Matt Baker and Ellie Harrison are in the Lee Valley, the green lung of London. Ellie takes to the water to see what is being done to clean up its chalk streams.
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These green acres will surprise you. This isn't the rural shires
or even the remote uplands.
This is just minutes from the centre of London.
The Lee Valley has provided fun and fresh air for city-dwellers
for more than four decades,
but it is more than just the green lung of London.
It is also home to a vast array of wildlife.
(How about that?)
As well as being its lungs, it's London's larder, too.
It's hard to believe that all of this started with just one man
and a few cucumber plants. Today, I am going to be meeting
the Sicilian family who have turned salad-growing
into a real Italian job.
Tom's been doing a bit of detective work.
There is little doubt that climate change will affect our future,
but what about the present? I'll be looking for proof that
it's already had a significant impact
on the British countryside.
And Adam's in search of a new bull.
This is Isaac,
my lovely Gloucester bull. And the Gloucester
are quite a rare breed.
Isaac, here, has been doing his bit to increase the numbers in my herd,
but now that his daughters are in the herd,
I can't have him mating with them, so I have got to go out and find
a new bull. You're lovely, but you're standing on my toe!
Water meadows and wetlands,
green swards and lazy streams...
where nature abounds and wildlife thrives.
This could be the middle of nowhere, but it isn't, because, standing here,
you are just 15 miles from the centre of London.
This is the Lee Valley,
often described as the green lung for London.
10,000 acres of pristine green space, right on the city's doorstep.
The Lee Valley runs for 26 miles,
from Ware in Hertfordshire, right down to the River Thames.
There's all kinds of rare and important habitat here,
but there is one that is rarer than most.
Chalk streams - about as rare as habitats get.
Less than 200 in the world and only found
in England and northern France.
So, taking care of them... That goes without saying.
Their pristine water is important for wildlife, not just the fish
and birds, but the creepy-crawlies that they all feed on.
But the Lee Valley is close to urban areas,
and pollution is a constant threat, so farmers like
Nicholas Buxton are doing what they can to help keep their rivers clean.
What we've done, principally, is we've put in a series of deflectors
along here, to recreate the natural pattern of the river,
where it flows from side to side.
It was dredged a long while ago and it was lacking in interest.
There was not much habitat there.
The deflectors create areas of fast and slow water.
Keeping the water flowing is one way of keeping the river clean.
It creates good habitat, too.
So it doesn't just have to be fast-flowing throughout?
It's the variation and you can see it
up and down this length, where we have sections
of slow water, with reeds, and faster water,
with clean gravels on the other side, which is ideal for spawning.
What sort of wildlife have you seen return, as a result of this?
I am very pleased to see that the mayfly have come back.
They had a few very low years, but, of late, the last couple of years,
we have had an excellent hatch of mayfly.
The insect life very much enjoys these reed beds and have done well.
To find out just how well the river is doing
requires wellies and the right kind of equipment.
I am joining Charlie Bell,
from the Hertfordshire & Middlesex Wildlife Trust.
Along with her volunteers, she is here to monitor the invertebrates,
especially the mayflies.
Why does me bringing my net along give us a clue
about the health of this river?
Unfortunately, a lot of the pollution is not going to be
visible if you're just walking along the bank.
A healthy river can look
exactly the same as a polluted river, to the eye,
so you need to get in and sample the invertebrates and have a look.
A lot of them are very pollution sensitive,
so they're a really good indicator of the health of the river
and the general water quality.
'Net at the ready, it's time to put the boot in.
'This is called kick sampling - a trusted method
'for collecting specimens. Gather the silt and stones you kick up
'and, hopefully, there's plenty of mayfly nymphs.'
Let's have a look. I love this bit.
'So, what have we got?'
-And there's loads!
-'The freshwater shrimp,
'a bullhead fish,
'the odd mayfly nymph.
'Not a bad sample.
'Maybe volunteers Jonathan Foregombe and Peter Ilston have fared better.'
-Found anything interesting?
-We've got a mayfly nymph here.
'And a good specimen, too. This creature will have lived
'in the gravel in the riverbed for two years, but any day now,
'it will hatch into a full-grown adult.'
If we put it in the water,
-you can actually watch its gills.
-Oh, yeah, they are in the middle.
Do you know exactly which species of mayfly, Charlie?
This is a species called Ephemera danica.
It is the one that's known as THE mayfly.
There's many different species of mayfly, but anglers tend to call
this one THE mayfly. So, this is really nice.
-So, this is all a good sign, Charlie?
-It is, yes.
We've done a relatively short sample here, but we have got a tray
that is teeming with life, so it's a really good sign.
For now, it is just the proof we need
that this chalk stream is healthy.
The rivers and lakes of the Lee Valley
support more than just a large array of wildlife,
as Matt is about to find out.
The Lee Valley does more than merely refresh Londoners' lungs.
It fills their stomachs, too,
with 150 years of fruit and veg growing
right on the capital's doorstep.
The Lee Valley was close enough to get fresh produce
into the heart of the city within hours of picking,
yet far enough away to have clean air and open spaces.
The Lee Valley produces three-quarters of one of the UK's
most popular fruits, and this site alone grows five million of them.
It's a fruit with a long and auspicious history.
Emperor Tiberius had them on his table every day.
Catherine of Aragon liked them sliced, in salads.
And they have even been grown on the International Space Station.
I am, of course, talking about...
the humble cucumber.
And, yes, it IS a fruit and they can be eaten just like one.
Cucumbers originally came from Asia.
The people who put them on the map here in the Lee Valley
came from foreign climes, too - Sicily.
Giovanni Abella was one of those.
He came here in 1957.
After a stint in a concrete factory,
he rented his first greenhouses.
By the late '60s, he was on his way.
Since then, his business has grown from strength to strength.
UK Salads is now very much an Italian family affair.
Helping him are his three daughters -
Jo, Leonora and Franca -
their husbands - Vito, Paz and Giuseppe -
and now a grandson, Jake, is on the books, too.
John, very nice to meet you.
-You must be very proud of your family?
-Yes. Very good.
-And very proud of all of this?
-Yes, thank you.
So, tell me, do you have a history of growing,
-since you were a little boy?
-Yeah, I work in the farm in Italy,
-with my father there.
-OK. And what were you growing?
-Yes, in Italy, yeah.
In the 1950s and '60s,
the Lee Valley market gardens
were desperately short of people like John,
with experience of working on the land.
One of our biggest problems, we are very, very short of labour, indeed,
and we have to rely on foreign labour.
With their first-hand experience of growing fresh produce back home,
the Sicilians were an obvious choice for the greenhouses.
It wasn't just fruit and vegetables that were grown here.
Their biggest crop was flowers, which were taken in to London
and sold at Covent Garden,
the capital's main fruit and vegetable market until the 1970s.
-About 1969, I buy the glasshouses here...
..and I started my own business. And I carry on like this.
So, when you bought the glasshouses
-..were you growing cucumbers then?
-Cucumber, yes. It was roses in here.
I take the roses out and I put cucumber in,
-then carried on with cucumber all the time.
-And why cucumbers?
Because I understand the cucumber.
I don't understand about roses!
The cucumber business was hard work back then.
It was manual labour, seven days a week.
Coal was used to fire boilers that provided the warmth
the cucumbers needed to grow.
John often slept in his greenhouses, to keep an eye on his plants.
Things are a lot different now.
He has son-in-law Vito to help.
Vito grew up in Sicily,
but met wife Jo when he came to visit cousins, also in the business.
And he never went back.
Listen, let's start at the bottom and work up,
because you have got them in these little grow bags here.
-What is inside there?
-Inside is coconut bits.
-Yeah. Is crushed coconuts.
-That particular one is coming
-from Sri Lanka.
-You can see all the little coconut hairs in there.
Years ago - seven, eight years ago - we used to grow in this stuff
-called rock wool.
-Which is loft insulation!
That's right. Correct.
And you have got these pipes and tubes coming in here.
-Is that feed?
-That is the feed, from the irrigation computer.
So each one gets all the nutrients and water and, by the way,
the computer adjusts - more fertiliser or less water
-It's all at the touch of a button these days?
In this mock-Mediterranean climate, cucumbers grow really fast.
Now, this was filmed over six hours and they grew about an inch.
But even with this finely tuned system,
the cucumbers are still susceptible to the age-old adversaries.
Is your biggest challenge pests?
This little fella, he will go and search for other little insects
-called thrips, which causes a lot of trouble for the cues.
-When the little fruit... He can go in there.
-Are those little cucumbers in there?
-Yes, that is about seven
-cucumbers in there.
-What he is doing, he starts biting the cues
when they are very, very small.
-Then, when they start growing, they are growing curly...
..which is no good to us. We can't sell to the supermarket.
Did I not hear right that the curly ones are actually the tastiest?
Yes. Is the better. More sugar, more tastier.
So, why are supermarkets selling us these long ones?
I think it is... People do not know the curly ones is the better one.
Vito, not after this.
Seriously, everybody is going to be after curly cucumbers now.
-Yes, it is the best.
-Well, Vito doesn't throw away any of
the curly cucumbers. The north London Greek and Turkish communities
absolutely love them!
It's the old philosophy - waste not, want not.
And his commitment to environmentally friendly practices
is not just a load of hot air.
As well as a biomass boiler, they also have one of these...
It's a massive engine, which burns gas to heat the greenhouse
and also provides electricity for the National Grid.
Now, as well as that, it produces CO2, which, of course,
is a greenhouse gas, and it's used in the greenhouse.
But it's not contributing to global warming.
The carbon dioxide is fed through the pipes into the greenhouses,
where the plants absorb it. It's all controlled
by the touch of a button. But despite the gadgets and gizmos
and computers, there are still some jobs that are all about hard graft,
like harvesting. That's because only a human can judge when a cucumber
is big enough, heavy enough
and, you've guessed it, straight enough.
It's been fascinating to see the lengths that this family is going to
to create the perfect conditions for cucumbers,
but outside of the glasshouses,
and on the subject of our environment,
there are a number of predictions as to
what climate change is going to do
for the future of British agriculture.
But what is happening now? Tom has been to find out.
The British weather can be wild, wonderful and downright weird.
In the last few years, we've had droughts, big freezes
and the wettest winter on record.
So, what's going on? Well, for some, these extremes show
that our climate is changing.
A warmer world, they say, is delivering wilder weather.
Others, though, say our climate's always been unpredictable.
The Thames regularly froze over during a period
known as the "little ice age", which ended in the 19th century.
And some believe the Romans took advantage of warmer weather
to grow grapes in the north. This time, though, it's the rapid rate
of change that worries the experts.
They say it's already having an impact right across the globe.
But where's the proof?
For some, it's right here in the British countryside.
It is like a blizzard of petals.
It's great, it's like those Chinese movies.
Spring has come early
at the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens at Wisley in Surrey.
Hundreds of apple trees are in bloom, and although we've had
a mild winter this year, the early blossom here is not a one-off.
We've done some preliminary work,
so we've got data back to the 1950s,
and we've also got a weather station here,
and we're beginning to look at preliminary findings
that are showing that flowering
is becoming slightly earlier and longer in timeframe.
We're only going back a few decades,
a blink of the eye in terms of climate.
-How robust can it be?
-We have to continue to collect that data
so we get a longer dataset and make that more robust.
But you, as a gut feeling,
are pretty convinced that these trees are experiencing something
different than they would have done 50 years ago?
I think there's some evidence that suggests
that they are experiencing something to do with climate change.
Whether it's 50 years ago or not, I'm unsure, but the more data we do,
we can see that there is some element of changing climate.
While this study may give us clues, it's not yet conclusive,
but the RHS believes
there is evidence of climate change all around us.
It's just surveyed 1,000 of its members and revealed to us
more than two-thirds of them said they've seen at least some changes
in their gardens relating to climate.
It's told us that gardeners and professional gardeners
see that climate change is happening, believe it is happening.
There are extreme weather conditions which are more challenging for them,
different flowering times, so early, late, often double flowering times.
Has strong are these results?
It occurs to me that those that see something are the ones that report,
-therefore it's a bit biased.
-It is biased, but it gives us a snapshot
of what people are thinking, gardeners are thinking,
and allows us to do further research, to provide evidence to deal with
things like flooding and drought, and that is what we want to do
and the RHS has provided that advice
so they can garden and enjoy their gardens.
So the RHS and some members think
they are seeing early evidence of changing weather.
So does the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
It says that the global average temperature has
increased by just under one degree centigrade in the last 130 years.
A small change, but enough to affect our sensitive ecosystems.
Studies have shown several species of butterfly in Britain
are now being found further north, because of warmer temperatures.
And they are not the only ones on the move.
You might see a couple of Dartford warblers.
On top of the gorse here, there's a couple of territories.
Scientists also believe some birds are shifting in the same direction.
One in particular, the Dartford warbler, is not only moving,
it's thriving as Britain slowly warms up.
The Dartford warbler is a species which is really quite sensitive
to the cold in winter.
They need places where the mean temperature in the coldest month
is above two degrees centigrade,
so traditionally they've been associated with southern Britain.
As the climate has changed,
the species has really increased in numbers,
getting up to about 3,000 pairs.
They have colonised south-west England.
They have gone up to south Wales,
places as far north as Cannock Chase and East Anglia,
and even a pair in the Peak District.
So as we have fewer cold winters, they're doing better
-and they're able to move further north?
The pattern hasn't been consistent, has it?
Within the last five years,
I can remember some very snowy, very cold winters,
so how do they cope with the variation we get anyway?
I think it's the fact that the frequency of these bad winters
has been declining, especially through the '90s and the '00s.
That's what's been responsible
for this really quite dramatic push forward.
And how convinced are you that this is a symptom of climate change?
It's hard to be absolutely certain,
but it's also hard to see that it could be anything else that's
responsible for a northward push of a cold-sensitive species like this.
The Dartford warbler may take climate change in its stride,
but other birds seem to be finding it hard.
The cold-loving dotterel in the Scottish mountains could struggle,
because it can't move any higher to escape the warmth.
And scientists believe other species may suffer this time.
Species' ranges do change.
They move north and south as the climate changes.
What's different this time is the magnitude
and the rate of climate change, and the real question mark
is whether or not species are able
to move at the rate that the climate is changing.
So what are we hoping to find here?
'For animals that can't adapt to climate change,
'it's going to be tough to say the least.
'And when those animals help provide the food we eat,
'it's going to impact on us too.
'For David Brooks, it all starts with the humble beetle.'
That is actually what we are looking for, a ground beetle.
So why is it you're so interested in this beetle?
We're interested in this whole group of beetles
because they are important to agriculture,
and they're important as they're predatory insects,
what we call carnivorous insects. They eat other insects.
The insects they eat are particularly pest species,
things like greenfly and slugs,
so they're very important
in terms of maintaining the sustainability of agriculture
and helping the farmer with his yields of the crops.
They really are the farmer's friend, aren't they?
-Very much so.
-And what are you seeing in terms of their numbers recently
that might be relevant to the climate change story?
What we're seeing overall is three-quarters of the species
that we've tracked out of 68 species are actually in decline.
These beetles, the different species, are very much adapted to the habitat
they are actually in, so when that changes,
then the climate can have adverse effects.
Numbers are declining, but this bug is a battler.
He has survived shifts in the climate before.
This time it's different, though,
and the way we manage our countryside is partly to blame.
This particular species was around just after the ice age
and he survived the ice age, and various huge climatic events.
The difference was that their habitat wasn't so denuded as it is now,
and fragmented, so they can move around the landscape much more.
Now that habitats have become more fragmented and come under more
pressure through intensification of farming methods and so forth,
climate can have a bigger effect than it would have done in the past.
So, from beetles to birds to blossom, there's growing evidence
that climate change is affecting us now,
but are these just isolated cases, or is the impact more widespread?
This is the operation centre,
the nerve centre of the Met Office weather forecasting activity.
At the Met Office, they don't just do weather forecasts.
They look at climate change across the world.
Richard Betts, a scientist here,
helped to write a major international report which says
a wide range of plants and animals are being affected.
We're seeing the natural world responding to
a change in climate in the UK. We're also seeing that happening in
other countries around the northern hemisphere, and also you can see it
on the satellite as well -
trees coming into leaf earlier in the spring.
These changes in the natural world
are signs that the climate is changing
and, in fact, these are the clearest indicators
of an impact of climate change.
A lot of your understanding comes from models.
Talk me through what we've got here.
This is showing temperature changes
relative to the preindustrial state, essentially. Blues are colder.
Yellows and oranges and reds
will be warmer than the preindustrial state,
so you can see the different patterns of warming around the world,
and as we get onto the end of the 21st century,
we're getting higher levels of warming,
four or five degrees or more.
We've been looking at the response of plants and animals.
It makes me wonder how they will cope
when the Earth might look like this.
What we are seeing at the moment
and what we expect for the future is change which is unusually fast.
-And therefore difficult for nature to adapt fast enough to keep up with?
if species are responding differently at different rates,
you'll get disruption of the ecosystems
for the different rates of response.
If you've got certain natural events tied to spring,
if one species is moving forward by a week and another by two days,
they come out of synchrony, so if they are depending on each other,
that interdependency is essentially broken, so disrupting the ecosystems
is what would be expected as a consequence of this.
So, botanists and bird and bug specialists do seem pretty convinced
they're seeing some signs of nature responding to a change in climate.
And whilst wildlife has adapted to shifting weather patterns before,
if today's change is too rapid,
it's feared some species could get left behind.
The Lee Valley is a 26-mile swathe of green
just a stone's throw from the centre of London.
Despite being so close to the capital,
the Lee Valley has a real feeling of wide, open countryside.
There are lakes,
and, as I saw earlier, pristine chalk streams.
Then there's the wildlife - water voles, otters, mayflies...
Yup, seabirds. The common tern, in fact.
To find out what they're doing here,
-I'm meeting wildlife warden Dave Hutley.
It seems quite surprising that they would have seabirds so far inland.
Yes, the pits here are old gravel workings,
and they are the perfect habitat for terns to use to nest,
if they've got spaces to nest on,
-which are what these tern rafts are for.
-Terns love gravel.
These specially built rafts are covered with the stuff.
It replicates the birds' usual coastal breeding grounds.
And what kind of nest will they create on this ground?
What they'll do, they'll dig out a shallow hollow in the gravel and
then they will just nest on that, just lay the egg straight onto that.
They're very good, very camouflaged eggs.
And then once the chicks hatch, they stay on here.
We've got the barriers on to stop predators coming on board
-and stop the chicks going off.
Why don't you just put it out on the natural islands? Why these rafts?
These rafts are better because less predators can get out on here.
The islands do get very overgrown, as you can see,
the scrub coming up on there, whereas these are controlled...
-Much more manageable.
-This is your ride here.
-It certainly is.
Hello. Do you want me to pass you that?
Over to you.
Right, I shall leave you to it. Here's to a bumper season, then.
-Indeed. Let's hope so.
-Nice one. See you later.
Now the raft is ready, it's towed out into the middle of the lake
to await the return of the terns to breed.
They'll soon be here in numbers,
but there's one species here who are raising chicks already.
They live on an island where few feet tread
and the only access is by boat.
We tried to cause as little disturbance as possible.
But the adult birds break from the treetops.
They look prehistoric, swooping around like pterodactyls.
They are grey herons, one of our biggest birds.
It's amazing arriving here. It feels quite dramatic, doesn't it?
They fly off, and then it's a completely uninhabited island.
Wait till you see the young.
-If you didn't think birds came from dinosaurs, this will prove it.
I'm with Paul Roper
and his team of wildlife wardens from the Lee Valley Park Authority.
We're here to ring the heron chicks.
The mother keeps a watchful eye overhead as we approach the nest.
We've got to be quite quick, actually,
because when the herons come off the nest, the chicks are left
exposed to the cold, so they have flown off because we've arrived.
We've got to be quick about it. It's really not resting on much.
OK, we've got two in this nest now. I'll bring them down for you.
I can see something with downy feathers.
This may look rough on the chicks,
but Paul's an expert licensed handler. He knows what he's doing.
-Put your hands just there.
-Just there. A bit of protest.
-They're so beautiful.
-These are real dinosaur birds.
God, they are! They just look incredibly prehistoric.
Each chick is ringed and gets its own individual number.
A note is made which will help identify in the future.
And these have to be big enough to allow the herons to get full-size with a ring on?
Herons are quite easy to ring,
-because the legs are quite big from an early age.
It's because they climb about in the canopy,
so even when they are this size, they all run around quite fast,
and they can be quite difficult to pick up at this size.
I think most people will find it remarkable that they nest so high in trees, given how big they are.
Yeah, they're quite a big bird,
but it's really down to the strategy for the young, because the young,
it's a good survival strategy. They can climb around in the trees,
not many predators can get up to them,
and they build these huge nests, as you've seen already,
so they're very large nests, but it's a good place for them to breed.
They're not susceptible to foxes and things.
But also, these herons breeding on this island, it's safer for them, so they prefer it
if they can get onto an island like this and breed up in the trees.
-And herons are quite a good news story, aren't they?
-Yes, they are.
These ones have been doing quite well.
From about seven or eight years ago,
they've come up from four pairs on this island
to an average of around 30 pairs year now,
which seems to be stabilising at about that figure.
That's a healthy increase year on year.
With the chicks safely back in the nest, it's time for us to leave
and let the parents return.
Who'd have thought there'd be
so much natural beauty just a stone's throw from London?
It's just goes to show, no matter how well you
think you know your landscape, it still has the power to surprise you.
Now we want you to surprise us.
Please e-mail us with your suggestions of those
untold stories that are special to you
for a completely new series of Secret Britain.
We know that you know Britain's countryside better than anyone else.
We want to hear about secret places
and wonderful wildlife events that few people get to witness.
Over the summer, Adam and I will be exploring the secret places
and people of Britain that you tell us about. So this is
your chance to share those locations that are special to you with us all.
We are looking for a lost treasure revealed only at low tide,
a wildlife spectacle, a neglected country craft
or simply one of our best-known landmarks with an unknown story.
It's the personal connection of you and your family to the
secret places and people of Britain that we are seeking.
So share your ideas with us.
Please e-mail your thoughts, with photos too if you can, to...
You'll find all the information you need on the Countryfile website.
Earlier, I heard how the Lee Valley is the hidden heart of the UK's
cucumber business and how Sicilian families are running the show.
Families like the Abella dynasty.
Life's changed a lot since head of the family John
came here in 1957, and it's still changing.
And that means that here in the Lee Valley, the familiar cucumber
is now rubbing shoulders with some new Mediterranean neighbours.
With so many people holidaying in the sun
and being exposed to different cuisines, there's increasing demand
for something new and different, like vine and cherry tomatoes,
which are perfect for the bambini in the family.
And there's another growing market - for peppers.
They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.
And they do say that the orange ones are the sweetest,
but these days, there's a new kid on the block.
Thank you. Here he is, this little fellow.
You may think that this is a hot chilli pepper,
but no, these are sweet,
juicy - another one that's perfect for little people's lunchboxes.
And it doesn't stop there
because the Abella family have just started growing these. Aubergines.
They may still be a rare sight in British kitchens,
but aubergines are close to the Italian heart.
John's son-in-law Pas sells them now, but he's been eating them
since he was a child.
When I was young back home in Sicily,
my grandma and my mum, we would have aubergines
cooked in different ways every other day, virtually,
whether they be fried or with pasta or...
One form or another, we would have aubergines.
It was a poor people's food in them days, but nowadays it's the trend.
-Yes. These days, classy.
-It really is.
-Look at that.
You almost want to just put that on the side and look at it.
Yeah. It is beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.
So for anyone thinking about growing aubergines, what's the secret?
You've got to be very patient and you've got to look after it.
It's like looking after babies, and we've got a lot of babies here!
Well, John's babies are all grown up now
and are important cogs in the salad-growing machine.
They all know about cooking the way Mama used to
but would they know how to make a classic cucumber sandwich?
The traditional way to prepare a cucumber sandwich
here in the Home Counties is to slice the cucumber
as thin as possible, so you can almost see through it,
and then lay it down onto some white bread
with the crusts cut off.
All very delicate indeed.
But that's not the case here in this house.
A traditional Italian kitchen, everybody busying away here
and I'm very intrigued.
-This is aubergine that you've prepared.
-Give us an idea of... Can I try it?
-Of course you can.
Give us an idea of what's going on here.
-It's aubergines in breadcrumbs.
What you do, you just slice them thinly
and then dip them in seasoned egg
-and then coat them in breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
-Not a lot of people know what to do with aubergines.
It's not something that a lot of people know how to cook.
And Jo is over the stove.
I'll go and see what is happening over there.
This is my kind of kitchen, this. Right, what's happening in here?
I've cooked up some linguine pasta
and I'm preparing the sauce, which is made from home-grown tomatoes...
..made with aubergines to give it the aubergine flavour, mashed up
and then made into this lovely sauce.
In typical Italian family tradition,
there's an abundance of food for us to eat.
But it is that pasta sauce I'm after.
I'll try a bit of this.
-It's long pasta, this.
-So, the Italian way. You need a spoon
-and you need a fork.
-That's it. That will help you.
Mm, Jo. Mm. What do I say? What's the Italian?
A taste of Italy a stone's throw from London. Beautiful.
On Countryfile we get to visit some amazing places
and meet some amazing people from all over the country,
but sometimes there's no place like home,
as Adam knows all too well.
I'm lucky to live and farm in the heart of what I think is
one of the most beautiful counties in England - Gloucestershire.
It's a county that lends its name to some magnificent cattle.
These are some of my Gloucester cattle,
a really lovely old-fashioned breed that were once used
to pull the plough. They're also used for meat and milk production.
My dad started collecting them in the late '60s, early '70s.
We've had them on the farm ever since.
We've now got about 15 of them.
We like the cows to breed every year.
They have a nine-month gestation, so that's where the bulls come in.
My Gloucester bull has been with me for five years.
He's done a fine job looking after his ladies,
but soon he'll need replacing.
This is Isaac, my Gloucester bull.
I just thought I'd bring him out into the sunshine
to show him off to you.
The Gloucester are a lovely breed.
They're very docile and easy to handle.
The bulls are generally a bit darker than the cows,
a dark brown-black colour,
mahogany colour, with this typical white line down their back and tail.
He is a reasonably beefy bull,
although they are dual purpose, for meat and for milk.
And he's a fine character. Lovely chap.
But now that he's related to some of the young females in the herd,
he obviously can't mate with them,
so what I've got to do is find a bull to go onto those young heifers,
and find a replacement for you, really, mate.
Come on, then.
Finding that replacement for Isaac isn't as easy as it sounds.
The trouble with rare breeds is just that - they are rare.
But luckily, just down the road from my place,
farmer Clifford Freeman has
a fantastic herd of Gloucester cattle.
-What a beautiful herd. How many have you got?
-I've got 151.
There are 84 females and five bulls and the rest are steers.
That must be one of the biggest herds in the country, isn't it?
Yes, I would imagine it is one of the biggest herds
and one of the biggest herds for quite a while, I should have thought.
Your dad worked with my dad
and a few others to help save the breed going back, didn't they?
Absolutely. Early '70s, there was only 60-odd left.
And they saved them and preserved them
and grew the numbers up to about 1,000 in 1990, but we've dropped back
to 700 now, so we've got a little bit of work to do to keep them going.
They can't just be preserved. They need to have a purpose.
Clifford is a modern-day farmer
but he likes to keep a touch of the old days on his farm.
-It's a lovely old building.
-Yes, I built it about four years ago.
It's based on a building that was already here.
The stalls are a replica of what was on my grandfather's farm.
So that's where they would have put their heads through to go
-into yoke for milking?
The cattle used to come in,
they used to put a little bit of food down for them to eat,
and just push up and there they are.
Once they were milked, they just used to open them and let them go.
-And this is the next generation of cows, then?
These will go to the bull in 12 months' time.
They will summer out and be ready for the bull around next January time.
As well as the heifers, you've got a lovely couple of young bulls here.
So it's a new bull I need, and I understand you've got a mature bull
you might be able to let me use.
Yeah, we have. Yeah, yeah. Let's go and have a look.
Just doing this to make him look a bit smarter for the cameras, really.
'Once the big boy's spruced up, he likes to make his presence known.'
He's excited. He's eyeing up his new wives over there.
-Let's go and have a look at them.
He's got some height about him, hasn't he, in the shoulder.
Yes, he's a big bull. Yeah, he's one of the biggest bulls
I've seen for a Gloucester bull for a good few years.
The Gloucesters aren't the best in the back end, are they?
No, and he's no exception. His back end is what lets him down.
A fine fellow, aren't you. What's his name?
-Er, his name is Constable.
-And he's what...? How old is he?
-And what sort of money do you want for him?
-Um, he's not for sale.
I'll hire him to you. We're not selling bulls at the moment.
We're tending to keep the bulls
because we don't know when we'll need them again
with the different lines we've got.
When would he be available?
He'll be available at the end of June, beginning of July.
OK. Well, that would be perfect.
'Deal done. Constable will meet my girls in the summer.
'In the meantime, he's got a job to do here.'
Right, then, fella.
Come on, then, we're going to go and see your ladies.
'Clifford's herd of 150 cattle are split up
'and graze over different farms around the county,
'which hopefully ensures the whole herd
'isn't wiped out if a disease strikes.
'We're moving some cows and calves to a neighbouring farm,
'owned by Matthew Rymer.
'He's working with Clifford on an initiative
'they hope will promote the uniqueness of Gloucester beef
'and address a growing interest in where our food comes from.'
It's being born, it's being reared, it's being fattened,
it's slaughtered, it's butchered and it's being sold
within a four-mile corridor of the River Severn
to create a very, very local produce -
Gloucestershire born-and-bred beef.
It can add to the attraction of what's a beautiful vale
that we live in, and it's cattle country.
And we're providing a traceability so that, when you buy the meat,
you can trace it straight back to the animal
using the latest online technology.
So you can actually see the animal, when it was slaughtered,
when it was butchered, where, how, who.
Playing a key role in Matthew and Clifford's
traceability of Gloucester beef is 21-year-old butcher Ben Morton.
He has plenty of enthusiasm and youth on his side.
-Hi, Adam, how are you?
All right, good. So this is a bit of Gloucester, is it?
Yeah, this a bit of Gloucester beef,
sourced just literally down the road from me.
-This is it's fillet I'm just taking out now.
-Look at that!
So what makes this sort of beef so special?
Well, if you have a look there, can you see this grain and marbling?
-That is all about rare breeds,
and Gloucester is one of the main, main breeds that is ideal for this.
I mean, that will just melt away in the pan
-and it'll just eat like butter.
Look at the colour difference.
That's a deep red.
You know, the same with here. The marbling...
An amazingly dark colour, isn't it?
But people, I think, aren't used to this dark colour
and it almost puts them off.
For you, as a young man, starting your own business,
you've got to compete with the big boys. How difficult is that?
..he who dares... This is from Only Fools And Horses,
but he who dares wins.
But traceability is so important, especially...
I've got to beat everyone else.
How do I do that?
I do it by telling them the story.
I want to tell those customers that story that,
"Right, this is Gloucester beef.
"It's from literally a mile down the road.
"It's killed ten miles away, in Gloucester,
"it comes back to me, it's hung for four weeks,
"and then I bone it all out, tie the joints, put it on the counter,
"and then cut it for the customer.
"It's all done within this small area."
And for a little butcher's shop like us to still be in a little village
and still going...
I mean, it's really exciting and nerve-racking.
Thanks to youngsters like Ben,
the future's looking bright for Gloucester cattle.
Shame the same can't be said for Ellie.
She's in a jam over in the Lee Valley.
'Ever get the feeling you're in the wrong place?'
This is definitely...
the wrong place.
'This is the Olympic White Water Centre in the Lee Valley,
'scene of many Team GB triumphs in 2012.
'But this isn't a winning situation.
'I'm in a serious spot of bother.'
-Shall I do that?
-Try winding down the window.
-It's going to come in if I do that.
-It's not, it's OK.
'Just as well this lot are on hand.'
'These are the volunteers of the RNLI.
'This is a flood training exercise.
'I should feel safer.'
-I'm glad of the sunroof, I'm telling you now.
-Just coming in and above your head, Ellie.
We'll get it open and take you out of the car.
'Getting out of the car is tricky enough.
'Moving in fast-flowing water is trickier.
'The team have a carefully choreographed technique
'to deal with it, though.
'It may look a bit like line dancing in dry suits
'but this routine saves lives.'
My word, Glen. I'll never get used to that.
-How quickly things can go wrong!
And we're finding more and more people
are overestimating the capability of their cars
and finding themselves in those sorts of situations.
What, they'll just drive into water?
Yeah, I think that people think they can get through,
it's a regular route they're taking,
they've not listened to the signage, they've driven through
and find themselves in the situation you found yourself in,
sat in the car as the water's rising up around them.
Are you seeing more of it, then?
We're finding that flood is becoming more prevalent,
in terms of what we're expected to do
and, as a result of that, we're finding ourselves
across the whole of the country, dealing with it.
I have to say, I am so glad that you guys are here.
Even on training conditions like this, I felt really scared then.
-Good. I hope you felt safe once the team arrived.
I was so glad to see the yellow and red, I tell you.
Good. Good to hear.
This last winter has been a record breaker,
the wettest yet -
floods up and down the country, leaving countless stranded
and many in danger.
What catches most people out is the sheer force of floodwater -
just a foot of it will cause a car to float.
How much does it take to knock you off your feet?
Well, let's find out.
This is Legacy Site.
We request one pump, three cumecs, please. Over.
'Here it comes.
'Three tonnes of water a second, about the same as 20 bathtubs full.
'Even though it's only ankle-deep,
'it's all I can do to stay on my feet.'
-Shall I try and go back?
-Start just behind that wall, OK?
'When it's turned up to five tonnes a second...
'Thank you, gentlemen. Lesson learned.
'You know how to sweep a girl off her feet.'
We're in the Lee Valley,
a vast, green swathe just a few miles north of London.
At one end, there's acres of open country.
At the other...
the Olympic White Water Centre,
where Ellie was in a spot of bother earlier.
This is where Team GB won canoeing gold at the 2012 Games.
Now, during the Olympics, I was fascinated by the flow of water
that was created from these courses and, really,
the secret are these rails here, into which...
these building blocks are fastened.
Now, everything you can see on the side there,
that's creating the channel and the flow of the water
and everything on the bottom, these obstacles here,
these create the huge white-water waves.
The higher the obstacle,
the bigger the wave that'll tumble off the back of it.
And, I tell you what,
it really is quite exciting to be in here at the moment
because, as soon as those black doors are open there,
six foot of water will be gushing right down here.
Speaking of which, let's go and turn it on.
'Why did I ever say yes to this?
'All that water Matt's turning on will be coming right at me,
'because I'm going to take this course on.
'But I'm not going alone.
'I've called on the help of Olympic gold medal winner Tim Bailey.'
Well, these are the driving machines that are powering the pumps,
creating all of the excitement up there.
Now this, this is Ellie's course. So let's...
put that one on. There's one.
Second drive, up.
We'll go for two. Or maybe...?
Actually, let's do three. Here we go.
That'll give her something to battle against.
The course fills up in no time.
Having got the water running, I can now adjust the flow.
Let's start with a nice, easy one.
OK, so let's look at intermediate course
and then we'll go on to B, that's 4,900 cubic metres per second.
Yes, I will commit to that.
Good luck, Ellie. It'll be a nice warm-up for you.
The water here right now is flowing fast enough
to fill 65 bathtubs a second.
I just hope Ellie's brought enough towels.
My only experience of white water like this
was years ago on the Zambezi.
I actually nearly drowned,
so I'm approaching this with quite a bit of trepidation, I have to say.
But I am...willing to give it a go.
'I'm counting on Olympian Tim Bailey
'to get me round this course in one piece.'
This bit's nice and calm.
'But before I even think of throwing myself in the rapids,
'it's off to the training pool,
'where Tim's going to help me brush up on my rusty canoe skills.'
-If we need to turn to the right...
-..what'll happen is, I'll get you to paddle forwards...
-..and I'll paddle backwards at the same time.
And hopefully that'll... That'll mean we spin around, yeah.
And that'll help us manoeuvre.
It's really nippy, isn't it? It turns on a dime.
So shall we do a bit of paddling on this flat,
just to feel a bit more like we've had a bit of practice?
The other thing that will be useful on the white water is,
once you're getting bounced around by waves,
it'll be important to lean one way and the other.
It does mean a big lean, so you're basically going to try
and get out over the sausage on the side there.
If I come out, I come out and that's that.
-I've just got to get in the drink and swim.
-Yeah, pretty much.
'Thanks for that, Tim(!)
'From the flat calm of the training pool
'to the absolute torrent out on the course,
'it's time to enter the tempest.'
Right, I'm just going to paddle until you shout at me, OK?
MUSIC: "A City In Florida" by Deadmau5
'Tim's tips are paying off.
'The canoe is behaving itself.
'I don't think I'm doing too badly.
'But I bet Matt's got something up his sleeve.'
Right, I'm just laying the course out now. This slalom course.
So the green poles, they've got to come downstream through.
And then the red ones, they got to come around and come back upstream.
We'll put this right in the middle, I think.
There we are.
That looks pretty tasty there. That'll do nicely.
And that's only the first of the obstacles
that I'm putting in Ellie's way.
I reckon it's time we really pumped up the volume.
Right, so doing ever so well with 4,900 cubic litres a second.
Shall we go 6,500? Or 10,000? Let's do 10,000.
'OK, second attempt.
'We're going to the slalom gates this time.
'But something's...not right.'
My God! What's happened here?! This is way higher!
You're not wrong.
I've just sent twice the volume of water down at you.
This is looking a bit bumpy.
Now here comes that green gate. Squeeze with the knees.
Oh, it's too late - she's gone!
But good effort, Ellie.
Even if she does look like she's in a washing machine.
A full spin cycle, Matt.
Now, come on. Lend a hand.
Are you all right?
-There you go. Are you all right?
-I'm full of water!
Oh, dear. That wasn't what I was expecting.
No, but you still made that green gate, even though you fell out.
-You were going through it, like that. Brilliant!
-Still got the point. I got the point.
-Are you invigorated?
I'm certainly that.
-Ooh, God, I'm choking!
I do feel slightly responsible for that.
Cos I could have pressed 6,500 but I went for 10,000.
-Is that why it went up?!
-I was controlling it, I'm sorry.
You're the meanest! You are the MEANEST!
-Shall we say goodbye? Because that is it for this week.
-Yes, it is.
Next week, we'll be celebrating 24 hours of spring,
from the delights of the morning chorus,
all the way through to the magic of the midday mayfly.
And I'll be dry by then. See you then.
Good for you. Well done. Let's get you a hot chocolate.
This week Matt Baker and Ellie Harrison are in the Lee Valley, the green lung of London. It has provided fun and fresh air for city dwellers for more than four decades but, as Ellie discovers, there is an incredible array of wildlife here too. She takes to the water to see what is being done to clean up its chalk streams and she discovers why common terns are making the Lee Valley home. As well as being its lungs, it is London's larder too, as Matt finds out when he meets the Sicilian siblings who have turned salad growing into a thriving family business.
The Lee Valley is also home to the Olympic Water Park, where volunteers from the RNLI are busy carrying out an essential flood training exercise. Ellie finds out first-hand how important these mock drills are in saving people's lives.
Down on the farm, Adam goes in search of a new Gloucester bull that will help improve his herd.
There's little doubt that climate change is going to affect our future, but what about the present? Tom Heap looks for proof that it is already having a significant impact on the British countryside.