Matt and Ellie are in Essex where Matt jumps aboard the Pioneer, a fully restored Essex oyster boat, and Steve Brown finds out what it's like to fire an English longbow.
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Ah! The sea air. The rolling waves.
There's only one way to explore the Essex coast...
I'm at the helm of Pioneer,
the last of her kind.
Now fully restored, she is a living link to this area's rich past.
I'm on board for a trip back in time.
And finding out that boats still play a big part in life round here.
Go, guys! Go, go, go, go, go!
Ellie's coming face to face with some psychedelic seals.
There's one behind us, a couple behind us actually.
Every time I turn round, there's one bobbing about.
Tom's looking at a brand-new solution to the contamination
that's spoiling some of our most glorious countryside.
It's one of the biggest threats to water quality and
river ecology in certainly this part of Wales.
And Adam and Charlotte are meeting the last of this year's
contenders for Countryfile's Young Farmer Award.
-Look at that!
-So that's how you're supposed to do it.
The Essex coast.
A mix of islands, inlets,
and seaside towns, strung along 350 miles.
Along this stretch of coastline
people have always made a living from the sea,
but as you can see from the yachts,
the dinghies and these beautiful coloured beach huts,
these days, people also come here to enjoy this place at their leisure.
I'm headed for Brightlingsea,
once an important hub for shipbuilding and fishing.
And to learn more about its maritime history,
I'm joining this lot - the hardy crew of a very special sailboat.
How are you doing, team? THEY CHEER
-Everybody all right? Good. Right, who's in charge? ALL:
And I'm not surprised that they're all up for it.
Because who wouldn't want to skipper this?
Tell you what, she hasn't half got some charisma.
She's a Victorian oyster dredger,
known in these parts as an Essex smack.
And what makes Pioneer extra special
is she's the oldest fishing boat of her kind still at sea.
Look at this, I tell you! It really is like stepping back in time.
But just wait until her sails are up.
Two-six, heave! Two-six, heave!
Matt, how are you with knots?
Er, KNOT very good!
-I like the pun there.
Good work, team!
Very good work!
That's good. Phewf.
You look at all your handiwork up above you, and it's mesmerising.
And calm. And listen -
no sound of an engine. Just waves crashing below.
That is lovely, that.
Pioneer is a sight to behold.
But she didn't always look this grand.
After a century at sea, she was left to rot,
before a group of locals came to her rescue.
They set up the Pioneer Sailing Trust,
and in 1988,
a huge restoration project began.
James Dodds was part of the team,
using his artistic talents to document the rebuild.
I've followed this project right from the beginning.
I like to think that I'm celebrating the art of the boatbuilder.
-How challenging was the restoration?
I mean, first of all, digging it out of the mud...
-..which was not an easy task. Getting it ashore in one piece,
cos...really, everything below the mud layer was there,
but everything above had well rotted away.
In 2003, after five years of hard graft,
Pioneer set sail from Brightlingsea once again.
In full sail, she brings to mind a different age.
A time long passed,
but captured beautifully in this never broadcast before film.
These scenes were shot by local people, and form part of
a new collection from the British Film Institute.
They show how taking to the water has been
a way of life in Essex for decades.
And now, Pioneer is being used
to teach a new generation how to sail...
..with Josh and Shari showing new crew members the ropes.
Good work. Good stuff.
So when you don't have the Countryfile crew on board,
who is normally helping you out?
All sorts of young people,
but mainly people who wouldn't get an opportunity to go sailing.
Watching the groups develop, if we're on a five-day trip,
and the confidence that they gain is just amazing
towards the end of the week.
And that's a big thing for us, just watching that.
The charity that was set up to restore Pioneer
hasn't stopped with her.
Back on dry land, in Brightlingsea,
they're working on some exciting projects.
Well, we are now heading back to find out more about those projects.
Obviously I'm at the helm here, so hopefully
we'll be arriving back at the right place.
But while I concentrate on navigating,
here's Tom, with a restoration of a different sort.
As the Pioneer worked the waters,
inland, our minds drove British industry.
Especially here, in central Wales.
This is an area of sweeping beauty,
a wild oasis stretching as far as the eye can see.
But here and there, a scar in the landscape.
Amongst all the natural splendour here in Ceredigion
are barren patches of land like this.
It has a certain eerie beauty,
but it lacks any lush greenery.
Because this is contaminated land,
and cleaning it up is costing the earth.
Factories, power stations and landfill sites
all leave a legacy of contamination,
that across the UK cover nearly
a million acres, or 400,000 hectares.
That's pretty much the size of Somerset.
Here in central Wales,
metal mines are one of the major causes of contaminated land.
There are 1,300 of them in Wales, all now abandoned.
This is one of the largest, Cwmystwyth. It closed in the 1920s.
Well, as you see, this site is covered in vast dumps of waste
left over from the processing of the metal ores,
especially lead and zinc...
Paul Edwards is from Natural Resources Wales.
He faces the huge challenge of cleaning up these mine sites.
How badly polluted is this site?
Well, this site is certainly one of our top five
most polluting metal mine sites in Wales.
'We can find out just HOW concentrated the heavy metals are
'in the spoil heaps, by using this X-ray analyser.'
That looks very Star Trek!
-So I just need you to stand behind me while I take a reading.
Just for safety.
So what have we got?
So we've got about 8.2% lead there,
which is very high.
And we've got about 0.1% zinc there as well.
'The level of lead in this spoil heap is thousands of times higher
'than you'd expect to see in any normal soil,
'and the level of zinc is hundreds of times higher.'
So what are YOU making of those readings, Paul?
Well, we'd be very concerned about lead concentrations this high.
Water often flows through here,
and it erodes this material and
carries it straight into the river.
And if we walk along here,
I can show you where metals are getting into the river now.
Well, that is a very livid orange strip. What is going on here?
Well, this is the water that's flowing out
from the entrance to the mine.
And it's bright orange because it contains a lot of iron,
but it's the other metals such as zinc, lead and cadmium
which are more toxic to the river life.
Can we test for it in any way?
Well, I have this kit, which is a very crude test for zinc...
If we could fill that to that line...
-OK. About 5ml.
And then just rock it back and fore to mix it up a bit.
Bit of field science. Loving this.
Right, and now we just want to dip this paper in
about one second in there...
-It's gone a lot darker already.
So, probably got about, say,
10-25mg polluter of zinc,
which is extremely high.
And how does that compare in terms of
a normal river or a normal watercourse?
Well, that's a couple of thousand times higher than what you'd
want to achieve in the river.
How much zinc is actually coming out of this little stream in a year?
About six tonnes a year of zinc.
-But bear in mind that the site as a whole discharges
about 20 tonnes of zinc a year.
Those metals are directly toxic to fish and invertebrates,
so it does have an effect. I mean, there are very few fish
in the river downstream of this discharge.
It's one of the biggest threats to water quality and
river ecology in certainly this part of Wales.
The pollution from this stream is severe, but it CAN get even worse.
Deep inside the mine shafts are underground lakes
of contaminated water.
When pressure builds, it can cause
a blowout - toxic water bursts on to the hillside and into the river,
with devastating consequences.
Thankfully, this one at Cwm Rheidol mine last year was
diverted away from the river. But in the 1960s, a single blowout here
killed all the fish for a ten-mile stretch.
Tackling contamination on this scale is an expensive business -
around £2.5 million per site.
Across Wales, this is a multi-multi-million pound
clean-up job on your hands here.
If we want to treat every single polluting mine, it would be,
but realistically we're focusing on a few priority sites
which cause the most environmental damage.
That means there are still over 1,000 mines leaching toxic metals
into the environment, entirely unchecked.
So, contaminated land is an environmental disaster, and
cleaning it up is breaking the bank, but could there be
a brand-new and much cheaper way to solve this problem?
That's what I'll be finding out later.
-Here on the Essex and Suffolk border lies Foxearth Meadows,
a quiet nature reserve where there's a real-life story
of beauty and the beast.
And this is the beast in question.
This is a dragonfly larvae.
They're seldom seen, spending up to four years in the aquatic
underworld, and down there they are voracious predators.
They'll feast on almost anything smaller than themselves,
including tadpoles and small fish.
Vicious hinged jaws flash forward in hundredths of a second.
Unsuspecting prey has no chance.
That's not the only remarkable thing about these mini monsters.
They actually breathe from their back end,
using gills in their rectum.
And if they feel threatened, they can expel water at speed
from their backside to whizz away from danger.
It's all pretty beastly.
The next life stage sees an extraordinary transformation.
Most of their life is spent preparing for this moment -
a metamorphosis from aquatic beast
into aerial beauty.
The fully formed dragonfly casts off its exoskeleton,
leaving behind a delicate exuviae, or moulted skin.
I've got a couple of examples here that really show the
different sizes of the different species.
If you see these around at this time of year and for the next few
weeks, you know that there are adults on the wing.
And that's great news, as nationally,
dragonfly numbers are in decline.
With that in mind, Foxearth Meadows has become the UK's only
nature reserve managed specifically
for dragonflies and damselflies.
And it's all thanks to one man's passion for these insects.
Some people referred to him as a gentle giant.
He just loved everything - flowers, trees...
Just appreciated them all.
Over the years, he became
passionate about dragonflies.
Keith Morris worked in pensions,
but 20 years ago
took on this small piece of land,
which he and his wife Maureen turned into a haven for wildlife.
He came with a friend, and they worked on digging the ponds.
He also made the edge of the pond here more graduated,
to be more suitable for dragonflies.
Keith was always on the lookout for dragonflies and damselflies,
and he was really pleased to be able
to record so many over the years.
Sadly, eight years ago, Keith died of cancer.
It was up to Maureen to decide the future of the site.
I think he thought it might be a burden for me.
So he said that the wildlife had gained while he was alive,
and so just sell it. But I couldn't do that.
I wanted to, you know, carry on with what he'd done.
Maureen found help through an unexpected source -
her local church.
A Christian conservation charity called A Rocha, which is
Portuguese for "the rock", raised enough funds to take on the site.
David Chandler is a trustee of the charity.
So how did a Christian charity become involved in conservation?
A Rocha started in the mid-1980s, and it's really rooted in
a conviction that Christians should be caring for creation,
caring for the natural world.
Why is THIS site so important for the charity?
Oh, well, it's our first owned nature reserve.
-You know, so that makes it really significant.
And it's a great opportunity to engage with local people
in some really practical, grassroots conservation.
And on the dragonflies and damselflies particularly,
-how many species do you have?
So we've got 21 on the list for here. And some context for that -
UK list, regular species, 46.
So we've got nearly half of them on this little site.
-Yeah, really great.
The site is already a flying success,
but if more proof were needed, the reserve has got some new
and rather special arrivals.
Walking along here it would be incredibly easy to miss these
tiny little marks along this branch.
These are little scars that are evidence of egg-laying,
and in this case they were laid by the willow emerald damselfly.
Originally from the Continent, the emerald damselfly
is the most recent species to establish breeding colonies
here in the UK.
The number of species here is testament
to the vitality of the reserve,
and a fitting legacy to Keith Morris,
who made it all possible.
Oh, he'd be thrilled. It's exactly what he would have wanted.
So it's just wonderful.
I'm on a manhunt...
..searching these woods near Chelmsford
for a master of an ancient art.
A crack shot.
Well, it looks like he's around here somewhere...
He's spent a lifetime crafting and mastering the longbow.
And the name of our mystery archer?
This is yours, I assume, Tom.
Yeah. Oh, splendid, thank you. I've been looking for that.
What makes it so effective?
What Mother Nature has been kind enough to do in the yew
is to marry a very hard, very dense heartwood
to a soft, springy sapwood.
And by making it into a bow, we utilise
the stiffness here and the suppleness there
to make a very powerful spring.
This was put to devastating effect on medieval battlefields,
where longbow archers won wars for English kings...
..their arrows stopping armoured knights - dead.
This weapon changed the course of history.
Tom has spent decades learning to use it.
His training began at nine years old,
when he became an apprentice for a gamekeeper and bowyer,
who passed on the secrets of this ancient weapon.
So I'd spend my days with him out on the mound,
managing the woodland, managing the wildlife,
and he just sat me down with a bit of wood and a drawknife,
like that, and we started making bows.
They take a week to make,
each bow crafted from either yew or ash.
Get some of the excess off... start to turn it into a bow. OK?
Tom has spent 50 years making them,
and he believes the power required to wield a bow
helped him survive a life-threatening injury.
So what happened to you, Tom?
I was serving in the Navy. Wrong place, wrong time,
got smacked in the back by a gun barrel, broke my back.
Spent the next nine months in a full-body cast,
and another 18 months learning to walk.
The one thing really that helped me get over that injury
more than anything else was the tremendous upper body strength
that I'd developed by shooting a warbow.
You know, I need the upper body strength to be able to
learn to walk again.
It's amazing hearing your story, because as you speak,
all I'm doing is replacing the word "longbow" with "sport".
-Everything you said resonates so deeply with me.
Tom believes a bow is an extension of him.
And, as I watch one take shape,
I start to understand what he means.
Right, so... Let's have a look here.
-You can feel the wood.
-You can feel the lumps, the bumps, the grooves.
You can only make the bow that the bit of wood will give you.
You can't force it. You know.
Some come easy, some fight.
But Tom has a special way of bending the wood to his will.
What we've got here, OK,
is a very simple device called
a tillering stick,
and what we do is we just put the bow on the top there, stretch it,
and what we're actually looking for is a nice even bend from end to end.
That's amazing how smooth and how well-worked that is
to get that balance in it.
This bow is ready to go. It's ready to shoot now.
'But we'll need some arrows first...
'..and Tom's mate Rick Sherwood is the man to help.
'He's making them just as blacksmiths would have done
'six centuries ago, at the Battle of Agincourt.'
So your process is exactly the same as they might have done
-in medieval times?
-Yeah, it's very, very close.
They would have had to produce roughly one every five minutes.
The amount of arrows that they got through in a battle
must have been unreal, wouldn't it?
Yeah. When Henry went to France in 1415,
he took three million arrows with him.
You're not going to waste your time giving this to someone
that can't shoot it, are you?
'So let hope they're not wasted on me.
'Time for my archery lesson.'
'Because of his spinal injury, Tom often shoots sitting down
'as well, which means adjusting our technique.'
Rather than bringing the bow right up vertical,
if I shoot on the angle...
-You really make it look easy.
Well, that's 50-odd years of practice, mate.
-Be the bow.
Go on. That's it.
-Good lad. Well done.
-That was better, wasn't it?
Much better. Yeah.
-Come on! Look at that!
But how will I fare against Tom's star pupils
in a medieval archery tournament?
First person to hit the bell wins.
Right, read 'em and weep, ladies and gents.
Awww! Did you see that?!
I hadn't even finished loading me bow IN!
And that's how we won Agincourt, Steve!
Do you know what, right?
I might not have won today - but what a day it's been.
Earlier, we heard how contaminated land
is causing an environmental catastrophe.
So, what's the solution?
Tom's been looking at a grassroots alternative.
Nestled in the heart of Wales,
Ceredigion is wild and beautiful.
But it's also home to a concentration
of abandoned metal mines, that are causing trouble in paradise.
These mountains of mining spoil contain heavy metals,
and when it rains, these toxic minerals can be washed from here
across the ground and into our rivers.
And this pollution can have a devastating effect on wildlife,
wiping out fish and even killing livestock.
Current methods for tackling contamination
cost millions of pounds.
But could there be another, much cheaper solution?
So what have we got here, emerging in the sea mist?
Yeah, welcome to Wales, Tom. It's standard weather here.
'Dr Jon McCalmont from Aberystwyth University
'thinks he may just have the answer.'
The field we're in at the moment is a field of miscanthus.
-It's a giant Asian grass.
-Well, you say giant. Currently it's, what,
about half a metre or so high. How big will it get?
In this field here, it will easily reach three metres this year.
-Twice our height.
-They're huge. Yeah, yeah.
'When it reaches its full height, miscanthus drops
'a third of its leaves on the ground,
'forming a thick mat that protects the soil.'
That gives us a permanent layer, really.
You can see here, the soil is covered. It's its own weed control.
They also stop soil erosion, surface run-off...
I gather one of the secrets of this plant is happening
-BENEATH the surface.
the real action is going on below the ground, really,
and if you'd like to give me a hand, we can have a look.
I worried about those spades there! OK...
'Digging up this beast of a plant
'takes some serious elbow grease.'
-I think we're there, aren't we?
-I think there are about ready
to pull that out.
So we should be able to lift it over with some of...
Ah-ha. And what's the secret here?
So inside this mass of soil here is actually a rhizome structure.
'Rhizome is a type of root system,
'and a single miscanthus plant has a huge amount of it.'
And why is this stuff particularly important with our
contaminated land story?
When you've got soils that are full of heavy metals,
you don't want them moving around. So this just binds it all together,
it's like an underground structure that just knits everything
-The fact we're having trouble breaking it up...
-You can feel it.
-..illustrates the point, doesn't it?
-yeah, you can't even break this up.
-It's really tough stuff.
'If this dense root system holds the soil in place,
'it should stop heavy metals spreading into the water courses.
'But can miscanthus really grow on land as contaminated
'as I've seen here in Wales?
'Jon's been leading some pioneering trials here at his lab
'in Aberystwyth and in Poland,
'and can reveal to us for the first time his results.'
-So has this actually been tried on contaminated land anywhere?
Yeah, we've actually got these trials up and running now in Poland,
where we've been looking at heavy metal-contaminated land.
How is it that they're actually helping to deal with
the contamination problem there?
The immediate gain, obviously, is just stabilising that soil.
This production of the rhizome biomass, the litter deposition
on the surface, it just protects those soils straight away.
'And the miracle properties of miscanthus don't end there.
'It actually draws the metal toxins out of the soil,
'cleaning the land. But that takes time.'
Certainly decades. But they will start to take it out eventually,
you know? Anything from 80 to 200 years.
'So is this a long-term solution, that could transform
'our contaminated land?'
Absolutely. I mean, there's an easy win for this plant -
it helps straight away in soil stabilisation, we know that.
The results that we're getting now are suggesting it could
probably play a good role as well in taking some of these metals up,
and then to be removed in the biomass.
But certainly the soil stabilisation, straight away.
Miscanthus is already grown around much of the UK as a biofuel,
and this adds another incentive for using it on contaminated land.
Farmers can plant it in areas where they can't grow anything else,
and cultivate it as a cash crop.
It really does have quite a lot going for it.
So is miscanthus a silver bullet? Not everyone's convinced.
I've come to Frongoch Lead Mine, one of the most polluting mines
in Wales, to meet Peter Stanley from Natural Resources Wales.
He thinks, in many places,
miscanthus could do more harm than good.
Well, the miscanthus, it's a non-native species,
and just over to my left we've got some,
what's referred to as calaminarian grassland.
It's a heath grassland,
and metal-rich plants actually grow upon that.
The habitat is quite niche.
And that's not all that Peter wants to protect from miscanthus.
The remains of these mines may be scars on the landscape,
but they're scars that some people cherish.
We've got the archaeology just here.
This is important archaeology,
and it's something that we have to take into account.
And so is the point that if you went round, you know, planting, you know,
a big plant with a big root system over this,
that it would destroy it? Is that the problem?
It could damage it for certain, yeah.
And obviously we wish to avoid that.
So, some people have their concerns.
But the fight against contaminated land and water
has been going on for decades,
it's a war of attrition.
Enlisting the help of this powerplant,
alien though it is, might just bring us a step or two closer to victory.
The Essex coast line -
where generations have toiled, eking a living from the sea.
And a place for recreation, too.
This newly discovered film, which has never been broadcast before,
gives us a rare insight into the lives of local people -
going back decades.
BOTTLE CRACKS They may have been boatbuilders...
..or sailed the seas hoping for a monster catch.
Which was once the job of Pioneer...
..a Victorian oyster dredger that worked this coastline for a century.
She fell to rack and ruin, before being fully restored by
a dedicated team of enthusiasts.
The charity that saved her is based here.
At their yard in Brightlingsea,
they're bringing other historic vessels back to life too.
What are you up to, Charlie?
Felicity Lees from the Pioneer Sailing Trust runs an
apprenticeship scheme that teaches young people how to build boats.
The old-fashioned way.
Using skills that had all but died out in these parts.
How many have actually been through the system, do you know?
We've had something like 20
-that have been through since the start.
They're with us for at least two years,
so they can really get the most out of being here.
Charlie Brockie started his apprenticeship in 2011,
and has helped to rebuild Priscilla from the workshop floor up.
At what point in the boatbuilding process
do you have to ask for permission to come aboard?
-About now would be good.
-How are you doing?
-Good to see you, mate.
My word, this is very impressive. Look, solid!
It must be a magic feeling to build something
and then take it out on the water.
Yeah, it's... It'll be fantastic.
We're all looking forward to it so much.
And do you think you've found your thing in life then,
you think this is it for you?
Yeah, I've always been hands-on, you know,
-building things all my life, and into engineering as well.
So this has just ticked all the boxes, really.
The apprentices learn a huge amount whilst they're here,
including how to spot hidden treasure,
as their tutor John Lane explains.
-It's cosy down here, isn't it?
-It's lovely, isn't it?
Well, the reason we're sat down in this little section here is
because this is the point where the mast comes down
through the deck and into the base here.
And you made a very, very special discovery, didn't you?
To find the original coin.
It was traditional to put a...
basically a silver coin under the mast,
under the mast step.
We were lucky to find the original half crown, silver half crown,
-that was placed under the mast in 1893.
-What a find!
Well, one of our apprentices found that, by luck.
As soon as you feel it, you can sense the pressure of the
mast that's been pushing down on this coin. It's so smooth and...
When you think of all the storms that this has sailed through,
and now, thanks to all the hard work from the apprentices,
now gets the chance to sail a few more.
With a freshly minted pound coin right alongside.
ELECTRIC TOOLS BUZZ
Of course, you have to pay a lot more than a quid for the
boats the apprentices build.
Well, Felicity, I have to say
Violette really caught my eye as I came in here,
she is absolutely beautiful,
-and, erm, a gig.
-A gig, yeah, a rowing gig.
These are 24-foot four-man rowing gigs.
They used to be used here to pilot the big boats in.
And these are a very big part of the apprenticeship scheme.
They need to build a backbone,
they need to build the sides of the boat, they need to fit the
boat out, they need to make oars,
they need to make rudders, they need to do the painting.
So the gig was a perfect platform for that.
All the gigs are sold to local rowing clubs for racing,
so they have to be made to the same exact specifications.
But that's not a problem for an apprentice like Tariq,
who's made six gigs during his time here.
Tariq. How long have you been at the yard?
So I've been here about two and a half years.
And do you often get out on the water yourself in these boats?
Yeah, I've had a few goes myself, and if you're feeling strong
-you could come for a race with us later on.
-Are you going out today?
-We are, yeah.
-Not in this one though?
-Not in this one.
We've got one freshly painted and ready to go, so...
-With go-faster stripes on it?
Well, from apprentices to young farmers,
and of course young farmers are a big part of our British countryside.
And in recognition of that, earlier on in the year we launched
the Countryfile Young Farmer of the Year award.
Now, Adam and Charlotte have been sifting through the hundreds
of nominations, and here they are with the last of the final three.
-Oh, thank you.
-Shouldn't sound so surprised, should I?
That was impressive.
Well, we've been travelling up and down the country, looking for
young farmers who have made a huge difference to the British
countryside, and to find what makes them tick.
Well, so far we've met a teenager with farming in his blood,
and, well, a townie who's become a self-taught farmer.
And now we're in Northumberland, to meet a young woman who
thought she was going to have to spend her years OUTSIDE farming.
But now, she is very much a farmer.
-Right, do you want a go?
-Yeah, go on. What's the theory then here?
Young farmers play a vital role in feeding the nation,
and preserving our landscape.
And we want to recognise their achievements
with our Countryfile Young Farmer of the Year award.
You sent in hundreds of nominations from all over the country,
with stories of hard work, dedication and character.
We'll be announcing the lucky winner
at the BBC's Food & Farming Awards later this year.
Today we're meeting our third finalist -
a determined young woman, 24-year-old Vicky Furlong.
She was born into a farming family,
but has recently made her own tracks into a career on the land.
You really scared that one.
Look, there's an expert, this is who we need.
THEY LAUGH Vicky...
-You're quite good at shooting then?
-Yeah, try to be.
And how does the shooting and farming all work together then?
Well, my family farm has a shoot on it,
so I've been brought up with it my whole life.
It helps with vermin, controlling everything, for...
Helps the livestock and it helps the wildlife to thrive in the area.
I'm going to meet your dad, but before I go and do that
I just want you to show me how it's properly done.
Let's watch an expert at work.
A vital part of Vicky's working life is her second family - her dogs.
I've got three Labradors, two collies
-and an old girl in the house.
-So what's that, six in total?
-Yeah, six in total.
-So the Labradors for the shooting, for the picking up?
And the collies for working the sheepdogs?
Yeah, two collies for the sheepdogs.
Started off with one, but realised that I needed another,
it was just a little bit too much.
And do you train them yourself?
Collies I don't, but the Labs I do.
And how did you learn how to do that?
Just picking up bits and bobs here and there.
Luckily enough they're quite natural as well.
For Vicky, farming and conservation go hand in hand.
This is Muckle Moss Nature Reserve, and Vicky works closely with
English Nature to manage it as a wildlife habitat.
And so, is that what it's all about for you then,
connecting all of those things together?
Shooting, farming and conservation?
Yeah, it's connecting it all together
and making it a great environment.
So, what's your favourite? Cattle, sheep or gun dogs?
-Oh, you've got me there.
The cattle and the gun dogs are quite high up
and the sheep are close behind.
'Vicky grew up with her elder brother on dad Stuart's farm,
'but when it came to taking over the tenancy,
'destiny and tradition weren't on her side.'
-You have two children...
-..Ed and Vicky...
-..and one farm.
-So you can pass on the tenancy, but only to one child.
-Which must be really difficult for you.
-Well, it is.
You don't want to favour one from the other, but the son and obviously
the older child probably has the say first, doesn't it?
That's the way life works.
Vicky might have left agriculture altogether,
but then she was offered the chance to manage a neighbour's farm.
And at 900 acres, with 700 sheep and 120 cattle to look after,
it's even bigger than her dad's.
-If we turn round... this is your farm here...
-..and then that's her over there.
Be honest - do you sometimes stand and watch what's she's doing
-and then think, "That's wrong"?
-I wouldn't dare. No chance!
She'd spot me, you know. No, we do. We do.
If she's gathering sheep or there's cattle.
And the clever thing is that we can actually see,
if you look at some of her fields, well,
why are those cows in THAT field, when they should be over there?
And you ring her up and she says, "Oh, I've just moved them,
"mind your own business." "All right, fair enough."
Why do you think she's special? Why should she win this award?
The scale of what she's taken on.
It's the size of the operation, and what's involved with the operation,
and putting her own identity on it, you know,
I think she's done that side of the job extremely well.
Are you proud?
Dead. Yeah, really proud, yeah.
Yeah, she's a good girl. Really good girl.
-She's more than a good girl, isn't she?
-Well, she is, yeah.
She might...she might be watching this.
Got to be careful. God.
Yeah, no, she is a good girl.
Vicky's job covers every aspect of livestock farming.
Managing a farm of this scale involves a lot of office work,
but she's very hands-on too.
I don't suppose they've been outside before.
No, this'll be the first time.
Usually Vicky does these jobs on her own,
but today I'm giving her a helping hand.
The calves are all part of Vicky's plan for the future,
to revitalise the farm's breeding stock.
-It's a lovely sight, isn't it?
-Oh, it is.
When they first go out and flying about the field, it's lovely to see.
-You've got some gorgeous calves.
-Yeah, they're doing well.
I'm happy with them.
So what have you been doing to improve the herd, then?
We've brought in a couple of Limmy bulls from a local farmer,
and I'm going to go get an Angus to put onto my heifers.
And for your sort of generation, it's quite difficult
-making a break like this, it's quite an opportunity.
Not many people my age can get an opportunity in farm managing,
there's not too many jobs going about.
Why did they give it to you?
-I don't know, I really don't know.
-Are you EXTRA special?
-Must be, must be.
Any regrets from taking on this project?
No, it's like a dream come true.
And it's all thanks to one of her neighbours
that Vicky's now living the dream.
18 months ago, Mary Dickinson needed a manager.
But rather than advertise this sought-after job,
she realised farmer's daughter Vicky from across the valley,
and then just 22, would be a perfect fit.
She's been very lucky
to be able to stay where she's grown up and to farm.
Because that's unusual now.
It's very unusual now, but there wasn't room for her and
Edward on her father's farm, so she had to go out and make her own road.
And it just was fortuitous that we needed
somebody of her calibre,
and the job was there.
And for her to...
..have the guts to take it...
actually shows what kind of character that she is,
that she WILL cope.
So why did you nominate her,
what is it about her that made you want to do that?
I knew her as a baby
and I've watched her grow all the way through.
We'd seen her at work on her father's farm.
I mean, farming is just in her blood.
But she's a highly competent young lady,
and she deserved to be mentioned and put forward for the award.
So how far away is home, Vicky?
Not too far, it's just straight across the valley.
Oh, that's your dad's place there?
Yeah. So he can keep an eye on us and us on him.
And are you quite independent now you're living up here,
-do you look after yourself?
-Yeah, yeah, go home for tea and...
-Do you? Your mum still feeds you a bit?
-My mum still feeds me.
-Well, it's been lovely to meet you.
-You as well, Adam.
And you're an awesome character. Good luck with the farming.
So that's our last finalist, Vicky Furlong from Northumberland.
Also in the finals are 16-year-old Tom Phillips from South Wales,
whose tractor driving saved his dad's life.
And 23-year-old Tom Addison from Buckinghamshire,
who's making his way as a sheep farmer,
despite coming from a non-farming background.
What's wonderful, Charlotte, is they are so inspirational, aren't they?
And yet so different, because they're all doing wonderful things
but none of them are doing the same, which gives us a joyous problem.
A hard choice to make. But we will be making our mind up, and we'll
let you know the winner later in the year.
-This is Hamford Water,
a rare and highly protected seascape on the Essex coastline.
This labyrinth of creeks is flanked by mudflats and saltmarsh,
which is ideal for all manner of different wildlife,
not least a rather unusual population of common seal.
Getting fleeting glimpses of them just popping up to check us out
and then disappearing.
There's one behind us, a couple behind us actually.
And you can tell them apart from the grey seals
cos they've got this sort of more rounded,
kind of, cuter cat-like face,
you can't see their ears so well.
Every time I turn round there's one bobbing about.
This colony is nationally important.
While common seals are struggling in other parts of the country,
here, their numbers are on the rise.
But that's not the only remarkable thing about them.
Instead of grey and brown, these seals are orange.
I'm taking to the water,
to get a closer look at these unusually colourful seals.
My guide and skipper is Leon Woodrow, an Essex boy born and bred.
He's a coastal warden and conservation officer,
and knows these waters like the back of his hand.
-How are you doing?
-Seals all around us.
-Yeah, we've got them over here, over here...
Loads of seals, lovely.
They're very chilled out, aren't they, with us here in the boat?
-They don't take an awful lot of notice.
And how are they doing on this stretch of coastline, the seals?
They're doing really well.
Our numbers have built up since the '80s, from
a few to up to 300 last year,
and they had so many pups we lost count.
What is it they like about it, what do they get here?
Somewhere safe to haul out.
All the creeks face in different directions, so they can always
find a mud bank to lay on that's out of the wind, generally in the sun.
-Warm and relatively dry from mud, I suppose.
Oh, they're so chilled out. It's lovely to get this close to them.
-Yeah. I'm spoiled.
-Yeah, you are spoiled.
-I get this quite often.
The seals tend to spend 80% of their day resting,
sleeping, chilling out on the mud,
and then the other 20% either feeding or just playing.
-They've got it right.
-Good balance they've got.
And it's all that lying around in the mud that gives them their
distinctive orangey hue.
Minerals formed over millions of years
are the source of the seals' unusual hair dye.
This is fool's gold, or pyrite.
It's one of the minerals found in the earth here
in millions of tiny deposits.
When those deposits come into contact with the air,
they oxidise or rust, creating iron oxide.
As the iron oxide leaches from the land,
the seals pick up tiny crystals on their fur, and the colour sticks.
It's harmless, but they keep the colour
until they moult in late summer.
Hair dye aside, not much is really known about the common seals here,
so a major project looking at their behaviour is under way.
It's already revealed some surprising results.
Darren Tansley from Essex Wildlife Trust is part of the project.
Tell me about this study that you've been doing.
Well, it's a study to look at the way seals are moving around
in the environment, and work out what is actually happening here.
The main way of doing this is to put a satellite tag on
so that you can actually track their movements,
so you're constantly able to track where they're going.
And what have you found?
Well, it looks like
they're travelling much farther distances than we thought.
How far are they going?
Well, we've got a tracking chart of one of the females.
This is a young one, this is only a four-year-old.
-This is just one individual's movement?
She's gone... From her haul outside Margate,
she's travelled all the way up the East Anglian coast -
Suffolk, Norfolk, out to The Wash at Lincolnshire -
she's been hunting and feeding out there -
and then she's come all the way back and back to her haulout.
So they've been going on a journey of hundreds of miles
-to find the food?
I mean, as the crow flies, it would be, like, a 450-mile round trip,
but other seals have been travelling over to France on an almost
daily basis to go and find some food.
And it must be worth their energy,
there must be some great feeding sites there for them.
Yeah, cos they're feeding on all sorts of different types of fish,
so they're having to move around and look for different areas to feed in.
That's astonishing - especially as you see them there
so sedentary, it looks like, hauled out,
to imagine them going on these epic journeys for food.
I know, it's baffled us all.
We had no idea that this was going to be the case.
Seals are the ultimate swimmers,
perfectly suited to their environment.
But nobody could have guessed just how far they were swimming.
So, they're not just eye-catching -
the seals here in Essex are revealing more about
their hidden lives beneath the surface.
Well, are we going to be basking in glorious weather,
like these seals, this week? Or are we in for a soak?
Time to find out with the Countryfile forecast.
I've been exploring the Essex coastline,
which has been a nautical playground for generations.
The water, the beaches, the seaside -
they've all been perfect for fun and relaxation.
But what's in store looks anything but.
Gig racing. And it's exploded in popularity along the Essex coast.
There are 13 clubs, with more than 200 rowers between them.
The gigs they race are built by the apprentices I met earlier
at the Pioneer Sailing Trust.
Their boss, Felicity Lees,
is the driving force behind the sport's growth.
What has it evolved into now, then?
There are two leagues, so there's a winter league,
-there's a summer league.
-Is there really?
And there's lots and lots of events, and the vision is to move up
the coast, more into Suffolk, more into Norfolk, and see it spread.
'I've been invited to race with the apprentices.
'These guys are our stiff competition.'
-Listen, I wish you all the very best of luck.
-Thank you very much.
Good luck with it. See you later.
You're going to have to row fast to beat us, I'm telling you!
You really are. OK, I'm going to go and get warmed up.
See you on the water.
Eight, seven, six, five...
Four, three, two, one, go!
With 400 metres of hard rowing ahead,
-there's no chance to take in the scenery.
-Four, quick! Five...
With the first leg rowing against the tide,
our plan is to pace ourselves.
Go on, in time! Eight, nine, ten.
And longer strokes, one...
All together! Keep the boat flat. Keep the boat ready.
Come on, Matt!
-Come on! You're not tired yet.
'I beg to differ.'
We're gaining, we're gaining some ground now. That's good.
Keep the boat flat. All together! We need the boat flat.
Come on, Matt! Get a grip!
-'Nothing like a motivating cox!'
Come on, keep going! Dig deep, come on!
'As we reach the halfway mark, we're only a boat's length behind.
'All we need now is a tight turn.'
OK... Matt, side stroke!
Just leave your oar, leave your oar. Come on, go!
Go, go, go, go, go! Deep as you can...
'Halfway, and we're closing fast.'
And one, go! Two!
-OK, now's the time.
-Here we go.
-We're coming up to the finish line.
-Here we go.
I can hear them breathing!
We're gaining on them. We're gaining on them.
Josie, get in the water, come on! Together!
'With the end in sight, we're gaining on them -
'but then disaster strikes. Josie loses an oar.'
It's all right, it's all right, it's all right.
-Are you all right?
-Get back in it. It's all right.
'It could have happened to any of us. But it means the race is lost,
'as our opposition cruise across the finish line...'
'..although, it's the taking part that counts.'
Oh! Oh, dear!
Well...it wasn't to be, but it's a nice way to end the programme.
Anyway, that's all we've got time for for this week.
Ellie, tell everyone where we're going next week.
We're going to be in Northern Ireland, Matt, where I'll be
back on the water, taking a trip on one of its most beautiful rivers.
We'll see you then. Bye-bye.
Matt and Ellie are in Essex where Matt jumps aboard the Pioneer, a fully restored Essex oyster boat. He learns about its maritime past whilst some rarely seen archive gives us a flavour of the county's oyster fishing heyday.
Matt then meets a group of young people learning the skills to build racing gigs - small fast rowing boats built for competition - and Matt is put through his paces in one of these gigs out on the open sea.
Ellie is at the country's only nature reserve managed specifically for dragonflies, where she gets up close to these highly coloured and fascinating insects. She then travels to Hamford Water, where the creeks and inlets are home to an unusual colony of common seals - they're bright red!
Steve Brown journeys back in time to medieval England to find out what it's like to fire an English longbow.
For years they drove British industry, but now many of our mines lie silent and abandoned, posing a real threat to the surrounding environment. Spoil heaps and mines can leach heavy metals and other poisons into streams and rivers causing untold damage. Tom Heap investigates a new answer to this problem and it's one that could make a bit of cash for the farmer too.
And Adam and Charlotte reveal the last of our contenders for Countryfile's Young Farmer Award.