In the Somerset Levels, Matt Baker is on the hunt for the common crane, a bird that has been brought back from the brink and which now thrives in the area.
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OK, Matt, just take a moment, let's stand still
and just have a listen...
BIRDSONG ..because all around us is life.
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
-Yeah, chirping in the hedgerows,
creeping through the undergrowth and soaring on a wing
because this is the magical landscape of the Somerset Levels.
Yeah, this week, Anita and I are
on the hunt for the common crane.
Now, it's a bird that's been
brought back from the brink.
It's now thriving in this area,
as it's been taken under the wing by the locals.
They're up, they're up, they're up!
Also on today's programme, in a brand-new feature,
we get exclusive access behind the scenes of life as a rural vet...
It's a little bit livelier than I was expecting, if I'm honest!
..Charlotte uncovers a new threat
thought to be hiding in our seawater...
-So, that there, that is the superbug?
-Yes, it is.
..and Adam's down on the farm as winter's icy grip takes hold.
It was blizzarding. I opened the gate
and let the cattle out of this field into here,
where there was more shelter for them. And some of them are here,
but the rest of them have disappeared
into this sort of scrubby area,
so I'm going to go and find them. I don't know where they are.
-These are the Somerset Levels, a watery world
where ditches, drains and rivers crisscross the land.
It might look ordered, but this is a wild place.
The Levels stretch across more than 230 square miles,
much of it barely above sea level.
The wetland draws up to 100,000 over-wintering birds
at this time of year.
This place is world-famous for its birdlife,
but eight years ago, that fame shot sky-high
when a bird that used to live here hundreds of years ago
was back on the scene.
The common crane.
It was driven to extinction in the 16th century
through overhunting and loss of wetland,
but through the Great Crane Project, the birds have returned.
Back in 2014, staff were committed to raising their brood,
from the moment of arrival...
These are the most precious things that we've got.
We literally have all our eggs in one basket, so to speak.
..to teaching the young cranes, well, how to be a crane.
-This is wonderful.
And at four months old, they were released onto the Somerset Levels.
When I left them, everybody involved
were holding their breath, they were crossing everything,
just hoping that the main aim of the project would be fulfilled,
that those hand-reared chicks would go on
to have little ones of their own in the wild
and I cannot wait to find out how they've got on.
Damon Bridge from the RSPB has been keeping a close eye on the birds
ever since their release.
So, come on then, what's the latest?
Well, the best news is that they have bred successfully in the wild.
-And we've got 11 chicks now,
which have been produced over the last three years,
which have joined that founding flock.
The thing that's most striking
is that the birds have clearly learned to be better at breeding.
They've adapted and changed their nesting behaviour slightly,
so there are pairs that have... This year might have been
their third attempt at trying to breed successfully,
but they've made it.
And to think that, eight years ago,
there were no cranes in this area and now, you know,
you've got a population that's well and truly back.
It's really special,
particularly seeing the birds that we've reared with their own young
and just behaving entirely like a wild parent crane should
in rearing and tending very, very carefully to their chicks
and they've made fantastic parents
and that's so hard to imagine that that would have been possible
from a chick that started life in an incubator,
being reared by hand, so it's...
Yeah, it's quite remarkable.
2017 was the project's most successful breeding year yet.
But even though the cranes are thriving,
a dedicated team are still keeping a watchful eye over the flock.
Volunteers have tagged the cranes with coloured rings
to help identify them.
It's not easy to spot the cranes in this landscape.
Volunteers like Liz, Di and Pete have got the patience
and the keen eyes and ears that's needed.
You can hear them now, can you?
Listen, in the distance over there.
I always think they sound a bit like a tuneful goose.
Let's hope no geese are listening!
Right, so nothing over this side.
What about you, Pete?
We've got eight cranes over here.
Eight?! You kept that quiet!
Hang on. Where am I looking, Pete?
Just come straight down to the water, just the edge of the water.
Yeah, yeah, yeah! I've got them, I've got them.
Hello! Are they quite difficult to keep tabs on, then?
-Yes, they're very difficult to spot, especially in long grass.
You can hear them very often as well,
and you're looking and looking and you just can't see them.
And they're a big bird.
You must get a great amount of satisfaction
when you do sit here like this and you're looking at them
through your telescope and just watching them go about their...
their wild business now.
-Yes, yes, it's a joy to be out here as well, isn't it?
This is a real wildlife success story
and the plight of the cranes here
has made its mark on so many of the locals,
as I'll be finding out later.
Now, even on a wintry day like today, there are those brave souls
who are keen to take to the freezing waters around our shores.
Now, even though our seas may look clean,
they may contain a hidden threat. Here's Charlotte.
A day at the seaside with plenty of fresh air.
Even in weather as wild as today's,
you don't need a doctor to know it's good for your health.
A lot of work goes into ensuring our beach waters
are clean and safe for us all to enjoy,
even for those courageous or, frankly, foolish enough
to get in in midwinter.
But research seen exclusively by Countryfile reveals new threats.
You can't see them, but they have superpowers.
These are dangerous bacteria
which have developed a resistance to antibiotics,
and they're right here in the water.
They're the superbugs.
We've all seen the headlines -
our hospitals are at war with them.
MRSA and E. coli are posing a real threat to us,
as the drugs normally used to treat them stop working.
It's predicted they could be causing more deaths than cancer by 2050,
with the UK's Chief Medical Officer
ranking them alongside climate change and terrorism.
Back in 2014, I investigated how the overuse of antibiotics in farming
can help spread these superbugs from animals to people.
Now there's new research,
published today by the University of Exeter Medical School.
It reveals that not only
are these antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in our seawater,
but they're also finding their way into people.
The results show that resistant E. coli bacteria are found
in the coastal waters of England and Wales
and that their levels are high enough
to pose an exposure risk to water users,
with more than 2.5 million exposure events estimated in 2015.
That means people using the water
are coming into contact with these superbugs,
people like David Smith from Surfers Against Sewage.
He was one of the first to be tested in this study
and is all too aware of the dangers.
-You weren't tempted?
-I was tempted,
-but it's just too rough, too big and windy.
-And too cold!
-Let's find somewhere a bit more sheltered.
David, it's not just the weather,
you must be concerned by the high levels of bacteria in the sea.
Yeah, we've seen improvements over the last 20 to 30 years or so,
which have made our waters amazing, but this new emergent threat
of resistant bacteria to antibiotics is a worrying one.
Now, you've got involved in the research on this,
which brings us to the rather wonderfully named Beach Bum Survey.
-Just talk us through that.
-So, yeah, it's a great survey
that we've done with the University of Exeter.
We've helped to recruit 150 surfers and non-surfers
to take some swabs and to see what level
of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is present in their gut.
The results showed that surfers were three times more likely
to be carrying the resistant bacteria in their guts.
This risk of picking up superbugs from seawater
is at its worst when heavy rains cause raw sewage
to overflow into our rivers and onto beaches.
It's not just surfers affected here.
Anyone who uses the beach is potentially affected,
so what can people do?
We provide a free service, the Safer Seas Service,
which alerts any beach users to pollution events
and that increased risk of getting ill.
It's downloadable as an app, so you can subscribe to your local beach
or you can go online and view an interactive map.
You can find details of the app on the Countryfile website.
A healthy surfer or swimmer carrying the bacteria
is unlikely to get ill, but these bugs can spread to others,
and can pose a risk to people with weak immune systems -
the old, the young, and those already sick.
It's alarming enough to realise that these bacteria
are present in our environment
and, from there, could be passing from person to person,
but where are these bacteria coming from?
Dr Anne Leonard from the University of Exeter Medical School
and lead author of the Beach Bum study says it's from inland sources,
such as waste water and farms, which is why we're sampling this water
before it even gets to the sea.
-There we go. Is that enough?
-Perfect, yeah, that's great.
-So what are you actually looking for in here?
-We're looking for
antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the water.
And how do you find them?
We take these back to the lab and then we try to grow bacteria
in the water sample on agar containing antibiotics.
-I have some plates that I can show you.
In the right conditions,
the sugary agar is the perfect food to encourage bacteria to grow.
These are the bacteria that we've isolated from beach water
and you can see on this plate,
this is agar that hasn't got any antibiotics in it,
and you can see how many different kinds of bacteria are growing on it
and then this is the plate with antibiotics
and we only have one little colony, but you can see it's quite clear.
-So, that there, that's the superbug?
That is a resistant bacterium, yes.
So is the most sensible thing, then, just not to go into the water?
No. We wouldn't advise people avoid going in the water.
There are plenty of health benefits to be gained from going in the sea -
physical health benefits and mental wellbeing.
The advantages of enjoying the sea
still far outweigh the risk posed by superbugs,
but their presence here is a real and growing problem
and one that scientists are only just starting to understand.
With no quick fix on the horizon, what can we do?
Well, later, I'll be finding out more
about why this is happening and what we might be able to do about it.
ANITA: This is Somerset -
a vibrant working landscape, celebrated for its rich heritage.
Home to the legend of King Arthur,
this magical place is also known as the land of Avalon,
which, in modern-day English,
can be translated into the Isle of the Apples.
And, surrounded by this many fruit trees, it's easy to see why.
And in this county, apples are known for one thing.
Hidden away among 180 acres of apple orchards is Pass Vale Farm.
Julian Temperley is part of this proud cider-making tradition.
Lovely to see you.
So how long has this place been producing cider?
I think we've been making cider here for at least sort of 200 years,
but in the past, all farms made their own cider.
If you didn't have decent cider, you didn't have any workers.
It was a fuel that kept the farmers going.
Obviously, if you are doing hard agricultural work,
you would have an allowance of anything up to eight pints a day.
Cider may have humble roots, but using the very same apples,
Julian has been reviving a drink of pedigree.
Somerset Cider Brandy.
Once found on the dining tables of the landed gentry,
the tipple can be traced as far back as the 1600s,
but it wasn't until 1989
that the first full cider-distilling licence was granted in the UK,
right here on this farm.
How proud do you feel
that you've brought this traditional spirit back?
I think everybody on the farm is chuffed.
It gives us a product which we can send around the world.
It means that our orchards have a future.
And it means our staff have a wage at the end of the week!
Protecting these orchards
is great news for cider maker Paull Manning
because, to make a drink of this calibre,
you need a serious amount of apples.
Well, it takes approximately seven litres of cider
to make one litre of brandy
and, in fact, it takes seven tonnes of apples to fill a barrel,
-at least all of what we've got here.
-Wow, that's a lot of apples!
It seems quite late to be harvesting apples.
That's because some of the traditional cider apple varieties
that we use ripen later in the year
and we're waiting for the starch in them to turn to sugar.
Right, so it's beneficial to just leave them for a bit?
Cos there's quite a lot on the floor,
-more than there are in the trees.
When they're in the grass, they're protected from the frost
and, actually, their flavour is changing anyway.
Wine producers would blend
different varieties of grape to make champagne.
We blend different varieties of apple
to get a perfectly balanced cider.
Once the apples are washed, pressed
and the juice fermented,
it's time to start the distilling process.
For that, on this farm, they used two 70-year-old French girls
who, I'm told, are so important,
they're protected by armour-plated glass
and more than 60 locks and seals.
Meet Josephine and Fifi.
These precious copper towers get to work
before the liquid is trickled into barrels to mature into brandy.
As head distiller, it is Rob Moore's job
to make sure it tastes just as it should.
Rob, what a job!
-Yeah, it's pretty cool!
-It's very cool!
So your job is to taste the brandy.
Yeah, we get in here a couple of times a week
and we take a little sample out of, say, half a dozen barrels,
and we pick ones that are the best ones and we put them to a blend.
What is the purpose of putting the alcohol into a barrel?
Well, the purpose of the barrel
is to extract the flavours from the oak and the wood
and to sort of let everything mellow nicely.
We bottle at 3 years old and we bottle at 5, 10, 15 and 20.
And what happens to the alcohol content over that time?
Well, you lose a lot of alcohol cos it's quite volatile,
so it comes out of the barrel, comes out through the bung,
and that is called the angels' share.
-Yeah, that's nice.
So we've got lots of drunk angels flying around in here.
Never mind the angels' share, time to try some myself.
This is the West Country's heritage in a glass.
And, at this time of year, the cider makers wassail their orchards,
which is a toast to their trees,
so here's to another bountiful harvest for the year ahead,
because this stuff is delicious.
-Now, a little while ago on Countryfile,
I spent a day with an amazing rural vet
as he battled to save the lives of a cow and her unborn calf
with an emergency Caesarean section.
Over the next few weeks,
we're going to be back with the same vets' practice,
looking at what it really takes to be a vet
in our countryside, in the harshest of months - winter.
The practice is based in Malmesbury in the Cotswolds.
It's one of the largest in the country,
with around 40 vets providing care to all creatures,
-great and small.
-We'll track the trials and tribulations...
..through the blood, sweat and tears...
..and really see what it takes to be a country vet.
Just to let you know,
some of what they do is not for the faint-hearted.
Ben, a vet who graduated last year, is off to deal with
one of the more imposing animals the team look after.
Who's a good boy, eh? Who's a good boy?
David is one of our beef farmers.
One of his prize Limousin bulls lost the ring in his nose
and he called us out
to come and pop one back in.
So he's called Holy Moly
and he wants to be more like his mate, Hurdy Gurdy,
who has got a ring in his nose.
Those rings are pretty important for management purposes
and also, if they were ever wanting
to move them off farm, take them to market,
it's actually the law that they have to have a nose ring in.
So these are the pincers.
They look a little bit archaic and a bit brutal,
but essentially what we're doing is equivalent to
a nose piercing or an ear piercing that humans would get,
just on a slightly larger scale,
hence the size of the bore on the pincers.
The ring makes them so much easier to handle for the farmer
and especially in Holy Moly's case, cos he's a big boy!
-1,200. 1,200 kilos? There you go.
-Oh, 1,125, yeah,
so he's just over a ton.
-I mean, you're never going to push him.
He's got to make his own mind up.
Come on! Come on!
Steady, boy, steady.
It's all right!
If his nose is as cold as my hands,
he won't be able to feel a thing anyway!
No, that is...
What I'm going to do is put the local anaesthetic
on each side of the septum, of his nasal septum,
and then we'll leave him for a few minutes,
just to let that take effect and then we'll hopefully be away.
Obviously, the needle is going to be quite unpleasant for him,
so he might resent this a little bit,
so he may jump up and down a bit, OK?
All right, buddy, steady, steady.
Steady, boy, steady, steady, steady, steady...
Ear piercing... Whoops-a-daisy!
You've got to keep your wits about you,
especially with these big chaps,
because they can be really, really dangerous.
Same again, mate.
It's a lot easier to control the bull.
We've got him on halters now, but once you've got a ring in,
then you can thread a rope through or use a hook.
Once you hold their nose, they don't want to fight too much,
so you've got more control.
Luckily, he's got a little bit of a guide hole.
It's amazing how they heal up, actually.
It is, it's only been a month or so.
-It's lucky the local anaesthetic has done the job.
-Do we have the ring?
Brilliant, yeah, amazing stuff. OK.
Right, so, we'll just give him his painkiller.
-I'm happy that that's going to heal up OK.
-Is he all done?
-Good to go?
-He's all done.
With these types of things, you do get a little bit of blood,
but it's to be expected, it's totally normal.
It will be all healed up in a few days.
Go on, go on.
HOLY MOLY BELLOWS
Go on, go on. Go on.
I've only been qualified a year, so it's quite an intimidating thing
when you first go into a situation where you're being asked
to do something medical with an animal
that weighs 10, 15 times your body weight.
You just have to be very careful and respect the animal, basically.
It's good fun!
HOLY MOLY BELLOWS
The lion's share of the work done by the farm team is with cattle,
but occasionally they also see to some of the more unusual beasts.
Chris and Sarah from the farm vets' team
have been called out for a rather interesting challenge,
to castrate a reindeer belonging to Andrew Woodward.
Fennec's little boy, he's 18 months old now
and he's just a bit too taken up with his own magnificence
and not sort of getting over himself.
Picture boy racer, loads of hormones.
He's tending to get a bit too excited with the girls
and that leads to chasing them around and all that sort of thing.
Fennec was getting a little bit too boisterous, really,
but if we can take the hormone drive for his naughty behaviour away,
then it can really help out.
He's just having his little bits taken off,
so that that hopefully will just let all the hormones just ease back
and everything, and he can go back to being cuddly Fennec,
which is what he's always been before.
What is his temperament like?
He's easy enough to handle at this point.
Yeah, if you go in, get him settled
-and then we'll just come in with the injection.
-Yeah, I think so.
So we're just getting everything ready now
because once he's anaesthetised,
we need to work relatively quickly, before he wakes up.
Neither of us, we haven't done
a massive amount of reindeer work all together.
They don't really like being handled that much,
so the less they can do with him, the better really.
It's something different, yeah! It's certainly something different!
Right, so we'll just give him the sedative now.
Yeah, I'll shut you in.
The worst part was always going to be sedating the reindeer,
so, being the true gentleman that he is,
Chris left that part up to me!
All right, sweetheart.
Calm down, mister, come on.
Or I can inject him.
-I don't want to jab you.
-Hang on, hang on, hang on.
-Let me just get control of him.
-Get on with it!
It wasn't painful, it was quite a soft landing with all that straw.
I think it was more my pride that was bruised then anything else.
I know, good lad, Fenny.
He was a little bit livelier than I was expecting, if I'm honest!
With cows, you would have them in a crush
so they can't really thrash around like that,
but obviously we don't really have that luxury with him.
It's really important to work quickly.
The less time he's anaesthetised for,
the less chance there is of complications.
Nice and clean pair of balls, aren't they?
Is that what you pictured you'd be doing when you were at vet school?
Yeah, it's what I always dreamt of!
So, once all prepped, it's a pretty quick procedure.
Incise the skin, remove the testicle.
We clamp the blood vessels and tie them off
and then finally we spray the antibiotic spray.
I was really happy with how the operation went
and because we'd given him his antibiotics and his pain reliever
before the operation, they'd kicked in by the time he came round,
so he was as happy as he could have been having two testicles removed!
He's looking a bit more lively now in his eyes, isn't he?
He's breathing a little bit more rapidly as well, so that's good.
-There he goes.
Oh, no need to get up, big guy.
Good, so I think we'll leave him be now.
Keep a close eye on him for the next few days and...
-Brilliant, thanks very much.
-Thanks very much. Nice to see you.
-Next week, we'll be with the vets
as they see to a cow with a twisted stomach...
So now it's much easier for me to bring the stomach back round,
and put it back where it should be.
..and they have a closer look at the insides of Titch.
I'm just going to pop this scope up Titch's nose.
I know, little man,
it's very unusual for a Thursday morning, isn't it?
Earlier, we found out that antibiotic-resistant bacteria
are no longer just a problem for hospitals,
as they've found their way into our natural environment.
But what can we do to control them?
A new study has revealed to Countryfile
that drug-resistant bacteria such as E. coli
are not only being found in our rivers and seawater...
So that there, that's the superbug?
Yes. That is a resistant bacterium, yes.
But they've also made their way into the guts of surfers
who've come into contact with them in the sea.
Like anyone who spends time on or in the water,
I'm keen to find out more about how these bacteria get there
and, of course, what we can do about it,
so I'm off on a superbug safari.
-Taking me upstream to find the source of these superbugs
is Dr will Gaze...
..a microbial ecologist from the University of Exeter Medical School.
-Do take a seat.
Will, as we set off in our luxurious craft, what are we looking for?
We're looking for ways in which antibiotic-resistant bacteria
can get into rivers,
so from farmland and also from waste water treatment plants.
So we're going past farmland here. What sort of problem can that cause?
About half of antibiotics used worldwide are used in farming,
about a third to a half in the UK, for treating diseases in animals.
And when they go to the toilet, resistant bacteria
and the drug residues go into the environment as well.
So it's as simple as, really, cattle being in the field,
the rain coming, washing the waste into the river.
-Farmers have been working quite hard and have had
some success in reducing the amount of antibiotics they're using.
That's right, there's been a reduction in antibiotic usage
in farming in the UK and actually in Europe,
but in other parts of the world, it's very unregulated,
so if you go to the supermarket and you buy meat,
that could have been produced anywhere in the world.
What we're eating is an important factor, then,
but something else we're doing may also be driving the problem.
We've made it as far as the lock.
We're just on the edge here, we've got houses and a pub,
which are part of the problem, which surprised me.
They are part of the problem
because we use a lot of antibacterial cleaning products.
The problem with antibacterial cleaning compounds
is that the bacteria that survive
are the ones that are most likely to be resistant to antibiotics.
So should we not be using them?
Surely they're a sensible option if you're cleaning up.
They're important if you really need to use them,
so cleaning up after you've been cutting raw chicken, for example.
But we used to go on quite well with soap and water and bleach.
We still don't know much about how antibacterial products
are helping to drive drug resistance,
but we do note the major source is our own antibiotic use.
Will, on this stretch of the river, there's a sewage treatment plant,
which can discharge into the river, which I imagine can cause problems.
Yeah, there are about 9,000
waste water treatment plants in the UK
that discharge 11 billion litres of waste water a day
and they contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria,
antibiotics that we excrete, the antibacterial cleaning products.
And that's even there after they've cleaned it up.
That's right, it's because there are so many bacteria
and because treatment plans were never designed to remove
these emerging pollutants that we now know are important,
so some of them do make their way into the environment.
How worried are you about superbugs and the way that they're evolving?
The post-antibiotic era is where things like hip replacements,
cancer treatments, childbirth
all become incredibly dangerous or impossible
because of the risk of dying from simple infections,
so that's a really real risk.
So we've got these bugs coming from various different sources,
what can we do about it?
We can actually take responsibility for what we do personally,
so we can use less antibacterials,
we can not pressurise our GP to give us antibiotics
when we've got a cold, for example.
And we can also think about what food we buy
and where we buy it from, you know, how it's been produced.
Taking personal responsibility for the amount of antibiotics
entering our water supply is a good start.
In the meantime, what can we do
about pollution already in the system?
Well, that's what brings me here,
to a water treatment plant just outside Birmingham.
You'd think, in this day and age, we'd have found a way to remove
these superbugs before they get into the environment.
Well, here at South Staffs Water,
they're using ultraviolet lights to do just that.
Here, it's used for drinking water.
Dr Andrew Lobley is director of operations.
So just explain what's going on, then,
in the cylinders all around us?
So, in each of the four ultraviolet treatment reactors there,
we've got effectively a series of light bulbs,
which we pass the water over, through and round,
to disinfect the water.
-And that kills all bacteria?
Even the ones that are resistant to antibiotics?
-So a superbug can't survive this?
That's the advantage of a UV treatment process
over a more conventional chlorine disinfection process,
is that it gives a wider range of disinfection.
But even for drinking-water plants like this one,
UV treatment isn't compulsory
and when it comes to dealing with waste water,
it's only required when a plant flows directly into bathing waters.
So why isn't this used all the time by every water company, then?
It's a fairly new technology
and many of the treatment works we're looking at
have been in place for 50, 60 years.
As we come to renew and invest in our assets,
we're installing more and more of them.
We like the technology
and I think the rest of the industry is going the same way.
Converting all our waste water treatment plants
would help in our fight against superbugs,
but UV can't remove the antibiotics driving their resistance.
And although our farmers are working hard to reduce their antibiotic use,
UV can't deal with the run-off that goes straight into our rivers.
We need to ask ourselves questions about the way we farm,
the medicine we take when we're ill, even the way we clean our houses.
If we don't address antibiotic resistance soon,
then it could become a matter of life or death
for all of us in the future.
MATT: Life on the Somerset Levels relies on and revolves around water.
Season to season, the water levels are carefully managed
so that the summer pastures don't dry out
and the winter floods stay under control.
It's a special landscape,
and it takes a special kind of person to farm it.
OK, Matt, let's get on out and have a look.
Oh, I like your feather display there, what's the story with that?
That's crane feathers that I've picked up out on the moor.
Roderick Hector is a fourth-generation farmer,
a Levels boy born and bred, but this landscape provides
more than just his livelihood as a beef farmer,
it's where Roderick also nurtures his passion for wildlife
and, after seeing the successful reintroduction of the cranes
back to the Levels, I can see why he's so proud of his feathers.
Right, we are jumping out here because we've noticed,
just on the opposite side of that fence line there,
there's a wonderful flock of...
There must be about 20 there, Roderick?
-Yeah, I should think, yeah.
They're up, they're up, they're up!
Away to their roost.
Yeah, they are away to their roost.
They're very wild.
And do you put anything out for them?
Well, I've been putting a little bit of barley and corn out
because I knew you people were coming,
just to get them in for the camera.
Thanks, on behalf of all the viewers!
You're a good lad, Roderick, you're a good lad!
And what's the story, then,
with the bird that hasn't decided to leave, the rather large static one?
That is the decoy. We used to feed them there
and we had the decoy and an automatic feeder there
and, of course, they still remember, because on a frosty morning,
they still come there, even when there isn't any corn for them.
-Is that right?
As part of the Great Crane Project, Roderick was one of the farmers
who welcomed the birds back to his land when they were first released.
By using the decoy and some food, he encouraged the birds
to explore new areas and, eight years on, they still return.
And what do you remember about the first ones that came here?
Well, it was just lovely to see them, actually.
I was a bit dubious about it in the beginning,
how it would work after 400 years of not being here.
-For sure, yeah.
-But they just fit in lovely.
-Yeah, they do, yeah.
And when they decided to come and, you know, come on your land...
-Oh, that was even better!
We love them!
My father was always interested in the birdlife
-and I suppose I carried it on.
It's not just the cranes that benefit from Roderick's passion.
Much of the farm is dedicated to the Higher Level Stewardship scheme,
benefiting all manner of birdlife.
-There they go, there they go, there they go!
Look at them!
Oh, they're beautiful!
Teal, wigeon and snipe are all regular visitors
to these specially-made habitats.
Following his father's love of birds, Roderick expanded the ponds
and planted reedbeds to encourage new species.
It certainly worked.
I just like to come here and sit in the hide and watch what's going on
when the ducks are about in the autumn. It's lovely.
In the summer, we get reed warblers and reed buntings,
-a lot of stuff, you know, comes in.
Very good, yeah, I love to see the reed warblers. Beautiful.
This is all very well for the birds,
but wet ground doesn't suit all animals.
The farms mainstay is a small North Devon beef herd,
a hardy native breed that can do well on even the roughest pasture.
-They're all Ruby Red.
-The finest beef you can get.
-Yeah, you reckon?
Oh, yeah! You've got the marbling and the meat that cooks so well.
Yeah, it's beautiful.
Soft, you can suck it away.
And how well suited are they to the Somerset Levels, then?
Oh, lovely, actually.
They graze all the old rougher grass and do well on it, that's the thing,
whereas the continentals won't eat it even, they don't like it.
And in your eyes, Roderick,
what's the best cut of meat that you can get off one of these?
Well, the rib would be one of the best,
but we always have the back rib, which is a slow-roast joint,
but the brisket's beautiful off of these, absolutely beautiful brisket.
Now you're getting interested.
He's saying, "Look, it's that Countryfile lot,
"come to put us on the telly."
I'll be catching up with Roderick again later
and looking at his beloved cranes in a whole different light.
I'm glad to see you've got the Countryfile calendar
-in the barn, Roderick.
-Oh, yeah, of course!
All sold in aid of Children In Need if you haven't got yours yet.
There's still time. Check out our website for more details.
ANITA: The recent heavy snowfall transformed much of our countryside.
Down in the Cotswolds, Adam's farm was turned into a winter wonderland.
But there was no time to sit back and enjoy the view.
The kids have built a lovely snowman,
but on the farm, it's a lot of extra work
and a bit of headache, to be honest.
We've got a good bit of kit
clearing the snow around from the grain stores here,
but it's the animals out in the field that I'm concerned about.
As hardy as many of the animals on the farm are,
extreme conditions like this mean it's important to do the rounds
to check they're all OK.
You may remember this Tamworth sow on television a few weeks ago.
She was about to give birth, about to farrow,
and typically, the cameras had gone home
and then she gave birth to eight little piglets,
which are in the shed here and doing really well.
Tamworth here is one of our oldest British breeds
and they've got really thick skin and lots of fat on them
and this good hairy body and they're really quite closely related
to the ancient forest pig, the wild boar,
so they're pretty tough.
Well, they seem good, I'll leave them to it.
Tough they might be, but I'm still glad
my little Tamworth piglets have got some shelter.
My rare-breed cattle have no such luxury,
but they're pretty tough cookies,
bred to withstand the harshest weather.
Yesterday, when it was blizzarding, I opened the gate
and let the cattle out of this field into here,
where there was more shelter for them.
I've just brought them down some hay and some of them are here,
but the rest of them have disappeared
into this sort of scrubby area, so I'm going to go and find them.
I don't know where they are!
Come on! Come on, then!
Come on, then.
Well, I'm pleased I've found the last few stragglers.
I think they were settled right out in the middle of the bushes there,
but they look absolutely fine.
They've come through the night well.
But I think they'll be pleased with some hay.
Go on, then, I've got some grub for you.
The big bale spreader on the front of the tractor
is a great labour saver,
a useful bit of kit when you've got some big bellies to fill.
Fortunately, our rare-breed rams don't eat as much as the cattle.
They've done their work for the year,
and they've been put out to pasture on the other side of the farm.
The grass out here, though, is a foot deep in snow.
You'd think that would cause problems for the sheep.
Not a bit!
-That'll do! Hey!
That'll do, that'll do, that'll do.
That'll do. Good girl.
It never ceases to amaze me how the sheep can survive
in these freezing conditions.
Their fleeces must be so well insulated to keep them warm
and as far as nutrition goes,
the dig down through the snow to reach the grass.
You can see where they've been working on a bit here.
If you look out across the field, lots of them are doing it,
using their front feet to paw through the snow
to reach the grass and then nibbling away.
Some of the sheep in here were born this year,
so they've never experienced snow before
and this is an in-built instinct, to find their grub.
It's just extraordinary, really.
But what I have got is some hay in the back of the truck,
just to help them out.
When the weather's bad, sheep will eat all sorts of things.
They're great browsers, but every so often they come unstuck.
They're all coming in for this now, they're obviously quite hungry.
They have quite good shelter in this field in amongst the bushes there,
but one of the problems is that they can get caught in the brambles.
In fact, here is a prime example.
This little North Ronaldsay has obviously got right up into
the brambles to try and graze on the leaves that are left on it,
but it's got tangled up in his wool,
so I'll just have to try and pull that out. There we go.
If they get well and truly stuck, of course,
in the middle of a cold night, they could perish and die,
but thankfully he's OK now.
Right, this lot are self-service, getting stuck into this bale.
Come on, off you get.
A little bit of hay helps take the pressure off having to find food
and, whether it's a pig, cow, sheep or robin,
the animals seem to appreciate it.
But it's not just the animals that need rewarding.
This year is our 30th anniversary and, to help mark it,
we're launching the search to find 2018's Countryfile Farming Hero.
I love being a farmer and, over the years,
I've met some truly remarkable people working in agriculture.
But the ones that really stand out for me are the people
that you've nominated for the Countryfile Farming Heroes Award.
Can you help us find the next Joan Bomford, our winner back in 2015?
I wondered what advice you'd offer to anybody young
going into farming right now?
-Get up early and keep going!
Or do you know somebody like teenager Cameron Hendry,
who gave up school and took over the family farm
after his dad died suddenly?
I just had to get on with the work that needed to be done.
The animals needed fed. That's what kept me going.
If I'd sat around in the house,
it probably would have been more difficult.
And in this, Countryfile's 30th year,
we are launching the awards again and, as usual, we need your help.
So, if you know someone who goes above and beyond...
..who makes a difference to others, be they man or beast...
..I really want to hear about all farmers, young and old,
unsung heroes who deserve national recognition.
And remember, it doesn't have to just be one person -
you can nominate a group or even a family.
So let us know your heroes.
You can nominate them by e-mail or post.
All the details are on our website, along with the terms and conditions.
It's all part of the BBC's Food And Farming Awards,
and the winner will be announced later in the year.
But get your skates on.
Please don't send e-mail or postal nominations after that date,
as they won't be considered.
And remember, if you're watching on demand,
then nominations may have already closed.
So get in touch with the people that you want to celebrate
and help us find the Countryfile Farming Hero for 2018.
This week, we're on the Somerset Levels,
where a once-forgotten wetland bird
has been reintroduced to the landscape -
the common crane.
With their angle-poise legs and forlorn, bugling voices,
the return of these grey ghosts of the wetlands
has been an inspiring sight for many.
No more so than the artist Sean Harris.
So why is this place so special, Sean,
what's the significance?
Well, it's where it all began
and it was right here I saw my very first crane.
For the past two years,
Sean has been working on an exciting art project,
taking his cues from the sights and sounds of the cranes.
It's a rather unlikely meeting of minds.
He's collaborating with local farmers, conservationists
and the community to produce a mix of animation and audio recordings.
The aim was to create a greater understanding
of the curious creatures that locals now share their landscape with.
Art, conservation and farming,
not necessarily three bedfellows you'd put together.
No, they're not, but there's no reason why they shouldn't be.
But come on, Sean, what did they make of it?
Here you are, this artist with this concept, with this idea,
and you're talking to the farming community.
How did the locals react? What did they think?
Did they think you were a bit mad at the beginning?
Well, when you pick up the phone and say, "I'm an artist and film-maker,"
yes, they probably do.
They tend not to mince their words.
If they think...what you're saying is a load of rubbish,
they'll tell you, which is great.
One farmer who always says what he thinks is Roderick Hector,
who Matt met earlier.
Together with his grandson, he's allowed his farmhouse kitchen
to be turned into Sean's animation studio.
Roderick, did you ever think you'd be doing this in your lifetime,
No, I didn't, actually, no.
-What do you make of it?
-Well, a bit mad!
No, quite interesting, actually.
So far, more than 150 locals like Roderick
have helped bring the common crane to life
by animating paper cut-outs.
-So, Roderick, I think the legs want to come up a bit, don't they?
Sean believes that getting hands-on can be a great way
of understanding the cranes' behaviour and movement.
We tend to think of the way that a bird looks,
but the way that it moves is as much what identifies it.
Look at the way the wings actually...
They don't just go up and down,
they sort of come forward as they flap down.
And then the other thing that's happening, the body sort of humps up
like that, it's a really distinctive part of the movement of a crane.
-So you can see...
Wow, that's cool!
Roderick, have you ever paid this much attention
-to the way the birds actually move?
-No, I haven't really, no.
It certainly opens your eyes to how they fly.
It will make me look at them in a different light, that's for sure.
Later, we'll have a screening of the community's efforts,
just a few hundred yards from where the cranes are wintering.
But, first, shall we see what the weather's up to?
Here is the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
The booming voice of the common crane,
trumpeting over the Somerset Levels at dusk.
These wetlands are once again home to the birds
after they were hunted to extinction some 400 years ago.
Inspired by this avian tale of loss and return,
Sean Harris is an artist who's worked with local people
on the Levels to make an enchanting artwork called Echo-Maker,
in celebration of the cranes' homecoming.
Now, for the first time,
the community is gathering to see this spellbinding artwork
in Roderick Hector's barn,
just a wingtip away from the cranes out on the surrounding wetlands.
It looks so pretty. The perfect setting.
To get the screening started Somerset style,
I've brought some cider brandy
and Matt's been cooking up a choice cut
of Roderick's succulent Ruby Red beef.
-Oh, what's this? A candlelit dinner?
-Yes, look at that!
-Have a look at what I have got for you.
-What have you got?
-Oh, what? Amazing!
-I know, isn't it?
It just melts in your mouth.
And what you need to go with that - cider brandy.
-Isn't that good?
It's been two years in the making, but now, with the stage set,
we're ready to launch the artwork.
It's time to see this common crane collaboration take flight.
Sean, it looks fantastic.
Do you feel any pressure?
Because this is the first time Roderick's going to see it,
we're in his barn, he was the one you convinced, he's the farmer,
he's instrumental in it all happening.
How do you feel right now?
It was lovely seeing him do the animation
and actually to hear him kind of give a thumbs-up
or the Royal assent to the way those cranes were moving,
from someone who's spent so much time looking at them,
it was lovely. So, yeah, it matters very much to me.
-You've seen some things on your farm over the years...
..and now this!
Yeah, that's right, now this. Marvellous.
When Sean was setting it up,
I wasn't quite sure what it was going to look like.
I didn't realise it was going to be like this, actually.
-And what do you make of it?
-Yeah, very good.
-It's quite beautiful.
Yeah, it is.
I love that we're looking at the cranes here
and that they're only just over there.
Yeah, that's right.
You only have to rewind the clock back not very far
when there were no cranes here at all
-and there hadn't been for, what, 400 years?
And now you look at what's going on out there,
we've seen it with your own eyes today, it's quite something.
Let's just hope they grow, let's hope they breed and we get more.
Do you know, Matt, I absolutely love it.
-It's beautiful, magical.
And that's all we've got time for from Somerset for this week.
Next week, we'll be shedding some light on Leicestershire.
Where I will be looking at a floral phenomenon
that's been baffling botanists.
-Hope you can join us then.
-See you then.
Countryfile visits the Somerset Levels, where Matt Baker is on the hunt for the common crane, a bird that has been brought back from the brink. It now thrives in this area, thanks to an unlikely union. Anita Rani meets the farmer who is turning apples into a tempting tipple. Adam Henson takes stock on his farm as winter arrives. And in the first part of a new feature, the programme discovers the highs and lows of life as a rural vet. Charlotte Smith finds out why people who swim in the sea are unwittingly exposing themselves to dangerous bacteria and discovers where they come from.