Countryfile travels to Yorkshire and the Humber, a dynamic landscape where expansive skies take in views over its low-lying countryside and its dramatic coastline.
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Yorkshire and the mighty Humber.
A dynamic landscape where vast skies take in views across low-lying
countryside and a dramatic coastline.
Out here in the Humber Estuary when the tide retreats, it reveals
this - a vast expanse of saltmarsh and mudflats.
Beneath is a banquet for the thousands of wading birds
that flock here, but to make sure there's enough food for them,
the marsh has to be managed and that is where these girls come in.
So I'm going to be finding out about a new project that's bringing
together farming and conservation.
It's not just the coastline that's a rich breeding ground for wildlife.
It can also be found in the most unlikely of places.
This is MoD Leconfield and it's where every soldier in the UK comes
to learn how to drive military vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
But hidden away between the trucks
and the hangars is a small army of volunteers
doing their bit for wildlife and I'm here to lend them a hand.
And obviously have a good nosy around, as well!
'Tom's investigating the dramatic decline of some of our most
British wild flowers used to be everywhere, but in the last
70 years, many species and habitats have disappeared.
Though now, they're fighting back in the strangest of places.
'Meanwhile, Adam's going on a shopping trip.'
A few years ago, I travelled out to Australia and saw some magnificent
herds of Hereford cattle and when I came home,
I had a dream that one day I'd be able to buy a herd of my own.
And today, that dream might come true.
'The open-skied landscape of the Humber
'on the east coast of Yorkshire is a bird's paradise.
'Its lush pastoral countryside takes in the Rivers Ouse
'and Trent as they flood into the North Sea.
'For centuries, people here have been defending
'the flatlands against an encroaching tide.'
And now it's home to another form of defence.
This is MoD Leconfield, the UK's only defence school of transport
and it's where every military driver must come to train before they
head off for active service.
Lying deep within the Humber countryside,
the MoD's taken advantage of this secluded and malleable
landscape to carve out a playground for vehicles big and small.
There are 1,300 on site of all shapes and sizes
and it's Commandant Colonel Rob Peacock's job to look after them.
So, Rob, what exactly goes on here?
This is where we take everyone from across defence,
young soldiers, airmen, Royal Marines,
and we teach them everything they need to know about military driving.
You've got all sorts of vehicles, all shapes and sizes and a lot of them.
People come here aged 17, 18, might not even have a car licence,
so we take them through the car licence, the early stages of getting
a truck licence, truck and trailer licence, but then the serious
business is we put them onto the military vehicles.
They learn on the MAN trucks, DROPS truck is the old stuff.
We've got the sort of Oshkosh fuel tankers over there.
The point is, they've got to learn to drive in all conditions, day and
night, all sorts of terrain because they need to do this on operations.
The driving part of it is almost the easy bit.
We need to teach them to be soldiers on the battlefield,
it's just that they have to drive vehicles.
'The reality of what these recruits are training for was brought
'home just a few weeks ago when a Mastiff, the MoD's most
'armoured wheeled vehicle was hit by a roadside
'bomb in Afghanistan.'
I feel very sorry for the families at the moment.
We really shouldn't forget how tragic it is for them.
But we do our very best to train them
in these vehicles in every condition we can think of.
Trying to replicate as closely as possible what's going to
happen to them in Afghanistan.
And we need to wait and see what we can learn from that and see
if there's any tiny improvements we can make on the driving side of it.
'Tens of thousands of soldiers have come through here in the past
'five years. Jason Figgett's been a DST instructor since 2006.
'After 15 years as a tank commander,
'he's now passing on his wisdom to the next generation.
'And today, it's my turn in the hot-seat.
'Not in an armoured vehicle, but in our 4X4.'
Let's hope she's up to the job.
'It's not about speed, you know. It's all about control.'
OK, all we're going to do now then is come out of this area here,
just carry on, follow the truck.
So this is meant to recreate surroundings
and terrain that you will come across in a military environment.
Yeah, it is. Yeah. We actually bring all sorts of vehicles on here.
The Mastiff, the Foxhound,
but also our LGVs, our normal military trucks.
-Just watch these dips.
What we're going to do now is accelerate and as you're going
over the brow of the hill, I want you to release the accelerator,
as you go over the tipping point.
If you don't, you'll end up going back the way you've just come up.
If you don't do it as we're on the descent,
-you'll end up balancing on top.
OK, foot off the accelerator. Well done.
-Did you like that?
-Yeah, I liked that.
-That'll do you nicely. Nice and gentle.
-So start to turn now.
-Keep it nice and straight.
-There we go.
-And we're going to go right again.
So this is very real training, but it's very real training for the
kind of terrain that you will face at some stage in your military career.
Yeah, we're now putting them into a cross-country environment,
which can simulate all the different types of conditions that they
could come up against, especially on operational tours.
So with the kind of obstacles that they have got here,
at least they're getting experience prior to going into operations.
So you've experienced this environment in places like
Iraq, Afghanistan, and all over the world and it's real, it makes sense.
Yeah, especially with the urban village that we now have here.
Driving in built-in areas,
what you're constantly looking at is how you can escape, especially
if you're ambushed and the urban village here simulates that.
And there we go.
Jason, I really enjoyed that. How did I do?
I've really enjoyed being with you. Very good!
'Driving aside, there's more to Leconfield than meets the eye.
'Later, I'll be joining some soldiers doing their bit for conservation.
'But first, wild flowers.
'Once a common sight in the British landscape,
'they've now become something of a rarity.
Tom's finding out why.'
After a bleak start to the year,
life is now returning to the countryside.
Our beautiful wild flowers are being slowly
coaxed from their winter slumber.
But the colourful jewels that once blanketed our landscape
are fading fast.
Wild flowers native to the UK have endured a steep decline over
the last 70 years and that means not only the loss of the flowers
themselves, but also habitats for animals and insects.
This is by no means a new problem.
In fact, it started during the Second World War.
With chronic food shortages and rationing,
farmers were asked to produce more food for the nation
and growing more food meant using more land.
We've all dined out on the success of agriculture since the war,
but our need for food has drastically reduced
the amount of green space left for wild flowers to grow.
In England alone,
we've lost an astonishing three million acres of wild flower
meadows, taking some colour from our landscape and upsetting
a food chain that supports a huge variety of plants and animals.
And it's not just the amount of farmland that's had an impact -
it's the way we farm too.
Here at the Millennium Seed Bank, it's Ted Chapman's job to
preserve the wild flowers we have for the future.
This is a wet meadow or fen,
-looking pretty glorious at this time of year.
So farming's been getting a lot of the blame,
but how does that actually work?
Well, I think probably the key culprits there are modern
fertilisers and herbicides, which favours the grass
but it certainly doesn't favour the wild flowers.
And how bad is the loss?
It's been pretty catastrophic, to be frank.
We've lost 97% of our species-rich wild flower meadows,
since the Second World War.
It's probably slowed a little now, but we really need to work hard to
prevent that further deterioration and reverse that decline.
The statistics are pretty stark.
Of around 1,400 wild plants in Britain,
45 are classed as critically endangered.
101 species are endangered and 307 species are listed as vulnerable.
That means about a third of our wild plants
are edging towards extinction.
Feels like the Secret Garden!
'Behind the scenes, Ted and his colleagues are going to
'extraordinary lengths to stop our wild flowers disappearing forever.'
By the look of it, we've got a mixture of the quite rampant
-and the very rare here.
-Yeah. We've got some spring beauties here.
You started with the cowslip.
This will be reasonably familiar to many people.
It's declining but it's not too endangered yet.
Really important food plant for butterflies. So we mustn't lose it.
Next, we've got this lovely plant. This is the pasque flower.
Really associated with old undisturbed chalky grassland.
And it's just become so rare, so fragmented,
you'd be very lucky to see it in the wild.
And finally, tell me about this one.
This is a favourite of mine.
This is the spiked rampion, the Rapunzel flower.
-And this is a very rare species.
-Great name - Rapunzel flower.
When you say "very rare", what do you mean?
There are less than 300 of these surviving in the wild, we think.
-Less than 300 plants?
-Less than 300 plants in the wild.
And the fact that there are such small numbers means it's in real
danger of becoming extinct in the UK unless we act fast to save it.
'Bringing each new seedling to life is a delicate operation.
'And Ted's trusting me to pot one.'
I feel quite a responsibility
if there are only 300 of these in the wild.
There are 50 in there. I think I got that one OK.
'The work they're doing at the Millennium Seed Bank is vital,
'not just for preserving rare and endangered species of wild
'flowers, but to ensure the future of the creatures that rely on them.'
Those wild flowers are the basis of the ecosystem.
'Pete Burgess is a conservation manager for the Wildlife Trust,
'here in Devon.'
We've seen big reductions in the abundance of some
of our butterflies, over the past 50 years,
real significant loss of greater horseshoe bat populations
and they rely on all of those insects
which are coming from all of those pastures.
'For Pete, there's no question - the decline in insects and even
'other larger animals is linked to the disappearance of wild flowers.
'But though many see farming as part of the problem,
'he thinks it's also a vital part of the solution.'
It's crucial that this area is farmed.
We've got to maintain that balance between the biodiversity
and the production side of things.
It's essential that we get that balance absolutely right.
Too little and this site would revert back to something
-that's less wildlife ripped.
-You don't want to let it go back
to nature. That's not necessarily good for wild flowers.
No, we're reliant on agriculture to maintain what are cultural
-It's quite a subtle balance.
-It is. Absolutely.
You've got to get that level just right in these sorts of areas.
If you let this go without any farming,
the bracken would dominate first, then trees would come up.
Bracken would be the first thing that would really invade.
The bracken would create this dense litter layer
and all of those really rich wild flowers just wouldn't be able
to get through that bracken layer.
So we've got to cherish the farming and cherish the flowers as well.
Absolutely. It's getting that balance perfectly right.
'But relying on changes to farming methods won't be enough.'
Our wild flowers and the animals that feed on them
have endured a quiet catastrophe, so what can we do to help?
Later on, I'll be on the road to find out.
I'm on the Outer Humber, where the estuary meets the North Sea.
This unique salty landscape is being given over to farming
and I'm finding out how farming is giving back.
This is a place both ravaged and nourished by the waves.
The Holderness coast, which stretches to the north,
is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe.
But while the cliffs lose out to the sea,
the estuary has something to gain from all of this erosion.
Sea water ladened with sediments from the cliffs is
deposited on the banks of the Humber,
creating one of the most fertile and richest breeding grounds in Britain.
I'm meeting Andrew Gibson from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
He's heading up an innovative project that hopes to
conserve the Welwick saltmarsh.
Saltmarshes are a special habitat. It's a unique habitat,
it needs that twice daily saline water to push over and onto it
to maintain these succulent species that we see at our feet.
And so often, this is the type of habitat that is reclaimed.
We reclaim it for ports, for farmland, and it's being lost
in Britain and here we have a large expanse of it, but it's changing.
Let's have a look around our feet
and see what it is that the birds are coming here for.
The plants that we have here are sea lavender, you have arrowgrass
and then you go onto these domes of frescura, saltmarsh grass.
You can see the really special bit is there's only
a couple of centimetres difference in this height
and yet that changes the mosaic of the species in there.
And with that, changes the mosaic of insects that are in there.
-And the birds that feed on those insects.
-A lot going on then.
A hell of a lot going on, yes.
But this is a changing landscape.
Human attempts to drain the land and reclaim it for farming has
altered the dynamics of the saltmarsh.
Taller grasses now dominate,
choking out some of the important shorter species.
What we have is this large expanse of land. How do you manage this?
How do you bring about positive change for wildlife?
You could do it with mechanical means,
you could do it with volunteers.
Often the Wildlife Trust uses lots of volunteers.
But to make it sustainable, you need grazing animals.
And what better way than having farming grazing animals
and involving the community that live on its boundary?
Andrew was keen that involvement included the next
generation of farmers. He had the sheep,
all he needed was a local young farmer to shepherd them.
That's where Jack Johnson comes in.
Farming's in his blood.
He grew up helping his dad Charlie out on the family sheep farm,
started up by his great-grandfather,
a stone's throw from the saltmarshes of the Humber Estuary.
Now then, lads. How are we doing?
Good to see you, Jack. Hello, Charlie. How's everything?
Good, thank you.
'The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has loaned Jack and Charlie
'an area of the saltmarsh, along with a flock of sheep.
'It's 17-year-old Jack's responsibility to look after them.'
Do you have your own set of traffic lights? Now, that's something!
That is amazing!
And so this is the first time in the history of your family that
-you've grazed sheep down on this marsh.
-Yeah, it is.
-Did you feel a big weight of responsibility there?
-Kind of, yeah.
And these sheep are all registered to you, they are your flock,
-Yeah, they are.
So your dad's basically given you this responsibility.
He can look after the sheep up there, nice and easy on the
fresh pasture up there, and then you get the challenges of the saltmarsh.
I know how it works, Charlie!
With the average age of farmers at 58,
a project like this is invaluable in giving young people an opportunity.
Well, the first thing to do really is just to keep an eye out,
see whether any sheep have fallen or are stuck or anything like that.
Then second thing is try getting them in the pen over there.
'Jack's been given 35 ewes to graze the saltmarsh,
'which after five years, he'll have to give back.'
Come on, you've got your lambs, don't worry.
'The cost of the upkeep falls to Jack and his dad, but any
'money they make from selling lambs for meat is theirs to keep.'
Basically, so we don't trample too much over the saltmarsh
and disturb any of the birds that may be in there, we just
slowly walk to the edge so the sheep funnel down through this gateway.
Now we pop them up there and into the corral.
Lie down, lie down!
Did you um and ah quite a bit with the breed here cos obviously
you're not experienced in the world of grazing a saltmarsh?
Why go for mules?
We tried getting a mixture between a butcher's lamb and something that
would survive out here, but also it's quite good for producing meat.
So you as farmers are happy and also then on the conservation side,
they must be pleased. We've seen where they've been nibbling.
Yeah, I mean, them
being out there is to make it habitable for wildlife so it's
two balances, between the butcher's lamb and the wildlife.
'At this time of year, the marsh is a busy stop-off point
'for a whole host of migrating birds,
'and an important breeding ground for many species,
'like roe deer and redshank.'
We've seen a lot more birds coming in in wintertime,
especially down where it's been nagged down at that far end,
and then hopefully they're going to keep on coming here.
'If all goes to plan,
'farming will help enrich this environment for flora and fauna,
'and Jack and Charlie will benefit, too,
'from sales of their tasty lamb.'
So, have you tried saltmarsh lamb?
-Er... No, not yet!
-Have you, Charlie?
-First year, so no.
-This is exciting stuff, then!
-It'll be on the shelves before long.
-Which one's going on the table?
-Pick one, we'll all get some lunch.
-Pick a big one.
'There's no substitute for hands-on experience like this,
'and it's great to see Jack's making the most of it.
'He's not only finding out
'what comes with the responsibility of owning your own livestock,
'but he's helping to preserve this unique habitat
'for generations to come.
'Later, I'll be meeting young female farmers
'hoping to make their mark in the farming world.'
'Here at MoD Leconfield, I've been experiencing
'the rough-and-tumble of a military driver's training.
'But there's a whole lot more going on in this part of East Yorkshire
'than first meets the eye.'
This site has been owned by the military since 1937.
There are 16 miles of off-road routes and 1,300 vehicles.
Last year, 18,000 soldiers trained here.
But they're not the only ones passing through.
'Birds, thousands of them, love this not-so-tranquil paradise,
'and it's the job of MoD conservation officer Alan Bakewell
'to look out for them.'
Alan, why is this such a cracking place for wildlife,
because it's slightly unexpected?
It's the same as a lot of MoD sites.
Because of the nature of our business,
they tend to be in sort of wild, secluded places.
This used to be an old World War II airfield,
and because of the fact it has been in Defence ownership for so long,
it hasn't had all of the agrochemicals and pesticides.
It's about as near to organic East Yorkshire as you're going to get.
So it's such a natural environment, that's why the wildlife flocks here?
'Yes, that's right.
'We never know what we're going to find next on the site.'
-Do you manage the wildlife?
-We don't manage it.
What we're really doing is surveying to see what species are on-site,
and we, as a group, have to rely on our expertise,
'but to actually assist us we get experts in.
'We learn lots and gain from all of their experience.'
-So even the MoD needs help sometimes with some things?
-Even the MoD.
'But with a site the size of Leconfield,
'it's not easy keeping track of all the wildlife that's coming and going,
'so the conservation team has come up with a plan.
'Retired Major Tim Cowley is heading up
'the tri-service bird-ringing initiative
'to monitor the birdlife here.
'The project involves people from across the three services,
'the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force,
'who net and ring birds together.'
There are several benefits that come out of this.
First of all, we get to find out some of the birds that are here,
and we might find something we don't know is here.
There are over 100 species of bird on this site.
'We also find out something about the condition of the birds,
'because if they are breeding they might have a brood patch,
'and we get to, if we're lucky,
'catch birds that have been caught before, which they call controls,
'and then we find out where this bird's been in the past,'
and maybe in future someone will catch the birds
that have been ringed here in the first instance.
'As owners of nearly 600,000 acres of land across the UK,
'the MoD claims to take its duty of care for any wildlife
'that takes up residence very seriously.
'And it's encouraging to see how enthusiastic
'the servicemen and women are about the animals.'
And it's that enthusiasm that led to a rediscovery a few years ago
of a rare bird. I'm hoping I might see one.
'Between 1997 and 2010,
'just three turtledoves were recorded at Leconfield.
'But, this year alone, they've already counted seven.
'This iconic songbird has declined by 93% in the UK since the 1970s,
'and it's a species likely to be extinct by 2020
'unless we do something to save it.
'I'm joining Chris Tomson from the RSPB
'to find out why these beautiful birds are in trouble.'
So, Chris, what's so special about the turtledove?
It comes here for the summer, it spends a third of its life here.
'It's come all the way from Africa to try and breed in this country.
-'That's pretty special.
-It's very special, it's part of our heritage.
'And it is a very attractive bird, and it's the quintessential
'sound of summer that's really disappearing fast.'
Why has there been this rapid decline?
Well, there's a number of problems. They're not finding enough food.
'Having made that vast journey of 3,000 miles
'they can't get into good breeding condition'
so they're not breeding as frequently as we would like.
They might get one brood off but for the population to actually increase
they need to get two, preferably three, broods off,
-and that's what's not happening.
-So where's the food?
What did they have 100 years ago that they don't have today?
Weed seeds, basically.
Weeds is perhaps not the right word, it's wildflowers,
it's sort of traditional weeds that we're used to seeing
like birdsfoot trefoil, knotgrass, redshank,
those sorts of things that these birds are feeding on.
Farmland is very efficient, it's very well farmed,
and lots of chemicals are used to control these weeds,
and so it's harder for them to find food.
Why is this such a good habitat for them here at Leconfield?
They've got the sort of habitat that they need to breed in.
They're quite secretive, so they nest in scrub
or in this case they're in a small spruce plantation.
All this, the trucks, the tanks, the cars, the lorries, the digging,
-doesn't put them off?
-Well, they were here last year.
Tim Cowley tells me that there are six here today and a pair,
so there's six singing males,
so they've obviously voted with their feet,
-or with their wings, should we say?
-With their wings!
I'll give you £1.50 if you show me a turtledove now.
If we look in the right direction we might see one.
Come on, then, let's see.
This is very exciting.
You won't be able to see it because it's tiny, tiny, tiny,
the top of a tree just over there,
but you'll hear the song of a turtledove.
I didn't think I was going to get to see one.
'To reverse the decline of these farmland birds
'the RSPB has launched Operation Turtledove.
'If you've spotted a turtledove this year, the RSPB want to hear about it.
'You can find details on that
'and how you can get involved in saving this bird on the brink
'on the Countryfile website.'
'Earlier, we heard about the dramatic loss of wildflowers
'across the British countryside.
'Is there anything we can do to bring them back? Here's Tom.'
'Nature's gems that stud our countryside.
'At least, they used to.
'There's been a dramatic decline in wildflower numbers
'in the last 70 years. One in three are moving towards extinction.
Modern farming methods often catch much of the blame
for the loss of wildflowers,
but, in reality, most disappeared when we were at our most desperate
for food, during and just after the last world war.
And, in recent years,
farmers have made some effort to encourage their return.
'Farmers in Britain directly manage more than 200,000 acres of fields
'and field margins across the country where wildflowers can grow.
'But we don't have to rely on farmland.
'Across the UK there are plenty of other green spaces we could use.'
This little verge alone
has two nationally rare plant species growing on it.
'As founder of the wild plant charity Plantlife,
'Andy Byfield thinks roadside verges
'are the perfect vehicle for wildflowers.'
-Can verges really be good for wildflowers?
-Oh, absolutely, Tom.
I mean, for starters, two thirds of all our flowering plants occur
on verges somewhere in Britain, which is a staggering total.
It's extraordinary, really, that, in what is such a barren habitat,
that you can get these flowers. But I'm learning that's the point
with wildflowers, they quite like it infertile, in a way, don't they?
Oh, absolutely. All these plants want is bare ground, short turf,
open patches when they come to seed,
so it's no different from your allotment or my garden.
'As well as being an ideal habitat,
'these man-made corridors do a lot of the work for Mother Nature, too.'
So much of the British countryside is a tiny meadow here,
a tiny meadow tens of miles away.
It's become so fragmented, the plants in those places,
and indeed animals in those places, can't really get from A to B to C,
but here, of course, what we're getting is the cars
coming down the road at high speed,
and what they do in their slipstream is just drag all the seed
from this junction to the next junction and beyond.
So, just like seeds catching in the fur of animals
as they move around, they get moved in the slipstream of the cars?
And carrying really very rare things up and down the verges.
'Plantlife believes verges and the edges of railway lines
'are also the most viewed habitats in the country.
It's recently launched a campaign to make councils aware
'of the huge potential for growing wildflowers.
'Here in Devon, in just one district,
'the council manages over 1,000 acres of roadside verges.'
If you multiply that across the whole country,
that's a vast area of potential wildflower habitat.
'Something environment manager Peter Chamberlain
'is taking full advantage of.'
So why have you brought me here?
I've brought you to one of Devon County Council's
special verge sites, one of 100 or so of our better verges
-that we have around the county.
-And what's so special about it?
If we take a look at this verge here,
we've got a stunning display of spring flowers just in front of us,
-a lovely group of early purple orchids...
-That's these ones here?
..and some glorious primroses. Yes, this is the early purple orchid.
And a lovely display of primroses in flower for us out in the open here.
They are quite beautiful. I can see one or two of the orchids here,
and I'm no plant expert, but looking at those I'd think,
"That's unusual, not something I expect to see out the car window."
-So, what are you doing, or perhaps not doing, here
-that enables them to grow?
-Over the whole of our road network,
which is almost 13,000 kilometres in length,
we've adopted a policy where we would only regularly cut
the first metre of a verge.
The remainder of a width of a verge would be left
and be cut only every two or three years,
therefore allowing a range of lengths of grassland
to develop over the verge.
One of the greatest road lengths of any highway authority,
so it is a massive length
and a massive area of habitat that we're managing.
So it's really important that we do get it right.
'From local councils to the Highways Agency,
'the people who manage British roads
'are starting to take notice of this potential.'
But how can we improve our own green spaces at a more grass-roots level?
'In Wandsworth, they're being asked to do just that
'by experts from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.'
Bees will travel 12 miles from the centre of Westminster
just to get food, because there's hardly anything there,
so they'll travel to sites like this just to get their food,
a bit of nectar from the wildflowers.
'This year, Kew is launching a national campaign called Grow Wild,
'which it hopes will encourage communities to transform
'inner-city spaces like this into havens for wildflowers.'
The growth of towns and the growth of cities, over-development,
has meant that a lot of spaces
which would have been quite natural spaces, brownfield sites,
have been lost to development.
So they would have been exceptionally important spaces
for wildflowers to take a natural refuge.
And the benefits that these bring here, the flowers themselves,
but also the people who live around?
Absolutely, getting people together to show what can be achieved
through a simple task like planting native wildflowers in an area.
The colour, the surprise it brings,
but also the knowledge that comes with it,
and they're working together and then looking back, saying,
"Wow, we created that, we rejuvenated that area ourselves."
And instilling a bit of pride in their own space, as well.
'Campaigns like this aim to inspire us all
'and they're seen as so important they're now attracting public money.
'Peter Ainsworth was once the Shadow Environment Secretary.
'He's now the UK chair of the Big Lottery Fund.'
The story of wildflowers, really,
since the war has been a pretty depressing one.
Are we in any sense turning that around?
I think we can turn it round.
You're right, it's been very depressing, you know the statistics.
Only 2% of the wild meadows that existed before the war now exist.
I mean, it is a shocking fact.
But, yes, with projects like this one, other projects
that, for example, Plantlife are engaged in, we can turn it around.
It takes effort, it takes time, and it takes money,
and it takes passion, too.
It takes the involvement of people who really care about this
and get the point about wild plants
and their importance to the whole of nature.
'If you want to find out more about the Grow Wild campaign,
'and suggest an area that you would like to see transformed,
'then check out our website for details.'
The classic chocolate box image of a floaty flower meadow
may sadly be vanishingly rare, but, with a bit of care and compromise,
we can provide great habitats for wildflowers
that fit with our 21st-century town and country.
Herefords, one of our most popular breeds of cattle.
This week, Adam's helping a friend out by looking at an entire
herd that's for sale.
First though, he's got a buying decision of his own to make.
He's found a White Park bull that would be perfect for his farm.
But an animal like this doesn't come cheap.
-We're looking for about 3,250 for him.
I've only got a small herd of White Parks
and it's important that the genetics within the herd are constantly
refreshed to keep them all healthy.
The most important thing is the bull
I have isn't mated with his own offspring.
I recently went up to Leicestershire to look at a White Park
bull I was thinking about buying and having thought about it,
I've decided he was quite expensive and I've only got two cows
that are related to the stock bull I'm using at the moment.
So rather than using natural service to get them pregnant,
I'll use artificial insemination.
That way, I'll know there are fresh genetics coming into the herd
and I'll have saved £3,000.
Artificial insemination will cost me a lot less.
The crops have been through a hard winter
and we're expecting a lower yield than usual.
Now that the weather is warming up, the wheat is starting to improve.
We really need to look after what we do have.
And one way to encourage growth is to feed it with nitrogen.
As well as 300 acres of wheat, I also grow 600 acres of grassland.
This is food for the animals, of course, not humans.
Thankfully, the grass is also beginning to thrive.
A few weeks ago, it was pale, yellow and lifeless,
but now it's much more green and lush,
which is great news for the animals.
As well as running our own farm,
we sometimes help out on neighbouring farms.
And this farm here is quite close to where I live.
And the new owners have asked us if we'll help them manage it.
They want to run it in a very sustainable way.
They've planted lots of trees and improved the hedges.
We've taken on the arables,
but we're also helping them run the grassland and a couple of weeks
ago, I got a mineral expert, Barry, to come and test the grass.
Shall we cut some grass? How much do you need?
Well, it's in great shortage, so it won't be too much!
I'll hold the bag.
What we need is a complete ration
so that it's got all the right vitamins and minerals in it.
He's got the results to me, which are quite interesting.
It's quite low in sodium, in cobalt and selenium,
but high in things like iodine and potassium.
And if there's an imbalance in the minerals, it can affect the growth
rates of the cattle, the fertility, or how much milk they're producing.
So what we need is a balanced diet,
so Barry is going to put together a mineral lick bucket that the
cattle will feed on while they're out here grazing to make sure they
maintain their health and so what we need now is to get some cattle.
Sadly, the cattle destined for this grassland aren't going to be mine.
The owner will be my neighbour, Jane Parker,
who's asked me to look at some potential animals for her.
Jane and her husband are novice farmers
but they've done their research.
Because they're starting from scratch, they've got to buy
a whole herd, which is unusual when you're buying cattle.
And the breed they've decided on is the Hereford.
I'm heading over to Herefordshire now, to Ledbury.
The Hereford is a breed that I'm very fond of.
In 2005, I was fortunate enough to go out to Australia to see how
they've thrived out there.
'The cattle farms over there are nothing like I'd ever seen before.
'They were so vast that helicopters had to be used to round up
'the 8,000-strong Hereford herd down from the dusty land.'
There's a freshly born calf down there. It's not very old.
But it's amazing how it's following its mother in.
'It was whilst working with the cowboys out there that
'I got a real appreciation for the breed.
'But stunning as Australia was,
'you can't beat seeing a Hereford in Herefordshire.
'Gerald Blandford is one of the UK's top breeders and I'm hoping
'he might have a few animals suitable for Jane's new venture.'
-They look lovely. Can we get a bit closer?
-What have you got here then?
-These are first calving heifers.
They've been out about a week. They've settled down well.
-They're lovely and quiet.
-Yes. We're on a footpath at this very minute.
They have to be quiet with the public.
I suppose you're keeping Herefords because you live in Herefordshire?
Yes, partly. But they are the easiest breed to keep, the cheapest.
They do well on grass. They convert grass efficiently into beef.
Jane Parker, who's interested in buying the cattle, I've shown
her lots of different native British breeds and she's chosen the Hereford.
-She's made a good choice, hasn't she?
Mainly because they're so quiet.
For a novice, you couldn't have a better breed.
Jane's decided to come and see the Herefords for herself.
Choosing the breed wasn't easy. She's looked at many different options.
We spent quite a long time getting to this decision.
We've even eaten some and enjoyed the results very much.
But we definitely fell in love with the Herefords.
They're a fantastic cattle to have, particularly for a family.
They're benign and docile.
For us, they fit very well with our model of sustainable farming,
where we obviously want to have the right
amount of animals on the land, but we also want animals
that are very efficient at converting food into meat.
How many cattle are we planning on starting with? Round about 20?
-Round about 20, yes.
-And then build the herd up from there.
We've got a five-year plan based on as sustainable a model as we think
we can manage, whilst bearing profit in mind all the time obviously.
-And we thought we'd start with 20.
-So when you're buying a cow, Jane,
you're not only getting the cow itself
and all the genetics that's with that that Gerald has built up over
years, but also she'll have a calf at foot that's suckling from her
and hopefully she'll be pregnant as well. You're buying three animals.
And the calf that's suckling will grow on quite quickly to bring
you in some money.
Although it's a big investment, the return will soon come.
And also, what we're buying from you is 40 years of breeding.
Correct, yes. It makes me feel older than ever!
So, Gerald, we haven't talked about buying a bull.
What would be your advice?
You'll have to put a lot of thought into it. It will be half your herd.
Half of his genetics is in all your calves that are born,
so you need to buy a good male.
Well, I'll leave you two together,
so maybe you can pick up a few more tips, Jane.
-And perhaps even strike a deal. See you later.
-Thank you, Adam.
'OK, so maybe I'm a bit jealous that Jane's buying the Herefords
'and I'm not. But it will be a big financial outlay for her.
'We're talking around £50,000 for 20 cattle of all ages.
'Luckily, Gerald will steer her in the right direction.'
It's been a great day to come and see this wonderful herd of Hereford
cattle and for Jane, this is a big investment.
She's a novice when it comes to cattle farming, but what she's buying
here are a wonderful herd with 50 years' worth of breeding behind them.
And a great brain in Gerald when it comes to Hereford breeding.
All she's got to do now is strike a deal.
Next week, I'll be looking at working dogs,
including one with a bit of a difference.
Earlier, I was out on the exposed coastal saltmarsh at the edge
of the Humber Estuary with 17-year-old Jack Johnson.
He's part of a scheme to encourage young farmers to get
firsthand experience of the industry.
I'm heading deeper into Yorkshire where there's
something of a sea change happening at grassroots level.
Here at Bishop Burton Agricultural College near Beverley, there's an
irrepressible force at work amongst our next generation of farmers.
And it's all to do with girl power.
Bishop Burton has witnessed a surge in female
applicants for their farming courses.
One in five of their agricultural students are now women,
compared to less than one in ten five years ago.
17-year-old identical twins Vicky
and Lizzie Appleyard are studying for their level three
agriculture course and today,
they're preparing for the college's 52nd annual stockmanship show.
-Now then, girls. How are you doing?
-Lovely to see you.
-This is Delilah.
-Why did you choose Delilah?
-I like the song.
-You know the song.
-Fair enough. And, Lizzie?
-This is Miranda.
Right. Well, let me give you a hand with a bit of sponging.
We'll do the armpits down here.
Yeah, just get all the yellow patches.
As identical twins, you've chosen an identical profession.
Have you always been into it? Do you come from a farming family?
None of our family are anything to do with farming.
So in that respect, it's quite hard for us to get anywhere.
As well as being girls.
So we came into it through our auntie.
She got some lambs to look after and we spent a couple of weeks
looking after them and we were just hooked.
So would the ultimate goal then be for you two to have a farm together?
-That would be pretty cool.
-We work brilliantly together.
So it wouldn't be a problem. We never fall out.
-And what would you have on your farm?
-And a pink tractor maybe!
So all of your friends at your age, I guess on the girls side of it,
-not many of them would wander round farms.
My friends would be sat there reading their Glamour magazine
and I'd have my Farmers Weekly. We're a bit different, I'd say!
Time for a run through for tomorrow's parade with
teacher Helen Martin.
-Oh, we've got a sitter.
-We've got a protest on our hands!
-Well, what can you do
when you've got a big animal like that lying on the ground?
I'm afraid 500 kilos of cow has the final say in this case!
The girls are doing incredibly well, aren't they?
They're doing so, so well.
They seem to have that touch and Lizzie and Vicky
had them on a halter within two days.
Some of the lads couldn't match that at all.
Women in farming is nothing new,
but we've seen an increase in the amount that want to come in
and take top management jobs and actually build a career out of this.
They're lining up, so I'll let you get back to the class
and continue with the rehearsals for tomorrow.
-Good luck with it.
One example of Bishop Burton's new breed of business-minded
young women is 17-year-old Jess Graves.
She runs her own bacon business from home, Jess's Porky Pigs.
You're quite unique. There's not many students that are obsessed
-with pigs like you are.
-I know. Really obsessed!
-When did that start?
-When I was eight.
My dad bought me two little pigs and I loved them to bits.
And I sold them and I saw the money and thought,
"Oh, my God!" So then I bought some more pigs, like 25 and then 50.
-Even at the age of ten?
-Yeah. I've never stopped.
So do you just come here to learn about pigs?
Or are you doing the wider business as well?
Pig nutrition and we do business management.
It's learning more about business.
'There are 23,000 female farmers nationwide.
'But Jess finds there are still some barriers for women to get over.'
I'm filling the troughs up here and my wellies are being nibbled.
-I thought you'd want the feed!
What is it about my wellies that are so exciting and lovely?
-Are you taken quite seriously as a young lady?
They don't believe that a woman can do a guy's job.
You've got to like believe in yourself
and think that you can do it and just do it.
It's the eagerly awaited Bishop Burton Stockmanship Show.
Nearly time for Jess and the twins to display their wares
and Lizzie's up first.
I'm really nervous! Really nervous! I hope she behaves.
She's not behaving so far.
But Lizzie's heifer Miranda isn't playing ball.
As the rest of her class head into the judging area,
Miranda decides she's not having any of it.
I think she just got a bit freaked out with everyone
and decided she wasn't going to do it.
Meanwhile, her twin sister Vicky is having problems of her own.
After some conferring,
the judges decide to give Lizzie a second chance.
She gets to show in the same class as her sister
and this time manages to persuade Miranda into the arena.
The judges are looking for a well-kept animal
and good knowledge from their handler.
Vicky and Delilah seem to be making a good impression.
'In third place, Vicky Appleyard.'
Am I third?
-'Well done, Vicky.'
Quite happy, actually. Least I came somewhere.
Better luck with Miranda next time, Lizzie.
And remember young Jack from the saltmarsh? Well, he's here
with his ewe, known simply as 3-2-1.
They pick up a silver in the sheep class.
Good result, done well, I think. Good enough.
It's a nice ewe, yeah, very nice.
Done well, it's done very well. Yeah.
Seeing the work ethic of these young stockmen and stockwomen,
I'd say the future of farming looks incredibly bright.
In a moment, Julia will be on night duty with the Army hoping to catch
a glimpse of an elusive animal that is making the most of MoD land.
Before that, let's find out what the weather has got in store for them
and us in the week ahead with the Countryfile forecast.
We've been exploring the Humber in East Yorkshire while
Matt has been meeting some young ladies who could be the future of farming.
I've been putting my driving skills to the test at the Defence School of Transport.
But it's not just driving that goes on here at MoD Leconfield,
there's wildlife conservation too.
It's happening during the day, and after dark.
I've been waiting for night to fall and now, armed with these night
vision goggles, I'm on a military mission with a wildlife twist.
Or is it the other way around?
If the picture is looking a little strange at home, no,
I haven't dyed my hair, it's because we're working in the wee small
hours and we're in infrared mode.
These are a truly incredible invention.
Sadly, I can't see what I would like to see.
It's not enemy combatants we're on the lookout for, it's deer.
The man leading the charge in tonight's operation is
ex-tank commander Jason Figgett.
Just as soldiers would use vehicles like this with thermal imaging
technology to spot the enemy at night, we are
using it to track deer for the Leconfield conservation group.
Why is it important to keep an eye on the deer numbers?
As you probably heard in the press recently,
they are saying there are too many deer in the country.
Some reports are saying we need to cull at least
half of the population.
As a member of the conservation group,
I am not here to talk about culling.
We're just getting an idea of what numbers we have got on the site
to see if it is sustainable, for what we've got on site.
What do you think?
I reckon it is about right at the moment, 20 to 30 for the size of the area.
-Put your sleeping cap on and we can wait.
..cross my legs and bed in then.
I think it is fair to say that this is not one of the better nights
I have had out, wildlife watching.
Here we go, we've got two rabbits, no they might be deer, actually.
-I don't know.
-They are hares. There comes another little hare.
This may seem a bit over the top to track deer
but it provides valuable information about the numbers on site.
It's also a good training opportunity for soldiers to use
thermal imaging and night vision equipment.
Nothing personal, Jason, but I'm going to try another tactic.
Thank you, good luck.
You'd better not see a whole load of them now.
Jason and the driving school are not the only ones using their kit to monitor deer.
The RAF are too, with this...
Tonight Squadron Leader Stu Gwinnutt and his crew are letting us
tag along as they do their bit for the conservation group survey.
Right, let's see what we can get from the sky.
'There's been a search and rescue crew based at MoD Leconfield since 1957.
'One of their jobs can be to assist police searching for missing persons,
'which is where their thermal imaging camera comes into its own.'
This isn't all about the deer for you, is it?
No, not really. When the Defence School of Transport asked if we can see the deer
with our thermal imaging camera, we thought that would be a good
training scenario to replicate what we do for real.
So the deer is effectively simulating a casualty we might be looking for.
Quite handy really for all parties?
Yes, we get a free casualty to play with if you like, and it's unpredictable
because we do not know where the deer are going to be or how it's going to behave.
Just like for real if we're looking for a missing person.
-I've got a deer already.
In our five o'clock.
How often do you see deer from the chopper?
Virtually every time we go night-flying.
It is quite common to see deer.
Sometimes, especially in the very small hours,
they're all over the training area.
How does it actually work, this equipment? It's a fancy bit of kit.
Basically, every body above absolute zero emits infrared radiation.
Depending on the properties of the body, we'll have
a different immersivity we call it. For instance,
-that target there, there are some cows in the field.
-Yeah, sitting down.
So, if we were looking for a casualty, the casualty is
hopefully going to be a lot warmer than the area he is in.
This gives you a good indication of what a warm body looks like against a cold background.
'I don't know about those warm bodies, but this is one body in need of her bed.
It seems by land, by air, by day or by night,
the landscape of the mighty Humber holds its own hidden beauty.
That's it from high over the Humber.
Next week we are exploring the Tentsmuir Forest in Fife,
up in bonnie Scotland.
For now, this is Sergeant Bradbury signing off.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Countryfile travels to Yorkshire and the Humber, a dynamic landscape where expansive skies take in views over its low-lying countryside and its dramatic coastline.
Matt Baker is out on the Humber estuary. When the tide retreats it reveals a large expanse of saltmarsh and mudflats; beneath it, a banquet awaits the thousands of wading birds that flock here. But to make sure there is enough food for them, the marsh has to be managed. Matt finds out about a new project that has been set up which brings together farming and conservation. Also, he visits an agricultural college where the girls are giving the boys a run for their money when it comes to farming.
It's not just the coastline that is a rich breeding ground for wildlife; Julia Bradbury discovers it can be found in the most unlikely of places. Leconfield is an MOD defence school for transport. It is here that military personnel learn how to drive combat vehicles; but away from the track, a small army of volunteers are doing their bit for nature. Julia joins them on a night-time operation looking for deer.
Wildflowers were once a common sight in the British landscape, but in less than 70 years more than 95% of them have disappeared. Tom Heap finds out why. Down on the farm, Adam helps a friend buy a herd of Hereford cattle.