In this bank holiday edition of the programme Helen Skelton looks at how the British countryside has shaped childhoods down the ages.
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The natural playground of the British countryside,
a landscape open to everyone, young and old.
It's the inspiration for many of us
to enjoy fantasies of escaping into the wild.
The innocence of chasing butterflies, climbing trees
and building dens.
The outdoor adventures that are forever ingrained in our memories.
Today I'm in Northamptonshire to celebrate 70 years of a book
that has inspired generations of the young at heart.
Brendon Chase by illustrator and writer,
Denys Watkins-Pitchford, more commonly known as BB.
Whilst I'm here, I'll look back through the Countryfile archives
to see how the natural world is inspiring
and influencing the way our children are growing up.
From seeing how the landscape is shaping young lives
and future careers...
At an interview,
one of the admissions officers was really impressed
as well as surprised that at this age,
I've got so much experience actually being out here, being outdoors.
..to enjoying the freedom and fun to be had in the countryside
with the potential farmers of the future.
Nice and straight and then reverse in. Easy?
Yeah, easy as pie!
Here we go then.
How nature is being nurtured by some of our youngest.
-Arthur won that.
-Arthur won which one?
-Did you, you won that one?
Northamptonshire, in the very heart of England.
Landlocked between eight other ceremonial counties,
the region is described as the rose of the shires, a hidden gem,
boasting numerous country parks and a wealth of wildlife.
The understated beauty of this land
was the childhood home of a somewhat overlooked writer
whose vivid adventures have been enjoyed for generations.
This year marks 70 years since writer Denys Watkins-Pitchford
published one of his most loved books, Brendon Chase.
It's the story of three brothers who run away to live in the woods
alone, surviving for months.
'No more Aunt Ellen! No more lessons, no more school.
'Carried away by their high spirits,
'they even vowed they would never return to Cherry Walden,
'they would live in the forest, like outlaws,
'hunting and fishing like true wild woodman forever and ever.'
It's dangerous, it's exciting,
there are more pot-shots than pretty picnics
and there certainly aren't any lashings of ginger beer!
Born in 1905, during his lifetime, Denys Watkins-Pitchford,
known by the pen name, BB, wrote 60 books.
Drawing inspiration from his childhood,
he was free to roam the landscape around the Northamptonshire
village of Lamport, where he lived in the rectory of the local church.
"A beautiful day, went to church at 11 with Father.
"No pigeons on the clover this afternoon or by the hide."
Brian Holden is Secretary of the BB Society.
He has collected a treasure trove of BB's personal photographs
Why do you think people love Brendon Chase?
It's not just the story itself, it introduces us to the whole of nature.
Brings the whole thing alive and people, what they said about BB
and about BB's writings, you felt you were with him.
Just you and he out in the countryside.
Walking along, looking at nature.
It sounds like he was really at home here.
-Tell me about BB as a little boy.
-BB, he was quite sickly.
He was home educated but he had a lot of spare time.
Perkins, the gardener, he went fishing with Perkins by the way,
but also, he had a pony and he used to go around the countryside
on this pony so he could see over the hedges and the rest of it.
He went to the secret places.
He liked the quiet spots where all the weeds were growing
and the little wrens were nesting.
He really was deep into nature.
Why did he write under the name BB?
He wrote for the Shooting Times and he wrote under this pseudonym, BB,
which is the size of the lead shot that was in the cartridge.
He felt that Denys Watkins-Pitchford was a huge mouthful.
A little dickey bird tells me he smashed one of the church windows,
-is that right?
-He was out shooting a pigeon, he missed the pigeon
and shot the window. I don't know whether he told his dad about it.
I think if he did, he'd have been in real trouble!
It was another childhood experience that would inspire BB's
most famous literary creation, The Little Grey Men.
So the story goes that on a bright summer's evening
when BB was about four years old, he saw a diminutive being
with a round bearded face about the size of a small crab-apple.
Believe it or not, it was a real life gnome!
But surely that's just make-believe?
Now, where's the other one you're looking for?
-I can only see two.
-There is another one, keep looking.
Badger Walker was one of BB's closest friends
and believes the gnome BB saw lived here at Lamport Hall,
home to the very first gnome collection in Britain,
started in 1847.
OK, there it is. It's quite cute, isn't it?
-Would BB have seen these gnomes?
Do you think this is where his fascination with gnomes came from?
I would technically say, yes, I have always thought that,
but when I asked him about it,
he always said he had definitely seen one by his bed.
I suppose he had probably seen these
and it's quite easy to imagine you have seen one.
It feels like there were two sides to BB
because he gives a very credible
realistic portrayal of the countryside.
He kills, he cooks, he eats it,
but he is also quite magical and mystical.
-Which of the two was he?
-Well, he is all of them.
The countryside is magical and mystical anyway
and when he was a child, there was no television, no electricity really,
out in these places.
To live in this environment now, to what he lived in,
the magic of the countryside is mystic.
That's how he was, that's why I got on so well with him.
Untinged by adult sentimentality, BB's childlike excitement
and wonder for the natural world never left him
until the end of his life in 1990.
It's said he remained true to the words
which appeared inside all his books.
'The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power,
'the shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades; these I saw.
'Look ye also while life lasts.'
A lot of children lead quite sheltered lives
compared to that of BB.
He was free to explore the countryside
and he had the kind of adventurous upbringing
that a lot of parents dream about for their kids.
So how do we persuade children to stay off their games consoles
and engage with the natural world?
A few long hot summers ago, Tom went to investigate.
Remember being a child?
All those endless summers playing outside with friends.
For many grown-ups, spending time outdoors
is ingrained in our memories.
But these days, it seems those pastimes are becoming just that,
Our 21st-century children are spending much less time outdoors,
whether that's in their own backyard, in the woods,
or out in the open fields.
In fact, less than a quarter of all our children
make use of their local green spaces.
To find out why, I have come to visit a family in Plymouth. Hi everybody!
-You're all busy out in the garden on a nice day.
Meet the Carringtons.
Mum, Caroline, Dad, Carl,
18-year-old Tristan, Ben, nine, Sam, eight,
Ellie, six, Ruby, five,
and Jack, who's three.
-We're catching bugs.
-You're catching bugs?
-Fantastic, you seeing any today?
Like so many children across Britain,
the Carringtons enjoy the natural world
from the safety of their own garden.
Two black spots and their legs are furry.
How do you think the outdoor life that they have
compares to what you had when you were kids?
It's restricted because I was allowed out until dark.
My parents never asked where I was going.
You just went off on your own.
-What about you?
-Yeah, we just went off to play on our own.
Disappear for the day and come back at teatime!
Does it feel quite difficult then having to give them outside space
but only in what is a fairly small garden?
Basically, we have to restrict them to in here.
Carl and Caroline are frightened to let their children go out
and play on their own.
Cars and so-called stranger danger are the two main reasons
but could protecting their kids be doing more harm than good?
That is something the National Trust wants us all to think about.
Jim, what is the real problem that you are seeking to address?
We're finding increasingly that kids,
the area in which they can roam, their free range,
is decreasing massively.
90% over the last couple of decades.
And there's a whole raft of issues that that brings about,
from not learning cause and effect, not having those
adventures that we probably had when we were youngsters.
And those opportunities just aren't there for them at the moment.
-So they just need to get out more, in your view?
I mean, there are so many issues that it addresses.
There's health, there's that responsibility,
there's that gaining a passion for something.
All of those things -
actually, the outdoors is a pretty good catalyst for.
The National Trust wants to change all that.
They've already released a report on the benefits of connecting
children with nature but they can't do it on their own.
To really make a difference,
they'll need the support of everyone from politicians to parents.
The National Trust is the latest in a long line of organisations
trying to make children connect more with the natural world.
How are you getting on with that welly there? Have you got them both on?
They want people like the Carringtons to get outside more
with their families, with schools, and with other groups.
-So are you just about ready to go?
-One more boot.
-I can stamp in.
-Stamp it in! Right, let's go.
This is Devil' Point on the Plymouth seafront.
It's just a stone's throw from the city centre itself
and this tidal pool is ideal for beginners
when you're doing something a bit scary that maybe you haven't
done before. Today's activity is snorkelling.
-Have you ever done anything like this before, Tristan?
-No. I don't even know if I can swim.
The Blue Sound Project has been running in Plymouth
for a couple of years.
It gives people a chance to dip their toes in seaside activities.
And thanks to Natural England, and the local council, it's all free.
For the eldest son, 18-year-old Tristan,
it's taking a bit of getting used to.
After a couple of hours' practice, Tristan is starting to make
that connection in the pool but how will he get on in the sea?
Fit 18-year-old. I've never seen it before. He's done me proud.
-He really took to it, didn't he?
-He did. He did.
And I'm really, I'm really proud of him. Yeah.
That was amazing.
A bit strange how you go from
being pretty much scared of any water...
I still don't think I can swim, but being in a pool I just wanted this.
The way I felt, I don't know if I'm going to get to do it again,
so I thought it would be best to just give it a bash.
Just giving it a bash might be the best way to get children to
enjoy the great outdoors but young people connecting with nature
is nothing new, as Matt found out a couple of years ago
when he helped celebrate 80 years of Young Farmers Clubs.
Warwickshire is a place of pastoral landscapes and picturesque towns.
Today, farming is still very much at the heart of the local community
amongst both the old and the young.
At this farm in Shipston-on-Stour,
they're putting on a county rally, which I'll be taking part in later.
Across England and Wales,
rallies like this take place throughout the year,
as young farmers aged between ten and 26 get together to have some fun
and pit their skills against each other.
It's something young farmers have been doing for eight decades.
While the way they farm has changed, their passions certainly haven't.
I tell you what, James, looking at these,
young farmers have certainly come a long way in the 80 years.
Hasn't it just? Yeah.
So 23,000 members these days but it all started back in Devon
-when competition was the key.
-Yeah, it did, yeah.
It started with calf and pig rearing clubs
and United Dairies actually organised a competition to encouraging people
to raise livestock and they were actually encouraged to
raise the sort of standards that livestock was being reared by.
-And it is quite popular back then?
-It was amazingly popular, yeah.
It was really that the core competition that really
kick-started all young farmers and in under ten years,
there were over 100 clubs up and down the country.
-And those competitions now, they've widened out a bit, using more and more agricultural skill as well?
-So tractor maintenance, all that kind of stuff.
And there is a lot of people who actually owe their skills
and their careers to the skills they've picked up with young farmers.
The Agricultural Minister for one.
The Agricultural Minister, some guy called Matt Butcher or something?
I don't know! They reckon he was from the Young Farmers. And um, yeah!
-But you don't actually have to be a farmer to be a member of Young Farmers.
-No, you don't.
No, "you don't have to be one to be one" is the old phrase, as it goes.
And you know, I'm not a farmer. I don't come from a farming background.
If you like being outside, then great.
If you like being stuck to a, you know, a computer, then maybe not for you.
There's a lot more to these clubs than just competitions, though.
They give youngsters a voice on farming in both here in the UK
and in Europe and they're enjoying something of a resurgence.
This club in Shipston-on-Stour started last year
and it's already thriving, with nearly 50 members.
I'm meeting one of its founders, who's lending me his wheels
to compete around the tractor course later.
This is an absolute beauty.
-Come and show me the controls of this, before we...
..before you let me loose!
It's a fairly modern tractor, so it's not difficult to drive.
All it is is forward and back on that lever there
and your gears are here
so if you want to go faster, it's the hare and slower - the tortoise.
-And pedals then, just as you would in a car?
-Accelerator, brake and clutch. Simple.
-There you go. Perfect.
-Right. Your turn.
-Yeah. Let's go for a drive.
-Look after it!
This machinery is a lot heftier than the stuff
we have up on our hill farm, so with ten tonnes at my mercy
and a trailer in tow, I'm making sure I get the hang
of the handling out in an open field before I attempt the course.
Right, well. I'm feeling OK, actually, in an open field,
but there's parts of that course that are looking pretty tight
but, um, I'm ready for the challenge.
While the guys here finish their preparations, I'm heading off to
meet one of the club's other young farmers
who's honing her rural skills.
Annabel James lives on a farm a few miles down the road
and is learning the art of shepherding from her dad, Will.
So your dad's teaching you the tricks of the trade, then,
-as far as sheepdog trialling...
-..or training is concerned?
-Good. How long have you been doing it?
-Um, I have only just started...
-How are you getting on?
Well, we're about to find that out, actually. The challenge is then,
Annabel, for you to get into that little pen at the end.
-Yeah, go for it.
-Show us your skills. Good luck.
Away. Fly away. Fly away!
Just to give you an idea of what's going on here, there's quite a few sheep dog commands.
You might have heard of "come by" and "away".
Well, if you imagine that your field is a clock,
when your dog is running clockwise, - it starts with a C -
it's known as "come by", and when your dog is running anticlockwise,
which starts with an A, that's away.
Away! Get away.
Get away. Walk them on.
-Good girl. Walk them on.
-This is good, Annabel. It's very good.
Good girl. Walk on.
There we go. Teamwork. Perfect.
-How is she coming on, then, as a little pupil?
Although Annabel is not planning to be a farmer herself,
it's great to see how determined she is to learn these skills
and stay close to her rural roots.
Well, I have spent the day brushing up on the old farming skills
with the members of the Young Farmers Club.
They're a rowdy bunch and they're in for a treat
as I'm about to be let loose on this course here!
The course has been laid out to simulate a farmyard,
complete with its own barn and track around the outbuildings.
All I've got to do is navigate it - in the ten-tonne tractor and trailer.
Tom's set it up, didn't you - this course, so just talk me through...
Fairly easy course. Going around in it in an S shape.
-Have you had a go at this?
-It's very tight. I have had a go - and then reversing into little barns.
Get nice and straight and then just nice and reverse in.
-Easy as pie.
-Easy as pie.
-Here we go then.
With a quick five-minute practice in an open field,
the pressure is now on.
My mentor Tom doesn't seem entirely confident.
Well, if this was my workshop walls, I'd be quite scared!
As predicted, the S-bend is the bit that proves tricky.
Watch your trailer!
Oh, he's getting in!
Come on, in one! In one! Keep going!
While the cautious approach might not be a crowd-pleaser,
with the turn behind me, all I have to do now is reverse into the barn.
And as my driving instructor always taught me,
check your mirrors before you manoeuvre.
Oh, using the wing mirrors!
-Well done, mate. You did very well. Well done. Cheers, mate.
-Well, it's tough round the top there, isn't it?
-I told you it gets tight.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-No, it looked like you enjoyed that.
It's a cheeky little course, that one, though.
Inspired by the glorious Northamptonshire countryside,
writer BB's books were a celebration of the wonders
and adventures to be found within the natural world.
"Close to the margin of the glittering water, there was
"a miniature beach of coloured shingle and white sand.
"And from the glare on the stream, wavering bars of reflected
"light played to and fro on the bulging trunk of the oak."
Reading BB's vivid descriptions, it's really easy to be charmed
into believing that underneath the dappled shade
of any tree, there are other worlds waiting to be discovered.
But BB's artistic flair doesn't lie with just words.
Having worked as an assistant art master at Rugby school,
he was also a skilled artist and illustrated almost all of his books,
his hallmark a distinctive blackboard scraping technique,
the dark backgrounds giving the pictures
an almost mystical moonlight charm.
BB drew artistic inspiration from exploring the natural
world around the village of Lamport where he grew up and today, in the
grounds of Lamport Hall, students from Northgate School Arts College
are following in his footsteps by letting their imaginations soar.
They are no strangers to producing artwork in BB's signature style,
having this year won the BB Society's commemorative art competition.
For these children with needs beyond mainstream education,
spending time in nature's classroom is something that teacher
Alison Beresford actively encourages.
What do you think your pupils get from working outside like this?
Because they are all special needs children
they find that a lot of the academic stuff is quite difficult for them.
So, any activity that is art or drama based
and outside is very much what we want to give them.
It's good to give them the confidence and to give them
the new experiences because they need as many life experiences as possible.
And working outside is something the children clearly enjoy.
-What have you got here, a little blackboard type thing?
-Wow, that's impressive.
-It's a blackboard with a picture on it.
One of our teachers drew a picture on it
-and we have to go over it with this.
-So what are you making there?
-Oh, yes! Can I have a go at this, then? Is that a spare one?
-OK, what do I need to do?
-What you do, see the drawing?
-Just go over them.
-OK, so I scrape away the sort of black oily stuff?
Do you spend a lot of time outside then?
Yeah, yes, quite a bit actually in my garden.
I hope to go into horticulture actually in the future.
-Why is that then?
-Uh, I like the outdoors really.
I like the environment and the animals as well.
You seem like you're quite enjoying working outside.
Do you like working outside?
Yeah, I do, because it's boring crammed inside in a crummy
building...it's better to be outside.
As someone who was so at home in the countryside,
BB would definitely have approved.
But what do the experts make of my BB inspired work?
-That's all right, isn't it? My hedgehog? Yeah?
-Are you being kind?
Let's have a look at yours.
Brilliant! That's mine!
I definitely think yours is better than mine.
I might just turn mine over.
-You like your art but you also like your horse riding, don't you?
Well, you are going to enjoy hearing all about a group of people
that Ellie went to meet last year.
She's been finding out about some future champions of the horse racing world.
I'm in Newmarket, the historic home of horse racing.
But Newmarket isn't just home to one of our finest racecourses,
it also produces some of the world's leading jockeys.
So, who are the runners and riders of the future?
To find out, I'm going back to school.
The British Racing School is a centre of excellence offering
apprenticeships in racehorse care.
Run with military precision, this place isn't for the faint-hearted.
Gemma Waterhouse is going to show me the ropes.
So, what does a standard day look like for the students?
They're up super early at 5:30 in the morning and they come straight
down to the yard and they have a few horses to muck out every day.
And they'll ride for just over an hour before they're back in,
make their horses comfortable, put their tack away, and up for breakfast.
They've got only about half an hour to get that down their necks
and they pull out again for another hour or so,
back in the yard, make the yard look beautiful.
-Everything's got to be perfect.
And then they are back up around midday when they have lunch and
they've got two hours to just chill out and probably get a bit of sleep.
They live here, don't they? It must be tough being away from home.
Yeah, for a lot of them, for the vast majority of them,
this is their first time away from home and it can be tough
and they do get homesick and we often get a lot of tears in those
first few weeks where they're missing home and they're
finding it hard.
But actually, at the end of the course we get a lot of tears
when they're leaving because they're sad to go and they really
enjoyed it and they've made some amazing friends, friends for life.
Erm, so, yeah, it's definitely tough for the beginning
but they are always sad to leave at the end as well.
The course is open to anyone from any background between the ages
of 16 to 25 whether they've ridden before or not.
Places are in high demand with around 850 applicants regularly
applying for 220 places.
Rebecca was one of the lucky ones.
-So, how tough is this course then?
-It's pretty tiring.
It's just, just getting up on a morning,
you just kind of lie there for five minutes
and then you're like, oh, but then once you're up it's fine.
What were you doing before this?
Well, I did... straight after high school
I did three years of A-levels because I failed one year
and ended up re-sitting but it was never, never for me.
But I'd always just work in bars and stuff, waitressing and then
just doing my horses on the side and the night-time and in the morning.
All the staff at the school are either ex-jockeys or industry
professionals and Julie here passes on her professional experience
in a rather innovative way.
Four wheels and an earpiece.
This kind of tuition you can't shout from a van.
First of all, the rider's unlikely to hear you.
The instructor speaks into a radio
and both of these guys can hear the instruction that's being given.
It's very effective and keeps everybody calm.
So this is one-on-ones. This is really invaluable for the students?
Yeah, every day this is what happens here.
They ride two lots and they have one-on-one tuition.
The riders are videoed so they have video reviews
so they can see exactly what they're doing well
and what they're doing not so well.
So, the filly that's being ridden here, she's quite a tricky filly.
Rebecca here is riding her very well.
Rebecca's a very good rider in fact and it's
all about keeping your hands nice and down near the horse's withers
and she's very happy, you see the filly, she keeps pricking her ears.
There's a little bit of a dip in the gallop here.
Which often the horses just try and take advantage of and get ahead
but she's doing a great job.
Rebecca's almost at the end of the course.
And after three hours' hard graft already, it's nearly
time for her and the others to have a well earned breakfast.
Are you amazed how far you've come in this short time?
Oh, yeah. Definitely.
I never thought I'd be sort of this good on, like, just eight weeks.
I mean, I could always ride,
but it's a lot different from what I was doing so, it's really good.
-Oh, good, you look fabulous to me.
Hopefully, Rebecca and the others will go the distance,
making it out of the stable yard
and into the famous winners' enclosure at Newmarket Racecourse.
Some youngsters develop a passion for the outside world.
Some are just born with it.
Age is certainly no barrier for one very special two-year-old
that Adam met when he visited Dorset last year.
Now, there's starting young and there's starting young.
At two years old, little Arthur Jones already knows about sheep.
He spends five days a week tending to his flock
with his grandmother Nicky Jesse while his mum's at work.
-Lovely to meet you.
-Tell me about this little boy.
-I've been hearing all about him.
-Yes. Arthur's very special.
He was born just over two months premature.
He spent his first seven weeks of life in an intensive care unit.
And as a result, he's got cerebral palsy which is
-affecting his lower limbs.
-And how is he coping?
The guts and determination he's got is amazing.
So, tell me about how he's got involved with sheep.
Well, he's already got his own little flock.
And he's the youngest member of the Poll Dorset
And Dorset Horn Breed Society. HE LAUGHS
-And working with sheep has helped him?
-It has, incredibly.
They said he wouldn't walk until he was four.
He's two and a half and he's walking and he took his little pet ewe,
Twinkle, into the Dorset County Show in the children's class
and he won a cup for the child that showed the most endeavour.
Arthur won that.
It is. He let go of my hand and walked into the ring by himself.
We all had a lump in our throats when he'd done that.
They've got such a rapport.
Twinkle actually got him walking.
She would just stand with him, walk with him.
When he stopped, she stopped, if he fell over
because he can't get to his feet once he's fallen over.
She will stand still and let him scrabble up on top
-and off they go again.
-What a wonderful relationship.
Before we head out to the field to see the rest of the flock,
Arthur's got something he wants to show me.
Arthur won that.
-Arthur won which one?
-Did you? You won that one.
Not that one, this one.
-Is it this one, I think.
-Who won that?
Arthur did, that's you.
Arthur won that.
-Did you win that, as well?
Arthur, you've won so many things.
For a two-year-old he's becoming a great shepherd.
He certainly looks the part and he's got all the gear.
-Quad bike's quite handy.
-Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
Now he's got heavier, it's been hard to carry him about.
With that he's free and he can come and help round-up the sheep.
Are you going to get those sheep, Arthur?
We'll hang on here, you go and get 'em.
The Dorset is one of only a few native breeds of sheep
that can lamb all year round.
-Have they been around a long time as a breed?
The Dorset Horns are one of the earliest recorded.
How long have you bred them for?
I've been farming Dorsets for over 20 years now.
-Are they your favourite?
-Dorset girl with Dorset sheep.
-Born and bred.
It's lovely to see Arthur getting involved.
-He's enjoying that quad bike, isn't he?
-He is, he loves it.
-He looks like he could be useful on it.
-He's extremely useful.
He's just as good as a dog, I think.
At some point most children, and certainly adults,
dream of getting away from it all,
slipping the shackles of boring authority,
and surviving alone in the wild.
I'm deep in Fermyn Woods Country Park in Northamptonshire
where I'm getting a little taste of what life was like for the boys
in BB's book, Brendan Chase,
who ran away to live in the forest.
A bit like Robin Hood and his Merry Men did.
But today, unlike them, I'm not all alone in the woods.
A group of 8-11 year olds from nearby Brigstock Primary School
have been getting a taste of the great outdoors
by building the perfect woodland hideaway.
This is a very impressive den.
It is, yeah. We've spent quite a lot of time on it.
What has this been built for because some dens are to sleep in,
some dens are for a bit of shelter...?
This one is to protect you from the elements,
so the wind and the rain.
-So you could sleep in it?
-Are we going to test that?
What have you used to get it to this stage?
Well, we've used these big leaves
-and some smaller branches to fill up the holes.
-Guys, come on!
Listen at Ollie in there, he's inside doing what?
He's looking for the holes in the edge of the foliage
and showing us where to put these leaves.
-You're blocking the holes so that it's nice and waterproof.
As one of Northamptonshire's education rangers,
Eric is inspiring a whole new generation
to develop a sense of adventure in the great outdoors.
This is a very impressive shelter.
I'm glad you like it. I hope it's going to be waterproof.
Why do you think it's important for children of this age
to be out here doing this kind of thing?
First of all, you can see there are a lot of individuals here
and they couldn't build a structure like this unless they worked as a team.
I get really annoyed when people say kids don't do stuff like this
and kids don't get mucky enough
but do we live in an age of health and safety
where they're making it more difficult.
No, what you do is you write a risk assessment
and try and instil in them what is safe and what isn't safe.
They're assessing all the time where are the trip hazards,
what can I cut, what can't I cut
and then they can come and make something like this
in utmost safety.
I suppose in creating a risk assessed den
-they are gaining some common-sense as well.
Yes, they are, most definitely.
Now the rains are definitely coming, I can feel a few drops now.
Look at those great, big, black clouds.
So everybody inside the shelter, come on.
-Are we going to invite Helen in with us?
So she doesn't get wet. I thought you'd never ask!
Right, off we go, then.
In you go. Right, are we all inside?
Let's test how well this shelter's holding up.
-Are you ready?
The rain is coming.
Here it comes!
-I hope that watering can's on the risk assessment.
That's a little bit.
I think it's fair to say we've failed.
-Haven't we, guys?
-We're all pretty drenched
-but everybody seems to be in good spirits. Yeah?
Here we go.
This is all in good spirits, though, but for the teenagers
that Ellie met last winter,
they had seriously work to be getting on with.
This is Dovestone reservoir in the north-west
of the Peak District National Park.
It was built in 1967 to collect the water from the surrounding moorlands
and, today, it's also a RSPB reserve
and locals say it was named because, up on the skyline there,
there are some rocks in the shape of doves.
It's easy to see why people flock to this wild terrain.
Every week a group of youngsters come here
to discover more about this wide, open moorland.
They call themselves the Dovestone Youth Rangers
and, today, I'm going to be joining their ranks.
To be a member you need to be between 11 and 19.
I hope they don't ask for ID!
Greg Cookson from Oldham Youth Council is the man in charge.
So what do the young people get out of it, why do they do it?
Well, a lot of the young people are really
concerned about the environment.
They come from a variety of different backgrounds.
They come from the town centre and close to Manchester city centre.
They're actually learning what is here on their doorstep.
And what they do learn, they can take onto further things.
Further things like university, the Duke Of Edinburgh,
even things like the John Muir Award.
These teenage rangers have been working on a number of projects
here for the last 12 months.
One of the biggest has been pond building.
How are you doing there, you two? Tell me, why all these ponds?
Well, we have been doing a lot of research lately into pond life
and the frogs that live naturally
and we're been finding out that they have been declining due to
a loss of habitat and places that they can actually breed.
It looks amazing, but it's not easy digging a pond, is it, Grace?
It's not easy at all.
We had to bring the gravel up, dig the hole.
We had to pump the water down which took
ages from further down there and, erm, we had to wait for it to
settle and then we put all our plants in, our rocks
for the insects to live in.
-It looks so natural but a load of work goes into it, doesn't it?
The young rangers are encouraged to get stuck in
with all the land management work needed here.
I'm sure there aren't many 14-year-olds that chop down trees
in their spare time but Lily McGuinness does.
There we go.
Wow! Tell me, why would you do this, Lily.
It looks like a beautiful day today but it's freezing cold
and I should think you're out in all kinds of weathers?
Well, from a young age I've been
encouraged by my parents to come out into the outdoors.
They take me out all the time and camping outdoors.
What do you think you've learnt through being a ranger?
Dovestones is quite interesting
cos when I was little I came up here a lot and I thought
it was dead boring but it's got loads of different habitats here.
It's really good.
Volunteering as a youth ranger can also open doors.
Mariam Waseem is 18 and the experience she's gained here
has impressed universities.
In an interview, one of the admissions officers
was really impressed, as well as surprised, that at this age I've got
so much experience, actually being out here, being outdoors,
doing the stuff and knowing that I actually want to pursue this
because I've had experience of doing so much conservation work.
-So this has genuinely helped you?
Spending time outdoors has also provided an opportunity to get closer
to wildlife and the rangers' latest project has been capturing
this local fauna on film.
It has become a bit of a tradition to sit down together to watch
some of the footage under a cleverly placed
piece of tarpaulin in the woods - a makeshift cinema.
Flicks in the sticks, if you will.
That wouldn't be complete without popcorn.
I'm taking my seat on the back row for this wildlife matinee.
Apprentice youth worker Areeta Iqbal helps the youngsters
capture the footage.
Tell me about the camera traps?
What we did was, we did a little research of our own.
We decided on three different places
because we found different faeces of animals and other tracks.
We put them in three different places and just kept them
there for a few weeks.
-Zak, what have you managed to see?
-We saw a stoat chasing a brown hare, which was quite amazing
because the stoat is so small and the hare is so big.
You wouldn't believe that a stoat could kill a brown hare.
It was quite amazing to see something as good as that,
-What else have you managed to see from the camera trap?
-We saw a squirrel and a pheasant
at a pond and they didn't know each other was there.
As soon as, like, they saw each other
they both got really scared and, like, jumped.
-So that's in one of the ponds you've been working on?
Local wildlife is already making good use of the new ponds.
This heron is a regular visitor.
It's been a really enjoyable day working alongside
these young trailblazers.
This beautiful landscape is now in safe hands
and has helped to inspire the next generation of conservationists.
From the beautiful Peak District to the stunning Shetlands.
All across this land there are children and young people
making the most of their surroundings and its wildlife.
Some things they get up to are more unusual than others
as Adam found out last summer.
From weather-beaten crags to windswept sands,
Shetlands myriad islands are ever-changing.
Here the weather can blow from furious gales to clear skies
in the shake of a lamb's tail.
Only the toughest, and it would seem smallest, can thrive here.
In this Lilliput land of livestock,
this has got to be the most famous of the bijou beasts.
Surely a trip to the Shetlands wouldn't be complete without
seeing one of these, a Shetland pony.
They're really hardy and, like many of the animals on the Shetlands,
they've adapted to be super tough.
Their strength is legendary and they have been used for all sorts of work.
When mining was at its peak, they'd go down into the dark pits
and work alongside the miners.
Here on Shetland, fishermen owned them and used their tail hair
to make fishing lines but, of course,
those days are long gone but they are a working pony
and they like to be kept busy.
This little lady is in training.
So, come along then.
Melody, Rebecca and Miranda are all young riders with their sights
set on the Shetland Pony Grand National.
It takes place each year as part of the Olympia horse show in London.
Hi, Melody. I believe this is your pony I've been borrowing?
Here you are.
Riders come from all over the country
but these lasses are flying the flag for Shetland.
-How long have you been racing Shetlands?
-Erm, I started last year.
-I hear you're a bit of a champ, is that right?
-Did you win?
-Yeah, I won twice at Olympia.
Goodness me, well done you.
What makes a good Shetland pony jockey?
-You're used to riding them and you don't get scared.
-Does it help that you come from the Shetlands?
-It's got it through your blood.
While they go off to train, I'm going to find
out more about the Shetland Pony Grand National.
Helen Thompson has been involved since it began.
Over the years she's trained more than 30 young jockeys
for the competition.
How did it all get started?
Well, it started about 1982.
A great spectacle, the kids have fun
but it raises money for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital.
In other words, you get children raising money for children.
Throughout the year up to 50 ponies and riders take part in heats
before being whittled down to a lucky ten for the grand final.
The riders are all aged between nine and 13
and can be no taller than five foot.
This is a big race with mini contenders.
Well, there's only one way to test the horsepower of these ponies
and that's a race.
With some months to go before the big event, we're going to stage our own.
-What do they do, a walking start, is it?
Walking, walking... Go!
-Goodness me, they really fly don't they?
Oh, and Miranda's fallen at the second hurdle
but, like a true pro, she's back in the saddle.
Will she be all right?
Ah, she'll bounce.
Great little jumpers!
It's wonderful, it's really exciting.
Melody's well in the lead now.
Ooh, she's gone!
'Now Rebecca's taken a tumble, and her horse is heading for the hills.
'I think these girls are even tougher than the ponies.'
Goodness me! It's pretty fast, isn't it?
-Are you OK?
-Are you sure? What happened?
A tight corner, and I flew off.
I reckon those silver bootees made him fly!
It's all right, little one! He's so lively.
He's got a spark in his eye.
-And how are you, are you OK?
Well, I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.
It was quite extraordinary.
The understated beauty of Northamptonshire.
The wildlife, the habitat, the adventures.
The little grey men.
Inspired by his love of nature, writer and illustrator BB
took part in all manner of outdoor pursuits.
He was particularly... Oh! ..excited by carp fishing.
There we go. Thank you! Hello.
He wrote about a fanatical fisherman who used to sit out in all weathers
desperate for one solitary bite.
Right, let's unhook you and get you back in the water.
I've just caught a common roach.
But have the children from Brigstock primary school
also uncovered the mysteries
of what lies beneath the waters of Fermyn Woods Country Park?
How many fish have you caught, then, Bradley?
That's the first one.
-This is the first one?
-So you're obviously quite good at fishing, then.
-Have you been fishing before?
-This your first time fishing and that's your first-ever fish?
'Fishing first-timer Bradley has been able to catch his chub today
'with a little help from James Roach from the Angling Trust.
'Yep - I said James Roach.'
Is it easy for families to get into fishing?
Most people tend to get into fishing through a parent that takes them.
But what we're doing in the Angling Trust is create environments
where people can try fishing in a really easy manner.
So we've got a national initiative called Family Fishing
where people can turn up to big events and try fishing,
completely free. The last thing you want to do is buy a load of kit
that you don't know how to use, don't know if you're buying
the right bits and pieces as well.
So all the kit's provided.
We've got qualified coaches like the ones we've got here,
giving a bit of instruction and showing everyone what to do.
And importantly, how to deal with the fish as well - once you've caught one
and you can see this thing on the bank that's alive,
how to sort of unhook them and how to look after them.
How easy is it to persuade youngsters to get into fishing?
Fishing is one of these activities that you need to sort of try
to really understand what it's all about,
and that excitement of hooking into a fish.
This may sound strange, but you can sit there all day
and watch this little orange float in the pond,
but that moment when it goes underneath,
your heart-rate just shoots right up,
and it's that excitement that just can't be explained.
-I caught another one!
'There's one young novice who seems to be a bit of a natural.'
Ooh, that's a biggie.
Jonty, you seem to be the master of this.
I've never done it in my life!
So in the last, what, hour, you've caught nine or ten fish now?
-And do you think you'll come fishing again?
-You seem like you're a bit of a natural.
-You're doing very well.
'But with Jonty on a roll...'
-How are you doing, Al?
'..are there going to be any more fish in the pond for me?'
Oh, I think we've got one, I think we've got one!
The environment is something that
people of all ages should care about.
In 2012, John took to Cromer Beach
to give it a thorough tidy-up.
And I've recruited a band of helpers!
Are you ready for it?
Almost half a million people flock to Cromer's sandy beaches
every year, and some like to leave their mark.
An average of 2,700 pieces of litter are found on every mile of UK beach.
My name's Lauren and I work for the Marine Conservation Society.
Does anyone know what we are going to be doing today?
Ooh, lots of hands. Yep.
-Picking up litter.
-Is everyone ready?
OK, gang. Off we go.
This beach looks pretty clean to me, but let's see what we can find.
-Do you think that's natural or...?
-Is that shredded skin?
It looks like it, doesn't it? Yeah. It could be from an orange.
Oh, no, that's definitely a bit of rubber or something, isn't it?
It very much looks like it's the end of a balloon...
-This is the balloon stop here, where the balloon sits.
What do you think happened to the rubber of the balloon, then?
It could be still out at sea, it could have blown back inland.
We just really don't know. But animals can eat them
and they can end up in their stomachs
-and cause them real problems.
-The problem is
that it takes such a long time to break down.
-How long do you think it might last?
-Two or three years?
Oh, it's a good guess, but I'd say much, much more than that,
-probably 30 years, maybe, if it ended up in the sea.
I suppose sometimes they don't really realise
what they're doing, do they?
No, they just forget about wildlife.
Looks like a belt thing.
-Thrown off of a boat, probably.
-They should really take more care, shouldn't they?
Be honest with me, girls, have you ever dropped litter on a beach?
-No, I always...
-Cross your heart?
What do you think about people who just dump things
without even thinking?
They're being cruel to nature.
It's sort of killing the planet, really.
The children today seem incredibly enthusiastic about it.
Yeah, it is all about trying to change people's attitudes
and their behaviour, that's one great first step.
The other steps that we use are, you know,
we must collect as much data as we can.
We've got thousands of volunteers
out on the coastlines all over the UK
doing exactly what the children are doing here today,
and if we can try and build that data set up,
we've got the evidence then to shape campaigns
to try and solve the problem
and use it to make change up at high levels
and also within industry practices as well.
-What's the most worrying thing that you find?
Plastics are very, very bad.
They make up over half of what we find on UK beaches everywhere.
They are so sturdy, they will just get smaller and smaller and smaller
and they're collecting in large areas,
way out there in the ocean, in big sort of litter soups,
and one of them, which is the largest in the world -
there's five -
the largest, in the North Pacific, is the size of Texas.
So it's causing not only problems on the beaches here
but also out at sea.
-Goodness me, what's that? A sock?
-Two, in fact.
-We found a T-shirt.
All he needs now is a pair of shorts and he's got a full outfit!
11 children, one hour, one beach, and three full bags of rubbish.
-What's your reaction to that, then?
Well done, team. You've done a great job today.
Just one bit of bad news - you've got to put it all back in the bags,
but then I've got a treat for you.
Right, kids. Ice creams! You've all washed your hands, haven't you?
After that dirty work.
'If you want to get involved in a beach clean like this,
'go to our website for more information.'
Today, I'm in Northamptonshire to celebrate
70 years of the much-loved adventure book Brendon Chase,
written and illustrated for the young at heart by BB.
'Joining children from local schools,
'I've been testing my den-making skills...'
Listen to that thunder!
Here comes the rain!
Well, that is definitely not waterproof.
'But who cares? We had more success fishing.'
-There we go!
And now I'm following in BB's footsteps
as I go in search of one of his most ardent passions,
the elusive Apatura iris,
or the Purple Emperor butterfly to you and I.
Fermyn Woods is one of the few places in the country
you can find this woodland monarch
during its brief three-week breeding season.
The children are on the lookout for butterfly eggs.
-This looks like a merry gang!
-It is indeed.
What are we actually looking for?
They're not flying now, cos it's too cloudy,
but what we're looking for is their eggs.
'As a boy, butterfly expert Matthew Oates
'fell in love with the Purple Emperor
'after reading BB's novel Brendon Chase.
'Finding the Emperor is tricky, but the eggs can be even more elusive.'
-So if we are going to find eggs...
-..they will be where?
-Only on this...?
-Only on this type of tree -
sallow, or pussy willow. Only on the upper sides.
-What do the eggs actually look like?
-That's the problem.
They look like tiny little galls.
They look just like that.
Now, that's not an Emperor egg,
but that's what they look like.
But that's a little animal that lives in there.
The Empress, her eggs literally mimic these,
and then those galls turn red later on,
but the Emperor egg doesn't. So it's really clever.
I know you read Brendon Chase when you were younger.
What did you think of it?
That book changed my life, because it provided a journey into a world
which I wanted to live in. I wanted that to be my real world,
not a fantasy world. But also,
that is how I discovered the Purple Emperor butterfly,
discovered it in literature. BB's book, his writing,
actually puts that butterfly right up on a pedestal,
where it belongs.
When it appears, this butterfly explodes into your life.
It reaches the parts other butterflies can't get anywhere near.
-Are you having any luck, boys?
-Not found any.
Let's have a look.
Oh, it's tiny! No, they're bigger than that.
'We may not have found any butterfly eggs,
'but Matthew has just seen a Purple Emperor in the tree tops.'
It's not a butterfly that flies around in grasses,
it doesn't visit flowers. It lives in the tops of trees.
A lot of tropical butterflies do that.
-This is our one tropical butterfly.
-That is so big!
-What do you think?
-He's about that big!
-It's that big, I think!
-It's beautiful! Wow!
So, Tallulah, you saw a Purple Emperor butterfly
for the first time today. What did you think?
Well, it was like, um, a small bat.
-Were you impressed?
How much? This much? Or this much?
-Er, this much.
-That much impressed!
-What have you enjoyed the most?
-Er, probably the fishing.
Because I've never done it before, and it's just something new,
-and it's really exciting.
-And you were pretty good at it!
-You were, you know you were!
I enjoyed the den-building today. It was really fun
to see it build up, and then at the end know that you made it.
Because it was, like, getting back to nature,
and you were proud of yourself and what you had done,
even though in the end it was a bit wet in there!
Well, that's it for this week.
Next week we will be in Staffordshire,
investigating one of the most mysterious places in the UK.
But from Northamptonshire, goodbye!
In this bank holiday edition of the programme Helen Skelton looks at how the British countryside has shaped our childhoods down the ages. Playground. Classroom. Sports field. It's been all things.
She travels to Northamptonshire to rediscover the works of one-time children's favourite author, Dennis Watkins Pitchford. Better known as BB, he was as big as Enid Blyton in his day. Book in hand, Helen explores the countryside that features in BB's stories. While she's there she looks back at some of the best films on Countryfile that have featured kids and childhood.