Somerset Countryfile


Somerset

Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury explore Somerset's countryside. Matt takes a ride on the West Somerset railway, one of the longest heritage lines in the country.


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Transcript


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The county of Somerset.

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A green and pleasant land,

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with views across the point where the Severn estuary meets the sea.

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This bucolic Somerset landscape was once

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the scene of a devastating flood that swept across the region.

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I'm not talking about recent events,

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I am going back more than 300 years to the Great Storm of 1703.

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I will be finding out what caused it and if it could happen again.

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I'm inland from Julia, taking a ride on a heritage railway line.

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The West Somerset Railway line is historic in every sense,

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with its traditional carriages and beautiful steam engines.

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-ENGINE WHISTLES

-Lovely, thanks, Ian!

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Over the years, the timetable has changed, but the train line hasn't.

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Today, I will be hopping on board for a scenic ride with a difference.

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And Adam is preparing to head north to give a helping hand to

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a young farmer going it alone.

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I've got a huge array of crops and animals on this farm, and a good team

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to help me look after them, but there is a young man up in Yorkshire who is

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only 22, he has no farming background and he is looking after a farm

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all by himself. I am heading there to see how he is getting on.

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Somerset. The county's coastal plains rise from the sea,

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giving way to rolling hills.

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Nestled in the South West of England, its north coast is

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scoured daily by the Atlantic as it races up the Bristol Channel.

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The county gets its name from an Anglo-Saxon phrase,

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which roughly translated means, "land of the summer people".

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The flooding here during the winter months used to be so bad,

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it was impossible to farm the land.

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This year, it is the summer that has been atrocious.

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Across the country, 2012 saw the wettest summer in 100 years.

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In Somerset, that meant widespread flooding.

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But this is nothing new.

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"A mighty wind blew so strong and strangely tore our sea walls.

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"The salt water soon overflowed, forcing many of

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"the inhabitants from their dwellings

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"and to shift for their lives."

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I've come to the coast on the trail of a particular storm that

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hit this shoreline 309 years ago.

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It has been labelled the worst storm in British history,

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the appropriately named Great Storm.

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THUNDER RUMBLES

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"The wind blowing directly into the Severn sea forced the waters

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"up eight foot higher than ever was known in the memory of man."

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It's November 1703.

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Hurricane force winds are making their way across the Atlantic,

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gathering pace.

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Late on the 26th, the storm slams into the west coast of England,

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sending a surge of water up the Severn estuary.

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Then it powers through the country to the east coast,

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leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

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We know about it thanks to this guy, Daniel Defoe.

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Once the winds had subsided, he compiled

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an account of people's experiences and this book is the result.

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"The parish of Huntspill has received great damage.

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"Some families sheltered themselves in the church,

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"and there stayed till the waters were abated."

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The church still stands, and from the top, I'm told,

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you would have had a very clear view of the devastation unfolding.

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BELL TOLLS

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Martin, don't stand too close, you might get blown off!

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-Hello, nice to see you.

-Hi, Julia.

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'Historian Martin Brayne is going to paint the picture of what

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'we would have seen the day after the storm hit.'

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Almost everywhere that we could see from here, underwater.

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Possibly as many as 8,000 people lost their lives,

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farmers lost sheep and cattle.

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And of course, the only reason that we know this detail is

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because of Daniel Defoe and his book.

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Absolutely, yes. He was desperately short of money.

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He had this brilliant idea of putting an ad in the paper,

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asking people all over the country to write to him with

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their eyewitness accounts of what happened to them in the Great Storm.

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-He got a terrific response.

-The birth of journalism, in a way.

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Well, it was, it was a really sort of pioneering piece of journalism.

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Somerset bore the brunt of the storm surge.

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So was it a one-off, or could we see a similar catastrophe here again?

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I'm going to find out what ingredients you need

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to cook up a great storm.

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Here comes the science.

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Hello, good to see you.

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Now, this storm, it caused enormous devastation across the country,

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but it was particularly bad here.

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-Why?

-Unique factors combine here in the Bristol Channel.

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I have drawn a map of the Bristol Channel.

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I thought you were making sandcastles!

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So, we are here in Somerset.

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Over there is the coastline of Wales and out there is the Atlantic.

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It is from the Atlantic that that storm came.

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But the Bristol Channel has an enormous tidal range,

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it has the second biggest tides in the world.

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If you move up the Bristol Channel towards Bristol,

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towards the port of Avonmouth, the difference on a big

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tide between the low water and the high water is as much as 13 metres.

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And on top of that, you have the worst storm, the most severe

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storm in meteorological history, moving in from the Atlantic.

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Winds gusting at over 100mph, those are hurricane force winds.

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The strong winds

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and the low pressure at the centre of that weather system caused

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a storm surge - a storm surge can bring the sea level up as much

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as three metres more than that enormous tide you have already got.

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So we had 13 metres plus another three metres on top of that.

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Absolutely.

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'So, huge tide plus vast storm surge equals mass flooding.'

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But it is more than just the winds that whips up the sea.

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The low pressure at the heart of the storm also makes the sea rise.

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'Here is how it works.'

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-If you wouldn't mind putting that in the water.

-Yeah.

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Imagine that this is the sea.

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If you inhale through that tube, you will actually lower the

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pressure above the sea and you will see the sea rising inside there.

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-Or, I'll just get a mouthful of seawater!

-I hope you don't.

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-Shall we see if that works? Just try and hold it fixed.

-OK.

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And you can see the seawater rising there.

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That's precisely what happens, on a much bigger scale, obviously.

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And there is one more thing.

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This part of Somerset where we are now,

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hundreds of kilometres here are

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either at or below sea level,

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and they are incredibly susceptible to flooding.

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So, when this water does breach the defences

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and come over the sea walls, it's got nowhere to go.

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What are the chances of it happening again?

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The 1703 storm is referred to as a one in 200 years storm.

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On average, it should happen once every 200 years.

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We had another very bad storm in October 1987,

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and that's about the right frequency.

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So according to that, we could expect the next one of these

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sometime in the year 2200.

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But of course, the weather doesn't behave like buses, there's nothing

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to say we couldn't get another storm similar to 1987 tomorrow.

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"Horror and confusion seized upon all, whether on shore or at sea."

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Daniel Defoe went on to write one of the most famous shipwreck

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novels in history, Robinson Crusoe.

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And it is not an enormous stretch of the imagination to think

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he was inspired by the Great Storm that took place just here.

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I'm further inland than Julia, exploring Somerset's rich landscape.

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And what better way to take it all in than under steam?

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ENGINE WHISTLES

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These beautifully restored steam locomotives wind their way

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through 23 miles of Somerset's glorious countryside and coastline.

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The West Somerset Railway is one of Britain's longest heritage railway

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lines, it starts here at Bishops Lydeard and heads west to Minehead.

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Opened in the 1860s, the railway provided an important trade

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route for isolated towns and villages.

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But by 1971, it was deemed uneconomical

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and the line was closed.

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Just five years later,

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it was brought back to life by a team of dedicated volunteers.

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'Now it carries 200,000 passengers a year.'

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And today, I'm one of them.

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Paul Conibeare started as an apprentice on the railway in 1979.

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-Now then, Paul.

-Good afternoon, Matt.

-How's things? Wow!

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'He is now general manager.'

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Why were the locals so keen to get it up and running again?

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I think if you look at any local area,

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and certainly in West Somerset, there is not a lot of employment.

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So we rely very heavily on tourism.

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The railway was seen as being an important tourist

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attraction for this part of Somerset.

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And what we find with a lot of our holidaymakers that visit

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throughout the summer is the different pace of life, it slows

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people down, to enjoy the glorious countryside that we live in.

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Are you quite happy that things are going well at the moment?

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Obviously, it is a difficult time.

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Well, we are a big employer in the area, with about 50 full-time staff.

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But we've got about 1,000 volunteers.

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Without their support, the railway wouldn't survive today.

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I think that is why it is important to get the youngsters involved,

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with the Trackers, which are 13 to 18-year-olds,

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there are about 50 on the books now.

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They are the drivers, the firemen, the guards of the future.

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So, what are you busy with at the moment, then, Ben?

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-Always checking tickets as we pass through.

-OK, yes.

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'And one of these Trackers is 17-year-old Ben Ambling.

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'He's been helping out for four years.'

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What jobs did you do when you were 13?

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Started off with general office duties, started off making tea

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and assisting the older, more experienced staff,

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then took on more demanding roles.

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Why did you always want to work on the railways?

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I've lived down here all my life and wanted to get involved.

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How much work do they put you through, how often do you volunteer?

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Typically every weekend, but it does vary on the rostering system.

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I'm getting off at Blue Anchor.

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From here, the line runs along the Severn estuary.

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It's also where some important maintenance is going on.

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So I'm jumping off to help out.

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-Now then, lads.

-Good morning.

-How are we doing, all right?

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Good to see you both.

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'I'm meeting Paul and Richard.'

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Super to see you. Right, what's the plan?

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-We are going to do a line walk, a track inspection.

-Right.

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-And in order to do that, you'd better have some overalls.

-Yeah.

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-And some high visibility clothing.

-OK.

-And a pair of gloves.

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-Oh, perfect.

-But you can keep the hat.

-Oh, cheers.

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Right, I'll be back before long.

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'After a quick change, I'm ready to go.'

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There we are, chaps.

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-Oh, you're looking good.

-Happy with that?

-Yeah, fine, absolutely.

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Right, we'll get going,

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because the next train is due through here in about 40 minutes' time.

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OK. Let's go.

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-Give this one a smack as well.

-Just knock the keys in.

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We are obliged to walk the line once every seven days

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when we are operating trains.

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-Right. How long are the walks?

-Well, the whole railway is 23.5 miles long.

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So we divide it into sections of usually about four or five miles.

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-Right.

-And between four or five people, we walk a section each.

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'We are checking the rail keys are in place

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'and that the fish plates aren't cracked.'

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-We have a crack in this one.

-Let's have a look.

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It's underneath that bolt, right there, look. Can you see that?

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Oh, yeah, I can, actually.

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'The crack means we need to change the fish plate for a new one,

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'all before the train arrives.'

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So, how long have you worked on the line, Richard?

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I've been a volunteer about eight years now.

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But my full-time job is employed in the loco shelter,

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maintaining the engines and that, which run on the track work here.

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I mean, it's something you were obviously passionate about to

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start with the volunteering.

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Yeah, I've always been sort of passionate about the railway.

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And hopefully, I can look towards a good future with the railway, we

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need more young people like myself to keep this kind of thing going.

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Yeah, because looking at Paul,

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-all your colleagues are getting on quite a bit, aren't they?

-They are!

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I've actually reached the magic age of 50,

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so I'm still one of the younger ones, actually.

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'Less talking and more tightening.

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'The train is coming around the bend

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'and there is still one more bolt to go.'

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-Are you happy with that?

-I am, yeah.

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'With literally no time to spare, we finish the job.'

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The moment of truth. Is the fish plate tight enough?

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Yes! The plate's still on and the train is safely through.

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-Brilliant, job done.

-Congratulations.

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-You'll make a P-way man yet.

-I thoroughly enjoyed that.

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Later I'll be back on the train, heading for Dunster Castle,

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where they're preparing for the winter months.

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Despite the sea view,

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the train line is managing to stay high and dry, for now.

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But just along the coast, the sea poses a constant threat.

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Here in Porlock Weir,

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they have been struggling with flooding for generations.

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So what are they doing about it these days? Well, nothing.

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Until 1996, this shingle bank protected the villagers here

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from flooding.

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But a big storm tore a gaping hole in it.

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So residents and landowners took the daring decision

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not to rebuild it and nature was left to take its course.

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So, Nigel, what factors contributed to the decision

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not to rebuild this ridge?

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I think at the time,

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people were slowly realising that nature had a role to play.

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Rather than putting in hard defences all the time,

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we could work with nature.

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It was quite a new idea.

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You have to realise that for decades, this whole beach along here

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had been managed by bulldozers keeping the sea out.

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And that is a rather artificial, unsustainable way of managing it.

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Nature's response was to create a salt marsh.

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Where the tide breaches the ridge each day, it now leaves behind

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one of the richest expanses in the Severn estuary.

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Obviously, letting the sea take its course

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and invade certain parts of the land, you lose animal species,

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plant species, but you gain a tremendous amount, don't you?

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You do over time. One of the issues initially was that this

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was a site of special scientific interest.

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This has now been replaced by this wonderful habitat.

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Things like this sea aster, you can see it now in seed.

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This is a valuable food source for the birds that come in.

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And in terms of the impact on flooding,

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creating a salt marsh has done what?

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It is brilliant. What it does is absorb wave energy.

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So, when we get the storms coming in from the Atlantic,

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it slows the water down and protects the land behind it.

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-A sort of buffering effect.

-So it is a natural defence?

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Yes, very much so.

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This was one of the first stretches of Britain's coastline

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to try out what is called a managed retreat.

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For these rare salt-loving plants, it is a resounding success.

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But what about the people living here?

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I will be finding out later in the programme.

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First, Adam is planning a trip to Yorkshire,

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after taking care of some business closer to home.

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A winter chill is beginning to hang in the air.

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But as the trees shed their last few leaves,

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we are turning our minds to new life here on the farm.

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This is my new North Ronaldsay ram that I bought a couple of months ago.

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He is really lovely.

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Today is his moment of glory, because he is going to meet his new wives,

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hopefully they'll get in lamb and give birth in the spring.

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These are the lucky ladies my ram is on his way to meet.

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I think they are a fine flock of females. Let's hope he agrees.

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So before I put him out with his ladies,

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I have got to mark him with this wax.

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Sometimes, the rams will wear a harness that you put a chalk on

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so when they mate with the ewes, they leave a mark.

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But with the smaller rams, we just use this paste.

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Just slop it on his chest, like that.

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And then when he serves them,

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that orange mark will be left on the rump of the ewe,

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and then we will know roughly when she is going to lamb in the spring.

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Off you go. Enjoy!

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They're down there.

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'Initially, it looks like nerves have got the better of him.

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'Fortunately, the ewes are a bit more forward.'

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Here they come. They've spotted him. 'And soon, he gets the hang of it.'

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The lambs that are born from this flock will be sold either

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to other rare breeds enthusiasts, or some will go for meat.

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But for me, sheep is only a small part of our business.

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But there is a young farmer up in Yorkshire

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who is really trying to make a go of being a farmer

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and he relies entirely on his income from sheep.

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I am going up there now to see how he is getting on.

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We have been following Gareth Barlow's progress since he was

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an aspiring teenage farmer grazing a few sheep on borrowed fields.

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When I last met him, he had been offered 40 acres of land

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free of charge to graze his ever-expanding flock of Hebrideans.

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But he was still hungry for more.

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So, your dream is still a reasonable size farm of your own?

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It gets more passionate every day. A bigger dream every day

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and slowly, another step towards it each day.

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I have heard that he now has got a lot more land

0:20:010:20:03

and a lot more sheep, so I am keen to find out how he has got on.

0:20:030:20:06

-Gareth, hi. Good to see you again.

-Adam, you too.

-Hope you're well.

0:20:120:20:15

-Wow, it's not a bad spot to work, is it?

-It's pretty special.

-Incredible.

0:20:150:20:19

So your land now, your acreage has grown quite a bit?

0:20:190:20:23

Yes, the last time you came it was about 40 acres. It's up to 120 now.

0:20:230:20:27

So there is a fair bit more.

0:20:270:20:28

Those black dots on the hill, are they the Hebrideans?

0:20:280:20:30

Those are. They stand out fairly well. Good in snow.

0:20:300:20:32

-That's the reason I chose them.

-And how many have you got?

0:20:320:20:35

-About 350 at the moment.

-Goodness me. Well, can we get a bit closer?

0:20:350:20:39

Yes, let's go.

0:20:390:20:40

Cash is always a problem for first-time farmers like Gareth.

0:20:480:20:51

But he is paying his rent for this land with hard graft.

0:20:510:20:55

Working a day a week for the farmer who owns the site.

0:20:550:20:58

-Just run round the back of them?

-That's the principle.

0:20:580:21:02

We'll see if it works.

0:21:020:21:03

And that is not the only good deal he has struck.

0:21:030:21:06

The sheep now end up on dining tables in some of the UK's top restaurants.

0:21:060:21:11

Looks like we might have them!

0:21:110:21:14

This means he needs plump sheep to hand for the ten lambs a week

0:21:140:21:17

that go to slaughter.

0:21:170:21:19

So I'm helping him sort the prime meat from the skinnier sheep.

0:21:190:21:23

So with the sheep, what we are feeling for is body condition.

0:21:240:21:28

If you put your hand along the spine, you can feel the backbone poking out.

0:21:280:21:33

And if they are poking out, they are a little bit leaner,

0:21:330:21:36

and need a bit more grass and a bit more fattening up.

0:21:360:21:39

But if you can't feel it very well, then they're podgy,

0:21:390:21:42

and not far off being ready for market.

0:21:420:21:45

Once they're sorted, for the more slender sheep,

0:21:500:21:53

it's a skip, hop and a jump to pastures new,

0:21:530:21:56

where plenty of fresh grass will help them fatten up to meet future orders.

0:21:560:22:01

So you're still doing some butchering?

0:22:010:22:03

Yeah, I've got so busy with the sheep.

0:22:030:22:05

But I still do it myself in the evenings or the mornings.

0:22:050:22:08

I've got some to do this afternoon, if you want to have a look.

0:22:080:22:10

I'd love to. Yeah.

0:22:100:22:12

Right, let me see you doing your craft.

0:22:200:22:22

Obviously, this is your leg, then you go into your loin

0:22:230:22:26

and into your shoulder. So we're going to go just after this bend...

0:22:260:22:30

And there wouldn't be very many farmers who have

0:22:300:22:32

the skill of butchering as well.

0:22:320:22:34

You've got to have the time to be able to do both.

0:22:340:22:36

And it can be, if you got plenty of orders to do,

0:22:360:22:38

a time-consuming process.

0:22:380:22:40

But equally, at the end of 16 months of living,

0:22:400:22:43

you want to make sure the final process is done well.

0:22:430:22:45

So we have got a whole leg of lamb,

0:22:450:22:47

we can split this a number of different ways.

0:22:470:22:49

There will be some trim that will go into sausage and burgers.

0:22:490:22:52

-So everything is used, nothing is wasted.

-And is that a modern breed?

0:22:520:22:56

Yeah, that's your big commercial, your white sheep that you see,

0:22:560:22:59

your quintessential white, big, fluffy sheep.

0:22:590:23:01

Obviously, a lot bigger carcass.

0:23:010:23:03

Now, I love my traditional British breeds,

0:23:030:23:06

but I can't help looking at that more commercial lamb that

0:23:060:23:09

I know would have been ready for slaughter in four months.

0:23:090:23:12

Your Hebrideans take around 16 months. Is that a problem for you?

0:23:120:23:16

Yeah, perhaps for a young, small business,

0:23:160:23:18

that makes an issue of the cash flow.

0:23:180:23:20

Maybe it is possible to cross a few of the Hebrideans to produce

0:23:200:23:23

a lamb that does finish quicker

0:23:230:23:24

and is ready for the autumn to pay for someone to feed.

0:23:240:23:27

Well, I think that's a great idea.

0:23:270:23:28

I've got some ideas of some traditional British breeds

0:23:280:23:31

that you could cross with a Hebridean and get that early lamb

0:23:310:23:33

and then keep some of your pure ones for those specialist restaurants.

0:23:330:23:36

But we'll take a trip to the Cotswolds

0:23:360:23:38

-and I'll show you what I've got in mind.

-Fantastic.

-Let's go.

0:23:380:23:41

The next morning, back on my farm, I'm keen to show Gareth

0:23:460:23:49

an accidental discovery that I think could help him.

0:23:490:23:52

What I've got here, Gareth, is a few sheep in a pen for you.

0:23:530:23:58

This is a clean tup from the Welsh peninsular. British breed.

0:23:580:24:04

But this a Castlemilk Moorit ewe.

0:24:040:24:07

And by accident last year, he got in with her and got her pregnant

0:24:070:24:11

and she gave birth to this lamb.

0:24:110:24:14

I was amazed at how quickly it grew and how good it is.

0:24:140:24:18

So it is half Castlemilk Moorit and it's around 40 kilos now

0:24:180:24:22

and ready for market at less than six months old.

0:24:220:24:24

-So I think that would work with your Hebrideans.

-Fantastic.

0:24:240:24:27

What about... The Hebrideans are, as you know, really easy lambing sheep.

0:24:270:24:31

The cross, do they lamb well?

0:24:310:24:32

I don't want it up in the middle of the night in February.

0:24:320:24:35

We have no trouble lambing them at all.

0:24:350:24:37

Other people try it with Shetlands and some of the other breeds

0:24:370:24:41

and it works absolutely fine.

0:24:410:24:42

So I don't think it should be a problem.

0:24:420:24:44

But I think that what you have got with the Hebridean is a lovely idea,

0:24:440:24:49

about the tenderness and the flavour

0:24:490:24:52

and the length of growing off the grass.

0:24:520:24:55

I think you should stick with the Hebridean for half a flock

0:24:550:24:58

and maybe try some onto a clean or something.

0:24:580:25:02

-So you won't mind he comes back with me, then?

-No, no.

0:25:020:25:04

A few hundred quid changes hands, you will be sorted.

0:25:040:25:07

I know this lad. He's not one to let the grass grow under his feet.

0:25:120:25:16

I reckon the next time I meet Gareth,

0:25:160:25:18

he will have expanded into other breeds

0:25:180:25:20

and I can't wait to see where his farming journey will take him.

0:25:200:25:24

Can't beat it on a day like today.

0:25:240:25:25

I've been making my way through the Somerset countryside by steam power.

0:25:300:25:35

We're just checking the map here.

0:25:370:25:39

I'm now travelling along this section of the line,

0:25:390:25:41

just along the edge of the Severn estuary up to Minehead.

0:25:410:25:44

But back in the 1860s, passengers would have been deprived

0:25:440:25:47

of this glistening view, because originally,

0:25:470:25:50

the line only went from Bishops Lydeard, down here, up to Watchet.

0:25:500:25:54

12 years after it was built,

0:25:570:25:58

a group of local landowners lobbied for the line to be extended.

0:25:580:26:02

They saw the benefits tourism would bring to the area.

0:26:020:26:06

And one of those local landowners was George Luttrell.

0:26:060:26:09

At the time, he owned the largest estate in Somerset. Dunster Castle.

0:26:090:26:14

He used the line to bring in the Maharajah of Jaipur and

0:26:150:26:18

polo ponies to the castle.

0:26:180:26:20

But today, the train brings much-needed visitors

0:26:200:26:23

to this National Trust property.

0:26:230:26:25

Normally, grand properties like this are locked up for the winter.

0:26:250:26:29

But that could become a thing of the past. Here, anyway.

0:26:290:26:32

Because this year,

0:26:320:26:33

the National Trust are keeping the doors to Dunster Castle open.

0:26:330:26:37

David Moore is house manager.

0:26:410:26:42

He is responsible for the upkeep of the castle.

0:26:420:26:46

David, that looks all very precise. How are you doing, all right?

0:26:460:26:49

-Well, thanks.

-I understand that you're staying open all winter?

0:26:490:26:53

-That's quite a challenge, isn't it?

-We are, indeed.

0:26:530:26:55

-Just for the weekends in December.

-Right.

0:26:550:26:58

-OK, you busy setting up the table.

-We are.

0:26:580:27:00

How precious is everything here? Can I sort of help you out?

0:27:000:27:03

Yeah, that would be fantastic, actually.

0:27:030:27:05

During the winter months, it takes a team of 14 staff

0:27:050:27:08

and volunteers to empty, clean and rebuild the 46 rooms of the castle.

0:27:080:27:14

Of course, a lot of work goes in to stately homes

0:27:140:27:17

and castles at this time of year.

0:27:170:27:19

Yes, it certainly is. We would normally be planning to close down,

0:27:190:27:22

checking all the content, cleaning, etc.

0:27:220:27:25

So this year, we have to really adapt that.

0:27:250:27:27

Because we're going to have all the downstairs rooms open the whole time.

0:27:270:27:30

-Yeah. Good, well, I'll get some more soup bowls.

-OK, lovely.

0:27:300:27:33

Just pop the napkin on there. There we are. And that's ready to go.

0:27:400:27:44

And then you go all the way around there.

0:27:440:27:47

Will that be the table complete?

0:27:470:27:48

If we could get some flowers that would just finish the table a treat.

0:27:480:27:51

OK, well, I will do that. Now that I've laid out the knives and forks.

0:27:510:27:55

So I'm leaving David to finish laying the table

0:27:570:28:00

while I go on the hunt for some flowers.

0:28:000:28:02

The castle was in the Luttrell family

0:28:030:28:06

from the 14th century to 1976.

0:28:060:28:08

The last lady of the house, Alice Luttrell,

0:28:080:28:10

had a passion for gardening.

0:28:100:28:12

So finding the perfect petals for this table display

0:28:120:28:15

shouldn't be too much of a problem.

0:28:150:28:17

I'm hoping David Thresher, one of the gardeners, can help.

0:28:200:28:23

-David, what a place to work!

-Not too bad, is it?

-Isn't this beautiful!

0:28:250:28:29

-Definitely. It's called the Dream Garden.

-You can see why!

-Definitely.

0:28:290:28:33

Is it quite similar today as it would have been in Alice's day?

0:28:330:28:35

Well unfortunately, not. Alice had it privately designed.

0:28:350:28:38

It looked completely different.

0:28:380:28:40

We do have records of Alice in the garden.

0:28:400:28:42

We have also got records that

0:28:420:28:43

she had dahlias, and loved dahlias.

0:28:430:28:44

So, when we had the chance to reopen it, that's what we went for.

0:28:440:28:47

How many different varieties do you have here?

0:28:470:28:49

We have... It's in the late 60s now. I think it was 67 this year.

0:28:490:28:54

Right. Time to get picking.

0:28:540:28:56

I'll leave you the secateurs. Thanks ever so much indeed.

0:28:590:29:01

-No, lovely to meet you.

-I'll head back up the hill.

-Yeah. Enjoy.

0:29:010:29:05

Well, as beautiful as this little trug of flowers is,

0:29:070:29:10

the display needs to look a little bit more refined

0:29:100:29:12

if it is to take pride of place on the main table.

0:29:120:29:14

And thankfully, there's a team of dedicated volunteers

0:29:140:29:17

to sort all that out. I'm off to meet the flower ladies.

0:29:170:29:20

Hello, ladies! Oh, there is the most beautiful smell in here!

0:29:260:29:30

It's absolutely gorgeous.

0:29:300:29:32

OK, so where do we start then, creating this masterpiece?

0:29:320:29:35

We start by putting a little bit of greenery in first.

0:29:350:29:38

And so what you get out of doing this, then?

0:29:380:29:40

I thoroughly enjoy doing flowers.

0:29:400:29:42

And I know the other ladies do, as well.

0:29:420:29:44

It can be challenging

0:29:440:29:46

because we never know what flowers we're going to get.

0:29:460:29:49

We can't order what we want. We have whatever the gardeners have got.

0:29:490:29:53

Lovely. 'Well, that told me!

0:29:530:29:56

'But I think my display is just about finished.'

0:29:560:29:59

-You can come in on my rota, if you like, Matt.

-Absolutely!

0:29:590:30:02

The more, the better.

0:30:020:30:04

-And there they are.

-Wow, look at that.

-What do you think, David?

0:30:080:30:12

-That is beautiful, fantastic. What do you think?

-I'm happy.

0:30:120:30:15

-Yeah, definitely. It's great.

-Now, listen up.

0:30:150:30:18

If you're going to reopen all winter, to stay organised,

0:30:180:30:21

to tick off the weeks, you're going to need one of these.

0:30:210:30:24

Look at this Countryfile calendar, sold in aid of Children in Need.

0:30:240:30:27

And if you want to get your hands on one, here's John with the details.

0:30:270:30:31

The Countryfile calendar has been raising lots of money

0:30:310:30:34

for the BBC's Children in Need appeal for more than a decade now.

0:30:340:30:38

And for the 2013 edition,

0:30:380:30:40

we had a fantastic number of amazing photographs

0:30:400:30:43

sent in by viewers to choose from.

0:30:430:30:47

So if you want these beautiful shots on your wall next year,

0:30:470:30:50

you can order a copy right now.

0:30:500:30:51

Either on our website...

0:30:510:30:55

or by calling the order line.

0:30:570:30:59

To order by post, send your name, address and cheque to:

0:31:100:31:15

And please make your cheques payable to:

0:31:220:31:25

Remember the calendar costs £9

0:31:260:31:28

and at least £4 from every sale will go to Children in Need.

0:31:280:31:32

In a moment, Julia will be meeting a group of villagers

0:31:330:31:36

who are at risk of being flooded

0:31:360:31:38

that have created their own action plan.

0:31:380:31:40

And we'll be putting it to the test.

0:31:400:31:42

But before that, let's find out

0:31:420:31:43

if the weather is going to be stormy in the week ahead.

0:31:430:31:45

The Countryfile forecast.

0:31:450:31:47

.

0:33:500:33:57

Somerset, where us Brits flock to soak up the rays.

0:34:100:34:14

But I'm here to see how the coastline that draws the crowds

0:34:140:34:17

also threatens to disturb the peace.

0:34:170:34:20

Here in Porlock Weir, they've given up building barriers

0:34:200:34:23

against the sea, and are letting nature take its course.

0:34:230:34:27

So what does that mean for the people who live here?

0:34:270:34:30

This cottage belongs to Chris and Jim Morris.

0:34:320:34:35

Every morning, for 18 years,

0:34:350:34:37

they have opened their curtains to quite a view.

0:34:370:34:39

Oh, it's not just a sea view! You ARE the sea view.

0:34:410:34:44

-Yes, we're on the beach. Yes.

-Right on the beach.

-Yes.

0:34:440:34:48

-You must have been flooded?

-Yes, we have.

0:34:480:34:51

-We've been flooded once since we've lived here.

-Only once?

-Yeah.

0:34:510:34:55

-But we've had near misses.

-One bad one, you would say?

-Yes. Very bad.

0:34:550:34:59

-How was it? Describe it to me.

-Well, it was high tide, obviously.

0:34:590:35:03

One October evening. And it was about seven o'clock.

0:35:030:35:07

And I thought, I'd better see what was going on. It was pitch black.

0:35:070:35:10

I could hear the waves crashing in.

0:35:100:35:13

The wind was howling, the rain was coming down.

0:35:130:35:16

I had wandered over the bit of greenery over there with my torch.

0:35:160:35:20

And I just saw this vast wall of whiteness coming towards me.

0:35:210:35:26

So I just turned round and ran for my life!

0:35:260:35:29

I had just shut the door and about 30 seconds later,

0:35:290:35:33

the sea started bouncing into the back door.

0:35:330:35:36

What do you think about this policy to let the sea do its thing?

0:35:360:35:40

-I mean, it's going to happen to you again, isn't it?

-Inevitably, yes.

0:35:400:35:43

I think you've got to let the sea do it's thing

0:35:430:35:45

because how can you fight the seat?

0:35:450:35:47

If that decides it's coming in, there's nothing you can do about it.

0:35:470:35:50

-Do you think you could lose your home?

-Well...

0:35:500:35:53

In many, many years to come. I don't think in our lifetime.

0:35:530:35:56

But I think it will happen.

0:35:560:35:58

It's quite a stressful existence,

0:35:580:36:00

thinking that it could happen one day.

0:36:000:36:02

How do you sleep?

0:36:020:36:03

When you look around you, especially in the summertime,

0:36:030:36:06

it's such a beautiful place to live.

0:36:060:36:09

We've got the sea, we've got the moors,

0:36:090:36:11

we've got the woods. We've got it all.

0:36:110:36:13

But what gives this area its unique charm is what puts it

0:36:160:36:20

at double risk of flooding.

0:36:200:36:22

The steep wooded hillsides that descend into the sea here

0:36:230:36:26

conceal a network of gushing streams.

0:36:260:36:29

A short trek up the hill from Porlock Weir is Porlock village.

0:36:300:36:33

Their main flood risk comes from this.

0:36:330:36:36

It might look fairly docile right now, but add some heavy rain

0:36:360:36:40

into the mix and you got a potential flash flood on your hands.

0:36:400:36:43

The last biggie was in 1960

0:36:440:36:46

but a repeat performance is always on the cards.

0:36:460:36:50

These ever-resourceful locals have come up with a plan

0:36:530:36:56

if and when it should happen again.

0:36:560:36:59

I'm going to put that plan to the test.

0:36:590:37:01

Local resident Terry Gable is part of a team of village flood wardens

0:37:030:37:07

so today she will be playing a key role

0:37:070:37:09

in their flood action practice run.

0:37:090:37:13

Hi, Terry. Hello, hello.

0:37:130:37:15

So tell me about this plan, how did you come up with it and create it?

0:37:150:37:19

I think the parish council recognised

0:37:190:37:22

that we should have something in place.

0:37:220:37:24

We are a very close community and we are in a very vulnerable

0:37:240:37:29

position because we have got the river and we have got the sea,

0:37:290:37:32

so we have got water coming at us from both angles.

0:37:320:37:35

-Better to be prepared!

-Yes.

0:37:350:37:38

Well, I've enlisted some help this afternoon, Baker boy.

0:37:380:37:40

Yes, you, come on, lazybones. And we're going to see how it works.

0:37:400:37:44

How you all pull together.

0:37:440:37:46

PHONE RINGS

0:37:460:37:47

There we go. There it is.

0:37:460:37:48

-That's it. See, I'm quick.

-Is that it?

-That's it. Come on, let's go.

0:37:480:37:51

-Come on, then.

-Right. So, what do we do first?

0:37:510:37:53

-Knock on doors?

-Yes.

-Got to let people know?

-Yes.

-Right.

0:37:530:37:56

Flood warning.

0:38:000:38:02

Flood warning.

0:38:020:38:05

Flood warning.

0:38:050:38:07

-I'm going to be rescued, aren't I?

-Yes, of course. Don't worry.

0:38:070:38:10

We're going to make sure about that.

0:38:100:38:12

Floods! Floods! Flood warning!

0:38:120:38:14

-Right, Terry. Everyone is on red alert. What next?

-Sandbags.

0:38:150:38:20

-Not handbags?

-Sandbags.

0:38:200:38:21

-Got that end?

-Yes.

-Heavy, aren't they?

-They are.

0:38:240:38:27

I'm leaving Terry to finish off the flood defences

0:38:320:38:35

while I go to the nerve centre of the operation -

0:38:350:38:38

the village hall, of course.

0:38:380:38:40

Afternoon, hello.

0:38:440:38:47

Hi.

0:38:470:38:48

Afternoon, ladies.

0:38:480:38:50

Afternoon. Right, what's going on in here? What are you preparing?

0:38:500:38:53

-We're making soup for the evacuees.

-Of course. A bit of food.

0:38:530:38:56

-Do you need some help?

-Oh, yes.

0:38:560:38:59

Now you remember, and indeed were here, for the 1960 flood.

0:38:590:39:03

The river just came down the road and straight in our front door

0:39:030:39:09

and out the back door.

0:39:090:39:10

-So just whooshed through the whole house?

-Through the house.

0:39:100:39:13

So it just went in? You had a nice well?

0:39:130:39:15

All the food was floating out the door.

0:39:150:39:18

How long did it take to sort it out,

0:39:180:39:20

for the house to dry out and everything?

0:39:200:39:22

Oh, weeks, weeks. And the mud was terrible.

0:39:220:39:26

What do you think about this plan now,

0:39:260:39:28

the action plan to have everybody on standby?

0:39:280:39:31

It's brilliant. We had nothing like that.

0:39:310:39:33

So the village is prepared and ready. Just one thing missing.

0:39:400:39:45

-Super job. Right. Where are you?

-I knew that would be you!

0:39:520:39:57

-Oh, you're there.

-Squeaking away.

-Hello! How are you? Nice to see you.

0:39:570:40:02

-What are you dressed as?

-What do you mean? I'm ready.

0:40:020:40:04

-Is this your action hero outfit?

-As always, I'm here to the rescue.

0:40:040:40:08

-Oh, right!

-Have you come to rescue me?

0:40:080:40:09

-What are you going to do?

-Well, I don't know.

0:40:090:40:11

-That was going to ask the boys.

-Great. As prepared as ever.

0:40:110:40:14

-Can I have your autograph for my cousin in Sunderland?

-Oh, OK. Right.

0:40:140:40:18

That's not a problem. We can sort that out.

0:40:180:40:21

He's got some people to save, let him get on with it. Do something!

0:40:210:40:25

Come on, lads. What's happening here?

0:40:250:40:26

If the village's flood defences hold, it shouldn't ever get to this.

0:40:280:40:32

But if the water did make its way indoors,

0:40:320:40:34

it would be down to these guys to pump it back out.

0:40:340:40:37

OK, we'll turn that off

0:40:390:40:40

and I'll make sure everything is all right in here.

0:40:400:40:43

Right, coming through!

0:40:430:40:44

Put me down!! Put me down! I don't need saving!

0:40:440:40:49

It's all clear in there. Everything is fine! Good.

0:40:490:40:54

Oh, Paul, how did we do?

0:40:540:40:55

Not that last bit.

0:40:550:40:56

Not the last bit. You done really well.

0:40:560:40:59

Really good, we'd love to see local communities

0:40:590:41:01

having their own resilience plans for flooding.

0:41:010:41:04

-Makes our life so much easier.

-So this is what you need.

0:41:040:41:07

If you're watching at home, if you're a village at risk of flood,

0:41:070:41:10

you need to get a plan in place.

0:41:100:41:12

There you are. Well, what a note to finish on.

0:41:120:41:14

That's all we've got time for this week.

0:41:140:41:16

Next week, we'll be in Jane Austen country in the South Downs.

0:41:160:41:18

Indeed, the countryside that inspired

0:41:180:41:20

one of our first naturalists.

0:41:200:41:22

-See you then, bye-bye.

-Just give them a wave.

-Bye!

0:41:220:41:25

Oh, no! Not again!

0:41:250:41:26

-Right, lads.

-Where are you taking me? Where am I going?

0:41:260:41:30

Straight up there. Perfect. See you next week.

0:41:300:41:33

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:41:550:41:57

Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury explore Somerset's countryside and coastline.

Matt takes a ride on the West Somerset railway, one of the longest heritage lines in the country. He stops off at Blue Anchor station to help the maintenance crew who carry out daily inspections of the line.

Julia is on the coast finding out about the great storm of 1703, which ripped across the country leaving devastation in its wake. But could it happen again? Julia finds out how a group of villagers at risk of flooding today have created their own action plan and she puts it to the test.

Elsewhere, Adam heads to Yorkshire to help a young farmer who is realising his dream of farming full-time.


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