Ellie Harrison finds out about the so-called 'Idle' women of the canals, who played a vital role in the Second World War.
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At this time of year,
when the leaves change their colours
and cover the ground
in a carpet of brown,
we'll also be turning our thoughts
to the red of summer's poppies.
It's a time for reflection
I'll be discovering how nature
became our medicine chest
in times of conflict.
This is one of
our most poisonous plants.
John, I'd like to introduce you
to deadly nightshade.
Ellie is getting into the swing
of it as she discovers how the
so-called "Idle Women"
played an all-important role
in the Second World War.
There we go, we've got
some momentum, now.
Tom reveals the devastating
effect of pubs,
schools and post offices
disappearing from our villages.
It just won't be the working, living
countryside that we know and love.
And Adam is visiting a school where
farming is top of the timetable.
For some children as well,
it's just an escape.
They come here to be happier,
to feel calm
and it helps their whole
Across our landscape
meander 2,000 miles of canals.
Today, these peaceful backwaters
are a haven for wildlife
and the odd pleasure boat wending
its way through the countryside.
75 years ago, these waterways played
a vital part in the Second
World War, keeping desperately
needed supplies on the move.
Taking a leading role on the home
front were an army of women
who stepped up and volunteered
to carry out this important
work on the canals.
With the outbreak of war,
men were called up, leaving cargo
boats unmanned and vital shipments
for the war effort undelivered.
Until a boatwoman, Daphne March,
suggested the government
recruit female crews.
Today, Daphne's niece
a Canal and River Trust volunteer
in Stoke Bruerne in
looks after one of the wartime
Why do you think
she suggested the whole idea?
I think she was one of those
people that decided
she could do something for the war
effort and she also saw it
I think as a way that women could be
seen to be involved in everything.
What was it about her character
that made her do it?
She was a bit like my mum,
She was just, "get on and do it",
and "life's an adventure,
"grab it with both hands and...
"go and do it!"
And here you are,
on the narrow boats.
Do you think that comes down
I'm sure it does, yes.
And it's what my mother would have
called a wholesome occupation!
Yes, it's very wholesome!
These canals were the arteries
that kept the supplies
flowing during the war
and yet the hard,
dangerous work of these women
was all but forgotten.
That was until poet Heather Wastie
and dramatist Kate Saffin
stumbled upon their exploits
on the Grand Union Canal.
How important were the inland
waterways through the war?
struggling for a long time,
but during both the wars,
they came into their own again,
because a pair of boats could
carry 50 tonnes of cargo,
which was a lot more than
a lorry could,
and use a lot less fuel.
Where did they come from?
Who WERE these women?
Some of them a bit bored, nothing to
do, or had very unadventurous jobs.
I mean, my poem says secretaries,
You know, all kinds of women who,
for one reason or another,
either wanted a sense of adventure,
or wanted to escape from something.
Yeah, there's something about that
kind of adventure which was
something that women from these
sheltered backgrounds liked.
These newcomers formed
crews of three
and embarked on their mission.
the women were rewarded with
a coveted Inland Waterways badge.
Ironically, the letters IW
saw them nicknamed Idle Women.
They were working two boats,
so they had a motor boat like this,
plus a butty, an unpowered boat
that they towed, with...
Coming up from London, raw supplies
like steel, aluminium,
timber - 50 tonnes of it.
So if they were loading timber,
they'd be down here,
in the hold, moving things around,
making sure everything
was in the right place.
So it is really exhausting work.
We reckon about 100
Very quickly that number dwindled...
Some barely lasted...
Some lasted as little as
a few hours.
Yes. There's an account of one
who stood in the cabin, which is
ten foot by seven, and said,
"Oh, where's the accommodation?"
And on a sort of domestic front,
what was life like - cooking,
What did they have?
They had a little stove in
the corner. Um, the beds...
One was like this, one's like that.
You might end up with your feet
under someone's head, or...
And if they haven't washed...
then you really have to be
quite forgiving and friendly then,
On this canal during wartime,
there was no room for gongoozlers -
the traditional canal word
This was, and still is, hard graft.
The women would have had to do
this by themselves.
More than 150 of them,
between London and Birmingham. Ooh!
On a 20-hour day.
I'm struggling with that!
There we go, we've got some
Idle women? I don't think so.
Well, it didn't stop.
You worked from pretty much dawn
because they had to make use
of all the time they could.
So it was hard,
heavy work, in all weathers.
And there were some fierce
winters during the war.
And working in the industrial cities
targeted by German bombers,
these brave women
feared for their lives, too.
The docks were targets, yes.
the Luftwaffe did use
the Oxford Canal to find
their way into Coventry.
They did use it as a road map,
because of the light, the moon
on it. That's why lock beams are
black, with a little white tip.
They were painted black
during the war.
Despite all the hardship and danger,
these so-called Idle Women, these
volunteers, stayed at their posts,
dedicated to helping the war effort.
I often wonder whether,
if I had done it, would I have been
one of those who stuck it out,
or would I have done a runner?
These unsung heroes deserve
our respect and belated thanks
for their part in Britain winning
the Second World War.
The impact of both World Wars was
felt across the entire country.
Here on our canals, in our cities
and the smallest hamlets.
But as Tom's been finding out,
the loss of a younger generation is
once again affecting rural life.
World War I and its aftermath
tore up the fabric of village life.
Thousands of fathers, husbands, sons
left home never to return.
And through the grief, the worry
of how communities could rebuild
Today, villages across the country
are facing a similar worry.
Though clearly not caused by
such a tragic loss,
the threat to community life
is just as real.
Once again, young people are leaving
our villages, but now, the
social hubs that propped up village
life for years are disappearing too.
Welcome to Bickington, Devon.
It's not quite an abandoned village,
but it has become a dormitory,
populated by retirees
and commuters, with no amenities.
So that's Grandad there.
That's great-grandad Bertie.
Caroline Meek's family has lived
in the village for generations.
Her ancestors helped build
much of this place
and she still
lives on the same patch.
Caroline is determined to raise her
daughter in their family home,
but for 12-year-old Matilda,
there are no activities,
nowhere to meet her friends.
Well, I'd like to see a bit more,
like a play park and maybe a shop,
because then we could maybe
get sweets with my friends.
With the closure of its vital
Caroline feels the village is
fighting to save its very soul.
Tell me about your family's
history in this area.
We have been living in the village
So many, many generations
of our family have lived here.
built this pub, obviously
he would have had a few drinks
in there as well, I should think!
Makes me sad to see any pub
with boarded-up doors,
but I gather this isn't the only
amenity that you've lost?
we used to have a functioning post
office, a garage, a police house,
a school in the village hall.
Many amenities have closed down
in recent years.
As an individual and as a family,
you have kind of roots
in the soil here.
When you see it turning into a bit
of a dormitory village,
what do you think about that?
It's really sad.
Remembering it even in my childhood,
many of these amenities
were still open.
I kind of feel like this generation
is letting the previous generations
It's not just here in Bickington
that the community is clinging on.
Countryfile has been given
exclusive access to the
National Housing Federation's
2017 report on rural life.
The figures are worrying
and reveal that nationwide,
rural services are quickly
It's a high-stakes roll of the dice
in the game that's playing with
the future of our villages.
Across England, we've lost 52 rural
schools in the last five years.
That's roughly one every five weeks.
In the same period across the UK,
we've lost 116 rural post offices -
that's about two a month.
And in just the last four years,
we've lost 477 rural pubs
that's an unbelievable
nine per week.
So, why are our villages
losing this game?
Monica Burns, from the
National Housing Federation,
believes that the housing crisis
across the country is the problem.
Why do you think it is we're seeing
this problem and the decline
of the life of our villages?
Well, one of the major issues is
that young people
and working age people and families
are being forced out of villages
because they can't afford
to live there. So with young people
and families moving out,
what's happening is
services are closing down.
What do you think is the keystone
problem underlying it?
If you haven't got the houses,
you're not even at the starting
point. We need houses
in the community for people
to live in and then the services
And to what extent can the
community themselves help to
turn around this problem?
Communities can form
Community Land Trusts
and Community Land Trusts sometimes
do the development independently,
but often do the development with
the parish council
and the housing association as well.
The need for affordable housing
nationwide is well known
and the government has made some
funding available to
Community Land Trusts
and housing associations,
to encourage local developments,
but there is still a long way to
go for our struggling villages.
What could be the fate of villages
if we don't get this right?
Well, villages are going to become
The school will be boarded up,
the playground will be silent,
the pubs will be closed, there
will be no community facilities.
It just won't be the working, living
countryside that we know and love.
It's clear that villages
like Bickington need help,
so could the building of
more affordable homes really
deliver the lifeline they need?
Well, I'll be seeing how this game
plays out later on.
Ranscombe Farm - a beautiful
640-acre nature reserve,
set within Kent Downs,
an Area of Outstanding
With its ancient woodland
and chalk grasslands,
it's been enjoyed for hundreds
of years by walkers coming here
to see its wonderful variety
of wild plants.
And I'm here to discover
how during both World Wars,
plants like these helped to save
many thousands of lives.
The German occupation of Europe
meant vital shipments of drugs
and medicines were thrown into chaos
and Britain turned to our native
flora for their healing properties.
Trevor Dines, a botanical
specialist at Plantlife,
the wildflower conservation charity
which now manages Ranscombe Farm,
has studied the use of plants
All sorts of herbs were used.
Some of them are really common,
things like nettles
and burdock, even foxgloves.
What were they used for?
Foxglove was used for digitalin,
the drug digitalin,
which helps regulate the heartbeat,
so there were some real
proper chemical compounds
that they were extracting
from these plants to use.
If you were here in the summer,
John, these fields
here would be absolutely red with
a wonderful display of poppies.
There are five different poppies
that we have in Britain
and at Ranscombe, we're really lucky
to have four of those species...
Does that include the one
that we wear...?
It does indeed,
the emblem that we're thinking
is very much the common poppy
that we see most widely.
the much-loved red poppy,
that very symbol of remembrance,
now belongs to one of our
fastest-declining group of plants.
Unfortunately, this isn't the time
of year to come looking for poppies,
but you can sometimes find the seed
heads and in fact, look down there -
there's one of these poppies
that I was talking about.
Yeah. What kind is that one?
This I think, from the size of the
seed pod, it looks like opium poppy.
Yes, here we are.
This is opium poppy.
When this is green and growing,
a few months ago,
if you'd have cut that little
capsule there with a knife, it would
bleed a little drop of white latex
and that latex has nearly
15% morphine in it,
so during the war, that need for
pain relief was absolutely
enormous and opium poppy,
the morphine coming from that,
was used to provide that pain relief
on the war fields.
National Herb Committees were set up
to respond to the staggering
quantity of medicine needed
and it wasn't long before
wild plants like poppies became
nature's healing army - some
of them unexpectedly so...
John, I'd like to introduce you to
This is one of our most
and we've just got a few patches
here at Ranscombe.
How deadly is it?
It's not a common plant and in fact,
we're lucky just to find these two
or three berries on this plant and
this would be enough to kill you.
Fascinatingly, and this is something
that not many people know, there's a
drug called atropine sulphate which
comes from this, and this was used
in both wars in fact as an antidote
to nerve agent chemical gas attack.
And during the wars,
they must have needed an awful lot
of deadly nightshade?
Yes, in the First World War
or they set out a requirement for
50 tonnes of deadly nightshade.
In the Second World War,
that went up to 200 tonnes,
so a huge amount of this drug
It's still used today -
this is what's amazing -
in Syria today, with those
chemical gas attacks there,
atropine is still being used
as an antidote.
And of course, Trevor,
this emphasises, doesn't it,
that when you're out for a walk,
you shouldn't go picking anything
that you don't understand.
That's the golden rule.
If you don't know, don't touch.
Leave it alone.
With so much demand for plants to
help treat the wounded during
the war, the Ministry of Health
published guides on what was needed.
And those not fighting
rallied together to forage...
..including the Scout movement.
And today, the Seventh Gillingham
Cubs are here to hunt
for plants used during the war,
and hopefully earn their Nature
So this is foxglove.
This is one of the plants that you
mustn't eat, but it's OK to pick.
If you rub it between your fingers
and then have a sniff...
They smell like...
Is it nice?
It's got a weird name,
it's called black horehound.
So, what can you see here that we
might be able to use?
These are rosehips.
Well, here come our foragers!
We've had a great time, haven't we?
Now, look at this.
This is brilliant,
you've done a fantastic job, guys.
What we've got here
is like a wartime medical kit.
Well, I think in that case,
you deserve one of these, don't you?
A cub Nature badge.
There we are. Well done.
And later in the programme,
I'm going to be meeting a family
who are passionate about the power
of plants and I'm discovering
how some of those plants can help us
through the winter.
Now, who hasn't got a badge yet?
There we are.
From our wild woodlands
to our untamed seas,
nature's power is all around us.
For fishermen, spending time
out in the elements to bring home
a catch is all in a day's work.
My name is Andrew Lawrence,
I'm one of the Osborne family
and I work down here at Leigh-on-Sea
on board our fishing vessel
It's not a job, it's a way of life.
On a summer's morning, as the sun
there's no better place to be.
But we are not quite the same as
other fisheries, we don't actually
go right out to sea, we work
the sandbanks in the River Thames.
So we suck the cockles up
from the seabed.
The business has been going
I'm fifth-generation, so if you
mention Osborne, we're famous
for cockles, but we're also known
for our role in the Dunkirk...
Evacuation of Dunkirk.
My uncle, great uncle
and his cousin,
they were told they had to go to
a Royal Navy meeting.
Six cockle boats were being
commandeered for Operation Dynamo.
They were actually given the choice
whether to go with the boats
or hand them over to the Navy.
They weren't letting anyone take
their boats, so...they all agreed.
One goes, they all go.
My name is Alfred Smith.
I went into the Army
in September, 1939.
That was when war broke out
and I was 20.
May 26, 1940.
The beaches at Dunkirk.
In the face of a fierce
Belgium had collapsed and British
and French troops were
trapped in a pincer as German forces
I was on the beach 48 hours.
No food, no water,
nothing to drink or eat.
No shelter, nowhere to hide.
So you just sat on the beach and...
just hoped for the best.
In those days,
the boats were only designed for
the shallow waters of the Thames.
They certainly weren't designed to
do Channel crossings or to do
the job they were asked to do.
It was just open-decked boats,
so they would have been open to
the elements, the gunfire.
There was no hiding.
They didn't really know what they
was letting themselves in for
at the time.
Well, you did have that Dunkirk
spirit, you see.
"I'll make it", you know?
Although a lot of my friends were
getting killed around me,
You know, sort of made up your mind
you were going to do it.
Their orders were to go into
and pick as many troops
as possible up.
They would then take them off to
the bigger ships to disembark them.
This went on for another ten hours.
saw this ship come in
and I waded out...
..up to my neck in water.
And it was a paddle steamer.
I was pulled on board the ship
and that was the last I remember,
I then passed out completely.
And you were just lucky, or I was,
that I got onto a boat
that didn't get hit.
They'd had the order that they
could go home,
but the Renown developed
One of the other cockle boats,
the Letitia, she'd broken her
rudder, so she was already in tow
by a tug called the Ben & Lucy.
So Letitia threw them a line
and they hooked it over the bow
and proceeded home.
They had done a right turn
at Ramsgate and headed towards
the mouth of the river back home.
It was then that there was
a massive explosion.
The skipper of the Letitia at
the time obviously woke, startled.
All they could hear was all this
stuff raining down on the deck.
They shouted, nothing came back
and they pulled the tow line in and
the tow line was just as they'd
passed it to them
three hours previous.
On board at the time was
my nan's brother,
Leslie and his cousin
And Harry Noakes,
who was skipper at the time as well.
And all three of them were lost.
They were four and a half hours away
The steel tug that was in front
had activated a magnetic mine.
As the Renown came over the top
of it, that's when it exploded.
And, telling the story now,
But it's part of the heritage
for the family and the company.
It's something immensely
to be proud of.
We took about 1,500 to 2,000 troops
off the beaches and,
who orchestrated the evacuation
of Dunkirk, commended the flotilla
of what they'd done and...
the sacrifice that ultimately...
..our family made, as well.
The fishermen at Leigh,
they were so brave.
Knowing that they were
going into danger...
But they still came
and done their best to pick you up.
No, I admire them, I think
they were wonderful.
Earlier, we heard how our villages
are declining as they lose
vital services and residents.
But could affordable housing
and a determination to work together
help turn these communities around?
Here's Tom again.
Our villages are losing
post offices and pubs
faster than ever before.
With nothing to attract
they risk becoming little more
than dormitory towns,
where residents commute,
quietly age, or move elsewhere.
It's been suggested that building
affordable housing could help
these declining villages.
But is that really sufficient to
turn things around?
It's up to councils to make sure
there is enough affordable housing
and the government has just pledged
£9 billion to help with that,
but, ultimately, it seems that local
communities need to drive these
projects for themselves and in some
places, they're doing just that.
In 1975, Toller Porcorum
here in West Dorset
lost its railway.
The school and sawmill quickly
followed, but when the pub
and post office closed, the
villagers decided enough was enough.
Local farmer Rorie Geddes was
instrumental in their efforts
to turn things around.
You've got some fine looking
but tell me how they came to be.
It came out of a village plan
that we prepared in 2012.
We managed to form a Community Land
Trust and take the project forward.
The new housing project was driven
by the generosity of local
resident Vanora Hereward,
who, before her death in 2012,
kindly donated land
for the village to build on.
She has given that to the village
for us to build the affordable
homes on the condition that
a post office was built.
That is incredible dedication to
It certainly is, yes.
So we've named the close
Hereward Close, after her.
This affordable housing has not only
helped local families on lower
incomes to stay in the village,
but it's also safeguarding
a vital asset in the post office.
Tom, I'd like to introduce you
Hello, very nice to see you.
Before the new post office
was built, Evelyn Whitcombe
spent 15 years running the service
from a rundown house.
In the previous property
that I was in,
it really got quite dismal -
damp, wet, flooded.
And then we had lots of vermin
And how does it feel for you now,
having experienced it back then,
to be in here?
You just don't know!
Warm and dry!
It's a nice, cosy, warm space!
The post office is a community hub,
but the story doesn't end there.
The housing development has also
enabled the trust to create another
vital service that will safeguard
the village's future.
Great to see the kids having fun,
making a mess, making
plenty of noise, but how does THIS
link with the houses we saw earlier?
We get a ground rent
from the housing association
and we decided to support
projects in the village
and the toddler group is one of
It's so good, isn't it?
It creates this momentum of things
that you really want
and need in the village,
from the housing.
Well, it does,
because now you can see we've got
lots of children in the village.
Ten years ago, I think
there were two.
It's very important that young
people come to live here,
because they're the future
of the village.
It's good to see what
villages can achieve
when everyone works together.
Affordable housing certainly seems
to be part of the solution,
but a determined, proactive
community is also essential.
300 miles north, in the Yorkshire
Dales, while others are losing
THEY are bringing them all home.
It started with the community
rescue of a closing dairy.
Then the police station,
an internet cafe,
the post office, a bus service...
Now they're thinking of
and even taking over
the petrol station.
Here in Hawes, the community has
taken control of its destiny
and is thriving, with local
councillor John Blackie...
Good morning, how are you both? OK?
..leading the charge for over
20 years to keep vital services
running from this community hub.
We're trying to take on everything
that a deeply rural community needs.
You really have got it all covered.
It's your own fiefdom...
This place should be called
No, no, no,
it's not Blackie's town, it's a town
that relies on its self-reliance
to go forward.
You mentioned the community bus,
any chance we could step aboard?
I would welcome you aboard.
You can show me around.
Have a little drive around.
The Upper Dales community
partnership took over this vital bus
service to the local train station
when it was threatened with closure.
When we started in May 2011,
we only had one volunteer driver,
that was me.
We're now carrying 60,000
The bus company makes a profit
that funds other vital,
but loss-making services,
like the post office.
A struggling local dairy was
the first asset to be taken over
by the community in 1992.
It now employs 224 staff
and has an annual turnover
of £27 million.
That was where it began,
but I'm about to see the community
partnership's latest project.
Here we are.
Welcome to the first community-run
filling station in England.
It's needed by local people,
and it was under threat of being
prey to developers
and so when we knew there was
an opportunity to step in and take
it on, as the first community-led
petrol station, we took it.
So what would you say to
the villages we've seen
in the south-west
which are really struggling?
I would say to them,
follow our example.
Maybe we are a beacon, a pioneer,
but we're not doing rocket science
We need people within that community
to lead from the front and
sometimes partners as large as your
county council -
backed us all the way.
But most of all, you need that
that never-say-die, because
the minute you start accepting
austerity with all its ravages,
I'm afraid your community
is on a downward spiral.
It's sad to see villages like
Bickington and their communities
struggle and fight, but in places
like Toller Porcorum and Hawes,
there's a real sense of hope
about what can be achieved
when a community bands together.
So, we've heard an inspiring example
of recovery and regeneration, but
it is really, really tough to escape
from that vicious circle
of decline -
the loss of shops, pubs and schools.
And winning that long fight back
creativity and passion.
Earlier in the programme,
we heard about the female volunteers
who took over the canal
shipments of vital supplies
during the Second World War.
The work is remembered here
at the Canal Museum in Stoke
on the banks
of the Grand Union Canal.
Working on the canals during wartime
was not only dangerous,
but would have been filthy work
and other supplies back and forth
to London, but this re-creation
gives us a sense of what it might
have looked like.
These cheerful paintings,
the traditional castles and roses,
that folk art that's unique
to our canal systems,
and inside, there's a mountain
of brass work.
I have no idea how they had the time
to keep it all polished.
Let's take a closer look in here.
It's very bijou in here
and this is a very high-end one.
The Idle Women would have been very
lucky to have inherited
one like this,
but even so, this would have been
for three women - not a lot
of space for eating, sleeping and
personal possessions and luxuries.
I don't know how they did it.
Now, industry and farming
has shaped our landscape
and put food on our tables.
Adam is visiting a school where
learning about farming is
helping vulnerable children
in need of extra support.
I feel very fortunate to be
I was born and brought up in the
countryside and have lived there
all my life, but many people don't
have that connection with the land.
And I feel that all children should
learn about farming
and where their food comes from
the best place to do that is
at school - like these lads.
That's exactly what's happening
at Hunters Hill Technology
College in Bromsgrove.
Hayley Simpkin teaches agriculture
to 120 children
between the ages of 11 and 16.
The pupils have all got some
degree of learning,
emotional or behavioural difficulty,
but working on the school's
purpose-built farm is helping
with their problems and teaching
them useful skills for the future.
Good to see you.
Nice to meet you.
Isn't this just a lovely
environment to learn in,
out here with all the animals?
Absolutely, they love it,
What is it that makes it
so special then, do you think?
All our boys are here because
they're either autistic, ADHD
or they've got social problems
and coming over here just gives them
a chance to relax and do something
a bit different and outside
and in the fresh air.
It's really good for them.
When it comes to farming and growing
and animals, you can
learn so many different things,
There's maths, science,
We do try and get... Quite a lot of
our staff here will bring kids
over for lessons and do a bit
of cross-curricular work.
We do a lot with the food
department as well,
so there's all sorts going on.
And what jobs are you doing here
today with the sheep?
We brought the sheep in for an MOT,
one or two of the little lambs
need their feet looking at.
Come on, I'll give you a hand.
OK, thank you.
There's a bit of cuddling
going on, here!
Yes, she looks quite relaxed,
Go on, then, you sit up
and I'll have a little look
at that sheep with you.
Oh, this is a lovely little sheep.
She likes being cuddled, doesn't
What's her name?
Amira. And how old is Amira?
Over a year old.
Do you know what breed it is?
A North Ronaldsay.
And what have you got to do with
Amira today, then?
We're going to clip her nails
because they're a bit too long
for our liking.
Let's have a little look. Oh, yes -
they are quite long, aren't they?
So just a little trim down the edge
there would help, wouldn't it?
So you have to be really careful
that you just clip off the toenail.
So just down the side...
There you go,
so that doesn't hurt her at all.
It's just taking off
that excess hoof.
And then on the other side...
And why do you think we cut
the toenails then, Jack?
So it doesn't grow too long and get
That's right, yeah.
If they get too much mud and dirt
in there, it can get sore, can't it?
So if you pull her toes apart,
which are called clees -
they've got two toes - you can see
it's a little bit white
and sweaty inside.
It's a bit like athlete's foot in
people, it's a fungal infection.
If you smell it, it's really smelly,
so what we need to do is
put a little bit of antiseptic spray
on that so it doesn't get any worse.
Make sure you've got the nozzle
pointing in the right direction
so you don't spray Daniel,
but I'll put my hand behind it.
You can just spray the middle there,
good - that's it.
You've got it.
He's got more my hand
than he's got on the sheep!
At least I'm not going to
get foot rot!
The children here don't mind hard
work or getting their hands dirty.
Teaching assistant Jazz O'Mahoney
is supporting two of them
that love being outside
working with the pigs.
I was told
you were out with the pigs.
How you doing, boys,
What jobs have you got to do today,
Muck the pigs out.
Mucking them out? Brilliant.
And how old are these ones, then?
Four weeks old.
They're lovely, aren't they?
So, do you prefer to be in the
classroom or outside?
Yeah? Do you like being
in the classroom?
When I'm older,
I want to be a farmer, so... Yeah.
It's a good way to start,
So before you came here,
did you ever see animals before?
No, I'd never seen a sheep,
a cow or a pig.
All I did see was a fish.
They seem to really enjoy it,
I think a lot of children here
blossom from this
and most of them I think
will go on to help with animals
and farm work, so it will be nice
to see in the future.
Do you think we should be doing this
in more mainstream schools?
Definitely. I think every child
should have the opportunity to work
with animals and understand them.
Even if it's small animals -
chickens, anything -
just to interact with them.
For some children as well,
it's just an escape.
They come here to be happier,
to feel calm,
and it helps their whole
And then they're more prepared
to go back into classroom.
Right - come on, then -
let's get these pigs mucked out.
You're very good with them,
Go on, piggy. Go on.
Oh, look - they're excited,
How you getting on there, boys?
Is it a bit smelly?
Breathe through your mouth,
then you won't smell it so much.
So what can you use the pig
That's very clever, yeah.
It is quite whiffy!
Keep up the good work!
I need to get out.
I need to get out!
It's great to see young
lads like this getting
an understanding of farming
and food production.
But there's still about a fifth
of our children nationally that
don't know where bacon comes from.
Elsewhere, another group are having
a lesson on chickens.
So we'll do some chicken questions.
So what is a female chicken called?
And a male chicken?
And a baby chicken?
So you see this bit on the side
of her head here?
Can you see what colour that is?
A whitey blue.
A whitey blue colour, so that tells
me she's going to lay a white egg.
If she'd got red earlobes,
she'd lay a brown egg.
Is that true?
You learn something every day, don't
you? Every day is a school day!
I never knew that.
A lot of chickens can't fly
because they're so heavy,
but these ones can fly.
They're quite good at flying,
aren't they? Can you see its wings?
How big its wings are.
Shall we do some wing clipping?
OK, so who wants to hold the chicken
while we clip it? Come on, then.
What's your name?
Poke your hand out like that.
Get the feet in.
Sit her on your hand,
hand over the top... That's it.
Can you see these long feathers
here, that look like fingers?
So these are called
the flight feathers
and these are the ones that let them
So you see these little
I'm going to use those as a guide
and then cut across...
and just take the ends of
those feathers off.
They will go everywhere,
but don't worry.
And that will mean that they can't
get enough of a flap on to
actually fly away. So I'm only going
to do one side, as well.
Why do you think I don't do both
sides? Why do you think, Damien?
Because when she tries to flap off,
It does, it makes them
a little bit wonky
so they can't get enough
lift to get up.
So, who's going to do the next one?
OK, shall we catch another one
OK, so there we go...
Clipping the wings like this is
a common farming practice
and doesn't hurt the chickens.
The feathers will grow back in time.
Keep going, keep going.
Keep going until I say stop.
Looking after the animals is just
one part of the pupils' education.
Understanding the whole process
from farm to fork is paramount...
so, at the end of the day,
the children get a chance to cook
the produce raised on the farm.
You can use both hands...
So do you know what animal makes
a pork burger?
Pigs, very good.
See, lots of children wouldn't know
that. It's great that
you've learned that on the farm.
That's all part of the process,
Absolutely. It brings
meaning to what they're doing over
at the farm - they look after them
when they're alive
and then we learn what we do with
And then when it comes to taking
the animals to slaughter, to eat,
does that bother you?
Do you mind that a little bit, then?
What don't you like about it?
About them being slaughtered.
That's hard, isn't it?
Yes, it is.
I feel sad when I take them off,
but we do know from the start that
some of our animals are for breeding
and some of them are for meat,
so you're told from the beginning,
aren't you, what's going to happen
with those animals.
Ultimately, selling the meat
pays the food bills.
And if your choice is to eat meat,
then it's good that you know where
it comes from, but you don't have to
eat it if you don't want to.
Well, well done - congratulations,
guys. Good luck in the future.
I reckon we might make some chefs
out of you yet.
We saw earlier how during the two
World Wars, our native plants
provided essential medicines
for wounded soldiers.
Today, flora and fauna
are still being used,
but in a different battle.
And here in Kent, Ranscombe Farm
covers 640 acres
and it's brimming with
It's like a giant natural
dispensary at your fingertips.
Coming from a line of doctors
and surgeons, Scotland's longest
practising medical herbalist
Brian Lamb believes there's a tree
that could in the future help to
save the lives of millions.
And this is it - the sweet chestnut.
Why is that?
Well, because the leaf
may hold a new entry into combating
And how's that?
Well, a bacteria colonises
and the bacteria speak to each other
rather like on a battlefield,
where communication is central.
When shall we expand?
How many of us are there?
And an extract of the sweet chestnut
leaf disarms this communication.
So an extract from this leaf could
actually do wonders?
Yes, and this was research carried
out in 2015 in America, showing
that this leaf will combat the most
virulent form of MRSA, even.
Of course, there's a lot of
concern now, isn't there,
about the potential for failure
Well, we are facing
a antibiotics winter...
..when antibiotic resistance will
be so great that common surgery
like hip replacements and Caesarean
section may be more problematic.
We must seek new ways
of disarming bacteria.
And possibly, sweet chestnut leaf
might be a new way of looking at it.
It's incredible to think that
the humble sweet chestnut may
provide such a huge medical
Brian's passion for plant medicine
has been passed down to
his daughters Naomi and Sophie,
who specialise in herbal remedies.
What have we got here?
We've got this wonderful winter
warming hot toddy for you...
which is very protective over
the winter months.
What's in this toddy?
So you've got
It's a very well known anti-viral.
It's star anise that goes into
making the famous drug Tamiflu.
And we have cinnamon in there
which is for viruses, inflammation,
we've also got Juniper which is
Very nice taste, as well!
Not only does it do you good,
it tastes good.
Where have you got all these
things from, Naomi?
Well, wonderfully, nature
provides at just the right time,
so in autumn we have the wonderful
rosehips and elderberry to
provide you with anti-viral
benefits throughout winter,
but some are from our own kitchen
cupboards, so there's amazing
medicinal cabinets within one's home
to protect one's health over winter.
And what's in this pan here, then?
Well, we've got some rosehips
which are really, really highly
nutritionally dense and they're
especially well known
for their very high
vitamin C content.
At least 20 times as much as
oranges and for that reason,
they were given to children
during the war to protect them
from developing scurvy as the citrus
fruit supplies were being disrupted.
Cos I can remember as a little boy
having rosehip syrup, you know?
Yes, most people can.
We all had
it as children in those days.
And what have we got
in the hamper, then?
Well, we've made this especially for
you, John, cos we know you're out
on location in the cold a lot -
we thought this'd see you through
the winter months.
Wow, thank you!
So we have some thyme syrup, which
is an amazing lung decongestant,
we've got garlic and chilli
to see you through the winter to
boost the immune system.
Rosehip syrup and we have the lovely
anti-viral drink in there.
That should keep me going!
It should do!
Well, we've had a lovely
autumn day here in Kent,
but with winter
just around the corner,
will I be needing any of my herbal
kit in the week ahead?
Let's find out with
the Countryfile forecast.
Hello. It was a glorious autumn day
across much of the country today,
perfect conditions in fact for
Remembrance Sunday, but we had cold
air blowing down from the north,
gusty particularly in the north and
east. Quite a few showers and with
those showers and a cold beer,
wintry in nature here in the hills
of Argyll. But then no showers, dry
like this, down in Morecambe lake in
Dorset. The cold skies at night,
those temperatures will tumble away
as we see that blue hue developing.
They will fizzle away elsewhere, the
south-west by the end of the night.
The towns and city values are there,
around freezing, but of course in
the countryside a widespread frost
will develop. -2 down to minus five
Celsius. In the far north-west of
the country we have this, another
system bringing in some cloud,
strengthening winds and essential
outbreaks of rain as well. This high
pressure with the cold arctic winds
will be slowly moving away so we
will start tomorrow on a cold frosty
zero, certainly for England and
Wales. Skies turn cloudier for most
but for Scotland and Northern
Ireland it turns wet and windy and
you will even see some snow over the
high ground of Scotland and perhaps
down to lower levels for a time
across central and eastern areas
before at all times back to rain by
the end of the day is that milder
air moves in. The weather system
continues to move south and east
through the course of Monday night,
and then it could be quite chilly to
start with across the south-east
before the clothes and wind arrives.
You will see the blue colours pushed
off into the North Sea as the
yellows and oranges arrived off the
Atlantic. A little blue colours you
will notice across the far north of
Scotland. A little brightness, quite
chilly, single figure values, but
elsewhere a cloudy day on Tuesday,
much milder, 10-12 degrees, and
there will be some drizzle and hill
fog across western hills. Then in
this north-east corner, bright, the
best of the sunshine also further
south. Mild temperatures again. But
a lot of cloud and outbreaks of rain
as well. Into Thursday, something a
bit more potent expected to push
into the north of the UK, bringing
gales are even severe gales for a
time across Scotland, particularly
in the north. Some heavy rains as
well persistent across western
hills, but elsewhere maybe some
brightness in the south and east and
it could potentially be the mildest
day of the week with highs of 13, 14
degrees. On Thursday night that
front sinks south and eastwards from
the north and then we open the
floodgates to the north-west. On
Friday it looks like the cold air
making a return again. Across
Northern Ireland and Scotland that
will eventually wind out as we head
towards the weekend. This is I think
the picture for Friday, cloud and
rain across the south and east that
should clear way, brightening sky is
behind it. Where it is sunniest, it
will be cold as, single value
temperatures here. The week is quite
a mixture, starting on a cold and
frosty note, then mild foremost, but
then on it looks it will
Today, we remember the veterans
of battle and the fallen.
John's been learning about plants
that saved lives in wartime...
and I've been hearing about
the women who volunteered
on the canals
during the Second World War.
Our symbol of remembrance
is of course the red poppy,
but the countryside has other roles
to play at this time of year.
Here on the edge
of the Salisbury Plains,
surrounded by the garrison towns
of the British Army... In fact,
you can even hear tanks rumbling
away over there.
..is a place of sanctuary, treatment
and healing for the survivors
Tedworth House in Wiltshire is
a remarkable recovery centre
run by Help For Heroes for service
men and women with physical
and psychological conditions.
We first visited here three years
ago, but the support
Tedworth offers is for life
and there's always something new
There are lots of different
therapies on offer here,
but few can beat the healing
powers of the great outdoors.
In fact, one of the most popular is
the simple pleasures of gardening.
The weekly gardening club,
run by Lucy Thorpe,
with her Springer spaniel Izzy,
offers a haven to some
and sows the seeds of a gardening
career for others -
like Major Cornelia Oosthuizen.
She had to give up her ten-year
with a nervous system disorder.
Cornelia was a star turn at this
year's Invictus Games,
winning bronze in wheelchair tennis
and a gold medal in the golf.
So this is a bit of a change,
isn't it, from the podium,
receiving gold, to pottering
around the hero's garden?
No, in the best possible way.
What is it for you, do you think,
about nature, that's so healing?
I think when it comes to nature,
it's that sort of cycle
and life and new growth.
It's just really therapeutic
and helps you to focus on something
that's much more constructive than
dwelling on some of the challenges
that you face on a daily basis.
The beauty of a place like Tedworth
House and what Help For Heroes
set up is that you're surrounded
by people who have often got
very similar struggles
and, of course,
in classic military style,
we incorporate a bit of black humour
and banter to get through it and it
makes a massive, massive difference.
So are you more of a veg garden,
or flower garden?
These leeks are looking good.
I'm guessing veg.
I'm trying not to murder
I've got more success this year...
She's apparently a vegetarian today!
These leeks look ready for the pot.
Yep, I think so.
Give them a good wash
and chop them up.
What's not eaten by Izzy goes into
the garden's kitchen.
Working and eating together is
all part of the healing process.
At Tedworth House,
there's inspiration at every turn.
I'm heading away from nature
being tamed in the gardens
and into the wild woods to meet
one of Tedworth's success stories.
Three years ago,
Jules Hudson met Michael Day,
an ex-infantry sniper embarking on
a forestry course here in the woods.
I was involved in an explosion
with a grenade.
Damaged my back quite badly.
Were you suffering from
I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't, um...
..wasn't coping very well with
the fact that I wasn't going to
be able to do my job any more
and that was...
one of my biggest demons.
its visitors to return
whenever they feel the need
and three years on, Michael Day,
better known as Doris, still seeks
out the tranquillity here.
Hello! Is it Michael,
or can I call you Doris?
Call me what you like - Doris!
Doris, is that OK?!
Fabulous. This looks amazing.
But I understand also that THIS
was built by your fair hand?
Me and a group of other veterans
over the last couple of years, yes.
Show me around!
Tedworth has taught Doris
woodworking skills which enabled
him and his colleagues to complete
the Iron Age roundhouse project.
How has this place helped you?
My own injuries are...
..something we can't see.
And that's kind of been
understood by Help For Heroes.
Where sometimes people close
to you don't understand.
I don't have to explain myself
when I'm here, I don't have to...
put a face on or be someone
that I'm not, I can be myself.
So I think the road to recovery
has actually always led to
or at least through Tedworth House
and I'm grateful for that.
What's life been like for you
since this place was completed?
Well, since it was finished, I've
been in a bit of a void each month,
because obviously I've not had
to come up.
But it's inspired me to go and find
some work to do with woodlands,
which is quite difficult to find
at the best of times.
But I'm training to become
a utility surveyor.
So walking the lines, power lines,
and ensuring that there's a correct
distance between the power
lines and the trees or foliage
that's growing around them.
Um, it's just walking,
and I like walking,
and it's on my own.
And so your knowledge of being in
the woods has helped get you a job.
Um, I was a sniper, so I loved the
woods and I love the foliage, so...
Yeah, I think there was always
going to be something for me
at the end of it to work in the
woodlands, but I didn't ever think
I would be carving pillars on
a roundhouse that I'd helped build!
There you go! Not just a woodsman,
but an artist within.
I've seen some of this work, I think
it's amazing! It's incredible.
And the good work continues.
The latest batch of recruits is
woodcraft by Dave Turner.
And, so, for a few hours each week,
they get to leave
their troubles behind.
The benefits of this fresh air
life are indisputable.
And while there may be no cure
Tedworth offers a place of sanctuary
and a return to the camaraderie
these brave men and women enjoyed
in the service of their country.
Oh, it's good! Really good.
It's not bad.
Yeah, I like it.
Well, that's all we've got time for
we'll be in Hertfordshire,
where we'll be up to our knees
in the River Lee.
And Sean will be helping with
a wildlife building project
fit for a king.
We'll see you then. Bye-bye!
It's good, Dave!
Countryfile marks Remembrance Sunday. Ellie Harrison finds out about the so-called 'Idle' women of the canals, who played a vital role in the Second World War. She also discovers how the great outdoors helps to heal servicemen and women. John Craven explores how wild plants became medicine during the Second World War. Plus Adam Henson visits a school where farming is helping to shape lives.