Countryfile is in Hertfordshire, where Charlotte Smith meets the man who's made it his sole mission to save the barbel in the Old River Lea.
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We're only a few miles from the
hustle and bustle of the city,
so Hertfordshire is where people
come to escape it all.
I'll be discovering
how the patient pastime
has uncovered some fishy issues.
Off you go.
Sean's been helping
build a home fit for a king.
I feel like a bricklayer.
That's right, yes,
this is natural bricklaying.
Tom finds out the latest
on the controversial badger cull
and meets a cattle farmer
who thinks it's working.
You can finally see light at the
end of the tunnel?
More than light.
You know, it's utter
relief from where we've been.
And Adam's visiting an estate where
farming and nature go hand-in-hand.
My word, what a landscape.
It's different, isn't it?
It's not what you see on most farms.
From pretty villages
to ancient woodland,
canals and fertile farmland,
Hertfordshire's a home county
steeped in history.
The old River Lea marks the border
between Hertfordshire and
Essex - and Kings Weir Fishery
is known nationwide
for its big catch fishing.
Good-sized chub, bream and pike
can all be hooked here,
but it's the powerful barbel
which are most sought-after.
In recent times, they've been landed
at weights exceeding
a whopping 16lbs.
But there's a problem.
Anglers are catching fewer
and that suggests that something
fishy is going on.
This unusual-looking fish
is native to the old River Lea.
Its gravel bed makes it the ideal
but barbel numbers have dropped,
and anglers believe less
water in the river
has made it difficult
for the fish to reproduce.
is fanatical about barbel.
His home is
the weir-keeper's cottage
next to the river,
where his family have lived
and worked for more than 40 years.
Andy, I thought
I might find you down here!
What's so great about a barbel
for a fisherman?
Until you play one,
you ain't going to know!
I tell you, it's that feel,
as soon as that reel screams off
and you hit that fish, that's taking
the line, stripping it
all the way down, and then, when
you've got that fish in the net,
it's a moment, especially
when you know it's a big one.
Puts a smile on your face and it
makes older people feel young again.
How do I get one?
So the barbel here,
they're not like other barbel?
No, they are slightly different
to other barbels,
where you'll go to the River Trent
and they're very long fish.
With these fish,
they're very short and very stumpy,
but very, very muscular.
That's the good thing about 'em,
that's why we want to keep the
Lea strain of barbel going,
because they are a completely
different strain of fish.
What is the problem with it here?
Unfortunately, the silt is
building up along the river,
so where you look at it
and it looks like gravel,
it's three to four inches deep,
so what's happening is the barbel
can't spawn in the gravel,
which is then causing an issue with
the natural reproduction of them.
That's why we're not getting
the small fish, but we're
getting the really big fish.
Andy has made it his mission
to help protect barbel fishing
on the old River Lea,
and teaming up with fellow anglers
and conservation organisations
formed the Barbel Action Group.
But that's not all.
Raising money through
he's gone one step further,
building a giant fish tank
in his back garden
to hand-rear the fish
until they're strong enough
to survive in the river.
This is not a tank, Andy.
This is a swimming pool.
I don't want to do things
by half, do I now? So...
How is this going to work? You've
got how many in here, roughly?
There's roughly about 120
in here at the moment.
And where have you got them from?
I bought them from a fish farm.
So what have you got in the net?
This is one of the bigger ones.
So how old would that be, then?
That probably would be
three to four years old.
Wow, look at the muscles
But surely that's big enough
now to go back...
A little bit more I want to go,
just a tiny little bit more,
just gives them that better ability
to get away from any apex predators.
This is very much
stage one though, isn't it?
Because if the river isn't working
properly, this won't work either.
Obviously we've got to get
the habitat right for them to spawn.
If they are not spawning,
what's the point of this?
This takes a lot of time
and a lot of effort.
Why's it so important to you?
I want there to be fishing
in years to come, when I've gone.
Andy's determination to protect
the barbel is inspiring,
but even he admits restocking
isn't the long-term solution.
Later on, I'll be getting into the
river to see the fish up close
and find out what plans are afoot
to protect the baby barbel.
Now, over the years here
on Countryfile, we've heard
a lot about the badger cull.
Some argue that it's a vital
part of controlling TB in cattle,
others that it's a cruel
and costly waste of time.
So what does
the latest science tell us?
Tom's been finding out.
Within our countryside, there
are few issues more controversial
than the badger cull.
Save our badgers!
Stop the badger cull!
it's been government policy
to kill these animals in an effort
to curb the spread of bovine
tuberculosis from badgers to cattle.
These large-scale culls
in parts of the country
most at risk of the disease.
Emotions on both sides run high.
But despite the backlash,
the cull continues.
In fact, four years on,
it's actually expanding,
from an initial two cull zones
in 2013 to 21 today.
So the million-dollar question,
is it actually working?
One person who thinks
it is is James Griffiths,
a dairy farmer inside the
Gloucestershire cull zone.
In 2003, we failed a herd test,
a whole herd test.
We then had 47 consecutive tests...
..and we failed every one...which
was pretty grim.
And how many cattle do you think
you lost in that time?
But then, two-and-a-half
years into the badger cull,
James had a breakthrough.
We had one clear test.
We needed two to actually get
out of movement restriction
and we got two,
and then we had a third one!
With the help of the badger cull,
we've broken the cycle of disease.
The first time there was
daylight in the job.
We thought we could get out.
So, after years of battling
TB, James' herd
was finally in the clear.
But as is
so often the case with this disease,
it's recently reared its head again.
After that clear patch,
you had another herd break down,
TB's back in the herd,
so it doesn't seem to be
a complete solution.
That's a good question
and a rubbish question.
I'll tell you why it's a good
question - it's because I don't know
why exactly we had another small
We only had three animals go, mind
you, in 2,000 animals we're testing.
It's also a rubbish question
because it infers that it's cattle
movements that does it,
or it's badgers.
It's... Both factors are really
important in this
and we have to get on top of both.
And so, for you and your cattle
farming colleagues around here,
you can finally see
light at the end of the tunnel?
Oh, more than light.
More than light, Tom.
You know, it's utter
relief from where we've been.
Everyone wants to see the disease
eliminated from our countryside,
but James' story alone is not proof
that the cull is the answer.
What's needed is hard scientific
data and that's hard to gather
because rather than happening
in a controlled environment,
the culls are going on in the real
and each cull area is different.
Some are wooded,
some are open hillsides,
and each has different sizes
of herds and numbers of badgers.
It's what makes our countryside
but for scientists trying to produce
accurate results, it's a nightmare.
So far, the best we've got
are these two reports,
both published by the government
earlier this year.
They use different methods and
they come up with different results,
and they make for some pretty tough
So, to get the key messages,
I'm going to need some help.
I'm headed to Cambridgeshire to meet
Professor James Wood,
an expert in animal diseases
and a scientific advisor to DEFRA.
He believes that one of these
reports is much more thorough,
the Brundtland Report.
One is a very careful,
detailed statistical analysis of two
years' worth of culling data,
particularly from Somerset
and the other is a more descriptive
analysis of just the raw numbers
that have come from those two areas
over a three-year period.
And you particularly like this
first one, which is
called the Brundtland Report,
and with the help of this map,
that just happens to be here in the
field, you're going to show me
how it works. So, how did the
Brundtland Report work?
So the Brundtland Report took
the area of where the cull zone
was, which is around 100km squared
where culling was conducted,
I mark that in red there...
And then compared up to ten
areas of the same sort of size,
where there has been no culling,
to make a valid comparison.
The results from the
Brundtland Report show that,
in Gloucestershire's cull zone,
there were 58% fewer new
cases of bovine TB, compared to the
ten other similar areas during
the first two years of the cull.
And 21% fewer new cases of TB
in the Somerset cull zone.
I know these are early days
and that includes they're not
certainties, but what is this data
suggesting to you?
Well, I think what the
data shows is that badger
culling does have an
impact on the disease rates in
which is what it was
intended to do in the first place.
And overall, how important do you
think that finding is?
Well, to an extent, it's a
of the policy to cull badgers.
Are you now fairly sure that badger
culling as part of that
I mean, I think that's a simple
conclusion and I'd be slightly
more bullish than the Brundtland's
scientific report, but not much.
And if it works, but at the cost
of thousands of badger deaths
and millions of pounds,
is that a price worth paying?
That's an individual judgment.
I don't think that's for science
to take a view on that.
It's for science, people like me,
to say this is useful
or it's not useful.
Then I think it's down to society
and politicians to say this is
right or this is wrong.
So, there you have it.
It's early days, but according to
James, at least one report contains
evidence that the badger cull can
work to cut rates of TB in cattle.
In this controversial issue,
even the suggestion from a senior
respected scientist that the
cull appears to be working
is a seismic shift.
But even if it does prove to be
part of the solution,
not everybody agrees it's
the right approach.
I'll be talking to them later.
A bird-watcher's paradise.
A sudden flash of blue.
a majestic little bird,
with an unmistakable bright plumage.
It could certainly teach us
a thing or two about fishing.
To catch a fleeting glimpse of one
of these elusive creatures
is truly magical.
The big question is -
will I get the chance today?
Here in Hertfordshire,
a team from the Wildlife Trust is
looking for novel ways to attract
more kingfishers to the area.
Louise Sleeman is the people
and wildlife officer for this site.
Louise, lovely to meet you.
And what a lovely spot you've
brought me to. Tell me about it.
So, we're at Stocker's Lake Nature
Reserve in Rickmansworth
and it's an old gravel pit. It was
excavated around 100 years ago
and this has left us
with the small islands
that we've got in the middle,
and these provide a fantastic
habitat for the wildfowl
that we have living here.
So a rich,
wide birdlife community here,
but it's the kingfisher you're
really focusing on, isn't it?
So within the Colne Valley,
there are some suitable
areas for kingfishers to naturally
create their nests within the banks,
but it is quite
difficult for them to find
the conditions that they need,
as they are quite specific in that.
So we're constructing
an artificial kingfisher bank
in order to help the kingfishers
that are here
and attract some new ones
to the area, hopefully.
We actually have a kingfisher hide,
which is really good for
spotting them, round the corner, so
do you want to come and have a look?
Yeah, I'd love to. Where do we go?
Well, this is a great little spot,
Am I likely to see
a kingfisher from here?
We definitely do have kingfishers
here and, in the last few days,
there have been a few
sightings as well,
so we've quite a good
chance of seeing one.
An area like this is ideal, so
we've got shallower areas, we've got
overhanging branches on the edges,
which they'll perch
onto to fish from.
So when they actually go fishing,
they'll bring the fish back up
and they'll strike them
against the perch to make sure that
or that they've died,
so that they can then get them
down their throat.
Clearly, you're really passionate
about kingfishers. Why is that?
They're just really
impressive birds. You can just...
Just seeing their iridescent blue
and orange colourings and their
long bills, they just look brilliant
and I just love their character.
I could sit here all day
and wait for one to appear.
Soon, she may not have to.
Using traditional methods,
the team are constructing a
permanent home for the kingfishers.
The site's reserve officer
is Rob Hopkins.
He's been tasked with building it.
Rob, you look busy. Can I help?
Oh, hello, Sean.
Yes, I am busy, actually.
You can give me some help.
What do you need me to do?
If I give you this...
Are we going out on the water?
They didn't tell me that.
Yes, we've got our kingfisher
bank on the island over here.
So, this is going to be quite
moving this load over
there on a boat.
Yeah, we've got
lots of loads to go as well.
It's quite a task, isn't it?
perfectly timed to give us a hand.
OK. Fits like a glove.
Off we go.
Let's get to work.
So, we're a little bit bottom down
because we've got a bit more
weight at the back.
Are you OK there?
I think I probably had too much
lunch, didn't I?
I think that's...
Generous lunch, that's right.
And perfect timing, we've arrived.
Rob, it looks fantastic,
but why on earth did you build it on
Aren't you making it
difficult for yourself?
Well, an island's great because it
means that we don't have the
worries with predators that we'd
have on the mainland,
so foxes and badgers and weasels,
things that might dig
the kingfishers out of their burrow.
Got a great aspect here, it's open,
birds can fly in easily.
There's lots of perches on the way
and they've got terrific fishing
right in front of them.
The construction looks quite
Talk me through the design here.
So we've lifted it up on gravel,
then we've actually used
these straw bales,
which are the sort of structure
of the building.
We've got our tunnel and our chamber
which is where the
kingfisher's going to live.
And then we've got the external
structure, which is the cob.
What do you mean, cob?
Is that this material here?
Cob is the material we're using,
which is the straw and clay and sand
and a little bit of water to make
these lovely soft, pliable bricks.
Can you see it? Plonk it on.
And use the top hand to hold it
and the hand from the side
to push it in,
so it's moulding in with
the layer below.
You're a bit like a bricklayer
That's right, yes. This is natural
So, put that in.
The kingfishers nest in vertical
sandy banks on rivers,
so this is sort of simulating
a nice, steep river bank.
Hopefully by the spring,
or late winter,
they should start moving in
and showing some interest.
Many hands make light work
and the kingfisher bank is
shaping up nicely.
So it seems these vibrant little
birds will soon have a place
fit for a king.
Well, certainly a kingfisher.
Now, a while ago,
John was in Gloucestershire,
getting in touch with
the changing season.
Building an outdoor fire has always
had a special magic for me.
It brings back memories of my days
in the Scouts long ago.
After a day of adventures,
sitting around a campfire to enjoy
a meal together, well,
that was the perfect end to a day.
Not for many years have
I built a fire and cooked on it.
Today is the day. Will it live up
to those childhood memories?
Tom Herbert has made
it his mission to turn the humble
campfire into an outdoor oven.
But he's no ordinary
man of the woods.
He's a fifth generation baker
and one half of
TV's Fabulous Baker Brothers.
Hey, John. How you doing?
Good to see you.
Welcome to the
Thank you very much.
Look, I brought you some kindling,
but the fire's going very
We could do with more. That will
come in useful. Thank you very much.
I suppose this time of year is
ideal for a campfire,
as long as it's not raining
Because you've got this wonderful
array of autumn food.
So, we've got some gourds
and some beetroot that we can do.
And then I've got some nice steak,
so we can do that dirty,
on the embers. We're going to bake
some bread under the embers.
And you'll be able to do all
that on this one small campfire.
Yep. Well, we'll let it burn down
and, if we need more wood,
there's plenty around. Yeah.
Tom's been doing this
since he was a child,
setting out on adventures
in the great outdoors.
Now, he's pulled his knowledge
together in a book
about wild baking.
But the most important part of the
whole experience is making the
perfect fire and Tom has a clever
technique for keeping it glowing.
So, you just make your fingers into
a little diamond, like that.
Yeah, yeah. And you just
put it to your lips and blow, yeah.
Doesn't it? It really works!
My kids, they use it to blow each
birthday candles out with, so...
Of course, Tom has sought
permission from the landowner
to make his fire here.
And when we're done,
it's vital that we leave no trace,
just like any good Scout.
Slowly, our fire goes from
flickering flames to glowing embers.
We've got a really good bed
of embers now.
Ready to bake.
Are you up for helping with this?
By holding that...
Given Tom's baking heritage,
it's not surprising that soda bread
is our first recipe.
Along with what you'd expect,
that's flour, baking powder,
salt and oil,
Tom also uses a special ingredient.
And then, finally to bring it all
together, a bottle of beer.
Wow, yeah. I've never seen beer
used in this way before.
Because this is a fast,
instant dough, there's no kneading,
the beer just gives it more flavour.
Really nice, OK.
Does that look OK?
That's pretty much done.
Yeah, great, thank you.
Into the burning embers.
Yeah, straight into the burning
embers, thank you.
So, what, scoop it round like that?
Yeah, and just drop on top.
Just drop it in, like that?
That was easy.
And how long will that take, do you
reckon, to be baked?
Oh, 20 minutes?
Yeah, not very long at all.
Tom's brought a harvest
festival of goodies.
It's nice having an assistant.
Well, all great chefs have
assistants behind the scenes,
making things look really good?
Some of them are chopped,
some of them stay whole,
straight on to the hot embers.
This is the exact
opposite of fast food.
It's all about taking the time
to enjoy the process.
A real slow burner,
without the need for pots and pans.
And what about the bread?
How's that doing?
That's probably pretty much ready.
So, you see, most of the ash pretty
much all falls off.
The moment of truth.
That looks pretty good to me.
Have a sniff of that.
That is the most wonderful
thing about a bakery, isn't it?
I love it, I love it.
So, how about, shall we try
some of this with a bit of butter?
Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful,
And I can taste the beer.
You really can, yeah.
The vegetable medley has been well
fired, ready for our woodland feast.
The smoke and flames
have worked their magic,
and now we have a mouthwatering
But it's not all for us.
Tom's family have come to join in
our campfire gathering.
Hey there, Milo. Hungry?
Well, it's nearly ready,
our little feast, yes!
So, what's it like, then, eating
out in the woods with your dad?
The food tastes nice.
He's a good cook, do you reckon?
99% of the time.
I'll take it.
Well, that's not a bad average.
I'll tell you what,
I was thinking about 80.
And before we can start, there's
one last thing to go on the fire.
On go the steaks.
I can't think that there's a better
way to do steak, to be honest.
A nice bit of rump
directly on the embers,
so it kind of sears instantly
with that heat.
Watch the burning. How many out
of 10 do you give dad for this?
20 out of 10.
Well, I'll tell you what, John,
this is much better than my old
campfires in the Scouts.
Not only does this kind of wild
cooking fill your tummy,
it nourishes your soul as well,
It really does.
Earlier, we heard new evidence that
the badger cull might be working
in the fight against TB in cattle,
but not everyone's convinced.
The British countryside.
Beautiful, bountiful, and sometimes
Free the badgers.
ALL: Stop the cull!
For years, the culling of badgers to
curb the spread of bovine
TB in cattle has attracted support
and outrage in equal measure.
But whatever you think of it,
the badger cull's been government
policy in some high risk
areas for four years.
That might seem like a long time,
but, when it comes to scientific
it's a mere blink of an eye.
However, as we found out earlier,
some scientists believe emerging
data from the Government's
Brundtland Report suggests
it could be working.
But even if the cull did
help reduce TB,
is it worth the cost to our
wildlife and our pockets?
To help answer that question,
I'm heading to one of the few
havens for badgers within
the Gloucestershire cull zone.
And so, you said we are
on the front line here
and there is a sett literally
just up here.
There is, yes,
and it's a very active sett
and the badgers have been vaccinated
here for a number of years,
and on the other side of the fence
there there's cull
contractors killing badgers under
Dominic Dyer from the Badger Trust
has fought against the cull
since the beginning.
So, what do you make of the findings
of the Brundtland Report in
Well, I think we have got to be
very, very cautious.
You know, you've had fluctuations in
TB levels in cattle,
in and out of the cull zones,
for a number of years.
Trying to draw a parallel between
those figures and what's actually
happening with badger culling, I
think, is a dangerous thing to do.
But a 58% reduction in the cull
zone in Gloucestershire,
as compared to other comparable
that seems worth talking about.
It's too early to do that.
The Government said they wouldn't
really have any idea of the trends
emerging from the culls until 2018,
until they had four years of data.
We don't have that at the moment.
So, any of this modelling
data that individual
academics are involved with,
that are being put out
there by politicians at the moment,
I think is potentially misleading,
and it's not good because it's
basically telling farmers
that this might be a solution, when
actually the science
tell us that at the moment.
So, Dominic's not convinced by the
emerging data, but his objections
to the cull go far beyond the
results of the Brundtland Report.
If the culling did actually help,
is culling badgers justified to
control TB in cattle?
Killing tens of thousands of badgers
by a cruel method, spending
tens of millions of pounds of public
money for a small
reduction in TB overall is not
something that we feel is
justifiable as a wildlife
We can't have wildlife-free zones
around our farms.
We've got to find better
for dealing with disease in cattle.
Whether or not you agree
he's got a point about spending.
According to Defra,
the cull has cost taxpayers more
than £23 million so far.
Others put that figure even higher.
For Dominic, a cheaper
and more humane solution is to
Badger vaccination can reduce
the spread of the disease
significantly in animals that don't
have it, and in newborn cubs,
and it brings farmers and landowners
together in a spirit of cooperation
and mutual confidence that we
really need after all this problem
we've had with culling.
So the Badger Trust is unwavering
in the face of this new research,
and yet it does appear that
something IS causing
rates of TB within cull zones
but it may not be
entirely down to the cull.
The Government have said from the
beginning that what's needed
is a combination of tools and one
of the crucial ones is improving
bio-security on farms.
Sarah Tomlinson is from the newly
launched TB Advisory Service.
She gives bespoke advice to
farmers on how to keep wild animals
away from their livestock.
I'm joining her on a visit to
Derbyshire farmer Anthony Smith.
OK, so, Anthony, you've done
a really great job because these
are sheeted gates, and I presume you
shut them and lock them at night.
Can we just shut the door?
For one moment.
Now, research has shown that badgers
can get through anything that is
7.5cm or more,
which is about the width of my hand.
And, actually, you can see my hand
is going in quite easily,
which means a badger will fit
So a simple solution is to run
some rubber strips.
You wouldn't have thought they could
get through such a tight space.
But it's a really simple
thing to do.
So that's one area for improvement
already and, just outside
the gates of the farm, Sarah has
spotted another cause for concern.
So it's important to know what
badger activity you've
got on your farm, and we've come
out of the yard and we can
see here there's quite clear
evidence of badgers rooting.
What would be really interesting is
if you maybe invested in a wildlife
camera to see if these badgers
that are on the edge of the yard are
coming into the yard.
Anthony, are you happy to adapt
around the badgers that are near
We have to.
I mean, I've been farming here seven
years. I've never had TB -
my neighbours have. I have always
took sensible precautions.
You do your best.
And what would it
mean to you if you did get TB?
Well, it would be absolutely
It would be financial ruin, really,
for the farm.
At the moment,
this kind of advice is only
available in areas of higher risk,
but the plan is to do about 2,500
visits like this to
farms across the country over
the next three years.
The Government has pledged
£1 million to help that happen.
The policy to tackle TB is a very
Do you think this is a place where
people can come together?
Definitely, because we're talking
about measures that anybody
can do and, actually,
in this area of Derbyshire,
we don't have the option at the
moment of culling.
So this is the only option -
looking at badgers and stopping them
coming into their yards.
So, with more farmers recognising
how important it is to protect their
farms against badgers, maybe this,
too, is starting to have an impact.
Even if further research does back
up the suggestion that the cull
might be working,
it's very far from the whole answer.
But when combined with badger
better cattle testing and improved
bio-security, there is now
some hope that we might be getting
on top of this terrible disease.
A stone's throw from north London,
Hertfordshire is a commuters' dream.
The county's countryside
and many waterways remain a haven
for city slickers seeking solace.
I was hearing that baby barbel
here on the River Lea
are in trouble, but there are plenty
of big barbel and other fish in the
river, so I have dug out my lures
and spooled my reel,
and I'm off to bag a barbel.
Kings Weir Fishery
on the Old River Lea is
known across the land
for its amazing angling,
and Phil Buckingham,
a local fisherman, has been
coming back here for more
than 50 years.
When you were a kid, what did you
catch? What was the main thing?
We came here,
even as young teenagers,
to catch the barbel,
because it was so prolific that you
could literally put a worm out
and you would catch
a barbel of some sort.
Where did you grow up?
Where did you used to come from?
I grew up in north London,
around the sort of Tottenham border,
so we would catch the train with all
our gear early on a Sunday morning
and find it packed with anglers
coming up the Lea Valley
to go fishing.
But what we started doing,
to beat the adults here,
we would get the last
train on a Saturday night
and walk along the canal, wait till
all the lights had gone off
and creep through the garden and
sit in the spots we wanted to fish,
ready for when it got light.
So, as dawn broke,
you were a horrible surprise?
We were already there. Yes.
I can remember quite often
waking up to a frost.
I mean, that is
proper dedication to fishing.
I'm not the most patient of people.
I can't quite see the allure.
It's just getting away from it all.
I mean, I worked in the city for
40 years, in a high-pressure job,
and I couldn't wait to get out
fishing at the weekend,
just to switch my mind off, really,
and do something else.
And it's very therapeutic if you've
got that kind of stressful job,
or just a stressful life.
I'm keeping a slight
eye on the rods here.
There's not a lot going on.
It takes a while sometimes.
If you'd been here earlier, the pike
were chasing everything in sight,
but, quite typically,
But this is the fisherman's tale!
"You should have been here
"The one that got away
was THIS big."
This is what it's all about.
It is, yeah.
That's what keeps you coming back.
You've got a bite there.
I should grab that
if I were you.
Do you need the net, do you think?
Yeah. You get ready...
Oh, my Lord, it's quite heavy.
Oh, that's an interesting fish.
It is the catch of the day,
a Countryfile calendar.
If you would like to reel
one of these in,
then here's John with
all the details.
It costs £9.50,
including UK delivery.
You can go to our website, where you
will find a link to the order page,
or you can phone the order line...
If you'd prefer to order by post,
then send your name,
address and a cheque to...
A minimum of £4.50 from the sale
of each calendar will be donated
to BBC Children in Need.
We're hearing more
and more about re-wilding.
It's often at odds with farming,
but is there harmony to be had?
Adam's visiting an estate
in West Sussex to find out.
Many farms across the UK manage
specific areas of their farm
for the environment
and we do our bit at home.
We have wildlife margins around the
outside of our arable fields,
providing food and habitat for bees
and butterflies, small mammals and
birds, and those sorts of things,
but here on the Knepp Estate,
they've been far more ambitious.
They've put the whole farm aside
to wildlife and conservation,
all 3,500 acres of it.
The Burrell family have farmed Knepp
for more than 200 years.
Back in 2000,
Charlie Burrell decided to get
out of conventional farming and take
the estate in a whole new direction.
Good to see you.
My word, what a landscape.
It's different, isn't it?
It's not what you see on most farms.
What were you growing out here
before all this started?
This was winter wheat in 2004,
so that was the last cropping
year of this particular field.
So, you were a normal,
proper farmer before?
17 years of conventional farming.
Where did it all go wrong?
Why did you change to this?
It hasn't gone wrong, actually.
The easy answer to that is that
I have a love of nature,
but I also was having problems
trying to run
the commercial farm on this land.
And are you still producing food?
So, about 120,000lb worth of meat,
which is organic, pasture fed.
I'm getting rained on by acorns.
I know, pig food.
But at this time of year,
the pigs put on maybe two or three
inches of fat, just from the acorns.
Goodness me. And because you are
close to a big population,
you use it as a bit of a safari,
I understand, as well.
Well, we've got this other business,
which has been hugely exciting,
so we've now got five
ecologists taking people
out on safaris into this landscape.
I'm keen to explore the site more,
so I'm off on one of those safaris
he's mentioned with
the farm's ecologist Penny Green,
and Charlie's wife, Isabella Tree,
and I've been promised
a seasonal spectacle.
Issy, this is a brilliant vehicle,
It's a Pinzgauer.
It's an Austrian troop carrier,
so this is what
we do our safaris in.
It's very robust and it's a very
good vehicle to put out on safari
on this really heavy land
that we've got.
That's one of the reasons we gave up
farming, was this really heavy soil.
What sort of people are coming
on the safaris to see these things?
So, we get all
sorts of different people.
It's a really delightful
thing to be doing
because people seem to love it,
and we have people from cities who
really aren't that familiar
with nature, who want to just see
and learn stuff,
and we have people who really
know their birds
and they come just to see them.
And what about this time of year?
What are you looking for?
So, this is towards the end of our
season. This is the big finale.
This is when we have our deer rut
safaris, so we should,
if we're lucky, see red deer stags,
so they'll be sort of
strutting their stuff,
doing their big roaring thing,
getting aggressive for the season.
Red deer numbers on the estate have
been steadily increasing.
That doesn't make them
any easier to find,
but thanks to Penny's expertise,
we've located a good-sized herd,
where the rut is in full swing.
It is absolutely brilliant, isn't
it, seeing these red deer like this?
I mean, Penny, you're the ecologist
here. What a sight.
I know. It's amazing to see
this in Sussex, isn't it?
We seem to associate red deer with
highlands and moorlands,
but, actually, they would have been
much more of a river valley species,
we think, and here at Knepp,
when we do spot the red deer,
they are normally in or
around the water.
It really is quite remarkable
this is all going on
so close to London.
You must be
so proud of what you have achieved.
I think that's been the most
surprising thing about it,
actually, is that something
so close to London,
underneath the Gatwick
surrounded by conurbation...
If this kind of wildlife can come
it can really come back anywhere.
It does seem that lots of things
have just turned up.
It's not like you have
It's taken a few years to get to
this point, but every year
the numbers of turtle doves
and nightingales are growing.
It's just so exciting,
and you just could never have
guessed that this would have
all happened here,
on an intensive farm that has
changed into this wonderful
And all this has happened in less
than 20 years,
but it's still farmed land.
To find out how you rear livestock
in this environment,
I'm meeting stockman Pat Toe,
who tells me
that somewhere out here
there's a herd of English longhorns.
It was quite tricky finding
the deer earlier,
but I didn't realise the cattle
would be quite so elusive.
Yes, you wouldn't think you'd be
able to lose 100 cows, would you?
But it's quite easily done.
If you're in the wrong
part of a field,
they can be 20, 30 feet away
and you wouldn't see them.
There are few fences here.
The cattle are free to roam
over a wide area
and they're spread out all
over the place, in small groups.
How many have you got altogether?
We've got about 370 all over, in
three different herds.
And how do you work out
the numbers you need?
Is it all about the ecology,
or is it all about beef production?
The primary objective is ecology.
It's about what they do with their
mouthparts and their hooves and
the impact that they make, but beef
is a very important secondary.
What sort of amount are you
We probably kill 100 animals a year,
a mix of prime animals under 30
months, and cull animals as well.
Back at home, I know how many
animals our fields will hold
because of the amount of grass
and, during the winter, we feed them
hay and silage and cattle nuts.
How do you cope here?
Well, what we do is,
in the depths of winter,
when everything is at its worst,
the food's at its lowest,
because we don't feed
the cows anything,
we go out with the vet and we look
at what available fodder is there
and the body condition of
and we make a decision
year on year from that.
Most people are used to seeing
cattle grazing out in lush pastures,
but they certainly seemed to enjoy
it in here.
I'd like to think they are some
of the happiest animals around.
They can behave really naturally.
The cattle have all
disappeared into the undergrowth.
I don't know where they've gone.
In fact, I'm glad you're with me,
otherwise I'd get completely
lost out here.
I'll lend you a map.
In just two decades, the Knepp
Estate has been transformed,
the economics of farming going
hand in hand with ecology.
Who knows what the next 20 years
might bring for this
At this time of year,
as autumn sunshine bathes the land,
getting into the countryside
for a walk
is one of life's simple pleasures.
And if you know where to look,
you might even find some
Here in St Albans, in Hertfordshire,
two friends are wild about
George Fredenham and Richard Osmond
know this countryside
like the back of their hands.
It's the larder for the delights
they serve up in their pub...
And I've been promised a glimpse
into the magic behind the menu.
It's a spice, so chew on it until it
sort of rehydrates
in your mouth a little bit.
Oh, yeah. Oh, wow.
It's really fragrant, isn't it?
What is it?
It's hogweed seeds.
the seedhead of that plant?
This common hogweed is not to be
confused with its close relative,
giant hogweed, whose sap
can severely irritate the skin.
In his favourite foraging spot,
George is keen to tell me
how they got started.
So, George, what came first,
the pub or the foraging?
The foraging came first, for sure.
It was a big
passion of ours at the time,
and, yeah, very quickly we found
a venue that seemed to suit what
we wanted to do,
and the Foragers, I guess, was born
at the Verulam Arms.
So, what's the plan today, then?
We're doing a little bit of a
collection of wild bitter plants
that we use to infuse in strong
spirits to make our own bitters.
We'll then head back to the pub
and make some cocktails, basically.
Sounds good to me.
And eat some food, yeah.
Keeping the pub menu brimming with
is head forager Richard Osmond.
Now, you've got a great job title -
There can't be many of those.
How did you get into it?
After university I was just
working as an office temp,
and George actually put an ad
online for an assistant forager.
I saw his ad and just basically
wrote a whole essay saying,
"You don't understand how
much stuff we could do.
"We could make ales.
"We should start a brewery and put
medieval herbs into the ales,"
and I drew this sort of calendar
"These are the things that are
going to be in season
"at this these times, and we can
pair those with these dishes,"
and that showed him
how passionate I was about it.
So, can you eat this?
Yeah, you can.
You can try it right now.
Hmm. There's like a burst of lemon,
isn't there? Really strong.
So what other tasty
morsels can we find?
Bitters often have the bark of trees
and things like tonic water,
the quinine from that
comes from the bark of a tree.
Just like that.
That's peeling off really nicely.
It's like peeling an orange.
This birch will recover
from having its bark removed,
and George and Richard have
permission to forage here.
But if you're going to
try your hand at finding wild foods,
don't pick or eat anything you're
not completely sure about.
This is poison hemlock.
If you look at this wild cow parsley
that I've got in the basket...
if we get a darker piece of hemlock,
you'll see just how similar
That's not a mistake
you want to make, is it?
The best thing about foraging
for wild food is
the prospect of a tasty
treat at the end of it,
and one of the specialities at the
pub is this wild negroni cocktail,
made with their own bitters
and sloe gin.
I can taste the flavours...some of
Maybe that silver birch that
we picked earlier.
It's actually really nice.
I'm glad I'm not driving!
So, what else is on the menu
along with the wild cocktails?
We serve pigeon, we serve rabbit.
Pheasant and partridge,
when it's in season.
And then what we're going to
make this afternoon
is we're going to make two dishes.
One is a signature dish,
which has muntjac deer in it.
Although we have six
species of deer in the UK,
most of the venison we eat is
farmed red or fallow deer.
Muntjac is an unusual
addition to any menu
and is responsibly sourced for the
pub by local deer manager Bruce.
Muntjac, although it's a small
deer, it's very compact.
It's easier to carve, easy to cook.
They breed three fawns in two years.
They don't have a season,
like the other five species of
feral deer that we have got here,
and they're eating all
the finest of foods.
So during the spring,
they've got all the spring flowers
crocuses they have got in the wild
here, they've got bluebells,
and you get that lovely aroma
as you walk into the house
in the evening, when it's been
cooking on a slow cooker,
and you immediately start dribbling.
The rich aromas coming
from the kitchen are incredible,
so time to try my first
wild pub grub.
This looks amazing.
Right, make some
Look at that spread.
It's bigger than the table.
Try the loin first.
So, this looks really lean.
Mm. Melts in your mouth.
And then your sorrel that you
guys picked earlier,
just to garnish
and give it some sharpness.
So, what you're saying is -
my contribution was key.
You contribution, it was
the icing on the cake.
I think that will be me.
I think you've won there.
It's the perfect way to end
a day of foraging,
eating and drinking your own harvest
in a warm pub.
A part of me feels sorry for
Charlotte out there in the cold,
but only a small part.
Now, if you want to know if it's
the weather to stay cosy, or to get
out and feel the wind in your face,
here's the Countryfile forecast.
We will certainly feel the wind in
our face at times this week. Things
will look and feel very different
compared with the very tranquil
scene from Hertfordshire today. It
did feel cold. A cold start to the
night in places, but cloud
increasing for many of us as it
moves in. More cloud to the
south-west of us in the Atlantique,
so to areas of low pressure to show
you. One tonight, and another not
far behind, so much more unsettled
this week. With low pressure from
the Atlantic Ocean milder air moules
dumber moves in, changing the field
to the weather. We see the first
area of cloud and rain moving into
the UK, some snow on the high ground
of Scotland. Outbreaks of rain
moving in elsewhere. Light and
patchy across southern England.
Quite a cold start for most of us. A
messy start to Monday, especially
with that rain and hill snow in
Scotland and cloud elsewhere. Rain
turning lighter and more patchy
throughout the day. By mid
afternoon, more of us are getting
double-figure temperatures. A chilly
day in Scotland. We will have
another go at banishing that cold
air from Scotland as we move into
Tuesday. Some wet weather comes in
on Monday evening into Tuesday
morning. Some snow on the hills
again, but changing back to rain on
Tuesday. A band of rain pushing
southward through England and Wales
throughout the day, but above
double-figure temperatures. Tuesday
into Wednesday, low pressure in
control. Another front coming our
way, turning the weather more
active. The jet stream is a player
in our weather once again. This is
mild air coming in. Milder air
contains more moisture and the
threat of some heavy rain for some
of us during Wednesday. Some
uncertainty about the position.
Could well be further south than
this. Most areas in the east of
England stay dry and bright. As we
go into Thursday, still low pressure
dominating the scene. We are going
to see some wind and outbreaks of
rain. Thursday, some colder air may
start to push back in across parts
of Scotland and then Northern
Ireland. If it does, any wet weather
could see some snow on the hills in
Scotland. From Thursday to Friday,
the isobars turning more northerly,
so colder air moving southwards
again. A fightback from the colder
air on Friday. Initially in Scotland
and Northern Ireland. Some wet
weather for England and Wales moving
southwards. The wind direction
changes for Scotland and Northern
Ireland. Turbulent is one word for
it. Milder for a time, but only
briefly in Scotland and Northern
Ireland. Some rain at times, and
even snow on Scottish hills. Windy
in southern parts of the
The Lea Valley in Hertfordshire,
fondly known as the
"green lung" for London.
Once the home of industry,
it's been transformed for recreation
And while Sean has been
foraging for his supper,
I have spent the day
on the Old River Lea.
A leafy enclave meandering through
the valley, it is
well-known across the land
for its big-catch barbel fishing.
The problem is that fishermen
are catching fewer young fish.
Now that means the barbel's
long-term future in the river
In a bid to protect the fish,
enthusiastic fishermen have
with Hertfordshire and Middlesex
the Lea Valley Regional Park
and the Environment Agency
to form the Barbel Action Group.
Today, they're surveying
the river to assess
the health of the current
How often do you fall over?
VOICEOVER: George Horne from the
agency has ditched the rod
for something more shocking.
What on earth is going on here,
So, we're here today with
the Environment Agency.
We're doing an electric fishing
survey as part of a wider
initiative to improve barbel
habitats within the Lea Valley.
So, we can see the team with these
things in their hands.
How does it work?
So, what they're doing is,
they're going to be sending
an electric pulse through the water
and what that does is it creates an
involuntary muscle spasm for fish.
It doesn't harm them or injure them
in any way, shape or form.
They'll be removed,
put into a tub on the boat,
and they will be processed by
ID-ing their species,
measuring them, counting them all,
and then we take scale samples from
those fish as well,
and from the data that we have
within this section of the
it does show a decline in barbel
and potentially other
What do you think it might be that's
upsetting barbel here?
Because when you look at the water,
the water quality,
it looks really clear.
Yeah, it does.
But if I move my feet, like that,
you see a lot of fine sediments
coming out of it.
What the barbel ideally need is
good, clean gravels,
so that the females can create
an indentation with their tails,
lay their eggs and then scrape the
clean gravels back over the top.
I've got to ask about our elegant
Do I really need to be
wearing all this?
As we are going to be doing
the outfits that we are wearing
are going to protect us
from the electric field that we
will be putting through the water.
This survey will help determine
the habitat work that needs
to be done to improve the river,
such as narrowing it to
create faster-moving water
to clean the gravel.
Unlike my earlier fishing
when you're stunning fish,
it doesn't take long to catch them.
There we go. A decent pike.
So, are we going to measure him?
Or not bother
because he's not a barbel?
No, we'll process absolutely
73-ish! Just under.
I give it 72.4.
He's very picky. 72.4.
I was about to say that.
Straight back in here.
So, here we've got a barbel.
It's quite lively.
So, what makes him barbel-y?
Unlike a lot of other fish, he's got
this very long,
lean torpedo-shape to him.
It gives him the ability to live
in very fast-flowing water,
and also this very flat
sort of underside,
making it perfect for them
to be able to feed along the bottom,
and what comes with that is
the classic sort of
positioned underneath his face.
So that he can actually hoover up?
Then you have got the barbels here
at the front.
What are they for?
So, these are used for rooting
around through the gravels.
It helps them to detect food.
So, what we're going to do now,
we're going to take a scale sample
Is that going to hurt?
It won't hurt the fish.
So, these will go up to our national
fish laboratory, based in Brampton,
and what they'll be able to tell
is actually the age of the fish.
We'll get that put in
a scale packet.
It's quite a little fish.
It's actually encouraging to see
barbel this size within this
part of the River Lea
because it probably
indicates that there is some
kind of recruitment going on.
So, really, I think
what we would like to do is identify
where those areas are
and can connectivity between
and adult habitat be proved?
Checked and measured,
it's time to get the fish safely
back in the river.
It would be a great shame to see
the native barbel
disappear from the Old River Lea.
But thanks to the river's
the work to improve their habitat
will insure there are barbel
and other fish here for many
years to come.
There you go...
Hopefully to a happier
future in this river.
Sean, I have been up
to my knees in freezing-cold water
and you've been in the pub?!
Not all day. It's not what it seems.
I've actually been doing a really
important taste test
and you can join me here.
That's the least you could do.
Thank you very much. Cheers.
I must say,
that's a really good look.
Thank you very much.
next week we're in the Cairngorms,
and Joe Crowley gets to dress up
nearly as elegantly as me,
as he braves the elements
to get up close
and personal with wildlife getting
ready for the winter.
And Helen Skelton is meeting
eagles that are capturing
the ultimate bird's eye view.
Until then, goodbye.
I can't believe you've
been in the pub all day!
Countryfile is in Hertfordshire, where Charlotte Smith meets the man who's made it his sole mission to save the barbel in the Old River Lea. Sean Fletcher builds a home fit for a Kingfisher and forages for a wild dinner. John Craven returns to his days as a scout and cooks up a storm on a woodland fire. And Adam Henson discovers the estate where rewilding and farming sit side-by-side.
Now in its fifth year, what effect is culling badgers actually having on rates of TB in our cattle? Tom Heap's looking at the science behind this controversial practice.