Matt is in the New Forest taking part in an inventory of trees. Ellie is in Inverness-shire seeing what industrial-scale timber production looks like.
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Our forests are special places.
Homes for some of our best-loved animals.
Where old traditions linger on.
Places to get away from it all.
In this programme, the focus is on our forests as resources,
havens for wildlife and inspiration for artists.
We're going to be looking at how woodlands shape our lives.
But there's a crisis in the forests, as Charlotte's finding out.
It's claimed if the timber industry is to survive,
we must plant more trees - and fast.
And, well away from the woods,
Adam is letting his hair down with the new kids on the block.
Goats are just so friendly!
You're lovely, aren't you?
Our forests are places to unwind.
They nourish and shelter all kinds of animals.
And, funnily enough,
one of our oldest is the New Forest in Hampshire.
I'm near Lyndhurst, right in the heart of it.
The New Forest is the perfect place to get out and about.
Just the job for keeping us in good spirits and fine fettle.
But what about the health of the forests themselves?
How do we know if they're in good shape? More importantly,
if there IS a problem, how do we pick up the distress signals?
Well, you take a long, hard look at what's there.
Right across the country, our forests and woodlands are
being surveyed as part of the National Forest Inventory.
It's the most in-depth health check of our forests ever undertaken.
Now, thousands of square plots have been selected at random
using satellite imagery.
They're then surveyed in great detail by experts on the ground.
Now, this square here is one of hundreds in the New Forest.
I'm trying to find it, I think I'm getting warm.
Each plot is one hectare,
or just under two and a half acres.
And even with the technology, they're hard to pin down.
But they do give an accurate picture of just how much wood is in
our forests. So, why do we need such an extensive survey?
I'm meeting the Forestry Commission's Ben Ditchburn
to find out.
Britain's always had a National Forest Inventory since 1924 and we
used to run them every 20 years.
We kind of realised that woodlands were changing faster and with
things like climate change and pests and diseases,
that we needed to keep a sharper, tighter,
more timely look at our woodlands, and questions were being
asked about whether or not should we build sawmills and papermills
and even bio energy plants in Britain,
because maybe we just didn't have enough timber resource.
So, whilst counting trees is an important thing to do, the survey
also looks at the variety of trees growing in each sample plot...
the wildlife it supports,
and the way it's being used.
When you start to analyse this data and look at it and think,
"Hang on a minute," how much do you intervene?
In no way do we interfere on an individual site basis,
because if we did, the sample sites would slowly become unrepresentative
of the wider population and would invalidate the survey.
To gather all the data, you also need boots on the ground.
I was there five years ago and there's a 50cm birch in there.
'In this part of the country,
'those boots belong to David Browning.'
Yep, lead the way.
'He's out in all weathers, all year round, putting in the legwork.'
'David was last at this site five years ago.
'In that time, of course, things will have grown,
'so there will be lots of new data to gather.'
'Technology can help, but if you really want to crunch the numbers,
'sometimes you just have to get down and dirty.
'Last time around,
'this particular measurement on this birch tree was 50cm.'
So we've got...
We're halfway on the 55.
Yes, that's 55, so that's a 5cm growth, which is quite
-a lot for a tree of this size, having a bit of a lie down.
'Special attention is paid to any new growth,
'but it has to fall within the survey area for it to count.'
-So, a new arrival.
Yes, a new arrival, in one sense.
This tree was here five years ago, obviously,
-but it was too small to be captured by the survey.
So it's now grown beyond 6cm,
which means we can record it within the plot
and that then goes into the Forestry Commission database.
So, when is a tree not a tree?
In this case, when it's less than 6cm in circumference.
The only other thing we're looking for is natural generation.
The only thing here that I can see
-is this hawthorn sapling.
'And that's something to shout about,
'since saplings often don't last five minutes in this forest.
'Most new growth is nibbled back by wild ponies and deer.'
Whilst the little trees have to fight to reach maturity,
and the young trees bear the scars of pony teeth, the big trees,
like this ancient oak, are actually doing pretty well.
That's the story here.
But the national story is made up of 15,000 survey squares.
So, what is the big picture and is the story that we've seen
here today in the New Forest replicated nationally?
Well, Charlotte's been finding out.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that deforestation is just something
that happens in the rainforest in places like the Amazon or Indonesia.
But, actually, it could be relevant a lot closer to home.
That's because it's claimed we're cutting down more trees
than we're planting. Are our woodlands really under threat?
Trees do a lot of different things -
they're homes for wildlife,
they store carbon, help reduce the risk of flooding,
provide home-grown timber and they're great to wander round, too.
Not all woodlands, though, John, are this pretty, are they?
No, but to me, they all have something special to offer.
'John Tucker from the Woodland Trust says we're facing
'a drastic decline in new woodland.'
Why are you so worried about the rate of planting?
Well, I'm worried for two reasons - one,
because the rate of planting is so low.
Last year in England, we'd planted 700 hectares, which is the worst
figure since 1971,
so we really need to do something.
The problem is made worse by the fact that we're losing lots of
trees through disease, we're losing lots of woodlands
through development and we could actually be in a state of
deforestation where we're actually losing more than we're putting back.
But we're talking about one bad year - that doesn't make
a long-term trend, does it?
Yes, so this has been going on for a long time.
It's at a time when we're increasingly recognising the
benefits that trees and woodlands can offer to all sorts of
aspects of our life - our health, our landscape, soils and so on.
So we should be doing more, and yet we could be in a situation
where we're actually losing tree cover.
Around 13% of the UK -
that's 3 million hectares,
or 7.5 million acres -
is currently covered by woodland.
Now, that's a vast improvement on the low of just 5% canopy cover
100 years ago, but the UK is still one of the least wooded areas
in Europe and our government say they're committed to planting more.
From the broadleaf woodlands of Wales, to the rain-soaked
timber plantation of the Kielder Forest in Northern England.
How old is this bit of woodland?
Well, this bit of woodland here, which is deciduous larch,
is about 20, 25 years old.
Braving the rain with me is Stuart Goodall from Confor,
the Confederation of Forest Industries.
They say while Scotland has an ambitious planting programme,
England, Wales and Northern Ireland have lower targets and
they're not even achieving them.
Given where we'd hoped to be and how much woodland we've actually
managed to plant, how far are we behind now, in England?
In England, we have a long-term aspiration to
have 5,000 hectares a year planted by 2050,
and with that, we're miles behind.
In 2016, we only planted 700 hectares.
This government has its own particular target of
planting 11 million trees in the lifetime of the Parliament
and by our calculations,
it's not going to hit that
until 2027 at the current rate of planting.
Are these targets ambitious in the first place?
Well, our view is that, for example,
11 million trees target,
which is 1,000 hectares a year, is incredibly modest.
Just a few years ago,
we were planting 5,000 or 6,000 hectares a year in England.
It is achievable.
Stuart believes we must start planting more now.
But has the future of the UK's £1.7 billion commercial timber
sector already been sown?
Based in North Wales, the Clifford Jones Timber Group
is the UK's largest fence post manufacturer.
-How's business, then?
-Business is booming.
We're selling an awful lot of material at this time of year
due to the demand that is placed on us by the farmers.
Right now, times are good.
But timber isn't any ordinary crop.
It takes several decades for softwood to mature
ready for harvest.
We're currently reaping the bounty
of tree-planting from the 1970s and '80s,
but Richard Jones believes there could soon be trouble at t'mill.
It's difficult standing here,
talking about a shortage of timber when we're surrounded by it.
Why are you so worried about timber supply?
The biggest issue for us is that the tree takes at least 25 years
to reach a point where we can use it, so if you miss ten years
of actually planting, you never gain that time back.
Are you confident that we will plant enough now
to keep your children in business?
Couldn't you just import it?
At this moment in time, the UK actually imports around 80% of
the timber it uses, but for us,
we actually value the rural economy and actually putting pounds
in people's pockets and keeping people in jobs
in the rural community, which is a big thing around here.
There are more than 80,000 skilled jobs in UK forestry and the
wood processing sector,
largely in rural areas where work can often be in very short supply.
So, as a vital part of the economy, with potential for growth,
what's stopping us from planting more trees?
Well, that's what I'll be finding out later.
Our woodlands can be like a canvas for artists,
filled with light and shade
and all manner of structures, textures and detail.
So much to fire the imagination.
But the artist I'm meeting today isn't just inspired by wood,
it's the materials she works with to create exquisite prints -
in particular, boxwood.
This is the work of one of Britain's leading wood engravers.
She loves to walk out in the Kent countryside with her camera,
taking hundreds of photographs.
Images that might later inspire her
to create one of her finely detailed prints.
She learned her skill at the Royal College of Art
and has spent nearly 40 years honing her craft in her studio at home.
So you've obviously got a great fascination
for trees as your subject matter - why's that?
Well, I just like all the textures
and the patterns they make against the sky.
Obviously in winter you see much more than you do in summer,
when they're all overgrown.
And you're working on what looks like a sort of cushion,
but it's leather, isn't it?
-And it's incredibly heavy.
-And it's full of sand.
Yes, it's full of sand, it's incredibly heavy.
So why do you use it?
It's so that you can move the block around as you work,
because often you're working
by turning the block with your left hand
and cutting in lots of different directions with the right.
The boxwood that Sue works with
comes from a tree commonly used in gardens for hedging and topiary.
Probably the best place to find it growing wild
is at the aptly named Box Hill in Surrey.
Box tends to be a small tree,
and the density of its wood makes it perfect
for the fine detail in Sue's work.
It feels like firm butter.
So it's not gritty and hard,
you wouldn't need a chisel to push your tools if they're sharp.
-And do the tools have different names?
-This one is a spitsticker.
-Spitsticker, wonderful name.
And this one is a bullsticker. I don't know why they're called that.
Each tool makes a different kind of indent,
but there's one thing they have in common -
the marks they make can't be undone.
Not an easy task, by any means.
-Incredibly time-consuming and delicate.
I've probably chosen one of the most difficult art mediums there is
because, for one thing, it's very small,
so you're working in miniature a lot of the time.
How long has that taken you so far, how many hours?
I think probably about 20-25 hours.
And when you're working on something like this,
you're actually working in negative.
Yes. If I was to take a boxwood block
and print from it without engraving it,
I would just get a solid black rectangle.
So I'm engraving the white marks.
As I engrave it, I'm letting the light in.
-Let's have a go.
-I'll practise on an ordinary...
-Practise on that.
And you're just doing it in a scooping motion.
-You don't need to go deep.
Just the slightest scratch will print as a white line,
so you just need to graze the surface. That's it.
You're getting the hang of it.
Do you feel confident enough to let me make a mark on yours?
-Well, only if you make a very small one.
-Whereabouts, what shall I do?
How about just a little tiny marking here?
A blade of grass?
Yes, a little tiny blade of grass. That's it.
I feel honoured!
Sue's print workshop is in a summer house at the bottom of the garden.
Her original Victorian press,
inherited from her tutor,
was built in 1859,
when engraving was a popular form of illustration
and used a lot by newspapers.
So what I do now...
is I lock it into position,
which means that it won't move once it goes under.
This is the ink.
It's a special kind of ink
made for the letterpress printing.
It is very, very stiff.
You have to roll in more than one direction
to make sure it's gone on evenly all over.
Very smooth paper, put it on carefully,
make sure it doesn't move.
And to get the right amount of pressure
I need some packing on top.
That goes into the press.
And then the moment of truth.
So what's it going to be like?
Peel it back carefully.
-There we go.
I think that is beautiful, Sue.
I'm seeing things now in the print
that I didn't see in the block.
The two birds there, look, between the trees.
Yes, I thought it was looking like it needed something alive in it,
and it's nice to have something moving through the trees.
Woodland, inspiring the art of wood engraving.
As Charlotte discovered earlier,
timber stocks are precarious in England and Wales,
but it's a different story in Scotland.
Nearly a fifth of the country is forest and woodland -
that's more than 3.5 million acres.
I'm exploring just a small part of it,
the Culbin Forest between Inverness and Elgin,
on the banks of the Moray Firth.
It's a billion-pound industry in Scotland alone,
and employs 26,000 people.
Big timber is big business.
Between October and Easter,
about 400 lorry-loads of timber
is removed from Culbin.
Shifting that much wood calls for some big machines.
And these beasts can take down a tree in seconds.
And I'm going to time this just to show how quick it is. Go.
Less than a second to actually cut the trunk.
Cuts it into these equal lengths.
Easy-peasy, like butter,
all the branches stripped at the same time.
What was that? 15 seconds,
to take it from a standing tree to a useful log pile. That's amazing.
'Making short work of the job
'is Willie Thompson.'
-Can I come on in?
'I'm joining him as he slices and dices his way through the woods.'
-It's got a screen there. Gosh, so modern, this kit!
Willie, you make this look like a video game.
I'm amazed how comfortable it is in here.
I think you've even got one of those air fresheners somewhere.
It smells very fabulously scented.
-Specially in for you.
-Have you? LAUGHTER
One of those special tree things hanging around.
Once enough trees have been felled,
a second machine grabs them and piles them up,
ready for transportation.
Their next stop is 30 miles down the road
at the biggest sawmill in the Spey Valley.
It's also the region's biggest employer.
The man in charge of this branch is David Mills.
David, help me see the wood from the trees, here.
HE LAUGHS Ah!
Talk me through the process -
when it comes from the forest, what happens next?
OK, so, this is the start of our process.
So this is where we sort the logs to diameter.
If you can imagine, they come in from the forest
anything from, sort of, 16 centimetres up to 45.
-So we need to, in order to get the best out of the process,
we need to optimise that.
We need to sort them into diameter grades
and then we take those logs into the sawmill.
This mill is highly efficient,
designed to make use of every stick and splinter.
Waste is kept to an absolute minimum.
Each tree that comes in here is 3D-scanned,
then some computer wizardry decides which products fit.
Then it's up to Dougie here
to best decide how to rotate each log to fit the pattern,
and the process happens 1,500 times a day,
the equivalent of 20 lorry-loads.
'Dougie puts me in the hot seat for a moment.'
'I mean, what damage could I possibly do?'
Oh-hoo... Look at all these different cameras.
Are you supposed to look at those at the same time?
-The white one?
-Yeah, the white one.
-For a wee second. Yeah.
-Uh-oh. What have I done?
-What have I done?
-All right, in you go.
-Things are backing up. So sorry.
I'm clearly not up for this job.
What waste there is
is burned up in a state-of-the-art biomass boiler.
This generates the heat for the timber-drying kilns.
Once dried, the timber is graded - the very best stuff
destined for the construction industry and places like this.
'Neil Sutherland is an architect, but he doesn't just design houses -
'he builds them, too,
'starting here in this workshop.'
So can I get away with saying flat-pack houses?
They're flat-packed, yeah.
They are ready to leave the workshop and be assembled into a house.
Now, what we are trying to do is do more work inside the workshop,
because there's more consistency.
-There's better quality, there's less waste, it's safer.
There's various aspects to it.
-Less weather, as well, in here.
-We've already seen it changing quite a few times today.
And where is the timber sourced from?
-We look to source all our timber from as locally as possible.
So it's pretty much all from the Highlands.
Generally within a 50-mile radius.
I can't believe that's a house right there.
-It's amazing. LAUGHTER
'This is one of Neil's recent builds,
'just over the Kessock Bridge from Inverness, on the Black Isle.'
What an amazing setting this is!
Wowee, what a place.
'The proud owner is Mike Thompson.'
Is this your ideal home?
This is my dream home, which I've worked for...a long time.
I wanted to prove that we could use home-grown, locally grown timber,
which has produced a quality house.
It's very thermal efficient, it's extremely warm
and it's run by one wood-burning stove.
Tall trees to monster machinery.
New technology to grand designs.
But our forests are home to so much more.
Later, I'll be finding out how science is helping the industry
do its bit for one of our best-loved animals.
Now, earlier, we heard that the UK
is at the lowest level of tree planting for a generation,
so what's stopping us from planting more?
This is Doddington in Northumberland -
a tree-free, blustery hillside which, it's hoped,
will become the largest new private woodland in England for 20 years.
600,000 trees will be planted here,
transforming what is, at the moment,
fairly scrubby, low-grade grazing land.
'With stark warnings that parts of the UK
'could be creeping into deforestation
'and pleas from our commercial timber industry to plant more trees,
'plans for more than half a million of them are good news.'
Who uses this land at the moment, though?
So, there's a tenant farmer who uses it for sheep grazing.
'But there's a catch - for project director Andy Howard,
'this woodland is taking a long time to take root.'
-So if I were here in, what, 20, 30 years...
..where would the trees be?
The trees will be all around us and back up to the hill over there.
-So, all of this?
-All of this will be planted.
The view is amazing.
I've got to be honest - I thought you'd be planting trees.
We wish we were, to be perfectly honest!
You know, we are two years into this project so far,
and we're still not able to plant trees yet.
Why has it taken so long?
It's internal battles within Defra,
in terms of whether Natural England and Historic England
wants to protect the categorisation of the land, as they have it,
against what the Forestry Commission want.
In my mind, it's got to the point where I've literally got to prove
that planting a tree is not a bad thing.
The process to do that seems to be one
where anybody and everybody can take as long as they want
and I've got to wait until that point in time
that they've decided that they don't want to make any more comment.
And Andy warns this isn't just about this project.
The future of England's woodlands could be decided here.
Others are watching him wrestle red tape and may be put off.
If this does not happen,
in terms of being a successful project,
the chances of any other large-scale productive woodland planting
in this country coming forward, I would say, is very, very small.
Before a single tree is planted,
many different voices, with their own competing priorities,
have to be heard and an agreement needs to be reached.
Defra told us...
But even once the woodland is agreed, well,
then there are rules on what type of tree can be planted.
It's a lesson from our history.
Nearly 100 years ago, the Forestry Commission
began planting vast swathes of non-native conifers.
-You wait for 20 busy years before you get a dividend in cash,
but the Forestry Commission have planted
half a million acres with trees.
They were seen as the perfect, relatively quick-growing crop
to safeguard the national timber stock after the ravages of war.
These plantations supply mines with 90% of their pit props.
Timber also goes for fencing, box making and building.
But times have changed and these uniform conifer plantations
aren't really what we want any more.
They are pretty dark and that,
combined with the amount of needles on the floor,
means you really don't get much biodiversity.
Today, all new woodlands,
as well as the restocking of old conifer plantations,
require a mix of native tree species.
In fact, within the past 20 years,
more than twice as many new broadleaf trees
were planted in the UK than conifers.
But are we now planting the wrong trees for the timber industry?
'Stuart Goodall from Confor speaks for the forestry industry.
'He says, although broadleaf trees are great for nature,
'they come at a cost.'
Whereas in the past, we could plant a whole hillside
just to produce wood,
nowadays, because we are sacrificing maybe 20-25%
of the potential wood production on a hillside,
we need to be planting more woodland.
To create more woodland, we need more land,
but with the prices at a premium, what incentives are there?
There are a variety of different schemes available,
operated by different government agencies,
and they are not always joined up,
and there can be an awful lot more money in removing trees
than there is in planting trees.
In some cases in England, just £1.28 is awarded for planting a tree,
but as much as £144 can be claimed to remove one.
That's more than 100 times as much.
Recently, the Select Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
concluded that the current grant scheme is not fit for purpose
and is acting as a barrier to more woodland creation.
The industry has an answer.
Well, if you look at England, for example,
we have three agencies who are operating a system,
which is very complex, very bureaucratic,
and that is off-putting for people.
What we should have is a situation where it's run by just one agency -
so, for example, we had the Forestry Commission
which was set up in 1919 to expand our forests.
Now, we feel that the Forestry Commission
should be given responsibility to run these schemes itself,
to go back to its roots,
to ensure that we are planting the forests that we need
for the 21st century.
Everyone seems to agree planting trees is a good thing,
but in England and Wales, we are not even reaching the current targets.
Now, people in forestry and timber industries,
perhaps not surprisingly, want planting commercial forests
to be made more straightforward.
But balancing that with all the other things
we expect of land and the environment?
Well, that's not going to be easy.
The New Forest.
It's home to one of our most spectacular
and elusive birds of prey.
They ghost silently through our dense woodlands,
hunting out unsuspecting victims.
They are incredibly shy.
A rare sight, indeed.
Now, don't worry if you can't get out into the New Forest
to witness them swooping and diving for their prey,
because there is another way to see them.
As part of a scheme called A Date With Nature,
you can watch them throughout the summer,
either online or on a big screen at the New Forest Reptile Centre.
And it's all done with the help of this camera.
Now, goshawks are a Schedule 1 protected species,
so obviously getting this camera up into position
is a delicate and sensitive operation,
but as the nests are vacant at the moment,
now is the ideal opportunity, so later in the programme,
I'm going to be heading on up this tree to see how it all happens.
That's after Sean has his feet firmly on the ground
Gently rolling hills...
..and magnificent spruce forests.
Hard to believe this is just 15 minutes
from the centre of Glasgow.
Many of us dream of having a space in the forest to call our own.
Well, for some here in Stirlingshire,
that dream has come true.
Dotted amongst the trees,
there's an unusual group of ramshackle buildings.
Some brightly coloured, some in need of a little TLC,
but all made of wood.
This is Carbeth, a decades-old community close to the city,
but a world away in time.
It was at the end of the First World War
that huts started springing up all over the Scottish landscape.
They were built by ex-servicemen and families on low income,
hoping to escape the city grime for a healthy dose of nature.
The people who owned these modest buildings
are affectionately known as hutters
and today I'm meeting a few of the locals.
'Alan Graham has been a hutter since he was a boy.'
-Alan - doing some spring cleaning, I see.
-Yeah. Hi there, Sean.
This is an impressive hut, isn't it? It's absolutely massive.
Yeah, well, it's a standard size for round here, yeah.
And it looks like you've made it into a real home.
Have you been coming here that long?
All my life, which is close to 60 years, now, so...yeah.
This is probably my third hut in Carbeth.
When we bought this, we've extended it a bit,
we've renovated it a bit, put on a new roof,
various other bits and pieces.
You say you've extended it -
is there a set size, though, that you have to stick to?
Yes, there is, yeah. There are planning regulations
that dictate what size the huts should be,
and they should start small, but they can be extended over time.
-I see all the huts are made out of wood.
-There's a lot of wood around here.
Do you get the materials from the forest?
Huts come together quite organically,
so, you know, people will use materials
that they can beg, steal or borrow, there's a lot of recycling goes on.
The original hut that we had,
my dad was able to find an old changing room
from a sports ground that was being demolished,
and he was able to transport it up here.
It must have been great, coming here as a kid.
Yeah, it was great as a kid, Many, many happy memories from here.
Myself, my brothers and sisters, we just...
We had so much freedom, here. You were out from morning till night,
climbing trees, sledging in the winter, all of that sort of stuff.
I can smell the smoke from the fire inside. I think it'll be warm
-in there. Can I have a look?
-Course you can, yeah. Come in.
-In you come.
-Wow. It looked large from the outside.
It looks massive on the inside - it's like the TARDIS! It's amazing.
I can immediately see where my favourite place would be, though -
-by this wood burner.
-Yeah. In you come.
-It's lovely and cosy.
-You must be tempted to live here. Can you do that?
No, afraid not. It can't be your permanent residence.
Originally, they were intended for weekend use,
two weeks in the summer,
but no, you shouldn't stay here all year round.
I noticed, as we were coming,
there are quite a few huts around the place.
There must be a feeling of a real community, here.
There really is.
I spend more time talking to people here
than I do in the street where I live.
-Oh, really? In Glasgow?
At home, we tend to wave to our neighbours
as we pass, in their cars.
Out here, we stop and we pass the time of day with each other.
-So this is like going against modern life.
It's a slower pace of life out here,
and I think that's what attracts people.
There is something about this place that draws people from all walks.
Some come to paint.
Others, for sport.
But once, they came to escape the horrors of war.
Back in March 1941,
the Luftwaffe hit the town of Clydebank hard.
More than 1,000 bombs were dropped
on the town's shipyard and munitions factories.
Some 500 people lost their lives.
Those who could, fled the city.
Some found safety at Carbeth.
'Like Marlene McKellen, who escaped with her family.'
So, Marlene, it was somewhere around about here where your hut stood.
Yeah, down the hill a bit, not too far.
-It's not here any more. That's sad, isn't it?
-It is sad, yes.
Very disappointed when I first discovered that it had gone.
You came here because you were evacuated.
What do you remember about that time?
Well, there had been a bad air raid
that included Glasgow the night before,
and a bomb came down behind our building
and shattered a sweet factory.
A lot of people decided, you know, to leave the area
and because members of my family...
I think we had three huts out here, and we decided to come out.
-You were here when Clydebank was being bombed.
We were looking straight across the hills to Clydebank
and you could see the flames, huge flames,
bright, bright orange.
And, of course, you hear all the planes,
because they crossed here to get to Clydebank.
The RAF took to the skies and fought back.
There was a German plane shot down just over where we were, because...
At the time, I was sleeping on a deckchair,
because we had somebody else in the hut,
and I was woken with this huge bang
and the deckchair kind of jumped about six inches off the floor
and then went flat.
So that, kind of, woke everybody up,
and then we discovered it had been a German plane
that had come down, just across the wall from us
in the first field.
-Just over here?
-Just over there, yes.
So, how does it feel, being back here now, where your hut stood?
Well, very different.
There are a lot more huts than there were.
But it seems to be a very happy community,
I would say, and that's a wonderful feeling.
Very similar to the feeling that we had back then.
By the 1990s, the huts that had provided refuge
to Marlene and so many others had started to decline.
Strict access laws and a change in attitude by landowners
meant rents were harder to afford.
But efforts are underway to revive this proud tradition.
In our never-ending quest to escape the trappings of modern life,
you could say there's more need for hutting today than ever before.
With the backing of the Scottish Government,
the charity Reforesting Scotland has set up
the Thousand Huts campaign.
You'll still need planning permission,
but building regulations are being relaxed.
For those who want to get back to nature,
there is room to let your creative juices flow.
In 2013, the hutters rallied together to buy the land here,
and with more than 100 on the waiting list,
the future of this small forest community looks secure.
Our woodlands and forests -
wild and beautiful places to wander and to explore.
But when they are managed,
like this ancient coppiced woodland in the Kent Weald,
they're also places of work.
And not just for humans -
this guy is called Yser and, as you can see,
he is getting himself all fuelled up,
ready for a hard day's work here in the woods.
And here come his workmates...
..with their handler, Frankie Woodgate.
Hello there, John.
-What a wonderful sight.
Whoa, lovely. Good boy. Stand there.
'She uses her heavy horses not only here, in her own woodland,
'but on contract work for other landowners.'
You have got some wonderful-looking horses, haven't you?
-Thank you. Yes.
-What kind are they?
Well, this little chap here, he is a Belgian Ardennes.
He is 15 years old.
We have Tobias, he is a Belgian draft, or Brabant.
-He is very handsome.
-Yes - he is the Shirley Temple of the team.
Really? He knows he's handsome, does he?
Yes, he knows he's handsome, he knows he's handsome.
And then we have the lovely lady, Salome.
She's a Belgian Ardennes mare. She's eight years old.
What got you involved with these horses to start with?
Well, many years ago -
I started working in forestry in my early 20s -
I particularly fell in love with,
and remain completely passionate about,
ancient semi-natural woodlands,
and I started looking into low-impact methods
of management and extraction, and suddenly just thought,
"Hang on - is there anybody still working horses extracting timber?"
In woodlands such as this,
the ground flora are very specific to this wood,
and woods within this region.
-Some beautiful anemones.
-Yes, beautiful anemones,
that are out now. So ground compaction in a wood like this
is an absolute no-no, really.
Ardennes horses are named after
the hilly forested region of Belgium where they come from,
and they are perfectly suited to working on steep slopes
and places that are too densely wooded for machinery.
They are compact and stocky and incredibly strong.
So you're not just clinging to the past, then -
this is an efficient modern way of woodland management.
Oh, yes, yes. Indeed.
I mean, whilst we might have one hoof in the past, as it were,
we are firmly placed in contemporary, modern-day forestry.
And they are reasonably low-maintenance.
They are reasonably low-maintenance.
Obviously, there is a feed bill, at the end of the year.
Well, now they are fuelled up, they are ready for action.
These woods were first coppiced centuries ago
to fire the furnaces for smelting iron.
You can still see the hollows where the ore was mined.
These days, Frankie fells the timber for firewood
in a traditional 14-year-long cycle.
The horses haul away the trunks, either on a trailer,
like this one, known as a "forder"...
..or by even simpler methods,
with the help of Frankie's assistant, Richard.
'We gather some logs together using special timber tongs...'
Oh, yeah - pretty good, aren't they?
'..and chain them up.'
Tighten it up, all ready for the horse, now.
-That's all ready for the horse.
-What's Richard doing over there?
Well, Richard is working a Scandinavian timber arch,
and that allows us to extract more timber over longer distances.
So there's less friction on the horse,
it's far easier on the horse to move it,
because the timber is partially suspended under the arch,
so a lot of the weight of the timber is going down through
and into the wheels of the arch.
But the system that we are going to use with Salome,
bar and traces,
very simple, very versatile.
We use it on steep slopes in wet areas
where you might not want to get your horse too close
to where the timber is,
and then you can just choke her up on a long chain
and pull the timber off the wet area.
-Hooked on, now.
-And we are ready to go, John.
Okey dokey. Off we go.
-Come on, Yser.
Come on, old boy.
What a wonderful sight, isn't it? Fantastic.
A romantic yet practical way of harvesting our woodlands.
Now, spring is normally the season you'd associate with lambs.
But, as Adam is finding out, there is a new KID on the block.
Goat farming has never been huge in the UK,
but over the last few years, it's been building in popularity,
and now the animals are not only prized for their milk,
but there is a growing market for their meat, too.
Charlie Whitehouse farms a huge herd of goats
on the border of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.
-Oh, hi, Adam. How are you?
-Good. Nice to see you.
-What a beautiful herd of goats.
Yeah, no, we are really, really pleased with them.
They look fantastic on a day like this as well.
At Charlie's dairy, they milk about 1,000 nannies twice a day.
Half the milk goes to a major supermarket chain
whilst the other half is used to make cheese.
They seem very content.
What are goats like to work with on this sort of scale?
Really, really easy.
I mean, compared to other animals, they run to you, not at you.
So, no, they are really, really good fun to work with.
And is the popularity of milk products growing?
Our production in the UK is only 0.2%,
in volume terms, compared to cow's milk.
Very small market, really. But growing all the time.
Farming goats is very popular elsewhere in the world.
Oh, it is - around the world,
more people rely on goats for their sustenance than any other animal,
but not so much in the UK. But that market is growing and changing.
And what is it that's driving that forward, do you think?
I think the health benefits of goat's milk,
people becoming lactose intolerant,
and they can drink goat's milk cos it's easier to digest.
And the milking process, very similar?
Really similar to cows, Adam. I'll get you in and have a go -
just remember, they've got two teats, not four.
Goats might supply far less milk than cows,
but the equipment here is just as hi-tech
as in any cattle milking parlour.
-Brilliant. So, press Auto...
Bracelet talks to wrist. Wrist talks to computer.
-And away she goes.
-And away she goes, the milk is coming out.
And then this unit will measure
everything we want to know about it -
so, how much milk it's giving,
how many seconds it takes to milk her,
because for us, data is so important.
We want to know which are our good goats and which are our bad goats
so we know which to breed from.
These nanny goats, like all mammals,
only produce milk once they've given birth.
Like sheep, they naturally have young in the spring,
and right now, they're kidding.
'This first-time mum's waters have just broken.
'If you're a bit squeamish,
'you might want to look away for a while.'
Dairy manager Steve has come along to help.
So, like a lamb,
goat kids are born nose and two front feet.
They dive out forwards.
And what you can see, there,
is its little nose, but no front feet,
so Steve will just have to put his hand in
and try and find the front feet and bring those forward.
This goat is scanned to have three, and sometimes, when they push them,
they can come up to the birth canal all at once.
So it sounds very traumatic, but goats are quite noisy.
GOAT BLEATS LOUDLY
-All right, missus.
There they are. So, there's a front foot, and the nose.
Sometimes, if the other front leg's right back, it'll slide out.
There we go. Just nice and gently.
There's a good girl.
Now, this is the nerve-racking bit,
when you've got to try and get the little goat kid breathing.
There we are.
I hate it when they writhe around like that,
cos you think they're struggling.
Come on, then.
'It's a huge relief to see that the kid is alive,
'but things aren't looking as promising for the second one.'
So, this is a breech birth. This goat kid is coming backwards.
So this one has to come out a little bit quicker,
so the umbilical cord will break
while its head is still inside the nanny.
-Backwards and upside down.
-Upside down, yeah.
-Is that stillborn?
-I think so.
-It is, isn't it?
-No heartbeat, no?
It was backwards and upside down.
Hasn't made it. So we'll just see what the third one is like.
This is the third one coming now.
There were go, that's good.
What a good girl.
So, this nanny has given birth to triplets.
Sadly, one of them was born dead,
but she has got two healthy little nanny kids.
They themselves will give birth here
and start milking on this farm in about a year's time.
I'll leave her to it.
In farming, billy goats' lives are much shorter than females'.
Males are of little use on a dairy farm,
so in the past, many were killed soon after being born.
But fortunately, that's starting to change.
All the young billies born here are reared on other farms
to eventually enter the food chain.
-Hi, Lizzie, how you doing?
-Hi, Charlie. All good.
-Good. Well, it's these two groups, here.
-I'll leave you, Adam, to load them.
-Perfect. Want to hop in?
'Lizzie Dyer is collecting the latest batch of billies
'to take to her farm in Wiltshire.'
And it's good, having a use for the male kids, isn't it?
Absolutely. I mean, at the end of the day,
everything that's born is going to die at some stage,
and all we're trying to do is give them a purpose.
So instead of it just being completely wasted at birth,
we rear them on in a free-range and hopefully sustainable way
and produce a quality meat at the end of it.
Shall we get them loaded before they chew holes in my jeans?
Absolutely. Thank you.
Because the billies are taken away from their mothers
only after a few days, they still need plenty of milk
when they arrive at their new home.
But once weaned, Lizzie's goats are put out to pasture
to fatten up in their own time.
Hello, goats! My word!
-A bit different!
Just bit my bottom!
They're so naughty, aren't they?
They are really mischievous.
So, what sort of age are these, then?
These guys are coming up eight months,
so they are ready to be going off for slaughter.
-So you are choosing from this group now?
We do a lot of weighing, cos as you can see,
it's a bit different to lambs...
Yeah, so sheep, I'd be feeling their backs.
-But you do it on weight.
We do it much more on weight, and then, obviously,
we look at the covering as well.
What we are producing here is kid meat,
so it's from the younger animal, the equivalent of lamb.
Yes. And the qualities of it?
Believe it or not, it's actually lower in cholesterol than chicken,
but it's got more iron in it than beef.
-So, you've got, like, a red meat,
which everyone enjoys eating, but it's actually really healthy,
and what we're trying to do is take the nutritional benefits
and then try and rear it in a very sustainable way
and so you actually have the opportunity to enjoy red meat
without feeling guilty about it.
Goat milk and meat may not yet be a British favourite,
but with dairy farmers working hand-in-hand
with people like Lizzie,
the future of goat farming here is looking up.
Scotland is renowned for its forestry industry.
As I've already seen,
a big business and crucial to jobs in the economy.
But where does nature fit into that equation?
It's always going to be a difficult balancing act,
because the forest has been planted
specifically to be grown and harvested as a crop,
but that process may take 70 years or more,
with thinning every 10 to 15 years, and in that time,
it's become a full-blown ecosystem,
thriving with wildlife, big and small.
Including one of our best loved but most endangered animals -
the red squirrel.
The threat here comes not from the reds' arch enemy,
the grey squirrel, but from the timber industry itself.
So Forest Enterprise Scotland, part of the Forestry Commission,
is behind an independent study to address the problem.
'Kenny Kortland is an ecologist for the Commission.'
Kenny, what is the idea behind this project?
So, squirrels occupy lots of these plantations all over Scotland,
but we want to produce timber from them,
because we all consume timber.
-So we have to reconcile those two objectives.
And what happens now if contractors are working here,
where red squirrels are?
Well, during the breeding season for squirrels,
we try to avoid working in their woods,
but that limits the amount of forestry we can do quite a lot,
so we are trying to understand how we can work in the breeding season
so that we can work more widely in the forest.
Harvesting the trees for timber
inevitably has an impact on the squirrels' food supply,
but, crucially, can take away their nests, or dreys.
'The study is being led by Louise de Raad from the
'University of the Highlands and Islands' School of Forestry.'
Good to see you.
You need a head for heights for this job, don't you?
So, tell me about the project.
What is happening here with these boxes?
Well, we've put a number of nest boxes up in the area,
where the forest operations are going to take place,
cos we want to see if they use the nest boxes
during the operations.
And what's this on the end of the pole? Why this long bit?
So, on the end of the pole, you can see a wee trail camera,
so what we're doing there is we are monitoring
the entrance of the nest boxes
so we can see whether they're actually being used,
-rather than having to go into the nest boxes.
Although the photographs are useful, this study relies on hard data.
'To get the info needed, Louise is capturing red squirrels.'
Animal welfare is our highest priority.
These are the live traps
and they don't get injured at all during the trapping.
Why are you trapping the squirrels?
Well, we are wanting to tag them with a little radio collar.
And they have a GPS signal on them and a radio tracking,
so they will automatically record locations,
but it will also allow us to do the radio tracking with a receiver.
'This is one of 20 traps dotted around the forest.
'Now we just retreat and wait.'
This is why the red squirrels are doing so well here -
there is a tonne of food all over the forest floor,
and they can live in different types of woods and forests,
but in Scotland they are at their highest numbers in pine forests.
They do particularly well where there are different species
of conifer together, like larch, pine and spruce,
because the seeds ripen at different times,
so there is a more continuous supply of food.
We get a call on the radio that a squirrel
has been captured in another trap.
-OK, perfect. Here we go.
'And that was the easy bit.
'Now, Louise, a licensed handler,
'has to quickly fit the tracking collar.'
I feel like I'm holding my breath. You're doing a great job.
-It's all over.
-So, there it goes.
Quick as a flash.
-And there it goes.
-It looks none the worse for wear for that.
It looks absolutely fine, doesn't it?
-Yeah, they are quite happy to get away.
'Now we need to track them,
'so I am catching up with Marina Gray
'as she looks for a signal for the collars.'
This is the strongest point, so this squirrel must be here.
'Marina records her findings and then Louise plots the information.'
-We can have a wee look here.
-And there, I think.
-Discussing a bit of data.
So, how's it looking so far?
Well, we've mapped a couple of the locations of different squirrels
that we've found so far.
It's a bit too early to tell me something yet.
But we'll be following them throughout the forest operations
and then afterwards as well so that, by the end,
we can hopefully say something about what impact the forest operations
have had on squirrels.
And what would be the best case scenario for everyone?
The best case scenario would be that the machines come in,
we extract some of the timber, that goes off to make houses,
and we continue to follow the squirrels
and establish that they are happy to remain here after the work.
But, ultimately, the data from the squirrels decides.
-So the squirrels ultimately decide.
At the end of the study, the squirrels will be retrapped
and their tracking collars removed.
In a few days, the machinery will be here to fell some of these trees,
but not the ones with nest boxes.
Then Louise, Kenny and Marina will return
to see how the squirrels have responded
and what implications that has for populations
right across the country.
If you are heading off to the woods -
or anywhere else, for that matter - this week,
you'll want to know what the weather will be doing.
Time to find out with the Countryfile forecast
for the week ahead.
We've been exploring our forests and woodlands
as places to relax,
as resources for industry,
as homes to wildlife.
And here in the New Forest, that wildlife is special indeed.
This is a goshawk, one of our rarest birds of prey.
'I'm meeting Andy Page, head keeper with the Forestry Commission here,
'who keeps an eye on them using special nest cameras.'
Right, Matt, this is typical goshawk territory -
well spaced, mature, big, dark Douglas fir,
with some larch and Scots pine.
This site has been occupied for a good many years now,
and within this, there is at least three alternative nest sites
which they will use on rotation.
How have things looked then, over the last 16 years?
It's interesting, because I have been monitoring raptors here
since I started with the Forestry Commission,
and I've seen really quick growth,
and we are now up to nearly 40 pairs here, now.
-Do you, really?
What does this very healthy goshawk population
tell you about the health of the forest?
Well, they are a top predator, and that in its way shows you
that they are able to find enough food
to support that high population,
which means we must be managing our woodlands and our heathlands
in the right way to support that amount of avian prey,
to sustain a high population of goshawks.
Mm. And from the actual webcams that you are putting up, then,
from an expert's perspective, what kind of help does it offer you?
Well, it enables us to see what prey are being brought in,
so we can see a selection of the food that goshawks
are feeding to their chicks.
Today, Andy's installing a camera on this nest.
Once fixed, it will beam pictures to the New Forest Reptile Centre,
and beyond, to everyone, via the internet.
But first, he has got a bit of climbing to do.
When was the last time you were on the end of that rope, going up, Andy?
A good few months ago - like, nine months ago or something.
You'll be all right, don't worry.
The cameras have to be installed
before the goshawks take up residence.
It's illegal to disturb them
and you need a licence to be allowed anywhere near.
Andy's licensed, so he's OK.
But I'm not, so I have got to keep my distance.
And up we go!
Well, Andy has made his way the hard way
up the neighbouring tree, which is where the nest is, and...
Well, I feel slightly bad, actually,
because I am taking quite an easy route, really,
using this rig here.
Nestle into position.
You'll see that I'm just above the nest, here.
We are sitting around 100 feet,
but what a view we have of that goshawk's nest
and how beautiful it is - you can see the size of it.
-How's it looking, Andy? All right?
I've just about got the camera in place, now.
-Reasonably happy with that.
We can connect up in a bit and then, hopefully,
the image will be perfect.
We'll leave them to it, now. Andy's going to descend
from the tree and, hopefully, it will be a very successful season
of nesting for the birds, and you know what?
That's all we've got time for, for this week,
So from the rooftops of the New Forest, we'll say goodbye.
I really do hope that you've enjoyed our view of all things forest.
Next week, we are going to be in East Yorkshire,
where we'll be visiting the nation's newest island
and looking at the farmland that has literally risen out of the sea.
Hope you can join us then.
In this programme the focus is on our forests. Matt is in the New Forest taking part in the biggest inventory of our trees ever undertaken. He also takes to the heights with climbers from the Forestry Commission as they undertake a wildlife survey high in the treetops.
Ellie is up in Inverness-shire seeing what industrial-scale timber production looks like. She also looks at new scientific research that shows the impact of forestry activities on native red squirrels.
Sean is in Stirlingshire exploring the Scottish tradition of hutting, and he hears about the part these houses in the woods played during the Clydebank Blitz during World War II.
John is in Kent looking at the revival of working with horses in forests and learns that it is because they are less damaging to the environment than machines. He also meets the top-rated artist whose magnificent woodcuts of forests capture perfectly the spirit of these magic places.
In a step away from the woodlands, Adam meets the farmer who has found a new market for his male goats due to the rising demand for goat meat.
Charlotte Smith is looking at claims that across the country we are not planting enough trees and what that might mean for the UK's timber industry.