Countryfile visits the Royal Forest of Dean, one of our most ancient woodlands. Ellie Harrison discovers how the forest became a resource in wartime.
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It's one of our most ancient woodlands, the Royal Forest of Dean,
in Gloucestershire - a patchwork of green, gold and red.
On this Remembrance Sunday, we'll be discovering
the vital role the forest played in World War II.
These trees provided a much-needed resource during the war effort.
With many men away fighting in Europe,
lumberjacks gave way to "lumberjills".
To mark the 70th anniversary of the Women's Timber Corps,
I'll be using one of these
and meeting those who took on this arduous task in a special reunion.
Hidden beneath the canopy, I'm following a Sculpture Trail.
Nothing quite prepares you
for what you're about to see when you turn the corner,
and this is a brilliant example - it's massive!
A stained-glass window hanging up at tree height, with this classic
Forest of Dean scene glowing beautifully in this sunlight.
And - just what's happening to our traditional village greens?
With beaches and even a lake now getting village green status,
has the quest to protect valuable land gone too far?
I'll be investigating.
And Adam's leaving his Highlands behind to see one of the best
herds in Britain - but he's not heading north of the border.
It's eerie, watching them come out of the fog.
It's a lovely sight, isn't it?
The Forest of Dean - dense swathes of green,
peppered with the burnt tones of autumn.
It's one of England's few remaining ancient forests...
..a landscape that's been shaped by its industrial past.
The forest has a long history of coal-mining,
charcoal-burning and, of course, timber production.
But now its industrial past is discreetly camouflaged
beneath this leafy, green canopy.
Lying just outside Gloucester,
the Forest of Dean is sandwiched between the Wye and the Severn,
bordering England and Wales.
It covers just over 42 square miles of ancient mixed woodland,
and it's got some rather wild residents.
Watch out - wild boar crossing.
But venture a little further into the woods,
and you'll encounter much more than its flora and fauna.
In the forest, there's a Sculpture Trail,
but it takes a bit of effort to seek it out.
Thankfully, I've got a map and an eagle eye.
It's not long before I spot the first sculpture -
well, you can hardly miss it. It's called Place,
but the locals call it Giant Chair, for obvious reasons.
'Andrew Stonyer is chair of the Sculpture Trail trustees.
'How very apt!'
-Andrew, what a day to experience this trail!
-You can understand why this piece is called The Place.
-It looks a bit wobbly, Andrew...
-I would call that implied movement.
-Implied movement! Right, OK!
Yes. It was put together in a way in which we know
it couldn't possibly collapse.
And I think always in the best sculptures, there's this feeling
that the thing can move, that movement
is an inherent part of it - probably not physical,
-So, where did the whole idea come from?
There was a move to get art out of the gallery
into a very, very public sphere.
There was also the notion that
sculpture could actually entice people.
So, the idea was that the sculpture here -
and the trail - would bring people into the forest.
But the thing about this Sculpture Trail, it really is about something,
and it is about the forest, and it is about how the sculptures
reveal aspects of the forest - which is so important about it.
Some of the sculptures - like Place - are made of
materials from the forest.
Others reflect its mining heritage.
Echo, by Annie Cattrell, is a direct cast
of a rock face used for quarrying.
But these quiet glades also serve as a place of remembrance.
This piece is called Dead Wood, by Carole Drake,
and it's made up of these unnamed tombs set into the ground,
to represent the forests of Europe ravaged by war.
And it really is quite haunting -
because the surrounding trees, with their straight lines,
they look like a regiment of tall, upright soldiers.
A fitting reminder, on this day of remembrance.
Later, I'll be meeting an artist
who's created the trail's biggest artwork yet,
inspired by his experiences in Afghanistan.
While I'm enjoying the Sculpture Trail here in the Forest of Dean,
Tom is over in Norfolk, finding out why a village green
doesn't always have to be in a village - or green!
MORRIS MUSIC PLAYS
Village greens are places of endless possibilities.
Maybe you could use them to express traditional culture,
or perhaps you want to get some exercise in, limber up,
before the big game at the weekend. Or possibly,
just relax on the grass with a good book.
However you want to use them, everybody agrees,
they love these places!
'Village greens exist purely for having fun,
'and they're protected by law - in fact,
'they are the most protected areas of land in England!'
# We are the village green preservation society... #
People have been playing games here at Great Massingham in Norfolk
since the 1300s. There are around 4,000
designated places like this in England and Wales -
but not all the village greens look like this!
# Preserving the old ways from being abused
# Protecting the new ways for me and for you... #
'A new generation of village greens
'has been springing up on patches of land you wouldn't normally
'associate with the storybook image.
'There are now greens on former railway land, a beach
'and even on some lakes.
'In some cases, it's claimed, applications are being made
'simply to stop development.'
This field in Saham Toney produced a pretty good crop of wheat this year,
and yet it could be decreed as a village green. Now, I reckon
you might get a fairly uneven bounce from this turf,
and it's a little bit prickly for putting down your picnic rug.
'An application went in three years ago,
'claiming this privately-owned field is used for public recreation,
'and should therefore become a village green.
'It coincided with planning permission to build ten houses -
'some say it wasn't a coincidence.'
Building went ahead, as you can see,
but if this area were to be designated a village green,
technically, they could pull these houses down,
and there's a growing feeling across the country that this ancient law
is being misused, as a tool to block development.
'But is it fair to accuse people of nimbyism -
'"not in my back yard" - or are they simply
'trying to protect open space for the community?'
The people who say this place should be a village green
say it would protect it from further development,
but does this place really deserve village green status?
'It isn't the first time Kate Ashbrook
'has been asked that question. She's from the Open Spaces Society,
'which champions the public's right
'to greens and common land across Britain.'
Can anywhere be a village green?
It can be, if local people can show
that they've used the land for 20 years,
without being stopped, and without asking permission,
and they've used it for informal recreation.
Village green status is clearly cherished, but do you sometimes
think it's being abused, used vexatiously, if you like,
-as a knee-jerk block to development?
There will be some. But in most cases, people realise,
when their land is threatened, land that they've known and loved
for a long time, then they want to protect it,
and they want to record their right to enjoy it -
and that's really what's happening.
It's not specifically to stop the development,
but it's a recognition of local use of land.
'So, any piece of land,
'as long as it's genuinely used for recreation, is eligible.'
We invited those who want this to be a village green
onto the programme, but they said it was not appropriate to comment
before a decision was made.
But they insist the people of Saham Toney have been using
this field and surrounding areas for dog-walking and other pastimes
for at least 20 years.
'But the land owner doesn't agree - the field gives Ed Buskill
'a nice barn full of wheat, and as far as he's concerned,
'THAT'S the best use for it.'
What did you think when people told you this was a village green?
Well, I thought it was incredible, I couldn't understand it.
I mean, you can see, it's a field in full arable production,
so I couldn't see how it could
possibly be perceived as a village green.
But have local people enjoyed some kind of recreation in this space -
I don't know, coming here for a walk or a game or something -
that might entitle them to think this is a village green?
Not that we are aware of at all, and I would be very concerned.
-Obviously, we use a lot of heavy machinery...
..and the idea that a small child might pop up, playing a game,
-when we've got... It's very concerning, very serious.
'Ed feels it was his decision to sell some of the field
'for affordable housing
'that prompted the application for a village green.'
Why do you think people are claiming that this is a village green?
I think they believe I'm going to develop the field further,
and I'm not sure that they're that keen on having people
living in affordable homes near them.
So, who will make the decision to grant or reject the application?
Well, the answer is likely to come from a public inquiry,
and many of the people who live in these houses
are attending it right now.
'Taken together, contentious cases like the one here in Saham Toney
'are costing millions of pounds in legal bills.
'But village green applications
'that conflict with local planning decisions
'will soon face a much tougher struggle.'
The two sides battling it out over the future of village greens
are about to see some major changes to the rules of the game -
something that will shift the balance of power.
I'll be revealing more about that later in the programme.
Matt and I are making our way through the Forest of Dean,
where autumn is silently spreading through the landscape -
green turning gold, and shadows stretched long on the ground.
Nowadays, for most people, these woods are a place
to find some peace and quiet and get away from it all.
But 70 years ago, far from being a place of retreat,
this forest was at the heart of the fight on the home front.
As war raged around the world, wood became a vital resource.
Home-grown timber was needed to make everything from Spitfire wings,
to rifle butts, to pit props for coal mines.
And with many lumberjacks called up to fight,
it was down to female lumberjills to step in and keep the war machine fed.
'Only around 150 of the 9,000 lumberjills survive,
'so to mark the 70th anniversary of the Women's Timber Corps,
'and on this day of remembrance, we've brought some
'of the remaining few together to tell their story.'
-This is you, Irene - what was going on in this photo?
we were just taking the horses down. It must have been
the end of the day, I think.
-What made you sign up to the Timber Corps?
-You just went
-and joined the Land Army, and they gave you what they thought.
And I was lucky, and got the Timber Corps.
# We're the girls who fell for victory
# We're the girls who chop the trees
# Every time we swing our axes
# Is a stroke for victory. #
They sent me to Bury St Edmunds, just outside,
to a training camp, and there was men there
that taught us how to cut into the trees
and then saw. We used to saw 'em up,
-clean 'em, then cut them into pit props.
What was the attitude of the men around you when you were doing this?
-Do you REALLY want me to tell you?
-Yes, I really do!
"What the hell are you doing here?
"What the heck do you know about trees?"
Not a fat lot, it must be said.
But they were usually pretty scathing.
Was it quite dangerous work, Irene?
-It could have been, yes.
-Did you ever get hurt?
Er, just once, I got caught on the head.
But we just accepted it, got on and done it. I chopped my finger
with a billhook, and it's been crooked ever since!
-My goodness, yeah, you can still see it's bent!
The lumberjills had quite a task to take on.
Before the war, Britain had been importing 95% of its timber,
but with supply routes cut off, this was no longer an option.
Wood was needed from our own shores
to fight the battle on the front line.
We had to make the, erm, the tracks for the D-Day landing.
We were in a barn with these chestnut palings,
-put them through a machine...
-Did it give you
-a sense of pride, to be able to contribute to the war effort?
-I think we did...
-But we didn't think of it as pride at the time,
-we just accepted it was a job, and someone had got to do it.
As in many other professions,
the wartime work these women carried out also blazed a trail
for the generations that followed.
Today, there are thousands of women working in Britain's forests -
women like modern-day lumberjill Farah Collins.
You make it look very easy, Farah!
Ladies, would you have been happy using those back then?
-Probably would have been, yes.
-No, we chewed them down!
I know that's not true!
'Chewing them down might be out of the question,
'but to honour these women, Farah and I are going to try our hand
'at tree-felling, using 1940s technology.'
So, something like this, which looks really mean,
-and an axe as well?!
Goodness! These are some serious tools!
So, how do you do it?
-The weight of the axe...
-Go down with it...
-..in your right arm, and give it a...
'So, with a torrent of advice from the Women's Timber Corps
'ringing in our ears, it's time to give it a go - watched by
'some stern critics.'
If she gets that saw caught in something, God help her.
So glad you're doing this bit, Farah, not me!
I don't think I'd want to do this all day!
She's got more than a little girl's swing about her, hasn't she?
She's good, considering she's never...
wielded an axe before.
Well done, that girl! I'd better step up and do some work now!
-Come on, girls, hurry up!
-One at each end!
-Shall I pull?
It's got to be a groove to get into, hasn't it?
-Ooh, sorry, that was me!
-Sorry, let me just move that...
'But if Farah's axe work impressed...' Woah, sorry!
'..it seems our sawing is leaving a little to be desired.'
Sure this would be a good advert for the Timber Corps?!
They're a tough crowd, you know.
-It's a good job you're not on piecework.
THEY ALL LAUGH
'We're certainly well off the pace of these women in their prime,
'but true to the spirit of those times, we dig in
'and get the job done.' It's going...
OK, that one tree... I'm out of breath!
These women did tree after tree, day in, day out,
for three years.
What incredible lumberjills they were.
# We're the girls who fell for victory
# We're the girls who chop the trees
# Every time we swing our axes
# Is a stroke for victory. #
'And the lumberjills weren't the only ones working for victory.
'When Helen Skelton visited Oxfordshire, she stepped back in time
'to discover how the men who worked our land
'had their own, secret role to play in the Second World War.'
HELEN: 'It's 1939. I'm working in a field on my dad's farm,
'when a man comes up to me and asks
'if I want to do something for king and country.
'I say yes, of course.
'Unbeknown to me, I'm to be inducted into a top secret organisation.
'A few weeks later, armed with coded instructions,
'I'm sent to the post office in Highworth to report for duty.'
-Can I get three three-ha'penny stamps, please?
There you go. That's fourpence ha'penny, please.
I'm sorry, I've only got half a crown.
Hold on a sec, I'll go and get some change.
Hello, this is Highworth GPO - I have someone here for you.
'Having covertly checked in via the postmistress,
'I'm now on my way to Coleshill...'
..to a hush-hush training facility
for what became known as Churchill's Secret Army.
'They were the Auxiliers, separate to the Home Guard
'and one of Churchill's most secret weapons.
'With Hitler's armies threatening our shores, these men
'were to be our last line of defence.
'In World War II, I would have been met by a guard commander,
'but today, community learning officer Liza Dibble
'is taking on that role.'
So, who exactly were the Auxiliers?
The Auxiliers were men who were in reserve occupations,
which meant they weren't in the Armed Forces.
They were largely farmers, farm workers,
erm, labourers, gamekeepers -
the types of people who knew the lay of the land really well.
They didn't tell their wives, their mums -
and they were waiting for that word "Cromwell",
which meant that the Germans were coming.
They would have just stepped away from what they normally do...
..and walked out the door, gone to their operational base,
and they would work as an underground cell, really,
and then to come out under the cover of darkness and basically
make things as difficult as they could for the Germans.
It's reckoned as many as 3,000 men may have trained at Coleshill.
When they returned home, they were expected to set up their own
Every inch of the land was being used to train these bold men.
'Historian Bill King is preparing to give me the guided tour.'
This looks like the perfect place for a campfire, but
-it is not a campfire, is it?
-No, it jolly well isn't.
Underneath, running down through here, is a chimney,
which leads down into an underground base, under our feet,
about 10ft down below us.
And of course, it's very well concealed.
-So, this is the bunker...
-Yes, so, here we are in the operational base.
So, it's made out of what, corrugated iron?
Yes, they're called elephant shelters. This is
one of the training manuals that were used at the time.
It's the calendar for 1938,
and you would learn how to use explosives, how to plant explosives,
how to create booby traps of various different kinds,
-But they were being trained to kill?
Oh, yes! These are your ordinary next-door neighbour,
who is going to...if you get in the wrong place,
going to put a knife in your neck.
One of these "ordinary men" was Bob Millard.
He was recruited at the age of 16,
and sent to Coleshill in 1940 for training.
We got a very thorough training at Coleshill.
The instructors were very, very good.
Initially, in January, a lot of equipment hadn't been issued.
We'd been given the rubber truncheon...
which is rather a lethal truncheon, to settle with sentries.
We'd bought our own fighting knives -
we'd not been issued with fighting knives.
So we'd bought our own, and we were taught how to use this.
For a 16-year-old lad,
the prospect of coming face-to-face with the enemy
must have been terrifying.
I've often been asked whether I felt frightened
if the Germans were going to invade -
I don't think "frightened" is the word, at the time.
I think "apprehensive" describes it better.
I've no doubt when they did come and the shooting started,
I would have been frightened, but there was a job to do,
and that's what really concentrated you.
To bolster their numbers, the Auxiliers recruited Scouts -
yes, Scouts - kids too young to be called up
but eager to do their bit, and now I want a piece of the action, too.
But I'm not going to be on my own - I have recruited my very own
resistance unit, and if this was 1939,
these guys could well have been Auxiliers. Bill, what are we doing?
The job this afternoon is to get a message through
to one of our bases, which is about a mile and a half away.
Make sure that we're well concealed,
that the enemy don't actually see you -
if they see you, the game's up.
OK, team. Right...
Auxiliers would regularly be sent on exercises like these,
and today, these trusty Scout leaders are taking on the role
of enemy invaders. We're using the trees to try to get past them unseen,
but that's going to be easier said than done.
They are using those woods over there as cover.
They're trying to be sneaky, but they should come out over there,
and if they do, we should see them and...
-should be able to blow the whistle - have you got it?
I'll blow the whistle - it'll be game over.
Ooh, the cows are moving - that means they've come across the field.
The guys are shouting and saying, "Keep down, keep down!"
because we're really vulnerable as there are no trees here.
But crouching down, it means crawling through nettles!
Weather's coming in, so they'll have to make a move soon.
That might be to their advantage, if the rain comes in.
We've found the spotters, just at the top of that hill,
so if we can head to that tree just there...
When you're being watched, your instinct is to look.
But then, they're going to see us.
Go now - go, go, go!
'Most Auxilier operations would have taken place at night,
'but today, we don't have that extra cover.'
Guys, this is definitely going to be the hardest bit.
That's a ditch - and barbed wire.
There they are - I've got 'em! Bottom of that tree!
-See 'em? Blow the whistle - game's up.
-Was that the whistle?
-Did you hear that?
-That's the whistle.
-Oh, we've been spotted!
That is so frustrating!
The whistle means that they've seen us,
and therefore we have failed.
'This has been a bit of fun,
'but in wartime, it really would have been game over.'
In the end, the Auxiliers never had to fight for king and country.
The invasion never came, and the war ended in 1945.
But they remained a secret until very recently.
Just some of the unsung heroes of the war effort.
I'm on the Sculpture Trail through the Forest Of Dean,
discovering the artwork lurking amongst the trees.
The largest and most unusual sculpture is Hill 33.
The towering, pyramid-like structure
is the brainchild of David Cotterrell,
inspired by his experiences in Afghanistan.
There, as Official War Artist,
he documented the work of British military medical staff
at Camp Bastion, in Helmand Province,
witnessing first-hand the atrocities of war.
David, it's very intriguing, but what actually is it?
It's 1,300 tonnes of coal waste, which has been re-formed,
using military gabion technology.
A kind of modern-day form of sandbags that are being used
to make hundreds of miles of protection
across Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
What are you trying to say with the piece?
I spent a short period in Afghanistan.
It was the first time I'd seen this massively-accelerated
form of building.
I was curious where it came from - what it meant, really.
And how it had become this architectural iconography for war.
As the cameras move on, we don't really see what happens
to the ramparts and the barriers
which were made to keep two sides apart.
I was interested to see how to make a redundant structure,
so that we could watch it as the landscape reclaimed it,
rather than watch it as it serves a purpose.
That is what's happening here.
Are you surprised how much it's changed
since the last time you saw it?
I've popped back periodically, but it's two years
since we finished construction.
-Are you pleased with it?
-Yeah, I'm delighted. I think...
in a way, it's the most extreme form of construction
that could be attempted with this kind of sandbag technology.
'Using all the skills of a modern-day military operation,
'the Royal Monmouthshire Engineers
'and the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers
'spent two weeks building it.'
One of those people who did a lot of the shifting
and shovelling was Sergeant Roarke.
-Sergeant, is it all right if I call you Adam?
Would you normally class yourself as the arty type, Adam?
No, not really. Definitely not.
Obviously, you're creating a piece of art here,
but how close was the building process
to what you would expect out in the field?
The building process is exactly the same.
In Afghanistan, they would basically be used for force protection...
round the big camps, sleeping accommodation.
Just filled with what you could find around there?
Not quite sand, but...a bit more solid than sand.
What was it like taking orders from a sculptor with a ponytail?
No, on a good point,
he was willing to pick up a shovel, and help us...
and crack on with the rest of us.
By the end of the week, he was drinking in the pub with us...
-One big, happy family.
'This unique use of military barriers will continue to be
'taken over by nature,
'melting back to the forest floor, from where it came.'
Earlier, we heard how the creation of new village greens
is dividing communities.
But what's the answer?
'The village green.
'Not an obvious hotbed of controversy.
'But applications to create new ones
'are increasingly dividing rural communities.'
One side of the argument says village green designation is just
being used as a way of blocking development.
The other, that it's a vital role in protecting outdoor spaces.
The Government thinks enough is enough.
'Calls for a change in the law have been heard at the top,
'and the Government is now wading in to the great green debate.
'The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson,
'wasn't able to join me for a nice game of cricket,
'so we arranged to meet at a soggy make-do green in Westminster.
'So what is wrong with the current system?'
We've had a few cases where, late in the day,
there have been these vexatious application,
where a completely genuine planning application
has been stopped at the cost of millions of pounds.
I think it's right to stop that.
I think the second interesting area is where many landowners
have made their land available for cricket grounds -
something like that - for community use.
They enjoy that, the community enjoy it, but it's not right that,
under this legislation,
it was possible for them to lose control of that land.
That's the background, that's the problem.
Make it clearer what you're changing to make sure these abuses
don't happen in the future.
What we're changing is that,
if an area of land has been designated suitable for planning,
you can't have someone come in late in the day, blocking an application
on land already designated. That's the right way ahead.
CHURCH BELL RINGS
'As of next summer, no more town or village green applications
'can be made on land earmarked for development.
'Not only that, landowners will no longer be vulnerable
'to new applications,
'just because they allowed their land to be used for recreation.'
Is this a licence for builders to put more houses in our villages?
Absolutely not. We're just tweaking at the edges,
making sure that this legislation, which is thoroughly worthwhile -
and I really stress that -
it's really good we can protect our village greens and our town greens,
but it can't be abused, blocking legitimate development.
The Government say they want the system to be fairer,
but what does that mean for people who want new village greens?
This is Trap Grounds in Oxford,
a recently-created town green.
On the whole it looks beautiful, but in places, nature can't mask
the rather dodgy heritage as a bit of a fly-tipper's paradise.
The question is, would the Government's new proposals
prevent places like this becoming cherished public spaces?
Not a bad day for it, is it?
'The Friends Of Trap Grounds fought to register these six acres
'as a town green in 2006.
'It would have been developed, were it not for their application.
'Now, they dedicate their time to clearing the rubbish
'and creating a haven for wildlife.
'It's a never-ending job, so I've volunteered to help out.'
A nice bit of warming work, but what are we actually doing here today?
We're raking off long, tough grass,
to encourage wildflowers and butterflies for next summer.
-Are they pretty abundant here?
-Yes, they are.
It's amazing, when you consider this used to be a rubbish tip
and a car breaker's yard.
'The developers were all set to build 45 houses and a road on this land.
'The Friends Of Trap Grounds
'submitted a town green application to rescue it.
'And they won.
'But, as we've just heard from the minister,
'that can't happen for much longer.
'Kate Ashbrook, from the Open Spaces Society,
'fears places like this could now be a thing of the past.'
How do you reckon the proposals from the Government
would have affected this place?
This place would be covered in buildings.
It wouldn't be this lovely open space everyone's enjoying.
Where does this leave the creation of new village greens,
looking to the future?
It certainly means it will be harder to register new land,
although the existing land, fortunately, is safe.
But, into the future, if land is threatened by planning in any way,
you can't register it and it will be lost.
They say the system is currently unfair
and they need to address some abuses.
Is that fair?
There are a few vexatious applications,
but the Government's plans will wipe out
a lot of perfectly genuine ones. That's the worry.
# We are the Village Green Preservation Society
# God save Donald Duck... #
'However you enjoy a village green - be it as a magical wilderness,
'a children's playground, or the realm of morris dancing
'and maypoles, there is, undeniably, a need for affordable housing.'
# Preserving the old ways from being abused... #
Putting ground aside for public use clearly has a very noble heritage,
and any new law must strike a balance,
preventing designation being used as a knee-jerk block on development,
yet allowing new, green lungs to breathe life into future communities.
# God save the village green. #
'Earlier, I met the lumberjills
'who worked in Britain's woods throughout World War II,
'to supply essential timber to the war effort.
'70 years on, that conflict may long since be over,
but in the Forest Of Dean,'
'a new battle is being fought against a deadly invader.'
If you go down to the woods today,
there's trouble lurking in amongst the trees,
because a new wave of diseases is threatening their future
and the worst hit are larches.
'Whilst ash dieback disease has been grabbing the headlines,
'here in the Forest Of Dean,
'a different sickness has been spreading through the landscape.
'The exotically-named Phytophthora ramorum
'is infecting these larches.
'Brought to Britain in imported plants,
'it's now out in the open,
'and the trees' numerous falling needles
'can spread its tiny spores across wide areas.'
D'you have to know all of these 12,000 acres?
Well, half of them are on my beat, and half on my colleague's beat,
'To discover more about this enemy in our midst,
'and what impact it's having,
'forester James Williams is taking me on a tour of his patch.'
This tree that we're stood under
has some symptoms of the disease.
If you look at the shape of the canopy,
and how it's become deformed,
instead of a regular, conical shape,
it has quite a wavy boundary to it.
It's quite wonky, compared to the ones around it.
There's only a few that, potentially, seem to have this dead top...
This is the early stages of the disease,
and it's very important we pick it up at this stage,
rather than when the signs are very evident,
because at that stage, it's already produced huge numbers of spores,
which will be spreading throughout the forest,
and some forests are being killed in one or two years.
What's the worst that could happen if nothing is done about it?
Phytophthora ramorum will kill many different species of tree,
and a lot of our important timber species in the forest as well,
as well as native broadleaves.
So it's important we get on top of it now
by controlling larch, which is one of the main species
for spreading the disease around.
'The disease isn't confined to the Forest Of Dean.
'This is just the frontline of an ever-moving assault.'
It first started infecting larches
down here in Cornwall in 2009.
It then spread to south Wales
and can now be found dotted all the way up the west coast of the UK.
This year it was found here, in the Forest Of Dean.
The idea is to stop it in its tracks,
and that means that thousands of these trees...
..are for the chop.
'Felling is the only way to stop the disease in its tracks,
'so a colossal 100,000 larches, both sick and healthy,
'are being cut down to try and create a buffer zone.
'Rather than an army of lumberjills,
'this job has been taken on by a few men in their machines,
'using the very latest tree-toppling technology.
'As the trees come down,
'you get some idea of the impact this operation is going to have.
'But it's hoped that acting now will save the one million larches
'growing across the forest.
'If it works, sacrificing these 100,000
'will be a price worth paying.'
Once they're felled, though,
it's a good opportunity to take a closer look
and see how many are actually infected.
-That is the job of this man. How are you doing, Mick?
-You all right?
-Yes, good, thanks.
-What are you looking for here?
I'm taking some of the very top layer of the bark off...
to try to look for evidence of lesions.
They look like brown, necrotic areas under the bark.
'Once he finds any lesions, Mick adds some samples to a solution
'for some quick field science.
'After a bit of bashing around to release any infectious spores,
'it's time to take a test.'
How long does this take to reveal itself?
It works a little bit like a pregnancy test.
-Three to four minutes!
One line for a negative result,
and two lines for a positive.
'A few minutes later,
'the results are in.'
Here we go - a one-liner.
Maybe that's a good thing, right?
That means this particular log
wasn't showing any evidence of infection.
So, this one, although it's healthy and has come down,
is being taken down so it can provide this buffer,
so it's a good tree that has come down,
-but for a good reason, I suppose.
'In war and peace, the ancient woodlands of the Forest Of Dean
'have provided a vital resource for Britain.
'This threat to its larches
'is just the latest in a wave of tree diseases
'brought in from abroad and thriving in our ever-warming climate.
'As these invasions continue,
'our forests face the biggest fight of their lives.'
Of all the animals on Adam's farm,
his Highland cattle, with their bull, Eric,
are close to his heart.
Now he's off to find out a bit more about this wonderful breed.
These are my Highland cattle.
The calves will be big enough to wean in about a month's time.
We'll take them off the cows
and put them into the cattle sheds for the winter...
where they'll be warm and dry on a nice bed of straw.
But Eric and his wives, the cows, will stay out.
They'll brave the elements.
In fact, they're so tough and hardy,
they prefer to be out.
'Originating from the Highlands of Scotland,
'they're one of the hardiest breeds in the UK.
'Highlands can withstand some of the coldest and harshest conditions
'nature can throw at them.
'There are plenty of other keen Highland breeders in the UK,
'but one man has pretty much swept the board
'at all major livestock shows this year.'
I'm really looking forward to visiting him
and finding out why his cattle are so good,
and, hopefully, get a few tips.
'You'd think I'd be heading for the Highlands of Scotland,
'but this chap's based a long way from there.
'He's actually on the Isle Of Wight,
'and that's where I'm off to now.'
Well, here I am on the Isle of Wight.
I couldn't resist the temptation of paddling in the sea,
even though I have got my wellies on.
I've brought with me the calving book from the farm.
This goes right back to 1974.
It has all the cows,
all the calves they gave birth to, and all the tag numbers.
There's one particular cow in here, Bembrough Tanya,
who's a Highland cow, who bred very well,
bred lots of heifers,
and she was sold, as were lots of her calves.
There's a guy, Mr Poland,
who's on Wroxhall Cross Farm, here on the Isle of Wight,
who's one of the best Highland breeders in the country,
who has some of the descendents of Tanya,
and I'm really keen to see if I can find them.
His farm is up on the Downs.
It looks a bit foggy up there.
'Michael Poland has been keeping Highlands for many years.'
-Hello. Adam Henson. Nice to meet you.
Welcome. Welcome to the Isle of Wight.
'He has a real depth of knowledge about the ancestry of his animals.'
I thought these would be of interest to you.
The one on the right is called Tanya of Mottistone
and she's a granddaughter
of Tanya Of Bembrough,
which was bred by your father,
and was a champion cow in her own right.
I've got her pedigree here.
You can see Tanya of Bembrough, that's yours.
Tanya of Bembrough, which is the cow my dad bred,
is also great-grandmother to the cow who's now mother of a little bull...
called McGee, who I've got at home.
The sort of bull you ought to pay a lot of money for, isn't it?
I don't think I can pay you quite your sum of money.
Where's the rest of the herd?
They're up on the Down. I'm going to see them next.
BULL LOWS AND SNORTS
My word! There's a lot of Highlands here. How many have you got?
As of yesterday, we have 304.
It's amazing watching them come out of the fog.
-It's quite eerie, isn't it?
-It's a lovely sight.
'Michael started keeping Highlands for a particular reason.'
I started out in conservation, first of all.
We had some very thick scrub and derelict woodland to clear.
We were clearing it manually and with machinery,
and my manager at the time suggested I buy a Highland, for two reasons.
One is they have these powerful horns and powerful bodies
and they can get in amongst the scrub...
and move it around a bit.
Secondly, they're hardy grazers. As you can see here,
it's not clean like a billiard table - it's tufty.
By grazing it as they do,
the wildflowers are able to flourish,
and, furthermore, this tufted grass is ideal habitat
for insects and small mammals,
which, in turn, are feed for birds and bats, etcetera.
You're very successful in the show ring with your Highlands.
What brings that success?
I think, principally, luck, and I mean that.
But I've also been keen on pedigrees since a very early age.
I used to study pedigrees when I was at school.
I carry them around with me the whole time,
and I'll study them in bed,
-much to my wife's annoyance!
It's lovely to think you have some of the relatives
of my animals in amongst your herd.
-A bit of Bembrough blood entwined in there.
-We have, yes.
You've got to have good stock and good female families.
If you don't have good female families, you're wasting your time.
You have to maintain or improve that female line.
That's what I'm trying to do the whole time.
To do that, you've got to have a good bull
that's likely to breed good stock.
'Michael clearly has an eye for the best.
'He's bred one particular animal
My word! He's lovely, isn't he?
I think he's a super bull.
He's Eoin Mhor the Eighth of Mottistone.
He was bred on this farm. He's a two-year-old, now.
He went to the Royal Highland and to the Great Yorkshire.
At the Great Yorkshire, the biggest show in England,
he was the Highland Breed Champion.
At Glasgow International, at the end of the season,
-again he was Supreme Champion.
Only one other bull has beaten him, and that's one of ours.
What makes him so special, then?
Well...start at his head.
The fact is, the whole profile,
he's saying to you as you walk up to him,
"Look at me, I'm a bull."
I think that's terribly important,
so you get the masculinity out of him.
He has a lovely head - a noble head.
Haven't you, old friend, eh?
He's got good horns.
He's got a good dosan, which is the fringe here.
He has a relatively short distance between the length of head...
-What did you call the fringe?
And he has a good, wide mouth to him.
A big, broad mouth for eating lots of grub?
He's wide in the shoulder, isn't he?
Yes, he is. He's a tremendous bull
and I don't know if I'll ever breed a better one than him.
He's a lovely animal.
He's in wonderful condition, isn't he?
He's so quiet!
What a lovely, quiet chap!
And that width
-runs all the way down, doesn't it?
-It does, yes.
One thing I've noticed...
-he has a white tummy.
-Does that matter?
-No, it doesn't.
-Some of mine have got that.
it's a sign of good milk.
-Oh, is it?
-He now weighs nearly 900 kilos.
-Does he? Almost a tonne?
When will his calves be born?
They will be born
from February, 2014, onwards.
So, if I come back,
end of summer, 2014,
I can buy a nice, little, cheap bull calf off you
that'll go on and be Champion Of Champions?
-It won't be cheap to you.
-Thanks very much, Shane.
'Next week, I'm back on my farm,
'when I find out if my Highland bull, Eric, will be a father again.'
'In the Forest Of Dean, the Sculpture Trail
'has been a wonderful experience, but it's time to say goodbye,
'as I'm at the end of my walk.'
This Sculpture Trail has introduced me to so many
beautiful pieces of work,
and you can have your own visual feast hanging up at home,
in the shape of our Countryfile calendar,
sold in aid of Children In Need.
If you would like to get your hands on one,
here's John with all the details.
You can order copies right now, by going to our website...
..or by calling the order line...
To order by post,
send your name, address and cheque to...
Please make your cheques payable to
BBC Countryfile Calendar.
It costs £9, and at least £4 from every sale
goes to Children In Need.
In a moment. I'm going to be ringing some rather unusual church bells,
but first, it's time for the Countryfile five-day forecast.
'I've left the forest's hidden treasures behind now,
'to visit a place that's been at the heart of the local community
'Nestling at the northern gateway to the Forest of Dean
'is Drybrook Church.'
Like so many communities across the UK,
Drybrook and the surrounding area
suffered heavy losses during the First and Second World Wars.
'The church has always been a special place of remembrance
'for local lady Freda Margrett,
'whose father and two brothers fought for their country.
'She's recently published her own tribute to her family at war -
'a book based on her father's diary,
'outlining life in the trenches.'
Freda, you've just finished your own memorial, haven't you?
Tell me about this book you've just finished.
My father wrote a diary in the First World War.
It was heartbreaking to read it -
of all the terrible ordeals he went through.
How he was frantically digging trenches from the first day
of arriving in Belgium,
with shells bursting overhead,
and many of the men buried alive
in their frantic attempt to dig the trenches.
I don't mind telling you the tears flowed.
I had no idea Father had been through so much.
'The heartache continued when Freda's brothers William and Ivor
'were called up to fight in the Second World War.
'Ivor never made it back.'
Just above your head, you can see the name of one of your brothers,
What do you think, when you see his name up there?
It saddens me.
Ever since they've gone, I've never missed a Remembrance service.
I think of him often.
'As well as personal memories,
'the church also holds a public tribute to its war heroes.
'Mike Garland is one of the church wardens.'
I understand your church bells are a memorial in themselves.
They are indeed a memorial in themselves.
The tubular bells were put up in 1919,
just after the 1914-18 War,
by the parents of 47 young men
who never came back,
from this parish.
They all got together with at least 800 parishioners,
within the parish,
to buy these tubular bells as a memorial
to those who fell.
Tubular bells in themselves are very special, aren't they?
They're a very special type of bell.
They were made by Harrington's in London...
for a cost of £130.
-Which was a lot of money in 1919.
You have eight here. It means you can get those eight
into a very small space,
cos it's not the biggest of spires, is it?
We couldn't have a full eight bells in our tower,
cos it's too small.
-You have some music up here, which is good news...
-..because I would like a go.
It's lovely, cos, as you can see, you've just got numbers here.
We're going to play Kum Ba Yah,
so instead of "Kum Ba Yah, my Lord," we have,
# 8, 6, 4, 4, 4... #
Then it goes on...
# 3, 3, 4... #
-Right. Are you ready, Mike?
Go for it!
So, 8, 6, 4, 4, 4.
HE PLAYS BELLS
3, 3, 4.
We've got a cheeky one.
# 5, 6, 8...
# 7, 7, 8. #
-There we go!
CHURCH BELL RINGS
'Today, the bells ring out for their 93rd year of remembrance.
'Ellie and the lumberjills join us to pay tribute
'to the servicemen and women
'who have put their lives on the line for us.
'From the trenches of World War I
'to the desert of Afghanistan.'
BRASS BAND MUSIC
That is all we have time for from the Forest of Dean.
Next week, John and Julia will be in Leicestershire,
with the challenge of planting 5,000 trees in an hour.
-See you, then.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
To mark Remembrance Sunday, Countryfile visits the Royal Forest of Dean, one of our most ancient and beautiful woodlands. Ellie Harrison discovers how the forest became a resource in wartime, when she meets the 'lumberjills'- women who took on the role of forester to help the war effort.
Matt Baker takes a walk through the forest following a giant sculpture trail, and along the way he meets the artist who turned a quiet glade into a place of remembrance and contemplation. In Oxfordshire, Helen Skelton finds out how men from the countryside were trained as a secret army during World War Two.
Meanwhile, Tom Heap investigates the impact legislation to protect our village greens is having on the countryside. Adam Henson goes off to see some of the best Highland cattle in Britain, but without heading north of the border.
Finally, Matt and Ellie meet up in Drybrook Church, at the forest's northern edge, to find out more about its wartime history and pay tribute to the servicemen and women who put their lives on the line in conflicts from the trenches of World War One to the deserts of Afghanistan.