Joe Crowley is just south of Belfast, where he joins an RSPB team tagging swifts to find out where they are feeding.
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and through it all, rivers glide, cool and slow.
I'll be taking to this one - the beautiful River Bann,
rich in wildlife and steeped in history.
And I'll be finding out how one little bird
Tom's looking at the threat posed to wildlife
This has been in the marine environment
Nothing's going to be escaping from there, is it?
And Adam's in North Wales with the last of spring's newborn lambs.
This one's about half an hour, an hour old.
It's just finding its feet, so... Where's its mum?
Here she comes. Here she comes. Aren't they great mothers?
From the cliffs of Antrim to the fields of Armagh...
..Northern Ireland's countryside is vast and wild...
and one very special species of bird in particular,
which I'm hoping I might just hear amongst the dawn chorus.
It's early, but you have to be up with the lark
Belfast and the surrounding countryside
I've come here to the RSPB's local headquarters
to find out about a very exciting project.
Conservation team leader Claire Barnett
Claire, how are you doing? Good morning, Joe. How are you?
Good, thank you. Here we are, bright and early.
So, tell me, Belfast city - Swift City. What's it all about?
So, in 2013, RSPB launched Belfast as the first UK Swift City,
and what we want to do is engage with lots of people
and get them out on the ground to find out where the birds were.
So, that was part of our survey work. Mm-hmm.
And on top of that, in the last couple of years,
we have been building on some very exciting GPS tag work.
where birds forage during the summer months when they're here.
Do they stay in the urban areas or do they go out to the countryside?
And two - what migratory route do our birds actually take,
coming from Northern Ireland to Africa? I see.
So, you're counting them, but you're also tagging them,
and that's what we're doing this morning. Yeah.
If you come with me and help me carry these poles...
I'll grab the poles. ..we'll go and see if we can catch some swifts.
Helping us out is conservation scientist Dr Kendrew Colhoun.
The idea is to catch the swifts as they fly out of their nest boxes.
A mist net is used, which doesn't harm the birds.
You just can't have it big enough for that.
Once it's in position, we sit back and wait,
Oh! In that left one there. Let's go. That far left.
So, Joe, would you go to that side there? Just untie the wee knot.
This is incredibly exciting. We know there's a bird in there.
I can't take my eyes off that small rectangle
where the bird's going to emerge. But I have to say,
I'm feeling a bit nervous, a bit on edge.
We're going to get one shot at this, so we've got to be ready.
There we are. Somebody grab a pole, please.
Pole each side. Thank you. Brilliant.
Well done. We've maintained the 100% record, Joe.
100% record still intact. I was quite nervous there.
So, we just put it in a wee bag now, keep it all calm... OK, OK.
We have to work quickly and carefully
to make sure we don't stress the bird.
If you want to take a wee seat there, Joe,
this is where we get up close and personal.
It's such a privilege. So rare to see a swift this close up.
And the feathers - I don't know, they almost look like scales,
Yeah, there's something prehistoric about these birds.
You know, their big eyes and the scaliness and their short legs.
Remarkably long, curved wings that are extending beyond the tail. Look.
I mean, they're evolved, clearly, for this life on the wing.
Once a chick flies the nest, it will live, eat and sleep,
without touching down, for around four years,
until it finds a nest site of its own.
thousands of miles away in southern Africa,
and return here to their individual nest sites for the summer.
By fitting tiny GPS trackers to a small number of birds,
the team hope to find out more about their life in Northern Ireland.
If they can find out where the swifts feed,
then those areas can be protected, which, in turn, helps the swifts.
With the tracker in place and the ID ring checked,
And we'll just let this bird suddenly realise
It's been so patient. It's got no wind here.
It doesn't know that it can go. It's having a look.
It's opened its eyes. It's having a think about it all.
Most swifts live in buildings alongside people,
Swifts are on the amber list of endangered species.
Numbers are dropping, and one of the reasons is
an increasing shortage of nest sites.
New and some renovated buildings don't have the nooks and crannies
they love to nest in, but Belfast's traditional terraces do.
I'm heading into the city to one of the best places to see swifts -
There's been a swift colony here for more than a century.
I'm hoping he can tell me why the centre is so good for these birds.
So, I've heard this is a very important building for swifts.
When were you aware that you had swifts here?
Well, we were always aware that we had some birds
but it wasn't until we embarked upon a massive refurbishment project
that we were aware that we actually had
one of the largest protected colonies of swifts
We rescheduled the works so that we wouldn't have
that would impede their movement in and out of the nests.
We strengthened those existing nests,
and then added in an additional 31 swift bricks
Wow! So, how significant is this colony? So, this is...
With all the survey work we've been doing in Belfast since 2013,
this is definitely the largest colony in Belfast.
We might have 60 pairs of birds nesting in this one building.
60 pairs of birds? Yeah, it was pretty impressive.
So, for us, this is our exemplar building.
This is where we can take architects or contractors or builders
and come and say, "Right, get your swift bricks in
It's a very easy thing to do to save a really amazing species.
As the day draws to a close, the swifts come home to roost,
Right now, there are thousands of fishing nets awash in our seas,
cut loose, drifting on the ocean currents,
endlessly catching and killing marine life.
The attraction for holiday-makers is obvious,
but it's also home to Britain's most successful fishing port.
We're big fish- and seafood-eaters in the UK,
getting through around half a million tonnes every year.
Nets and tackle are vital to meet that demand.
They're the lifeblood of the industry.
they can take on a ghastly afterlife as ghost gear.
fishing nets and pots just carry on fishing over and over,
drifting in the currents, trapping marine life
and condemning it to a slow, painful death.
Before the 1950s, this wasn't a problem.
Nets were made from natural fibres such as hemp and cotton,
and when lost in the water, would simply rot away.
But today's nets are made from nylon and cost thousands of pounds.
They're not thrown away on purpose, but losses at sea are inevitable,
and they can blight the oceans for hundreds of years.
It's estimated that more than 600,000 tonnes
of ghost gear live on, fishing the oceans across the world.
'Rob Thompson from Fathoms Free is a man on a mission.'
Thank you very much. Bit of a weight out of the water.
We're heading out on a clean-up dive.
Not always the most elegant of procedures, is it? No, no.
So, what are they actually looking for down there today?
Well, today, they're on a ghost gear dive.
So, we've been down and surveyed the site
and we know there are some lobster pots down there,
and they're going down today to try and retrieve some of them.
What is the big problem with this abandoned gear?
So, here's a net that's been in the water since 1977.
It came off the wreck of a trawler, which went down with the net on it.
This has been in the marine environment for the past 40 years.
Wow. That really shows cos, I mean, that is still...
Yeah. I mean, if you look at that, that hasn't rotted at all.
Nothing's going to be escaping from there, is it?
To put it in perspective, it's outlasted the wreck itself.
It's the sea life that suffers - sea life like Doris,
a humpback whale that had to be rescued
But she's far from the only one to be snared.
All sorts of animals can get caught - seals, dolphins.
And the trouble is with seals - they see a piece of net
and they quite often try to interact with it.
And as they're playing with it, they can get themselves entangled,
and then that can lead to some horrific, debilitating injuries.
Ghost gear from South America regularly turns up on our shores,
But today, we're looking for lobster pots
So, how are we doing? Are they finding anything?
Well, we've got three lift bags up, so we're going to go over now
and try and recover them and see what's on the other end of them.
They're sometimes lost and remain on the seabed,
trapping sea life but never releasing it,
which is why the Fathoms Free team are bringing them up.
There's no doubting that's been down there for a long time, is there? No.
there's still a chance of animals being able to get in there
Commercial fishing does things on a huge scale
a big contributor to the ghost gear problem.
But there is an army of sea anglers in the UK,
can collect to form death-traps for marine wildlife.
While commercial ghost gear tends to trap larger creatures,
angling gear generally harms smaller animals,
and Davy Jones from Neptune's Army of Rubbish Cleaners
is on the front line of this fight at Stackpole in Pembrokeshire.
So, what is this rather hideous mesh you've brought me here?
We're looking at something that's fairly typical
for one of our underwater dives. How long did it take to gather that?
This is ten volunteer divers and an hour.
So, yeah, covering a relatively small area of ground, if you like.
Yeah, this is a fairly, fairly common find.
And when I look at it, it's not just the line.
It's obviously, you know, full of hooks.
I've got to be quite careful handling it myself.
And plenty of lead down there, as well. Yes.
Our record, actually, in terms of lead weights, was 730 in one dive,
and that was here at Stackpole, as well.
What impact is this having on wildlife?
Entanglement - that's the most common thing.
So, we regularly free spider crabs, entangled fish,
and soft corals we have here, as well.
So, that's some of the impacts that we see as divers,
but I know that some of the other, wider issues...
Once this monofilament starts to float on the surface,
it's being picked up by local sea birds
and sadly being used as nesting material.
It's actually trapping the chicks in their nests.
The RSPB and volunteers are having to go to the islands now
Is this down to the carelessness of anglers?
I've been sea fishing myself a couple of times.
Sometimes, it's snagged, and in the end,
You know, I confess - I've been there. I'm the same.
You know, I go sea angling, as well, in Pembrokeshire.
I realise that it's just something that happens.
Ghost gear lost from both commercial and leisure fishing
is a real snag for our marine environment.
thousands of tonnes of it are haunting the seas,
That's what I'll be finding out later.
Wherever you are in Northern Ireland,
All kinds of waterfowl and fish thrive in its rivers and lochs -
This beautiful river is the Lower Bann,
stretching 36 miles along the boundary of Londonderry and Antrim,
'Boosting my paddle power are Robin and Chris,
'who've been messing about in boats here for years.'
So, when you're paddling, Ellie, just do, like, a stroke,
and then let it glide almost for a while.
See how quick we're going now without even paddling. Yeah.
Are these sand martins here? Think so, yeah. Yeah? Yeah, yeah.
The River Bann is famed for its birdlife.
Even here, where it feels quite industrial,
it's still very much surrounded by nature.
Yeah, plenty of greenery here, isn't there? Indeed.
Once an important route for commerce,
these days, the river is a great place for leisure.
helped create the Lower Bann Canoe Trail,
I can't help feeling we're being watched.
There are five herons circling around here.
They know that there's food in there for them.
Yeah, definitely looking for a snack all right. There's six herons now.
Yeah, they're all over. SHE CHUCKLES
They look like sentrymen. Yeah, exactly. Statues.
Statues waiting, knowing there's food underneath.
All of a sudden, we're in the countryside.
Goes from grey to green very quickly. Yeah.
Chris, have you done the trail? I have indeed, yeah.
It's a fantastic trip now. How long is it?
I always say to people, you know, you can do it in two days at a push,
but, you know, why not do it in three and spend two nights?
There's some gorgeous campsites along the way,
so you can really chill out and take it all in.
How long did you do it in? Oh, I did it in three.
Enjoyed it. Took your time. Absolutely.
And that's really what this trip's about -
I've seen more herons here than I've ever seen before. Yeah.
I think we take it for granted now, the herons, actually. Yeah?
It's a sign that there's loads of food. It's great.
This is my mindful moment right here - wildlife, water.
An amazing place to breathe. I love it.
'But first, I make a stop near Portna,
'I'm meeting Stephen Douglas from Waterways Ireland,
'who's going to tell me about the river's past.'
Stephen, how are you doing? Hello, Ellie. Nice to meet you.
You, too. I've been on a great journey.
It's the same sort of paddle strokes that would have been made
10,000 years ago when man first settled in Ireland
along the lower banks of the Bann. So, they were hunter-gatherers
and they would have used the good canoes and skin boats
These flints are typical of the hoard of flints
that has been found, actually, along the River Bann.
Oh, yeah. There's a real history there.
The river became important again in the mid-1800s
The locks that were built to allow freight survive to this day.
The stone delivered on site and would have had to have been
handcrafted by the stonemasons on site.
And you can see how good a job they have done.
And standing up well to the test of time. Absolutely.
160 years later in a water-based environment. Yeah.
It's a testament to the skill and craftsmanship
of the people who constructed the locks. Absolutely.
But this lock, it's a little bit worse for wear.
Well, you're absolutely right, Ellie.
This is one that we've programmed for a replacement
and, in fact, we're constructing a new balance beam for this
Inside the 21st-century work shed, a little piece of history.
Hi there. How are you doing? Hi, Ellie.
How are you? I'm all right, thanks. I'm good. Good.
These plans look pretty old. Yes, they are. They're very old.
The plan of the gate, actually, was originally done
and then they were reprinted in 1931.
So, these are the best plans for the job... Yes. ..pretty much.
Feet and inches. Feet and inches! So, old units, as well? Yeah.
Got some safety gogs. Yes. Right, what's this?
This is for the big crossbeams that go in.
So, this has got to be accurate? Yes, have to be accurate. Dead on.
OK. So, that one's done. That one's in the process.
and this is probably how they would have done it years and years ago.
Still a hammer and chisel? Still a hammer and chisel at this stage.
Ellie, would you like to have a go now? Yeah, I would. OK, just...
I can't go wrong, can I? No. Not today, please! OK.
Oh, I'm not getting anywhere. Let's get digging.
OK! I bet you get some lush splinters out of this. Yeah.
'but it's time for me to be on my way.
'Later, I'll be continuing my journey
and there's one sound that comes readily to mind.
the pipes and the wistful music they make
When you hear the music, it kind of conjures up
your fields and turf fires and mist and midgies.
A lot of the music in Ireland has tragedy behind it
and there's lament and there's sadness.
The whole set would sit sort of across your lap, like this,
This is the thing you hear the main melody on.
You move on down, and this set has four drones.
They would be the kind of ghostly noise you hear in the background.
I suppose, in a way, you could say they rescued me. My salvation.
Martin's story holds a mirror to Ireland's recent past.
he worked in his local town as an architect.
Everything was brilliant. Everybody had loads of work.
Prospects were good. Everything was on the up.
And then, basically overnight, it just...
Businesses left, right and centre were going bankrupt.
Martin was out of work for a year, and then a stroke of good fortune -
he gave a lift to a friend who taught the pipes,
Within days, he'd borrowed an instrument and started learning.
After about a year, I decided I was going to have to get my own set.
there was no way I could have justified
spending thousands on basically a hobby.
So, I decided I would have a stab at making my own set.
That was eight years ago, and I still haven't made my own set.
I've made four, but they always end up getting sold
Now, using wood from local trees where he can,
Martin crafts uilleann pipes full-time
and this is the true meaning of suffering, this instrument.
You can't get them warm. You can't get them cold.
You can't get them wet. They're gremlins.
Martin was new to uilleann pipes, but not to Irish tunes.
His dad was a member of a band playing traditional music,
When you hear the music, with tribe music or traditional music,
bonfires and building forts and digging holes and...
We had no phone, so there was no electronics or computers.
but just two miles from the idyll where he played,
One of the games that we played would have been, like, army.
You'd be running about fields pretending you were soldiers,
and not a mile away, there actually were soldiers camped out
on fields that we would have been playing on.
But we were totally innocent. We didn't know.
of keeping us sheltered from the whole thing.
Yet, through it all, the music played on.
A full set playing in tune in the right hands is sort of...
It's that sort of droning, humming, buzzing sound,
In the wrong hands, it's like a cat being kicked.
The biggest reward in this would be when you see someone playing a set
that you've spent maybe, on average, about six months making a set.
It kind of becomes part of you for a long time,
and then you're kind of sad to see it leave the workshop,
but the reward comes when you hear the music at the end.
Now, earlier, we heard about ghost gear -
that's posing a threat to wildlife in our waters.
But can something be done about it? Here's Tom.
Massive nets lost at sea by fishing boats,
lobster pots that have slipped their guide buoys,
and fishing lines from leisure anglers
with deadly hooks and weights still attached.
There is a mass of ghost fishing gear in our oceans,
and it's continually trapping and killing wildlife.
the simplest solutions may be the most effective.
By encouraging commercial fishing vessels
to put any ghost gear they find into bags like this...
..the Fishing For Litter initiative is putting those who unwittingly
create the problem in the first place
Has it been a good fishing season? Yeah, it's a good start to the year,
and the weather's certainly been pretty good, so...
'Paul Trebilcock from the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation
'helped to establish the Fishing For Litter programme
Another load. What kind of thing have we got in here?
Basically, what we've got here - we've got an old cod-end here,
a chafer with it. Lobster pot here. What's this?
Bit of mild steel. Two or three bits of rope. Plastic.
General sort of stuff we see in the bags.
What encouraged you to start doing this in the first place?
Fishermen were getting tired of towing up
the same sort of rubbish over and over again,
whether it be lost fishing gear or general plastic and rubbish.
We got together with Defra, the MMO, and started off this initiative,
Fishing For Litter, here in the South West.
And, basically, it just blossomed from there.
Are fishermen responsible for this ghost net problem?
I don't know any fisherman who deliberately goes
to lose fishing gear. It's expensive stuff.
When it's lost, it's not fishing and not earning the boat money,
Yes, occasionally, we lose a bit of gear,
but I think we're doing more to clear up not only fishing gear,
but other stuff that's lost at sea. So, yeah, I think we can safely say,
you know, custodians of the marine environment again.
So, commercial fishing is playing a part.
But what about Britain's 900,000 sea anglers?
They generate about ?1.2 billion for the economy every year,
but at what price to the environment?
This isn't easy, but... This is a pavement by your standards, is it?
Yes, it is. THEY LAUGH
With an estimated 2% of us enjoying recreational sea fishing,
That's why Dr John O'Connor from the Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers
the clean-up campaigners I met earlier,
to produce tips and guidelines for sea anglers here in Stackpole.
So, John, tell me what you've been doing with local anglers here.
Well, the local anglers, they fish these marks all the time,
with the techniques and not losing a lot of gear.
Because, obviously, you lose a lot of gear,
What these tips are aimed at is the occasional angler.
And tell me what these tips are. You use strong line.
So, if you do get snagged, you can pull it out of the snags.
You use hooks that will straighten in a snag if they're caught.
You try and fish at high water. Basically, that's it.
This was aimed at the recreational anglers -
the part-time anglers, the holiday anglers -
who are responsible for most of the tackle losses.
probably because it's quite expensive.
So, for the time being, we're relying on practical advice.
Are you satisfied overall that anglers have kind of
got the message about this and are doing their bit?
Well, I think it's a slow process. Some have, some haven't.
We instigated it in 2012, 2013 - coming up with the tips -
and I'm told by Neptune's Army of Divers
that tackle they're retrieving these days is much less than it was
prior to the leaflets being put out there.
So, small steps have been taken, but are they enough?
Chiara Vitali from World Animal Protection,
the group behind the global ghost gear initiative,
and they really show that there's great energy around this,
but we do need to have kind of that national level, that global level.
What would you like to see governments,
particularly our government, doing? We desperately need more research.
We need to know kind of where the hot spots are, what's going on,
where it's ending up once it's under the sea,
and definitely research is really important for that
to kind of help us get that understanding.
You would think that science should have a part to play,
but affordable technology to track and find lost fishing gear
and biodegradable nets are not yet available.
Nowadays, nets made from hemp and cotton
are just not as effective as modern, synthetic ones.
But in the meantime, these ghostly tangles of fishing gear
will carry on ensnaring and killing wildlife.
It's great to see both leisure and commercial fishermen
taking more responsibility for their tackle,
and we really need governments to step up to the mark,
and better science to truly exorcise ghost gear from our oceans.
Northern Ireland is blessed with lush farmland,
nowhere more so than here in County Armagh, south of Belfast.
This particular farm has been in the hands of one family
for hundreds of years, but just recently,
they've decided to do things a little bit differently.
Alicia Breslin has turned this traditional Irish farm on its head.
Alicia, here you are, hard at work planting. Hello, Joe.
Now, I understand you're the inspiration
behind the changes on the farm. Tell me about it.
I came from Poland 19 years ago and decided to look for food
that I haven't been able to find in the shops around here
and just made a decision to grow it. That's wonderful.
So, a mixture of unusual varieties, but also things you'd find foraging.
So, it's sort of a foraging farm all in one place.
Seasonality is a very important aspect for us,
and the treasures you can find around the hedges
and the ditches and moors is just amazing.
Wonderful. So, the nature gives you so much over here.
Well, we're going to find out more about this foraging farm
a little bit later in the programme, but first, imagine if
you had some of the rarest plants in the world on your farm.
How would you farm in such a sensitive environment?
a rugged finger of land pointing into the sea off North Wales.
It's a giant outcrop with sheer cliffs on many sides,
and it's a pretty wild and windswept place.
a National Trust property with grazing rights
The trust bought the farm back in 2015,
They trawled the globe looking for someone
but also manage this sensitive landscape, too.
the rent they were looking for for the whole lot was just ?1.
The trust eventually found their man,
Dan's got a lot of experience of farming in sensitive areas.
I first met him a couple of years ago
when he was reviving traditional shepherding practices in Snowdonia.
So, how will farming the Great Orme compare?
Hi, Dan! Hey! Good to see you. And you, too.
Still shepherding, then? Well, yeah, still shepherding.
I'm not sure what else I'd do, to be honest. Stand. Stand!
What an amazing spot. It's absolutely lovely.
It's made even more better today because of the weather, I'd say.
So, where are we geographically, then? What can we see from here?
Right, what we can see is Anglesey to the west,
where I was born and brought up. But we have Snowdonia to the south.
And then, if we were on the other side of the Orme,
we'd be able to see Cumbria in the distance.
And how different to farming in Snowdon, where I met you last?
On Snowdon, I was working as a conservation shepherd,
But there, we were moving sheep away from sensitive areas,
and here, we select areas to graze quite thoroughly, really,
so we can really impact in different areas on the Orme.
And now you're employed here, you're your own boss now.
HE CHUCKLES Yeah, yeah, again,
which brings other pressures, but enjoying it so far.
Really cool. And where are these heading?
I'm just taking these up to an area up there
where some European gorse has been cut
so we're going to use these sheep to follow up the grazing
to encourage different flowers and different plants to grow
so we get a greater variation. OK. Cool. OK.
They're pretty lively. Stand! Stand! ADAM LAUGHS
Any regrets? No, none so far, to be honest.
ADAM CHUCKLES Honestly, no, none.
And do the sheep learn that they've got to stay on that area
because you hold them with a dog? They do.
They will try and escape eventually once, you know,
they get a bit bored or nicer grasses are running out.
Once they're used to the close shepherding, they're pretty good.
So, you've got to stay here for the day? I do leave them,
but, you know, not for too long. I might pop home for lunch.
But on a day like today, it's not too bad, is it?
Dan's got 270 Lleyns and 90 Herdwicks
that he continually rotates around the headland.
Grazing different sites at different times is vital
And here on the Orme are plants that are found nowhere else on earth.
Are we heading in the right direction, Trevor?
'Dr Trevor Dines from the charity Plantlife
'is an authority on this botanical treasure trove.'
Did you want to find it yourself or shall I point it out to you?
You better point it out. I'm no botanist.
It's right in front of you. Really? This?
Yeah, yeah. There we go. So, what is it?
The Welsh name is afal y creigiau - apple of the cliffs.
But in English, we call it the Great Orme berry,
and there are just six wild bushes of this in the entire world.
In the world?! Yeah, it's an endemic species.
That's extraordinary! It's stunning, isn't it? Incredible.
Look, I've just touched it. Ooh, am I allowed to touch it?
You are allowed! You're not allowed to take any away.
You're actually lucky cos it's in full flower,
so if you can look at the little flowers here...
Yeah, but they'll be followed by really quite lovely little berries,
sort of like a little pear, that was growing here.
Got this massive slab of limestone sticking out into the sea.
and that's why we get so many different species here. Lovely.
Well, what a treat to see it. Yeah, you're a lucky man.
Not many people get to see this. ADAM CHUCKLES
So, Trevor, it's not just the Great Orme berry.
There's a whole array of rare plants here. Yeah.
We're standing on some of the richest habitat in Britain,
There's 360 different species of plant alone
So, really good examples just under our feet here.
which is only really found here and down on the Gower.
We've got spring cinquefoil around your feet where you're sitting.
Little spring squill, these lovely little blue flowers.
Beautiful, aren't they? And they're actually a relative of bluebells.
I always think of them as, like, the seaside bluebell.
Tiny little ornate flower, aren't they? Tiny little thing.
this is going to end up in their tummies.
You know, this is their food, isn't it?
Yeah, I'll be watching Dan very closely.
I don't want any of his sheep touching any of these!
No, seriously, yes, his sheep will eat some of these rare flowers,
but the roots and the seeds will be left here.
So, the real key to this is keeping this grassland open
so that there's room for these beautiful little things to thrive.
It's a win for the farmer and a win for conservation.
the last of this season's Herdwick lambs have just been born.
And I've got a very particular interest
in seeing these new arrivals for myself.
I sold Dan a Herdwick ram last autumn,
so it'll be interesting to see what they think of him.
Hi, family! Hi. Hi. How are you all? Good.
So, is this one of the lambs born out of Gavin, the ram I sold you?
It is, yeah. This one's about half an hour, an hour old.
It's just finding its feet, so, yeah, here he is.
And are you pleased with him? Yeah, he's done a really good job.
He's served what he was meant to and all the lambs have been born
with the characteristics we were looking for -
the really tough, coarse coat and the coarse hair over the head.
So, they're quite a tough breed, and that's exactly what we wanted.
They were lambing outside on the Great Orme.
As the years progress, it will be a closed flock, hopefully, one day.
So, we'll be, you know, well, much higher disease-resistant.
And how have you found moving to the Great Orme?
Yeah, it's been great. The views are amazing,
and on a day like today, it's just beautiful here.
Most of the time, it's sunny like today,
THEY LAUGH Aww.
Oh, well, it's been such a pleasure to meet you all,
and I'll leave you with this little lamb.
Where's its mum? Here she comes. Here she comes.
Aren't they great mothers? Yeah. Come on. There's a good girl.
Farming on difficult terrain is always tough,
and with a site as sensitive as this one, it's especially so.
But Dan is striking the right balance.
He's building a good farming business
and caring for the environment at the same time.
Lough Neagh - the largest body of freshwater in Northern Ireland.
for countless plants, bugs, birds and fish,
but its life-giving nourishment doesn't stop there.
carries with it a fine and fertile sediment,
It means this earth is rich and productive -
great for growing all sorts of things.
Just a mile from the loch, this farmland is great
for growing conventional crops, and has done for decades.
Alicia Breslin arrived from Poland in 1998,
and two years later married farmer Seamus.
they'd gone from spuds and caulies to herbs and hedgerow plants.
exotics like physalis, cardoon and Helios radish.
Alicia, where did the inspiration come from
Having been used to a different type of cuisine -
slightly different types of cuisine -
and using different vegetables, I longed for them,
and tried to grow it on a smaller scale.
You can still take advantage of the natural land that is here,
and if it's rich and looked after, you can grow magic things.
Alicia took her produce to local markets and demand soon grew.
And I started to talk to people, and people started to talk to me,
started growing more and more and more.
We're experimenting as much as we can.
Inside these growing tunnels, it's a wilderness,
nature left to run wild, just like in hedgerows or meadows.
A lot of people are interested in the borage
Very edible and pretty-looking flowers.
So, you eat the flowers? You eat the flowers.
They're a very gentle, cucumber-like taste.
Slightly sweet. Mm, that IS slightly sweet.
The other plant that is growing really well is the lovage.
That's quite an underestimated spice.
It is quite nice. An aromatic plant. Quite strong.
When it comes to the flavour, it resembles celery.
Try some and see what you think. Wow. That's really strong.
And a bit more tangy. A bit more... Bit richer, isn't it? Mm-hmm.
Here, we have a pretty good patch of the radishes.
So, what we're going to be doing is we're going to be picking...
Oh, look at that. That's huge. ..pretty nice ones
The white ones are lovely. Very gentle.
Probably the mildest out of all the radishes.
And that much is all that we can get in the springtime.
Gentle, light varieties. Is there anything you take out?
Is there anything you consider to be weeds? Nothing at all.
I even leave the dandelions - the common dandelions.
They stay here because they would attract
and they would help me to propagate other plants.
Local chef Jamie Richie is a big fan of Alicia's unusual produce,
so much so, he now works with the farm,
helping come up with new things to tickle Northern Irish taste buds.
ready to whip up a dazzling alfresco treat.
Jamie, how are you? Oh, hi. Good to see you.
I understand you're essentially our on-site chef. Yeah.
And you can put together a good spread here.
We've brought some stuff from the polytunnels.
There you are, Jamie. So, what can we do with this?
What can we add to what you're making?
Some nice, gorgeous radish. Golden radish. White radish. Yeah.
A few of the flowers? We have some gorgeous edible flowers.
How did you get involved with the farm here?
I met Alicia a couple of years ago working in the market
when I was really getting into foraging.
And you were one of those looking for something a bit different.
Some nice flavours and things to experiment with.
Looking for something a bit unusual, and you discovered their stall?
Outstanding, some of the produce we were getting, so it was.
Even the customers couldn't believe it.
Great to see this stuff in Northern Ireland.
And the point of growing it here is showing it can be done
because, ideally, you want to minimise air miles
and you want the food as fresh as possible.
Food sitting in a cupboard or in a fridge,
travelling hundreds of thousands of miles,
and the leaves just are not the same.
And when you can go down to somewhere like this here
and bring this food to the person, it's fantastic.
Anything left over goes into Alicia's home-made pickles,
like this rose petal cordial that finishes off the salad dressing.
Right, chaps, here we go. Lovely. Let's try.
I've got to try this dressing and this radish and a flower.
Delicious. That's very good. And how satisfying, as well.
You've grown this. That is wonderful.
Well, here we are in the heat of a summer's day.
We have been sizzling under the sun here in Northern Ireland,
What's the weather going to do in the week ahead?
Let's find out with the Countryfile forecast.
Very good evening to you. The weather this week more of a gentle
simmer than a sizzle for many of us, but certainly pleasant enough when
the sun is out. This is the scene earlier in Birmingham. The
temperature trend here in the week is the trend of what is going to
happen UK wide. Warming up of it in the middle of the week. Not as wet
as it has been. In Edinburgh, we've seen almost double the amount of
rainfall for the month at the moment, most of that falling in the
space of 36 hours. There is a battle between high pressure to the south
of the UK and low pressure across the north Atlantic. A brief lift in
wind speeds tomorrow across central Scotland and Northern Ireland. Winds
close to gale force wind in a few spots. Fewer showers around, due to
the wind pushing them away. Further south, more likely to stay dry then
see showers. Temperatures at the best across some eastern areas. The
wind will ease as we finish Monday. Monday night, a little bit cooler
through the countryside across southern and eastern areas, but
temperatures will hold in the west as cloud spills in. Bringing patchy
rain to parts of England and Northern Ireland and Wales. The
start for Tuesday, a deep stormy area of low pressure in the
Atlantic. That tends to build a ridge of high pressure ahead of it.
That will keep things dry on Tuesday. More cloud further north,
but as the high pressure builds in, showers will week and fragment. Hazy
sunshine in eastern Scotland, 18 or 19 degrees. East Anglia and the
South East warming up again by this stage. It will warm further over
Tuesday night. A warm night on the cards. Winds coming in from a more
southerly direction, tapping into some warmth over continental Europe.
Temperatures on the up, and breezy conditions in the west. Some storms
could clip the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Hazy sunshine in
western areas, and blue skies and high temperatures in the south-east.
Higher temperatures across the board, in fact. There is a downside.
It is the grass pollen season, and particularly across England and
Wales, not just on Wednesday but throughout the week, very high
levels. We could sue a fuse thunderstorms from France clip the
south-east on Thursday morning. But of the Atlantic, a weak cold front
pushing rain from west to east and dropping temperatures. Some sunny
spells for many. The wind flow continues into Friday. Pressure
further south allows a few more weather fronts, but not particularly
potent ones. More in the way of cloud, patchy rain and drizzle,
brighter further south and east. Summer Rae I think the week ahead.
Not a huge amount of rays. This untouched paradise for birds
is the River Bann in Northern Ireland's
green heartlands. The further we go,
the more beautiful it becomes. It's really opening out here, Chris.
Where are we at? We've moved our way down Lough Beg,
and you can see Church Island and the spire cropping out
over on the far shore there. Yeah. Church Island, then,
is the next stop on our journey. Legend has it St Patrick founded
a monastery on Church Island No longer a true island,
most modern pilgrims arrive on foot, but we've got special permission
to land ashore, just as Ireland's patron saint
would have done 1,500 years ago. This looks like a place I want
to explore. I'll see you in a bit. a farmer who's grazed
his cattle here for 30 years. You just open the gate
and put the kettle on! You've no fertiliser,
no spraying, no anything. Water on one side
and a wall on the other. THEY LAUGH
It's easy. It's easy for you. Mm-hm. And here you are, the custodian
of this important place. That must feel pretty good.
Aye, it does. Aye. I think it's quite important
that we take care of it I remember, one day,
looking at the cattle, and there was a man walking about
looking for something, and he came from Devon
to photograph one plant. And we only saw one plant,
but he was happy. So, they come from afar
for the plants and the peace. Round here, few know more about
this place than Fergal Kearney. He's going to show me
the island's spiritual centre. You're very welcome
to Inis Taoide... Thank you so much. ..or
Church Island. That's very kind. Can we have a look round together?
Of course. Lead the way. Thank you. Oh, it's really magical out here,
isn't it? It is. I would call it Narnia-esque.
Yeah, that's good. So, people have been coming
to this place as a holy place since the time
of St Patrick in the sixth century. This is an example
of where they come to, and how that spirituality lives on
here at Church Island. Is this not just
a sort of handful of rocks? Well, legend has it that
this stone is a kneeling stone used by St Patrick to pray
when he came first to the island. He must have had
some pretty gnarly knees However, the reality is
that this actually dates from the 12th century,
and it's a bullaun stone. And a bullaun stone
is a grinding stone for corn. Ah. So, you can imagine the monks
in the settlement here, grinding their corn...
Yeah. ..on this stone. But I think the St Patrick story
is a better one. It is. Then, from nowhere, we come to
the very heart of the island. The fairy tale continues.
It does indeed. Are we allowed in?
Of course we are. Yeah! Crumbling ruins,
witness to the island's past. This spire,
built by a local aristocrat Whoa! What a place.
You can see right to the top. a silent reminder of those
who lived and prayed here. There have been no monks here
for centuries. They're long gone. Really, the only trace that we have
of the monastic settlement and the monks themselves
are non-native species of herb, which you can still find
growing here, and which, at certain times of the year,
you can smell. other than the ruins we have here,
that monks once lived here. That's their living legacy.
That's their living legacy. Oh, wow. Fergal's got one more
place to show me that's especially close
to his heart. This is
such an incredible landscape. And it hasn't changed
for hundreds of years. and it's a place which
we all hold dear in our hearts. a sweep of pristine pasture
that's never been tilled. It was special to another local,
Seamus Heaney, who called it
his favourite place in the world. It's a place which
he found great spirituality, to evoke a place, you know,
which is very special to him when he was growing up,
and a place which, in his own mind, he returns to
wherever he is in the world. He could be anywhere,
in another country, but this is where he is
in his mind's eye. in my mind's eye
to this beautiful place. But for now,
it's time to be on my way. Here she is! Let me give you a hand.
Oh, what a gent. What a day for messing about
on boats. Oh, it's gorgeous. A day like this
in a place like this - what else would you want
to be doing? In fact, it's making me
a bit crestfallen to say that's all we've got time for
from the gorgeous River Bann. Next week, we'll be at
the Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival, meeting the artists and writers
bringing the countryside to life. And - are you ready for this? -
it is the launch of the Countryfile
photographic competition. Yes! In fact, John is going to be here
with all the details of how you can enter, and the
all-important theme for this year. Hope you can join us then.
Bye-bye. Bye-bye. What do you reckon?
Maybe Hedgehogs In Harmony? Oh, that's a good theme.
Nice Times In Nature? Don't suppose one of you fancies
putting the kettle on, do you?
Ellie Harrison and Joe Crowley are in Northern Ireland, where Joe is up at the crack of dawn in woods just south of Belfast. He joins an RSPB team who are tagging swifts to find out where they are feeding, and he heads to the arts centre where the biggest swift colony in the city can be found to see how sensitive building benefits the birds. He also meets the locals doing their bit to help Belfast become 'swift city'. Joe then heads to the farm where you're as likely to find physalis, mustard flowers and Asian radish as you are spuds, carrots and caulis.
Meanwhile, Ellie takes a canoe trip down the beautiful River Bann. It is a great place for wading birds, is steeped in history and is said to be the river St Patrick took before arriving at the island where he built a monastery. Ellie visits Church Island and sees the sites associated with St Patrick, and she also hears that it was also the poet Seamus Heaney's favourite place in the world.
Adam Henson is on a farm on the Great Orme in north Wales, where herdwick sheep are being used to graze on ground where some of the UK's rarest plants can be found.
Tom Heap looks at ghost gear - fishing equipment accidentally cut adrift from trawlers and anglers that rides the ocean currents relentlessly catching and killing marine life for years on end. But what can be done to stop these ghostly killers?