Matt Baker joins student gamekeepers at work, while Ellie Harrison reveals how cranes have returned to Norfolk after an absence of 400 years.
Browse content similar to Norfolk Broads. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Norfolk is rightly famed for its beauty.
Vast, flat expanses.
Reedbeds and sparkling water.
It's also where the gamekeepers of tomorrow are trained, and I'll be
joining this year's hotshots to see who's made the grade.
Ellie's on the lookout for a truly remarkable bird.
Tom looks at ways of using the natural landscape to reduce
the risk of flooding.
I'm actually helping if I throw this in, am I?
-There we go.
And Adam's at the world-famous Stirling bull sales.
Do you get nervous before he goes in the ring?
It wouldn't be any fun if you did.
I've got terrible butterflies for you!
From its famous Broads...
..to its acres of sandy beaches,
Norfolk is a landscape rich in agriculture and wildlife.
But much of it is also managed for sport.
The county is home to some of the finest
shooting estates in the country.
Over the years,
gamekeepers have been important custodians of the land.
Traditionally, the skills would have been learned on the job.
But today, they do things differently.
Welcome to gamekeeper school.
I'm just west of the county's historic capital, Norwich.
This is Easton & Otley College
and these are the gamekeepers of the future.
Shooting is big business, reckoned to be worth around £2 billion
to the UK economy, and employing over 74,000 people,
including some of this lot, if they make the grade.
The students learn all about game management.
Everything is covered, from rearing birds
and running shoots to land management and habitat restoration.
The course is very hands-on,
offering students valuable practical experience in the field.
And they come from all walks of life to learn here.
How did you go into it, Jonathan?
I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do,
but I knew I didn't want to be stuck inside, behind a computer.
It's all a bit new to me, but I'm loving it.
How about you, then, Charlotte?
I sort of looked at college options
and I looked at the courses online and then I saw this course
and I thought it looked a lot more interesting.
And you do, like, a placement system as well, don't you?
-How many days a week that you do that?
I do that once a week. I go to my local estate
and I help out the keeper there, and it's really useful.
-And what sort of things do you do there?
-I help him out.
At the moment, there's a lot of feeding
and just preparing for shoots and that, but in the summer,
we'll be rearing birds and getting ready for next season.
How do you sit with the shooting side of things?
Yeah, I enjoy it. I'm sort of just getting into it.
I'm getting a gun, soon, for my birthday. That'll be my first one.
-Yeah, that'll be my 18th present.
-A gun for your birthday?
An unusual present, but in this job, a useful one.
The students get plenty of shooting practice - vital skills
if they ever have to cull deer.
Lecturer John Holmes is also an experienced gamekeeper.
He makes sure the students know what they're doing.
So what techniques do you teach them here?
Let's talk about what Aaron's up to down here.
What Aaron's doing at the moment is learning how to place
a bullet to the vital organs of the deer, for a swift, humane kill.
With the ultimate goal being taking the deer down with just one shot.
Yes, that's it.
I mean, this looks like a good distance anyway, for a target to be.
This is 100 yards.
Most of the woodland shots actually average round about 80 yards,
so not as long as this.
And the process of learning these skills, then.
First, they learn about the six deer species that we have in the UK.
Then we learn about their ecology and their habitats.
That links in, then, to the anatomy that we learn about them.
Then we go on to firearms units
where they learn how bullets behave and the ballistics side of things.
We get out here about once a month, if we can,
so the more practice they have, the better they are.
What is the current situation, then, with the deer population
and the necessity to control it?
There is evidence to suggest at the moment that there are
1.5 million deer in the UK. Because the population is so large now,
we have trouble with damage to forestry enterprises
and to agricultural crops
and the danger we have with road traffic collisions as well.
It's not about killing deer for the sake of it, obviously.
It's just to keep that population healthy and stable.
Aaron's one of the more experienced shooters on the course.
Let's see how he's done. That's pretty good, Aaron.
-Yeah, that's not too bad.
-Yeah, you happy with that?
That is, well, that's the area you were...
-One pushed back to the right. That's down to the wind.
But that's the whole point of practising.
And you have actually shot at a live deer?
-You have. And what's that moment like, then?
I mean, there must be a huge amount of responsibility that goes
through you when you are about to pull that trigger,
-to make sure that you've got that shot.
-You can't take any risks.
There's a lot of responsibility.
So you've got to make sure you're close, you know
how far away it is and you know your rifle, what it's capable of,
and just making a clean shot.
Well, you certainly look like you know what you're doing anyway,
my friend. That is, that is quite something, that shooting.
It's not all about shooting, though.
Conservation figures large on the curriculum, too.
And I'll be finding out more about that later.
..on the Norfolk Broads, managing the landscape means working
with the water as opposed to fighting against it.
So should we be using the same kind of principles to protect
other parts of the UK from flooding?
Flooding has repeatedly overwhelmed large areas
of the country in recent years, waterlogging farmland,
drowning livestock, devastating homes and businesses.
Last week on Countryfile, I heard how we should start to expect
the unexpected with our weather.
And, for many,
that means rethinking how we protect ourselves from flooding.
So with extreme weather events becoming more frequent,
testing and often breaching our man-made flood defences,
should we be looking to the natural environment for the answer?
That's what they're trying to find out
here on the National Trust's Holnicote Estate here in Somerset.
This is one of three Defra-backed experimental sites
looking at how we can use the environment to help tackle flooding.
They're trying out a variety of schemes to hold back
more water in the higher parts of the rivers.
So up on the moorland, ditches and tracks have been blocked off,
and catch pools created to store water.
It's hoped that these measures will cut the chance of a flood
here in the village of Allerford,
that lies close to the mouth of the River Aller
and is prone to flooding
as the waters rush down from the uplands of Exmoor above.
'Project manager Nigel Hester is checking up on
'one of the many dams on the estate.'
What's the idea behind these barriers in the river?
Basically to slow the water down, right the way down through the wood.
They're nice, leaky dams caused by trees falling in,
other debris building up behind them,
and they just work really well in slowing the water.
And we're trying to do that right down through the whole catchment.
Flood management here involves,
-I'm actually helping if I throw this in, am I?
-There we go.
That is quite a change of mind-set
because most people would think that managing a watercourse
would mean kind of removing things like this, that they
were a problem, that they were a mess.
You do think that, but what you have to remember is, right at the
bottom of this catchment we have two villages that flood regularly.
There's about 90 cottages.
So, if we can slow the water down, that reduces the risk downstream
and we need to think that, right from top to bottom.
It's too soon to draw firm conclusions,
but early indications at Holnicote show water levels
were reduced by 10% after heavy winter rains.
But for outspoken environmentalist George Monbiot,
that's not enough.
While he supports these measures,
he'd also like to see our upland sheep farms transformed.
What do you think needs to change on our uplands to make them
more useful in terms of flood prevention?
Well, the fundamental problem is that they're bare.
They've been shaved. There's scarcely a tree in Britain above about 200 m.
What is it about big bare that's a problem?
Well, what it means is that it doesn't retrain the water.
Trees help the water to percolate into the soil.
They slow down the flow,
they mean that you're less likely to get that really high wall of water
developing in the river that's going to hit your homes downstream.
And how does sheep farming fit into this problem, for you?
Well, the problem is that sheep pasture turns out to be very
bad at absorbing water.
It just flashes off, almost as if it were concrete.
But sheep are important part of our upland economy
and society, so they deserve a place, don't they?
Yeah, they do deserve a place.
The problem is, we've got more or less
a sheep monoculture in our uplands. There's almost nothing else.
A big part of the problem comes down to the farm subsidy rules.
It's not the sheep farmers' fault. They're following the policy.
And the policy says that
if you've got what it calls "permanent ineligible features"
on your land, which means things like reedbeds, ponds,
woodland, scrub, you can't claim money for that.
So there's this huge incentive to get rid of all the features
which would stop floods and which are good for wildlife.
It's completely bonkers.
Come on. Come on.
But what do farmers make of George's proposals?
Robin Milton farms on Exmoor and is chairman of the NFU's Uplands Forum.
It just seems a little bit unfair that these creatures seem to be
bearing the brunt of the blame for water rushing off the uplands.
I'm not sure whether the science is entirely with it,
but there's opportunity for us all to work together at each
stage of the catchment, from the top to the bottom.
What about woodland?
Would you welcome more woodland and more scrub in the uplands?
At the moment, if we allow scrub to grow,
we get that deducted from any of the payments that we may get.
It would be quite reasonable within a policy framework to maybe
allow us to keep the scrub and keep the payment.
Because we would be providing a public good.
So, if those incentives or subsidies were changed slightly
to allow you to have more scrub or woodland, that could be welcomed?
I think, it may be difficult to say "welcomed",
but it could well be possible and it would be accepted.
Farmers have always had to respond to policy.
We've had to interpret regulations and policy direction.
So we're quite willing to adapt.
But we have to see a very good reason. We need some good science.
We need to see that it's actually proving something,
something's happening from it.
So while there's some agreement that slowing the flow of water
in the uplands is a sensible way to help tackle flooding, how we
do that best and how we pay for it are still contentious issues.
But management of the river's upper catchment is only half of the story.
Later on, I'll be seeing what can be done in low-lying areas
and asking if dredging is really the answer.
The Norfolk Broads.
A flat expanse of shallow lakes and slow-moving rivers.
Scattered with windmills, sails motionless and silent.
A man-made landscape reclaimed by nature.
So what's a train station doing out here in the middle of nowhere?
Berney Arms railway station was built in the 1840s at the behest
of landowner Thomas Trench Berney.
He'd sold the marshland it's built on,
on the condition there would be a station at Berney in perpetuity.
Today it brings people to Berney Marshes and Breydon Water,
two reserves famed for their wetland birds.
Here, the RSPB have hooked up with local landowners to pioneer
a new approach to managing water levels on the land.
I'm meeting reserve manager Mark Smart to find out more.
Oh, it's windy out here. Hello, Mark. How you doing?
It's an ideal viewing platform, this, isn't it?
What have you seen out there this morning?
It is, yes. We've actually got a few pink-footed geese in the distance
but also quite a few lapwings and things in the far distance.
For the moment they're keeping their heads down, understandably,
with it being so windy.
What is it that makes this marshland unique?
We've currently got about 95,000 wintering waterfowl, which makes us
one of the most important sites in the whole of the UK,
and actually doing a lot of work with local landowners to
actually develop the whole site as a mix of commercial grazing
but also combining the interest in wildlife as well.
Landowners are being encouraged to keep water levels high,
only draining the marshes some of the time.
This creates more habitat for breeding.
The landowners receive a subsidy for this and grazing is managed
so landowners aren't affected commercially.
And, so far, it seems to be working.
What evidence have you got that it's doing well for birds?
There is one area that we've been working on,
and in three years, we've actually got 40 pairs of breeding waders
in it, just by this sort of partnership working,
so we know that if we get the right wet features in,
in the right way, it can have pretty quick results.
Water has always been a feature of life here.
The communities learn to live with it.
The many windmills weren't all used for grinding corn,
but pumping water.
Celebrated journalist Fyfe Robertson visited Berney Arms in 1960
when the population stood at just 18.
If ever there is such a thing as a strong community spirit,
this is where you expect to find it.
One of the children living here back then was author Sheila Hutchinson.
She's written a book about her memories growing up
in this small farming community.
We had no electricity, we had no running water,
and our cooking was done on a coal-fired cooking range.
Grandfather had a milk herd here,
and he used to have a horse and cart take milk churns to the station.
Walking across the marshes, you'd be knee-deep in mud.
Us kids used to get to the station,
we used to have a flannel and towel there,
waiting to wipe our knees before we got on the train
so that we looked presentable to go to Yarmouth to go to school.
Ha-ha! Cleaning your knees. I love that.
Sheila's grandfather was the star of Fyfe Robertson's report.
He was interviewed at the front gate of his home,
which is now the RSPB office.
How long have you lived here?
I'll be 70 my next birthday, and I have lived here all my life.
And I reckon there's no finer place to live.
My grandfather lived here.
My great-grandfather lived here. And they both lived till they died!
What do you think he'd make of how it is here today?
I'm sure that, if he was here now, he would be coming down here
at regular times and he'd be having a yarn with them.
-That's a lovely thought.
The dykes and drains are the capillaries of the marsh.
They were once dug out by hand.
Today, modern machinery makes the job much easier,
helping create an even better habitat for ground-nesting birds.
What we are doing here is actually converting a foot drain
into ideal conditions for feeding lapwing chicks, so throughout
the Broads, there's actually thousands of metres of these.
Why are they called foot drains?
So, they're foot drains because they were originally a foot square
and they were designed for actually draining the marshes.
A crash course in tractor driving.
-Hold on, guys.
-Off we go.
The edges are taken off the drains to create soft, sloping banks.
This makes it easier for the chicks to forage.
Is it supposed to judder this much?
-That's normal. That's tractor driving.
Because these improvements to habitat are relatively small,
very little grazing land is lost.
Ah! You know, I'm delighted with that!
It's almost straight, as well(!)
-Nature doesn't need straight lines!
-This is true.
The chicks won't mind. I'm really pleased.
It's great to see conservation and farming
coming together for the good of wildlife.
And important things are being learned
about managing water, too, something that could benefit us all.
Now here's our weekly winter warmer to beat the season's chill.
Last summer we asked some well-known faces, from athletes...
-Oh, it's quite refreshing after that!
..what part of our magnificent countryside was special to them.
This week it's the turn of
Olympic gold medal-winning boxer, Nicola Adams.
Sometimes, a taste of the countryside can be closer
than you think.
On the edge of the bustling city of Leeds are the 1,500 acres
of the beautiful Temple Newsam Estate.
The tranquil parkland was landscaped by Capability Brown
and at its heart is that Tudor Jacobean mansion built in the 1500s.
All very impressive, but it's also where Nicola Adams trains.
Nicola has won European gold, Commonwealth gold
and, in 2012, was crowned Olympic boxing champion.
-Nicola, great to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
You need to slow down. You're too fast. I'm not very fit!
Oh, I will.
So have you been coming to Temple Newsam for a while?
Yeah, I have. Since I was a little girl.
Used to do sports days here. My parents used to bring me here.
It's, like, literally two minutes round the corner.
And I'm fine, I'm right here.
Incredible, isn't it?
How lucky you are, that's lovely.
So do you prefer the cosiness of the gym
or the great outdoors?
Oh, I love the great outdoors.
Nothing beats having the sun on your back and being outside, getting
a bit of fresh air, instead of being stuck in a sweaty gym all the time!
It's a beautiful site, isn't it?
Pretty intense, your training, though. How often are you doing it?
Yeah, erm, really intense.
Train three times a day.
Do you fancy having a go?
-Yeah, OK, yeah, yeah.
Oh, you can punch better than that! What's that?!
I wouldn't want to hurt you!
No, you won't hurt me, I'm tough!
Oh, I know. Right, that's enough of that. So what next?
Oh, rather than tell you about it, I'm going to show you.
-All right, let's have a look.
And you genuinely train like this?
-Yeah, this has really helped to build up my shoulders.
-What makes an Olympic gold medallist.
-Do you want a try?
-Yeah, why not?
-You almost chopped right through it.
I'll be standing way clear!
That's all right, you're not that bad, actually. Very good.
You can really feel it. It's quite hard work, isn't it?
-And that timing as well. Does it help with the timing of the hit?
Yeah, it does, definitely.
'As much as I appreciate the workout,
'I think it's time to get back to more familiar territory.
'And there's something I want to show Nicola.'
The farm here at Temple Newsam is a rare breed centre,
just like my farm,
with the likes of Kerry Hill sheep,
Golden Guernsey goats
and these very cute Tamworth piglets.
Let me see if I can catch you a piglet.
Now, the mum might not like this too much.
And piglets tend to squeal when you pick them up sometimes.
Shush, shush, shush, come on, then, come on, then.
It's not hurting it, it's just like a little, "Mum! Mum!"
-Have you ever held a piglet before?
So you just cuddle it like a baby.
Might squeal a bit when I pass him over, but it'll soon settle down.
PIGLET GRUNTS QUIETLY
-Ah, he didn't squeal at all. You've got a natural touch.
What do you reckon?
Till it finds out it's bacon tomorrow! Joking! I'm joking!
'Now Nicola has got to grips with one of the smallest residents here,
'I'd like to introduce her to some of the larger ones.'
So when was the last time you came down to the farmyard here at Temple Newsam?
Oh, last time I came here
I must have been about ten years old, with my mum.
I bet you were sweet, won't you?
Yeah, I was quite small. I'm not much bigger now, to be fair.
-Have you ever fed cows before?
-No, this is the first time.
There's various different breeds in here.
This is a Belted Galloway, the one with the belt round their middle.
-And they're a really tough, hardy breed.
In the corner there's a little calf,
that's a Shetland calf, from the Shetland Islands.
And the Gloucester here, they're what's known as a dual-purpose,
so they're quite good at producing beef and pretty good
at producing milk, and they produce single and double Gloucester cheese.
Oh, cool. See, I always thought, like, all cows were the same.
I'm learning a lot today!
-Right, that's the cattle fed, now I've got something else to show you.
'Seeing as Nicola put me through my paces, I thought
'I'd return the favour.'
Now, then. I've got a bit of a challenge for you,
-if you're up for that.
-Yeah, I'm always up for a challenge.
-As long as you win!
Peg? Here. This is my Border collie sheepdog, Peg. There you go.
So what I thought we'd try and do, or what I thought I'd get you
to do, is to get those sheep into that pen over there, using Peg.
So if I teach you the commands, then I'll let you do it.
There's "stand" and "lie down" for stop. Lie down!
And then "walk on" for on. Walk on.
Good girl. Now send her round to the right, which is an "away" command.
-Away. Peg, lie down. Lie down.
And then "left" is "come by".
Come by, good girl. So, you ready for this challenge?
You reckon you can get these sheep in the pen?
I'm ready. I'm excited. Let's do this. OK. We've got this.
-Lie down, lie down!
-Say "away", to the right.
Lie down! Peg! Lie down!
-Now left, come by.
She works for you better than she works for me!
Oh, we missed the pen. So, away...
Well done, excellent.
-And come by.
-Come by! Come by!
-Lie down! Lie down.
-Lie down! Lie down!
And that's it! Hey-hey! You got 'em! Well done!
Here, Peg, what a good girl.
You were a great team, you two.
Go on, then, go and have a drink, Peg.
She'll go in the trough now, and go and cool herself down.
I'm not sure whether working sheep helps you with your discipline
to retain the gold medal at Rio,
but if you ever happen to hang up your gloves,
there's always a job for you on the farm.
Peg's had her drink now, it's time to get ours, isn't it?
-Yeah, and a steak!
Earlier, we heard how changes to the way we manage land
and rivers in the uplands could help reduce flooding.
But what can we do to make a difference further downstream?
Slowing water down as it flows from the hills towards communities
is one way to reduce flooding.
It takes the pressure off man-made defences and gives them
a better chance of providing effective protection.
For many people, the logical companion to that is to move
the water away more quickly once it's past these pinch points.
And that, they say, means dredging.
Dredging is where riverbeds are cleared of silt.
The idea is, by deepening the river, you create more room for excess
water and speed the flow so it moves downstream to the sea more quickly.
Here in Somerset, moving water away is critical to flood defences.
As one of the lowest-lying areas of the country,
the Somerset Levels rely on a complex network of rivers,
man-made drains, ditches and pumps to keep them above the water.
But despite all of that,
in 2014, following a succession of winter storms,
the Levels flooded, prompting many to blame the lack of dredging.
Why have you only started doing this now?
In the face of both public and political pressure,
the Environment Agency began dredging again.
John Osman from the Somerset Rivers Authority believes
it has made a difference.
Well, the flooding flooded 160 homes.
If we had done this work before, then the evidence shows
that 130 of those homes wouldn't have been flooded.
What do you say to those that say dredging simply doesn't really work
very well, especially here in Somerset?
Well, what I would say is that I've got a great deal of evidence
to say it does.
Show me your evidence, show me a better,
cost-effective solution, and I'll consider it.
John's by no means the only one who thinks dredging is effective.
Defra plans to allow farmers to dredge their own watercourses.
But not everyone agrees on its value as a flood defence,
especially when you consider the price.
So far, it's cost £6 million to dredge a very short stretch
of this 57-mile river network.
And to maintain any advantage,
it's predicted it will need to be re-dredged every year.
It's not cheap, then.
But what makes dredging really controversial
is the claim that it can make the problem worse.
Terry Fuller is from the Chartered Institute of Water And Environmental Management.
Dredging's just one of many measures
that we can use for managing flood risk.
And it can be effective as a land drainage measure
for, perhaps, a lower severity of events.
But it has its limitations once you start to get to very big events,
like the ones we saw here couple of years ago.
And can dredging have an impact away from where you're actually digging?
It can have quite a far-reaching impact,
both upstream and downstream of the site you've dredged.
Time for an experiment, then,
with a sandbox simulation specially set up for Countryfile.
Where the river has been dredged, the flow of water speeds up.
The increased speed starts to erode and destabilise the river banks.
Then, when we simulate a storm,
the effects of the rising water are even more dramatic,
because the dredge has made the river more fragile.
So, if dredging has its limitations as a flood defence,
what else can we do in low-lying areas?
The answer could be similar to what we found earlier in the uplands.
Rather than speeding up the river to move the water away
more quickly from pinch points,
many experts believe we should be trying to slow the flow.
That means more meandering rivers
which slow the water down and lessen bank erosion.
But we also need to find areas where the excess water can go,
and this often means farmland.
So, as well as asking hill farmers to plant more trees, this also
means asking farmers in the lowlands to give up more land for flooding.
But is that fair?
I think we recognise our responsibilities.
We recognise that there is some opportunities to help,
but we won't actually have the ability to solve the entire
There's an awful lot of different things that could be
all part of the problem, and we can all play a part in solving that.
Flooding is an age-old problem
and many of the solutions being proposed hark back to the way
our landscape used to be, hundreds, even thousands of years ago.
But with predictions of more extreme weather,
we need to be considering all our options now.
So, even as people have different priorities in flood defence,
a consensus does seem to be emerging that working together
up and down the whole river valley is critical to keeping our feet dry.
I'm in Norfolk, where I've been meeting the students training
to be the next generation of gamekeepers.
The skills they're learning are much the same as they've always been,
managing game and running shoots like keepers of old.
In the past, this knowledge would have been
handed down from gamekeeper to gamekeeper.
But in the 21st century,
these would-be gamekeepers get their training at college.
Well, this course teaches all the disciplines you would need to know
to make a career in this industry,
and conservation is a big part of what they learn here,
so let's just have a chat with Amy about what's been
going on in this section of the woodland.
Well, right now, we're coppicing.
All those stems will regrow around here.
We have to build a natural cage of the remaining hazel
-to protect it from the deer.
-To stop all the deer from nibbling it.
Coppicing lets all the light in and will help the flora and fauna.
So basically, this hazel's been chopped right down
and then all these other little bits and pieces will
regenerate from the very bottom. And you're protecting it from this.
You build all this up so the deer can't get through it.
Lads, if you want to weave this through, I'll pass it round to you.
There we are. That's pretty good.
Down the decades, habitat management has been key
to helping game birds thrive.
Knowing what works for different species is vital.
Birds like the red-legged partridge prefer open grassland,
whilst pheasants like the shelter a woodland provides.
And gamekeepers are playing a big role
in helping increase numbers of grey partridge.
Once close to extinction, careful habitat management
has seen numbers improved in recent years.
What have you been learning, then,
as the kind of ultimate goal of a keepered woodland?
Obviously, the idea is to create a habitat
that makes a bird want to stay there.
For a gamekeeper, it's going to be focused on a game bird.
But the habitat that is suitable for a game bird is just
as suitable for a songbird - wrens, blackbirds, that kind of thing.
What we are doing here is a small example of creating a hedge,
-creating a barrier.
-Because, to be honest, it's very windy.
Even in this section here. And birds are not that keen on...
It's just a bit of a windbreak.
Are you finding a lot when you go out on placements,
are you doing a lot of this work that you're doing here,
-working in woodlands and what have you?
And also, a keeper's job is to make sure that this stays a good place,
stays a good habitat for the birds.
If they're not doing that, they're not doing their job.
If the landscape is managed correctly,
all sorts of other wildlife stands to benefit.
Later, I'll be sampling one of the perks of being a gamekeeper.
Scottish beef is some of the best in the world.
So it's no wonder that when it comes to buying and selling bulls,
there's only one place to go.
-10,000, 12,000 in the middle...
Adam has made the pilgrimage to Scotland to find out why,
for many farmers,
the Stirling Bull Sales are a date firmly set in the farming calendar.
For me, when I think of Scottish agriculture,
I think of the quality of the beef breeds.
And here at the Stirling Bull Sales, big money regularly changes hands
for some of the best animals in the business.
The sales stretch way back to the 1860s.
At more than 150 years old, they are still going strong.
AUCTIONEER RATTLES OFF NUMBERS
David Leggat is the sales' executive chairman.
David, how did the sales come about
and where were they to start off with?
The sales started in Perth, in 1865.
Which was actually of beef shorthorns.
There was about 20 of them.
So it started from really small beginnings.
And when did you move here?
We moved here in '09, we were amalgamated, the Perth market
and the old Stirling market, together.
And of course, the brilliant thing about it is the central location.
And it's just a fabulous spot.
Within half an hour of Edinburgh Airport, Glasgow Airport.
We have got a railway station running in.
And it's very, very central in Scotland.
And of course we have a lot of breeders
and buyers from the South here as well, today.
-And it's very easy access.
-And what makes it so famous?
Why is it so well-known?
Well, it's famous because the early days of the sales saw
the build-up of shorthorn cattle and Aberdeen Angus.
And they were the chosen breeds to stock.
America, Canada, the States, South America, particularly Argentina.
And then way down to Australia and New Zealand.
And the Aberdeen Angus and the shorthorn,
they are both particularly suited to all sorts of climates.
If you think of Australia and all the Americas, you have got
a mixture of freezing conditions through to arid conditions.
And these cattle suit it.
It was that attraction and the fact we had good numbers
attracted the herd owners and ranch owners from all over the world.
A whole host of cattle breeds are now sold at the sales.
But taking centre stage today are the bulls that
put this market on the map.
'It was a breathtaking day and the famous beef type
'Scottish shorthorns proved themselves unbeatable.
'Way up in the big-money class, the bulls get plenty of attention
'and buyers flocking from all over the world is the finest evidence
'that British pedigree cattle are still the world's finest.'
Prizes are awarded to the best bulls
before they enter the ring to be auctioned.
Sally Horrell is a beef shorthorn breeder.
How are you getting on in the showing?
Well, we have had a third and fourth this morning,
so we are quite happy with that. Yes, that's all right. We're OK.
-So you're a beef shorthorn breeder...
You have been travelling a long way, you're a long way from home!
Yes, we come from Peterborough
so eight hours up here in a lorry.
Why do you come all this way?
Because this is the premier show to be at.
You know, around the ring, there's a big audience
and you don't get that anywhere else for your bulls.
And as a vendor, you just want the biggest audience possible.
-And if you get rosettes, does that help sell the cattle?
There's lots of other things that the judge can't see,
like performance recording, health status,
and that can make a difference in the ring.
And the breeding. Some people will be chasing certain breeding
when you are looking for pedigree bulls.
But the rosette helps! Yeah.
Shorthorns may have got the sales under way,
but it is the world-renowned Angus breed
that gave the Stirling sales their global reputation.
Come on! Shake it the other way. Two again!
Johnny Mackey is the chief executive
of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society.
And where does the Angus sit in world dominance?
It's the most popular beef breed out there.
It is, numerically speaking,
the most common breed of cattle in the world.
And the market has managed to hold on to that core fame
for selling the breed?
Absolutely. It's a fantastic centre. I mean, there's a real buzz.
You saw that here today and it's all driven from the right place,
which is the consumer end.
Every major retailer has got branded Aberdeen Angus
as its premium offering. Butchers are all stocking it,
the restaurant trade is stocking it as well.
And that feeds its way right back through the supply chain
to processors looking for farmers to supply them with that product.
So these farmers who rear the cattle, grow the cattle,
come here looking for the best genetics they can possibly afford.
They're looking for bulls and heifers
and they come here to get them.
This is the best place to get them.
Huge amount of energy and effort today, isn't it, to get them
here to sell at the right price?
Yeah, the buzz is absolutely tremendous.
The time and dedication that has gone into the cattle
to get them to this point.
They want to get them absolutely, for 12 o'clock,
for going into the ring, so they just look at their absolute best.
And there's getting on for two years' worth of love and care
has gone into each of these animals.
And they're getting their just rewards today,
because we're having a really good shift.
At nine and a half, at nine and a half, at nine and a half.
At nine and a half. At 9,500...
This is the collection ring, where all the breeders
are getting their bulls ready to go into the sale.
There is a huge amount of tension,
but also energy and excitement out here
as they prep the bulls, giving them
their final touches before they go in, hoping to command top prices.
Brian Clark is the second generation of a family that's been
farming Aberdeen Angus for more than 40 years.
-Brian, they look lovely, all lined up, don't they?
-Thank you. Yes.
Wonderful. Take me through the finer points of an Aberdeen Angus, then.
What are we looking for?
A good topline, same width at the shoulder as they are at the back.
Good head and ears.
Good shaped backside with a good square back end.
Leg in each corner, a good bone to carry the weight. Good in the legs.
Because a bull like this will be mating, serving how many cows?
And they have to be easy fleshed, so they can keep their flesh
-while they're doing that.
-So converting rough pasture into good-quality meat?
That's what this breed is all about.
-And these have all got the same dad, have they?
The father was interbreed champion at the Highland Show two years ago.
So that should bring some interest?
Breeders will be looking at the genetics
coming through from their quality father?
That's the idea, anyway! We'll have to wait and see.
-And how many have you got to sell?
-Let's go and watch them through the ring, shall we?
-He's looking really smart, Brian.
-Do you get nervous before he goes in the ring?
It wouldn't be any fun if you didn't.
I've got terrible butterflies for you!
It's great to see native breeds like Angus and shorthorn attracting
so much attention.
Prices for pedigree Angus bulls can start from £3,000.
Today, the overall champion sold for in excess of £25,000.
But with more than 130 bulls for sale, there's a lot of competition.
Brian's just doing the final touches on one of their bulls here.
His brother Alistair is leading it in. They've sold four bulls so far.
They've averaged over £5,000 apiece.
And they have got high hopes for this young bull, their last one.
The starting bid was 3,000 guineas.
There's been a lot of people interested in this young bull.
Very well bred.
Up to 4,000 already.
The bids are flying in, it's up to 5,000.
He's got fantastic action, he's really up on his toes,
really showing himself off. There's a good boy, go on!
The crowd has got a smile on their faces now. They're getting lively!
8,000, they'll be absolutely delighted.
A smile on your face?
He's happy now!
The ring is absolutely packed with people that have come
from all over the country,
in fact from all over the world, to this famous sale here in Stirling.
And when prices make £8,000, £9,000, for the young bulls,
it's no wonder that it's world-famous and hopefully,
will continue to be a massive success.
The winning bid - 9,000 guineas. That's an incredible £9,450.
Look at that, they even get a round of applause!
ELLIE: This is the Horsey estate, a secret corner of the Norfolk Broads.
And a place that has passed into wildlife legend.
It was here that, 37 years ago, something remarkable happened.
For the first time in more than 400 years,
one of Europe's most magnificent birds returned to Britain.
The Eurasian crane.
It's truly a spectacular bird
and one of Europe's largest, with a wingspan of more than two metres.
They are an impressive sight.
This rare film was taken by wildlife cameraman John Buxton.
He managed the estate at the time and was the only person
to know the cranes had arrived.
John's no longer with us.
But his friend Chris Durdin is going to tell me more.
Chris, it was such a big deal having the cranes return, wasn't it?
-Oh, a huge, huge moment in ornithology...
..the return of the crane. I mean, what could be bigger?
We don't know how many there used to be in the UK, perhaps just
a handful of pairs, perhaps a few more, but they disappeared.
They were hunted, marshland was drained, and they were lost.
So for two birds to reappear here, well...
We didn't know what would happen.
But John was alive to the possibility
that they might just stay and breed.
When the first cranes came, a chap who was our tenant farmer
rang me up because he had seen what he described as "the biggest herons
"he'd ever seen."
I went down to the marshes and there, sure enough,
was a pair of cranes.
I hear John was something of a character
and protective of these cranes?
The John I knew was a perfect gentleman.
But he could be very robust in protecting "his cranes",
-as he saw it.
He wanted to make sure they could get re-established here,
We were worried about disturbance from bird-watchers,
-the risk of egg collectors...
And he spent some time in the hides here, studying the cranes?
He kept wonderful notes and that's why we know
so much about what they did and how they got re-established.
So the cranes were all out there but somehow,
-John managed to keep them a secret.
-He used to put people off the scent.
On one occasion, he was asked about the cranes,
he referred to construction cranes, down on Winterton beach!
-But their trumpeting calls are quite distinctive, aren't they?
So they were never the best-kept secret and people working
the land, people in the local villages would have known they were
here but they did tend to disappear from view in the breeding season.
So it gave the impression that maybe they had migrated away.
And from here, he would do some filming, too,
-to try and capture moments with the cranes?
He captured some of those first great moments of the cranes
coming back to the UK.
Including this. The first newborn crane for centuries.
I think the most exciting thing that I saw here
was when the first chick actually flew.
And my feeling was, that, you know this is marvellous.
That first chick survived and numbers have gradually increased.
There are now more than 30 breeding resident pairs in the UK.
A few miles from the Horsey Estate is Hickling Broad,
a reserve open to the public and the best place to see cranes
in the UK.
Warden John Blackburn is my guide.
John, this must be ideal for the cranes.
There's an inaccessibility to it
which must help keep them safe during nesting.
Yes, there is a wet reed and sedge bed which is shallowly flooded,
keeps them safe from predators.
And it's just one of the mosaic of habitats that we manage that
helps them throughout the whole season.
And food, they are omnivorous, aren't they,
-so plants and insects, that sort of thing?
They seem to especially like grasshoppers and spiders.
They are favourite for the youngsters, anyway.
And thinking about it, during the moult, when they can't fly,
they are particularly vulnerable. So this must be great, here.
It's spot-on again, because it's very inaccessible.
A number of bird species find this a good refuge to come to
in that moult period.
That is a great piece of architecture there.
It's hidden well.
Last few steps.
-Hey, it was worth the climb.
-All those 74 steps.
We're above the canopy here.
And from this spot, I can see what you mean
about the different mosaic of habitats.
We've got that...
The big open water bodies, the main river channels and the broads,
and then the reed and sedge beds behind.
And then grazing marsh behind that.
And then arable on the slightly higher ground. Those together
provide everything for the crane.
And not just the crane, but the other reed bed specialists,
like the marsh harrier, bittern, bearded tit.
Some methods for managing these habitats can seem extreme.
Reeds are routinely cut and burnt.
So why cut all of this back, John?
If it were left totally uncut, little air builds up so much
and then the reed bed dries out.
So we cut the reed on a variety of rotations.
How does it help the cranes?
Almost exclusively, over the last decade, they have nested
on areas of freshly flooded reed or sedge bed with old stubble.
Once we've done this work, get the water on
-in late February, early March...
And they will be out here in April.
And hopefully, this is where they will sit down and nest.
The success story of Norfolk's cranes
began with the passion and determination
of one man, John Buxton.
Their growing numbers are his lasting legacy.
What a remarkable comeback story.
And if it's put you in the mood for a bit of bird spotting,
you'll want to know what the weather has in store.
Here's the Countryfile forecast for this week.
We're in Norfolk, where I've been spending time with
the students learning how to become gamekeepers.
Well, being a sharpshooter is one thing, but butchery...
It's all par for the gamekeeping course.
One of the gamekeeper's traditional duties has been to prepare
the game which was shot in the field for the table.
Lecturer John Holmes is running a class showing how to butcher
a deer carcass.
Right, so, you are busy butchering a haunch?
-Quite a piece of meat, really, isn't it?
-Yes, it is.
Very good chunk of good, healthy meat in there, yes.
And why is it so important for you, John,
to run this butchery side of this?
So many people see the shooting side, the killing side of things,
but actually what we are doing is producing meat.
And we impress on the students that what they are dealing with,
once they're dead, is a piece of meat.
And it is treated accordingly.
So how similar would the cuts that we're creating here be
with general beef cuts and joints and what have you?
Depending on the species, they are different size,
-but the cuts are identical.
We have our silverside, our topsides and our top rump.
So however you deal with a beef cut in the kitchen,
you could do just the same with a venison one.
That's it, just nick them out, that will come away.
-So cut this off here?
Here we go.
Look at that!
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
-It does look really tasty, doesn't it?
Good lean, healthy meat.
-Fine, and that can now be cut into steaks
for your barbecue or whatever you like.
One of the best perks of the gamekeeper's job has always been
the opportunity to sample the fruits of your labour.
And it's no different for the students today.
What could be better than coming together to enjoy
a tasty bowl of venison stew?
-Well, this is just beautiful, isn't it?
-It's really tasty, isn't it?
And it makes all the difference
when you know where everything has come from.
Knowing where it's come from, yes.
-How it's reared...
-Knowing its provenance, yes.
-And actually, how it met its end, as well.
And John, what do you say then, to all of your new students
that turn up here and they want a career in this game?
Yes, they do. It ends up being more than a career.
One of the misconceptions of being a gamekeeper is that you
wander around the woods all day with a gun.
And that is obviously not the case. Ridiculous.
So much we do for conservation and wildlife and the benefits
of a gamekeeper aren't often praised highly enough, I don't think.
But it is a way of life and not just a job.
And one of the things I do say to them is, they do
have to realise that it is 25 hours a day, eight days a week.
Does that prospect excite you?
Does it feel right for you to be doing this?
Yeah, well, you have to be prepared for it.
But if you are, then yeah, it is exciting.
I just think it will be a great job to have
and I think you're really helping the wildlife as well.
And the environment.
I'm looking forward to the lifestyle,
-and just being outside all the time.
-This is the life, isn't it?
It's great. Well, listen, good luck to you all.
I wish you all the very best.
Well, that's it from Norfolk.
Next week, we'll be in Staffordshire where I'll be looking
at a school where farming is at the heart of the curriculum.
And Ellie will be working with a hat maker who has a rather
unusual approach to hats.
Hope you can join us then.
Matt Baker joins students training to be gamekeepers on a clay pigeon shoot - however, he discovers that conservation is also a big part their education. Matt sees how to butcher a haunch of venison and sits down with the students to enjoy some homemade venison stew.
Ellie Harrison reveals how cranes have returned to Norfolk after an absence of four hundred years from the UK countryside. It is thanks to the efforts of naturalist John Buxton, who kept their presence secret, that the birds have made a comeback. On Hickling Broad, Ellie sees cranes beginning their courtship rituals, and she also visits Berney Marshes to find out how the RSPB has teamed up with local landowners and farmers to help manage water levels for wetland birds.
Meanwhile, Adam Henson is in Scotland at the world-famous Stirling bull sales, and Olympic boxer Nicola Adams talks about her favourite part of the British countryside.