John Craven looks at the year ahead, visits the Killerton Estate and introduces some choice Countryfile films from the last few years.
Browse content similar to Compilation - The Countryfile Calendar Year. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Devon at first light - a picture of serenity.
The calm after the hectic rush of Christmas.
Wintry fields softly carpet the rolling landscape,
the bare bones of trees, silhouetted against the low winter sun.
The 12 days of Christmas are over tonight,
but here, at Killerton House,
the days ahead are going to be pretty busy.
There's plenty of preparation to be done to keep the house
and the surrounding estate ticking over as the new year unfolds.
Today, I'll be going behind the scenes to see what
it takes to get a country estate like this ready for all
the visitors in the year ahead.
And whilst they're looking forward at Killerton,
we'll be looking back through our archives at our own
Countryfile calendar year, revisiting seasonal scenes
as inspired by some of our winning photographs.
Matt blows away the cobwebs with a bracing dip.
It's so challenging.
It's like swimming up massive hills all the time.
Julia goes on a wildlife hunt in the Kielder Forest.
Oh, look, they're so fluffy!
Hello. Oh, gosh, so gorgeous.
And the weather causes havoc down on Adam's Farm.
Farming in the snow like this just takes up so much time
and is such a big effort.
I could really do with it going away.
Today, I'm in the grounds and surrounds of Killerton House.
With 15 working farms, extensive gardens
and over 60 miles of pathways, there's plenty to be done to
'get the place shipshape for the upcoming year.'
Lying a few miles north of Exeter, the Killerton estate takes up quite
a chunk of mid-Devon, stretching to a whopping ten square miles.
In fact, that's about the same size as Exeter.
Killerton House was built in 1779 for one of Devon's
oldest families, the Aclands.
It was their home for over three centuries
until Sir Richard Acland inherited it in 1939.
He was a strong believer in common ownership
and gave away the estate to the National Trust
so that the general public could visit and enjoy it.
Area ranger Ed Nicholson
is the man charged with getting the place ready for
the forthcoming year and he's got a very long to-do list.
What a fantastic gift this was from Sir Richard to the nation
and, obviously, a round-the-year job keeping it looking
-good for the public.
-Yeah, it is.
We've got a great team here that work very hard year-round and we have
jobs that keep us busy from January right through to the end of December.
-And everything feeds back, does it?
-Yeah, that's right.
We try and produce as much from the estate as we can to go back in.
So, we make our own cider from the orchards,
harvest our own venison from the forests.
All of those sort of things just help to keep the estate the way
-it should be.
-So, what's the first job today, then?
First job today - light the charcoal kiln.
We're going to make some charcoal through our woodland management.
-I'll catch up with you later, then.
The gardens here were stocked with varieties
brought back by great plant hunters in the 1800s.
'And with 18 acres to tend, for the gardening team, there is
'little time for idle chat.'
-Can I stop you, Kate? You're the head gardener, aren't you?
-A job for all seasons here.
Yes, people have this weird conception that we do
nothing in the winter except sit around and drink coffee.
That would be nice. But, in fact, it's the busiest time of year.
It's a really physical time of year
when we actually get the big jobs done.
So, what's going on at the moment?
Here, we are clearing out an area that's been slightly neglected.
So, a lot of brambles to come out,
a lot of tired, older shrubs to come out.
Then we will regenerate the area and replant.
What else is on your to-do list today, then?
I need to go and have a look at the Bear's Hut,
-which needs some restoration.
-The Bear's Hut?
-The Bear's Hut.
-A hut for bears?
-It was, yes.
Kate tells me that one of the house's former owners
used to keep a pet bear cub called Tom in the Bear Hut.
A gift brought back from Canada in the 1860s.
So, this is it. I was expecting a cage.
It is very rustic but it was built as a rustic summerhouse
in about 1808, when the garden was originally laid out.
It was built as a wedding present for the lady of the house
as a sort of tea hut.
-What is it like inside?
-Have a look.
-This is very rustic, isn't it?
-The floor is made of sort of cuts of timber. Very nicely designed.
What have we got through here?
Through here, this is the room that used to be described as quite macabre
-and it was in decidedly bad taste.
-It looks like a coconut mat to me.
-It is deer knuckle bones.
Deer knuckle bones cut in half, so you get two knuckles for each bone,
and set down into this pattern.
I have never seen anything like that before.
And then, on the ceiling, you've got a deerskin.
-A very elaborate home for a bear cub.
And being so rustic,
you do wonder how much survived with a bear cub living in here.
-Yes. A wonderful place.
-It is. And loved by children.
They come rushing up to try and find the bear cub up here.
Nobody's found him yet. But you never know when he might appear.
Well, I doubt we'll see Tom the bear today -
he'll be hibernating away from this cold weather.
What was that?
It may be a bit grey here
but many of you will be starting your new year basking in the glow
from your wall of January's image in our Countryfile calendar.
Well, Matt blew away the cobwebs under Brighton Pier
a few years ago when he went for a bracing dip.
The Brighton Outdoor Swimming Club is the oldest swimming club in Britain.
Its members swim every day, all year round, in all weathers.
It's 7.30 in the morning and while most are struggling to get
out of bed, this intrepid bunch are about to set off for their daily dip.
-Well, a very good morning, team. How are we? ALL:
I have to say, I feel completely overdressed.
-Is this a good morning for it?
-It's good. Not too rough.
Prefer it to be a bit flatter, but it's OK.
Of all the things that you could choose as a form of exercise,
why do you want to go for, you know, the "swimming in the sea" option?
It's free. It's just a really lovely sense of sort of being in touch
-with nature, really.
-The sea, the coldness, makes my body tingle.
And it lasts for most of the day. It's a lovely feeling.
Right. Time to take to the water.
I'll tell you what, it's really, really nippy in there.
At this time of year, the sea's at its coldest -
only five degrees above freezing, which means
they can only stay in there for ten minutes without risking hypothermia.
-Yeah? Feeling OK?
-Yeah, feels good now.
-Less cold now than I was before I got in.
Yes. I'll get cold in about five minutes' time, though.
-Well, you'd better head up there, then.
-Was that one all right for you?
But there's more to it than simply kick-starting your day,
as anaesthetist Dr Mark Harper knows.
-How is it this morning? Fresh?
-"Fresh", I think is what you'd say.
Give us an idea of the health benefits of the sea.
Quite a lot, actually.
The main one, really, is probably on the immune system.
It has been shown that improves the function of your white blood cells.
People who swim in the sea all year round, all through winter,
get less chest infections than people who don't.
It also has strong effect on the hormonal system.
Things like more adrenaline, which is a bit like...adrenaline -
it really gives you a buzz. This kind of buzz lasts all day.
When I first started swimming in the sea, this is what I really noticed.
God, I'm just buzzing all day.
'It's sounding more and more enticing
'but, before I take the plunge, I'm off to get inspiration
'from Channel swimmer Fiona Southwell,
'who became the oldest woman to swim the Channel at the age of 50.'
I put on a stone and a half for my Channel swim.
You know, you do need that fat.
It took me 20 hours to swim the Channel.
I was burning 6,000 calories an hour
but being fed 10,000 calories an hour by my feeds
and I still lost half a stone.
There's a section in the middle that's particularly...
The separation zone, yes. It's between the English and French
shipping lanes and that's quite a difficult stretch of water.
25mph winds and huge white-horse waves.
But, you know, I loved that. I just rose to that.
Because I'd trained here for years in quite rough seas,
so it didn't vex me, whereas it did vex quite a lot of other swimmers.
Yeah, cos there was a few out that day.
Five other swimmers, I think, that day attempting it
and I was the only one to get across on that day.
For all those people that would be sat watching this,
thinking that you are absolutely mad to go in and swim in the sea,
-what would you say to them?
-Oh, you know, it's the most uplifting,
exhilarating experience and feeling of well-being afterwards.
Having said that, I do fall asleep in the afternoon.
In these temperatures.
It is a huge shock to the system.
I've got a little surprise organised for them
a little bit later on but, in order to experience this
sea swimming for myself, there's just one thing for it -
I'm going to have to get into the water.
Well, I'm not that stupid.
Paul, in all seriousness, it is
pretty dangerous getting in the water at this time of year, in the sea?
Absolutely. There are swimmers that swim all year round without
wet suits but they are swimming every single day of the year
and they're gradually acclimatising their bodies.
If you haven't done that and you're just taking a dip,
a wet suit, two swimming hats, a pair of gloves - essential.
I'll tell you what, there's some big'uns coming in here.
But it's time to goggle up and get out there.
'The cold, I was ready for. But not the rough conditions.'
The wind kicks up an enormous amount of chop. There's one.
It's so challenging.
It's like swimming up massive hills all the time
and to maintain the front crawl is difficult.
'We're heading to a pontoon,
'where I've got a treat in store for my fellow swimmers.'
Oh, yes. Made it to the pontoon.
I'll tell you what, that is exhausting.
Well, back in 1880s, an eccentric member of the swimming club
set up tea parties on pontoons just like this one -
a welcome break for everybody.
Now, it's a little bit choppy today, but we're catching cups
and we've got a flask full of tea. So, let's celebrate!
And up we go, lovely. There's...
-There's one. Cheers, everyone. ALL:
Can I have mine black, please?
From the Victorian bathing huts of yesteryear
to the Channel swimmers of today, the wonderfully eccentric
adventures of the Brighton Swimming Club look set to continue.
'Back on dry land at Killerton, spring has sprung early.
'I'm on the estate's oldest tenant farm, which is
'welcoming its newest arrivals.
'Arthur Salter runs the farm.'
How old do you reckon this farm is, Arthur?
They think it's about 15th century.
-And how long have your family been here?
The family have been here very nearly 150 years.
I bet a lot of people would be surprised to see
-lambs at this time of year.
-There are a few early lambs about.
It just happens to fit in with the system at the farm.
The lambs are bred in the winter whilst
the workload on the farm is quiet.
It means they'll then be ready to savour the first shoots of spring.
Once the lambs are sold, the pasture can recover and then
the cattle will go out to graze,
making the best use of the farming year.
-Feeding time, Mark, is it?
'But before they get out to pasture,
'some of the lambs need a helping hand from shepherd Mark Hodgson.'
Here's a thirsty one.
This must be a really busy time of year for you, Mark.
How many lambs will you have all together?
Probably about 150-200.
And will they eventually get out and graze?
Obviously, we'll start letting them out now
in the next couple of weeks, probably.
-Well, these seem pretty fit, pretty hungry.
-Fit lambs at the moment.
Getting through the whole bottle very quickly.
Three times a day, they all drink a bottle.
'Of course, most of our lambs don't appear until springtime,
'when this striking calendar image could be gracing your wall.'
A couple of years ago,
Ellie got her own glimpse of some rare birds of prey on Exmoor,
birds that once would have been a common sight
in the British countryside.
These days, getting a glimpse of one of these magnificent
creatures in the wild is a rare treat.
What precious few remain risk being targeted
by those who see birds of prey as competition.
This is a picture of a rare goshawk found dead near Exeter.
It was deliberately poisoned, along with three other goshawks.
But with only 20 breeding pairs left in the whole county,
it represents a really significant loss.
'Josh Marshall is a wildlife crime officer.
'It's his job to try and catch people attacking birds of prey.'
Who are these people, then, doing all this?
With birds of prey,
the national picture would suggest that, with goshawks,
you've got gamekeepers or people you'd associate with
the shooting fraternity that may want to poison the birds.
Not saying that they all do.
There are some really reputable shoots out there as well.
What can you do to combat the problem?
We've got these motion-activated covert cameras now,
which we've placed on certain nest sites within Devon,
hopefully to catch these people
who are thinking about committing these sort of dreadful acts.
'Today, at a secret location,
'Josh is checking a goshawk nest and a camera.'
-Got your ladder.
Ellie, goshawks are really sensitive and prone to disturbance
-so we need to keep that to a minimum on the visit.
So, I'm going to leave you here while I go up
-and service the batteries on the camera.
-I'll wait for you, then.
-See you in a bit.
We've actually had to have special permission just to get this far,
let alone going up to the nest, so I'll leave Josh to that one.
It a pretty cold day today so he's going to have to be really quick.
He's got to be in there, service the camera and back out again because we
don't want the eggs, or the chicks, if they've hatched already,
-to get cold.
-I think something's wrong.
-Well, unfortunately, the camera's gone.
The good news is that the birds are still there.
The female was there when I was there so...
And it doesn't appear that there's
been any attempt on the nest or anything.
Some of the cameras are wireless
so they'll e-mail the images back
to computers back at the police station.
So, potentially, we could have the image of them taking
-the camera there.
-So, technology, actually, is a step ahead?
-You can't take the camera and get away with it.
-That's right, yeah.
-You'll get done for theft as well.
-Well, there you go.
'With the help of technology and policemen like Josh,
'perhaps one day rare birds of prey
'can prosper just as they did centuries ago.'
In medieval times, the sport of falconry was big business.
A bird of prey was a status symbol that said "power and wealth".
So, today, where we might have a flashy watch or
piece of jewellery, back then, it was all about the bird.
The wide-open space of Putsborough Sands provides the perfect arena
to meet Jonathan Marshall, a falconer who's keeping
the tradition alive... and going one step further.
Wow, what handsome-looking animals you have here. Who's this?
This is Quinn, who is a peregrine falcon. A little male peregrine.
-He's a cracker. He's a beautiful bird.
I bred him myself so...
And the hood's just to keep them... Stop from... Not spooked.
We're just go to fly him shortly and so he doesn't waste all his energy,
we hood him first, so when I do fly him he's all revved up, ready to go.
-Amazing. So, you bred this one.
-Yeah, I bred this one.
I've had him since he was an egg.
He was a very good-looking egg, but even better-looking as an adult.
Absolutely. And what about this horse?
Well, this is one of my best horses.
His name's Tulio and he's a Lusitano.
He's an ex-bullfighting horse, came from Portugal.
So, falconry is a sport, but how come you've brought horses into that?
Well, originally, falconry was practised from horseback
because, of course, in years gone by they didn't have
Land Rovers so they needed to get from A to B somehow and horses,
at that time, were very much part of everyday life.
And this particular breed of horse,
and all of the Spanish horses, were exceptionally good
for falconry because they're quick on their feet, they're very agile,
they're very manoeuvrable.
These horses were about the best and still are.
I'm looking forward to this, Jonathan.
-I'll go over there and see you in action.
Incredibly neat, tight riding.
Jonathan swings in the lure above his head to tempt the falcon
into diving for a catch.
The speed of that peregrine!
Oh! That's awesome! It can fly through the horse's legs.
Through the legs again, that's amazing.
'Seeing horse and bird move so gracefully under Jonathan's
'direction is like watching a carefully choreographed ballet.'
It's a beautiful scene.
'Finally, Jonathan lets the falcon take the lure.'
Ha-ha! Wow! I have never seen horsemanship like it.
That was amazing.
Jonathan, how would you even begin to start training to do this?
Well, rather than explaining, why don't I just show you?
-Yes, good thinking.
-Have a go. Take a glove.
-There you go.
'Jonathan brings out his second bird, the Harris hawk.'
Oh, here we go.
'What a beautiful animal.'
OK, one, two, three.
'But I must admit,
'I'm a little bit nervous about doing this on horseback.'
-There you go.
-Thank you very much.
-Put one on there.
-Raise your hand up nice and high.
Here we go. HE WHISTLES
Your best falconer's whistle.
Oh, wow. That was awesome. Jonathan, what an experience.
'Back on the Killerton estate, they're getting the place
'ready for the year ahead.
'With 160,000 visitors annually there's lots to do.
'I'm heading through the orchards to meet up again with area ranger
What's going on here, Ed?
Just racking off the cider,
so taking the part-fermented cider, a good cider
that's still got fermentation to go, off the dead yeast.
-So, it's going into another tank, is it?
-Yeah, Alison's over there.
We've got a clean tank and eventually come April-May,
we'll have a finished product.
'Ed tells me they've got 50 acres of orchard with
'over 100 different varieties of apple,
'many of which are specially cultivated for cider.
'In fact in olden times farmers around here often used to
'pay their workers in cider.
'Not sure that would be allowed today!'
We had a great autumn last year.
Lots of fruit and people often say that we only use
half of our fruit and we waste the other half.
Well, yeah, we do only use half of our fruit for human consumption.
The other half of the fruit isn't wasted in our mind
because it's used for wildlife and the migrating birds that come over
and use these orchards as such special habitats.
That's deliberate policy, then?
Yeah, the cider is a by-product of our orchard management and
we manage these traditional habitats primarily for the wildlife.
And what kind of cider do you produce?
Is it scrumpy or is it pure cider?
This is part of the reason why we're doing the racking off.
We want to produce quite a fine cider.
We wouldn't want to leave it on the dead yeast, which can produce
quite a rough, scrumpy form of cider,
so basically we're taking this off now
and we do two different varieties, a dry and a slightly sparkling sweet.
All this talk of cider is giving me a bit of a thirst, Ed.
Well, I think we ought to organise a little bit of a tasting later on.
It is the end of the festive season, after all, isn't it?
'From the russet tones of autumn's harvest to the dusky hues
'of the sun setting behind the island of Ailsa Craig,
'our September image in the Countryfile calendar.
'I had my own island adventure off the coast of Northumberland last
'year, in search of a creature whose life we know very little about.
'Underwater cameraman Ben Burville is at the start of a five-year
'project to learn more about the life of this elusive mammal.'
What are the chances of us seeing this creature?
-With nature, you never know, John.
'Our high-speed RIB will take us far out to sea to an area where
'they've been spotted in the past.'
So, what exactly is it that we're looking for?
What we're looking for today, John, is this.
This is a white-beaked dolphin,
the most abundant dolphin in the North Sea, with about 8,000 to
10,000 of them in there, but one that very few people know much about.
Why is that?
It's really the fact that it tends to be in deeper waters
and tends to be offshore.
Is it important now to find out more about these dolphins?
It is important for their conservation and also to find out
whether activities that we do can affect them in an adverse way.
'Ben's a GP by day but away from the surgery
'he's an underwater cameraman.'
-Yeah, got one, dolphin.
-Dorsal fin, five o'clock. Quarter of a mile.
-Give me a range.
Quarter of a mile. Five o'clock.
-Oh, there it is, see it there?
-What is it?
It's actually a minke whale.
It's a minke whale. It's not a white-beaked dolphin.
No, it's not a white-beaked dolphin. That's a minke whale.
'It's a great sighting, but thrilling as it is to spot
'a minke whale, it's not the reason why we're out here today.'
'We head further out into the North Sea to continue our search.'
Why have we stopped, then, because nobody has seen a dolphin?
No, no, we've just stopped
because there's quite a few puffins over there in the water.
Is that a sign that maybe there are dolphins around?
It's a sign there may be food in the water, there may be big sand eels.
There could be dolphins there as well.
There could well be dolphins there as well, we hope.
'To use an old landlubber saying,
'it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.
'Now, we're rendezvous-ing with Newcastle University's marine
'research ship, The Princess Royal.
'Today, Ben is working alongside Simon Laing,
'whose team is hoping to find out what effect the construction of
'wind farms at sea has on dolphins
'and Simon is using sound, not pictures.'
What have we got here, then, Simon?
This is a towed hydrophone,
-a special type of microphone that listens...
I've see lots of microphones in my time
but never one that looked like this.
This is a special microphone that listens for sounds underwater.
'But the really clever part is in here.'
Now the microphone's in the water we can come over to the computer
and as soon as we press "record", what we'll start to see is some
of the sounds that we're hearing right now popping up on the screen.
That's background noise that you're seeing on-screen.
What sort of symbol would you see if it was a white-beaked dolphin?
Well, we would hopefully see a red triangle popping up on screen
and that would mean we're recording something in real-time
and it would be about 200m behind the vessel.
Can you actually hear the sound of the dolphins?
Well, dolphins make two types of sounds.
They make whistles and they make clicks.
We can hear the whistles but we can't hear the clicks.
In fact I've got a recording here of some white-beaked dolphin
whistles, if you'd like to have a listen.
-That really is a whistle, isn't it?
One of the things we're trying to determine with this project -
"Do the dolphins in the north-east of England have a different
"whistle to those in Scotland?" Because that would indicate
those two populations are very separate if that is the case.
And what's the research telling you, that they might?
The research at the moment is that telling us
they may well have different whistles, yeah.
So, you could well have, in this bit of the North Sea, Geordie dolphins?
With a Geordie accent?
Potentially, yes, you could have Geordie dolphins in the north-east.
'Whatever the accent, there's not a whistle right now
'from the white-beaked dolphins, so we are obviously in the wrong place.
'I'm going to try my luck again with Ben.'
There we go.
Don't it, whoops!
'Ben reckons our best chance of seeing the dolphins lies 18 miles
'out in the Farne Deeps,
'where the sea floor will be around 100m below us.
'That's equivalent to the height of St Paul's Cathedral.'
'We've arrived at our destination.
'All we can do now is keep our eyes peeled and hope.'
Oh, there we are look, straight there!
CREW SHOUT EXCITEDLY
-15m from us.
-OK, here at the front of the boat.
-I see them there.
-Can you see it? There we are!
So, this is a white-beaked dolphin and it's choosing to bow-ride.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, wow.
-A beautiful sight, John.
Isn't it an amazing sight! And I can see the white beaks so clearly now.
'What's incredible to me is that these wild creatures
'want to come so close to our boat and just play around.
'Now, it's illegal to disturb dolphins
'so Ben's been granted a special licence to dive close to them.'
This is a massive pod, isn't it?
This is a big pod. It's an aggregation here.
-Several pods, do you think?
-Without a doubt.
All gathered together. It will be interesting to see what you find.
SQUEAKING AND CLICKING
-John, I am surrounded by dolphins.
-What an experience!
When they're under the water, John,
they're using their echolocation
and they're using clicks and whistles.
And the whistles really are to communicate with each other
and the maximum we can hear is about 20 kilohertz.
-Here we go, I'm just going to have a quick look at that one.
SQUEAKING AND CLICKING
-Quite amazing to see, isn't it?
-What did we get, then?
Without doubt, some identification of males and females.
What do you notice about their behaviour?
Their behaviour is that they're inquisitive.
They are amazing wildlife just off our shores here, you know,
-and these dolphins...
-That we know so little about?
-So little about.
The information you're gathering underwater
could be vital for the future protection of these species?
It certainly could for the future protection of these creatures.
Yes, John, you're right.
'That really was a first,
'a pioneering trip that I'll never forget.'
'Today, we're behind the scenes on the Killerton estate in Devon -
'a hive of activity as it gets ready to open its doors to the public
'in the months ahead.'
Well, this is a pretty unassuming building from the outside,
but I'm told that inside there's a real treasure chest. Let's go see.
Well, what a surprise!
I was expecting something vaguely agricultural
but instead we've got costumes.
Rows upon rows of costumes, by the look of it.
-Are you in charge of them?
-Yes, I am.
How many have you got altogether?
Well, we have about 20,000 items on our database altogether.
And how did they get here, then?
They came here in the mid-1970s after the death of the original collector
and once they'd been displayed at Killerton,
we began to acquire more things.
These costumes are now part and parcel of the Killerton estate,
and some are even older than the house itself,
ranging from the 1690s to the 1970s.
Each garment has a unique number and the store room is kept
at a constantly cool temperature to preserve them.
So, do all these costumes just stay in here?
At the moment, they're "resting", to use a theatrical term.
What happens when they're not resting, then?
When they're not resting, their moment comes along,
and they go on display.
I make a selection every year for the annual exhibition,
so next month, we'll be opening the exhibition,
and Charlotte's just preparing some of the pieces
to go on show at the moment.
A selection of the costumes has been displayed
annually at the house for the past 35 years.
This year's theme is The Nature of Fashion, showcasing natural fibres.
Excuse me, ladies!
What are you doing here, Charlotte?
I'm actually using cold steam,
just to apply a bit of moisture to the fibres to make them relax,
and therefore, for the creases to drop out.
Obviously, with a period garment, you can't actually iron it,
because the hot temperature would obviously damage the fibres.
How difficult is it to take a dress like this from the rack
and turn it into something that looks real?
It's a process that takes about three or four days,
to mount something correctly.
And what kind of era are we talking about here?
This dress is about 1870.
This dress is going into next month's exhibition, is it?
Yes, this is part of the display for next month.
And what about this one?
This one, too. This is 1914, Broderie Anglaise, day dress.
-Which is rather pretty.
-Looks more like a nightdress to me.
It does look like a nightdress, but no, it's a day dress.
-And that's cotton?
-That's cotton, that one's silk.
All very much part of your theme.
Yes, we're talking about natural fibres and natural fabrics,
so linen, cotton, silk, wool.
Visitors even get their own chance to try on some of the costumes.
Now, here's a fine looking wardrobe.
And there's a notice on it. "Open me".
It's a dressing room for the exhibition.
There's men's period fashion as well.
There's plenty to inspire here, as there is with our calendar.
October's image is of a hungry red squirrel having a snack.
A couple of years ago, Julia went looking for squirrels herself,
as well as a host of other wildlife, in one of our largest
man-made forests - Kielder, in Northumberland.
The open, rugged moorland here was transformed in the 1920s
to meet the demand for wood after World War I.
Today, it's just as vast and valuable as it ever was,
but it's managed for more than just profit.
Now, Kielder is valued for its views and its wonderful wildlife.
Graham Gill is in charge of managing
the entire 150,000-acre woodland.
20% of all the timber produced in England comes from this forest.
-From this very spot?
-From this very spot.
If I asked you to put a price on each tree,
what would you come back with?
Well, a single tree standing in the forest isn't worth very much.
-It's about £5 for a tree.
Doesn't sound a lot, when we've spent maybe 50 years growing that tree,
and that's what it's worth. But it does multiply up.
And also, the work's become easier, hasn't it,
-thanks to machines like this?
It works out itself on the computer how to get the best value
out of that tree, and then it cuts the tree off the stump, and it
strips off the branches, and then it's pre-programmed to cut the right
length and diameter of products from the tree.
And it looks good!
So, when you're in the business of providing wood for tables
and chairs, just how do you add a little beauty to the mix?
Well, here, they've softened the woodland edges
and brought in broadleaf trees to make the forest that little bit
more alluring for the 200,000 visitors that come here every year.
And a lucky few may even catch a glimpse of our rarest mammals, too.
This might be a man-made forest, but a wide variety of wildlife
have quite happily taken up residence here.
The guy keeping an eye on the wonderful wildlife
is Martin Davison.
Well, this is a great spruce forest,
and a large number of cone bearing trees,
which means a lot of food resource for red squirrels.
-And here is an absolute classic red squirrel dining table.
These are typical chewed up cones... The squirrel picks them up,
feeds in the tree and just drops them,
or comes down onto the ground and just happily gnaws away on them.
But, what about the grey squirrels?
The grey squirrels don't survive very well on small seeded cones,
so, what we're hoping is that,
because we've got such a huge reservoir of spruce trees
within the forest, is that the greys will never do very well within
the forest and the red will continue to thrive.
-And thriving they are.
Here at Kielder, we have two-thirds of the English population.
The red squirrel's not the only rare species
to make this forest their home.
So, what are we doing here?
I've brought you here, Julia,
to hopefully show you something quite exciting.
Down underneath that branch there's exactly what we're after.
There's a nice tail feather, that's off a female goshawk.
-So, you've got goshawks in the forest?
We've got a few pairs of goshawks in the forest.
Because they're very rare.
They are, yes. And it's exciting to have them. Very exciting.
-That is exciting. So, he or she?
-It's she, Julia.
It's a female goshawk's feather, nice, broad band in the tail,
-with a nice whitely-buffed tip.
Top predators of the forest,
goshawks are ideally suited to hunting in the densest cover.
With their malleable wings, they can manoeuvre around branches
in flight, and reach speeds of up to 50kmh.
At this time of the year,
they'll be nesting high up in the top of the canopy.
Now, this is their favourite tree, where the bird
-often has prey underneath, so we'll go and check that.
-This is exactly what we're after.
-So, this is a feeding ground?
The bird, what happens is, a male comes into the site carrying prey.
He plucks, he might let the head, have a feed,
and then brings in the rest of the carcass.
And so, you end up with bits of bones. That's a wood pigeon.
-Right, well, it was a wood pigeon.
-It was a wood pigeon!
-What have we got here? We've got a little skull, here.
-Oh, it's a red squirrel.
-It is, it is.
They are a forest bird.
Squirrels are forest animals. You'd expect them to eat red squirrels.
It will not harm the population at all.
When the squirrels are having a good year, obviously,
more get predated, but in a poor year,
when there's not so many squirrels, they are too hard to catch.
It's only when they're common that they take one or two.
Well, Julia, there's been an awful lot of signs today,
but I'm really hoping that we're going to show you something alive.
-It's a bird box.
-It is. So, let's see if anybody's at home.
That's a bill clapping.
-It's a tawny owl.
-It is, it is.
-You can help us ring him, if you want.
-And it's OK to handle them?
-It is, yes.
-Oh, look, they're so fluffy!
And here, we have one very large tawny owl chick.
-So, if you want to handle and hold this one.
-Yes, of course.
-Because there's two.
Look at that!
Absolutely lovely, aren't they?
Hello. Aw, gosh, so gorgeous.
Not long off fledging. Ha-ha!
If you just hold him, yes, just gently, by the leg, and just
put your other hand underneath, that's absolutely perfect.
Oh, look at that.
The tawnies are thriving in Kielder.
There are now over 200 nesting boxes in the forest.
By ringing the baby owls,
Martin can keep track of their population for years to come.
He's enjoying his bed.
If you try to do this in the middle of the night, it would
be jumping about, food calling, hungry,
but in the middle of the day, they're just having a siesta, basically.
-You never get sick of looking at them.
Hopefully, this little fellow will survive, thrive and, in time,
return here to breed.
Today, we're looking forward to this new year by looking back
at some of our favourite moments
inspired by the winning entries in our photographic competition.
And, if you're planning for the year ahead,
as they are here at Killerton, well, it's not too late to get
a Countryfile calendar for all those important dates.
It costs £9, and comes with free delivery.
If you'd like one, then please go to the Countryfile website.
There, you'll find all the details you'll need to order your copy.
And at least £4 from the sale of every calendar
goes to the BBC Children In Need appeal.
But, you'll have to wait
until the last month of the year to find this snowy scene.
It looks stunning,
but there's no letup for farmers in these bleak conditions.
The winter of 2010 was a bad one on Adam's farm.
When there are animals to look after, you simply can't take a day off.
I'm all dressed up in thermals and waterproof trousers,
waterproof jacket, gloves and I'm feeling fairly toasty,
but these animals have to stay out in the snow all night long.
And Dougal, the little pet pony we've got here, has got an amazing coat.
In fact, you can see the snow hasn't melted on his back
because his coat is so well insulated.
And he's a real tough old beast.
The geese and ducks are a bit bemused by it.
They just went out into the snow and sit down.
DUCKS QUACK, COCK CROWS
These chickens need to be able to get round to their trough here,
which is frozen solid. Going to pour a bit of fresh water on the top.
They don't like ploughing through the snow,
so I'm just making a bit of a path for them.
This is their food.
It's just got wheat and chicken pellets in it.
Just flip the end, and it comes out onto the ground.
There you are, hens.
HENS CLUCK CONTENTEDLY
Every day, Charlie, my partner,
turns our horses out into the fields for exercise.
It's a little bit different today, though. Not that they seem to mind.
One of the major problems in this weather for livestock is water.
The sheep are OK, they can just lick snow and get enough
moisture from that, but the pigs and the cattle need to drink.
These conditions are pretty unusual, it's about -10 at the moment.
Colder in Britain than it is in parts of Russia.
So, it just means you have lots of extra jobs.
You don't usually have to cart water to things. Right.
I feed these pigs on this concrete pad and the powder,
so I've just got to clear it off a bit.
Pigs are really hardy.
They'll live out in these pig arks, you know, just...
We've got a wooden hut there and then just arks of tin.
Fill them with straw and they just lie out in it.
They're absolutely fine,
particularly these Iron Age ones that are like a cross between a wild boar.
They've got such a thick coat,
whereas the Gloucester Old Spots are a little bit softer,
haven't got quite as much hair and they were all tucked up in their hut.
The pigs are as happy as they can be,
but there's plenty more animals to check on yet.
Next, it's the sheep.
They may be hardy, but it's really extreme weather
and I want to see that they're OK.
It's a chance for the dogs to have a bit of a run around, too.
HE CALLS INSTRUCTIONS TO DOG
So, these are our primitive ewes, really.
This is a little North Ronaldsay, there's two of them there
and a Castlemilk Moorit next to it.
All of these ewes are heavily in lamb now,
they'll be lambing in April and you can see the North Ronaldsay's
got icicles and snow on her back, that's because her body warmth
is staying under her wool, not melting the snow on her back.
All these ewes will be lambing outside in this field
so, hopefully by April, this snow will have gone.
These sheep have a natural instinct to dig
for the grass which they know lies beneath the snow.
Under here is my winter barley.
Maris Otter is the variety that I'm growing for making beer
and when it's underneath the snow like this,
although the ground is frozen, it's actually fairly well insulated.
It's better off under the snow than being exposed and frosted
because these leaves would break off, then.
It's actually sitting under here reasonably happily.
Even in these harsh conditions, growers have to harvest winter veg.
Not easy with the ground frozen.
Next job is the cattle troughs.
I've had a call to say that the water supply pipe is frozen
and that's something I need to put right straightaway.
These cattle have managed to dig a hole in the ice.
What you've got to do is take the blocks of ice out of the water,
otherwise it just freezes up pretty quick.
I'll get the gas.
There we go.
Well, despite all the hard work on the farm,
the kids are off school
so there's still a bit of time for some sledging. Right, can I join in?
-OK, together, up, ready?
Goodness me, I think I'm going to fall off the back!
Look out, doggie.
Hey-hey, look out!
I've been working all morning, managed to stay warm and dry.
Now I'm freezing cold and very tired.
You get fit walking up this hill.
SHRIEKS OF DELIGHT
Oh, just like big kids.
It's getting late, but there's still one thing
I want to do before I call it a day.
These cattle have got plenty of silage and they drink from the stream
and these Highlands have been bred for hundreds of years
to survive in these kind of conditions and they cope very well.
In fact, they cope a lot better than me.
Farming in the snow like this just takes up so much time
and it's such a big effort. I could really do with it going away.
There's a good girl. You're all right, aren't you?
'Today, I've been behind the scenes on the Killerton estate in Devon
'where they're getting the place ready
'for the first visitors of the year.'
'It's been a busy day. The gardens have been tended,
the cider's been taken care of
'and preparations for the annual costume exhibition are under way.'
'I'm heading out into the woodland to see what the estate's
'countryside team has been up to.'
Well, a lot of woodland to look after here, Ed?
Across the estate, we've got about 650 hectares of woodland
so quite a lot of woodland to manage. Keeps us busy.
-A lot of timber going on?
-Yeah, we do quite a bit
to the local log market. Sell a lot of timber there,
but our woodland's primarily managed for nature conservation
-and then access to the public.
-Any particular type of conservation?
Yes, this site in particular is managed
for the pearl-bordered fritillary.
We've only got a few sites where this butterfly lives in the country
so it's really quite important that we get this right.
One of the things we do, the charcoal burning here
helps us create the right habitat
for the common dog violet which is this little flower down here.
It's not flowering at the moment
-but see the little heart-shaped leaves down here?
This is the larval food plant so this is a food plant that
the caterpillars need to feed on before they go into being an adult.
That one's been eaten away a bit which is a great sign,
shows that we've got some larval stages here.
So, why do you need to chop down trees then, so that these can grow?
The old adage was that the pearl-bordered fritillary
followed the forester around.
Once you take a tree away, extra light gets into the forest floor
and these are often the first flowers that pop up through.
If we left it as a closed-canopy woodland, these would be
shaded out and we'd obviously lose the butterflies as well.
-Well, how about this for a log fire, Ed?
-Slightly larger than your average wood burner!
-You can feel the heat from here.
This is one of our charcoal kilns. So, we've got a bonfire there
going at the moment. What the guys are just about to do is pop the lid
on the top and as they do that, we'll start to see the flames
-and the smoke coming out...
-Coming out of here?
-..out of the chimneys.
We seal the top with sand and then, we can add
an element of control by just holding the airflow in and out.
And how long will this go on for, now?
After about 12 hours, we'll close it all down, cut the oxygen out
and that'll slowly let it cool down.
What kind of a demand is there these days for charcoal?
Locally-burned charcoal's having a bit of a renaissance at the moment.
People are being much more aware of where their charcoal
comes from for their barbecues.
That's good to hear because a lot of the charcoal is imported, isn't it?
From Portugal, places like that.
It is and an awful lot of tropical hardwoods are going into charcoal
and that's not really sustainable.
So, it's great to see this tradition being carried on
and it's great for the local wildlife.
After a day of hard graft,
it's time for one last flush of post-Christmas indulgence.
As we pull the plug on another festive season,
it's time to welcome the new year with the staff and volunteers
and a burger cooked over a bit of Ed's charcoal.
The resolutions can wait for another day.
And where's that cider you promised me, Ed?
Well, funny you should say that.
I have here a couple of glasses of mulled cider.
This is our cider mixed with a few herbs and spices,
-warmed over the fire.
-Perfect for a winter's evening.
Never had mulled cider before. And a burger.
-And we have some burger here, beef from our local estate.
-Couldn't be more local, then.
-This is it.
Thanks to all of you here for your hospitality, it's been fantastic.
-To everybody at Killerton. Here's to Killerton.
-Here's to Killerton.
Next week, we'll be in Surrey where Helen will be trying to
overcome her fear of horses as she attempts to get
back in the saddle again after a very nasty accident last year,
and I'll be discovering about a local man
who hatched a plan that transformed the future of our countryside.
So, I hope you can join us. Bye for now.
John Craven looks at the year ahead and introduces some of the best Countryfile films from the last few years, all with the help of the Countryfile calendar.
John visits the Killerton Estate, where the staff are busy preparing the house, grounds and parkland for 2014 - and there is plenty to do! He starts with one of the estate's many farms, where lambing is already underway even though spring is a still a few months off.
Pausing to help rack some cider, made with apples from the estate orchard, John then discovers that Killerton House also holds a stunning collection of original clothing, some of it dating back to the 17th century. He then heads into the woods to help to clear up by turning waste wood into charcoal.
Finally, as the day draws to a close, John joins the estate workers for a barbecue - and perhaps a little sip of cider.