John Craven and Shauna Lowry head for the Sperrin Mountains, James Wong has the latest from the Grow Wild campaign and Adam Henson explores the world of ticks.
Browse content similar to Northern Ireland. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
From its high, green mountains to its wide, blue waters.
From its shaded rivers to its rich pastures,
Northern Ireland is a land of boundless beauty.
It's also a big hit with you, our viewers.
A little while ago, we asked for your suggestions as to where we
should go to film and many of you said Northern Ireland.
So here we are.
You pointed us in the direction of a little-known but stunning region.
It's off the beaten track and a world away in time.
The beautiful Sperrin Mountains, a hidden landscape.
Magical, mysterious, too, we'll be revealing some of its secrets.
Tom's continuing his investigation into garden cities.
It's claimed that garden cities offer the perfect blend
of town and country, but will a new wave of these new towns
really appeal to people used to rural way of life?
And Adam's on the case of the bloodsucking beasties
lurking in our countryside.
Ticks come second only to mosquitoes
as transmitters of disease worldwide,
and I'll be finding out what problems these little bloodsuckers
cause to farmers and anybody else who enjoys the countryside.
Don't worry, this little bloodsucker's already dead.
From the Mountains of Mourne to the rugged Antrim coast,
this is a landscape that stirs the imagination.
Earlier this year, when we asked you for your suggestions
of the places Countryfile should go, many of you said here -
And I'll testify to that.
I am a County Down lass, born and bred,
and, even though I left here when I was 18,
I'll always be proud to call this place home.
But I'm starting in less familiar surroundings,
somewhere you wanted to tell us about,
right at the heart of the country in rural County Londonderry.
Another world - enchanting, timeless and largely unknown.
You'd be forgiven for mistaking this breathtaking terrain
for the Peak District or Northumberland National Park,
but there's a difference - there's nobody here.
These are the Sperrin Mountains.
They gave us one of the greatest poets of our age,
the Noble Laureate Seamus Heaney.
Most of us have heard of him,
but the stunning landscape that he was nurtured in is barely known.
Only now is this remote wilderness being put on the map.
Fiona Bryant heads up a project that's opening up
more of the Sperrins for people to get out into and enjoy.
Fiona, I've done a lot of walking in the Mournes,
but I've never really stopped in the Sperrins
and I just don't know why, because it's absolutely beautiful.
-It really is stunning.
What's nice about the Sperrins is that it has a completely
different character from mountains like the Mourne.
It's a large, open peat bog, it's blanket bog,
so the character is different -
it's more rolling hills than big, dramatic mountains.
-But it gives it its own sense of drama.
It's kind of bleak, as well, and you don't see a soul.
No, you can walk here all weekend and you can have
the entire hills to yourself.
You'll maybe only see a farmer working in the distance.
Yet, for all its beauty,
there are next to no official walks through this pristine landscape.
You can't just wander off into the distance,
because there are no trails up there, there's nothing to follow
and unless you've got a map and you're quite confident,
you could quite easily get lost when the mist comes down.
Heading out into these hills can be a challenge,
and it's not just because of a lack of trails.
The reason people don't come in to walk on the hills
is that access is very complicated here.
-All of the land we see is privately owned...
And in some cases it's owned by
a number of different farmers together.
So, if this is privately-owned land, are we effectively trespassing, then?
Well, no, because there is informal access along the mountains here.
Most farmers don't disagree to people coming along for a walk.
But in order for us to actually promote this landscape
to the rest of the world, to tourists and visitors,
we have to have formal access.
We've been working with the farmers to try and get this particular trail
up to the national standard, so that people can actually come out
and experience this beautiful scenery for themselves.
The Sperrins inspired one of the world's greatest poets,
a Nobel Prize winner, whose experiences growing up
on a farm in the shadow of the Sperrins would never leave him.
Seamus Heaney was fascinated by this landscape and the way of life here.
His father dug in the potato fields and his grandfather before him
cut these peat bogs for turf.
The cold smell of potato mould
The squelch and slap
Of soggy peat
The curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head
But I've no spade to follow men like them
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests
I'll dig with it.
With the pen as his tool, Heaney dug deep,
precious words evoking the true character of this land.
He wrote of what he saw and of places and people that still exist.
All I know is a door into the dark
Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting
Inside, the hammered anvil's short-pitched ring,
The unpredictable fantail of sparks
Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water
The anvil must be somewhere in the centre
Horned as a unicorn
At one end square
Set there immoveable as an altar
Where he expends himself in shape and music
Hairs in his nose
He leans out on the jamb
Recalls a clatter
Of hoofs where traffic
Is flashing in rows
Then grunts and goes in
With a slam and flick
To beat real iron out
To work the bellows.
So this is what lies behind the door into the dark.
-This is the forge and this is Barney. Hello.
-How are you doing?
-How are you?
'Barney Devlin's forge in Castledawson was
'the inspiration for one of Heaney's best-known poems, The Forge.
'Published when Heaney was 30,
'it's based on his experiences as a child walking to school down the road
'in Anahorish, a route that took him past Barney's blacksmith's shop.
'Heaney could hear the sound of hammer on anvil
'from the other side of the street.
'It lit his imagination,
'but he never ventured through the door to see what was inside.'
Hair in his nose.
Leaning against the jamb.
So just from his imagination?
Is there anything maybe not quite accurate?
'Many years after writing it,
'Seamus Heaney would return to the subject of his poem,
'only this time entering the forge he had conjured up in his imagination.'
'Through his poem, Heaney captured a dying art form.
'94-year-old Barney is the last in a long line of blacksmiths who
'worked iron in this forge.'
You've seen a lot of changes over the years.
Queueing up? Really?
Yeah, but it must be great that Seamus wrote the poem,
so at least that will always live on.
The horses and carts of Barney's youth may have gone,
but here, right in the heart of this beautiful country,
time has a way of standing still.
The Ballinderry River flows out from the foothills
of the Sperrin Mountains, a silvery sliver, snaking down to
Lough Neagh, the largest body of fresh water in the British Isles.
It's a beautiful river, but it's much more than that.
It's a last stronghold of one of our most endangered creatures,
the freshwater pearl mussel.
Once, there were millions of them on this river,
now there's perhaps a thousand.
Freshwater pearl mussels are slow-growing creatures.
They can live for up to 150 years,
but they need absolutely pristine conditions to survive.
And there's the problem, because the slightest
contamination of the water can, and has, wiped out whole populations.
'But help is at hand.
'Conservationist Mark Horton is heading up a world leading project
'to save the pearl mussel.'
What's been causing the contamination, Mark?
Well, the catchment is full of agricultural land,
so there's lots and lots of cattle.
They've been getting in and out of the river and eroding the banks
and they've simply been doing that to get drinking water
and it's been proven in the past that cattle standing in the river
are more likely to go to the toilet there anyway,
so you've got all sorts of things getting into the water.
'All this muck and silt can settle on the mussels and suffocate them,
'so keeping cattle away from the river banks is vital.
'Mark's using an ingenious bit of kit to help do this.'
This is a pump and what's great about this is that the cows operate it
themselves and the cattle simply come here
and nudge the pump with their nose and this fills the trough
from the river and so they have access
to the drinking water that they need.
'This device has helped clean up the Ballinderry,
'all we need now are some young mussels.
'The Ballinderry River Trust runs this breeding centre which is
'playing a major part in saving the freshwater pearl mussel.'
Well, some of these are pretty big, aren't they, Rebecca?
They are, they can grow to quite a large size.
How old do you reckon this one could be?
That one is probably about 100 years old, so to put it into context,
-that mussel was a baby when the Titanic was being built.
-And they're called pearl mussels, but, er...
Obviously not every one has a pearl in it.
Not every one, maybe one in every thousand has a pearl.
These are specimens from the university collection.
-Those are the two very fine ones, aren't they?
They are very nice ones.
The brown ones are pearls as well, are they?
Yes, you can get them in a range of colours.
So is the reason that they're threatened now
because people do hunt them for the pearls?
It is one of the main reasons, that, along with habitat destruction.
'To survive, baby mussels depend almost entirely
'upon one of the most unusual relationships in nature,
'it's with this local species of trout.'
Adult mussels will spit out the baby mussels
and the fish will eat the baby mussels, essentially,
and then the mussels will live on the gills of the fish
for about nine months
and then they'll drop off into the sediment.
And what benefit do the baby mussels get from that?
The oxygenation of the gills, oxygen passing over the gills of the fishes.
-Helps them grow.
-It helps them grow.
-That's incredible, isn't it?
'I'm heading to a secret location where Mark and his team
'are just about to release this year's
'first batch of juvenile mussels.'
Mark, what are you doing with that traffic cone?
This is called a bathyscope, it's a glass-bottomed traffic cone.
So you can look down the inside of it with it under the water
and you'll be able to see the mussels in the gravel,
so do you want to have a go?
But I thought we were releasing baby mussels.
What are you looking at ones that are already in the river for?
So this stretch of river that we're in here is where the remaining
wild mussels live and it's important that we bring them
together into a tight group. It helps in the breeding process.
It means that the females are more likely to get fertilised
and grouped together, they're actually safer.
Do you put the baby mussels in with the big ones?
-You put them in with the bigger ones, yes.
-Yeah, and that creates a population.
-Have you found any?
three just here, if you want to have a little look under the water.
Oh, yeah, yes.
So they're bedded down into the gravel and they have a foot that
sticks out the bottom of the shell and that holds them into the gravel.
Am I allowed to touch them here or what?
Well, you have to have a special licence to even touch them,
you're not allowed to take them from the wild,
but I think, John, given that you're with us today on the river...
I'm allowed to pick one up.
..you can lift one out and have a look at them, yes.
-That's a good size, isn't it?
-It is a good one, yeah.
So you'll cluster them all together,
-what, along the bank somewhere?
-In a safe place
-behind a big boulder.
-And then we'll bring the juveniles
and we'll put the juveniles out between the adult mussels.
Rebecca, you've brought the young ones along, haven't you?
-How old are these?
-These ones are about 15 to 16 years old.
-They're the teenagers, then?
-They are the teenagers of the group, yeah.
-I hope they get on with the oldies.
-I hope they behave themselves.
So how many teenagers are we planting in today?
In this patch, we're going to plant 20 teenagers altogether.
'500 in total will be released this year,
'that's half as many again
'as already live in the Ballinderry River.
'From where I'm standing, things are looking rather more
'hopeful for the freshwater pearl mussel.'
A couple of weeks ago on the programme,
we heard about plans to create a new wave of garden cities,
but can they really deliver the perfect blend of city
and country living and even help solve the rural housing crisis?
Many of us would love to capture the essence of the countryside,
bottle it and take it back home with us,
especially if we live in a built-up area.
Well, there was one man who did much more than just imagine that.
That man was the Victorian social reformer Ebenezer Howard,
founder of the garden city movement.
He firmly believed that a town could be built where,
to quote from his own book - "the advantages of the most
"energetic and active town life with all the beauty
"and the delight of the country may be secured in perfect combination."
It was more than just a dream and in 1903, this place was founded -
Letchworth, the first ever garden city.
'Letchworth in Hertfordshire was a revelation.
'Its unique blend of town
'and country meant no more crowded industrial streets.
'This garden city had wide, tree-lined boulevards
'and an unprecedented amount of open spaces, greens and parks
'where nature could flourish
'and these features are still enjoyed today.'
I hope we might see some butterflies, seen one or two whites
in the distance, but I think I saw something come down just over here.
'Brian Sawford was born and bred in Letchworth
'and used to work as a countryside officer for the local council.
'I'm joining him on his weekly nature walk on a common
'near the town centre.'
Oh, there's something there with a black spot on its wing,
a brown and orange top to it.
-That is a meadow brown.
-There it goes.
Some of the ideals of Ebenezer Howard, I think,
have followed through, like he wanted to keep open spaces like this.
He wanted countryside
and town to meld in and you still have that to a degree,
which from a natural history point of view,
is very good because along those areas,
which are, I would call them biogenetic corridors, by which,
you know, wildlife can move and spread, bring
stuff from the outer countryside almost into the town centre here.
It's good for the soul.
'It is extraordinary what you can find
'right in the heart of Letchworth,
'but can we recapture this blend of town and country today?
'Well, the government hopes to do just that
'with a new wave of garden cities.
'Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is
'the man and behind the modern scheme.'
Do you want to be known as the new father of garden cities,
-a new Ebenezer Howard?
-Ebenezer Clegg, that would be nice.
No, look, if I can play a role in my time in government
to kind of rediscover the spirit of Ebenezer Howard
and Raymond Unwin and these great, great pioneers
who at the turn of the last century realised
that we needed to think big, think creatively, think green,
I'd be delighted to be able to do so.
'But how realistic is that aim
'and who will want to live in these new garden cities?
'Would they help address the lack of affordable rural housing or
'just provide a greener alternative for city slickers?
'It's hard to know until we've built them,
'but some would-be planners have already been putting pen to paper.'
The Wolfson Economics Prize recently challenged people to design
a new garden city
and the housing charity Shelter is one of the five finalists.
'I'm meeting Adam Terry who's worked on the plans to find out
'what their garden city would be like.'
We've proposed a plan for a city on the Medway,
on the Hoo Peninsular in Medway, in south-east England,
but our point is really that we've developed a model
that can be applied across the country and what we've tried
to do is integrate town and country as best as possible.
You can see we've got greenery running right the way through.
We wanted to make it part of people's daily lives,
not just building a park that people would go to once a month or so.
We wanted to really bring the country into the town.
'You can see the appeal of a scheme like this,
'a town with affordable housing, its own services and jobs
'and a connection to the natural world that many
'living in built-up areas can currently only dream of,
'but what about those living in the rural areas
'where a garden city could be built, what's in it for them?'
Do you think this will appeal to people actually
-living in the countryside around here?
-I think it will.
We've spoken to people in that area and we know that they have some hopes
and aspirations and want to see their children get a home of their own.
At the moment, that's not looking possible.
They also have some concerns and that's understandable
and we've sought to address those concerns in the design.
One of those is, of course, about preserving the nature
of the countryside in that area, that's why we have a big swathe
of protected land around this and that's why we've tried to bring
the country into the town where possible,
but we also know that people have concerns about things
like services and jobs and we've sought to address those as well.
'Not everyone's convinced.
'The Country Land And Business Association, for example,
'feels that garden cities may address
'the current urban housing shortage,
'but would have limited appeal to those currently
'living in the countryside.
'It feels a better solution is starting small, rather than big.'
Instead of creating whole new cities,
they suggest that adding ten homes to thousands of villages would
make a pretty big difference to the national shortage of places to live.
'Martin Collett is from the English Rural Housing Association,
'which already builds small amounts of housing in villages,
'like Winford in North Somerset.'
What we're doing here is building
eight affordable homes for local people.
We're adding to some we built about nine years ago.
If you look at the houses, you can see that we're building using
local styles, local materials,
so it blends into what's already existing in the village.
'Although Martin's not against the principle of garden cities,
'he feels modest local building schemes are a better way forward.'
Small developments like this are generally well received
by communities especially when they initiate
and support them in the first instance,
but if you were to scale that up, I think
there would probably be serious concerns from the local community.
Do villagers in smaller settlements say to you or others,
"We need a few more houses here"?
Yeah, that's exactly why we're here today.
This is a second phase development.
We built ten houses in this village about nine years ago
and we've been invited back to build another eight,
because those initial ten were so successful
and they managed to keep people in that rural community that wanted
to be there, that worked there, that had family networks there,
that rely on Mum and Dad for child support, for example.
'The patron of the English Rural Housing Association
'is the Princess Royal.
'She recently told Countryfile of her preference for adding
'small amounts of housing to existing villages,
'rather than starting from scratch, but the Deputy Prime Minister
'says his plan will have rural benefits too.'
Here's the irony, by planning big, if you like,
thinking big about creating larger, new, settled communities,
ironically, you do a lot of good for the countryside as well,
because you can help stop this endless encroachment on one piece
of green field after the next.
You can stop this rash of planning disputes,
the tendency towards urban sprawl.
We spoke to Princess Anne recently on the programme
and she said she very much favoured that idea of
small, five or six house developments
round a lot of villages rather than big new developments,
do you disagree with the Princess Royal on this one?
-I'm not going to disagree with Princess Anne.
-Well, you are.
I'm not, slightly different to urban sprawl,
what she's talking about is if you can find ways in villages,
attractive villages, to expand them a little bit more with local support,
why would anyone object to that?
I'm talking about something quite, quite different, which is
a national crisis, we're not building enough homes,
we're stuck in a series of very confrontational
planning disputes, lots of small-scale planning disputes
across the country, people fear endless urban sprawl,
I think garden cities are one of the solutions
and that's why I want to do my bit to push them ahead.
To satisfy the need for both rural and urban housing,
we're going to have to look at a range of measures.
Brownfield sites are part of the solution.
But whether we're talking garden cities
or thousands of smaller projects,
a large increase in the number
of rural homes seems inevitable.
And creating an appetite for a lot more
settlements in our cherished countryside?
That's going to be a challenge.
You may remember that earlier this year
we were working with Kew Gardens "Grow Wild" campaign to give
away 230,000 free wild flower seed packs to Countryfile viewers.
So how did you get on with them? We asked James Wong to find out.
Wild flowers are not just a sight for sore eyes,
they're an essential part of our natural world.
Once a splash of colour in our green and pleasant land,
a staggering 97% of British meadows have been lost in the last 75 years.
But there are people who are fighting to turn the tide,
including 230,000 of you.
Kew Gardens sent out the packets of seed in the spring
and a few weeks ago, we asked you to send in photos of what developed.
And THIS is one of them.
So I've come here to Ellerton in East Yorkshire to meet
the family that sent it in.
-Hello, hi, come in.
'David and Lindsay Rocket and their three-year-old son Jacob
'now have a thriving wild flower patch in their back garden.'
Shall we go and look at your flowers then?
-You going to water them?
-Look at this, Jacob!
That's a pretty fantastic mini meadow you've got going on here.
You going to have a little water of them?
-Cos they haven't been watered for a while, have they?
So when did you guys plant these? Cos they're taller than Jacob now.
We planted them in April, we got the seed packet
through about the middle of April and planted them then.
-He really enjoyed it.
-And watered them very well!
Watered them very well, yeah.
But you planted them all and he raked them all in,
-and has been looking after them ever since.
-What do you think about these flowers, Jacob?
-It's a bit brilliant!
-It's a bit brilliant?
That is the best description ever,
meadows are definitely a bit brilliant.
That is a red one.
I think it's important for them to know about nature
and where things come from and how plants grow and stuff.
But he loves it, he absolutely loves it, he's really into it.
Ah-ha! You got a last little one there? That's a poppy.
'Now, some wild flowers like poppies
'and corncockle do contain tiny amounts of natural toxin.
'Eating them in large quantities, especially the seeds,
'could make you ill.'
You should always keep an eye on your kids and pets in the garden.
We should always wash our hands as well, shouldn't we, Jacob?
-Shall we drift off and do that?
-Shall we go and wash our hands?
Now we've been picking flowers in the garden?
-Come along, come along.
Let's see who can get the wettest.
DAVID AND LINDSAY LAUGH
Jacob's patch is fairly typical of many.
But you've grown the seeds in all sorts of places - in pots,
in planters, in beds, in borders.
Anywhere you could grow them, you did grow them,
and you've sent us the pictures to prove it.
Now, for some people, nothing grew. And that includes our very own Ellie.
But for most people, it was a riot of colour across the country.
The giveaway has been a huge success,
and we'd like to thank everyone who took part.
The Grow Wild campaign isn't just about getting wild flowers into
OUR gardens, it's also funding
community projects right across the UK.
This one at St Nicholas Fields is just a mile from the centre of York.
Jonathan Dent is the reserve manager.
Look at this place. What's going on here?
-Talk about an unexpected location for a nature reserve.
-Yeah, yeah, it is.
In recent years, this area has been used as a brickworks
and a landfill site.
Now it's been turned back into wild flower meadow,
and Grow Wild have donated 300 plug plants to help it along.
This is a yarrow,
which will grow up into kind of a nice white flowering plant,
and we've got other ones we've spread across the meadow in
little clusters, and hopefully
they'll thrive and spread out themselves.
What kind of management do you do to keep these things healthy?
We've had to water them a few times, which is
quite unusual for being on a nature reserve.
But the other way we manage them is scything,
the traditional heritage skill of scything.
That's what those Grim Reaper types are doing.
-Yeah, you can see a few over there.
-Why a scythe and not a lawn mower?
Surely it's quicker to get round the site?
Well, you'd think that, but this area we're on isn't flat,
and we've also got all these wild flowers in here,
so sometimes we have to do targeted cutting.
And it's not just Kew Gardens campaigning to get
wild flowers back into the British landscape.
Other big organisations are joining the party too.
Plantlife is persuading councils to manage their roadside verges
for wildlife, which means mowing them less often
and letting wild flowers thrive. And last year,
the Queen's Jubilee was celebrated with an ambitious plan -
to establish Coronation meadows
in every county in the country.
This one, Brockadale, is in Yorkshire.
Many of the wild flowers here have finished flowering,
but one of the reasons Coronation meadows were established
was as a source of wild flower seed.
'Karen McDermott is the reserves officer here.'
Hello, Karen, what's this bad boy in the back here?
-Just a minute.
-Just switch it off.
-Ah, that's better.
-What is it? Now that we can hear each other.
It's a seed harvester that we use for harvesting
wild flower seeds from meadows like this.
-Oh, is this it through here?
Great big roller with stiff bristles on,
it literally sweeps the top of the plants.
So you get a big bushel full of wild flower seeds - then what happens?
In this specific example, we're using this as a donor site and we're
transferring the seeds to another meadow that is not
nearly as diverse in species and is quite isolated.
There's no way the seed is going to spread there naturally,
so for this meadow, we're going to be creating a brand-new meadow.
As loads of you have discovered,
growing your own wild flowers really can be a piece of cake.
And it's not just the insects that are enjoying the results.
Many of you have told us your friends and neighbours are admiring them too.
For most of us, they've exceeded expectations, and you're
planning on growing them again next year, but bigger and better.
-At this time of year, the landscape
is full of summer splendour.
But there's a dark side to our countryside.
Adam's been getting up close to a
tiny but sinister creature that can affect livestock, pets and us.
And be warned - this story might make you feel a bit itchy.
Here on the farm in the Cotswolds, we've got about 2,000 animals.
From livestock to my family pets.
Stay there, sit.
Like humans, all animals are susceptible to
disease and parasites,
and it's important that we look after the welfare of our animals,
not only because we care about them, but also because
happy, healthy animals are productive animals,
producing lots of good quality meat and milk and rearing their young.
So we keep a careful eye out for all sort of bugs, really,
and there's one that really makes my skin crawl.
Ticks. These bloodsuckers are some of the worst.
On a global scale, they come second only
to mosquitoes as transmitters of disease.
They've been around for millions of years,
as have some of the diseases they carry.
One man who knows all about ticks and the problems they can cause is
Dr James Logan, an entomologist from
the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
-I see you've come armed with some ticks.
-I have indeed, yes.
-These are some we've got off dogs on the farm.
-So tell me about them,
-they're horrible little creatures, aren't they?
-Yeah, they are indeed.
Ticks are arachnids, so they're related to spiders,
they've got eight legs, so they're not actually insects.
They can be found in vegetation, they go on our pets,
our dogs and cats, and livestock as well, but they also climb
onto us, and the big problem is that they suck our blood.
And when they do that, they can also transmit disease.
One of the biggest problems we have in this country is
Lyme disease, which is transmitted by tick.
It can become quite serious and you can get neurological problems,
it can even develop into meningitis in some cases.
Worth being aware, but just cos you've had a tick on you
doesn't mean you're going to get Lyme disease.
That's right, not every tick will have Lyme disease,
and the chances are, if you're bitten by a tick
and you remove it early enough, you'll be absolutely fine.
But if you do get any symptoms quite soon after being bitten,
like a rash that spreads or flu-like symptoms, go to your GP,
get some advice, they'll give you the medication,
it's very simple to treat early on.
So is this fairly typical?
The sheep go into the deep vegetation to get out of the sun
and into the shade, would they be picking up ticks?
Yeah, absolutely, this is exactly the type of habitat you find ticks.
So, these ones are dead, most of them,
I'll tip one out onto the cloth and you can...
Cos it's quite an art getting them off once you've got a tick on.
-Yes, it is.
-So using one of these dead ones...
because you don't want to put a live one on your hand,
-attach itself to you. How do you remove them?
-OK, let me show you.
When the tick is attached,
its mouth part is deeply embedded in your skin.
The best thing to use are fine-tipped tweezers.
You want to get in as close to the skin as possible
and grab hold of the mouth part.
Then you want to pull very firmly...
with even pressure, upwards.
So there's no twisting involved at all when you use tweezers,
and that is the best way to remove ticks.
Ticks can carry a whole host of diseases.
Lyme disease is one for us humans to watch out for,
but animals can also come under attack.
As Mark Hoskins found out on his dairy farm in Wiltshire.
When did you realise you had a tick problem here?
About three-and-a-half years ago when we took this parcel of land on.
We moved some cows to this particular field, actually,
and I came to check them one day,
and there was an animal stood on its own.
On further investigation,
I noticed it was passing urine that was deep red.
So I contacted the vet straightaway and went from there.
-And what was it?
-It proved to be redwater, which is
a parasite passed on from the ticks called Babesia.
As the tick latches onto the animal to feed,
it passes the parasite through to the blood stream.
This then ruptures the red blood cells, hence the redwater,
the passing of the red urine.
And what happened to the cow?
We actually lost the cow, but I saved a further five,
so at least those are still living.
And are you not nervous grazing all your calves down here then?
We have to get them onto the pasture within the first eight months
of life, and then that creates an immunity to redwater.
We haven't had a problem since.
Ticks have always been part of our countryside, brought over
by animals that colonised the land before we were even an island.
Of course, you can't insecticide the whole countryside to get rid of them,
so it's a case of being more aware
and making sure you wear long trousers in tick areas.
There's little definitive data on the number of ticks across the UK,
and that's why Jolean Medlock
and Mica Peach from Public Health England have been collecting
and studying these creepy-crawlies for the last ten years.
-Good to see you.
Looks like you're dusting the grass,
-what are you up to here?
-Well, we've got this cloth
and we're dragging it over the vegetation to pick up ticks.
So the ticks are on the vegetation and they've got little hooks
on the end of their legs,
and they think this is an animal and climb on.
We're measuring the number of ticks you get on this cotton cloth.
So you're literally sort of harvesting ticks?
Yeah, that's right, the ticks spend about three years in this kind of
environment and they feed for about
three weeks during those three years.
So they climb up the vegetation when they're ready to quest,
-looking for an animal.
-So what is it when a tick "quests", what's that?
It's when it's climbed up the vegetation to the
top of the grass and is waving its front legs around,
and it's got special organs on the end of its legs that pick up
vibrations and carbon dioxide.
No eyes, they can smell and sense the animal coming.
They have little hooks, and they climb onto the animal,
there's no jumping out of trees or running up to them.
-And have you got any?
-Yeah, we've got a couple of nymphs over here.
We use these fine forceps to pick them up.
And there's an adult female down here.
-Goodness me, she's a bit bigger, isn't she?
She looks quite red, her body distends about 200 sizes.
When she's fully fed she'll be on the animal for about a week.
She'll drop off into the vegetation
and over the next month lay about 2,000 eggs
and really sustain that population.
So now you've got the little critters in there, what happens now?
-Now we take these back to the lab to identify them.
Back at tick HQ,
the tick surveillance team can get a closer look at these beasties.
And while we can't eradicate them from the countryside,
we can at least identify what we've found.
The nymph is detecting our presence here by carbon dioxide,
heat and changes in light.
-And it's walking towards its meal.
-Wants to come and get a feed off us!
It does, yeah. And once they've fed...
Before I change this over, you can see the kind of size they get to.
-Here is a fully engorged female.
-Oh, my word.
And you can barely see her legs and the rest of her features
because that's now full of blood.
And what species is this one?
This is Ixodes ricinus female, which is the sheep or deer tick.
So that's the common one?
Yes, this is our most common, widely-distributed,
most abundant species.
It is that because it feeds on pretty much anything -
reptiles, birds and mammals.
It's very well adapted.
If people find ticks, you want them to send them into you.
Yes, we run the Tick Recording Scheme, anybody can send us
a tick - farmers, vets, members of the public.
We ask them to record some information on where
they found the tick and it all goes into our database.
'So if you find a tick making a meal out of you or your animals,
'rather than flush it down the loo, pop it in the post instead,
'and you'll be helping this lot build a map of ticks across the country.'
Ticks have been around for millions of years
and they're likely to be around for millions more.
But hopefully, with all the research that's going on,
we should learn how to protect our animals
and ourselves from these horrible little bloodsuckers.
Don't know about you, I'm feeling a bit itchy.
I'll be giving myself a good check over when I get home.
We've been exploring the captivating landscape of Northern Ireland,
and we came here because some of you told us to.
When we asked for your suggestions of where to film a few months back,
Northern Ireland came out pretty near the top.
And I'm in my favourite bit,
back on the County Down coastline of my childhood.
Mm, just the smell of the sea makes me feel at home here,
because I have so many happy memories.
Growing up in Lisburn, we'd head to this coast
most weekends on holidays, for endless salty days
and nights spent dreaming of living in a stripy lighthouse.
To me, County Down will always be plundering
the rockpools of Tyrella Beach to fill your boots with crab or
riding out into the forest on your favourite steed.
And for an aquatic adventure, nowhere beats Strangford Lough.
With 150 miles of its own twisting coastline,
Strangford Lough is the largest body of salt water in the UK.
A vast inland sea of shipwrecks,
whirlpools and strange green islands.
As local legend has it, there are 365 islands on the lough,
one for every day of the year.
Actually, there are just 120,
and they make Strangford a great place for sailing.
But as the wild weather this week showed,
the lough can be challenging, and conditions can change quickly.
Today though, it's pretty calm, so I'm out with my cousin Heather,
who inspired me to take up sailing as a child in these waters.
-Ready to jibe?
Just let her come round.
It's all coming back to me, I'm a bit rusty, I'm afraid!
Twice daily tides renew and refresh the lough,
enriching its shorelines with nutrients,
making Strangford one of the most fertile breeding grounds in the UK.
A staggering three-quarters of all of Northern Ireland's
plant and animal life can be found here.
And it's the drumlins that are the real draw.
One in particular has always intrigued me,
but has remained off limits until now.
I'm getting a special pass to go somewhere even
we locals don't get to go.
Where I'm going next, unfortunately this trusty gig won't cut it.
So I'm going to have to change boats. In we go.
Hugh Thurgate from the National Trust is
the warden of the aptly named Bird Island.
It's renowned for its cormorants.
There are just a few weeks left to ring the last of this
year's chicks before they fledge and fly away.
So, Hugh, I've always heard about Bird Island
and wanted to come on here, but I was never allowed.
Well, we're privileged today to be on the island.
The birds are protected by law,
and if you're going to disturb a breeding colony, which is
what you inevitably do if you're monitoring them,
you need a licence from the Environment Agency.
-OK, so you've got the licence?
-I've got the licence.
-We're good to go?
-Good to go.
We need to work quickly.
Hugh has limited our time on the island
so we cause the minimum disturbance.
-There should be some in here.
-They're so cute.
-They're fluffy and...kind of awkward.
But they're quite big, aren't they?
'These cormorant chicks are three to four weeks old
'and about a week from fledging.'
So probably the best way to handle it is if we put it down.
And all you need to do, you just need to resist a wee bit,
and clasp your hands round the wings and under the tummy.
The data Hugh collects helps track the young cormorants.
On leaving the lough,
some will migrate as far away as the north coast of Spain, spending
their first winter an incredible 1,000km from their birthplace.
And about 60% will return to Strangford in two years to breed.
So what is it about Bird Island that attracts them so much?
Well, they've chosen it because it's a good distance from the mainland.
That, for a sea bird, is a massive plus,
because what they're most concerned about are mammalian predators.
Strangford Lough is famous for its marine diversity,
so I presume these sea birds feed right off it in these salty waters.
A lot of them do,
but the cormorants actually spend a lot of time feeding in fresh water
-inland, and they go to Lough Neagh.
-Right, 30 miles or so away? Wow.
You're talking a 60 mile round trip on a feeding foray,
and it's energetically worthwhile for them to do that,
because they're getting a highly nutritious freshwater fish,
and that generally is eels.
So they're healthy...
Healthy, vigorous and I always feel - although numbers do fluctuate -
with Bird Island they consistently get young away.
-They generally don't have calamitous years.
-It's pretty successful.
It's a successful colony and it's the biggest in Northern Ireland.
-I know, it's fantastic, thank you so much for bringing me here.
We better leave them in peace now.
'A lifelong ambition achieved, and Bird Island
'was well worth the wait.'
The Sperrins - a 600 million-year-old range of mountains.
A vast and barren landscape
of peat-clad hills and heather-topped moors,
with countless stories to tell.
The ancient landscape is draped in myths and legends
and holds many secrets.
Among those secrets are these, the mysterious Beaghmore Stones.
There are no less than seven stone circles here,
the biggest set of them in Northern Ireland.
Archaeologist Ken Neill has been studying the Northern Ireland
landscape for many years
and has a real soft spot for these curious stones.
Just how old are these stones, Ken?
Well, most of them seem to have been built around 1600BC,
so that puts them just about in the middle of the Bronze Age.
Any idea why there are seven circles?
We don't really know,
the circles are arranged in an interesting pattern.
Six of the circles are in pairs
and then there's one circle on its own.
There's been lots of theories and I'm sure there'll be lots more
for what this site means.
One of the most popular is that some of the straight lines
of stones that lead from the circles were pointing to the
summer solstice and the moon at the solstice as well.
The interesting thing about that is, if you plot all the circles in
Ireland, they're pointing in lots of directions, so there's no agreement.
Bang goes that theory really, yeah.
And were they always like this, above the ground?
When they were built they were on the ground surface
and peat built up around them,
so when they were rediscovered in the 1930s it was only really
the tops of some of the tallest of these stones that were visible.
They were discovered by some local farmers who were hand-cutting peat.
The more they dug, the more they found,
until the entire site was revealed in all its mystical glory.
Now, this one is different from all the rest, isn't it?
Because the centre is littered with stones.
There are over 800 stones really flooding the inside of this circle.
They don't form any discernible pattern that we can identify.
One theory is that all of these monuments were
built as a response to a deteriorating climate,
and that the peat that eventually encased them
was starting to grow up,
and the people were trying to appease their god, and they built
this whole complex as a response to try to bring back the good weather.
And there's not just the circles,
because I've noticed some straight lines of stones as well.
They run up to this central pile of stones, forming a circle,
it's what we call a stone cairn.
It's set centrally between the two stone circles.
Yeah, the circles touch the cairn, really.
They do, and the four lines run out from the cairn, so there's
an interrelationship between the cairn, the circles and the lines.
Some very clever design work going on 3,500 years ago!
There was, someone must have had this concept in their head,
and they were able to produce this,
whether they were a king or a priest or whether it was just
a communal effort, people agreed they would work together.
A big task.
You're not going to make this sort of effort just on a whim, this
was obviously very, very important to the people that lived here.
And one thing they have done is
-leave us with one huge mystery.
These circles will be for ever treasured for their
strange links with the distant past.
But I'm told there's a different kind of treasure still buried
deep inside the Sperrins.
In a moment, I'll be finding out what else waits to be
discovered in these mountains.
But first, what's the weather going to be like in the week ahead
right across the UK? Here's the Countryfile forecast.
You asked us to return to Northern Ireland, and we have done.
We've seen wondrous things, fabulous countryside,
endangered creatures and met a poet's inspiration.
We've also been exploring the beauty and hidden secrets
of the Sperrin Mountains, but there's one secret more to uncover.
As the old saying goes, "There's gold in them there hills!"
And right now, I'm standing on a gold mine.
Or rather, a potential one.
MUSIC: "Gold on the Ceiling" by The Black Keys
People have been searching for gold here since ancient times,
but modern-day exploration started in the late 1970s.
I'm meeting geologist Dr Mark Cooper to discover more.
Well, just how much gold do you reckon there is in those hills?
The exploration that's been done to date, John,
shows there to be three million ounces that's known about.
'Or a cool £2.5 billion worth,
'just waiting to be hacked out of the ground.'
And what does the gold actually look like in the hills?
This particular sample here is from one of the
exploration boreholes that has been put down.
Within those crystals, there are tiny little cracks,
and the gold is contained within those cracks.
This particular piece of rock will run
maybe 20 grams per ton of gold.
This is really good rock, this contains a lot of gold.
So, economically, this is extremely mineable.
When you think of gold mining, you think of the gold rush
and people panning for gold, do they still pan for gold round here?
They're still panning for gold, and I pan for gold sometimes.
-Have you found any?
-I've found some.
Doesn't look like much.
Those 30 grains of gold in there represent about
-three hours of my life.
But the actual process of panning for gold,
it's one of the ways in which we
explore for the bedrock sources of gold.
So it's actually a very valuable exploration tool.
So if you find a few specs in a stream, it could well
-be that the surrounding rock has a lot of gold in it.
Maybe there's a pot of gold
at the end of every rainbow in the Sperrins.
'But will I find a pot today?'
I've just built a wee dam and I've done a bit of digging.
Some gravel in here, so this is your gold pan,
-let's get some gravel in there.
The first thing to do is fill it full of water.
'And I'm not the only prospector today attracted
'by the lure of gold. Here comes Shauna.'
-Oh, here's Shauna, hello! This is Mark.
-Hello, nice to meet you.
-How you doing?
-Take this pan.
-Thank you. Panning for gold.
Let me get you some of the gravel out of here, so...
If there's any gold in here, any heavy minerals,
they'll fall to the bottom of the pan.
These ridges in here will keep the gold nuggets in.
What do you think, Mark, have I got any in there?
-Afraid there isn't any in here?
-Is that a bit?
-Fool's gold, I'm afraid, John.
If you know where to look in the Sperrins, you stand a very good
chance of finding gold nuggets, you just need the time and the patience.
And we haven't got the time, I'm afraid,
because that's it today from Northern Ireland.
But thanks to all of you who got in touch asking us to come here.
Obviously I'd recommend it.
And next week we're in Herefordshire,
where I'm going to be testing some foodie treats,
because the quality of the food has really put that county on the map.
-So, hope you can join us then, bye for now.
Earlier in 2014 we asked for viewer suggestions as to where we should go to film, and so John Craven and Shauna Lowry head for the Sperrin Mountains in Northern Ireland.
Shauna takes a walk into this little-known but beautiful region. She learns it was the birthplace of the great poet Seamus Heaney and visits an old blacksmith's forge made famous in one of his well-known poems. John learns about the unique relationship between one of our most endangered species and fish found nowhere else but Northern Ireland. Shauna takes us on a tour of her old stomping ground around Strangford Lough, before joining John panning for gold on the pretty Ballinderry River.
James Wong has the latest from the Grow Wild campaign to get people planting wildflowers.
Adam's joined by Dr James Logan as they explore the creepy crawly world of ticks, one of nature's biggest pests, and Tom Heap asks whether a new wave of garden cities really can provide a perfect blend of town and country.