Devon Countryfile


Devon

In Devon, Ellie Harrison witnesses a very special homecoming and Matt Baker looks at a programme to regenerate some of the country's last tracts of pristine ancient woodland.


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Transcript


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When you look at the Devon countryside, what do you see?

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Nature in all its glory or the hand of man shaping it all

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from fields to forests?

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Once upon a time,

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conifer plantations like this one were all the rage. But not any more.

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These days, it's all about restoring native woodland,

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so the conifers have to go.

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And I'm here to get stuck in.

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Not far away, Ellie is finding that it's the hand of an entirely

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different creature that's changing the landscape.

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This is Culm wetland.

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It's incredibly rare and needs to be carefully managed.

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But thankfully, here, we've got just the animal for the job.

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And it should be making an appearance for its next shift very soon.

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Tom's working on a pet project.

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Cats are the nation's favourite pet.

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But the minute they step out of the door,

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their wild animal instincts tend to kick in.

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And so, with millions of moggies across the country,

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is their appetite for birds and small animals damaging our wildlife?

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I'll be investigating. And it may be harvest,

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but Adam's animals are keeping him on his toes.

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There's a lot going on in the farm at the moment.

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We're in the middle of sorting out ewes and rams

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for the pedigree autumn sales.

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The harvest team are hard at work.

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We've got cows giving birth.

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And Eric, my Highland bull, has been a bit of a naughty boy.

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Glorious Devon -

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a fertile landscape providing for farmers, wildlife

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and the occasional surprise visitor.

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JET ROARS

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A county good to look at, with breathtaking views from every

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hilltop and valley bottom.

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We find ourselves today in the heart of Devonian countryside,

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on the northern edge of Dartmoor.

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The magnificent swathes of trees behind me make up Fingle Woods,

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825 acres of woodlands.

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Now, this land has just been snapped up to be given back to the public.

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For the first time in their histories, the National Trust

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and the Woodland Trust have joined forces to buy this enormous site

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and slowly return it to its former glory.

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What brought these two agencies together was the chance

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to get their hands on one of the last bits of ancient UK woodland

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still in private ownership.

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Fingle Woods is really a sort of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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It's very rare for sites of this size, scale

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and this importance to come to the market.

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It sits in probably one of the most picturesque landscapes

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of Northern Dartmoor, and the other thing that is so important about this site,

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there's about three quarters of it is ancient semi-natural woodland.

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And we can see in the patchwork in the hillside a bit of that

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that remains today.

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So that sort of broccoli shape over there on the hillside, and there's another

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sort of shape that runs up round the hillside, which is actually the old oak coppice.

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But amongst the broccoli patches of oak are rows and rows

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of non-native species. So what are these doing here?

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These conifers are from North America.

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There was a big drive, particularly after

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the end of the First World War

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and again after the end of the Second World War, where the country

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was exposed, really, as having insufficient of a timber resource.

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And so this is part of the strategic reserve that was

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conceived by the Forestry Commission when it was set up in 1919.

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These reserves were seen as a good cash crop after the war.

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And the woodlands were worked hard.

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But the conifers were never meant to be here, so they've got to go.

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We're looking to try and restore this site over a generation -

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60 to 80 years - to native woodland.

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Is it open to the public now?

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We're intending to open the whole woodland in the spring of next year.

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About 35 to 45 kilometres of footpath track.

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So they'll be available for people to mountain bike,

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to ride on horses, to walk. It'll be great to see people using the site.

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Because it's big enough, it really is big enough to get lost in.

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And Dave wasn't wrong.

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Once beneath the canopy,

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the sheer size of the woodland is awe-inspiring.

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My guide through the trees is Adrian Colston,

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Dartmoor's general manager for the National Trust.

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Adrian, this is a shocking difference, isn't it?

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You've brought me to this point where you can see, obviously,

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what is going on in the conifer side, and then the broadleaf here.

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I'm astounded by this.

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Well, this is exactly the reason why this project is so important.

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You can just look through the broadleaves over there

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and you can see the sky behind it.

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Look into the conifers back there

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and you can only see two or three trees back.

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So that's the amount of light actually coming to the ground

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and that's completely reflected.

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You can see there's absolutely nothing growing on the floor down there. No.

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Whereas under there, there's a carpet of bilberry

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and lots of kind of ancient woodland plants. What is the plan?

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The plan is to slowly

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but surely start removing the conifers.

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So what that will mean is we'll take them one row at a time.

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That will encourage the light to come in.

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That will get the ancient woodland flora to start to creep back

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from the deciduous woodland into the conifer.

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There are some key indicators just down here in front of us. Absolutely.

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You've got things like wood sorrel, the common cow wheat.

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You've got various of these lovely green ferns.

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So we'll see these gradually creeping back in.

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We'll also see some of the other wildlife

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coming back like some of the birds and butterflies.

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We are about to open up

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this place to access for people on 40 kilometres of woodland.

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But I don't think this sign is really appropriate.

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Perhaps you'd do us the honours? I will do the honours for you, no problem.

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You obviously want me to leave this one. Let's leave that one.

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Remove the "private" one. People will know where we are.

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'The leaves will be fallen before I've finished.'

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Long screws.

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THEY LAUGH

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Adrian, there you are, my friend. How is that? Thank you very much.

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Congratulations on taking this place over.

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I look forward to coming back and seeing how you get on. Brilliant.

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All right. Here's the screwdriver back.

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Do you want that as well, in case you want to put it on some other woodland?

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Whilst wildlife is being encouraged to return to these woodlands,

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in some parts of the country,

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it's being scared away by a more domestic predator.

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The cat. So we sent our Tom to investigate.

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We now have more pet cats in the UK than at any point in history.

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Around ten million.

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But are our favourite felines sleepy, cuddly pets or predatory killers?

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Now the claws are out, with some conservationists claiming cats

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are a major threat to wildlife.

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CAT YOWLS

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No cat owner likes to see it.

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SHE SCREAMS

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The pile of feathers on the lawn or a dead present on the doormat.

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But how much damage is really caused to our wildlife

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by our penchant for pets?

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For the Wildlives animal rescue and rehabilitation centre

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here in Essex, cats are a big problem.

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In fact, 80% of their admissions have been injured by pets on the prowl.

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'I'm going to find out more from the aptly named Rosie Catford

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'with her faithful friend, Florence the sheep.'

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A devoted follower.

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So this is your hospital, is it? Yes. Can I have a look?

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Most of it... Most of the problem is cats. It is, yes.

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It's really upsetting.

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We see the damage, and then a lot of the animals,

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we do have to put to sleep because they have been eaten alive.

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And, of course,

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you are only seeing the ones that have survived at least long enough to get in here.

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A lot have presumably been killed out there in the garden and in the wild.

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A lot are being killed out there or cats have just finished

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playing with them and they let them go.

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Is this just a problem of individual animals suffering

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or does it go a bit wider than that? It goes a lot wider.

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Because with climate change, with all the buildings, roads,

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intensive farming, our wildlife is finding it harder

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and harder to adapt to the 21st century.

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It's happening too quick for everything to evolve.

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The cat is then too much for it to handle.

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Are cats the final straw for struggling species?

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Their populations have more than doubled over the last 40 years.

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In that same time,

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there has been a dramatic decline in some bird populations.

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So, are millions of us harbouring bloodthirsty killers in our homes?

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The Mammal Society has estimated that cats kill 275 million

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items of prey every year, 55 million of which are birds.

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But isn't it just in their nature?

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Animal behaviourist John Bradshaw has been studying cats for over 25 years.

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Cats today - do they need to hunt any more? No, they don't.

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I mean, that is the sad truth.

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Modern cat food gives them absolutely everything they need.

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That's a comparatively recent development.

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50 years ago, even commercial cat food didn't necessarily

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have everything and so they would continue to hunt.

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And of course, in many parts of the world where cat food isn't

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so widely available, they do still carry on hunting.

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I suppose what upsets people is, then, that idea

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that they are killing for fun. It does.

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You can interpret it in that way.

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I think a better way of looking at it is that they are just

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living out their natural instincts.

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It's something we've encouraged in them for many thousands of years.

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We started taking them in because they were such efficient mousers.

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It's only recently we've decided we don't really like it any more.

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As they are not hunting for survival,

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John thinks the domesticated cat of the future will hunt less.

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But what about these big headline-grabbing tallies -

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the claim that 275 million birds

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and other animals are being killed by British cats every year?

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Can we really be so accurate about the impact of cats on wildlife, though?

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Dr Phil Baker, a conservation biologist at the University of Reading,

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says the figures should be taken in context.

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You've got a lot laid out on the slab, there, Phil. Yes.

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This is a collection of prey animals that we've

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recovered from houses in and around Reading in just the last six months.

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So it gives you a good idea of the range of species taken.

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The most common is the wood mouse, a fair few juvenile rats

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and even the odd squirrel.

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These three specimens here are taken from one large male cat.

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Then, of course, the inevitable selection of bird species,

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several whose numbers are dwindling.

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What's the estimate of the number of birds or perhaps

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the number of individual species killed across country by cats?

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I think our studies have suggested that you have to be

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very careful making those kind of extrapolations,

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because there is a huge variation in the numbers

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killed between different locations.

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So getting an average number across locations is exceedingly difficult.

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So when people try and estimate the numbers killed at a national level,

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I think you have to take those figures with a pinch of salt.

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We have a population that is estimated around about ten million

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pet cats now. If each of those only brings home a couple of things

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each year, that's 20 million animals and birds that are killed

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each and every year, according to these estimates.

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How does that compare with the number of birds or

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the number of young they are having?

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One recent national study suggested that

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cats were killing in order of around about four million house sparrows.

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But what we do know is that the population of house sparrows is

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producing around about 16 million chicks every year.

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So four million, in the absence of that context, is a massive figure.

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Within that context, it's much less important.

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Some would still say there are vulnerable species

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being put at risk by an unprecedented number of cats.

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It may seem hard to believe when you see Daisy looking as soft as this,

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but there is no doubt that cats do pose some threat to wildlife.

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So what can we do about it? That's what I'll be looking at later.

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Devon is a county rich in diverse and special landscapes.

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None more so than Culm grassland.

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Also known as purple moor grass rush pasture,

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it might not be that much to look at,

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but this stuff is really quite something.

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It's tussocky and clumpy.

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And it's a vital home to all sorts of insects.

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But that's not all.

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It also holds water in the ground,

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making it really valuable in flood defence.

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The trouble is, it's rapidly disappearing.

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Culm wetland has been losing out to scrub since the 1950s,

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and that's causing it to dry out.

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In the past, man would have kept on top of this invasive growth

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but here, the Devon Wildlife Trust is trying something new.

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They are using beavers, nature's lumberjacks,

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once native in this land.

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They were released into an enclosure on private farmland

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back in 2011 and already they're having an effect.

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Mark Elliott from the Trust explains.

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What's happening, particularly in the area upstream where the beavers

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are most active, is the water level has become higher and more stable.

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So what's happening is the beavers are storing water behind the dams

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and that's actually having quite an impact on the stream

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and potentially on the flows downstream.

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So that's good for the grassland.

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It's great for the grassland, it's great for wetland species,

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but it's also great for communities living downstream,

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because the flood risk is reduced,

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and also we have a more constant flow of water when it's dry.

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The beavers have created nine pools,

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now holding around 400 cubic metres of water.

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So all the way across here the beavers have built a little dam

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out of mud and sticks. Isn't that remarkable, and how strong it is?

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I'm standing on it. It's really good. That's really incredible.

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This is one of the first trees that the beavers took off.

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It's quite a big tree.

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That's one of the very first ones they attacked,

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and there's a canal there coming down into the pond, and that's the lodge.

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Oh, you can't miss it! It's huge. You can see a lot more of it

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at the moment cos the water level in the pond's dropped quite a long way.

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There's an underwater entrance as well that the beavers created

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to allow them to come and go without coming onto the surface.

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Looking at this lodge,

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the beavers have clearly made themselves at home here,

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and it's almost late enough for me to see them,

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but first I want to meet their landlord.

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John Morgan's the farmer whose stock now includes beaver.

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What was it that made you decide to accept beavers on your land?

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Well, I was approached

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because I had some ground that was suitable for them,

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and they were fenced in so it didn't really matter,

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it wasn't going to affect anybody. That's true.

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And I thought it was a very good idea to bring them

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back to where they should be.

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What do you like the most about having them here?

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Just to see how clever they are.

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I mean, they're such clever engineers the way they build

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and so on. We've had one or two of the dams washed out once or twice.

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The next night they just put it back together.

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John's certainly a fan, and their extensive landscaping is

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doing a great job so far at helping the grass fight off the scrub.

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But I wonder if I'm going to be lucky enough to see one.

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This is just a bit of a waiting game now.

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I'm hoping it's not going to be too long,

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because it's evening and they're crepuscular,

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which means they come out at dawn and dusk, rather than nocturnal.

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We're definitely in the right spot. There are signs of them everywhere.

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There's obviously the lodge right there,

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which is where they'll be at the moment, and this still pool,

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which if there isn't a natural one, they'll make

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so that they can float all of their food

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and their building materials, all these pieces of wood

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across the water, rather than dragging it over land.

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So we're in the right spot. We've just got to wait.

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And wait.

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And wait.

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Don't lose heart. The waiting's worth it.

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Yay! I see one already. Just look at this one here.

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Very relaxed out in this pool.

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They're the second biggest rodent, so they are really big

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and they do blow your mind that way.

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It's just like sort of puffing out there.

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It's back again, it just popped underneath for a little while.

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They can stay under for anything up to 15 minutes.

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Look at this one, the tail,

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that tail is an indication of how well it's doing.

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The fatter, the better.

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So that's it. It's dark, so I think the show's over for me.

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Now, Countryfile has been marking

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the BBC's Summer Of Wildlife campaign

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with a series of films by wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones.

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Tonight he shows us how he captures the end of the summer

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in a very special way.

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The BBC Summer Of Wildlife is all about discovering plants

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and animals that live on your doorstep.

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On my local patch, Deal in Kent, I filmed some pretty difficult species,

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from seals to kingfishers.

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But to do that, I had to use some very specialist filming kit.

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And so today I'm going to show you how you can enjoy nature

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in a lot more accessible way using stills cameras.

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Some, expensive and complicated, and another that's a lot more simple.

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Most of us have a small point and shoot camera like this,

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and with a bit of thought

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you can use them to get some great wildlife shots.

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These rather lovely little birds scooting around

0:20:020:20:04

on the end of the pier here are called Turnstones.

0:20:040:20:07

They spend their summers breeding up in the Arctic,

0:20:070:20:10

and they come here to spend the winter. Why?

0:20:100:20:12

Well, if you look behind me you can probably see some fisherman,

0:20:120:20:15

and they often leave bits of worm and squid lying around, their bait.

0:20:150:20:19

The birds have worked out it's an easy meal for them.

0:20:210:20:24

Much easier than foraging out in the beach

0:20:240:20:26

where they would normally be found.

0:20:260:20:28

I figure they won't be able to resist some squid

0:20:280:20:31

if I leave it in front of my camera.

0:20:310:20:33

And I stand back with a remote control.

0:20:330:20:36

Sure enough, they come in to have a look.

0:20:360:20:39

This one's looking brave. This one's looking really good.

0:20:410:20:44

Oh, he just ducked away at the last-minute. He came very close.

0:20:460:20:49

But it's only a matter of time before the birds give in.

0:20:500:20:53

And, bingo.

0:20:530:20:55

Right, then, let's see how I got on.

0:20:570:21:01

It's never easy with a remote,

0:21:010:21:02

cos often when you press the button

0:21:020:21:04

there's a delay before the camera fires,

0:21:040:21:06

so you have to kind of anticipate what the birds are going to do.

0:21:060:21:10

And yeah...

0:21:100:21:12

The first few shots I've just got a head appearing in frame,

0:21:120:21:15

or a tail leaving.

0:21:150:21:18

Not quite got it yet. But I had plenty of goes.

0:21:180:21:21

Aww! That's the one! That's the one I was after.

0:21:220:21:25

That's just fantastic. The bait in the foreground

0:21:250:21:28

and the turnstone in the background eying it up.

0:21:280:21:31

Just goes to show you don't need big expensive telephoto lenses

0:21:310:21:35

to get cracking wildlife images.

0:21:350:21:38

Who doesn't love a bit of rock pooling?

0:21:470:21:50

It's a great way to get up close to the wildlife on the seashore.

0:21:500:21:55

But you've got to tempt it in first,

0:21:550:21:58

so I'm using a bit of leftover roast beef dropped into my net.

0:21:580:22:03

A crab has been hiding away under the edge of the rocks

0:22:030:22:07

and he can smell my roast beef.

0:22:070:22:10

If I just move the net around, it'll probably scare him off a bit.

0:22:100:22:13

But he might be so latched on to my beef,

0:22:160:22:20

that he's quite happy...

0:22:200:22:21

There we go! Hey, hey, hey!

0:22:240:22:27

There we go. Proof that that works.

0:22:270:22:29

What a cracking crab we've got here. Look at him. There you go.

0:22:290:22:33

A bit of... Ow!

0:22:330:22:34

A bit of roast beef in a net,

0:22:340:22:37

and within just two minutes I've got myself a nice rock pool subject.

0:22:370:22:42

But how do you get a shot of it underwater

0:22:440:22:46

if you haven't got an expensive underwater camera?

0:22:460:22:50

Easy.

0:22:500:22:52

Grab yourself a cheap fish tank, and hey presto,

0:22:520:22:55

instant underwater studio.

0:22:550:22:57

The biggest problem with this technique

0:22:580:23:00

is reflections from the glass.

0:23:000:23:02

But just pop your coat, or perhaps beach towel over your head,

0:23:020:23:05

to block the light and the problem's sorted.

0:23:050:23:09

It really works.

0:23:090:23:10

Use this method and I guarantee you'll get some great results.

0:23:100:23:14

Now, I won't deny that this is a very simple method

0:23:200:23:24

of photographing animals underwater, but it is quite effective,

0:23:240:23:27

especially if you're on a budget.

0:23:270:23:29

Now, just before I completely finish,

0:23:290:23:31

there is one golden rule of rock pooling you must remember,

0:23:310:23:34

and that is when you've enjoyed looking or photographing animals,

0:23:340:23:38

just put them back where you found them.

0:23:380:23:40

From seas to stars, it's the end of the summer

0:23:440:23:48

and the nights are coming down more quickly.

0:23:480:23:51

Here beneath the white cliffs of Dover, that's a bonus.

0:23:510:23:54

I absolutely adore these cliffs.

0:23:560:23:59

They are, to me, one of nature's most timeless monuments.

0:23:590:24:03

And what better way to record them than by altering time itself.

0:24:030:24:08

And you can do that with all sorts of cameras. Even the ones on your phone.

0:24:080:24:12

The method I'm using is called time-lapsing.

0:24:150:24:18

There are free apps for your phone that make it easy to do.

0:24:180:24:22

They take one picture every few seconds for, say, about ten minutes,

0:24:220:24:26

and then when done, the app plays them all together at once.

0:24:260:24:30

Suddenly, ten minutes becomes ten seconds.

0:24:300:24:33

To take my time-lapses one stage further, to end all this off,

0:24:370:24:41

I want to do something that I feel is truly spectacular,

0:24:410:24:44

and that's create star-lapses.

0:24:440:24:46

To do it, I will need some hand-warmers,

0:24:460:24:49

some tape and a plastic bag.

0:24:490:24:51

Rather odd, you might think, but let me explain.

0:24:510:24:53

As this camera gets colder and colder because the sun's gone down

0:24:530:24:58

and the night's setting in,

0:24:580:24:59

condensation will start to form on the lens.

0:24:590:25:02

So, if I simply take these hand-warmers

0:25:020:25:04

and wrap them around the lens,

0:25:040:25:08

that lens is going to stay nice and warm.

0:25:090:25:12

If I then also put this plastic bag over the front of the camera,

0:25:120:25:18

those hand-warmers will also keep the majority of the camera warm.

0:25:180:25:22

That stops any condensation settling

0:25:230:25:26

and ruining my shot over the next four or five hours.

0:25:260:25:29

Follow that simple rule

0:25:290:25:30

and you should end up with spectacular star-lapses.

0:25:300:25:33

For me, seeing the stars wheeling above the heavens,

0:25:550:26:00

just reminds me what truly magnificent and timeless icons

0:26:000:26:05

these cliffs really are.

0:26:050:26:06

A great way to say goodbye to what's been a great summer.

0:26:110:26:15

And I hope you've been encouraged to get out and have a go.

0:26:150:26:19

Find out more about the BBC Summer Of Wildlife on the Countryfile website.

0:26:190:26:24

I'm at Fingle Woods,

0:26:340:26:35

an area of ancient woodland that's about to undergo restoration.

0:26:350:26:39

It'll take 60, maybe 80 years to bring it back.

0:26:400:26:43

But just down the road, there's a template for how it might work.

0:26:460:26:50

These are Bovey Valley Woodlands,

0:26:500:26:52

where they've already thinned out conifers to help the local wildlife.

0:26:520:26:56

Well, this is woodland management,

0:26:570:26:59

a fair few decades ahead of what they've got in mind at Fingle.

0:26:590:27:03

So I'm here to help out with a little bit of conservation,

0:27:030:27:06

and the group that I'm joining,

0:27:060:27:07

well, they're a pretty enthusiastic bunch.

0:27:070:27:09

Introducing the Wildlife Hit Squad.

0:27:120:27:15

Here today to improve the lot of this woodland's rare butterflies.

0:27:160:27:21

It's a tough name, and it's a tough job. Lads, you're doing all right!

0:27:210:27:24

You're getting through it, yeah? Oh, yeah, we are. Good.

0:27:240:27:27

Right, well, I'll get the gloves on and I'll give you a hand.

0:27:270:27:29

Let's go have a chat with Jenny down here.

0:27:290:27:31

Right, so, for you then, it's all about butterflies, isn't it?

0:27:310:27:34

It is all about butterflies for me. Indeed it is.

0:27:340:27:36

And what's the plan in this area and why are we here?

0:27:360:27:40

We're here because we're trying to create some better connectivity

0:27:400:27:45

between some open habitat on the other side of the river,

0:27:450:27:47

and between the glade that's behind us.

0:27:470:27:50

So we're trying to punch holes through all of this thicket

0:27:500:27:53

of holly and other scrub, just to maintain the connectivity.

0:27:530:27:57

To make it easier for them to fly through.

0:27:570:28:00

What type of butterflies are they?

0:28:000:28:01

Well, there are two very rare butterflies that we find here,

0:28:010:28:04

which are the Pearl-bordered Fritillary

0:28:040:28:06

and the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary,

0:28:060:28:08

and a whole host of other woodland species.

0:28:080:28:10

Back in the day, these woodlands would've been coppice

0:28:120:28:14

on a regular basis.

0:28:140:28:16

The perfect balance of wood production and wildlife.

0:28:160:28:19

But today, it's down to us

0:28:190:28:20

to clear some of these branches to link up the butterfly habitats.

0:28:200:28:24

And having thinned one side of the flight path,

0:28:240:28:27

it's time to cross the water.

0:28:270:28:28

Feel free to just hack out any of the smaller pieces of holly.

0:28:310:28:35

If I were a butterfly, I'd fly through now. Yeah.

0:28:400:28:44

Careful management of these woodlands is already

0:28:450:28:47

making a difference.

0:28:470:28:49

Lichens like this need pristine environments,

0:28:490:28:53

so things here must be pretty good.

0:28:530:28:54

Ooh!

0:28:570:29:00

Just thought I'd ramp it up a bit.

0:29:010:29:03

It's not going to happen, I'm not going to fall in,

0:29:030:29:06

so don't even bother waiting.

0:29:060:29:07

Well, I was hoping to meet another group down here

0:29:170:29:19

who are doing their bit to create the perfect habitat

0:29:190:29:22

for butterflies, but as I'm experiencing,

0:29:220:29:25

they're prone to wandering off and doing their own thing.

0:29:250:29:28

They're not over there, Simon. OK. Must be over this way somewhere.

0:29:310:29:35

Yeah.

0:29:350:29:36

How often to do you get them into the woodlands to do this work?

0:29:360:29:41

This group are in for about six to eight weeks in this area. Yeah.

0:29:410:29:44

And then they're in 24 hours a day doing their thing. Yeah.

0:29:440:29:48

It's quite easy to lose track of them. Very easy.

0:29:480:29:52

But looking at the areas that they've already been working in,

0:29:520:29:55

something tells me we're getting close.

0:29:550:29:57

Oh, there they are! There they are! I've got them! Here they are.

0:29:590:30:02

So this then is the Dartmoor Heritage Pony. Yeah.

0:30:020:30:08

15 in the woods in total. Right.

0:30:080:30:11

And then we've got four in this particular paddock

0:30:110:30:13

and we move them around from place to place to do a job.

0:30:130:30:17

They're quite heavy, so they've trampled the bracken down,

0:30:170:30:21

they'll go for scrub, bits of willow, bits of hazel,

0:30:210:30:24

and that's what we want them to do.

0:30:240:30:26

We want them to do a double job of doing some thinning of scrub

0:30:260:30:29

and bits of woody material as well as grazing the grass.

0:30:290:30:32

We can move them onto their next job of work. Come on, girls.

0:30:330:30:38

Off we go.

0:30:380:30:39

They're very obliging, aren't they?

0:30:390:30:41

They need to be obliging enough that we can move them around

0:30:410:30:44

and handle them, but not so friendly

0:30:440:30:47

that they end up being a nuisance to members of the public.

0:30:470:30:50

The ponies seem at ease in their open plan office.

0:30:560:30:59

And thanks to equine and human help,

0:30:590:31:01

Bovey Valley Woodlands are flourishing.

0:31:010:31:04

Earlier, we looked at the impact that cats are having

0:31:120:31:15

on our wildlife.

0:31:150:31:17

Minor or major, there are those who think it's time to act,

0:31:170:31:20

as Tom's been finding out.

0:31:200:31:22

With a quarter of UK households now having at least one pet cat,

0:31:280:31:33

there are growing concerns over the amount of prey they kill.

0:31:330:31:36

Some countries have rules like night-time curfews

0:31:390:31:43

to reduce the amount of prey caught by cats.

0:31:430:31:46

And here in Britain we have plenty of laws for our dogs,

0:31:460:31:50

is it time we got more tough with our cats?

0:31:500:31:52

At the Animal Rehabilitation Centre I visited earlier in Essex,

0:31:540:31:58

Rosie Catford thinks so.

0:31:580:32:01

What do you think we should do about the problem of cat predation?

0:32:010:32:04

I'd like to see owners take responsibility for the actions

0:32:040:32:08

of their cats.

0:32:080:32:09

In Australia they've got a lot of very small marsupials,

0:32:090:32:13

and these marsupials have started to be wiped out

0:32:130:32:17

because the cats are out at night.

0:32:170:32:20

So they've brought in a law that the cats must be kept in

0:32:200:32:23

between dusk and dawn.

0:32:230:32:26

Any cats that are found out after those hours, cat-catchers,

0:32:260:32:31

whatever, they're taken in and kept overnight, the owners informed,

0:32:310:32:35

and then they have to pay a fine to get their cat back.

0:32:350:32:38

So would you like to see a law or something similar to that

0:32:380:32:40

here in the UK? I think the first step is for cat owners to take

0:32:400:32:44

responsibility for the actions of their cats.

0:32:440:32:46

Dog owners don't go to bed at night

0:32:460:32:48

and put their dogs out on the street.

0:32:480:32:51

So dog owners, the majority take responsibility

0:32:510:32:54

and keep their dogs in at night.

0:32:540:32:56

I'd like cat owners to do the same thing.

0:32:560:32:59

It may sound extreme to us in the UK,

0:33:010:33:04

but scientists in Australia have even called for restricted numbers of cats

0:33:040:33:08

per household, and mandatory sterilisation.

0:33:080:33:11

Others have taken a less controversial approach.

0:33:140:33:18

Ex-engineer Bill Hookie gets a bit twitchy at the idea of cats

0:33:180:33:22

getting the birds in his garden. So he's devised some cunning solutions.

0:33:220:33:28

So this is like a water trap. It's a water trap.

0:33:280:33:32

I see you've got it going...

0:33:320:33:34

You've got to go all the way round the corner. Yes, you do.

0:33:340:33:37

It's a chore. And that's to protect what exactly? Yes, the nest.

0:33:370:33:43

There's this year's nest.

0:33:430:33:44

Once a cat has heard the nestlings chirping away,

0:33:440:33:47

there's very little is going to stop them. But I've found that this does.

0:33:470:33:50

So, it's true, cats are so reluctant to get their feet wet,

0:33:500:33:53

they won't even chase a bird through it. Yeah.

0:33:530:33:56

Bill doesn't stop at anti-cat paddling pools,

0:33:560:33:59

he's also paw-proofed his trees.

0:33:590:34:02

I try and erect a piece of corrugated roofing plastic

0:34:020:34:09

high enough so that a cat cannot leap up to it,

0:34:090:34:13

and therefore it stops the cat getting up into the...

0:34:130:34:16

So if a cat's determined enough to climb this bit of the trunk,

0:34:160:34:19

when it gets to here... Yes. ..it can't get its claws into that.

0:34:190:34:22

That's the idea. And the bird is safe. Wow.

0:34:220:34:25

In the nesting season, any cat on the prowl in Bill's garden...

0:34:250:34:28

Nailed nicely on both sides, and bottom.

0:34:280:34:32

..can expect to snag their predatory claws on one of these contraptions.

0:34:320:34:36

How do you feel about the fact you're having to go to pretty great lengths

0:34:360:34:40

to protect birds?

0:34:400:34:42

I must admit, although I enjoy doing this,

0:34:420:34:44

I do feel the boot's on the wrong foot.

0:34:440:34:47

I really feel there should be more control from the cat owners.

0:34:470:34:52

I don't think it should be upon us, the bird lovers,

0:34:520:34:55

to go to such extreme lengths.

0:34:550:34:59

But are there simpler ways to save wildlife from cats?

0:34:590:35:03

Jeff Knott is from the organisation

0:35:060:35:08

set up to protect wild birds - the RSPB.

0:35:080:35:11

And what's the key to making sure that the birds get well fed,

0:35:140:35:17

but the cats don't dine on the birds?

0:35:170:35:19

The most important thing is siting feeders a little bit out

0:35:190:35:22

in the open, so about two metres away from any cover.

0:35:220:35:25

That's far enough away that it means cats can't come out

0:35:250:35:27

and ambush the birds while they're feeding,

0:35:270:35:29

but close enough that if they feel scared or threatened by anything

0:35:290:35:32

while they're feeding, the birds can dash off into the cover

0:35:320:35:35

and get away. They've got an escape plan.

0:35:350:35:37

We've heard about some rather more drastic measures to help birds,

0:35:370:35:41

like curfews for cats. What do you think about that?

0:35:410:35:45

Well, keeping cats in at night at dawn and dusk does make sense

0:35:450:35:48

for reducing predation on small mammals,

0:35:480:35:51

which are very active overnight.

0:35:510:35:53

Birds are most active at dawn and dusk, so it would help do that.

0:35:530:35:57

Perhaps a more practical solution is a simple collar with a bell,

0:35:570:36:01

then there's no danger of a stealthy approach.

0:36:010:36:06

But for the RSPB, there are bigger threats than cats.

0:36:060:36:10

The real factors that are driving the decline

0:36:100:36:12

to some of our best-loved birds, it's loss of habitat,

0:36:120:36:15

intensification of the way our countryside is managed

0:36:150:36:18

in farmland and woods and other places.

0:36:180:36:21

In our gardens we can actually do our own little bit to help

0:36:210:36:23

reverse that, to help provide some fantastic habitat, some food,

0:36:230:36:27

some nesting sites, and give nature a home in our garden

0:36:270:36:29

safe in the knowledge cats are well down that list.

0:36:290:36:32

In the grand scheme of things, then,

0:36:320:36:35

the bigger threat is our modern landscape.

0:36:350:36:38

So, on the charge of decimating numbers of our wild birds,

0:36:390:36:43

the verdict for cats seems to be not guilty.

0:36:430:36:48

But, if you have a Sylvester nearby with an unquenchable

0:36:480:36:52

appetite for the Tweety Pies in your garden,

0:36:520:36:55

there are plenty of things you can do to protect them.

0:36:550:36:58

Cat owner or not, we would love to know what you think.

0:36:580:37:02

Should more be done to control their animal instincts,

0:37:020:37:05

or should cats be left to their own devices?

0:37:050:37:08

Let us know your views via the Countryfile website.

0:37:080:37:11

Down on Adam's farm, the harvest continues,

0:37:200:37:23

but it's not all about the crops.

0:37:230:37:25

He's still got his animals to look after,

0:37:250:37:27

so it's time for a seasonal stock-take.

0:37:270:37:30

This is my new Gloucester Old Spot boar,

0:37:390:37:41

and he's settled in really well.

0:37:410:37:42

He's everything I hoped for.

0:37:420:37:44

He's got wonderful physique, and hopefully that will pass

0:37:440:37:47

through into his piglets and we'll get some great porkers.

0:37:470:37:50

He's settled in with his new wife really well

0:37:500:37:53

and hopefully we'll have piglets in about three months' time.

0:37:530:37:57

So it's all worked out very well.

0:37:570:37:58

There's another of my animals

0:38:010:38:02

who already knows what it's like to be a dad.

0:38:020:38:05

Eric.

0:38:050:38:06

Eric has fathered five lovely calves this year.

0:38:090:38:13

We've got three females and two males and they've been growing very well.

0:38:130:38:18

They're looking fantastic,

0:38:180:38:21

and there's one little calf that was born quite an unusual colour.

0:38:210:38:25

He was very silver when he was born, and I've named him Nevis.

0:38:250:38:30

That's the name you all came up with, and just look at him now.

0:38:300:38:33

And he's just in at the back there. He's a young bull calf.

0:38:350:38:39

He's got a lovely dossan, this hairy bit on the front of his forehead,

0:38:390:38:43

and he's quite hairy all over, but he's well made up,

0:38:430:38:46

he's a stocky bull, and I'm very pleased with him.

0:38:460:38:48

BULL BELLOWS

0:38:500:38:52

I love that noise these bulls make,

0:38:580:39:01

sort of stamping their mark of authority, that deep, throaty bellow,

0:39:010:39:06

and he's basically warning off any other bulls in the area.

0:39:060:39:10

And unfortunately, recently,

0:39:100:39:12

he bust down a fence and got in with my White Park bull.

0:39:120:39:16

And Eric came off worse. He's cut his lip quite badly.

0:39:190:39:22

We had to get the vet to have a look at it

0:39:220:39:24

and put him on a course of antibiotics,

0:39:240:39:27

and it's mending quite well, although it's still hanging down a bit.

0:39:270:39:30

I think he's feeling a little bit sorry for himself.

0:39:300:39:33

There are calves everywhere on the farm

0:39:360:39:39

and one of my favourite cows gave birth last night.

0:39:390:39:43

A cow udder is made up of four quarters, so each teat has

0:39:450:39:49

a separate compartment attached to it where it produces the milk.

0:39:490:39:52

And this calf has been sucking on the front teats,

0:39:520:39:55

but not so much on the back ones,

0:39:550:39:56

and it's good, it's just starting to get onto the back one now,

0:39:560:39:59

and so it will drink the milk evenly from all four quarters.

0:39:590:40:03

And a calf butts the cow like that to encourage her to let the milk down.

0:40:030:40:08

She produces a hormone and the milk is released down into the teat.

0:40:080:40:11

Steady.

0:40:230:40:24

HE WHISTLES Sit! Sit!

0:40:240:40:26

WHISPERS: Sit. Sit. Sit.

0:40:260:40:29

Pearl's a lovely little dog.

0:40:290:40:31

Sadly, when she was a puppy, she got run over

0:40:310:40:33

and has now got pins in her leg, and just recently,

0:40:330:40:36

she damaged her tendons in the lower leg,

0:40:360:40:38

and the vet tells me that she's still OK to run around,

0:40:380:40:41

but she won't ever get the use of those tendons again, and while she's

0:40:410:40:45

happy working sheep and she's in no pain,

0:40:450:40:47

then I'm pleased to have her out here helping me.

0:40:470:40:50

Today, she's helping me round up some sheep that I'm taking to a sale.

0:40:510:40:55

At this time of year up and down the country

0:40:550:40:57

the breeding sheep sales are taking place for both ewes and rams.

0:40:570:41:01

Right, I've got some female sheep in here, some young ewes,

0:41:020:41:06

and I've just got to sort out the ones I want to keep

0:41:060:41:09

and the ones I want to sell. So the first ones I'm going to work with,

0:41:090:41:13

I think, are the Castlemilk Moorits.

0:41:130:41:15

The Castlemilk Moorit is a rare breed that

0:41:150:41:18

originates from the Scottish Borders.

0:41:180:41:20

If I just grab one and show you what I want in a good Castlemilk Moorit.

0:41:230:41:27

Ooh, Missus! They're certainly a lively breed. Here we are.

0:41:330:41:38

What I need is a nice head on them, nice horns but not too wide,

0:41:380:41:42

not too close, a good gap in between the horns

0:41:420:41:46

and then the wool on the Castlemilk Moorit is important.

0:41:460:41:50

The colour on the surface is very bleached by the sun where it's

0:41:500:41:53

gone pale, but Moorit is Gaelic for mousey brown,

0:41:530:41:56

and they have this lovely brown fleece on them.

0:41:560:41:59

But on the whole, she's a well made up ewe, she's a good size,

0:41:590:42:02

she'll be able to carry lambs well,

0:42:020:42:03

and I like her. I think I'll keep this one.

0:42:030:42:05

Let's pop her out in the field.

0:42:070:42:08

I'll keep a couple more of the Moorits back. The rest I'll sell.

0:42:080:42:11

Next up is one of the most common breeds.

0:42:160:42:18

These are some Suffolk crosses, they're a commercial breed of sheep,

0:42:210:42:26

really for producing lamb for the table that we've bred on the farm here.

0:42:260:42:31

They're surplus to our requirements and we'll sell them on.

0:42:310:42:34

And with modern-day breeds of sheep, most of their wool are white

0:42:340:42:37

so that it can be dyed any colour,

0:42:370:42:40

so these have got lovely white fine fleeces.

0:42:400:42:44

It's really quite staggering

0:42:450:42:47

when you compare the old traditional breeds

0:42:470:42:49

with the modern commercial breeds.

0:42:490:42:51

I've just put a Suffolk cross and a Castlemilk Moorit together for you

0:42:510:42:54

so you can see the difference between a modern-day sheep

0:42:540:42:57

and an ancient, primitive breed.

0:42:570:42:59

These females are the same age,

0:42:590:43:01

but have got totally different confirmation and look about them.

0:43:010:43:05

And you can see, really, how, over hundreds of years,

0:43:050:43:08

farmers have improved and developed sheep

0:43:080:43:11

so they can produce a much bigger, better carcass.

0:43:110:43:14

That's my animals sorted. Better get back to the fields.

0:43:170:43:20

The combine has just started cutting in this field, which is oilseed rape.

0:43:260:43:30

It's been in wheat and in barley and now it's come into this crop,

0:43:300:43:33

and we thought it was going to be a disaster

0:43:330:43:35

because of the horrible spring, but actually it's come quite well.

0:43:350:43:39

This is the crop that has those lovely yellow flowers.

0:43:390:43:42

It sets its seed and the seed is this little,

0:43:420:43:46

tiny black ball bearings that my neighbour cold-presses

0:43:460:43:50

to produce oilseed rape oil that you can use in cooking and in dressings.

0:43:500:43:55

And this is looking pretty tidy. I'm quite pleased with this.

0:43:550:43:57

Dave's driving the combine, who's one of the guys on the farm.

0:44:040:44:07

This is the first year he's been driving it,

0:44:070:44:09

and he's doing really well.

0:44:090:44:11

It's incredibly technical, the job in there, all computer-driven,

0:44:110:44:14

loads of buttons.

0:44:140:44:16

But he loves it!

0:44:170:44:18

After a dodgy start to the year with bad weather,

0:44:200:44:23

it looks like being a decent harvest, and that's a big relief.

0:44:230:44:26

Devon is a patchwork of thatched cottages and hidden hamlets.

0:44:320:44:37

And the picture-postcard village of Iddesleigh

0:44:370:44:40

might look like any other in this part of the world,

0:44:400:44:42

but today a very special horse is coming home.

0:44:420:44:45

MARCHING BAND PLAYS

0:44:450:44:48

This is Joey, star of the hit stage show War Horse.

0:44:480:44:52

JOEY WHINNIES

0:44:560:44:57

Fresh from the National Theatre and in advance of a UK tour,

0:44:570:45:01

he's in Iddesleigh for the first time since he was dreamt up

0:45:010:45:04

by local author Michael Morpurgo some 30 years ago.

0:45:040:45:08

The story is based on the plight of the horses in the First World War.

0:45:110:45:15

Used in cavalry units and to pull cannons and artillery,

0:45:160:45:20

it's estimated eight million died.

0:45:200:45:23

Faced with machine guns and tanks,

0:45:230:45:25

their flesh was no match for bullets and barbed wire.

0:45:250:45:28

Michael started the book after speaking

0:45:310:45:33

to three World War I veterans who lived here.

0:45:330:45:36

One of them was a cavalry officer named Captain Budgett.

0:45:380:45:41

I went to see him and I said, "You were in the First World War."

0:45:420:45:46

He said, "Yeah, I was there with horses,"

0:45:460:45:48

and he started talking again about the horses in the First World War.

0:45:480:45:52

And what came across to me then was something

0:45:520:45:55

I found intensely moving,

0:45:550:45:57

was the relationship which he had with his horse

0:45:570:46:00

and how important that was, how he would go to the horse lines

0:46:000:46:04

at night and he would talk to the horse and he would tell this horse

0:46:040:46:07

things that he wouldn't dream of telling his pals,

0:46:070:46:09

because his pals all had the same terrible anxieties

0:46:090:46:11

going on in their heads. They'd just seen terrible things happen that day,

0:46:110:46:15

they were fearful for their lives every day,

0:46:150:46:17

and they were longing for home,

0:46:170:46:19

and he could say these things to his horse.

0:46:190:46:21

Both sides suffered,

0:46:240:46:26

but telling the story from Joey the horse's point of view

0:46:260:46:29

allowed Michael to be impartial.

0:46:290:46:31

Bringing that vision to life for the National Theatre involved

0:46:330:46:37

a set of very skilled puppeteers.

0:46:370:46:39

It is amazing how lifelike Joey is. That's really remarkable.

0:46:420:46:47

Just down the road from Iddesleigh

0:46:490:46:51

is Lower Upcott Farm where Ben May's shire horses

0:46:510:46:54

helped creators bring the idea of Joey to life.

0:46:540:46:58

Today they're coming face-to-face for the very first time.

0:46:580:47:02

Jimmy, this is such an amazing experience.

0:47:060:47:08

This isn't the first time I've seen Joey, because I went to the play

0:47:080:47:11

and he really moves people, people end up crying, even,

0:47:110:47:14

and I'm not much of a crier. Why is that?

0:47:140:47:16

It's quite an unusual experience, because you can see the puppeteers,

0:47:160:47:19

so you know they're creating this impression of life with the puppet,

0:47:190:47:23

but at the same time, all these details, the movement,

0:47:230:47:26

the breath, you're kind of convinced it's alive,

0:47:260:47:28

so it's working on lots of different levels.

0:47:280:47:31

All of these movements, they are so reminiscent

0:47:310:47:34

of the real horses behind me.

0:47:340:47:35

How have you managed to create something that looks so real.

0:47:350:47:38

One of the things you just picked out is important, the micro movements,

0:47:380:47:41

so whether it's just a tiny flick in the ear,

0:47:410:47:43

or a tiny adjustment in the horse's focus or a little flick of the tail,

0:47:430:47:47

all these tiny little details

0:47:470:47:48

are things that add up to the impression of life.

0:47:480:47:51

But it's not just about the physical movements, it's the sounds as well.

0:47:510:47:54

Yes, and that starts with the breath.

0:47:540:47:56

It's important for the puppeteers to communicate with each other,

0:47:560:47:59

is the breath and breathing together,

0:47:590:48:01

and we can see it in the chest of the horse

0:48:010:48:03

that they are all breathing and aware of each other's breaths

0:48:030:48:07

and from there we start to have

0:48:070:48:09

the sound of the snort and the nose blows.

0:48:090:48:12

JOEY GRUMBLES

0:48:120:48:16

SNORTS

0:48:180:48:19

I wasn't sure where that was coming from!

0:48:210:48:23

And it's all three purposes that make those sounds, not just one,

0:48:230:48:26

so the sound travels through the horse.

0:48:260:48:28

And why was the decision made to use a puppet

0:48:280:48:31

rather than a live horse or an alternative?

0:48:310:48:34

There are obviously complications trying to rehearse and work with

0:48:340:48:37

a live horse on stage, but I guess

0:48:370:48:40

if you're watching the show, you can see the magical experience

0:48:400:48:43

of something where you know it's not a live animal,

0:48:430:48:46

you know it's a puppet,

0:48:460:48:47

but actually you start to suspend your disbelief and see it as a real

0:48:470:48:51

living animal, and that's part of the magic of it and the spectacle of it.

0:48:510:48:55

And just as he does on the stage,

0:48:550:48:57

the spectacle of Joey back home in Iddesleigh has attracted big crowds.

0:48:570:49:01

He's been all over the world, but this is the first time

0:49:090:49:11

he's been here in Devon for 30 years since he was first created.

0:49:110:49:15

Wow! Hello!

0:49:150:49:18

And the whole village has come out to welcome him home.

0:49:180:49:22

Incredible. An incredible experience.

0:49:230:49:26

It's lovely for the village. The actual puppet, amazing.

0:49:260:49:29

I saw him from a distance and I thought it was a real horse.

0:49:290:49:32

The way his ears move definitely looks like a real horse.

0:49:320:49:36

BUGLE PLAYS "LAST POST"

0:49:360:49:41

When you think of all those thousands and thousands

0:49:470:49:50

of horses who died, it does bring it back and it is very emotional.

0:49:500:49:55

Well, as much as I would love to stay,

0:49:590:50:01

I've got to go and catch up with Matt.

0:50:010:50:04

He's been set a rather tricky challenge

0:50:040:50:06

and could do with all the help he can get.

0:50:060:50:08

Before then, let me hand you over to the weather centre

0:50:080:50:11

for the Countryfile five-day forecast.

0:50:110:50:13

Ellie Harrison and Matt Baker are in Devon, where Ellie gets to witness a very special homecoming. She meets Joey - the lifelike horse puppet that features in the successful stage play, War Horse. Joey has come to Iddelsleigh - the small village that inspired the story - and Ellie is there to greet him. Ellie then heads to North Devon to find out how beavers are being used to help manage the last of the region's rare culm grassland.

Just a few miles away, Matt is deep in the woods at the start of a massive multi-million pound programme to regenerate some of the country's last tracts of pristine ancient woodland. Wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor Jones shows us the stars moving across the heavens with some amazing 'starlapse' photography.

Tom Heap asks whether the number of domestic cats in the UK is posing a threat to our wildlife. And down on Adam's farm it may be harvest time, but there are still animals to be looked after. So Adam has a seasonal stock take.


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