Matt Baker visits a farm in Crieff to meet two brothers from a family famous in the sport of curling, discovering how Olympic training fits around farming.
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MATT BAKER: The sparkling lochs and craggy mountains
of Perth and Kinross.
A gateway to the Highlands.
I'm spending the day on a family farm.
Nothing unusual in that, you might think.
But the farmers here lead rather interesting double lives.
In the next few weeks,
Glen and Thomas Muirhead won't be delivering lambs,
they'll be on the hunt for medals at the Winter Olympics.
Charlotte's looking at the link between the landscape
and traditional Scottish games.
-Absolutely spot on.
We're on call with our rural vets,
where things are often a matter of life and death.
There we go. It's coming.
Should mountain hares be culled or not?
Tom hears both sides of the argument.
It's my job, it's my livelihood,
it's my passion to manage these uplands,
and it's a part of that management.
And Adam's in Cornwall,
where there's already a hint of spring in the area.
-So, little lambs already.
-Yeah. A good three, four weeks old now.
-Really looking well, aren't they?
-Yeah, they're doing well.
This is the very heart of Scotland.
Perth and Kinross.
A vast area that stretches
from the haunting Rannoch Moor in the West...
..to the Firth of Tay in the East...
..with the Cairngorms rising to the North.
It's known locally as big tree country
but here in Crieff it's not just about the big trees,
there's big ambition here.
The Scots have long been champions in the ancient game of curling,
one of the world's oldest team sports.
A favourite of Scottish farmers,
they've been playing it on frozen lochs for at least 500 years,
and in rural Crieff, that tradition
and that hardy breed still reigns supreme.
There can't be many farms in Britain that are run by a family
of sporting legends, but the two brothers that I'm about to meet
were pretty much born to curl.
Lie down, Flo.
The Muirhead name is legendary in the world of curling.
Their dad, Gordon, is a world champion,
and Eve, their sister,
is one of Scotland's most prestigious curlers
and captain of the women's Olympic team.
Flo, that'll do. That'll do, Flo.
Now Thomas and his older brother, Glen,
are about to swap tractors for tracksuits
in their first Winter Olympics,
representing Britain as part of our curling team.
Obviously you're from this incredible family,
as far as curling is concerned.
Was there ever a choice
of whether or not you were going to do this sport?
I don't think it ever
really became a thought, "Is this a choice or not?"
-We just wanted to do it and that was... As simple as that.
Mum used to drag us round all the ice rinks
as tiny, wee kids, to watch Dad compete.
-Yeah, so, from the moment we could step on the ice
and hurl a stone, that's when we started.
But I guess as far as the world's concerned,
when another member of your family comes out there,
everybody's like, "Oh, yeah, here we go, what have you got to offer?"
Yeah, exactly. My sister has had a bit of success, obviously,
so hopefully we can live up to what she's achieved.
I was sitting watching the telly
and just saw her face after she won that medal,
and I think from that moment onwards my dream was set on trying to
achieve what she has, or better, even.
It's only been a year since Tom and Glen left the family farm
to run their own business,
but already they've built up a 1,400-strong flock
of Texels and pedigree Scottish Blackface ewes.
So these are all due to lamb, then, are they?
Yeah, so these are due to lamb in about four weeks' time.
Right. Four weeks' time,
that's bad timing as far as the Winter Olympics are concerned.
So we're actually going to be away for the lambing, so...
So who's going to be looking after them?
Well, we're very lucky that our dad and my girlfriend, Lucy,
-are both able to step in and take over the reins.
And in general, then, how does the farming sit alongside your training?
I mean, what is your usual training schedule for the week?
Well, at the moment we're down to Stirling to the gym
three times a week, and we'll be on ice training with the team
and individually every day, actually, so, you know,
we just have to tweak small things back at the farm to fit in.
So, you know, the likes of lambing time, we'll put back a little bit
later than normal, and we'll feed sheep either morning or
when we get back at night, so generally that means doing
things in the dark, but a set of good lights and we're all good.
And, Thomas, it's a common thing within the team, isn't it?
Because so many of you are farmers.
Yeah, it's funny.
All our team-mates go back to farming backgrounds.
I think it's back when curling was played outside,
everybody would meet in the evening when the local pond would be
frozen over and they'd have a few whiskies and they'd all have
a good laugh and have a game of curling against each other.
I think it's really just progressed from there.
Farmers in general are very competitive individuals,
I find, so I think the drive to be good at a sport
also comes from the farming background, too.
They may be competitive, but I'm sure there won't be any whisky
involved whilst these boys go for gold.
How are you feeling, then, with the Olympics coming up?
-It's only a few weeks away.
-Yeah, it's exciting.
It's only three weeks and we'll be in Japan ready to go to South Korea.
We've got everything in place that we want to have in place and we've
done the hard work so let's just... Hopefully it all comes together.
And how does it work from a team-mates perspective?
You're working together on the farm
and then you're out on the ice together.
What's that relationship like?
Thomas thinks he's in charge and I think I'm in charge.
Fair enough. Good point. Right, well, let's get some work done.
Later, I'll swap the freezing farmyard for a state-of-the-art
ice rink, when I join the rest of Team GB in their Olympic training.
Now, here in Scotland, mountain hares are often culled
to keep their numbers under control
but there are calls to have it banned.
Tom's up the road in the Cairngorms finding out more.
And just to warn you, some of you may find parts of this distressing.
If you go out spotting wildlife in Scotland,
you might be lucky enough to catch a magical glimpse of a mountain hare.
At this time of year, their coats have turned snowy white,
giving them perfect camouflage against the winter landscape.
But for some, they're a real problem.
Grouse moors like this are a perfect habitat for the hares
and that's an issue for gamekeepers,
because the hares eat a lot of vegetation
and also carry ticks which can harm the grouse.
And that's why thousands of hares across Scotland are shot
each year in organised culls like this one.
Currently this is perfectly legal,
but that's the heart of this argument.
The guns are going off all over the place
and we've seen a couple hit down on this snowfield beneath me here
and I have to say it's quite a tough watch.
I'm conditioned to admire and cherish these animals as something
beautiful and rarely seen
and to watch them being killed in this way,
yeah, feels quite challenging.
This grouse moor is managed by Alex Jenkins, the head gamekeeper.
We have a team of guns who's hopefully pushing the hares
up from the bottom of the hill. We call them the walking guns.
We have a team of standing guns as well who are based
at the top of the hill, and the idea is to get the hares
within a close range so that we can hopefully shoot a few.
Three or four times a year, neighbouring gamekeepers
from other grouse moors gather to help the cull here.
And how often do they breed, hares?
-How rapidly can they boom their population?
They have a gestation period of about 50 days.
They start breeding roughly about the end of February.
They can breed two or three times in a year
and a litter can be anything from one to six.
-So they breed, well, like rabbits.
-Like rabbits, yeah.
Had quite a few that have got away,
slipped through the gap just up there.
In the end, you're shooting hares
in order to keep the grouse shooting business viable.
I would say it's a 50-50 split between grazing pressure on the hill
and as a method to control tick numbers.
And the ticks carry louping ill,
which can cause an 80% mortality in red grouse chicks.
You're shooting one animal
so you can make money from shooting another.
It makes the estate viable. It provides the employment that's here.
I'm not going to make two bones about that.
Grouse shooting is what keeps the five of us
who work on this estate in a job,
and it's rural employment in very remote areas.
So, yes. Yes, we are.
It won't surprise you to hear
that shooting hares is not popular with everyone.
Gamekeepers say shoots like this only take place
when hare numbers are high, and they keep records locally.
But here's the problem -
there's no up-to-date scientific figure on hare populations.
The latest estimate is more than 20 years old
and put it anywhere between 175,000 and half a million.
And for some, that's the real issue.
In fact, look, we've got some tracks here.
-That looks like mountain hare tracks to me.
-Slightly longer foot.
-Yeah, that's right.
In another part of the Cairngorms, I'm meeting Harry Huyton from
the animal welfare charity OneKind, who are worried about hare numbers.
They're not very well monitored.
We have very poor data as to exactly how they're doing,
so we can't conclude whether they're declining or not.
But we do know that they are locally vastly reduced
in certain parts of the Highlands.
Just to spell it out, you're not saying there's necessarily
a national decline, but you're worried in certain areas they
could be moving towards elimination?
There might be a national decline, we just don't have the data.
The argument doesn't stop there.
There's serious animal welfare concerns as well.
You're seeing a lot of hares being killed, you know, in just one hunt.
I think injury rates could be quite high
and we just don't know enough about them.
There's no standards that are being followed here.
It's not regulated or monitored in any way
so, yes, it is potentially cruel.
And he disputes gamekeepers' claims
that the cull protects the landscape and reduces ticks.
There's just no evidence that killing mountain hares
means there's more red grouse.
Should we be managing these vast moors
just so there are as many red grouse as possible,
even if that means having to eradicate, you know, locally,
native species like the mountain hare?
Now the charity is calling on the Scottish Government
to ban hare shooting.
Isn't your campaign really underpinned by the fact that
they're cuddly, you know, bunnies are lovely, hares are lovely?
They are lovely. They're beautiful. Of course they are.
But, no, this is about protecting a native species.
It's indigenous to the Highlands
and it's being killed in enormous numbers for spurious reasons.
Back on the moors, they're loading the hares into a chilled store.
They'll all be sold for meat,
which Alex Jenkins says shows the respect gamekeepers have for hares
both in life and death.
I love them. I think they're fantastic animals.
I think they deserve the utmost respect.
You know, we can have some serious weather here and they thrive.
And that admiration and respect, for you,
is compatible with shooting them?
It's my job, it's my livelihood,
it's my passion to manage these uplands
and it's a part of that management.
We'd never want to see the day where we shoot the last hare.
The interests of people and the interests of wildlife
often bring them into conflict,
and managing this in a way that allows both to thrive
is a constant battle.
The Scottish Government is facing two widely differing opinions.
Shooting organisations who say they need to control hare numbers,
and animal welfare groups claiming that's cruel
and threatens local extinction.
So what's the way forward?
That's what I'll be looking at later.
-Scotland's a place steeped in ancient traditions
and local customs, many of which are tied to the landscape.
And nothing says Caledonian culture more than Highland games.
Every summer, the most prestigious event in the country is held
here in Crieff - the Scottish Heavyweight Championships.
Stone, metal and wood, thrown for distance, height and style.
But this year they need a brand-new caber.
There's long been a link between the land
and traditional sports here in Scotland.
I've come to the Drummond Estate in search of the perfect tree.
Now, there are a lot of trees on this estate
but only one is worthy of becoming the new caber
to be tossed at this year's Highland games.
The games began more than 1,000 years ago when chieftains sought
the strongest, fastest and fittest to represent their clan -
contests of power and skill that continue to this day
in a festival of sport, music, dancing
and, of course, caber tossing.
To find the raw materials for this year's new caber,
I'm heading beyond the castle gardens and into the forest
with Ian Stewart, the chairman of the Crieff Highland Gathering.
Ian, tell me about the games.
Because a lot of the things that happen in Highland games
are actually to do with the land, aren't they?
It all comes from nature.
Exactly. It's all about... As far as the caber's concerned,
it's all about a tree.
We tend to use a Scots pine. Every year it's always a Scots pine.
And that brings us to why we're here,
cos you're in need of a new caber.
We are. We've always been at the forefront at Crieff
of new ideas for the games circuit.
But we developed, back in 1994, what we term a challenge caber -
And, of course,
it carried with it the biggest caber prize in the world, of £1,000.
But only the top three heavyweight champions
are allowed to try their luck with it.
That prize remained unclaimed until last year when our Scottish
heavyweight champion, Scott Rider, managed the perfect throw.
And, of course, that's why we're here today,
is that we feel a new tree, a new caber,
longer and heavier still, will be the challenge that's required.
Choosing the more challenging challenge caber
is forester Norman O'Neill.
David Taylor's the joiner who will turn it from trunk to caber.
They are also both directors of the Crieff Gathering,
so they know what they're looking for.
So, Norman, why this one? What makes this tree "cabery"?
The old challenge caber was 20 foot and 3 inches
and so what we're looking for here is to start off
by trying to identify one that's about 22 feet long.
The last one was a challenge, this is going to be a bigger challenge.
-That's the name of the game.
-David, you're going to turn the tree into a caber.
We're going to take probably a good inch and a half off this
so it'll come down to about 8.5 inches at the heavy end,
and it'll be tapered up to 3.5 inches at the light end,
which is the end, obviously, the guys have in their hands.
-So all we've got to do now is fell it.
-That's it, yeah.
Let's go stand somewhere else.
Yeah, there it goes.
But the skill in choosing a caber
is nothing in comparison with tossing it.
If anyone's got the remotest chance of teaching me,
it's local champion David Colthart.
I wouldn't place any bets just yet -
I can't even move the old challenge caber.
This one is... It's ridiculous.
My eye's drawn to this little tiddly one here. What's that?
That'll be a nice one to practise on to start with to get the technique.
-What's the secret here?
-You need a lot of strength, obviously,
but also a lot of skill to toss it over.
So not necessarily the strongest guy can toss a caber,
it's the one with the most technique, skill and timing.
-Can anyone do it?
-Anybody can try.
Run in a straight line and then flick it end over end.
-If you lose control, just let it go so it doesn't hurt you.
Flick it over. Just throw it over.
-There you go.
-Surprisingly, not bad for a first attempt.
-So, miraculously, that's landed pointing that way.
-Does that matter?
-That's perfect, yeah.
What you do is toss it in an imaginary clock face,
so 12 o'clock is straight away from you and that's perfect.
What you do is if it goes to the side a little bit,
he'll judge it in minutes past one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock.
Comfortable. You run forward...
Wibble, wibble, wibble, wibble.
-That's the worst one I've done.
Don't look, don't look, don't look. Don't look.
Despite that one, I'm feeling brave, or foolish, enough
to challenge David.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first inaugural
Countryfile Caber Tossing Championship.
Dressed in their judging finery,
Ian, David and Norman are back to adjudicate.
I really am underdressed for this, aren't I?
Who's in the lead currently?
Currently you're leading at 12:05. David was at 12:07.
Yeah, that's a perfect throw. Absolutely spot-on.
So is that it, game over?
No, no. You can still draw.
Oh, that was a good throw.
Yes, I have to say that's another perfect throw. Absolutely spot-on.
-With one perfect throw each, it's a tie.
I am ridiculously chuffed, actually.
-In a series of special films, we're spending time
with a team of rural vets and seeing what it takes to look
after our livestock in the harshest of months, winter.
It never happens...
The practice is based in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
It's one of the largest in the country, with around 40 vets
providing care to all creatures great and small.
We'll track the trials and tribulations,
through the blood, sweat and tears...
There's something not quite right here today.
..to see what it takes to be a country vet.
And just to let you know,
some of what they do isn't for the faint-hearted.
Angela is an equine vet who's been called out to an emergency.
One of Annie Jenkins' two beloved horses,
30-year-old thoroughbred Morrow,
has rolled over in the field and can't get up.
Elderly horses, they go down for a roll
and then they can't get back up because they're stiff or sore.
I discovered him sort of late morning
and because he's quite old he was obviously getting weaker
all the time, and he just couldn't get up.
We tried pulling him up with rope
but nobody was strong enough.
We needed a little bit of extra expertise.
We got him on his feet not very long ago
but he got his feet caught in the rug and I can't get him...
The clips are on the underneath of his shoulders.
You're very helpful. He's a good boy. I know. You're so helpful.
One thing that Morrow hated the most was the dogs going
anywhere near his nose and so we got the Labradors out
and tried to get them to annoy him a little bit to try and get him
fighting, see if we could get him up, and it did actually help.
Come on, then.
If I can try and get him up...
It's quite time sensitive.
If a horse is down for a very long time, then you're unlikely
to ever get them up again.
SHE CLICKS HER TONGUE
Come on, Morrow.
-Are you OK there?
Good boy. Stay like that.
Good boy, good boy, good boy.
-OK, we'll just try and get the...
-Get the rug off.
He's been down for a couple of hours
so he might be a bit staggery on his feet.
-What a silly thing to do.
-He's leaning a bit towards Angela.
-Yeah, he is. Good boy.
He was a bit stiff and sore, a bit pottery,
but once he got walking, he seemed to do really well.
It was really lovely to be able to get him up.
His owners were thrilled.
Poor Morrow. If we hadn't been able to get him up before it got dark
it would have been unlikely that we would have got him up at all.
Once a horse is recumbent for, you know, a long period of time,
because of the weight of them,
it sort of puts a lot of pressure on their blood vessels
and their nerves and they get what we call myopathies and neuropathies
and then they can't move their legs even if they wanted to.
He's quite bright now, and we can see what he's like in the morning
and perhaps go from there because he's...
He seems very pleased with himself now he's up, doesn't he?
Being able to give a horse another chance is really...
Well, it's quite emotional, really,
and really gets the hairs on the back of your neck going.
I love him to bits.
I've had him for nearly 19 years so he's part of our family, really,
so I would have been...
Well, I WILL be heartbroken when he goes, but it's luckily not today.
Emergencies can happen at any time.
The vets on night shift have received a call from James Smith,
a farmer who's worried about a cow and her unborn calf.
Georgie is newly qualified, and is learning the ropes
from seasoned practitioner Will, who we met last week.
When it's a calving, we need to get there as soon as possible
because that greatly increases our chance of getting a live calf.
She'd been calving throughout the day but
she hadn't really got on with it so the farmer was just getting
a bit worried and wanted us to check her out and make sure
she was OK.
..All right. All right.
Normally they don't need any assistance and the odd one
that needs a little help, I can do that,
but on this occasion we needed to call the vets and we probably would
only call them for maybe 1 in 50, maybe even 1 in 100 calvings.
So it's quite a rarity for us to have to call them out.
I'd agree. It's not twisted.
One of the things we were a bit worried about was a twisted uterus,
where the uterus can twist all the way round
and it basically makes it look like a corkscrew
and doesn't open up to allow the calf to come out,
but it all does feel quite straight there
so I don't think that's something to worry about.
So you've just got a head rope on it now so hopefully that will help
in trying to reposition the calf so we can get it out more easily.
You basically want a calf to be diving out,
so feet first, head coming up like this.
-If we just have a little pull first.
-So if I grab the feet and you grab the head.
Once we've got all the ropes attached, it is a case of
trying to get the calf out as quickly as you can but also
being aware that it's a lot of soft tissue that you have to stretch.
It's trying to do it as quickly you can without damaging the cow.
It's quite physically hard work
so you normally get a bit of a sweat on trying to pull them out.
Quite handy to have someone like Will there as well
to help lift the calf up.
Cos she's quite a deep cow it's just sat right over the edge and we've
got to try and pull the calf over this cliff, basically, haven't we?
I think we'll have to start doing it with the jack, I think cos...
..we're not quite having the effect I was hoping.
The general rule is you shouldn't really put any more force
than two people pulling.
Certainly with the jacks you can put a lot more force than that.
You've just got to be very careful
and judge how much tension you're putting through the jack.
If the calf isn't moving, it could be that the shoulders
of the calf are against the bony pelvis of the cow,
and if it's bone on bone we're not going to win
so you need to stop straightaway.
It's quite a big calf, I think.
There we go. It's coming.
There we go.
It's a case of getting the calf out as quickly as we can
and getting it breathing as quickly as we can.
Just stand him.
So we put them in this position,
cos you want to have them upright so they don't have more pressure
on one side of the lungs than the other.
It's a position that allows the lungs to expand the easiest
and get them breathing. Doesn't look the most comfortable
but it's supposed to be the most effective so... Good.
It's nice to see a live calf come out.
It's breathing OK, which is good. It's a nice, big calf as well.
Quite pleased it's gone well.
I'm quite lucky cos I'm a new grad vet,
so I'm kind of on call but I always have backup with people,
so it's really nice to be able to come to a call like this
and have someone like Will that's there to kind of show you the ropes.
I can be a bit of control freak
so sorry if I take over a bit too much sometimes.
The farmer's happy, calf's alive, cow's happy, we're happy,
so, yeah, it's all good.
But, as a vet, witnessing the arrival of new life
goes hand-in-hand with saying goodbye to old friends.
The next day, Angela, the equine vet, had a difficult decision to
make about Morrow, who once again was unable to get up on his feet.
Annie called me and I went over
and we had a discussion about the fact that it was likely to recur.
It was a horrible situation to be in
but we both decided that the best thing
would be to put Morrow to sleep.
He lay there, we sedated him and he didn't know anything about it.
He went really peacefully on a beautiful day.
Morrow was well looked after and, at 30, he had lived a long life.
He'll leave his owners with some special memories.
Next week we follow a cow that's just calved
and needs an emergency procedure...
All right, girl. Nearly there.
..and Ben does an inside job for Emma and her prize-winning chicken.
They usually end up seeing them during their lunch break,
so I annoy them usually at that time.
Earlier we heard how gamekeepers shoot mountain hares to help
manage the land here in Scotland.
But it's an activity that divides opinion.
So what's the way forward? Here's Tom.
Mountain hares are a hugely admired and hardy native species,
yet in parts of Scotland each year in the open season
thousands are shot in organised culls.
But it's controversial.
Gamekeepers say it's necessary to reduce overgrazing
and protect the grouse business,
but many wildlife campaigners would like to see it banned.
The thing is, no-one really knows how many mountain hares there are
and whether they're thriving or at risk.
Now conservation groups, estate owners and gamekeepers
are joining forces to get a better understanding of hare numbers.
-Hi there, Scott.
-Hi, how are you doing?
This looks like a curious occupation.
So what are you actually up to here?
So we're counting hare pellets
and I'll just show you one.
In this landscape, the approach needs to be simple.
Dr Scott Newey from the independent research organisation
the James Hutton Institute
has come up with a straightforward way to monitor numbers.
OK, glamorous job. So how does it work?
So we have a number of these plots set up over the area.
We're interested in mountain hare populations, and we mark each plot
and then we simply go along and we use a circular plot
and we simply go round and we count...
So I should be picking up all these within the radius of that string.
Exactly, yeah. And then put them outside of the plot
and we count it all and remove it.
And how does this then translate
into a calculation of how many are here?
So we've done a lot of live trapping work on some of these sites
and from the information we get from the live trapping we can get
some very good estimates of how many hares there are on this area.
But if you know from where you've done that,
the ratio of poo to live hares,
then you can just use counting pellets as a proxy for that
-in a much bigger area.
-That's exactly it, yeah.
-It's an indication of how many there are.
-Ah! That is cunning.
What we wanted was a standardised method that was very simple,
easy to carry out. You don't need any fancy equipment.
One of the real advantages of methods like this
is they can be applied at a very small scale,
down to a few square kilometres,
or they can be scaled up to cover very, very large areas.
So assuming this is robust, which it looks like it's going to be,
are there going to be lots of hare poo counters across Scotland?
Who knows? We need to see, and we're working with our project partners
now to see how we roll this out through different landowners
and conservation organisations,
and anyone with an interest in mountain hares.
It's hoped dung sampling,
coupled with some night-time torchlight counting,
will be rolled out for full pilot tests soon
and could feed into a wider Scottish Government-sponsored
review of moorland management.
Eileen Stewart is from Scottish Natural Heritage,
which advises the government on wildlife.
What is all this data feeding into?
It's part of us just getting a really good picture of what's
happening with mountain hares, cos they're such an important species.
Everybody wants to see the populations remain healthy
and widespread across Scotland,
but it also will allow us to make better decisions about
what management is appropriate at a local and a national level.
And when will you have a result that will give people clarity
over whether they should be shooting or not?
So, estates can use this on their own land
so they can get a good kind of indication of the populations,
whether they're going up or down,
and that'll help inform their own management,
and we hope to collect and gather all this data,
and over a number of years it'll start to build up a much better
picture of what happens at a regional and national level.
Even with this science, those calling for a ban
are still likely to question the ethics of culling hares.
But for those making the decisions,
this could be essential information
because the Scottish Government says there's not enough evidence,
and Scottish Natural Heritage agrees.
Is there a population crisis as far as you can see for hares?
The evidence doesn't show that.
There are some studies in the north-east which indicate
some localised declines, which are a cause of concern,
but this additional monitoring, we hope, will allow us to examine
that much more closely, and be sure there aren't any problems.
Scotland is very much kind of selling itself on tourism
and the beauty of the natural environment.
Do you think that goes with shooting hares?
Well, people come to the country for a whole load of different reasons.
People come because they like walking
and enjoying the countryside,
but people do come and pay because they enjoy the sport of shooting
deer, shooting grouse, so it is part of our wider cultural heritage.
Like it or not, game shooting does contribute
to the Scottish rural economy.
The shooting of a creature as magnificent and attractive
as a mountain hare, primarily just to create a habitat
for shooting something else, may seem a little hard to swallow,
but the new science should give us reassurance over
whether that activity is a threat
to the wider population of hares or not.
Come on, then. There you go.
There's some breakfast for you.
Now, here in Perthshire, lambing is still a way off.
With an icy outlook head of the Olympics,
it's all still feeling rather wintry
but Adam has been down in Cornwall
where there's a hint of spring in the area.
I'm 600 miles south of Perthshire, near Penzance in Cornwall,
where the warmer temperatures have given sheep farmers here
a bit of a head start over their Scottish counterparts.
It can be quite tricky to make money out of sheep,
and although the price of lamb's OK at the moment,
the cost of production isn't getting any cheaper,
so if it's profit you're after
then you really need to be on top of your game
and thinking outside the box, and the great advantage of
being down here in Cornwall is a mild climate.
Neither Ryan Came-Johnson nor Steve Penberthy
come from farming backgrounds.
But just 18 months ago they decided to start to farm sheep commercially
and, since then, flock numbers have been steadily on the rise.
-Hi. Good to meet you.
-And this is Ryan.
-Nice to meet you.
-So, little lambs already.
Yeah, these were born first of December.
So a good three, four weeks old now.
-Really looking well, aren't they?
-Yeah, they're doing well.
-And mainly Dorsets?
-Yeah, Dorsets and Dorset crosses.
Just a small flock that we lamb early.
So that breed can lamb
much earlier than most traditional breeds, can't they?
Yeah, they'll lamb out of season, pretty much any time of the year.
So you've got your early lambs
and then you've got other flocks as well.
Yeah, we've got just a small number of Dorsets here
but we lamb around 70 pedigree Lleyns in February
and then just over 200 Highlanders lamb outdoors in April.
Goodness me. Gluttons for punishment. Endless lambing.
-Three times a year, yes.
-Do you want to put that one down?
-Looks like he's getting heavy.
-He is heavy.
What a lovely lamb. And what's the plan with this flock now, then?
Well, they're coming up for a month old now so we've had some rough
weather but today's looking a little bit better so I think we're going to
get them outside, get them out in the fields and eating some grass.
Come on, then, girls.
-Nice and steady, aren't they?
-Yeah. No rush.
The milder climate and grass that grows all year round
means a longer growing season for Steve and Ryan's lambs.
With these sheep settled,
Steve and I are off to check the flock that will lamb next...
Even though there's plenty of grass, Steve's keen to
make sure his pregnant ewes don't lack the nutrition they need.
-They're smart looking Lleyns, aren't they?
-They're not looking too bad.
-How many have you got?
-There's about 70 here.
You got a few other bits and bobs in here.
Yeah, there's a few mixed ewes as well
but the majority of them are Lleyns.
And when are they due to lamb?
So they're due to lamb in the next three weeks.
-Are they? So they're getting close.
-Really close now, yeah.
Will you lamb them in or out?
They'll be lambed indoors cos February isn't the best
-time of year to be lambing outdoors.
-No. Sure. Wet down here.
-So are you mainly a grass fed system?
Yes, so all our lamb is reared completely from grass.
Although this time of year we just need to give the ewes a little
supplement just to aid them cos they're so heavily in lamb.
Yeah. That's what you've got here.
That's what we've got in the back now.
So we've got some mineral buckets for them here.
Particularly this time of year?
Yeah, so this time of year, cos of the daylight hours being
so short, the grass isn't full of sugar as it would be in the summer,
so we just put these buckets out, aid them up to lambing, really.
And when the ewes are so heavily pregnant like this,
all the essential vitamins and minerals here,
-important to get it into them, isn't it?
-And then it'll be passed onto the lambs.
Let's get them out. Just dump them out on the grass?
-Yeah, just pop them out. Come on, girls.
-Here we are, girls.
-Got a treat for you.
They seem to really love that, don't they?
Whilst we've been checking the Lleyns, Ryan's rounded up
the flock of Highlanders so they can be pregnancy scanned.
John is a professional sheep scanner.
He's using ultrasound to detect the number of foetuses
present in the pregnant ewes.
It's vital information
for Steve and Ryan to be able to plan the year ahead.
So, scanning, is that an exciting time?
It's exciting but nervous at the same time, cos what
they're scanning for now is going to be what lambs we have born in April.
-So if we've got empty ewes they're not productive.
-Yeah, it's all about your crop of lambs next year.
They're perfect, actually, aren't they?
This flock has been loaned to Steve and Ryan
by an enterprising farmer in Devon
who's keen to help first-time farmers build their businesses.
They're lovely looking sheep, Ryan.
I haven't been up close to Highlanders before.
Yeah, we're really pleased with these. They're doing really well.
It's a scheme that works really well for us.
So he provides you with the sheep and then what does he get out of it?
He provides us with 100 ewe lambs initially, and then over
a five-year period we return to him a percentage of the lambs, so he
gets ewe lambs back and we get some breeding ewes to get started with.
Brilliant. So you don't have to have the expensive outlay to start with.
-That's a good idea, isn't it?
You know, some people would say you've got three different breeds,
lambing at different times of year with grazing on outlying farms,
that would be a bit complicated, but you seem to be coping with it.
Yeah, we seem to work it very well. We try and keep the flocks together
so we're not moving small numbers of sheep around all the time.
And here we are in the winter, and it's quite mild, isn't it?
-I can almost hear the grass growing.
Come on, girls. Come on.
Before we let the ewes out to enjoy it,
we need to find out how many lambs they're expecting.
A 100% flock reading would mean an average of one lamb per ewe.
A 200% reading would be ideal,
but anything more than that could spell trouble.
There's just not enough milk to go round.
Brilliant. Job's done.
-Very speedy, sir. So what's the results on the screen?
Very good, considering they all lambed as ewe lambs last year.
-Total percent, 177.
-Yeah, pretty good. What's that made up of?
That was three empties, 21 singles,
70 twins and only four triplets.
-The more twins you get, the better.
-Brilliant. Pleased with that, gents?
Yeah, pleased with that.
It's a good number for us to be lambing outdoors.
You've achieved a lot, haven't you? And quite excited about the future?
We've got a successful scanning, we'll have a lot of lambs
on the ground next year, hopefully, so, yeah, we're very excited.
Plenty to sell through the restaurants and in your box scheme.
-Yeah, looking for a lot more customers this year.
It's great to see you getting on so well. Good luck in the future.
-Thank you, Adam.
I suspect you got another 20 farms to go to, John, have you?
-All right. Nice one.
The farming community has come together
and rallied around to help Steve and Ryan get a foothold in farming,
and we're looking to celebrate people like that.
If you know of a farmer or someone working in the industry
who deserves recognition, there's still time to nominate them
for the Countryfile Farming Hero 2018.
All the details are on our website with the terms and conditions.
But don't hang about, as entries close at midnight tomorrow evening.
Remember, if you're watching on demand,
nominations may have already closed.
-The banks of Loch Tay,
where sleeping Munros tower over glistening waters.
It's a rich landscape straddling the Highlands and Lowlands.
Today I'm going to get a real taste of it.
I've come to see a woman who makes chocolates.
Now, she uses the natural flavours that she finds
right here on her doorstep,
and the idea is to create a magical taste of this, the scenery.
Charlotte Flower laid down roots here nearly 20 years ago.
Inspired by the surroundings,
she decided she not only wanted to work in the landscape but with it.
And with a background in forestry and ecology,
finding wild flavours was second nature.
I've always been a forager,
always had a keen interest in the environment and nature.
And plants - I really love plants.
I've always loved chocolate so you could quite naturally say,
"Well, it's just a bringing of the two together."
That was the starting point for me.
I learnt how to make chocolate, and tested out anything and everything.
Scots pine, wild garlic, nettles, herbs and gorse have all
found their way into Charlotte's chocolate boxes, bars and bites -
all seasonal, all local.
Winter is a lovely time of year in Highland Perthshire
because you just see the bare bones of the place.
Finding flavours is a little bit more challenging
because everything is becoming more dormant
but I can then focus in on some of my favourite flavours.
Hardy plants like rosemary that we can pick green still,
and things that I've gathered in the autumn,
so things like sea buckthorn, which is a fabulous berry,
and full of vitamin C, so extremely good for you through winter.
So, hang on, are you arguing that actually I could say,
-"I'm only eating this chocolate to ward off a cold"?
It's a good argument.
No, I love it. Really, I love it.
-Well, in that case,
time for a health giving lochside picnic.
This is my kind of medicine.
-If you're going to eat a view...
-..this is a good one to start with.
-To start with, yes. No, absolutely.
And even better, dip it in chocolate before you eat it.
This isn't what I was expecting. This is posh chocolate.
Chocolate is an extraordinary food
and it deserves respect and so it always needs to look its best.
-Can I eat this one?
-Can I go for that one next?
-Yeah, go for that one.
It tastes earthy.
This is going to sound stupid, but it tastes green.
-It's this one. This is the...
-Yeah, Scots pine.
-So it's got a freshness to it.
I use the young spring shoot and it's full of sap
and it's got the most amazing fresh taste.
-I haven't got a clue what that is.
-And all these flavours are from right here.
Literally here where we're sitting or on the hillsides around.
The sea buckthorn, I picked that in East Lothian.
The berries have got this gorgeous, bright colour.
The flavour is... I don't know, it's sort of tropical.
It's gorgeous. I mean, it's truly gorgeous.
That's one of my favourites, especially in winter,
cos it just tastes like sunshine.
I try everything.
If it's got flavour and I like it,
I will...stick it in cream
-and see if it works.
-Having eaten most of Charlotte's chocolate supply,
it seems only fair I help her whip up a new batch.
Charlotte, what are we going to make?
-We're going to make a ganache cream and chocolate.
Two things that separately on their own are individually fantastic,
but when you combine them together
they turn into something unbelievable.
We're going to make a lovely juniper ganache,
and these are from local juniper woodland.
All foragers are very careful about their impact
of their foraging on the ecology.
Scottish juniper is a limited resource,
so Charlotte's only picked a handful of berries.
So these are precious. Precious bit of ingredient.
They are, actually. They are precious, yeah.
-I'm just really conscious I must not mess this up.
-You're not going to.
It's very, very difficult to mess it up, to be honest.
-We're going to crush these a little bit.
-Oh, right, OK.
The juniper infused cream is added to the chocolate
to make a silky smooth ganache.
And there you have it - one truly Scottish treat.
So is the weather going to be as sweet
and nearly perfect as my chocolates?
Here's the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
I've been spending the day
with sheep farming brothers Thomas and Glen Muirhead
and, for most, a flock of 1,400 sheep would be work enough.
Well, now I'm about to experience their other life,
which is a world away from this farm, as Olympic hopefuls.
These lads are from a family of curling legends.
Their sister, Eve, is a world champion, as is their dad, Gordon,
so all eyes will be on them for next month's Winter Games.
Our curling teams have long been
some of the most successful Olympic medal winners.
And this is where they train -
the UK's first National Curling Academy.
It's a place that's built to honour and build upon the curling prowess
in this area, and before this facility existed our British curlers
would just have to dodge ice skaters on the ice rink,
or pray for icy winters and frozen ponds like the good old days.
And this is curling Team GB in action,
training hard for their first Olympics.
Joining the Muirheads on the team is Kyle Waddell.
He's also from farming stock.
And there's another pair of brothers - Cammy and Kyle Smith.
He's the team captain.
Guess what they do for a living.
Yeah, they work on the family farm in Perth with their dad,
David, who's yet another curling world champion.
-Finished for now?
-That's the session done for today.
-How did it go in general? Was it all right?
-Yeah, it was good.
-Good team session today.
I've got these walking boots on and it's not that slippy,
actually, but you've got some special things underneath.
-So that's what you're going to use here.
-Oh, I see. Right.
-So that goes on your...
-Oh, yeah, that's a lot slippier, that is. OK.
-Just show me the position first of all.
Just so we know what we are aiming for.
So your right foot in the hack like this.
-Left foot on here.
You bring your hips up, bring your left foot back
and then push out of the hack.
-Yeah, that's it.
-Perfect. That's the one.
It's going straight. It's quite... It's going right.
Too hard. Right, so that was obviously too heavy, then.
VOICEOVER: There is so much to get your head around.
It's gone, I've put a bit too much curl on there. Far too much left.
So it was still too much weight, wasn't it?
-Still a little bit too much weight, yeah.
This is the one, number three.
That's not bad. Your line was really good on that one. Looking good.
It's looking good, aye.
It's going to go. It's going to go.
-Good work, chaps.
Get in. Happy with that.
VOICEOVER: The sweepers are critical to the way the stone travels.
So, you're effectively kind of melting the ice...?
Yeah, you create friction and it creates a tiny film of water
on top of the ice, and that just allows the stone
to just travel further.
You want to try and get your stroke the width of the stone,
and as fast as you can
and leaning down as hard as you can, basically.
So it's like that.
And obviously the key is to try and keep up with the stone,
-keep up with each other.
-That's it, yes.
Put the right amount of...
-Yeah, so it's very technical at this end, too.
So he's thrown this a little light so we need to try and sweep this.
You need to go, boys.
That's it. You're doing good.
-Keep it going.
VOICEOVER: Even sweeping the farmyard
can't prepare any farmer for this.
I'll tell you what, that gets the old...
-It makes you light-headed, doesn't it?
-A wee bit.
-VOICEOVER: One more go.
We're not far away, if we can manage to keep it going...
-Come on, we can have this.
-We've got it.
-This is it.
Oh, it's moving! Oh!
The yellows have it! The yellows have it.
-How are you doing?
-A moment of triumph.
-Oh, my word.
-Come and meet our Olympic curling team.
Thank you so much. And we'll be watching closely.
All the very best at the Winter Olympics.
And I hear that you've found out
that you're a bit of a champion at something.
I am. I am officially a champion caber tosser.
Thank you. I'm not quite an Olympian yet, guys.
-Is that your medal?
-This is a present. I got your present.
What is it? Chocolate...
-There were more. Can't think what happened to them.
-There we are.
Actually, I'm going to give that to the team.
You can share that. There you go.
Find a knife and cut it up. That's all we've got time for this week.
Actually, next week there's going to be more ice involved
in our celebration of the seasons, our winter special.
But that's it from us.
-Going to teach me how to do this now, then?
-Yeah, yeah, I will.
Right, let's get you the right shoes.
It's clearly going to make all the difference, yeah.
There can't be many farms in Britain run by a family of sporting legends, but Matt Baker's on a sheep farm in Crieff to meet two brothers who were pretty much born to curl! The Muirhead family name is one of the most famous in the global game of curling. Their dad Gordon was a world champion and, with a string of Olympic accolades, their sister Eve is perhaps Scotland's most prestigious curler. Matt meets brothers Thomas and Glen Muirhead as they get ready for lambing on the family farm. But their minds are fixed on getting a very different type of delivery right... as part of Britain's curling team in 2018's Winter Olympics. We hear about the sporting dynasty and how Olympic training fits around farming, and we learn about the family dynamic between the brothers both on the rink and in the fields.
In another nod to traditional Scottish sports, Charlotte Smith heads into the forest of the Drummond Estate on a hunt for the perfect tree for caber tossing in the upcoming Highland Games. The programme uses some great archive from the 1930s and 40s to illustrate how so many traditional Scottish games use items from the land, such as stone, rope and wood. The caber is usually a Scottish larch, and it has to be bigger and better than the previous year's. We follow the tree's journey as it gets felled, carved and polished ready for this year's game. Finally, in the grounds of the Drummond Estate, Charlotte gets a one-on-one coaching session - albeit with a much smaller practice caber!
Adam Henson is on a farm in Trewithick, Cornwall, where the mild climate has given one farm a huge helping hand. Steve and Ryan Johnson only started sheep farming a few years ago, but now they're rearing hundreds and lambing all year round. The milder climate means a longer growing season for grass, meaning a longer growing season for lambs. They've already lambed their Dorsets and their Lleyns. Adam helps out as they scan and get the maternity shed ready for their final lambers - their Highlanders.
Charlotte Smith heads from the forest to the southern shores of Loch Tay. Here, behind the doors of an unassuming old schoolhouse, a 'Willy Wonka of the wilderness' creates magical tastes of the surrounding scenery. Charlotte Flowers came here 18 years ago. So inspired by her surroundings, Charlotte not only wanted to work in it - but with it. She started nibbling her way around the landscape, using it as her larder to make chocolates with natural flavours found on her doorstep. Charlotte (Smith) gets a flavour of the area while rowing out over the Loch and eating a few samples. There are flavours of the forest in the Scots pine choc, juniper from the hills that overlook the loch and wild mint from the borders. Can she taste the view with every chew?
Tom Heap is also in the Highlands of Scotland to find out why some people cull mountain hares and why others want the practice banned.