A visit to Conan Doyle's Surrey home. Plus Leicester longwool sheep, an artist who loves horses, and David Cameron's pledge to discourage new developments near villages.
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Surrey, just a stone's throw from London,
but a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
We owe much of our thanks for this green and pleasant landscape
to a quiet and unassuming local man.
Sir Robert Hunter may have shunned the limelight, but he was
one of the guiding lights in the formation of the National Trust.
And I'll be discovering more about this man who helped
to safeguard the English landscape.
Surrey and horse riding have always gone hand in hand.
Thousands of riders take to its bridleways each weekend.
And I'll be at a school making it possible for everybody to get out
and enjoy horse riding in the countryside.
I'll be chatting to the folk who say this place has made a real difference
to their lives, and I'll be conquering a fear of my own.
But what about fears for the future of the countryside?
Tom's on a mission.
In 2012, David Cameron told Countryfile
he was going to make it easier for local communities to stop
big housing estates being plonked right next to their village.
Two years on, has the Prime Minister kept his promise?
I'll be investigating.
And Adam's in good company.
These lovely ladies are Leicester Longwools.
With less than 500 of them in the country, they're a very rare breed.
They look a little bit similar to the Cotswolds I keep back home,
and I'm meeting up with a farmer whose family have been breeding
Leicester Longwools for seven generations.
Wintry woodlands, fields and wild heath.
London in the distance to the North.
This is Surrey.
I'm going to be exploring the South West of the county,
around the village of Hindhead.
Under a golden sun spreads a gentle expanse of heathland.
But step back 250 years, and the mood here was very different.
A dangerous highway cut through a barren hillside -
the main route connecting the capital to Portsmouth.
Here, the highway climbed to 800 feet,
crossing over a bleak common known as the Devil's Punchbowl.
The steep climb through this stark landscape became notorious.
In 1786, a lone sailor was murdered as he travelled along this route.
His identity was never discovered,
but the three villains who were responsible were caught and hanged.
This stone has stood here since, in the sailor's memory
and, for decades after,
the highway's notorious reputation remained.
In 1859, things changed.
The railway arrived.
It opened up to everyone the beauty of the once infamous
Wild West of Surrey, and Hindhead began to grow.
The quality of the air was one of the reasons why people moved here.
It was said to be similar to that of the Alps, and it certainly
attracted one very famous local resident with a very ill wife.
It was 1895.
Louise Doyle had suffered from tuberculosis for two years,
when her husband heard of the supposed healing power
of Hindhead's clear air.
'I acted promptly.
'For I rushed down to Hindhead, bought an admirable plot of land.
'The thought of it renewed hope for the sufferer.'
And the man's name?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The creator of Sherlock Holmes moved to Hindhead with his family,
and this is the home he had built, and called Undershaw.
Property consultant Damon Lidbury is showing me round.
Thank you very much.
The once-impressive house has seen better days.
It is a pretty sorry state now, isn't it?
It is, unfortunately.
It's been empty since 2004.
But there's still evidence
of its years as the Conan Doyle family home.
We've got the stained glass windows here, which are pretty much
floor-to-ceiling, the majority are from his family.
The stairs were designed with a shallow step to make it easier
for Louise to get around the house.
And upstairs, in Conan Doyle's bedroom,
there's a chance to see again why he chose this setting.
Ah! What a view that is, isn't it? You can just about see for ever.
Conan Doyle hoped the fresh air and sheltered location would do Louise
the world of good, and provide him with a quiet place to write.
'If we could have ordered Nature to construct a spot for us,
'we could not have hit upon anything more perfect.'
But sadly, perfect as it seemed, in 1906,
Louise died and the family left Undershaw.
Now, the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Heritage Centre is hoping to buy it.
Marek Ujma is one of the founders.
-Did Conan Doyle write anything in this house?
-Yes, he did.
He brought back Sherlock Holmes from the dead.
After he had killed him off at the Reichenbach Falls in that
famous fall with Moriarty.
And he was brought back because of public demand and also,
by the way, his mother thought it was a good idea.
What's the best-known one that he wrote here?
Oh, The Hound Of The Baskervilles. Probably everybody knows that one.
And it could well be that the common land surrounding his Surrey home
helped fuel his imagination for that great work of fiction.
'A steep curve of heath-clad land.
'An outlying spur of the moor lay in front of us.'
So he's very much got his imprint in this house.
-It's sad to see it in a state like this, isn't it?
The hope is to restore the building
to how it was in the Conan Doyle days,
so visitors can get a glimpse of the writer's life here.
-How much do you need to raise?
-Our total budget is about £3.5 million.
Creating a heritage centre will enable us to tell the story of him,
his family, his association with Sherlock Holmes.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the creator of one of the greatest
characters in fiction, and he's known throughout the world.
Well, you can't put it any clearer than that. Elementary!
When Conan Doyle built this once attractive house
more than a century ago,
it's safe to say that planning rules were much looser.
Today, what you can or can't build in the countryside
is a constant source of controversy.
But have new planning rules help to safeguard our rural landscape?
Housing and where to put it is a hot topic,
not just amongst local communities but also with the people in power.
Two years ago, the government was preparing to introduce new rules
to make planning decisions simpler.
At the time, some feared it would open up the countryside
to developers, but David Cameron assured Countryfile
that it would give more power to rural communities.
Our reforms will make it easier for communities to say,
"We're not going to have the big plonking housing estate
"landing next to the village,
"but we would like 10, 20, 30 extra houses,
"and we'd like them built in this way.
"We'd like them to be for local people."
But did the Prime Minister's reforms deliver?
Hook Norton in Oxfordshire is
a 1,000-year-old village with real charm.
Its traditional brewery is said to be a favourite of David Cameron's.
You can see why people want to live here,
but also understand why some residents might object to
the idea of new housing estates being plonked down from above.
But they say that's exactly what's going to happen here.
More than 2,000 people live in Hook Norton,
and they're a vocal community.
When plans were submitted to build 70 new houses on a greenfield site,
nine out of ten people were opposed.
-It's a fine little church, here.
-Yeah, it was built in 922.
Yeah, absolutely, so it's very old.
Emma Kane is the chairman of the parish council.
So, Emma, tell me the story of what's happened here.
Well, we're facing two developments, one at Stanton Engineering,
and one at Bourne Lane.
Bourne Lane is greenfield, and we opposed it vehemently.
Stanton Engineering was brownfield and, we're not NIMBYs,
we accept that there's a need for housing in the village.
That's 37 houses.
The parish council said yes to that.
The district council said yes to that.
And then we thought we would have fulfilled our quota.
You thought you'd done your bit
-with the Brownfield site.
So, despite supporting the development of new houses
on a brownfield site, 70 more homes are going to be built
on a greenfield site in the village as well.
We've not been listened to in opposing the greenfield site at all.
David Cameron said that new housing developments would not be
plonked down on the side of villages where they didn't want them.
That's exactly what's happened here.
Are there some particular reasons why
you think that the bigger sites shouldn't go ahead on a greenfield?
It's greenfield, for a kick-off, it's 70 houses, which is a lot
to land on a village at one go.
The infrastructure, you know from the journey here
that the roads aren't great.
It's a lot more traffic in and out of the village.
The school is already full.
There's things like water pressure, broadband.
None of these are great and they're going to be
under increased pressure with these houses.
The district council rejected the greenfield application,
but it's still going ahead.
How did this happen?
Well, in March 2012,
the Coalition introduced the new National Planning Policy Framework.
It replaced around 1,000 pages of planning guidance with about 50.
And one of its aims was to kick-start the building industry.
And, to make that happen,
it included a new presumption in favour of sustainable development.
Under this new framework, by March 2013,
every local planning authority in England had to have adopted
a local plan and what's called a five-year housing land supply.
But Hook Norton didn't have these in place in time.
-So, I understand the proposed site is just here is it?
-That's right, yes.
Councillor Michael Gibbard is the lead member for planning
on Cherwell District Council.
As the local council have turned this down, how come it's going ahead?
Because it has been won at appeal.
The Government inspector has allowed this site,
mainly on the basis, not for good planning reasons,
but because this district council, this planning authority
does not have what is called a five-year housing supply.
But isn't it the problem that this plan hasn't been totally approved,
and because you haven't done it in time,
the developers can do what they like?
That is one of the problems, yes.
The plan has not been examined in public yet.
Cherwell is not alone.
We have learned that 49%
of local councils across England
still do not have
an adopted local plan,
leaving them all vulnerable to unwanted developments.
So, are councils dragging their feet or were they
simply set an almost impossible task?
We spoke to the Campaign For The Protection Of Rural England,
who told us that developing high quality, local plans takes time
and the government are not giving them a fair deal.
Many of the things that cause delays are beyond their control.
So, is the new system working or not?
The government's Planning Minister is Nick Boles.
It is quite a complicated thing putting in a plan.
You have to consult with local people,
you have to amass all the evidence
and you have to work out where you are going to let development happen.
That is not something that can take place in a matter of weeks.
But the progress that has been made is much faster in the last
three years than under any other previous planning system,
so I think it is working but it's just taking some time.
Takes the power out of the hands of local people.
-How does that square with localism?
You achieve it by having a local plan and a huge number of local
authorities have done it, and I don't hear a peep out of any of them
because they are getting to make all of the decisions.
The people who I am afraid feel let down are those communities whose
local authorities haven't got the local plan in place yet
and we're trying to do everything we can to help them do that.
But wherever the fault lies, with almost half of all councils
yet to have their plans adopted, large swathes of rural England
are currently vulnerable to unwanted development.
Unfortunately, tussles over local plans are not
the only problem facing the countryside when it comes
to the thorny issue of planning, as I will be investigating later.
The smooth lines...
the sure detail...
the sheer craft.
A recognisable form, 16 feet high,
dominating the skyline in this part of the Surrey Hills.
It's only when you get up close,
you realise just how imposing this is
and how life-like.
I mean, the eyes in particular.
You sort of touch it, expecting to feel warm flesh,
rather than cold lead.
I must admit, it does leave me feeling a little uneasy.
Horses and I have a chequered past and sometimes
I wonder if I will ever get in the saddle again.
I love horses but if I'm honest, I have completely avoided them
most of my adult life.
I want to refind my passion for them and I suspect that the sculptor
of this piece is just the guy to help me do that.
I am off to meet Nic Fiddian Green, world-renowned horse sculptor
and thorough horse fanatic.
Big heads, little heads,
clay heads, marble heads.
Nic's studio is full of them.
Nic, you clearly love horses.
What is it about horses that makes you want to sculpt and recreate them?
I think really, the starting point was... Lost art student
at Chelsea, on a foundation course
and we were sent to the British Museum for a day, to find something.
I came upon the great room of the Elgin marbles and there,
at the far end of the room, confronting me,
was a fragmented horse's head.
It struck me as one of the most beautiful objects I had ever seen.
That was over 30 years ago. You've been making horses heads ever since.
Why do you keep making horses?
It's inspired by the Greeks, a sense of balance and proportion.
For me, it's all weighed up in the head.
So I'm constantly, in a sense, redrawing it,
reworking the line and the form.
His studio sits at the heart of a 1,000-acre estate and pretty
well everywhere you turn, there is evidence of the love of horses.
Now I remember why we were friends. Yeah.
The smell of a stable block is like nowhere else on earth.
I'm immediately transported.
I think Nic's partner, Henrietta, feels it too.
-You grew up with horses, didn't you?
What is it about horses then that you love?
Everything about horses! I love riding them.
I love just being with them in a field,
feeding them, travelling with them.
They are amazing animals.
And, of course,
nearly every one of the horses has to do its bit as a life model for Nic.
How closely are you looking at Freddie then
when you are working on a sculpture like this?
I'm looking at him as closely as possible.
Obviously, he's moving all the time, so being able to actually
hold him in place and really study his structure is quite hard.
But in his natural environment, there's no better place to learn.
He has certainly made his mark.
This whopper is 35 feet high
and it's one of Nic's most famous pieces.
Winched into position at Marble Arch in London back in 2011,
the piece is called, simply, Still Water.
Now for the show stopper.
Heat and light and hopefully magic.
This is how Nic casts bronze.
The metal has been heated to 1,100 degrees centigrade.
-Forgive me, but is that...
-It's called slag.
-This is the scrap.
-Are you OK?
-It's as liquid as water.
You would never believe a solid metal can flow like a river.
So, come on, Nic, the suspense is killing us.
Tell us what you have made.
Funnily enough, you'd never guess what's in that mould,
a horse's head!
Of course, we all knew really, but how will it turn out?
Here we go. It's falling out now. It's rather amazing, isn't it?
It does look quite ancient.
WATER SIZZLES Whoa!
This is going to be good.
And with a little spit and polish...
..the magic is revealed.
Spending time with Nic and being around his inspiring work,
I think a bit of his passion has definitely rubbed off on me
because when I saw those horses earlier today, all I wanted to do
was get on the back of one of them and that's a surprising feeling.
I think I'm ready to put the mishaps behind me.
In another corner of the Home Counties lies the historical
town of Thaxted.
This small corner of Essex played a big part in reviving
an English tradition, as James has been discovering.
Morris dancing might seem like one of the most iconic, age-old,
English traditions but in actuality by the early 1900s
it was virtually extinct.
The thriving tradition we see today is all down to a bloke called
Cecil Sharp, a music lover,
whose work inspired what's known as the English folk revival.
Mike Heaney is a keen Morris dancing musician
and an expert on Cecil Sharp.
Tell me who Cecil Sharp was.
Well, Cecil Sharp was a musician around the turn of the 19th
and 20th centuries.
Very interested in the revival of English music and he was
the guy who encountered Morris dancers in Oxford back in 1899.
So, presumably, it must have been pretty rare at the time
if he had to come across it, he didn't know what it was anyway.
That's right. Throughout most of the 19th century
it had been very much in decline.
And so, yes, he very much rescued it.
His main virtue was that he was
promoting it as a music and dance form.
And recording it, because until it's recorded
you can't spread it out to that many people.
With help, he devised a notation that enabled it to be written down
and so it could be taught from books as well as by example.
Being a geeky botanist I'm great at identifying plants
but when it comes to Morris dancing gear I have absolutely no clue.
What do the sticks and handkerchiefs really mean?
Luckily, expert Mike Heaney is back to help me
decipher what it's all about.
Mike, this is filling me
with trepidation just looking at all of this getup
but what I want to know first is what is with the cake on a stick?
It is not a stick, it is a sword. It's quite a sharp sword.
The idea of the cake is essentially you can sell pieces of the cake
and make money and in return for that they promise you fertility
and good luck throughout the year.
Fantastic. So, I read there with sticks involved
but I was imagining small magic wand type things.
These are proper full-on clubs, whack-you-over-the-head type things!
Well, you don't whack each other over the head
but you do whack the sticks together
and they do take quite a lot of a battering
but the idea is they help to
emphasise the movements, they make a noise,
they draw attention to the dancing and attract a crowd.
I have noticed the handkerchiefs as well.
They look a lot more like napkins. They're enormous.
It helps to attract attention, it helps make it
more of a display dance and more interesting and exciting.
Maybe Ray and Johnny can show us a little bit about how that works.
Great. I was going to ask, how do you do the handkerchiefs
and the sticks at the same time?! That's far too coordinated for me.
But cakes and hankies aside,
whilst Cecil Sharp's notes guaranteed the survival of Morris folk music,
without a crucial female figure,
the dancers might well have been forgotten.
Mary Neal was a social reformer who devoted her life's work to Britain's
female factory workers to whom she taught Morris and country dancing.
It was Mary Neal and her team of disciples that went around
the country to teach men, women and children how to Morris dance.
It was their infectious enthusiasm, combined with a really rigorous
and scientific recording by Cecil Sharp,
that brought Morris dancing back from the very
brink of extinction to the thriving practice it is today.
Mary's disciples came to Thaxted back in 1911, where
they taught dances to the children of local sweet-factory workers.
Pupils here still learn these dances today.
In fact, Little Tommy Bassett
is the great-grandson of one of Mary's proteges.
Well, I couldn't put it off any longer.
I'm being forced to have a go!
Here I am!
You tell me what I need to do.
If we form a circle, we will teach you the steps.
Very simple, straightforward.
So, you start off coming back right foot.
Everything is right foot start. This time... Right. Forward
Back. Turn out.
Now, half dip. Right shoulder.
Back. Now left shoulder.
You know what, I'm not sure if I'm going to give up botany
for Morris dancing but if it wasn't for Cecil Sharp and Mary Neal
this wouldn't be carrying on in Thaxted to this day.
If you've ever donned your plimsolls in school to do country dancing
then it's them you have to thank - or to blame!
I've been exploring the heathland around Hindhead
and the Devil's Punchbowl in the south-west corner of Surrey.
Once there was a hilltop residence around here
for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
At the same time as Conan Doyle was
making his home in this area, another very influential gentleman
from the nearby town of Haslemere had hatched a plan.
His idea was to transform our countryside,
protecting it for ever.
His name? Sir Robert Hunter,
a lawyer who forged a successful career in the civil service.
He's buried here at St Bart's church in Haslemere
and while you've probably never heard of the man,
you will certainly have heard of his greatest legacy.
Here is the plaque.
"To the honoured memory of Robert Hunter,
"a tireless worker in the cause of preserving and acquiring open
"spaces for the free enjoyment of the public in town and country.
"A founder and first chairman of the National Trust."
The trust came about from the shared vision of three like-minded
individuals but, with his legal background, Hunter made sure
it had a solid base.
Today, the organisation they founded protects more
than 300 buildings, 618 acres of land and 743 miles of coastline.
And while Hunter was the legal brain behind its creation,
he didn't like the limelight.
Can you show me where he is buried in this churchyard?
Only one person knows.
The person who keeps the churchyard records, who is not the rector,
is the person who knows and they pass it on to the next person.
-So, he's in an unmarked grave.
-He's in an unmarked grave.
He chose to be buried in a pauper's grave and his wife is there too.
-That's what he wanted.
-I wonder why.
-He didn't want any fuss, I think.
He was an unfussy person. It is rather splendid, really, in its way.
To find out more about this intriguing man
I'm meeting Ben Cowell who's uncovered enough information
to write the first biography of Hunter.
It can't have been easy, Ben,
to dig into the background of this intensely private man.
He was a private man and it was quite hard piecing together the parts
of his life because there was never a biography written about him.
But partly this was his choice. He did not crave the limelight.
He didn't want the attention. He was quite self-effacing, quite modest.
He simply wanted to protect open spaces.
But he did obviously love the countryside.
He absolutely loved the countryside.
He would always be walking,
he loved walking around here in Haslemere where he moved in 1882.
So, he loved the outdoors, he loved the countryside
and he wanted everyone to have that chance to enjoy it.
So, as a young lawyer in London, he entered a competition to write
about the law relating to common land and this is the essay that he wrote.
It was highly commended, it gets published in a book in 1867.
An Essay On The Preservation Of Commons
In The Neighbourhood Of The Metropolis.
What he's saying is, these places are vitally important,
they need to be kept open, they need to be protected as common spaces
and it's not just the ones in London, it's everywhere
across the country because this was a time when commons were being
enclosed at a rate never seen before and rapidly being built over.
And it was the fact that these places were disappearing
so rapidly that led him to think about the notion of
a property-owning trust that could hold them for ever.
A vision that came to fruition in 1895
when the National Trust was born.
In its early years, the trust campaigned to protect open
spaces, managing to purchase mostly small areas of land.
Then, in 1905, a big opportunity presented itself
right on Hunter's Surrey doorstep.
A rather dubious local landowner had been charged with fraud
and was facing a spell in prison.
Instead, he took his own life and his land came up for sale.
Robert Hunter realised that with good railway links to London
that land was ripe for development
and he didn't want that to happen
so instead he formed the Hindhead Preservation Society,
bought the land himself and donated it to the National Trust.
And a couple of years later the National Trust Act was
passed by Parliament.
It was another of Hunter's ideas securing the Trust's
responsibilities for the long-term, enshrining them in law.
Here at Hindhead Common, though, preservation of the land
has gone a step beyond Hunter's vision.
Until three years ago, the busy A3 London to Portsmouth road
ran through here. Then the Hindhead Tunnel opened
stretching for a mile and costing £371 million.
The long-fought campaign to redirect the traffic underneath
the common had been won.
Head ranger Matt Cusack is finishing off the job.
And this is where the old A3 used to be, Matt.
The last time I was here,
-I was driving a car! What have you done with it?
Well, it's still beneath our feet.
The tarmac surface is still under there and even
deeper below that is the actual tunnel itself.
They took the soil out of the tunnel
and put it back over the old tarmac of the A3.
What's going on here, Matt?
Basically, John, we are taking out the trees that used to
screen the old A3 so by taking those trees out,
it softens the landscape and it also joins quite nicely
Hindhead Common which is on this side of us here
to the Devil's Punchbowl and that's great for the invertebrates,
the butterflies can migrate quite freely where the road once used
to cause quite a permanent barrier.
And how long do think it will be before there will be no sign
whatsoever that the A3, a very busy road, used to be here?
Give it five years' time, you will be hard pushed
to find out where the road used to be.
A tarmac-free view, more open than it's been for generations.
Here, the National Trust is re-wilding common land,
right on Sir Robert Hunter's home turf.
The man would have been proud. If quietly so.
Elsewhere, the countryside is under threat because we need more
houses but exactly where they should be built is controversial.
So, have new planning guidelines left our green acres exposed?
Here's Tom again.
In recent years, proposed new housing estates have frequently met
fierce local opposition. So, how vulnerable is our countryside?
In 2012, as the government prepared to unveil its new planning
guidelines, the Prime Minister told Countryfile that the most beautiful
and precious parts of our landscape would still be protected.
We are not changing green belt, we are
not changing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we are
not changing SSSIs, all those protections that are there
but at the heart of it is... and I think this is what people
haven't yet grasped, in a way,
at the heart of it is more local control, the neighbourhood plan,
you decide in your community
rather than The Man In Whitehall Knows Best.
The largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England
covers the Cotswolds and includes the picturesque town of Chipping Campden
which is just a few miles from David Cameron's constituency.
This demonstrates what's the quality of the area, I think.
But despite local opposition a 16-home development has been
given planning permission.
Malcolm Watt advises on planning issues in this AONB.
Yeah, this is the site where
housing development has recently been permitted.
It has been refused on a number of occasions
but finally consent was granted about two months ago.
How come it was consented this time?
Well, I think that's all due to the change in weight that's been
given to landscape protection and the need for housing development.
Certainly that seems to be the case here.
In theory, the protection is exactly the same,
the whole basis of landscape protection has been in place since
1949, but what I think we are seeing is a need for housing is beginning
to outweigh the landscape protection that's been in place for so long.
So, it seems even Chipping Campden's position in an
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty can't help it
withstand the overwhelming pressure to build more homes.
One of the motives driving the new guidelines is a desperate need
for new homes so councils have had to come up with
a five-year housing supply plan saying how many homes
they are proposing, when they were going to be built
and crucially where they're going to go.
That's causing another pressure on the precious land around these
rural communities and the authorities looking after them. Land banking.
Let's imagine a local council has a quota for, say, five houses
and through their local plan they make five plots available.
The builder comes along but only builds on two of them
deciding to hold back the others - bank them.
Whilst that's the case, it gives the council less power to refuse new
applications for planning permission which might be put on other sites.
Now, if those are built
and then those are built as well in the future,
you could end up with more houses and less control over where they go.
It's a little more complicated in real life, of course.
South of there is 600 and for this site, down here, 1,000 homes.
But it's a problem being faced
by planners at Cherwell District Council.
This site was given permission in 2009 for 1,000 houses
but work only started on the site four years later.
Why does that give you such a problem?
That gives us a problem because those houses are not coming
forward and then we come back to the National Planning Policy
Framework which says we must have a five-year housing supply
and a five-year housing supply means houses being delivered,
not just identified but being put on the ground.
There may be many reasons why developers don't build
straight after getting planning permission.
Securing finance after years of recession, for example,
and not everyone thinks land banking is a problem.
As you can see, the buildings we are constructing now
are very energy efficient.
Andrew Whittaker, from the Home Builders Federation,
was named as one of the top 100 people with the greatest
influence on planning policy and decision-making.
Andrew, why is it that some developers seem to
sit on land for a while and not develop it for years?
Well, we don't think they do.
The whole point of house-builders is to build houses and therefore
when you get a planning permission you are desperate to get on site
as quickly as you possibly can
because you don't want the money tied up in the land,
you want to be able to build the houses and sell them.
You say you don't think they do, it's well-known it does happen.
Land banking goes on,
I am not sure how you can blanket deny it so clearly.
Well, what happens is land is the source of materials
for house-builders so you need land
but more importantly you need land with planning permission.
This country needs to build over 200,000 homes a year
and we have to keep a five-year supply of land in the bank.
That's over a million plots of land.
We are hearing there's only 400,000 out there. Now, whilst
we dispute that number, that number should be much higher.
But local authorities are between a rock and a hard place.
Some people oppose nearly all the development,
others want new affordable homes, leaving councils pushed to
both provide new houses and, of course, protect the countryside,
something the Prime Minister told us was crucially important.
I would no more put that at risk
than I would put at risk my own family.
So, is our countryside at risk?
Has the National Planning Policy Framework made the countryside
more vulnerable to development?
No, I don't believe it has but equally
we need to accept that this country has an intense housing need.
We are visiting upon the next generation the real prospect
of not being able to get a home until they are in their 40s
and we have a responsibility to protect our countryside
but find a way to supply enough housing for the next generation.
That demand for new housing is already having an impact.
In the two years since we spoke to David Cameron, the number of new
housing developments going ahead against the wishes of local
people has increased by nearly 10%.
With millions more houses still needed,
the pressure on our countryside will only intensify.
-Like many parts of the British countryside,
sheep have helped shape the landscape we see today.
Nowhere more so than the Cotswolds -
something local boy Adam knows only too well.
And here on my farm I've got some of those sheep that made this
part of the world famous, the fiercely named Cotswold Lion.
By, by! Good girl!
It was the Romans that originally brought these sheep here to
clothe their legions and by the 15th century
they roamed the hills in big flocks up to 6,000 strong.
If I can get the dog to bring them over
and I can catch one for you, I will show you why they were so popular.
Good girl! Bring them on. Steady!
Steady! Go back, by.
Right, here we go. I've got one.
And here you can see their beautiful long lustrous fleece that was
known as the Golden Fleece because it was so valuable.
By the 1400s, almost half of the cloth made in England
came from this wool. Really beautiful stuff.
In fact, whole communities around here were built off the wealth
made from this wool.
And there was a lovely old saying that says the best wool in
Europe is English and in England the best wool is the Cotswold.
And they weren't wrong.
For the landowners who owned these flocks, they brought great
wealth, which they used to put their physical mark on the countryside.
Not only grand houses for themselves
but even greater buildings to the glory of God.
Here in Chipping Campden, St James's is perhaps one of the finest
examples of what are known as wool churches.
This one was built largely thanks to this chap. Meet William Greville.
Greville was a famous trader, known as the flower of the wool
merchants in the entire realm of England.
And the money he poured into this church meant that it grew to
a scale far out of proportion to the local community it served.
His largess means this is where he is remembered.
At the foot of the altar, the closest place to God.
Men like Greville hoped their gifts to the church would give them
worldly wealth while they were alive but also ensure eternal salvation.
Now, the value of wool is nothing like it was back then.
In fact, the cost of a fleece hardly covers the price of shearing.
The fortunes made here in wool's heyday are a distant memory
but thanks to a dedicated bunch of farmers and
careful breeding, the rare Cotswold sheep is managing to cling on.
As we enter the depths of winter on my farm,
there are markers that new life will arrive in the spring.
I've got these Cotswolds into the pens.
The ram has been with them now for a couple of months
and he's ready to come out.
He's an enormous ram and he's a tremendous specimen.
The ram wears a harness and on the front is a chalk that we
change every nine days and a ewe will only let the ram mate with her
when she's in season so when he's mated with this ewe, for instance,
he's marked her with a green mark,
we then change to blue and red and then black.
And if the ram had marked them all green and then all blue
and then all red on top we would know he was infertile
because once they've conceived he shouldn't mate with them again.
But this one is working well and hopefully all these ewes have
lambs inside them and they will be giving birth in the spring.
But how we breed our farm animals today goes way back.
In the 1700s, pioneering stock breeder Robert Bakewell came up
with the idea of improving one of our native breeds of sheep,
the Leicester Longwool - a close relative to my Cotswold Lions.
Robert Bakewell was the man who really helped create these wonderful
Leicester Longwools and what he did was introduce selective breeding -
the breeding of livestock back then was very much on an ad hoc basis
but he would choose very good rams and put them with excellent ewes
and therefore get good lambs from them.
And he would ride around the countryside on his horse to select
the very best and he did it partly as a passion and as a hobby
but really as part of the agricultural revolution
because he realised
that there were lots of mouths to feed with a growing population.
And there's one farmer who knows this breed better than most.
Chris Coleman's family
have farmed the Leicester Longwool for seven generations.
So I've come to his home in Speeton on the dramatic north Yorkshire coast
to find out more about this incredible family legacy.
"Champion pen of Longwool lambs. Won by AB Coleman."
13 times. Know your stuff, you lot, don't you?
LAUGHTER My goodness me!
My father dressing a Leicester Longwool ready for showing.
That's my grandfather with a prize-winning lamb.
-That's my sister, Judy.
-So, the whole family was involved.
-That ram would win prizes today. Look at it!
-What does it say on the back?
-Exported to Tasmania.
-So, your sheep were going all over the world.
Oh, we sent sheep to New Zealand, Australia,
Tasmania, South Africa.
-There are flocks in the USA!
I entered the oldest flock competition
run by the National Sheep Association and John Thorley
and he came back to me and said, "Sorry, Chris,
"you are not the oldest flock in the UK.
"I've found a flock of Romneys," who he says are one year older!
So, we are 178 years old.
-The second-oldest flock of sheep in the country!
-Incredible. Shall we go and have a look at them?
As new and more commercial breeds of sheep were developed using Robert
Bakewell's techniques, the Leicester Longwool fell out of favour.
Today, there are fewer than 500 left in the UK meaning
they are classed as endangered.
Now, even Chris has decided to call it time on his flock
and put an end to his family dynasty.
My dad is 81, how old are you now?
-And do you still get out and work with the sheep?
-Oh, yes, yes.
Up every morning and feed the ducks,
feed the sheep.
And now that you're retired, what will happen to the flock,
will you keep them going for a while?
No, there are five females left here that are registered
but they are not in lamb.
But I shan't be putting them to the ram this year.
-So, really it's the end of the line.
-It is the end of the line, yes.
It's all right some people saying they put a few sheep in a paddock
and that's it, but you know and I know that that's not the case.
It's a lot of work. And your son is busy running a commercial farm.
-Oh, yes, yes.
-Well, congratulations for everything you've done.
It's a great honour to meet you and to see your lovely sheep.
What Chris Coleman and generations of his family before him have done to
protect and preserve this traditional rare breed is pretty amazing.
But there are lots of farmers out there like Chris
doing their bit for the industry.
Every year, the BBC make an award to a farmer for their standout
contribution to farming at its Food And Farming Awards.
And we're looking for suggestions.
If you know a farmer who deserves recognition for making a real
difference to the future of farming, and for inspiring the rest of us,
then you can nominate them as Outstanding Farmer Of The Year.
Details on how to do that are on our website.
I'm here in Surrey, just a few miles from the centre of London, yet here
among the hills and wooded valleys, you get a real sense of remove.
A place to get away from it all, to be alone with your thoughts.
A place, even, to confront your fears.
Like the fear of getting back on a horse, maybe.
Well, that's a very real fear to me.
I love horses, I love everything about them,
the way they smell, the way they move and I was really lucky
that when I was little I had quite a few ponies.
The trouble is, I've also had quite a few falls.
I didn't ride for ten years because I was too afraid.
I got back in the saddle a couple of years ago
and unfortunately had another fall.
I'm officially the person who isn't scared of anything
and does mad things all over the world and crazy stunts.
So I'm kind of embarrassed to admit I'm nervous about this
but hand on heart, I actually am.
So today is about facing those fears and to do that I'm going
to be drawing some inspiration from some remarkable people.
I'm going to put my hands on your hips just to guide you back.
The only cure for this condition, Transverse Myelitis, is physio.
This is a wonderful form of physio.
You're aiming to put a 10p piece between your shoulder blades.
This is Casi's Farm - home of
the Cranleigh Riding For The Disabled School.
It's part of a network of such schools that have been
helping disabled people ride for more than 40 years.
The biggest effort is getting back to being normal
and back on a horse feels normal.
You're not floundering around, stumbling around, walking badly.
Suddenly you're riding a horse. And in control.
Stroke victim Charles and the others in the group
come here once or twice a week.
Liz Harrison is the lady in charge.
We talk about riding for the disabled but we talk about therapeutic riding.
It is really therapeutic for people.
The environment, a different environment,
the horses themselves can be very emotionally calming
and the physical therapy of sitting on the horse.
What are the therapeutic benefits or, kind of, possibilities
of getting somebody back onto a horse who might be afraid?
A lot of people are afraid
but in a carefully controlled environment with people who know what
they are doing and are understanding and supportive, every chance!
Liz is confident.
First I've got to pick out a pony.
Feeding time is my chance to get up close.
-I don't think he's going to be fast enough for you.
There's nothing left, Blue, I don't think.
I kind of feel like here anybody can ride with a whole
range of problems, things that are a lot more significant than me
-just being a little bit nervous.
-Yeah, that is very significant.
A mental problem, a trauma like you've had is very significant.
You shouldn't belittle it or feel ashamed about it. You are normal.
One man who knows better than most about the dangers of horse riding
is ex-policeman Doug Smith.
Doug was thrown from his horse in the line of duty
and the back injuries he sustained
meant he had to retire from the force.
Now he's one of the country's top instructors for riding
for the disabled and if anybody can get me
back in the saddle, it's Doug.
In my head I can get on that horse and I can trot around here
and canter around here and jump over things...I think!
But actually there's something else in my head that's saying,
"Don't go near that horse, Helen."
-Who is this?
-This is Robbie.
Tell me about Robbie, why do you think he and I are going to get on?
He's what I'd call an economical horse.
He won't use an ounce of energy if half will do.
You are going to be very safe on him.
-Super. Don't look at him.
-Look where you're going.
Even so, I'm going to spend just a few minutes
walking around the ring with him.
-Don't look at him!
-But now I've met Robbie, there's no going back.
-This looks like a serious bit of kit.
Just get on a horse. I've done it hundreds of times before. OK.
-We hold him...over there?
Just hold him at the mane, that's it, up we go,
gently down into the saddle, that's it. OK?
-Now that's your grab strap, should you need it.
Put your hand under there.
Just one hand for the time being, feet out of the stirrups,
and put your stirrups across.
-So if you do the same with the other one, please, thank you.
Now, relax. I know it's easy for me to say, but this is teamwork. Right?
So all you've got to do is trust me, trust him.
I won't ask you to do anything you can't do,
and I won't ask him to anything that we can't trust him to do.
So just relax.
I've done this hundreds of times before, what is the matter with me?
It's natural. Just sit there and enjoy. Walking on. Good man.
Walking on. There's a clever boy.
Just going to turn him at the centre of the school
so just be ready, we're going to go left.
'Honest, viewers, these are tears of joy.
'I'm just so relieved and happy to be back on a horse.'
I'm going to change sides.
Now we're going to go the other way round, so at the moment,
he and I are taking you for a ride.
Just go with him. Nothing's going to happen.
This is just going to be nice and relaxed and enjoyable.
Feel the rhythm. Absorb the rhythm.
'I'm venturing down the bridal path, where John is waiting to meet me.'
That's it, well done. Excellent.
-Excellent, well done.
-Come on, Robbie, walk on.
-Keep in the rhythm.
-Good man, well done.
-I am in my element.
I am absolutely in my element. Whoa, pony! Thanks, Doug.
I know this probably looks so tame to most people,
but I always say, challenges are relative.
And for me, getting back on a horse
was something I had wanted to do for a while, so...
I think it's a great achievement, Helen, well done!
-All you need to do now is get down!
-I don't really want to!
-Can I help?
There we go.
That wasn't really as glamorous as I would have liked it to be!
Thank you, Robbie.
And you were very, very brave there, Helen, we're very proud of you.
Tame, but challenges are relative.
Just before we go, we'd like to hear from you.
Because we want to know where you'd like Countryfile to go to
in the British Isles, in the year ahead, and why.
But we don't want the places that tourists go to.
We want to find out about places that you think don't get
the recognition they deserve.
So why don't you e-mail us, to:
That's it for today though. Goodbye.
John Craven and Helen Skelton head to Surrey.
John explores the countryside beloved by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and gets a sneak peek inside his former home. He also discovers that it was a Surrey resident who was instrumental in the formation of the National Trust.
Helen meets an artist with an all-consuming passion for horses, then meets the inspirational people she hopes will get her back in the saddle.
Adam takes a trip to the North Yorkshire coast to meet a farmer who keeps a rare breed of sheep - the Leicester Longwool.
In 2012 David Cameron told Countryfile that he was going to make it easier for communities to stop big housing estates being 'plonked' right next to their villages. Two years on, has the prime minister kept his promise? Tom Heap investigates.