Ellie Harrison and Matt Baker head to Wales. Ellie gets up close to a strange and wonderful coastal habitat, whilst Matt heads to Rhyl for the annual Woodfest.
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North Wales. A diverse landscape.
The scenery is as changeable as the weather, with a different view
around every corner.
Just one of the reasons visitors keep coming back for more.
But I haven't just come here for the landscape.
I've come here for the wood.
This is Woodfest where they celebrate cutting it,
climbing it and carving it.
Now, you know I often like having a go at things, well,
I am very daunted about this.
The sandy beaches have always been popular with visitors to the area.
But most people who come to enjoy the coast will be completely
unaware of an amazing world of worms hidden beneath the waves.
they are revealed at low tide.
I will be finding out about this incredible honeycomb reef
and hopefully meeting some of its wiggly inhabitants.
Tom is in Norfolk discovering a breakthrough in the fight
against a countryside killer.
Could this contain the key genetic material
vital to our fight against ash dieback?
I'll be investigating.
And there's never a dull day for Adam.
This is Cracker, my Belted Galloway bull
that I bought off a mate of mine
from Yorkshire about a year ago.
When he first arrived, he had a bit of a fiery character.
He was jumping over the fences and getting in with the wrong cows.
And now, about nine months on,
we are discovering the fruits of his naughty behaviour.
Aren't we, mate?
The dramatic landscape of North Wales.
From the huge mountain peaks of Snowdonia,
to the sprawling shores of Colwyn Bay.
This is a haven for adventurers and holidaymakers alike.
But in a field a stone's throw away from the seaside town of Rhyl,
people are coming from far and wide for a totally different attraction.
Woodfest, a celebration of forestry, past and present.
There's so much going on here.
There's horse logging, chainsaws, tree climbing, even axe throwing.
What more do you want from a festival?
Woodfest has been taking place here in Wales for over a decade.
And woodland specialist David Jenkins knows
more about the forests here than most.
So what would the woodlands of North Wales
historically have been like, David?
All of North Wales would have been a huge woodland,
before man began to clear it.
Predominately an oak woodland, but with a lot of other
species that we now recognise as our native species.
So ash and elm and lime
and other species would have been there in large quantities as well.
That process of clearance began very, very early on in history.
Even before the first farmers.
As time passed, the woodlands of Wales were cleared to make way
for the rise of agriculture.
But at one point in Welsh history,
the mass felling of trees was an act of war.
In this particular area, we are
probably standing in an area which was cleared by Edward I,
as part of the military campaigns against the Welsh then.
They cut a swath of woodland from Chester to Conwy.
They did it all with axes and fire.
They accomplished it in a very, very short time,
for threepence a day.
And what was the wood here in North Wales used for throughout history?
North Wales was noted as a shipbuilding region
and in the kind of wood we are in today now, this is exactly
the kind of place where shipwrights would come,
and they would walk through the wood
and they would select the shapes they needed so they got the curves,
the crooks, the knees and all the other things that they wanted.
Welsh timber was used heavily throughout the industrial age, too.
Much of it as pit props in mines.
But by the beginning of the 20th century,
woodland resources had reached an all-time low.
Since then, efforts have been made to increase our woodlands
and preserve traditional timber crafts.
Many of which are on show here today.
Across the weekend, Woodfest can attract up to 30,000 visitors.
It is organised by husband and wife team, Simon and Paula Belfield.
So, Woodfest is your baby, really. How did it all start?
I had fantastic ideas of putting such a wonderful wood-oriented show on
that people could come and enjoy, and it just took off from there.
You have got crafts surrounding us here and sports as well.
There is one event that I am slightly daunted by.
Just step to the side slightly
because there are these enormous poles that are up there behind us.
What happens with these and what's in store for me later?
Right, well I am looking forward to this. These are our climbing poles.
They are 90-foot Douglas firs.
They are ten foot in the ground so it is an 80-foot climb.
And obviously, the professional foresters and arborists,
they'll be racing up these poles.
Some of them can reach the top in well under ten seconds,
so it will be interesting to see how long it takes you to get up.
Well, that is all later on.
To start with, let's go into this little arena here
and see what is happening.
Well, the first wood-chopping challenge of the day
is the underhand chop.
The aim is to cut through your log in the fastest time.
The catch is, you have to stand on the log whilst you're chopping it.
I can't believe the speed that they are going through already
and they are starting at different times so there is a handicap system.
There's a handicap system. These are the front markers.
These are on the lower handicap
and then as we get through to the end, they are on the higher handicap.
Look at this guy, he's going through it like it's butter.
He's got it stuck. He's got it stuck.
He was the German champion up until a few years ago.
This is Werner Brohammer.
And there are no steel toe caps involved.
There are steel mesh socks underneath those trainers that they are wearing.
-Well done, Simon!
-With a handicap.
-How far into it did Simon start?
-Simon's handicap was 47.
47 seconds after the first guy started. Here he is, the champion.
Wow. I could see how much that took out of you there.
I mean, just talk us through how it felt and what was going on?
Yes, it was all right. Blew the cobwebs out little bit.
No, the log was soft. Using a big axe, so cut it faster.
Well, listen, congratulations. That looked mightily impressive.
-This is your tool.
-Yes. That is the smaller one.
Events like Woodfest are helping put our woodlands
back on the map, but our woods are under threat.
Since last year, millions of ash trees
have been plagued by a killer disease.
Ash dieback may have gone quiet over the winter,
but as Tom has been finding out,
it's about to make a return with devastating consequences.
As much a part of the British countryside as green hills
and leaden skies.
But this beautiful landscape now faces a terrible threat.
The reawakening of a hidden killer.
Ash dieback, the deadly pathogen that had ravaged trees
across Europe, emerged here on our own shores last year.
It was identified as Chalara fraxinea.
A lethal fungus brought to Britain on windblown spores
and imported saplings.
It's arrival sounded the death knell for our beloved ash tree
and ash dieback became a household phrase.
BBC NEWS THEME
Britain's ash trees under threat.
The Government's emergency committee meet
to discuss the killer infection.
A ban on the import of ash trees will come into force on Monday.
We are all being urged by the Government to wash our dogs,
our boots, even our children, if we venture into woodland this weekend.
In the wake of the 2012 crisis, and in an effort to protect
our trees for the future, the Government has taken the
unprecedented step of making plant health as important as animal health.
The trouble is it all seemed a little too late for the ash.
So, what now?
Things have gone eerily quiet over the winter as the fungal spores
have lain dormant.
But with life returning to our countryside, the question is,
is the advance of the disease now simply inevitable?
We need to get down in the ground, dodge the nettles, and we are
going to start hunting for fallen...
they're called rachises.
They are basically these bits. You see these bits here.
What will have happened, you see, is last year, the infection would
have occurred down here and then obviously, as it is a deciduous
tree, the leaves fall off, they drop to the ground, the leaves rot
and all we will be left with are little leaf stalks like this.
They will have blackened up but it's not just them.
We want the blackened up and the fungus growing out of it,
the little mushrooms growing out of it. That is what we need to get.
How big are these mushrooms? Something to make an omelette with?
An omelette for maybe a hobbit.
The signs of ash dieback are easy to spot on the trees,
but to understand how it spreads, you need to find the
highly infectious spores that come from the fungus itself.
That's exactly what plant pathologists from FERA,
the Food and Environment Research Agency, are trying to do.
So the brown marks that you see on the bark of the tree, that
tell-tale sign, that's not actually what's giving off the spore itself?
No, not at all. That's non-infectious.
The fungus is actually killing the tissue,
producing toxins and killing the tree.
It's really quite chilling to think something this small
could end up felling something that big.
It's amazing, isn't it?
Paul and I are struggling to find anything
-but one of Paul's colleagues has had some success.
-Look what I've found.
What have you got there? Hang on a second, Ian's got something.
-Hey, that's looking quite good. Have a look at that.
-This one here?
-Right in the middle, have a look at that, Tom.
-Put your hand lens on that one. Look at that.
-Looks like a sort of...
It looks faintly mushroom-shaped but it's very...
You can see it actually growing out of the stalk.
-What do you think?
-Can I have a close look?
That's certainly the best we've found so far, Ian.
-Good job, well done.
-Ian's got it!
The commonly-held view is that the Chalara fraxinea fungus IS now
reproducing in Britain. That would mean nowhere in the country is safe.
But no-one has been able to confirm those worst fears until today.
My goodness. That's quite strong.
You see, this is the sample we put in there. Look at that.
It's coming up. If that goes up, that means it's positive.
So it looks like we've got Chalara in that sample?
We've got the sporing stage of this particular fungus picked up from the
ground which has never been found in the UK before, so this is a first.
The first time we have found this infective stage of ash dieback
This indicates that this is the first-ever finding of it in the UK.
In some ways, you don't know whether to be pleased
or horrified with news like that, do you?
Yeah, I mean, from a pathology point of view it's an exciting finding.
That line is proof that we have infective Chalara in Britain.
-So we've got a positive?
-Yes, that's the positive control there.
Look at this.
-You found it.
You don't know whether to be honoured or not, really,
with something as dangerous as this, as lethal as this.
-It looks like it is here to stay.
In any battle, the first stage in beating your enemy
is to know your enemy. And now we know.
As we've heard, it is here to stay.
A slim hope that maybe the infection was just
blowing in from the Continent has just evaporated.
So, does this mean the march of infectious spores sweeping
through our forests is now simply unstoppable?
Professor Chris Gilligan from Cambridge University chairs the
Independent Tree Taskforce set up in response to last year's outbreak.
He's been keeping close tabs on its progress.
We know something about the rate of spread across the continent,
so we can use that to think then about how to model and predict
what's going to happen to the spread throughout the UK.
And you've got a little bit of the green,
-particularly on this Kent and East Anglia area.
And as we run it forward, you'll see the year changing up here
and the intensity of the colour changes.
With red indicating high probability.
Wow. We've now moved nearly ten years hence to 2022.
And you've got red area which is high risk,
still predominantly in a south-easterly area.
But some risk affecting all of England
and quite a bit of southern Scotland as well.
If predictions are correct, we ARE going to see the disease
gain a stranglehold over the next decade.
But there are still things all of us can do to slow its progress,
from brushing off our boots and tyres, to monitoring
and reporting damaged trees in our local area.
Generally, though, when you look at our intervention, are we talking
about delaying the spread of this disease
-rather than having a hope of stopping it?
-We're not going to stop it.
It would be very unlikely that that would occur,
when as we saw, that spread right across the continent of Europe.
So actually, delay is really important because it buys us time
to find ways of fighting it?
It really is important to delay the epidemic where we can.
I suppose it gives more time for our ingenuity to find
-a way of fighting back?
The prospects don't look good.
But as I'll be finding out later, the battle isn't over yet.
The North Wales coastline.
Rocky, weather-beaten cliffs hug the Irish Sea.
A typical coastal scene on the face of it.
But look a little closer and you'll find something quite bizarre.
A living labyrinth.
Surely one of the most intricate things that
mother nature has ever created?
It might look a little bit like a sponge,
but believe me, this stuff is really quite solid.
And it's built by one of the finest ecological engineers out there.
The honeycomb worm, or Sabellaria alveolata.
Their reef-like homes are predominately found on the west coast
of the UK and are currently recognised as a threatened habitat.
But a couple of marine scientists from Bangor University
are undertaking some pioneering research to try and help
regenerate reefs that might be struggling.
I'm meeting Dr Andy Davies to find out more about how
they build these peculiar homes.
How are you doing, Andy? It looks like a moonscape, this.
The tunnels are built from sand and shell by the worm colonies,
who favour safety in numbers.
There are many, many hundreds of them, if not thousands in this area.
And they all grow together in like a semi-detached
and a terraced house, to form this honeycomb.
So they are known as the honeycomb worm.
As you can see, the tube is formed by individual worms here.
The further down it goes, the more safe it is from predators.
-You love these, don't you?
-I do. I love them. Anything which is reefy.
Well, I've never seen them until today
-and I might start loving them, too! We'll see how we go.
In the same way that coral reefs support a host of marine life
in the tropics, these sand tunnels built by these humble worms
are massively important for biodiversity on our shoreline.
Fellow worm fan Steve Newstead works alongside Andy
at the School of Ocean Sciences.
These marine-minded chaps love the worms so much,
they are studying them in a way they've never been studied before.
They are the first scientists to develop test tube worms,
rearing larvae under laboratory conditions,
to get a better understanding of their crazy tube-building ways.
-How are you doing, Steve?
-What is it about these worms you love so much?
-These worms are great.
They form these fantastic hummocks,
these sand formations that we find on the shore.
They are habitat engineers, OK.
What they are doing is creating niches,
pockets for other species to live within them.
They are providing an attachment site for possible algae
to start growing.
They are also providing some protection from some water
movements, in maybe the lee of the water and so on.
They provide this function that enhances the biodiversity.
Wow. So we can see them coming out now, they are under the water.
You can see the little black hairy feelers that are coming out.
That's them feeding when they are submerged in water.
They will come out of the tube by a few millimetres.
And they will extend their tentacles out
and capture organic particles and filter feed that way.
And then all of a sudden they will retract?
They will retract in when a predator or something comes along.
My big head, in this case. How do they build these amazing structures?
They are unique because they excrete a biological cement, where
they will collect sand grains from around them, from the water column,
and they will excrete this cement and then stick them together.
They are almost building like a dry stone wall around themselves.
They will do that straight after their larval stages.
And they will then build this tube for the rest of their life.
To give the worms the best start in life,
the boys grow them on slates in sea-like conditions in these tanks.
-Can we have a look at one?
-I will just show you this one here.
These little ones, around eight weeks old, are forming the first tunnels.
-Still quite delicate.
-Really, still quite small.
We have the settlement here, on the slate plate, OK.
And these are the small hummocks and the small tubes we have got there.
The aim is for these slates to eventually be attached to
existing reefs, so the youngsters continue to grow
and strengthen communities in areas where they may be struggling.
But to find out which reefs need a bit of help,
Andy and Steve monitor them using a sophisticated bit of kit.
A balloon on a string with a precariously-dangled camera.
OK, Ellie, now we've got the balloon up,
what we want to try and do is slowly walk the camera over the reef.
What the camera is doing is it is taking images every four seconds.
Once we've stitched the images together,
we'll get this panoramic view of the reef.
-You are basically mapping out where this honeycomb reef is?
Once you've got that, what are you going to do with it?
We want to try and see how the reef changes over time.
We want to map this over the years and see how much it grows,
how much it reduces,
to try and get an understanding in the changes of the reef itself.
I love the way it is just a balloon and a camera.
-It is like super-accessible science.
-That's it, very simple indeed.
-No lab coats required for this?
-Not at all. No!
So, aerial images to show scale, plus a bit of close-up counting
-using this grid split into centimetre squares.
-We just put that on there.
Should roughly equal how many worms there are in this bit of reef.
Simple. OK, five per centimetre square, I think.
-Five per centimetre square?
So, five worms in one centimetre square works out
as 50,000 in one metre square.
Multiply this by the total area of reef, 77 metres square, equals
a rough estimate of 3,850,000 worms, all living in one amazing reef.
So have you found, by doing this survey over time, that there
have been more of them or less of them? Have they changed at all?
Since in about the last year, we have seen the reef expand,
about 20 to 30% in size. It can grow very quickly.
By doing this, and mapping year on year, season on season,
we can see how the reef expands or contracts.
So things are looking OK here in North Wales at the moment,
probably thanks to this pair keeping an eye on them.
But the honeycomb reefs are at a constant threat of storm damage,
cold weather, and human feet trampling on them.
It may not be as exotic as the Great Barrier Reef, but these
amazing sand tunnels stuck together by biological cement, by the tiny
honeycomb worm, are hugely important to the biodiversity on our coast.
This week we are in north Wales and I am taking in the sights
and sounds of Woodfest!
For centuries, we have used timber for everything.
Enormous sailing ships, grand buildings, even the garden fence.
But these guys are using wood in an altogether different way
and their tool of choice - a chainsaw.
Right, I have just come over to witness the speed carve.
These lads have just 30 minutes to carve something spectacular.
Off you go!
Harry Thomas and his son, Danny, are professional chainsaw carvers,
and every year they come here to wow the crowd with their impressive,
if a little noisy, skills.
I love the way they've just got all the chainsaws laid out.
Large, medium, small,
and then a blowtorch which I'm quite intrigued about.
Fascinating to watch.
Before becoming a full-time chainsaw carver,
Harry worked as a tree surgeon.
With over 20 years in the business,
he is one of the best carvers in Britain.
And by the looks of it, his son isn't far behind.
They are about halfway through now.
It's just mesmerising to see these figures appear out of the wood.
That's the basic shape sorted.
Now Harry and Danny set about adding the detail.
But time is running out. In the final stages now.
More power tools have come out.
There is a bit of grinding going on, a bit of sanding.
How quickly this has come together is mind-blowing, to be honest.
So everything is just finishing up now and the lovely thing is,
the public are all the way round the outside.
They've watched all of these figures being created
and now there's an auction so we can buy it.
I might get my hand in my pocket here.
The question is, how deep will I have to dig?
50? Thank you very much, sir, £50 I have. Any advance on 50?
Looking for 60. £60 in the ring.
£80 in the ring.
-£90. Thank you, £100. Going once...
-I'll go 110.
110 we have. Going once.
Going twice... Third time...
Sold to Mr Matt Baker. Thank you very much.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Delighted with that.
Having bagged my bear,
it's time to meet the guys behind these magnificent carvings.
Lads, that was incredible, honestly, to watch.
What you can produce in half an hour with what you would imagine
is quite a "rrrr" sort of tool, is beautiful.
Have you got quite a few specialities?
I've got quite a few I can do in a speed carve, yes.
And why would you say, OK, a bear this time?
The reason I do a bear is because nobody else does a bear.
Owls are probably the most common speed carve
because they are quite a simple shape.
Once you get to something like this, it takes a bit of practice really.
And let's have a look at some of these tools then.
That's specially made for carving. That's actually called a dime tip.
-It's the same size as a 5p.
-Well, listen, it was incredible to watch.
Vastly entertaining for everybody all around and what you produced
in half an hour is really quite something, honestly.
Can you give us a lift to the car, does that come in the price?
Sure I will, yes.
Well, in a moment, I will be meeting the men
and women who shimmy up those poles in a matter of seconds.
But before all of that,
here's what else is coming up on today's programme.
There are some hungry young mouths to feed down on Adam's farm.
They eat a lot, geese, and because it's such a beautiful sunny day,
I'm going to lift this hut off them and give them a bit more grass.
Mind your heads.
Inspiration for our photographic competition from the people
who know best - last year's finalists.
Anyone entering this year's competition on living landscape,
I just suggest you get out there and try.
And for photographers and everyone else,
there's the Countryfile forecast.
Now, earlier we heard there is little we can do to stop ash dieback
all but wiping out one of Britain's most common trees.
But does that mean the ash will disappear forever
from the British countryside?
The ash dieback epidemic that swept through mainland Europe is here.
And there's no way of stopping this deadly fungus,
Chalara fraxinea, from spreading throughout the UK.
So if we can't save our treasured ash, does it mean it will go
the same way as elm in the 1970s and become a rural rarity?
The Woodland Trust has other ideas.
It's recently planted thousands of young trees at Pound Farm
in Suffolk, right in the firing line of the disease.
In the wood over there are thousands of infected trees.
In fact, it was one of the first places where ash dieback was seen.
So, with the wind blowing as it is, from there to here,
it won't be long before infection is rife in this field.
So, we can expect these young saplings to soon
succumb to the disease.
So why plant healthy saplings right next door to an infected wood?
According to the Woodland Trust's Austin Brady, there is
method in this madness.
So this is one of your sacrificial ash, is it?
Yes, if we take the vole guard off this young ash tree,
you can see this is one of 25,000 trees we have planted on two fields
and there are 11 different provenances of ash
from all over the UK. We have deliberately brought them back here
where we know the disease is present, to try and find out
which of these varieties is going to be resistant to ash disease.
It seems almost cruel, to put them in harm's way like this,
-deliberately to expose them to a deadly fungus?
But what we know is from experience on the Continent, maybe two
or 5% of trees have natural resistance to ash disease.
What we're trying to do is speed up that process and find out
as quickly as possible which of the UK's ash trees might be resistant.
What the Woodland Trust is doing may be a radical step,
but its plans are to find replacement trees, not a cure for ash dieback.
One thing that strikes me is this is still a sort of...it is a post-apocalyptic solution.
It's not going to save existing ash trees, is it?
You are exactly right. We are going to lose a lot of ash trees
but we don't want to just stand by and watch that happen.
We are doing what we can to try and breed some resistant trees
-for the future.
-The scale of the task is huge.
130 million ash trees across the country.
Are we seriously talking about potentially replanting that number?
I think in some woods, if the ash disappears, there will
still be a woodland and some of those woods will recover.
In other parts of the country, the impact could be more serious,
where ash is a dominant part of those woods and they are the
areas where we really need to think about a different kind of response.
If the disease is as serious as we think, we are unlikely to ever
replicate exactly what was there before in terms of ash?
The woodlands will evolve. There will still be ash but less?
Exactly, but woodlands evolve and change, you know,
life and death in the forest is part of the whole process.
Just what's happening here is something which is a bit too
quick and a bit too sudden.
This isn't the only plantation of its kind.
Hand-in-hand with landowners and charities,
the Government has planted a quarter of a million trees
across the south-east, simply to see which ones can survive the onslaught.
And that means standing back and watching possibly
hundreds of thousands of young trees being martyred to the cause.
While here they're letting nature take its course, there are those
using a more technical approach to finding a tree with natural immunity.
The basis for this work can be traced back to one
miraculous tree in Denmark.
The story starts just under 100 years ago on the Danish island of Zealand.
In the 1920s, Danish foresters started selectively breeding ash
for good timber. And they came across this in the forest, tree 35.
They were so impressed by its strong form, that they decided to
clone it along with 38 others to make sure they had good wood supplies.
80 years later, in the middle of the last decade,
ash dieback hit Denmark.
90% of the country's ash trees were killed or badly damaged.
Among them, the 39 selectively-bred clones.
Except that is for tree 35, which stood tall
amongst all the devastation.
There seemed to be something in the genetic make-up of tree 35
which made it able to withstand the full force of ash dieback.
Now, this remarkable tree has led to a scientific
breakthrough in the fight against the disease.
At these laboratories in Norwich,
just a few miles from the epicentre of last year's outbreak,
scientists have managed to decode tree 35's resistant DNA.
So this is how you unlock the genetic secrets of the resistant ash?
Yes, the first step is to get some ash leaves which are frozen in here.
What I'm going to do is take a small amount of this ash material.
I'm going to put it into one of these tubes here
so that we can break it up.
The John Innes Centre is part of a multi-million pound
international project working to create a formula for a
super-tree for the future, based on tree 35.
The project's head, Professor Allan Downie, is showing me how it's done.
-OK, so, I'm making a sort of ash soup.
-Just drop it in.
And then you'll find a pair of long forceps there
that you can pick it back out again with.
The liquid nitrogen freezes the ash leaf soup
so it can be pulverised into tiny pieces.
-It's like a rather aggressive microwave!
-It is a bit!
So, now that leaf which was a leaf material, it's now a powder,
and what we're now going to do is add a little bit of liquid
to dissolve the DNA.
The DNA is broken down further and purified before technicians
at the Genome Analysis Centre set about the critical
task of sequencing the billions of strands of DNA on a computer.
This incredible and complicated process has allowed scientists
to crack tree 35's DNA code, the first step in creating
an ash tree from scratch that can live with the disease.
We're the first to see these results.
What is on here that is so important, so critical?
We have all of the genomic information from the tolerant tree,
tree 35, on this chip, so all of the DNA sequence is here.
And we did it really quickly. We want to move things forward
and try to understand the genetics of the inheritance of tolerance,
and this is the first step that allows us to build a map
and get an idea of why this tree has tolerance to the fungus.
This has been a very high profile potential environmental
disaster for Britain. We've seen huge coverage on this story.
How does it feel to be maybe part of that solution?
It would be wonderful to be part of the solution,
but the problem is enormous, and really, it would be absolutely
fantastic, but it is going to take a long period of time
and the breeding is going to take time.
For you at the moment, do you think the best chance is breeding up
new resistant or tolerant, as you would have it,
trees rather than trying to protect the ones that are there?
Certainly, for the large population of
ash in Woodlands, I think if we could breed for tolerance,
and identify trees that can live with the fungus,
then that would help greatly, and what we're trying to do here is
trying to give nature a bit of a helping hand by identifying the
right kinds of trees to take forward and do the appropriate crosses.
Whether it's the natural immunity of the Woodland Trust saplings
or a synthetically produced super-tree,
we may be able to fill the inevitable holes that are going to
appear in our countryside with something stronger.
What should be a proud procession of ash is becoming a slow death march.
And there's little doubt that a similar fate awaits
many of our ash trees across Britain. But there is a glimmer of hope.
The ingenuity of our conservationists
and genetic scientists is speeding the arrival of a new
generation of ash trees which will show the fungus who's boss.
-Whatever the weather, there's always plenty for Adam to do down on
his farm, especially with all the animals he needs to tend to.
There's no time for hanging around,
it's just a quick cuppa before getting to it.
Part of the farm income comes from selling animals to other farmers.
And of course to produce those animals, you need to breed them.
And because I've got so many different breeds
and species on the farm, that takes some organising,
and today, I'm just sorting out the chickens.
I've got about eight different breeds of chicken on the farm,
various shapes and colours and sizes. These are my Welsummers in here.
I'll just let them out.
The Welsummer is a really lovely chicken. One of my favourites.
Very smart cockerels, and the hens lay these beautiful, rich,
dark-brown eggs and of course these eggs are fertile,
because there's a cockerel in with the hens.
And what usually happens is a hen would lay six to eight eggs,
she would then go broody, which means she starts to sit on them
and stay sitting on them to warm the eggs up and then
the fertilised embryo inside would start to grow and develop.
Just to make things more efficient,
I put these into a mechanical incubator.
And that insures a higher success rate.
The eggs are transferred into a tray ready for the incubator.
This keeps them at the right temperature and with the right
amount of moisture and also rocks them backwards and forwards.
It turns the eggs.
And these eggs now will hatch out in 21 days' time, which is pretty quick.
So I'll take this tray, which has now been in seven or eight days,
and I'll do what's known as candling them,
to make sure that the embryo inside is starting to grow.
It's called candling, because that's what they used in the old days.
Now I have a torch, so I'll just turn the light off.
Right, so you get your torch on and pick up an egg
and shine it through the egg and you can see it's clear at the bottom
and dark at the top, and that's where the embryo is
forming at the top of the egg, and so that is a fertile one.
If it was infertile, it would be completely clear
and because it's in a warm incubator,
the egg would start to rot, and that would poison the other growing
embryos, so we would chuck it out, so that one's OK.
You can see on some of them the blood vessels inside.
The yolk is feeding the growing embryo.
And we can eat fertile eggs, it's not a problem at all, until
they have started to be incubated, and then the chick starts to form.
Don't want to eat them then!
So that's great news. They're all fertile and growing.
Once the chicks have hatched,
we put them under a heat lamp to keep them warm and we feed them
on these little chick crumbs and there's a little Welsummer that's
easily recognisable, because of its brown back with two little stripes.
Sweet little chick.
And then next door to those, we have some ducklings.
Duckling, very different to a chick.
Different shaped beak with its little bill.
It doesn't really matter what baby animals they are,
they're all lovely.
Go on then.
Poultry grow fast, and before you know it,
they're ready for the great outdoors.
I've got some special newcomers that are looking forward to
stretching their legs.
The ones I want to see are these baby geese, the goslings over here.
They were only hatched out just over a week ago and are growing so fast.
Chicks or ducklings will live off pellets that we feed them
and goslings do need pellets, but they will also graze.
They eat a lot of grass, geese, and because it's such a beautiful, sunny
day, I'm going to lift this hut off them and give them a bit more grass.
Mind your heads.
They're so lovely. As soon as I've let them out,
they're now grazing at the grass, pecking it away.
And four adult geese will eat the equivalent to one sheep,
so they eat quite a lot of grass.
And these are a bit of a mixture, they're a farmyard goose.
And I keep them for a number of reasons, really.
I sell them to people who want to have geese to eat
and they're great at laying eggs and some people keep them as guard dogs.
They make a racket when people come round
and are poking around your farmyard. They start squawking.
And they're just lovely animals, they're great.
The first few weeks of their life is vital.
But not all my animals have the perfect start.
A couple of years ago,
one little lamb called Laurel was extremely close to death.
My dog, Maud, found her by the stream.
The poor thing was almost blind,
but after a bit of TLC from my son Alfie, she pulled through.
Now, do you remember Laurel from a couple of years ago,
-that pet lamb you reared?
Well, she's lambed now and she's in here.
That's her down there with Alf written on the side.
We've written that so we know that she's yours.
-Now she's got a little lamb in here, let's see if we can catch it.
It's all yours, it's all yours! Wow! That's it! THEY LAUGH
-What do you reckon then?
-Yeah, she's a nice lamb.
Well it's a little ewe lamb, a female.
So you've got to think of a name for it now.
-Well, Laurel's a plant, isn't it?
-So, Fern, maybe?
Yes. That's a good name. Fern. Little Fern.
-So you worked hard, didn't you, to save little Laurel.
And did you ever imagine she'd be giving birth here?
She looked really weak when she was a lamb,
so, and I thought maybe it wasn't going to survive
and then she's had a lamb, so that was quite successful.
Go on then, let's take back to her mum.
There we go, she's just over there, that's it, let her go now.
You'll make a good farmer one day. It's hard work, isn't it?
-For you, but not for me!
-It's all fun for you now.
While Laurel made a good family pet, my Belted Galloway bull,
Crackers, will definitely not.
Last summer, I visited Neil Heseltine.
He's a farming friend of mine who breeds Belted Galloway cattle,
high in the hills near Malham Cove in Yorkshire.
His are some of the finest stock I've seen.
And after looking at such a magnificent herd,
I couldn't resist buying one of his bulls.
-Quite like the look of that black one there.
When he arrived on my farm a few weeks later,
we soon realised we'd got more than we bargained for.
He was a bit bonkers.
I can see why you called him Crackers! He's looking good, Neil.
And I soon realised,
he commanded a different level of respect to the rest of my animals.
Basically, I keep my distance.
And here he is, a year on.
To start off with, he was jumping over the fences
and getting in with the wrong cows and causing a few problems there,
but now, we've got him breeding with the right breeds.
He's with his Belted Galloway cow and we're managing to keep him in,
and he's quietened down, he's handleable, he's absolutely fine.
I'm really pleased with him. I'm not sure what he makes of these
little Gloucester Old Spot piglets, they're really cheeky.
He certainly never came across anything like that on the moors
of Malham. And what's very exciting is he's just had a calf born
and it's in a field just across the way.
And here's Crackers' little calf.
It's a bull calf, a male, and it's perfectly marked.
It's got a lovely belt on it. It's black just like its dad.
Out of my red cow, and the cows I've got are red, black and dun,
the three colours that the Belties come in.
And it's a wonderful little calf, and she's a very good mother.
She's pawing the ground now, threatening me,
saying, that's plenty close enough.
I always carry a stick when I'm in with freshly-born calves,
and the Belties, like the Highlands,
are fantastic mothers, so you have to be very, very cautious.
And I'm not sure I trust her.
A couple of days after the birth of the Belted Galloway calf,
we had a bit of a surprise.
Thanks to Crackers' naughty behaviour nine months ago, he's left his mark.
This is one of my young White Park female cows
and she's recently given birth to her first calf,
that should have the same markings as her, but if I just move
her around...just walk around there, missus.
Let's see your baby. Where is it?
Just here is a little calf that just looks like a Belted Galloway,
and there's only one animal that can take responsibility for that,
and it is of course Crackers.
We'll rear the calf on now until it's about two years old
and then it will go for beef.
And it's not ideal for my pedigree White Park breeding,
but they're a lovely family all the same.
Next week, I'll be finding out about a new vaccine that will
hopefully protect livestock from the virus Schmallenberg.
This week, I'm at Woodfest, celebrating
lots of traditional timber skills and I'm just in the process
of being prepared to try and shimmy all the way to the top of that pole.
Now, if all of that sounds a little bit too energetic for you,
then maybe you'd like to enter
our Countryfile photographic competition.
If you would, here's John with the details.
The theme for this year's competition is our living landscape.
We want pictures that capture the beauty of the British countryside,
all the wonderful life, the fantastic scenery that you find within it.
The 12 best photographs chosen by our judges will make up
the Countryfile calendar for 2014.
We'll also have an overall winner who will be able to choose
photographic equipment to the value of £1,000.
And whoever takes the picture that the judges liked best will be
able to pick equipment worth £500.
One of last year's lucky finalists was Dave Foker.
He took the photo you voted overall winner.
I'd seen lots of photographs in previous years
and I thought that after taking this photograph, it was slightly
different, and it had a good chance of doing well in the competition.
It was quite a lucky picture, but then it makes up
for all of the times I've sat up a tree and had nothing.
I thought, yeah, it's got a good chance of making it to the last, I
don't know, 200, 300, maybe,
but I was amazed when it got to the last 12.
Another of last year's lucky 12 was Jimmy Robson.
He made the calendar, thanks to his photo of five baby birds.
The photograph was five swallow chicks.
I set a little studio up, put a flash on it,
and, you know, took a few pictures.
I've only been taking pictures about three years now, yeah,
but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Especially wildlife, that's mainly what I take, wildlife pictures.
And it's fantastic, yeah, really good.
When I got a call from the office saying you're in the final 12, I
didn't really believe it, you know, I didn't really understand what
she was saying, but she actually said that you're in the final 12,
you are actually in the calendar, and I thought, it was great.
Anyone entering this year's competition on living landscape,
I'd just suggest you get out there and try.
Try shooting a few things. You know, it could be anything.
It's usually something that you don't normally see, you just try it.
Just try it, get out there and take them.
And if you take Jimmy's advice and want your photo to
appear in next year's calendar, here's what you need to know.
The Countryfile photographic competition
is not open to professionals.
And because we want every entry to be an original,
they must not have won any other competition.
You can send in up to four photos and they must have been taken in the UK.
And please could you send in hard copies,
not e-mails or computer files.
Write your name, address and a daytime
and evening phone number on the back of each photo,
with a note of where it was taken.
Then send your entries to:
The full terms and conditions are on our website, which is where
you'll also find details of the BBC's code of conduct for competitions.
Now, our closing date is Friday, 26th July.
And I'm sorry, but we can't return any entries.
Whatever you decide to photograph, do it responsibly.
Take care not to disturb any animals or damage the environment
and always follow the countryside code.
Well, if that has inspired you to get out with your camera this
weekend, then you'll need to know what the weather has in store,
so it's time for the Countryfile forecast.
Throughout my day here in North Wales, I've been blown
away by the skills and expertise on show at Woodfest,
from chainsaw carvers to axe men.
But there's one event I'm about to try for myself. Pole climbing.
This climbing technique is used by forestry workers across the world.
But it was the lumberjacks in the great forests of North America
that first made it a sport.
It came over to the UK around 20 years ago.
Organising the climbing today is Terry Bennett, a former champion.
Right, so these are the key then.
These are the key to getting you up that 80-foot pole.
The sharp spike, there, is what does the damage to the tree.
-That penetrates into the wood to give you a platform to stand on.
How high is this?
80 foot we race to, from ground level to the top of that.
-Is that high for you?
-I'm not scared of heights at all.
I'm scared of falling! THEY LAUGH
The ropes are going to stop us from going anywhere.
If you were in a rush then, Terry,
how long would it take you to get to the top?
For me, my personal best in my prime, 10.3 seconds,
but the world record... 9.03 seconds.
Time for a quick lesson.
-OK, right, Terry, show me the ropes, quite literally!
-Show you the ropes.
This is the belay line, this is the safety line,
-this is what's going to stop you falling to your death.
THEY LAUGH Next bit of kit is also a bit of safety kit, but it's also
the tool that you're going to need to stop you from falling backwards.
This is what we call a strop. All I want you to do now is literally
-just stand on the pole.
-And then you go like that?
Take two steps, one, two, not too big steps,
around six to eight inch steps, one fluid movement, straighten your legs,
and get that strop up nice and high. He's a natural.
That's fantastic, Matt. Not too much, boys, not too much.
Well, the crowd are waiting, I've got the gear on,
I've had the training. I guess it's time to give it a go.
I'd like to try and get under a minute, if I can,
-but anyway, let's just go.
We'll count you down. Three, two, one. Go!
CHEERS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Well done, Matt, keep that strop up, Matt, well done!
Keep that strop up. Come on, Matt! Well done! Fantastic!
Keep it up, Matt, that's it! Fantastic!
He's better than the pros. Well done, Matt! Not far now! About six foot.
Keep on going! CHEERING
Cheers, lads. Oh!
-Do you want to know your time?
-Under a minute, you wanted!
-Yes, I did.
-I'm not kidding you.
While I leave the pole climbing to the professionals, there's
just enough time to fit in one last event.
But I'm going to need a hand for this one.
Ellie, how are you doing? Come on in. We'll catch up later.
-What's all this?
-Just lunge and when I shout "pull it", pull it.
-I've brought my lumberjack shirt, so I'm all right.
-Are you happy, Simon?
-This is Simon and Paula, they run the show here.
-OK. All right.
-All set? Can someone give us a countdown?
-Axe men, are you ready?
-Go, one, two, three.
-To you, to me.
'Long before the days of power tools, this is how wood was cut and
'unsurprisingly, here at Woodfest, it takes on a competitive edge.'
-In the zone!
Oh, my... Matt, you wouldn't believe how far they've got
-down with theirs!
-Don't worry! Don't worry!
-It's all in the pivot. Pivot.
Does that clap tell me that they've finished?
-Let's just keep going!
-Come on, we're nearly there.
That's all we have time for this week!
Next week, we're in Kent in a programme packed full with
-And I will be... Yay!
Lay it down, lay it down, there we go.
I'll be finding out how smuggling started with sheep.
You can have that as a memento. There's your medal.
-That's kind of you, thank you! Hope you can join us then.
-Oh, I feel a bit sore after that.
-Oh, I need a drink!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Ellie Harrison and Matt Baker head to North Wales where Ellie gets up close to a strange and wonderful coastal habitat, whilst Matt heads to Rhyl for the annual Woodfest - A celebration of wood working, forestry, and chainsaw carving!
James Wong meets the woman who is mad about bluebells, and Tom reports on the deadly disease that is ravaging our native ash trees. Elsewhere, Adam is puzzled by how one of his white park cattle has given birth to a belted Galloway!