of these would you expect to germinate?
If I get 20% of what I sow, I'm happy.
And when would we expect to see those?
The actual plant ready for planting, in most cases, is two years,
which is quite a quick turnaround.
Must be quite a feeling when you pop them in here and do see them
germinate and they've come from goodness knows where?
You never lose that childlike fascination
with a seed that's germinated and watching it grow.
As soon as possible,
this global variety of species are taken outside
to acclimatise to the Cotswolds.
You've got 16,000 trees here, you're planting about 300 every year.
Why is there such a need for that constant turnaround?
-Are you going for a world record, Penny?
-No, not exactly.
We are beginning to lose a lot of our old trees that would've been
planted in 1850s and later.
-They've reached the end of their natural life.
This is the one that you're going to be planting, which is a Liquidambar.
It's got a great autumn colour, it flushes red in the spring
and it will be a colourful plant with an evergreen backdrop.
With this young sapling in tow, I'm ready to get digging.
Mark Ballard, arboretum curator, manages this living museum of trees.
-Mark, how you doing?
-Nice to see you.
-Well, you've obviously picked the spot, then.
Lots of different factors to consider,
but we've got a perfect spot, we hope,
for the plant that you've got with you.
Yes. Good point. Let me get it out the back.
It's a real art form to choose where you're going to put these
-because it's like a three-dimensional gallery.
This is a real special plant botanically,
but it's got to do a job for us in the landscape,
so every plant that you see must work together
and it has a role within that landscape to look beautiful.
No pressure, then(!)
-It's quite an honour, this.
-It is an honour.
What you have to do is use your imagination to think forward
tens of years as to how it's going to look in the future.
Which is one of the reasons why we're so in awe of
the original creators of the arboretum.
That's a brilliant job, Matt.
-That was a lovely thing to be part of.
-And promise me you'll come back
-to have a look at this thing as it gets bigger.
-I would love to.
Still disappointed with that wonky post at the back.
Yeah, we'll straighten that up when you're gone!
With such a vast site at our fingertips,
Mark and I are off to explore.
It's quite incredible this, cos you go on what is a very long walk,
let's be honest, but you never get bored, do you?
Cos everywhere you look there's a different character.
I think that's the secret of the Holford's landscape idea.
This picturesque style that they loved is that there's always
something to draw your eye
and there's always something that's going to lead you on.
Do you have a favourite or does that change?
I think I'd probably go for a tree that,
when I first came to Westonbirt many, many years ago,
I can remember seeing it and thinking, "Wow, what is that?
"It's a spectacular tree." It's this Acer griseum, paperbark maple.
It's just finishing its autumn colour, which was amazing,
but it's the bark.
Oh, yeah, look at that!
It doesn't hurt it, does it? When you're rubbing the bark off?
No, it's just something it does.
It will just gradually shed this bark.
I can see why Mark loves this tree.
I wonder if Julia's found her favourite yet.
Yes, I've found it.
This is my magnificent Indian cedar
and it's my job to transform this wonderful tree
into a Christmas show stopper.
But before I plug anything into the mains, or illuminate even a twig,
I need some serious instruction, because today,
ladies and gentlemen, I am a lighting apprentice.
Ben isn't your average electrician.
Every year he and his merry men wow the crowds here
by lighting up the national arboretum
and transforming it into an enchanted Christmas spectacular.
He's a real bright spark.
So, your knees must be trembling at this time of year, then, Ben,
with all the responsibility?
Um, yeah, it's anticipation, fear, excitement all thrown into one.
Where do you begin with an arboretum?
I mean, you're not just illuminating a tree or a garden
or a row of trees?
We've been doing this for about 14 years now.
We try and change it every year, but the trees do it for us.
They're such brilliant specimens, all we have to do is
stick a light under it and they'll look fantastic on the night.
And they're providing the variety?
Yeah, just transforms the arboretum into something that
we all think is something quite special.
What happens if an idiot like me comes along and trips over a wire
-and unplugs everything?
-First of all, we'd beat you severely.
Yep, that's absolutely fine. Given. Accepted.
It's got much better now.
The only thing that's going to happen on the trail
is mechanical failure and if anything like that happens
with a generator, we have a back-up that we'll drag into place.
So far, touch wood, we've never had to close the trail for anything,
any reason or kick the people out.
It's always gone on every night we've been out.
Fantastic! Hopefully this year it's going to go exactly the same way.
-Have you got a torch?
Ben and his team have already spent two weeks rigging 1,000 lights
and ten miles of cable.
But with just hours to go before the big switch-on, they're going to
need all their reserve energy to get everything finished.
Right, the pressure's on.
Let's hope nobody blows a fuse.
To make things even more complicated,
every year the team dreams up what they call "wow factors"
to really impress the crowds.
Because the trail is about a mile long
and there's a lot of families,
young kids that come along and a mile in the middle of winter can be
quite a stretch, we throw in a lot of interactive features,
just things to break up the walk and hopefully to add something to it.
The wow factors are strategically placed
every hundred yards along the walk.
This one needs a drum-roll.
I'm liking the look of this. How does it work, Ben?
This is our drum kit.
Each one's got a microphone in it which triggers a relay when you hit
the drum, and hopefully it will trigger a light off down there.
-How are your drum skills?
-Give me a minute.
I feel like Jean Michel Jarre.
If you're a young viewer, you won't know who that is,
but he was a French dude that did lots of lighting, bangy stuff.
-OK, go for it.
-Here we go.
Yep, all good.
Ah, that's a nice one.
All tests passed, but can it cope with a concert?
Thank you, Paris!
Just time for some last-minute fairy lights.
These are mega fairy lights, they're like fairy lights on steroids.
'And the wow factors are ready.
'The bubbles are going to be bubbling,
'the bonfire will burn and the smoke rings will be smoking.'
'I'm ready for my last challenge.'
So we're back at the Indian cedar tree and it's time for me
to illuminate this beauty with some Bradbury magic.
Where do I start, Ben?
-Colours. Pick some gels.
-Colours, I like that.
Oh, that'll look nice, won't it?
Blue, a nice royal blue.
-Right, gels in the gel frames.
-Positioning the lights, I guess, next.
You have six lights. A trunk shot's always a good start.
And then if you divide the tree up into the various limbs
you've got there. Maybe a back shot. Completely up to you.
How do you think you've done?
I want to see them on and I'll make the final adjustments.
If we fire it up, we'll see what you've done.
So, I'm walking along, I've come to visit
the arboretum for Christmas, I come to this stunning tree...
and I think to myself, "Gosh, the lighting is spectacular.
"It's really well thought out, very well put together."
I think he's got to go, though.
My tree's now ready for the big switch-on later
and it's definitely going to be a highlight.
That's what I like to see - Matt and Julia working up an appetite,
and I hope they're hungry
because I've got a little something up my sleeve.
SONG: "The 12 Days Of Christmas"
It's one of our oldest and best-loved carols,
the sound of Christmas.
But how about turning that famous tune into the taste of Christmas?
Based on the famous line of the partridge and the pear,
I'm after some ingredients to be cooked up
by our Michelin-star chef later on.
Normally the loud and colourful turkey steals the all the attention,
but game birds like partridge, pheasant and grouse have long been
traditional festive fare and this is the prime time of year for seeing
partridge and pheasant and that is because it's shooting season.
Here in the Vale of Evesham is a farm that comes into its own
during the winter months.
Paul's family have been rearing game since the war
and he's been in charge for the last 28 years.
Tell me about this shoot today? How does it work?
This is called a syndicate shoot, it's a farm shoot.
We have eight paying guns and we decide how many birds we're going to
release and we're mostly partridge.
And we try and shoot something over 100 every day.
The birds I'm after today are the red-legged partridge
rather than its much rarer cousin, the native grey partridge.
The red-legged birds are also known as French partridge
and for a reason you might not expect.
It's meant to be that during the Napoleonic Wars
when the French infantry ran away with their red breeches,
they resembled or mimicked the red-legged partridge which runs
quite a long distance before it actually takes off into the air.
So, spoiler alert, then -
the partridge doesn't live in the pear tree?
No, he doesn't.
Never been seen in a pear tree.
He sleeps on the ground, he may sit on a fence post or some rock
or something, but, no, he is a ground-roosting bird, unfortunately.
Oh, it's ruined... No, it's not ruined Christmas,
cos there's going to be some good eating, hopefully.
If people feel uncomfortable about this,
this isn't just for sport, is it?
No, it's like a harvest in the whole of agriculture.
It's a very organic food, it's very high in protein,
vitamin B6 and iron.
Even though it's shot with lead,
-it still has a lower lead rate than fish and, say, even potatoes.
And everything gets eaten from today?
Everything gets eaten from today.
And I think what I feel matters is that this is an animal
that's had a good life and a very swift death,
and you can't guarantee that of all meat, so this is actually
a meat many people would be more comfortable with.
Yes, it's hard to get people to eat it,
but the trend is going the right way. People are eating a lot more.
'Well, I can think of a few people
'who'd be keen to try this later on,
'when I'll be uniting partridge and pear in a special Christmas dish.'
Right, Ellie, here's your Christmas present.
-Wow! Thank you very much!
We shall enjoy this festive feast. Thank you very much.
That's the food sorted.
I just need Tom to help me out with a few extra festive treats.
Don't you worry, Ellie, I think know where I can find just the things.
You might think that the fields would be pretty quiet at this
time of year, aside, maybe, from the odd Christmas miracle,
what with all the crops being harvested
and the animals being snugly indoors,
but that's where you'd be wrong cos Christmas is providing a cash crop
for an increasing number of British farmers, as I'm going to find out.
Seasonal diversification is the name of the game.
I'm on my way to visit three wise men and women
who've turned their hands to festive farming.
And hopefully, along the way, I can pick up some gifts to add
a little extra jollity to celebrations at the arboretum later.
The first place requiring my Christmas presence
is this Gloucestershire apple orchard.
We work in traditional orchards just like this.
This one was planted by my great aunt in 1912.
Helen Brent-Smith and her partner David Kaspar make cider
and perry here.
But they've also started taking advantage of a free add-on
to their trees.
I see you've got a bumper crop on here,
but not necessarily of apples at this time of the year.
-Look at the lovely mistletoe up here. Amazing!
Mistletoe is an extra. It loves old apple trees.
If you had a good crop of mistletoe on you,
roughly how much might you expect to get from it?
Possibly up to a ton.
And in money, that would be?
A few hundreds, but it's not...
-A few hundred pounds. A good Christmas bonus.
So, you better put me to work here. What's the idea?
I think there's a very nice clump on the top there.
That's lovely. And up we go.
'Helen is one of a growing number of orchid owners
'cashing in on this naturally occurring crop.
'And this inventiveness is also turning a foe into a friend.'
-Here's our bounty.
-Look at that.
I've never really seen how it grows before
and it really is part of the tree, look at that!
The mistletoe has drawn the nutrients from that branch.
-So it does need a bit of management?
-Or it could damage the key part of your business.
There we go. That's a good load.
Now, would I be allowed to take a little bit,
just in case I strike it lucky at the Countryfile Christmas Special?
Absolutely. Of course!
A small part of Gloucestershire coming with you.
And thank you very much. Happy Christmas.
But the next stop on my list isn't just making a little extra cash
for Christmas. They've built the bulk of their business
on branching out to meet this seasonal market.
John Hardwick started out by selling home-grown produce door-to-door.
But from these green shoots sprouted a whole new business.
I used to go round all the houses at one time delivering veg,
and then when we got round to Christmas they would all say,
can you supply me with Christmas trees?
So then I would buy a few trees and that is how it all started.
And Christmas trees make up what proportion of your business?
Probably now about 50%,
it has really grown in the last 10 years.
His first few trees have grown into 54 acres of festive forest,
helping John earn the position of chairman
of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association.
How long have they taken to get like this?
8-10 years to get to this size, they were planted at the same year
but some grow quicker than others.
With these spruce-covered slopes busier than Santa's Grotto,
there is no time for idle chatter.
I could get into this.
-Now you've got to net it.
For one big kid, Christmas has come early.
More machines to play with!
There certainly are some fine specimens on here,
but taking a tree to an arboretum all feels a bit coals-to-Newcastle.
Thankfully, they're not the only kind of Yuletide cheer you
will find here.
I have to say, sparkling wine like this always feels a bit more like
France rather than Somerset, but there they are, growing behind us.
-When did you begin this?
-About five or six years ago.
This is our first vintage of the sparkling wine.
Better make sure it's all right.
I'd say this boozy bounty is bound to go down well with
the rest of the gang, but before I make my way to the
Westonbirt's winter wonderland, I've got to make one more stop.
Harnessing the potential Christmas brings is not just about crops.
Livestock can also deliver lucrative opportunities,
as one lady knows only too well.
From her farm in Berkshire, Jackie Rowberry
trains animals to perform on film and television,
but she is increasingly specialising in festive performances,
with an animal synonymous with the season.
There they are!
I don't think I've ever seen them close up before.
How does it work as a business? Seasonal, I would imagine.
Very seasonal, yes.
Sometimes we start in October, and we do films, commercials,
and then November, we are busy with schools, town centre bookings,
and we go right through to Christmas Eve.
-And in that key period, can you make a bit of money?
-It is not too bad.
There are very expensive to keep.
A couple of these, I gather, are going off to Westonbirt.
-Who's on the sleigh?
-Jingle and Bell.
On the sleigh team.
-Are we ready to go?
-Yep. Want to give him a push?
-A little bump start.
'I guess sometimes even Santa's little helpers need a little helper.'
Well, it's Christmas, what did you expect?
Back at Westonbirt, the forestry team are working
tirelessly to keep these trees looking good.
Mark Ballard, the arboretum curator, has been explaining how
he copes with the challenges of keeping the woodland disease-free.
Over the last few years we have heard a lot about threats
to our trees, so how are you and how have you coped?
It's a time like never before, there are lots of threats,
pest and disease.
We keep a close eye on our trees, just to make sure
they are all OK and obviously to keep the people that come to see us safe.
-More so now or have you always had that?
-We have always done that.
Some of the diseases you heard about in the press, some we have, some we
don't, some we expect in the future to hit us, stuff like ash dieback.
But there, we can also play an important role,
because we have about 41 different species of ash.
-You can work out which ones are resistant?
We have researchers closely monitoring those species, with
the hope there may be some tolerance or resistance we don't know.
It is about the biggest picture, working together.
But day-to-day, we have to manage the safety, that is
the most important thing.
During their annual tree safety inspection, the team found
a fungus growing on one of their oldest and most precious oak trees.
To inspect it further, I need to get a better view.
I'm kept in safe hands with arboretum tree climber Andy Bryce.
-So this is the purpose of the journey.
It has been growing on the tree for a number of years,
-sometimes you can tell by these annual rings how old it is.
A bracket fungus is like the tip of an iceberg
and it can have devastating consequences for the life of trees.
How can you work out what kind of impact this is
having inside the tree?
We use a special tool. One of these.
-Just a hammer.
We listen for a change in the wood, from solid wood to decayed wood.
We can have a little tap around and you might be able to hear
the difference from solid wood...
..coming down into something a bit more hollow.
And the danger is then, it affects the structure of it.
Here we are, it could split the tree.
We have a big fork here, we have a lot of weight in it, and there is
a pocket of decay in there, it could cause this to split out.
We are quite happy with what the tree has done to contain it itself,
and we can leave it for a number of years before we do anything.
-Right, shall I do the first shift then?
-I think so.
That means hanging around a bit longer. Good lad. See you later.
If anything happens, I'll let you know.
Tell you what, all this hanging around has made me
feel quite peckish.
Well, I've got just the man to sort out peckish Matt.
None other than Tom Kerridge, a chef with not one but two Michelin stars.
Gastronomic royalty, he's well used to cooking up special treats.
I wonder how he'll fare with our partridge and pear.
Before we start slaving over a hot stove, I want to find
out about Tom's personal connection to Westonbirt Arboretum.
-Tom, you've got memories of coming here, haven't you?
-I have, yes.
It's one of those great memories as a kid,
it's where my mum used to bring me and my brother, we used to come
quite a lot, especially in the winter months, it is amazing, beautiful
place, and I don't think I've been back for about 20, 25 years.
Does it feel like when you were young? Does it bring back memories?
It feels exactly the same, it's amazing,
except there is probably more trees and they are probably a lot bigger.
-You've been practising this recipe for a while.
-This is a recipe specially designed for you.
In a hidden corner of the woods,
we've set up a Countryfile country kitchen - well, it's
a table with a cloth on it and we are surrounded by trees.
But I have a feeling that Tom will
work his magic despite the unusual setting.
OK, I need you to dice this mushroom. Big, chunky pieces.
-And the pear, same sort of size.
-Big and chunky.
-Big and chunky.
What are you cooking?
Obviously, we are outdoors, that means barbecue,
so we are going to do a barbecue kebab-style partridge,
and pheasant kebabs with pear and mushroom.
Wow! And you know we've dispelled that particular myth,
-partridges don't have anything to do with pear trees, sadly.
Never mind, we like the Christmas theme.
Yes, and we'll stick with it for this recipe.
What does Christmas Day mean for you?
Christmas Day, for me, I come from a small family,
and I have married into a big one, and my wife's family, it is
always about people having fun and great food.
-We are getting oak leaves falling on our food.
-I like it.
We are using outdoor flavours for this dish, we are
using some Douglas fir pine, we've got some here that is chopped.
-That's really citrusy.
-Yes, and really powerful.
It will give us that lovely outdoor flavour we are looking for.
You don't get much more local than that.
The partridge is marinated with the Douglas fir, juniper,
salt and thyme.
Into that, some pear cider.
Got to say cider properly, especially in this part of the world.
-You did, that was correct.
-Yeah, that was correct.
So the correct pronunciation of pear cider, or perry, going in.
Along with a lovely cider, Tom adds some English rapeseed oil,
uniting the partridge and pear in a right tasty soaking.
-We have some here.
-How long has that been there for?
-I did this yesterday.
-Fantastic. Then we have a kebab stick.
I will stick a little piece of partridge,
then one of the big chunky pieces.
-Mushroom. I didn't take stalks off.
Then we're going to put a little bit of the pheasant
and a bit of the pear, big chunk of pear.
Going to start putting together kebabs like this ready to go
onto the barbecue.
-Here we go.
-OK. Let's get the first ones on!
-The first sizzle.
-The first sizzle. That's the noise you want to hear, isn't it?
-Not in December, usually.
-No. It makes a nice change, doesn't it?
-OK, so, in here, I have a glaze of caramelised honey,
some of the pheasant stock from the leftover bones
-and a little bit of that pear cider.
-Just brushing it on top of the kebabs.
-Not just any old brush.
No, it is actually a Douglas fir pine brush, they look amazing.
They look so, so good. They're smelling fantastic.
-They're almost, they're not far from being ready.
Not far off tasting!
Oh, look at this.
It is a lovely idea, isn't it?
We should do more outdoor winter barbecues, I think.
That is good. Partridge and pear, the perfect Christmas combo.
I better save these for the others, though.
It is all going a bit too well. We've got reindeer, fizzy wine and food.
I want to step away from the preparations
and take a look at the actual Christmas season.
So many of our Christmas traditions have links to the countryside.
Holly, ivy, mistletoe, even our cards have robins on the front.
First up, Professor Ronald Hutton, a historian from Bristol University.
So, Professor, in your opinion,
where do our Christmas traditions come from?
Right out of ancient pagan times
and the pagans were simply the pre-Christian peoples of Europe.
What did the pagans bring to the Christmas party?
Ways of avoiding feeling suicidal at this dark, cold time of year.
-Which makes sense.
First is greenery,
bringing in whatever is still green in the woods to your homes,
your temples, and later on, your churches, to cheer you up.
Second, light, press back the darkness.
Make your home blaze with a Yule log
and a fire or big, white Christmas candles.
And the third is feasting,
getting round the table with friends and family and making merry.
So, greenery, that would be the mistletoe, the holly?
In practice, until modern times, it is holly and ivy.
Mistletoe is really quite rare until the 18th century,
and in fact nobody seems to kiss underneath it until the 1780s, 1790s
when servants in London start doing it, probably because they are bored,
and then their masters and mistresses see what they're doing and start to snog.
So, where does Father Christmas fit into all this?
He is created in the 1610s as a response to
puritans who are trying to abolish Christmas
because they see it as Catholic and pagan, which it kind of is.
And so those who love Christmas create this character called
Father Christmas, who embodies everything that Christmas means.
And he is strictly about adult enjoyment, does not
give presents to anyone, is not interested in children.
He's about the feasting, the frivolity, the general fun of Christmas.
But, in the 1880s he gets blended with Santa Claus, who is a saint,
St Nicholas, who's patron of children
and we get the Father Christmas we have had ever since.
-So Father Christmas is in fact two people.
I don't know how I'm going to tell my little boy all of this, it will be shocking.
I would wait a few years.
Pagans celebrate the arrival of the shortest day of the year,
winter solstice, on December 21st.
Teresa Mori is a pagan
and she is also a third degree Wiccan high priestess.
For her, the old ways are the best ways.
How do you celebrate Christmas?
I celebrate Christmas like anybody else
would celebrate Christmas, with a few extra things.
And with more awareness of what a lot of the things we do normally
at Christmas actually mean from a symbolic point of view.
So for instance, the Christmas tree which is evergreen,
-like all evergreens, symbolises the continuing life.
The holly, which I have just been cutting, I should say it is very important
when you cut holly to ask the tree, first of all, if it's OK.
That might sound crazy, talking to a tree.
How do you do it? And how do you get the answer?
Using your intuition. And getting the feel for the tree, tuning in.
-Is that why you have chosen paganism?
-One of the reasons, yes.
Paganism is about, it's about joyfulness.
It's about feeling part of the seasonal cycle.
And it is not so much a set of beliefs as what you do and how you feel.
I can see how pagan customs have influenced our modern-day traditions.
And we know about fat man, what about robin?
Where does he fit in to it all?
Christmas isn't Christmas without this little red breasted fellow.
Peter Exley from the RSPB is here to tell me why.
It was the Victorians, they started the trend for sending
Christmas cards and Christmas cards were delivered by postmen who
wore red tunics and so they were called redbreasts.
They are such friendly, fluffy, gorgeous little creatures.
They are colourful, they sing through the winter, few other birds do that.
They're always some of the first birds most people see.
They are tough little blighters, though.
They are, they are fiercely territorial. They hold very small territories
and they will fight to the death to defend them.
There's a much darker side to the robin.
Why do we see them in our back gardens and perched on our spades?
It is because they think we are pigs, believe it or not.
The are a bird of woodland and in their natural habitat
they would follow wild boar or deer as they are rooting over,
and flying down and picking up things like worms,
and in a garden it is like a woodland glade and we are doing
the same as a wild boar or pig would do,
so that is why they like being close to us, following us for food.
Here at Westonbirt the old yuletide customs are embraced.
Father Christmas always sports the traditional green suit that,
together with a wreath of holly and ivy,
represents the coming of spring.
Has it been a good season so far?
Very good, very busy, the elves are working hard.
Looking good, Santa.
There we go, Mr Claus,
not long until you are turning on the Christmas lights here.
And our very own Mr Craven will be helping Mr Claus switch on the lights
but first of all he's some prickly little problems he needs to attend to.
Winter can be a hard time for a lot of British wildlife
and this prickly little fellow finds it particularly tough. The hedgehog.
He should be sleeping away the cold winter months in hibernation,
but like many others like him his calendar is a bit out of kilter.
The trouble is, hedgehogs often have a second or third
litter of babies known as hoglets, in late summer.
But when the weather starts to turn, Mum goes into hibernation
and the late arrivals are left to fend for themselves.
Many of the youngsters have not built up enough fat reserves
in time for the cold weather.
So, if they try to hibernate, they might never wake up.
Luckily, they are determined little creatures
and when it comes to Christmas wishes they have quite a list.
Mary Hinton can fulfil some of those wishes,
she is a volunteer with Help A Hedgehog,
and her garage, a few minutes from Westonbirt, doubles up as a hospital.
This one was found out in the day, in a road.
When he first came in he was only 355g,
so hedgehogs have to be 600g to have a safe chance of hibernating.
And you weigh him in a food bowl!
Yes! Just on a domestic pair of scales.
This is what people can do at home.
He is 605g so he is above danger level now.
This one has done very well, it is now up to a safe weight.
So top of the Christmas wishes list for hedgehogs is a nice fat tummy
and that means lots of lovely food.
-In hedgehog terms he is getting quite chubby now.
What do you feed him on?
Basically we did a mixture of wet cat food, non-fishy,
and we mix it with dried mealworms which they are absolutely
addicted to, so that is a bit of a treat.
And also little cat biscuits and we mix it all together
-and that gives them a good range in their diet.
-What shouldn't you feed them?
You should not give them the bread and milk.
-It's a complete fallacy.
Hedgehogs are lactose intolerance so it makes them very poorly and can kill them.
Hedgehogs are tenacious characters,
which often gets them into a spot of bother.
In some cases they need more than a good meal to put them right.
That's why another perfectly ordinary home has been
transformed into a life-saving facility for hedgehogs in need.
This bungalow also provides high-rise living for 53 hedgehogs.
That's a record number for another helper.
-The festively named Carol Doyton. Shall I hold him?
-Yes, we want to...
Even the tiniest hedgehogs get five-star treatment
-right here in Carol's kitchen.
-This is a special milk.
Milk? I thought you were not supposed to give them milk.
It is special, it is puppy milk that we feed the hogs.
There we go, he's got the hang of it now.
He's really enjoying that, isn't he?
This is a kind of emergency unit, is it?
It is the intensive care unit.
Mainly because little ones need such constant care.
-What is wrong with this one?
-That is our strimmer injury.
-Here's an object lesson to be very careful when you're out in the garden.
It is easy to give the hedgehog a haircut without intending it.
That's right, he's been on antibiotics for a week and
he's also go roundworm
so he is actually on medicines for that as well.
How do you see the future for hedgehogs?
-We keep hearing that they are in a bad way in the wild.
-It is worrying.
It is said that by 2025 there will not be any
-hedgehogs as we know it now.
-Do you believe that?
I do actually because there is just so many things, netting...
That was a really big bite!
No, no, no.
He's obviously got a little bit fed up so
we'll put you back in there.
Hedgehogs are a threat to me,
never mind humans being a threat to hedgehogs!
Lucky you had your gloves on.
Talk about biting the hand that feeds!
But this little fellow will survive to join the dwindling hedgehog population -
down to just under a million today,
compared to an estimated 30 million in the 1950s.
So it is a good job that people like Carol are able to do their bit.
Last spring the Help A Hedgehog volunteers released 160 hogs
back into the wild after keeping them warm and safe through winter.
But there is one more Christmas wish that you can help with.
If you come across a tiny hedgehog like this that is obviously
underweight, best to try and keep it warm
and call someone like Carol or Mary to get help.
But should you find a fully grown hedgehog that is hibernating
cosily somewhere safe just leave it in peace.
That's the best Christmas present any hedgehog could have.
For their size, hedgehogs can be pretty demanding creatures.
But that goes too for the slightly bigger animals down on Adam's farm.
The animals on the farm need checking 365 days of the year.
It doesn't matter if it is Christmas or not.
What we do is make sure we have everything
together for Christmas Day with all the animals well bedded down
with plenty of hay and straw and those sorts of things.
Here we go then!
There, that is a lovely deep bed for them, to keep them warm and snug
and last them a few days.
Right, pig next.
Who's a lovely lady?
She's in here because she's giving birth soon.
One of my lovely iron age sows.
Donkeys next door.
We've a couple of thousand animals on the farm and they all need
checking and feeding every day including Christmas Day,
so my livestock manager and Duncan, my business partner, and I share it
out on the day and go around all the animals in time to get
back for our Christmas turkey and opening presents.
And these donkeys are so sweet,
if these aren't Christmassy I don't know what it is.
Aren't you lovely?
There are a couple of animals on the farm that are definitely going to
get spoiled rotten this Christmas, as Alfie my son has two new friends.
Ferrets might be small but my dad remembers times
when they were essential during the winter months.
You've got some lovely ferrets, they're beautiful!
-You know what ferrets were for?
They used to put them down holes to catch rabbits.
When this country had a depression,
this farm depended on the rabbits, and in the right season, mushrooms,
-to keep them going. That's all they had.
-That was the farm income.
He's lively, this one, isn't he? What are they called, Alf?
-This one is Pepper.
And this one is Scratchy.
I like this one, but that one tends to bite a bit.
You know how they used them?
They put them down the holes and put nets over the holes
so that when the rabbits came out of the warren to escape the ferret,
they'd go into the nets and they'd have them.
I love it that Alfie enjoys working with animals and feeding them.
You'll be out with me on Christmas Day, helping feed the animals.
You won't get your stocking unless you help me out on Christmas Day.
I'm off to Cirencester Ag College, which is now a university.
-You went there, didn't you?
-It is a university, and I did go there,
and recently I've been awarded an honorary fellowship.
I was thrilled and very honoured.
-How long ago were you there?
-I was there when I was 20.
-So that's 60 years ago.
-There we go, you can have Pepper.
And I'll leave you here to look after Alf.
It's great that the family have connections
with our local agricultural university.
They're also preparing for Christmas
and I'm keen to catch up with some of the students before they break up.
Lydia is a second-year agriculture and farm management student.
She's helping get ready for the festive season
by moving some sheep onto their winter grazing,
which will keep them going over the Christmas period.
-You've got some quite good stubble turnips in here.
What have you learnt about these?
Well, stubble turnips are a fantastic crop
to put your animals on over winter.
They're called a catch crop which means
they are planted in-between two main crops.
So, after you've harvested wheat in the summer, you plant these.
Particularly when the grass has stopped growing during winter,
it's a really valuable feed.
Yes, especially because the sheep will eat the whole thing.
And as you can see, there's plenty of it.
And they are very cheap to grow and they grow incredibly quickly,
it only takes about 12 weeks from planting
-until you can put your animals out onto them.
I went to agricultural college and I know it's not all work,
-there's a bit of play involved.
So what do you do to enjoy yourself?
I actually run the college choir, so that's my hobby.
This time of year, with Christmas just around the corner, are you
getting your vocal cords nice and warmed up for the Christmas carols?
Yes, indeed, we are. We've got our uni carol concert coming up soon
so we're all rehearsing like mad.
We've got one this afternoon actually.
-I'll have to come along and sing some carols with you.
While the sheep are happy munching on the stubble turnips,
student Philip Steadman is tending to the pigs.
Come on, pigs, wake up.
-A pig is an important part of what you look at at uni.
Pigs take up a lot of our time.
We learn about their production, life-cycles
and the different systems.
And these pigs are growing fast, aren't they?
Yes, they are a fantastic bunch of pigs.
Just over the corner there, we've got some pigs that are about
100-110 kilos, so they'll soon be ready to go off to the butchers
just in time for Christmas.
-So, you are involved with the choir?
-Yes, I am.
-What is your part?
Well, I tinkle the ivories now and again,
-but I'll turn my hand to anything.
-So you're on the piano?
-Yes, I am.
I've got the job of rounding up the team for practice this afternoon.
-Shall we get to it?
-I think we should.
As the daylight hours close in,
the students prepare for a choir practice.
# Hark, the herald angels sing... #
-They're very good, aren't they?
-They are, yes.
-This is a lovely way to relax after study.
-It is, yes.
It's quite a good way of releasing tension and it's also nice
because it's a festive time as well.
# Joyful, all ye nations rise
# Join the triumph of the skies... #
They are very good, actually. It's given me an idea for later.
This lot deserve an audience
and I know exactly where to find one.
# Hark the Herald Angels sing
# Glory to the newborn king. #
So the choir are on their way, the reindeer have arrived.
-Hello to all the girls here.
I'm very excited about this tree you've been decorating with lights.
-What scheme have you gone for?
-I've gone for festive disco splendour.
-All bases covered, then.
Don't worry about the tree, I'm quietly confident about it.
Have you got your hands on a Countryfile calendar for next year?
All sorted. You would not believe how organised I am for 2014.
-All dates in?
-All the important dates marked up.
If you want to get hold of one of these, details are on the website.
Lots of beautiful photographs.
You want one of these on your kitchen wall.
So, Father Christmas is coming with the rest of the Countryfile team.
But answer me this question - I think I know the answer.
Have you been dreaming of a white Christmas?
Of course I've been dreaming of a white Christmas, you know I have.
Look, I can make your Christmas dreams come true.
-It would make me ecstatic.
-Look at this.
-I've marked it up in the calendar.
-You are amazing, Matt Baker.
Well, with fingers crossed, we will hand over to the BBC Weather Centre
for the Countryfile Christmas forecast.
We have a woodland theme for this year's Countryfile Christmas special.
Have you all heard the special guest coming for the big switch on?
-Really? Oh, good.
And it is a big switch on.
1,000 lights, lasers and bubbles
and one very special illuminated Indian cedar tree as well.
We've all been assigned our roles, and I gather we are going
to check on the lighting display on the Scots Corner.
-What happens if the lights don't go on?
-Put more money in the meter.
-Lovely. We've got some sustenance here to keep you going.
-Oh, that's delicious.
-A partridge kebab.
So you're heading for the Scots Corner then.
-Everybody else know what their roles are?
-Yes, we do.
Can I take another one of them? Lovely, let's go. See you in a bit.
# O, little town of Bethlehem...
# How still we see thee lie
# Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
# The silent stars go by... #
Among all the stalls here is one from our hedgehog helpers,
with lots of sorts of things here. Look, very nice, aren't they?
Christmas gifts, all hedgehog related. Oh, yeah.
Hello. How is it going? All right?
-Passing on the message to the visitors
-about keep an eye out for hedgehogs?
And I shall dash off shortly to pick up another one from Gloucester.
-It never stops, your work, does it?
-No, it doesn't.
# And praises sing to God the King
# And peace to men on earth
# For Christ is born of Mary... #
-Very good, how was the flight?
-It was great, but a bumpy landing.
-You've picked up a couple of hitchhikers on the way.
There she is, not quite in all her splendour yet.
Now, just remind me of the scheme.
Festive, disco splendour.
I just hope John and Father Christmas hurry up,
-I can't wait to see it.
-I know. I'm on tenterhooks.
-Has anybody seen Father Christmas yet?
-What was he wearing?
# Here comes Santa Claus Here comes Santa Claus... #
You've brought two of your reindeer with you as well.
Yes, it's Jingle and Bell tonight.
-Handsome looking creatures, aren't they?
And a big crowd of people to welcome you, Father Christmas.
-How about that?
And look, here's a plunger to switch the lights on with,
-Would you like to help do it, John?
-Thank you very much.
And shall we have a countdown from this great big crowd we have? OK?
Three, two, one...
-Julia, that is lovely.
Look at that!
# A beautiful sight Oh, we're happy tonight
# Walking in a winter wonderland...
Wow! Look at all the rainbow colours!
It is stunning amongst all the trees, isn't it?
Yes, it's really, really good.
# He's singing a song as we go along
# Walking in a winter wonderland...
-This is Julian's tree. What do you think of it?
-It's very pretty.
-It is pretty, isn't it?
-It's not just the branches, it's the shadows.
-All the shapes.
-It all disappears off into the darkness, lovely.
# But you can do the job when you're in town...
-Which is your favourite one?
-The big one.
-Yes, the blue.
The blue one.
-It's like a magical kingdom.
-Isn't it just? Yes.
# Walking in a winter wonderland. #
Oh, magic, isn't it?
Well, that is it from our Christmas special from Westonbirt Arboretum.
-Hasn't it been lovely?
-It has been delicious.
We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Oh, boys! Oh, lovely!
-Have a good one.
The Countryfile team celebrate the festive season with a woodland Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, lighting up a mile-long stretch of enchanted woodland with glitter balls, lasers, meteorite lights and bubbles full of smoke.
Julia Bradbury acts as lighting apprentice for the day, learning from the experts how to create a magical festive display. Matt Baker learns about the history of the ancient woodland, and how the Forestry Commission keep the trees happy and healthy.
John Craven is with the volunteers who run the hedgehog hospitals. They are overflowing at this time of year with juvenile hedgehogs who need fattening up before they go into hibernation. Tom Heap finds out how farmers capitalise on Christmas. Some sell Christmas trees and mistletoe, while others have reindeers for Christmas events.
Adam Henson is on his farm settling his animals in for the Christmas period, with his father and his son lending a hand. He also visits his local agricultural college in Cirencester, seeing how the students there prepare for their break and tracking down the choir for a few carols.
Ellie Harrison is with Michelin award-winning chef Tom Kerridge as they cook up something tasty with partridge and pears in the woodland.
The whole team come together at the end of the programme for the big light switch on and some festive cheer.