Matt Baker explores the Dartington estate in south Devon to discover the history of the place and meet the farmers who are turning their goats' milk into ice cream.
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Just a few miles from the tranquil waters of the Dart estuary
in South Devon is a very special place of learning.
A place where agriculture and art, science and education,
forestry and farming come together.
This is the Dartington Estate.
I'll be taking a closer look and getting my hands full.
They're very friendly!
Anita's in a bit of a lather.
Oh, that is so satisfying!
Tom's in Malta, on the trail of our migratory birds.
There is a shotgun wound here.
If it can heal, we'll
probably take the bird. If it cannot,
then we are going to euthanise the bird.
And Adam and Charlotte are here to reveal Countryfile's Farming Hero
We decided that the winner had to be someone who had
overcome a major challenge.
But who will it be?
We're exploring the Dartington Estate
on the banks of the River Dart, near Totnes in South Devon.
Dartington Hall and its estate were bought as a ruin by Leonard Elmhirst
and his wealthy American wife, Dorothy, in 1925.
They embarked upon an experiment in rural regeneration,
creating jobs for the local community.
With science and innovation at its heart,
Dartington led the way in artificial insemination
and large-scale poultry farming.
Education and the arts also played a significant role in
their approach to rural life.
In recent years, though,
Dartington found that it had drifted away from those early
So, the decision was taken to get back to the Elmhirsts' vision.
Parsonage Farm and dairy, seen here in the 1940s, fell into disrepair.
With the Elmhirsts' pioneering vision in mind,
the Dartington Hall Trust recently invited farmers to pitch for the
tenancy. But they weren't just looking for the highest bidder.
Jon Perkins was the successful applicant.
Well, Jon, your pitch obviously involves a bit of dreaming.
A bit of foresight!
Yeah, this place has seen better days, hasn't it?
This is where they used to do the processing of the milk.
So, 35 years ago, this is where it happened.
Are these cheese presses?
These are the old cheese presses they actually used.
I mean, collectors' items now.
Yeah. So, why do you think the trust went for your bid?
The trust was looking for something that was innovative and
It involved education and diversification.
And that's what they were looking for,
and that's what we were looking for. It was a good marrying up of ideas.
'The dairy was originally for cattle.
'But Jon's plan is to produce artisan cheese and ice cream from
The goats were something that I've always wanted to be involved in.
-I lived in Greece for a short time and milked goats out there.
-And I've always had a hankering to get back to it.
The good-looking ones with the droopy ears are the Anglo Nubians.
I want to concentrate on the Anglo Nubians because they have a higher
level of butter fat and protein in their milk,
which makes more cheese and ice cream and so on and so forth.
How's it going, then? How long have you been up and running with it?
We haven't been up and running very long,
we've only been on the farm for about a year, so it's not long.
-OK, oh, right.
-The nannies have only been kidding for about 10 days now.
So, this is really early days for what we're doing.
Aren't you just a delight?!
They are, aren't they? I mean, they're so...
Your heart just melts.
You were talking about the Anglo Nubian ears.
-And, so, where's Dad, then?
-Dad's just round the corner.
He's got his own special pen.
-Would you like to meet him?
Oh, my gosh!
Oh, my word.
Look at him. You are just magnificent.
Gosh. And, so, what's his story, then?
-Where did you find him?
-So we bought him off a...
He has been a show goat, originally.
So he's been in the ring quite a bit.
-I can see why.
-So he's nice and friendly.
-He is manageable. There you go, if you want to feed him?
If he doesn't take it all!
-Did he cost you a fortune?
Surprisingly, not as much as you would think.
We paid £250 for him, which, compared to the value of a nanny,
it would have been 450, £500.
And he's a very important part of the herd.
Yeah, of course.
I mean, he is just a phenomenal animal.
'In keeping with the Dartington ethos,
'Jon will open the farm for educational visits.
'When he does, these mischievous goats are bound to be a hit.'
These were born sort of February, March time.
So they're now sort of growing on and these will be the nannies for
-Well, they're very friendly!
-But this is...
'Visiting the milking parlour is a novel experience for these goats...
'..as the brand-new equipment has only been up and running
'for a matter of days.'
-There we are.
-There we go.
'Jon and his wife, Lynne, milk the goats three times a day.
'Morning, mid-afternoon and evening.'
Do you get much more in the morning than you do midday?
The bulk of it will be in the morning.
But, pretty much, it's really fairly even.
You're being dragged backwards!
Well, goats are notorious for eating pretty much anything.
You've obviously got a very tasty jumper on today, Jon.
I mean, goat's milk is very much sought-after
at the moment, isn't it?
-It is, yeah.
-Just for its kind of health benefits.
It is. Because there's growing lactose intolerance in the country,
more and more people are looking for goat's milk.
There's a very interesting story why nannies are called nannies,
because goat's milk is very similar to human's milk.
Humans can actually process it a lot easier.
Back in the sort of 1870s,
if you had children that didn't have parents or were orphans or something
like that, and they were given to the parish to look after,
they were actually reared on nannies.
As soon as milk comes out of the body of the goat,
it's open to bacteria and bugs and so on.
So the children would actually suckle off the goat.
They came to be called nannies,
-because they were rearing the children.
'But these nannies are producing milk for a different purpose.
'After being pasteurised on the farm,
'artisan ice cream maker Mattei can get to work.
'I'm looking forward to tasting the results later.'
The dawn chorus.
Bursting at this time of year with the sound of birds who've returned
to our shores to breed.
But those that make it this far have already faced a baptism of fire
on the way, as Tom's been finding out in Malta.
Establishing the next generation of our protected birds
has never been more urgent.
And their long journeys across Europe to breed are crucial.
But whereas in most European countries,
hunting is banned during the spring migration season,
Malta is one of the few countries that still allows it.
And there's plenty of evidence of that around here,
and it causes plenty of controversy.
The controversy surrounds birds like the turtledove,
Britain's fastest declining migrant bird.
In Malta every April,
hunters are allowed to shoot it on its migration north.
They're allowed, because of an exemption
to the Europe-wide ban, which is
given on a country-by-country basis.
Although hunting is not the main reason
behind the turtledove's decline,
its fate has focused the debate on Malta.
I'm heading to Gozo, the smaller of Malta's two islands.
Joseph Perici Calascione is the president of
the Federation for Hunting and Conservation in Malta,
which represents more than 12,000 hunters on the islands.
On a day like today, how many
hunters would you expect to be around?
There would be 10,000 all over the island.
The two islands. Right?
It's being out there with your dogs and with your gun, you know?
This is the whole thing.
How important is hunting in Maltese culture?
It's a vital part of our lives.
It's something that you grow up into.
It's part of our folklore.
It's part of being passed on from generation to generation,
and it's something we cherish.
'For the hunters, the spring migration season
'is crucial to this tradition.'
We have no resident game species.
Here, our arid summer conditions
impede most species, most game species,
from staying here.
So, you have to respect the fact that we live in these conditions.
So, to us,
the turtledove and the quail, in spring, are part of our lives.
So, do you still eat them?
Of course. What do you think, the game gets thrown away here?
Everything is eaten. Everything that's caught is eaten. Everything.
'Licensed hunters are allowed to hunt 5,000 turtledoves and
'5,000 quail in the two-week spring hunting season.
'And no more than two birds a day, four birds per hunter in total.
'Numbers that Joseph says do not make an impact
'on the turtledove's overall population.'
You feel persecuted?
Definitely. Had I to believe that the impact of Maltese hunting on the
turtledove or quail in spring is really,
really causing such a negative impact
that we're harming the population of
the birds we are targeting, I mean, I would be the first to hold back.
'But the spring hunting season makes
'other protected birds vulnerable, too.
'Just before our visit, a swift and a marsh harrier were shot down.
'Eurydike Kovacs is a vet on Malta.
'She treats dozens of birds with gunshot wounds every spring season.'
-So, what have we got here?
-So, they are on migration right now.
-And, as you see, there is a shotgun wound here.
If it can heal, we'll probably take the bird.
If it cannot, then we are going to
euthanise the bird because we are not here
to keep the bird in a cage alive for the rest of his life.
A quick X-ray and Eurydike can make her decision.
So, I don't think that anything is broken.
It's mostly swelling.
Now we have to see what happens with this haemorrhage.
But, for now, are you saying there's a chance...?
Probably we are going to wait a little bit and see what happens.
'Turtledoves aren't the only birds to be brought into the surgery.'
I think we see practically everything.
Cuckoos, marsh harriers, honey buzzard...
We have seen eagles,
then we have seen flamingos.
And some of those are illegal to shoot?
Most of them are illegal.
Not some of them, most of these birds are illegal to shoot.
So, what does Malta's official
hunting body think about illegal hunting?
We have a clear rule that anything you see that's illegal has to be
reported immediately to the police.
And we have cancelled memberships in the past just to prove our point.
We do not want people who break our law because they're our worst enemy.
Maltese hunters insist they've adapted
their behaviour to fit in with the
demands of present-day conservation.
But many people, on this island and beyond, believe hunting should be
stopped, especially as the hunters' principal quarry, the turtledove,
is more endangered than ever.
I'll be joining those determined to see a complete end to the hunting of
Dartmoor. One of southern England's last truly wild places.
368 square miles of tors, marshes, remote villages and farms.
This vast national park is home to an impressive variety
of wildlife and plants.
And I'm meeting a local who is making the most of nature's bounty.
"Dartmoor, locally sourced" is her mantra
and what started out as a hobby has
turned into a booming business.
This ancient longhouse is home to Sophie Goodwin-Hughes
and her Dartmoor Soap Company. It's a true cottage industry.
I had a little boy about four years ago and he had eczema.
So, I thought I'd make a soap for him to clear the eczema.
And it worked.
And then I thought, "Well, I might try and make some more soaps
"and use the Dartmoor name, too,"
and see if I could build a business.
-So, what are the secret ingredients? Can you tell me?
It comes from North Bovey which is about half an hour up the road in
Dartmoor. And we also use goat's milk in our goat's milk soap,
which comes from about two minutes that way.
So, as locally sourced as it can be?
Yeah, as it can be.
'It began as one bar of soap for Sebastian.
'But what is it about the finest Dartmoor ingredients that
'have created a demand worldwide?
'Time to find out, starting with beekeeper Peter Hunt.
'He regularly provides Sophie with beeswax.'
So, that's what you've pulled out of the beehive,
and that's the honeycomb. So, in there, it would have had lovely,
drippy honey oozing out of it?
-The good stuff.
-And that's what's left behind?
-So, what is that?
That's just wax.
It's the wax, and it's made by the bees themselves.
So, how does that go from there to what I want to take away with me?
OK, when I've extracted the honey, I will cut that frame out.
-Then I put it in here, which is a honey melter.
Oh, wow! Oh, it's warm and it smells delicious.
'Once melted, Peter's beeswax is filtered,
'drained from the tank and then solidified into a golden nugget.'
I mean, that's a lot of beeswax.
-Is that what I'm taking away with me?
-Some of it, yes.
Time to get a chip off the old block.
The wax is going to get whacked.
I suggest you back off!
Oh! That is so satisfying.
-Do you think I've done it?
-I reckon you have.
I think the sack got it as well. Let's see what we've got in here.
Yeah, I think this one's pretty good.
Wonderful. Thank you for that.
Right, I can tick beeswax off the shopping list.
Now to find me some goats.
Another local ingredient Sophie uses is rich goat's milk,
which she gets from her neighbour Pat Stamford's flock.
-How are you doing?
-Lovely to see you.
Come in and see my goats.
I'd love to.
Oh, Pat, they are so sweet.
They are all right, aren't they?
Yeah, they're lovely. What type of goats are they?
They're Golden Guernsey rare breed.
They're small, they're docile,
they give a good amount of milk for family,
and they have plenty of milk for their babies.
'Luckily, there's enough left over for Sophie's soap.'
Right, let the magic begin.
-How do we make soap?
So, I need you to measure out some sunflower oil, please.
OK. How much?
And then we're going to add our olive oil.
-And our beeswax.
-That you kindly sourced for me.
Yeah. Natural ingredients.
In goes the beeswax.
Right, on it goes.
'Peter's beeswax is melted down with the oils,
'along with two ingredients you won't find on Dartmoor -
'coconut oil and African shea butter.'
So, I just keep stirring it?
soap is a chemical reaction between an acid and an alkali.
So, you are stirring the fats, which is the acid.
And, when they've melted, we'll make the alkali solution,
which is a caustic soda solution.
'Caustic soda may sound off-putting,
'but it's an essential ingredient in all soap.
'Once it's been mixed with these fats,
'it becomes completely harmless.'
OK, so, we need to glove up, goggles on.
-Because chemistry is about to happen.
'Pat's goat's milk is carefully combined with the caustic soda.'
So, we need to pour the goat's milk solution into the oils.
'The mixture begins to thicken, and that, basically, is soap.'
-It's quite a process, isn't it, making soap?
We've been here for five days, you know!
So, now, as you can see...
-Oh, it's thickened up.
So, it's ready.
So, into the mould.
Pour it up and down. Perfect.
That's really good soap, you've done really well, there.
It looks a lovely colour, a lovely consistency.
It's already starting to solidify, isn't it?
This is ready to be cut.
Smells like soap. Feels like soap.
Oh, that's so satisfying.
Oh, yes! It's like fudge.
My first bar of soap. Thank you, Sophie.
And because I'm so generous, you know what?
I'm going to give this away.
Now, after weeks of deliberation and hundreds of nominations,
we can finally reveal the winner of this year's
Countryfile Farming Heroes Award. Here's Adam.
Big names in cookery and food production
have been gathering in Bristol.
Here we are for the Oscars of the food world.
The BBC Food And Farming Awards.
It's time to celebrate everything that's good about the UK's food and
With categories for the best food producer,
best takeaway and the cook of the year.
What I love so much about the Food And Farming Awards
is there are so many producers
that I know personally that have benefited massively from
winning the award. Kind of transforming their businesses
and leading them on to some amazing opportunities.
The smells are fantastic, the people are interesting and it tastes great.
And my highlight, the Countryfile Farming Heroes Award,
nominated by you.
Let's remind ourselves of the finalists.
'The first of our heroes emerged during
'last December's storms in Cumbria.
'The county's young farmers valiantly took their tractors into
'Carlisle city to help flooded householders.'
We'd heard said, "If you want something done, just ask a farmer,"
and that was absolutely right on this occasion.
From my mother, thank you very much.
In Herefordshire, we met Julia Evans,
a beef farmer whose life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed
with cancer. She fought back and set up Longlands Care Farm to help
It's changed me as a person, completely. I owe Julia a lot.
If it weren't for Julia, I wouldn't be here.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I've took it.
She's an amazing woman.
And our third finalist is from the remote community of Kintyre.
John Armour is a busy sheep farmer,
but he always has time to get things done.
From setting up the local radio station
to campaigning for a new ferry crossing.
John is great.
John's just one of these characters that doesn't give up.
He is an asset to the community, I think.
So, those are our three finalists and, shortly,
one of them will be named our winner.
They're inside enjoying all the hospitality,
amongst the other award hopefuls and our celebrity chefs.
So, I'll go in and see how they're getting on.
There's my fellow judge, Charlotte, tottering in her high heels.
-I keep sinking into the grass!
-You look very smart.
-Let's go and meet the finalists, shall we?
-Here they all are.
-Hi, Julia. Lovely to see you.
-So, how're you finding it?
Very exciting to be here. It's all a bit surreal.
Esther's got out of her jodhpurs.
Ryan took the day off to have a bath.
It's great to be here with everybody else,
and meet you and find out more about what you do.
I'm really looking forward to tonight.
Have a really good night.
-Oh, we'll try!
-We've got to go and find the Cumbrian Young Farmers now,
but they're probably at the bar.
See you in a bit.
There they are. All looking very smart.
It's a great honour to be here, so, yes,
-enjoying it so far.
-Are you looking forward to it?
-Very much so, very much so.
-What do you think to it all?
Overwhelming at the moment.
But, yeah, looking very good.
Enjoy the awards, enjoy the food and the party afterwards.
-See you at the bar later.
So, with tension building nicely,
it's the moment they've been waiting for.
Our host for the evening is Radio 4's Food Programme presenter,
-Well, good evening and welcome again to this,
our third year of award celebrations in Bristol.
'The awards are being handed out by some impressive celebrity chefs.'
Please welcome Yotam Ottolenghi.
That's Tony Hall, the director-general of the BBC.
I'd better be on my best behaviour.
Now, to the Countryfile Farming Hero Award.
Adam Henson and Charlotte Smith.
WHOOPING AND APPLAUSE
Well, after much debate and deliberation,
we decided that the winner had to be someone who had overcome a major
-We had an inspirational day with her and her team.
The winner of the Countryfile Farming Hero Award is Julia Evans.
Most people in your situation, recovering from some awful illness,
would have concentrated on the illness.
What was it that actually made you do what you did?
Well, I guess I started feeling better!
So, I thought, I'd better get out there and get on.
What general difference do you see that working
with animals and the land
does to people who have had troubled lives?
It's just that connection, isn't it?
Just that connection with the animals, out on the land,
stuff that needs doing.
So behind the scenes,
all the winners come back and are interviewed for the radio,
for television, to celebrate their success.
It's really lovely that Julia has won.
-How does it feel?
I feel overwhelmed.
Speechless, for once!
What will this mean to the students and people who come to your farm,
-do you think?
-It's huge. It's huge.
I mean, I've just had so much good wishes from everyone.
I just feel it's just so great for the team back at the farm.
Health-wise, dare I ask how you are?
-Are you? You're doing all right?
Yes. Doing very well.
-Getting on with it.
Yeah, I'm all for that. Fantastic.
Some goat meat. Lovely.
Well, looks like the party has started.
It's been a great evening,
and all the finalists should be really proud
of what they've achieved.
And hats off to Julia. She's our 2016 Countryfile Farming Hero.
Now, Tom has been in Malta, investigating the risks posed to
turtledoves on their migration through Europe.
For many, the hunting of the species
needs to be banned to completely halt
its decline. Here's Tom.
The turtledove - once a familiar bird on our farmland,
its call the sound of summer.
But now, its numbers in the UK are plummeting.
As well as habitat loss,
it's hunting across Europe which is hitting the population.
But Malta is the only country where hunting the birds
during their spring migration is still allowed.
It's dawn, and the sound of gunshots already fill the air.
-What are you looking at there?
-So just looking at
a marsh harrier. With the type of gunshot
rhythm, sometimes you can determine
whether it's being shot at.
I'm with Mark Sultana from Birdlife Malta,
that patrol popular hunting spots across the island.
Is it illegal to shoot at this time of year?
The only two birds they can shoot at the moment is the turtledove and
-And how sure are you that they were shooting at that?
I would put my hand on my heart that it was being targeted at the moment,
so... But I can't prove it.
Though illegal hunting has decreased recently,
every morning, the conservationists monitor the shooting of turtledoves.
But just the team's presence here silences the guns.
We monitor the number of shots we hear, the number of hunters,
the number of turtledoves we see.
And of course, if they are being shot, we also account for that.
Then we try to correlate with what is being declared by the hunters.
But it is the hunters that declare what they catch,
and therefore there is a motive or reason to under-declare.
Last year, turtledoves were moved up the international endangered list
and are now classed as vulnerable.
What does that change in status of the turtledove mean, do you think?
I mean, it means that the turtledove needs to be protected,
needs to have all conservation measures in place to make
sure that the human impact on the turtledove is drastically reduced.
But do you really believe what happens here in Malta has an impact
on the populations of these birds, compared to shooting elsewhere,
or habitat loss in Europe,
which surely are much bigger hits for these birds?
Yes, I agree, but there is no way anyone can convince me that killing
a bird in spring, whether it's one, 10,000 or more,
doesn't affect the population.
And it's not just conservationists who oppose it.
Last year saw a referendum on the islands over whether spring hunting
should continue at all.
The result was incredibly close.
Those in favour won by under 1%, a difference of just 2,200 votes.
But in the light of the increased risk to the turtledove across
Europe, is it time that hunting was stopped altogether?
Earlier this year, the European Commission
asked the Maltese government
why they had allowed this year's hunting season,
in light of the increased threat to the turtledove.
is the head of the government's Wild Birds Regulation Unit.
The European Commission has now written to Malta,
in light of the fact that the turtledove
is now on the endangered list,
asking you to justify why you still hunt it in the migration season.
Can you justify it?
Yes, we have taken special measures in Malta
to reduce any potential impact
that hunting in Malta can have on this species.
We have reduced the hunting effort,
we've published legislation to reduce our quota,
to reduce the length of hunting season, to reduce the hunting hours.
And also introduce other restrictions and measures, as well.
But it will have some impact on the species, which is endangered?
Yes, but there are two things that have to be considered in particular.
One is that the species still remains huntable across the EU.
And there are ten EU member states that allow hunting of turtledoves.
But not in the critical spring migration season.
Not in the critical spring migration season,
but there are other major factors
that contribute to the decline of the turtledove in Europe.
Since we filmed, pressure on the Maltese government has stepped up.
Just days ago, the IUCN,
the organisation that monitors species numbers,
called for the European Commission to stop the spring hunting season
immediately. And though the season is now over,
the government in Malta is yet to respond.
Conservationists see the more endangered status of the turtledove
as an argument to totally silence the guns.
The survival of Maltese hunting is on a knife edge.
The Dartington Estate was set up by Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst in the
1920s as a place for innovative farming.
John Channon, the estate's current manager,
recently carried out a review of the way the land is used today.
What was going wrong, then, with the way that you were using the land,
and why did you feel the need to review it?
We felt that the land was being farmed very conventionally.
And was certainly not being used in the way
that Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst had envisaged.
So we are looking for much more sustainable practices,
but also trying to get more people working on the land and earning
a living from it.
What have you come up with?
Well, the field we are standing in at the moment
is planned for an agroforestry experiment.
So that's about 48 acres,
and we'll be planting it with rows of trees,
between which we can still grow arable crops if we want to,
or have grass so the cattle could graze there.
Agroforestry is when trees and crops
are grown together in the same space.
The planting is diverse, but is designed to be easy to maintain.
Although true to the Elmhirsts' ideals,
it's at odds with the mainstream farming method of growing fields of
single crops. However, in France,
7,500 acres a year have been converted to this way of farming.
Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust first planted this
forest garden in a bare two-acre field at Dartington 20 years ago.
-Right, this is it, is it?
I was expecting something a little bit more uniform than this,
to be honest with you, Martin. It looks like an overgrown garden.
Yeah, it can look like that.
But, actually, everything is here for a reason.
Everything has been planted deliberately.
Although it has a semi-wild feel to it.
We've stopped here because this is a patch of a fantastic perennial
vegetable called fiddlehead.
-You going to eat it?
You can have a taste of it raw.
They're actually very nice raw.
-Very, very tasty.
It's worth reminding everybody, actually,
that all of this has been planted for a reason.
I wouldn't advise going into a wood
or a forest and just chewing anything.
You can't eat any old fern.
And all the trees there, now, they're serving a purpose, as well?
Yeah, they are all crops of one kind or another.
Those are Italian alders.
Their crop, if you like, is nitrogen.
To keep everything else growing.
This is periwinkle, isn't it?
-That is right, yeah.
-Right, but we wouldn't be able to eat that?
We can't. There's nothing edible about periwinkle.
But it's here for the bees.
Very good winter flowering bee plant.
Right. Keep the labourers happy.
Keep the labourers happy.
-Right, so we're in the bamboo section, Martin.
I grow bamboos for the canes, of course, for garden uses.
But also for edible bamboo shoots,
which are a perennial vegetable through the spring.
See, if I cut it down the middle...
..like that. And open it up.
-Oh, isn't that lovely?
-It's actually very pretty inside.
And then all this white or pale green flesh is edible.
You must have the most incredible diet.
-It's fairly diverse.
It's at this time of year most farm animals will be out in the fields,
fattening up on rich pastures.
But grazing animals also play an increasingly important role
in conserving some of the country's rarest habitats.
Adam has travelled to Surrey to find out more.
Much of the UK has been grazed by livestock for centuries,
so farming has played a crucial role,
not only in shaping the landscape,
but also our wildlife habitats.
It's no surprise, then,
that, when people decide to restore certain habitats,
they turn to the farmer for help.
Pond Farm is a specially managed plot of land
next to Wisley Common in Surrey.
Here, they not only breed animals for conservation grazing,
they also train them to be calm around people on open land.
James Adler is the Surrey Wildlife Trust's grazing manager.
-Good to see you.
-A lovely herd of belties.
-They're not bad, are they?
-They're looking great.
-So how did the idea of conservation grazing come about?
It was one of the missing links that we had
from our management portfolio, really.
We've obviously got tractors, we've got strimmers,
we've got chainsaws - every other bit of kit.
But what we don't have, what we didn't have in 2007,
was a herd of livestock who could actually go out and manage the land
in the way that we really wanted them to do.
What is it that you are hoping the cattle will achieve for you?
It's about maximising biodiversity, really.
We put the animals out into the landscape and they interact with it
in a different way to the way that a tractor or a strimmer goes through.
So one area, the cow will take one tussock, leave the next,
lightly graze the next one, and then create some bare ground by its
grazing action, and also by its footprints, as well.
And when they do that, we create the maximum biodiversity on this site.
What are the attributes of these traditional British breeds that
suit what you're trying to achieve?
They're incredibly placid.
And very, very hardy as well.
They thrive on this rough pasture.
They're able to put weight on, look after themselves,
and survive outdoors year-round.
In comparison to some of the big Continental breeds, they're
-quite small, as well, aren't they?
Absolutely. And that's great for us in a whole range of different
reasons. They are less intimidating to the public.
But thereafter, we can actually fit more of them in a trailer.
And that's pure economics, really.
Get more in a trailer, you can move them around, use less diesel.
-Takes less time.
-So the cattle are doing a really good job for you.
Do you have any other livestock that you use?
Yeah, we've got some sheep and goats, as well.
-Can we go and see them?
Goats have a reputation for eating anything going.
But actually, given the option, they'll pick and choose.
If you are managing solely for grazing purposes,
this makes them very useful.
It's interesting, James, you've got hay and grass in here,
but these goats are really going for the branches you're feeding them.
Absolutely, yeah, they adore it, don't they?
We use the hay to keep them going through the winter months,
but this is the reason we actually have the animals.
You're holding on to silver birch, there in your left hand.
Got some gorse in the middle, and some Scots pine.
These are the three weed species, for want of a better word,
that we have out on the heathland.
We don't use cattle to control scrub,
we use the goats as that tool for our toolkit.
You wouldn't imagine anything being able to eat this gorse.
It's quite prickly, isn't it?
They've got incredible, dextrous lips
and mouth parts, and good teeth,
as well. They can really work around the spines.
When they get through it, when they actually get past the spikes,
the leaves are incredibly nutritious.
Full of good things for a goat, and they thrive on it.
So how many goats have you got out there working for you?
Only got 53 at the moment.
It's a far smaller operation than the cattle.
It's... It's nowhere near the same scale.
It's incredibly targeted.
We hold them in small paddocks and move them from place to place.
-Can we go and have a look at the sheep?
Let's leave these for the goats. There you go.
Sheep take a lot of flak from ecologists about the damage
they can do to some environments.
But on Surrey's chalk grassland, it's thought their type of
grazing could help plant diversity.
-That's very good, James.
-That went well, didn't it?
-So what have we got here, then?
-We've got Hill Radnor sheep.
Yeah. They are very much a work in progress, as you can see.
They are still quite lively.
They are, yeah, we're training them to the bucket.
We've only had them a couple of months.
They are testing everything that we're working on at the moment.
But, yes, they're a lot of fun.
-We're enjoying them.
-With sheep, James,
they're known for grazing swards really tight.
Do they work for you?
We think they will. Yeah,
we think they'll occupy that middle ground between goats and cattle.
So we're using them for a bit of fine grazing.
So still creating tussocks and areas like that.
It's all about grazing them extensively,
and not grazing them too tight on the ground.
And is there much difficulty between the public and animals?
When it comes to the smaller animals like this, the sheep and the goats,
there can be. There's definitely more of a risk.
They are more vulnerable to a dog attack than the cattle are.
And that's why, for the moment,
cattle are going to form the mainstay of our grazing operation.
Steve Proud manages the day-to-day running of the farm.
Many of the places the cattle are sent to are used by the public.
And although dogs might not be an immediate threat to the cows,
the cattle still need to be well-behaved.
I see you've brought the dog with you today?
Yeah, this is my pet dog, Flynn. My black lab cross springer.
He's got a job to do today.
He'll assess the behaviour and temperament of some of the cattle
we're going to put on some of the conservation sites.
So what are you looking for?
What we want from the animal is a non-excited response,
we want the animal to back away calmly, quietly, kind of thing.
And just look at the dog.
And not behave in a negative way towards it.
But sometimes, dogs will be chased by cattle, won't they?
So this steer here, as we walk towards him,
what happens if he was more aggressive
and went for you or the dog?
We don't often get much levels of aggressiveness.
But if he did, we might put him in a quieter herd.
But in the end, if he wasn't suitable, we'd just send him away
-Well, you're doing all the right things, fella,
so you're here for another day. Lucky you.
The animals Steve farms are carefully graded.
And depending on how they respond to tests like this,
only the calmest animals make it to sites where there is public access.
Today, we're loading several cattle to take them to a special location.
It's not often cattle load that easily.
Particularly when you've got the cameras out,
they usually start misbehaving.
But it's clear that the work the wildlife trust has been doing to
quieten these animals down is really paying off.
And it's important, because they go into a public area where there will
be lots of visitors with dogs and that sort of thing.
Right, let's get these things on the road.
The steers' new home is a site just up the road in Richmond upon Thames.
A few miles from the centre of London,
Petersham Meadows are managed by the National Trust.
They've been using cattle for conservation grazing here
for several years.
Steve's cattle will munch their way across this field all summer.
But it's not just the ecology they are helping to preserve.
Naomi Campbell is part of the National Trust management team
who look after the site.
We've got planes overhead, London buses, Richmond just over there.
What do the locals think about having cattle here?
They absolutely adore it.
They look forward to it every year.
People actually commute across this meadow to work every morning.
And it's just hundreds and hundreds of people coming across this meadow,
stopping to take a snap of the cows.
I think they are perhaps the most Instagram-ed cows on the whole of
the British Isles.
Why is it the National Trust want them on this specific site?
Well, partially, it's about increasing the richness of the sward
here in the meadow. And equally as important,
it's about upholding the spirit of place of this magnificent site.
It's been immortalised in Turner's landscape paintings,
so he painted cows, cattle, on the meadow here.
And that's part of the history that we love to uphold.
Well, that's just wonderful to think of such a lovely,
traditional breed having a great job to do.
Having cattle like these has really shaped the landscape here.
It's made Petersham what it is.
And it's part of the landscape history of Britain.
On the southern slopes of Dartmoor lies Buckfast Abbey.
The monks there have kept sheep for 800 years or more.
And nearby, the town of Buckfastleigh
became Devon's centre of the wool trade.
In medieval times, there were 700 weavers in Buckfastleigh.
It was the one-stop shop for all things wool and sheepskin in Devon.
And guess what? It still is.
In the town is Britain's last remaining large sheepskin tannery.
It handles fleeces from local flocks,
like these Greyface Dartmoors.
That's it! They are fantastic-looking.
This historic rare breed flock is
owned by Paula and her son Lewis Steer.
They're in full fleece at the moment.
Right. They're due for a haircut, then.
Yeah, the next sort of three or four weeks,
we'll probably get the shears out, we'll shear them all.
The Dartmoors don't just provide wool.
The meat we get back is a nice succulent, slow-grown meat.
We have the meat back and then we also have the by-product,
which is the sheepskin.
Which are totally and utterly amazing, they're just so sumptuous.
As well as the Greyface Dartmoors,
Paula and Lewis keep other rare breeds
for their spectacular fleeces, too.
We have here the Greyface Dartmoor.
This is the Whiteface Dartmoor and then, here,
we have the Devon and Cornwall Longwool.
So tactile and soft.
So there's obviously a marked difference -
very tight little curls,
whereas this is a lot shaggier...
And the Devon and Cornwall, again,
it is normally more of a lustrous coat,
lustrous finish to those, as well.
More like a clotted cream curl, we like to say!
That would make a great wig!
It takes time and skill to turn a muddy,
knotted sheepskin into a lovely soft fleece.
So let's see where the magic happens.
This is the Devonia sheepskin tannery, run by Geoff Woods.
So tell me what the process is.
I mean, actually, this is one of the cleaner sheepskins we'll get,
but we will put it through a series of processes, it will clean it up,
we'll obviously convert the raw skin into leather,
we'll tan it and hopefully it will
end up as a very attractive sheepskin
-rug at the end of the day.
-And one that I'll be leaving with?
Unfortunately not - it'll take at least three to four weeks
to go right through the process.
Why does it take so long, Geoff?
Obviously, a fleece, or a sheepskin
as we would call it, has two parts to it -
it has the wool and it has the skin itself,
so we have to treat the two different parts separately
and that's why it
obviously is a complicated and quite long process.
Right, we're going to put the sheepskin into the first stage of
the process, which is washing,
so we need to put these aprons and gloves on, so we don't get wet.
So the sheepskin will go in here
and, with warm water and a liquid soap,
we'll hopefully get all the dirt and salt out of the sheepskin.
Oh, it is warm, isn't it?
-It's a nice, big lovely bath for the sheepskin to go in.
Well, you know what? It could do with a wash,
because it absolutely reeks!
-Yes, it does.
-In she goes.
Once the wool's washed,
the skin of the fleece needs treating just like any other hide.
This is looking at the leather.
We're turning it from its raw state, so the raw sheepskin,
and we're turning it into leather.
Let's see how that happens. What do you put into the river water?
We add some salt. That's the first stage of the process.
A sort of pickling process?
Yeah, pretty much, just like a pickled egg.
'The skins take five days to cure in this chemical and salt bath.
'Cleverly, it doesn't damage the wool.'
It really does feel as though we've stepped back in time,
there's something really satisfying about doing something that feels
really ancient. There's nothing modern, newfangled,
this is how it's been done for 200 years.
Last stop on the ground floor is this massive dryer,
handling dozens of fleeces at a time.
And in it goes.
The top floors of the factory are where the washed,
tanned and dried sheepskins receive their final TLC.
This machine is called an ironing machine, but it acts like a comb.
It's a hair straightener.
That's what it's doing!
That is so soft and lovely - look at the difference!
So here it is matted and a bit knotted and that is soft and smooth.
Right, I think my work here is done!
How wonderful to experience this age-old process,
still being done in a way it's always been done
and I suppose this is where I should give you
a thoughtful conclusion about sheepskins.
Actually, all I want to do is...
It's so soft and lovely!
Now of interest to shepherds, their flocks and the rest of us,
here's the Countryfile five-day weather forecast.
We have been exploring South Devon and the Dartington Estate.
Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst
established a school here in the 1920s.
Thanks to a great emphasis upon the arts,
it became a magnet for creative people.
Even the staff accommodation was
at the cutting edge of modernist architecture.
What was it like here, back then?
What was the vibe like?
I imagine it was quite mad.
I think you can imagine, in the early 1930s,
amazing buildings being built in Devon,
amazing artists and writers and thinkers and craftspeople all coming
together to contribute to this experiment.
It must have been an amazing place.
Yeah. There's a perfect example here -
this was the headmaster's residence.
Yeah. This house was designed for the head teacher of the school,
William Curry, by one of the leading modernist architects in America,
called William Lescaze.
Right, so this is a very special property.
This is a very important modernist building in Britain.
And having a landscape around like this offers that connection and that
practicality, as opposed to it being very metropolitan.
Yeah. When the experiment came forward,
farming was in massive decline,
so, for them, the ideas of bringing together land and farming and new
science and technology and farming with education, with arts,
with enterprise, was part of that concept.
They really did want to create
a sustainable future for the countryside.
How confident are you that there is still a place, here in Britain, for
this kind of idealism?
We think now is the right time to reconnect with that whole ethos of
experimentation. The Elmhirsts set up this place as a centre in the
countryside where a many-sided life could be expressed and, for us,
we think the idea of wholeness,
where arts, social justice, the land,
learning, enterprise, all comes together
is a really remarkable thing.
The Elmhirsts were great enthusiasts for learning by doing.
Although the school has now closed,
the estate still hosts a summer music school
and various crafts are taught here.
You're aiming for something that size, so...
Quite a long way to go!
Out amongst the Californian redwoods planted by Leonard himself,
furniture maker Ambrose Vevers is teaching students how to craft
a traditional stool.
Do you know, this is obviously such a tactile process,
you're working so closely with the wood,
but when you know where it's come from,
you can literally see the spot it's come out of,
and you're sort of fashioning it
into something you're going to be able to
use in your life, it's quite an experience.
Yes, and ash is such a nice wood to work with.
And what would you say, Ambrose,
you get out of teaching people to reconnect?
It's just the expression on their face
when they finally finish the stool
and they can't believe that they've made this stool from a tree.
People get really emotional about it, actually.
'It's certainly hot work.
'Just as well, then, that goat's milk from the farm has been turned
'into something cool and refreshing. And, right on cue, here is Anita.'
Hello! Here we are, look at this.
This is goat's milk ice cream.
-Mm! What flavour is that?
-That one, I think, is...
..Mexican caramel ripple.
Do you know...
-I grew up on goat's milk
and I have never tried this and I am pleasantly surprised.
-It's absolutely delicious.
-It's so creamy, full of flavour.
-That's really good.
One of the best ice creams I've ever tried, actually.
I've got something goaty for you, too.
Have you got more goat gifts?!
That is a natural goat's milk soap, great for your complexion, Matt,
-not that you need it.
-I have had quite an encounter with a billy goat
today, so this may well come in handy!
-I was wondering what the smell was!
Next week, we'll be travelling the length and breadth of Britain
to bring you a celebration of spring.
Right, my dear, you are number 395.
We'll keep an eye out for you in the future.
I'm in Cornwall,
where the warmer waters of spring
herald the start of shellfish season.
-Is there one in there?
Spring is such a lovely time of year and there's new life
everywhere on the farm.
Hope you'll join us then. Bye!
They told me, today, a story that I actually couldn't believe.
-About why nannies are called nannies.
Matt Baker explores the Dartington estate in south Devon to discover the innovative history of the place, meet the farmers who are turning their goats' milk into ice cream and find out about the vertical farming taking root in the grounds. Anita Rani sees how to make the softest of sheepskin and meets the woman who has turned her cottage industry into a thriving business selling natural, handmade soap, and Adam Henson looks at the livestock being bred specifically for conservation.
The programme also visits the Food and Farming Awards to reveal this year's Countryfile Farming Hero.
Plus there is a look at European turtle doves - they are in decline, but in one country it is legal to hunt them as they migrate back to their European breeding grounds. Tom Heap travels to Malta to investigate a tradition causing controversy across the continent.