In a spring special edition of the programme Countryfile goes in search of the secret and often overlooked wonders of the season.
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Fields and flowers burst into bloom...
..and trees, newly-clothed in vibrant green,
stretch from their winter slumber.
Life returning from near...
But amongst these familiar signs hides
a more secret side to springtime.
Often overlooked, but as stunning a spectacle as any other.
'From our ocean shores...'
Oh, look at that!
We've got a jellyfish in here, too!
..to our open plains.
-How many are you lifting from these crates in an hour?
From our highest peaks...
to forests far below...
..this is a time of discoveries and firsts.
85, 85, 85 on the right.
The birth of a new season and its hidden wonders
are sights to truly stir the soul.
woodlands carpeted with bluebells,
tree blossom promising a fruitful summer and autumn.
We welcome the colour these blooms bring into our lives
as bleak winter fades.
We also love to welcome them into our homes.
With cut flowers, like these beautiful tulips, we can.
A well-known song might suggest that these will have come from
Holland but, in fact, they were grown right here in Lincolnshire.
Growing tulips was a big deal in these parts
in the first half of the 20th century.
In the '40s and '50s, coachloads of sightseers would arrive in
the flatlands around Spalding to take in the magnificent
springtime spectacle of the tulip crop at its peak.
There'd even be a Tulip Queen.
By the mid-'70s, though, British tulip farming was in decline,
unable to cope with the scale of the competition from Dutch growers
just across the North Sea.
Well, now British growers are making a comeback and,
here at Poplar Farm Flowers, they're doing it in a big way.
These vast glasshouses cover 10 acres and hold millions of
individual tulip plants at varying stages of development.
It's a dazzling patchwork of springtime colours.
And these fields are on the move.
Conveyor belts carry the flowers through the site before
delivering them directly to the workers who select the final blooms.
This is tulip production on an industrial scale but it's still
a family business, with Andrew Ellis currently at the helm.
In this particular glasshouse, it holds around six million tulips.
So, in this cropping house, there's 500,000 tulips each side,
easily today. Probably 700,000 when it's full.
Who was it in your family that started this, then? And when?
Well, we've been here... My father started here in 1960.
He grew his first tulips back in the '50s.
At that time, a lot of Dutch bulb exporters, salesmen,
they used to come into the area, even on bicycles,
Dutch bulb salesmen walked across the field with my dad,
persuading him to buy 4,000 tulips,
much to my grandmother's horror...
-He had no experience!
-What a risk.
'At a time when the UK tulip industry was in decline,
'Andrew's dad, Fred, managed to buck the trend,
'growing the business over five decades.'
In 1985, we grew 3.5 million tulips.
Today, we do just over 70 million.
'Modern tulip production is all about controlling the climate.
'In these giant glasshouses, the plants can grow without being
'subjected to the lottery of the British spring weather.
'And it all starts with the bulb.
'From here, the bulbs are stored in a dark, chilled warehouse.
'This tricks them into thinking it's winter and time
'to get to wriggle on producing a shoot.
'When the shoots are about 10 centimetres long,
'water is added before the bulbs begin their journey through
'the glasshouses, where a giant wood-fired central heating system
'creates the perfect growing conditions.
'When they reach the end of the line,
'the tulips are picked by skilled workers,
'who operate at a furious pace,
'under the watchful eye of supervisor Zigmas Andrijausk.'
How many are you lifting from these crates in an hour?
In an hour, it's 8,000-11,000.
-In an hour?
Sometimes per day, we're doing 250,000-300,000.
'In fact, for Mother's Day this year,
'the team picked an incredible 1.2 million stems in just 24 hours.
'Only stems between 32cm-35cm are selected.
'It takes an expert eye and a delicate touch.
'A steep learning curve for any new member of the team.'
The speed at which they work is quite incredible.
Are they OK?
-Check those? Are they OK?
That's no good. Oh, dear.
-That's all right?
Right, so half of my bunch was unacceptable. Sorry about that.
Just turned round and my flowers have disappeared.
'You really need to be on your toes here.'
9,000-11,000 an hour is an incredible rate of picking.
'I'm starting to get my eye in. Slowly.'
Get my friend to double-check those.
It's no good.
Three. That's all right. Not so bad, that one.
Just three that weren't acceptable.
I think this is my job, actually.
I'll just make sure they're all nice and neat on the conveyor belt.
I think this is better for me.
Well, this is just the first stage of getting these beautiful
flowers into your homes.
But to really help these tulips on their way,
it takes some springtime super science.
You can see all that a little bit later.
Whilst I'm lending a hand with the spring harvest deep inland,
Ellie is heading to the very edge of our landscape,
witnessing a seasonal invasion that, for some, is a rather sore subject.
Throughout the winter months,
our oceans have been inhospitable places but the coming of
warmer temperatures and longer days brings new life to our shores.
The warm spring tides bring plenty of wildlife with them,
all eager to feed on the feasts along our shores.
But there's one spring visitor floating on the tides
that fill generations of swimmers, paddlers and beachcombers
with a sense of dread...
In their masses, they gracefully glide through our seas.
With their delicate bells and with every pulse,
these vessels feed on the nectar of the ocean.
Today, I'm on the hunt for this fascinating creature
but I'm going to need a bit of help in finding them.
Now, we've been scouring this stretch of coastline in hope
of finding jellyfish, without any luck.
But thanks to the medium of Twitter,
a couple of hours ago one Countryfile viewer let us know
that there were some here
so we've arranged to meet our scientist, Peter.
Hi, Peter, how are you doing? So, we get a closer look.
This is kind of a sad event but also a great opportunity to be
-able to see them close up.
So, at this time of year,
it's fairly normal for barrel jellyfish to be stranding.
And can they strand in large numbers?
Yeah, we get reports of hundreds,
thousands of these things stranding in certain places.
'Peter is leading a nationwide survey to investigate
'mass strandings as he's keen to understand the movements
'of these enigmatic creatures.'
The barrel jellyfish for me
is like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of jellyfish.
It's a really thick sort of
hard, rubbery jellyfish and it's also one of the strongest swimmers.
And research has shown that they're not just passively drifting,
they're actually actively swimming up and down the water column,
searching for their prey.
Absolutely fascinating but really nothing for humans to get
too alarmed about because their sting isn't powerful enough
-to really hurt us.
-All jellyfish sting but some stings
are stronger than others, so it's always best to wear gloves.
And when we ask people to take part in our survey,
we always say, "Look but don't touch,"
because you don't want to get stung
by some species of jellyfish cos they can really spoil your day.
It's one thing seeing these creatures beached on land but
I want to see them in their natural habitat so I'm continuing my hunt
on the open sea with the help of an eagle-eyed crew.
Yeah, there is a nice slick here going off to the left.
At this time of year, the conditions are perfect for these jellyfish
as they are drawn here on spring tides
to feed on immense plankton blooms.
These microscopic organisms spread right across our oceans.
But can understanding plankton help me on my jellyfish hunt?
Marine scientist Richard Kirby has captured incredibly detailed
images of them. This looks like plankton art.
It is almost abstract, isn't it?
It is incredibly beautiful and as we zoom in,
you can see all the detail of the different types.
And this is your footage?
This is footage I filmed the other day and I do this because
they're beautiful, aren't they, and showing people is...
something they wouldn't normally be able to see.
It's absolutely gorgeous.
It's amazing to think these microscopic organisms are
no bigger than a hair's width.
It is hard to overstate the importance of plankton.
It is the beginning of all life in the oceans.
It is, and right now spring is happening in the sea.
The phytoplankton are kicking off.
In fact, they're blooming.
Just like spring in your garden, you find you have to cut the grass now -
the phytoplankton are growing and that determines the abundance
of everything else in the sea, it feeds the whole marine food chain.
'Plankton is the key to finding our jellyfish and Richard's
'research can tell us if this area is a good feeding ground.'
Argh! Look at that! It is a soup of plankton.
I can't see my fingers through the other side.
We have a jellyfish in here, too.
'OK, it's only a baby compass jellyfish but seeing how much
'plankton there is, the signs are looking good to find the adults.
'So I want to get onto the water for a closer look.
'Local marine enthusiast Ben Spicer is my guide and knows where
'the best places are to try to spot barrel jellyfish.'
-Let's see if we can get some, that would be amazing.
I'm feeling confident.
-Just keep looking down.
There are so many different types of jellyfish,
sometimes you can spot them a mile off and sometimes they will
loom right up from underneath you.
The other day I filmed some footage here and it was
a very big barrel jellyfish just cruising along and the visibility
was so clear - there is an abundance of them in the Port Isaac Bay area.
The funny thing about it is we both know under there, there is
so much life going on but the plankton means we can't see it
and it's because of the plankton it's even there.
With no luck in the kayaks, back on the boat the only jellyfish
I've seen is the little stowaway we caught earlier.
With the hours passing and time running out,
my hopes of a close encounter with a big barrel jellyfish, like the
ones we saw on the beach earlier, are rapidly running out.
Yeah, just below us, just behind us now.
Just as we're giving up hope,
a massive barrel jellyfish appears right alongside us.
Finally we're able to get a glimpse of this spectacular animal.
It's a real thrill to see one out in the wild and it's not
a thing of nightmares.
It's truly captivating.
But it's a fleeting encounter as it dives back down to the deep,
disappearing through the thickness of the plankton.
At last we have seen what we came for and before heading back
to the shore, there is one last thing to do -
set our little stowaway free.
And now it's time to return it to the ocean.
More spring life back in the sea.
From spring life deep in our oceans to surprisingly seasonal treats
found far inland, this is a time when hidden wonders abound,
as John has been discovering.
Nettles, wild bilberries,
perhaps even a dandelion.
Spring is one of the best times to go foraging. Across Britain's
food scene, there is a growing trend towards unexpected wild ingredients
added to menus, creating new ways to tantalise our taste buds.
There are natural larders everywhere from local woods...
and of course hedgerows.
I'm meeting Chris Colette who has turned foraging into
a business. His team travel the length and breadth
of the country searching for the very best
in seasonal leaves, flowers and fruits on the orders of top chefs.
For him, spring is a time when often overlooked wonders abound.
This little plant here, John, is one of our chefs most favourite plants.
What is it?
This is called wood sorrel and if you try that, you will get the
taste of Granny Smith apple peel.
-Safe to eat?
Yeah, it definitely tastes like apple peel.
Some nice bilberries here.
It looks like a very good year for them by the amount of flowers.
They are basically the wild equivalent to blueberries.
What do you do to make sure that you're having
no environmental impact when you're foraging because I'm sure
a lot of people say, "Just leave things as they are."
There's a misconception that foragers go and look for
these weird and wonderful plants that are quite rare.
It's not particularly true.
We look for things that are massively abundant,
stinging nettles, the beech leaf,
things that have very little impact environmentally.
-And have you got a customer today for any of this?
-We do indeed.
We have been doing a project with The Wild Beer Company.
They're making a beer from beach and linden leaves.
The beech leaves taste nutty
and the linden has a real citrus taste to it.
So, foraging for a brewer not a chef. That sounds intriguing.
And I'm joining Chris on his delivery to find out more.
-I'll go ahead with this one.
Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis co-founded this farmhouse brewery.
They dream up and brew up some bizarre concoctions.
In just four years,
they've put together more than 100 really distinctive beers.
Well, Andrew, Brett, hi. Extra supplies for you here.
I would have never imagined anybody would put beech leaves and
linden leaves into a beer.
This is a celebration of spring and these new leaves are perfect
for us to make a delicate herbal beer with.
And Brett, does it taste like a traditional beer apart from
-these leaves in it?
-I think it does.
It has some of the core ingredients from every beer, so barley,
wheat, so makes it quite available and approachable to most people.
And Andrew, what is the strangest stuff you've ever put into a beer?
Well, we're not afraid of trying different ingredients in beers,
-we've even had lobsters in beer.
It sounds as though you're creating a very modern upmarket posh drink,
but not a beer. You have to convince me.
I'm a traditional beer drinker from Yorkshire.
Well, the proof is in the pudding.
We'll show you a couple of things first
and maybe we'll pull out some surprises.
So this is the start of a beer's life.
With their wild ingredients, including a different beer for each
season, Andrew and Brett are pushing back the boundaries of beer making.
-I'm steaming up.
And before I test their spring beer, they want to show me
something you are more likely to see in a distillery.
They call it their barrel library.
-Goodness me! This is impressive, isn't it?
-There are 100,000 litres.
Goodness me! And you would normally expect beer to be in metal casks.
Yeah, we age all sorts of different things in different barrels here.
So this is a red wine barrel and over there is
a white wine barrel and a bourbon barrel and all those different
liquids that were previously in the wood give character to the beers.
This stage of the process is more like winemaking or distilling.
And what about the spring beer?
The spring beer isn't in here.
We want to keep that nice and fresh and clean and
so we just do that as quite a quick process in the brewery.
-Shall we go and taste it?
-OK, lead on.
Let's see if it's as good as you say.
'The time has come for me to be introduced to spring's newest
'offering - a beer flavoured with foraged leaves.
'It's the taste test.'
Well, the big moment.
Are you going to win over a traditional beer drinker with
-your spring beer?
-I hope so, John.
-You're actually the first person to drink this.
-Am I really?
So it's a special moment.
-I hope that is an honour.
Hm, it's certainly...
It's not really, to me, a beery taste but it's more like
This is certainly very different from the beer I'm used to drinking
but you might win me over. You do make a bitter as well, don't you?
-Here's to spring in a glass.
There's no landscape quite like the Lake District on
a bright and breezy spring day.
Wasdale brings together the towering presence of Scarfell,
England's highest mountain,
and Wast Water, England's deepest lake.
It is a rare treat to see them bathed in sunshine.
But for one National Trust worker,
this spring day is special for different reasons.
My name is Sarah Anderson.
I am an upland ranger in the Lake District -
the only female upland ranger working for the National Trust.
The work we're doing is part of a long-term project called
Fix The Fells which has the aim of restoring some of the most
popular and highly eroded footpaths in the Lake District.
I was one of the first volunteers on the project
when it began 10 years ago
and I have been a full-time member of staff for five years.
This is the exciting part, not just the helicopter ride up,
but this is my first time on Scarfell this year.
I love spring.
Having been confined to the valley bottoms all winter, it feels
like we come out of hibernation and back onto the high fells.
At this time of year, we're running around like squirrels...
Once we've got all the rock, we use them to
fix the eroded paths, a helicopter comes along and takes them
over the mountains for us
so we don't have to move them quite so far.
And then we put them in the path to make it a nicer surface to walk on.
There are more than 70 bags of rocks in total.
They have just one day to airlift them all to
a spot higher up the mountain.
Spring is a great time of year.
Working on the fells, you can get four seasons in one day -
clear beautiful days like today
with the clouds rushing across the fell sides,
other days you might be barely able to see a hand in front of your face.
It keeps it interesting, definitely keeps it interesting.
With the bags loaded,
Sarah heads up the mountain to help guide the pilot in.
With no radio contact,
she uses a simple method to show him
exactly where she wants the delivery.
It is a bit like playing Splat The Rat!
It's a job that requires incredible skill, precision and a serious
helping of nerve in the buffeting and unpredictable mountain winds.
He nearly got the rat!
The footpath from Wasdale Head to Scarfell summit is one of
the busiest in the Lakes and the erosion from walkers and
winter rains here is severe.
The rocks brought up the mountain today will be used throughout
the spring and summer to help make it safer and wider.
Because this path gets over 100,000 people on it every year,
people are spreading out so we have this massive strip of erosion
here all the way down and around the other side as well.
So we are just stabilising this bit of path
so it doesn't get any worse, actually, erm...
..and then we'll gradually improve it so it's a much more sustainable
line for the amount of people it takes walking up here every year.
It costs £200 to repair a metre of footpath.
But if it makes it easier for people to enjoy views like this,
it's all worthwhile.
MATT BAKER: I'm in Lincolnshire
where springtime has been super-sized.
Tulips are grown here at Poplar Farm Flowers on an epic scale,
all to supply supermarkets with bunches of cut flowers just
as they're ready to bloom.
Earlier I saw how they're grown but bringing the scent of spring
into your living room is all about science.
Getting from this to this takes real precision
and cutting edge technology.
Cutting edge... Have a look.
Tomasz is in charge of the automated production line.
This state-of-the-art machine photographs, X-rays,
measures and gathers data on every single flower stem,
sorting the springtime blooms at lightning speed.
-This camera makes about four pictures in one second.
-Is that how many flowers are coming through?
-Just gone over 82,000.
'This prototype is the only one of its kind in the world -
'it can even tell the colour of every tulip passing through
'it to create identical mixed bunches.
'But it can't do everything as pack house manager Nick Ellis explains.'
You might have all of this newfangled technical stuff,
-Nick, but you still need the human touch.
-You do, yes.
You still need people to check them to make sure there are
the correct count of stems and the colour mix is correct and Rika
is just stood there, checking.
She'll pop an extra stem in if the machine happens to drop one.
'The finishing touches are also done by hand.
'I'm getting some tulip-tying tips from Virginia who's trusting me
'to wrap things up.'
You can have a break now!
So, that one is going over there. No. Oh, no. I see.
-And then that one comes like this.
-So it is a V.
Turn that over and a bit of tape on there.
I'm terrible at wrapping Christmas presents, to be honest with you.
-I will keep going. I'll get the hang of it.
Reminds me of when I was a young lad
I used to go into the fish and chip shop
and I used to be mesmerised by the ladies who
could wrap fish and chips so quickly and hand it over to you.
Just reminds me of the same thing.
'And always one to give value for money...'
I got a doubler, did I get two?
Oh, well. Double wrap for your money on this one.
That's a special one, that.
It's hard to get your head around 70 million tulips are coming from
this place and these are going to be in the shops by tomorrow night.
The chances are if you have a mixed bunch like this,
in your house, it will have come from here and you never know,
I might have even wrapped it for you.
And I'm not the only one trying my hand at a new seasonal skill.
Adam is hoping to fulfil a long held ambition at this year's
spring lamb auctions but first there's
a few new arrivals to check on down at the farm.
-After a long winter and months spent sheltering indoors, you would
imagine most of our animals would look forward to going outside.
But maybe not today.
Spring brings new life but it also often brings showers like this one,
a welcome sight for us farmers after a few very dry months.
Despite the rain, there are still jobs to be done.
Lambing meant a busy start to the season but now it is a good
time for me to take stock of how the new additions are getting on.
There's a young calf in our herd of Gloucester cattle who needs tagging.
So just hold this calf in a little mini cattle crush to hold him still
and then I've got to put two tags in his ears.
That's the cattle laws in this country,
they have to have two identification ear tags.
It's just like having your ears pierced. That's it, job done.
I can put him back with his mum now.
Here we go. There, that wasn't too bad, was it? Go on, then.
These are the lambs I turned out back in March
when they were only small.
They've grown on really well.
And today I'm putting them on to new pastures.
Nowadays a lot of farmers choose to send their lambs directly to
the wholesaler's and that is what we do but it was traditionally
the markets where the profits were either made or lost.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of livestock
At one time, almost every major town in the country had its own
They were a great social occasion.
Lots of interesting characters and an opportunity for
neighbouring farmers to meet and check out each other's stock.
A combination of closures and amalgamations mean that over
the last 50 years the number of livestock marts
has declined from around 650 to only 152 today.
And while some sales have declined, spring lamb sales remain popular.
Up here in the Cotswolds we finished lambing
a few weeks ago but down in the south-west, where the weather
is milder, a lot of the flocks were lambing at Christmas time,
so their spring lamb is ready for the markets now, so I'm heading down
there to find out more and perhaps have a go at some auctioneering.
When demand is high from buyers all over the country,
the livestock market can still be
the best place to get a premium price.
Farmers like Dick Hartnell are taking that risk in the hope
of getting good returns.
Dick farms on the Blackdown Hills in Devon.
It's his sheep that I'll be trying my hand at selling today.
We start lambing just after Christmas.
In fact this year it was Boxing Day.
And normally, about 11 weeks old, we'll have
a few singles at 40-42 kilos that we sell which is ready for the
spring Easter market and of course everyone wants spring lambs
for Easter market and that's what we aim at.
I'll be auctioning Dick's lambs at Exeter Livestock Centre
where 1,200 lambs will be sold in just a couple of hours.
No pressure, then!
-Good morning, Dick.
-Nice and early.
Yeah, we have to try get up in the morning, haven't we?
-Shall I give you a hand to unload them?
-That would be very good.
So these are Suffolk crosses.
-Yeah, Suffolk on 'em.
-With black heads.
Very different to a lot of the white-headed lambs which are what,
-Dorsets, Charolais, Texels...
-Why'd you go for these?
I've tried the rest, I like these and it's good old
traditional British breed, isn't it?
It's very generous of you to let me auction for you.
That was brave, weren't we?
-Trade's up, everybody says it's going to be fantastic.
What sort of money are you hoping for these, then?
-They ought to be round the 88s to be honest with you.
-No commission today!
-So if I mess it up they might go for 50.
They'll go home at that.
-Right, let's get them in the pen, shall we?
'I've always fancied trying my hand at auctioneering,
'but for Dick it's his livelihood,
'and it's my responsibility to get the price he needs for these lambs.'
Go on, little lambs.
'Before they're sold, they need to be registered,
'weighed and allocated a pen number.'
It all seems a bit chaotic, but it's actually very organised.
They bring the lambs in, they go into the scales,
they count them in, they get an overall weight.
The mathematician over there works out how many kilos each lamb is.
They get a red cross on to show they're farm-assured,
which means they're kept to very high-quality standards,
and then into the pens for sales.
Right, Dick, off we go.
How heavy are we, look?
38 fours, 75 two, £70 bid.
£70 bid. 70 bid. A half. One. A half. Two.
The sale has started, and it's going very fast and furious.
The speed that he speaks,
catching up those bids and selling lambs at a good price.
Head auctioneer Russell Steer is taking time out
to give me some top tips before I auction Dick's lambs.
The market is a great social, isn't it?
Oh, it is, yeah. You know, a lot of farmers rely on it
to get out and about.
It could be the only outing they have that week.
And the buyers, who are buying for the abattoirs and the supermarkets,
they can be some tricksy characters, can't they?
They can indeed. You'll be fairly fortunate today, I think.
I told them last week you were coming,
so half of them aren't coming today.
And so, any tips? How do I get going?
Just go slow and steady, I think, to start with.
Don't try and be in a mad rush and make mistakes.
And how do you spot who's busy? Are they waving a flag?
Initially, yeah, I'm sure for you they'll make it fairly clear.
So wave a hand or something?
Yeah, they'll do something, or make it obvious, you know,
big head-nod or a big wink.
-But then, you know,
if you get going and you're travelling a fair distance
it might become more subtle to just a twitch of the finger, so...
Wiggle of the nose.
Wiggle of the nose or just a slight sort of smirk on the face, yeah.
Really? Goodness me.
Oh. Well, that's really settled me down nicely. Not!
I'm about to sell Dick's lambs
and the nerves are kicking in.
Ladies and gentlemen, we're very privileged
to have Adam Henson with us today.
So I'm going to hand over to him to sell Richard's two lambs.
If you do a good job, you can keep going, all right?
Now, you be gentle with me,
all your dealers and traders and butchers out there.
I know you're very good at maths, and I'm not.
Where are we going to start us?
85. 85. Got 85 here on the right? 85.
'If they are bidding, they're really not making it obvious.'
86-half. 86-half. 86-half?
Go on, gentlemen, 86-half.
87? 87. 87-half?
Go on, sir, 87-half.
-88 here, he's a very lucky man. 88, we're giving these away.
-I think that's it.
-There we go, sold here to the lovely gentleman.
-Jaspers, there we go, marvellous.
-Goodness me, Dick.
-Well done, mate.
-My heart's thumping.
It's so difficult, because it's just a little wink,
a little raise of the chin.
-You go to auctions, surely, you must buy them.
-Yeah, I do.
Normally give a little wink or a little nod
-and got it sorted out.
-So how did I do?
-It was very good, actually. I was quite impressed.
You ought to have had a white coat on.
That's all that was missing, a white coat.
Well, I'm pleased I didn't let you down, Dick. Good to see you.
-It was all right. Nice to see you again.
-I'll buy you a bacon butty.
Even better! Cheers.
It's early - very early.
It's cold, it's dark
and I'm in the middle of the woods in Cambridgeshire.
But if you can't hear it already,
it's the perfect time to hear one of the wonders of the season.
'These members of the thrush family may, at first glance,
'But they are one of nature's finest singers,
'with an intricate range of up to 250 riffs and calls.
'The best time to hear it is at night
'and in the very early hours.'
Good morning, Sam.
-How are you?
-Good to see you.
So, I'm meeting up
with Mercury Prize-nominated folk musician Sam Lee,
who's become obsessed with these ornithological performers.
Well, it's the perfect spot.
We've got the hedgerow here
with the dense shelter for the nightingales to live in.
They absolutely love it in here,
so they always provide a perfect concert for us right here.
There's a long tradition
of musicians duetting with these springtime visitors.
In fact, the first-ever BBC outside broadcast
featured renowned cellist Beatrice Harrison
playing in her garden in Surrey
accompanied by a nightingale that sat beside her.
More than 100 years on,
Sam is following in Beatrice's footsteps and, as day breaks,
it's time to see if he can pull off the ultimate springtime duet.
(In short, no.)
'Fortunately for us, like the birds themselves,
'Sam has a large musical repertoire to call on, and he has another go.'
# Hark, oh, hark
# How the nightingale is singing
# And on yonder green bower
# The turtle doves are building
# The sun is just a-glimmering
# My dear. #
I don't know if that was coincidence, luck,
or an actual response,
but every time you held your note or you took a breath,
the nightingale genuinely filled the gaps for you.
The early hours of spring
are the best time to hear nightingales in full trill,
as males try to attract a mate and protect their territory.
By the end of May, this ritual will be complete
and their song will disappear for another year.
It's a busy time for Mike Drew,
who works for Anglian Water on this site,
not as an aquatic but as an aviation expert.
The birds themselves, once you've netted them,
you're putting the trackers on them,
what do those trackers tell you?
They'll kind of track the path that that bird will take
through kind of France, into Spain,
and whereabouts, when it hits kind of North Africa,
which way around Africa it will go,
and kind of tracking them right the way down
to Senegal and the Gambia and Sierra Leone.
Fantastic, really. Amazing.
How important is this project?
-In the past 40 years, they've declined by about 90%.
It's really important that this project happens,
so we can try and find out why these birds are declining.
Alongside the tracking project,
careful management of the woodland by the local Wildlife Trust
is creating dense scrub and helping reverse the decline -
here, at least - in the nightingale population.
The nightingales are likely to quieten down soon,
so we've only got a limited time
to try to net a bird while they're still active.
Quite magical, really, aren't they?
'Mike's got special permission
'to use a recording of a male nightingale as a lure.'
-So this is the lure, is it?
This is what we're going to try and attract this male down with.
And, hopefully, right into the net.
Yeah, the nightingale call will come out of the speaker
and it will make that bird think
that there's a rival male in his territory
and hopefully come and find it to see it off.
-So, play button?
-Yep, play button.
Leave that to do its magic.
That's it, let's come back in a bit.
'All we can do now is wait.'
There he is, look. Just coming down on the bottom there.
I can't wait to get closer to him.
'And it's not long before I get my chance.
'Mike's lured himself a nightingale.
'Taking its measurements has got to happen gently and quickly
'so that he can be released again as soon as possible.'
We're going to now start to take various measurements of the bird,
and this is where I'd really like your help,
taking some of the bits for me.
OK, right, so I am literally your wing man.
-You are indeed.
'Mike's being helped by Dr Chris Hewson
'from the British Trust for Ornithology,
'who's here to monitor the safe tagging of the nightingales.'
'This little fella hasn't been tagged before,
'so it's probably a new arrival -
'exactly what Mike and Chris were hoping for.
'The bird's fitted with a lightweight geotag.'
You can see it's really quite delicate,
and they're really putting a lot of care and attention into the bird
as much as they are into the tracker.
'The whole process has taken just a few minutes.
'Some final checks and he's ready to fly again.'
And it's important, isn't it,
to make sure that you release him back where he was caught?
Yeah, absolutely. You need to release him back on his territory.
We've only had him off for a few minutes
but, nonetheless, it'll want to get back on the territory
and start defending it again.
So would I! Come on, then, let's go.
It's time for this young nightingale to get back to his song perch
and hit those high notes.
Now, for me, that is a spring sight that takes some beating.
Up at 2am, cold and dark,
but it's so been worth it.
Those nightingales, their songs, seeing them up in the trees -
it's been excellent.
From birdlife to blossom -
this is a season where the sights and sounds of our natural world
burst forth and awaken the senses.
I'm in Lincolnshire,
seeing how spring flowers are grown on a massive scale.
But not all are grown under glass, like the tulips.
These beautiful alliums are grown out in the field,
where they're at the mercy of our fickle British weather.
We've had a pretty typical spring day today,
a few showers earlier on, a bit of blue sky.
But, on the whole, it certainly hasn't been a typical spring.
A lack of rainfall is causing big problems
for people like horticulturalist Ian White.
I have to say, I mean, the ground that we are on here, Ian,
it's rock hard, isn't it?
It is cracking like concrete, yes.
So what kind of an experience
have you been having here throughout spring?
Well, it's been lacking in rainfall since autumn.
And last month in particular was 30% only
of what we would expect in April.
Right. And what kind of effect has that been having
on the crops that you've got outside?
It makes them later,
slightly smaller and generally weaker.
Any pests and diseases are always more likely
when the plants are under stress.
And these are certainly under moisture stress now.
For flower-growers, a dry spring is proving to be of real concern.
And although we've had some wet weather recently,
we need a lot more to help our crops in the months ahead.
But the question is, where has all of this rain been
that we've desperately needed this spring?
The good news is, weather expert John Hammond is here to tell us.
Here we are again.
John, you have come up with some ingenious ways over the years
of explaining the jet stream.
-I sure have.
-This one takes the biscuit.
Well, my next trick, we're employing a front-loader,
a bowser, and a big, big blue hosepipe. And...
-It looks very impressive. Go on.
The peony's quite important, actually, because the peony,
for the purposes of this exercise, represents the UK.
So, fire up the jet stream, would you, Matthew?
OK. Here comes the rain.
Yeah. Now, normally, the jet stream coming in from the west
kind of crosses the country in fairly regular patterns like this,
so we get doses of rain,
doses of dry weather,
nothing too extreme, nothing too prolonged.
-Good news for the farmers and the growers, OK?
Occasionally something weird goes on in the atmospherics...
You know, even in the Pacific, the other side of the world,
which can deflect the jet stream for a longer period of time, like that.
Which means that the UK
is kind of out of the firing line of the jet stream
for a more prolonged spell of time -
we just stay dry for weeks, if not months.
And that's what happened through the spring,
of course, parts of the UK have had, well,
a third of their normal rainfall in the last few weeks.
For some areas, in April we didn't see a drop of rain.
So, have you got a hunch about what's going to be happening
over the next few months?
There are no clear indications for the next few months
but, hopefully, for the next few weeks, at least,
things will revert to something a bit more back to normal.
We've had a few showers today in actual fact, haven't we?
But, you know, we need a few more than the odd shower
to get things back to normal.
So, fingers crossed the jet stream will start to behave
a bit more like this in the weeks and months ahead.
Well, that peony's nicely watered now, John.
Yeah, we've got a few more thousand to do this afternoon, though, Matt.
Yeah, and while we do, let's hand to the BBC Weather Centre
and get the five-day forecast - see if there's any rain on the way.
I've been on land and sea
around the Cornish coast,
exploring the spring wildlife thriving in our waters.
And after a long day out at sea,
I've been invited for a spring supper.
How can I refuse?
I'm having my dinner cooked by Michelin-starred chef,
and MasterChef mentor, Paul Ainsworth.
For him, this time of year is truly special.
-All right, Johnny?
-All right, Paul?
There you go, mate. You got it?
Yes, look at that beauty. Thank you very much.
What I love about being in Padstow
is the food network that we've got going on.
To be able to go and meet the people,
see the produce,
to actually know where it's coming from,
is something that's incredible.
-You brought the weather with you.
-I always do.
-How are you? Are you OK?
-I'm well. Yeah. You?
-Good. Yes, very good, thank you.
'Paul is taking me to gather the ingredients for his spring meal.
'Along the way, we'll meet the tightknit Cornish community
'who help make up his food network.'
-This is how we go shopping in Padstow.
-We always do this.
-Just like this.
And so where are we going first?
We're going to go to St Enodoc asparagus first.
All right. Looking forward to it.
What a lush morning.
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
-It is amazing.
Nestled in amongst the sand dunes on the Cornish coast
is this asparagus farm
run by Jax Buse and Natalie Burch,
who've been growing here for more than 25 years.
So this one is ready?
Yeah, you can see that it's longer than a knife,
so, yeah, we would cut it down there very carefully
so that it doesn't damage anything else.
Yeah, this one we'll be able to pick tomorrow,
leaving that one for the day after,
because it will have grown possibly two inches in a day.
-In 24 hours?!
The asparagus here really is something special.
I guess a lot of people imagine that asparagus is more of an inland crop.
Well, it's not, because it loves the salt.
So, the salt comes across here in the winter,
deposits itself on all the soil
and then it grows up, tasting amazing,
because it's got the salt in it.
And field-to-fork for you will be really quick, won't it?
This is a phone call in the morning - how much can we have?
Yeah, you can have this - cut.
And literally over on the boat that we came across on
and to the restaurant.
Our journey continues and with the taste of salt air
and the sound of gulls overhead,
I can see why Paul loves this place.
Next on the menu - seaweed.
Not for a side dish, but as a seasoning
to make the asparagus really take on the flavours of the Cornish coast.
You want the nice moist stuff.
You see where the sun's been on it for a bit,
but we just want that lovely taste of the ocean.
-Will that do?
-That is amazing.
-Brilliant. I'm intrigued.
'Another ingredient ticked off our list,
'but I'm a bit confused by our next stop.'
Paul, I'm sure you mentioned seafood was the main event,
but we've pitched up to a dairy farm.
We have, but this dairy farm is a very special dairy farm.
It's got a wonderful story to it.
Tim Marshall's family has been running this dairy farm here
But he's taken his farming in a different direction -
My brother and myself were farming together.
It was obvious we weren't going to make a living
for two families out of that.
I was always keen on fishing and fancied a fish farm of some sort,
and a friend put us on to this way of growing oysters,
and that's the beginning of the story, basically.
30 years later it seems to be doing all right.
-30 years later, yes, yes.
Is spring a good time for harvesting oysters?
Yep, spring is a good time.
Through the winter they lie dormant,
but during the spring there's a lot more food in the water,
they're starting to get themselves ready for spawning
later in the summer
and they're just beefing themselves up
and they're in perfect condition at the moment.
'These spring oysters might be in their prime,
'but my track record with oysters on Countryfile isn't great.'
Oh, that hasn't improved for me!
Paul's got a lot of work to do to win me round.
-I feel your pain.
-That's amazing. Don't... It's amazing.
I feel good. I feel zingy.
You're going to convert me today with these, aren't you?
-I'm definitely going to convert you.
-All right, that's a challenge.
That's the final ingredient ticked off our shopping list.
-We did it.
-You got everything?
-We've got everything.
'Paul's organised a great spot for our spring cook-up,
'and I can't wait to get started.'
This is a feast for the eyes already.
Let's cook a spring menu.
-Let's put you to work.
First up, your favourite!
We're going to now panade them.
It goes crunchy and crispy really quickly.
Next, we'll move on to the asparagus.
-Spread them out like that.
-So they all get a bit of seaweed?
Yeah, so they all get a bit of seaweed.
Then we're going to serve
-with our wonderful mayonnaise that we've made.
They do look great, even for a non-oyster lover like me.
A non-oyster lover.
And there you have St Enodoc asparagus,
roasted and steamed over seaweed.
Porthilly oysters, crisped,
beautiful Cornish charcuterie.
And what's gorgeous is
this wild-garlic mayonnaise complements both.
-It's a spring feast!
From the land, from the sea, to the table -
in the same day, within a few hours.
-It's certainly fresh.
We've got to dig in.
'Crumbed and deep-fried, will Paul be able to convert me
'and make me an oyster-lover?'
-Be honest, though.
-Of course, of course.
-OK, you ready?
-Here we go.
I can tell already.
-You like it, don't you?
-It's so different.
-It's amazing, isn't it?
-It's like really, really posh scampi.
-You can actually bite it.
You can bite it, it's comforting. Try it with the asparagus as well.
-That is really good.
-Yeah, this is the only way I'm going to have them.
-I told you. Yes!
That is delicious. Really, really good. Right, asparagus, too.
'After all their hard work,
'it seems only right that Jax and Natalie from the asparagus farm
'are here to join us for this feast.'
Yeah, it's amazing. There we are. Natalie.
-Well, what better way to see in this springtime
than with seasonal food,
and good company?
And if you want to carry on the springtime celebrations
in the week ahead, you can,
with the Countryfile Spring Diaries.
I don't know about you, but keeping fit can be hard work.
Really good actually!
There is a nest in there. How exciting!
-Are you in my slipstream?
-I think I am.
-The Cornish way, always a winner for you?
-Yes, it definitely is.
That is uniquely delicious.
What do you bring to the team?
I'm a good tea-maker!
Now, that is important!
And now for the big moment.
That's every morning this week on BBC One.
Hope you can join us. Bye for now.
Right, I've got a spring feast to finish.
In a spring special edition of the programme Countryfile goes in search of the secret and often overlooked wonders of the season.
Matt Baker discovers how cutting-edge technology is helping the return of tulips to Lincolnshire's farmland on an epic scale.
Ellie Harrison heads to Cornwall's south west coast to get up close with returning migrants heading to our shores in their thousands - jellyfish, before Michelin-starred chef Paul Ainsworth treats her to a taste of the season.
Adam Henson tries his hand at a long-held ambition as he turns auctioneer at the Exeter's spring livestock market. Steve Brown discovers how darkness is the best time to enjoy one of the true wonders of the season and John Craven finds out how one company is trying to put the taste of spring in a bottle.