Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury head to the Thames Valley. Matt takes to the water with an Olympian, and Julia goes in search of giant wood ants at Burnham Beeches.
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The Thames Valley.
On the doorstep of London but away from the madding crowd.
This picturesque countryside has at its heart
the river that bears its name.
I am at the spiritual home of rowing - Henley-on-Thames.
Now, this is one of our oldest and most traditional sports.
And, of course, Great Britain are pretty good at it too.
Now, people come here from far and wide to watch and take part
in the Boat Race, and this is where Olympic rowers cut their teeth.
And, as you can see, I'll be finding out just how they do it.
For centuries, wealthy and influential residents have
left a legacy of historic houses and palaces in the Thames Valley.
Like this one. Cliveden House.
This house was once the glittering hub of high society
and it gained even more notoriety in the 1960s when it played a pivotal
role in the political scandal that became known as the Profumo Affair.
This area was a honey pot for affluent Londoners trying
to escape the city. I'll be finding out why.
Tom is on the south-west coast looking at threats to our birdlife.
In the past, they have been covered in oil
and now thousands are being killed by a mysterious glue-like substance,
washed-up in Devon and here on the coast of Cornwall.
But is there an even greater challenge facing our seabirds?
I'll be investigating.
And there is never a dull day down on Adam's farm.
We have had a bit of a surprise on the farm. This is a Highland calf
and I've never seen one this colour before, so I've invited
an expert to the farm to let me know if it's as unusual as I think it is.
The Thames Valley.
A green and pleasant land running alongside our most historic river.
I'm in the pretty riverside town of Henley-on-Thames,
a place that is intrinsically linked to the river.
This is the spiritual home of rowing
and its roots can be traced back to the early 1800s when the first
University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge was held here.
Every summer, for one week,
Henley holds its world-famous Regatta, transforming this
tranquil part of the Thames
into one of our most-loved sporting events.
But what makes this place the cradle of rowing?
Well, to find out, I am taking to the water with a man who
knows this stretch more than most. Sir Matthew Pinsent, good morning.
Sir Matthew Pinsent is one of our most successful Olympians.
He has won four gold medals at successive Olympic Games,
along with 16 wins here at Henley Royal Regatta.
And most of his training was done on this stretch of water.
So, Matthew, this is a place that you know very, very well.
Yes, it's probably the bit of river I spent most of my life on.
This is the Regatta course.
The finish line is just here
and the start line is way, way down in the distance.
You can see what we call the Temple. That's the start down there.
And you'll see, just as we sweep around, one of the few places on
the whole of the stretch of the Thames where it runs straight
as far as the eye can see. Which is why the Regatta is here.
175 years ago, when the Regatta first started, to have an
almost dead-straight course on a natural river was a rarity.
It provided the perfect setting for racing and spectating
and it still does today.
People will come down with their boats
and moor up on the booms here.
So, just here, you will get a real atmosphere which, actually,
-even an Olympics won't match. Because...
Well, they're there. At an Olympics, the crowd is 100 metres away.
How does the competition kind of play out, then, over the week?
-Who is here?
-You will have some of the best rowers, men and women,
in the world come to the Regatta.
I remember coming here as a schoolboy. We sort of started a race
and the race ahead of us was the Olympic champions.
And you think, "Look at them.
"That is so-and-so." And, you know, that's magical.
People have been racing for the trophy that you want to win
at Henley for 175 years.
Even the Olympics doesn't have the history that this place does.
So it is very, very unique.
Preparations for the July Regatta are already underway.
Today it is a slick-run event but, as chairman Mike Sweeney knows,
that wasn't always the case.
In the early days, when it started,
the river was absolutely covered in boats - punts, gigs, any sort.
You could literally walk from one side to the other.
And at the start they fired a cannon.
And the theory was that everybody moved out of the way to allow
the racing crews to come through.
Well, it didn't always actually happen 100%, so occasionally
collisions between punts and racing boats was the order of the day.
-So, Mike, when was the first Henley Regatta?
It was ten years after the first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race
and it was that race that had given the townspeople the idea,
"Actually, this is good for the town.
"It brings business, it brings people."
It was one day, and the winners were First Trinity Cambridge.
And then the next year it got, what, more days and more days?
Yeah, it's now five days and has been for the last 30 years.
So, apart from offering young rowers like we have got here
the opportunity to row alongside Olympians,
what other support do your offer your rowers?
Well, in 1988, we started the Charitable Trust
and since then we have given away over £3 million to
junior development, youth development,
getting kids out in boats all over the country
-and it has been very, very successful.
'Later on, I'll be meeting some of the youngsters who could
'benefit from some of the Regatta's support.'
Whilst I'm making the most of our day here out on the Thames,
Tom has travelled to the beaches of south-west England to find out
why British seabirds are in decline.
The seas around the British coast - part larder, part nursery.
Vital to hundreds of thousands of seabirds flocking
to our coastline to breed and feed.
It's where these guys should be - out at sea, fattening up
for the breeding season, instead of being in here, in rehab, getting food
on a floating tray from me. Still, they are lucky to be alive.
Experts now fear that thousands of seabirds may have been killed
by a glue-like substance in the sea off the south coast of England.
-'Thousands may have been lost out at sea.
'Second time in three months.
'The majority died before they reached help.'
In February and again in April, thousands of seabirds were
caught up in an environmental disaster.
A mysterious glue-like substance had coated their feathers,
killing more than 4,000 and leaving hundreds just clinging to life.
We initially got the call to come down
and rescue a couple of guillemots.
'The RSPCA's Peter Ferris was one of the first on the scene.'
Roughly how many did you find on this actual beach?
-On this beach, around about 150-250 birds dead.
That was the ones I could see.
What was the actual stuff like?
It was like children's craft glue, PVA glue, the white glue.
-It was like that.
It was like, quite a few of them,
as if they had just had the pot of glue poured all over them.
'This sticky substance had coated their feathers, making
'the birds unable to fly or dive for food.
'It's hard to imagine just how bad it was until you see it for yourself.'
This is what they found. Unbelievably sticky. Look.
It almost sticks on my upturned hand.
It is gummed into all the feathers.
You can see how this wing is stuck to the flank of the bird.
This one...I can barely pull it off.
And at the time when these were washed up,
this gluey substance was a complete mystery.
'It didn't look like oil and there were no reports of spillages,
'so birds like this one
'were sent for analysis to the University of Plymouth.'
So this is what we scraped off of one of the birds.
So, it is quite an opaque white,
very sticky, viscous substance.
I can see it is a bit thicker at the bottom than it is at the top there.
-That's right, yes.
-A milky substance.
When you actually scraped it off, what was the texture of it like?
It was like taking old chewing gum off. It was really thick.
Really difficult to get a grasp of it and pull it off.
The substance was identified as polyisobutene - PIB for short.
It is used in everyday things like clingfilm and chewing gum
and in ships to make their engines run more efficiently.
This is PIB in its pure form and, as you can see, it is
quite syrupy, but it is clear and it is also not as thick
and gluey as the stuff they found on the birds.
So, what caused it to change?
Something pretty commonplace, especially in the sea.
The scientists found that by mixing PIB and seawater,
they were able to recreate the substance found on the birds.
-You can really see how thick and gloopy that is, can't you?
If you just spread it out, you can just see how it wants to
stick to everything it comes in contact with.
So, how did it get into the sea in the first place?
Well, the law says ships can dump PIB quite legally,
as long as they are 12 nautical miles from the shore,
and only then if they're just flushing out residue
from their tanks. But with two clean-up operations in a single year,
some are calling for tighter restrictions.
What do you suspect went wrong this time?
It's likely there were two incidents
and either ships have been washing out engine oil that has been
thickened with PIBs or they have been carrying PIBs
and they have washed out their tanks at sea.
A lot of people might be surprised that this is legal.
How did we get here?
Well, under the Marine Pollution Convention, the so-called
MARPOL Convention, a certain number of substances are banned.
PIBs have never been banned. They are shipped quite a lot.
I think it is time to reclassify them under the convention
so that ships cannot wash them...
wash out tanks at sea which have contained PIBs.
There is now an ongoing investigation
to discover where the PIB came from
and whether the rules were broken or there is a problem
with the rules themselves.
'Back at the RSPCA centre near Taunton
'the birds they saved are almost ready to be released.'
It is mesmerising looking at them.
That matt, silky, grey neck they've got.
So different from the oiled one I saw earlier.
Yeah, they look like a whole different bird now, don't they?
'As things stand, there is nothing to stop another ship flushing out
'more PIB into the sea, potentially causing another disaster.
'But, as I'll be finding out later, there is
'an even bigger threat to the future of our seabirds.'
The Thames Valley.
For hundreds of years, a place where the rich
and famous came to escape the hustle and bustle of London.
Dotted along the banks, you catch echoes of the luxurious past,
and I want to get a taste of it.
This is my destination. Cliveden House.
A place known for ostentatious wealth, fancy living and scandal.
I love it.
'Before I go inside, I am keen to get a sense of why this area'
was a magnet for the great and the not so good.
I am taking to the water with Dr Jeremy Burchardt
from Reading University.
The key thing was that it was close to London
but not TOO close to London.
So, back in the 17th century, it was very attractive to courtiers
like George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham, who built Cliveden.
They wanted to be near the court but have somewhere they could
retire to, I suppose, to get away from it sometimes.
But it moves on in the 18th century,
and you get a wider range of very wealthy people settling here.
So you get kind of rich lawyers, I suppose,
and then you get royalty as well.
It is a sort of changing picture
but always the wealthy and the powerful, I think.
Sometimes the sources of that wealth
were perhaps a little bit more questionable.
So, just up river you could reach Fawley Court
and that was built by William Freeman,
who was a slave trader.
It looks beautiful, idyllic, peaceful
and completely innocent, but the reality that
lies behind that is not always quite so innocent, I suppose.
The landscape gardeners of the day
really enjoyed this area as well, didn't they?
It was a challenge to relish.
It was a complete gift to them, I think.
And, I suppose, even in the 17th century,
the kind of huge views you could get from up here were important.
The crucial thing, I suppose, is this kind of high Buckinghamshire bank
of the Thames over here on our east, and that is unusual.
It's one of the very few stretches of the river which is like that.
And then it is kind of thickly clad with trees, as you can see.
Kind of gnarled and a variety of colours.
Variety was really crucial to the picturesque movement.
So it just had everything in terms of landscape ideals
at the end of the 18th century.
You have sold it. Shall we buy?
I'd love to, but I don't have the money.
Let's do it. Go on. Let's do it.
'No chance! You still need a hefty bank balance'
to enjoy THIS lifestyle.
For 150 years, Cliveden House has been THE place to aspire to,
set high above the Thames
among 370 acres of National Trust gardens.
There has been a grand house here since the 1600s, and no wonder.
Just look at the views.
The whole of Berkshire spread out beneath your feet,
the Thames gently meandering through the tree-lined countryside.
And over there - a shadow in the distance
but strategically very important - Windsor Castle.
The original house was built by the second Duke of Buckingham
He was a bit of a bounder.
He might have built this house, but that didn't stop him
laying his trowel elsewhere.
In 1668, he shot his mistress's husband,
the Count of Shrewsbury, in a duel.
The Countess's portrait is hanging downstairs.
Twice, the house was burnt down and the current mansion was
built in the 1850s.
In 1893, the richest man in America, William Waldorf Astor, paid
over 1 million for the house and estate.
He wanted to make his mark amongst the English gentry.
If he wasn't born into it, he'd buy his way into it.
Astor remodelled the gardens in grand style,
importing flamboyant features like the Fountain of Love
and the Borghese Balustrade.
Inside is pretty plush too. It is now a hotel.
I'm getting a "what the butler saw" tour with, you guessed it,
the butler, Michael Chaloner.
This was really, I suppose, the most important room for the Astors,
-It was. This is where they hosted all their parties.
And in the winter time, this was a real focal point to it.
A wonderful Medieval French fireplace,
bought by the Astors to decorate their home.
They imported everything, didn't they?
They wanted the best and the most opulent.
If they wanted it, they had it.
'Astor's son married American Nancy Langhorne.
'As Mrs Nancy Astor, she set out to woo English society with her
'good looks and witty conversation.'
They entertained everyone from Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw,
Gandhi, of all people. The Royal Family were regular visitors.
So, really, the guests they had had no limit.
This was quite a saucy place, wasn't it?
The parties were pretty swinging.
I'm not sure how involved she was in some of the worst or best
parties that we had here, but she really sort of took an active
part in making sure the house was always alive. Especially at weekends.
'Nancy eventually won over the British public too,
'becoming the first woman MP to take up a seat in Parliament.'
Well, this is the French Dining Room.
This is quite a dining room, isn't it?
Can you imagine the parties in here?
All the people that we have mentioned through the ages that have come here.
If these walls could talk, eh?
One of the key stories that has come out of that time was
when Winston Churchill was having dinner with Nancy Astor
and they really had a very, sort of, quite a tense relationship.
They got on very well but very badly at the same time.
Nancy Astor saying to him,
"Winston, if you were my husband, I would put poison in your coffee."
And he said, "Madam, if I was your husband, I'd drink it."
That is really sort of evocative of the tension they had between them.
Nobody could resist an invitation to Cliveden.
We already know that the world
and his very famous rich wife or mistress came here,
but there was one invitation that
would result in a scandal that rocked the Government.
And it all started here by the pool. Doesn't it always!
MUSIC: "Scandal" by Queen
# Scandal! #
It was here in 1961 that Secretary of State for War John Profumo
first set eyes on the 19-year-old Christine Keeler.
What followed was a three-month affair.
Keeler was a call girl who was also having a relationship with
a Soviet diplomat. Hmm, troublesome.
When the story hit the headlines two years later,
Profumo had to resign, his reputation in tatters.
Harold Macmillan's Conservative Government lost the next election.
With the help of some carefully staged photographs
in the Sunday papers, Christine Keeler became a household name
and Cliveden secured its place in history as the home of scandal.
Downstream, John is joining the horsy set as they uncover
some revealing facts about their faithful steeds.
There could be well over a million horses in the UK.
No-one knows the exact figure, and until recently there has been
no national project to keep check on their general health.
But the Blue Cross animal charity is changing that.
It has launched a one-week long, UK-wide annual survey to try to
paint a picture of just how fit or unfit the nation's horses really are.
Blue Cross came to prominence during the First World War,
caring for horses and working dogs injured on the battlefields.
The "blue" distinguished it from the Red Cross which, of course,
cared for wounded soldiers.
Today, it still has the health of horses at its very core.
This is the fifth equine survey it has carried out
and it is by far the biggest.
So, what do you already know about Britain's horses?
What we have found out is really important.
Three quarters of all horses have something wrong with them
and so we want to get a much bigger picture of that
and drill down into those figures
and find out what actually is affecting the horses in Britain.
That is a staggering fact, isn't it,
that three-quarters of all horses have something wrong?
What kind of things?
Well, the commonest things we have found
are about 15% have skin conditions, about 13% are lame.
So, that sort of information, if we can find out more about it,
will then help to inform vets and farriers and
pharmaceutical companies, really, and charities like the Blue Cross
about what advice they say should be giving to horse owners.
Students at the Berkshire College of Agriculture are carrying out
the horse survey as part of their course in equine health.
So, tell me, Sarah, what exactly are you having to do?
So, we will start on the head,
look at their teeth, make sure they're in good condition
then we will look at their nose.
So they have got a nice, clean nose, bright, shiny eyes,
nice and alert ears.
Then we will move down to look at their feet and their hooves,
make sure there is no lameness or anything.
-Well, this mare looks in perfect condition to me.
However, when we were grooming her, we found some lumps on her skin
that you can just feel up here, which aren't normal.
There are lumps all over her, aren't there?
So, what are you going to do about that?
We'll report it to a skin specialist and have them
come out and have a look at her.
-Hopefully it is not serious.
Though it's largely a countryside survey,
you have to head into the capital to discover why a great
British institution is taking part for the first time.
These are just some of the horses of the Household Cavalry, returning from
ceremonial duties to the regiment's barracks here in Central London.
At the moment, there are 240 horses here
and the regiment itself is the most senior in the British Army.
It has played a key role
in Britain's state and military heritage,
always on duty at great occasions
and one of the top tourist attractions of London.
The wellbeing of its fine horses is crucial
and Blue Cross is here to help with the survey.
Andy, your horse is getting the once-over now from the Blue Cross.
-What sort of a horse is he?
-He's a three-quarter Irish Draught.
The reason we get the Irish Draught horses is
because we need the right temperament for the horses
within London and also the size and the weight he has to carry.
He is carrying about four stone of equipment on him,
also possibly 16 or 17 stone of soldier as well.
-So he needs to be big and strong.
-That's right, John, yes, he does.
The last 12 months or so have been very busy, haven't they,
with, you know, the Jubilee, the Olympics and everything else?
That's right. Really busy.
So it's vital that all the horses here are fit all the time.
Fit, healthy and well looked after.
And they couldn't be in better hands.
Regimental vet Major Ann O'Flynn keeps a close eye on them.
-We have got a casualty here, then, Ann.
-Yes, this is Vainglory.
Unfortunately he slipped over this morning in rehearsals.
That's a nasty gash on his knee.
Yeah. I am just going to give it a quick cleanup.
Is this quite a common occurrence?
Well, this is pretty run-of-the-mill for us.
Horses that are going out in groups of anything from 10 to 200,
we see a few cuts, kicks, grazes, bumps and that sort of thing.
So, when will he be back on parade, then?
We are hoping back on the next parade we do.
And with so many horses here, your big worry must be
if some infection or disease gets in and sweeps through.
Yes, that's right, we've got a herd of 550 horses in the Army
so we have horses living in such close proximity to each other
and so many in one place that, yeah,
things that can spread from horse to horse are a key concern for us.
These aren't ordinary horses, are they? If anything happened,
it would, you know, be a long time before they could be replaced.
Yes, there is a training pipeline.
These horses will spend 18 months to two years in training,
so if we do lose one through injury or sickness,
we have got to look quite hard for a replacement.
'With the survey nearly complete, how has the regiment fared?'
-So, just about the last one now, Gemma.
-How has it gone?
-It has gone really well, yes.
-Are they fit?
They are in really tiptop condition.
'Good news for the Household Cavalry.
'And the full results of the national survey'
will be published later this year.
If you are a horse owner and want to take part next year,
details are on our website.
This 2km stretch of the Thames is one of the most enchanting
parts of the entire river.
At the beginning of July, this place will be heaving with people -
spectators watching all of the rowers lining up
for the Henley Royal Regatta.
But there is a lot of hard work that goes into making this
countryside look its best.
Caring for the course is as much about looking
after its banks as it is the channel itself.
I am heading to Temple Island
to catch up with arboriculturalist Jago Keen.
He is responsible for the maintenance of more
than 1,000 trees on this riverbank.
He is concerned that a disease called massaria might be here.
It is a fungus that has already infected
nearly 40% of the plane trees downstream in the City of London.
It just simply is being found in the branches,
and it's where the branch is attached to the trunk
and it decays through the wood and it makes them fall off.
So it is something we have to check for.
Especially somewhere like this, where we are going to have
spectators during the Henley Royal Regatta that comes up in July.
Right. And what does it look like?
-I can show you a sample that we took.
We took this one from a plane tree last year and we have treated it.
-So it's safe.
-It's safe. We have killed the disease.
Oh, right, yeah, you can see it.
As you can see, it produces this classic V-shaped decay.
-It's like a fungus, then, is it?
-It is a fungus, yes.
Now, the dead bark is found on the top of the branch
and that's why, to me,
the only real way of finding this disease
is to do what Lee is doing today,
and that is climbing the tree and looking from above.
He has got a lovely flow about him. He has got such a great way.
He's just wandering. He's just meandering around the tree up there.
Lee, what have you seen up there?
Well, I have had a good look round the whole crown
but no signs of massaria.
Good. Great news.
It is great news because we don't want it here.
Have you found any on your patch?
Fortunately we have found none at all over here in Henley.
But, of course, you know, we are not far,
we're in this Thames corridor, and that is connected to London,
so the Regatta wants to be one step ahead
because it wants to make sure
it has tree stock here for future generations.
That is why we are looking for it now, ahead of the game.
'It's not just our plane trees that are under threat.'
Earlier, we heard how thousands of seabirds had been
killed by a mysterious substance off the south-west coast.
But is there a bigger threat to our seabirds? Here's Tom.
For years, our seabirds have been going into decline.
Puffins on the east coast have taken a big hit of late.
Skuas and terns are now amongst our rarest seabirds
and kittiwakes in Scotland are on the verge of total collapse.
While pollution incidents like we've seen off the south-west coast have
an impact, they can't account for the scale of decline we are seeing.
In some parts of the UK, it is staggering.
Here in Scotland, the number of seabirds has declined by 53%
since the mid-'80s.
To find out what is behind these figures,
I have come to the Isle of May off Scotland's east coast, home to
puffins, shags, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes.
It is one of the key seabird monitoring sites in the UK.
Mark Newell is gathering important data about the island's birds.
What has been the story over recent years or possibly decades,
-if you can go back that far?
the population has been in a slow decline on the island.
Not as dramatic as some colonies,
but by looking at the return rate of the individuals we are
able to see on a yearly basis how they have fared over that winter.
It may sound a bit unscientific but
do you actually begin to recognise them?
Would you recognise one from year by year and say,
"Oh, I remember that couple from last year?"
-Yeah, you do link them to sight and, yeah, who was with who.
You come back every day and you sort of... It sticks in the mind.
Seeing if these adult birds come back year after year helps Mark
understand why kittiwake numbers here are falling
and nationally the picture is even worse.
Experts reckon we are on the verge of losing them altogether
and it is largely down to what they eat.
And where they eat it.
Kittiwakes spend more than half their lives at sea.
It is where they feed and catch the fish they need to feed their young,
so trouble at sea spells trouble for seabirds.
For years now, the favourite food of our seabirds has been disappearing.
It is thought a lack of sand eels is driving down bird numbers.
What we are seeing is that sand eels appear to have shown
some quite significant changes over that period,
and it seems to be driven by the availability of their own food
so their own food supply has got lower quality
and it is to do with the warming of the sea.
So, as the sea has got warmer over the last 30 or so years,
the food of these sand eels has changed
and is of lower quality, and that has knock-on effects for seabirds.
So worse food for sand eels - that means fewer sand eels for seabirds?
That is exactly right. Sand eels on average have got smaller,
and in some cases less abundant, and that is exactly right.
We see the knock-on effects both on the breeding success of the birds
and on the survival in winter.
And what do you think is making the seas warmer?
We think it's part of a much broader-scale change
that we are seeing across the North Atlantic, which is
that, driven by climate, we are seeing warming of whole regions
which is occurring, and this is particularly the case
in the North Sea. Just in the last 30 years, we have seen the average
temperature in winter increasing by almost a degree.
Winter temperatures are hugely important for the development
of sand eels and the long-term well-being of sand eels.
That's why we think their numbers
and quality have declined over that period.
So climate change may be wiping out our seabirds' staple diet
and it could also be affecting them in other ways.
This winter saw the death of thousands of puffins on a scale
not seen in decades.
So what has been the recent story of the puffins?
The puffin wrecks, as we call them, or seabird wrecks, are usually
associated with periods, prolonged periods of severe winds -
very cold, harsh winds -
which means the birds simply aren't able to feed out at sea,
and they can't get enough food to meet their nutritional needs.
And how bad has it been for the puffins?
This year, recent months have been REALLY bad for puffins.
Quite unheard of, really.
We ended up with almost 3,000 birds caught,
found dead along our coast, all the way up the east coast of the UK.
'It was hoped the creation of special Marine Protected Areas
'would at least provide some support for these vulnerable colonies,
'but seabirds were largely left out.'
We can't understand why the UK and Scottish Governments
won't create Marine Protected Areas for seabirds.
It's completely within their gift, and this is at a time
when seabirds are really under pressure.
The Government's own scientists say we have lost species
such as kittiwakes - two-thirds of them lost in 20 years.
They could do something today to help that decline stop.
Their line is that seabirds have already got protection.
There is European legislation which, frankly, hasn't been used.
There is still not one protected area for seabirds at sea,
for their feeding areas out at sea.
It's all very well protecting seabirds on land,
but if you don't protect the areas at sea
where they need to feed,
you're simply giving them a safe place to starve.
But despite the concerns of groups like the RSPB,
both governments insist that British seabirds ARE important to them
and that they are well protected.
It's really inspiring to see these colonies of seabirds
so close up, and it's tragic to think that climate change could be
turning the waters around Britain into a more hostile environment.
The odds seem stacked against our seabirds, and although views differ
on the best ways of protecting them, one thing is certain -
we can little afford more environmental disasters
like the ones we saw this spring.
There are many different breeds on Adam's Cotswolds farm,
and at last they are all benefiting from some much-needed sunshine.
As a farmer, Adam rarely has a dull day.
Today, a newcomer is causing a bit of a stir,
and Eric the bull is partly to blame.
My dad introduced Highland cattle to the farm around 30-odd years ago,
because he really loved this hardy Scottish breed.
And he's always drummed it into me
that good-quality breeding stock is essential.
So selecting the right cows to keep and breed from,
and having the right males.
It was a couple of years ago I went out and bought Eric here.
He's absolutely magnificent.
I went to the Oban Highland cattle sale in Scotland.
If you're after a quality Highland bull, this is the place to be.
There was plenty on offer
but there was one in particular that I took a liking to.
-Now, as soon as I walked in, he caught my eye.
-He caught your eye?
But with a full auction house and a budget of £1,500,
it was a nervous moment. I really wanted Eric.
'I was soon bidding well over my budget.'
Adam Henson, 2,400.
He's mine. A little bit more than I'd hoped to spend.
But I reckon he's the best bull here.
I paid about £1,000 more than I had in my budget for this bull.
I've only got five cows, so you can do the economics.
It doesn't really stack up.
But he's a really lovely fellow, and he's more than just a stock bull.
Although he has got some great calves -
we had two heifer calves
and two bull calves born last year that have turned out really nicely.
He's turned into a bit of a national treasure -
lots of people know about Eric now. And he's got a wonderful temperament.
It's so lovely to be able to walk up to a bull like this
and give him a scratch in the middle of a field,
and hopefully he'll pass on that temperament
to the youngsters that are coming into the herd,
the animals that I'll be breeding from in the future.
And I just absolutely adore him. He's superb, aren't you, old fella?
But even an old favourite like Eric can throw me a curve ball at times.
I got the biggest surprise I've had in a long time
when I saw his new calf.
Eric may be a redhead, but his son was pure silver.
When it comes to animal breeding, you sometimes get some strange results,
and there's a little calf over there that I'm not getting too close to
cos his mum is quite protective, that's come out this silver colour
which is very unusual. And he's a cracking calf.
He's a little bit bigger than his half-brothers and sisters,
even though he's younger, and he may be following after his father, Eric,
with that great stature. So he might grow into a good bull one day.
And I've got to name him now. This is where you come in.
Last year, you helped me name Eric's first crop of calves.
We had to use the letter M. We use a different letter for every year.
So all the calves born in 2012 in the Highlands began with M.
We came up with McGee, Maisie and Mavourna.
Now I'd like to name this little steely grey calf.
So it has to begin with N - the next letter in the alphabet.
And it could have maybe something to do with Scotland,
it has to be a boy's name.
So, if you've got any ideas, send them to us by e-mailing -
I've never seen a silver Highland, and neither has my dad.
So I've invited Robin Chilton to the farm.
'He's from the Highland Cattle Society
'and knows a lot about the breed.'
I'm hoping he might have some answers.
Robin, we met at the Oban sales when I bought Eric.
In fact, you encouraged me a little bit.
No, I tried to stop you spending so much money!
-What do you think to him now?
-He's turned out a very nice bull, yes.
He certainly adjusted to being down here. He's thriving down here.
He's making a bit of fuss about that Gloucester bull.
Yes, he's showing off a bit over there.
He standing about six inches taller than normal!
I know, they puff themselves up and really show their masculinity.
It's the silvery colour. Have you ever seen anything like that before?
I have, yes. There's a few of them about.
They start off silvery
and people immediately think they've got a silver calf.
But they tend to go a dark colour, almost a dunny colour.
And his mother is this sort of chocolaty colour.
She's a sort of dun-coloured cow.
So how can you tell what colour he'll turn out like, then?
Well, if we look around the nose, and here,
this little gentleman is still quite light around the nose.
So he's got every chance of staying a lighter-coloured dun.
Let's have a look at the tail head. The tip of the tail.
Now, that tail there is a little bit darker.
-You can see it against my hand there.
He's going to go a shade darker.
Do you think that's sought-after in the breed? It's quite unusual -
they're usually this red colour, aren't they?
I quite like duns, because of the beefiness
and their natural fleshing. Some people don't like them.
It's unusual, and they stay away from it a little bit.
I think when you are eating something,
you don't worry about the colour of it!
'While Robin is here I'd like some advice about McGee,
'one of Eric's calves from last year.
'I'm hoping he'll make a good stock bull like Eric one day.
'He's recently been halter-trained so he should behave
'while Robin takes a closer look.'
-Right. We'll hold him up there.
-Whoa, whoa, fella.
Yeah, he's walking a bit tight and his feet are well underneath him.
And here, he's a bit weak behind the shoulder.
-If I press my hand in like that.
-It ought to be very meaty and full.
We should be doing that, and it's there.
There's nothing behind the shoulder there.
He's a little bit better on the plates.
He's got a good spring of rib.
He's got a lot of daylight here, considering he's been in and fed.
-Not a lot of second thigh.
-Not enough meat around the back end?
-And I personally wouldn't keep him...
-..as a bull. Sorry.
No, no, I don't mind at all. I respect your honesty.
I think it is really important if you're going to breed bulls
-to sell on to other breeders, they have got to be up to scratch.
And if he hasn't got what it takes, there are a lot of other good
Highland bulls out there that will do a better job.
-All we're going to do is multiply the problems in him.
And that little dun or silvery bull that we looked at, he has potential?
Yes. He has a bit of potential, but as I said to you,
picking your wife when she's in nursery. Give it more time!
-Oh, steady. Bye-bye!
Next week, I'm shopping for some Hereford cattle
which is the start of a new venture.
Just a stone's throw from the River Thames, Burnham Beeches,
a woodland bought by the City of London in 1880 as a green lung -
a place for city folk to escape the grime and smoke.
This is a pretty ideal day for me - blue skies, sunshine,
wandering through a forest, surrounded by beautiful trees.
Some of these are more than 450 years old.
But it's not easy keeping these old girls alive, you know.
For hundreds of years, a combination of livestock grazing
and pollarding was used to keep them under control and safe.
Pollarding is basically coppicing or pruning,
but it's done at a high level to promote tree growth.
And it's done up there, because if it was done at a low level,
the animals would have easy access to all the lovely shoots.
If that's not done, the trees can get top-heavy and topple over,
just like this one. 100 years of neglect here has taken its toll.
But 20 years ago they brought back the cattle
and resumed pollarding to help save the trees for future generations.
I'm meeting head ranger, Martin Hartup.
And I'm going to meet him by the "invisible fence".
-"Which invisible fence?" I hear you say! THAT invisible fence. Hear it?
-So what is all this jiggery-pokery, then?
Well, what you carried over that invisible fence there was a collar,
and this collar is worn by our cows when they are grazing this area.
The fence itself is a cable that's buried under the ground,
only about four inches or so,
and it emits a radio signal which is picked up by the collar.
When the cows get close to that buried cable,
they hear that noise which we heard as you walked over it.
That tells them they're getting close to it.
They know that if they get any closer,
if they take another step, they'll get an electric shock.
You can see where we've used it in trial areas,
they have grazed it within about two metres of the line,
without any problems at all.
-The advantage, of course, is no fences for us to see.
Nobody knows it's there. It won't stop anybody walking anywhere.
You can't touch, like you would a normal electric fence,
and get a shock off it. It doesn't work like that at all.
Shall we go and meet the ladies?
Yes, they are this way, about 150 yards.
A team of volunteers are busy clearing the undergrowth
in a new area, ready for the main ground force team -
British White cows, Greta and Verity.
-Come on, girls.
-Come on, on you go. Good girl. That's it, on you go.
There you go, good girl.
A momentous moment for you, Martin.
Yes, the first time they've come in the summer for many years.
They're enjoying themselves, aren't they, Martin? Have a look at this.
Is that Verity or Greta who's messing around with the branch?
That is Greta.
This has been going on for centuries,
this combination of grazing and pollarding.
It's a very traditional way of managing pretty infertile soils.
You can get a crop off trees by pollarding,
and you can graze your animals underneath as well.
And pollarding beech trees has an unusual effect,
making them live a lot longer than they would naturally.
How long would they live for naturally?
-200 to 250 years.
-And by pollarding them?
-About 500, 450.
-You're more than doubling their lifespan?
It's not just the cows that need managing.
Some of the other creatures here do, too.
Apparently there are giant ants in this wood.
I'll believe THAT when I see it.
These are Formica rufa - wood ants to you and me -
and they're three times the size of normal garden ants.
They can be found at half a dozen locations in the UK,
but here they're in huge numbers.
Conservationist Dr Helen Reid has been keeping an eye on them
for more than 20 years.
OK, so we've got a big nest here at the base of this dead tree
and they're building their nests like this where there's bits of dead wood,
so they're building the nest over the dead wood
-and on the edge of a clearing.
-Just thousands and thousands...
How many ants do you think are here, Helen?
Well, it's been estimated
that the biggest nests might have a million ants in them,
but I think most of them are rather less than that,
probably up to half a million is more realistic.
Look, they're everywhere! They are just... You look down
and there isn't an inch of the ground that isn't moving.
-It's incredible, isn't it?
-Very efficient workers, aren't they?
They're spending a lot of time going up the trees,
a lot of time on the ground. So early in the year,
they're picking up nesting material to bring back to bolster the nests.
Then they start feeding on aphids
and honeydew from the aphids up in the trees.
They're taking a sugar solution, and one nest like this might
bring back 46kg of sugar in a season from the aphids.
Now, they have this incredible defence mechanism
which I've heard a bit about.
There's some sort of acid that they spit out.
That's right. What they do is they actually bite
-and then they squirt acid from the abdomen.
Each ant may only spray a tiny amount of acid,
but together they put up a formidable defence.
That acid spraying led to a discovery 350 years ago.
Scientist John Ray boiled up Formica rufa ants
to produce what became known as formic acid.
It's still produced, not from ants, but by chemical means,
and is used as an antibacterial agent in animal food.
We're going to try and experiment. To show the effects of the acid,
'we're using Spanish garden bluebells, like litmus paper.
'The acid should turn them pink.'
It's just starting to go on the tips,
you can see on the tips of the petals.
-Yes, they're getting angry.
-Little pink bits, little pink spots.
And I don't know whether you can see, but it's gone quite pinky up there.
-Yes, it's pink at the end!
-In comparison to that one.
The ants are such top predators, they're eating other insects
and even depriving birds of food.
The rangers are well aware they could one day overrun the woodland.
So, Helen, how are you going to manage them?
The management we're doing on the trees,
some of the things you've seen this morning,
is really favouring the wood ants, because they like
little sunny clearings around the trees and they like it when we leave
dead wood on the ground,
so there may be things we can do in our management
to try to encourage the ants in certain areas
-but discourage them in other areas.
-Look at my foot.
-You're having the full Burnham Beeches ant experience.
That's what it's like when you pick the wrong picnic spot.
-I'm so itchy now.
They're all over us. That's it. Now they're all over us.
They're efficient, they're industrious, they're hard-working -
everything I like in humans - but I don't want to take any home.
Here's the weather for the week ahead. Get off!
We're in the Thames Valley.
While Julia's been eye-to-eye with giant ants,
I've been in Henley-on-Thames
exploring the place that's produced some of our rowing greats.
Well, you can't come to Henley without having a race,
so I thought I would challenge Julia to one
with the help of some of the finest young rowers
here at Henley Rowing Club.
Now, as I'm making a bit of a habit of talking to multiple
Olympic gold medallists, I thought I'd meet up with another one.
Pete Reed. He's a double Olympic champion,
winning gold in the coxless fours in both Beijing and London.
He's also had a few wins here at Henley Royal Regatta.
-Nice to see you.
-Nice to see you too. You're fresh out of training.
I'm hoping you've heard about this race that I'm going to have
-Will you stick around and umpire?
-Yeah, I'd love to.
-Can you give me a few tips on technique?
Let's see what we can do.
-I recognise these.
-These are the machines that we know and love.
-Do you want to take a seat?
We use these almost every day, I'd say. If you strap your feet in...
Pick up the handle.
You need to push your legs down first,
so keeping your back straight and arms straight,
then your back swings through
and your arms bend up to your chest. Perfect.
But on the way back, your arms come straight, your body comes over
and then you start bending your legs.
In fact, what you re doing there is actually very good.
'So that's the basic technique pretty much sorted.
'Julia and I will be sculling - that's rowing with two oars -
'in a four-man boat. But first, Pete wants me
'to get the feel of being on the water in a single scull.
'I'm told that this is a lot tougher than it looks.'
-They're built for speed, they're not built for stability.
Incredibly wobbly. There's a lot to think about.
Remember, this is going to be harder than it will be in the quad later.
-When you race, it'll be a much more stable than this. Ready?
Let's push off.
-OK, both oars on the water.
-Hang on, hang on! So left over right?
-Left over right. Both oars on the water.
-How does that feel at the moment?
-It feels all right.
I can't look anywhere else.
Lift your hands up so the oars are on the water,
and maybe with one hand, your right hand now...
-Something happened. I don't know what.
-Was that a stroke?
No. That wasn't a stroke.
-So, flat on the right...
-'It's taking me a while,
'but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.'
Good. This is a crash course.
It took me probably two years to learn how to do this properly,
-and we've done it in about ten minutes.
At least that's something.
Henley Rowing Club is a centre of excellence
for Britain's young rowers.
I'm going to be joining one of their top boys' teams
and Julia will be with one of their best girls' teams.
Now all we need is my partner in crime.
-Here she comes.
-Hello, Baker boy.
-Better late than never.
You did know about this race?
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-Really, honestly, Julia, I've been out there.
-It's tricky. It's not as easy as you think.
It's going to be fine. When it comes to boating and our track record,
-I think I've beaten you every time.
-I'm feeling relaxed.
-Well, listen, all I'll say is good luck!
-You're going to need it.
-She's not even dressed for the part.
What Matt doesn't know is that I've got a cunning plan.
-Girls, hello, hello!
-How are we?
Now, I've been reliably informed that I've got a winning team here.
-Is that right?
-Henley Royal! That's pretty good.
So the tactic is, I can't basically get in the way. I can't row.
I've never rowed in a boat like this before,
so where's the safest place for me to sit out of the way
-and you do all the work?
-Do I need to keep time or anything?
-No, just shout at us.
I was made for this! Brilliant!
I understand you had a win.
Yeah, we had a national win that made us
-the fastest crew for our age group in the UK in the cox squad.
-So this is a good boat for me to be in, then?
Well, I'm going to jump in at the back.
You're going to set the pace
-and I'm going to try and follow it.
Hang on a sec. Just need to get my tea. There we go. Right.
-'I might have guessed. She's not rowing.
-Never said I would!
'It's a head-to-head race over 250 metres downstream.
'Henley Rowing Club marks the finish line. Pete Reed will umpire.
'I'll sit there with my tea.'
-Are you ready, boys?
Go, go, go! Jenny, Alice, Pippa, Molly!
That's it. Good start. Good strokes.
I can't keep up with this! I'm out of time already!
-Keep it going!
-The girls look strong. Oh, my goodness.
They're leaving the boys behind a little bit.
-Don't spill my tea!
-Oh, my goodness me. It's impossible to keep up!
-I can't actually work out when to put my blades in.
-Good strokes, good strokes!
-'Yes! I think I'm actually rowing in time.'
The boys are coming back. Oh, my goodness. Go on, Matt!
-It's going to be hard, but he's doing a great job.
-Well done, girls.
-Go on, Matt!
-Feel it! Keep going!
'And just when I thought I'd got it...'
-We're doing well! We're in the lead, keep going!
It's a lot harder than it looks, I promise.
We make it look easy on TV, and the girls are making it look easy here.
It's a clean race. It's easy for the umpire.
Just coming up to the finish line.
And wind down. Well done, girls!
Wind down, Matt, wind down, boys.
-That is absolutely unbelievable.
-Didn't even feel that!
-Half the time it was forwards and backwards.
-It looked great.
Well done. Well done to one and all.
Pete, I think I need to give you the Great Britain T-shirt back.
OK, I'll have that back.
Oh, Baker boy, commiserations. That was hard work, wasn't it?
-How are your arms?
-My arms are all right. Rock solid.
-But have you finished your tea, more to the point?
-I didn't spill a drop.
That's it from the Thames Valley.
We've definitely seen it at its very best.
Next week we're on the Humber,
and I'm going to be going on operations with the MoD.
There'll be another case of the girls beating the boys,
but this time in the race to being our future farmers.
Hope you can join us then.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury head to the Thames Valley, on the doorstep of London but far away from the madding crowd.
This picturesque countryside has at its heart the river that bears its name. Matt takes to the water with an Olympian to find out what makes Henley-on-Thames such a breeding ground for gold medal winning rowers.
Meanwhile, Julia is at Burnham Beeches on the hunt for giant wood ants with an unusual defence mechanism which led to the discovery of formic acid. John Craven visits the Household Cavalry as they take part in an equine health survey launched by the charity Blue Cross.
Elsewhere, Tom Heap is on the south west coast to find out why our seabirds are in decline; and down on the farm, Adam's Highland bull Eric is causing a bit of a stir.