Helen Skelton is in Snowdonia looking at how the landscape has undergone many transformations down the ages, it is an area that has never stood still.
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Evolving, constantly changing, transformed by geology, climate
or the people that live and work there,
the British countryside never stands still.
I'm in Snowdonia, a landscape that has undergone many transformations.
Once upon a time it was full of heavy industry.
Now it's peppered with places for relaxation and leisure.
I'll be charting how this place has changed over the centuries.
And whilst I'm here, I'll be looking back at
how we've revealed other transformations in our landscape.
From wildlife reclaiming brownfield sites...
If this was a woodland or a fenland or a sand dune,
we would know roughly how to manage it
cos somebody's written a book somewhere about it.
Brownfields, we really don't know.
..to the landscape changing the lives of our injured war heroes.
I didn't think I could do anything else.
Being a sniper, there's not really many jobs on the outside
-where you can use them skills.
And the seasonal transformations on Adam's farm.
This is a really lovely spot on the farm
where this waterfall gushes over the wall here.
And during the summer it's an archway of leaves, and then
the winter comes, the leaves fall off, and it opens up to the light.
The mountains of Snowdonia.
Within these peaks people have worked to extract valuable
Welsh slate, a natural resource that has shaped this area
and the lives of those who live and work in it.
The historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog
sits smack bang in the middle of Snowdonia National Park.
Its prosperity was built on the slate mines nearby,
an industry that transformed this landscape.
Once the slate mine was established, miners came here,
and Blaenau Ffestiniog grew.
1836 was a big year for the town.
It was a Gold Rush year, but for slate.
Almost a couple of centuries since they began mining at Llechwedd,
the Graves Company are still here.
They were the first of the big boys to move in.
An interest in engineering and new technology
gave rapid rise to their operation.
By 1900, 900 miners worked here.
Slate was exported all over the world.
New York, Buenos Aires and Queensland.
Britain was producing a third of the world's slate
in the 19th century.
It was a tough job, and I'm heading into the mine
to find out how they did it.
It's an amazing place, Phil,
it's kind of creepy but kind of beautiful.
-Talk me through the outfit.
Was this what the Victorian miners would have worn?
This is what the Victorian miners would have worn.
They would have worn white so they could be seen in the dark
underground, cos all they would have had was candles, yeah?
What about this, then?
What's the technique that they used to get slate?
Er, well, this is a jumper, this is a steel rod with, erm,
two chiselled ends and a 10lb weight at the bottom.
They'd call that "the clap"
because of the noise that it made when it hit the rock,
and all they'd be doing is let the weights do the work for them,
and just pick it up and give it a twist as they're going along, yeah?
-Oh, this is a drill!
-This is a drill.
-I thought this was to smash up pieces.
-No, this is a drill.
And then they'd drill the hole, and then they'd put some gunpowder
in that, and then they'd prise the slate open, and then they'd have
big slabs of rock and they'd haul them up to the surface to be split
and dressed for the finished roofing slates.
So, was your dad down these mines, then?
My father and my grandfather were down here.
They worked down here in the level above us.
They were the last people to be working down here.
But it was hard work.
My grandfather, he had an accident, erm,
he lost the use of his hand cos he went back to the blast.
The blast went off early,
and I remember blue freckles up his arm
where the slate had embedded into his arm,
so I can appreciate how dangerous it was underground, you know?
What do they think of you working down here?
Erm, I think they're quite proud that I am, erm, working here now.
Erm, well, my father was a rockman, my grandfather was a rockman,
my great-grandfather would have been a rockman.
I'm letting them down, really, cos I'm just a tour guide, you know.
I'm sure you're not.
But I'm still keeping the tradition to go on, yeah?
The golden era lasted until the First World War,
but cheaper imports eventually put paid to the industry.
The last of the mines finally closed in 1993.
But transformations were happening.
The old underground caverns became a tourist destination.
Where people once worked, people now play,
and I'll be finding out how later on.
Some of the UK's most famous stone makes up the 73-mile frontier
that runs through Northumberland and Cumbria.
A few winters ago,
Matt and Julia visited Hadrian's Wall to witness
a once-in-a-lifetime transformation.
An undulating and ancient terrain that is home to one of the most
famous landmarks in the world.
A huge stone necklace that's strapped across the northern end
of the country. It's a colossal triumph of Roman engineering.
This is Hadrian's Wall.
This awe-inspiring, 73-mile block of thick brick
slices straight across the realm, from Newcastle in the East,
pushing through Carlisle to the West.
And we're exploring the expanse of wall that runs around Hexham.
2,000 years ago, Hadrian ordered his legions to build the wall.
It was an incredibly well-guarded massive passport control,
and there were forts like this one spread across its entire length.
At night, they would have been illuminated from the inside out
with fires and torches,
and those illuminations would have cast an intimidating glow across
the landscape, and that was something that had never been seen before.
Enough to scare away many a barbarian wanting to slip through.
Defending and patrolling Hadrian's Wall
would have been full-time work for a Roman soldier,
but they certainly didn't miss out on their rest and play time.
This is Vindolanda,
the remains of a Roman town where thousands would have lived.
This is the high street of Vindolanda,
and there's one like this at forts all the way along Hadrian's Wall.
A place where you can relax,
you've got a butcher's shop here, bath house just behind,
and at the other end of the street we've got a bar
just outside the fort gates.
So it really has all the facilities that you need to have a good time.
But why was Hadrian's Wall so important that it warranted
all of these towns dotted along it, and how many were there?
Well, there are about 16 forts attached to the wall itself,
and every single fort needs these facilities
because the Roman army bring all this stuff with them
because they want to keep the men happy, and, really, to build on
their lifestyle up here and impose their lifestyle on the landscape
and the people here, and that's a very important aspect of it.
But the Romans left 1,600 years ago, and to mark their passing,
something very special is going to take place.
The whole wall is going to be lit up along its entire length,
but it has been a monumental task.
Just a few miles away,
preparations for lighting the beacons are well underway.
There's a great atmosphere up here.
In less than half an hour a two-mile stretch of the wall is going
to be illuminated. A dress run for the real thing next week.
And I must say the operation is being run with military precision.
The Romans would have been proud.
Illuminating 73 miles of wall is a massive operation,
and an army of volunteers have been hand-selected to help.
Competition for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
has been fierce, and a passion for this World Heritage Site is a must.
Yeah, I love the area.
I think this lighting the wall will be absolutely fantastic.
You think it's a good idea, then?
Yeah, I think it'll be absolutely brilliant.
Are you a Hadrian's Wall fanatic through and through?
Yeah, we live right on the wall and our house is made out of
Hadrian's Wall stone, so I suppose we live in it as well.
So did you volunteer in a flash?
Well, I had seen the advert
and having walked the full length twice,
I thought, "I'll give it a go and see how it comes."
-D'you know what you're going to be doing yet?
-No, not yet.
-But you're prepared to do anything?
-..take it as it comes.
Up on the hill,
John Farquhar Smith's getting the volunteers organised.
Everyone has to know their job, including Julia and myself,
as we'll be lighting two of the beacons.
And if you can take each number,
9, 10, 11, and, Kerry, you can be 12.
With the light fading fast, the volunteers move quickly.
The gas canisters are made ready. Now it's just a case of standing by.
-Thank you, number five. Number six?
-Thank you, number six. Number seven?
The sun's going down.
Everyone's in place.
The anticipation is intense.
To all along the wall...
'and Julia at the end,'
this is Matt here in position one,
and we are lighting burner number one.
Roger that, Matt.
-Here we go, I can see it.
Position number two, please light your burner.
Position number three, please light your burner.
There we are.
-Julia, light your burner.
Yes, look at that!
We are on fire!
Well, what a sight! This is absolutely magnificent!
This is just like two miles.
What's it going to be like when the whole wall's lit up?
It's going to be fantastic.
This looks stunning, but also it's going to show, you know,
how long it is, cos it goes through urban areas, rural areas.
Erm, I think it's going to give us something really quite special.
It's not just places and landscapes that can be transformed.
Earlier this year, Jules Hudson saw
how the Wiltshire landscape is playing an important part
in helping those who have suffered
life-changing illness or injury in the line of duty.
The grenade actually exploded
probably three feet away from me.
The nightmares began sort of six weeks after,
and they were every night, two or three a night.
It was real, it was...
You could smell the cordite.
You could feel the heat and the sand in my gloves,
and even sleeping tablets would not keep me asleep.
It would all...
It would all just happen exactly the same.
Five years ago, Corporal Michael Day was blown up
during a routine patrol in Afghanistan.
I wasn't even thinking a day ahead,
I was probably thinking an hour ahead, and I had no horizons.
There was no light at the end of the tunnel.
I dread to think what it would have been like
if Help for Heroes wouldn't have been here.
After medical treatment Michael came here to Tedworth House in Wiltshire.
It's a recovery centre run by Help for Heroes
in partnership with the MoD.
Its aim is simple -
to equip soldiers with the tools, skills
and confidence they need to create a whole new future for themselves.
'Lt Colonel Grant Ingleton MC is
'the commanding officer of the recovery centre.'
This is definitely the place to get better, isn't it?
What does recovery mean for soldiers coming here?
Er, these young soldiers, up until their injury or long-term sickness,
were looking for a full career.
So, effectively, they are leaving way before they wanted to.
So what we do here in the recovery centre is bring them in,
get their mindset on recovery, and look at, instead of fixing bayonets
and advancing on the enemy,
to try and get them independent, re-skilled,
retrained and doing something really useful in a civilian life.
How many have you had come through since the doors opened?
The doors opened in July '11.
We've had over 900 we've helped in some way, shape or form.
-And, of course, they can come back, I presume...
-..as many times as they need.
Each soldier has been given the Queen's shilling,
er, and no matter what,
they were going to lay down their life for Queen and country.
So I think they deserve the best we can give them to assist them
to transition and recover into civilian life.
In amongst the 30 acres of woodland that surround Tedworth House,
the natural world is having a profound impact
on the recovering soldiers.
'Bombardier Andrew Deans is getting hands-on with nature by
'bird-ringing with Simon Tucker from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.'
Have you always had an interest in wildlife?
To be honest, not in particular, no.
But since coming through the, erm, recovery process,
it's really good to get out in the open.
Especially confidence as well, it's getting out
and getting amongst people if you've kind of got away from that.
-Andrew, would you like to hold the bird?
-He might nip. That's it. Nice, there you go.
-Look at that, you're a natural! This is your first week here.
Can I ask you, how did you have your injury?
I was checking on the guys in the lookout towers,
and we got struck by an RPG.
Caused a bit of a chain reaction
and started causing all the blood vessels in my brain to close up,
so they had to do the equivalent to a heart bypass on my brain.
So, coming to somewhere like Tedworth,
with activities like this, must be wonderful.
Yeah, it feels good that you're being looked after.
And then open up this hand and he'll just fly off.
For some recovering soldiers like Andrew,
the woodland provides a well-needed breathing space,
but for others, it points the way to a new career.
Dave Turner from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust uses the careful
management and conservation of this landscape to inspire the troops.
There's a lot to be said for the green outdoors as therapeutic,
just a good feeling of wellbeing,
because it does have a healing effect, I'm convinced of it.
I've been in woodlands for 20-odd years, but it still gives me
that buzz and wow factor when walking into woodland.
Here we are on the edge of Salisbury Plain, the army is all around us,
helicopters in the sky, tanks we can hear rumbling away in the distance.
For some people who come to Tedworth, that must feel quite
comforting and familiar, but for others,
I imagine it could be a real problem.
A lot of people do suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder
and they have different trigger factors.
So we give them the support we need but say,
"If you feel more comfortable
"then just retreat back into the house."
Can you identify any real success stories
you've had over the last few years?
Yeah, one particular person would be Michael Day.
He's now come out of the armed services, he's actually a veteran.
He engaged in the process, went on his chainsaw, got a course,
and is now practically using and implementing those skills.
But for Michael, it's been a challenging road to recovery
after experiencing so much so young.
I was a sniper and I was involved in an explosion with a grenade.
The grenade actually exploded probably three feet away from me.
-So where that chainsaw is?
-Pretty much so, yeah.
It damaged my back quite badly.
Took a lot of shrapnel to both legs, buttocks, and my right side
of my temple, which has resulted in me having a mild brain injury.
Were you suffering from post-traumatic stress?
Yes, I wasn't sleeping,
I wasn't coping very well with the fact
I wasn't going to be able to do my job anymore,
and I knew that day was going to come when I had to hand in the
green kit, and that was one of my biggest demons, not accepting that.
I didn't really think I was employable anywhere.
I didn't think I could do anything else.
Being a sniper, there's not really many jobs on the outside
where you can use them skills.
But here we are in this wonderful bit of woodland.
As a sniper you'd have been trained to exist here without us
being able to see you.
Yet here we are now enjoying this in a very different sort of way.
You clearly have an empathy with this kind of setting.
I spent many hours just walking, and enjoying being in the woods,
and I feel at home in the woods.
I have always liked being outside cos it's my job,
but being in a woods as quiet as this is soothing.
Michael's experience in these woodlands was not only therapeutic,
but the chainsaw and brushcutter skills he learned here
have given him a whole new future to look forward to.
I have...gotten hold of some wood. Donated to me by a very kind fellow.
I gave him my idea to create a place for disadvantaged young children
to come and learn what I learnt, and that was teamwork, humour, respect.
In the future, it'll hopefully be running courses from there.
-So you've gone from being pupil to teacher.
What I've seen so far here at Tedworth House is that
nature can be a wonderful healer.
Nobody's pretending that the woods here can offer
a cure for what the young men and women have been through,
but as we've seen, it puts many on the right road to recovery.
The slopes of Snowdonia and the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog were
transformed by the boom of the slate industry in the late 1800s.
As the slate market slumped, many found employment in a new industry.
That is Trawsfynydd Power Station.
It was the first nuclear power plant in Wales,
and the only one in the UK to be built inland.
It's innovative, it's certainly striking,
and it's nestled in the shadows of the Rhinogydd Mountains.
Thought by many to be a modernist masterpiece,
it was designed by Sir Basil Spence,
the architect most famous for the New Coventry Cathedral.
Opened in 1965, in its lifetime it generated 69 terawatt hours
of electricity - that's enough to boil 600 billion kettles.
It was switched off in 1991 after 26 years of service,
but in order for this place to be transformed,
ready for the next phase of its life, it needs to be decommissioned.
That's a process that takes almost a century.
In the long shutdown process,
the real nasty stuff has been sent to Sellafield for processing.
This phase of decommissioning is removing and storing low
and intermediate-level waste.
Rory Trappe has worked here during and since its operational life.
Take me back then to when you were a 16-year-old lad,
because you came here, first job, what was it like?
It was quite a shock, really.
The heat of the turbine hall, the smells of the place...
It's a building that people have quite strong views on,
because it is striking. Aside from what it is.
You work here, you live here, what do you think of it?
I do have a hobby as a photographer.
It's a fantastic feature in any photograph.
Others say it's a monstrosity.
You look at it from any of the hills around here,
and then you can see when you're looking down on the structure,
it does tend to blend in quite nicely.
Do you think that's something local people would say as well?
Not necessarily. No.
Erm, some people locally think, "Two concrete blocks,
"just get rid of 'em." But I see it slightly differently.
Over the next ten years or so, the plant will be transformed again.
The roofs will be lowered,
the buildings left in a passive state known as care and maintenance,
and the site simply monitored for a further 50 years or more.
Decommissioning is a long and slow process,
but hopefully in time, nature will return here. And you know what?
Some of the UK's most thriving wildlife reserves are in the most
surprising places, as Ellie found out when she went to Canvey Island.
Industry and urban landscapes as far as the eye can see.
The shorelines of the Thames Estuary aren't exactly
the sort of places you'd expect to find much life, let alone wildlife.
What happens when oil refineries, landfills
and industrial sites like these come to the end of their useful life?
Well, this site has been abandoned for more than 40 years,
and it looks like it hasn't been cared for at all in that time.
But that couldn't be further from the truth.
Places like this are known as brownfield sites,
and the conventional wisdom is to build on them.
But they're finding a new lease of life as nature reserves,
and some of them are up there with the best.
Of the UK's top five sites for rare and endangered species,
only three are traditional nature reserves.
The other two are brownfield sites. Both of those are here in Essex.
This one on Canvey Island is the best.
Get this - there is more biodiversity here, per square foot,
than on any other site in the UK.
This area used to be a coastal grazing marsh,
but in the 1960s it was decided to build an oil refinery here.
Changing circumstances meant it was never finished, and in 1973
the builders and developers moved out, and nature moved back in.
Now its evolution is being monitored by Sarah Henshall from Buglife.
-Hi, Sarah. How are you doing?
-Good, thank you.
We're looking for some of the really rare bumblebees that live here.
-There we go.
-What's this one?
This is a brown banded carder bee.
It's one of our rarest bee species, and it's a really cute one,
as you can see. It's really fluffy and ginger,
and it's got lots of brown bands on its abdomen, hence its name.
We've got 1,400 different species of invertebrates or insects here,
and the reason why these sites are important is
because we've lost more of our natural habitats in the wider
landscape, and sites like these are mimicking wildflower meadows,
heathlands, sites like that.
It's covered in sandy Thames dredgings, and that's perfect
-habitat and substrate for insects and wildflowers.
-That was a great find.
Well caught. We'll let it go.
-Need every single one of them out there, don't we?
The value of brownfield sites has only really been
recognised in the past decade so no-one knows much about how to look
after them, but they are a valuable asset, so how do we protect them?
Conservationist Alan Roscoe
is running an experiment here to find out.
-What are you doing there?
-Ah, hello, Ellie.
I'm using a thermal camera here to measure how much heat we're
getting off these bare patches of ground. The reason for that,
a lot of the insects here really enjoy having these bare scrapes,
this exposed substrate,
so they can bask in the sunshine and warm themselves up.
This plot here is actually part of a trial we're doing to
look at how we manage brownfields.
If this was a woodland or a fenland or a sand dune, we'd know roughly
how to manage it, cos somebody's written a book somewhere about it.
Brownfields, we really don't know.
-It's kind of a new area of conservation, this.
Brownfields, I think, are probably the biggest slice of luck
that conservation has had in the UK in the past 20 years.
They're absolutely fabulous.
But in order to maintain the value of these sites,
we have to know how to manage them, and that's what we're doing here.
So what does the trial involve, and what's it going to tell you?
If we look here and also behind us, we've got three trial areas,
and essentially what's happened is, the vegetation has been removed.
Either a little bit, a medium amount, or in this case,
underneath our feet here, a lot.
So what we're not doing is we're going to measure how much
vegetation comes back, and whether we get the species we actually want.
The transformation of Canvey Wick from oil refinery
to site of special scientific interest is complete,
but it's happened almost by accident.
The same can't be said about another site just along the river
Here, a new nature reserve has been created from scratch
from very unpromising beginnings.
Ever since Victorian times,
London's rubbish was brought 30 miles down the Thames by barge
and dumped in one of the largest landfill sites in Western Europe.
A million tonnes of it a year in a never-ending stream.
Two years ago, the landfill site closed, but the barges still come.
Not bringing rubbish from our bins anymore, but instead bringing
the waste from the big tunnelling project in the city.
The chalk and the soil from that gets used to cap this vast area.
The capping process was started just 18 years ago,
and since then plants and animals have been colonising it.
They've had a little help from their friends.
Some grass was seeded,
and reptiles from some of the major developments nearby were rehoused.
Now this whole end of the site, 120 acres of it,
has been turned into Thurrock Thameside Nature Park.
The reserve is being surveyed by Lisa Smart, the reserve manager,
and Darren Tansley, a mammal expert from Essex Wildlife Trust.
See if they've got anything. Darren and Lisa, how are you doing?
You all right? Has it sprung?
Yeah, this one has.
You can see the door's down so I'm assuming there's something in there.
What we're going to do is tease the bedding out
and hope the animal will come out with it.
-Just see what we get.
-Ooh! Any movement? Exciting.
Yes, there we go.
Ah, now, that's not necessarily what we'd expect in a grassland area,
but wood mice are common everywhere. He's gone quite quiet there.
That's not a sign that he's calm, that's a sign he's a bit stressed.
-Right, so we need to crack on. Righty-ho.
-Just going to let him go.
-And he's off.
That's one new species added to the list,
but it's not just mammals they're looking for.
We're on a reptile hunt.
-We are, hopefully, anyway.
-Do I need those gloves?
You do, yes, that's just in case we're lucky enough to find an adder.
Which we should hopefully do today
because there are plenty on the site.
But I don't need the gloves, because it's not an adder we find.
Oh, fabulous! What a beaut. These experiences always lift my spirits.
I love this.
From a personal point of view,
what is it about this site that you love, Darren?
Well, I mean, it's seeing animals like this,
it's fantastic, isn't it?
You very rarely get a chance to see something like this, do you,
so close to an urban environment.
I mean, the local people here
have had to put up with it being a landfill site for about 40 years,
and now to have a site that's going to be restored
to something that's going to support things
like slowworms and reptiles and the short-eared owls
is just amazing for them.
We've got another over 600-700 acres
to come along to us,
so, you know, it's going to be amazing.
There you go.
Aw, what a beaut.
The transformation of this place
from landfill site to nature reserve,
where I've seen slowworms, skylarks and wood mice,
has been truly remarkable,
and it's a great example of how we can rethink our brownfield sites
and how quickly our land can recover.
In the heart of Snowdonia,
Llyn, or Lake, Trawsfynydd stretches for five miles
and covers 1,200 acres.
It's actually a man-made reservoir,
originally built in 1928
for the Maentwrog hydro-electric power station.
The water level was actually raised here in the 1960s
to provide water for the cooling process
that used to happen at the nuclear power plant.
Now, behind it, there is actually a hydro power plant,
and it was generating electricity
40 years before Trawsfynydd,
and it will continue to do so for decades to come.
Wildlife is returning to the lake,
insects and invertebrates are on the up -
that's made Llyn Trawsfynydd a great place for fish and fishing.
Today is a big competition,
the Welsh Women International Fly Fishing.
I'm catching up with Rhys Llewellyn,
to find out why the lake is popular with fishermen and fisherwomen.
It's a wonderful fishery because it's quite diverse.
It's not your normal reservoir,
it's not particularly deep, it's shallow,
it's got little bays. It's a fairly natural-looking lake.
And the fish in here, it's not easy, it's a challenging lake.
But because it's a beautiful lake,
and it's got so many features, it's a pleasure to fish.
What can you fish for?
Well, we've got rainbow trout,
we've got a natural head of brown trout as well,
but there are also some pike in here,
some fairly large pike, and we fish for them as well.
Biggest fish you've ever caught?
Well, I've caught massive fish,
but the biggest fish I've caught in here was about 27lbs, a pike.
-27lbs?! How big's that?
-That's...between the eyes.
No, it's about that size, I reckon.
I believe the right reaction is, "Whoa!" That is an incredible fish.
Why is this such a good place, then, for competitions?
Because it's getting a reputation
for even some international competitions, isn't it?
Yeah, well, we're lucky to host the ladies' international at the moment,
and I think the reason for that is because it's a challenging lake,
so not everybody can just turn up and catch fish one after the other.
People have to move.
These are moving now to get into position to fish.
They have to move, they have to work for their fish,
and it separates the wheat from the chaff, if you like.
It really sorts out the better fishermen.
Fishing isn't the only pastime gaining popularity in these parts.
The track around the lake,
as well as the slopes around the old mines,
are criss-crossed with trails
to cater for a growing number for mountain-bikers
of all ages and all abilities.
Lanhydrock in Cornwall
is one of the National Trust's most popular properties.
Tourists go there in their thousands
for a little slice of Victorian life.
But now the 19th-century treasure
is undergoing a very 21st-century transformation
and I went along to find out.
Cornwall is one of the country's top holiday destinations,
a playground for those who love sand, sea and surf.
But there's more to this county than just the bucket-and-spade brigade.
Here there's something for everyone.
Take a country house just south of Bodmin, for instance.
Lanhydrock is the National Trust's third most popular property.
People come here to see what life was like
in this grand Victorian house
and to experience the peace and tranquillity
of a 1,000-acre estate.
But now this 19th-century treasure
is embarking on a huge 21st-century project.
They're building more than six miles of family-friendly cycle trails
that wind through the woods.
-And I am here to help.
This is one of ten cycle trails
being built in the southwest with European funding.
Although it doesn't look like it now,
the plan is for conservation and recreation to co-exist in harmony.
Angela Proctor's the person in charge
of delivering this challenging project.
The trails are very much aimed at families and novice cyclists,
so we've got a loop here of green trail,
which is the easiest trail,
it's wide, flat, fairly smooth.
And then we've got a lot of blue trail,
which is for the slightly more advanced cyclists.
-Little bit of red.
-And a little bit of red.
-Just a taster of the more difficult trail.
-For the thrill-seekers.
But also we do have a cycle skills area
where kids can come and develop their cycle skills,
and the skills area also includes a balance-bike track,
so even the really dinky little kids on their balance bikes
can come and practise their cycling skills.
One of the advantages of these cycle routes
is that they'll take people
into areas of woodland inaccessible on foot.
Not only that,
wildlife's set to benefit too,
like the estate's bat population.
Matt, there are already 12 species of bat here, I believe?
It's a real hotspot for bats here at Lanhydrock.
We've got really old woodlands, really old trees,
loads of crevices and cracks that the bats roost in.
We've also got young trees and plantations like this
where we don't have those crevices and cracks
so, by putting the boxes up,
we'll have the ideal places for the bats to roost.
Right, let's get this one put up, then.
Chris is ready and poised.
There you are, Chris. Oh, that's heavier than I thought.
30 of these bat boxes are going to be put up along the cycle track
and it's a track that I suspect
is going to be pretty popular with people too.
And why do I think that?
Because just around the corner in Cardinham Woods
another part of this project is already up and running.
Once you've mastered the trails at Lanhydrock,
this is the place to come.
It's only been open seven months,
but it's already attracted 30,000 riders.
You'd think that would deter people who want a quiet walk in the woods,
but not here, because there literally is something for everyone.
There are four walking trails over there, one for all abilities,
and then there are the cycle tracks.
So, walkers stick to those paths, my bike and I head this way.
These trails aren't just about getting people out and about,
there's the environment to think about too.
This was one of the first areas in the country
to be hit by larch disease -
a cause for sorrow they've managed to turn into an opportunity.
-You all right?
-Yeah, not too bad, and you?
So talk me through what you're doing here, then.
Two years ago we had to fell 20 hectares of Cardinham Woods
due to the larch disease.
Cardinham Woods is designated as an ancient woodland site,
so we're obliged to restock those areas with broadleaf trees.
And what have you actually planted there?
We've got oak and we've got cherry.
And then, within the plantation,
you've got natural regeneration coming up.
So you've got birch, rowan, holly, etc.
So, at the end of it,
we will have a mixed, diverse, broadleaf woodland.
Not all of the clear-felled areas have been replanted.
Here, the undergrowth's being reduced
so that a habitat for a threatened species can be developed.
The pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly
was once widespread in the UK,
but its numbers have declined rapidly in recent decades.
A butterfly conservation area has been created for it
on the other side of the valley
and now the Forestry Commission is giving it some extra help
by establishing a food source in between the cycle trails
that snake back and forth across this slope.
-Can I be of any assistance?
-Of course you can.
-If you could pass me the top turf there...
And butterflies will particularly enjoy what's in here, will they?
Yeah, basically the pearl-bordered fritillary,
which is the one we're looking to get here,
the larvae of the butterfly and the caterpillar
basically feed off the leaves of the dog violet,
which is what this is.
And once it's eaten a leaf,
it will basically just bask itself down in the vegetation down here
in the sun
and then just pupate into the butterfly in April.
It's mad to think, though, isn't it,
that the butterflies can sit here, can feed, can breed,
and there's mountain-bikers crashing around, but they'll be fine.
They'll be fine, yeah.
And it's actually helped us to manage this area
because of the compartments that we've got.
It just now separates this whole bank,
this whole south-facing bank, into little management compartments.
So every year we can just manage one little section over the year
to create a mosaic of habitats.
Nothing alters the countryside
as regularly or as dramatically as the weather.
As 2012 drew to a close,
Adam reflected on the effect
the changing seasons had on his farm.
It's almost the end of another farming year,
and the autumn seemed to come and go so quickly.
As a farmer, we're often rushing around,
but it's lovely sometimes
just to stand and take in the wonderful scenery that we work in,
and the autumn's got to be one of my favourites.
With that lovely soft light
reflecting on all those autumn covers
and some amazing mushrooms we get down this valley.
But now the leaves have all gone
and the trees are bare
and winter's on us.
Luckily we have a natural stream that cuts this valley in half.
During the hot summer months this offers a cool retreat
for many of my livestock,
especially the Highlands, with their long, shaggy coats.
As well as the fresh, cool water,
the waterside edges provide lots of lush greenery for the animals to eat.
But as soon as winter comes, it all changes.
This is the Windrush, that runs into the Thames,
and what was a small trickle during the summer months
has now become a bit of a torrent.
The water level has really risen.
This is a really lovely spot on the farm
where this waterfall gushes over the wall here
and, during the summer, it's an archway of leaves.
All the bushes and trees just surround it.
And then the winter comes, the leaves fall off,
and it opens up to the light
and the water starts to flow faster as the rain comes.
The cattle still enjoy coming down to the stream
in the winter, obviously, to get a drink, cos it never freezes.
And they're quite brave,
they'll plough through the mud and plunge around in the water.
There's one doing it over there now.
And, of course, the dogs love to play in the stream as well.
But not all my animals get to stay outside during the winter.
I like to bring some of my vulnerable young stock in.
These are my White Park cattle.
Some believe they were introduced to the country by the Romans
and then, when the Romans left Britain,
they left some of their animals behind
and the White Parks ended up isolated in some of the parklands,
the royal parklands, where the kings and knights
used to hunt them on horseback with dogs and spears.
Stunning-looking beasts, they've got this lovely black nose
and black eyes and black ears.
Sadly I've lost a few to TB over the last few years
and recently had a TB test and lost two more.
One that was a calf that I bottle-fed last year
when its mother had to be slaughtered because of TB,
and another one was Kylie,
who was one of my White Park oxen
that I'd trained for a film. So sad.
We've separated these calves from their mothers.
They no longer need their mothers' milk.
We'll be feeding them on silage and cattle nuts now.
And they're about six months old,
there's three females and then a young bull calf
that we'll sell to another White Park breeding herd.
Just got to get them loaded into the trailer and off to the shed.
Go on, then, babies.
Go on, there's good babies. Go on.
Many of my barns lie empty during summer and autumn.
They're completely lifeless until winter arrives,
when we need to use every inch of them.
Right, this is their winter home.
Steady, steady, steady.
There we go. They'll just mix in with the other calves now.
We've got Belted Galloways, Highlands and Gloucesters.
They might miss their mums for a day or two but they'll soon settle down.
And they'll stay in these yards now for the winter
and we'll turn them out on the grass in the spring.
And we'll feed them on the silage
and then we'll bed them down with wheat straw
and give them cattle nuts,
and that's what the guys are doing next door at the moment.
I can hear them bedding down the cattle, so I'll give them a hand.
In my dad's day, three of us would have done this by hand
but, thanks to this machine, we hardly need to get our hands dirty.
The rotating blades propel the straw out of the front,
carpeting the barn floor. Well, and the animals.
With a quick make-over and some cattle nuts, it is
soon transformed into a lovely home.
Very different now.
My hardy Highland cattle spend all year outside - whatever the weather.
But they still need a bit of TLC.
Just like the other winter housing,
this old barn provides shelter at this time of year.
And this fresh bale of silage will certainly keep my Highlands happy.
At this time of year, the grass is nearly all gone.
And what is left has a very low nutrient value.
I'm dropping this bale of silage in for the Highlands
and silage is grass we cut in the summer and it was wrapped in
plastic and basically pickles it and retains its high sugars and proteins.
It's very good for the cattle in the winter.
They are keen on it - some are running down the hill to get to it.
Others have already started feeding on it here.
And the Highlands are lovely animals, very hardy.
They'll survive come rain, sleet or snow in the winter.
They have these great big thick coats but I'm soft on them.
They have a shelter to get into if it gets really bad.
But it's not just my long-haired animals that can cope with
the life in the great outdoors.
Pig, pig, pig!
Just bedding down these pigs.
Pigs have got hair on their bodies but very thick skin as well,
and that's what keeps them nice and warm and we have these shelters
for them to get out of the rain, bed them down with a bit of straw...
And pigs like being outdoors.
But this wet weather and the rain has just been horrible,
turning the place into a quagmire - so muddy.
There's one sow gone in there already.
And she will pick the straw up with her mouth
and move it around to make a bed. And they will eat a bit of straw too.
And now the boar has gone in...
PIGS GRUNT You can hear her talking to him!
They grumble away to one another.
They're quite chatty, really!
Our animals keep us busy, as do our arable fields.
We've a variety of crops growing in 1,000 acres.
When the seasons change, we are often faced with new challenges.
Arable farming and growing crops is very dependent on the weather
and this year has been incredibly difficult.
We had a very wet harvest that affected
the quality of the grain but also the yield. And we have a rotation.
It goes oilseed rape, then wheat and then barley.
So there's wheat growing in here now,
but last year the crop in here looked very different.
Last autumn, we planted oilseed rape in this field.
As soon as the spring arrived, it began to grow at a phenomenal rate.
It's the fastest-growing crop on the farm.
By the middle of May, over the course of a couple of weeks,
it started to flower and transform this whole landscape.
When the flowers faded,
we sprayed the crop to protect the valuable seed pods.
As they died back, and the seed swelled, I kept a close eye on it
to make sure the seed pods were progressing like they should.
After a very wet summer, it eventually dried out
and turned golden.
When conditions were right,
it was all hands to the deck to get the crop harvested.
The combine worked overtime to clear the field before the rain came.
As the combine swept across the crop in a cloud of dust, it churned
its way up and down the field leaving nothing but the bare stalks behind.
But as soon as the oilseed rape was in the shed, there was
no time to waste.
We had to put this field back into good use so it was cultivated
and planted again.
And now we've got wheat growing in here and I'm praying for a good
growing season with plenty of sunshine and a bumper harvest.
But for now, I'm taking shelter like the rest of my animals.
-Adam and the transformations that happen year in, year out
in his own back yard.
In a few minutes' time, I'll be back at the slate mine
to find out how they're transforming the site to get ready
for a new generation of visitors. But before all that,
it's time for the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
Snowdonia, Wales's big box-office mountain range.
It's where I've been looking at the transformations that have
changed this landscape -
from the slate mines that made towns like Blaenau Ffestiniog great
to 20th-century industries like nuclear power.
All have played their part in this evolving landscape.
Now it's the turn of another - tourism.
And it's already changing the landscape.
Blaenau Ffestiniog and this corner of Snowdonia is carving out
a name for itself as an all-round outdoor centre.
These old mines and quarries are being transformed
into an adrenaline-fuelled playpark for a new generation of visitor.
People pay good money to zoom above the land down these wires.
Sean Taylor is in charge of a new venture.
This is going to be, Helen, the largest zip zone in the world.
-Over 8km of wire.
-You say zip zone, how is that different to a zip line?
Well, we have three zip lines and each zip line can have four
people side-by-side so it's a complete and utter shared experience.
Does the world really need another zip wire, because there's one
only three quarters of a mile from here which is quite impressive?
We decided we want to slow people down so they are going slightly
slower so they can see this magnificent...scenery.
-That's ironic -
to slow people down on a zip wire!
-How fast will they be going on this slow one?
-You're only going 60mph.
-Only 60mph dangling on a thin piece of wire.
-16mm, I'll have you know.
After months of construction, weeks of testing,
I'm the very first customer on the new zip lines.
How far is that drop?
-About 500 foot.
-It's quite intense, isn't it?
-Ah, just a little bit!
If we weren't using this, could you use this for anything else?
No, this is completely dead land.
They've taken all the best materials out. So this is worthless.
-How far is it?
-This one is our middle wire and this is 850m.
OK. And I get to race against my colleagues. Jim, good luck.
-Yeah, and you.
He said that quite serious, like this is intense.
-It's meant to be fun, Jim!
-When you say Godspeed, everyone gets serious!
Just going to tie these up a little bit so you're sitting more upright.
We don't want you laying down.
I can imagine some people sitting at home thinking this
looks like a nightmare, but you feel quite secure in it.
It is secure, isn't it?!
-It's just like a rocking seat hanging from a tree.
Only this tree is going to be going 850m over a disused quarry at 60mph.
-Perfect. How's that?
-Nice and secure? Ready to go?
OK, everybody's feet on the floor for me.
OK. Gates are open.
That's scary! Ah! What's happening to me?!
Thank you very much.
That was amazing! Ah, brilliant. Thank you!
Ah! That was brilliant fun. Brilliant fun.
What a wicked way to see the landscape and take it all in.
You see so much in 30 seconds. It might look scary, but it's not.
60mph sounds fast, but I was on the line long enough
to get my heart racing and admire the views from miles around.
It's going to transform the way visitors see Snowdonia.
There is one final surprise Sean has in store for me.
This is called Bounce Below. Now, where do I begin?
Putting a zip wire over a redundant slate mine is already quite
an extreme form of diversifying, but this takes it to a whole new level.
We're in 100-foot cavern, and this is a trampoline.
It's one of three.
It's not yet in use by the general public,
but we've been allowed special access.
Sean said I could go in here.
Oh, this is nerve-racking!
I've done some random things in my time, but this is up there.
It is safe, isn't it?
This is unbelievable.
It's such a weird feeling because you think,
"I shouldn't be here because this is just a drop."
Between us and the drop, it's just this springy net.
I am going to try it! Argh! Yeah, I'm still alive.
I think the camera crew is starting to feel a little bit sick!
You don't like heights, do you?
That's right, jump with me. Jump with me!
I think I'd better stand still
because everybody at home is probably feeling sick by now,
but trust me, this is definitely worth a bounce.
The thing that I love about this most of all is that somebody
somewhere said, "A trampoline down a mine? That's a mad idea!"
And somebody else must have said, "Let's do it anyway!"
That's it from me in Snowdonia, but next week Matt and Ellie
will be in and around Port Talbot.
Matt will be getting up close with a strange and unusual animal,
Ellie will be finding out
how water is powering the latest outdoor craze.
But from me, in Snowdonia, goodbye!
Helen Skelton is in Snowdonia looking at how the landscape has undergone many transformations down the ages. From heavy industry and hard work, to high octane thrills and fearless fun, Snowdonia is an area that has never stood still. Helen visits the traditional slate mines that first shaped the land. She learns of the part nuclear played in making Snowdonia a powerhouse of 20th century energy production. And she takes to a high zip wire to test her nerves in Snowdonia's latest adrenaline playground.
Whilst she's seeking the ultimate in thrills she looks back at some of the other ways Countryfile has shown the transformation of our landscape. Like the time Julia and Matt helped light beacons as the entire length of Hadrian's Wall was transformed by light. Or how Jules Hudson discovered the part that the landscape has played in transforming the fortunes of soldiers blighted by war. And the time Ellie Harrison visited Canvey Island to see for herself the amazing transformation old an old brownfield site to major wildlife reserve.