Matt Baker is in the Gisburn Forest and meets the people who make the most of what nature has to offer here. Anita Rani is on a farm which is looking to the future.
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MATT: The Ribble Valley carves its way between
the old industrial mill towns of Lancashire
and the southernmost edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
Surrounded by bustling towns and cities,
it's the perfect place for a lungful of fresh air...
and to feel the icy wind in your face.
Anita is visiting a farm that embraces 500 years of tradition,
but it's also very forward-thinking.
-Who's this, then?
A squealing pig...squealing.
Tom is looking at how new Home Office rules have sparked a row
between GPs and gun owners in many of our rural areas.
If everyone was paying a fee, I wouldn't have a problem.
I feel the system is not right, it's not the same for everybody.
And Adam is meeting the stallions doing their bit
to help protect some of our rarest breeds.
Hopefully, we will collect a sample off him
that we can go and freeze in a minute.
-He's keen, isn't he?
East Lancashire's Ribble Valley,
where uplands meet woodlands.
Dominated by the Forest of Bowland,
an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This is the Gisburn Forest.
Covering more than 1,200 hectares, it's the largest in Lancashire
and, as you would expect, a lot of wildlife calls this place home
and this is the perfect time to spot it.
Dawn in the forest.
I'm with James Upson on an early-morning safari.
He's the Forestry Commission's
wildlife manager for the North of England.
Well, James is just on the lookout for one of the more exotic creatures
that calls this forest its home.
It was introduced from Japan back in the 19th century.
We're on the search for sika deer.
-We're going to come through this hole
and then we'll go about ten yards in
and it'll open up into a glade and I think there'll be some,
either stood or crossing the glade.
OK? So, wait a second.
WHISPERS: Obviously they are a very flighty and aware animal,
so we are just trying to be as calm as possible.
They probably even know we're here already.
There's a little glade through here and they'll be doing their best
to pick off any vegetation that they can nibble at.
It's so calm and so peaceful.
So, no sika deer today, but, you know...
Not today, yeah.
They're doing right - it's nippy!
Yeah, they'll probably be in that cover there.
So, what is their kind of daily routine, then, James?
Where do they normally hang out at this time of day?
Mostly they are in the open during the night
and then they'll work their way in as it gets lighter and lighter.
Especially with the full moon, they'll be coming into cover.
-So they're quite nocturnal?
Well, we haven't got eyes on the sika deer,
we can't hear them either,
but they have got really quite an interesting call -
-it's a bit like a squeaky door, isn't it?
the stags, especially in the rut, have got a really eerie whistle.
And it does cut right through you and then the alarm call, as well.
It's like a real shrill squeak
and that never fails to make me jump out of my boots, you know.
We had a wagon driver wouldn't come into the forest.
He got to the barrier and he heard the stags whistling
and thought there was something supernatural going on.
What kind of numbers are we talking about, then, with the sika?
I can only talk for Gisburn Forest, but I would say in the forest
we've got somewhere around the region of 200,
maybe between 200 and 250.
Would you have said this was our best bet, then, of seeing them?
Or is there anywhere else we could have a little look?
With this being kind of sheltered from the wind,
I would have said it was the best bet,
especially with it being a bit later in the day and with the moon,
I'd have thought they'd want to be in cover, but...
We may have missed the deer, but the beautiful solitude of this forest
made the dawn start more than worthwhile.
Later, as the local towns wake up,
I'll be seeing a different side to this forest.
Now, Home Office rules about firearms licences have sparked a row
between GPs and gun owners in many of our rural areas.
Across our countryside, for many...
..owning a gun is like owning a tractor -
it's a part of rural life.
It is the tool of a trade,
but there's no denying it can also be a lethal weapon
and, if you want to own one, you're going to have to deal with this -
a 271-page report launched in 2016
that was supposed to bring uniformity to gun licensing,
but instead has brought confusion and anger.
A key issue is people's medical suitability to own a gun.
In the past, anyone applying for a licence or renewal
ticked a box to say there was no medical reason
why they should not be granted one.
But under the new guidelines, your doctor is asked to verify this.
Now gun owners and doctors have fallen out
after some GPs started charging a fee.
I'm in Lincolnshire with gun owner Mark Clover.
He's shooting vermin - foxes which might take poultry from local farms.
Beyond just shining it out of the window,
is there a certain kind of knack to it?
Some people will park up in an area where they think there's foxes
and they'll try and squeak them.
You can get electronic calls and everything nowadays.
And that attracts the foxes to them?
That attracts them, hopefully,
-and then you just keep looking for the eyes appearing.
It should be easier to spot.
In an area where farmers have chickens and geese to protect,
lamping - hunting at night with a light - is fairly common
and perfectly legal, with the landowner's permission.
There's some... Some roe deer out there...
Oh, I see the deer over there, yeah, yeah.
-No foxes, though, at the moment.
Well, on we go, see what else we can catch.
-There's a badger.
-There, right there, look, right near us.
We might see a fox yet - we're seeing everything else!
Deer, badgers and then...
Can you see it, on that hill's top? See it glowing at us?
-Oh, right, there? They are that far away?
Mark and I have spotted a fox over there, 90% sure,
we can see the red eyes, but it's too far to shoot
and you need to be 100% sure that it's a fox to shoot -
you need to be able to actually identify the animal.
Mark's been shooting since he was a teenager,
but ran into problems when he tried to renew his licence last autumn.
So, tell me about the struggles you've had recently
with renewing your licence.
Yeah, it's the medical side that has been the problem.
I sent off my application, as I have done for the last 35 years,
every five years, and never had a problem.
This time, it's having to go and see a doctor
and things just went a bit pear-shaped for me.
Under the new guidance,
his GP was asked to sign off his health declaration.
Some doctors do this for free, but Mark's charged him £30.
If everyone was paying a fee, I wouldn't have a problem.
I feel the system is not right - it's not the same for everybody.
And the doctors seem to be able to just charge you what they like.
Surely there should be some actually set fees
and some regulations for it.
I just think the licensing process all needs to be a big shake-up.
It seems diabolical at the moment.
Why is this row so important?
Well, it's not just about a few farmers with shotguns.
A number of people have been shot dead in Cumbria
by a gunman who is still on the loose.
In 30 years, there have been three mass shootings in the UK -
Hungerford, Dunblane and Cumbria.
They were all by people who had certified themselves
as medically fit to own a gun under the old system,
so it's a matter of public safety that the new guidelines
ought to be crystal clear about how GP checks work.
Sadly, they are far from it -
and Liam Stokes from the Countryside Alliance
says shooters should not have to pay.
So, what are gun owners experiencing, in your view,
-that is causing trouble?
-Well, they are experiencing total chaos,
depending on where they are in the country.
They were led to believe that what they were going to experience
was going to be a well-regulated system that would apply
no matter where you were.
What's actually happening is you can be in one county
and find that the system is operating as it should,
you're submitting your application, the letter is going to the GP,
the GP is checking your record, applying the flag
and your certificate is coming through.
You could live in the adjoining county
and find the GP is sending you a bill for anything up to £200.
But can you justify why a doctor should be spending time
on getting you a gun licence rather than seeing someone who is sick?
Doctors spend time doing all sorts of form filling
for different things, whether that be
driving cars, driving trucks, whatever it happens to be.
But other professions have to pay for the medical
to get their licence - HGV drivers, divers...
-Why shouldn't shooters?
-We're not drawing a line in the sand,
saying absolutely no fees can be charged by anybody.
What we're saying is we need a system that is fair,
that is the same for everybody, that is only charged once.
And he's clear it's the doctors' union, the BMA,
that is to blame for the confusion.
Initially, they signed up to this process
by which the check would occur without any expectation of a fee
and within three months, they're telling their members,
"Actually, no, do charge a fee."
The result is a stalemate and, in rural counties like Lincolnshire,
a growing backlog of licence applications.
The countryside's doctors and gun owners are at an impasse,
with the shooters blaming the GPs, so what have they got to say?
I'll be asking them later in the programme.
In the Ribble Valley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, lies Gazegill Farm.
It's been running as an organic farm for decades,
long before the term was even coined.
This farm has been in the same family for six generations.
It's steeped in history,
but it's also incredibly forward-thinking.
That's thanks to Emma Robinson, the current owner,
and her husband, Ian O'Reilly.
Every waking moment of this couple's life is spent dedicated
to the land that has been a part of Emma's family for centuries.
So, that's your farm we can see just behind us.
Just in the bottom of the valley there.
We run from over by the cows that you can see in the distance,
-all the way back round...
-To the wind turbine.
That wind turbine is yours?
It certainly is, yes.
Yes, that gives us about three-quarters of our energy needs.
Yeah, should have put a bigger one in!
Today, Gazegill is entirely self-sufficient
through wind and solar power
and they've always championed organic principles.
Why did you not intensify, like most other farms in Britain,
after the Second World War?
My dad was so passionate about his hay meadows and the rare birds,
looking after the curlews and the lapwings,
and it's come to us and we've always farmed organically.
It's a real low-intensity farming,
but the animals are better for it, the souls are better for it.
Without the nature, we haven't got a farm.
Emma and Ian are involved in every aspect of the farming process,
from field to fork.
They rear rare-breed animals, including Shorthorn cattle
and Oxford Sandy and Black pigs.
So, this is Betty, who likes her tummy rubbed.
We've got Glenda at the back, Nora
and this is Edward, who is a bit antisocial.
Gazegill Farm specialises in raw milk and rose veal.
So, where are we going now?
We're going up to the top shed with the rose veal calves are.
For Ian, the welfare of his animals is very important.
Usually the males born into a dairy herd are disposed of,
but at Gazegill they have a different approach.
So there is a whole heap of different ages in here -
the babies are at the far side
and then they sort of come up in age groups.
What is rose veal, Ian?
Well, anything under 12 months is veal,
but rose veal is between 9 and 12 months,
so they have grown on a bit, there is a bit of meat on the carcass,
but it has got that sort of pink hue to it.
-Tell me the ethos.
-These are the offspring from the milk herds.
They are a living by-product.
There are three options with a by-product such as a calf.
One is it's destroyed shortly after being born,
which still happens in the industry, which, you know, I don't agree with.
It's morally wrong. There is an alternative
that they can be exported live at 6 to 8 weeks, or rose veal,
which is probably the best out of the three options,
to actually utilise them as a food product,
beautiful meat, high-protein, low-fat, great tasting.
So, if you are an ethical consumer of meat,
-then rose veal should absolutely be something you think about.
-It should be on your menu.
On the other side of the farm, in the dairy,
Emma is in charge of raw-milk production.
She single-handedly takes care of 75 Shorthorn cows.
Well, not quite single-handedly cos she's got a little helper today.
-How are you doing down there, Izzy?
The farmers come down the female line
and Izzy is already in training to be the next custodian of Gazegill.
-Do you think you will take over the farm?
-That's cool, isn't it?
Emma and Izzy know all 75 of their cows individually.
-This is called John...
-You can tell from the back?
Yeah, I understand them more from their udders.
This is Apple, this one is called Hope and that one is called Bobby.
As the milk is raw, Emma is meticulous about cleanliness
and today she has agreed to let me get milking.
I've never done this before.
Just touch its leg before you do anything,
-then she knows you're there.
-She knows it's someone different.
-And then...a bit of warm water on, give it a good rub.
-How am I doing?
Really, really well, actually.
-Now we need back to the first one.
-Right, here we go.
Oh, look at that.
Stand aside, stand aside!
The danger zone down here.
Because we do raw milk, it takes me so long.
I'm so fussy on any bit of poo, any bit of muck.
You have to be, don't you?
I'm going to stand over here.
I'm totally with you in spirit.
Emma's Shorthorns have been antibiotic-free for three years now
and the milk they produce is not pasteurised or homogenised.
The farm has even set up its own raw-milk micro dairy.
What makes milk raw? What makes it different?
OK, it is straight out of the cow - we've done nothing to it whatsoever.
It comes out of the cow, it goes into a milk tank,
we chill it down and we bottle it and send it out.
Now, that might worry some people who think,
"Well, surely we should be drinking pasteurised milk,
"surely that's what we need, it's better for us..."
We have been told for many years
that pasteurised milk is better for us
and, yes, it takes bad bacteria out,
but it also takes all the good bacteria out
and our gut needs good bacteria to keep us healthy.
It's extra creamy as well, isn't it?
You know, because these guys are fed hay during the winter
and they are grass fed during the summer, it is sweeter.
There's only one thing left to do - taste the produce.
But before I can, the heavens open.
Oh, it's hail! Welcome to Lancashire!
-Let's try this raw milk.
-Quick, before it freezes!
Oh, that's quite hard.
It's really...! It's delicious!
-Izzy, you've got snow on the top of your head.
She's the toughest one here!
It's not even fazing you.
At least the weather doesn't faze this ancient breed of cattle.
They've grazed this land for centuries
and are now producing the most forward-thinking of products.
It's this echo back to the way this farm has been run
for the past 500 years plus Ian and Emma's new innovations
that will hopefully ensure that this place
will continue to run for the next 500 years.
Kate Eveson is a textile artist
who is inspired by the stunning Ribble Valley.
Her dad John remembers how it all began.
Kate has always had an interest in art,
so you could tell right away when she was a little girl,
every time she got five minutes spare, she'd always got
a bit of paper and crayons front of her
and I think it just developed from there. She loves it.
So, as a child, I always really loved wildlife and animals.
We always had various different pets on the farm.
I had a couple of pet sheep.
But my favourite pet was... We had a jackdaw that we found in the stream.
It had obviously fallen out of a nest and he was quite poorly,
so we fetched him in.
Anyway, we nursed him back to life and, yeah,
he just used to land on people's shoulders
when they came round to the house, used to scare people to death.
It used to be quite funny.
We moved to Lancashire, didn't we, about 20 years ago?
Onto a sheep farm.
And I do remember moving there and just absolutely loving the freedom.
As soon as we arrived, she just had a big smile on her face
and she just loved being there.
She loved the sheep and wandering around and the freedom
and she's loved it ever since.
With my dad being an agricultural photographer,
it's definitely had an influence on my work,
seeing my dad take lots of pictures of animals,
and images of farm animals have always been around.
I work for the Farmers Guardian and other agricultural publications
and picture libraries.
To combine agriculture and photography, it's just marvellous.
I can't imagine living in a city.
I just like being able to get out. I love walking.
That's the thing, the Ribble Valley,
it's a fairly quiet, unknown, beautiful place really.
I think everyone heads off to the Yorkshire Dales
or they go to the Lake District, but it's just as nice here.
It is a rich landscape, which I think
is probably why there is loads of artists around here.
To start the process,
I'll go out and gather photographs and work from those.
I take that back to the studio,
I'll do some sketches and I get a line drawing.
I then sew that,
I stretch it and then I paint it,
so they're sort of textile paintings if you like,
but they are portraits
and I mainly focus on their heads.
I think that's the most interesting part.
I try to get people to look at sheep and animals in a different way,
in ways that you don't normally see them,
so taking them out of the fields, taking them out of the landscape.
Yeah, people always ask about the lines.
They started quite organically really,
it wasn't a conscious decision.
Sometimes I think they're almost like an aura coming off the sheep,
but it's up to anybody else what they think to them really,
but that's kind of my sort of take on it.
I particularly like horned sheep
because I think they've got really interesting, quite sculptural heads.
They've got lots of different textures -
they've got wool bodies,
and then they've got the hard horns, which are a great shape.
I've just gone back to university
to start my masters degree in fine art...
..which is a whole new chapter for me, going back to education.
I'm looking forward to it
and I'm hoping I constantly use the landscape and my surroundings
as inspiration for my work.
I'm sure it will always play a part in what I do.
Rural doctors have found themselves
at the centre of a row about gun ownership,
which is causing some bad feeling in the countryside.
Tom has been finding out more.
There are two million legally owned guns in the UK.
In the countryside, they are a working tool,
or simply used for sport.
For years, individual police forces followed different systems
for issuing licences, so, in 2016,
the Home Office published revised national guidelines.
The idea of a new standardised licensing system
was broadly welcomed.
The guidelines give doctors a greater say
over who is suitable to own a gun.
But despite the good intentions,
it's resulted in confusion among gun owners, doctors and the police.
Doctors are now asked to check applicants' files
for relevant medical conditions.
Some GPs charge for this, others don't, sparking a national row
that is being played out here in Lincolnshire.
We just want it to be fair, really.
I mean, it's different all over the country by the sound of it.
People's perception of people with guns -
I think they immediately think of the criminal element,
but you know, living out here in a rural environment,
it's part of our way of life, it's our culture.
Lincolnshire is typical of how the row is unfolding nationally.
Dr Kieran Sharrock advises GP practices across the county.
Why is it important that the medical profession
is involved in the whole licensing procedure?
We need to make sure that patients are safe and the public is safe.
There's a number of medical conditions, physical and mental,
that could mean it's not safe for someone to have a firearm, shotgun.
You have to have information from the medical profession
because patients may not realise that their medical conditions
actually affect their fitness to have a shotgun, so for instance,
diabetes, if your sugars are out of control, it can affect your mood.
If you've got asthma and you are on long-term steroid treatment,
that can affect your mood.
So it's not just mental illness.
And why should shooters pay for this check?
Well, GP time is very short.
We are finding it difficult to find enough time to see our NHS patients.
This work isn't NHS work, so we can't be doing this work
when we should be seeing our NHS patients.
But surely we're just talking about five or ten minutes
to bring up the records on a computer.
For some patients, yes, it's five, ten minutes,
you have to look at the medical record on the electronic...
on the computer, and the paper records.
For other patients, they could have a significant medical history,
so it can take up to hours to do this work.
It all comes down to the guidelines
that were intended to improve the situation,
but even Dr Sharrock agrees the BMA nationally got it wrong.
It's a real shame that the opportunity to get this sorted out
wasn't taken in 2016. I believe
the General Practitioners Committee of the British Medical Association
was not consulted deeply enough on this
because, as soon as the guidelines came out, they were unhappy
that we were not able to make a sensible charge for this service.
The BMA weren't available to interview,
but said they were alarmed the Government had provided no resources
for GPs to do the extra work.
The problem with guidelines this long is they leave plenty of room
for people to interpret different sentences to suit their own agenda.
For instance, it says here quite clearly,
"There is no expectation of a fee being charged for this check."
But nearly 200 pages later on,
some GPs are looking at this sentence where it says,
"Police may ask some applicants
"to obtain and pay for a medical report."
And if you think that's bizarre, it gets worse.
Buried in an appendix, the guidelines say
if the police don't hear from your GP,
they can give you a gun licence anyway.
When we approached the Home Office,
they said the guidelines will be "kept under review".
But here in Lincolnshire, the police have had enough
and are breaking ranks and setting up their own system.
If you don't have a GP report here, you won't get a licence.
So, are there different conditions to getting shotgun, say,
-than getting a 22 rifle?
The county's head of firearms licensing
is Detective Inspector Peter Shaw.
So, how are you now dealing with this in Lincolnshire?
The force is moving to a position that we realise and value
the importance of medical reports for firearms licensing.
We think it is very much in the public interest
that we are going to insist on a medical report every time
we renew or grant a shotgun or a firearm in Lincolnshire.
So, very clear. For new licences, no medical report, no licence.
-And renewals as well.
We need to make sure that people who are taking possession of guns
are fit to take possession of them.
It may sound like a sensible stance, but it does nothing to solve
the argument between the gun owners and doctors.
Liam Stokes from the Countryside Alliance
says they are not backing down.
What will you be saying to your members in Lincolnshire?
Are you going to say that they have to go along with the police or not?
Our policy will remain,
"Do not pay any fees that you are charged by your GP
"whilst we try and resolve this situation."
We are at a standoff where, if anything,
both sides are entrenching their positions,
leaving the ownership of these -
a vital tool of country life yet also a lethal weapon -
mired in deepening confusion.
The views across Gisburn Forest seem endless,
especially in the snow.
And if you live here and you like peace and quiet,
then you are one of the lucky few
because the Ribble Valley is the least populated place in Lancashire.
It's deceptively remote, as nearby busy towns and cities buzz.
Leeds, Bradford, Lancaster, Blackpool and Manchester
are all closer than you might think,
but here there is plenty of space and fresh air.
And Gisburn Forest are only too happy to share,
as they want to make these woods accessible for everyone.
Martin Colledge left behind the hustle and bustle of Liverpool
almost 20 years ago and he has never looked back.
He is the Forestry Commission's Bowland area manager.
We've estimated there is about five million people
live within about an hour's drive, so Gisburn Forest
is a great place for them to come for a day out.
And what we are walking on here, then, has been the key
in making sure that everybody of various different physical abilities
can actually come and access this landscape.
That's right. This trail has been adapted
so that it's suitable for a wide range of people,
suitable for all ability scooters,
families with pushchairs, people who just have difficulty walking,
so it's an easy-access trail.
You must get an enormous amount of satisfaction
to just see whole families out here,
who can come here and just enjoy this.
I do - it's fantastic seeing whole family groups out
-and everyone can enjoy the same walk together.
The easy-access routes are a big hit
with rambling groups for all abilities across Lancashire -
and 4x4 mobility scooters are the key to really getting off-road.
Just ask Owen.
It's nice and warm, actually, when you get into the sunshine, isn't it?
-Yes, it's lovely.
-That is beautiful.
I always used to use motorbikes in my youth.
It's like riding a motorbike, really.
Do you mind if I ask how old you are?
And still enjoying the sunshine.
Enjoying every minute of it. I love it.
Eileen is also a big fan.
I have a Shoprider, so a shopping scooter,
and then I progressed to get a Tramper
and do some more of the more difficult routes.
And the thing is, as well, the landscape is not an issue,
the weather is not an issue and when you look at this vehicle here,
you know, incredible technology,
-but what it gives you as a person...
That's my mileometer.
-Do you know what? That says it all, doesn't it?
We've got Jean bringing up the rear. Are you all right back here?
Look at this! What a vehicle!
-What's it like to drive?
-It's absolutely great fun
and I've been up a mountain in it as well.
I hadn't been up for 24 years.
What was it like when you got up there onto the top?
On a day like today, the view's all full along Windermere,
the Langdale Pikes on one side,
360 degree views
and I could see the roof of my own house down at the bottom.
Could you really?
It was just unbelievable. I was crying.
Accompanying Jean are Ali Pennington and Jeanette Moore
from Freedom Wizard, a charity that uses these all-terrain vehicles
on outdoor adventures.
You may lose your mobility, unfortunately, as Jean has,
but being able to still get out there,
that desire to still get outdoors, it doesn't go away.
But it's fantastic, with the likes of the Forestry Commission
and the National Trust putting in more and more
accessible kind of paths out there, it's absolutely fantastic.
-It's what they can do now, rather than what they can't.
And people are focusing on that and that is wonderful.
I tell you - this is a lovely bit of the ramble.
-Mulled wine! This is incredible!
Cheers to one and all! Do you know, you lot should definitely do
the Countryfile Ramble for Children In Need, yeah?
-What a great idea!
-Can I sign you up?
-Good. All right, then.
Jean, there's a little tipple for you, my dear,
and I've got one here for Owen.
Owen, you're going to do the Countryfile Ramble
-for Children In Need, all right?
I'm not going to...
I'm not going to put it in your diary,
I'm going to stick it in the Countryfile calendar,
also sold in aid of Children In Need, for you.
This is it. Obviously, it's January at the moment,
so if you haven't got yours yet, then you need to look busy.
Here's John with all the details.
It costs £9.50, including UK delivery.
You can go to our website, where you will find
a link to the order page, or you can phone the order line on...
If you'd prefer to order by post,
then send your name, address and a cheque to...
A minimum of £4.50 from the sale of each calendar
will be donated to BBC Children In Need.
Preserving the bloodstock of Britain's native farm animals
is an important job.
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust
was set up by Adam's dad Joe back in the 1970s to do just that.
Since then, we've not lost a single breed
of our native farm animals.
The trust's search for endangered farm animals
has covered the length and breadth of Britain,
from the mountains of England...
to the Highlands...
and Islands of Scotland.
And their work continues.
I've travelled to Cheshire to see what they're doing
to help save one of our rarest breeds.
This is Linnet. She's a really lovely Eriskay pony
and very typical of the breed - a small, hardy animal
that originates from the Western Isles,
off the coast of Scotland,
where she would have been used by the crofters as a workhorse.
They make a good little riding pony too,
but sadly, they have fallen into decline
and now they are critically rare,
one of the rarest of all the equine breeds.
I'm meeting up with Linnet's keeper, Keith Siddorn,
and Tom Beeston from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
-Hi. Good to see you again, Tom.
-My word, well, I've got your little pony for you!
So, how come you've got into Ersikays?
Well, I work closely already with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
I have a herd of traditional Hereford cattle, a rare breed,
and I offered to look after a rare-breed pony and Linnet is here.
Well, she's really great, isn't she?
How rare are they, then?
We estimate there's about 100 breeding females left,
-so they are on the critical list.
So, what's the plan with her?
The plan is to get her in foal next spring,
so we'll take her to our local AI centre
and hopefully get her artificially inseminated
and then, 11 months later, we'll have a foal.
Tom, it's great, isn't it, having farmers like Keith
looking after these rare breeds on the ground?
It's fantastic, but it's not the only string in our bow,
so we also have a gene bank where we freeze the semen and the embryos,
so that if we need to recreate a population, if there is a disaster -
disease or climate change - that we can actually do that, you know.
There are many diseases around, as you know, like bovine TB,
that could wipe out a whole breed of animal, so we need those genetics.
So you've got eggs and semen in store
that you can then recreate a little Eriskay if they get wiped out?
Just exactly that, yeah.
And how is the gene bank so far?
We've got about 70 horses across the 13 breeds in the gene bank already,
but we need 350 in there, so it's another £1.5, £2 million we need,
just for the equines, to get to them gene banked.
Come on, then.
Collecting the individual animals needed for the gene bank
is a costly and time-consuming task,
but the trust can call upon the very latest technology
to acquire the eggs and semen once the animals have been found.
Shropshire-based Stallion AI Services are helping with the task.
I'm meeting manager Tullis Matson
and a few of the stallions with an important job to do.
-My word, Tullis, it is a smart stables!
-Thank you very much.
How many rare-breed horses have you got in here?
Four different breeds here at the moment, a couple from each breed.
-This is the Fell we've got here.
-How rare are the Fell?
They're pretty rare - there's about 600 females left in the UK,
so they are on the register for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Some important work to do, this fellow.
We've been collecting semen off him for the last two weeks
and he's doing very well, it's freezing well,
so we've got his genetic line banked now.
I recognise this monstrous beast over here.
Oh, what a beautiful animal this is! This is a nice big Shire.
Some of the heavy horses are in real trouble, aren't they?
They are, and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust have just launched
the Heavy Horse Appeal, really to try and protect these heavy horses.
One of the reasons, the pure size of the animal -
it's a big animal to keep and feed each day.
And rareness of the Shire?
There's just over 900 females left in the country,
so again, yes, there's a few about,
but it wouldn't take long for the breed to actually get
smaller and smaller. The genetic pool shrinks
and then you've got other issues as well, so yes,
they are on the at-risk register for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Better shut that door, otherwise he's going to walk out on us!
This is the Eriskay pony.
I met Keith earlier, who is desperate to get his mare in foal.
They are really on the borderline of extinction, these animals.
-Could be lost forever?
-They could be, if we don't something about it.
They are lovely animals, it would be a great shame to lose them.
So, you're taking semen from this one today?
Yes, we'll collect semen off him and then it can be stored indefinitely.
Advances in technology mean it's now possible to store samples
that just five years ago would have been lost.
Collection, however, is a much more basic process
and Tuffy here seems more than up for playing his part.
What is happening now with the Eriskay?
We're just about to carry out a collection.
He'll jump on the dummy and hopefully we will collect
a sample off him that we can go and freeze in a minute.
-He's keen, isn't he?
And so, by using this technology and your investment here,
you will be able to get lots of foals from this stallion.
Potentially, yes, we can get 100-odd foals from this stallion.
We can get about between seven and ten foals per collection, in theory,
and then obviously distribute it all over the world.
It's just brilliant, isn't it?
-He seems to be enjoying himself!
-Yes! That's it, that's it.
Once he's done his collection,
we'll take that semen sample in the lab,
analyse it, see how good the quality is and then freeze it down
and then it's there for future use.
Good old Tuffy, did the job there.
Facilities like this are giving many of our rarest breeds
a fighting chance of survival, but it's not just rare breeds here.
Tullis and his team are also developing
the bloodlines of some rare talent.
This is Big Star.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he and his rider, Nick Skelton,
won a gold, Britain's first
individual showjumping medal since 1972.
And for a horse of this pedigree,
there's plenty of owners out there hoping to breed from him.
Good to see you.
My word! The superstars together!
Well, he's a superstar, I think. I was only the pilot.
A horse like this is worth a lot of money.
You must have had demands from all over the world.
Yeah, when he was competing at the top,
before Rio, after London, we got offered a lot of money for him,
but the owners, Gary and Beverley Widdowson,
they didn't want to sell him,
they wanted to keep him for his jumping
and also, you know, with his career at stud now, he's doing a great job.
-Have you got your gold medals with you?
Wow! What are these two?
That one is from London and this one is from Rio.
Where you got your individual gold.
Yeah, he won them both,
so you don't get many horses that win two gold medals.
What is it in a horse like this
that you are really looking for to breed from?
I think he is combination, he's a very good-looking horse,
he's got plenty of size about him, his mentality is very good.
He's not difficult to ride, he's got a great temperament
and, all in all, he's... he's as good a horse as you get.
As good a horse as I have seen in my lifetime anyway.
And if you've got all those combinations,
will it run through? Should it run through?
Well, I mean, it's not guaranteed to run through, but I mean,
if you haven't got it to start with, I don't think it's ever
going to run through, so at least he has got it there.
-Has he got foals already?
-Yes, he has.
The eldest one in this country, I think, is four years old.
And last season, his foal fetched over £90,000.
-His first foal, yes.
-That's a lot of money!
Well, congratulations for all your achievements.
-You're both national treasures.
Nick and Big Star are now enjoying
a well-earned retirement from competition,
but the work to preserve the genetic traits of horses like him continues
and that could benefit all our rare equine breeds.
And there are other still more advanced techniques
that could yet play a part.
This is Murka's Gem.
Remarkably, he's a clone of a horse called Gem Twist,
who was renowned the world over
for being one of the best showjumpers of all time.
He's the stallion, so he can breed.
And depending on where your ethics lie,
whether there's the willingness and the money,
this is another way of saving breeds from extinction.
I'm on Gazegill Farm in the heart of the Ribble Valley,
a place steeped in history that's always looking to the future.
The nurturing approach of farmers Emma and Ian
stretches far beyond the animals they rear.
They've thrown open their doors to refugees recently arrived in the UK.
Lee Holmes from the Country Trust is in charge of today's tour.
So, Lee, tell me, why do the Country Trust do this?
Every child, every young person, should have an opportunity
to come and visit our amazing British countryside.
What challenges can arise from doing this?
You never know what is around the corner.
Some people have had chaotic lives to get to our country.
They are living in cities, so it is a little bit different.
Some of them have not been in the country long, the refugees,
so snow could be a first.
How many people have you got coming down today?
We've got 12 children and some parents.
And where are they coming from?
They are coming from Bradford, OK?
-Lots more Bradfordians!
-I know you're from Bradford.
-You know I'm from Bradford.
-So am I.
I can't wait to see their reactions.
-They'll be here shortly.
These refugees have recently settled in my hometown,
having fled war-torn Syria and Sudan.
The dogs are absolutely fine and really friendly, OK?
For many, this is their first time on a working farm.
It's fine, it's fine. He's friendly, look.
-He's a nice dog.
-This one is called Alf.
-There we go.
Winter in the Ribble Valley can be harsh
and the cold is proving to be a bit of a culture shock.
We're keeping warm.
The snow, for these children, really is a novelty.
Look, you've got to throw it, like this.
It's a snowball fight!
Oh, there we go!
This visit to Gazegill is a chance for families
/to get out of the city and spend time together making new memories.
-Who's this, then?
Do you want to give it a little stroke like this?
-OK, come and say hello.
A squealing pig.
-You've seen a pig before.
-There you go.
Do we know what these are called?
What's this called?
Yeah, these are pigs, but do we know what this is?
Like a hair.
It's like hair, it's a bristle.
These are soft bristles, yeah.
For Emma and Ian, the farm has always played an important role
in spreading the word about farming.
How many times have you had refugees come,
how many visits have you had?
-We've had quite a few now.
-Quite a few, yes. We've lost count.
From Syrian to Somalian, so right across the spectrum, but, yeah.
And what is the reaction?
They are a bit lost when they first arrive.
They hold on to the kids and they're worried about everything.
-You must do it like that, OK?
But by the time they're going, they've had a good day.
Why do you do it?
Mum and Dad opened the farm, in the early '60s,
to doing free school trips.
They believed that they've got a beautiful back yard -
why not share it with as many people as possible?
It's a nice thing to do. The farm has always done it.
It's something that we've carried on doing.
We've always had Shorthorns, so it's that sort of thing,
but it is enjoyable, it is enjoyable for us.
It's nice to see.
There you go!
Look at that! You just fed a little pony!
All of the refugees have a story.
Seven months ago, Nagua and her family escaped civil war in Sudan.
Hello, little Efra. There we go.
She grew up in the Sudanese countryside.
So, what was your life like?
Did you plant your own vegetables? Were you farmers?
-I was 12 years old. I was young,
but the adults worked on the farm and we helped them harvest the crop.
Now that you're in the UK, what are your hopes for the future?
-I hope to raise my children in a better environment
and educate them as, unfortunately, I never got this opportunity.
Maybe she could be a farmer.
An English farmer.
I know what "mumki" means, it means possible.
Why the heck not, eh? Why the heck not?
The final event of the day is something all kids
and, to be honest, I love, even in this weather.
Who likes ice cream?
I like it!
What is your favourite flavour?
This is a chance for the youngsters to make their own ice cream.
The creamier the better, I say. Yes!
It's made using the best and most local produce.
Do you know where the milk comes from?
In the barn next door.
-Yeah, the cows next door.
It's so important that these newcomers
get the chance to see rural British life
and learn where their food comes from.
Off they go.
Back to the city.
Some of those families, that was
their first ever trip to the British countryside
and I think they've had the most amazing day.
I certainly have.
Now, I might not be able to feel my toes,
but there's never a wrong time for ice cream, is there?
We have had it all.
We've had sun, we've had snow, even hail,
but what is the weather doing for the week ahead?
Here is the Countryfile forecast.
We're in the Ribble Valley
and while Anita has been having fun on the farm...
..I've been exploring Gisburn Forest.
Earlier, I met a group enjoying the forest on four wheels.
But this place is also renowned for adventures on two wheels.
We're talking mountain bikes
and there's no less than 30km of trail to explore.
The unusual thing here is that a group of fanatical cyclists
give up thousands of hours of their time
to help maintain the trails.
And I'm following in the tyre tracks of Anthony Lacey,
a local coach and enthusiastic volunteer.
Here's the hardy team, then, yeah?
The trails themselves are maintained mostly by the volunteer group.
How are we doing, team, all right?
You are keeping warm, then, in the snow?
Great! What have you been up to here?
Is this a little bit of a drain or a new feature you are putting in?
People have just been going off to the side,
so we've filled the muddy hole with rock
and now we're just about to put some gravel over it
and jump up and down on it.
Flatten it down again!
But this is all very technical!
And, Anthony, as far as the forest is concerned,
what does it offer mountain-bike riders?
Mountain-bike riders, we've got a really wide range of trails here,
we've got trails for all abilities and there is all sorts of
little interesting features here and there.
This place has such a wide catchment area.
People are coming in from far and wide.
We've actually had people coming up from London just to ride Gisburn
and to do a course, which obviously, for me, is fantastic.
It seems like the trails have always been here, you know,
but there was a time when there wasn't really anything,
there were just forest tracks
and it's all been down to the Forestry and the group
that we've managed to get together that has made it all happen.
You ride the trails that we build and that's the best bit for me,
you build them and you ride them.
How long has all this been going, then?
-Give or take, probably a little over nine years now.
And in that time,
any idea how much of this trail you have actually built by hand?
The volunteers have done more than three miles.
More than 8,000 man-hours have gone into it.
It's impressive, team. It is impressive!
Good to see you. All the best.
-Cheers, see you later. Thanks.
Nothing gets the New Year off to an exhilarating start
like an icy mountain-bike adventure.
It might be cold, but this is one way of staying warm.
Oh, bit marshy there!
Safely over the bridge and that will do
because, on that note, that is all we've got time for this week.
Next week we're going to be in Somerset, where we'll be
discovering a wildlife project that is involving the whole community.
But, Anita, I am on my way.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but, from a snow-filled forest,
save us an ice cream. Bye-bye.
Well, Matt, you'd better get your skates on
because this is the last bit and it's melting.
I've saved him one, really!
We'll see you all next week. Bye.
Countryfile explores the Ribble Valley. Matt Baker is in the stunning Gisburn Forest where he discovers these wild woods at dawn. He also meets those, on two wheels and four, that make the most of nature's playground here. Anita Rani is on a farm with its roots in the past, but which is looking to the future. She meets the refugees who are discovering farming in the snow. And Adam Henson meets the stallions playing a special part in securing the future of rare breeds. Tom Heap looks into an argument between gun owners and doctors over new Home Office rules on gun licensing that have left many people confused and angry.