The Countryfile team visit the Merseyside coast around Southport. Matt Baker looks at the history of shrimping in the area, and Ellie Harrison visits a family potato farm.
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The glorious coastline of Southport on Merseyside has it all...
Golden beaches, rolling sand dunes and fertile farmland.
For generations, people round here
have harvested nature's bounty on the land
and as I'll experience, at sea.
I'm going to be using Puzzle here to take an old cart
out of a museum and into the surf for one last time and it's
all in search of the culinary delicacy, Southport shrimps.
Are you looking forward to this?
It's going to be great! "Yes", he says!
Ellie's just across the border,
This is potato country
and I'll be helping to get the ground ready for this year's crop,
but these aren't heading for our plates,
they're destined to become crisps with a unique local flavouring.
Tom is doing a spot of birdwatching.
In the last 50 years, farmland birds from the skylark to the
turtledove have been disappearing.
So, why are they dying out and what can we do to bring them back?
I'll be investigating.
And spring is definitely in the air for Adam.
We help manage our neighbours lovely heard of Hereford cattle here
and after a long winter of being in the sheds,
today is a great day
cos they're going to go out onto the spring grass.
The coastline of Southport,
in England's unspoiled north-west,
where stunning beaches stretch for miles.
Fringed to the north by the Ribble Estuary
and south by the Mersey, and the city of Liverpool.
Here, the westerly wind whips across the Irish Sea,
building mighty sand dunes grain by grain.
Well, today I'm not exploring the vast dune system.
I'm hoping to find a local delicacy that is hiding in the sand -
Southport shrimp. I'm taking a tractor to go fishing.
-This is Christian. Good to see you!
-Hello, Matt - how are you?
-Really well. I'm quite excited about this!
-Are you, really?
Give us an idea, why is this area so good for the shrimps?
Well, as you can see, we've got loads of golden sand that
runs from the Pinfold Channel up near the River Ribble
all the way down to Formby and up to the River Mersey and the shrimps
wash out of the rivers and they finish up here,
-along Southport beach.
To catch a shrimp, Christian has adapted an old
Leyland 272 tractor into the ultimate shrimping machine.
Up we go.
We're just going to...
empty the contents into there...
-Oh, yes, a few in there!
-Nice little... We call them slips.
That's a little Dover sole.
My wife is from Thailand,
she deep-fries those and they taste absolutely delicious.
That's my wife sorted for the morning.
These are the bad boys, what we're trying to catch.
Beautiful Southport brown shrimps.
-What we'll do now is sieve out the Dover sole and crabs...
And we'll see how many shrimps we finish up with.
Hopefully we'll get enough for a sandwich!
This is called a taut riddle -
we still do things the prehistoric way here. This is the old way.
Everything is done by hand.
If you just want to tip half the contents into there...
That's weird stuff, that, isn't it?
-Those are whelk eggs.
So we just gently shake side to side...
The little shrimps will drop through the bottom into the basket.
We've got a few - they're the ones were after - really nice big shrimps.
Some big ones there, as well.
I think we've just about got them now, Matt, so...
-One more little wiggle.
-One more little wiggle.
-A couple of big ones there...
-Look at that one!
You're a good fisherman, you've got better eyesight than me!
Sling them over the side, Matt.
-Is this the good bit of the day for you?
-This is the best bit, yes.
The fun starts when we get home,
cos they've all got to be hand-peeled.
That's not a bad little harvest for ten minutes or so.
Like I say, we've got enough for a butty, that'll do us, won't it?
Shrimping still remains something of a cottage industry.
Christian and his wife hand-shell and cook the shrimps
in the same way that would have been done here decades ago.
Little has changed, but in shrimping's glory days,
horse-drawn carts would be used
instead of tractors to pull the nets.
Gerald Rimmer was one of the last on this coast to use
a horse-drawn cart, more than 40 years ago.
In your opinion,
how do these relatively modern jobs compared to the old horsepower?
-Well, I made more money with a horse.
-Didn't break down.
The horse what I had
was nearly 18 hands tall, you're talking up here,
and it would wade that deep.
You could go where you couldn't go with a tractor.
How dangerous is it out there?
Well, I've had the horse winched out on one occasion,
by one of the amphibious ducks.
If I got in difficulties, I was in deep water,
I would jump on the horse's back,
cut the hames and I'd come out on his back.
A bit hair-raising, but I was only a young fellow then.
How many times would that happen?
Oh, I've only done it about twice.
And so how old were you when you started?
-I started when I got demobbed at 21.
I'm now 85, now.
-I just do it a bit as a hobby now.
-Why can you not let this go?
My father did it,
my grandfather and great-grandfather.
And I do like a bit of pocket money!
Over the last few years,
there's been a worrying decline in the number of birds out
here on the coast, but it's not just places like this.
Further inland, some of our favourite farmland birds have
been suffering, too, as Tom has been finding out.
The British Isles are home to a rich variety of wildlife
and one of their most important habitats is the farm.
This year, the people who tend our agricultural land have been
asked to find out exactly what's there.
In the first week of February,
the Big Farmland Bird Count asked farmers across the country
simply to record the number of birds on their land.
Andrew Pitt counted the birds on his arable farm in Northamptonshire.
-Hi, Tom. Welcome to the Grange.
-I gather this is called broadcasting?
-It is indeed.
-Teach me a thing or two about how to do it.
-Grab a handful,
just swing your hand forward and flick with your wrist as you go.
What kind of things have you been seeing out here this morning?
Linnets, yellow hammers, skylark singing in the background,
we've got finches of various sorts -
greenfinches, chaffinches, goldfinches...
So tell me about this Farmland Bird Count you got involved in.
I picked a morning when it actually wasn't raining for a change
and just walked down the track and put the seed on the ground
much as we're doing now and then stopped to look what was there.
In the course of the half an hour it took,
-I counted about 1,300 different birds.
-Yes, we've been feeding through the winter...
-Why did you get involved?
Because it's really important that we show to the public how much good
farmers are doing to the environment,
how we're trying to improve it and raise the bird numbers again.
We've been told for years that farmers are rubbish at looking after
land, it's time to stand up and say actually, we're doing a lot for it.
'The Big Farmland Bird Count
'was organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust,
'partly to draw attention
'to the good work done by farmers like Andrew.
'Dr Alastair Leake is the trust's director of policy.'
So what is this?
Well, this is one of our farm birdfeeders.
This, obviously - as you can see - is an exceptional one, because
this is the Guinness Book Of Records'
biggest bird feeder in the world!
Are you expecting pterodactyls to perch on here or something?
'Here on the trust's farm in Leicestershire, I'm getting
'an exclusive insight into the survey results.'
Tell me - you decided to organise this big bird count, why February?
Seems a bit of a hostile month.
That's part of the reason for doing it, actually.
We can find birds feeding on areas of good habitat where there is
seed and secondly, it's a time of year
when farmers are not particularly busy on the land
and so have got time to go out and do something like this.
-And what results did you get?
-Well, they've been staggering.
We had 160 different species spotted and some of the species,
particularly song thrushes and starlings,
are known to be on the red list and suffering serious decline.
There are a lot of farmers out there who are very
passionate about their farmland birds, want to know what they've got
there and indeed want to know what more they can do to encourage them.
But while the number of birds spotted is certainly
encouraging, after just a single year, this count can't tell us
whether we're seeing more or fewer farmland birds.
The long-running surveys that DO make unhappy reading.
The British Trust for Ornithology has been documenting bird numbers
What's happened to farmland bird numbers in the last 50 years?
A large, long-term decline started in the 1970s,
continued through the '80s and '90s.
These days, average numbers are much more in the... Much more stable.
But some species are still going down,
and generally the pattern across the whole community is still that
they're going down and certainly they haven't recovered.
-Has it been the same across all species?
-Not at all.
There are species like wood pigeons have done very well over time,
probably because they like the sorts of management you get
in intensive farming, such as lots of wheat in the winter.
What's been hardest hit?
The species that have done worst are the ones that depend on crop
habitats, on the actual centres of the fields
and the places where the crops are grown.
it's things like skylarks which would have declined 60, 70, 80%
and things like corn buntings, tree sparrows
have declined by even more than that.
Then there are species such as turtledoves which may well
be on the verge of extinction in the UK.
So, it's a mixed picture - bleak for some and better for others.
But certainly, overall, the decline hasn't reversed.
Modern agriculture must carry some of the guilt for the declining
but as Andrew's proved, you can combine birdsong and bumper crops.
So what is the recipe for this kind of level of birds
across the country?
That's what I'll be investigating later.
Just across the border from where Matt is in Merseyside,
is Lancashire - a county of contradictions.
It's home to great manufacturing towns,
but it's mainly a rural county where the rugged, yet beautiful
landscape rolls into the Irish Sea.
And it was in that very sea, back in the 17th century that a ship
carrying a cargo of these - potatoes -
from Ireland, was wrecked.
That's according to this bestseller,
The History And Social Influence Of The Potato.
According to this book, the items that were wrecked included potatoes
and that meant this became the first potato-growing region of Lancashire.
Whether it's true or not, Lancashire, with its rich, peaty
and fertile soils, has long been associated with this versatile veg.
On this family-owned farm on the outskirts of Ormskirk,
they've been growing spuds ever
since farmer Robert Fiddler planted his first seed potato
back in the 1950s.
'Keeping the family tradition going are his grandsons,
'Robert Jr and John.'
So you and your family have been in the potato business for a while,
-Three generations, yeah.
I can always remember
me and my grandad harvesting spuds.
I was about ten years old.
I was always in all sorts of trouble with my grandad,
throwing rotten spuds at him!
So what's happening out the back, there?
-We're going to plant Rosetta.
-What are the Rosettas good for?
-They turn into crisps?
Is there a particular way you need to grow them to make them
good for crisps?
We plant them a little bit closer together so they don't get too big.
Tennis ball size is perfect. Right.
-Gorgeous soil, isn't it?
-It's beautiful soil, yes.
Lovely and light.
Once the whole field is ploughed,
Robert then has to plant his seed potatoes. But not quite yet.
It's just a little bit too early to put in the ground at the minute.
We like the ground conditions to warm up
so we can put them in a nice warm, fluffy seedbed.
-When will that be, then?
-Another two or three weeks.
Once they're in, how long until they're fully grown and harvested?
-About four months.
-Once they're harvested, where do they go?
All the way to the crisping factory.
-500 yards that way.
-The crisping factory is right here?
Fantastic! Shall we go and take a look?
Like many farmers, the Fiddlers were looking for ways to diversify
and grow their business
and what better way than making crisps right here in their backyard?
Thank you very much for showing me the field.
Good stuff, we'll see you later! Shall we take a look inside?
Roger's brother John is giving me
a flavour of what it takes to make a crisp.
Today, he's making them from Lady Claire potatoes.
So this must be the most important bit,
-then - the cooking?
-Yes, very important.
This is the part where the potato slices are transformed into crisps.
But the most important thing of all is the potatoes.
-The sugar content, the dry matter...
-Why do they matter?
What's that about?
They want a very low sugar content potato
because it's the sugar in potatoes that would make the crisps go brown
and you don't want much moisture in the potatoes
because it takes much longer for them to cook.
This can't be good for a lady's complexion,
standing over a big fryer like this!
It does you good, this job - keeps you fit!
So what was it that got you into making crisps in the first place?
Because marketing potatoes was getting more difficult over
the years and as small farmers we found it harder work to make
money out of the acreage we grew. So we wanted to try and add value.
It was my grandfather about 30-odd years ago that
thought about making crisps.
I suppose it was him that gave us the idea to do so.
Where do you begin?
-Did you even know what you had to do?
-Not a clue, really.
It was very difficult - there was a lot more to making crisps
than I originally thought.
I first started in my house, in the porch, trying different
varieties of potatoes, turning them into crisps.
-They was dreadful to begin with!
Then I started looking at different varieties of potatoes
and started doing my research.
And then yes, I started to make a decent crisp.
And you keep it in the family?
Yes, it's my sister Alison and my father Robert.
And I've even named my two daughters after potatoes,
-Charlotte and Annabel!
-Not Maris Piper?
Now the exciting bit - the flavouring.
-Try one, see what you think.
-Straight off here? There we go.
-That's really unusual!
-That is Lancashire sauce flavour.
-That's a new one on me - how did you come by it?
Me and my wife went out to a pub for a meal
and Lancashire sauce was on every table.
I tried a teaspoonful of it
and thought, "This would work really well on a crisp".
So here we go, Lancashire potatoes turned into Lancashire crisps
with Lancashire sauce flavour on them, cooked by a girl from...
-Yeah! Let's hope I haven't ruined the flavour!
-You deserve one of those.
-Thank you very much.
Here we go. Unique Lancashire flavour, right here.
The vast open sands of the Sefton coastline have been inspiring
artists for centuries.
Their ambition is to capture the essence of a place,
whether on canvas, film or in sculpture.
Keen photographer Shauna Lowry has presented programmes at home
and abroad, but in her heart, it's the British countryside she loves.
So we asked her to grab her camera
and see what she could make of Merseyside.
I've been lucky enough to visit some amazing landscapes whilst filming
and when I get a few spare moments, I like to capture the local flora
and fauna using my trusty camera.
These are a couple of my favourites from the last few years -
a baby buck in County Tipperary, Ireland
and a coyote in Yellowstone National Park in the USA.
Today, I'm taking inspiration from Sefton's marshland reserves
and sandy beaches.
But I'm not the only one enjoying the scenery.
Meandering along the coastal path is a group of artists. Inspired
by this landscape, they're capturing its spirit in different disciplines.
Led by Mike Collier, his brother, photographer Tim Collier,
together with signed artist Rob Strachan
and natural historian Dave Hardaker, they're preparing for an exhibition
that showcases artwork made whilst undertaking journeys on foot.
So, Mike, how would you describe art walking?
When you walk through a landscape,
you're engaging with all different aspects of your body,
it's not just about thinking, but feeling, touching,
so you get the wind, you engage all your different senses.
What I'm really interested in is getting people to engage
emotionally with the landscape and hopefully in doing that,
they'll care more about it and will be able to help conservation.
What is it about the Sefton coastline that you find so inspiring?
It's a unique landscape. It's also a fantastic atmosphere.
When you look around, it's kind of bleak,
it's open, it's wild,
the sounds here are fantastic as well.
This is my home patch, I grew up here.
I used to come out here with my brothers.
This is where I really got my interest in natural history.
Mike uses colourful pastels to make his bold and graphic art work.
This one describing the sounds of the birds.
But his younger brother Tim uses the medium of wildlife photography...
to capture the essence of this stunning coast.
CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKS
And he's promised to give me a few tips at the local marshside reserve.
There's actually some nice teal down here, really quite close,
-which we should get some good stuff from.
First of all, make the composition
as if you were just doing a landscape.
Maybe move so you're getting the actual teal more to the left
of the image and then you play with this a lot,
so you're actually framing it as a landscape image.
That way, you're saying something about where you are,
what the context of the bird exists within.
Is not about photographing rare birds,
-it's about photographing birds.
Down at your local pond or park, they're there.
It's a patience thing, just waiting.
-It does take a while sometimes, doesn't it?
-But then you have to love the waiting.
'This is an exhilarating landscape,
'aching to be captured in one art form or another.
'Twice a day, the sea at Crosby Beach
'reveals a remarkable man-made artwork.
'As the tides ebb and flow, a small army of iron men appear
'and are then submerged by the sea.'
This is the work of world-famous sculptor Sir Antony Gormley.
100 cast iron statues strung apparently randomly along this
Same size, same stance,
silently staring out to the horizon.
This internationally renowned art work, Another Place,
wasn't always meant to be a permanent fixture here,
but since taking up residence in 2005, Antony Gormley believes
this landscape has given his work new meaning and poignancy.
In coming to Crosby, I think it gained in potency.
I was delighted to find a beach that had this rugged sense of...
..I guess an industrial, but elemental world.
The point of the work is really as a form of acupuncture to allow
what is there the dialogue -
the sky, the sea, the waves,
the people, the boats - everything
that is there is catalysed by these iron body forms.
Since they were installed nearly ten years ago,
the natural world has been slowly reclaiming them.
Dr Leonie Robinson from the University of Liverpool isn't
just here to appreciate the sculptures,
but to study how this artwork has
provided an unlikely new home for a special crustacean -
the Austrominius modestus - that's a barnacle to you and me.
Coming up behind this glorious Gormley bottom,
-it's pretty encrusted, isn't it?!
-It certainly is!
It's a work of art in itself.
So tell me, what is so special about these barnacles?
Well, this is actually a non-native species of barnacle that
originated from Australasia, so they've come a long way to be here.
How do they get here, then?
They've travelled in the ballast water of ships.
This beach here is a completely unsuitable habitat to them normally.
If these weren't here, they just wouldn't live on this beach,
it's given them basically another place, a new home to live.
How do they work?
Barnacles are basically a crustacean,
so they're like a shrimp, if you can imagine, on its back,
stuck to the surface by their head and then their legs are kicked
up above them
and modified into what you see as a fishing net, really.
So when the water comes in, they'll open up and stick their legs out
and basically fish for food in the water.
What was a statue of a man is now like a monster from the deep, really.
Do you think the encrustation has added to the artwork?
Well, maybe I'm biased, but definitely, yes.
From afar, you just see the men, and that's a beautiful
sight in itself and then you get up close and think actually,
these are living, and I think that adds a really exciting angle to it.
When it comes to taking photos, exploring the natural world
along the Sefton Coastal Path has certainly inspired me.
My favourite shot of the day? Well, you can't beat a good sunset.
CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKS
Now, earlier we heard about the dramatic decline in farmland birds.
But what's causing their loss and what can we do to bring them back?
A century ago, Vaughan Williams wrote this much-loved
tribute to the skylark, The Lark Ascending.
100 years on and skylark numbers
have plummeted. Though I can...
just hear their song today, that is
becoming much, much less familiar
and they are far from the only feathered cultural icon
that's in trouble. To honour the 12 Days Of Christmas in
the 21st-century, my true love would struggle to find me two turtledoves.
They're one of the hardest hit species of farmland birds,
along with corn buntings and tree sparrows.
So what exactly is causing their demise?
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, who conducted the Big
Farmland Bird Count, has a farm in Leicestershire where they
researched the impact of farming on wildlife and the environment.
I guess you can't blame the bad weather for bird decline -
that's been the same over the last few...many, many decades.
-So what has changed?
-Well, it's not just the weather, is it?
We've changed the way that we farm and that's made a big difference.
Our wheat yields have quadrupled in the last 40 years
and that means that the space for birds have been really tightened
and they've been squeezed out.
So productivity has gone up, but explain to me
a few of the changes in farming that have actually harmed the birds.
Traditionally, we would have planted many of our crops in springtime,
which meant the stubbles of the previous year's crops were left
and the weed seeds and spilt grain was left on the surface
and that provided food for the birds during the winter time.
Now, our land is cultivated and those seeds have either germinated
or been buried and that means that it's a much more hostile environment.
As well as the grains, have other foods been lost?
Yes, we know now that insects are incredibly
important for farmland birds,
particularly at the chick stage,
the first two weeks of their lives.
So some of the insecticides, for instance, if you're
killing off the insects, you're not helping the birds larder?
That's certainly not going to help.
For more than a decade now, farmers have been offered
subsidies for environmentally friendly measures like restoring
hedgerows and setting aside land specifically for wildlife.
But even with almost ¾ of farmers signed up,
the expected recovery of farmland birds hasn't happened.
Well, that's about as murky as the weather here on the RSPB's
farm near Cambridge.
Ian Dillon is the farm manager.
So what are we coming up on here, Ian?
So this is one of the skylark plots that we have on the farm.
This is specifically in this field to help
skylarks during the breeding season.
The skylarks are able to nest more successfully, but more importantly,
the plots provide a great place for the birds to actually feed.
Around 70% of farmers are in these schemes that are supposed to
help wildlife, so why is it not working?
The current schemes, there is
a wide range of options that a farmer can choose.
Some of those are very, very helpful to wildlife,
and some of those are less helpful to wildlife.
the majority of farmers have chosen the options which are less helpful
to wildlife but which are easier for them to do and are more convenient.
Let's use this as an example.
You've rolled this out and made it clear to farmers years ago -
what's the uptake been like?
The skylark plots are incredibly successful for skylark
and yellow wagtails, but uptake has been incredibly poor.
Only 2% of farmers in England have taken up skylark plots
and my colleagues reckon that we need at least 20% of farmers
to be doing this.
I have to stop you there, there's a deafening skylark up above us!
He's liking what you're saying!
SKYLARK SINGS LOUDLY
The National Farmers Union insist farmers choose environmental
schemes that best suit an increase in the biodiversity on their farms.
However, the fact remains that despite their efforts,
the overall number of farmland birds is still falling,
although that fall has slowed significantly in recent years.
But there are some in the farming community whose solution to
this problem is rather more - how shall I put it? - lethal.
And their arguments really do throw the cat among the pigeons.
The Countryside Restoration Trust thinks that in addition to
increasing habitat and food supplies for birds,
there needs to be greater control of their predators.
Come on! Come on!
Robin Page is the trust's chairman.
-So is that the first time they've been out this year?
Look! They gave us a covering, look!
To help bring back our farmland birds, what other animals do
you think we need to tackle, in effect, kill more of?
Magpies, jays, foxes, badgers,
crows have risen 100%
Buzzards have increased over recent years by 500% and they say
they make no impact. What planet have they come from?
With the kind of control that you want to see,
you need a change in the law.
Yes, because it's illegal to disturb nesting birds of prey
and I think that is one of the keys.
You don't have to kill the bird of prey, you just move it on.
It is species management, it is habitat management and then
you can get a balance and a wide range of wildlife back on our farms.
You know, there is a huge myth that you can get a natural balance.
You can't get a natural balance
because the whole of the landscape is unnatural, it's man-made
and so we must intervene to get back
and protect the vulnerable species that we want.
Aside from the heated row over much more aggressive predator control,
there is much agreement on how to increase farmland birds.
Principally, more room to live and more food to eat.
European farm subsidies paid for out of our pockets are helping
British farmers to do that, but with less money to
go around in the future, will we make the investment needed
to stop the decline of our precious farmland birds once and for all?
Today, I'm in Southport on Merseyside.
Twice a day, the receding tides transform this landscape.
Vast expanses of sandy beaches are revealed.
And with them,
come the opportunity to catch the area's famous brown shrimp.
Now harvested by adapted tractors and amphibious vehicles, it's more
than 40 years since a horse-drawn cart last took to the coastline.
The only traditional shrimping cart left in Southport is on show at
the local Atkinson Museum.
But later on, I'll be taking this museum piece off display and
out into the sea, would you believe, for one last shrimping trip.
Mind you, judging by the look of these wheels, we've got
quite a bit of restoration work to do first!
This 18th-century cart is being given a new lease of life
thanks to a local lad and master wheelwright, Phill Gregson.
-Phill, how're you doing?
-You OK? Nice to see you.
I understand that you are the man to be breathing new life into this
cart, because it's been in the family quite a while, this trade?
Yes, fourth generation. It goes back to my great-grandfather.
It was my grandfather as well,
and my mother and father were both wheelwrights.
-So it's definitely in the blood!
-Where does it all start then, Phill?
You always start from the centre, so you work your way out.
-You turn a nave...
-Is that what this is?
-Yes, this is the nave.
That's quite an old-fashioned style.
They're called a different name in every county. Naves, naffs, hubs,
knots, knurls, burrs... Absolutely all sorts of names up and down.
-These are called the fellies...
-OK. That's amazing.
There's obviously different types of wood in this wheel.
Yes, you've got elm for the naves, oak for the spokes
-and ash for the fellies.
-And why the difference in wood?
The elm is very strong under compression, it doesn't split,
it's got very interlocking grain structure,
so when you drive the spokes in - they're driven in with
a sledgehammer - they don't split the nave apart.
The oak is very strong under compression again,
it doesn't distort or twist
when it's got the weight of the load and the tyre on it.
And the ash is very springy, so it absorbs shock on the road.
-That's your suspension?
Everything is made tight,
"there's no room for glue" is the old wheelwright's saying.
So there's no nails or anything?
No nails, no screws, no glue.
It's all done by the compression of the tyre.
So are you going to show me how this tyre thing works?
Yes, let's get on and get these tyres on before brew time!
-Everything works around brew time!
-It does round here!
Before the hoop or tyre is put onto the wheel, it needs to be heated.
-So we've got the two hoops for the shrimping cart.
We're heating them up so they get cherry red so they expand.
I guess what's lovely is in today's day and age, everybody's
looking at temperature gauges to make sure everything's just right...
-If it looks right, we're ready to go.
-The metal itself, is this iron?
-It's steel, nowadays.
Traditionally, going back into the 1800s, it would have been iron.
-I bet you always have jacket potatoes, do you, for lunch?
With the steel tyre heated to "cherry red",
it's time to fit it onto the wooden wheel.
Keeping it in the family, Phill's fiancee Emily is on hand to help.
-So about here then, for me?
-Is that high enough on my tongs?
-Hang on, two secs.
And yes, good.
Right, tongs out.
Oh, like a glove, this. You want water? Here we go, water, water.
-Am I just going round?
Oh, look at that, it's lovely!
If you're ready, without touching the tyre...
Get hold of the opposite spokes from me... That's it.
And put it on the floor. Watch the metalwork, because it's still hot.
Now wheel it over to the tank.
-Just there, that's it.
-Into the tank?
-Into the tank, lift it in.
-All the way in?
-Yes, lift it straight in.
-And then just keep turning it in the tank until it's cool.
And so, because that is contracting at such a rate,
it then tightens up all the joinery work.
Compresses everything down to the centre.
That's where the strength of the wheel comes from.
What a beautiful creation that is.
Yes, they look fantastic when they're freshly hooped.
I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed that.
You can come again - you're getting the hang of this!
We know who to call up the next time we're short of people! Well done.
Now it's off to the museum to get the shrimping cart
back on the beach.
-Is it a long walk?
-Couple of miles.
Soon be there!
This is the next traditional technique -
-rolling your cartwheel down the country roads!
-It does me good.
Ooh! Hang on, I've gone a bit wonky!
-After a long winter,
the countryside is finally coming alive with the sounds of new life.
For farmers, the seasons bring varied challenges - as Adam knows
only too well.
The bit of warm weather we've had lately has been very welcome.
This time last year, there was snow on the ground, so we've got
ewes and lambs out on the grass and later on we'll be turning out
some cattle that have been shut in all winter, so they'll be delighted.
I really feel like spring has sprung.
Because the weather hasn't warmed up sufficiently yet for the grass
to grow properly, we are having to supplementary feed the ewes -
we're giving them some ewe nuts, but also some of this -
fodder beet, that farmers grow to feed cattle and sheep.
We've bought it in.
It's full of carbohydrate and sugar and a bit of protein
and they love it.
A tasty meal that will keep this lot going
until the grass starts to green up in the coming weeks.
But it's not just about the animals.
It's also a time when momentum builds out in the arable fields.
All the crops on our farms are annuals,
completing their life cycle within 12 months.
The seeds are sown and during spring and summer,
the crops put on most of their growth.
They produce flowers and towards the end of their life cycle,
they set seed.
Finally, when the time is right, they are harvested,
ready to be stored.
This is one of our oil seed rape fields that we planted
back in August.
It established very well
and it's come out of the winter looking lovely.
This time last year, the equivalent crop was absolutely atrocious
and some of it was just a few centimetres tall
and we ended up having to take it out, but this is almost
growing in front of your eyes as the weather warms up.
It's got great potential.
'Over the next few months, this oilseed rape will shoot up,
'making the most of the spring conditions.'
Although the crops are looking pretty good,
they still need looking after.
We need to be vigilant about pests and diseases,
we need to be right on top of the weeds
and also they need feeding with fertiliser,
so the crop husbandry, right from planting to harvest,
has to be very good.
And today we are fertilising this crop of oilseed rape.
This is what is known as Kieserit.
It's sulphur and magnesium.
And let's cut the bag and out it comes.
And we used to get plenty of sulphur from the atmosphere
because of the power stations,
but now they have all cleaned their act up,
we are having to apply it to the crop.
A little bit ironic, but there we go!
Martin, our arable manager, is driving the machine
and in the cab with him is Dave, who is one of the tractor drivers
and he is learning how to use the fertiliser spreader
because it is quite complicated.
What we have done is taken a soil sample
across the whole of this field, in fact, across the whole of the farm.
We then get a soil map,
which tells you the nutrients in that soil.
We then make a calculation
and put it into the on-board computer on the tractor.
It has a satellite navigation dish on top of the tractor.
As it drives up and down the field, it knows exactly where it is
and speeds up or slows down the amount of fertiliser
it is applying to the ground.
And that should then optimise the potential yield of this crop.
With the fertiliser well under way,
I am heading off to help turn out my neighbour's Hereford cattle.
On the way, I am passing the seed drill working in the field.
I'm just pulling alongside now. It is an incredible machine.
It's planting spring barley,
so that barley goes for malting for making lager,
so when you're in the pub, drinking your pint of lager,
this is where it all starts.
The tractor has an on-board satellite navigation system,
so it is driving in a dead straight line.
It's talking to the drill behind
and the seed hopper holds all the seed
that gets blown down tubes by a big fan
and then delivered into what is called a coulter,
where it goes into the soil at the perfect depth
and we want the seeds going in at 425 seeds per metre squared.
It has to be very accurate. There is a reader on the drill
and if it goes faster, it speeds up the amount of seed
that gets delivered into the lovely tilf of the seedbed.
A couple of miles down the road from the farm,
Mike, our livestock manager,
is helping to look after my neighbour's herd of Hereford cattle.
-Hi, Ad, how are you doing?
-They look really lovely, don't they?
Yes, they are getting on really well.
-So, how many calves have you had so far?
-About 45 so far, yes.
-What sort of age as these ones?
-These are just a couple of weeks old.
-Your dad has some back home, hasn't he?
-He's got a few, yes.
So you grew up with them as a boy?
Yes, little bit, but I have not worked with this many before.
So, how many have you got to turn out then, Mike?
There's two here and another 13.
-And who is this one?
-This was our first bull calf born here.
We've called him Legend, so hopefully he will go on and do great things.
-OK, well, shall I pull him out of the way while you get the cow?
A young bull like this could be sold to a pedigree breeder
or go on to dairy herds to make beef animals
or it might even get exported to somewhere like France
and he has got great potential,
really smart-looking fellow.
-Shall I just slip the halter off him, Mike?
-Yes, go for it.
'It's Legend's first taste of freedom.' Right.
'Time to let some of the others out to join him.'
-So, this is the young bull you bought?
-All right, all right, calm down!
-This is Jones.
Come on, girls!
'No sooner have we got the last few out,
'they turn and head straight back into the shed.'
Go on, out of it! Go on!
Go on! Go on, then! Go on!
They have been stuck inside all winter
and now they don't want to go out.
They haven't realised they've got all that spring grass to go to.
Go on, then! Go on!
Go on, then!
Go on, then! There's a good girl!
Takes some doing, doesn't it?
'And as soon as they see the fresh green pastures ahead,
'there is no stopping them.'
They are all charging around now, calling to their calves
and calling to the other cattle back in the shed.
Really tucking into this log and itching themselves.
The bull's getting very excited. Full of the joys of spring.
There's quite a lot of time and effort feeding cattle
when they are in the sheds, but when they come out
onto lovely grass like this, they can just live off it.
We may be giving the calves a bit of extra feed,
but apart from that, they will be self-sufficient.
There is something very special about turning cows
and calves onto fresh grass like this in the spring.
A wonderful sight, something I never get bored of.
-The Sefton Coast,
a beautiful and stunning coastal landscape.
But, like much of the country, it has recently witnessed
just how powerful and damaging extreme weather can be.
Last year's storm gave the coast here a real battering
and the damage is still evident.
The vast expanses of sand dunes above Ainsdale Beach
are some of the largest in the UK.
Last December 5th,
they suffered four years' worth of erosion in just one day.
Wildlife and their habitats were devastated
and many buildings and structures were severely damaged.
This boardwalk, which forms part of the coastal path,
was practically washed away, but instead of being written off,
it's being saved and repaired, incredibly,
using some of the trees that were lost in the storm.
Just a short distance inland,
this pine woodland was ravaged by the gales,
but most of the fallen trees are being salvaged
through a project run by Sefton Council.
Ian McAlvey is one of the team leaders.
So, tell me about these trees. Are these, the ones you are cutting,
the ones that came down in the storm?
Yes, 12 in this little area here alone came down in the storms, yes.
And these planks you've just cut, where are they destined for?
Well, they are destined for the workshop down at Ainsdale,
which is part of Natural Alternatives,
which is an inclusion programme that we run,
which we aim to improve the quality of lives for everybody in Sefton -
young people who are disengaged, excluded from mainstream education.
We've got adults with learning difficulties,
anybody who wants to come here and gain work experience with us.
'One of Ian's apprentices is Martin Rogers,
'a local lad who joined the scheme just under a year ago.'
So, Martin, what was it that got you into this in the first place?
Well, I grew up around here
and I've always known about the Ranger Service
and, when I got into year ten, I was looking for something to do
for work experience and I had two weeks great work with them,
so, when I'd finished college,
I decided to apply here for an apprenticeship scheme.
And what do you think you would have done if you weren't doing this?
Probably would've been working in a shop or a factory
or something like that,
but I have always wanted to work outdoors and I've never seen myself
in an office, working nine to five, stuck in a cubicle.
I've always been an outdoor person.
I love my chainsaw, I love the woodchipping, everything about it.
'The team learns a whole range of skills.'
I'll be careful with this, this has been lovingly produced.
'We are dropping by their workshops
'to pick up some signs that they have made.
'We are going to install them in a special habitat
'they have created for one of the dunes' warty residents,
'the very rare natterjack toad.'
'I'm giving Martin and Lewis Saunders a hand.'
There we go.
That is there. Nice one! Lovely! So, these natterjacks then,
they are really rare, I've only ever seen them a handful of times.
-It's quite exciting working with them, isn't it?
-Yes, it really is.
You don't see them that many times of the year,
-it's only towards the summer.
But when you do see them, they are nice to look at.
-You came from a pretty inner-city area, didn't you?
I didn't really have much to do, basically,
so I started hanging around with lads and sort of stuff
and got myself into a bit of trouble at times,
but eventually I had come across a job on the internet
and applied for it
and a couple of weeks later I got an interview with Sefton Council.
And, yeah, it was good.
What do you reckon, if you think about it now,
you would have been doing had you stayed where you were?
I could be on the wrong path now, like, a real wrong path, but...
I am made up that I actually have got this job,
to sort of channel me off that and put me back on the right path.
'With Martin and Lewis's help,
'the natterjacks should have a good chance of survival.
'And hopefully the boardwalk
'is going to benefit from their skills as well.'
So, things have come full circle now.
This is the timber that was blown down in the storm
-mending the storm damage.
-Yes, it is, yes.
How long is it going to take you?
We're hoping to have it open by the summer,
-but it's all down to weather and a few other conditions.
Today we are on the unspoiled coastline of Southport
in England's northwest.
Twice a day, the retreating tide leaves Sir Antony Gormley's
iron men gazing wistfully to the horizon.
And low tide also reveals
this landscape's shallow, sloping beaches,
perfect for harvesting the famous local delicacy - Southport shrimp.
'Now harvested by tractors, it's more than 40 years
'since the traditional horse and cart last took to the sands,
'but after some careful restoration by wheelwright Phill Gregson,
'it is time to get this one off display
'and back into the surf for one last shrimping trip.'
And look at these!
It's the equivalent of getting a brand-new pair of shoes, this.
Yes. And if all goes to plan, they should just slide on.
As a wheelwright, what does this moment feel like for you, Phill?
Greasy, at the moment!
This is the end of the job,
you know, and actually getting to see the wheels go on
and take them out on the shore,
it's going to be absolutely brilliant today.
-It's working, Phill!
-Yes, it runs lovely. The wheels are running true.
-It's a nice moment.
-Yeah, just a bit!
I can't wait to see it on the beach.
-Don't let it overbalance you.
Oh, hang on! Excuse me, my dear. Sorry.
That's the green man, let's go!
'Now that the wheels are on, all we need is a horse.'
-Hang on. That's it, brakes on. Spin around.
-Aye, go on.
Into horse mode. Ready?
'It was way back in the 1970s when a shrimping cart like this
'last took to the coast.
'Gerald Rimmer, who I met earlier,
'was the last of the horse-drawn shrimpers.'
The horse what I had was nearly 18 hands tall.
You are talking about up here.
-And it would wade that deep.
And you could go where you couldn't go with a tractor.
'Just what is he going to make of this?'
-This is Puzzle.
-Isn't he an absolute bobby dazzler?
-He looks almost as excited as you do, Gerald!
'Puzzle is a cob horse.
'With a steady disposition, he is perfect for driving in the surf.
'After trotting a mile out over the sand,
'it's time to see our shrimping cart back where it belongs.'
Well, the wheels are still on anyway!
That's what it's all about.
No doubt, this is bringing a smile to Gerald's face.
-Are you all right, Gerald?
-So, what do you make of this?
What is it like to see this cart now?
It brings back memories from when I used to go with the horse and cart.
I never thought I'd see it again.
It's so lovely to be sat here and look behind, you know,
from the old to the new.
What a day!
Gerald! Are you a happy boy?
-Yes, spot on!
-How about that?
Cheers, lads. Thank you very much indeed.
-Well, bad news and good news.
The good news is I've had a wonderful time.
The bad news is we didn't get any shrimp.
Well, don't worry because Christian suspected that might happen
and he's brought an alternative.
Christian has got the old shrimp! Lovely stuff!
-Shall we hand them out?
-Yes, there's one for you.
-Lads, come here, come on.
-Get yourself a fork.
Well, that is just about it from the potted-shrimp party in Southport.
Next week we are going to be on the Isles of Scilly.
-Are they good?
-These are beautiful!
I'm going to be looking after
a precious cargo of newly hatched ducklings.
I am going to be finding out how they've managed to eradicate rats
on one of the islands in the hope of tempting back sea birds.
-See you then.
-See you later. Did you bring anything for a horse?
The Countryfile team visit the Merseyside coast around Southport. Matt Baker looks at the history of shrimping in the area, and meets one of the last shrimpers to harvest the shellfish with a horse and cart. Matt meets the men who have restored an old shrimping cart found rotting in the basement of a museum. He helps make the last wheel before getting it back on the beach for one last chance to find shrimps.
Ellie Harrison is on a family potato farm as they sow the year's first crop, and she discovers why Lancashire is such a fertile farming area for potatoes. On the Fiddlers' farm she also finds out why they have diversified into making their own crisps, with a factory on the farm and the unique flavour of lancashire sauce.
Ellie also looks at the damage done by the winter storms last year. Many pine trees were felled by the high winds, but Ellie meets the apprentices learning how to turn the fallen trees into something more useful.
Presenter and keen amateur photographer Shauna Lowry is out with two brothers who are inspired by the seascapes in the area. We also hear from Antony Gormley about his standing men statues on Crosby beach and why he thinks it is the perfect landscape for them. The statues are now home to hundreds of barnacles. Shauna meets the scientist studying them and finds out which part of the statues they favour most.
Adam Henson looks at the technology of farming and eyes up some clever new bits of kit.
Over the last few decades there has been a dramatic decline in farmland birds across the UK. Tom Heap investigates the cause of their demise, and asks what we can do to bring them back.