Matt Baker visits St Abbs - a community who refused to let their lifeboat service go under.
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The East Lothian coastline -
sweeping beaches stretch for more than 40 miles
as they hug the Firth of Forth's southern side.
It's a fragile landscape at the mercy of the sea.
I'm definitely making the most of this stunning coast,
with the minimum impact on the environment
but maximum fun,
because these bikes leave hardly any tracks.
Whilst I'm in the Lothians, Matt's on the Borders,
joining the community who refused to let their lifeboat service go under.
-Oh, there's the roar!
Dear me! The power in those engines, Dave!
We catch up with farmers working hard to clear up
after the worst snow in years.
Believe it or not, this is the road towards Martinhoe
and this is still blocked.
but this is the sort of stuff we have to deal with,
trying to get to stock and everything.
Tom meets the speculators turning green fields
into building sites, but not everybody's happy.
It's a real David and Goliath battle.
There's a lot of money involved, a lot of money at stake.
And this is something we've hardly ever seen on Countryfile -
piglets being born.
Looks like she's thinking about doing that right now, actually.
-There you go.
-Performing for the camera.
-It just flew out.
Oh, look! She's going to have another one.
Well, it is Mothering Sunday after all.
I'm on the coastline of the Scottish Borders in St Abbs,
a small fishing village named after the rocky headland nearby.
This coastline has a rugged beauty
but place names like Cleavers Rock give you a clue to its character.
Exposed to the force of the North Sea,
these waters can be treacherous.
A lifeboat has been stationed at St Abbs since 1911
and, in that time, more than 230 lives have been saved.
But a few years ago,
the lifeboat service faced one of its biggest challenges ever.
It was decided that this small community would be better
served by the lifeboat station at Eyemouth, couple of miles
along the coast, and so the St Abbs lifeboat was withdrawn.
But the St Abbs community refused to let their lifeboat service sink.
I've come to meet the people who took on the mammoth task
of running their own lifeboat.
Alistair Crowe knows this place better than most.
Well, Alistair, you've been a fisherman all your working life
and a big part of the lifeboat crew for, what, over 50 years?
Yeah, over 50 years, yes.
It doesn't feel like that but that's what it is.
Well, you know how far away Eyemouth is.
I mean, it's only a couple of miles along the coast.
So why was there a real need to have a lifeboat here
and keep it here?
Well, we have so many divers coming here,
we have lots of canoeists, guys working on the rocks,
fishing etc, and when somebody goes in the water,
it doesn't take long to drown
and we are at the moment the quickest thing you're going to get,
you know, help on the surface here.
And when you say divers come here, what numbers are we talking?
-Are there a lot of divers here?
-Oh, a lot of divers.
On the headland on any day in the summertime, you might see
six dive boats, seven dive boats
with 12 divers aboard, all under the water at the same time,
so that's a lot of divers under the water.
The water clarity here is superb.
The divers flock from all over Britain to come here,
and foreign divers as well, so it's well-known, St Abbs.
It may be a tiny village but everywhere in the world,
-if you mention diving, St Abbs will crop up somewhere.
And how special is this place to you, and these waters?
Well, my wife has a great difficulty dragging me away on holiday,
-I'll tell you.
-Yes, I don't like to leave it.
People clearly believe there's a need for a lifeboat here
but how does such a small community go about taking on something
so hugely important?
Well, I'm joining some of them in the local cafe.
Many are descendants of the original crew who launched the lifeboat
more than 100 years ago.
-Here we go, team. Here we go.
It's down to the newest member of the crew to bring in the food.
There we go. We've got raisins, we've got cheese boards...
It's remarkable to see so many of the families still here,
with such strong connections to the sea.
That's your grandfather. Wow.
I can see the resemblance.
You can see it when you smile like that. Look.
His grandfather was far more intelligent, though.
Over a much appreciated teacake, a scone and a cuppa,
Euan Gibson explains how they've kept their lifeboat service afloat.
We'd set a target of raising half a million pounds,
which is a huge amount of money,
and three weeks into the fundraising campaign
we got a great cheque for £10,000 from Tunnock's through in Glasgow,
-the maker of the famous Teacakes.
-A lot of money, £10,000.
-A lot of money, so we were delighted with that.
And we phoned up Tunnock's to say, "Thank you very much,"
and in the course of a very short phone call,
that £10,000 went to £260,000.
So, er... Yes, we're absolutely gobsmacked. Just so grateful.
So that puts the lifeboat back in St Abbs.
Did that pay for the boat?
It paid for the boat, it paid for the equipment, so within
three weeks of the fundraising campaign, we knew we were back.
We've had donations from all round the UK.
We've even had some donations from abroad.
-It's absolutely been amazing. It really has.
And just keeping it going, you know, for generations and generations.
I know, Dave, your son Euan's here.
-How old are you?
On that note, who is related here?
-I mean, obviously, you and your...
-That's my son.
There's two other boys that are crew that are working.
And, Dad, what's it like for you, seeing your grandson on board now?
-Yeah, proud. Makes you feel really good.
Not just because he's there,
it's because he's carrying on a tradition to this village.
It's always been in the family,
-like everybody else that's in the village.
We're all related to keep that lifeboat going to sea to save lives.
That's what we're here for.
I want to see a show of hands here, and I just wondered,
in all seriousness, who has been rescued by a lifeboat?
In what they do?
-Go on, Carl. Get your hand up.
-I haven't been rescued.
-You have so!
-Get your hand up.
-In fact, put two up.
Wow. Wow. You've been on a boat with them, yeah.
There is no way out there
and if you're on the sea for long enough,
you will, at some point, need a lifeboat. Whether it's a minor
thing or a major thing, you will at some point need a lifeboat.
The St Abbs community are keeping 100 years of tradition alive
and this is the very building, the station that houses their pride
and joy, and I'm on the way to go and get changed now,
because I'm about to experience everything they've just told me.
We're going on a training exercise
and I've got a sneaky suspicion I'm going to get wet.
Now to this week's investigation.
When it comes to building new homes in our countryside,
feelings often run high.
But now a new breed of land agent has arrived on the scene,
offering farmers the chance to make a profit selling their fields
for housing, whether there's a local need or not.
Tom has been to find out more.
-The peace and quiet of the great British countryside.
Shattered by a war over housing.
-Save our greenbelt!
This is the heart of a local community!
And now a new breed of so-called "land speculator" has stepped
on to the battlefield and they're accused of exploiting
weaknesses in the planning system to maximise profits,
sometimes at the expense of local communities.
This is Stonepath Meadow, near Hatfield Peverel in Essex.
It's a treasured landscape for locals that offers
a gateway into the wider countryside.
But it's been earmarked for a 140-home development.
What does this place mean to you?
It means a lot to us, it means a lot to everyone in the village.
Once this has gone, it's gone forever.
It's... To us, it's irreplaceable.
With an overhaul of the planning system in England announced
earlier this week, and an annual target of 300,000 new homes,
rural sites like this one are under pressure -
and not just from the developers themselves,
as local campaigner Kevin Dale discovered.
So who is it that's got their eye on this site?
-Is it a house-builder, I assume?
-Well, not really, no, no.
What we're looking at here is a speculative agent.
They're specialists at forcing planning permission through
on land that wouldn't normally be suitable for housing.
This is about making profit.
So I gather farmland like this
is worth about 7,000 an acre, 18,000 a hectare,
but is it all about, once you've got planning permission...
-Oh, yes. Yeah.
-..sky's the limit?
-I mean, we're talking millions.
Land speculators, or "land promoters"
as many now call themselves, don't actually build homes.
They make their money by selling land onward to developers
with planning permission in place.
But critics say these companies are targeting vulnerable councils
who don't have a vital policy document,
called a local development plan.
This sets out where homes are actually needed
and the council has to show it has identified enough land
to meet national housing targets.
Without that, it has less power to resist speculative applications,
even when other sites could be used.
Why would you want to build on a fine rural site such as this,
with its rich biodiversity,
when you have a good brownfield site
that will give more than adequate housing for the village needs?
The company behind this application is Gladman Developments Ltd,
based in Cheshire.
Gladman claim to be the UK's most successful land promoter.
They're currently working on more than 300 development plans
and they're so confident of winning planning permission,
whatever the local objection,
that they offer their clients no-win, no-fee deals.
If their application is successful, they take a 20 to 30% cut
of the profits when the site is sold on to the developers.
These tactics have been criticised, not least at Westminster.
I totally agree with what colleagues have said about certain,
erm, certain firms of developers such as Gladman's
who game the system, as has been described,
in a, in a very aggressive way.
So how are they "gaming" the system?
Well, Tom Fyans is policy director
for the Campaign To Protect Rural England.
Its new report looks at how these land companies
use the appeals process to override any local resistance.
The report outlines over 160 cases where speculators are taking
planning applications to appeal and they're winning over half of them.
It's a real David and Goliath battle.
There's a lot of money involved, a lot of money at stake,
the profits are very high for the speculators,
so they can afford to bring in lawyers, QCs, they will appeal,
and then they'll appeal the appeal if they don't win that.
So it's really planning by appeal, which is
the complete opposite of what the local plan system is supposed to do.
Speculators like Gladman's, it's really their business model.
Gladman Developments are upfront about the way they operate.
In one recent High Court case, co-founder David Gladman
said they specifically target local authorities
whose planning is in disarray.
Well, now we've discovered there's no shortage of councils
for land promoters like Gladman to target.
We've found there are currently 46 local authorities
across the UK that don't have a full local development plan.
More than half of those are in England, where another 131 councils
have a local plan that's more than five years old and needs updating.
Shouldn't your anger be directed at the local authorities?
Because if they have a weak plan
or if they haven't provided the housing,
that's the gap that's being exploited.
Well, they're over a barrel. National government policy
is driving high housing targets to meet demand.
Councils are trying to respond to that, but they can't build
the houses themselves, so that's in the private sector.
So councils are then penalised for something
that they can't actually control
and then communities like here at Hatfield Peverel,
they suffer for that.
So, you know, they're really the piggy in the middle here.
We did ask Gladman Developments for an interview, but they declined.
But there are those who believe land speculators are exactly
the right sort of entrepreneurs we need
to shake up the UK's broken housing system.
And later in the programme, I'll be meeting one company that is
profiting from selling off greenfield sites for development,
but they also say they're providing much-needed housing
for rural communities.
The coastline of East Lothian
has some of the most spectacular beaches in the UK.
It's also an internationally important area for birdlife,
so it's no surprise that millions of visitors flock here
every year to drink in its charms. But enjoying its beauty without
causing it any harm is a delicate balancing act.
Now this part of the world draws nature lovers, fresh air fanatics
and dog walkers, but it can come at a cost,
because people can have an impact on natural habitats.
Now I don't know the East Lothian coastline very well,
but I am fast falling in love with it.
It's hard not to, really.
So I'm going to give it a good old explore.
Not on two feet, however.
On two wheels.
When it comes to cycling with sensitivity for nature,
this special bike leaves no tracks.
Bruce and David are going to take me for a cycle ride along the sands.
But first I need to get fitted for my trusty eco-steed.
Hello, chaps! How are you doing?
-What the heck are these?
Hence the fat tyre.
I've never seen anything like it!
Basically, we use them here for riding on sand.
They originally came from America.
Built for snow racing, originally,
and also anywhere that a normal bike struggles.
They leave less of a footprint on the sand than a human does, so...
So, when you're riding around the beautiful rocks
on the beaches around here, you're not leaving much...
You're hardly leaving any footprint at all.
My favourite bit is, instead of a water bottle you've got a hip flask!
-A hip flask, yeah! Well, I'm Scottish, so...
-So, is this one for me?
-This is a small-sized one,
-so that will fit you perfect.
-I'm incredibly tall, so.
All right, here we go. Let's give this a go.
My first-ever go on a fat bike. Watch out, North Berwick!
SHE MAKES WHOOSHING SOUND
There's been a problem with some bikes causing erosion,
but these fat-tyred bikes are turning the tide.
Every pun intended.
Well, I have to say, Bruce, this is good fun.
-Yeah, it's not bad.
-And why are we cycling below the tide line?
Well, we can do this and then our tracks will soon be washed away
in the next tide, so...
So, there's not even a mark in the sand?
Yeah, no-one even knows that we're passing.
When the tide is out, you can cycle right around
the headland, from North Berwick to the protected dunes
of Yellowcraig Beach, and beyond to the island of Fidra.
Dave Wild is the coastal ranger at Yellowcraig,
and, in his spare time, a fat bike fan.
Ah, Dave, what a job, being the ranger of this beach.
Oh, yeah, it's something else. It's a magical place.
I have to say, I think you're right,
this is one of the most beautiful beaches I think I've visited.
-And then there's the island of Fidra.
Tell me what's special about it.
Well, it's a stunningly beautiful island, for one,
but it's got such tremendous wildlife interest that you can
sit down on the beach here at Yellowcraig,
which is almost within touching distance,
and watch puffins, if they're bobbing around in the channel.
All these islands are hugely important for the breeding
birdlife that's found on them.
Famously, on the Bass Rock, it's the largest colony of
northern gannets in the world,
so we have 150,000 bright white gannets.
They're just now starting to reappear,
so there's a real challenge for us to try and preserve it.
And that challenge is one we all face - plastic pollution.
The marine life that thrives here is under constant threat,
both from littering and what's being flushed down the loo.
But locals here have taken matters into their own hands.
Plastics has recently become a huge issue,
and there's as a local charity here called Fidra,
named after the island,
that have been cleaning up their beaches and campaigning since 2014.
Sarah and Clare from Fidra are currently taking their fight
to the top, challenging the Scottish Government on plastic cotton buds.
Now, just looking at it, this seems like a pristine beach to me.
It does, but if you start looking closer,
so down in amongst the seaweed, you can then start seeing what
we're concerned about, and that's the small pieces of plastics.
-You can see some, here's some polystyrene.
I don't know what I should be picking up, if it's come down out of people's toilets!
-I might give you a...
-Oh, yeah, you can have a glove!
It's interesting, because you just made me stop and think, then.
It's like, cotton buds, oh, they have bits of plastic on them,
and I don't know, do people flush them down their toilets?
-I mean, you can see them dotted in amongst the seaweed.
-One, two. Are we talking about these?
-Oh, that's gross.
-And the problem with these is that once
they're in the marine environment, they don't break down.
Hundreds of years, these are going to be in our ecosystem.
Well, there you go.
-God, and this is another cotton bud, is it?
And there's a white one here. And there's a straw, of course.
God, it's scary stuff, isn't it? These are the dangerous bits.
All of it will just get eaten. And what are they doing,
what are they doing to the wildlife?
So, that size of cotton bud has been eaten by turtles.
They've found them in turtles' stomachs.
They've gone through the intestines of turtles,
have actually killed them.
They've found them, sections of them, in fulmars.
That's an absolute disaster, isn't it?
As a result of Fidra's pressure,
the Scottish Government launched proposals in January of this year
to ban plastic cotton buds entirely.
Well, hopefully you'll get the law changed. That would be fantastic.
-What a victory that would be!
-And that will be in Scotland,
and hopefully then other governments
can see the change taking place.
I'm seriously impressed that so many local groups
have had such a positive impact on this environment.
From a bike that leaves virtually no trace in the sand
to positive action on the plastics
that are harming the local sea bird population,
this is people power and passion at work.
We've had some pretty wild weather recently.
But thankfully, for most of us, the worst has passed.
Just over a week ago, we were in the grip of the Beast From The East,
whilst Storm Emma raged from the south.
It was the worst snowfall in years,
and brought Britain to its knees.
But not our farmers.
Braving the blizzard to get food to their livestock,
farmers north and south battled through the drifts,
knowing sheep would be buried underneath.
Some they couldn't reach in time.
These ewes were pulled lifeless from the snow in Cumbria.
But amazing scenes like this, in Wales, brought a ray of hope
to a desperate situation.
And even though they were really up against it,
farmers cleared roads with their tractors,
keeping communities on the move as best they could.
Farmers in local, rural communities that are able to get out
and help with snowploughs have played their vital part
in clearing some of those rural roads.
Farming stops for neither man nor beast.
And sometimes you've just got to get stuck in.
Within days, the worst had passed,
but the storm has left its mark.
On Exmoor and on other farms around the country,
the melting snow is now throwing up fresh problems.
Kevin Harris, a fourth-generation sheep farmer,
is dealing with the damage on the family farm.
The weight of the snow, really, it's just caused the fence to bow down.
It's pulled all the staples out, and this wire's very slack.
It's going to take a long time to do, to try and sort these
fences out, but it's a job
we're going to have to try to make time to do.
People think it's all over. You know, they're going back to work.
For the farmers, it's just a mess. The fields are a mess.
We've got all this repair work to do to the fences and that.
The landscape where we farm is very exposed.
We cut the wind really bad up here.
We had 50, 60 mile-an-hour winds.
And it was just blowing the snow everywhere.
Any place you didn't think there would be snow,
it was, because the wind had just blown it in.
It was a nightmare, really.
I come into the field, and it was full of pregnant ewes.
It was desperate to get them to safety, really.
Poor sheep, they just lie against the hedgerow, they think they've
got shelter, and the wind really blows the snow from one hedge
and it pushes it right over the hedge,
and then it'd start burying the sheep by landing on top of them.
The sheep get so heavy with the snow on their backs,
they just sit down, they sort of give up, really, sheep do,
These were good, they were happy,
because, you know, they'd only been in there a few hours.
People do say that they will survive for two weeks.
They're sort of in an igloo when they're in there,
and as long as they can breathe.
And they'll eat all the grass around them, so that'd be bare.
But it's the weight of the snow on top of them, as well,
and, obviously, being pregnant, it's not good for them
not to have feed for too long.
If you pull them out of where they've kept warm, they think,
"Oh, no, you're chucking us out back in the cold", and they will run
back in so, you know, it is quite a job to keep them away from it, then.
And it was Kevin's best friends that helped to keep his livestock
safe in the storm.
The dogs helped quite a bit.
You know, especially this one here. This is Mist.
She's quite good with her nose, so she can...
She'd sort of smell if there was a sheep there in the drift.
I've got Flo, she's the young pup of the crew.
And then I've got Fern.
Good dog. She was just helping me out day-to-day, you know,
gathering up the sheep a bit, trying to get them out of danger, really.
They've all got their individual jobs,
and they're all very good at it, so... You can't put a price on dogs.
They're worth their weight in gold.
They'll do anything for you, they're loyal.
You know, without them, it's hard work.
Believe it or not, this is a road towards Martinhoe.
This is still blocked, but this is the sort of stuff
we had to deal with, trying to get to stock and everything.
On Exmoor, there's a lot of farmers clearing roads,
because, obviously, there's little hamlets here, there and everywhere.
The council can't get to everything.
They've got to keep the main roads clear so, yeah, a lot of farmers
did a lot of digging and getting people out.
You know, it's just something you've got to do.
I've only ever seen snow like this in pictures.
And obviously me grandad and me uncle talk about it.
Me uncle says, every year, "You haven't seen a hard winter yet."
And I keep fobbing him off and saying,
"We won't see one, don't worry."
But this year, I've had to really eat my words and, you know,
nearly apologise for it!
Looking forward to spring. I always enjoy when we're lambing.
We're starting to lamb this weekend.
Well, today is like a lovely spring day.
I mean, the sun's out, you couldn't get any better.
Because, you know, if we were lambing, it would have been
a complete disaster,
because the poor lambs, they would never survive in this.
Hopefully it won't rain too much,
and I certainly don't want to see any more snow.
With the Government looking to overhaul housing,
Tom's hearing how land speculators have been accused of using
loopholes in the planning process.
But is there another side to this story?
There's no doubt farmland is under pressure
as the UK looks at dealing with its housing crisis.
Not least here in Warwickshire.
When it comes to selling off rural land for housing,
and to make a tidy profit, well, that's always going to be
a controversial way of making some cash.
I'm on my way to meet a farmer who's hired a no-win no fee company
to do just that.
Richard Spencer is a fourth-generation farmer,
with a herd of up to 200 cattle on his beef farm in Newbold on Stour.
He turned to a land promoter, one of the new breed of land speculators,
when he wanted to sell off part of the farm.
The original building was put in in the '50s as a 40 cow dairy unit,
and been added onto over the years, and it was getting pretty run down,
and it just wasn't fit for modern beef production.
It was either sell up and do something else, or,
I'm a farmer, I want to carry on beef farming.
Why did you go with these land promotion companies?
Well, I guess we were a bit naive to start with.
We didn't know about promotions and options,
but we took good advice from our local land agent, who we've had
a very good professional relationship with.
-We took his advice.
-What have you been able to do with that money?
How important has it been to the farming business?
Oh, I don't think we'd have carried on the way we were.
It was really hard work.
It was taking two of us, sort of three hours in the morning,
just to look after 80 suckler cows, moving them around.
And here it's a purpose-built building,
it's virtually a one-man system.
In the end, it's all been about keeping the business going?
Yeah, definitely. I've got two boys. Whether they want to come into
the farm, I don't know, it's a bit early to tell,
but I'm a farmer, I wanted to stay farming,
and this is what we had to do to carry on beef farming.
-Is it all right if we go and have a look?
-Yeah, let's go.
Building work is now well underway on the land Richard sold.
When completed, around 50 homes will stand here,
including just over a third allocated for affordable housing.
How have the villagers responded to this?
I think they've been very positive.
Because the actual development itself is very sensitive,
it incorporates an acre and a half of woodland.
There's a public open space that the kids can use
safely for football or games or whatever.
There's a car park for the church incorporated in the site, as well,
so we have done a lot for the village.
What do you think when you see the criticism that's directed at
companies like these land promoters, and also at farmers like you,
who are, you know, cashing in on the need for housing?
Oh, I think we're unfairly tarnished.
I mean, in our particular situation,
I think we've done it very tastefully,
and it's added to the village.
The firm behind the application was land promotion company
Richborough Estates is one of the companies criticised
in the Campaign To Protect Rural England report
we looked at earlier.
They're currently working on 80 sites across England
and Wales, which could deliver 20,000 homes.
Paul Campbell is one of Richborough's managing directors.
Land promoters such as your company are often accused of money grabbing,
well, and land grabbing. Some truth in that?
I think it's a wrong characterisation, really.
We promote land through the planning system.
It's our risk on behalf of landowners.
It's not a quick buck at all.
The local authority here didn't have an up-to-date plan.
Do you particularly target places like that,
because it's easier to get the speculative element through?
Absolutely not. But the reality is,
less than half of the councils up and down the country
have an up-to-date local plan.
And sometimes we find ourselves in more combative situations
which we'd rather not be.
Being in an appeal is really a failure.
-We don't want to do that at all.
Do you not particularly like appeal,
because that's when your expensive lawyers can win the day?
I don't think that's the case at all.
You end up in appeal occasionally, because it's part of the system.
You know, it's there as an independent arbiter, really, to make
sure that the policy and law was applied in a consistent fashion.
There's an acknowledged housing crisis in this country.
When it comes to solving it, do you think, well,
you're on the side of the angels?
I think it's probably wrong to characterise angels and devils.
There are people that are going to be living on this site
that have been on the housing waiting list for many years, probably.
There are memories going to be made in these homes.
You know, there is a very positive aspect to development.
So I feel pretty good sleeping at night, to be honest.
But change is coming.
A review of the appeals system in England is due as part
of the overhaul of housing announced by the Government earlier this week.
And back in Essex, the greenfield site
I visited earlier in the programme
has also been thrown a lifeline.
The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities And Local Government
has now called in the application to determine it himself.
A final decision is expected in the spring.
Of course, this battle will rage on across much of our countryside.
But while there's such a desperate need for housing,
and so much money to be made,
greenfields like this will always be in the sights of the speculators.
There are 10 million cattle in the UK,
and whether they're chewing grass or chewing the cud,
those animals are producing a lot of methane.
It's one of the most harmful greenhouse gases,
but science is helping farmers fight back.
Adam's in Scotland to find out how.
Now, all ruminants produce methane,
a ruminant is a mammal such as a cow, sheep or goat,
that have a specialised digestive system,
with four stomachs, that ferment plant-based food,
like grass, so that they can acquire nutrients from it.
Now, the largest ruminant we farm is, of course, the cow,
and they produce a lot of methane.
Now, most of us think that that comes out of its back end,
but, actually, 95% of it comes out of its front end.
Here at Scotland's rural college, just outside Edinburgh,
they're working hard to solve this gassy problem.
Professor Jamie Newbold heads up the effort.
So, Jamie, these cattle are producing a lot of methane, then?
They are, indeed. Full-grown animal like this,
probably 4-500 litres of methane a day.
And how does that compare to me?
About half of us produce methane, half don't.
But the half that do, half a litre, absolute tops a litre and a half.
We're not competing.
-So, half a litre for one of us, but 5-600 litres for them?
And where is it all coming from?
It's coming from the bugs in their guts.
And those are the same bugs that allow these animals to use
things we can't eat.
But, unfortunately, they produce methane as they do it.
So, what sort of studies are you doing here, then?
Sort of like everything. There's two challenges.
First, you've got to be able to measure it.
Once you've got it measured,
you can start looking at solutions to get rid of it.
Now, there is no silver bullet,
there's no thing for every situation,
but we're making good progress.
-Can I take a look at how you measure it?
The exact amount of methane produced varies from animal to animal,
and breed to breed, so getting reliable measurements is tricky.
But this snazzy bit of laser kit can get an accurate reading
just by being pointed at the cow's nose.
We're able to make an estimate, of a hair's level,
as to how much methane these animals are producing.
So, we're getting real figures, in production situations,
of what the emissions are.
-Amazing technology to find out this sort of information.
And so that's one way of measuring it, but you've got other ways, too,
-Yeah, so this is really good at measuring
sort of on a heard level, but we've got methane chambers
which are the gold standard,
which allow us to measure with increasing accuracy
the amount of methane that is produced by each cow.
We can enclose the animal,
and we can measure the amount of air that flows through the room,
the concentration of methane outside the room,
the concentration of methane inside the room.
We can work out how much gas that animal works.
And those are really highly accurate,
highly repeatable measurements
that we can do on individual animals.
Well, it sounds like you've got some very clever ways of measuring
the data, but once you've got it,
-what you do with it?
-There are three approaches we look at.
The first is the animal genetics -
its genetic control of the bugs in the gut.
So, my colleagues are investigating the genes
that are responsible for controlling the microbial population,
in the hope that we can breed for low-methane cattle.
But the second aspect is the food they eat.
So, by changing the kind of diet the animal eats,
you get more or less methane, so we've got a programme of work
that's looking at different diets, how they affect methane production.
And, then, finally, the use of additives.
There are lots of chemical plant extracts, just coming onto
the market, that have the capacity to significantly reduce
the emissions by cattle.
Well, it's great that agriculture is taking it so seriously.
-Lovely to meet you. Thanks very much.
-Thanks. Thanks very much.
As well as helping in the fight against greenhouse gases,
the college is breaking new ground in animal welfare.
Dr Emma Baxter has invited me to see the prototype farrowing pens,
where a sow is giving birth right this minute.
It's something we've rarely, if ever, filmed on Countryfile,
so fingers crossed.
-Good to see you.
Nice to meet you. You're just in time.
-You've got one giving birth?
-Got one farrowing for you.
-Perfect, look at that!
She's got quite a few already.
She does, but she's quite a big girl,
so I think she'll have a few more, so there'll be a few more to see.
And how do you know when she's about to give birth?
There's a few behaviours. The one thing is she's starting
to suckle grunt a little bit.
And then she'll paddle her feet a bit and squeeze, and you'll see
her flick her tail, and looks like she's thinking about doing that
right now. There you go. On cue, performing for the cameras.
It just flew out! Oh, look, she's going to have another one.
-Yes, she is.
-And that one's coming backwards.
That one is coming backwards.
That one might need a little bit of help, actually,
because it's come breech.
OK, do you want to go and do what you need to do?
Yeah, I'll just go in and clear it.
It's not quite as bad as with a lamb or a calf,
but breeches still can be a little bit tricky.
We've been trying to film a sow giving birth on the farm for years.
-We've never achieved it. And here you are.
-There you go.
That's it. They're doing well.
There's an awful lot of pigs being produced outdoors now, isn't there?
Yes, so, historically, actually,
the UK has a large commercial outdoor sector.
I think 40% of our breeding herd is farmed outdoors.
That's probably at its maximum,
because we are limited with the type of land that you can produce pigs
on outdoors, and the environmental responsibilities we also have.
So, it's important to have different systems indoors,
and I guess this system is somewhere in between the outdoor and indoor.
Inside or out, pig farming is a numbers game.
This sow has had 15 piglets so far,
and that's not unusual for indoor commercial units.
So piglet safety is incredibly important.
This prototype pen is looking to address that, and more besides.
And what is it you were trying to achieve by creating
this pig-safe pen, then?
A lot of it's designed in order to stimulate good maternal behaviour,
so what we're trying to do is, in our own way,
replicate what they would experience outdoors.
So that's why we have these different areas,
that fulfil different functions.
What we find is that when the sows first move in,
they spend quite a lot of time outside of the nest.
They have a chat with their neighbour,
that's why we have the chat holes there.
And then about 24 hours before they're due to give birth,
they want to start nest-building.
Which is what a sort of wild boar would have done in the forests?
Yes, wild bore would retreat away from her group,
find the most protected area she can,
often with a bit of a vista, you know,
but protected from the other side,
it's like a cul de sac, if you like.
So that she can keep an eye out there,
but also create a nice warm environment for her piglets.
What happens under here?
So, this has actually got underfloor heating,
so we call this a creep area.
It's basically a protected area that the sow can't get to,
but the piglets can. You know, they're very intent on getting to
the udder, and when she's up and about, it's difficult for her
to manoeuvre out of the way, so we want to help her lie down and help
her manoeuvre safely around the piglets.
Because she's a big sow, isn't she? She could so easily crush them.
-How heavy would she be?
-She is quite a big sow.
I think she's upwards of 250, probably closer to 300 kilos.
And they're, what, a kilo apiece?
Well, I'm quite pleased with this lot, actually,
-I think they're probably about 1.5.
-On average, yeah.
And as people, we seem to be driving more towards welfare
and where our food comes from, and this would help satisfy that?
Yes, I think the UK consumer, in particular, I think,
is interested in the provenance of their food,
and they want to know it's been reared responsibly.
This is just one of the systems that I feel that the
animals are well taken care of.
Well, it's been fascinating to see.
-Hang on a minute, she's having another one!
-There she goes again!
Yup, she's producing, performing for the camera today.
-Well, it's been great to see it in its full working glory.
-Thank you, Emma.
Innovation like this is helping drive agriculture forward,
but it's not just intensive systems under
the spotlight at Scotland's Rural College.
Next week, I'll be taking a look at research
they're doing out on the vast uplands.
I'm in the fishing village of St Abbs,
with the community that refused to let its lifeboat service go under.
-It's crystal clear, the water.
That's obviously why people want to dive here.
I've seen the cake and camaraderie side of things in the cafe,
but when the boat hit the waves, it's strictly business.
Dear me, the power in those engines, Dave!
So, go on, give us the stats on the engines.
They're two 200 horsepower - 400 horsepower on the boat. Two engines.
This is one of the areas we work from.
So you get a lot of diving here, it can be spread out from here,
right the way up past St Abb's Head.
-But this is the main area for the diving.
You get a lot of people fishing off the rocks,
-so it's a very, very popular area.
-I mean, it's some landscape.
-Oh, it's unbelievable, stunning.
-I mean, you can see why a boat like this is needed.
-You see the rocks, and, actually, I guess the reason why
you're coming out, a lot of the time, is just to keep
-I have an insured creel boat,
and I work the rocks under it from here up the coast.
Been doing it a lot of years now,
and I still don't know where every rock is.
You're never, ever going to remember.
So the more times we can get out and practise, take the guys out,
ladies out, let them see the rocks and stuff.
-It changes with the tide, obviously.
We're off to a particularly tricky part of the coastline
known as Skelly Hole.
Oh, man, look at this place.
Should I check this depth gauge here? We've got 11.5 metres.
Yeah, we're at 10.5, at the moment.
Not all the crew know this place as well as coxswain Dave Wilson.
Susan Barry is a recent volunteer.
-How long have you been part of the crew?
-About seven months.
-Have you really?
-Did you have much sea experience before?
No, none. None whatsoever. So, we moved here in January last year.
-And then I was approached
to see if I would be interested in joining,
-because I have a nursing background.
But this is very different, because I was in a clinical setting before,
and this is, you know, at the bottom of the cliffs and the sea,
you know, it's very, very different.
-It's not as controlled as I was used to.
So it's a huge challenge, but, no, I really enjoy it, love it.
Susan is quickly getting up to speed, but there's always
something new to learn in this ever-changing environment.
Coastal recce complete,
Dave announces we have one more exercise to perform.
And my suspicions about getting wet are confirmed.
We're going to do a man overboard now. Celebrity overboard!
Why are you looking at me like that?!
So, Matt, if you'd like to get ready.
We have a nice volunteer. The waters are nice.
-5.5 degrees, so it should be...
-Should be refreshing.
What can go wrong?
Have a go on this side?
You go on that side, Matt, and we'll circle round about, we'll come in.
Yeah, there's no graceful way of doing this.
We'll come and collect you, Matt, aboard the boat.
-Into the North Sea.
Oh, thank goodness Tim's on his way.
Tell us when you want picked up, we'll come and get you.
-Yeah, all right.
-Are you ready, then?
-Here we go.
Oh, it's pleasant!
-It's actually really pleasant!
I may be in a dry suit, but watching the boat leave me
in these freezing waters is a very unnerving experience.
Well, that is me. Completely on my own.
And you get an enormous sense of space out here.
It's so quiet.
And you feel...very alone.
Cold water shock is the biggest killer of people around our shores.
It's even said, if you survive long enough to get hypothermia,
you're doing well.
And, oh, my word, that feeling of seeing the rescue boat,
seeing a crew that are literally going to save your life.
Beautiful! Nicely done, team!
Faced with losing their lifeboat service,
this tiny community has forged one highly professional team.
You do actually sense the power of this piece of water,
you really do, but, um...
Oh, my word.
You know, although, at times, that was quite relaxing for me,
I was expecting it to happen and I was fully for dressed the occasion.
Helmet, dry suit, gloves, the lot.
I cannot imagine what it must be like to fall into a situation like
that, just treading water, hoping that you're going to be rescued.
But knowing that this crew is here,
ready to go at a moment's notice,
it goes without saying, they are a lifeline.
You know, from my experience over the last couple of hours,
and having to jump those waves, it's clear how quickly conditions
out there can change, and how important the weather is to
every single rescue that the lifeboat crew make.
And so, with that in mind, let's have a look
and see what the weather's got in store for the next five days.
I've been exploring the East Lothian shoreline.
The islands dotting the Firth of Forth have long fascinated
writers and artists.
It's said that Robert Louis Stevenson based
Treasure Island on the caves here.
And it's a landscape that continues to inspire today.
I'm in this stunning setting to meet an artist who fuses
what she finds on the shore line with ceramics,
and she works right out here in the field
at the mercy of the elements.
So please, please, just for one day,
Sun gods, keep smiling.
-Hi, Anita! Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you, too!
-How you doing?
-Yeah, I'm good! How are you?
-I'm wonderful today.
I mean, could we ask for better weather?
Pascale Rentsch is an artist
and sculptor who loves this stretch of Gullane Beach.
-Pascale, this is your office!
-I know, am I not lucky?
A lot of Pascale's work starts life right here on the shore line.
What are we looking for? What kind of things do you try and spot?
It could be anything. I look around, I wander about.
This is lovely, this is really nice. That, actually, as well.
-Look at the pattern on that.
-See, your ability to just spot something.
-I mean that, to me, just...
-look at that colour of it.
I use also water to incorporate in my ceramics,
and then use cane to bind it onto my ceramics.
Yeah, I always look out for nice pieces of wood.
-This is nice, look at this, Anita.
-This is almost like a painting in itself.
-That doesn't look real.
-Is that a shell?
-It's amazing, yeah.
Where you or I would probably see just a bit of seaweed or
a splinter of driftwood on the beach,
Pascale sees a decorative use for the sea's debris.
She's originally from Switzerland, but has now set up
her studio in Haddington,
and calls this corner of East Lothian home.
Combining nature and art is not a new thing for you, is it?
I always used to draw and paint since I'm a little girl.
I used to draw my mum's potato skin on the table,
or breadcrumbs, when she was cutting the bread.
And I had my sketchbook with me all the time.
And I did scientific illustration in Switzerland,
-but it wasn't quite me, because I'm quite spontaneous.
And then I've had an opportunity to come
and study in Edinburgh College Of Art.
Didn't you work at the zoo?
I was artist in residence at Edinburgh Zoo,
and I spent a year just being with the animals.
You just become one with what you draw,
-and when that moment happens, it's magical.
Right, it's time to translate these views into a ceramic vase.
Pascale wants me to have a try, too. Not sure how that will go...
-So, now, this is how you work?
-Yes, this is my outdoor studio.
-This is brilliant.
-It's great, isn't it?
-On a day like today!
-I can't imagine this is quite as much fun
when it's chucking it down, though.
Well, you just sort of have big umbrellas,
and you make it work or find a wee shelter somewhere.
I need to roll this slab of clay.
And I'm just going to bash it first,
-it just makes it easier for me.
And once it's sort of flattish,
I can then start rolling it out.
There's not much that I fear apart from art.
-Oh, you will be fine!
I know I've got a beret on,
which makes it look like I'm ready to do some art.
-You're all ready for action!
-I'm ready! Right, so you bash it first.
I mean, this, I can get down with. This is quite good fun.
Pascale has decided to use the buckthorn berries that line
the cliffs as today's inspiration.
Right, so, I'm going to use newspaper.
And I'm going to use this as a base,
so what I'm going to do is,
I'm going to do a type of mono-printing.
-I start with the berry shapes first.
So, here is my slip colour.
You can just dip into your colour, and you can mix them, as well.
And once they're fired,
these oranges will get much, much brighter.
-Look at the berries,
-how they're sort of shaped and clustered together.
-And sort of that's what you're trying to do just now.
I love the colours.
Oh, I see, and you're going to splodge it on.
-And then you sort of gently rub it off, like that.
And let's just see if it's taking. Yeah.
OK, it needs a fair bit of the old paint.
-Well, that's kind of like the idea of it.
Splodging the colour on like this means
they clay doesn't get marked by brushstrokes.
She transfers more layers of colour to the clay
to bring everything to life.
Oh, fantastic. How cool does that look? You can see it already.
I love that!
-Oh, Pascale, that's great. Are you ready?
-Shall I go for it?
It's going to be abstract.
-Right, so now to turn them into a pot.
Pascale effortlessly moulds hers into a perfect vase shape.
Mine looks more like a melted welly.
I'm just going to watch you for a second,
-because I genuinely have no idea what I'm doing.
So, you get, like, this kind of shape.
It's a beautiful vase. That's gorgeous.
What could be more lovely than to have that as a little
-reminder of a trip to East Lothian?
-Yeah! Isn't that incredible?
-Out from a piece of clay!
It's brilliant watching Pascale create art outside in the elements.
And the best bit? She can take a bit of her favourite landscape home,
immortalised in clay.
-You look like one of the lifeboat crew!
-It's absolutely freezing in there, I tell you.
We've been lucky with the weather,
but there is no chance you're going to get me in that water.
Well, I love this part of the world, but my advice is stick to the land.
-And the sand on the beaches, not in there.
Anyway, that's all we've got time for for this week.
Next week, we're going to be in Pembrokeshire, where I'll be meeting
the dairy farmers who are putting glass bottles back in our fridges.
-We'll see you then. Have a good week.
-Do you fancy a swim?
Anita Rani cycles along the sands of the East Lothian coast on a 'fat bike'. With larger than normal tyres they leave virtually no trace in the sand, having as little impact on the natural habitat as possible.
Matt Baker visits St Abbs - a community who refused to let their lifeboat service go under. When threatened with closure they independently took on the community lifeboat, saving 104 years of history.
There are ten million cattle farmed in the UK, and it is a well-known fact that livestock like cows produce a lot of methane, which contributes to global warming. Adam Henson is in Edinburgh at an agricultural college where they are working on a solution to the problem.
Tom Heap is looking at the companies buying up swathes of countryside and then selling it on with planning permission for houses. Are they targeting a loophole in the law for financial gain or helping out with the national housing shortage?