Countryfile is in Gower, south Wales, where Matt Baker explores Whiteford Burrows and explodes previously unearthed World War II ordnance on the sands with the MOD.
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A winning combination of world-class scenery, sands and surf.
Gower is the unspoilt jewel in South Wales' crown.
I'll be exploring and exploding these extraordinary sands.
Far, far across the sea,
the World Cup reaches its exciting finale tonight...
And I'm going to be going football crazy - with a difference.
Tom asks whether we're putting productivity over animal welfare...
Selective breeding to improve the next generation
has long been part of farming -
but is genetics pushing profitability now causing animals to suffer?
I'll be investigating.
..and Adam is counting sheep.
This is a bundle of washed British wool,
and wool is making a real comeback.
Here at this factory in Yorkshire,
it's a bit of a sleepy business.
Or is it?
The Gower peninsula - the extensive coastline of South Wales,
and the first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
in the UK.
With mile upon mile of stunning coastline...
..Gower stretches from the city of Swansea to Whiteford Point.
And here, on the edge of the Loughor estuary along Gower's north coast,
there is more sand than you can imagine.
The dune system here is changing rapidly,
and hundreds of species are now making this their home.
As a result, this area may soon become
one of the most significant environmental sites in Wales.
Sand dunes, by their very nature, are constantly evolving.
But the changes to this landscape have been more dramatic than most.
In recent years these dunes have completely transformed
this landscape by creating a new habitat - the freshwater slack.
Where we are now...
'Nick Edwards, from Natural Resources Wales,
'is here to tell me how this has happened.'
So, what we've got first off is a dune that's been formed
by sand that's come in.
Now, behind the dunes you've got an area called a slack.
During heavy rainfall, this thing floods.
And then, ephemerally, it'll disappear back down again
leaving this kind of humid, moist area.
We're talking about freshwater as opposed to saltwater
-that's coming in.
So, these areas, now, the slacks,
are excellent habitats for pioneering species.
-Here we've got, like...
-Like a tor system?
-..a tor system
of calcareous limestone.
And what happens here is all the uplands,
which have been saturated with rain
over a period of months, weeks, whatever,
it filters down through the limestone
and comes and filters into the system.
Environmentally, this area down here, this is gold.
Due to this natural phenomenon,
the slacks are regularly surveyed by students from Swansea University.
So, Dr Wendy, what are you looking for?
What's the whole point of this particular project?
We're actually looking at the different plant communities
within the slack habitats to try
and understand more about the relationship between the plants
that grow above the soil
and the microorganisms that grow below the soil.
So, what have you been discovering?
Here we've got the marsh helleborines, for example, there,
and the water mint,
which are examples of what would be present within a slack like this.
Someone who has seen the changes at these slacks first-hand
is local historian Randolph Jenkins, who has lived here all his life.
Randolph, what's your first memory of this place?
-A huge beach.
Even up to 1980.
You just came down the pathway 50 yards, perhaps, on the dunes,
and then straight into the beach.
-All of it.
-I mean, there's still an incredible amount of sand.
I can't imagine what that must have felt like for a young boy -
-it would have been even more!
-It was paradise, wasn't it?
Because, you know, only local people were on the beach.
And it was our playground, really.
And when did you start to be aware of the change?
We'll, I think the beach has been changing for quite a while,
because Llanelli was quite a busy harbour,
and they always dredged the river channel.
We noticed, once they stopped dredging, the sand started moving.
-Of course it built up and built up.
It sort of blocked the sea coming in here, and developing this marshland.
It's an evolving ecology.
Any time we get a rough tide we go up for a walk
and you can see and more erosion.
But the landscape is key to this place,
and to be somewhere that's changing and evolving so quickly
must have been very interesting for you.
People come here for the beauty, for the flowers, for the beach.
You can come here on a bank holiday Monday
and there's only two or three people on the beach.
Not after this goes out on Countryfile.
No, you can't park a car here!
-It will remain precious.
Don't say where it is.
Shh, don't tell anyone.
Now, in modern farming, selective breeding is the key to productivity.
But is it also affecting the welfare of farm animals?
Tom's been investigating.
Since the early days of farming, we've been trying to improve
the productivity of our animals through breeding.
And after thousands of years, we've become rather good at it.
Selective breeding has made a huge difference
to food production and farming.
We have cows that produce more milk, lambs that produce more meat
and chickens that lay more eggs.
But in recent decades, there's concern that animal welfare
is paying the price for higher food production.
This RSPCA footage shows the dramatic difference
selective breeding can make
to the growth rate of a broiler - a chicken produced for meat -
compared to an egg-laying counterpart.
The footage may be over a decade old,
but the organisation says it's still very relevant today.
The campaign group Compassion In World Farming
shares the RSPCA's concerns.
-These are Friesians.
-These are British Friesians.
They're what we think of as the slightly more traditional
milking variety in this country.
Well, exactly. Yes.
Dil Peeling is a vet and the campaigns director at CIWF.
Because we've focused so much on productivity,
getting the milk out of them, getting the meat out of them,
it's had incredible collateral damage
on some of the animals that we've bred.
You get problems with lameness, you get problems with mastitis.
We select for bigger animals that grow faster.
Often the skeleton doesn't keep track with it - in many animals,
the heart doesn't keep track with it, either.
The concerns of Compassion In World Farming aren't confined to cattle.
It says similar issues are found in the mass production
of broiler chickens.
If you reduce the productivity of farm animals
by changing the breeding
then you end up with more expensive food for the customer.
What you're talking about is a race to the bottom.
You're talking about competition purely - purely -
on the grounds of price.
We have to compete on a global market in terms of quality.
And the welfare of the animals has to be a part of that quality.
Animal welfare charities are pushing for changes
in the breeding priorities of the industry
that would put health at the top of the agenda.
But how did we get to a place where selective breeding
can have a detrimental impact on the animal?
In simple terms, breeding is about passing on the qualities
from one generation and improving them in the next.
So, if you take Balfour, here,
he's got the genes that means he has no horns,
and that's good for farmworker safety.
Also, he's just a great beef breed - you can see it in his body shape,
and especially the back end.
What you can't tell that's also really important
is that any calf that he sires will be born easily.
Put him with the right mate and all those qualities will be enhanced.
Balfour is a Salers bull, one of the oldest European cattle breeds,
bred for milk and beef production.
Farmers have been selecting such positive traits in their animals
but after the Second World War the pace really picked up.
We needed to feed a growing population cheaply,
and the priority in breeding became productivity.
And this development has been fastest in the broiler industry,
where chickens are grown for their meat.
In the post-war period it took around a hundred days
for a typical chicken to reach its slaughter weight.
By the 1970s, that had shrunk to around 60 days
and today a chicken can be ready to eat in just 36 days.
Now diet has been part of the story, but the biggest single change
promoting their rapid growth has been improved breeding.
This footage was secretly filmed in a British broiler farm
by the charity Animal Aid in 2013.
It claims to show the problems selective breeding has caused
to the mobility of broiler chickens.
'Keith Warner has been a poultry vet for 16 years.
'He doesn't see any issues at the farm we're meeting at today,
'but during his career, he's seen for himself the problems
'broiler chickens have suffered due to rapid growth.'
Two major things that would happen would be in the legs.
So where these legs are nice and straight
-and run flat down alongside the bird...
..these legs might either come out sideways, such as this,
or the long bones, in fact, bend one way or the other,
because as the bone is developing,
the weight on the breast meat is too great for that bone density.
Is it comparable a bit to sort of asking an eight-year-old
-to carry a full grown human's body weight?
The only thing that would happen is the heart and lungs would not
be able to keep up with the large body mass that had been created,
so that a proportion of individuals,
fluid would be produced within the bird
and that would settle out in the abdomen.
Those individuals that had those effects would either be
in pain with their legs or would struggle to breathe, as I mentioned,
with the fluid that was present.
'But over the course of his career,
'Keith says the industry has addressed these welfare issues.
'And he's not the only one who thinks the picture is improving.'
Many people in the farming industry insist that, overall,
selective breeding has been a force for good.
Later on, I'll be asking why they believe
high productivity and high welfare can go hand in hand.
The great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was inspired
by Gower's beautiful landscape.
This overwhelming beauty has meant that other local wonders
and colourful characters are often overlooked.
But now modern technology is stepping in
and revealing some of Gower's hidden secrets.
Dan Boys with the Gower Landscape Partnership
has developed an interactive guide,
accessible on a mobile phone.
The heart of the app is a map and it moves along the trail
-as you walk along.
-So it uses GPS?
You've got images, you've got some text.
And you've got some audio as well.
So what are we sitting close to where we are now?
We're just a couple of hundred yards away from Vernon Watkins.
Vernon Watkins? So his place is just up there, looking at that.
-Shall we go and take a look?
-Yes, all right.
'Gower was also an inspiration for Welsh poet Vernon Watkins,
'the best friend and confidante of Dylan Thomas.'
To me, poetry is a waiting game...
..and for this for getting the poem right, er,
solitude, of course, is absolutely necessary.
-So this must be it here, then?
-Yeah, here we are.
So why have you included Vernon Watkins on your app?
Vernon Watkins lived in this house with his wife and his five kids.
Dylan Thomas himself said "the most profound and greatly accomplished
"writer of poems in English", which is a pretty nice thing to say.
-Quite an accolade, isn't it?
I want to find out more about this renowned poet who spent
the majority of his life living and writing on Gower.
Far more than a home to his family of five children and his wife Gwen,
the Gower Peninsula was an enduring muse for the Welsh wordsmith.
I suppose you can say it's like being married to someone
who all his life has had
a passionate love affair with another woman,
only it isn't a woman in this case, it's just the muse.
'Gwen still lives on Gower and she remembers just how important
'it was to her husband.'
In one of his poems, he has these lines -
"I that was born in Wales
"Cherish Heaven's dust in scales
"Which may at dusk be seen
"On every village green
"Where Tywi, Taff or Wye
"Through fields or woods goes by."
-He loved...he loved Wales. He loved Gower especially.
After we were married, we lived in Swansea for a year
in a rented house.
And then one day, Vernon said,
"I've found a bungalow in Penarth,"
where he had lived before.
"I think we could live there perhaps only temporarily,"
but, of course, he lived there till he died
and it was terrible - it was a wooden bungalow
with no foundations, no running water,
and Vernon loved it.
He loved it passionately because when he opened his front door,
-there was the sea and Gower.
There's one poem, in particular, Heron, that we'd love to see.
Yes, below Penarth Castle, there's a beautiful little estuary.
And the heron waited there for the tide to come rushing in,
but the heron in this poem is also a type of the poet,
who, whatever is going on round him,
chaos and struggling and noise,
is waiting for the right word in the poem.
"The cloud-backed heron will not move
"He stares into the stream
"He stands unfaltering while the gulls and oyster-catchers scream
"He does not hear, he cannot see The great white horses of the sea
"But fixes eyes on stillness Below their flying team."
Vernon Watkins and Dylan Thomas were very different characters,
but formed an unlikely friendship,
drawn together by their passion for poetry.
I don't think either of them had ever had another relationship
in which the great thing that they lived for,
getting a poem right, could be discussed between them endlessly.
They were quite different poets in a way, but he thought
that he and Dylan would live like Yeats
into old age, writing more and more beautiful poems
and, of course, it didn't happen with either of them.
But he had a strong connection with Gower right to the end?
Oh, tremendously so, yes, very passionate connection.
It was the love of his heart, I think.
Trying to capture the essence of Gower for their poetry
brought Thomas and Watkins together
and their words will mean these two friends are never forgotten.
Whiteford Burrows, north Gower -
an ever-changing landscape of salt marsh and tidal ditches,
which lends itself perfectly as a feeding ground
for a wide variety of birds.
And it's also home to the native Welsh mountain pony.
Now since before Roman times,
these ponies have made this place their own.
These hardy and intelligent ponies graze on the salt marshland
and in doing so, are also helping the environment.
The mosaic pattern that you see here is down to the pony
grazing at different levels, creating a variety of habitats
for birds and butterflies, but it's not just the marshland
that the ponies enjoy.
As you can see here, they also spend quite a bit of time
up in the sand dunes.
'Peter Morgan had been monitoring these semi-feral ponies
'for 13 years.'
So, Peter, when you obviously hear the name "Welsh mountain",
-you think altitude...
Here we are at sea level, Peter - why are they here?
They've adapted to live on this type of environment and they've...
they've coped very, very well with it.
The quality of the grass and the herbs that they've got
-means that they can graze quite happily all year round.
They've got quite a lot of space to be able to graze.
-How much space?
-There's about 4,000 acres in total
-from one end of the marsh to the other.
They've got so much space that they're able to, you know,
be quite fit and active and I think it's that healthy lifestyle
-that probably suits them very well.
Well, let's wander round there, see if we can get a little bit closer.
We obviously don't want to spook them too much.
-Oh, I can see a little foal just popping up there.
Beautiful. So what's the story with this little herd here?
That small bunch have been holding in this area for about two weeks.
-That foal is about eight weeks old.
We try to breed to the highest standards
by using registered stallions
which are put to registered mares,
so the offspring are all pedigree ponies.
That, obviously, allows us to have an opportunity to sell the stock.
They can be used for riding, driving, they're very intelligent.
They're very easy to train, they make ideal children's ponies as well.
And you have a fine example
-and your boys are just up the road, aren't they?
and hopefully, you'll be able to have a quick look at our stallion.
-Have a look.
-We'll leave these to it. Come on. Let's go.
Peter's sons will be the fifth generation of the family
to look after these ponies.
What a beautiful sight.
Goodness me. You've got 20 of these, I saw, at home.
-What do you do to help out?
Very good. And I understand he's into a bit of driving.
That's what we're hoping to do.
So, yes, introduce us to this fine Welsh mountain.
This is Blini Fisher,
a four-year-old registered Section A stallion, and he's our stud stallion.
He's an example of Welsh mountain ponies.
-They're very pretty and very photogenic.
And in the past they've been used, obviously, down the mines.
But they've also been used to pull little carts back
and forth before people had cars or bikes.
A horse and tram was the way that they got around,
and these were quite a pretty sight to see flying down the road.
Well, listen... You are a fine example, yeah?
And you keep going, my friend, yes?
Fifth generation, the pair of you.
-Are you going to keep this thing going?
-Of course you are.
The Countryfile photographic competition is now under way.
This year we've got two new judges -
Comedian and bird lover Bill Bailey
and zoologist and TV presenter Charlotte Uhlenbroek.
And we've got a brand-new topic for your photos - animal magic.
The theme of animal magic is wide open to your own interpretations,
but entries must feature either farm or wild animals,
preferably in a rural setting.
Pictures of pets are not eligible for our competition, nor are zoo animals,
and any images of British wildlife in captivity must be declared as such.
The best 12 photographs selected by the judges will take
pride of place in the Countryfile calendar for 2015,
one for each month.
As always, we'll have an overall winner
voted for by Countryfile viewers.
Their picture will grace the cover of the 2015 calendar,
which we'll sell in aid of BBC Children In Need.
To enter the competition, please write your name, address
and a daytime and evening
phone number on the back of each
photo with a note of
where it was taken.
Then send your entries to...
It's not open to professionals.
And because we're looking for something original,
your entries must not have won other national competitions.
You can send in up to three photos,
but they must have been taken in the UK.
And remember, we want hard copies, not e-mailed or computer files.
And I'm sorry, but we can't return any entries.
Please read the full terms and conditions on our website,
and you'll find the BBC's code of conduct
for competitions there as well.
The competition closes at midnight on Friday the 25th of July.
That means you've got just two weeks to get your entries in,
so why not go out and capture some animal magic?
Now, as we've heard, selective breeding has dramatically
increased the productivity of farm animals,
but has it also damaged their welfare? Here's Tom.
We've been using selective breeding to get more from our farm
animals for thousands of years
and, since the Second World War,
we've seen the most dramatic rise in productivity.
But the drive to feed a growing population with cheaper food
has led to real concerns on the impact on the health of farm animals.
But many in the industry say the days of breeding solely for efficiency
and output are behind us,
claiming that today health and welfare are high priorities.
So, has the problem been solved?
I'm meeting vet Keith Warner on a broiler farm,
which produces chicken for meat under standards laid out by both
the Red Tractor assurance scheme and the RSPCA's Freedom Foods label.
Earlier, he described some of the problems he's seen in the past,
but he feels, in the last decade,
there's been a clear change for the better.
What genetic improvements have you seen in the recent years?
In the recent years, the genetic improvements have
driven down the route of improved performance,
so that greater efficiency is achieved out of the animals,
so that there's less of the world's resources used to produce
each kilogram of meat that we eventually eat.
And alongside that, the same genetic drive has been put into welfare
issues, such as the heart fitness, the lung fitness
and the leg fitness of these birds.
So, today, the breeding programs use greater technology.
They use x-ray technology in legs,
they use specific oxygen monitoring technology in the blood
to check that the birds that they're choosing to breed from,
going forward, still give fitness.
Keith's views on the improvement of broiler welfare
are echoed by the National Farmers' Union,
which thinks that the health of animals bred for efficiency
has increased in recent years.
Minette Batters is the Union's deputy president.
How have the priorities in selective breeding changed?
I think we've progressed enormously.
You know, we've followed the science.
The science is far more available now.
Obviously, that continues to change, but it's in our interest
to work with that.
We now have mobility scoring for dairy cows.
We have condition scoring.
Part of your assurance is that you have a full health plan that
you discuss with your vet every year.
But would you accept there has been a bit of a progression here?
That maybe ten or 20 years ago, productivity was more the key.
People realised there were some downsides in that
and now need to breed in other traits, too.
I think I really good example of that is with your average dairy cow.
Ten years ago, it was producing 6,500 litres per annum.
Now, with higher welfare controls through Farm Assurance,
they're producing 1,000 litres more - up to 7,500 litres.
So there you've got very clear evidence that, actually,
welfare is really key to good production.
Many people we've spoken to
do believe the industry has turned a corner.
The RSPCA says that the situation is starting to improve,
but feels that welfare is still a very real concern,
especially amongst broiler chickens.
Compassion World Farming too thinks the problems are far from resolved.
So how current do you think the issues are today with
-overbreeding in our farm animals?
-Oh, current and getting worse.
That the language is still of increasing milk yields even further.
The language is still of increasing food conversion efficiency,
getting more meat, getting bigger animals in there.
It's no good to us. It's no good to the animals.
At the moment, if the breeding sector is saying,
"Don't worry, we're breeding for robustness.
"Everything is going to be OK."
When, in fact, their targets are far,
far short of what's necessary to reform this industry,
then I have very grave concerns about the nature of farming.
So the question remains - can we square productivity
and profit with better animal welfare?
Well, within the industry,
there are organisations working to do just that.
The Food Animal Initiative is a commercial research centre working
to breed animals that are both economically viable and healthier.
On its farm in Oxford,
they're running a selective breeding project with broiler chickens.
She's quite even in her stride.
She's not quite picking up her feet fully,
but that might just be the way she's...
going around the terrain.
So he's curling his toes nicely.
Research scientists Annie Rainer and Carly Scott are conducting the study.
It may look like she's just trying to sneak up behind a chicken,
but there is serious science going on here for the welfare of the birds
and it's all about how they walk.
'The researchers are studying the chicken's gait
'for potential leg problems.'
-So how are they looking, generally, the birds?
-They're walking well.
There's a few concerns with the way the cockerels are striding out.
They're a little uneven on their striding.
Why is the way they walk important?
Well, birds need to navigate their environment.
They need to be free from pain.
They need to be able to go about, eat, drink and get to all their resources.
So, for us, walking ability is really key to their welfare
and what we really strongly select on.
The initiative includes a range of animals in its experimental breeding.
Claire Smith is the program manager.
These are New Zealand Suffolk.
These have a much narrower head, which means, at lambing time,
it's much easier for the ewe to push the lamb out.
How are we doing on balance?
Can we really have high productivity and high welfare?
Yeah, I definitely think that's where we can get to.
You can get there, can you?
It's not just a sort of dream of having your cake and eating it?
No, no, definitely not. It's just that, maybe in the past, we've...
We've focused slightly too much on some of the production traits,
but it's just a case of changing our selection criteria to
head in a slightly different direction.
It's clear the industry is currently taking steps to improve
the health of selectively bred farm animals,
but many welfare groups believe productivity
is still the main motivation.
For them, the industry may have turned a corner,
but it's got a long way to go yet.
These stretching white sands, beautiful bays
and rugged hilltops make Gower the perfect haven for any naturalist,
walker or sea lover.
But the peaceful Whiteford Sands, here in North Gower,
are significant in more ways than one.
A 3,000-acre nature reserve and site of special scientific research,
Whiteford Sands is a perfect habitat for flora, marine life and birds.
But not all is quite as it seems.
There is something lurking beneath these beautiful sands that's
enough to make you jump to the Welsh mountains.
And normally, you see us Countryfilers walking around
with Ordnance Survey maps.
Well, today, I'm concentrating on a very different type of ordnance.
Yup, I'm going in search...
Whiteford Sands have a very interesting history indeed.
-Good morning, Matt.
-You all right?
'And here to tell me more is lieutenant commander Oli Alexander
'of the Royal Navy's Southern Diving Group.'
Just going through the plan, then, for today,
what's going to be happening?
Yeah, we are here, really, to conduct a clearance
operation of historic explosive ordinance, which is on this beach.
And that ordinance, why is it here?
What went on here, historically?
Yeah, you wouldn't have expected it, but during the Second World War,
the Ministry of Suppliers, as it was then, was keen to develop
technically advanced weapons to gain advantage over the enemy.
And this area, going several miles back up the estuary,
was used as a testing range for those weapons
and the beach in front of us was the impact area.
A lot of the munitions at the time, hundreds of thousands,
functioned correctly and the scrap was removed.
But of course, every now and again,
one wouldn't have functioned and remains buried.
So, what we're going to do today is try
and find a reported unexploded bomb.
It's being located
by the Explosive Ordinance Clearance Team from the MoD.
They come here in advance of us
and tow a magnetometer around, up and down the beach, behind a vehicle.
That then pinpoints ferrous or metallic content below the beach,
which is then analysed by geophysicists
back at their headquarters.
That then is put into a GPS position.
We then come out here with them to locate.
-And that is where...
'The bottom line is they've found a suspected bomb
'and now they need to pinpoint exactly what and where it is
'using a GPS system.'
This is the arrow and it's pointing in the direction
you need to walk in. You've got your north arrow there,
so if you have that lined up with north, and you've got 158m to walk.
-And then that should get you within a very
close range of the target.
And you're saying you want me to put this on and go and find this thing?
-Yeah, I think you can do this for us?
-What's this bit, here?
This is the aerial, which is connected to our base station,
which is up on the dunes.
So the base station is basically just picking up all
the satellites in the area.
-OK. And that's me, is it?
-You'll need those.
They're the marker flags for when you're stood in the right position.
-All right, then.
Well, listen, it's been lovely to have met you both.
THEY LAUGH We'll come with you.
I just want to tell my wife and children how much I love them.
Right, OK, on we go.
'Joking aside, it takes months of training and years of experience
'to become a bomb disposal operator.'
OK, we've got 114m to go.
'But Oli has assured me, with their guidance,
'this part of the process is safe.'
We've got 23m to go.
It's over this way.
We're getting very warm now.
Oh, I've got a cross.
Well, I am stood now directly above
the very thing that we're looking for.
Who knows whether or not it's explosive or not -
we'll find out very shortly. So...
HE LAUGHS NERVOUSLY
..with caution, I'm going to put this...
into the sand, and that'll do there.
'But before we delve into these sands any further,
'we're going to leave you in suspense
'for just a few more minutes.
'Later, I'll be resorting to explosive means to find out
'just what lurks beneath this beach in North Gower.'
Farming has shaped, and continues to shape, our lives.
And as Adam knows well,
there's one thing that's had more impact than most.
The humble sheep.
From the valleys to the mountains,
it's shaped our countryside for centuries.
They've provided us with milk, meat and wool for thousands of years.
In fact, you could say that they're man's best friend.
Well, apart from our other best friend.
And it's believed that sheep production
is our oldest organised industry.
And although providing us with meat is very useful,
it's wool that has really provided us with riches.
Town, cities and even countries were built on the wealth from wool.
And that's especially true of this wonderful sheep, the Cotswold,
that named the Cotswold hills because a sheep cot is an enclosure
and a wold is a rolling hill,
so there were thousands of these sheep on the Cotswolds at one time.
It's believed that these long wool breeds may have been
introduced by the Romans into the country.
And then, as farmers, we kept them and developed them,
specifically for their wool.
And the Cotswold has this golden fleece,
partly because of its colour and its lustre,
but golden also because of its value.
And it's a beautiful big sheep with wool all over its body,
even down its face.
These are some of our primitive breeds,
but the most ancient is this - the Soay.
It's thought to have been around for something like six million years,
and it lived on Soay and Hirta and St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides.
A tiny little breed.
This is a fully grown ram
and their fleece is a mixture of kemp hair and finer wool.
And sheep would have naturally moulted because they live
in a temperate climate, so it's hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
And what the farmers or crofters would have done is rood the fleece.
The old fleece naturally breaks away from the new,
and they would have plucked the wool
from then rather than having to shear them.
And then over years, we then bred from sheep that hung
onto their wool, so now they have to be shorn.
So this is a Texel.
This breed of sheep has been developed over the years,
primarily for meat production.
You can look at her physique to see that.
Big back end, big shoulders, big loin.
And we've moved away from the wool breeds like the Cotswold,
because wool fell into decline, and then concentrated on meat.
But we didn't ignore the fleeces.
We kept the white wool, so it can be dyed any colour.
And it's reasonably fine, so it can be used in carpets and in knitwear.
But, of course, you can't pluck it.
You can't roo a fleece like this any more.
We've bred sheep to hang on to their wool,
so they have to be shorn, now by a machine.
Sheep farmers up and down the country,
at this time of year, are busy shearing.
Sheep are getting hot in all the warm weather with this heavy
fleece on their back and it has to come off, really for welfare grounds.
It can get quite mucky at times,
and they can get maggots in the wool if it's dirty.
White wool is quite valuable now,
it's somewhere in the region of £1.40 a kilo,
which is about 35% up on what it was last year.
And it's great that the price of wool has lifted,
because ten years ago it was hardly worth shearing it off a sheep's back.
Once you had paid the shearer and paid for electricity
and got the sheep in, the wool was pretty much worthless.
The main reason that fleeces are fetching a better price is demand.
And it's no surprise the demand is growing
when you can see all the thing wool can be made into.
Farmers and fisherman have been using woolly jumpers for centuries.
And here's something interesting.
This is a woolly jumper that was knitted in Australia for penguins,
when there was an oil spill, to stop them preening themselves
and getting oil into their digestive system.
And it's also really tough when it's woven together.
Here, this rope, apparently,
is strong enough to hold the weight of a rhino.
Here are slug pellets.
And wool has microscopic hooks
on the fibres that hold them together,
and those microscopic hooks are horrible for slugs,
so they hate sliding over this.
A very natural slug deterrent.
So we've got all these amazing products.
And wool has been so important to this country for such a long time.
In the 1600s, the government passed an act saying that everybody
had to be buried in a woollen shroud to protect
the industry from foreign imports.
In fact, now, a company has come up with woollen coffins.
Of course, it's totally sustainable and biodegradable.
And there's a lovely saying in the Cotswolds -
"To respect a very good shepherd,
"you should have a lock of wool laid on your coffin."
Now you can have a whole coffin made of wool.
There's clearly a healthy demand for wool in all kinds of products
and that's why this business in Yorkshire is still going strong.
Simon Spinks' family have been making wool mattresses
for four generations, here in the heart of Leeds,
a city built on wool and textiles.
-Good to see you.
My great grandfather learnt to make mattresses
at a company called Somnus -
they were the leaders at the time in making mattresses.
He went on to team up with a guy called Harrison
and the rest is history as far as we're concerned.
I've been born with beds in the blood and have taken it forward.
As you can see, it's still very much a hand process
and it's not that dissimilar
to how my great-grandad will have done it years ago.
And why wool?
Wool's just a fantastic filling material for beds.
Been used for thousands of years in the construction of beds
for a good reason - it keeps you the right temperature.
You can't sleep when you're too hot.
You can't sleep when you're too cold.
You only have to look at the sheep and the range of temperatures they
can deal with to understand that wool is the best thing to sleep on.
I mean, interestingly, every mattress these days
has to pass stringent flame retardancy laws
and wool is one of the only natural materials
we've got that's flame retardant.
I can actually show you that it won't catch light.
It will actually go out.
Are you sure you want to set fire to that in here?
Erm, well, normally I wouldn't,
but such is the confidence I've got in wool's ability,
I reckon I can show you this and take the chance. Are you ready?
-It just goes out.
-You'll never get that lit.
-So it keeps you warm and safe.
-Warm and safe.
It takes about three full fleeces to make one of Simon's mattresses
and some of those come off the backs of his very own sheep.
Here you are with your farm. How big is it?
There's 300 acres in all.
We've got 500 breeding ewes, about 350 lambs on at the moment.
And what sort of breed are you using?
We started with mules, which are a Swaledale/
bluefaced Leicester cross. They make very good mothers,
and we've brought in tups, which were Texel.
We do Suffolk and Zwartble,
which give us the sort of black wool,
which is quite an interesting product for a mattress as well.
It creates a very nice sort of bulky wool.
And are you a farmer by trade or is this new to you?
For some reason, I always wanted to be a farmer.
And whilst I can't pretend to be very good at it, we've got
some very good people here to help run the farm.
I think I always wanted to drive a tractor.
We got so busy once we started growing our own mattresses here
that I've not had a chance to drive that tractor yet.
Yeah, it's been a great adventure for us and for the business.
It's great to see a long-running British company still going strong
and part of their success is because they're always developing new ideas,
like growing their own fibres to go into the mattresses.
And it just goes to show that wool is an ancient,
versatile product that can really keep up with modern times.
With the final of the World Cup just a matter of hours away,
I'm heading into Swansea to tap into its footballing roots.
In the heart of the city is Vetch Field.
Former home of Swansea City Football Club,
it was demolished in 2011.
Often redeveloped urban areas like Vetch Field become new
housing developments, office blocks, or even abandoned as wasteland,
but on this occasion, the locals came together
to create something rather special.
Vetch Field took on a whole new set of supporters.
As part of the Cultural Olympiad, the council assigned an area
of Vetch Fields to the Sandfields community to be turned into
allotments, their own little piece of the countryside
in the heart of Swansea.
Home to a wide variety of nationalities and cultures,
these allotments are now bringing the communities together.
Alan Lloyd held a season ticket here to watch the Swans for many years.
What's left of the old football stadium now, then?
Well...the area is still here.
-I can more or less point out to where I used to sit.
The stand was there and I used to sit in the front row...
So it must have been quite mixed feelings for you,
because you were mayor as well when this place closed.
Yeah. I look on it as an outdoor community centre,
where the different communities in the Sandfields can meet, chat over.
There's a lot more talking goes on here than growing.
SHE LAUGHS But it's good for the community.
Since its conception,
Gerwin Thomas has been part of the redevelopment.
What does it mean to you to be able to come down here
-and have this space?
-To me, with the garden and everything,
it's an oasis in the middle of town.
This is brilliant, you know, cos I can come down here whenever
I feel like it and meet people of different nationalities, really.
And their type of growing is totally different to the British, you know.
-So you're learning a lot about other veggies?
-You definitely are, yes.
I must say, I am really, really jealous.
I would love one of these near me.
But with the World Cup coming to a close,
the Vetch gardeners have their own way of honouring Brazil 2014.
The Bangladeshi ladies are going to do a curry this afternoon to
commemorate the World Cup in Brazil.
-That's mine, that is.
-All right, then, bagsy that one. It's yours.
'So, with a curry to be made, Bangladeshi-born Kadeeji
'and I need to harvest some more veg to add to Gerwin's tomatoes.'
So, Kadeeja, what is it you love about coming to this place?
Everything, like the vegetables and the peoples.
When I talk to people, it's like feeling great, nice.
It's become a second home.
-It's good just for hanging out, relaxing.
Big family, but still I manage to come here every day...
Summer times, yeah.
-That's enormous! Are we having that one?
I can use the leaves to make...you know saag?
-Oh, make saag with the leaves.
-How many leaves do you need?
Food is a brilliant way of bringing people together.
Vetch Field even has its own kitchen and cooking area.
Goodness, it's like something from everybody's allotment in there.
-That is a community curry.
-A community curry, yeah.
-How long does this need now?
And then we'll be feasting.
So, with the curry simmering away on the hob,
I want to find out just what the redevelopment
means to everyone here.
-I love coming over here.
-Do you? What do you love about it, then?
This feels like an extension of my back garden.
And how was this before, when it was football ground?
Oh...it was horrible.
The stand was so high and then, when it came down,
you could see the sky at night.
I could sit in my back garden and I could see the stars
and the hill and the lights on. It's amazing.
What do you like about having your plot, here in the Vetch?
What about the community here?
Wandering through the allotment,
I couldn't help but notice this rather stranger plant vessel.
This is my hanging bra-sket.
You can hold plenty in there, can't we?
This ample brassiere. That's fabulous. I love it.
The terraces may be long gone,
but a crowd has returned to feast on our World Cup curry.
Thank you so much.
It's fantastic how a football pitch has maintained its team spirit,
but instead of sport it's growing and sharing food in their own little
piece of the countryside that's brought this community together.
A couple of months ago, we were working with Kew
to give away more than 2,000 packets of wild flower seeds.
You might remember, a couple of weeks ago,
my fairly dismal effort.
But if your flowers are blooming,
we'd love to see a photo of them to share with everybody else,
and details of how you can do that are on our website.
Ellie and I have been exploring beautiful South Wales.
Earlier, I was at Whiteford Sands on the Gower Peninsula,
where I found the location of what could be an exploded bomb.
Oh, I've got a cross.
Lieutenant Oli Alexander and his team are now ready to take action.
Now I'm going to stand back.
The Royal Navy guys are going to come down with their portable
magnetometer and we'll confirm
-that you've got the right position there.
Here we are, lads. This is my first time using this bit of kit, so I...
-Matt, can I introduce you to petty officer Mark Cockin?
He's the EOD operator, who is actually going to finally excavate
the item and make the call as to what level of hazard it presents,
and what the best way is of making that safe if necessary.
What we're going to get now is leading diver
Walton is going to come in with his metal detector...
We'll move the flag out of the way.
..and then try and detect the ferrous metal contact
that we've had in the sand.
What he does is he makes a shape around the item to locate
exactly where it is so we don't end up digging two or three
-holes that we might not want to dig.
-And the pitch, the more...?
The pitch increases as it gets closer to the item, yeah.
There will be heavy corrosion, what we call concretion, on the item.
So I wouldn't mind betting that what you end up digging
up doesn't look to you like anything other than a pile of stones.
To our trained eyes, we know that it is something.
We've got contact.
OK, everybody move back, then. I'll go and have a look.
What we're doing here is employing
the good old principle of one man, one risk.
Even now, he doesn't have a huge amount
-of protective kit on, does he?
It's all about making the threat assessment
-and balancing risk against what we know.
He's got it there, then.
There we are. He's happy to call us in, so we'll take a walk in.
So what you can see is the effects of the concretion
over the 60 or so years that that's been under the beach.
If I was out here walking my dogs on the beach and I saw that,
-I would never in a million years think that that was...
The principle that you should always apply is,
if you don't know what it is,
then because of the signage it could be dangerous.
And that, then, is retire to a safe distance, call the police or
coastguard on the end of 999 and they will call for our support.
-So, what happens now?
-We need to remove that concreted encasing.
We do that using an explosive technique,
using detonating equipment.
Where do you do that? Here?
Yeah, we'll be doing the detonation here with the detonator,
just to shock that off, like the commanding officer said. So...
What I'm going to get my lads to do now is break away,
start getting all the kit out,
Three strands of detonating cord down the length of the munition...
-..and then what we'll do is we'll remotely fire that from back
up at the sand dunes.
OK, this protects us nicely. We're nice and safe down here.
We can see what's going on.
The officer and the EOD operator can make sure that we've got
a safe range, everybody's...
-It's controlled and safe.
-Right, well, when you're happy.
-OK, PA Cockin.
Stand-by. Fire in three, two, one. Fire in!
-There we go. Great. Just what we needed.
So a nice, hard crack should have removed that concretion.
What happens now is the operator will then go back down
and check that everything is stable.
And then, providing he's happy, we'll see what you've found.
25 pounder projectile.
Can't determine whether it's HE or knot field,
so unsafe to remove by road.
Establish a temporary range. Destroy in situ.
We found a four-inch naval shell,
the type that would have been used during World War II.
To detonate it safely, the team are using modern plastic explosives.
I've heard there was a bit of a spectacle.
And look who's turned up for the big event.
So you've met the lads here. This is Oli.
-Hi, how are you doing?
-Hi, Ellie. Good to see you.
So, well, we're all safe and sound here.
-This is going to be great.
-In our little bunker.
-You're definitely looking the part.
-Why, thank you. I'm in my greens.
-Who's pressing what?
-I'm on one.
All positions RSO'd. Stand by. Firing serial.
-Are you happy?
-I... OK. Stand-by!
-My heart has changed a beat.
That is extraordinary!
-What an explosion.
-How about that?
On that bombshell, we are going to end the programme.
Next week, we're going to have more fireworks as we celebrate
John Craven's 25 years on the programme. What a legend.
Walk on. That's a good boy. Whoa.
Those horns look a bit menacing, though, don't they?
Shake his head about a bit. You're a natural.
And that is definitely it from the gorgeous, and now quiet,
surroundings of South Wales.
Let's hope the World Cup final tonight is going to
-be as explosive as that.
Countryfile is in Gower, south Wales, where Matt Baker explores Whiteford Burrows, one of the most important and richest sand dune systems in Britain. He hunts for flora and fauna and meets the Welsh mountain ponies who have made this environment home. He also explodes previously unearthed World War II ordnance on the sands with the MOD. Ellie Harrison joins him for the final massive detonation.
Adam Henson is getting hands on with his sheep to explore the wonders of wool.
In honour of the World Cup final, Ellie Harrison meets the locals who have turned the old Swansea football pitch, Vetch Field, into a haven of growing and community spirit. She also discovers Vernon Watkins, Dylan Thomas's best friend and confidant, who was a remarkable poet in his own right. Ellie meets Gwen Watkins, Vernon's widow, who tells her about his poetry, inspired by the beauty of the landscape around him.
Selective breeding of animals has made a huge difference to food production - lambs produce more meat, cows provide more milk, chickens lay more eggs. But is there a downside? Tom Heap investigates concerns that animal welfare is paying the price for increased productivity.