Countryfile is in Dorset. Matt Baker explores a woodland architecture school, where the surrounding trees become the building materials.
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High on these Dorset hills,
looking out across a patchwork landscape to the sea,
the trees are beginning to lose their cloaks of green.
Before long, their wooden bones will stand bare
and the secrets of this ancient woodland will be revealed.
Deep in this Dorset woodland,
forestry and building
Now, these trees shape not only the philosophy of this place
but also the structures that are designed and built here.
Because this...is a school of architecture.
Do you want me to give you a hand? Here we go.
I am meeting a group of country gentlemen who have been given
the chance to muck in and keep in touch with their country roots.
I might break into a trot in a minute.
Oh, my goodness! You're going to have
to warn me so I can keep up.
Tom's on the coast.
Ships are getting bigger
and bigger, and that means
our historic harbours and ports
need to be made deeper and wider to fit them in.
But at what cost to marine life?
That is what I'll be finding out later.
And Adam is taking stock on the farm.
At this time of year, the nights are drawing in
and there is a distinct chill in the air.
But there is still plenty of work to do with the livestock
and the crops need checking.
When it comes to spectacular countryside, Dorset dazzles.
A diverse landscape spreads southwards
and spills over dizzying cliffs into the sparkling sea.
Like much of Southern England,
Dorset's landscape is dotted with woodland.
And Hooke Park is a fine example.
350 acres of forest, a short hop from the county town of Dorchester.
Now, this is a lovely place to come for a walk.
You just lose yourself in tranquil woodland.
But hidden amongst the trees,
an unwitting wanderer might stumble across some unusual features.
These structures look like they're from another world.
But in fact, they are something a lot more down to earth...
This is the rural campus of the Architecture Association.
Students come here to learn how to build ultramodern
buildings from an ancient material - wood.
Martin Self is the director.
Well, Martin, this is... I mean,
it's like a futuristic world in the middle of a woodland.
What is going on here?
So we're part of the Architectural Association School of Architecture.
So it is a London-based architecture school,
and this is like a satellite rural campus that we have...
-..down in the woods, in Dorset.
And why is it so important for you to have this kind of branch,
you know, in the woodlands, in the middle of nowhere?
Most architecture schools, they are based in the city.
They're very constrained in what they can do.
This just opens up a whole range of other possibilities.
So we have more space, we have the landscape,
we have the material as well, you know?
We have the timber that we can work with.
We can take very traditional techniques and then reinvent them
with contemporary tools. It is a mix, I guess, of trying to just,
you know, make the most of the material around us
but also to bring in, you know, contemporary and, you know,
avant-garde design ideas and to add a richness in that way.
For 16 months, MA students learn wood craftsmanship
from the best, building up to a supersized final project.
In the first term, they do
-do smaller pieces in small groups out in the woods.
It gives them a chance to engage in that environment...
-..to have some fun, to do something experimental.
Then they get the brief for something big.
Then they do some substantial, real projects.
We can see a few of them round us here.
Just talk us through them, Martin, as we look around the yard.
We started with the caretaker's house,
which is down beyond the refectory there.
A couple of student accommodation
buildings that students designed and built.
This thing, which is a timber seasoning shelter,
an experiment in itself. What we call the big shed,
but basically a big assembly workshop.
This is where a lot of our work, like our large-scale work,
gets carried out.
Look at this. It's like a farm building of the future,
that, isn't it? Look at that, it is absolutely tremendous.
Students are drawn here from all over the world
to study forest architecture.
Some of them even live on site.
I want to hear first-hand what attracts them to this
sleepy corner of Dorset.
-Zach, where you come from?
-So, I'm from Canada.
And how did you end up in the woodlands of Dorset?
Father was a carpenter, grandfather.
I'd spent a lot of my life in the woods,
and so the transition on that side wasn't much.
-It is kind of like being at camp but with much better tools.
-Are you living on site?
So Sahil and I live in a house over there.
-Right. And what is it like?
-I come from Mumbai.
Coming from a place where it is just full of people to suddenly
-where there are no people around, it's full of trees.
And it's been beautiful because we have already spent a year now,
and just to see the whole seasonal changes, it has been great.
And, Sweta, do you feel the same thing?
-It's a completely different setting.
But it is quite exciting to be really close to nature
and then just working with the material that is surrounding us.
I hadn't really worked much with timber before I came over here,
so it has been a whole learning process in terms with
understanding the material first and then designing.
And is that a process, then, that you have enjoyed?
It has been one big ride for all of us.
In the past one year,
just understanding what this material can do.
And every species having its own purpose.
It has been a learning curve.
Now, dredging the seabed is often an essential part
of keeping our ports and harbours running,
but there are those concerned about the environmental impact
this kind of work can have.
British ports and harbours, maritime gateways on which the wealth
of our island nation was built.
They support tens of thousands of jobs
and contribute billions of pounds to the economy every year.
We are importing more and more goods from all around the world.
But it's not just our cargo ships that are getting bigger,
cruise ships are expanding, too.
And they all need to fit into our historic ports,
which are often just not deep or wide enough.
The answer - an average of 36 million tonnes
of silt and debris is dredged from ports, harbours
and their approach channels each year.
Large-scale dredging vessels cut and suck up
the seabed before dropping it at designated sites further out.
So what does that mean for our marine environment
that could be churned up or indeed dumped upon?
Falmouth Harbour in Cornwall, a working port since the 1600s.
Its success was built mainly on the packet ships that delivered
mail to every corner of the British Empire.
Now its owners think it is in dire need of dredging.
Captain Mark Sansom is the harbour master.
The original channel was a World War II channel approaching
to the docks' base then.
Obviously, since that time, ship size has increased.
And what we're finding is the fact that we are constrained
now in the size of vessels that we can get into Falmouth.
What we're looking to do now is to have a deeper channel
running into the line of the berth you can see ahead of you, which
will create a 400m berth with a deep-water approach.
What is it going to enable Falmouth
to do in the future that it can't do now?
Well, I think the best example, really, is looking at cruise ships.
Ten years ago, we had around about 56,000 cruise passengers that
were able to come through into the port.
Last year, we were down to about 10,500 passengers coming in.
And that is almost solely due to the fact that we are unable to
take the larger cruise ships
and get them alongside where they want to be.
Mark sees this development as key for the future of the docks
and the local economy.
If you look at the jobs that the docks estate supports, I mean,
there are about 1,400 jobs that they support.
And if you look in terms of the impact that has on the local economy
and the local community, that is something like a £30 million
wage bill that is then spent in local businesses.
And do you think that's at stake, at risk, if you don't get this dredge?
If ports aren't able to improve their capacity
to take larger vessels, then ultimately they can't survive.
Plans for dredging here also have very public support
from the chancellor, George Osborne.
On a recent visit to Falmouth, he couldn't have been plainer.
We face a simple choice as a community.
Are we serious about providing economic opportunities
in future for our children or are we going to allow endless
delays and what I think are not...you know,
concerns about the environment that can easily be dealt with
to hold this all up?
But others see it differently
and question both the economic benefit
and the extent of the environmental impact.
Dr Miles Hoskin is a marine consultant and line fisherman.
He is also a member of
the Falmouth Bay and Harbour Action Group
which has been campaigning for more than three years
against the dredging.
It is a beautiful area,
but it is even more beautiful and interesting on the seabed.
There are some absolutely rare and fascinating habitats.
We are floating over it right now.
And in recognition of that, more than ten years ago,
this became a Special Area of Conservation.
Said to be at risk are beds of maerl, a rare
coral-like seaweed which provides shelter for other marine life.
These little nodules, you can see sort of branching.
These grow about a millimetre a year, so it is very slow growing.
They grow to the size of sort of a bit bigger than a golf all.
And as you can see, all these little branches,
when you've got all these nodules piled up on the seabed,
I mean, it is an amazing habitat for lots and lots of other species.
What can dredging actually do to an environment like that?
Well, I mean, you have only got to look at...
If you went and dug up your flower bed, it is the same thing.
I mean, basically, you are taking a lot of heavy equipment
and just gouging chunks out of the seabed.
And if you have got something interesting there beforehand,
you won't have it there afterwards.
Potential damage to the maerl beds led the licensing authority,
the Marine Management Organisation,
to turn down a dredging application just a few years ago.
Now though, it is clearly back on the agenda.
But Miles is also concerned about the impact silt
lifted from the seabed could have on local businesses.
These are mackerel feathers.
Obviously, you can only catch mackerel if they can see these.
The concern is that when all the silt is stirred up by the dredging,
it will be impossible to do this kind of fishing in the estuary
because the fish won't be able to see the lures.
So this kind of fishery will be impossible in the estuary
when the dredging is going on.
When that happens, that could push some people over the edge.
The Marine Conservation Society believes that allowing
dredging in Falmouth would set a dangerous precedent
and lead to serious damage being done in other protected areas.
So in a situation like this, can a solution that satisfies
everyone be reached?
That's what I'll be finding out later.
Most of us think of Dorset as a rural county.
It is a patchwork of rolling hills, ancient woodland and sleepy villages.
So it is no surprise to find that it is a place where nature thrives.
This reserve has got plenty to see.
There is all kinds of birds from tufted duck
to black-tailed godwits.
But right in the heart of Weymouth,
Radipole Lake is the RSPB's most urban reserve in the country.
And it is not unheard of to see a marsh harrier,
one of the UK's rarest birds, keeping pace with a commuter train.
The reserve came about in a rather unusual way.
It is here because of the Second World War.
During the war, Weymouth was a naval base and suffered heavy bomb damage.
The rubble from the destroyed buildings was dumped in the river,
leaving it of little use for anything.
From this position, I can already see...
There's a shoveler, teal, quite a few heron.
And even, hidden away out there...
..there's some snipe.
You know, I could stand here all day, but apparently,
there's even more to see out there, so that is where I'm headed now.
The word 'radipole' comes from the Old English for reedy pool.
The reed beds that grew up on the rubble are the perfect habitat
for some of our favourite wildlife.
-Nice to see you.
What are you looking at here, then?
Well, there's just the odd bits and bobs out there.
There is a couple of little egret out there, at the back.
My guide today is Rob Farrington, the reserve manager.
Excellent. What are your top two wildlife stars here, then?
At Radipole, really, everyone wants to see otters and kingfishers.
-Otters we won't see today cos it's daytime.
-Not in the day, no.
-So what about your kingfishers?
-Kingfishers... Of course,
it's easier to see them in the day.
And we are actually doing a bit of work on a kingfisher bank
-if you'd like to help us out.
-Oh, yeah, let's take a look.
Kingfishers are ready nesting at Radipole Lake,
but to encourage them in greater numbers,
a team of volunteers are clearing an island home for them.
Oh, a slightly treacherous way in here.
-How are you doing, Stewart?
-Can I give you a hand?
-So what is up here? What are you doing?
Um, we are going to clean
this bank off to make a lovely
habitat for kingfishers.
How does... How will they use this exposed bank?
When it all gets nice and clear, they go into it,
nice soft soil, about a metre deep.
And hopefully, they will have two or three holes in this area.
-So they will nest in the boroughs that they make.
-It is quite soft, actually, isn't it? So it should be all right.
What about the reed-cutting you're doing?
Um, well, we try to keep the ditch clear for the kingfishers.
-They like to get a little bit of water for hunting and fishing.
As they come out of the nest, cos it's just a hole in dirt,
a metre deep, they come out a bit smelly.
And they have a wash as they come out.
-So bathing as well as fishing.
-Nice clear water for that.
-This is going to take a while, isn't it?
It is already looking like a home fit for a kingfisher.
I am keen to see one of these regal creatures for myself.
The hide just across the water should be the perfect
spot for a close-up view.
Well, after all that work,
if I don't see any, I shall be mighty disappointed.
What are our chances, Rob?
Well, you can never tell with wildlife,
-but this is a pretty good spot.
-Nice egret over there.
-Your old mute swan there.
What are we hearing there?
Cetti's warbler behind there.
That chika-chika-chika... That really aggressive, really loud...
It wasn't long before we struck lucky.
-Oh, so, kingfisher just coming into the row.
Just coming across here, doing its cartoon beep-beep.
What is that, a warning, do you think?
Well, I like to think it is the kingfishers are going
so blinking fast down all these little narrow little waterways,
I always think they are worried about ploughing into another
kingfisher, so there always kind of beep-beep, beep-beep.
The best thing about the kingfisher is everyone...
-And I blame nature programmes for this.
..is everyone goes off around the world
and says how amazing everyone else's wildlife is, but our wildlife
-is just as spectacular.
-Just as gorgeous.
-It is just that we are used to it.
That electric blue is just so vivid. And it is...
-It is nice that males and females are pretty similarly striking.
If that little bird there was wearing lipstick,
that's how we describe it... So the females have a red lower beak.
-It's nice to remember then -
the girls wear lipstick, the boys don't.
So the boys have got that whole black beak.
-So that looks like a male.
-Looks male there, doesn't it?
They have got incredible visual acuity to hunt so effectively from
above the water and accurately get the fish once they're in the water.
And it's amazing how...how good at fishing there are. I know
they are called the kingfisher,
but they very rarely come back empty-beaked.
Do you know? It absolutely was worth making the trip all the way out here.
I have seen kingfishers before
but never lingering on perches for as long as this.
So I have had amazing views.
And you know what is really fantastic about this place?
Is that it is right on everybody's doorstop.
From kingfishers to kings of a totally different kind now,
as Jules looks at a rural business here in Dorset
that has been around since Henry VIII was on the throne.
For hundreds of years,
Britain's farms have fed millions of us,
from the fat of the land.
And Dorset's fertile fields are no exception.
Scenes like this one - traditional breeds fattening for the table -
have remained unchanged for generations.
For as long as there have been farmers,
there has been a middleman between field and fork,
somebody who has transformed flock into feast, beasts into beef.
And these guys into bacon.
Butchery is one of the oldest trades.
The first recorded butchers' guild in the world was in 1272.
In the Middle Ages, butchers' stalls were often found crammed together
in the heart of a town.
It was literally a shambles,
the term coming from the Anglo-Saxon for meat shelf or flesher moulds.
In 1515, when Henry VIII was a young king,
still on wife number one, a man named Robert Balson
rented a plot for a butcher's stall in Bridport Shambles.
And 500 years later, it is still here, making it not just the
country's oldest butchers, but also Britain's oldest family business.
-How are you, mate?
-Very well. Nice to meet you.
-Well, happy 500th birthday.
-Thank you. 500 years.
-Wow, that is astonishing, isn't it?
-Yeah, it is a long time.
And has it always been on this site?
This is our new shop.
We have been in this shop for just 123 years.
-The new shop!
-The new shop.
The inside hasn't really changed at all.
In them days, there wouldn't have been a window.
The shop was open-fronted.
The meat was hung in the window and outside.
But that was the days, just horse and carts, no traffic fumes,
so it wasn't really unhygienic.
And people would come in, buy a big joint of meat,
which would last them all the week.
And in terms of the kind of meat that you are selling now, though,
has the content of the shop changed in any way?
No, we are selling all the beef, lamb, pork and chicken,
but then we have a few exotic meats as well now that we sell.
A bit of bison, ostrich, wild boar,
There are not local crocodiles, Jules.
Can't go out with your fishing rod and catch them.
It is a limited market, but it is another string to our bow.
We've survived plagues, fires, floods, wars...
I think you got to love what you do and love your customers.
-4.95, is that close enough?
-Yeah, OK, that's good.
Just for a change.
We like to make shopping a pleasurable experience.
When people come in, we have served their fathers before, their
grandparents before, and we say, "How is your mum, how is your dad?"
And they love that sort of interaction.
And that is something they don't get in a supermarket.
One thing that hasn't changed over the centuries is Richard's
traditional recipe for pork faggots,
which has been handed down through the generations.
So, what goes into your faggots, then?
Free-range pork, offcuts of shoulder and belly,
you've got the pig's liver, you've got onions.
And it is mixed with a concoction of spices - sage, onion, parsley,
thyme plus some secret ingredients which I couldn't possibly tell you.
-It's only you and me.
My butcher's garb is as traditional as the recipe.
-There you go, Richard. What do you think?
Come and give me a hand to roll these faggots.
-I better wash my hands.
-Just wash your hands first.
The minced ingredients are cooked and rolled into balls.
So we are looking for sort of cricket ball size?
Bit smaller than a cricket ball. If you roll them cricket ball size,
-I'm going to lose money, Jules.
And once rolled to perfection, the finishing touch is added.
There's faggots and there's faggots.
And unless faggots have got pig's caul on the top,
it is not really a faggot.
Now, this is the fat membrane which has grown around the stomach
-of the pig.
-It's like lace, isn't it?
-And you just lay it over the top.
It keeps them moist when they are finishing in the oven.
You have done a good job there, Jules.
I reckon we could get you in an apprenticeship.
And after just 20 minutes in the oven,
it's time to taste the results.
-That is fabulous.
-Yeah, it's very good.
I mean, the splicing, the onions really coming through
into the liver...
Shall we see what Bridport think of our efforts?
Yeah, let's go.
-It's very nice. Very nice.
-Fancy you'll have a dozen?
They are cheap at half the price, aren't they?
Especially the ones you made, Jules.
She'll be back next week for a dozen of them.
-What have you come in for today?
So what is it about the faggot that you particularly love?
It's just the texture of them. They're just so tasty and lovely.
And with a few mushy peas, absolutely lovely.
Well, Richard, I'd say that has been a success, there are only two left.
The proof's obviously in the eating, Jules. It has been great.
Well, they are absolutely delicious. So thank you.
-And here's to another 500 years.
But I'm afraid I still can't tell you the secret ingredient.
-That I will enjoy guessing at.
Now, as we have been hearing, plans to deepen Falmouth Harbour
have raised questions about the environmental impact of dredging.
We have always dredged our harbours and ports.
But in recent years, there has been growing concern about the effect
this is having on life beneath the waves.
For decades, spoil from the River Tamar and Plymouth Sound
has been dredged up and dumped out
to sea off here, Whitsand Bay in Cornwall.
It is very close to a Marine Conservation Zone.
And last year, the local community gathered to protest about
dredge material being dumped here from nearby Devonport naval dock.
Hundreds of people have turned up here at Ramehead
in protest despite the weather.
That is how concerned they are.
Please close this site and open another site in a safer area.
It is not right to dump it by a Marine Conservation Zone.
Earlier this year,
the dredging company was fined £40,000 by the regulator,
the Marine Management Organisation, or MMO, for dumping unlawfully.
But the case also raised questions about the MMO itself
and why it had agreed to the licence.
The local campaign group brought a claim to the High Court
challenging the MMO's decision to grant a licence for dredging.
And in February this year, that licence was quashed.
After that, how confident can we be in the body that decides on
and polices licences?
Nick Wright is from the MMO.
Given what happened in Plymouth and the dredging...
the people dredging were fined
£40,000, I think, people might be worried that you don't keep
a close enough eye on whether people actually follow the rules
that you put in place. How can you reassure people?
When we find that conditions are not being complied with,
we investigate and take the appropriate action,
which may lead to prosecution in significant cases.
How confident are you that it is a sort of robust and reliable process?
We are governed by the terms of the Marine and Coastal Access Act,
which require us to make the best
and appropriate decision.
When we issue a licence, we consult,
we take independent scientific advice where necessary.
And we make sure that we make the right decision after careful
consideration and consultation.
The chancellor, George Osborne, recently said in Falmouth
that he has applied pressure for dredging to happen
and would even consider government support to pay for it.
Do you feel under any political pressure?
No, we do not feel under any political pressure.
We feel under pressure from the Marine and Coastal Access Act
to make the right and appropriate decision.
The MMO are independent of government
and it is of no consequence.
We will make the decision based on facts and evidence.
Simple as that.
The decision in Falmouth continues to hang in the balance.
But elsewhere, the MMO has signed off on a scheme which seems
to have kept all sides happy.
Here in Portsmouth,
a dredging project will start in a matter of weeks.
The plan is to make a state-of-the-art home for the
Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers.
Well, Portsmouth Harbour isn't just home to the Navy, ferries
and cruise ships, it is also where native oysters live.
And they are under threat.
Rob Clark is the chief officer
of the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority,
which has come up with a plan to save them.
The area in front of us here is going to be dredged.
And there are plumes of silt which will be let off as a consequence.
And those... That silt lays on top
of these oysters and stops them reproducing.
We worked with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation
to relocate those oysters and re-lay them in high-density beds.
The relocation of the oysters became a condition of the dredging licence.
According to Rob, it is the first time this has happened.
So you're moving them from there, and where you taking them to?
There are two main places.
One is just behind us here, in Ben Ainslie's new development,
underneath his pontoons. And also we are going to put them
in a number of locations in the harbours in the wild,
in high-density beds.
Wow. Some desirable real estate next to Ben Ainslie's place there,
-isn't it? Swanky! For oysters, isn't it?
Paid for by the licensee, the MOD, the hope is that this
ground-breaking project will also benefit local fishermen.
-Is it your hope that you can rebuild that fishery again?
We are not going to achieve that by ourselves.
We need to work with partners
and we need to work with developers.
We hope to mitigate some of that impact
and support that inshore fishery environment.
So, would something like this work in Falmouth?
Well, research has been conducted by the University of Plymouth that
supporters of the dredging believe shows maerl habitats would not be
damaged if moved.
But those campaigning against it question that conclusion.
There are so many differences
between the trial and what
would happen in reality that it is,
you now, it is very hard to believe
that gives any meaningful insights into what would actually happened.
You simply cannot extrapolate from a small scale trial to reality.
It is surprising to find some precious
habitats beneath the waters of some of our busiest ports.
And in places, there have been very creative efforts to allow
both business and the environment to thrive.
But elsewhere, expect stormy confrontations to continue.
I'm in Dorset,
in a woodland location that's home to a school of architecture
where they make incredible buildings out of wood.
And looking around this vast forest, at first glance, you would
think that there was a plentiful supply of building materials,
but managing a woodland for construction timber is a tall order.
Jez Ralph is the estate's manager.
It is his job to decide what grows and what goes.
When we took over the woodland about 12 years ago,
it was predominantly two species only - Norway spruce and beech.
-And they were all planted at the same time, in 1950.
So it is a very even-aged, monocultural system.
So it is kind of quite a risk now - a risk of disease,
a risk of storm damage, especially here.
If you take away all these trees, you can see the coast behind us.
And a changing climate.
So now you are diversifying,
you are evolving the woodlands into something slightly different.
Yeah. So what we are trying to do now is alter this whole structure
of the forest so that in 50 or 60 years, we have,
say, 15 different species that are durable, or strong,
or in some way are going to provide a product for the future.
The forest is run commercially,
producing timber for a range of purposes.
Straight trees go through the sawmill.
But the conventional method of using machines to process timber
means any tree that is an awkward shape is wasted.
The problem is, is that a lot of our timber,
like a lot of English woodlands, is of variable quality.
It can be bent, it can be forked.
It is just not suitable for the straightness you need to put
it through a sawmill.
And generally, we just sell it for firewood.
So what we're trying to do here is we are trying to take this
variable quality wood and we are trying to show
that there is potentially a use for it,
trying to find ways to process it
and take things that are firewood quality now
and make a whole building out of it.
And that is where the woodland architecture students come in.
This year, they're building project is all about turning
forked tree trunks into useful building materials.
It is early days, but they reckon it is going to be a woodchip stall.
And like everything here, it is made with a mixture of traditional
and ultramodern techniques.
Um, what is it? HE LAUGHS
-That is a good question.
-This is half of a large truss we are building...
-..to support the roof panels.
-Ah-ha. OK, right, so show me the model.
Because everything will fall into perspective here as we look at this.
-Everything will make much more sense.
OK. So... Which bit are we looking at here? On the model.
Right now we are studying kind of...
Or we are looking at from about here to here.
-So this section in here.
So we started by kind of wondering the woods,
-taking photographs of about 200 trees in total.
From those, we have done some preliminary design,
gone back with kind of an idea of which ones we wanted.
Those trees are then 3-D scanned.
We used the scans here to generate kind of a geometry,
which are what we eventually need to be able programme our robot.
-You've got a robot?
-We've got a robot.
You've got to introduce me to this robot.
Yeah, we'll show you the control room over here.
-So just right in here is Pradeep and Sweta.
-Can I come and watch from in here, is that all right?
The building will be made up of 20 forked tree trunks.
Using the scanned 3-D image of each unique tree, the robot arm cuts the
joints needed to fit them together during the final construction.
Such an odd relationship going on in there, isn't it?
With something that has grown so naturally and so beautiful
and yet, you know, it is being fashioned by something so futuristic.
Well, with the help of all of that technology,
it seems like everything is going to plan.
But to make sure they are on schedule, what they could really
deal with is a Countryfile calendar sold in aid of Children in Need.
And if you haven't got yours yet, here's how you do it.
The calendar costs £9.50 including free UK delivery.
You can buy yours either via our website at...
Or by calling the order line on...
To order, please send your name
and address and a cheque to...
A minimum of four pounds from the sale of every calendar will go to
BBC Children in Need.
Now, last year's calendar was a record breaker,
raising over £1.5 million.
And of course, this year, we hope to raise even more.
The nights are drawing in and there is a distinct chill in the air.
Sunny days may be long gone, but down on Adam's farm,
things are just as busy as ever.
This season, though, has been tougher than usual.
This time of year is often one for reflection.
Many of you might have heard
that my dear dad passed away a few weeks ago.
And I have been really touched by all the kind messages that
viewers have sent in. But his achievements live on.
A lot of the rare breeds that he helped to save
still need looking after.
And it is a legacy I am proud to continue.
When Dad helped set up the Rare Breeds Survival Trust
in the early '70s, there were several breeds of livestock
that had already died out completely.
Since then, no breed of cattle or sheep has become extinct in the UK.
Dad and the Trust were responsible for keeping many of our best
loved farm animals going.
Not least, these lovely Gloucester cattle.
And earlier in the year,
I introduced this magnificent Gloucester bull, Dougie,
and he turned out to be a bit of a character.
So this is Dougie.
He is my new Gloucester bull.
He is Isaac's replacement.
Dougie here has been in isolation for about a month now,
so he is fairly lively
now I've turned him out.
Whoa, whoa, fella.
But he has been given a clean bill of health
and he is ready to meet the cows. And he is pretty keen.
Well, he is certainly looking pretty lively.
And the horse is surprised to see him.
I'm not sure this was a good idea.
I will have to try to get him heading in the right direction.
Well, that was in the summer.
Since then, the lush grass has disappeared
and the weather has got a lot more autumnal.
Thankfully, Dougie has settled into the herd.
And he has done a really good job.
He's got over half of the herd pregnant now.
So what I am going to do is sort them out
and take the pregnant ones away to some winter grazing.
Go on out of the way.
Go on. Go on.
Right, I only need one more. 370. There she is, over here.
Lovely and quiet, these Gloucesters. Really lovely to work with.
There we go. That's right. Four cows and a calf.
I'll get these down to their winter grazing.
It is not every breed you can leave out to grass in the winter.
But Gloucesters are hardy cattle, which makes them
perfect for the job I've got in mind.
This part of the farm is a Site of Special Scientific Interest
There are important plants growing here,
so it needs to be carefully grazed.
Four Gloucester cows and a calf is perfect to start with.
They just love it in here.
These cows having a scratch on these thorn bushes.
Most people will be putting their cattle into sheds at this
time of year, but we have got this part of the farm that needs
grazing during the winter months.
It is full of rare plants and butterflies.
And for conservation, the sward needs breaking open
and ripping out by the cattle.
And then that encourages the wild flowers to set seed
and do very well.
So these rare breed cattle do a wonderful job in here.
And I am delighted that Dougie has got these cows in calf.
It is quite an investment spending money on an expensive bull.
And the last thing you want is to find out he is infertile.
And that goes for my sheep, too.
You might remember in the summer I purchased
a Kelly Hill ram from farmer Richard Smith just up the road.
You are looking at the very best of what I have.
-I reckon that animal is easily worth £600.
-And is there any negotiation there?
-He's a hard man.
And seeing as I know what you paid for his dad...
-Put it there.
-Thank you very much.
-Thank you very much. Congratulations.
I introduced the new ram to my ewes only a few weeks ago.
Now it is time to get them in,
to see how the new boy has been performing.
And here he is. He is a really lovely ram.
He is wearing a harness. On it is a chalk.
So when he mates with the ewes, he leaves his mark on their rumps,
and he has served them all so far. I am really pleased with him.
I reckon it is £600 well spent.
Now I have got to catch him.
What I want to do is change his crayon,
if I can tip him up.
He is such a strong, powerful beast.
There's a good boy.
We change the crayon every week or so, and then we know
when the lambs are going to be born.
He leaves a mark on the ewe's rumps when he serves them.
And then due to the dates,
we know when his lambs are going to be born in the spring.
So there we go. From red to blue.
Right, I'll let him go. Go on, fella.
Late autumn is a busy time of year if you are a ram.
And with several rare breeds of sheep on the farm,
we have plenty of crayons to change.
There is one breed, however, that I am particularly fond of.
These are my Cotswolds, a breed that is very close to my heart
because they were my dad's favourite.
In fact, there is an old Cotswold saying that
a shepherd should be buried with a lock of Cotswold wool in his hand.
So that when they meet the great Lord at the pearly gates, he sees
the lock of wool and realises that person was a shepherd,
and that was the reason they couldn't go to church on Sundays.
So that is what we did for my dad.
Right, better get on and change this ram's ruddle.
All right, where are you, fella?
There's a good boy.
There are really big sheep, these Cotswolds. Famous for their wool.
They've got wool right down their legs, all over their heads.
Really beautiful, fine, lustrous fleece.
Right, I will just take his crayon off.
There. That was easy, wasn't it, mate?
Right, that is all the rams done.
I'll pop out to the fields now and check on the crops.
Go on, boy.
When it comes to the arable side of the business, the weather
in late autumn is less of a worry than at other times of year.
The harvest is in, next year's planting is all done
and, in many ways, we are playing the waiting game until spring,
when the crops will start to grow again.
There is, however, a new crop we've planted that is doing
an important job for me over the cold winter months.
Across about 100 acres on this part of the farm, we are
growing a cover crop.
And it is basically two plants - a vetch and a black oat.
And the idea is that the cover crop catches nitrogen
and absorbs the nitrogen from the soil to stop it getting
washed through the soil and into watercourses and causing pollution.
The other thing it does is that it has organic matter above
and below the ground in the leaf and the roots.
When we spray this off in the spring to plant the spring barley,
the nitrogen and the organic matter breaks down
and works like a fertilizer for the following crop.
And from that, we are getting about a tonne to the acre
yield increase. It is really good stuff.
It is helping the environment and me as a farmer.
With fertile soils,
and hopefully some fertile sheep,
the farm looks well-placed to reap what we have sown come spring.
Dorset is often seen as picture postcard perfect,
a chocolate box vision of the British countryside.
And it is largely farming
and forestry that has shaped this beautiful landscape.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the people who have devoted
their lives to working the land,
and we shouldn't forget them when they are unable to do it any longer.
But too often, rural folk like farmers, shepherds,
fishermen and village bobbies lose touch with their former lives
when they get older and infirm.
But that is not happening to this lot.
# You've got to accentuate the positive. #
This is The Countrymen's Club.
# Eliminate the negative
# Latch onto the affirmative. #
Twice a week, a group of rural men between the ages of 60 and 100
with life-changing conditions like dementia
and Parkinson's disease come together on this farm to ensure
a lifetime's experience and skills aren't forgotten.
-Hello. How are you doing?
-Hello, Ellie, good to meet you.
-This is Alf.
-Hello, little one.
I like to say he is the leader of the farm,
or he thinks he is, anyway.
Are you now?
The Countrymen's Club is the brainchild of Julie Plumley.
She grew up on a farm in Dorset but spent 20 years
as a social worker.
It was in this of the role that she realised the benefits
a rural environment could have for people in need.
So in 2009, she bought this farm and formed Future Roots.
It provides opportunities for teenagers and children experiencing
difficulties in their lives. And then she set up The Countrymen's Club.
How did The Countrymen's Club come about?
It was when Dad got Parkinson's, so about three years ago.
And his Parkinson's was progressing.
And we tried to find somewhere for him to go where he could be with
other men, like-minded men, that would enjoy the outside.
And actually, in old age, what we found is
there is nothing else for men who are poorly,
who have either got Parkinson's, dementia, who have had strokes,
who've had an outdoor life.
So there is a lot of day centres around,
but they actually don't cater for men who like the rural lifestyle.
That's why we thought,
"Right, hold on. This is working for the young people,
"let's give this a go and see if it works for the older people."
Why did it have to be with other men?
Well, a lot of the men that would have worked on the land would
have just worked with other men.
And unless you have got men in the family...
And my dad had two daughters, so he didn't come across another man.
And also all the carers that now look after him are all female.
So you don't ever... You don't ever talk to another man,
and there is a difference in the communication.
There you are.
You know, they'll be cheeky with women and there is the banter,
but it is very different when they are with their peer group.
The health benefits of spending time in the natural world
are well documented.
The serotonin levels in Parkinson's... That is
the problem with Parkinson's, the feel-good factor is just not there.
And if you bring them out into the sensory environment
that they've loved - smelling the cows,
the silage, the noises - all of a sudden, the serotonin kicks in.
And I'm not saying farming is for everybody,
but what I am saying is for rural men that love their garden,
love being outdoors, they need all of that.
And often they are kept away from those sensory feelings just
because they're older.
How is the grooming going, Tony, all right? That is looking neat.
Very nice job.
I do it every morning to my hair.
That's where I get the training from.
That's...that is a useful bit of training.
-How do you like coming here?
-Oh, yes, I like coming.
It keeps me occupied.
For us, as a family,
it has been a bit of a life-saver,
really. Because if he was at home,
then he'd be at home in isolation, in silence, because
he doesn't read any more, he doesn't watch the television any more.
So this gives him some stimulation. And he loves being outside.
He loves animals.
It is just something for us as a family to talk to him about
and something for him to do
that brings him back into some kind of society.
-I used to work the farm years ago.
-Oh, did you?
-When I was a lad.
Then I went in the Army.
When I came out, I worked on the farm.
And I have done loads of jobs since.
I had a little small hold of my own at one time.
-So proper outdoorsman, are you?
-I didn't retire till a couple years back.
I've got Parkinson's disease now. And this is a great help.
When I first retired, I got in the wife's way.
She was glad to kick me out of the house sometimes.
Now I spend more time out of the house than I do in.
It was affecting me, I think, more than it was him. I was quite nasty,
shouting and, you know...
But I am totally relaxed now because life is almost as it was before.
After a busy afternoon in the great outdoors, it is
back to the club to warm up with some hot soup.
-All together now.
# Back at home, my cares and woe
# Here I go... #
Julie hopes schemes like this will one day be part
of the country's medical toolkit in the same way that doctors
can refer people to the gym. And it is not just about the men.
Julie is starting a similar club for elderly rural women
called Land Ladies.
Well, today's weather is ideal for staying inside
with some home-made soup.
But what will the weather be like for us all this week?
We're in Dorset.
And whilst Ellie has been catching up with a club for retired countrymen,
I am in Hooke Park,
exploring a school for budding woodland architects
learning to build ultramodern buildings from the trees
growing around them.
Earlier on, we saw how a robot arm can cut precise joints in wood.
Now, it is almost time to hoist our tree trunk into position.
Now, we have all done practical exams,
but let me tell you, they do not come much bigger than this -
constructing a full-scale building.
And this is part of the final project for the students here.
Now, what they are doing is they're constructing a woodchip stall.
And they're using these four sections of the trees that would, well,
normally just be thrown away.
Right then, Zach, we are at quite a critical point here,
-aren't we, in the build?
-Yeah. No, absolutely. We are kind of...
We are nearing completion on the first half of the truss.
-We have got nine forks up in the rig.
You and I are just looking at kind of finishing the last
-chiselling for the last fork.
-So we are kind of...
Right now, what we are struggling with is that you get these
perfect pieces from the robot, but the robot can't put them
together, so there is a little bit of handwork in fixing
connections that maybe weren't quite deep enough.
And then we've got this jig which kind of sets out the geometry,
so each of these vertical points that we'll see tells
exactly where the fork needs to be placed.
Because they're big bits of wood.
OK, well, you tell me how I can help out.
-I'm more than happy.
What we are working on now is two the forks actually cross
-through each other. So I will give you this chisel.
And all that we're doing is just kind of finishing to clean up this
connection so that when we place it on,
the other fork is going to sit nice and tight onto that, when we do.
I see. So you just want to clean up all those edges.
-Yeah, just clean it up. Any of the fuzz.
And so what happens, then, if this stage does go a little bit haywire?
If this one in particular were to go wrong,
we'd probably be back in the forest looking for a tree.
-Yeah. So kind of...
There are couple of forks in the truss that would be pretty
-simple to replace.
But this one would be a bit of a mission,
going after very specific tree
which may or may not actually exist.
It looks just about finished, I think.
OK, so the plan now is to get this telehandler in...
Basically, lift this section up and take it right over the top
and drop it into position.
This moment has been months in the making.
Every tree is a unique piece of the jigsaw.
If the cuts are wrong and the piece doesn't fit,
then the whole tree is useless
and it is back to the drawing board.
Well, this is absolute precision driving from the telehandler.
I mean, we are just millimetres away from where we need to be.
-There it is.
-There it is!
-There it is!
Yes, good work! Well done, team. So, good job. Excellent. Yes.
Sahil. Super stuff. Super stuff.
That must be a very satisfying moment, that.
Oh, it is very hard to describe how many steps have been kind of
-in the way to getting here.
And you have taken something that really is so random and has grown
so naturally, and yet you bring it in here
-and it is absolute precision.
Much of what these students are doing has never been done before.
Get it right and their methods could transform both architecture
and the landscape,
creating a new era of buildings - more technological,
less wasteful and much more creative.
Well, that is all we have got time for this week.
Next week, Ellie and John are going to be in Shropshire.
But from all of us here...
-Bye-bye. See you later.
Countryfile is in Dorset. Matt Baker explores a woodland architecture school, where the surrounding trees become the building materials. Ellie Harrison meets a group of retired gentlemen who are keeping hold of their rural ties through a very special countrymen's club. She is also on the hunt for kingfishers at the RSPB's most urban reserve in Weymouth. Jules Hudson meets the butcher whose family business has been running since Henry VIII was on the throne, and Adam Henson takes stock on the farm as winter draws closer.
Tom Heap asks whether the business benefits of dredging British ports to allow bigger ships to use them outweigh concerns over the environmental impact.