John Craven is in Northumberland on the trail of the white beaked dolphin. Tom Heap investigates the spread of GM technology from plants to animals.
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This is the big country.
Big skies, big beaches, the biggest vistas.
The coastline of Northumberland stretches for 70 glorious miles.
It's wild and remote and it's often empty and it's somewhere
that I keep coming back to.
This part of the world might feel timeless
but the coastline is constantly changing.
The power of the sea is ripping out great chunks revealing ancient
And there are treasures of a different kind waiting for me
beneath the waves.
Tom is finding out about some pioneering pigs.
You've heard about genetically modified crops -
what about genetically modified animals?
These pigs are on a farm with the only GM livestock in Britain.
It's all about tackling animal diseases
but would you eat the meat? I'll be investigating.
And Adam's looking forward to reaping what he's sown.
With the crops on the farm summer is a busy time of year with
harvest just around the corner.
But the crops and animals are very much dominated by the weather
patterns we have throughout the year.
So, I'm taking a look back to remind myself how difficult it's
been over the last eight months.
Northumberland is England's most northerly county.
As a young man my first reporting job for the BBC was in the nearest
big city, Newcastle upon Tyne.
At weekends I'd head north to these beaches.
I loved the sense of space and scale.
And the dramatic remains of castles,
reminders of this coastline's bloodthirsty history.
Today, this land is once again under threat.
Not from Viking hordes or wild gangs of Border Reivers but from the sea.
Coastal erosion is hitting the east of the country hard.
Storms are getting rougher, the land is taking a battering.
Here, in this part of Northumberland,
they're losing more than a metre of their coastline every year.
But here at Druridge Bay coasted erosion is forcing the land to
give up its secrets in a spectacular way.
And those secrets are quite surprising.
Archaeologist Clive Waddington
and his mostly volunteer team are busy uncovering the past.
Well, just what is this place revealing?
We've got this well-preserved Bronze Age cairn here.
This is an old tomb, something like about 4,500 years ago.
It's quite large - about 16 metres in diameter but,
unfortunately, we've lost about half of it to the sea so the cliff
edge here has been eaten away by the winter storms particularly.
How was it discovered?
It was discovered by a man walking his dog here
and he saw the remains of one of these stone graves falling
out of the cliff face and realised there was human bones in it.
So, he called the police and the police came with an archaeologist
and it was at that point we realised there was this large burial
mound that was basically falling out of the cliff.
So, you found lots of Bronze Age human remains - anything with them?
We found quite a bit of prehistoric pottery as well, so...
you can see this material.
This one's rather nice, this is a piece of, what we call,
food vessel, for the afterlife, for the journey into...
-Nice pattern on there.
-Yeah, you can see this is fingernail impressions.
And it's in a kind of herring bone pattern.
-Very elaborate, really.
-Yeah, and that's about 4,000 years old.
And this piece,
this is either another kind of food vessel or a burial urn.
And, typically, these are found upside down,
sometimes with a cremation inside.
The erosion is giving up more than just long-dead remains,
beneath the burial mound there's a story in the rocks themselves.
What we've got here is this incredible
sequence below the Bronze Age archaeology.
It's like a layer cake.
You can see the different layers of strata in there.
This is very different, this is all little bits of stuff.
It is, you can see it's very beach-rounded,
we've got kind of gravel in there but also larger,
blocks as well and this would have resulted from a very powerful
event, basically it's a storm surge so, today we'd call it a tsunami
and it's brought these large blocks up and thrown them
high onto the shoreline...
Could that have been what created the North Sea and the English Channel?
Yes, we think this could date so far back,
probably around 6,500BC and that's the time when, we think,
Britain finally got separated from the Continent
and this could have been the event that finally broke that land bridge.
Today there's an early sea fret and the waves are benign.
Often they are tempestuous but no matter what the conditions each tide
can reveal new secrets.
A rich seam for the archaeologists and for, perhaps,
an unexpected partner, the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
I'm joining Steve Low from the trust.
So, how come you are involved in an archaeological project?
Well John, we know a lot about the area at the moment
- its environment, its wildlife -
but we don't know much about how it's changed over time
and this dig is giving us
a real window into the past to tell us
more about what was here before, the animals
and the people that lived here and how they exploited them.
-Hello, Philippa, what are you up to?
-At the moment, what I'm doing is
removing this layer of sand from on top of the ancient peat bed
-to expose these footprints.
-What are you coming across?
-That could be an ancient cattle footprint.
And this looks like a human footprint.
You can see the heel there, the instep and the toes.
-Smaller footprint than mine!
What kind of person would that footprint have belonged to?
We think that would have belonged to someone perhaps who
lived in the dig nearby.
A hunter gatherer using the environment to gather
all of their food.
Eating the wild boar,
the deer and everything else we are finding in here.
And it's really quite inspirational to think that that's been
there for thousands of years and here we are seeing it today.
So, what is all this telling us about the way that Druridge Bay has
changed over the many thousands of years?
This used to be part of the mainland
and now that is much further back from us.
Coastal erosion is continuing to happen
and we try to fight it all of the time but, of course, I think
we need to recognise we can't always be successful with that.
Erosion here is opening up for us an extraordinary window into our past.
But sights like these are vulnerable, for many of the secrets
they keep are being lost to the sea all up and down our east coast.
Here at Druridge Bay at least there's a chance to learn
something before all trace is lost.
Now, the idea of growing GM crops in the UK is hugely controversial.
But what about the genetic modification of animals?
Tom has been investigating.
The lowlands of Scotland.
A wealth of natural beauty.
Untouched, you might think, by interference from the modern world.
But appearances can be deceptive.
Just over there, nestling amongst the trees is Roslin.
Home to some of the most extraordinary scientific
Dolly, the cloned sheep was created there and now another radical
achievement - full of potential but stalked by controversy.
We've been arguing about the rights and wrongs of GM crops for 30 years.
And in Europe they are so tightly regulated one of the leading
biotech companies, Monsanto,
has just scrapped plans to develop new GM varieties in the EU.
But here, at the Roslin Institute, south of Edinburgh,
little noticed by the opponents of GM some remarkable things have
This is the tail of a pig, but no ordinary pig.
She's the first farm animal in the UK produced using new
She goes by the grand name of Pig 26.
-So, which one is home to Pig 26?
-The pen at the top here.
'Chief swineherd - well, professor of biotechnology is Bruce Whitelaw.'
-What do you think, ready for some feed?
-I would imagine they are.
-Pigs normally are.
-Come on then, ladies.
Pig 26 has been genetically engineered to have a very
precise mutation in one specific gene.
The key thing of that mutation is exactly where we want it to
be in one of the 20,000 genes this animal has.
And why are you doing it? What problem are you seeking to solve?
Pigs suffer from many diseases. One in particular is a swine fever
and the disease we are looking at is African swine fever.
The African pig can tolerate this virus - it does not die.
If one of these animals was infected by African swine fever
virus it would bleed to death within a couple of days.
-A pretty nasty way to go.
-A pretty nasty way to go.
No vaccine, no drugs to treat it.
African swine fever is spreading, it's already rampant in Russia
and, it's feared, could reach here.
How far down the line are you to making Pig 26 resistant?
If the disease came here would she be immune?
She would probably not be immune.
There are two steps to this project, one is showing we can actually
target a specific sequence in that specific gene
and that's what Pig 26 demonstrates.
The next challenge is to change one base in that to the base
normally found in the African pig and we're working on that just now.
The traditional genetical modifying or genetic engineering
technology involves transferring a whole gene or even a hybrid gene.
Sometimes between species.
This technology allows us
to manipulate the endogenous gene very precisely and very subtly.
Some genes contain thousands of bases,
we just want to change one single base.
It's taken the scientists at Roslin years to get this far
but when you realise the complexity of what they are trying to do
you start to see why.
To make sense of it I'm going back to school, in fact, pre-school.
Imagine this represents the inside of a fertilised egg
taken from a pregnant sow.
Now, a bit of a stretch I know,
in reality it would be smaller than a pinhead.
And each one of those fertilised eggs would contain 20,000 genes,
like the balls here,
and each one of those would control a characteristic like the
length of the tail or maybe the risk of catching a certain disease.
But finding the gene you want to modify is just the first step.
Each gene contains a string of DNA and only by cutting that in exactly
the right place do you achieve the affect that you want
and that's exactly what the scientists did at Roslin.
Admittedly, using chemistry not scissors.
Before putting the new strand of DNA back in with all the other genes.
When that fertilised egg grows into an embryo and eventually a pig
every cell in its body contains that altered gene.
With a process as complicated as this it's hardly surprising
that creating a pig that's resistant to swine fever is
yet to become a reality but that doesn't mean it can't be done.
And these birds are the proof.
Here at Roslin they've not only genetically modified pigs they've
created GM chickens and these guys have some very special qualities.
They are part of a GM experiment to eradicate bird flu
which can be passed to humans so the work of Dr Lucy Freem
and her colleagues is of, potentially, global importance.
Excitingly, we have already developed a chicken that is
partially resistant to bird flu so these chickens,
if they catch bird flu, do get sick and die
but they don't pass the virus on to other chickens kept in the same
pen or, potentially, on to humans so that's already a really big advance.
So, we are trying to improve on that
and make a chicken that's fully resistant to bird flu,
that when exposed to it is resistant to catching it as well.
The team at Roslin is even starting work on the highly complex
task of tackling foot and mouth disease.
So, could gene editing be a major part of animal
health in years to come?
It has the potential but it's only one of the potential solutions.
We have huge research going into vaccine technology, drug
development, husbandry, management of the animals in general.
All that will come together and give us
our solutions to these diseases in the future
but genetic engineering has an opportunity to contribute to that.
Genetically-modified livestock is confined to the experimental farm,
unlike GM crops there aren't commercial varieties ready
to go so broad public opinion is largely unformed.
But, some objections are starting to emerge,
as I'll be finding out later.
Back in May, Ellie was in Portsmouth,
a town long associated with the Royal Navy but out beyond the warships
are massive inter-tidal mudflats home to some of our rarest creatures.
But crossing those mudflats to see them? Well, that's the challenge...
This is Fareham Creek.
At low tide the mudflats stretch as far as the eye can see.
I'm on the hunt for one of our most threatened native shellfish.
But, to find out if they are here, I need to head out there.
Not as easy as you might think.
What I'm hoping to see are native oysters.
In its heyday the Solent had one of the largest natural populations.
They were harvested and shipped to London
and Paris to meet the demands of high society.
But since 2000 they have been in decline.
Jolyon Chesworth is running a project to try
and gauge accurate numbers.
-Some extraordinary footwear here.
These are mud shoes and it's what we wear when we go out onto
the mudflats and carry out surveys, to help stop us sinking.
They are based on the design of herons' feet
and they have these expandable wings
so when you put your foot down the pressure lifts the wings up
and helps evenly spread your weight
and stops you going too far into the mud.
That's the wrong way round, Ellie, you need to turn them round and slip them on like normal shoes.
-Blimey. There's nothing normal about these shoes.
Really tight. There we go.
-I was born into them(!) Shall we give them a try?
-Yeah, let's go.
I feel like a clown.
MUSIC: "Walking On The Moon" by The Police
It's tough going in the mud but it's the only way to find them.
# Giant steps are what you take
# Walking on the moon
# I hope my leg don't break...
Strewth, this is loads of work and why do you do it?
This area's been recommended for protection through a marine
conservation zone for native oysters
but it hasn't progressed cos there's a lack of evidence to suggest
they are here in enough numbers to actually designate this site
so what we are going to be doing, over the coming months,
is to be going out and looking for them, monitoring them and actually
gathering the evidence to make sure this site does get designated.
We're not going to do the whole patch today?
-No, we're just going to have a little recce.
-Cool, we're against the tide as well,
so let's get on with it, shall we?
For a full survey, Jolyon will be out here for up to six hours.
And will cover around two miles.
What you have found there is a Pacific oyster
and a large one at that.
The reason you can tell the difference between a Pacific and
a native is the Pacific oysters have quite a sharp point
and they fan out and they have a very corrugated rim.
The native oysters, as we will hopefully find later,
are a lot smoother and flatter.
Jolyon records all Pacific oyster sightings to keep
track of their numbers too.
Because they are a known invasive species.
Are they a problem for our native oysters?
In some areas, possibly, in this area we don't have them
in such numbers that they are likely to compete.
Also, the native oysters prefer deeper water whereas these prefer
shallow, inter-tidal areas so their ranges don't necessarily overlap.
It doesn't take long before we find what we're looking for.
Here we've got a native oyster.
Sometimes called a flat oyster
because it has a very flat shell to it.
-You can see it's quite a different shape...
-..from the Pacific.
It's much rounder, much smoother. Obviously, this one's a lot smaller
but that's because it's quite a few years younger than this one.
These can get, like you say, quite a bit bigger,
-though, so the size isn't the give away.
This is probably a year or two old
whereas that one is more like seven years.
Hopefully, Jolyon can find enough native oysters to get these
mudflats protected ensuring their survival for years to come.
On the other side of Portsmouth harbour,
a once-thriving oyster farm lies dormant.
Back in the 1900s this would have been a hive of fishing activity.
But pollution brought business to a standstill after
The First World War.
Today, this man-made farm now plays host to thousands of birds
rather than oysters, including one of our rarest seabirds,
the little tern.
The RSPB are using some rather unusual methods to try
and protect it.
And that's where this beast comes in.
Thank you. These are cockleshells and it's on this surface that
little terns like to nest but because they are fairly
particular they prefer to nest on this - crushed-up cockleshells.
Hence the roller. Cheers, Wes.
All bagged up, I head to the oyster beds with RSPB warden Wes Smith.
-They'd better appreciate it.
-I'm sure they will.
What's happening with this lot, then?
We're going to get this lot across to the island
here where we are going to put the shells out
and create some perfect nesting material for the little terns.
Little terns only visit the UK in the summer to nest
and rear their young.
This is the perfect time to do it, right now.
-We had two circling overhead today.
So, they're just on their way back.
The little tern has been in decline right across Europe.
During the summer months 8% of the UK's entire
population are found right here.
Why this island as opposed to anywhere else along this coast?
Well, this one here is currently empty.
We've got some black-headed gulls
and Mediterranean gulls on some of the islands
which are very suitable for them.
Little terns, being small birds, they tend to get bullied,
pushed out of the main cluster so this one here if they can get
it just at this timing it will be absolutely perfect for them.
Finally, it's time to help volunteer warden Chris Coburn cover
the newly-weeded surface with shells.
Then, some hard landscaping is needed.
-What's with the bricks, Chris?
-Well, this looks very uniform.
So, you area little tern, you are coming back to your nest -
-where is it?
-I would never know.
Right, so let's have a little marker.
Are we playing boules with the bricks?
A bit of set dressing to try and really encourage them in?
If you've got little terns nesting here they've now got
identifiable locations - they go flying over, "Ah, that's my brick.
-"Now, where was my nest?" And this is where we are very cunning.
I'm going to put done some decoys to see if we can attract them.
So, these handmade jobs are life-size...
-Shows how small they are.
-That's why they are called little terns.
Does this work, putting a decoy in?
In America they've moved colonies of 2,000 birds.
-It's taken a little while but...
-By using these decoys?
By using these decoys it just works a treat.
With the decoys set the only thing left to do is wait.
Hopefully, these lifelike models will transform these derelict
oyster beds into a little-tern haven.
There's more to Northumberland than its long swathes of sandy
beaches and wide open skies.
There's all the drama of the national park, its brooding valleys
and sweeping hillsides.
And down there, hidden amongst the trees,
is something unique in the British landscape.
A graveyard of sorts, of once proud metal.
Row upon row of rusting machines that used to dominate harvest time.
So many, that you can see them from space.
They all belong to farmer John Manners. 350 combine harvesters.
John's taking farming diversification to a new level.
John, this is an amazing sight.
I've never seen anything like it, 350 dead combine harvesters.
Yes, well they are not going to go again.
-When they get here I'm called the undertaker.
-JOHN CRAVEN CHUCKLES
How did it all start? What made you begin this job?
I needed some wheels and tyres for a tractor which were very
expensive and I found this combine which was local...
..and I got it for the same price as the wheels and tyres
so I brought it home, took the wheels and tyres off
put them onto my tractor and then somebody came wanting the engine,
somebody came wanting something else and it just mushroomed.
-It grewed and grewed!
-Yes, it did. It just went on and on and on.
That one looks as though it's been on fire.
Yes, that's a fire-damaged combine.
-Is it a common thing for combines to burn out?
-Oh, yes, it is.
You've got to look after them.
Hose them out, blow them out,
clean the engines out cos of the dust and the muck and everything.
Cos, a brand-new combine is incredibly expensive, isn't it?
About 300,000 for the top of the range.
So, it's understandable why people want a lot of spares.
Well, I don't cater for the new boy.
I cater for the smaller market...the banger market, should we say,
in the combine world.
And how much - can you tell me - how much do you pay for a combine?
-I can't tell you that!
It's business, isn't it? Competitors might start!
Earlier, we heard how, deep in the Scottish countryside scientists
have produced Britain's first genetically-modified farm animals.
But, as Tom's been finding out, not everyone's comfortable with the idea.
Genetically-modified pigs that can't catch swine fever?
GM chickens that can't catch bird flu?
This is the kind of future that
scientists at the Roslin Institute are working towards.
But if GM animals become part of the future of British farming it
raises some questions.
How would farmers feel about rearing them?
How would the government regulate them?
And, perhaps most importantly, how would you and I,
the consumers, feel about eating lamb from a GM sheep or
bacon from a genetically-engineered pig?
At Stagehall farm in the Scottish Borders they rear cattle
the conventional way.
Most of the calves are Angus.
What we are looking for is short-horn cows
and a lot of Angus to sell.
-So, most of the calves are black, as you see.
-Has he got a name?
He was bred here, he's got a brother as well.
Him and his brother are very similar.
Elwood's family is the result of generations of careful
cross-breeding by beef farmer Nigel Miller,
president of the National Farmers' Union in Scotland.
Come on, there's a bit of food here too. Come on.
He thinks traditional methods have worked well
but feels there is room for the precision of GM.
With this sort of very precise technology you can start
looking at health and welfare issues and building them into our breeds.
One of the things they said they were just beginning to
work on at Roslin was foot and mouth disease.
What would you think if they did something with that?
Well, that would be a miraculous change for me if you could break
out of the whole problem of foot and mouth, it would be fantastic.
Nigel does have his reservations, though.
He's worried about the possible influence of big business.
We don't want this to be a commercial
lock on breeding of livestock.
So, you're worried, are you, if someone gets their patent on the super cow?
And that then they could control everything?
Yeah, I think that's a real fear and that's one of the reasons why
genetic modification in plants has got a bad name
and I don't think we want to go there.
We don't want to have farmers or communities held to
ransom by a commercial organisation.
But for others, the objections go much deeper.
Environmental scientist Dr Helen Wallace is from GeneWatch -
an organisation with concerns about GM crops and animals.
Here at Roslin, not far behind us,
they are actually working on animals that are resistant to disease.
Surely that's good for the animals' welfare?
Well, there's not very much understood about how that
resistance might work in practice, so one concern is that
disease-resistant animals could act as a reservoir for the virus,
be infected and pass it on to other animals but without you knowing.
And when it comes to eating this meat, which, of course,
we aren't doing yet - what are your worries there?
I think it will be up to consumers to decide
whether they really want to eat this meat.
They'll have concerns about food safety
because it's difficult to provide definitive evidence that the
changes in the meat,
or the changes in the milk are safe for humans in the longer term.
These small fry are the first GM animals anyone's likely to eat.
American scientists are genetically modifying salmon
so they grow bigger faster.
And they could go on sale over there later this year.
So, what will that mean here in Scotland where salmon has
spawned a huge industry?
Salmon and Trout Association chairman Hugh Campbell Adamson
says GM fish pose many threats to wild salmon.
The worst one is getting genetics muddled up with our wild fish.
And these wonderful fish we have that swim thousands of miles
yet still get back to their original river
and still do that extraordinary life cycle -
there's a real danger, I think, and a lot of people would think of these
fish being polluted to a degree by genes coming in artificially.
But if they are properly contained, as they say,
in tanks away from the sea, surely that's not a problem?
If you could swear to me,
Tom, that every single fish is going to stay inside that cage
and never get into the wild,
and that was to be proved I think a lot of the problems would go.
But, I don't think, our record, as humans,
on this is particularly good.
Back at Roslin, Britain's only genetically-modified livestock
are safely behind bars, including these latest additions, GM sheep.
So, what's the view here of contaminating the gene pool?
If, for example, Pig 26 escaped and bred with ordinary farm pigs?
All it would do was transfer disease resistance to that animal.
But, as far as people who don't like GM are concerned,
you have then got a GM-contaminated stock of pigs.
So, it's a natural mutation we have with Pig 26, it's a
normal mutation which could be found in that population.
We've engineered it into Pig 26.
It is possible that some time in the future a natural mating would
produce that mutation.
There's no additional risk to a GM as in Pig 26 compared to that
There's no doubt it's a challenging thought, the idea of GM livestock
grazing these fields, sentient beings whose genes we've tweaked.
But, cutting disease and boosting productivity is a huge prize.
Leaving us plenty to chew on.
You never know what any season will bring
until Mother Nature plays her hand.
The hot summer finally arrived last month
and for Adam it was time to make hay while the sun shone.
Come on, lambs.
Come on, lambs.
The pastures have been flourishing in the much-needed sunshine
which is great for the livestock and for my sanity.
I thought the British summer was a thing of the past.
And this field has got a lot of lovely natural shade and water.
And, as the temperature's warming up, these lambs need it.
Go on, Millie, good girl.
In the summer months the pasture in this valley is valuable grazing.
The moist soil combined with lots of sunshine is ideal for grass growth.
But, earlier in the year it was a different story.
I hoped that when we turned the corner from winter to spring
we'd have perfect growing conditions.
But it wasn't to be. Spring was dreadful.
When we were expecting the weather to warm up it stayed cold
and rained a lot. There was no sunshine.
And it had an immense effect across the UK and particularly in Ireland
where they had a lack of fodder or feed for their sheep and cattle.
And because the grass didn't grow,
the ewes weren't producing milk and the lambs suffered.
We weren't too badly affected here but in some
parts of the country sheep were dying and dying in their hundreds.
I visited Welsh sheep farmer Errol Morris.
He lost nearly 200 sheep during the prolonged heavy snow in April.
-Is that a dead one up there?
-Ah, there's another one up there, yes.
When the storm came they ran for shelter
and the walls were where they went.
And have they died mainly of the cold?
Yes, it's the cold and suffocation in the drifts.
If they are under the snow at this...like concrete...they
have no hope, have they?
Eventually, the snow cleared, spring arrived and it was onwards
It's amazing how the tides can turn.
July brought sunshine and plenty of it
and I didn't meet a single farmer who wasn't pleased to see the
warmer weather and for the grassland it was perfect to get it growing.
For the sheep it couldn't have come a moment sooner.
At last, the lush green pasture bloomed, the grass flourished
and the fresh food supply for my animals was plentiful.
And it wasn't just the grazing pastures like this one that improved.
Some of the other fields were in perfect condition too
so it was all hands to the deck to make hay while the sun shone.
There's usually only a small window
when hay is at the right stage for harvesting.
And that came in July.
The grass was cut and left to dry in the fields.
This hay turner helps accelerate this process by turning
the grass to remove moisture.
In this fine weather it's turned twice a day.
Hay can be made in around four days and that's exactly what we did.
And as soon as it's ready it's baled for storage.
This machine compresses the hay into bales making it easy to handle,
transport and store.
Once it's done eight it releases them together.
Then we bring in a tractor with a front loader to collect them.
And that's when the real hard graft starts.
The farm team have to lug and stack the bales in hot
and dusty conditions.
It's no easy task.
But it's a job well done.
We had more grass than we expected this year
so the hay stores are brimful and we've got some surplus hay to
sell which is absolutely brilliant, it's a bit of a bonus.
This hay's going off to Wales.
It's quite an art, loading these lorries, so they're safe?
Yes, got to be safe to go down the road.
-And how many will you get on?
-It will be 50.
But, there's a lot of grass about this year
-so the price has been falling, hasn't it?
-Yeah, weather's been
-so good everybody has made hay rather than silage.
So it means there's a lot of hay about.
-You're buying this at £60 a ton?
And what will you sell it on for?
Hopefully 80 or something around there, as much as I can get.
And that will pay for you haulage and make a living as well?
It's really important that the load is totally secure for the motorway.
So, the driver's just put a strap across and he'll hold that
bale on so that Dave can back out and get his spikes out of the bale.
Well done, Dave. Good skills.
Hay needs to be stored indoors but as we don't have enough barn
space we make silage too that can be kept outside.
This is a stack of silage bales.
Silage is similar to hay in that they are both grass
that are mown and then made into the product but hay is kept very dry.
And silage is baled when the grass is still a bit green
and a bit younger so it's higher in protein and sugars
and it was only three weeks ago that the contractors were
out in the field working hard
and in those rows of grass the baler goes along and creates the bale and
that's followed by the wrapper,
a really clever machine that picks up the bale and spins it
and while it's being spun the wrap is going round
and round the bale and it has two or three wraps of plastic on it.
And what's happening inside here -
the plastic has created anaerobic conditions, so with no air.
And the grass is starting to ferment and pickle
and that means it can be stored for over a year
and we feed it to the cattle and sheep in the winter.
It's a really good feed.
One of the downsides is that we end up with lots of plastic
but now we recycle it
and we send it to a company that make it into chicken houses.
-In fact, my dog kennels were made out of it.
While this has been a success story the same can't be
said for our arable crops.
The oilseed rape suffered during the prolonged cold spring and it
wasn't until the end of June that it finally flowered,
a month later than normal.
The crop has now started to set seed and in this pod - if you open it up
you can see the little green seeds that will turn red
and then black ready for harvest.
And this spring oilseed rape replaced the failed winter crop
so I'm relying on it to do quite well.
It's grown reasonably well and we're probably a few weeks off harvest
but the ground has started to crack and what
we need now to help these seeds grow a bit more is some more rain.
And it gets worse.
In another field of oilseed rape it's not just the weather
that was the problem, it's the common poppy.
About a month ago this oilseed rape was in flower
and the flowers are bright yellow but they were mixed with red,
cos it was also full of poppies.
Lovely if you are a photographer, not so good if you're a farmer.
And this oilseed rape struggled in the spring
and usually the leaf makes a canopy
and competes with all the weeds around it but because it was quite
thin the weeds have come through so now it's got all sorts in it.
There's thistles, these daisies, we've got rayless mayweed
and then the poppies.
And that's going to cause a bit of a problem at harvest.
But, also, in next year's crop.
So, if I grab a poppy seed...you can see there's the seed head...
..and in there are thousands of little seeds that will shed
onto the soil and grow next year.
So, that's going to be a bit of a challenge when we are growing
wheat in here that we are going to plant in September, October time.
My barley also had a tough start in the spring
but it made a great recovery.
Well, that was until the heatwave came.
The intense heat and dry weather back in July really set this
It's still doing OK,
it's flowered and now it's got the seeds growing in the head
and this will be ready in about three-weeks time.
And this grain, once it's harvested will go for making beer.
And the straw that's left behind is quite a good animal feed.
Farmers are always moaning about the weather -
it's either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry
but when it comes to the weather we really are in the lap of the gods.
And we have to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at us.
Next week, I'm shopping for a special animal
that's from one of the oldest rare breeds in the world.
Today, I'm in Northumberland
and soon I'll be heading out into the North Sea.
It's rich in natural resources
and home to an astonishing range of wildlife.
It's here you'll find England's largest colony of grey seals
thriving in the waters around the Farne Islands.
And each year hundreds of thousands of seabirds arrive here to breed.
But today I'm going in search of a creature out there whose life
we know very little about.
Underwater cameraman Ben Burville is at the start of a five-year
project to learn more about the life of this elusive mammal.
What are the chances of us seeing this creature?
-With nature you never know, John.
Our high-speed rib will take us
far out to sea to an area where they've been spotted in the past.
So, what exactly is it that we're looking for?
What we are looking for today, John, is this.
This is a white-beaked dolphin.
The most abundant of dolphins in the North Sea
with about 8,000 to 10,000 of them in there
-but one that very few people know much about.
It's really the fact it tends to be in deeper waters
and tends to be offshore.
Is it important now to find out more about these dolphins?
It is important for their conservation. And also to find out
whether activities that we do can affect them in an adverse way.
We're passing close to the Farne Islands so I want to make
a short stop to catch up on an important project there.
For just a little while our quest for white-peaked dolphins is put on hold.
Ciaran, good to see you. Graeme.
You are now welcome to the Farne Islands.
Thank you very much, nice to be back.
Lovely weather at the moment, isn't it?
I was here five years ago right at the start of a crucial puffin count.
Let's hope your egg is...oh! LAUGHTER
-Let's hope your egg hatches OK, this year!
-Indeed, good luck.
What the count showed was that puffin numbers had collapsed.
Ornithologists were fearful for the future.
Five years on and the latest survey has just ended.
Is the picture any better?
In 2008 the population had declined by about a third from the last census.
Also, this winter was a very, very tough winter. It was a cold winter.
A lot of onshore winds and we had a big puffin wreck.
What do you mean by a "wreck" there?
A puffin wreck basically involves birds washing up on the coast.
So, people were finding birds all along the north-east
coast from northern Scotland down to Yorkshire.
There was about 3,500 birds involved. That sounds a lot
-and it was the biggest wreck for about 60 years...
-So, what about this year's census?
This year's census is good news - we've gone up around 8% on top of
what we had to around about 40,000 pairs of puffins on these islands.
The census may be over
but work goes on to discover more about these colourful birds.
You are a brave man, Graeme, I've done that once
and I got a very nasty bite!
They are pretty vicious, I hope it's just a chick.
I've got a nibble. It feels like a chick, I'll just bring it out now.
-And you've got to a few hundred of these to do.
A few hundred bites and scratches.
-There he is. Little fellow here.
-How old will that chick be?
He's probably around the 35-day mark, he's pretty much ready
to fledge, he's got his head cleared of down, just a few tufts here.
-So now you are going to put a ring on him.
We'll get a ring and, hopefully, get some good data.
And what information do you hope to get from the ringing?
The basic thing is how long they are living for.
So if this bird comes back in future years
and we re-catch it we know when it was ringed,
we know its exact ring number so it's got its own identity.
And we know exactly how old it is.
-Pop him back in again.
-Back in the hole and he'll be happy as Larry
and he will be out in a few days and head out into the Atlantic Ocean.
And when would he come back again?
Maybe in around about four-years time usually to get mature
and start breeding for the first time.
But until then he'll just be floating around.
So, it's nice to know there's good news for the puffins here.
Photogenic, approachable little birds whose numbers are on the up.
Everyone loves puffins but there's one bird species
here on the Farnes which is nowhere near as friendly.
Just ask Ellie....
She was here a few weeks ago filming for a brand-new BBC One
And she had a rather nasty encounter with arctic terns, the bad-tempered
cousins of the little terns she met earlier on this programme.
Oh, my goodness. They are really unhappy.
Ow! This is not fun. Not fun. I'm going to take refuge in here.
It's actually drawn blood from my head!
And Britain's Big Wildlife Revival starts next
Sunday on BBC One at 5:35.
For me, it's time to say goodbye to the Farnes
and get back to my main mission.
Well, I'm off now to search for white-beaked dolphins way
out in the North Sea,
but first, here's the Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead.
I'm off the coast of Northumberland with Ben Burville.
Ben's a GP by day but away from the surgery he's an underwater cameraman.
We're in search of one of the North Sea's best kept secrets,
If Ben captures underwater footage of them it will be a first for British
television, never before have these dolphins been shown in UK waters.
-Yeah, got one, dorsal fin.
-Quarter of a mile.
-Give me a range.
-Quarter of a mile.
-There it is, you see it there?
-What is it?
-It's a minke whale.
-A minke whale. It's not a white-beaked dolphin.
No, that's a minke whale.
It's a great sighting but thrilling as it is to spot a minke
whale it's not why we are out here today.
We head further out into the North Sea to continue our search.
Why have we stopped, Ben? Nobody's seen a dolphin, have they?
No, we've stopped cos there's quite a few puffins over
there in the water.
Is it a sign there are maybe dolphins around?
It's a sign there may be food in the water, big sand eels...
-There could be dolphins here as well.
-There could well be dolphins there as well.
To use an old landlubber saying -
"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack."
Now, we are rendezvousing with Newcastle University's marine
research ship, the Princess Royal.
Today, Ben is working alongside Simon Laing whose team is hoping to find
out what effect the construction of wind farms at sea has on dolphins.
And Simon is using sound, not pictures.
What have we got here, Simon?
This is a towed hydrophone, it's a
special type of microphone that listens...
I've seen lots of microphones in my time
but never one that looked like this.
It is a special microphone that listens for sounds underwater.
But the really clever part is in here.
Now the microphone's in the water we can come over to the computer
and as soon as we press record what we will start to see are some
of the sounds we are hearing right now, popping up on the screen.
That's background noise you're seeing on screen.
What sort of symbol would you see if it was a white-beaked dolphin?
We would hopefully see a red triangle popping up on screen
and that would mean we're recording something in real-time
and it would be about 200 metres behind the vessel.
Can you actually hear the sound of the dolphins?
Dolphins make two types of sounds. They make whistles and clicks.
We can hear the whistles but we can't hear the clicks.
I've got a recording here of some white-beaked dolphin
whistles if you'd like to have a listen?
-That really is a whistle, isn't it?
One of the things we're trying to determine with this project -
do the dolphins in the north east of England have a different
whistle to those in Scotland?
Because that would indicate those two populations are very separate if that is the case.
And what's the research telling you?
The research is telling us they may well have different whistles, yeah.
So, you could have, in this bit of the North Sea, Geordie dolphins?
With a Geordie accent?!
Potentially, yes, you could have Geordie dolphins in the north east.
Whatever the accent there's not a whistle right
now from the white-beaked dolphins so we're, obviously, in the wrong place.
I'm going to try my luck again with Ben.
Done it. Whoops!
Ben reckons our best chance of seeing the dolphins lies 18 miles
out in the Farne Deeps where the sea floor will be around 100
metres below us, that's equivalent to the height of Saint Paul's Cathedral.
We've arrived at our destination.
All we can do now is keep our eyes peeled and hope.
There we are, look! Straight there!
It's 15 metres from us.
-OK, here at the front of the boat.
-I see it.
-Can you see it?
-There you are.
So, this is a white-beaked dolphin and it's choosing to bow-ride.
A beautiful sight, John.
Isn't it an amazing sight and I can see the white beaks so clearly now.
What's incredible to me is that these wild creatures want to come
so close to our boat and just play around.
It's illegal to disturb dolphins
so Ben's been granted a special licence to dive close to them.
-This is a massive pod.
-This is a big pod. An aggregation here.
-Several pods, you think?
-Without a doubt, mixing.
-See what you find.
-John, I am surrounded by dolphins.
-What an experience.
When they are under the water they are using an echo location
and they are using clicks and whistles.
And the whistles really are to communicate with each other and...
..the maximum we can hear is about 20 kHz.
-Here we go, I'm just going to have a look at that one.
-Quite amazing to see, isn't it?
-What did you get?
Without doubt, some identification of males and females.
And what do you notice about their behaviour?
Their behaviour is that they are inquisitive.
There are amazing wildlife just off our shores here and...
-That we know so little about.
-So little about.
The information you're gathering underwater could be
vital for the future protection of these creatures.
It certainly could for the future protection of these creatures. Yes, John, you're right.
Well, it's been a real privilege spending some time here in one
of the deepest parts of the North Sea with these wonderful creatures.
And now, thanks to the underwater footage that Ben's been collecting we
should know a little bit more about their, up till now, secret lives.
Next week, Countryfile is in Oxfordshire, where, amongst other things,
we will be taking part in a tug-of-war with a difference.
But, from the North Sea, goodbye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
John Craven is in Northumberland on the trail of one of Britain's most enigmatic sea creatures; the white beaked dolphin. He joins wildlife cameraman Ben Burville as he attempts to get close enough to film them and then hooks up with the scientists looking to learn more about these little known animals.
John also visits the site of a stunning Bronze Age burial mound where bones and artefacts are dropping out of the cliffs, and he meets a man with an unusual collection that can be seem from space.
Tom Heap investigates the spread of GM technology from plants to animals and the recent good weather has been a blessing to Adam Henson whose fields have suddenly burst into life.