The people, places and stories making news in the British countryside. Matt Baker looks at a food revolution in Todmorden and Tom Heap reports on Britain's bees.
Browse content similar to Calderdale. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
'The humble bee is in decline.
'According to some, their numbers have fallen by half in the UK
'since the 1980s.
'And it's not just a sad loss for our gardens.
'It's a potential disaster for British agriculture
'and further afield, too.'
So, right across the world, scientists have been searching
for the cause of their mysterious decline.
And in Europe they think they might have found a culprit.
'The European Commission believes the blame lies
'with some of the world's most widely-used agricultural pesticides,
'It wants to ban them from 1st July.'
But not everyone is convinced
and Britain is now one of a number of countries resisting a ban,
not least because of its impact on farming.
'I've come to Kent to meet farmer Andy Barr.
'Like many, his crop is already suffering a slow start,
'thanks to the cold spring weather.'
It's not quite what you'd expect for mid-April, is it?
No, it's horrible.
It's really having an effect on these oilseed rape plants.
'Rather than spraying his fields,
'Andy uses seeds treated with neonicotinoids.
'But he's worried that a ban would make a bad year even worse.'
You had me bring this bag of seed with us in order to show
how the neonicotinoids work, but talk me through it.
-What are the stages?
-Right, well this is the seed we would plant
in the autumn, basically.
Each one of those seeds will produce one plant.
-This seed is already treated with the neonicotinoids?
Do you think there could be something in there, hidden,
that's killing our bees? Because that's what's being suggested.
To me, as a farmer,
there is a very tiny amount of neonicotinoid on there.
That tiny seed, one of them, grows into a plant taller than me
and about this wide.
And I plant it one August and it's flowering in the next May.
Is there enough there, in real field situation,
to have an effect on the bees?
At the moment, the scientists don't have an answer for me.
No-one has said there is a definitive,
real field situation effect on bees.
So, what did you do before you had neonicotinoids?
Before we had them, we had to come through very soon after planting,
when the plants were very small,
and spray the whole field two or three times.
And did you feel that had other collateral damage?
That's why I was so pleased when they came along.
I felt it was a good thing cos we weren't spraying everything,
we were just treating the seed and the plants.
So it was much more targeted.
'Neonicotinoids protect around a third of our crops
'from being eaten by insects.
'It's claimed banning them would leave farmers relying
'on less efficient methods that would cost them millions.
'But farmers need bees, too.
'They play a vital role in pollinating many crops,
'like oilseed rape. 'Losing them would slash yields.
'So, to keep a healthy supply on Andy's farm,
'he leaves space for wild flowers and even has his own beekeeper.'
So, if I can just take the top off there.
'Alistair Wormsley has kept hives here for five years.
'I'm helping him prepare for the warmer weather.'
Because it's so cold, are the bees pretty unlikely to venture out?
I would think the bees are unlikely to venture out
at much below eight degrees centigrade.
'It seems we spoke too soon.'
The bees are basically wild animals, so even when we expect them
to do one thing and stay in the snow,
they've actually decided to come out.
So I'll leave Alistair there with his veil to do the work.
'Those supporting a ban on neonicotinoids
'claim they disorientate bees.
'So much so that many never find their way home.
'Alistair says he's seen evidence of that confusion for himself.'
The symptoms were very much like the bees were being given Alzheimer's.
They were, if you like...
There was 30-40,000 bees in the colony one week, going strong.
You come back the next week,
and there'll be a couple of hundred bees there with the queen
and all the working bees had deserted.
'Yet, despite seeing some of the symptoms,
'Alistair says he's not seen enough to convince him yet
'it's time to take drastic action.'
-So, would you want to see a ban?
-No. No, no, no.
What I want to see is the work done to prove the situation
one way or the other.
'The search for that proof is still going on and beekeepers,
'farmers and even governments are all looking to the world of science
'to give them a definitive answer.'
Hundreds of scientists from right across the world
are working on the great mystery of what's killing our bees
and that includes at least a dozen projects from the UK.
Hi, Chris, how's it going?
'Dr Adam Vanbergen is from the Insect Pollinators Initiative,
'which oversees nine UK research projects.'
OK, I'll do the lights.
See if we can just collect one to take a sample. Back towards me.
'Like many other scientists, he's yet to be convinced
'that neonicotinoids are such a menace
'that they should be banned right now.'
This lab here has actually shown some effect of neonicotinoids
-on bees' brains, so is it time for a ban?
-Yeah, I think...
Well, it's interesting you say that.
The results coming out of this lab and others are extremely concerning.
They're showing impacts on the brain function.
What I think we need to do is to increase
the complexity of those experiments,
to mimic what goes on in the real world
and perhaps also carry out field experiments in the real world too.
Shouldn't we apply the precautionary principal here?
We're talking about something as vital and sensitive as bees.
A lot of people think there's a single smoking gun
with respect to pollinator decline,
but the reality is that pollinators and other biodiversities
have been declining over a much longer period of time
and there is a whole suite of factors threatening them,
including the intensification of the landscape,
which leads to loss of resources,
so I think we need to consider things in a much more holistic way,
so I'm a bit concerned about treating pesticides
as a single issue that we need to react suddenly upon.
With many scientists, farmers and even beekeepers
saying a ban is premature, the UK government has been trying
to block attempts to get neonicotinoids restricted.
But many on the European mainland, including the European Commission,
are convinced that a ban is the way forward.
So, do they know something that we don't?
Well, it's all based on this 58-page report
prepared for the European Commission.
So does this contain the definitive proof
that neonicotinoids are killing our bees?
I'll be taking a closer look later in the programme.
Lying in the heart of Calderdale is Todmorden,
a small town with big ambitions.
It straddles the ancient border between Yorkshire and Lancashire.
And what's happened in this town is having repercussions
right across the world.
Here, they're bringing the countryside
into the heart of the town by growing food in public places.
It's part of a movement known as Incredible Edible.
Pam Warhurst is the powerhouse behind it.
So, Pam, what's the idea behind this? What is the goal?
The goal is to help people be more self-reliant,
the goal is to get people thinking of themselves, about their future,
and to use food as the driving force,
so you start with what we call propaganda gardens.
All over the town, there's spaces
where you could grow food, you just don't see them.
Very public - railway station, front of the police station,
along the towpath here, where people can see what can grow.
And they can taste it.
Everything we plant in these propaganda gardens is food for free.
So everybody who lives here is entitled
-to come down to the towpath and harvest?
It starts conversations and once you do that,
it becomes part of your life,
so you want to grown more of your own food in your own garden,
you want to go to your market and support more local growers
and your farmers, you want to get your kids
learning how to grow and process food.
All this because you've started to plant propaganda gardens
and just shown people what local food looks like.
This seed of an idea began just six years ago and now it's spread
to more than 30 towns across the UK and even around the world.
There's not a continent that isn't doing Incredible Edible.
Isn't that totally fantastic?
Who'd have thought ordinary people saying, "I want a bit of that,
"let's do it, we'll never stop it,
"we'll be doing this till the day we die,
"and there's nothing better in the world that we'd rather do."
Even at the school, they've caught the passion
for producing their own food.
They've got a remarkable way of growing fruit and veg indoors
and I hear it involves fish.
What's happening here could revolutionise
the local schools' food supply.
-Now then, Steve, how are you?
-Hello, Matt. I'm fine, thank you.
Right then, sir, as we're in a watery classroom,
you'd better give me a lesson. What's going on here?
-Welcome to the world of aquaponics...
..where fish feed vegetables. So do you want to find out how that works?
-Yes, please, yes!
-We've got a little diagram over here.
-Over to the board.
Very good. Right, OK.
So, if you're paying attention, aquaponics is a system
of three tanks with water flowing in between all of them.
So, in the first tank, we have fish.
Fish do what comes naturally - they poo and they pee.
The ammonia from the fish poo and pee
goes into the tank with the bacteria in it
where the ammonia is changed into nitrates
by the action of friendly bacteria.
So the nitrates are then pumped
into the tank where the vegetables are growing
and vegetables need nitrates to grow
and then the water goes back into the fish tank
and the whole process starts again.
-Feeding time at the zoo!
So we've got a big tank here full of 400 goldfish
and we know all their names, Matt.
-Yeah, Fred 1, Fred 2, Fred 3...
So what's the connection between this project and Incredible Edible?
This project grew out of Incredible Edible
and its aim is to produce fish and vegetables for the local schools,
so we'll be feeding the school kiddies.
We're learning on goldfish and then we will move onto edible carp.
How many fish do you actually need for a large quantity of vegetables?
That's where the maths comes in and it helps with the kiddies,
so what it is, is there's a ratio - one kilogram of fish waste
produces sufficient poo and pee
to feed three square metres of vegetables.
-So this is the floating vegetable patch?
Do you want to have a look here?
If you move one of the floating beds down slightly, you can see
the water underneath and the roots of the vegetables go into the water.
-You can see this from the garlic.
-Oh, my word!
There's no soil then?
It's amazing, there is no soil whatsoever in this whole process.
Is it better than growing in soil?
Because we can control all the temperatures and the nutrients,
we can produce all year round.
What we're finding at the moment
is some plants are growing quite quickly.
This mint, for instance, has come up a centimetre a day.
And I can only attribute that to the fact
that there's a huge amount of nitrates in this water.
I guess the proof is in the pudding. Is it all right to eat it?
Well, you've got a big table here in front of you.
-What would you recommend?
-Well, what shall we have a look at?
There's a bit of lettuce here, Matt. Go for that? Aquaponic lettuce.
That's a first.
-It tastes lovely, yeah.
I'm convinced, absolutely.
I tell you what, you lot down there, you've done some good work!
It's lovely, this lettuce.
The hills of Calderdale - most are more than 1,300 feet high,
so they catch the prevailing weather.
Often, that's rain, more recently, snow.
But this landscape also has a more unexpected look -
water, water everywhere.
It's believed that this area has the highest concentration
of reservoirs in the UK.
Now, if you look at this satellite image, you can see you can see why.
It's absolutely peppered with blue dots and those dots are reservoirs.
But why build so many just here?
I'm meeting up with Robin Gray to find out.
It's all down to the Industrial Revolution.
You had a lot of cotton mills.
In fact, you could say that Manchester was the powerhouse
of the Industrial Revolution and one of the main ingredients was water.
You had mill owners - they wanted water.
You had the canals - they needed water for transportation.
But also, drinking water.
You've got to remember, in the 19th century,
they described drinking water as "as black as ink".
So without this water,
that Industrial Revolution might not have happened?
Everyone knows about coal, but it was actually water that was
the vital ingredient that powered the Industrial Revolution.
Many of those reservoirs still remain.
This is one of them, now known as Hollingworth Lake,
built more than 200 years ago to supply the Rochdale canals.
It might have been built for industry,
but it was soon held in deep affection
by the Victorian day-trippers
who came here to enjoy paddle steamer rides
and the rowing club.
It became the Rochdale Riviera of its day -
an escape from the grime of industry.
Today, this lasting legacy of our industrial past is no lifeless relic.
On the contrary, it's buzzing with activity.
I've never tried windsurfing.
I've always wanted to and apparently this is the perfect place to start.
Instructor Alistair Pitman reckons he can get me surfing in no time,
but first I need to learn a few of the basics on dry land.
Right, Al, where do we start?
I want you to get both knees up here,
then I want you to reach around the mast
and there should be an uphaul there, so if you grab hold of that
with both hands, it'll help you balance when you stand up.
So I want you to stand up
and get your feet one either side of the mast.
Then I want you to crouch down,
reach as far as you can down that uphaul and then hand over hand,
pull it up and then put your hands onto the mast.
Hands onto the mast, OK.
If you lean the sail towards the back of the boat,
you'll find the boat turns one way.
HELEN GIGGLES Sorry!
And if you lean it towards the front of the boat,
you'll find it turns the other way.
OK, well, that seems straightforward enough. Shall we take it to water?
-Yep, why not? I think we're good, I think we're ready.
'It's now or never.
'I really hope I'm not in for a soaking.'
-It is quite cold, isn't it?
-Just a little chilly.
It's probably about minus seven with the wind chill,
but the water temperature's about one degree.
So we're just going to get you up into that sailing position.
-So grab hold of your mast, remember?
-Oh, yeah, the mast.
I'm practically signing up for the Olympics now, aren't I?
-Oh, yes, definitely.
And you're off!
That's it, Helen. Well done. Keep your front leg straight.
Pull in with your back hand a little.
I'm not setting any world records just yet.
Oh, I'm actually moving, aren't I?
-I'm on! I'm still on!
Pull it back up.
Whoa! There we go! There's a little gust!
-Woo-hoo! I'm doing it, yeah?
-Yeah. Well done.
'I can see why people get a kick out of this
'and I'll definitely be back to give it another go.'
You've done really well today.
You've still got dry hair, which is impressive!
Hollingworth Lake is easy to get to, so it's well used
and well looked after, but how do the more remote reservoirs fare?
Gaddings Dam is perched around 500 feet higher.
It's a lung-burning hike up a steep hill,
but I'm assured it's well worth it.
'There were plans to drain the reservoir,
'but people here loved it so much, they clubbed together to buy it
'and that means they have to keep an eye on it.'
What is it about this place that's so special?
Well, you'll have to see when we get up there, Helen,
but it's got a unique quality.
It's on nearly 1,200 feet elevation,
it's a very popular spot with swimmers
and with people from the town coming up for picnics and so on.
It's a real wonderful place.
Toby, you keep sort of burying your neck into your coat. It is cold.
-But you've been up there. Is it worth the walk?
-Can you remember coming up here as a little girl, Margaret?
-Yes, I do.
We just used to come up here all the time in the summer.
At that time there were a lot of mills in the valley,
so it was quite polluted.
Places like this were a way of getting away from the smoke.
Do you come up here to clear your head and gather your thoughts?
Definitely. It's a steep hill, but within a short period of time,
you're just on top of the world.
-Oh, my word! That is a lot of water!
-It is a lot.
This doesn't feel like Northern England,
it feels a bit like...Russia when you look over there!
This is part of the essential ongoing maintenance
that we have to go through to keep the dam walls in good shape.
They're lifting stones that have fallen down near the water's edge
to replace them along the top of the wall.
'As a final treat, Tim wants to share his favourite spot with me.'
Here we are, Helen, this is our beach.
I don't think I've ever sat on a beach surrounded by ice and snow.
It is stunning, though. I can see why people love it.
You're a world away from everyone and everything, aren't you, up here?
Oh, completely, completely.
We've always claimed it was the highest sandy beach in England
and nobody's challenged that yet.
If you came back here on a summer's day, you'd see people swimming,
you'd see people from Todmorden up here having picnics,
people walking their dogs around, it really is a playground for people.
I want to say that I'm disappointed
I haven't brought my swimming costume...
but that would be a complete lie! Cheers.
Now, as we heard earlier, Europe is on the verge of banning
pesticides vital to many British farmers
because they're being blamed for the dramatic decline of bees,
but are they doing too much too soon?
Earlier, we heard from a farmer, a scientist and even a beekeeper,
who were all currently against the ban,
but not everyone in the UK feels the same way.
Some British environmental groups,
including the RSPB and the Soil Association,
say evidence is mounting of a danger to bees.
Vanessa Amaral-Rogers from the charity Buglife wants action now.
How worried are you about the pesticides and the neonicotinoids?
We're really worried.
We've been doing a lot of work on neonicotinoids back in 2009
when we sort of found that there was
a lot of scientific research around at the time
which showed that there was an effect on neonics in pollinators.
A small amount of the chemical can affect in different ways,
so making honeybees forage less
or not return back to the hive because they get lost.
It's something that Buglife
have been campaigning for right from the start,
that we want the Government to put a ban in
because we're worried about it, the evidence is there.
But how strong is that evidence? I've been taking a closer look.
This is the document on which the European Commission
have based their opinion in favour of a ban,
but when you look inside, the data is far from clear-cut.
Where they've got an R in a column,
it shows there has been a risk identified, but where there's an X,
they're not so sure, or as they put it, "assessment not finalised".
Now, there are a couple of columns with Rs, but all the rest...Xs.
Basically, we still lack definitive proof
and the uncertainty over the level of risk has caused mixed reactions.
So, while many MPs support a ban on neonicotinoids,
the British Government still thinks we need more evidence.
People are looking to science for answers,
but even there, the experts can't agree.
We're basically measuring everything we can measure about these nests -
how many new bees they've produced...
'At Stirling University, there's yet another research project,
'this time on the effects of neonicotinoids on bumblebees.'
So these nests have been variously
exposed or not exposed to neonicotinoids.
'Professor David Goulson is looking for a link
'between these pesticides and smaller, underdeveloped nests.
'He is in favour of a ban.'
When we were speaking to the farmer,
he said, "Look, this is a seed dressing,
"there's a small amount in the seed. By the time the plant's grown
"and the bees are feeding on the actual flower, it's infinitesimal,"
-but are you saying that's still enough to harm a bee?
Yes, it is.
I mean, it wouldn't work as a pest-control strategy
if they weren't toxic at very low concentrations.
The evidence suggests that
if you feed those concentrations to bees,
you get measurable biological effects - they lay fewer eggs,
they get lost on the way home,
they're not so good at gathering food.
So the long and the short of it is, the concentrations in nectar
and pollen of flowering crops ARE enough to affect bees.
If we have evidence, but inconclusive evidence,
that these things seriously harm bees and other wildlife,
then we should stop using them until we've got that evidence,
until we can definitely say how much they're harming wildlife,
rather than just carry on blithely chucking them
around the countryside until some indefinite future date
where we may have acquired that evidence.
There is a growing consensus among scientists that neonicotinoids
have some effect on bee health,
but without conclusive evidence linking them to the decline of bees,
currently it's all about weighing up risk.
So is it better to be safe than sorry?
Or should we hold out for a clearer answer?
If science can help resolve this debate,
it will be doing a great service to the bees and possibly to farmers too.
Come on, in you go.
'In the meantime, the decision on banning neonicotinoids
'will have to be made without the luxury of absolute proof.'
Tom Heap reports on Britain's bees, Matt Baker looks at a food revolution in Todmorden and Helen Skelton looks at new uses for reservoirs built for mills.