Ellie Harrison and John Craven visit Pembrokeshire's Gwaun Valley and Preseli Hills. Ellie discovers Iron Age treasures, and John samples the local homebrew.
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'From the hills of Preseli to the secretive valley of Gwaun,
'this is a truly rural place.
'A hidden gem in a remote part of north Pembrokeshire.'
Man and beast have been roaming across these wild
and mysterious hills for centuries.
There's evidence of them all around,
from these burial mounds to hill forts.
Why did our prehistoric ancestors choose to make this place home?
I'll be finding out.
'Below the Preseli Hills, an ancient forest
'has been given a new lease of life.'
For many years it's been overgrown and unloved
but now it's being carefully managed and thinned out,
a new generation of broad leaved trees are being planted here.
Nothing goes to waste.
All the timber that's felled is turned into picnic benches, tables,
even woodland signs.
So I'd better get my woodworking skills brushed up.
'Tom's in the uplands of Cumbria.'
Is farming enhancing or damaging this landscape?
Maybe our uplands would thrive with fewer sheep and more wilderness.
I'll be investigating.
'And Adam's got a problem with one of the farm's biggest characters.'
Eric the Highland bull here is one of my firm favourites
but, unfortunately, he's had some major problems,
which isn't good news for his ladies
and not good news for him, either.
'The brooding Preseli Hills of Wales
'dominate a bleak and unforgiving landscape.
'Often shrouded in mist, these Hills are timeless,
'dotted with relics of ancient civilisations.
'The Preseli range lie in west Wales,
'just inland from the spectacular Pembrokeshire coast.'
Despite its bleakness,
man has worked this land since prehistoric times.
Their lives have been woven into this landscape.
'Burial chambers, stone circles, standing stones
'and Iron Age forts.
'Over 200 scheduled monuments are scattered across the hillside.'
And up here, on Foel Drygarn, it's one man's passion to preserve them.
'Pete Crane's an archaeologist
'working with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.'
-Hi, Pete, how are you doing?
-I'm fine, Ellie.
Wow, what are you doing among this enormous pile of stones?
Well, this enormous pile of stones is one of the three burial mounds,
presumably from the Bronze Age.
What happens is visitors come up
and actually make little holes in them
but when somebody makes a small hole in this monument,
possibly as a hide, in this case,
then other people come along and do more of them.
Although we can replace it, as we are doing here,
the actual archaeological integrity never grows back,
it's permanently damaged.
What are you doing, are you simply moving...?
Moving the stones back in.
We are refilling it as best we can.
So if we just roll some of the stones over.
On three... One, two, three!
This is where bodies were buried?
Yeah, probably cremation at that stage,
probably a central burial in each one.
The chieftain, or some high-ranking people in the Bronze Age,
People would have lived up here around this barrow.
There would have been settlements around it?
By the time the Iron Age is coming up here
-there's up to 200 huts up here.
Not necessarily all occupied, some of them could have been for storage.
We're dealing with 100 to maybe 400 people up here.
Think of the area that they would have actually been utilising
to feed themselves.
'These days the hills are pretty open
'but 6,000 years ago our prehistoric ancestors
'would have looked out over woodland.'
How would they have used it?
I think they've manipulated it for grassland
so they can herd their animals out from here.
All the trees were taken out for fuel?
Yeah, when you get 400 people living here,
the only thing they'll burn is fuel,
what they are going to construct with is wood.
-They would need some sort of shelter in this?
-They would, yes.
'Helping Pete restore this burial chamber
'is park ranger, Richard Vaughan.'
You're just picking up all the stones from the edge?
Not all of them, just the ones you can see have been thrown down.
'But Richard's real interest is in what grows on the rocks,
'lichens in all shapes and forms.'
So there's more than one type of lichen, aren't there?
There's a few colours on here.
There is an absolute wealth of different types.
They look to be a partnership between a fungi
and an algae, very complex organism.
Show me a couple of the lichens you get growing up here.
-OK, can you see this one?
-Yeah, the white crusty one.
There's a couple of different types here
but this is the crusty one, the Crustose.
This literally will grow up to a millimetre a year.
You just look at that and you think how old is that?
Some of these lichens up here would have been many decades old?
-If not more, hundreds.
This is why we are doing the work we're doing
to try and look after this site.
-Lovely, I'll leave you to it.
-Thanks, Richard, see you later.
'It's easy to see why people would assume these are just piles
'of rocks, but thanks to the work of people like Pete and Richard, these
'age-old sites remain an important feature of this ancient landscape.'
While I'm delving deeper into this valley,
Tom is scaling the heights investigating the claim
that farming could be harming our hills.
'Britain's uplands, sprawling areas with sparse populations
'that make up 40% of the UK's landscape.
'Although they may look pretty empty,
'they're incredibly important to all of us.'
70% of our drinking water comes from the hills
and, properly managed, they act as a natural carbon store,
a barrier to flooding the towns below
and a home to many species of plants and animals.
An increasing number of voices are saying all this is under threat
and farming is largely to blame.
'To find out more about these fears, I'm heading out
'for a spot of bird watching with the RSPB's Pat Thompson.'
What are we hoping to spot here today?
I was kind of hoping we'd see a black grouse.
What is it about them that makes them so relevant to the upland story?
Er, high priority bird,
less than 5,000 males left in the whole of the United kingdom.
'Pat's the organisation's uplands expert
'and believes overgrazing has stripped too many hills bare,
'harming the natural habitats of birds like the black grouse.'
that black blob that you can see.
I think you'll find that's a black grouse.
Yeah. In the distance it looks like any other bird
but when you get through the binoculars, you can see
-that classic grouse shape that isn't like most other birds.
This is a bird that actually likes a patchy landscape,
mosaics of habitat of heath, of bog, of grass and woodland
and we've lost a lot of that kind of habitat structure and diversity.
Has heavy grazing of the upland areas been partly to blame
-for their decline?
'The claim is that where thousands of years ago our uplands
'would have been covered in trees,
'today these hills have become too heavily grazed, the forests lost
'and with them the essential cover and food they provide for wildlife.'
One needs to look at
post-Second World War agricultural production subsidies,
encouraging the improvement of these lands to produce loads more food.
We can understand why that happened
but I think now the context needs to completely change
and we need to be looking at our uplands with fresh eyes.
We need to be thinking about what these places produce
for society as a whole and we ain't doing that.
-There he goes.
-There he goes.
'Some voices are saying much of this heavily farmed land should be
'left to go wild once again, a process known as rewilding.
'Environmentalist and newspaper columnist, George Monbiot,
'is a leading voice in this campaign.'
A lot of people really like upland pasture,
they think it's a beautiful natural setting.
Yes, well, people do see it as natural and, in fact,
I did until I began to find out what used to be there,
which was much more woodland, very rich wildlife habitats.
All that has now gone.
Those pastures support just a tiny scraping of the life
which used to be there.
'He believes that farming in our hills
'is endangering not only wildlife but all of us, too.'
One of the big impacts from having animals
grazing in the hills is flooding.
We are very prone to floods in this country
and a major reason is that all the vegetation in the hills
has been removed and the vegetation helps to absorb water
and release it slowly
and the soil is being compacted by the hooves of the sheep.
That means that the water just flashes off it.
So people are very obsessed by what happens in the flood plain
but, actually, it's more important what happens in the hills
and the catchment of the rivers.
If the water isn't being absorbed, and slowly released in the hills,
you're going to get floods downstream.
Sheep in the hills cause floods in the flood plains.
Really, so you're saying you could put the rising waters,
I don't know, in the Severn Valley, down to sheep hooves in Wales?
Yeah, that's right.
'Much of George's most fierce criticism has been aimed
'at the Lake District where he claims farming has created
'a bowling green monoculture.
'Local farmers like Carl Walter are coming out
'to defend their way of life.'
-You're making the hills look easy on that.
So where are your sheep at this time of year?
-They are way up the fell.
-Way up here?
'Carl works land covering 250 windswept acres.
'He believes the negative impact of hill farming has been blown
'out of all proportion and ignore the many benefits it brings.'
Ah, finally, we're seeing your beasts here.
Some people look at this landscape and say, why, it's a bit barren.
Naturally, it would have a lot more trees on it.
If you don't have the sheep grazing it,
you'll end up like the common further down that we have
where the gorse has taken over
and you actually can't get onto parts of the common.
There's a lot of people like to come and walk in the Lake District
and people like to come here because it is a living landscape.
It's, you know...
A lot of the people we see that come here on holiday
like nothing better than to see you gathering the fells with your dogs.
-Do you think this land really earns its keep?
-Yeah, I think it does.
It's not just food production.
We support a lot of local tradesmen, hauliers
and there's all the machinery sales, the feed merchants, you know.
People are here because of the farming
and the minute you lose the farming,
you lose everything else that goes with it.
'This argument that livestock is the lifeblood of our hills
'is central to the case to keep farming these slopes.'
But others insist there is a credible alternative for the uplands,
which would both heal the land and reinvigorate rural communities.
I'll be seeing what that future landscape would look like later.
'Pembrokeshire's Gwaun Valley...
'This steep sided gorge, a relic of the Ice Age,
'has been shaped by torrents of meltwater
'that flowed as the glaciers retreated.
'Now the River Gwaun meanders through marsh,
'water meadows and dense, ancient forests
'that cloak the valley sides.'
These woodlands are classed as one of the most important
natural habitats in the UK
and now a project is under way to breathe new life into them.
'The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority manages 500 acres.
'Geraint Harries is one of the rangers
'whose job is to safeguard this landscape.'
-Oh, helo, croeso. Welcome.
-A Welsh welcome.
-Oh, yes, absolutely.
You must have a lot of birds around here
if you're putting up these boxes?
Well, yes, we're trying to enhance the habitat for many types of birds.
This is particularly for the bluetit and great tit.
-Just behind us we have a raptor's nest.
-I can see that there.
I think it's a buzzard
but we also have red kite within the valley,
which is really quite exciting and fairly new to the area.
If it is such a special place, why does it need
a new breath of life blowing into it?
I think over the past years it's been unmanaged
and so we're trying to bring that management back into force
and enhance the habitat, basically.
'During both world wars,
'the Gwaun Valley's forests were largely decimated.
'Trees were felled and the majority of timber sent
'to be used as pit props and axe handles
'for miners aiding the war effort.'
They were replaced by thousands of these quick growing,
non-native conifers which were then left to grow wild,
making the forest dark and inhospitable.
Now they're well past their sell-by date.
Plans are afoot to convert the forest
back to some semblance of ancient woodland.
And that means out with the conifers
and in with native broad-leaf trees like oak, hazel and ash.
So this scene is going to be transformed?
It will over a period of time, yes,
and we intend to remove some more of these conifers next year,
so in the end we will have a completely deciduous woodland.
What puzzles me a bit, Geraint, is that recently on the programme
another expert told me that a pine forest has more biodiversity
-than a broad-leaf forest.
-Possibly, if it was managed properly.
We believe that there is more biodiversity within the woodland
if you're going back to what we had naturally,
so that's what we will be trying to do as a national park.
'But conifers aren't the only trees being felled.'
What have we got here, then?
We've got some sessile oak
that we've been thinning out of this woodland, Kilkiffeth.
So why do you want to take out broad-leaf trees?
Yes, it's an odd one, isn't it, that you're removing some nice oak,
but it's all grown up at the same time.
And we need to try and thin out individual trees to give more space,
open the canopy up, and of course leave more light down to the ground.
But of course we don't want to decimate the woodland either.
It's trying to get that balance,
which is why we come in and do little and often.
Well, there are lots of brambles around here. Are they going as well?
They're quite good in terms of nature conservation
because of course we've got the dormice.
They love that, the bramble, to be able to crawl over and feed.
And what's going to happen to these trees now, then?
So they're being collected now, loaded,
and they'll be taken back to the sawmill at Cilrhedyn Woodland Centre,
where they'll be processed to make woodland furniture.
So that'll be full circle.
Yes, it will. It'll be used within the national park.
Well, the logs we saw being loaded are now in the sawmill.
What's happening to them?
They've just been brought here,
and they're loaded on to be cleft into fencing stakes.
'Nearly 200 tonnes of timber from forests around south Wales
'ends up here every year, and it's turned to many different uses.'
Apart from the fencing stakes, what else do you make?
Oh, all sorts of things. We can see in the shed.
Pretty fine gates here.
We install these along the coast path.
Obviously it's got to be sturdy enough to...
-Especially with the recent weather.
-Especially. It's having a battering.
'And even the wood shavings don't go to waste.'
That's also a product, because a local farmer comes
and uses it as bedding for his livestock.
And this looks a fine bench.
Yes, this is a bit of Douglas fir that's used as a memorial bench.
-And you also make signposts, by the look of it.
All the signs that we use as a national park
are made in this centre.
'Jim has been working at Cilrhedyn for 15 years.
'In that time, all the signs in the national park
'have been carved by his skilful hand.'
That is, until now.
And this goes down just till I feel it making a connection?
-That's right, yes.
So how many of these signs do you reckon you've made in your time?
Erm... A couple of thousand I should think. Over the years.
Not just in one language, but in two,
-so you have to work twice as hard as most signwriters.
I somehow imagined that all this would be done by computer, Jim.
Well, I think in a lot of situations now it is,
but this machine is very good for doing one-offs,
and it responds well to wood as well.
There we are. Now you just park your machine in that little hole.
Turn it off.
So, marks out of ten, Jim?
-Nine, I think, for that.
It's a very good effort for the first attempt.
-So, our little man has been painted now.
-And he goes in here?
-That's right, yes.
-A couple of whacks.
Here's the afternoon post arriving(!)
And...it gives me great pleasure to plant my sign.
I'll just leave you to fill it in, Geraint.
I'm off to the next location. I presume it's this way.
-While John's been busy "delivering the post",
I've been exploring the ancient landscape of the Preseli Hills.
I'm now moving forward in time from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age.
This is Castell Henllys, an Iron Age village, but with a difference.
It's a reconstructed village that's quite unique in Britain.
It actually sits on the foundations
of the original 2,000-year-old settlement.
Archaeologists began excavating the original Iron Age village
nearly 30 years ago -
and made some important discoveries about the people who lived there.
Like how they built their homes,
what they made...
..and what they ate.
I'm meeting Sally Hargraves to find out the answers.
-How are you?
-I'm fine, working hard.
So what's happening here?
I'm making some flour to make into bread.
-So it's simply a case of turning this incredibly heavy stone.
I shall put a little bit more grain in for you.
You're making here a very small amount of flour,
you have to keep at it and at it and at it, to make enough to make...
-Food for the whole family.
-Food for the whole family.
-What other things did they eat?
-They were farmers.
They foraged as well, but farming was how they survived really
and it was hard, hard work.
So you had to grow what you wanted to eat,
and it had to last you the year.
So, bit of flour there -
-is that enough to make something to eat?
-It'll make a roll.
'This will be my first-ever attempt at an Iron Age bread roll.'
-Bit of kneading - and then break it off into little rolls?
So what would life have been like inside one of these houses?
It's a family house.
You've got the beds there,
maybe the chief sister living in here with her family.
And would they all eat together round the fire?
Somebody would have the job of cooking for the village.
Everybody would gather and come back from their work,
whatever their jobs were,
and they would all eat together, at a time where stories would be told
and the work of the day would be talked about.
And what sort of things would be in their meals?
Whatever was seasonal. But mostly vegetables.
There might be some meat, some fish...
So meat would be for a special occasion.
Meat is a special occasion, yes. Yes.
'It's not quite The Great British Bake Off - but here goes.'
Mmm. It's not bad.
You'd certainly get some energy from it, wouldn't you?
Wouldn't mind a bit of chocolate spread on there.
Which I know is many years later! Many years later.
Wind forward a couple of thousand years,
and these ancient Iron Age skills are being revived.
Mark Bond heads up a project called Your Park.
It aims to get local kids from all walks of life
learning about the countryside on their doorstep.
-How are you doing?
-Good, thank you.
-So what's happening in here?
These guys are daubing the walls of the roundhouse.
And they are repairing where bits of the daub have come away,
using the same procedures they would have used back in the Iron Age.
And what about learning about prehistoric skills like this?
Well, no-one needs asking twice to get their hands muddy, I suppose,
everyone likes to get stuck in.
But throughout the time we've spent together,
these guys have really forged a connection with the outdoors
and Pembrokeshire and their home,
and the history is obviously a big part of that.
And obviously being able to come and do days like this
where they can actively involve themselves in repairing
historical places like this is just fantastic.
The group's drawn from the surrounding area,
and is made up of teenagers
from mainstream and special needs schools.
Right - time for ME to get stuck in.
You all look like you're having far too much fun.
-What are you doing here, Ashley?
-We're stamping on the cow muck.
So what's the point of stamping on it?
Because it makes it softer then.
-A-ha. Makes it easier to use, does it?
-Do you think this is ready under my feet?
-Is that good?
-Fabulous. Right, let's stick it in the wheelbarrow,
-and then we'll get up to the hut.
-Is that the right texture, Lucy?
-Is that looking good?
-Put it on the cracks...
-Put it on, and then...
-hit it with your fist, to even it out.
-Just splodge it on!
So then, when that dries, it'll fill the cracks.
This is completely new, I had no idea it was like this.
But it's actually really hard work.
So how's this looking?
This is looking pretty good, yeah, you're doing really well.
-We'll build our own house yet, Lucy!
-We will do it!
As this lot head home after a hard day's graft,
I'm continuing my journey.
I'll be meeting a farmer whose land is home
to a rather extraordinary breed of cattle.
Earlier, Tom investigated claims that our uplands are suffering,
and that damage from farming is largely to blame.
But if these farms disappeared, what would replace them?
Think of Britain's uplands and you probably imagine rugged terrain,
grand, windswept vistas and sheep dotted across the hills.
Well, there could be far fewer of these animals
if some people were to get their way.
But if farming disappeared from here,
how would it affect the landscape,
and would the local community survive?
Well, according to some,
this valley in the Lake District could be a glimpse of the future.
This is Wild Ennerdale,
1,200 acres of former grazing land and commercial forest.
Ten years ago it was left to return to its wild state,
as part of the UK's most high-profile re-wilding experiment.
What we've got is a fantastic birch woodland,
with some conifer regeneration, some big dead wood,
and wonderful pools of water that we're going to try and cross now.
I may not think they're so wonderful in a minute.
Way-hay! Man down.
'I'm heading into the wilderness
'with the Forestry Commission's Gareth Browning,
'to discover whether this project
'has the potential to become a blueprint for healthier hills.'
The river used to flow a completely different way,
and over time the river has decided it wants to come this way
and in the past we'd have tried to stop it,
but now we just stand back and are just amazed by it.
It feels like a very geographically lively place,
it's all happening around us.
It's tangible, it's texture. It's full of it.
What about on the uplands themselves,
what changes would you be expecting up there as the decades pass?
We're hoping that the uplands will become more spongy.
So they'll absorb and hold back water
so that water's fed into the system at a slower rate
as we move from the sheep grazing that we've had in this area
to cattle grazing.
Then we're going to see changes in terms of the density
of the vegetation, and hopefully the diversity as well.
We've already seen over 100 bird species come here,
and we've got about 90 different habitats across the valley.
'Environmentalist and author George Monbiot has a vision of many more
'of these re-wilded landscapes
'emerging from where farms currently stand.'
So, would you like to see all the uplands
covered in woodland like this?
I would like to see an awful lot more of it.
'He claims that could reinvigorate not just wildlife,
'but also rural communities.
'Although he does acknowledge many living in the countryside
'will take some convincing.'
Let me quote something back to you from your book.
You say, "Re-wilding should only happen with the consent
"and enthusiasm of those who work the land."
You haven't got that at the moment.
No, we haven't got it yet, but I think that when people see
what some of the benefits are, particularly the economic benefits -
when you look at the possibilities for wildlife tourism,
for the money that could be made through better carbon storage
and flood management, then actually people could be doing
an awful lot better by re-wilding the land
than they do by keeping sheep there.
And you think you can persuade the farmers
to get their consent and enthusiasm?
I'm an eternal optimist. Yes, I think I can.
Convincing many farmers
their land should be left alone to re-wild
would be a pretty hard sell.
But here in Geltsdale, they think they might have found a solution
that should be more appealing to all sides.
According to the RSPB,
sheep farming is largely responsible for damage to our uplands.
But on this RSPB-owned land, sheep are welcome.
Here the plan is to bring agriculture and a wild landscape into harmony.
Right, I see a lot of trees you've planted around here
-but is farming relevant to what you're doing here?
We're trying to farm in a different way
that's more beneficial for the natural environment,
whilst at the same time still with agricultural product -
beef and lamb as part of that.
But the natural environment is also an integral part
of this high-nature value farming that we're really interested in.
So this was, as you can see over there, bare grassland.
Heavily grazed, bare, with not much structure or diversity at all,
and you can see what it looks like now.
We've got a variety of dwarf shrubs coming back - bilberry, heather...
So the birds are using this habitat already.
So under your vision for the future, there would still be farming,
but there would be less farming,
and it wouldn't be the dominant industry that it is today?
Absolutely. Any more than we think that forestry should dominate,
or sport shooting should dominate. We're trying to secure
multiple benefits from these upland landscapes.
-So farmer's friend or farmer's enemy up here?
But there are those who profoundly disagree
with letting nature reclaim farmland.
Here in the Lake District, MP Rory Stewart represents many people
who feel there are already too few sheep on the hills,
and that restocking, not re-wilding, is needed
to preserve the local economy and the way of life.
Look at the entire fellside behind me.
You're not going to be able to see a single sheep.
You say that, but there are more than a million, I gather,
in your constituency, so they're not exactly running out of sheep here.
This is a sheep farming area,
but what's happening is something really weird -
essentially, a group of intellectuals
are imposing their fantasies on this landscape,
and their fantasy is that they're living in a wilderness,
and they're trying to create a landscape
that hasn't existed here for 3,000 years.
And how do you feel when you look at this kind of landscape?
Well, I think it's a tragedy.
I think there's a place for bits of forestry, there's a place
for bits of birds sanctuary, but we have to protect the human.
The debate on the future of our uplands is really just beginning.
Critics claim farming has pushed our hills to their limit.
Its supporters say it has both created and sustains
the countryside we know and love.
In this debate, both sides are claiming the moral high ground,
believing they're protecting a sort of endangered species -
small family farms on the one hand, and wildlife on the other.
But it seems to me if we can get rid of the mistrust, there's enough
room in our uplands to accommodate both visions of the future.
As Adam knows only too well, nature plays a huge part
in the success or failure of the farming year.
And 2014 is already bringing him some unwelcome surprises.
There are some images in this film that you might find upsetting.
We farm 750 ewes. Today I'm moving a flock of them
to some fresh pasture on the other side of the farm.
Last year was a difficult year for livestock farmers -
a wet winter and then a very cold spring.
And because of the snow and the cold weather, the grass didn't grow,
so the ewes didn't produce much milk,
so the lambs weren't putting on as much weight as we hoped,
and it was tricky all round, really.
But this year, I'm hoping for a good crop of lambs that will grow well.
All right, then, girls!
Up the hill!
Well, that should give these ewes a few fresh pickings on the grass here.
And we have to look after our livestock as best as we can
all year round, and a couple of years ago,
Schmallenberg came into the country,
spread by midges, and it can affect sheep, cattle and goats,
causing abortion, but also deformities
in their young when they're born.
And, thankfully, a vaccine came on the market, and although there was
an expense associated to that, I didn't want to take any risks,
so I vaccinated all 750 of my ewes to try and protect them.
While the sheep are in pretty good health
and are safe from the Schmallenberg virus,
at the time, I couldn't vaccinate the cattle, which left them at risk.
With the Schmallenberg vaccine, you're not supposed to use it
in animals that are likely to already be pregnant,
and back in the summer,
all five of my cattle breeds were in that situation -
they'd been running with the bulls and they could be carrying
calves inside them, so we couldn't vaccinate them, which meant
we just had to leave them to their own devices and take the risk.
Sadly, that risk didn't pay off,
and it's not good news for one of my favourites.
I really love my Highland cattle, particularly Eric,
the Highland bull over there. He's absolutely magnificent.
And at this time of year, they've got their winter coats,
that glisten in this sunshine.
He's pushing his ladies around, asserting his authority.
He's a big, strong beast, but actually he's very placid
and he's lovely to work with.
But back in the summer, we had some problems with the cows.
They weren't getting in calf,
so we decided to have the herd blood tested, and the first results
that came back were from Eric, and he had Schmallenberg, but also IBR,
which is infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, I think it's called.
And both of those illnesses can cause a bull to be infertile.
It raises their temperature. And they can get over it -
they can recover from that, so we had Eric fertility tested.
They tested his sperm and examined his reproductive organs,
and he's got some problems.
There's been some trauma down there, his sperm count is low,
and it may not have anything to do with the Schmallenberg
or the IBR - it could be just a coincidence
and something else has got to him or infected him,
or it's just gone wrong, so, sadly,
he's not a fertile working bull, so he's got to go.
But he's my favourite, but he's also a bit of a nation's favourite,
so I don't really want to send him to slaughter.
So in this instance, I'm going to try to find a farmer who's got
a few cattle that Eric could run with
and retire and grow old in a field somewhere.
Since arriving on the farm in early 2011, Eric's done us proud,
producing some great offspring.
Last year, one of his sons, Nevis, was born silver in colour,
something I'd never seen before.
I was told he would eventually turn brown.
Eight months on, he's looking to be a pretty fine bull.
There's a good boy.
He's still a lovely colour.
He's a little bit darker now, but when he was born,
he was that bright silver colour, almost sort of nickel,
and it's gone more of a cafe-creme colour.
I think this is probably the colour he'll stay now. Come on, fella.
And he's learning how to behave on the halter, which is important,
because once they're big bulls, they can be a bit uncontrollable
if they haven't learned their manners at an early age.
And he's got good physique.
He's got good width across the shoulders,
right down his body.
We've shaved his back here because we've got the Highlands indoors
and this thick coat means they get a bit sweaty,
and if you shave their backs, it lets the heat out,
and then they carry on eating well and growing.
We haven't tested the calves for Schmallenberg
because there's no need to at the moment -
while he's still a baby, it won't affect him in any way.
It's just like getting a sickness and then getting over it,
so hopefully he'll stay clear of it in his life.
Come on, mate.
I'm pleased that Nevis is in tip-top condition.
To ensure a high health status on the farm,
we test and vaccinate regularly,
and today the vet is testing our small herd of Belted Galloways.
They're similar to the Highlands because they're so hardy.
They originate from the west coast of Scotland. Really lovely cattle.
And this is the Belted Galloway bull, and his name's Crackers,
and he's aptly named because he is a bit crazy.
When I first got him, he was jumping over fences
and getting in with the wrong cows and causing all sorts of problems.
He was never halter-trained as a calf like I'm doing with Nevis,
so he was a bit wild,
but he's settled down now and he's doing all right.
He's a bit stubborn, trying to get him up to the fence.
Go on, then! Go on, on you go! Trotting along well, now.
We'll get there in a minute.
All right, all right. Whoa, whoa, whoa.
Will, the vet, is taking blood from Crackers now
to test him for various diseases.
We lost our Belted Galloway last year to TB,
but the herd is now clear of TB,
but we have to keep an eye on all sorts of other cattle diseases.
So he's got a vacuum tube there -
he puts a needle into the bull's tail, that finds the vein, and then
the blood is sucked into the tube and that's sent away for testing.
-There you go.
-Well, that's Crackers done.
It's now time to find out if he's done his job
and his ladies are pregnant.
I've been nervous about this
and I don't want the same outcome as the horrible moment
we discovered Eric's infertility,
when none of the Highlands were pregnant.
So that's a fancy bit of kit you've got on there, Will.
Yeah, we've got goggles now rather than a screen,
so you can see while you're working. It means you don't have to worry
-about looking at a screen.
-So you're not doing it manually -
you're using an electronic scanner?
Yes, an ultrasound scanner,
that means that we can tell when they're pregnant a lot earlier
-and it's a lot more reliable than just feeling.
I'm running the scanner over the reproductive tract,
initially looking for fluid, because in early pregnancy,
the first thing you see is fluid in the uterus,
and then you'll find a little foetus floating in the fluid.
It's always a tense moment when we're pregnancy testing the cattle.
We want them to be giving birth to a calf every year.
The gestation period from mating to birth is nine months,
so they give birth once a year, and we want to be, you know,
improving the breed, getting more heifers to have in our herd,
and then also producing some steers for beef, so it's an important
part of the business that these cows are breeding every year.
-She's a no, I'm afraid.
-This one's a no.
Not good news. I hope it's not the same for the rest of the herd.
-Yes, she is pregnant.
-We've got a foetus there.
-Good news, excellent. Good old Cracker.
Thankfully, the whole herd is in calf apart from the first one.
And, hopefully, the blood test results
will show that our Belted Galloways are disease-free.
One of the problems with farming is that you never know
quite what's round the corner.
One minute it might be bad weather,
the next minute some kind of animal disease,
but, as farmers, we're a pretty resilient bunch,
so we've just got to get on with it.
Rising high above north Pembrokeshire,
the dramatic hilltop of Carn Edward.
And from up here, there are breathtaking views
of the valley just down there, and the Preseli Hills behind.
Tucked away on the side of Carn Edward
is the home of the Vaughan family.
They've been farming here for more than 600 years.
Today, eldest son Robert runs the 500-acre farm.
He keeps 1,000 sheep, and ten years ago,
he decided to diversify and introduced this lot -
So why have you chosen Longhorns, then, for your farm?
We wanted a cow which would graze
the areas which weren't being grazed on the mountain.
It's quite a large family farm
and I wanted something which was low-maintenance, calved easily,
and we can crack on and do the sheep work and other jobs on the farm
and not have to be following the cattle all day, worrying about them.
So what's the history of this breed?
One of the oldest native breeds.
Dual-purpose back in the day, and, from what I understand,
it used to produce the red Leicester cheese.
They're predominantly a beef breed now.
There's a connection with this herd and Adam's farm, isn't there?
There is. It's a small world in the farming community.
We did buy a Bemborough sire, going back eight or nine years ago now,
-so there's a couple of his granddaughters here in the herd.
There's a great Countryfile connection.
And this is quite a sizeable herd, isn't it?
We're running around the 200.
I'd like to keep them all, but where do you stop?
It's true. There's only a limited amount of land.
-They do look fabulous up here, though, don't they?
They look as if they've always been here, part of the landscape.
They do look magnificent up here,
but these beasts are prizewinners in the show ring,
and Robert's got what he thinks are the next stars in the making.
-Yes, I'll go and get the other girl now.
But if they're going to make an impression in the ring,
they've got to look the part,
so Robert's starting these newbies with a simple wash and dry.
You've got to let them know you're coming up to them.
Bit of a shock.
-Incredibly calm, isn't she?
-Yes. That's the breeding.
-That's the breeding.
-Would you give them
a full sort of salon treatment before they head off to the show?
As good as, yes. But rustic-style.
-That's the way.
'Now for the shampoo.' Just let her know I'm coming.
From the front, let her know you're coming up to her.
Here I am. Here I am. Here I am.
There we go.
What do you get out of showing them? Why do you do it?
You don't necessarily make money out of it, do you?
It's a busman's holiday.
It's catching up with fellow farmers and like-minded people,
and we're proud of the cattle,
so we're going to do our best to show them off.
-A nice sort of massage, there.
-It does. It sedates them.
And for the full salon treatment,
it's a quick blow-dry with the "livestock hairdryer".
-There we go.
You see how it lifts the coat up?
-The full blow dry!
-It's really fluffy now.
-She looks fabulous.
You are welcome.
Keeping Longhorn cattle is proving to be a bit of a success story here.
They're not only highly prized at shows - they're tasty meat, too.
-So you've got your own butchery here, then?
-Yes, we have.
-It's a little gem, isn't it?
And once you have butchered your own pieces, where do you sell them?
We depend a lot on farmers' markets locally and up the M4 corridor,
we do food festivals around the country...
And Longhorns are pretty rare, then, out there?
It's something a bit different, so it adds a bit of value, then,
-because people want to try it as they've heard a bit about it.
I'm going to have a go, see if I can learn what I need to do.
So what are the different cuts that you can get from beef?
Well, when you start off with a hindquarter, you've got the fillet,
the sirloin, the rump, then you're working up to the joints,
the silverside, the top rump, or thick flank, as some people call it.
It's quite a skill to produce these cuts of meat.
Fortunately, I'm only being let loose on a couple of steaks.
So, Rob, what is it that makes the taste of the Longhorn so good?
It's the marbling in the old native breeds which adds to the cooking,
and I always joke you can kill it twice and it still tastes good.
-What cut is this, now?
-Sirloin, that sounds good.
-There we are. Just watch your fingers.
All right. How thick? How wide?
-How do you like it?
-There we go.
-That's a nice steak, there.
How about that? Oh! Look at the colouring in there.
That's pretty fabulous, isn't it?
-How about that?
All we need to do now is cook it.
Probably the best steak in the world.
-Nearly ready? It's looking good, isn't it?
-We'll give it a go.
Shall we serve it up? Let's get a plate.
-And then...crack on!
-Give it a go.
-How about that?
-Will you join me?
-Please. Thank you.
-Come on, then.
Let's give this a try. Ooh, wow. It cuts pretty smoothly, doesn't it?
I hardly ever eat meat, you know.
I only ever save it for the good stuff.
I'll let you have a go on that one, then.
Oh, wow. That melts. Mm.
The village of Cwm Gwaun, in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
In this remote Welsh valley, it feels as if time has stood still.
And, in a kind of way, it has, because here the past plays
an important part in modern everyday life.
And in the local school,
children are brought up to respect the old traditions.
Enfys Howells is head teacher of the tiny school
at the heart of this deep valley.
Well, this is the school motto, Enfys, isn't it, in Welsh?
Can you translate it for me, please?
The roots of the past are the branches of the future.
Gwreiddiau'r gorffennol canghennau'r dyfodol.
And is that very true in this valley?
Yes, very much so, because most of the people that live here
have lived here all their lives.
We're on the fourth generation of my family to come to this school.
Even if you move away, you've always got Gwaun Valley in your heart.
And so there's no danger,
really, in this valley losing its character, losing its people?
Never - we wouldn't let it!
And there is one very special tradition around here
-that doesn't really happen anywhere else?
There's a very special tradition.
-Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Happy New Year!
Well, that might sound a little strange,
but here in the Gwaun Valley, it's perfectly normal,
because when it comes to celebrating New Year, they've been
out of step with the rest of us for more than 250 years now.
That's because they still follow the Julian calendar,
which was in common use everywhere
until it was replaced by the Gregorian calendar in 1752.
So when it comes to New Year, we celebrate it, obviously,
on 1st January, but here in the Gwaun Valley
following the Julian calendar,
for them, New Year doesn't start until the 13th.
No-one knows local tradition and folklore
better than historian Brian John.
Of course, it all goes back many centuries, doesn't it, to the Pope
wanting to rearrange the calendar to fit in better with festivities.
Yes, Pope Gregory, in the 16th century, wanted to get the calendar
regularised in some way, because it was a little chaotic,
partly related to the problems of fixing the date of Easter.
When he introduced the Gregorian calendar,
it was much more accurate than the old one, which had a rather
unfortunate habit of losing three days every few centuries.
But why was it, do you think,
that just here, in this small little valley, they refused to change?
I suspect there might have been a few other parts of Britain that were
reluctant as well, but the old story is, of course, that people
were very worried about losing 11 days of pay or whatever.
It's a little bit of a myth, that, I think.
Maybe it's more that they just wanted to stay with the old ways.
I suspect so, yes.
Has Easter shifted as well, and other celebrations?
No, they keep everything else.
Hen Galan is the big celebration.
And, of course, there's the tradition of the calennig,
from the original Latin root of the word meaning to call,
because in the early days, the first day of every month was announced
in the community, because people were not very good at remembering dates.
-Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Happy New Year. Blwyddyn Newydd Dda.
Children from the valley travel up to 18 miles from house to house,
serenading local residents with traditional Welsh songs.
In return, they receive their calennig - or New Year gifts -
of sweets, fruit and money.
-# Rhowch yn hael i'r rhai gwael
# Pawb sy'n ffyddlon i roi rhoddion...
-What do you like best about Hen Galan?
-And we get money.
-What do you spend your money on?
-To have a tractor.
When you go out singing, do you go in all weathers?
We'll always go round, because it's so special to us,
so it doesn't matter what the weather is -
if there's rain or even if it's boiling hot, but we always go out.
And I've got some pictures here of when it was really snowing.
It was massive - about 12 feet, 10 feet.
And what happens when you've finished all your singing?
We go home and then about seven o'clock we go down to the hotel,
down the road in Gellifawr, and have a little party there.
THEY SING IN WELSH
And it's not just children who celebrate. For grown-ups,
the spirit of Hen Galan has for many years been home-brewed beer.
Hedd Davies's family recipe has helped welcome in
the festivities for generations.
-Well, this is it, then - the special Hen Galan brew.
-Yes. Yes, certainly.
-How strong is it, any idea?
-Well, it's a lot stronger
than what you get in the pub. THEY LAUGH
Well, I won't sip it yet, then.
-You turn your kitchen into the brewery?
-To make this.
-Where did you get this from?
-Well, this was my grandmother's boiler.
-Yes. She used to do it years ago, and when she left this house,
she left the boiler, so I had to carry on.
I can remember my grandmother having something like this.
-I think she boiled clothes in it, didn't make beer.
First, malt is poured into the water
sourced from a well on the family farm.
And how important do you reckon it is to be using the local water?
I think it's a vital ingredient. It is water straight off the Preselis.
Now you can use my grandmother's spoon.
-A good old beer-stirring spoon.
'Next, a special something is needed to strain the hops.'
Get my sock...
-A sock, yeah.
My grandmother used to use an old stocking to put the hops in.
I use a sock.
'Bring back to the boil for 40 minutes.
'After it's cooled overnight, yeast is added,
'and in two weeks, it'll be ready to drink.'
-That is very nice, isn't it? It's a very thick taste.
-It's more, to me, like an ale than a beer.
-Yeah, it would be.
A very dark, strong ale.
-Happy Hen Galan.
-# Dydd i roddi, dydd i dderbyn
# Yw y trydydd dydd ar ddeg o'r flwyddyn
# Rhowch yn hael... #
Ah, how lovely, singing in the New Year! Just a few days late.
And now we've got to readjust our time machines, Ellie,
because we're leaving the Gwaun Valley in North Pembrokeshire,
and next week we're going to be in Worcestershire,
where Matt will be exploring the remains of one of England's
finest country homes that was destroyed by fire in 1937.
And Helen will be with a woodland nature detective,
seeking out bugs, slugs and shrews. Not easy to say. See you next time.
-And hwyl fawr. That's goodbye in Welsh.
-# Yw'r rhai hynny sydd yn cael. #
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Ellie Harrison and John Craven are in North Pembrokeshire, visiting the Gwaun Valley and Preseli Hills. Ellie delves into the distant past, discovering a landscape full of Iron Age treasures. John helps to give an ancient forest a new lease of life before sampling the local homebrew. Tom Heap is in the north of England, investigating claims that our uplands are in crisis and that farming is partly to blame. And Adam Henson is having a tough start to the new year on his farm, with some devastating news about one of his favourite animals.