Countryfile is on the Isle of Portland, off the Dorset coast. Matt Baker visits Portland's lighthouses, while Julia Bradbury explores the famous Portland stone quarries.
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The Isle of Portland.
Remaining staunchly robust, whatever the weather throws at it.
Home to historic lighthouses,
one of the largest man-made harbours in the world
and host to London 2012's Olympic sailing.
Welcome to Portland.
For a tiny isle, there's a lot to see,
and it's a place that many of you wanted us to explore.
So, here we are.
Monumental Portland stone.
It's been quarried here for centuries,
some say since the Romans.
It's been used at St Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace
and even at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
But today, there are only five working quarries left on the Isle.
So I will be finding out what happens
when the quarrymen move out, and the artists move in.
Tom's got a dilemma on his hands.
Sky lanterns, for some a charming source of innocent pleasure.
Others, though, find them guilty of starting fires
and killing livestock.
So, should I let this one go? You can find out later.
And Adam's finding out how to be a dog's best friend.
My sheepdogs work very hard for me,
so I need them to be in tiptop condition.
Today, I'm meeting a dog nutritionist
to tell me about what I need to feed them.
If you've got dogs at home, you might want to watch this.
The Isle of Portland, a tiny gem of land
reaching out from Weymouth
five miles into the English Channel.
Towering limestone cliffs repel the powerful sea below,
and sitting at its southern tip is a rocky outcrop
known as Portland Bill.
And the reason that we've ventured to this tiny island
is all thanks to you, because a couple of weeks ago,
we asked Countryfile viewers
for suggestions of where we should take the programme,
and Portland inundated our inbox.
We had endless suggestions of where we should be pointing our cameras.
And the majority of those e-mails mentioned Portland Bill,
a place with not one,
but three lighthouses.
Lighthouses have stood here since 1716, and for good reason.
This is one of the most hazardous spots on the Channel,
with hidden sandbanks and competing currents clashing
to create a treacherous race that can run at up to 10 knots.
But this constant danger has been dwarfed by recent events.
The worst weather conditions in living memory
have seen storms batter this coastline,
with waves towering 70 feet high,
stopping shipping in its tracks
and leaving the people of Portland stranded.
Around the treacherous Bill, it's the candy-striped lighthouse
that today warns travellers to steer clear.
The others were decommissioned more than a century ago,
but as I'll be discovering, each has a unique tale to tell.
My first stop is the Old Lower Lighthouse,
now a bird observatory run by warden Martin Cade.
-All right, Matt?
-Are you well?
-A bit windswept.
-It is a bit blustery.
-It's still blowy today.
So I gather that it's not boats that you're on the lookout for here?
No. It's a little bit early in the season,
but I'd be on the lookout for early migrating birds
before very long.
Let's see if we can see anything. Like you said, it's very blustery.
We're looking for sea birds at this time of year,
things that have come from further north
that are spending the winter in the English Channel.
There will be birds like gannets, guillemots, razorbills.
They'll be going off before long
to breed all up around northern Britain.
But this will be the viewpoint before very long
that we're looking for things like swallows arriving.
Great place to spot them.
As the spring migration gets under way, not only swallows,
but birds like chiffchaff, willow warblers and even hoopoes
may all head this way,
heading north to breed from as far away as southern Africa,
in one of the UK's biggest natural events.
Portland Bill's position,
dangling deep into the waters of the English Channel,
makes it an incredibly important spot for migrating birds
and keen bird-watchers alike.
From the bird point of view, it couldn't be in a better place.
They're coming across the Channel,
and we're the first place they spot,
so we're the landfall for them, we're the oasis.
I guess it means it's better to be watching them from this level,
-as opposed to being at the top.
I get visitors who come and think that somehow,
there's a very large pair of binoculars at the top of our tower.
-I thought the same thing.
-You're just like the rest!
How many birds would you expect to see?
Just in this garden here, it will be in the tens of thousands.
More species of bird have been seen from this patio
than probably any other place in Britain.
It is wonderful to keep that concept of looking out for something.
Oh, yeah. This is a fabulous viewpoint.
While lighthouses have for centuries been a welcome sight
warning of hazards ahead,
it's claimed that a more recent addition to our skies
is putting our countryside at risk, as Tom's been discovering.
Enchanting and romantic, it's becoming a tradition
to release sky lanterns at new year, at weddings and festivals.
They can look spectacular,
like this world-record launch of 15,000 in the Philippines.
But there's also a darker side.
These floating, fire-powered lanterns
have the potential to cause destruction on a huge scale.
You can buy them for as little as 99p, and once you get the hang of it,
they're pretty easy to handle and light.
But some people want them banned
and believe I certainly shouldn't let this go.
So let's look at the case for and the case against.
It's thought that between 3 and 6 million lanterns
are released into the UK skies every year.
A handful of them have started fires that caused massive damage.
This is my caravan compound, or what's left of it.
In this area, we had about 100 caravans stored,
and on the night of 24th November,
a Chinese lantern caused a tremendous blaze.
Alan Newell's caravan park in Gloucestershire
was devastated after a sky lantern came down on his land.
This is what's left. A few chassis and a bit of rubbish.
A few personal possessions, but not a lot else.
That's astonishing that 100 or so caravans
-were reduced to this by a lantern?
-It was terrible.
100 families were obviously extremely distressed
that their caravans were completely destroyed,
with nothing they could save.
We're looking at in excess of half a million pounds' damage.
So your advice if someone's thinking of using a lantern?
Forget it. Forget it. Just don't do it.
The fire here wasn't simply a one-off,
and while most sky lanterns pose little danger,
a tiny number have had a huge impact.
To find out how easily sky lanterns can start a fire,
we've enrolled the experts,
and because we don't want either lanterns or sparks
going up into the air, we're doing it all inside their firehouse.
The question here is, if used properly,
can a sky lantern present a fire risk
as it returns to earth at the end of its flight?
So at this point,
whatever it touches that's flammable will ignite.
But it's towards the end, the important part.
When it actually drops down, it will still be very hot.
So even though the flame is not visible, the heat is still there,
so whatever it comes into contact with potentially could burn.
The fire service thermal imaging camera shows just how hot it is.
In the centre, the hottest part is over 500 degrees.
That's interesting, because I thought when they fell to earth,
the fire had gone out, but clearly, that's not the case.
And as the lantern is dropped onto the straw, sure enough,
it catches light.
Now, our test doesn't fully replicate normal outdoor use,
but of the six lanterns we tried, one did set light to the straw
and two set fire to their own canopies.
The paper's gone again.
You can see how quickly that can start a blaze,
and it's getting smoky in here,
so I'll back off and leave these guys to do their job.
Not sure I want to spend any longer in your firehouse.
-No, it's not the pleasantest place to be.
-It's making my eyes water.
Well, I can see, as an amateur, how easily they start fires.
But as an expert, what are you thinking about this?
We have real concerns about it, because at the end of the day,
you're talking about a naked flame that is floating around uncontrolled
and can land on combustible material.
The problem with the lanterns is that unlike a firework,
which goes up and comes straight down, a lantern goes up
and can drift around on the wind and we don't know where it'll land.
Phil was in charge when a sky lantern
started the West Midlands' biggest ever fire,
destroying 100,000 tonnes of plastic at a recycling plant.
It took 200 firemen and 35 engines to get it under control.
What do you think should be done about them?
We'd like to see them banned.
We don't want to sound like we're spoiling everybody's party
but the bottom line is, this is an uncontrolled fire that can land
and cause a lot of damage, and we have seen that.
But it's not just the fire risk.
They can also be lethal to wildlife and farm animals.
So this field here is some of our grazing.
And this is the kind of place where we find these lanterns.
Will Lacey is the seventh generation of his family
to farm this land in Buckinghamshire.
The danger to his cattle comes
when they eat lanterns which have landed in his fields.
We've had nine die in the period of about 18 months,
all from similar causes.
To start with we weren't sure what it was
and then, working with the vet, we said we'd do a postmortem
and that's when we started to find the problem with the wires.
This is one we pulled out of a cow.
As you can see, it's got two very sharp edges on there.
If it's not too gruesome, how does the cow actually die as a result?
So it's inside the cow's gut and then more than likely it's when
it needs to exert extra pressure, so when it's starting to calve
then that will dislodge and it will start poking holes in her.
It won't die from those holes,
it will die from the infection caused by them,
so it's a slow and it's a painful death.
It's not a matter of hours, it might be weeks it's suffering.
Wire is increasingly being replaced by string in sky lanterns
but there are still concerns
that the bamboo frame could injure animals too,
so farmers, firemen and landowners all have their reasons
to be against sky lanterns.
After hearing all that, you might well want me to keep
a very tight hold of this.
But, if they're that dangerous, should they be banned?
I'll be finding out later.
The Isle of Portland,
tethered to the mainland by the ever-changing Chesil Beach.
From above, the landscape looks craggy and weathered.
Its exposed, hard-bitten edges have a story to tell.
What makes this place special isn't just the views,
it's this stuff under my feet, the limestone.
It's tough, durable, attractive
and, most importantly here on the Isle of Portland, it's accessible.
You, the viewer, wanted to know more about it
so, as ever, your wish is my command.
The island formed millions of years ago when the sea bed was
forced up out of the water as the Earth's plates moved.
This brought limestone to the surface, and it's the Romans
who are thought to have made the first cuts to get to it.
Since then, quarrying has been as much a part of this landscape
as the stone itself.
Until very recently every building on the Isle
was made from Portland stone, but its fame has spread worldwide.
'Local historian Stuart Morris wrote to tell us about
'one thing that we couldn't miss here - the history of the quarries.'
Let's start with the famous Portland stone, then. Why is it so famous?
Portland is lucky in its location
in that stone could be quarried from the cliff edges
so it was easy to ship out and transport,
but it is the quality of the Portland stone.
It is still reckoned to be
probably the best building material in the world.
But it was tremendous effort to extract the stone.
They had to clear off the overburden, the rubble,
from the top before they could get down to the workable beds,
tumble them down over the very steep hillsides,
right down onto what we call the weirs,
and then these stones would be roughly shaped
and loaded onto stone-carrying barges from three or four little piers.
There's still evidence here, right behind us.
Yeah, the stone blocks, as you can see, standing there
would have been swung around and loaded into the barges.
It was a skilled operation because those barges could easily
fall to pieces if they hit the rocks there.
There was a turning point, wasn't there, for Portland stone?
Yes, that's right.
The Banqueting House in London was designed by Inigo Jones,
and he specified Portland stone.
Sir Christopher Wren saw Inigo Jones's work,
he investigated the qualities of Portland stone himself
and realised that this is an ideal building material
to be a structural element as well as a decorative one.
So in 1669, after the Great Fire of London,
Wren embarked on the project which was to make his name -
rebuilding the majestic St Paul's Cathedral from Portland stone.
The project provided 35 years of work for the Portland quarries.
It represented a lifetime's work for many, many quarrymen.
-How important is it still today?
-It is still very important.
Obviously it only employs a fraction of the number of people,
because of mechanisation, but it still engenders
a lot of pride to the area and the name of Portland stone.
And so it should.
Its distinctive grey-white tones can be seen
in some of the most significant buildings in the UK.
Not only St Paul's Cathedral, but also Whitehall,
and even the BBC's very own Broadcasting House.
Today Portland stone is still big business.
There are five quarries on the isle, and last year alone
around 25,000 tonnes were shipped off around the globe.
However, not all the stone departs these shores.
This is the Tout Quarry Sculpture Park.
What was once a tough working quarry
is now a place of artistic contemplation.
Opened in 1983 by the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust,
it was the first sculpture park
to be sited in a disused quarry in the UK.
Local residents and visiting artists,
including Sir Antony Gormley, wanted to use this space
to create, educate and celebrate the brilliance of Portland stone.
'The weather might have taken a turn
'but I'm meeting artist Hannah Sofaer for a soggy tour.'
So, Hannah, I'm a fan of sculpture parks
but this is the most unusual location for one. Why here?
Tout is a really inspirational quarry.
It means "lookout", it's on the edge of the west cliff,
it's got sea, sky, stone, it's got all the elements,
and it was bringing people to the site
rather than the material going away.
As an artist, what's it like working in a quarry,
this environment that you can't control?
Well, it's working with the elements, really.
You're working with material in its place of origin,
you're working with natural light, and every time you carve something,
that area has not been exposed since the beginning of time.
And this is a really good example, Antony's piece.
So this is Antony Gormley?
Antony Gormley carved this in 1983 and it's called Still Falling.
It's a life-sized figure on the living rock face,
just where the good building stone is.
Everything above it is waste, it's been stacked all around here.
But, you know, it tells you the history of time on this rock,
it's an original land surface.
It's been estimated that around a third of Portland's limestone
has been used up, but here you have a chance to really see its beauty.
Everywhere you look there are tributes in stone.
Some are so much a part of the landscape they came out of,
it's hard to tell if they're natural or man-made.
Hannah has really inspired me.
The sun's out and now I want to get my hands on some stone.
There's a thriving community of sculptors on the Isle.
Phil Doherty is Portland born and bred.
By day he works in a sand quarry on the mainland
and by night he works Portland stone.
So you're a quarryman and a sculptor. You must pretty much know
-everything there is to know about Portland stone.
-A reasonable amount.
Is it hard to work with?
Depends whereabouts on the island you get the stone from,
cos it varies in density, so some quarries might be really hard,
some areas would be a bit softer.
-So that's just experience, you get to know?
What kind of stone do you prefer to work with?
The harder stone, because it holds a better line.
You get a much better edge on it.
Your work - some of it's here - is so intricate.
You start with a circle
and then you draw 12 evenly spaced points around the outside, then you
basically just use a straight edge and connect all the dots together.
-You make it sound so easy!
-Well, it's reasonably easy.
-Once you've seen someone do it!
-Don't undersell it!
'OK...let's see if I can crack this.
'Don't hold your breath.'
Hold the chisel like that and then you just basically
-roll your hand round it, not hold it too tight.
Position it at the angle you want and then work a line across there.
I'm so frightened that I'm going to take a massive chunk
out of this beautiful stone.
And this pattern, with you doing it, not with me doing it,
-will take how long?
-Four hours, maybe?
With me doing it, I think maybe four days.
'Working with stone seems to be in the very genes
'of the people of Portland,
'and if Phil's skill is anything to go by
'the love and respect they have for it is monumental.'
Well, I don't think the professionals of Portland
have anything to worry about, but it is a lovely experience.
Sculpted onto the northeast coast of this isle is Portland Harbour.
The distinctive breakwater that shapes this harbour was built from
that famous Portland stone back in the mid-1800s.
It was one of the most expensive building projects of its day,
but thought to be well worth it
because this port has played a vital role in our maritime history.
So special is this harbour that Countryfile viewer Andy Straw
wanted to show it off.
For Andy, it's not just an historic site, but his workplace,
because he is one of the harbour's two tug boat captains.
-Hello, John. Welcome aboard.
-Good to see you.
-How you doing?
-Going out today?
-We're going out, and you're welcome to join us.
'A Portlander born and bred, he's worked this small patch of sea
'for the last 12 years, and it is his job to know every inch intimately.'
So what made you become a tug master, Andy?
Well, it's something I've always wanted to do since I was a child.
My father, he worked on the tug boats as he was younger
and I got that from him, really.
I thought, "One day, I'll be on those tugs," and I am.
But I never thought I would ever be a tug skipper.
Nowadays, this is a commercial port, a kind of marine service station,
repairing and refuelling more than 500 ships a year.
But from the mid-1800s until 1996, it was a Royal Navy dockyard.
To me, there's little sign of it on the surface,
but 150 years of naval might has left its mark
if, like Andy, you know where to look.
What's that building over there?
That building is where they used to test torpedoes.
They used to, um, fire off torpedoes to test them
into the Weymouth Bay.
And then they would monitor them from a large radar to see
how far of a distance they went with how much fuel they had on them.
So, really, this was the birthplace of the torpedo, then?
Pretty much, yeah, yeah. For better or for worse.
In 1890, the inventor of the modern torpedo, Robert Whitehead,
began testing his weapons here at Portland Harbour.
Production reached its peak during World War II,
a time when this port played a key role in the action, with over
half a million troops leaving here for the Normandy landings.
And, of course, the two blocks over there are the Mulberry blocks.
-From the old Mulberry Harbour?
-That's right, the Mulberry harbours.
They were used during the D-day landings.
Three days after the initial Normandy landings,
two temporary harbours, code-named Mulberry A and B,
were constructed from massive concrete blocks
towed across the Channel.
Although one was soon destroyed by storms,
the other kept operating for ten months.
Altogether, 2.5 million men, half a million vehicles
and four million tonnes of supplies were landed.
Two of these blocks now sit here, in Portland Harbour,
as a lasting memorial to that great achievement.
So what's the job you're about to do now, then?
We're going to lean onto a vessel just to help them
whilst they tighten up their mooring ropes.
They're alongside a berth at the moment.
Although there is little navy presence here now,
fleet auxiliary ships still often call in to stock up.
It's one of these, the 38,000-tonne Orangeleaf,
that Andy's little tug is helping out today.
How is it that, really,
a very small boat like this can boss about a huge tanker?
It's all in the engines, John. The manoeuvrability, it helps as well.
And a great deal of skill on your part.
Oh, of course, there is a little bit of that. Yeah, yeah!
So you're very gently pushing the ship towards the quay now.
-How do you know when to stop?
-We know when to stop when we go, "Ugh!"
Orangeleaf, Wyke Castle. Yes, that's all complete with you.
Thanks ever so much for that, and we'll see you again.
With the job done, before we head back to the quayside,
Andy makes me an offer I just can't refuse.
-Would you like a play, John?
-Right, OK. At the moment...
-A tug master!
-Push it forward. Lightly forward.
-But we don't seem to be moving.
-If you move your joystick now to your right-hand side...
'With Captain Craven at the controls, things quickly get into a spin.'
This is fun.
Not in danger of hitting anything?
-No, you're all right at the moment.
-Just going round and round.
It just shows how manoeuvrable it is.
We're doing a full 360 in a very tiny space, aren't we?
If you want to put some more power on, you'd go round faster.
Ho-ho-ho-ho! How about that?!
Buoyed with confidence, I'm soon venturing out of my depth.
-What about going sideways?
-You want to have a go at going sideways?
-Yeah, is that...
-..an easy manoeuvre or not?
-It can be.
There's a little bit of a knack to it.
-Bring the joystick directly towards me.
-Not too much.
-Bring it back a bit.
Not too much power. Once you start moving...
-Like I say, there is a bit of a knack to it.
-We're still going round in circles!
'Before I get too out of control, the weather, cursing so many,
'comes to the rescue of a rather relieved Andy.'
The wind's picking up. So we need to go back to berth.
-I'd better take it, John.
-You'd better. Hand over to you.
-Yeah, the wind...
-But that was fantastic.
That's like a schoolboy's dream. Thank you very much!
While the sea may have helped put Portland on the map,
it's also a danger to be navigated with care.
For nearly 200 years, the higher and lower lighthouses worked in unison
to guide sailors safely past the notorious waters of Portland Bill.
In the 1920s, the Old Higher Lighthouse became the home
of a lady called Dr Marie Stopes,
a figure who was both celebrated and controversial.
A champion of women's rights,
she founded Britain's first family planning clinics.
From these beginnings, her ideas would change the lives
of men and women for generations to come, right around the world.
I'm following in her footsteps
with current lighthouse owner Fran Lockyer.
-What was she like?
-A very, very strong, powerful lady.
She thought it was wrong that women should be burdened
with maybe 12 children, a child year after year after year.
So she set about being a pioneer in birth control
and she was a very, very powerful lady.
Of course, while she was here, a lot of famous people came.
George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Hardy.
There you are, he's outside with his wife and Marie.
And what was the reason, Fran,
for all of these very well-known people to come and visit her here?
She was a very magnetic character
-and she moved in very aristocratic circles.
Very well known.
And I expect, really,
quite admired by an awful lot of people who were influential.
It was Stopes' ground-breaking books on birth control,
first published in 1918, that made her a household name.
Through them, she hoped to empower women.
They became bestsellers
and did nothing less than start a social revolution.
She was certainly very popular with women that didn't want
to increase the size of their family, so...
You see, she is talking, really,
about people who haven't got a lot of money,
because if they're having very, very big families, it makes them poor.
So, really, they haven't got a lot of money, so they are going to try
anything that is not going to cost them a lot.
But the advice was only for married women.
Women wouldn't be where they are today without Marie Stopes.
She made life for women totally different.
In 1921, she went on to found the UK's first family planning clinic.
Today, there are more than 600 Marie Stopes clinics worldwide.
By the time she settled in Portland, she was already notorious.
Her unconventional life caused a stir amongst the locals.
She loved to sunbathe. She was a sun worshipper.
So this was an ideal place, really,
because you get so much sunshine here on Dorset anyway.
She used to lie between the boats,
but there, she used to lie naked, most of the time.
I do have a photograph of her here with some clothes on,
which is quite unusual.
But I guess we wouldn't have one with no clothes on!
But Marie Stopes had another passion -
the ancient landscape of Portland itself.
Its fossilised Jurassic forests
drew her into a serious academic piece of work.
Stopes was also a renowned palaeobotanist,
which basically means that she was a plant fossil hunter.
Now, she was so taken with all of the finds made in Portland's
quarries and cliffs that she set up a museum in 1930 to display them.
And we've got just a few of the artefacts from the museum here.
David, you're going to talk us through them, aren't you?
Let's start with this book, because that in itself is fascinating.
This book is the original manual
that Marie Stopes wrote in her own hand.
If I open it up, it's very fragile.
Here we have item number one, a toe bone of a megalosaurus.
-And this is what we have here.
-This is it? Right.
This is actually the fossilised toe bone here of this vast creature,
a sort of mini Tyrannosaurus rex.
It was one of the many fossils that we actually have on the island.
If we went down the register, you'll find item number three -
"Found in the quarry near Portland Bill," where we are today,
"Presented by Dr Marie Stopes" is one of the cycads,
which is her big interest.
They looked like very large, pineapple-type plants
and they grow to enormous size.
By preserving finds like these,
Stopes highlighted Portland's importance on the Jurassic Coast,
a place where fossils can date back up to 250 million years.
She recognised that quarrying acted like an archaeological dig,
exposing ancient finds on a vast scale.
Dr Marie Stopes died in 1958 at the age of 77.
The work she started preserved an important part of Portland's past,
while her legacy changed millions of lives across the world.
And there was life in her till the end.
She had a thing with a much, much younger man and she stopped it
because she didn't think it was quite nice.
He apparently was in his 30s, but it is still a huge age gap.
-40 years is a big age gap.
Especially with her at 72!
We'd better get out of here, Fran,
cos people are going to start making comparisons!
I don't think so. I don't think so.
I'm a lot older than she was!
Every year, millions of sky lanterns light the skies over Britain.
But are they safe?
Tom has been investigating.
Sky lanterns have been blamed for serious fires
and deaths of farm animals.
There are growing calls for them to be banned.
But could a ban on lanterns be the thin end of the wedge?
After all, fireworks contain explosives
and lead to serious injuries every year.
And then, of course, there are the old favourites - rockets.
They shoot up into the sky.
Who knows where they'll land?
And they are pretty scary for animals, too.
Even helium balloons, so innocently released by children,
once they come down to earth, they can be eaten,
and that can be deadly to animals and sea life.
There have been calls for all of these
to be banned at one time or another,
so should sky lanterns be singled out?
Members of the public we spoke to have mixed views.
I think a ban is quite extreme. Maybe regulated a little bit more,
but I think it's just harmless fun.
If used in the right areas, there's nothing wrong with it.
We think they're dangerous, because there's lots
of thatched properties around here and I think they could cause damage.
I don't think they should.
If they catch on fire, then, yeah, fair enough, but I quite like them.
Are fireworks banned for the same reasons?
The fact that millions are launched in the UK every year
would indicate that many of us don't think they should be banned.
So what do people who sell them say?
A sky lantern was blamed for a huge fire at a recycling plant
in Smethwick last year.
Nearby shopkeeper, Surinder Josan, stopped selling sky lanterns
out of sensitivity, but says they are no worse
than many other everyday items.
We tried them a few times, had lots of fun.
We had a little birthday party, set loads and loads off,
and they went right up high in the sky
and they're really, really good fun.
But, obviously, there has been a few incidents,
and I do stress that of all the ones that are sold worldwide,
it's just a few incidents.
Certainly shouldn't be a reason to ban them totally.
Fireworks are dangerous.
We sell a lot of other inflammable things, like gas for blowlamps
and things like that. We sell gardening chemicals.
They are also dangerous if they're put in the wrong hands,
used inappropriately. So where do you stop?
Rather than banning them, Defra has recently met with retailers
and opponents of sky lanterns with a view to drawing up
a code of conduct which may govern their sale and safety standards.
That has been welcomed by Alan Hawkins
from the British Independent Retailers Association.
I would prefer a code of conduct than to an outright ban.
I personally like sky lanterns.
I think they are an alternative to fireworks.
A firework will go off very quickly,
a sky lantern is a much more tranquil thing, it goes up slowly,
and you can have, you know, 20 or 30 going off at the same time
if you're planning them right.
So, they are a nice alternative to fireworks.
As long as there is a code of conduct
but not an outright ban, provided that is what the bodies decide,
is the right way forward. I think that is the way it should go.
But some aren't waiting for the new code.
Tesco and Poundland recently stopped selling sky lanterns.
In other parts of the world, they have been banned altogether,
including Denmark, the Netherlands and Hong Kong.
In the UK, 22 councils have banned them from their land
and even some festivals, like Glastonbury, have outlawed their use.
So, is the idea of a legal ban here still a possibility?
Well, in England, Defra has held meetings with opponents
and supporters of sky lanterns and they commissioned a study along with
the Assembly here in Wales, where it's an even hotter topic.
That study said that while the risk to farm animals and nuisance
from litter did not warrant action, there was a significant fire risk.
In Wales, that has led to government calls for a voluntary ban
on lanterns, but for Welsh Assembly minister, Alun Davies,
making their sale illegal is still a step too far.
The report did not come back with the sort of evidence
that we would require at the moment to institute a ban in Wales.
But it's not something which is forgotten, it is
something which remains under consideration at the moment.
But I understand this report talked about a significant fire risk.
I'm wondering what more evidence you need than that to say,
"These are dangerous, they should be banned"?
I think there is significant anecdotal evidence
of the potential dangers of sky lanterns.
It's another thing altogether to say, right, this is the risk
that we can understand or we can describe or we can tabulate,
if you like, and on that basis, we would go forward to legislate.
In the meantime, I have written to all local authorities in Wales
and said to them, "I want you to start considering the impact
"of sky lanterns on the countryside
"and I want you to ban sky lanterns voluntarily from your own property."
Is that not just passing the buck down to those politicians
rather than taking the responsibility yourself?
I don't think it's helpful for politicians to react
to every challenge by saying, "We'll legislate here, legislate there.
"We'll create a ban here, we'll have more regulation somewhere else."
I would prefer people worked together
to try and resolve these sorts of problems.
The minister says there's not enough hard evidence for a ban,
and that's the problem.
No-one can say if the chance of an individual sky lantern
causing an incident is one in 100 or one in a million.
So, harmless fun or a flying firelighter?
We began this programme asking if I should let this go.
Well, what do you think?
We'd like to know if you are for or against a ban
via the Countryfile website.
The stony Isle of Portland is a geological paradise.
It sits smack bang in the middle of the Jurassic Coast.
At its heart lies a rich seam of limestone,
and it is this that has shaped the lives of the people living here.
Now, you might think, with all the quarrying that's going on here,
the wildlife would struggle to find a home.
But, in fact, the exact opposite has happened.
Quarrying has actually created homes.
Hundreds of species of plants and animals
rely on the limestone grasslands of Portland.
It might be a rotten old day,
but it all helps to produce this special habitat.
'I'm meeting Dorset Wildlife Trust officer Sam Hamer to find out more.'
I know it might take a bit of imagination on a day like today,
but trust me, in the summer, this is just awash with colour.
The nature of the quarrying itself has meant
that the landscape has been completely changed.
And we've got here really unique, special,
undulating south-facing slopes which wouldn't normally be here.
And they provide that niche habitat.
What species are unique to this location?
Across the island, we've got things like Portland hawkweed,
maidenhair fern and spleenworts, and those are very special plants.
-Some of them are only found here.
-And why are they only found here?
Where we've got the Portland stone, the limestone, that soil chemistry
gives rise to a very special kind of limestone grassland.
And it's that, including the grasses, the mosses and the liverworts,
that are the building blocks of that habitat
that then underpins so many other things.
And eventually, it all comes back to this magical Portland stone again,
-Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
But this landscape is under threat from invasive species.
Things like cotoneaster, buddleia
and sycamore all outcompete the precious limestone grasses,
placing the whole habitat at risk.
The Portland Living Landscapes Project aims to restore 500 acres
of limestone grassland, but with such a huge area to survey,
how on earth do you keep track of the progress that you are making?
Step forward Sam and some big boys' toys.
They've fixed a high-definition mini-camera onto a zip wire
using kids' building blocks, providing a unique view
and sense of the quarry space.
You've got a camera fixed onto a toy.
It's to help us monitor our progress
and the work we're doing within the landscape.
We've done so many fixed-point photography things
and we've done a lot of monitoring quadrats and they are all great
for getting that scientific data that we need.
But we're trying to capture the effort
within the context of this open, dynamic landscape.
-So how long has the high wire been in place?
-About two years now.
And if you showed me footage from two years ago, what would I see?
What would be different?
Well, it was just full of cotoneaster.
As an invasive species, it just covers like a blanket.
So everything it smothers out is shaded out from the light
and outcompeted and then lost.
-And you've cleared it all?
-Sort of 98% there.
-Who had the Lego set?
I knew you were going to say that!
We experimented a few times.
It's blown up a number of times and left the wire,
but we've got to the stage with it
and it's producing the results we need.
So this little toy is going to help to manage
this very important habitat for years and years.
Off you go.
To infinity and beyond!
We Brits have a love affair with our animals.
In fact, we love them so much,
they are often thought of as part of the family.
Looking after one animal can be hard enough,
but when you're surrounded by them,
it really is a full-time job, as Adam knows all too well.
This week, it's the dogs that need his attention.
In your bed, in your bed. In your bed.
When I come down into the kitchen in the morning,
I'm already surrounded by animals.
It's not just farm animals, but pets,
and I keep the three most popular pets there are in the country.
And you'd be surprised what's number one.
But coming in at number three are cats.
This one under here is Frank, and then Widget's sitting over there
by the Aga, keeping nice and warm.
They're lovely pets, but they're also good at catching mice and rats.
And in the UK, there's 8.5 million cats, so they are pretty popular.
And then coming in at number two are the dogs.
And there's a similar number of dogs as there are cats, but slightly more.
And I've got Boo and Dolly here, who are house dogs,
and then of course the working dogs outside.
And, believe it or not, the number one most favourite pet
in the UK I have lurking in the corner of my kitchen, which is fish.
And there's around 20-25 million fish kept in ponds
and the same in fish tanks in people's houses.
And they're very easy to look after. That's them fed.
Wish all my farm animals were that easy! Come on, dogs. Come on, Dolly.
Come on, then! Here.
'But regardless of the statistics,
'the trusty old dog is my favourite by far.'
HE WHISTLES Here. Dolly.
Millie. Millie! Up, up!
Little trick dog.
Come on, then, Pearl.
It's clear that people absolutely love dogs, and why wouldn't you?
They are such loyal, fantastic creatures
with so many different uses.
Millie, come here!
And they're definitely my favourite farm animal. I absolutely adore them.
Boo gets very jealous when I give the other dogs attention.
Boo, I love Millie. DOG BARKS
She's my favourite one!
Oh, I love you too! Go on, then!
'Research suggests that dogs first became our friends in the ice age,
'tamed by hunter-gatherers to help with hunting
'or protection against predators.
'It's their intelligence and ability to learn that's made them
'such useful animals.'
HE CALLS OUT AND WHISTLES
'And working dogs still play an important role today.
'Life on the farm would be extremely hard without them.'
You can't really replace a working sheepdog with a man or a machine.
Really because they've got this ancient hunting instinct
that we're controlling to help them round up the sheep.
HE WHISTLES Bring them out! By!
Our working collies live in the kennels,
but they are warm and dry for them to lie at night, and, really,
like a machine, what you fuel that machine with, it's a bit like a dog.
What you put inside it is what you get out,
and I want my animals to be healthy, strong, fit and working well.
And, in exchange for their hard work, I give them good quality food.
'Their diet is really vital, but with so many options on the market,
'how do we know we're getting it right?
'I've invited dog trainer Richard Clarke to the farm,
'to get the low-down on dog nutrition.'
-Richard, hi, good to meet you.
-Very nice to meet you.
Good array of dog food you've got here.
Food plays such a big part in our relationship with training dogs.
The first pet foods came about about 1860.
A guy called James Spratt got off the boat from America.
He was an electrician and he saw the dogs
scavenging on the dockside, saw an opportunity there to create
some food, for rich English gentleman for their shooting dogs,
and that's where the first processed dog food came about, really.
So tell me a little bit about them.
Like a dog meat that you get from a tin, what is that like?
This is traditionally the food that we've been using
for the past 40, 50, 60 years, so it appears as meaty chunks in gravy,
so it looks really appetising and a lot of the dogs will like it.
But appearances can be deceiving.
The first thing is, we look at the back of the tin.
How much gravy would you expect to find in that?
-80%. So actually,
when you look at that tin of dog food, it seems like good value -
50p for a tin, but the reality is that
only the top 20% is actual food matter.
Should we be shopping around and choosing some of the other tins?
Undoubtedly, there are some foods that are better than others,
and some dogs, particularly older dogs, prefer wet food.
Dogs are omnivores, they eat meat and vegetables.
So a good mixed diet like this would work, wouldn't it?
It looks great, doesn't it? Nice bit of bone there, a bit of calcium.
A bit of red stuff, assume that that's meat.
You've then got a nice bit of vegetation.
If you argue the point that the dog is supposed to be colour-blind,
why is it lots of fun colours?
This is designed for the person buying it,
not for the animal that's going to consume it.
And all of the colours and additives tend to be artificial.
I've got a couple of cans of pop here.
The same additives and preservatives that are in that
are in some of these foods, yet we give them to our dogs
and then expect it not to have a knock-on effect
to their temperament and behaviour.
So what you are saying, then, is if you got a dog that's a bit bonkers
and charges around and is always on the go in the house,
it may be related to its diet.
Yeah, it will promote things like jumping up at lightshades,
pulling curtains down, barking at the front door.
Of course, there's lots of components that add to that,
but certainly it could be the fuel behind the behaviour.
But what about my working dogs?
I feed them a mixed dry food, and they seem to do well on it.
But what will Richard make of it?
The first thing we look at is
it's got lots of gluten, maize and cereal.
You could argue that it's almost like a breakfast cereal.
The problem is when we start looking at wheat and corn,
these aren't highly digestible foods for dogs,
so often you'll see that the dogs have large stools,
they'll be passing frequently throughout the day,
because the dog can't metabolise the food.
So what about if we hark right back to the wild dog,
the wolf, eating raw meat? Is this something we should be feeding them?
Although they enjoy a high protein and calcium-based diet,
flesh and bone, they do need a certain amount of roughage,
vitamins, so it's really difficult
to find that balance in a raw food diet.
It can be a good thing, but it needs to be done properly.
So to clarify, then, I want something with natural preservatives,
no additives, good meat content of a single meat,
but going to the supermarket is a bit of a minefield, isn't it?
It's about balance. The cheaper the food, the cheaper the ingredients.
Just look at the label. Go by the order of contents.
Look for something that has got a named meat first up.
If it's got cereal on it, I would suggest perhaps avoid it.
And for my working dogs outside, just give them
a little bit of a higher protein?
Yeah, and you can add that protein yourself.
Any good-quality complete food, to be honest,
-will serve you well.
-There you go, Dolly. What do you reckon?
As a farmer, I always try to do the best by my animals,
and hopefully Richard's expert advice will mean
a happy and healthy life for all of my dogs.
I'm exploring the tiny Isle of Portland
off the south tip of Dorset.
It's not the most hospitable of coastlines,
and there's not a bit of sand in sight.
There might not be a beach, but there are beach huts.
Apparently, these are quite glam on the inside.
They look a bit like garden sheds to me.
There are more than 300 of these little huts dotted around the Isle,
and hut designer Richard Burgess has built around a third of them.
Time for a nosey, I think.
-Hi, Richard, nice to see you.
A welcome break from the weather that's just come back in.
-I guess it happens like this here, doesn't it?
-It turns, as you say, just like that.
-Very, very cosy.
A little bit more than a garden shed.
Absolutely, yes. I think the owners wouldn't be too pleased
if you called it a shed.
How much would the owners have paid for this?
-Getting on towards £25,000.
Traditionally, what were these huts used for?
Recreational purposes by the workers of the quarries.
A lot of houses on Portland were back-to-back, no gardens,
so it was a nice bit of breathing space, if you like,
-to bring out their families and have a cup of tea on a nice day.
We asked you where in the British Isles
you'd like to see featured on Countryfile.
And you chose here, the Isle of Portland,
so we've been discovering what makes this land so special,
how the seas have shaped its history.
I'm now going to be heading up 153 steps to the top of
the Portland Bill Lighthouse, to meet Larry,
its last lighthouse-keeper.
It was opened in 1906,
replacing Portland's old Higher and Lower Lighthouses.
Although he's not been here quite that long,
Larry has got 44 years
and 23 different lighthouses under his belt.
-Larry, good to see you.
I'm slightly out of breath, I have to say.
Yeah, you've climbed 153 steps to get to us, so welcome, Matthew.
But before I get the chance to relax,
Larry's got me limbering up for more lighthouse aerobics.
Show me the pinkie-winkie.
-Right, pinkie-winkie, hook it onto there, look.
And pull towards me.
-There you are, Matthew, you are moving 3.5 tonnes of lens.
-It's actually floating on the original mercury from 1905.
I've just something the weight of a car with my little finger.
It just goes to show that up here, a little goes a long way.
In fact, the huge bulb creating the light works off the same power
as your kitchen kettle.
How far will that beam travel?
On a good night, you can see it in excess of 25 miles.
I've had people come here in the summer months saying
they've been to the Channel Islands,
coming back on the ferry into Weymouth
20 minutes after leaving the Channel Islands,
although they can't see the light, they can see
-the beams crossing the horizon.
Like all Britain's lighthouses,
nowadays, Portland Bill is fully automated.
'But Larry thinks I've been such a promising pupil
'that for one night only, he's going to let me light up the Bill.'
-Here we go.
-I thought the switch would be inside.
No, what's go happen now, you're covering a photo-electric cell,
-which is going to say it's dark.
-Oh, I'm with you.
Now, the light should be on, Matt, so if you want to go in there,
it should be coming on and starting to glow.
Yeah. She's on.
This is definitely the highlight of my Portland adventure,
and just what Captain Baker needs to lure in his trusty first mate.
Now, the phone reception on the Isle is a little bit dodgy
to say the least, but I said to Julia,
"I'll send you some sort of signal." I think she'll have got the message.
Now, I suppose he wants me to go all the way to the top,
because he's a bit tricky like that.
Here we go then.
I thought she'd be here by now. That's almost it for this week.
Thank you for all of your suggestions.
We'll be visiting many more in the coming weeks.
Ah! Goodness me, it's about time!
Portland was a fantastic suggestion.
You suggesting me going to the top of here, not such a good suggestion.
Yeah. Well, according to Larry, the lighthouse-keeper -
-watch your head - this really gets the puddings pumping!
Well, I like to get my puddings pumping. Excellent news!
-Consider it done.
-That is it. Next week, we're going to be in Kent.
I'm going to be on Elmley Marshes, which was once a thriving village,
and is now a spectacular wildlife haven.
And Ellie is going to go behind the scenes at a medieval palace.
-Right, that's it.
-See you later.
-How do we get down from here?
-Well... You want me to carry you, don't you?
-See you later.
-Bye! See you!
-Now, don't drop me.
-Because you're dropping the crown jewels!
-I'm actually going to go down backwards, so watch out!
Countryfile is on the Isle of Portland, off the Dorset coast. When the programme asked for suggestions of locations the viewers would like to see featured on the show, many suggestions came in for Portland.
Matt Baker visits Portland's three lighthouses. One is now a bird observatory, one the former home of birth control pioneer Marie Stopes, and one is still in use today. Julia Bradbury explores the famous Portland stone quarries on the isle. She sees how sculptors are now making the most of the stone, and how groundbreaking camera techniques are helping with the conservation of the area.
John Craven is also on the isle, going out to sea with a tug boat captain in the harbour. Adam Henson finds out how to be a dog's best friend with the help of a dog nutritionist, who gives Adam the lowdown on how to keep our furry friends in tip-top condition.