Anita Rani visits Leicester University's herbarium to investigate the city's plants' past, present and future, and Tom Heap looks at the rural fire services.
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You may think winter is a
quiet time for our countryside,
that nothing much happens
as the landscape lies dormant.
But look more closely and
you may find some surprises.
There's a floral phenomenon
happening that's baffling botanists.
Spring flowers that are
blooming now in winter.
So, like a horticultural Doctor Who,
I'll be travelling
through plants past,
present and future to find out why.
Whilst I explore Leicestershire,
Steve's at Rutland Water
to see the birds that are
flocking in their thousands.
How do you count 4,000 birds?
Usually with a click counter.
But, but they move!
We're on call with our
rural vets as they treat a cow
with a twisted stomach.
So now it's much easier for me
to bring the stomach back round
and put it back where it should be.
how every second counts
when it comes to
fighting rural fires.
Well, that really shows how a few
seconds can make the difference
to the size of a blaze.
And Adam's finding out about a
special breed of old English goat.
So these are the famous
They are, yes.
Today, we're in the heart
of rural England.
While Steve's over the
border in Rutland,
I'm in neighbouring Leicester.
This is the Sence Valley.
Once an open cast coal mine,
this place is now a haven
for woodland and wildlife.
And some unseasonal surprises.
Now you normally associate
with the spring or the summer,
NOT the depths of winter,
but there's a horticultural
head-scratcher going on.
A mass of flowers blooming early.
It goes against all the rules
in the botany bibles.
So, for the past five years,
Louise Marsh has been rallying
troops all over the country
to take part in New Year Plant
Hunts, gathering valuable data.
So what's this big drama that's
going on in the wild flower world?
Well, our classic textbooks tell us
we should find 20-30 plants
in bloom in the middle of winter.
And in the last few years,
we've been finding 500-600.
Cor, that's a huge difference!
I know. It's absolutely
jaw-dropping, isn't it?
So botanists like yourself, Louise,
must be very excited about this.
We're really excited to find out
what's causing this and, really,
to gather more evidence and to try
and work out why is this happening.
So, how are you doing that? How are
you going to gather the evidence?
We've got people across the country,
botanists and non-botanists,
just people going out,
seeing what wild flowers
they can find and letting us know.
What's the knock-on effect,
if you're seeing wild flowers
growing at this time of year?
This is what we want to find out
because, as you know, in ecology,
You've got butterflies using wild
flowers as food plants,
you've got pollinators,
how are they going to be impacted
if things are flowering
at different times?
The changing climate is one
possible reason and volunteers like
Jack Riggall are helping
piece together more clues.
So these were male
catkins for the hazel here.
And then they've got
the female flowers...
Ah, just there!
coming out of the buds there.
So they're very small.
That's a good spot.
So you've got the male flowers
and the female flowers.
Yes! I can see the little bits
sticking out. Wonderful.
When would that normally bloom?
Kind of February, March.
Yeah, it's a good month early.
Great. Well done.
People up and down the country
are sharing their discoveries
through a special
New Year Plant Hunt app.
Ciara and Ellen are part of
the social media support team.
Can you show me some of the stuff
that you've got coming in?
Yeah, of course.
This is a wild clary, normally
a midsummer flowering plant.
So it's really, really early.
It's rare as well,
so it's probably one of the least
expected plants that we'd find.
That's the beauty of social
media, isn't it?
Like, you've got
all these volunteers
collecting this information and
instantly at the touch of a button,
you can see what's coming through.
It's not only the number of
species flowering that's unusual.
It's also the size of some of them,
as nine-year-old Elizabeth
Widdowson found out
on a recent hunt.
So, what did you find?
A shepherd's purse.
And what was so unusual
about your shepherd's purse?
It was so tall.
How tall was it?
A meter and one centimetre.
The tallest in Europe.
The tallest in Europe.
So why do you enjoy
looking at flowers?
Cos it's good family time and we
all like the pretty colours
of the flowers.
It's just a great
thing to do and get out and about
at this time of year.
See you later.
People aren't just searching
in rural areas.
They're out in cities too.
And in the centre of Leicester,
they're finding autumn flowers
like wormwood and scentless mayweed
and early bloomers
like eastern rocket.
Winter wild flowers don't
just give colour to concrete,
they also have unexpected benefits
for volunteers like Richard Mabbutt.
What have you found?
It's a cornflour.
Oh, wow! That's beautiful.
it's a lovely purple, isn't it?
Isn't that gorgeous?
And so why do you do this?
Why have you got involved?
For the love of plants, mainly,
and it helps me to de-stress
as well, you know.
I get a lot of stress and anxiety
and I find getting out amongst
plants really helps me.
So you've noticed an improvement
in your own wellbeing,
in your own mental health?
Absolutely, yes. Yeah.
I love the smile as well.
It's like, "Yes, if
you don't believe me,
"look at the smile on my face."
And whilst hunting with Russell
Perry, we spot a real gem.
That's Austrian camomile.
This one has not been found in
flower anywhere else in the country
at this time of the year, so
this is really quite exceptional.
That's quite a big deal, then.
It is, it is.
In fact, it's such a big deal,
we really ought to take at least
one specimen for the herbarium
to preserve it and press it.
Do they not have one?
I don't think they do at the moment,
no, so this is quite exciting.
Out it comes. Oh, yeah!
Wild flowers look beautiful
where they are
but we've got permission to pick
this as data from plant hunts
is crucial for the future
of our flowers.
I'll find out more later.
..fires in the countryside are
causing more damage than ever before
and it's taking the fire
brigade longer to respond to them.
So what is going on? Here's Tom.
Just some of the plus points
of living in the countryside.
But there are downsides too.
Because all it takes is
one little spark
and devastation can tear through
homes, farms, and the landscape.
When it comes to fires, remote
communities are at increasing risk.
According to government figures,
response times by the Fire
and Rescue Service
to fires in rural areas have
gone up over the last five years.
Here in North Wales,
they're up by two and a half minutes
and across the whole of Wales
by 59 seconds.
In England, the rise is 48 seconds
and that's double
the increase in our cities.
Seconds, even minutes, might not
seem like much, but just look at
On the stove is a pan of oil.
It overheats and ignites
in just a few seconds.
Throwing on water is a big mistake.
Well, that really shows how a few
seconds can make the difference
to a size of a blaze.
But that doesn't just apply to
what could happen in your kitchen,
it could be your garden shed,
your car, or even a hay barn.
Seconds make all the difference.
And on farms where people live
and work, the losses can be huge.
NFU Mutual say that in 2016
there was a massive 26% hike in the
cost of farm fires to £44 million.
They say that's directly linked
to longer response times.
So why this increase?
Well, one possible reason is that
almost all rural fire stations
in the UK are unmanned and
staffed entirely by retained
or on-call firefighters,
and finding people to do
that job is getting harder.
Pete Preston is watch manager
at Colwyn Bay Fire Station
and has been a retained firefighter
and part of the fire brigade's
union for decades.
So, Pete, what actually is
a retained firefighter?
A firefighter that provides cover
on an on-call basis in, usually,
in a rural community.
And could that be for just a
couple of hours, or, you know,
ten or 20 hours a week, sometimes?
It's usually for a
little longer than that.
It's usually, it could be
for up to 120 hours a week.
Front. At ease.
They're paid a retainer fee
of around £3,000 a year,
plus an hourly rate
when they're called out.
The retained duty system
was launched in the 1800s
but really came into
its own during the Blitz.
Life in those days revolved
around the local community
with most people
working close to home.
Many were part-timers
who responded to the siren's call
after a day's work in our vital
factories, offices and shops.
But times have changed and today,
finding people who live and work
within five minutes
of a rural fire station is tough.
Do you think this struggle to get
hold of retained firefighters
is impacting on response times?
Without a doubt, it's having some
effect in a number of areas.
It's significantly more difficult
good 24/7 cover in rural areas,
compared to 20, 25 years ago.
Despite the difficulties,
thankfully some people are
still taking up the challenge.
Like Brian Roberts,
a farmer in Bala, Snowdonia.
You look hard at
You all right?
So tell me, I mean, what's a typical
day like on the farm for you?
Well, I need to feed the sheep,
then I feed the cattle and then
on to other jobs after.
So why have you chosen
to take on extra work
as a retained firefighter as well?
Oh, just the extra income helps
and being part of a team,
you get to talk to different
kinds of people.
There's butchers, there's wardens.
It's something different to farmers.
Brian's going to show me
when he gets an alert at work.
He has just a few minutes
to get to the station.
It's interesting, as you say, when
the bleeper goes off, you don't...
..you have no idea
what the emergency could be?
No. Could be a mountain fire,
it could be a...
..road smash. It could be
a house fire,
it could be anything under the sun.
And ready to go.
Of course, you know, there could be
some nasty things out there,
but is there a sort of a feeling, in
a way, of helping the community?
Yes, because you've got an idea
who lives where
and you're going to help out.
Thanks to on-call firefighters
we have local crews tackling
fires across our countryside,
day in and day out.
But with fewer people willing
or able to make that commitment,
how can we make sure that
our rural fire stations
have enough staff to cut
those growing waiting times?
That's what I'll be
finding out later.
Now, it's not the first time
we've been to Leicestershire.
The last time Helen was there,
she stumbled across its long
and explosive history
in Charnwood Forest.
It's kind of hard to imagine, isn't
it, that 600 million years ago,
this was a volcanic island
in the southern hemisphere?
This was a time before our planet
bore any resemblance
to what we see now.
Over hundreds of millions of years,
forces from deep within the Earth
split the tectonic plates.
Continents shifted, colliding
as they moved around the globe.
These violent geological processes
laid the ground
for an incredible find.
Nearly 60 years ago,
a bunch of Leicestershire schoolboys
stumbled upon one
the greatest finds
in the history of palaeontology.
Roger Mason was 15 at the time.
The fossil he and his friends
found was to change everything.
Roger, take me back
to 1957, on that day.
What were you doing?
I left after school with
two school friends,
and Richard Allen.
And we cycled to Charnwood Forest
to go rock climbing
and I went to the top of the
crag to lower the rope,
and Blatch called up and said,
"I think I've found a fossil."
But it wasn't until Roger
returned to the site
with local geologist
that the discovery
could be confirmed.
Roger's father recorded this
momentous event in his diary.
Wow! So this was your dad's diary.
That's my dad's diary.
There you are. That's the day.
"Pick up Dr Ford to check
on 'the fossil'."
Love the way he's written "the
fossil" in quotation marks.
Quotation marks, yeah.
And then, "Seems genuine".
The fossil was named
in Roger's honour,
Charnia masoni, and it helped
confirm one of the most important
scientific theories of all time.
Darwin's theory of evolution
stated that all life developed
from simple organisms but for
Darwin, there was a problem.
He had no proof.
The earliest fossils were of complex
life forms that appeared all at once
in the Cambrian period,
half a billion years ago.
Roger had just found
the missing link,
a simpler organism that predated
anything that had been found before.
Darwin's dilemma was solved.
The phrase I think he used is,
"The seas must have swarmed
with living organisms"
and indeed they did.
And you found evidence of that.
Is it fair to say that you found a
missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle?
I think it is, yes.
It definitely is!
Charnia masoni has been heralded
as the most significant fossil find
in human history.
And Charnwood Forest has become
a world-leading site
for new discoveries.
Dr Philip Wilby from the
British Geological Survey
is going to tell me more.
Charnia masoni was one of the very
first creatures that lived on Earth,
which was large and complex.
So this is a replica of the fossil
that Roger Mason found.
To my inexperienced eye,
that looks like a leaf.
Is it a living, breathing, walking
thing? What did they do?
They're a complete mystery
at the moment.
We don't really know anything
about how these organisms,
these creatures, lived. We don't
know how they made their living.
We don't know how they reproduced.
We don't know how they dispersed
round the world.
Why is it so important?
It's important because it's
one of the first times
that we knew that there were large,
complex creatures on planet Earth.
By large, complex creatures, what do
you mean, because before this,
they were only microorganisms?
That's right, so this was a time
when life changed from one
which was dominated
by single celled,
very simple, minute organisms,
to one when all of a sudden,
there was a big flowering of life
and we had large complex organisms.
My brain hurts, but I think that's
cos there's so many questions!
With little on Earth
to compare it to,
Roger's fossil really poses more
questions than it answers,
which is why scientists from all
over the world continue to look
to Charnwood Forest for more clues.
The rocks of Charnwood Forest
are hugely significant.
Without them, we wouldn't understand
as much as we do about the evolution
of early life and that's all
thanks to a chance discovery
by a group of teenage boys.
In a series of special films,
we're spending time
with a team of rural vets
and seeing what it takes
to look after our livestock
in the harshest of months.
It never happens.
The practice is based
in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
It's one of the largest
in the country
with around 40 vets providing
care to all creatures,
great and small.
We'll track the trials
..through the blood,
sweat and tears...
Good boy, good boy, good boy.
..to see what it takes
to be a country vet.
And just to let you know,
some of what they do isn't
for the faint-hearted.
Will Sommerville is an experienced
vet who specialises in cattle.
He's had an emergency call-out.
A cow, after a difficult calving,
has been left with
a twisted stomach,
or as it's known in the trade,
So if you're after a quick biology
lesson of a cow's stomach,
here's Will to fill you in.
An LDA stands for
left displaced abomasum.
Initially, we've got the rumen,
which is a large fermentation vessel
and from there,
the food will go out of there
into the other compartments,
one of which is the abomasum,
which normally sits on the
right-hand side of the cow
and sometimes this can get displaced
and it'll go underneath the rumen
and get stuck on the left.
So the plan here is that we're
just prepping up for surgery,
where I go in,
and bring the abomasum round
with my arm
and attach it back
to where it should be
on the right-hand side.
So with doing surgery on farm,
it's trying to be as clean
as you can
but it's never going to
be 100% sterile,
so clipping the hair off the area
where we're doing the surgery
is going to make it a lot cleaner.
So we've got a few injections
just before doing the operation.
This first one I'm giving here's a,
this is an anti-inflammatory pain
and it will, after the operation,
make her feel as though
nothing's happened, hopefully.
We've got some antibiotic here,
cos as I say,
doing a surgery on-farm,
never going to be 100% sterile, so
antibiotics are necessary and then,
lastly, some local anaesthetic,
where we're going to go in.
So the hole we're making, really,
just needs to be about the size
to fit my arm through,
so I can reach round and
grab the stomach. It doesn't...
We don't need to make it
much bigger than that.
So I'm just going to
scrub myself as well
and try and make sure I'm
as clean as possible.
With my left arm, I've got
be up to my shoulder, so...
..everything, including the armpit,
has to be scrubbed.
So now the prep work's done,
we can get started.
I'm going to go through the skin...
..and once we're through the skin,
we get into the muscle layers.
Now we've made the hole,
it's, er, put my arm round,
so it's going round
the back of the rumen,
which is a big fermentation vessel
in there, putting it round,
so I'm feeling the stomach, which
is very full of gas and quite...
..quite high up here.
Unfortunately, you can't see much
but it was all happening
on the inside and, yeah,
you have to be trusting that
the cow's going to stand
and behave itself and
not try and kick
or run off while your arm's there!
This is very gassed up
and I think that's what...
We're going to have to deflate it.
It's a bit like trying to push
a volleyball underwater
and round and me being a bit feeble,
I'm not strong enough.
So with that, we're going
to reach round...
..put the needle into
the top of the abomasum
and all the gas that's inside the
stomach is going to...
..come outside the cow.
I can just hear it, hear it
flowing through there.
And so, once we let the gas out, all
that buoyancy will go and it should,
the stomach should drop to the
bottom of the abdomen
and it'll be much easier for me
to then pull it back round.
So now all the gas
has been taken out,
it's much easier for me to
bring the stomach back round
and put it back where it should be.
Then once we manage to
get the stomach round,
it's a case of fixing it in place
and stitching the muscle layers
and the skin and closing the hole.
Well, she shouldn't be able
to feel anything
with the local I've done and,
usually, if you've done the local
and you've missed a bit,
they let you know about it,
so I don't want to jinx it, but she
seems to have been very quiet.
And the final touch,
this is a bit of, er...
..on the outside, just to
prevent any infection getting in.
And that's her done.
It went well and it was nice to see
her eating straightaway after
and looking like not
much had happened,
which makes you feel like
it's gone well at the time.
Just down the road, one of
the team's equine vets, Angela,
is checking on a pony that's
also having stomach issues.
She's catching up with owner
Alex Hambleton Burnett
to see how Titch is doing.
Oh, morning, Angela,
how are you?
I'm good, thanks. How are you?
He looks really well.
Hi, darling. Good boy.
Titch had had three episodes
of colic in a two-week period,
so his owners were quite concerned.
Colic is just a sign
of abdominal pain
and it can be life-threatening
in certain situations.
You are so...
He's so grumpy.
He hasn't had any breakfast.
When I first saw Titch, he
had some quite nasty ulcers
on the lining of his stomach,
so we prescribed him a drug
that suppresses acid production,
so it reduces the acidity
of his stomach
and allows his ulcers to heal.
Started looking into the reasons
why ponies get stomach ulcers.
Normally, it's because if
they're kept in the stable a lot
and they don't have enough grass and
hay, whereas Titch mostly lives out.
He's got unlimited grass and hay.
So the other big reason that horses
can get stomach ulcers is stress
and so, suggested he might be lonely
and he might want a companion.
So they got him an unbelievably cute
miniature Shetland pony
who's about knee-high and is just
the sweetest thing you've ever seen.
And it certainly has helped
relieve his stress levels,
which can be a risk factor in
causing gastric ulcers in horses.
And no signs of colic since
we last saw him, nothing at all?
No, no. He's been absolutely fine.
So, are we expecting the ulcers to
have cleared up or to have improved?
I would hope that
The fact that he's a lot better
makes me think that
they'll have all gone.
There we go.
So, should get nice and sleepy, hey?
And then you won't know anything
about not having breakfast,
During a gastroscope,
we'll pop a scope up their nose,
down into their oesophagus and into
their stomach and we have a look at
the lining of their stomach.
So we're going down his oesophagus.
So you can see all the
nice longitudinal muscles,
as we go down.
Good boy. So Tich has been really
so we can see everything
that we need to see. Perfect.
That's a lovely shot.
So, you can see here,
Alex, that's the lesser curvature of
his stomach and that's where he had
all those nasty ulcers
and abrasions before.
We've got nothing there at all that
I'm worried about at the moment.
Gosh, so they've all gone
Yeah. There's nothing. There's
absolutely nothing there at all.
It is really satisfying to see the
between the two gastroscopes,
only four weeks apart.
The ulcers weren't even apparent
at all at the second scope,
so it was really satisfying.
What a brave man!
Good boy, good boy.
Big success story. And we're very,
very grateful and pleased to have
found out what was wrong with him.
He's our little superstar.
Tich responded really well
to his medication
and is now back out competing
with his little jockey, India,
and they're getting on really well.
It's lovely to see them both
Next week, we'll see this job really
is a matter of life and death
as Will and Georgia are called out
to save the life of a
cow and her calf.
Now, earlier, we heard how rural
fire stations are under strain,
so what can be done to improve
Rural fires are causing more
costly damage than ever before.
But over in Wiltshire,
they're working to prevent fires
from starting in the first place.
Which is why station manager for
Salisbury and Wilton Jason Moncrieff
is here in Devizes for
a farm safety visit.
Good to see you, Jason.
Nice to meet you.
Nice to see you.
Farmer Adrian White is keen
to safeguard his business.
Hi, Adrian. Thanks for having
us here today.
Straight away, there was a few bits
I wanted to talk to you about.
So we have a couple of
right next to a stack of straw.
So, the straw,
obviously very flammable.
The vehicles themselves
represent a fire risk to us,
so should there be a fire, should
one of the vehicles have a fault,
hot engine, hot exhaust,
they can easily ignite the straw.
And I gather you have some
experience of a fire on your farm?
Not actually this property,
but another one?
Yeah, on another property,
last year, we had a barn fire
where some children were smoking
in the barn and unfortunately, yes,
set it alight and the Fire Brigade
were very good.
Hay barn fires like Adrian's are a
major strain for rural firefighters,
and they can take days to put out.
That's why Jason thinks preventing
them is so important.
Have you been to one or two of
A fair few.
You'd like to not go to another one,
if you could?
If at all possible,
not go to another barn
and stay there overnight.
But prevention will never
stop every fire,
and doesn't deal with
the recruitment crisis.
But some rural fire stations
are tackling this problem head-on.
Here in Buckinghamshire,
Here in Buckinghamshire,
they've managed to cut response
times by ten seconds.
How have they done it?
I've come to meet station commander
Andy Maloney in Olney to find out.
How's it going? Nice to see you.
So, tell me, how are you finding
getting retained firefighters here?
OK, we've made some quite
We're now using things
like Facebook, Twitter,
to try and get out.
We've got a proactive manager here
that actually supports the crew,
gets that message out
to local businesses, and so,
we're trying to make
some big changes.
Using social media is
starting to have an effect.
In the last year, they've recruited
three new firefighters,
taking their numbers up to ten.
What impact have these tactics
had on your response times?
We are finding that the response
times are coming down
and people are responding
a lot quicker.
But they still need to get more
people through the door, so today,
they're holding a have-a-go day,
where members of the public
who might be interested in
becoming an on-call firefighter
can find out if
they've got what it takes.
I'm joining potential new recruit
Tiffany Star in a fitness test.
Let's go, let's do it.
Keep going, keep going,
keep going, keep going.
Place him on the floor when
we get back.
Well done, son. Well done.
Mine's quite light.
That's it, keep going. Keep going.
Oh! Well, that's quite a
toasty little work-out, there.
That was hard.
So, have we made the grade?
OK, so I'd like to say you've
all passed, so well done.
Hey, well done!
Well, it's tough.
It's not kind of impossible,
so people shouldn't be kind of
put off by this test, should they?
Oh, definitely not. I mean,
the idea of becoming an
is not about being superfit.
It's about being fit. Fit enough to
do the job to a good enough standard
and see you through your career.
And this applies to you,
whether you're 18 or 60.
And it hasn't put Tiffany off.
She is joining the service.
Our test is over, but while
we're still filming with the crew,
they get a real emergency call.
OK, this is a live fire call that's
come in now whilst we were here,
cos they were on duty.
Good. We'd better let them go.
They're on the scene in
a matter of minutes.
OK, if you come this way.
Thankfully, nothing's ablaze,
but the crew prepare for the worst.
It turns out to be an
which smoked but didn't catch fire.
Take the sets off, all right?
It's been very impressive to see
what Olney fire station
are doing to recruit more people.
And though all our rural
Fire Services are trying to adapt,
finding enough local people able
to do this job is a huge challenge.
Today, we're exploring
Leicestershire and Rutland.
Ellie was there a
couple of winters ago,
when she met colourful creatures
bringing a taste of South America
to the area.
Six years ago, businessman
Chris Deakin was watching -
you've guessed it -
I absolutely love them!
It's those big eyes that
look right into your soul, isn't it?
You've just got to love them.
That programme changed his life.
So, your alpaca story began, then,
when you were watching the
Yes. I was working in industry,
and I was looking to do
and we had the opportunity
of some land.
And I took the plunge and
I bought three or four alpacas.
very quickly after that,
I ended up going from the four
to about 55
in the space of about three months.
And his flock continues to grow.
Chris now farms around 80 alpacas.
As a bloodstock breeder,
he's always aiming to improve
the quality of his herd.
This fleece is what it's all about,
It is, indeed.
Feel a little feel of that,
soft, soft, soft.
And there's a grading system,
Yeah, they are graded and
they grade one to five,
and it's a number of traits
that are taken into account.
The staple length, the crimp here,
going from end to end like that,
the uniformity of that length, and
all of these things produce a
very, very fine, very,
very high-quality product.
They're pretty placid, aren't they?
Are they quite easy to look after,
would you say?
They're used to that
hardy environment in the Andes.
So, they're low-maintenance
but like all animals,
it needs a lot of care.
Alpaca fleece goes for more than
eight times the price of sheep wool,
but Chris has discovered that their
gentle nature has even more value
for those who really need it.
See the boys over there?
We're going to feed those first.
Pupils from Maplewell Hall
visit the farm once a week
to enjoy the therapeutic benefits
that interacting with these placid,
affectionate creatures can bring.
Well, how did this project
Mel Ison is the assistant
What are the different
special needs of your pupils?
We have a range of different needs.
Our children are classed as
moderate learning difficulties.
Within that, we have visual
impairment, we have some physical,
just general learning needs, to
different behaviour needs, as well.
And what do they get out of
coming to somewhere like this?
It helps them to understand that
they can look after somebody else.
It helps them to regulate their
emotions, to talk and communicate,
using the animals, it helps them
just to talk about what is going on
in their minds and what
they think about different things.
Yeah, yeah. And how about
once they get back to the classroom?
How's that different?
They're a lot more settled,
they're a lot more engaged in
what they're doing,
and that helps them, back in the
classroom, to make progress, too.
It's incredibly rewarding to see.
Yeah, definitely, and they really
and they come back buzzing.
So, yeah, it's really nice
to see them,
and really proud of what they've
done with the animals.
There's another Ellie here today.
She's 12 and has autism.
I'm joining her in taking
called Serafino and Michael,
for a walk.
What are the different jobs
that you've got to do?
Feeding them is the main one we do.
Yeah? Which is your favourite job?
Taking them for a walk.
Is it nice? What about
your least favourite?
Probably picking up the poo.
And do you look forward to
Is it the best part
of your week?
Yeah. Cos I get to miss lessons!
Alpacas may be prized for their
but to Chris and the children
of Maplewell Hall,
the value of these animals
is beyond price.
From alpacas to goats -
they're one of our oldest
and most adaptable species.
Adam's got many breeds
on his farm in the Cotswolds.
We've got about 80 goats
on the farm,
and they're incredible animals.
They're one of the first animals
that man domesticated, tamed,
and we've now been herding them
for around 9,000 years.
And they've adapted to every
continent around the world,
apart from Antarctica.
And here in the UK, they can cope
with our cold winters,
but thrive during the summer months.
Now, in here, I've just got to
catch this Boer goat,
because it's got a sore foot.
And this is a classic Boer.
They originate from South Africa,
and they're really a meat goat.
They've been developed over the
years for fast growth
and really good quality carcass,
and they're becoming quite
popular in the UK,
although we're more favoured
towards eating lamb and beef
than we are goat meat, over here.
But certainly, more people
are starting to keep them.
The Boer goat's popularity
means that numbers are on the up.
But there are some breeds here
that are becoming scarce.
The other breed I've got in
here are the Golden Guernseys,
aptly named because of
their lovely golden colour.
And I've got a billy here,
and I'll just try and catch him
and take a closer look at him.
Might take some catching!
Handy thing is, he's got these...
Look at the amazing horns on him.
The Guernsey, unlike the Boer,
is a milk goat.
It produces a really rich, creamy,
high quality milk.
It can't compete
in a commercial world,
because it doesn't yield very well.
So they have become very rare,
but they're absolutely gorgeous.
I think they're a beautiful-looking
animal and lovely to keep,
particularly for the smallholder
wanting to produce their own milk.
We check our animals every day.
Go on, then, mate, off you go.
And I've just spotted a nanny who
looks like she might have a problem.
She should be easier to catch than
the billy we've just looked at.
BANJO MUSIC PLAYS
So, this little nanny,
this little female,
has got a sore eye, and she may have
a thorn in it, or a bit of silage,
or something, so if I just carefully
squeeze the tops of her eyes,
it pushes her eyelids out.
And if there is anything in there,
it usually reveals itself.
I can't see anything in there.
All this crud around her eye,
I'll just push that off.
She's obviously been weeping
quite a lot. It's quite sore.
But the eyeball is still clear.
It hasn't gone cloudy, and the
white around it is looking OK.
So she's probably just had
a poke in the eye
from one of the horns
of these goats.
So I'll keep a real careful
eye on it, and if it does
start to become infected,
I'll put some cream in there,
or we can get some antibiotics,
or we can get the vet if we need to.
Looks a bit sore, missus,
There's one breed here
as tough as old boots.
In this pen,
I've got our Bagot goats.
They're the black and white
They were thought to have been
introduced to the country
by Richard the Lionheart when
he came back from his Crusades,
and they ended up at
kept by Lady Bagot,
hence their name.
And they're a lovely looking goat,
an ornamental parkland goat
that's not very good
at producing milk
and not very good at producing meat,
but they do look lovely,
and they're very hardy.
They can survive the
harshest of conditions.
We've had them on the farm
here since 1975.
My dad was really keen
to save them from extinction,
and started a small herd.
There's about 500 females left
in the country,
and we've got around 15 to 20 here,
so quite a significant amount,
when it comes to the national herd.
Right, I'll get these bedded down.
You might recall,
when I was in New Zealand,
I came across the last remnants of
an old English breed
living on a remote island.
I didn't know Arapawa goats
So I just had to take a look.
It was Captain James Cook who took
the original animals there,
back in the 1770s.
Look, there's one, there's one.
On the beach, on the beach.
The goats on Arapawa Island today
are direct descendants.
Since my visit, I found out
that this endangered breed
not only successfully made the
journey halfway round the world
to New Zealand, but remarkably,
also made it back again.
I'm at Mary Arden's farm
The farm was the childhood home
of Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden,
and now showcases many of
the old breeds
that would have been around
in the Bard's time.
I'm meeting with the
farm's manager, Andy Walker.
Andy used to work with the
rare breeds on my farm.
Andy, hi! Good to see you again.
Nice to see you.
So, are these the famous
They are, yes.
This is the billy goat
that's the father to the little one.
And Mum is on the end there.
And Mum is on the end there.
It's extraordinary, cos I didn't
know there were any in the UK.
They came back in 2004.
An enthusiast flew six back over.
All the ones we have now
came from those original six.
Crikey! And what sort of numbers
have we got to?
About 30, both male and female,
in the country at the moment.
So still very low numbers?
Very low numbers, yes.
Even so, these numbers
give cause for hope.
Arapawas are close to extinction.
There could be as few as
So the work Andy and his team
are doing is really encouraging.
Well, it's extraordinary that I've
been to the other side of the world
to look at them on the island,
and here they are,
just up the road from where I live!
And this is very similar to the one
we saw over there,
that we got up close to.
Remarkable looking creatures,
aren't they? Pretty tough.
Well, it's lovely that you're
doing your part to look after them.
Fascinating little animals, and
if you get your numbers up a bit,
maybe you should be selling me
Well, we'll see how we get on.
We'll keep in touch. All the best.
Nice to meet you.
Well done, Andy.
Now, you might remember we're on the
hunt for a farming hero for 2018.
This year is Countryfile's
30th birthday, and to mark it,
This year is Countryfile's
30th birthday, and to mark it,
we're looking for the Countryfile
farming hero for 2018,
and as always, we need your help.
We're looking for farmers like Julia
Evans, our winner back in 2016.
I was given a prognosis,
it was just a 50% chance of
surviving beyond five years.
And I thought, "What, really,
do I want to do?
"I want to keep farming, but I don't
want to do it by myself any more."
Or perhaps you know somebody
like Cameron Hendry,
a finalist who gave up school
and took over the family farm
after his dad died suddenly.
It's been quite difficult recently.
I'm just getting on
with the job, really.
Well, I take my hat off to you.
I'm not sure, at 17, I'd have been
able to do what you're doing.
So, if you know someone
who goes above and beyond...
..who makes a difference to others,
be they man or beast,
I really want to hear about
all farmers, young and old,
unsung heroes who deserve
And remember, it doesn't
just have to be one person.
You can nominate a family,
or even a group.
You can nominate them
by e-mail or post.
All of the details
are on our website,
along with the terms and conditions.
It's all part of the BBC's
Food and Farming Awards,
and the winner will be
announced later in the year.
But get your skates on.
Nominations close at midnight
on Monday the 29th of January.
Please don't send e-mail or
postal nominations after that date,
as they won't be considered.
And remember, if you are watching
then nominations may
have already closed.
So, get in touch and tell us about
the people you want to celebrate and
help us find the Countryfile
Farming Hero for 2018.
The dim days of January may not
in terms of inspiration,
but they do provide a brilliant
backdrop for bird-watching.
Covering a thousand acres, Rutland
Water Nature Reserve has become
one of the most important places
for winter birds.
With wildfowl overwintering here,
it is the ideal time to spot your
smews from your shovelers.
This place was given an ecological
overhaul in the 1970s,
when these lagoons
and wetlands were created.
it was just a dry valley.
For Dr Mat Cottam,
it has breathed new life
into a place that was once,
well, pretty dead.
Wow, Mat, first time to Rutland
and it is fair to say even for a
it is pretty wet, isn't it?!
It is not bad, is it? Good weather
for ducks, though, I suppose.
What sort of numbers are we getting
Well, the site is designated
But on a good day
we can get nearly double that,
we can get 36,000 birds.
36,000 birds on site and you've
got to remember
that, 40 years ago, there wouldn't
have been any here at all.
Nothing like that at all.
It is a really nice example of what
can happen when industry and
conservation work together
and this is the end result.
Recent mild winters have been
attracting more birds here,
but this time of year a lot of
the birds we will be seeing
on Rutland Water will be coming down
they might be coming from Siberia,
from Russia and Eastern Europe.
Their idea of a warm time is
an English winter.
Birds are not making the same
migrations that they used to.
If they can avoid travelling
those great distances, they will.
They are not daft.
The huge numbers of birds that come
here are counted and monitored by
Lloyd Park and his volunteers,
but I can't quite get my head
around how they do it.
How do you count 4,000 birds?
Usually with a click counter and
counting every single one
of that bird, right the way through,
through the end of a flock.
But they move!
And you have to move with them and
sometimes it is really frustrating.
Just as we are talking,
feathers start to ruffle.
What's happening down there?
Yeah, they are just responding
to a predator,
it may be an aerial predator or even
a fox close to us on the shoreline
that's come past and
they are swimming towards it.
Yeah, it's a strange thing.
A lot of wildfowl do, they'll come
towards a predator
in order to confuse it.
You wasn't too high
on your counting, was you?
No, I hope not. We'll have to start
Lately, Lloyd has been noticing some
new arrivals to the waters.
The more recent one is the great
white egret, which we're seeing
more and more of.
I have seen great
white egrets down in Spain
but I had no idea they were this far
up through Europe into the country.
It started appearing in the last few
years and what we have seen is them
breeding in parts of the UK now,
so last year there were seven pairs
bred and 17 young,
so hopefully in the future we'll see
more things like great white egrets
coming, especially as the
temperature and climate is changing.
We are seeing that with lots of
smaller species of birds,
so we'll see it
with the bigger ones as well.
Wow, when it comes to the counting,
I'll count the great egrets,
I'll leave you with the counter.
I reckon I can get to 17.
What are you going to be counting?
Shall I stick with those
few thousand coot out there?
Yeah, that's it! Meet you for a cup
of tea later!
OK, fair enough.
You get all the star species here,
from tufted ducks...
..to gadwalls. The reserve is well
managed for its winter guests
but we can all do something to help
to our own gardens, too.
Next weekend, the RSPB hosts one of
the largest wildlife surveys in the
world - The Big Garden Birdwatch.
And just like Anita and the plant
it's all about getting out there
and building up a picture
of our birdlife.
Aha! You recognise that!
The reserve staff here are teaching
all about our precious garden birds.
In your gardens, what birds do you
I don't really get any.
Maybe you will if you start feeding.
With our feathered friends busy
searching for food
during the cold winter months,
Dale Martin has been showing this
bunch how to make some tasty treats.
On the menu, lard, seeds and fruit.
How does it feel?
Squidgy and disgusting!
It's reminded me of being your age,
making them with my dad.
Look at that, not bad at all!
Let's have a look at yours.
Shall we get these hung up?
If you'd like to join in and learn
more about birds in YOUR garden,
check out our website for details.
Well done, you three!
Look, there's mine!
If, like me, you're getting out for
the Big Garden Birdwatch this week,
you're going to want to know what
the weather has got in store,
so here is the Countryfile forecast.
Good evening. It has been a day of
transition, some big changes taking
place, in the atmosphere, and change
is not always easy, peninsula irly
when it is dramatic, we have been
many process of swapping out cold
air for milder air pushing in from
the south-west. The contrast has
brought a lot of rain and flooding
for some, in other places today, we
have seen some significant snow
fall. And, some big variations in
the temperatures. Through the middle
of the afternoon Glasgow and
Newcastle were sitting round
freezing but in Plymouth, we were up
at 12 degree, skip ahead to Tuesday,
the mild air will win out and just
about all of us will be up into
double digits. That process of
transition bringing that milder air
in continues as we head through
tonight, not before we have had icy
patches perhaps in North East
England, eastern Scotland. Showers
into northern Scotland, rain into
the far south-west, but generally
quieter by Monday morning, and
significantly milder as well. Now
take a first glance at this weather
chart and you might think that low
pressure dominates the scene for
Monday. I want to draw your
attention down here to this area of
high pressure which will try to nose
its way in. Rain early on, some
showers continue in the north and
one or two in the west, but
generally as that high builds in we
are looking at a decent day, large
areas of cloud, sunny spells as
well. The breeze easing somewhat and
a much better feel, a less chilly
one than today as six to 11 degree,
our high pressure moves southwards
and eastwards into Tuesday, low
pressure dominates in the Atlantic,
driving things and driving the
south-westerly winds that will pump
very mild air northward across the
country, for many I think Tuesday is
the mildest day of the week, some
rain, chiefly for Northern Ireland,
Scotland and northern England and
Wales, the best of brightness where
you have Shetland tore the east of
high ground. It will be windy, gales
in places but look at the
temperatures, confirmation of that
milder air, nine to 13 degrees
during Tuesday afternoon. Will it
stay that Hyland
Not quite. On
Wednesday this will push forwards.
Some mild air still into the
south-east, but that front is a cold
front and behind it, we will see
something a bit chillier returning
in northern and western area, as we
get into Thursday, follow the white
line, they go up to the Arctic, we
get back in to colder air, I say
colder, it won't be anything like as
cold as it has been over the
weekend. So Thursday, quite a
blustery day, could be gales in
exposed spots. Some showers that
could be heavy and thundery,
temperatures down a bit, but 6-10
degrees is not bad at all for this
time of year. Here comes another
area of high pressure. Toppling in,
if the timing is right, with this on
Friday morning, it could be some
frost to start the day, and
particularly in southern and eastern
area, frontal systems into the
north-west. Still lower temperatures
at five to nine degree, but actually
signs are into next weekend it will
turn milder again, some rain to come
in northern areas, often windy here
as well but it should be mostly dry
in the south.
I've been on a plant hunt with
some citizen scientists collecting
important floral data that may help
rewrite the botany rule books.
Research has found that
every three years,
two plant species disappear from
so scientists here at the university
are preserving wild flowers so they
are not lost forever.
And maybe my discovery will go
down in botanical history, too.
The herbarium holds thousands of
species of international importance.
They help experts like
Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison
understand how plants evolve
I come bearing gifts.
What do you think about that, then?
Full flower from Leicestershire,
that's one that we don't have
in our collection.
So, this will actually go
into your herbarium today?
Yes, and it will become one of the
140,000 specimens that we have here.
All collected like this.
All collected and all pressed, yes.
Many of the specimens here were
reference materials used to write
one of the original floral guides
of the 18th-century.
Hopefully, the data that our plant
hunters are collecting today
will help write a new one.
This is one of the things where
citizen science is so important
for us. It gives us a survey that we
would never be able to get just as
So, this is my bit of
So, now we need to put it
between the pieces of tissue paper.
For pressing, the flower has to be
so that its details
can be studied by the scientists.
All of a sudden, this plant I would
never have batted an eyelid at,
becoming the most important thing
in my life right now.
Though an old process, it captures
details that photographs can't.
And then we will press that
and leave that to dry
between those boards.
There you go,
my little Austrian camomile.
Your Austrian camomile will now be
part of the collection.
Brilliant. Thank you so much.
As well as plants of the past and
the university's Genebank55
was set up a year ago
to freeze and preserve seeds
for the future.
It is Anna Farrell's job to make
the seeds they save are healthy.
Every collection that we make,
we need to check the quality of
seed that we have.
You don't want any duff ones.
No, that's right.
So, how can you tell which are good
and which are the ones
you don't particularly want?
to look under the microscope.
And what we need to do is cut one in
half, so we have to sacrifice about
ten for each collection.
Have a look down there.
So, that is the inside of the seed.
You can see the texture of the
Wow! It is a whole other world.
Fantastic. So, that's a good one.
That's a good one.
This is woolly thistle.
Have a look down there,
you can see straightaway that
there is a hole in that one.
Oh, yeah! So that is hollow.
Yes, you can see where the insect's
buried in from the side.
So, that's no good.
We find this is quite common
with thistle seeds,
sometimes up to 90% of the seeds
have been eaten
by some kind of insect.
Once the seeds are checked,
the good ones are dried and frozen
in the cold store,
where they will be preserved,
patiently waiting for their
in the Leicestershire landscape.
Let's have a little nosy in the
freezer, shall we?
What have we got?
Some crassulae c...
What about this one?
Well, I never! They get everywhere,
these things, don't they?!
Thanks to all of you that have
already bought one,
and if you haven't yet,
there's still time.
Visit our website for details.
Well, that's all from
Next week, we will be in Perthshire,
where Matt will be meeting the
farming brothers representing
in the Winter Olympics, no less.
We'll see you, then.
It's a floral phenomenon that has baffled botanists - an early explosion of spring plants flowering at the wrong time. In a normal cold winter, botanists would expect no more than 20 to 30 types of wild plants to be in flower in Britain at this time of year. But a couple of years ago 612 plants were found to be in bloom on New Year's Day. That's 20 times as many species as botanists' bibles suggest.
Anita Rani joins some budding 'citizen scientists' taking in the New Year Plant Hunt. Leicestershire has more than 300 rare species of plant, but they're being lost at a rapid rate. Anita visits Leicester University's herbarium to investigate the city's plants' past, present and future.
Steve Brown gets to know some of Rutland Water's winter visitors better and looks forward to the Big Garden Birdwatch, as well as meeting the young birdwatchers taking part and revealing how to take part in this years' event.
Tom Heap looks at the problems faced by rural fire services.