The Countryfile team head to Somerset, which has taken a battering from the winter storms. Matt Baker meets the locals who have come together to create a silage food bank.
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Somerset. A county where wild countryside meets fertile farmland,
where man-made landscapes crisscross rivers,
canals and channels.
Since December, this place has taken a battering from the winter storms,
leaving large parts of the Somerset Levels flooded.
As a result, as well as communities, animals had to be evacuated.
But food and bedding was in short supply.
So some resourceful folk got together and created this,
an animal food bank,
with supplies coming in from all over the country from farmers.
Human resilience and ingenuity
have been a common feature in the character of Somerset people.
I'm making myself at home
in this bleak landscape
like one remarkable woman,
She spent 60 years drawing, painting and writing about Exmoor.
She became known as The Woman of the Moor.
Tom's finding out about farm power.
Turning waste like this chicken muck into energy
seems like a perfect way of producing electricity
and has led to a number of these anaerobic digesters
springing up around the country.
But they also have an appetite for crops
that we, or animals, could eat.
So are we getting the balance right between food and fuel?
I'll be investigating.
Adam's in the wilds of Scotland.
The Cairngorms is a far cry from my home in the Cotswolds,
and it's where some of our hardiest native breeds can survive.
And I'm here to see some of the toughest farm animals around.
Bounded by the Bristol Channel,
its varied landscape takes in the hilly moorland of Exmoor
to the flat, lush plains of the Levels.
A rural county, famous for its cheese,
willow and, more recently, its floods.
Hundreds of homes are still affected after the wettest winter on record.
For now, it seems the waters are finally starting to recede,
but it will be a long time until communities get back to normal.
However, it's not the first time this area has flooded,
and it's unlikely to be the last.
And that's partly because the Somerset Levels,
an area of around 160,000 acres, is reclaimed land.
The Romans were the first
to build defences to hold back the sea
in order to create more land for farming.
The new pasture was lush and fertile,
full of goodness left behind by the sea.
But it's never been plain sailing
and some winter flooding has always been the norm.
Stephen Rippon, from Exeter University,
is a Professor of Landscape Archaeology,
so he's well versed in the history of this changeable place.
So how have people managed to live amongst all this
for so many years, thousands of years?
Over the years, they've had different sorts of approaches.
Initially, they would only move down here say in the summer
and they'd just exploit the very rich natural resources,
like grazing for their livestock.
The name Somerset itself means "the people of the summer lands".
Because the whole of central Somerset comprises these wetlands.
And how often has it flooded, historically?
Oh, every few decades, you get a pretty major flood.
One of the best documented was actually in 1607,
when it's recorded on churches such as this one
that the waters were chest high.
Was there any particular period of time
when people were most successful at living here?
Settlement was very extensive in the Roman period,
when there were even some quite palatial Roman villas
constructed down on the Levels
with lovely mosaic pavements,
painted wall plaster, and so on.
This shows what the landscape would have looked like.
The area in blue would have been an intertidal salt marsh.
And that's where they were producing salt.
The light green was actually reclaimed in the Roman period.
This is where they built embankments alongside the major rivers
and sea walls along the coast,
and drained the land through digging ditches.
And what about the other map?
After the Roman period, there was a major period of flooding.
And as you can see, the blue now covers a much, much larger area.
And the flood waters even reach down the Exe Valley,
almost as far as Glastonbury.
And then it was only later in the Medieval period
that these flooded lands were reclaimed for the second time,
which is when the present-day sea wall
was established along the coast.
Why are things so different today?
Why is there such trouble with all this flooding?
I think one of the problems has been that in the past,
farmers weren't farming this land all year round.
Areas like we can see behind us
-were what were known as accommodation land...
..and it was owned by farmers
who lived on the surrounding dry land areas.
And they would take their livestock down to the Levels in the summer,
fatten the livestock up on the very rich grazing,
but they would move their livestock off the Levels in the winter.
What we've seen in the last 100-200 years
is that far more people have started living down here all year round.
So for thousands of years, the people who have used these lands
have had to adapt to the changing tides.
But with changing tides comes changing times.
And it was a Victorian invention that really allowed them
to tackle the challenge of the annual floods head-on.
A new kind of steam pump.
It's looked after by the Westonzoyland Engine Trust,
which is home to no less than 30 different
steam-powered engines and pumps.
Including this one, the Easton Amos land drainage machine.
Installed here in 1861,
this spectacular green machine was a breakthrough in pump technology.
Its rotor had curved blades
and could lift 100 tonnes of water a minute,
making it the most effective pump of its day.
Engineering lecturer Bill Jewell
has been volunteering at the trust for ten years.
This pump was responsible for pumping 2,000 acres of water,
which flowed into the engine.
Now, that is outside. You can't see now.
-It comes under a tunnel and feeds into the bottom of the rotor.
I just happen to have concealed privily about my person
-a model of the rotor that's in the bottom of that pit.
Blades top and bottom on a central jig.
Water is trapped in here,
feeds into the top and into the bottom.
And when it revolves at high speed,
the water is thrown out by centrifugal force
and then comes up inside the chamber.
And when it gets higher than the water in the river,
then it flows out through this channel into the river.
Incredibly simple, really, isn't it?
The Easton Amos drainage machine
was such an important new design,
it was shown at
the Great Exhibition of 1851.
The technology was so successful
that seven more steam-powered pumps
were rolled out across the Levels
to keep the flood waters at bay in the spring and the autumn.
But as diesel replaced steam,
one by one, the steam pump stations
across the Levels closed,
consigning engines like this to museum pieces.
Yet their legacy remains
in this lot, the modern-day pump.
It's these that are helping to restore
the flooded lands here today.
Now, if Victorians were impressed by the power of steam,
we can only imagine what they'd have made of an invention
that turned waste into energy.
Anaerobic digestion does just that
and, as Tom's been finding out, farmers up and down the country
have been starting to make the most of it.
Across the British countryside,
farmers are busy harvesting their winter crops.
And this is what they're after. Beet.
A staple animal feed, especially during the winter.
But this will never be eaten.
All the energy locked up in here is going up there.
Farmer Simon Gittins is growing these crops as fuel, not food.
-It's amazingly dry really, considering.
-Yes, it is.
Around a quarter of his maize
and beet is going into something called anaerobic digestion.
So you're making electricity out of this,
but it's not the only ingredient you're putting in.
What else have you got in your larder?
Well, this here is what we'd like to digest most of.
This is chicken muck from poultry farms.
We also put some maize in over here, maize silage. And also, potatoes.
So you're making electricity, you're generating kilowatts
out of a mixture of waste materials, waste food and some crops?
That's correct, yes.
So how does an anaerobic digester work, Simon?
Well, we take all the products that you've just seen
and we load them into our mixer here.
This is basically just the mouth of the digester.
And we feed that every hour through a mechanism down there
-which chops it up, adds liquid to it.
-Having gone into the mouth,
as you call it, it then comes into this,
-which is the belly of the beast, is it?
-Yeah. This is just like
the stomach of a cow, or ourselves.
We keep it at the same body temperature that we are
and it's the same bugs in here that work and produce the biogas
that work in our own stomachs to produce energy.
That's the key product, is it,
a biogas, which is a methane, I gather?
That's it. Biogas is very methane-rich, just like natural gas.
And that's what we use to run our generators on,
which we then produce as electricity and heat.
-Is energy the only thing that comes out of this system?
We end up with a very high quality biofertiliser,
which is then spread on the land.
And roughly how much energy is all this producing?
We produce about 1,000 kilowatts per hour, every hour,
24 hours a day.
That's probably enough electricity to run about 1,200 households.
Anyone with an anaerobic digester, or AD unit,
gets paid for the electricity they generate
via something called a feed-in tariff,
even if they use the energy themselves.
They also get paid a bonus for any surplus they export to the grid.
These subsidies come out of our energy bills,
but Simon believes it's worth it.
Fuel, just the same as food, unfortunately needs subsiding.
We need both fuel and food in this country.
The beauty about anaerobic digesters
are that we're a waste-management tool,
we're producing renewable energy and electricity,
and we're producing a very valuable biofertiliser.
Simon installed his unit in 2012
and now other farmers are being encouraged to join him.
The Government's offering them £10,000
just to see if AD will work for them.
It's proving a popular scheme.
Around 380 farmers in England have shown an interest,
possibly because the Government has promised
to follow up those grants with loans of up to £400,000
to actually set up the AD plants.
Anaerobic digestion isn't new.
There are already more than 130 plants in the UK,
mostly industrial and community units.
But now farmers are seeing their potential.
We're hoping that growth rate will continue...
Someone who's keen to promote the benefits is Charlotte Morton,
Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association.
What is the potential of
anaerobic digestion for our country?
If you look at energy terms alone,
and we get all the potential feed stock
that's suitable for the technology,
then we're looking at something like ten percent of
the UK's domestic gas demand.
So that, in itself, is quite significant. And then, of course,
there's all the value in recycling the nutrients,
which helps to support food security.
Not only does AD produce biogas, electricity, fertiliser and cash,
it's also a low-carbon energy source.
But from April this year, the subsidies
for small and medium units are being cut by 20 percent,
with a further ten percent earmarked in October.
Charlotte thinks that will harm smaller producers.
AD plants integrated into farming have huge benefits.
We are just starting to get the farming industry
that's waking up to those benefits,
and getting quite excited about them.
But now they're seeing huge cuts and there is a risk that they will say,
it's just too risky from now on, and they won't do it.
It's going to be stopping smaller scale British companies
that are starting to grow, starting to employ lots of people.
So, yes, it's very disappointing.
The Government told us the cuts are needed
because they are "constantly seeking to reduce tariffs
"to ensure consumers aren't overburdened by the scheme."
But while some claim the funding reduction
will stop the industry expanding,
others believe it's already too successful.
It competes with us, and certainly with calves like these for food,
and also, for land to grow the crops.
So there are some farmers who aren't so keen on seeing
its continuing expansion, as I'll be finding out later.
The flooded fields and villages on the Somerset Levels
became an all-too-familiar sight during our soggy winter.
With pumps working around the clock, the water is finally in retreat.
But for the communities who live here, it will be some time
before the land is dry under their feet.
I'm joining the lads from the Fire Service,
out on their daily inspection.
What we're doing here is, we're depth-checking the roads.
So we're seeing what depth of water we've got,
to see what access we've got with vehicles,
so that we can provide an emergency response.
-We're on a road here?
-We are. The A361 below us. Main road to Taunton.
And we're at a depth of about 30cm on the road at the moment.
The depth further back goes to about three metres.
It is incredible.
I mean, when you look back, it's like the sea!
-I mean, there's almost waves going across there!
-It is, yeah.
And how long do you expect to be doing this for?
We expect to be helping out here for a number of weeks to come.
And we will continue to do so until this water is gone,
until the roads have become accessible.
Adversity has a funny way of bringing out
the best in rural communities.
Along with the emergency services,
an army of volunteers have been mobilised
to help local people return to some kind of normality.
It's a full-scale operation.
And here in Burrowbridge, I'm heading for mission control.
The pub, of course!
Inside The King Alfred, landlady Sally Taylor has set up a food bank,
and I'm here to pick up supplies for a flooded-out farmer.
what an effort you're doing here, you really are!
-So you live here?
-Yes, I do, yeah.
Just give us an idea of how all of this started.
Donations have been - well, to use the pun -
flooding in from all over the place.
People arriving with cars, with bag loads.
We've also had loads of donations from supermarkets.
-I take it nobody pays for it, then?
-How many customers are you having in here?
-Quite a few, actually.
Yeah. There's quite a few people who live locally,
but are still in partly-flooded properties.
And it's good for them as well
because they get to see other people
and have a chat, which a lot of them really need.
Quite handy, really, that it's in the pub...
-..because it just makes it so much easier, doesn't it?
You come and have a drink and then pick up what you need.
-Sort of open all hours as well.
-Yeah. I've got a list here.
I've got, "Milk, bread, biscuits,
"thick-soled size-nine wellies, thick working socks."
I came in here and I thought,
I am never going to be able to get everything on this list!
Well, listen, thank you both
-and we'll see you when we do.
-Lovely. Thank you. Bye.
-I shall pick up the wellies on the way out.
The only way to make my delivery that's not underwater
is along this network of paths.
It's been built by, you've guessed it, volunteers.
When the floodwater took over on the Somerset Levels,
thousands of livestock had to be moved in emergency evacuations.
Some farmers had to make some heartbreaking decisions
and abandon their farms altogether.
But there are those farmers like Geoff Miller
who choose to barricade themselves in with bales and stick it out.
Hello, Geoff! Are you there?
-Nice to meet you.
-There's your groceries.
Thank you very much indeed. That's ideal. Thank you.
-Pair of size nines, as ordered.
-They're very much in demand
and very welcome, with all the water around.
-Show me around, would you?
-Certainly. We'll go in the yard and have a look around.
Pretty much the whole of Geoff's 250-acre farm was covered by water.
The only bit that survived was his house.
-So, then, Geoff, this is what's been washed up in your yard.
Weed and wood and sleepers and all sorts.
It's like what's left on a beach when the tide goes out.
This was high tide, if you like.
And, of course, the cattle were in these sheds and therefore,
had we not evacuated them,
they would have been in a couple of foot of water.
-The water would now have been over our wellies?
-Oh, yes. Yes.
I had a pair of waders
and it was more than two-foot deeper than where we are now, sort of thing.
So, how many animals did you have here, Geoff?
-We had 88 on the farm...
-..suckler cows and calves...
-..and we had to evacuate them all.
And I was relatively lucky in that two people that I know very well -
one was my brother, one was the contractor who does my baling -
came up with an offer of sheds
and we were able to put 33 to Othery and 55 to Sutton Mallet.
Geoff's cattle might be safe, but his problems are far from over.
Most of the silage on his farm is ruined.
Now he needs to source new feed.
With his herd split over two sites and many roads still flooded,
getting that feed to the cattle has become a real issue.
Later, I'll be finding out how the farming community across Britain
is coming to Geoff's rescue.
Away from the flooded Levels
and nestling in a valley among Somerset's undulating hills,
the historic town of Castle Cary.
Built predominantly of local Ham stone,
which gives the buildings their distinctive golden colour,
the town grew as a centre for the textiles industry.
Initially, it was wool, linen and rope that brought
Castle Cary its wealth.
But around 200 years ago, the town also started producing
a hard-wearing luxury fabric made from something quite surprising.
Tucked away round the backstreets is one of only two factories left
in the whole world using horsehair to make its products.
I'm meeting the owner, Anna Smith.
Now, this is your rather unusual raw material, isn't it?
How many horses do you need?
There's about three horses' worth in this bundle here
and it comes from live horses, working horses,
that have their tails cut.
Now we import the hair because there's insufficient local horses.
-And why do people want it?
-It's a very unusual fabric.
It's very durable. It'll last more than 100 years,
if it's properly upholstered.
It's got a very unusual sheen. It's stain resistant.
It's even got very good acoustics,
so it's used for covering speakers
-and for private cinema rooms.
-Wow. And how did the business start?
People used to weave the fabric at home,
so it's very much a cottage industry.
Then John Boyd, who was a travelling textile merchant from Scotland,
came here, saw potential in horsehair weaving,
liked the area and decided to stay and set up his own factory.
And his vision is still very much alive today.
-Ha-ha! This is amazing, isn't it?
-It's like walking into the past.
And these are the looms that actually turn the horsehair into fabric?
That's right. They're the original looms from 1870.
Before the machines,
children would hand weave the horsehair for 12 hours a day.
But the 1870 Education Act meant they all had to go to school,
so John Boyd invented and patented these special looms
to mimic the skills of little fingers.
-It's a wonderful pattern that's been created here.
But to get the horsehair to this point,
it has to go through a number of stages.
Well, to see what happens next, I'm going to clock on
at this wonderful old machine...
..that's been clocking workers on and off since about 1900.
Duncan has been clocking in here for 24 years
and he's going to get me started
with a bit of what's called "hackling".
-Put it onto the hackle.
-Onto the hackle, start at the end.
-Just like that?
-Yeah, mind your hands. And pull.
What we're doing is hackling the hair now to get all the knots out
and straighten it out, ready to go to the looms for weaving.
And this is hair straight from the horse, is it?
This has been cleaned, but, yeah.
I've noticed that in this hair...
I mean, this end is quite a bit darker than that end. Why is that?
This is because the darker end is the older end of the hair.
-It's also urine stained.
-That's something I never thought about!
So, presumably, this darker colour
can be dealt with in the dyeing process.
As it's a natural material,
they can dye the horsehair any colour they want.
The whole process is very much hands-on...
Into the vat.
..as it has been for nearly 150 years.
This is orange today, is it?
It will be an orangey-brown, yes. So all you do...
-is tip the dye into there.
-Right. Into here?
'The dye and horsehair are mixed together
'with water heated to 90 degrees. The process takes up to a week.
'And here's one that Duncan started earlier.'
So this is the tank we dyed black in.
We dye about 100 kilos at a time in here.
70% of the final material is made of horsehair
and this provides the width, or weft.
The rest is either cotton, silk, or linen,
which gives the fabric its length.
Anna, you've got a really fascinating business here
and an intriguing product.
But with only two factories in the whole world making it,
could the end be in sight, do you think, for horsehair fabric?
It's used for lots of very modern applications, such as hotels
and super yachts and fashion, and we export all around the world,
so 70% of what we produce goes overseas as well.
So hopefully, there will be a huge future.
Rural heritage and tradition
play an important part in this landscape.
They've provided inspiration for writers,
artists and photographers from all over the world.
But it's the work of someone a bit more local that I'm interested in.
Pauline Rook is a Somerset farmer turned photographer.
She's spent the last 20 years
capturing the lives of farming communities here.
So how do you make the leap from farming to photographer?
I always was a photographer, from a child.
When we were farming and I had 260 cows and pigs and chickens
and children, my photography took rather a back-seat.
And why did you make that leap?
Because I wanted to take these photographs of the people
who were in my world. So I studied.
I went to college for five years and studied it.
Do you think it helps, then, that you were a farmer
-and understand farming and live within farming communities?
Otherwise, I would never have got access to many of them.
If they know who you are, cos you live in their world, they trust you,
and that's the most important thing.
I do remember one of my early photographs -
a lovely old boy who lived on a farm that was completely original
and you never saw any life there.
It was the other side of the river from our farm
and I wanted to go in there.
But one day, my sheep escaped over the river and got in his garden,
so I had to go and meet him,
and I saw these wonderful buildings and things
and said to him, "Please can I come and take a photograph of you?"
He said, "Well, you can take one of me if I can take one of you."
So he's got one of me there!
He'd actually never had a photograph taken in his life.
One of Pauline's favourite subjects is her old neighbour, Joe Samways.
His family have farmed here since 1943.
This is a cosy farmhouse kitchen. Look at these photos!
They are fabulous!
How did you feel about it all, having a camera,
while you were going about your normal work?
Pauline lived up next door and we knew her.
She used to come in and take photos.
I've been taking these photographs for 20 years,
so many of the ones that I've photographed have gone now
and they're converted and people have died
and there's no record at all of the life that was there.
Being part of the community she is documenting,
Pauline's distilled the very essence of it,
recording a way of life that's rapidly disappearing.
Now, as we heard earlier,
farming is increasingly being used
as a source of fuel, as well as food.
But, as Tom's been finding out,
some farmers think the move is bad for business.
These fields are planted with crops
not for eating, but for energy.
They're being grown for anaerobic digestion, or AD for short,
a source of energy from crops, food waste, or even farm slurry.
The Government wants to see more of it and farmers are in the front line.
They've got the crops,
they've got the waste, and they can make use of the by-products.
So, what's not to like?
Well, quite a bit, if you talk to some farmers.
They say that growing crops for fuel, rather than food,
is leaving them out of pocket.
The vast majority are dairy-bred bull calves.
Andrew Mallin is a tenant farmer with a herd of 1,200 cattle
on his Shropshire farm.
He used to rent his land for around £100 an acre,
but says that anaerobic digestion units on surrounding farms
are leading to a dramatic increase in costs.
The problem we've got here, Tom, is the grazing ground.
It has gone up two, three
and even, in some cases, it's gone up four-fold.
We just can't afford to pay these kind of prices any more
to graze cattle. In a 12-mile radius,
we've got six anaerobic digesters in production at the moment.
We've got one under construction.
We've got a further one going through planning.
Each of those digesters will suck in eight to 1,000 acres of ground
to grow crops to fuel them.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against anaerobic digestion.
I think it's a fantastic idea,
that somebody can actually use waste product
and convert it into energy. What a fantastic idea that is.
But when you've such a concentration of them in one area,
it's only going to have a detrimental effect
to traditional farming, and I'm talking traditional farming
which is growing food for the population in this country.
It's not just Andrew claiming that
AD units are pushing up rents.
George Dunn, from the Tenant Farmers Association,
thinks crops like maize
that are used as fuel, not food, are squeezing the industry.
What are you and your members worried about with AD?
The principal worry is the extent to which
people are now growing maize
to put into anaerobic digestion plants
and are willing to pay very feisty rents for that ground,
-in excess of £300 per acre.
-How would that compare to what
a dairy farmer or normal farmer can pay?
A dairy farmer looking to grow maize for stock for his own farm
would be looking to pay £100, £150 per acre.
The Government's planning to cut their subsidy,
-what do you make of that?
-Yeah, we think that's a good idea.
We think they need to remove the subsidy altogether
for the very largest AD plants
and for those which are concentrated on maize.
We think it's sill sensible to be subsidising those plants
that are using the waste products, but not the maize.
But although the Tenant Farmers Association claims that
AD is pushing up land prices, the National Farmers' Union disagrees.
It's keen to point out the benefits of AD,
especially for farmers who use their own waste,
where they can spread the nutrients on the field
and gain an extra source of income.
Certainly, Simon Gittins, who we met earlier, thinks using
a small amount of land for fuel
shouldn't cause a problem.
It really is a tiny, tiny fraction, and I think it's important
in farming that we have a small part of everything.
You know, it's a big mix and this is modern-day mixed farming.
But growing crops for AD doesn't have to take valuable land
out of food production.
At the Stoke Bardolph Sewage Works in Nottinghamshire,
there's an anaerobic digester on site that gobbles up
40,000 tonnes of maize and 7,000 tonnes of beet every year.
Best of all, these crops were never intended for the dinner plate
or even the cattle trough.
John Jackson runs the plant for Severn Trent Water.
We've got a sewage works which treats the sewage of Nottingham.
Surrounding that, 2,500 acres of land, and it's been used
for sewage-sludge recycling since 1880.
There were certain heavy metals which came down the sewers and they
ended up in these soils here.
So what's growing here isn't considered fit
for human consumption or animal consumption
-without a lot of extra work?
-You're exactly right.
So what better way to grow crops in these soils here
-and produce renewable energy?
-So what have you done?
What they've done at Stoke Bardolph
is built an anaerobic digester
which supplies a large part of the electricity,
but also the heat, into the sewage treatment works.
Severn Trent have an agenda to produce 30% this year
of their power requirement from renewable energy.
Anaerobic digestion is a superb way of contributing towards that target.
Contaminated land is limited.
But then, currently, we're only using a small amount
of farmland for anaerobic digestion.
Yet, as we've heard, AD units do appear to be increasing rents
in a few hot spots.
As a low-carbon source of energy fed on waste,
anaerobic digestion has few opponents.
But when it's run for maximum financial return,
that can encourage greater consumption of crops
and if that trend continues,
competition for land and feed may well intensify.
The Highlands of Scotland.
A wild landscape, where even the hardiest animals
are put to the test.
This week, Adam's heading north to meet some of the toughest around.
It's not that often I get to travel so far afield to visit another farm.
But it's a great opportunity to see some of the breeds
I keep in the Cotswolds, in a completely different environment.
I'm on my way to an unusual farm near a little village
called Tomintoul, which is the highest village in the Highlands,
and there's snow on the tops, so I expect it'll be pretty chilly.
But the March snow is no problem for this lot.
These wild and windy mountains
are home to the UK's only free-roaming herd of reindeer.
Wow, they look absolutely magnificent!
-This is where reindeer should be.
-It's a chilly spot, that's for sure!
The land belongs to a local estate,
but Tilly and Alan Smith have turned it into
a Highland haven for native breeds,
and it all started with an animal
that's not just for Christmas.
Most domesticated farm animals would be down there in the valley,
where it's a bit warmer, not stood up here on the top.
You're absolutely right. Reindeer go up in the winter. They don't go down.
They don't want to make it hard to dig through lots of snow
to get to their favourite food in the winter, the lichen.
They want it where the snow's blowing, it's easy to get to.
And with a coat like that, you do not need shelter.
-And the hair's all over them?
-It is. Right from the tips of their noses...
I think Magnus may be able to show us here.
-He's got a completely hairy nose.
-Right to the bottom of his feet.
-All the way down.
-ALl the way down.
-There's no bare bits.
Nothing to get cold, basically, and so they're snug as a bug.
-And they want to preserve heat and energy, I suppose?
So they don't do a lot. They're very slow. Their metabolism is slow.
They don't have much of an appetite,
so they can just doll around.
They don't urinate very much, which sounds a bit bizarre,
but of course, every time you urinate, you lose heat.
-And you came here first to study the reindeer.
I came with a Zoology degree.
"I've got a Zoology degree! What am I going to do with it?!"
I knew about the reindeer. I had a childhood passion of deer.
I got to know the reindeer very quickly and, luckily,
the reindeer keeper was quite good looking, so...
-You fell in love with the lot!
-I fell in love with the lot!
What do you reckon to that, Alan? You ended up marrying her.
Yep. She landed on her feet when she met me!
The Smith family have farmed here for 30 years,
allowing their 200 head of reindeer to roam free
on more than 6,000 acres.
Come on, then!
The Cairngorms are perfect for reindeer,
with a plentiful supply of their favourite grub, lichen.
But they never say no to an extra feed of mixed grains.
What a great experience, feeding reindeer up in the Highlands.
Just fantastic... Hello!
I'm going to go down with Tilly and Alan now
and look at some of their other hardy animals.
With the reindeer happily roaming the higher ground of the farm,
Tilly and Alan wanted to make use of the lower ground too.
While the reindeer often steal the limelight,
all the animals here have that independent spirit
and hardy Highland nature.
-So what are these, in here?
Red deer calves.
I've just weaned them, just a couple of weeks ago.
So I've taken all the best calves off and we'll keep them
-for breeding stock.
-They're lovely, aren't they?
-Have you always been into farming?
-I was brought up on a hill farm
over at Ballater, in Gairnside.
And, yep, farmer through and through.
What animals did you have there?
Blackface sheep and cows.
-So this is a bit different?
-Yeah, this is different.
-What other animals have you got?
We've got a herd of fallow deer. I've got 100 of them.
We've got Belted Galloway cattle.
-And some sheep?
-And Soay sheep.
-Nothing but the best here.
Not into this Blackface sheep.
-We have a wild boar and Iron Age pigs.
-So all your animals are real survivors?
-Look after themselves.
That's the best way.
But even the toughest survivors will happily accept
a free dinner through the winter.
Come here, you big dafty!
Aye, they like a good scratch.
There we go. He's nice and quiet.
-I can't go up and scratch mine.
-Can you not?
He's quieter than he was,
but he's still a bit lively.
-He's always been quiet.
-He's big too, isn't he?
-When they're this big, they need to be quiet.
-And the Belties live outside no problem?
-All year round,
and in the winter. I haven't taken them in this winter.
They're still up on top of the hill behind us there.
And they're not the only ones
who love a bit of high living on the hills.
-Shall I climb in?
-I think so.
'These young wild boar and Iron Age pigs have been weaned from the sows
'and are now being fattened up for market
'by Tilly and Alan's son, Alex.'
So how old are these ones?
The smaller ones, the crosses, I suppose were born in October.
So they're about four, five months.
And the bigger ones,
the more wild-boar looking ones, are about eight months.
-I'd have a pig ready for slaughter in six months.
-Is that right?
-How long does it take these?
-At least a year.
Stick you in a line. Come on, piggies!
So why do you keep the wild boar?
Well, we keep them for their meat, obviously,
and for live sale, for selling to folk.
We've also had them in this woodland down here the last 25 years,
so we'll see how that brings on the wood, the birch wood.
-So it helps regenerate it?
They'll hopefully just get round all the trees
and let the other stuff come up and let the regen come on.
High in the Highlands, both people and animals have to be resourceful.
So even these little boar are great multi-taskers.
It's been a real treat for me to come up here and see these animals.
I must say, coming in with a wild boar,
I was a bit nervous, cos they can be quite aggressive.
But these are just young ones and they seem really friendly.
You can see the wild boar
have got these very long snouts,
perfect for rooting up the ground
and getting in amongst the woodland,
and long hair that keeps them warm, thick skin.
Quite a sort of rounded body.
Then the Iron Age ones, the crossbred, have got
a slightly bigger, longer body, a bit more flesh on them.
These are the ones that I've got at home.
Having spent the day in the fresh Highland air,
I was secretly hoping for a bacon butty to round it all off.
Wow, struck lucky! We've got a whole roast! Thanks, Tilly.
-This looks absolutely wonderful.
-Roast wild boar.
And crackling on top. Just dark, dense meat. Slow-growing.
There you go.
Alex, do you want to take a bit?
-It is a dark colour, isn't it?
-It is. Can't resist taking a bit myself.
Wow. Well, it's been fascinating to see all your animals.
You've enjoyed it? You've seen them,
eaten them, and now you can go home and talk about them.
Goodness me, what an experience! I'm very jealous. What a place to live!
The Highlands are an awesome place to farm,
demanding respect and determination from both man and beast.
But this is one farming family
who seem to have got it just right.
For two months, people here had to live with rising flood water.
It would have tested the resilience of most folk,
but for Somerset farmers, along with tough decisions,
it's also brought incredible community spirit.
Geoff Miller resorted to moving his animals from his flood-hit fields
to safer ground, away from the main farm.
This was high tide, if you like.
Of course, the cattle were in these sheds and, therefore, had we not
evacuated them, they would have been in a couple of foot of water.
But with sodden silage and rotten bedding, finding food
for livestock has been a major headache for flooded-out farmers.
That was...until now.
The wider farming community has come to their rescue.
This is Sedgemoor Livestock Market near Bridgwater,
and it's become an impromptu dropping-off point
for donated animal supplies.
Along with a few friends, Rebecca Horsington found herself
at the forefront of coordinating this massive aid operation.
And it all started through social media.
We put a few tweets out and people started re-tweeting the tweets
and, before you know it, we were getting lorry-loads
and lorry-loads of forage coming from all over the country.
We're talking thousands and thousands of pounds' worth...
-..which those farmers
will not see back, those that do donate.
No, and a lot of them are doing haulage for free,
using their own diesel to come down, they have been incredibly generous.
It makes me very, very proud of the farming community.
I think that they have all pulled together in such a way that
nobody could have imagined that they would.
Without these unsung heroes, farmers like Geoff would have found it
almost impossible to look after their animals.
So these are your fresh bales going on here, Geoff?
Yes, very glad to see them. We've been desperate for these.
I still can't get access to my farm by tractor at all yet,
so I'm reliant on this to look after the hundred or so
head of cattle that I've got to look after.
Astonishingly, this additional,
but essential help has come from far and wide.
Charles Deakin has driven over 150 miles, all the way from Shropshire.
Coming down the road, people start flashing and waving at you,
-it's a really good feeling.
-How many of you have been behind the wheel?
-You've done nine hours on your own?
That's absolutely extraordinary, it really is.
I'll let you get a cup of coffee, get you sorted out!
Ed Ford is from Essex Young Farmers.
We sent 25 loads down here,
delivered, another 15 to go.
If we needed help, they'd come and help us.
There's no other industry that rallies around like agriculture.
The true extent of farmer generosity is clear to see here.
They want to look after each other, despite the distance.
With Geoff all loaded up, it's a 45-minute journey
to the first of the evacuation sites,
where Geoff keeps half of his herd.
"Oh", he said, "I like this Shropshire straw!"
What a good boy!
Oh, that's lovely, having a good old scratch!
Geoff was a farmer without a farm,
but now, thanks to the kindness of locals,
he has space to keep his cattle, in what was an old machine shed.
-How long have they been in here, Geoff?
There's about 33 here.
I've got another 55 on another holding, so my daily routine
means coming up here, bedding up these,
putting out some silage along the front,
going off to do the other ones,
which are a bigger lot, and they're three quarters of an hour away,
so it takes an awful long time each day to go and see them.
So thinking back to your daily routine beforehand, Geoff,
how does it compare now?
When they were all out in my yard, about a couple of hours,
where now it's taking me all day.
The thing that's come out of it
-is the strength in the farming community.
When we moved these cattle out,
about 15 or 20 farmers turned up with tractors and cattle boxes.
I felt quite... You know. It does make me well up
talking about it, really, because they were so good.
Somerset - a wild landscape of timeless beauty.
As wildness goes, it doesn't get much more wild than Exmoor.
Almost 200,000 acres of moorland.
Its vast expanse of rolling hills
and tangled woodlands harbour unique people and secret places.
Like here, this is Ferny Ball.
It might look quite uninviting and fairly remote, but it was
home to a really remarkable woman - Hope Lilian Bourne.
For more than 60 years, she lived on Exmoor -
much of that time alone in the land, catching and killing her food,
drinking from streams,
painting and writing about the wildness she adored.
Home was wherever she could find a dry place to sleep.
Anything from a derelict farmhouse
to a sheltered copse of trees,
but it was right here on this spot
that she spent most of her time,
in this leaky caravan she bought for 25 quid.
The caravan is long gone,
but signs of Hope are still around.
Somerset-born historian John Burgess used to visit here regularly.
I'm hoping he can shed some light on this eccentric woman.
Why do you think she chose to live this kind of lifestyle?
I think she liked the freedom, as she says in one of her writings,
she'd like to be free...
"to walk, to ride, to hunt, to write."
So she liked the freedom, and I suppose this gave her
certainly the freedom, away from
the masses, as it were.
-And the Tarmac road, as she referred to it.
You've got some recordings of her voice.
-We have indeed, on this machine.
-Wonderful, let's have a go.
'I had one saucepan, that cooked everything.
'Since everything was the same every day - meat, potatoes,
'green vegetables, I reduced the washing up to nil.
'I think I achieved every woman's dream!'
'Why waste time with stuff like that
'when you've got a wonderful world to explore?'
You can hear her age, yet she doesn't falter for words,
she's not slowed down.
She was very eloquent, yes. Eloquent in many ways - with her writing...
Her writing is beautiful, she paints pictures with words.
Eloquent with her brush and pencil as well.
'The caravan was perched on the edge of what had been
'the courtyard of the old house.
'There's a little stream at the bottom, along the rise
'of the big hill with its fringe of trees.'
Apart from her eccentricity, there was
a greater understanding of...certainly of Exmoor
and the way of life here on Exmoor, "what made it tick", as she said.
I want to experience some of Hope's countryside for myself.
So, armed with some more recordings, I'm following in her footsteps.
'My legs will get me anywhere and I got to the state when
'I used to boast that I knew Exmoor,
'or most of it, like the palm of my hand.
'My legs would take me into all those places
'where people in cars can't get.'
It was during Hope's endless walks across the moors
that she met the farmers and local people
who came to call her their friend.
'The country was free and open,
'nobody minded where you went.
'Turning up in somebody's farmyard, after a few minutes
'of conversation, I usually get asked in for a cup of tea.'
Not only did Hope use her walks to meet people,
she also used them to record the changing times,
carrying a paint palette and pencil wherever she went.
This is just one of thousands of sketches that she made.
It's of this river here
and she called this her Paradise Valley.
Hope died in 2010,
at the ripe old age of 91.
And to their surprise, she left all of her work to the Exmoor Society,
a charity set up in 1958
to protect Exmoor and its wildness.
I'm meeting the chairman, Rachel Thomas.
My goodness, look at all this material she created!
It's simply amazing, isn't it? This is only a small part of it.
She left the society over 2,000 drawings and over 700 books.
She absolutely adored Exmoor itself, and so she went out
and sketched in all weathers and in all seasons.
You've got this fantastic array of different colours.
She's terribly interested in farmyards and farms.
The ordinary things going on in farms.
So we have these little sketches,
some of which would be done up into pictures.
I love these photos, this one of her holding the rifle is hilarious!
She looks like she means it!
And she did, because she often would shoot things to eat.
So how did she come to be connected to the Exmoor Society?
Hope joined it right from the beginning.
She was what we would call a founder subscriber.
Hope was passionate about Exmoor
and particularly its wild areas.
Obviously, that's one of the reasons why Exmoor was made a National Park
in the first place. So this attention on moorland is really important.
It mattered to her that it stayed wild.
Absolutely, because that was the distinctive feature from the rest
of the countryside, that you had very traditional farming and a way of life
that was probably very different from many other areas of the countryside.
Hope tirelessly campaigned to keep the moors wild,
writing for the local newspaper and publishing a number of books.
And today, the Exmoor Society continues to do the same -
preserving her beloved Exmoor for generations to come.
Since I've been here, I've met and learned about
the inspirational women who've documented
the changing fortunes of this county,
and I've been inspired to do the same.
I've also got the perfect subject... Keep doing what you're doing, Matt!
You want a photo? Hang on! Let me get a nice big forkful of silage...
Ready? Here we go. Big smiles!
One, two, three! Let's have it.
Take a look at this... Aw!
-For the calendar.
-Oh, yes. At least the cows are smiling.
-That's all we've got time for this week.
Next week, I'll be on the North Norfolk coast,
finding out how the wildlife is getting on
following the worst storm surge in 60 years.
And there will be a chance to look back at the most spectacular beaches
that we've featured, so we hope you can join us then.
-Right, this is Frosty.
Let's get a photo of the three of us, ready?
-Do a selfie?
-Yeah. Here we go, Frosty. Ready?
The team head to Somerset, a county which has taken a battering from the winter storms since December, leaving large parts of the Somerset Levels flooded. As a result, communities and animals had to be evacuated. Matt Baker meets some of the resourceful locals who have come together to create a silage food bank, with contributions coming in from farmers from all over the country. Matt also visits a beef farmer to find out how he is coping with the aftermath of the floods.
Ellie Harrison discovers that human resilience and ingenuity are a common feature in the character of its people. She makes herself at home in the glorious Exmoor landscape where a remarkable woman spent 60 years drawing, painting and writing about this wild place. Hope Bourne was to become known as 'the woman of Exmoor'.
Tucked away in the streets of Somerset's Castle Cary is one of only two factories left in the world using horse hair to make textiles. John Craven tries his hand at weaving and discovers it has a proud tradition here.
Turning waste into electricity seems like the perfect way of creating power, and as such the last few years have seen anaerobic digestion units spring up all over the country. But, as Tom Heap finds out, while some claim AD has become too successful, others are worried we're starting to pull the plug before it has really got off the ground.