Countryfile is in Norfolk, where Jules Hudson is given access to MOD training grounds in the Brecklands and Anita Rani meets an artist who paints the workers of the land.
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Norfolk - a county cherished for its sweeping shorelines
and best known for its breathtaking Broads.
But there's more to this place than meets the eye.
It is a landscape that's been used
like no other.
Out of bounds to most of us, it's been barraged with abuse
but, at the same time,
it's been nurtured and is abundant with nature.
All will be revealed.
Anita is helping to save a nugget of Norfolk history.
No longer needed, neglected and left to rot,
the humble shepherd's hut is being rescued, restored,
and given a new lease of life by two passionate chaps from Norfolk.
No, I can't hear...
I can't hear you.
Charlotte's searching for a signal.
There are still large parts of rural Britain
with little or no mobile phone coverage.
It's not just frustrating, it's bad for business
and, in extreme cases, puts lives at risk.
So what's being done to keep us connected in the countryside?
And in two weeks' time, we'll be playing host
to legendary sheepdog-trial competition One Man And His Dog.
This week, Helen and Shauna are checking the form
of our Scottish and Welsh competitors
and their canine companions.
I won the Novice Cup, which was a bit of encouragement,
but the downside was it was only myself that was competing for it.
Most visitors to Norfolk
head straight for the wetland of the Broads
or the stunning beaches that stretch along its northern edges.
Few would stop to consider the landscape away from the coast.
But for those that do, they'll be rewarded
with one of the great natural areas of Britain.
Welcome to Breckland.
Breckland spans a huge swathe of Norfolk,
and I'm heading for an area just outside the town of Thetford.
The Brecks, as it's known locally,
contains one of the most extensive areas of lowland sandy heaths
remaining in Britain today.
You know, I love studying maps,
and if you look at one for this area
you'll notice that it's covered in the words "danger area".
That's because huge swathes of the Brecks
now make up an enormous military training ground -
one of the biggest in the country.
Ordinarily, this land is off limits to the public,
but we've been given special access
to reveal the secrets of this fascinating landscape.
Well, guiding me around the training area today
is my driver, Sergeant Smith.
-Smudge to you.
-Smudge to me.
Everybody called Smith in the Army is called Smudge, aren't they?
Everybody in the Army called Smith is called Smudge.
Smudge, this is an enormous patch of Norfolk, 25,000 acres.
Do you ever get lost?
I used to get lost for about the first year that I worked here,
but I'm pretty much there now, I know where I'm going.
We've got plenty of maps, look.
Plenty of maps, I'd never go anywhere without a map.
There says a true soldier.
Stanford Training Area - or STANTA for short -
is one of the UK's major live-firing exercise facilities.
But at the heart of the training ground
is something you wouldn't really expect to find
anywhere in the British countryside.
An Afghan village.
'Built in 2008,
'it was meant to replicate a typical village in Helmand.
'The British Army was deployed to Afghanistan in 2002,
'and even though combat troops
'are due to withdraw by the end of this year,
'it's still used as a training ground by our military.
'Deputy Commander Tony Powell is part of the team
'that manages the facilities for the MOD.'
-Very nice to see you, sir.
What an extraordinary find in the heart of Norfolk.
I mean, many young soldiers who've never been abroad before
must wonder where they've ended up.
Well, that's precisely what we're hoping to achieve here, of course,
to sort of, you know, deliver a bit of realism
for our soldiers during their sort of training,
to make this as real as we can to prepare them
for what they're going to face once they get into Afghanistan.
What makes the whole experience
particularly real for training troops
is that the whole place is populated by villagers -
in reality, a mixture of Gurkha soldiers and Afghan nationals.
They act out scenarios from everyday life,
from patrolling the streets to the deadly suicide bomber.
I can only imagine what this is like
when it is full of Afghans and troops training,
but we've got a taste of it over here.
I don't know if it is tasty - can you actually eat this stuff?
I personally wouldn't want to try,
but you have to say that they've done a good job.
It's plastic. That's incredible.
I mean, the detail is fabulous.
The old fridge, all the old bottles and bits and pieces,
and this huge sort of haunch here, I mean, that's incredible,
it looks pretty gruesome, doesn't it?
The land has been used as a training camp for troops
as far back as the First World War.
Along with the Afghan facility, there's a Northern Ireland compound.
And a European village built in the 1960s
when the Cold War was at its peak.
But what is it about Stanford Training Area
that makes it so useful to the Army?
Stanford offers a fantastic array of facilities,
and it has an abundance of woods and forest blocks
and a fine mixture of open space -
everything that a soldier is likely to encounter
in almost any conflict that he is going to find himself in.
But plastic meat aside, Tony,
how realistic is this compared to the real thing in Helmand?
I asked a sergeant from my battalion who had returned
and had experience in Afghanistan, "Have we got it right?"
He quickly said,
"The only thing that's wrong here, Sir, is the weather."
-Even you can't control the weather, Tony!
Rewind 100 years to the First World War
and troops were notoriously underprepared.
And yet here we have the other end of the scale.
We've certainly learned a lot over the last century.
This place is full of fascination,
but the one thing I haven't yet been able to find
is a mobile-phone signal,
and that's a real problem for all of us
who live in rural parts of the UK.
But the question is,
will we ever get full coverage in the countryside?
Well, Charlotte has been to find out. Come on, Smudge.
'For many people, it's hard to imagine life without them.'
'We take them everywhere.'
Hi, yeah, I'm filming today for Countryfile. Sorry?
John Craven, sheep...
I can barely hear you, can you shout?
'But in many rural parts of the UK
'getting a signal can be a real struggle.'
You'll probably recognise this -
the vain search for a signal and the growing feeling of frustration
when you realise there's no coverage and you can't make a call.
A recent survey by Ofcom
revealed a third of mobile users in rural areas
aren't happy with the quality of calls and coverage they receive.
Worse still, just over 80,000 premises
are in complete so-called mobile "not spots",
where there's no coverage at all.
Now, you might think it's one of the joys of being in the countryside,
getting away from it all
without your mobile phone going off every five minutes.
But for people who live and work here, it's a serious problem.
-There you go.
-Thank you very much.
John Whitwell is a vet serving the moorlands of North Yorkshire.
I'm heading out with him on his rounds in Rosedale,
but first he needs to check his phone messages.
-So, John, this is where you have to come to get a signal?
We're about five miles away from the practice and, really,
since we turned out of the gate we've had no mobile signal,
and so I've got to check it now
and see if I've been needed between now and then.
John's visiting one of his regulars,
whose calf has suspected pneumonia.
Adrian Dowsland is one of several farmers in the valley
that need John to be on call 24/7.
-How are we doing, Adrian, all right?
-Not bad, John, yourself?
-Not too bad.
'At certain times of the year, being in touch is crucial.'
Particularly during the spring, when we're lambing and calving,
five, ten minutes can make all the difference
between having a positive result and a negative result.
The other thing is, for the likes of Adrian,
if he rings, I answer the phone, I can say to him,
"Look, Adrian, I'm going to be 20-25 minutes."
Immediately, he knows, one, that I've got the message,
two, that I'm going to be there, when I'm going to be there,
and his stress levels drop, as well.
It makes life more stressful for everybody, it takes up time
and, yeah, it doesn't make it impossible
to provide an emergency service, but it makes life more difficult.
Two quite long-acting injections, these, Adrian,
the anti-inflammatory will last for three days.
'But on an isolated farm like this
'it's not just animals that are at risk.'
Adrian, for you farming out here on your own -
-and it's a dangerous job, farming...
..what impact is the lack of mobile phone having?
Well, I think a lot of it comes down to being by yourself.
A lot of these farms, you know, you're by yourself,
gathering on the moor, we have moor sheep.
You could slip, you could have a quad bike overturn...
You know, dealing with the cattle, you know,
when you have cows and you're dealing with them,
you could get kicked, you could be laid out,
and you're by yourself, like.
And despite poor coverage, Adrian doesn't get a cheaper tariff.
Somebody did tell us that I pay £15 a month to know what time it is.
Having no or poor signal isn't just a problem for farmers and vets.
The Country Land And Business Association
says better mobile coverage is as important as effective broadband
in ensuring that rural businesses can compete fairly.
Now, we hear a lot about the problems
caused by the lack of rural broadband,
yet mobile phones have been around for more than 20 years
and in places like this there's still no signal.
Across the country, in rural areas, coverage is far from comprehensive.
The Countryside Alliance sees it as such a problem
it's worked with commercial research company RootMetrics
to build up a picture of national coverage and its rural shortcomings.
And here they are, the top testing team.
So you're actually testing as you go?
Yeah, we've got our two kits in here right now
and they continuously go through our testing sequence while we drive.
'They've been testing indoors and out, day and night.'
-This is our testing kit.
-How does this work?
We have a phone from each operator,
so one from Vodafone, EE, 3 and O2.
'The team covered 25,000 miles, up, down and across the country,
'to build up a picture of what people can really expect
'from their mobile provider.'
No surprise that in rural areas
it is harder to get a signal, it is harder to make a phone call.
It's not always the case that there's such a big divide
between cities and rural locations -
sometimes even in cities you'll find it very hard
to get a signal and to make a call.
But the high-level figure really is
that outside of a town you're four to five times more likely
to suffer a dropped call than you are inside a town.
And that's from our study across the whole of the UK.
Now, that's not just because
rural areas have fewer masts than towns or cities.
Hills and valleys certainly play their part
in blocking phone signals.
But, whatever the cause, there are still hundreds of thousands
of customers in the countryside
with a poor, unreliable, or non-existent service.
What are the chances that people in rural areas
will get the phone coverage they're paying for?
Well, I'll be finding out later.
I'm in Norfolk, on the lookout for a rural relic
with a story to tell about this country's rich agricultural past.
Explore the local countryside
and you won't have to go too far to find one -
lurking forlornly in a farmyard,
providing a haphazard henhouse, or quietly rusting away under a tree.
The shepherd's hut.
This simple structure is intimately linked with Norfolk's history,
as I'm about to find out.
Ian McDonald and Richard King are dedicated huttists
who have researched their history
and provide a rescue and restoration service.
-Hi, Ian, pleased to meet you.
-Pleased to meet you, too.
-What were they used for?
-This is where the shepherd used to live.
He used to have all his tools in here, his potions, his tar.
He also used to sleep in the hut, but with the orphan lambs as well.
So what's your involvement with them now?
Well, there are so many of these still out there
in various states of decay and despair,
and we've become an unofficial re-homing service, I guess.
People contact us and we put them in touch with each other.
This old girl's been around now for well over 100 years.
It's seen both world wars.
It's an important piece of our real heritage.
Once a common feature of this landscape,
shepherds' huts fell into disuse after the war.
There are now only a handful of original ones left.
-I'm just dying to get in there.
-Let's have a go.
-Shall we have a go?
-Shall we get in?
-It's a lot bigger than you'd think.
It's quite spacious. I can confirm there's a few spiders in here!
-Shall we go and find your partner in crime?
-Shall we go and see what he's up to?
Richard is prepping the hut to be moved to a new location for repairs.
-Right, Richard. Digging away.
So what's the plan for this hut today?
We've got some framework inside the hut
which we've built to support the structure when we lift it up.
We need that wheel dug out.
-So there's a bit of work getting that one moved.
No problem. I can do this.
It might take a while, though!
It's all hands to the pumps
as we prepare to move the hut for the first time in decades.
But will it stay in one piece?
I hope it stays together. We all hope it stays together!
Well, as this hut goes off to begin a new life,
I'm off to meet someone for whom shepherds' huts
hold a very special significance.
I'm dying to look at it.
'During the Second World War, Phyllis Pauley lived here in Norfolk
'in a hut with her grandfather every spring during the lambing season.
'Today is the first time she's seen a shepherd's hut since 1949.'
-Oh. Oh, could I touch it?
-Off you go.
Oh, that brings back so many happy memories.
This is gorgeous.
I really could cry. This is wonderful.
And when I think, years ago,
my grandad had his bed there.
I had my bed here.
We had a big stove there.
That side was a box with the little lambs in,
which, if any of them were sick,
I used to take to bed and cuddle them.
And because that was during the war,
there were no men to help Grandad.
-What was it like in the depths of winter? Was it freezing?
We used to have very, very cold winters,
so everything outside
would be frozen and cold,
but in there, that was lovely!
They were such happy days.
And I'm sure, um, Grandad's watching.
-I'm sure he is!
-What do you think he's saying?
I wouldn't like to tell you!
These historic huts and their stories
are now being preserved by enthusiasts -
a reminder of their special role in Norfolk's shepherding past.
In a couple of weeks' time, Countryfile will be playing host
to the legendary One Man And His Dog sheepdog trials.
Between now and then, we'll be meeting all the teams taking part.
The best young handlers will be teamed up with
the most skilful senior shepherds from England, Ireland,
Scotland and Wales,
as together with their four-legged friends, they battle it out,
all hoping to become champion of 2014.
Later, Helen will be meeting the team hoping to cover Wales in glory.
But first, we sent Shauna to the northernmost tip of Scotland
to meet their contenders.
Ahead of me are just the turbulent seas of the Pentland Firth
and the distant cliffs of the Orkney Islands.
And you can't get further within mainland Scotland
than here on the dramatic northern coast.
It may be remote, but inland,
within the rolling fertile farmland
around the town of Thurso in Caithness,
there are still plenty of sheep that need herding.
And hoping to bring the One Man And His Dog title
back to this far-flung corner of Scotland
is Michael Shearer and his working dog, Jim.
-Such a beautiful day.
-You're very lucky, Michael.
-This is a great place to live.
-Some of the time?
-It can be.
-It can be on a good day.
'Michael was the first of the family to trial sheepdogs,
'and when he took it up, almost 30 years ago,
'he was gifted a bit of beginner's luck.'
You did have a bit of success, didn't you, early on?
I won the Novice Cup, which was a bit of encouragement,
but the downside was it was only myself that was competing for it!
That's a smart move! I did the same with a tennis cup at school.
You go for the one that nobody else has entered.
'When starting out, Michael may have had some good fortune,
'but since then he has been prolific
'and has a string of honours to his name,
'including success as a singles champion in One Man And His Dog
'almost 20 years ago.'
'And they're in. Well, that was extremely skilful shepherding
'and what a great trial to watch.'
17 years on, he may have a different dog in Jim,
but could Michael be capable
of winning One Man And His Dog yet again?
-When they start to run, the whole lot goes.
-Yeah. There they go.
Well done, Jim.
So now you've tasted success,
how do you think you're going to do this year at One Man And His Dog?
I don't know how I'll do, but I'll certainly be trying my hardest.
-Have you been training?
-Well, you do a little bit of training,
but the work on the farm here now, it takes that much time that the...
I'd like the dog to be a lot fitter than he is at the moment.
And how do you think he's going to fare,
-because he's quite a nervous dog, isn't he?
-He can be.
Certain things unsettle him, so it just depends. On home ground
he's no problem, but away from home, he can act funny sometimes.
What is it about Jim that makes him so special?
He responds to every whistle you give him. He's very responsive.
You don't need to tell him twice - usually.
Hopefully you'll get that One Man And His Dog trophy back again.
-You never know.
-You try your best.
If your dog works well on the sheep, runs for you,
you've got a good chance.
Despite his modesty, as a past master,
it would be foolish to underestimate the challenge
from this mesmerising duo of Michael Shearer and Jim.
But who's going to be Michael's team-mate?
From Scotland's remote northern coastline, I've travelled south
to the glorious glens, forests and fells of Perthshire.
Scotland's spellbinding but rugged terrain
is a challenge for even the most experienced of shepherds.
But on the shores of stunning Loch Earn lives an 18-year-old handler
who, despite his age,
can whip a hillside full of sheep into shape in no time.
Representing Scotland in this year's Young Handler class
is Alan MacKenzie with his dog, Cole.
'As a self-employed shepherd, Alan works with three dogs -
'Cole and Ben, his collies,
'and his third dog, Tooey,
'is a breed that originates from the other side of the world,
'a New Zealand huntaway.'
-So the Border collies are good at weaving and herding the sheep.
What does the huntaway do?
The huntaway's good at, like, say the sheep were in front of you,
they're good at, like, pushing them away forward.
-Pushes them on?
-Yeah. And saves a lot of work for the rearers.
-The less energy they use, I can use them at the end...
..to get the sheep mostly in.
It's an impressive trio,
but Alan can only take one of his dogs into the competition.
So you're going to concentrate on Cole this time for the competition.
-How do you think he's going to perform?
Well, I just hope the sheep are heavy,
because Cole likes to kind of push the sheep about.
He likes to be the boss.
And on this type of terrain,
you certainly need a dog who's boss to herd blackface Scottish ewes,
a breed of sheep that's notoriously difficult to handle.
So, how long have you had Cole for?
Just before lambing time. I bought him off of Dad.
-So your dad made you buy him, he didn't give him to you?!
-That's a tough dad!
-Oh, my God!
-So, have you had to work at building the bond up with him?
-I've known him since he was a pup, so...
And he was a very friendly pup -
even though he's very tough out on the working,
when he was a pup, he was the runt of the litter
and Dad thought if he can pull through being the runt,
-he should be tough enough to do work.
-And he's proven himself now.
-Yeah, he's very tough, yeah.
So, from being the runt of the litter
to a possible One Man And His Dog champion.
-What do you think of that?
I would like that. Yeah. A lot.
Alan started helping out on the family farm
as soon as he could fit in his wellies and walk,
and now that he's representing Scotland,
you won't find anyone prouder in Perthshire than his mum Mhairi.
And how do you feel about Alan representing his country?
Oh, it's amazing. You don't get better than that, do you?
Just excited - we're just so proud.
You know, he's so happy, and that makes me happy.
That's nice. Will you be nervous for him?
Very. I'll probably be standing there crying!
He'll be like, "Shut up, Mum!"
Oh, no! You're going to embarrass him, are you?
So, waving the saltire for Scotland,
young handler Alan McKenzie with his dog Cole.
Together with Michael Shearer and Jim, that is Team Scotland.
Now, earlier, we heard about the problems
caused by the lack of mobile-phone coverage in rural areas.
PHONE RINGS Hello?
So what is being done to get us all connected?
Finding a signal can be a real problem
for people who live and work in the countryside.
Apparently it's even an issue for the Prime Minister.
While he was on holiday in Cornwall earlier this year,
David Cameron had to drive to the top of the nearest hill
so he could get enough signal to talk to other world leaders.
Well, since then, he's urged ministers
to improve the mobile-phone signal in rural areas.
So how's that going?
Well, in the past 12 months,
the village of Weaverthorpe in North Yorkshire
has gone from little or no coverage
to a signal that now covers virtually the whole community.
Hello, Andrew, it's Charlotte. Where are you?
The Masons' family farm sits in the shadow of the Weaverthorpe mast,
upgraded as part of a £150 million government initiative
to tackle not-spots - that's areas with no mobile-phone signal.
-Nice to meet you.
So, what difference has this made?
Oh, a big difference. We've got coverage everywhere.
We can talk to anybody anywhere.
It's really done a good job.
Has it made a difference to the way you work on the farm?
Well, it's certainly safer, because we can be out in the fields,
and we're in contact at home all the time,
so we don't take the risk, really, that we did before.
For Andrew's son Jonathan,
finally being part of the digital age is a breath of fresh air -
and not just because he can now text his mates.
It's made a real difference to the farm.
It's made the running of the farm a lot easier.
Cos actually a lot of the forms that you have to fill in,
for instance for the government, they're all on online now.
Yeah, they are now, yeah.
And it means we can fill these in in the field,
without having to return back to the office many times through the day.
I think, looking to the future,
it's going to make things much more efficient
as more technology becomes available,
and we're going to have to look to try and utilise that better.
The government's mobile infrastructure project
has a long way to go yet.
The aim is to extend coverage to 60,000 homes
in hundreds of rural areas that currently have no coverage.
Weaverthorpe is one of just two communities
to have benefited so far.
It means we can contact parents by their mobile phones
if there's a problem with their children
or if we want to get messages through to them.
A lot of people that come here are from the cities,
so they're used to having mobile reception,
so on holiday it makes the element of their holiday a lot better.
No complaints here, then.
But the fact the government project has now been running for 18 months,
and there are still only two live sights,
has led to criticism about the speed of the roll-out -
or lack of it.
No-one from the Department Of Culture, Media and Sport
was available for an interview, but they told us...
They also said...
..in any project of this size.
But should we be using public money to buy better coverage?
Most of us already pay mobile-phone bills, and there's no discount
if you live in an area with little or no coverage.
The government has suggested a system of national roaming,
where mobile companies share transmitters.
But the idea didn't go down well with the industry.
Phone operators told us that in their view,
roaming would create technical issues that would lead to
a poorer network experience
for the very customers they're trying to help.
Some also felt it was unfair to ask them to share services
with their competitors.
However, they do say that they're doing other things
to get rural Britain connected.
Paul Ceely is form the largest network operator, EE.
We've already replaced all of the equipment,
and so the engineer just there is enabling it.
He's essentially turning it on, bringing it into operation.
EE is currently upgrading all its masts.
It says that'll improve coverage -
but why didn't it cover the whole country in the first place?
People really weren't mobile-centric.
They didn't really think about.
Back in those days, we actually struggled to encourage people
to accept this as a technology.
The thing is, there's a lot of physical stuff -
you can see that site there, there's cables,
and all of these kind of things.
It takes a long time and a lot of work
to get these networks out there.
But as I say, 20 years ago,
people, really, in many places, didn't actually want mobile.
But now they do, and that's great.
So it's their own fault...
that they haven't got a mobile phone signal.
I wouldn't say it's their own fault,
it just takes a very long time to get these things done.
EE says it already covers 99.4% of the population -
but, as we've heard, coverage doesn't necessarily mean a reliable signal.
And that still leaves around 380,000 people with no signal at all.
EE says that's something it is trying to address.
This is where we're looking at the rural solutions.
and now you can get some lower-cost solutions,
and those people, it probably doesn't make sense
to have a full site like this,
so we're looking at other ways of extending the coverage even further,
beyond the 99.4%, and we're looking at trialling some of those things.
And you see the competition - we're spurring each other on
in trying to roll out and get these rural solutions out there.
And that's the way I think we as an industry can help -
by competing with each other to improve the mobile-phone service
beyond where it is today.
So, despite all the problems posed by remote rural areas
with their signal-blocking hills and valleys,
both the government and mobile-phone operators
are working to improve coverage.
But for some, it's too little and too late.
If you're on holiday, then the lack of mobile signal
can be part of relaxing in beautiful, rural surroundings.
But people who live and work here point out
that it is the 21st century, and they need to be connected.
They don't want to be part of a British countryside where,
as the old joke has it, conversations begin and end with,
JULES: I'm in Norfolk,
and being given a rare glimpse behind the scenes
at Stanford Training Area, one of the MOD's largest live firing ranges.
All told, it's about 25,000 acres in size.
The training area was established during World War II,
with the need for the Army to have live firing practice
for tanks and heavy artillery.
But the war effort was to have a huge impact
on both the land and on the lives of the people who lived here.
In June 1942, the 600 men, women and children who lived and worked here
were ordered to leave.
They were given just three weeks to evacuate their homes
so the Army could take it over as a training area.
Little remains of the villages at the centre of the evacuation.
Grass-covered mounds where houses once stood.
All that remain standing are the churches.
Esme Reynolds lived in the village of Stanford,
and was just nine years old when she last saw her home.
Now, can you make sense of these lumps and bumps now, Esme?
Yes. This was the front door.
So this... I'm walking through the front door now?
-Front door there, yes.
-So, this was your sitting room.
There was a bay window there that looked straight down the road there.
-So that was the bay window.
-That was the bay window, yes.
-Bedroom there, bedroom there.
-Which bedroom was yours?
My earliest memory was this one here.
The layout really is a bit like an aeroplane,
there were wings either side,
there's the nose and there's the tail.
-Any running water?
-No, there was a well just over there, in the yard,
and it was about 70 feet deep, I'm told.
And then, over the other side was what we called a wash house.
In there was where you could wash your clothes
and there was a big fire, you were nice and warm
so you could have a bath in there, the old tin bath in there.
Your recollections of your home are amazing, Esme.
-You clearly have some very happy memories of life here.
-Yes, I have.
That was the old oak tree which had my swing on it.
It was enormous in those days. It's very sad to see it like that now.
-It's absolutely heartbreaking. Your swing was on that tree?
-Yes, it was.
At the stroke of a government pen,
the villages of Stanford, Tottington and West Tofts were cleared
to make way for troops preparing to take the fight to Hitler's forces.
Do you remember the day
when you got the message through that you had to leave?
I remember how horrified my parents were.
And, of course, I was nine, so I didn't realise how bad it was.
They were very upset and, of course,
everybody was told they must find their own accommodation
and they must get out within three weeks.
-So there was no help given?
Just down the road lived Esme's cousin, Marion Butler.
She was 16 at the time of the compulsory evacuation.
-So this is your old house?
-It was, yes. Not a house now, is it?
-Was it a very close-knit community?
-Yes, very. Everybody knew everybody,
sort of thing, inside out.
At the end of the war,
some of the requisitioned land was given back,
but the MoD still needed a core area in which to train,
and this included the three villages.
My mother was bitterly disappointed
when she was told that they were keeping it after the war,
because she wanted to come back.
But what would we have come back to
when the Army had been using the place
and the houses were getting tumbled down?
I mean, the Army now have still got it, after all these years.
Earlier, Shauna met the Scottish team
who will be competing in this year's
One Man And His Dog championship.
And Helen has been out and about too,
meeting the handlers and their dogs who will be representing Wales.
The green, green grass of Wales.
Grazing on her lush hills and serene valleys
are more than nine million sheep.
And where there's sheep, there's dogs that work them.
I'm at the foot of the Brecon Beacons
to meet a man who knows a thing or two about what makes a good sheepdog.
Lying under these old red-sandstone peaks
is Kevin Evans's family farm and base,
from where he travels the world
buying, selling and training sheepdogs.
With over 30 Border collies he could choose from
to take to this year's championship,
for Kevin the selection is simple.
He is taking his top dog, Jimmy.
This feels like a scene from a film, The Man With 1,000 Dogs!
How do you pick a good competition dog, then?
Out of this 30, I'm guessing some are better than others. No offence.
I like to have a dog with a good temperament,
they've got to be very focused on work and really enjoy to be trained.
And then you can work with a lot of the other faults,
because they've all got them.
You're taking Jimmy into One Man And His Dog. Why Jimmy?
Well, Jimmy has become a bit of a favourite of mine.
I have had him a few years now.
-He was the Welsh champion last year.
-Where is Jimmy?
-This is him.
-And how old is Jimmy?
-He's five now.
So, Jimmy, the stage is set for you.
This bond between one man and his dog
has proved to be a partnership to be reckoned with.
With loyal companion Jimmy
securing Kevin a win for Wales two years ago...
The champions again of One Man And His Dog 2012!
..but that wasn't the first time Kevin appeared.
Back in 1996, Kevin was a baby-faced 13-year-old young handler -
and, guess what, he won that as well.
Despite his past success,
for Kevin, representing his country is still a daunting experience.
You have won it before.
How are you feeling going into One Man And His Dog this time?
I think it will be a very good competition.
There are four very good handlers
so I just hope I don't let my country down.
Kevin may be feeling the pressure of winning it for Wales,
but expectation is high as his family aren't used to settling for second.
In 2009, his partner Sophie was also victorious,
albeit winning for a rival nation.
A superb round from Sophie Holt.
Do you ever compete against each other?
-Yes, we compete against each other every week.
Every weekend at trials, Sophie is with me
-and we are in the same competition.
-Who's better out of you two, then?
Well, it's a happy household when she wins!
With winning in the blood, it's odds-on that Kevin and Sophie
could be the proud parents
of the victorious young handler in 18 years' time, with their son Ellis.
-So this is the next sheepdog trial champion?
-How old is he?
-He's eight months now.
-And what is he like around the dogs?
He loves the dogs at the moment.
He gets dragged to all the trials all over the country,
so maybe by the time he's old enough to work a dog
he might be sick of it.
Will he be at One Man And His Dog?
Yeah, he will be coming up to support, won't you? Yes.
-It's a family occasion, by the sounds of it.
Well, all the very best. I look forward to seeing you there.
With his family and nation rooting for him,
Kevin and Jimmy could be a tough act to beat.
But they are not representing Wales alone.
Travelling west through the beautiful Brecon Beacons
and Wales' majestic valleys,
lives the young handler and trusty sheepdog
that complete this year's Welsh line-up.
At 15 years old, Ellen Hope is the youngest handler in the competition,
and she will be competing with her dog Floss.
Ellen may still be at school but this girl means business.
Even on a rain-swept day like today,
there's nowhere Ellen would rather be than on the farm working her dogs,
but not all of them are accomplished at herding sheep.
I am no expert, but I think we've got an unusual contender.
-That's Gwen, the corgi.
-Gwen, the corgi. Of course.
How come you've ended up with a corgi in this pack?
We had her about a year ago
and she likes the sheepdogs and plays with them,
so we thought we will put her in the pack.
-I am going to go out on a limb here. Does Gwen compete?
She doesn't compete.
'Never mind Gwen,
'when it comes to competing there's only one dog for Helen -
'and that is Floss.'
What do you think Floss's strengths and weaknesses are?
Well, her strengths are, like, controlling different kind of sheep
but, when they're close-up, she can come in quite tight
and spook the sheep out.
Floss seems up to it, she always has her tongue out,
is that a sign of concentration?
It might be!
'Ellen is not only the youngest competitor this year,
'she's also the only female taking part.'
-Are any of your friends involved in farming or trialling?
-Not really, no.
-How many girls do you see on the competition circuit?
-But there are more than there used to be.
-So you're flying the flag?
With a partnership of this calibre,
Ellen has the composure to take everything in her stride,
even a flock of 200 Welsh ewes.
The striking thing about Ellen is, she is so calm.
She has 200 ewe lambs
who aren't necessarily doing what she needs them to do,
but she hasn't raised her voice, she's not panicking.
In return, neither is Floss.
This part of Team Wales is one to be reckoned with.
Although Ellen's dad Ashley doesn't trial himself,
as a proud parent, on competition day,
he will be living and breathing every "come by" his daughter commands.
She seems pretty calm. How do you feel
when she is in the middle of a competition?
I am very nervous, really,
because I want to try and get out on the trial field and, you know,
"Come on, sheep", when the sheep are going the wrong way.
-You carry the nerves for her.
-Yeah, I think so.
From what I have seen,
I don't think there's anything to be nervous about.
So that is our Welsh team -
young handler Ellen Hope with her dog Floss, and Kevin Evans with Jimmy.
With dramatic skies that stretch from horizon to horizon,
rustic countryside, and mile upon mile of empty windswept beaches,
Norfolk is a feast for the eyes and a worthy subject for any artist.
But, for the painter I am about to meet,
there is something even more captivating about Norfolk
than the landscape - and that's the people.
Up-and-coming artist Jane Hodgson paints only outdoors,
capturing Norfolk's traditional workers
going about their tasks in all seasons and all weather.
-Hello. Nice to see you.
Nice to be in an artist's studio and, I must say,
-your paintings are beautiful.
I have noticed a lot of them have people in. Why people?
Well, people are what interest me.
But in Norfolk you're painting
a particular type of person, aren't you?
Yes, well, they've got to be outside
and, also, if they're doing something like mussel-riddling,
then it is going to be repetitive motions so that I can watch them.
Because no-one is posing for me,
so I've got to just watch and catch the right thing.
Tell me about the style, your style of painting. What is it?
Well, because of the way I paint,
it's very direct and it's got to be fast,
which people would call impressionistic
because it's not particularly definite.
But I just call it blobby!
I want to keep the spontaneity and freshness.
-Well, I would love to see you work.
-Good, let's go.
-Lead the way. Shall I take this?
Many of Jane's paintings feature workers
on Norfolk's extensive shoreline.
She has brought me to one of her favourite spots to paint,
the long strip of shingle at Weybourne Beach.
But far from striking a pose,
crab fishermen like Richard Matthews have a living to make,
so Jane works around them,
sketching and snapping them at work before filling in the detail later.
Richard waits for no man, woman or artist, does he?
-That was super-quick.
-None of the people I paint stick around.
They're all working, they're all busy.
-But it also means you have to work very quickly.
Is it just fishermen that you paint?
No, I like people who do things,
and it's seasonal.
It's crabs during the summer,
then it goes into sedge early autumn, then it goes into mussels.
After Christmas, it's reed-cutting.
And then we're back round to the crabs.
Even in the depths of winter when it's freezing cold.
If someone had said to you 25 years ago,
you're going to be spending hours on a beach in Norfolk
-what would you have said to them?
Cos that's the other thing, actually taking the leap and persisting,
because everyone is bad when they start
and you've just got to keep practising.
A couple of hours later,
and fisherman Richard is back with his haul.
-What do you make of Jane?
-She is a tough little character, yeah.
-She's good, she sticks at it.
-She does stick at it.
She told me that she is here regardless of the weather.
-Is that true?
-Oh, she's here. Yeah, she's here.
I've seen her down here when the stones are frozen.
What do you make of the art?
When she first used to come down
there was certainly room for improvement.
We couldn't work out who was who.
But she's getting there now, I think.
Some of her skies are pretty good, yeah, she's getting there.
Jane's paintings are now being included
in major UK exhibitions,
but she still values Richard's feedback.
-We have come to... Look who I've brought with me.
-Come on, Richard, what do we think?
She's getting there, isn't she?
That one's you - just in case you didn't know!
-You happy with that?
-Yeah, I'm happy with that.
-You can see yourself in it?
-I can see myself in it.
-The model is happy.
-What do you think? Happy?
-Well, yes, I am.
I think that's definitely Richard leaping out of the boat.
And I have got bits I can work on, so, yes, I am pleased.
Traditional Norfolk in a modern style,
a snapshot moment of this county's rich history
captured on canvas and frozen in time.
Now, Jane is a very hardy woman
but even she needs to come prepared for the weather.
So if you want to enjoy the great outdoors
but need to know whether it's raincoats, long johns or bikinis,
here's the Countryfile five-day forecast.
We're in Norfolk,
and whilst Anita has been getting inspiration from the sea,
I've been inspired by a rare glimpse
of a landscape off limits to the general public...
Stanford Training Area.
The base encompasses vast tracts of the breathtaking Norfolk scenery
known as the Breckland.
The Army use the area for training all year round,
and this means the land can take quite a pounding.
So, maintaining the health of the landscape
has led to a very special collaboration
between the MoD and conservation groups.
'Keeping an eye on the state of it all
'is Ian Levitt from Natural England.'
This is without question, Ian, a really dramatic landscape.
Just looking at that angry sky,
the contrast there with the yellow of the heathland,
it's pretty special.
What you're looking at here is a landscape...
You could be here in the 1930s. Not an awful lot has changed.
Obviously, this is the largest area of Breck Heath that remains today.
It supports things like stone curlew and wood lark,
and a whole range of invertebrate species.
It's just a wonderful, wonderful place.
But all of that fauna and flora have got the Army on top of them
with tanks and boots and shells.
Their primary purpose is to use the land for military training
and defence purposes.
But also, they have a twin responsibly
to conserve and enhance this environment.
So, we have to work very closely with them in that respect.
But the fact that the MoD has been here for so many decades now
has also preserved huge swathes of this landscape
that might otherwise have disappeared.
That's absolutely true.
If it wasn't for the military, we wouldn't be looking at this today.
But that collaboration also relies on one more crucial party,
and that's the farmers who work this land.
90% of the training ground is turned over to farming,
and much of the farming done here is sheep,
with roughly 15,000 of them on site.
Richard Evans is a tenant farmer
and has been working on 500 acres of Stanford Training Ground
for over 30 years.
Richard and his team have been rounding the sheep up
and are now weighing them, ready for market.
Oh! Come on, then.
You know, Richard, when I came to Norfolk,
I wasn't expecting to see such a collection of exotic-looking sheep.
What have we got here?
Well, they're not exactly exotic.
Half of these sheep are part of a feral flock
which we inherited when we took the land over.
The other half are actually Hebrideans,
which are a native breed.
-Is this one of the Hebrideans?
-A stubborn Hebridean at that!
They are very, very striking with these amazing horns.
Yes, they're wonderful sheep. They can live off next to nothing
and still produce a good lamb at the end of the day.
It doesn't look like particularly rich land.
No, it's very, very poor land.
-In Norfolk talk, it's land so hungry it gnaws your boots.
-I love it!
Now, a large part of the area
is obviously given over to live firing.
-Does that affect the flock?
-No, not too much.
We get specific times when the firing is going on,
and specific times when we're free to go in and manage the flocks.
I guess you're playing a crucial role in managing this landscape,
because the Army have their use for it,
-but it does need to be curated in some way.
Without grazing, it would obviously become a jungle.
The sheep keep the grass down, they keep the young trees down.
Is it quite strange, when you're going about your daily business,
and then there's a column of troops,
and armoured vehicles, and whatever else, moving around you,
and yet here you are, doing the day-to-day of being a shepherd?
It is odd, and you get some extraordinary incidents.
I was just minding my own business watching the sheep one day,
and a paratrooper dropped and was wrapping up his parachute,
and the rustling of the parachute and his noise,
the sheep thought they were going to be fed.
They thought there was something being opened up.
They ran towards him, and he was absolutely terrified
and packed up his parachute and came to ask what was going on.
-How does that work? Farmer, one, Army nil.
-Yes, I suppose so, yes!
It's the best of both worlds.
Richard gets land on which to graze his sheep
and, in return, the land is maintained to a level
that's right for the MoD to do their training.
Well, from our sheep-packed show here in Norfolk, it's goodbye.
Next week, Matt and Anita will be in Devon.
Matt will be getting stuck in with a Farmers' Co-op on Dartmoor,
whilst Anita dons her snorkel
to forage for bogwood on the River Dart.
Until then, have a good week.
Countryfile is in Norfolk, where Jules Hudson is given privileged access to the MOD training grounds in the Brecklands. He explores the purpose-built Afghan village in the heart of the British countryside and discovers the story behind the evacuation of the villages on the site during World War II. He also helps a tenant farmer wean his lambs and discovers how the MOD works in partnership with farmers and Natural England to protect and manage this special site.
Anita Rani is on the Norfolk coast, meeting an artist who is inspired by the workers of the land and spends her time outside painting them - in all weathers. Anita also discovers the history behind the humble Norfolk shepherd's hut and meets Phyllis, who hasn't seen a hut since she helped her grandfather with lambing 70 years ago.
There are still large parts of rural Britain with little or no mobile phone coverage. Charlotte Smith discovers that this is not just a cause of frustration, it can be bad for business and, in extreme cases, puts lives at risk. So what's being done to keep us connected in the countryside?
Shauna Lowry and Helen Skelton meet the teams representing Scotland and Wales in this 2014's One Man and His Dog sheepdog trial competition.