The team visit a little-known corner of Cumbria. Julia Bradbury gets a unique insight into how the Furness Peninsula has been shaped by nature and man.
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The Furness Peninsula -
a little-known corner of Cumbria jutting out into the Irish Sea.
It's within spitting distance of the Lake District,
but a world away from all of its crowds.
There it is, in all its glory - the Furness Peninsula,
a hidden gem waiting to be explored.
I'll be discovering how this landscape
has been shaped by nature and by us for centuries.
While Julia's flying high,
I'm all at sea with the crew on board the Hearts of Oak.
The Furness Peninsula is dominated by the shipbuilding town of Barrow,
which is just behind us.
It's the neighbouring town of Ulverston
that put this area on the shipbuilding map
and that is where this beauty comes in.
She's a centuries-old gaff cutter,
and I'm going to be finding out what it takes to sail her.
In Yorkshire, Tom's investigating a British obsession - the weather.
This summer, the threat of wet has never been far away.
Miserable if you're planning a day out,
but merciless for the rural economy.
I'll be finding out just how bad it's been.
And Adam's been taking a break from the farm to explore Orkney.
I'm heading to Swona Island,
where a herd of cattle have roamed free for nearly 40 years
and I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of these wild beasts.
At the southernmost tip of Cumbria,
the Furness Peninsula claims to be the sunniest part of the Lakes.
Sticking out to the west of Morecambe Bay,
the shipbuilding town of Barrow-in-Furness
is at the peninsula's heart,
the island of Walney, hugging the southern tip.
The peninsula hasn't been here for long.
It owes its existence to the mountains to the north -
a story that dates back to the last great ice age.
The best way to see into the peninsula's frozen past
is from up there.
And that's where this baby comes in!
25,000 years ago, this view was completely different.
The Irish Sea was in fact a huge glacier.
And ice blanketed the land as well.
That magnificent mountain is Black Combe,
and it measures in at 2,000 feet.
It would have been totally hidden
under a sheet of ice 3,000 feet thick.
As the ice ploughed downhill over the mountains, it cut away rock.
It was that ice that shaped the Lake District we love today.
The ice moved down from higher land and carved out these deep valleys,
depositing rocks and boulders along the way and over time,
those rocks and boulders created the peninsula and its islands.
The largest island is Walney, a faint sliver 11 miles long.
To find proof of its ice age past, that's where I'm landing.
To help me,
I've called in some specialists who know the lie of the land.
Sand artist Jamie Wardley
is going to sculpt Britain on this very beach.
We're just doing the side of Scotland here.
It's a little bit tricky,
because we've got all of these peninsulas going on.
We'll be needing Jamie's map later.
But first, I'm catching up with a boy
who once skimmed the island's colourful pebbles.
Half a century later, Colin Waters works at
the British Geological Survey and knows a thing or two about rocks.
So what can we see here then, Colin? What's it showing us?
It's one of the rare occasions we can actually see the deposits
that make up the heart of Walney Island.
We know that these are actually glacial boulder clays -
they formed beneath a glacier.
So, these boulder clays, as you can see,
have a wide variety of material.
All the way from this very stiff clay -
you can see this has been compressed under great thicknesses of ice.
We've also got these large boulders.
Really, it's only ice that can carry such a diversity and size.
Also if you notice the different colours we've got here -
the lovely greens, pinks,
these are from rocks from all round the Lake District
and all around the Irish Sea area
and again, it shows is where the ice has actually travelled from.
But where did all these rocks come from?
Jamie's masterpiece is taking shape, so it's time to find out.
Jamie! Fantastic work!
Well, I'm done now, so I'm going to rush off.
Your work here is done.
OK, Colin, let's put it all into perspective,
let's get us on the map. So, here we are.
And that is Black Combe, which is just over yonder.
I recognise that, some lovely granite.
This one is from the west side of the Lake District,
let's say about...there.
My favourite slate comes from the Lake District.
It's about 480 million years old - one of the oldest rocks in the Lake District.
This is from Black Combe.
There we go.
These are coming from the southern side of the Lake District.
Round Windermere, perhaps.
Another granite, that can go to southern Scotland.
-'Scuse me, Colin?
That's a bit of brick, actually.
-This is definitely not glacial.
And I suspect it's probably from somewhere roundabout here
and it's about 10 years old.
The last few pebbles in place and the picture's complete.
-Such geological diversity in a small area.
-It's amazing, actually.
What we are seeing here is pretty much the geology
of all of northern England, and parts of southern Scotland,
all transported by glaciers and carried and dropped here on Walney.
Hard to believe that tens of thousands of years ago
these pebbles travelled up to 100 miles.
But now we're heading just up the coast
to have a go at something more relaxing.
I hear that Colin was a champion stone-skimmer as a lad -
so I've challenged him to a skim-off.
Might have been a mistake...
If anywhere in the world has got as many pebbles as this, I'd be amazed.
It's ideal for a geologist.
You're obviously an expert and spent far too long doing this as well.
Mine are just going slap bang into the waves.
Oh, I got a skim! Thank goodness!
Just a stone's throw from here, James is on the mainland
exploring some of the often overlooked delights
of the Furness Peninsula.
Sitting in the shadow of the more popular Lake District,
not many venture as far as this westerly edge of Britain's coast.
But to do so is to be rewarded with some truly breathtaking scenery.
It might not have the great lakes
and the mammoth mountains of its neighbour,
but the twisting coastal curves around the peninsula
mean there are plenty of these golden beaches.
And it's the sands here at Sandscale Haws
that are arguably the most stunning and special of them all.
This nature reserve is watched over
by the Lake District's imposing presence across a narrow spit of sea.
Desert-like dunes rise out of the dramatic landscape.
It's these dunes and what grows in them that I'm here to see.
Neil, this is a stunning landscape,
but there's more to it than meets the eye, isn't there?
There really is, yeah. For example, where we're walking now,
this area used to be regularly inundated by the high tide,
so this area has really been reclaimed from the sea to land.
The currents in this bay mean that
new sand is constantly being deposited on the shoreline.
This is creating new land and gives us the rare opportunity
to see geology moving in fast forward,
and to chart the rise of a dune system
through the plants that live there.
What are we looking at here, Neil?
Right, well this area that we're crouching on now,
this is just four years old
and it's the very start of a sand dune system.
This tiny little plant down here, this is prickly saltwort.
This is one of the first plants that you will get out on bare sand.
It doesn't really mind the tide coming over it.
It's a pioneer species - the first thing to colonise areas of land.
Absolutely. So, that's the very first stage.
Then we get into these dune-building grasses.
This is the sand couch-grass, and the flower -
any gardeners out there will be very familiar with couch -
it's a notorious weed.
And then in the background here, we've got sea lyme grass,
which is a much bigger plant.
This is when you really start to see how sand dunes can grow.
-Yeah, there's a real hummock.
-Yeah. So, this is a barrier now.
When the wind's blowing from the west, the sand's going to
build up over here and these grasses are so specialised,
that is actually going to stimulate the grass to grow even more.
The sand couch and the sea lyme grass,
they can both grow for about 20-25 centimetres of sand per year.
But the real star species is the marram grass,
which can grow for up to a metre of sand per year,
so dunes can grow very, very quickly.
Playing detective in these dunes is a dream day out
for a botanist like me.
But what I'm even more excited to see are some rare species
that are thriving deep in the established dune systems.
OK, so down here we've got Grass of Parnassus,
which is one of the more showy plants of the dune system.
Very, very nice, white flower.
-Beautiful, and ironically, not a grass.
-Not a grass at all, no!
Down here, we've got something that's even more special.
This is round-leaved wintergreen, which is quite a rare plant.
It's nationally scarce in the UK.
This particular subspecies of round-leaved wintergreen
is only found in coastal areas like this.
Where we're standing now, back in the 1980s,
the high tide would have been getting up to where we are now.
That's over 100 feet of new land in just 30 years -
all helping to sustain more than 600 species of flora
that can be found within the 700 acres of Sandscale Haws.
And as the shifting sands move across this landscape,
they shape an ever-moving parade of plant life.
But of course, when most of us head to the beach,
there's a far less practical and far more playful use for sand.
Looks like I need to work on my skills!
Two guys whose talents stand a little taller than mine
are James Haig and Jamie Wardley.
For them, making sand-sculpted marvels is a full-time job
and they claim the secret is using water, and lots of it.
But I've heard about a more scientific method
to making the perfect sandcastle and I'm keen to try it out.
There is a study from the University of Amsterdam
that actually says it's all about tiny amounts of water,
1% water, 99% sand?
-No, no. 1% water?!
-Let's give it a try, then.
-Right, OK. You're on!
-Go on, then.
-OK. So it's...
-Take some away, James, take some away!
-That is 100ml, right?
-Right, we'll go with that, OK.
In 10 litres of sand.
The principle that we use is use as much water as you can.
'To test our techniques, we're each making a column of sand.
'And while I'm following the scientific sand sculpting formula...'
Foreign scientists did trials to find this! This must be the right one!
'..Jamie's sticking to his wet sludge.'
I'm done, I'm done!
Careful now, James.
I was never any good at Jenga,
-and it looks like you need the same skills.
My mathematical method may be in pieces,
but will Jamie's sopping wet sand fare any better?
There we are. Look at that!
So it seems science might work in the lab
but here on British shores, soaking your sand is the way to go.
Do a little window, do a little window.
Isn't that wonderful?!
Not only is the landscape of the Furness Peninsula fascinating,
it's also played a vital role in an industry
that's put this corner of the country firmly on the map.
And that industry is shipbuilding,
and Barrow-in-Furness does it on a massive scale,
because it's home to these.
This is the Royal Navy's latest submarine.
It is nearing completion and it's absolutely massive.
Making these magnificent machines here not only takes advantage
of generations of local shipbuilding talent,
but also the make-up of the surrounding land.
The banks of the Barrow sit on a deepwater channel,
which means that big ships and submarines
can sail in and out of here to the open sea.
This area is constantly on the move.
This channel is only kept open by the lads that I'm about to meet.
The crew of the Norma are part of a team of dredgers
who work all year round to keep this 40-foot-deep channel clear.
I'm heading out to get a closer look at her
with the man who's in charge of the operation.
So, what's Norma up to out here, Bob?
The Norma, it's a plough vessel.
It's about 10 metres wide,
and this is the final process in the dredging campaign this year.
What's been going on in the last few weeks?
The main channel dredgers are much bigger vessels,
and they come in and take up the material off the bottom.
This tends to leave quite deep furrows,
a bit like a ploughed field on the bottom of the channel
-which we like to level off.
-And that's where the Norma comes in?
-That absolutely it.
-So, how much stuff are you taking out then?
It's quite a lot.
It's well in excess of a million tonnes this year.
It was the clearing of this deep sea channel that secured Barrow's place
as the shipbuilding capital of this coast.
But as Barrow rose,
it was at the cost of its smaller neighbour, Ulverston.
So fine were the boats that were built in Ulverston
they were sold all over the country.
But as the deep waters of Barrow
lured more industrial, bigger loads,
the boat yards in Ulverston were forced to close.
Up until recently, it was thought that
all trace of the vessels that were built there had been lost.
That was until one woman
stumbled across the story of the Hearts of Oak -
the last boat to set sail from Ulverston's shipyards.
Jennifer, how did your connection with the Hearts of Oak start?
You're not exactly a mad boat fan, are you?
I certainly aren't a mad boat fan, no.
It quite horrifies me to think of going in deep water.
The boat, well, we began in 1977 when I visited an old man
called John Wilson who lived quite near us.
He told us about Hearts of Oak and showed me a picture of it.
I kept thinking about the Hearts of Oak,
and that she was built in Ulverston,
and I thought, well really, she needs restoring.
-Did you know where she was at this stage?
-Not at that stage, no.
But we sort of got on the trail, my husband and I,
and we just kept on looking,
and a series of coincidences and good luck,
and we eventually found her.
The Hearts of Oak was built by this man - John Randall McLester,
the last apprentice of the Ulverston shipyards.
When she set sail in 1912, she was a thing of beauty.
Almost a century later, when Jennifer set eyes on her,
she was a weather-beaten wreck.
Bonfire condition, probably, is the best thing we could say.
The guy who owned her said if he hadn't contacted me,
he was going to set fire to her.
Thanks to Jennifer, far from becoming firewood
this last link to Ulverston's glorious past was saved.
Jennifer bought her for just £1, but helped raise over £80,000
to pay for three years of painstaking restoration.
And here she is, look, in all of her glory.
She's absolutely beautiful.
Yes, she's a wonderful boat. Quite a history. Yes.
Later, I'll be finding out what it's like
to set sail in this historic cutter.
Cumbria has had more than its fair share of wet weather
over the last few years,
but this summer, much of the rest of Britain shared the same fate.
So what damage has the rain done to our delicate rural economy?
Tom has been finding out...
It may have brightened up recently, but let's face it -
this summer has been a washout.
As a nation obsessed with the weather,
the odd damp shower rarely puts us off.
But this year was different.
Summer 2012 was a record-breaker - and for all the wrong reasons.
-'Tonight, the Met Office is warning of severe weather...
'..last month was the wettest June since records began...
'..the unsettled theme is set to continue for at least the next few weeks...
'..this washout summer.'
-Lovely sunshine and now we've got a downpour.
-Is everybody nice and dry?
What a lovely English summer.
For our countryside and the people who actually live and work within it,
this summer wasn't just inconvenient, it was really, really costly.
We've all seen the damage caused by the floods and storms
on the news and the repair bill is going to be huge.
One of the main rural insurers, NFU Mutual, has already seen
a threefold increase in claims compared with last year.
Five million homes are at risk from the rising waters.
We are still counting the cost,
but even a rather conservative estimate for repairing and replacing
all that damaged property is in the region of £25 million.
But we're also taking less obvious financial hits
from our sodden summer.
Anyone for ice cream?
Anyone at all?
Drumming up business while it's raining is no easy task
and visitor numbers to the countryside have certainly fallen.
For some, while the downpours were torrential,
cash flow was barely a trickle.
Someone who knows all about that is the owner of this van.
He's based on a farm just up the road from here
where they make the ice cream.
Normally in peak season, it's selling by the tub load.
But this summer, much of that business has melted away.
Thousands of businesses in the UK rely on a healthy tourist trade.
Gary Rogers is no exception.
Here in Yorkshire, he and his family have been making ice cream
for 20 years. This year, they've got lots left over.
So, what's in there, Gary?
Completely full of ice cream.
You'd rather it was empty, rather than chocker like it is?
It's completely stuffed. Far too much ice cream in there.
All that stock is normally sold to local tourist venues, shops
and big rural events. But this summer, Gary was hit hard.
This is this morning's princely takings.
-I think there's £9.80 there.
-I'll count it first. Thank you very much.
That's better than we've had this year so far.
Well, I think it was partly my poor sales technique.
The weather wasn't great, but I guess you're used to that.
We're very used to it this year. Yeah, it's been a catastrophic year.
Ever since the end of March, we've had virtually rain every day.
-Really? It's been that bad, has it?
-It's been worse than anybody around here's ever known.
We think so far this year we're at least 50% down on last year
and last year, of course, was down on the previous year
because each summer the weather seems to get worse.
Gary faced more than 40 cancelled outdoor shows this year.
Hundreds of other events went the same way because of the weather.
Even the Great Yorkshire Show had to be abandoned
for the first time in its history, at a cost of £2.5 million.
When you add up the lost business, cancelled shows
and low visitor numbers, you're looking at a loss
far greater than that for flood or storm damage.
Again, it's just an early estimate,
but the cost could well be around £480 million.
And as I'll be finding out later in the programme,
the financial blows don't stop there.
The Furness Peninsula, a finger of land surrounded by sea.
At the very south, on Walney Island, there's an enterprise
that's making the most of a landscape
transformed by both man and nature.
I'm on my way to visit a unique farm that only exists
because of an unlikely series of events that started unfolding
more than 10,000 years ago.
Way back in the ice age, glaciers deposited
vast quantities of gravel on Walney, carried down from the mountains.
Millennia later, that gravel was exploited by man.
It was extracted to be used in construction,
leaving behind pits which eventually flooded with seawater.
The area also became home to one of the biggest
breeding colonies of gulls in Europe,
And they provided one more vital ingredient for our farm...
The seagull droppings made the water fertile
which meant tiny plants called algae could grow,
the perfect food for farming oysters.
This modest building and network of pools make up
the biggest oyster nursery in Europe.
Bet you didn't know that.
The 24-acre site rears an astonishing
100 million baby oysters each year.
The young shellfish are sold to oyster farms
across the UK and Europe.
These are familiar adult oysters.
There's a mixture of males and females in here
and this is the perfect environment for them to breed.
As soon as one of them releases an egg or some sperm,
the others will follow. Then the water will go milky white.
A new generation of oysters will be born.
The baby oysters are put in special tanks to grow.
Food is dripped in and water piped through
to keep the youngsters clean.
So, Mike, here they are. Incredible to look at.
These ones here are about 1mm in size
-so really small.
-And how many do you think are in each tube?
Well, I think altogether there's about five million in this lot here.
-So in that, maybe one million...
..in just the one bottle.
-And how old are these fellas?
-They're about three weeks old.
But as the oysters get bigger,
feeding and cleaning take on a whole new scale.
Now, the teenagers here live out in the pools
and everybody knows that cleaning teenagers can be a messy business.
The boys are hauling the mucky critters out
and putting me in charge of mothering duties.
-Right. Come on, Julia. It's time to wash some oysters.
-Blimey. It's heavy.
-Are you ready?
-It will get heavier.
And why do you wash them? What are you washing off them?
Well, all the faeces sit on the top of the oysters
and washing it gets rid of all of that.
What it does... The oysters being out of the water...
-Struggling with that?
It exercises the oyster muscle which makes more of a hardy oyster.
Now, this is a lot of work. Why do you bother with all of this?
Why not just harvest them from the wild?
-Well, there's not as many in the wild.
-Oysters are filter feeders.
Do they get enough food from these pools?
From the pond system, generally they get a good bloom of algae.
At least they did until recently.
Now, remember seagull droppings are a crucial ingredient
to grow food for oysters.
Well, worryingly, seagull numbers have plummeted.
Has the drop in gull numbers affected you? Because, obviously,
fewer gulls, less poo, less fertiliser.
Yeah. Over the past five years or so, the gull colony
has definitely decreased
and our pond nutrients have definitely reduced.
Adding artificial fertiliser was a short-term fix
for the oyster farm.
But the risk of losing the gull colony altogether
was a major concern for the local wildlife trust.
Last year, they didn't find a single chick.
I'm meeting Peter Jones to find out why.
-How are you doing?
-Good. How are the gulls?
-Very good. Yes.
-Happy and flappy?
-Shall we go and take a look?
The numbers this year... We've had about 3,000 pairs here.
Back in the '60s when there were the most gulls here,
we were looking at there being about 40,000 pairs of herring gulls
-and lesser black-backed gulls.
-That's a dramatic decline.
-So, what's it down to?
The main two reasons have been that the food sources dropped for them
significantly. There used to be a landfill site on the island
which shut down in the late '80s.
-Being scavengers that they are...
-Absolutely. Yes, yes.
The other reason is predation has become quite a big issue
for them as well.
Things like foxes and stuff come in and will take the birds
as they're on the nest.
And this is your solution, an electric fence?
It is. The electric fence we had installed this year.
Last year, without any fences like these,
we didn't get a single chick away from this whole colony.
This year, we had nearly 1,000 chicks fledge.
The gulls and their flying fertiliser are back,
although they may never reach their previous numbers.
Hopefully the population will be healthy enough to keep these
chic little shellfish on the menu around here.
Just not for me. I can't bear them.
It's your last chance to vote for your favourite photo
in this year's Countryfile photographic competition.
The theme is Walk On The Wild Side.
Here's John with a reminder of what you need to do.
In a moment, I'll give you the phone numbers to vote for.
Calls cost 10p from a BT landline. Other operators may vary.
And of course, from mobiles may cost more.
You'll find all the details of the phone vote on our website.
And don't forget, the phone lines close at midnight.
Just a warning, if you phone after then,
your vote won't be counted and you may be charged.
Adam keeps all sorts of rare breeds on his farm, but today he's hoping
to see some beasts you definitely won't find in the Cotswolds.
Once he's checked out what mood his new bull is in.
This is my new Belted Galloway bull called Crackers.
My mate Neil, who I bought him from from Yorkshire,
warned me that he has got a bit of a lively temperament.
And he's jumped out twice,
looking for other cows on the farm, since I've had him.
But now he seems to have settled down with his cows
and I'm really pleased with him.
Crackers can be a bit feisty,
but there's one herd of cattle I've been told about that are truly wild.
They roam completely free
on one of the most inhospitable islands in the Orkneys.
And I've been invited out to the Orkneys to go and see them.
And that's an offer I can't refuse.
'It's quite a journey, but worth it if I can catch a glimpse
'of these unique cattle.'
They live on the island of Swona, just west of South Ronaldsay.
I've arrived on the Orkneys and it's a world away
from my farm on the Cotswolds.
I'm travelling south to meet up with Cyril Annal
whose family have owned Swona for generations.
And his farm is based on South Ronaldsay.
You must be Cyril.
-Hi. Good to meet you.
-This is Alexander, my son.
-Nice to meet you.
How many generations have been on this farm?
-Since 1600. Came to Orkney first.
That's incredible. I've been doing a bit of research
and I found these old photographs of the family.
-Who's this of?
-That is my Uncle Arthur in Swona.
-And that one?
-That is my grandfather.
This is over on Swona that you own now.
Yes, we do.
And these cattle that were there, domesticated, tame,
being used to pull the plough.
Back then, they were pets. They all had names and everything.
-And now, wild beasts of the island?
-Completely feral. Crazy as can be.
-And when did the people leave the island?
-1974. March, 1974.
-And left the cattle behind?
-The theory was that we could go back
and go and take the calves every year.
But because cattle are quite smart and bright,
they got to realise it wasn't the best, seeing these humans.
So they went more and more wild.
So eventually, we thought it would be best just to leave them alone
and that's how they slowly developed into a feral herd.
Look. BSE came and that was the end of any more in the freezer.
-Also, I got a bit older
and I couldn't run faster than them.
They could run faster than me, so it was time to stop.
'Cyril and Alex go to Swona
'to check on the cattle's welfare a couple of times a year.
'And today, I'm lucky enough to be joining them.'
'Despite supporting a vibrant community for generations,
'the island was abandoned in the '70s
'when the difficulties of living here meant island life was unviable.'
How many acres is the whole island?
-About 270 roughly.
-They've a fair roam, these cattle.
-It varies depending on the tide.
We might never find them.
They're here or else they've all gone swimming.
No sign of them here. Where could they be?
Just over that hill there. They can't be anywhere else.
-OK. So we'll carry on hiking over that way?
There's plenty of cowpats, they're definitely here.
Oh, well, they'll be about somewhere, hopefully.
-Is that one there?
-Oh, that's one over there, yes.
That looks like a bull to me.
-It's already spotted us, you see him looking this way?
And so is it safe to just walk over towards him?
No, we will certainly go around in a circle,
-so that we don't get between that bull and the herd.
Because he might decide that he wants to go back to the herds
and deal with us in between.
They'll all run together, and they'll not be looking at us,
-they'll be looking at one another.
-We have to be a bit careful.
As we cautiously circle around the bull, the herd emerges.
The main herd sticks together there.
If you can see the white one in the middle, she will kind of be
the dominant female, and then, way off in the distance,
at the other side of the loch, we think we have got an old bull.
We'll go and check him to see if he's OK.
Last summer, the dominant bull pushed him out of the herd
and forced him away from the herd and led him
to the other end of the island.
It's really interesting watching this behaviour.
They're separate from the herd down there,
just looking at us with ears sticking out like ping pong bats.
As a cattleman, you know, I can instantly tell that they're like,
hang on, there's something going on here, ears up, heads up high,
facing us square on.
Go and have a look at this rather benign old gentleman down at the loch.
On a day like today, it looks idyllic,
but in reality, these cattle have a tough life out here in these conditions.
It's survival of the fittest.
-What sort of age do you think he is, Cyril?
-That fellow? 15 to 20.
-He's a very old gentleman.
-And on a modern farm,
you just wouldn't see bulls that old, would you?
You wouldn't see him. He'd never be allowed to age.
He'd probably have some of the problems that humans have,
such as stiff and sore as we all get.
And he's walking along now, he's getting along OK,
and he's grazing, an amazing shape,
he's quite heavy at the front end, and narrowing to the back end.
Yes, this is so that he can push.
Head down and push the other one out of the way.
More like a buffalo than a modern Aberdeen Angus.
Certainly, no tags in their ears now,
they don't have to comply with all of the Defra rules any more.
If you help me, we'll go and put a tag on this one!
I think we'll just leave the poor old fellow alone, shall we?
It's fascinating to see how the cattle have returned
to their wild instincts.
But what of the people who lived on this island?
A cluster of houses stands as a memorial to a lost way of life.
At its peak, there were around 30 people
living on the island in four or five houses.
The land would have been farmed,
the gardens would have been immaculate.
And it would have been very well loved.
But by 1974, there were only two left -
Cyril's aunty and uncle who were getting old
and they decided to leave too.
And this is how they left it.
It's almost like they just walked out
and left all their belongings behind.
There's an old newspaper here from 1974. Christmas cards.
Look, even some reading glasses.
Lovely old recipe book on how to make jams.
It's as though they thought one day, they'd be back.
This is their lovely old cattle shed where the cows
and the oxen would have been brought in for the winter
and tied up by the neck and led out to work.
A very quiet, docile, domesticated animal.
Now, their descendants are running wild on the island.
As their splendid isolation continues, these Swona cattle
look set to be classified as a breed in their own right.
Next week, I'm travelling even further afield.
I'm in Switzerland, helping gather sheep off the Alps.
We're exploring the natural wonders of the Northwest's Furness Peninsula.
I'm making my way from the mainland to nearby
Piel Island on a very special boat.
Earlier, I discovered how the Hearts of Oak had been rescued from ruin.
And now, I have the chance to set sail on it,
-as I hitch a ride over to Piel Island. How you doing, lads? All right?
Now, I've brought some friends along for the ride.
-More about these a little bit later on. Handle with care.
-There we are. Perfect. Am I OK just to hop over?
Let's go sailing!
The crew are all volunteers, keen amateurs who have
fallen in love with the idea of sailing a vintage cutter.
-And I'm keen to find out more about her. She was a prawner?
-A Morecambe Bay prawner.
-Which is, Morecambe Bay is...?
Morecambe Bay is just over there, yes. We're on the corner of it.
And how would she have worked then? And why is she the design that she is?
She'd have been worked by, typically, a man and his son.
They're built like this for speed.
To get out on the tide and back on the same tide,
to get the catch back, because there was no refrigeration.
-And is there any significance with the red sails?
-Yes, it's tradition.
And they look nice.
I believe they used to treat the sails, the fishermen of the time,
they used to treat the sails with stuff like red lead and linseed oil.
And that gave them the colour to cause them to last.
I understand there's quite an interesting technique to stop it from tipping over?
Oh, yeah, stones. You want to have a look?
-Oh, yeah, if we can.
-Well, if you get to... That's...
Oh, right, it's just chucked in the bottom there.
Lead would be ideal, but we can't afford lead.
-Do they go the full length of the hull?
-They do, yeah.
I might jump up there and do a little bit of rope pulling now.
-Gordon, you look a picture there.
-Yes, it's pleasant, isn't it?
You do look at home, and it looks like we've got a little bit of wind!
-Yes, we're actually sailing.
-A pleasant change.
-Very, very gently, but we are actually sailing. Come on, show me the ropes, quite literally.
I'm going to try and help the lads tack,
moving the sail in order to change direction.
Keep your head down, that's the key, isn't it?
-OK, so undo these then, Gordon, yes?
-Yes. Cast off the jib.
-This one as well?
-Yes. Cast them both off.
Tighten those up.
Well that felt like plain sailing. There's only one small problem.
The only problem is, Piel Island's that way!
-So it's take two on the turning.
-Just a nice full flow in the sail.
And this time, things are heading in the right direction.
-Good. We're going the right way now.
We should be there for midnight!
That's the thing, you go at the pace of nature though!
-That's the beauty of it!
-Yes, yes, the pace of the wind, yes.
Well hopefully, the tide is on our side, because I've got to
make it in time for a royal appointment with the King of Piel.
Now, while we're exploring Cumbria, Tom's on the other side of the Pennines in Yorkshire,
counting the cost of some of the wettest weather on record.
Summer 2012, a season of extremes which has been anything but summery.
Tourist attractions, county shows, local producers,
the rural economy has been hit from all sides by record
and sometimes spirit breaking bad weather.
Earlier in the programme, we heard from Gary Rogers,
whose ice cream business has taken a battering over the last few months.
He's lost an estimated £800,000 this year,
but not just because of the struggle to sell his wares.
We think so far this year, we're at least 50% down on last year,
and last year, of course, was down on the previous year,
because each summer the weather seems to get worse.
Gary makes the ice cream on his farm which he runs with his wife Mandy.
She's had to deal with a whole range of problems caused by the weather.
You see in here, it's all a bit soft, being in all that mud.
-Yeah, again, just really down to the wet weather, I think.
With such wet conditions, lameness was always going to be a problem.
For Mandy, it's been hard to bear and expensive to fix.
And that's not all.
With a spell of drier weather, her Charolais beef herd can finally
enjoy the outdoors, but feeding them is still a costly business.
Well, it's been tough, from the very start, really.
Spring calving, when they calve they go straight out,
and this year, it was just a mud bath, really.
I had a particular field over there that I set aside.
It's the only one really with the trees, so they had some shelter,
but they were basically getting through a bale of silage a day,
which is almost more than they eat when they're inside.
The weather was just so bad.
With feed prices at an all-time high, livestock farmers
across the country are going to be faced with some shocking food bills.
And of the story only gets worse
when you start to look at how crops have fared.
So what will the effect of this year's bad weather be
on farmers and shoppers?
Well, I've got a harvest festival basket here.
Scottish fruit growers have said that mould and disease
could cost them 10 million this year.
Disease is also affecting cereal crops, so oats and wheat.
One thing that does like it wet is fungus.
Bad news if you are growing root crops like carrots or potatoes,
we could expect to see many more with blemishes on the shop shelves.
And then you come to honey and apples.
They are suffering because of a lack of insects.
To see for myself just how that population has been affected,
I'm joining in on a butterfly hunt.
He is away!
Well done. Quick, Tom!
There we go!
This little guy fluttering around here is a Small Skipper.
Dave Wainwright is a butterfly conservation officer.
This beauty here is a Common Blue,
which is something I've hardly seen at all this year.
He is trying to assess the impact of this year's weather
on these colourful little creatures.
Just put the pot over them like so, and...
..blow 'em into the pot and there you go, Tom, there is your butterfly.
What variety is this?
That's a Ringlet, and it's actually one of the few
that's doing reasonably well this year.
We walked across most of this field, the five of us,
and this was the first thing we saw. How unusual is that?
It's pretty unusual.
It's been a particularly bad summer for butterflies.
Usually you get bad summers and the butterflies are there,
they are just waiting for the sun to appear,
but as you've seen, we've had some quite sunny weather today
and they are just not there, basically, to find them.
Butterfly Conservation has recently finished
its annual big butterfly count.
We've been given a sneak preview of the results.
Although some have done better than normal, 15 out of the 21 species
studied had declined compared with last year, including
well-known varieties like the Red Admiral, Peacock and Painted Lady.
But even if we do see fewer insects like butterflies,
does that really matter?
What am I looking at here?
This is a malaise trap, a classical insect trap...
'Just up the road is another bug hunter, Prof Tim Benton,
'an ecology expert and government adviser.'
But, look, you can see there are very little.
There is a small moth and some flies and that's about it, really.
Very few bugs, very few beetles,
almost nothing that I would expect to see at this time of year.
-It's far from humming.
-It is absolutely far from humming.
It is actually quite a nightmare.
Why does an absence of insects matter to farmers?
The absence of insects matters to farmers in a number of ways.
They benefit from pollination services, bees, hoverflies and so on,
provide about £430 million worth of services to increase yields.
Farmers benefit, the countryside benefits because these things,
although most people don't care about them,
they are eaten by birds and even birds that normally eat seed
feed their babies these,
and if words don't get their food, they suffer.
People come into the countryside and like listening to skylarks,
they like seeing the swifts and the swallows flying around,
and all that impacts on the rural economy
in quite a major way.
There are still fields yet to be harvested and counted,
but our early estimates suggest losses,
whether through lack of insects, soggy crops
or diseased animals, could easily be in the region of £595 million.
So where does this all leave the rural economy?
Well, if you add the total for farming to the tourism losses
and the huge bill for repairing storm and flood damage, we reckon
the wettest summer in a century has cost us well over £1 billion.
Another typical summer's day.
It's just started to rain as another low comes in from the west.
Whether you treat this place, the countryside, as your workplace
or your playground, its financial fortunes fluctuate with the weather.
What this summer has proved, is quite how deep those sodden troughs can be.
The weather may have been causing havoc with our rural community,
but we've got a bit of blue sky today.
The question is, will it stay that way?
Let's find out with the Countryfile weather forecast.
We are on the Furness Peninsula, where Julia and I have been
discovering hidden wonders of this rarely explored Cumbrian landscape.
I'm ending my voyage at Piel Island.
At just half a mile long, it's tiny, but exquisitely formed.
Its only permanent residents are the island's custodians,
Steve and Sheila Chattaway.
Not only are they caretakers of the island, but an ancient
tradition also means that they are King and Queen of Piel,
so I've come bearing gifts, and I'm off to meet them in their palace.
Or more to the point, the pub.
Come on, girls.
I'll just pop you down there.
All set, ready to meet Their Royal Highnesses. Here we go.
-How are you doing? All right?
-Nice to see you.
I don't really know how to address you properly.
Sheila, is it ma'am as in ham?
-It's just Sheila?
-This King and Queen thing, this is for real, isn't it?
-Yes, it is, yes.
How did that all come about?
This started with back in the Middle Ages when,
I think it was the last time the UK was invaded,
by a chap called Lambert Simnel, he was only 11 years old
but he landed on Piel Island with about 5,000 mercenaries,
and claimed to be the King of England.
Following on from then, traditionally,
the landlord of The Ship Inn at Piel Island becomes the King of Piel.
Steve and Sheila might be island royalty,
but they certainly don't live a privileged lifestyle here on Piel.
They are aiming to make themselves self-sufficient by grazing
the land as the monks who lived here did in the 12th century.
And that's where my regal gift comes in.
See what you think of these, Sheila.
There you are.
I've brought you something appropriate for island life.
-A white star and a black rock.
-Here we go, girls.
These girls are a little too young to fend for themselves
with the rest of Steve's flock so we are releasing them
into their own palatial surroundings.
-What do you think of that?
-There you are, girls.
Breathe it in, girls. That's island air.
But a desire to live out the good life isn't the only legacy
the monks left on Piel Island.
This fort was built by the monks of Furness Abbey,
which is over on the mainland, and the whole idea was,
it was built to protect grain and wool
that was going to be traded with Ireland, across the sea.
Nobody really gets the chance to see inside here,
but Steve is going to show us around this place.
It was built in 1327,
and at the time, it was the largest of its kind in Northwest England.
The monks of Furness Abbey, they used to run
something like 12,000 sheep, which was a heck of a lot of wool.
-But, obviously, there was other things going on as well.
There was quite a market for illicit liquor and things like that,
and they'd bring it via Ireland or the Isle Of Man, or up from Flanders.
Obviously, they'd take wool to Flanders and they'd bring stuff back.
-And the monks were into that then, were they?
-Oh, God, yeah.
Yeah, absolutely. They were the mafia of the day. Big, big business, yeah.
The fortress might now be past its best
but it still dominates the landscape,
with views stretching for miles around.
This is the perfect spot to look out for shady characters.
Speaking of which, I've just spotted a little minx perched on a rock.
Bradbury, Bradbury! Do you read me? It's Baker.
If you look behind you,
you will see that I'm the king of the castle and you're the dirty...
Dirty rascal! Hello, darling! How was your day on the high seas?
It was good but how did you get on with the oysters?
An amazing process and I would have brought you one
but I know you don't really like the oysters, a bit like me.
That's it from the Furness Peninsula.
Don't forget there are just a few hours left to vote
in our Countryfile photographic competition.
All the details are on our website
and the results will be revealed on October 7th,
including the photograph that our judges like most.
You can see those 12 photos again by pressing your red button now.
Next week, we're going to be in north Nottinghamshire
where I'll be following in the footsteps
of one of our most controversial novelists, DH Lawrence.
Hope you can join us then.
Matty, how are you getting off the island?
Um... I thought we were going back together.
Well, I'm getting a train, love.
I've got to leave quite sharpish so good luck.
I hope you've got your armbands.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The team visit a little-known corner of Cumbria. Julia Bradbury is flying high over the Furness Peninsula for a unique insight into how this landscape has been shaped by nature and man over the centuries. Meanwhile, Matt Baker takes to the water on board a century-old schooner called Hearts Of Oak. She is the last of her kind, and Matt finds out what it takes to sail her.
James Wong is also on the peninsula; he is in the sand dunes, discovering the plant life which thrives there, and also the science behind what makes the perfect sandcastle. Tom Heap is in Yorkshire investigating how the year's poor weather has had devastating consequences for the countryside.
And Adam Henson is on a trip away from his farm in the Cotswolds as he visits the Orkney Islands, hoping to see a very rare breed of cattle.