The Countryfile team are on the coastal flatlands of Kent. This beautiful but remote area is a haven for wildlife and a huge variety of flora and fauna.
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This is the coastal flatland of Kent, Romney Marsh.
Beautiful, isolated, compelling in its remoteness.
Nowadays, it's a picture of tranquillity,
but step back in time a couple of hundred years
and you would be taking your life into your own hands out here.
Marauding gangs roamed this marsh,
looking for a prize worth its weight in gold.
And it's not what you might think.
There are treasures aplenty on this stretch of coastline.
All sorts of flora and fauna. A riot of colour and life.
Nowhere more so than this place, Scotney Castle.
To say that the wildlife loves it here would be an understatement.
All sorts of animals have made the estate their home,
but there's one little creature in particular that is making waves.
Well, ripples, anyway.
And scream if you want to go faster!
Tom asks if the countryside is missing out on high-speed broadband.
Many people enjoy life in the digital fast lane,
but millions of us in rural areas are just
crawling along the superhighway with no access to superfast broadband.
So should we be spending hundreds of millions on the need
for speed in rural areas? I'll be investigating.
Meanwhile, Adam's trying out a new tool in the
fight against Schmallenberg.
Today, I'm injecting my sheep with the contents of this bottle -
a vaccine which should help to protect them against a horrible
disease that's been plaguing British farmers for the last two years.
Romney Marsh, a distinctive patchwork of low-lying land.
Cut through with streams and canals, rich in wildlife and history.
Romney Marsh covers 100 square miles along the coast,
stretching from Hastings in East Sussex to Hythe in Kent.
Looking at this marsh,
you would think you could cross it no problem, but you'd be wrong.
It's an obstacle course.
There's a maze of ditches, watercourses and bridges.
They do say, if there's a footpath, then stick to it.
And I've found one.
This landscape hasn't always been this idyllic.
Right up until the mid 19th century, the unwary traveller would
have been risking life and limb crossing these marshes.
Because this was smuggling country, plain and simple.
The featureless expanses and hidden creeks
and waterways made it a smuggler's paradise.
On top of that, France is just under 30 miles away.
These smugglers weren't just trading in alcohol, tobacco and guns.
What they were also after were sheep.
And the Romney Marsh was a goldmine.
Smugglers would kill for the wool on their backs.
I'm catching up with local Steve Humphries to find out more.
So, Steve, what was it then about wool that was so attractive?
Well, there was a big woollen industry in the country.
Wool was the first commodity to have an export tax put on it
-back in the 13th century.
So once you've got an export tax on something, then smuggling begins.
And over the next few centuries, then smuggling went on and on.
The smuggling gangs that arose during the 17th
and 18th centuries were often from villages quite some way away.
But of course, they would employ local labourers,
local agricultural workers to carry the contraband from the coast
-and they would pay them good money.
-And were they living like kings?
-What kind of money were they earning?
-They made a lot of money.
Big fortunes were made out of smuggling certainly by the
leaders of these gangs and everybody involved made some money out of it.
-So it was popular.
-How risky was this, Steve?
What kind of a world were they working in?
In 1662, the death penalty was imposed for smuggling wool.
So the smugglers probably thought, "Well, if I'm going to be hanged
"for smuggling, if I murder someone on the way, I'll still be hanged."
And of course, there's the phrase -
rather be hung for a sheep than a lamb.
These were clearly not guys to mess with.
But there was one hardy breed who protected the flocks.
He was called a looker
and was employed to look out for the sheep and trouble.
A rough and tumble job, but it came with its own accommodation.
These self-employed lookers
would spend about six weeks of the year in here.
They came into their own at lambing time.
There's a fireplace, enough room for a hay-bale bed and plenty of room to
store all of your tools, so to be honest, what more could you want?
But during the 19th century,
with 350 of these huts scattered right across the marsh, the chances
are that contraband would have found its way into here as well.
It seems everybody was in on the act, even the local churches.
Smuggling expert Richard Platt is going to tell me
more of this sorry tale.
So this church was one of the many churches then that were
involved in storing this contraband.
Why were churches such an attractive prospect for the smugglers?
Churches were great for smugglers because they were cavernous.
They had cavernous interiors and lots of nooks
and crannies where you could hide stuff.
But also because they were one of the few places
in a village where the door could be locked without arousing suspicion.
I think the vicars really played a passive role in the whole thing.
They weren't actively involved in smuggling,
but they were aware it was going on and they didn't see any moral
contradiction in allowing this to happen.
But there must have been a lot of coming and going.
If they were storing stuff here,
the smugglers would come in and take it to their market.
Yeah, there would have been a constant
parade of people into the church to drop stuff off and pick it up.
And how would the priests be thanked for their services?
The priests would be paid off, not in money, but they would find a little
keg of brandy or something outside their back door
in the dead of night, or a small bale of tobacco.
But there's one sign that suggests just how welcome the smugglers
This is a picture of a ship
and it was supposedly a sign of a place of safety,
probably from the time when smugglers were exporting wool as contraband,
rather than importing brandy and luxuries like that.
So this was a kind of secret sign.
This huge image, the biggest in the whole church, is a secret sign!
It's a secret sign, yeah. That was the whole thing about smuggling.
It was an open secret.
Everybody really knew about it and everybody connived in it.
Unless you bought your tobacco, tea and brandy from a smuggler,
you were a fool.
Yeah, fair enough.
The smugglers didn't have it all their own way.
Getting caught meant the death penalty.
And many a lost soul spent their last nights here,
New Hall Prison in Dymchurch.
This was one of four cells exactly the same size underneath the court.
There would have been up to four men in here and when you look around,
you can see evidence of how they've tried to just keep their minds busy.
All these etchings that are scratched into the wood.
There's some beautiful writing here.
And also these images here, the birds and the horses.
But it just feels... It's grim in here.
It's cold, it's dark, it's lonely. You can sense a lot of unhappiness.
Now, whilst we're exploring Kent, Tom is up in the north east
finding out about plans to bring rural Britain into the 21st century.
The British countryside might be the perfect place to get
away from it all, but these days,
wherever we are, we still want decent access to the internet.
Yet, in rural areas, the service varies massively.
Some locations are crawling on with the most basic connections,
a mere 0.5 megabits per second, not even enough for BBC iPlayer.
Others, even, are still on dial-up. Remember that sound?
But some are flying along at 30 megabits per second.
Plenty for your online business
and all the possible family fun on the internet beside.
But does that matter?
In parts of the country that seem to offer a slower pace of life,
is there really a need for high-speed broadband?
Ian Close, his mum Pat
and their family run a large dairy farm in rural Lancashire.
They're struggling to run
their business with a basic dial-up connection.
So, Ian, as a farmer, what's the big issue for you in working with
a rubbish internet connection?
The expectation is everything has to be done online now.
The other day, the vet was talking to us about something,
"You can go and look it up on YouTube. There's a presentation.
"It's show you everything I'm talking about.
"No, but you haven't got a decent internet connection,
-"so you won't be able to do it."
expectation now that you'll have that big data pipe to your house.
Everything is geared up for having a fast internet connection.
And when you haven't got it, it makes life very difficult.
Ian's problems aren't just shared by a few isolated farmers.
Businesses in rural areas generate
around a fifth of the British economy.
That's hundreds of billions of pounds every year.
Yet, many are struggling with connections that would be
unacceptable to most urban companies
and it's not just businesses that are suffering.
When communities lack decent internet, what's the effect?
Well, they're cut off. That's the first thing, I suppose.
They're cut off from the outside world, in a lot of cases.
Especially rural farms, rural houses, the ones that are isolated, but
you tend to have a lack of inclusion when you don't have the internet.
People simply don't know what's going on in the outside world.
Does it actually make it difficult for them
-to be part of 21st-century society?
-I think so. I really do.
They haven't got the instant research,
they can't access the shops, the internet banking.
In farming, you've got all the forms that are online.
It's all that sort of thing that really affects us
and it makes us feel remote.
Commercial companies have managed to supply two-thirds of the UK
with superfast internet access and that's an achievement in itself.
But they stop short of rolling out their fibre optic cables
into the remotest parts of our countryside,
saying the low population density made it not commercially viable.
Yet, all is not lost.
Fibre optic cables may soon be coming to a village near you.
One fibre in your hand will do a lot better job than this 300 pair cable.
The Government has now stepped in with a half a billion pound
investment designed to bring the rest of the country up to
speed by 2015.
The broadband delivery UK project aims to connect
the parts that the commercial market won't reach.
And BT has been chosen to do the work.
What kind of scale is this on?
Well, take north Yorkshire, for instance.
10,000km of fibre's got to go in the ground in order to
deliver...connect up 90% of the premises across north Yorkshire.
It's one of the biggest challenges in the UK.
-10,000km, that's in a single county.
We're talking about hundreds of thousands across Britain.
Absolutely, hundreds of thousands of kilometres, tens of thousands
of green cabinets and technology we have to deploy out to the field.
-So it's a big undertaking.
-And how many millions of pounds?
It's a very expensive game,
very capital intensive communications business.
Some people think it's just for Christmas, it's not. It's for ever.
Whatever we put in, it's got to work today, tomorrow and be upgradeable.
We'll put about £1 billion in, the Government will put £1 billion.
500 coming from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
500 million from local authorities like North Yorkshire County Council.
Other parts of Yorkshire have already reaped the rewards
of improved internet connectivity, thanks to a similar scheme.
In the small village of South Otterington, a high-speed connection
has brought significant benefits to the school and local business.
It's been a really big bonus for the parents, the children,
who can now do their homework at home.
We have the school blog they can contribute to,
we have a learning platform, they can access resources at home
and help complete their homework.
It's been a bonus for the business community
and benefited our parents that way.
But will the rewards of the latest rollout be worth the cost?
Yes, there's commercial investment from BT
and a lump sum from central government, but the rest
of the money will in many cases have to come from hard-up local councils.
And, as I'll be finding out later,
the people who need it the most are the least likely to get it.
Kent, the Garden of England.
Spring is blooming into summer in spectacular style.
This is Scotney Castle, apparently the most romantic garden in England.
I feel as if I have stepped into a fairytale.
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!
She's not in.
Even if romance and fairytales are not your bag, a floral display
like this does make your heart beat that little bit faster.
The gardens were created by the Hussey family,
who lived here for more than 200 years.
A well-to-do bunch, they wanted the views from their stately pile
to resemble a wild paradise.
They planted rainbows of rhododendrons,
explosions of sweet-smelling azaleas.
Vines creep over walls
and tree roots emerge from paths and walkways.
No wonder 130,000 people visit here every year.
But little would they suspect what wild treasures are lurking nearby
beneath these murky waters.
The great crested newt, dragons of the amphibian world.
They are the largest and most threatened
of our three native newt species.
Lee Brady is an ecologist, county recorder for newts
and also president of the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group.
With those credentials he has got the licence and more importantly,
the experience, to handle these protected species.
Is it unusual to find great crested newts in, essentially,
-a swimming pool?
-It's not particularly unusual.
We do find great crested newts in a wide range of different water bodies
including swimming pools like this.
Now, what's interesting about this pool is that potentially,
the newts are doing quite well here.
So we're trying to investigate why that might be.
And how many do you reckon are in there?
We have got what we would call a medium relative population.
That is a maximum count of about 15 individuals.
The great crested newt.
Why the crest?
Well, the males have a crest only during the breeding season
and it's part of their secondary sexual characteristics
in order to attract a female.
-It's always about the showing off, isn't it?
-And some males have bigger crests than others.
We believe the crest helps the animal to breathe underwater.
Newts can absorb oxygen across their skin
so great crested newts with larger crests potentially can absorb
more oxygen and therefore stay underwater for longer.
Males with smaller crests that have to come to the surface
for a gulp of air will lose the interest of the females.
So larger crests are better. Potentially.
-But interestingly, they don't keep the crest all year round?
Outside of the breeding season, the animals typically are found on land
and the crest would be an impediment to their movement on land
so they reabsorb the crest back into their bodies.
It's so clever, isn't it?
-Shall we have a look at some now?
-Let's have a look.
How many different species of newt in here?
We've got female great crested newts
and we've got smooth and palmate newts.
So this particular swimming pool actually supports
-all three of the native newt species.
So what I'd like to do is to show you a great crested newt belly.
-What have you got here?
-This is a squash box.
But it doesn't literally squash them?
It holds them gently against a clear surface.
Oh, look at that! She is having a little wriggle in there.
She is having a little wriggle.
-I've been careful I don't squash her too much.
-Yeah, she's fine.
-For anybody watching at home, she's absolutely fine.
-So, very bright.
-Black blotches with a unique pattern.
These markings are completely individual.
-This is its bar code, in essence.
We can identify each animal in this pool from its belly pattern.
It's a very, very bright colour.
Is that a warning signal as well?
It does, it tells predators that they are distasteful.
In terms of this pool, is it quite a dreamy situation for newts?
The swimming pool is very good for newts because it is full of food.
The newts are very well fed.
I suspect that they are also still egg-laying and in fact today,
we have found a number of eggs in the pond, which perhaps...
-So they're breeding?
-Yeah, yeah. They're laying eggs.
One of the things we want to discover is
whether those eggs are hatching successfully and
whether the tadpoles are successfully metamorphosing
There we are, little ones.
Back in your nice, watery home.
Amazing little creatures.
This summer, the BBC is encouraging us all to find out more
about the incredible wildlife that's on our doorsteps.
Naturalist and wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor Jones lives
right here in Kent, so who better to show us how.
I've lived in Kent most of my life.
And I'm constantly amazed at the stunning array of plant
and animal life there is on my doorstep.
You have to know where to look, of course.
And just down the road from my house in Deal
is actually a very good place to start.
And this part of East Kent
is home to two of my favourite British species,
the barn owl and the common seal.
Now, it's June, so both of them are going to be
in full-on breeding mode.
Barn owls will be out gathering food for their young
and the common seals, well, they'll all be gathering together to mate.
So it's an ideal opportunity to get out and enjoy them.
As it's heading towards late afternoon, I am going
for the owls first,
as they should be getting ready to get out and about.
What's more, I know a very obvious place to start tracking them down.
When you go looking for barn owls, you think to yourself,
"Maybe I should find a barn!" And I have done, just over there.
Do you know what, I've found an owl as well.
But it's not a barn owl.
This is a little owl.
As its name suggests, it is our smallest owl,
standing only about 25 centimetres tall.
It's not actually native to the UK, having been introduced from Europe
by an enthusiastic 19th-century bird collector.
I've got to say, I rather like the little owl.
I know he's not a native species, but he is very characterful,
with his lemon yellow eyes and white eyebrows.
In fact, they make him look quite serious. Nice little find.
Very nice little find.
That's a lucky encounter I wasn't expecting.
But onto the main business of the evening - finding the barn owls.
I just love filming barn owls hunting, but tonight,
I want to take it one stage further and that is going to involve
my grandfather's old walking stick and this tiny little camera.
The plan is that I will tape the camera to the top of the stick,
then go out into the field,
cover myself in grass, and lie there, squeaking like a vole.
That should bring the barn owl right overhead.
With the camera pointing up at the sky,
I will get a vole's-eye view of a barn owl hunting.
The results from this rather odd-looking approach
can be great fun, as this shot from a previous shoot shows.
The owls really do fly over your head.
But of course, the first thing I need tonight is an owl.
I know they're here, because I've been watching them for several days.
But tonight, things are not looking promising.
The sun is almost on the horizon now.
Probably got about 20 minutes of light left.
I find this part of my job so frustrating.
You can do all the planning in the world,
but if the wildlife doesn't want to play ball, then...
..nothing you can do.
'It's not looking good.'
But then suddenly, far in the distance, a barn owl.
Gliding along fence row,
I dump the big camera and go for the overhead shot.
But with no time to cover myself up,
the owl is coming straight towards me out in the open.
(Get down, get down!)
HE SQUEAKS REPEATEDLY
That was so close.
I didn't get the shot.
And I'm only prepared to distract the owl once
from its hunting duties. Any more would be unfair.
So that's the end of my barn owl filming today.
Some you win, some you lose!
That's the wildlife filmmaker's lot.
Another day brings another challenge
and this time I'm off to Pegwell Bay, to find common seals.
They live out on a nature reserve.
And once more, I'm down in the grass.
I've been given special permission to come out onto the reserve
to film the seals.
It's really important that I don't disturb them
so in this big, flat, open saltmarsh landscape,
the only way to approach them is on my hands and knees.
I can't see the seals
and I'm worried that I've got this one wrong, too.
But actually, far from it.
I couldn't have got it more right.
The dead giveaway that these are common seals, not grey seals,
our other UK species, is that they have very lovely heart-shaped
appearance to their nostrils.
And that really defines them as a common seal.
They are also a little bit smaller than the grey seal
and I think rather kind of prettier looking.
I'm pleased to see that there are good numbers here.
With half a dozen or so hauled out on the bank
and at least as many in the water.
In recent years,
there have even been reports of youngsters here, too.
Which is great news,
as common seals are actually not at all that common in the UK.
Numbers have dropped dramatically in some areas,
so any pups are good news.
There seems to be an old bicycle tyre
floating down the river.
I guess you'd expect that in our urban south-east world.
But you know what, the seals are quite enjoying it.
One of them is in there, investigating it.
I think giving it a chew, a bit of a nudge. A little toy to play with.
It all seems very innocent.
But sadly, I have witnessed a lot of marine life become
trapped in human debris, which can be life-threatening.
So I am relieved to see this seal get bored of its game
and quickly move on.
The incoming tide has brought more seals in with it.
And there seems to be a bit of a shift in the mood of the colony.
They all seem a little bit friskier.
And one in particular is porpoise-ing out of the water,
charging up onto the bank, charging back in the water.
I don't quite know what the behaviour is all about, but
it could be some kind of display of dominance, display of strength.
Hard to say. But great fun to watch.
The riverbank I'm filming on may be off-limits without permission,
but it's still dead easy to see the seals as there are regular
seal-watching boat trips here.
And they'll get you way closer to the seals than I am.
I'd have very wobbly shots if I was on the boat,
so it's the muddy bank for me.
But there's worse places to spend the day.
Filming wildlife isn't always easy.
But whether I get the shots or not doesn't really matter.
What matters to me is knowing
that these animals are right here on my doorstep.
Even in this busy county of Kent.
And perhaps that's a reminder for all of us,
that no matter where we live, our great British wildlife is just
waiting out there to be enjoyed.
If you want to discover more about the incredible species
in your own back yard,
go to the Countryfile website, where you'll find all the information
about the BBC's Summer of Wildlife
and how you can be part of it.
Next time, I'll be on the trail of some of our most beautiful
and mythical species - kingfishers and orchids.
Now earlier, we heard about
a multi-billion pound government project
to roll out superfast broadband across the country.
But what about the people it still won't reach? Here's Tom.
The Internet is now part of the very fabric of our everyday lives.
And as far as most people are concerned, the faster, the better.
But despite central government
spending £530 million to deliver the best superfast broadband service
in Europe, that'll still leave six million people
with only the most basic Internet connectivity.
And that's 10% of the population.
In the majority of cases, these are people who live
and work in the most isolated parts of the UK.
Rural communities where the economy relies on farming,
tourism and local services that just can't move to places
with a superfast connection.
-Long time since you've heard that!
-It is, indeed.
It's the sound of frustration, I think.
Pat Close, who we met earlier,
lives on a remote dairy farm in Lancashire.
Despite still having to use dial-up, she is unlikely to benefit from
the government-sponsored project to roll out superfast broadband.
And here, I see, we are now connected
and we have the speed of 42 kilobits per second.
People would laugh if they thought about
trying to do modern work on that, wouldn't they?
I think the banking can be the worst because even
when we've got a good connection
and our phone line isn't that brilliant at the best of times,
it can take four or five minutes for the bank connection to load.
The other night, we gave up trying to get a bank statement
after three quarters of an hour.
The problem for people like Pat is that the remotest parts
of our countryside are often far removed from the fibre-optic cables
that carry superfast broadband across the country.
And the further you are away from the fibre,
the harder and more expensive it is to get connected.
So where does that leave people like the Close family?
One of the government figures behind the rollout
is Defra Minister Richard Benyon.
But has he just ignored the needs of the most needy?
What about the 10% of the population who aren't going
to benefit from all this money, all this half a billion pounds?
That's where our rural communities broadband comes in,
precisely designed for those communities that are the hardest
to reach, the final 10%. We've had 83 expressions of interest.
We asked 52 of them to put in a full application.
Money is starting to go out of the door to some schemes.
There is a lot more to do.
That's 20 million you're giving as opposed to the 530 million
that you're giving to the less remote areas? Is the balance right?
Well, a lot of rural communities
will get funding from the main scheme.
The £530 million worth of government funding up to £1.2 billion
with all the public money that's going into this.
Many rural communities will get broadband,
superfast broadband, as a result of that.
What we are trying to do is to find the most difficult to reach,
the remotest communities, and to make sure
that they're playing a part in this new technology.
It may sound like they have everything covered,
but not everyone agrees.
There are already claims that the government is paying way over
the odds for its superfast rollout.
And the scheme has been described as "a train crash waiting to happen".
But were you just trying to do it as quickly as possible rather
than as competitively as possible
and possibly the taxpayer has suffered as a result?
There's a real urgency to get this out, absolutely no doubt about it
but one of the main criticisms has come from the other direction,
saying we're not doing it fast enough. And my line is, you know,
OK, this is public money, this is tax payers' money.
We've got to make sure it's spent properly.
We've got a very clear procurement process,
which is being run across government.
BT are clearly the biggest player.
Have they just had it all their own way by saying,
"Look, we're here, we can do it, give us the money?"
Well, they have a very difficult procurement process to go
through to get each contract.
They're going to be held to account for each one.
As somebody who believes in competition,
I'd like four or five providers, but we are where we are.
But regardless of whether the cost has been
compromised by the need to roll this out quickly,
there are still parts of the countryside where people
are not prepared to wait and see if they will benefit from the scheme.
Looks like you could do with a bit of extra manpower there.
-Yes, thank you, Tom.
-I'll help you shove this around.
Across the UK, some resourceful communities have now banded
together to pay for high-speed connections of their own.
Delivering the future, one metre at a time.
Here in Lancashire, Barry Ford is the founder of B4RN -
Broadband For the Rural North.
-What is the B4RN project?
-It's a cooperative.
It a cooperative of local members of the community who just want
to do something about the broadband. We can't live without it any more.
It's no good waiting around for somebody else to do it
so we decided to get together and solve the problem ourselves.
Were any of you telecoms engineers before this project started?
-None of us.
-I'm the only one that had any background at all.
-You were in computing, is that right?
I was an ex-engineer at British Leyland.
I worked at a riding centre.
-I'm a designer of furniture.
Look at you now. You're making it happen. It's fantastic.
In this community project,
farmers dig their own trenches and lay their own pipes
then B4RN comes along with the fibre-optic cables
and hooks them up to the superfast mainframe.
What kind of area are you covering and how much cash is involved?
Well, the area is 420 square kilometres.
It is about 3,200 properties, so it is very lightly populated.
Quite a big chunk of Lancashire, though.
Oh, it's a big chunk of Lancashire
and the cost will be three and a half million.
And where is that money coming from?
So far, it has all come from the community.
We have had a share issue and community members have bought
shares and we have raised half a million. That has got us going.
Then, the rest of the money, people will be doing work,
investing their time and effort for which we reward them with shares.
And the payback will come from them being
-charged for broadband usage just like any other supplier?
We charge £30 a month for a gigabit, uncontended, and they just pay
their standard £30 and as the money starts coming in, they will be
able to redeem their shares and get their investment back.
Oh, here it is - the superfast fibre has arrived thanks to
this very inspiring community project.
But it's not always this easy to do it yourself
and the sort of investment we're talking about is
harder to find for the poorer rural communities,
so the challenge for the government is to spend its money wisely
while still ensuring a lack of decent broadband doesn't
further isolate the most remote parts of the countryside.
It has been less than two years since the impact of a deadly virus
called Schmallenberg was first seen on our shores.
But in that time, it has taken a terrible toll on British livestock.
Now Adam is becoming one of the first farmers in Europe
to try out the solution.
This film contains some upsetting scenes.
I'm just checking around this flock of ewes and lambs
and they're looking really good now. The grass has started to grow
and the lambs are starting to put on a bit of meat.
Thankfully, we didn't have any cases of Schmallenberg
on this farm, but the disease has now spread right across Europe,
it's in every county in England and Wales
and it's even got into Scotland.
On Countryfile, we've been
following it quite closely.
Last year, John and I went
to two farms that had had
the disease in the very early stages when it first hit the UK
and earlier this year, Tom Heap went to Charles Sercombe's farm
up in Leicestershire, where his sheep had it really badly.
-Here they are.
-That's not what you want to see, is it,
-No, I'm afraid it's not.
There is a better start to a day than having to give birth to
the lambs like these.
Schmallenberg was first detected in the UK in December 2011.
It is thought to be spread by infected midges.
The virus attacks livestock, causing serious deformities in newborns
and fever, diarrhoea and reduced milk yields in adult animals.
A bit of a grim sight. Too grim, really.
HE WHISTLES Good girl.
Dealing with Schmallenberg must be absolutely horrendous,
but Charles isn't alone.
More than 1,700 farmers have been affected by the disease now.
But what can we do to protect our livestock in the future?
Well, I'm meeting up with some scientists who will
hopefully have the answer.
'I'm meeting Dr Michael Francis,
'head of research and development at MSD Animal Health,
'a company that is using science
'to find a way to combat Schmallenberg.
'I want to know what they're doing to fight this disease.'
Frankly, apart from bio-security, it's vaccination
and so we've been very keen to develop a vaccine that could
effectively immunise the target species against the disease.
We got wind of the fact that this new emerging disease was
occurring and we really wanted to be intervening
and getting something, potentially, to the market as soon as possible.
As a farmer, I use various vaccines
but I've never quite understood how they're produced.
What's the process?
Well, this is an inactivated viral vaccine,
so for that type of vaccine, what we need to do is grow the virus.
We need to grow the virus in live mammalian cells so we have
continuous cell cultures which we can grow in artificial media.
So you don't have to go to a live animal?
Absolutely not. Absolutely not. These are continuous cell lines
that have been grown for many, many years.
If you look down this microscope now, what we're seeing here, Adam,
is a typical cell sheet of fibroblastic cells
across the flat bottom of the plastic culture flask.
And once a virus attacks it?
We then have a situation where the virus is now destroying
the cells, the cells are rounding up
and the virus parcels are released into the liquid.
And from that liquid you can then harvest the virus to make a vaccine?
Absolutely. We take the liquid and we harvest the virus
and then we kill the virus or inactivate the virus
so that it renders it entirely safe to the animal and
then we mix it with an adjuvant to enhance the immune response
within the animal and that's how we produce the vaccine.
And once you inject the animal with that vaccine,
the animal then produces its own immune response.
Yes, it recognises it as an invading virus particle
and it raises an antibody response against that virus.
The vaccine was developed in the Netherlands
and is being manufactured in Germany.
Dr Francis is keen to show me
one of the very first samples to arrive in this country.
-And here is the final product. 100ml of Schmallenberg vaccine.
So, is this the answer to my prayers? Will it stop Schmallenberg?
Well, we certainly hope so.
Because the virus is spread by midges then, really,
a vaccine is the answer
and this vaccine will raise a good immune response within the animals.
Earlier we saw how Schmallenberg was affecting Charles Sercombe's flock
and now I'm travelling to his farm to see he's getting on
and see how he's coping and whether he'll consider using the vaccine.
-Good to see you again.
Charles, you do breed some good sheep.
This is a lovely little flock of Charollais ram lambs.
Yeah, actually, I'm quite proud of them. They're a good bunch of sheep.
They're all very even and well grown and looking good
and showing quite a bit of potential, I'd like to think.
Now, Tom Heap was back here in January, filming.
Were these the lambs that were being born then?
Yeah, they've just grown a bit in five months
and they're what's left from that bunch that we had then.
And how serious did it get?
Oh, it was pretty serious for ourselves.
We lost 40% of our lambs, which totalled about 80 altogether,
in numerical, out of 200.
It was very distressing and disappointing at the time.
They're valuable sheep that you're selling on to other breeders,
breeding rams, what's the financial impact to you?
It's always incredibly difficult to quantify the total financial
impact, but as you say, we do sell quite valuable animals
and I think somewhere between £15-20,000,
the direct impact will be.
Some of these are potentially worth several thousands individually
and we lost four brothers and four sisters to animals that we
-had sold for £6-7,000 last year.
And so, there would be a lot more sheep in this field
-if Schmallenberg hadn't hit you?
I mean, there's 25 in this field.
Normally, at this time of year,
this bunch would have 50 sheep.
Charles, you're well known in the livestock world.
Will you be advising people to vaccinate?
Obviously, it's not my position to tell anybody else how to run their
business or how to farm, but we shall certainly use vaccines
because we're working with what I consider to be quite valuable
livestock and they will be pregnant at exactly the wrong
time of year where it could be an impact.
I think fellow farmers will take a view that, actually,
for peace of mind and security of knowing that their stock will be
protected, a lot of them will take the opportunity to use a vaccine.
Well, it's been great to see you again, Charles.
I'll certainly be vaccinating my sheep
-and I wish you luck in the future.
-Well, thank you very much
-and I'm sure some time we'll catch up and see how we get on.
At roughly £3 per sheep, like most farmers, Charles,
who has valuable breeding stock, has weighed up
the cost of the vaccine against the benefits he hopes it will bring.
As it's a new vaccine and we're still learning about the disease,
time will tell if vaccination is the answer.
In the meantime, I've decided it's worth it.
Pregnant animals can't be vaccinated and as my cows have been
in with a bull, I won't do them, but it's a perfect time for my sheep.
The vaccine is only licensed for sheep and cattle.
For sheep, they have to be four months old
and for cattle, over two months old.
Sheep, it is 2ml subcutaneous, so, under the skin.
The cattle have to have two doses, four weeks apart.
It takes about three weeks for the animal to build up an immunity.
Animals that are pregnant mustn't be vaccinated.
So, these are young females that will go to the ram in the autumn
so I'm getting them injected now and then
they'll be completely covered by the time they go to the ram.
As far as selling livestock goes, it doesn't affect that at all.
In fact, what it does is gives the farmer confidence that the animals
have been vaccinated and should be protected against Schmallenberg.
It must have been horrible for Charles Sercombe with his flock
going through Schmallenberg and ewes giving birth to deformed lambs.
And the vaccine won't cure the disease, but for me, now that
I've vaccinated my sheep, hopefully that will protect them
Next time, I'll be in Derbyshire where heavy horses are proving more
useful than tractors in the preservation of an ancient woodland.
JULIA: It took its time, but summer is finally here
and nowhere is it more evident than in Kent.
The Garden of England, ablaze with colour and life.
I have already had close encounters of the newt kind and
the landscape is literally buzzing with creatures great and small.
Now, if any other wildlife you've seen today has got you
thinking of taking some pictures,
then perhaps you should get out there and send your best
efforts in to the Countryfile photographic competition.
Here's John with the details.
The theme for this year's competition is our living landscape.
We want pictures that capture the beauty of the British countryside -
all the wonderful life, the fantastic scenery
that you find within it.
The 12 best photographs chosen by our judges will make up
the Countryfile calendar for 2014.
We'll also have an overall winner who will be able to choose
photographic equipment to the value of £1,000
and whoever takes the picture that the judges like best
will be able to pick equipment worth £500.
The judges' favourite in last year's competition
was this photograph taken by Jean Burwood
while on holiday in Scotland.
Here's Jean herself to tell us how she captured that moment.
The photograph I took was taken
on Skye and it was taken in October.
We had just been across on a boat to see the seals
and were coming back to Elgol and the weather closed in a little bit
and the rainbow just appeared. Seeing it in the calendar
has really brought it home and all my friends have all bought
copies and it's been really fantastic for me.
And even now people are saying,
"Oh, I've seen your picture and I really like it,"
so, no, it's never going to stop for me.
Another amateur photographer to make it into the current calendar
was Ian Thomson from Worcester.
When it comes to taking pictures,
Ian loves to capture the elements at their most extreme.
You never really can't tell
if you're going to get that good picture but you can only be there
and hope for the circumstances to arise and they did on that day.
The sun just poked through just after dawn, through
a hole in the clouds about a foot square and lit the back
of the wave just like a searchlight as there was a big crash.
It lasted for about 45 seconds
and I took about 100 shots in that 45 seconds.
One of which is the entry I made.
So, foul weather or fair, you can still take a winning photo
and if you'd like to see yours in next year's calendar,
here's what you need to know.
The Countryfile photographic competition is not open to
professionals and, because we want every entry to be an original,
they mustn't have won any other competition.
You can send in up to four photos
and they must have been taken in the UK.
And please could you send in hard copies,
not e-mails or computer files?
Write your name, address and a daytime and evening phone number
on the back of each photo with a note of where it was taken.
Then send your entries to...
The full terms and conditions are on our website, which is where you
will also find details of the BBC's code of conduct for competitions.
Now, our closing date is Friday the 26th of July.
And I'm sorry, but we can't return any entries.
Whatever you decide to photograph, do it responsibly.
Take care not to disturb any animals or damage the environment
and always follow the countryside code.
And, of course, it goes without saying
we hope that loads and loads of you enter.
Now, in a moment, I'm going
to be trying my hand at a little bit of old-school shearing,
but before then, let's find out what the weather has got in store
with the Countryfile forecast.
The vast expanse of Romney Marsh.
I've been finding out about the history surrounding this area.
For centuries, the wool on the back of the Romney sheep was
so valuable that ruthless smugglers would kill for it.
Fortunately, times have changed,
but the Romney sheep still has its place today.
'Paul Boulden and his family
'have farmed Romneys here for many generations.'
I understand that you are the man to come to to know about all things
Romney Marsh sheep, because it has been in the family for a while.
Yeah, they have.
Well, as far as we're aware, back to 1882, so it's 130 years.
Yeah, that's what we can positively say. Perhaps longer.
The Romney sheep have been farmed here so long,
they've totally adapted to the conditions.
Today, they are still prized as much for their fleece as for their meat.
Right, this one, she's one of the older sheep.
She'll be five years old at least.
A dual-purpose breed. You've got nice wool.
So, when you say dual purpose, it's basically meat and fleece.
Yeah, meat and fleece. Traditionally, 50-50.
Obviously, now, the meat is more important than the wool.
They are obviously well suited to the marsh
because they're tolerant to foot rot.
Tolerant to foot rot, tolerant to worms.
They are used to the conditions.
They lamb outdoors, they stay outdoors most of the time.
They just do well, these sheep.
And they produce lots of wool, which has always meant hard
work at shearing time, as Paul's old family films from the 1950s show.
His great uncle John farmed when the technology was advancing,
making life slightly easier.
-So, John, you were born then in 1928.
-I was, yes.
And techniques, as we have seen in that little film,
were a little bit different.
You were using different tools of the trade for shearing.
Well, yes, a slightly "Romney Marsh" way of shearing.
Slightly different, but the end result was always the same.
Yeah, absolutely, yes.
How many of these do you think you must have sheared in your time?
I shore for, I think, about 60 years.
Say 1,000 a year.
Well, it could be, yes.
That's something else, isn't it?
Shearing has always been tough.
Even those early mechanical shears seem like hard work now.
They were hand-powered and were sure to make you sweat.
You just turn the handle and that's how it powers it. Look at that.
-And away you go.
-Don't cut your fingers off.
Who had the short straw, then?
The person that was shearing or the one turning the handle?
-The one turning the handle, I think.
-I think this is the easy part.
You think this is the easy bit!
Well, listen, honestly, lads, I have got the perfect handle turner.
She's on her way.
-Afternoon. I like the look of this.
These are 1930s, these. Come round and have a closer look.
In fact, grab hold of this and keep turning it. Right, lads, make way.
-Make way. And rest. And relax.
-Right, the professional is here.
-This is Paul and John.
-Hello, Paul and John.
Right, what do we do? Sorry, sheep,
-that's not what you want me to do, is it?
-It's quite simple.
-Look at that.
-Look at that. You know what I like about this?
-I think, for once, I'm actually doing more work than you.
-Honestly, you are going to be absolutely shattered.
-Do they work?
-Well, we're going to find out.
-Come on, then. Grab yourself a sheep.
-Take your pick. Which one do you fancy?
-Can we go for a little one?
-Oh, you're going for a big one there, Matty.
-I know. Well...
-Turn her over.
-This is going to take some clipping.
-Put your back into it, love.
You know me, never do anything by halves. And we're off.
-And there we are - shearing, 1930s style.
-It's good my end.
What do you think, my dear? Is that tickling your belly somewhat?
-There we are. There, that's better.
-Oh, my giddy aunt.
-We're nearly there with the belly.
-Only the belly?
Oh, come on, you're kidding. I'm sorry. I've got to stop.
I need a cuppa or something. I need something to keep me going.
-The end has come off.
Well, that's all we've got time for for this week.
Next week, John will be in the Lake District,
looking back at some of our favourite modes of transport.
Yes, I'm thinking jet skis, skateboards,
he might even present the entire programme wearing some rollerblades.
Yeah, that's it. But before we go, we've got some very special news.
Yeah, something else that Countryfile is celebrating - its jubilee.
25 years on our small screens.
-You do not look old enough for that.
-It's the outdoor air, you see.
-We are having a bit of a party. We are celebrating in style.
We want 250 Countryfile viewers to come and join us
for an old-style country fare.
And if you would like to be one of those lucky people to be invited,
all you have to do is log on to the website to find out how.
Yes. We'll see you then. Bye-bye.
All right, come on, let's at least try and get a leg done.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The Countryfile team are on the coastal flatlands of Kent. This beautiful but remote area is a haven for wildlife and a huge variety of flora and fauna.
On Romney Marsh, Matt Baker finds out about the gangs of smugglers who once used the area to deal in alcohol, tobacco, guns - and even sheep!
Julia Bradbury visits Scotney Castle and discovers something precious lurking in the waters of the old swimming pool.
Tom Heap is in the north of England, asking if multi-million pound plans to bring super-fast broadband to more of the countryside are worth all the effort and expense.
And on his farm, Adam Henson becomes one of the first to use a new vaccine which will protect his sheep against a deadly virus.