John Craven and Julia Bradbury head to rural Leicestershire. John visits a military training camp with a difference, and Julia finds out about a tree-planting scheme.
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The rolling hills of rural Leicestershire,
it may look like an oasis of peace and tranquillity,
but look closer, and it's a hive of activity.
This field is already bustling.
We're about to take on a massive challenge
to start planting the biggest native woodland in the UK.
It's Team Bradbury versus Team Craven
and we've got 2,000 of these to get in the ground in just one hour.
Tucked away in this part of central England
is a military training camp with a difference.
These young dogs are hoping to serve Queen and country,
but have they got what it takes to be the British Army's newest recruits?
I'll be finding out.
Tom's in the Highlands of Scotland but he might not be alone for long.
This beautiful animal, the European lynx,
once ran wild in this country
and now there's a plan to remove the bars
and let them free once again.
How would we feel to have these guys in a wood near us?
And Adam's on tenterhooks as he's about to find out
whether Eric's going to be a dad again.
We put Eric in with the cows in about June-time
and hopefully they're all in calf again
and he'll make me very proud once more.
Go on. Hey. Hey.
A rural county known for its open farmland
and ancient hunting grounds.
But it's also in the heart of our national forest.
Eight million trees fill 200 square miles
in the Leicestershire countryside,
yet surprisingly, it's one of the least wooded counties in the country.
What's more, the UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe.
The average tree cover in most European countries is 44%.
But here in the UK, it's only 13%.
And with a deadly disease currently wiping out our ash trees,
it's all the more important we protect and expand our native woodlands.
And that's where the Woodland Trust comes in.
To celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee
and to encourage the creation of more woodland,
they're aiming to plant six million new trees this year.
They started the project 11 months ago.
And today in this empty field, they're launching phase two,
the foundations of the biggest native woodland in the country.
'Georgina McLeod, project director, is going to tell me more.'
Georgina, not a lot of trees as we look out across the vista here.
Absolutely. Which is why we're wanting to plant this fantastic
500-acre wood here in Leicestershire.
It's one of the lower wooded counties in the country
and this is going to make a real difference.
It's going to join up other areas of woodland in the national forest
which makes a really connected wood which is great for wildlife
and hopefully great for everybody that lives here.
As part of the project,
the Trust want us all to get down and dirty planting trees.
By the end of the year, they'll have created hundreds of new woods
across the country, from Stornoway to Cornwall.
And why do you think woodlands are so important?
Why are trees so important to this country?
Well, they're part of our national landscape.
We all feel passionately about trees,
but even more importantly than that, they're vital to life.
They help us breathe. They clean the air.
As our climate starts to change, they can help with water,
they can help with flooding.
They're not only vital to the way that we live our lives,
they can give us so much enjoyment as well.
It's hard to imagine that these empty spaces
will soon be filled with trees.
But it doesn't take all that long for a wood to grow.
This is the deliciously named Pear Tree Wood.
Just 15 years ago, I'd have been standing in an empty field
surrounded by more empty fields. Now it's a lovely little forest.
Chris Williams is site manager.
He's responsible for keeping this woodland shipshape.
Chris, just 15 years and yet this woodland seemed so mature.
Yes, it doesn't take too long for trees to start turning
from those little saplings into trees like we see around us.
When we look at these trees now,
when we're looking at the trunks, they're fairly sturdy,
but what's going to happen to them in 100 years?
This is a lovely sturdy, beautiful oak already.
100 years time, you're talking a girth like that.
So it's really going to grow really well.
-Be a really good, big, healthy tree.
-Lovely. Great tree.
How difficult is it to manage a woodland like this?
It's not too difficult because woodlands take, as you know,
many decades to grow.
It's just a case of monitoring and the maintenance that we do can vary.
So in some cases we might do tiny little pockets of thinning.
In other cases, we might coppice and cut back on path edges
because it improves the habitat diversity of the woodland
and it keeps the paths open as well so people can get through easily.
This is the perfect time of year for coppicing.
Chris works with an organisation run by Clive Forty
that trains volunteers in practical conservation work.
-Hello. Hello. So this is coppicing at work.
-It is, yes.
-So we've got a hazel here which we're going to bring down
to what we call a stool which is...
This is what we're aiming for at the end. This'll be the end product.
Nice clean cuts. From this, we'll regenerate new growth.
'It's generally done every 10 to 15 years. So Pear Tree Wood
'is getting its first coppice.'
That's quite a big one.
'It's a way of harvesting useful wood and generating new growth.
'It also clears space allowing light down to the forest floor
'and increasing the health and well-being of the woodland.'
I think that's even bigger. That's a beauty.
'Today, this wood will be used to make hedging stakes
'and habitat piles for insects and small mammals.
'It's hard to believe that in a little over ten years' time,
'the empty fields I saw earlier will be a thriving little wood like this one
'and might well be in need of their very own first coppice.'
Now, while I finish up here, Tom is in Scotland finding out
whether or not it's time to bring big cats back to Britain.
There she goes.
Once upon a time, the great woodlands of Britain were home to a supreme hunter,
the European lynx.
They've been missing from our countryside for more than 500 years.
But some conservationists think they should now be making a comeback.
These days, though, the only place you'll spot a live one
is in a wildlife park.
But there is talk of reintroducing these amazing creatures
back into the wild.
So, what would we be letting ourselves in for?
To find out, I've come to the Cairngorm's Highland Park for feeding time.
A few months ago, they welcomed two additions to the lynx family,
a pair of lynx kittens,
the first to be born here in 20 years.
You can't help but feel a bit of an adrenaline tingle as you go in,
the barrier's removed, but this is how it could be.
The European lynx is the largest of the lynx family
and the biggest big cat in Europe.
-You're very used to this in here?
'They are formidable hunters, but apart from a few scratches,
'there are no records of attacks on humans anywhere in the world...
'..although we've got brooms at the ready as we're on their patch.
'It's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protective parents.'
The trick here is to provide them with a challenge for their dinner,
not end up being their dinner.
-That should be all right.
-That should be great.
They're actually fed with venison and some pheasants from a nearby estate.
Only locally-sourced food will do for this hungry clan.
-How do they hunt in the wild?
-They're what we'd call stealth hunters.
Because they're forest dwellers,
they tend to hold a position for a very long time
and then ambush their prey. So they have a lot of patience.
-It's a sudden spring, a sudden attack?
It's not like we've seen on the Serengeti with the lions
-chasing something down?
-No. Or the cheetahs.
These are very different in their method of stalking their prey.
And how much food do they get through in the wild?
I believe the estimates are around about, per animal...
-They will take up to 50 to 60 roe dear a year...
-50 to 60.
-..which is quite a lot.
-Yeah, it is quite a lot.
They do however leave pieces behind. But that's also part of the ecosystem.
That's feeding other animals, even down to slugs and beetles.
So, why did they disappear from the British countryside
in the first place?
Well, recent research points the finger at us.
They became extinct in the UK, thanks to deforestation and hunting
more than five centuries ago.
Ever since the 1970s, though,
lynx have been reintroduced in several European countries
including Switzerland, France, Germany and Poland.
But never here.
The idea of bringing the lynx back has been rumbling around for some time.
In fact, there are European directives that encourage
the reintroduction of native species including large carnivores.
So, could we really see these big cats
stalking across our land once again?
Well, conservationist Roy Dennis thinks so.
I've come to Glenfeshie in the Highlands to find out why.
So, do the Scottish Highlands provide a good home for lynx?
Absolutely. There's no problem with enough food
and enough places to live. It's solely a social and political issue
-whether we have the animal back.
-So we've got the right geography.
But why should we reintroduce this big cat?
I think there's two reasons. One is ecological.
We need it there as part of the system. And the other is moral.
As someone who goes around the world, in Indonesia and Australia,
looking at conservation there,
I get embarrassed when they ask me what we've done at home.
Rory thinks lynx could help balance the ecology of our countryside,
thanks to their taste for venison.
As we heard on Countryfile earlier this year,
deer have an appetite for young trees and vegetation.
In Scotland, to give their forests chance to grow,
they've had to cull thousands of the animals every year.
But a top predator like the lynx could naturally do the job for them.
-Could it really happen here?
-Yes, I think so.
And I think that the community that chose it would become
one of the famous places of Britain,
where they restored the lynx.
There's no doubt that the lynx is a beautiful and exciting creature.
But a bold idea like this is bound to be a double-edged sword.
In an area like this,
final approval has to come from Scottish Natural Heritage.
But there are plenty of people across the rural community
who have their own reservations about bringing back the lynx.
So should we just let sleeping cats lie? I'll be finding out later.
The county of Leicestershire with its vast areas of rural landscape
is an ideal place for the armed services to train their animals,
their horses and their dogs.
This is the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray.
I've been given special permission to find out what goes on
at this most unusual of military bases.
'It's 0800 hours, I've shined my shoes
'and I'm right on time to meet Colonel Richard Pope.'
What exactly happens here, colonel?
Here in the equine division,
it's responsible for procuring horses, training horses,
training instructors, training farriers for defence.
So at any one time, how many horses?
At the moment, I've got probably about 86 horses in work,
probably another hundred in the field.
So quite a big engine. And it runs all year round.
We don't stop for Christmas because obviously there's a lot of animals
that still need to be looked after, maintained, trained
and prepared for that continuum of training that we deliver here for defence.
All these horses are used on home turf,
looking magnificent on ceremonial duties like Trooping the Colour.
'But so much horsepower needs a working forge
'and gaining farrier training is one of the most sought-after jobs in the Army.'
There's an awful lot of horses at this centre, so obviously, it keeps you pretty busy.
Our horses are shod on a regular basis.
Probably every four to six weeks.
-Do you actually get trained here, the farriers?
-We run three courses -
a basic course, an intermediate course and an advanced course.
All farriers have to be registered in this country.
So when your army career is over,
you can go into civilian life with a pretty good training?
Absolutely. It's probably one of the best jobs to leave the army with.
It's a fantastic opportunity.
What about the actual shoes?
Do you have lots of different kinds for different purposes?
That would be a typical shoe that a Cavalry Black would wear in London
for the road work. What we've got here is a lighter shoe,
it's a concave shoe and that would allow them to do the faster work,
the eventing, the showjumping.
-A bit like car tyres, really.
-Different purposes, different tyres.
It's got to be fit for purpose.
Farrier Corporal Michael Wood is taking the advanced course.
-Better stand back a bit there, John.
-Right. OK. Sparks flying.
Mike, why did you become a farrier?
I joined the Household Cavalry in 1992.
Never been near a horse in my life.
I got thrown, basically, into a 12-week riding course
and I've not looked back since.
Discovered how much fun the horses are. Colourful characters.
Well, that's the horses. Now for the dogs.
'Staff Sergeant Dan Bowden works with the unit that trains dogs to be
'the military's four-legged friends.'
Well, these young Labradors are obviously at the early stages of training, aren't they?
Are they going to make good army dogs?
Should do. At this point in their career,
they're 10 months old - we're happy with them at the minute.
What kind of things are you looking for in these dogs?
Drive, confidence, that they're happy to go through a dark tunnel,
to go over obstacles that they would encounter in a military environment.
And what kind of purpose will they be put to,
-once they're trained?
-Er, search dog. They'll be searching
vehicles, roads, buildings, etc - anywhere in the world.
Wherever the soldiers go, they'll go with them.
-And how long does the training take?
-They're at 10 months now,
then they'll go onto another section which could take 12-20 weeks,
depending on the dog's capability. There's no science to it,
it's literally, when they're ready, we'll pass them out.
And what percentage of dogs actually pass out at the end of it?
We don't have a very high failure rate -
because the selection criteria is so tight,
we're quite rigid on what we bring in. We've got 223 dogs at present -
we may only fail 10 of those.
The dogs live in deluxe kennels
and go through a tonne-and-a-half of rations every week, as they
learn the vital roles they will play with Britain's defence forces.
Beano the spaniel is being trained to search vehicles
for a target scent. I'm planting some material that could be anything
from drugs to a bomb - and the dog has to find it.
I suppose gun dogs are best for this kind of thing?
Personally, I think gun dogs, but we do use other breeds as well.
But generally, we will use gun dogs -
that's what we'll bring into the military.
-That's what they've been bred for, isn't it, to sniff things out?
He definitely thought there was something,
he had suspicions certainly around that brick...
And he's sitting down, and he's pointing...
-So that means he definitely identified it.
Well done, Beano!
-And he gets a ball as a...
-A ball - any reward.
A ball or whatever - whatever the dog wants
is what he gets, at the earliest stages, that you saw.
He gets that because he likes that reward better than anything else.
Training isn't just here in the centre.
The Army regularly gets permission from local farmers to use their land
because putting the dogs through their paces on different terrain
prepares them for working in all sorts of environments.
But this exercise seems a bit like mission impossible!
The dog has to find a weapon that's been hidden somewhere
in this huge field.
-So, what's being simulated here?
-In this case,
the dog will carry out a check that he could do anywhere in the world
-in front of a patrol - mobile or foot.
-So, the dog
is ahead, sniffing out any potential problems that might face the patrol?
-He's certainly fanning out, isn't he?
A wide area, either side of his handler.
The handler will use body language, movement, voice,
verbal commands, everything.
If he wants him to go 200 metres, he'll cover the 200 metres.
-If he only wants him to do 10 metres, he'll do it.
-He's found it!
-He looks to be there now, and he's
wagging his tail, so that's a pretty clear indication
to the handler that that's where the weapon is.
When the handler's happy, he'll give him his reward. It's reward-based.
The dog won't work unless he finds it fun.
These days, with modern technology, especially in the military,
-can you see the dog being replaced ever?
There's no technology that can do what the dog can do,
as effectively as the dog can do it at present. So, I can't see it.
I'm just a few miles west of John,
on some farmland that's soon to become
the largest native woodland in Britain.
When it's finished, all around me will be covered in trees -
300,000 beautiful, living, breathing trees.
'It's all part of the Woodlands Trust's ambitious aim
'to plant six million trees in 2012.
'And with just six weeks before the end of the year,
'they've still got a fair way to go.'
So, we've decided to give them a helping hand,
or should I say spade?!
'By the end of the day, this field will be full
'of thousands of young trees.'
And John and I are going to attempt to plant 2,000 of them
within an hour - it's the biggest tree-planting challenge
that we've ever had on Countryfile. And as if that wasn't enough,
we're going top have a competition, of course,
to see who can plant the most saplings within the 60 minutes.
I've got a good feeling about this - for me, obviously.
-'But we're not going it alone.
'John's joining Leicestershire's finest female young farmers...'
And this is my team, Team Bradbury!
'Before we can begin, the site needs to be prepared.
'Paul Bunton from the Woodland Trust is here
'to make sure we can plant the saplings quickly,
'but most importantly, correctly.'
-Paul, marking your territory, I see!
-So, presumably, the placement of the trees is very important.
It is, that's right. They're all going to be 1.6 metres apart.
-Nice and precise.
As you can see down here, we've got the rip lines
-that we put in this morning...
-..so we get the rows
nicely even and apart.
The idea is that the site doesn't look like a uniform plantation.
-It has an element of naturalness about it.
The big question is, how do you plant a tree at speed properly?
That's right. We've been practising our techniques this morning
-and we'll go and show you now how to do that.
Here we are, Julia, one of the spots we marked earlier.
-Yep, that's it.
-So, we've got good rootage going on.
-We certainly have.
And we're going to plant down here,
-where we've actually put the spot sprays earlier.
And what is it, four corners, is that the...ch-ch-ch, the technique?
We do often do that, but because we've got a challenge today,
to see how many we can plant in an hour, we're going to use a method
called the tea-planting,
which is one more advanced from the notch planting.
I haven't done this before, I'm excited - it's a whole new world!
-So, if we put our spade, one end of it,
-exactly on top of the orange spot...
..and push down in - hopefully it won't be too stony.
Then when we bring our spade out, we put it across this way,
-so it actually makes a T.
-Even I understand that!
You can see that! And then we want to lift up,
and if we're lucky, it should open up like that, and we get our tree...
-Pop that in?
-..and place it on top of the spade there.
Rest it down on the spade, so all those roots are covered up, then
as we lower it back down, hopefully - there we are -
it will all actually go in there nicely,
then we can firm it down well.
And if we're really lucky, it should be nice and upright...
which it is - one tree planted.
-I'll have a practice run, then.
-Will you bring the...
-There's your sapling.
-..the tree? So, that way...
-That's it, top of the T.
-OK. Now, we get the T...
That's it. Right, er...
-All the shafts in.
-There we go.
Lift that back... Fantastic.
Yep, that's opened up - so then we push our tree in there.
-OK, and release.
-Yep, that's it.
-There we go.
-And then push that down.
Give it a really nice, firm... That's it.
-A little bit wonky!
I'm going to have another sneaky little go,
just to get my hand in before the challenge.
Here's what else is coming up on the programme.
John's got his hands full moving some cows to pastures new.
Now, if Adam was here, no problem!
But Adam's got problems of his own.
Just taking Eric and his cows up to the handling pens.
Eric gets pretty wound up by the other bulls
when I'm moving him through these paddocks,
so I have to keep him going quite quickly,
otherwise we'll have a fight on our hands.
And we have the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
The spectacular Scottish Highlands, where winter comes early -
a precious wilderness, and a haven for wildlife,
but could this landscape become even wilder?
Tom's been investigating some big ideas about some big cats.
The European lynx, a formidable predator,
that last stalked the woodlands of Britain more than 500 years ago.
Earlier, we heard how some conservationists
would love to see these secretive creatures
prowling our landscape once again.
Those in favour of a big cat revival
think it will help restore the natural balance
by keeping deer numbers down.
It's a proposal that's now starting to be considered
by the Cairngorms National Park Authority,
but not everyone's convinced.
The problem is what's on this big cat's menu.
In the wild, they tend to take wild animals like this,
but in a landscape that overlaps with farming,
they could find some easier things that take their fancy -
and that's when they come into conflict with humans...
..humans like Alastair Maclennan, who farms sheep and cattle
in the shadow of the Cairngorms.
Despite impressive conservation and environmental credentials,
he's just not convinced by the idea of a lynx reintroduction.
What about your sheep - do you seriously believe
that they're at risk if there were lynx around? They're quite big sheep,
-and I'm not sure about that, but...
Definitely, yeah. And calves, even. Lynx are a big cat,
they can grow to 30 kilos, and they supposedly can kill something
that's three-to-four times their size.
So, I mean, that's bigger than these sheep.
And you pride yourself on this farm for being good for other wildlife
as well - do you think the lynx could impact on them?
Yeah, I think we've got vulnerable species here already -
capercaillie, wildcat, for example -
and lynx will definitely impact on them.
Capercaillie's almost extinct, so is wildcat.
There just isn't the habitat left. Lynx need huge territories,
a minimum of 25 kilometres square - where is the habitat to put them?
But what about the other people whose job it is to manage the land?
Gamekeepers and estate managers have mixed feelings.
Donnie Broad and head stalker James Barry
manage more than 21,000 acres near Pitlochry.
Much of their business comes from deer-stalking.
I've joined them today to catch a glimpse of what could be
on the menu for lynx.
We've spotted a hind in front of us on this ridge.
We're going to head out with the wind in our face
-and try and close in a bit.
-Oh, she's moving.
She's moving, yes, she's moving.
'We won't be pulling the trigger today,
'but if lynx are brought back,
'Donnie will want the freedom to keep them in line by doing just that.'
So, what do you think about having lynx in this landscape?
I'm in favour, I'm in favour of lynx reintroductions.
It's just how it's done.
There's advantages, especially with roe deer,
the lynx could keep the deer out of the dense undergrowth
and allow the regeneration of the trees
without having to have too drastic a cull.
They could suppress the fox population, which could have
a net benefit to us, game-shooting and sheep-farming.
The downside is, they also predate sheep.
So, it's how you deal with these issues.
Probably, a responsible, very quick licensing system
to deal with problem impacts would be the way to do it.
So you're saying you're in favour of the idea in principle,
but not if they got kind of godlike, absolute protection -
-then you can't deal with them?
The whole landscape is managed, we manage all the populations,
all the land's used for something.
-So they'd have to form part of a managed population.
And that means even occasionally, in your view,
being able to shoot them, even though you've recently introduced them?
Yes, I think that's the only realistic way to go forward.
So, farmers fear for livestock, gamekeepers want strict controls,
but conservationists are still hoping for a big cat revival.
And the lynx? Well, they were simply born to hunt.
And that could be a blessing or a curse,
depending on which side of the fence you're on.
But is this all pie in the sky? Will we ever really
see lynx reintroduced into the British countryside?
One man who can answer that question is Dr David Hetherington.
He's been working on a report for the
Cairngorms National Park Authority, due out early next year,
highlighting some of the issues of reintroduction.
-'This is lynx habitat?
-Yes, it is...'
I see no reason why lynx reintroduction
couldn't happen in Scotland.
It's happened in several human-modified landscapes
throughout central and western Europe,
so lynx don't need wilderness,
-and they can live in a human environment.
-One thing we heard
from the gamekeeper was that he wasn't against lynx,
but almost he wanted the right to shoot them -
which seemed a bit perverse, but perhaps you can help me out...?
We've got to be practical and say, if lynx do create
an acute problem, and there's repeated losses of sheep -
then I think there has to be some form of recourse, action
or prevention that the land manager can take.
By making the lynx some sort of sacred cow -
and you've basically got to let it do what it wants -
is actually going to be counterproductive.
It's not going to be helpful, and you will end up
with a lot of tension and conflict, and I don't think that's necessary.
Whatever the conclusions of David's report,
it'll be at least another decade before the lynx can roam free.
So, will lynx return and reclaim the throne
as the kings of our jungle?
Nature seems ready. The question is, are we?
JOHN: Julia and I are exploring Leicestershire,
a county where the locals
are making the most of its beautiful countryside.
I'm on my way to Cossington Meadows -
it's 200 acres of wetland nature reserve,
just seven miles from the city centre of Leicester.
Actually, it's a bit of a local secret, you've got to look carefully
for the sign, they tell me, otherwise you could drive straight past.
In fact, that's it there.
This is a nature-lover's haven, but it hasn't always been like this.
To find out more, I'm meeting Michael,
from the Rutland and Leicestershire Wildlife Trust.
-The sound of silence here.
It's a wonderful place for local people to come and escape to.
It's only been a nature reserve for about 10 years. Before then,
this was a very busy, very noisy, active gravel pit.
-They just filled it in and you took it over?
So, how deep is it now, then?
It's quite shallow, John. It can't be more than three or four feet deep.
That encourages a wide variety of wildlife, that likes
those sorts of shallow water conditions - little egrets,
herons - and a wide variety of fish as well.
Cossington Meadows is something of a triumph for the wildlife trust,
but actually it forms part of a bigger jigsaw,
designed to form a wildlife corridor along the River Soar.
What you're doing, then, is creating kind of stepping stones
for wildlife to move up and down safely.
That's exactly it, John.
The problem is, unless you can do that, a lot of wildlife is
confined to just small patches of land,
and then it's more vulnerable.
Well, I've got a map in here which will explain it a little easier.
The green patches of land are Wildlife Trust nature reserves
and the river links them all together.
So, what we're trying to do is to create this big area that
will enable these wildlife to move in between these individual
That looks like quite a big stumbling block there?
Quite the contrary,
because that is a farm where we work very closely with the farmer there.
And does the same apply here?
The yellow over here is a country park, which is also
managed for its wildlife value, so what we have been able to do here
is to create an area of about 1,000 acres that has got wildlife value.
The long-term plan is to try to extend this wildlife corridor
all the way down the river valley.
You might think a reserve like this needs a lot of people power
to keep it all in check, but it doesn't.
What it does need, are Exmoor ponies.
These hardy animals play a crucial part in managing
the landscape by creating a perfect habitat for many
kinds of wildlife, and it seems to be working.
Well, Chris, I never expected to see a whole herd of Exmoors
here in Leicestershire. They are pretty rare, aren't they?
They are, we thought, "Well, we need a species of animal to help graze
"Cossington Meadows," and these just looked ideal.
What is special about the way they graze, then?
Well, they eat anything.
Thistle heads, nettles and they will eat the coarse grasses,
they will even eat small trees.
So they prevent the whole site from turning into woodland.
Perfect lawn mower, really, then.
Perfect. If you left them here, this would be a bowling green in weeks,
so that's why we move them around.
-So these are about to be moved, are they?
-They are, yes.
-Shall we go?
-Yes, we'll go.
Come on, girls.
Come on, girls. Come and get it.
You are going the wrong way, sweetheart.
'But Exmoors have minds of their own.'
No, don't go up there.
Come on, girls.
-They are not easy to organise, are they?
After lots and lots of gentle coaxing,
we have managed to get seven out of the 11 moving in the right direction.
It is just the breed, isn't it? Some are semi-wild.
-They're not going to do what you want all the time.
Chris is going to leave the uncooperative ones for another day,
but rather than quit the roundup, he now wants to move
these rare Shetland cows, another hardy breed,
and, like the ponies, they have been chosen
because they chew their way through coarse vegetation.
So we'll lead these to another large field with
plenty of food in.
OK, girls, follow me.
Come on, then.
Through you come, and boy.
Come on, then.
'Just like the ponies, not all the cows are keen to move.'
Come on, then.
No, no, come on.
Come on. Oh, no!
Now, if Adam was here no problem.
'But we've got a cunning plan.
'Never underestimate the power of a bucket of feed.'
Yah-hoo! We did it!
-Great, John, brilliant.
-At long last.
They're not easy, are they?
No, they're not.
And they'll stay in there for quite a while?
They'll be there for a few months.
And then you'll have to get them back again.
Back again. So, can you come back?
Well, that was a hard day's work.
But it's great to see two rare breeds helping the wildlife trust to
manage their reserve.
And, right on time, here come the seven willing Exmoors,
ready to enjoy their new pasture,
all winter long.
Now, this is the time of year when ewes come into season,
so that means Adam's got his hands full with some very feisty rams.
My rams can sense there's something in the air.
They're excited and boisterous.
They know it's mating season.
At this time of year, when the day length is getting shorter,
the ewes are coming into season, ready to accept the ram
and the rams are full of testosterone,
ready to mate with the ewes.
By, good girl.
And they will conceive now, and then give birth in the spring.
And the Cotswolds, this breed, the ram's already in with the ewes.
He wears a harness, and on the harness is a chalk,
so we're just catching the ram now, to change his chalk.
Good girls, bring them on.
So this is the Kerry Hill ram, or some people call them tups,
and mating time is known as tupping.
These rams wear a harness, and when they mate with the ewes
the chalk on the front of the harness here
rubs on their rumps, and marks them.
He started off with yellow, 18 days later, we're changing it to
an orange mark, and then we will go green, then red, then blue
and then black.
So what we will know is which ewes are going to give birth and when.
We mate them in the autumn, and they give birth in the spring.
So, about a five-month gestation period, from mating to birth.
We'll carry on tupping for the next couple of weeks,
until all the ewes are covered.
Ideally, each ewe will have two offspring.
So, come next March, the fields will be full of leaping lambs.
Over the past few weeks,
we've been preparing our fields for sowing wheat.
It hasn't been easy.
The wet weather's been a nightmare,
but by grabbing every dry opportunity,
my hard-working team has been able to get all our wheat sown.
Now, it's even beginning to germinate.
We had a very late, wet harvest on this farm,
but it wasn't just here, it was nationally,
and that is already having an effect on next year's harvest.
Because the crops weren't taken off the fields early enough,
it meant that drilling, or planting the crops didn't start early enough.
So, usually, this oilseed rape,
we would have drilled it middle of August, but we couldn't
get on here until the first week of September and that has meant
that the plants are now small and immature.
Usually by now, this would be a blanket of green
and the size and quality of the plant now, in the autumn,
determines the potential yield next August, and because
they're small and immature,
it's already having an effect on the next harvest.
We're lucky to have got it planted at all,
but it's still not looking great.
The bad luck doesn't stop with my crops.
One of my bulls has caused a few headaches, too.
A couple of months ago, I bought a Belted Galloway bull.
Unfortunately, he has been giving me a bit of grief.
His name is Cracker, and he is aptly named,
because he has been a little bit crackers.
He jumps out a bit, and he is a bit feisty,
but now he's settling in quite well,
he's jumped out a few times to go and visit
cows that he shouldn't, which is a bit naughty, but he's a good bull,
he's a good Belted Galloway, and he's got a job to do,
he has to serve these three cows, and hopefully get them in calf,
then I will pregnancy test them in about a month's time, and it's then
that I'll have to make a decision, whether to keep him or not.
But one bull that has been behaving himself, is my Highland, Eric.
Last March, he became a proud dad for the first time,
and I'm hoping he can do it all again.
Hey, hey, hey.
Go on, then. Go on, Eric.
I'm just taking Eric and his cows up to the handling pens.
The vet is coming to pregnancy-test them.
Hopefully they will all be in calf, but Eric gets pretty wound up by
other bulls when I move him through these paddocks
so I have to keep him going quite quickly,
otherwise we'll have a fight on our hands.
Come on, then, hey, hey.
Come on, keep going, keep going.
Come on, hey, hey.
We put Eric in with the cows in about June-time, and hopefully
the cows are now all in calf and he he'll make me very proud once more.
I'm just separating the calves out from the cows so they don't
get squashed when I put the cows down the cattle race here.
These are Eric's three calves that were born in the spring,
we have got Maisie, Mavauna and little Magee.
He's my great hope that he's going to be someone's stock bull one day.
He's really looking good.
Go on, that's it, good boy.
And they are so hairy, these Highlands,
it's a wonderful coat on them and he's in good condition under here,
he is a very smart calf, he is growing really well,
and hopefully he'll be as big as his dad one day.
Right, I'll just get these cows in.
I have called in the vet, Graeme Sanderson,
to see if Eric's ladies are in calf.
So, all we have got six cows to check for pregnancy
and Graeme, the vet here, is just feeling. How is she feeling now?
Yes, she is about two months in calf.
-Great, good news.
-A few weeks or so.
One down, five to go. Good old Eric.
So what the vet does is he puts his hand up her rectum
and then he is feeling the uterus.
That's right, feeling down onto the uterus to see what changes there are.
If they are further on, you might be able to feel an actual foetus itself,
if they are early on, you are just looking for changes in size.
And as they get very far on, you can palpate an actual calf in there.
So this is a heifer,
she hasn't been in calf before.
She's in calf as well, she's slightly further on than
the previous one, so probably about three months in calf at the moment.
Great, brilliant, fantastic.
If some of the cows are not in calf, it may mean that they are no longer
fertile themselves, and so they become what is known as barreners.
Then they will go for meat.
But it's reasonably early yet, we'll give her a bit more of a chance.
She is in calf as well, about three months or so.
In calf, about three months. Good news.
So Eric's OK, and most of the cows are in calf,
so, we should be all right, I think.
What is this one like?
She is not detectably in calf at the moment,
but Eric's been in with her so we'll probably wait another month
and check because she could be too early on to know at the moment.
OK, thanks very much.
So good news, out of six there is only really this one
we will have to re-test, but she may be early on in pregnancy, so we'll
test her again in four weeks' time and then Eric'll have a full house.
There's a good boy.
Eric cost me two and a half thousand pounds
and he has been worth every penny.
He's already fathered some cracking calves,
and it looks like there could be up to another six on the way.
Next time, I will be catching up with a young farmer,
who has realised his dream.
Go on, little Magee.
Go on, then.
Earlier, John was exploring Leicestershire's Soar Valley
where a wildlife corridor is providing a new
habitat for an amazing array of flora and fauna.
But just a little way down the river there is an invader that is
threatening to shatter this watery wilderness.
It is called floating pennywort.
It is an invasive species,
and it is on the Environment Agency's most wanted list.
It's known as an aquatic triffid,
and it can grow at a rate of up to 20cm per day.
It covers the surface of the water in a thick mat of green leaves,
starving it of light, nutrients and oxygen.
The agency is on a mission
to wipe it out.
Biodiversity specialist, Rebecca Brunt,
is on the front line of the defence against this aquatic intruder.
-So this is pennywort?
-This is it, yes.
But it looks like lettuce, or watercress or something.
There is quite a lot of it when you see it up close.
It looks quite innocuous, Rebecca.
It doesn't look like an evil weed.
What is the problem with it, does it just strangle the water
and everything in it, and around?
It does, yeah. It out-competes our native plants,
so we've had a problem with water lilies
and things like that elsewhere.
It can also affect fish migration,
with it going far down into the water
the fish can't get backwards and forwards.
And where does it come from?
It actually comes from North America.
Those Americans, thank you.
It came over, probably in the 1980s, as an ornamental plant,
and then it has escaped out into the wild,
and in Leicestershire it was 2004 that we had it here.
It looks solid, what's happening beneath the leaves?
Can we have a look?
It goes quite a long way into the water course,
so it is quite difficult to pull out.
-Gosh, that is strong stuff, isn't it?
-It is quite a mat.
-It's like a squidgy bed.
-You can't really get anything through it.
This is some of the problems that we've had in the past
where there are pictures of animals getting stuck in it
because it looks like an extension of the bank when it's next
to the normal fields, so it can be a bit of a health and safety issue.
Oh, dear me.
Pennywort, it sounds like a Beatrix Potter character.
Getting rid of floating pennywort is easier said than done.
It can re-grow from the tiniest fragment,
quickly taking over whole swathes of rivers in a matter of weeks.
The Environment Agency is working hard
to manage the problem, spraying large beds with herbicide.
And at smaller sites -
my favourite, they grab it.
Managing floating pennywort costs the economy
around £25 million a year.
You can feel the drag, it is so heavy, isn't it?
-It is such a tough plant.
-Look at that.
It is a constant battle,
but ignoring this voracious invader isn't an option.
We're going to be here all day.
Sometimes I spend weeks on it, yeah, just getting rid of it.
-It knows it's got that, doesn't it?
Aside from affecting the health and vibrancy of our waterways,
it also poses a serious flood risk.
Die, pennywort, die.
One of the most important things for the agency is finding out about new
sites, and they have come up with a very 21st-century way of doing that.
You are clutching technology, what are you going to show me?
This is actually what we call a plant tracker.
And as we are doing all of our monitoring,
we also want people to be the eyes
and ears for us on the ground.
-So there's an app?
-There is an app.
-I love it.
-An app for everything.
And basically, this was developed by the Environment Agency
and Bristol University
asking people to do download it onto their phones, take it
out with them when they go for a walk with the dog, and if they see an
invasive species then they can record it on here, and it's basically just
putting on a photo, if you've got a good signal it takes a GPS reference
for you and then it is sent off to Bristol University for verification.
-Can I have a little go?
I love it, there are plant detectives out there doing this.
All over the country.
The only way to protect our native species is to wipe out invasive
plants like floating pennywort.
Here they're fighting back.
If you want to help, or are interested in the plant tracker app,
go to our website for more details...
You will also find more information about this,
the Countryfile calendar, for 2013.
Here is John.
The Countryfile calendar has been raising
lots of money for the BBC's Children In Need appeal for more than
a decade now, and for the 2013 edition, we have a fantastic
number of amazing photographs sent in by viewers to choose from.
So, if you want these beautiful shots on your wall next year,
then you can order a copy right now, either on our website...
..or by calling the order line.
To order by post, send your name, address and cheque to...
And please make your cheques payable to "BBC Countryfile calendar".
Remember, the calendar costs nine pounds
and at least four pounds from every sale will go to Children In Need.
In a moment, John and I will be taking part in the great
but first, here's the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
John and I have been exploring the Leicestershire countryside.
While he's been discovering
some of the unsung heroes of our Armed Forces,
I've been fighting my own battles against an aquatic invader
and some rather unruly hazel trees.
Now it's finally time for me to face the daunting challenge
of planting 2,000 of these little fellows in just one hour.
It sounds like a lot but the record is actually 27,000 trees
planted in an hour, by 100 people so we should be able to do it.
And don't forget, we've got our trusty teams to help us
with the hard work.
John and 10 of Leicestershire's finest female farmers...
..and me, with 10 of the county's fittest fireman.
A hardy bunch of volunteers have been busy planting all day so we're
already well on our way to creating Britain's biggest native woodland.
And now it's time to make things interesting
and see how many more we can add in the next hour.
Right, my lovelies. You ready? ALL: Yes!
That's what I like. Are we going to win?
Are we going to plant more trees than ever before?
Oh, dear me!
I'm tired out now.
Hello, my team!
Oh, I like your banners! Now, we're going to win, aren't we?
OK, teams. We're ready to go.
Three, two, one...
Right, come on, boys!
We're planting a variety of indigenous broadleaf trees
like oak, rowan and silver birch.
If you can, guys, leave individual saplings by the marks.
I need a tree. Where's my tree? Thank you.
We've drafted in some local cadets to keep the supply of saplings flowing.
To hit our target, we need to be planting around two trees a minute.
It's non-stop. More trees!
I tell you what, these lads, they've really got the right spirit.
They're going for it.
You're meant to be able to plant two or three in a minute.
I just don't know how that's possible.
We are 15 minutes in and I just had a quick count up
and I think you are over 200 trees so you are doing really well.
-Keep up the good work.
-What about the other team?
They're doing very well as well.
They're slightly further up the field, it has to be said,
but I think you are going to catch them.
-We've got a little system going here.
It's all about the teamwork.
40 minutes in, 20 minutes to go.
We've just about planted 1,000 trees so far. It's a fantastic effort.
I hope my wife's not watching.
She'll be wanting to know why I don't do the gardening.
OK, guys. 10 minutes to go. Come on, final push.
You're doing really well.
We're absolutely storming ahead of John and the young farmers.
But it's not over yet, Julia. I got a secret weapon up my sleeve.
Extra helpers! Please come and join us!
We want to beat the fireman, OK?
Those are dirty tactics.
OK, everybody. Time's up. That's your hour.
What an hour!
I'm pretty sure we've smashed our target of 2,000 trees.
We just need to find out which team has planted the most.
I reckon we've got it in the bag.
Fire Brigade and Julia's team, 2,040 trees.
There was never any doubt.
Ah! Well done, boys.
John's team and the young farmers, 2,410.
It's a fix! It's a fix!
They had extra help, they had extra help. We did it on our own.
-Well done, Julia.
-Yes, thank you, John.
-One more thing to do before you go.
A little plaque to unveil.
The Countryfile Grove. That's what we're calling our trees.
In 10 years' time, we'll all come back and there will be a lovely forest.
Isn't that nice? It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Well, that's all we've got time for from Leicestershire.
-Matt's back with you next week.
Matt and I are back together in Somerset.
I'm looking back at the Great Storm of 1703
and Matt is taking a nice, gentle railway journey.
-What do you expect? See you then, bye.
He won't be working as hard as us!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
John Craven and Julia Bradbury head to rural Leicestershire. It may look like an oasis of peace and tranquillity, but look closer and it's a hive of activity.
Tucked away in the middle of England, John finds a military training camp with a difference; he meets the British Army's new four-legged recruits as they are put through their paces.
Julia finds out about the Woodland Trust's plans to get us all planting trees in 2012. The Trust sets Julia and John a challenge to start planting the biggest native woodland in the UK in an empty field in Leicestershire. The aim is to plant 2,000 saplings in just one hour. It's team Bradbury versus team Craven.
Tom Heap is in Scotland asking whether it's time to bring back big cats. Down on the farm, Adam's on tenterhooks waiting for news on whether his Highland bull - Eric - is going to be a dad again.