Helen Skelton is at Kielder Water in Northumberland, exploring the ways in which water shapes our lives. Plus watery worlds from the Countryfile archive.
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Water is our most precious natural resource.
There's not a plant or animal on earth that can do without it.
Our landscape is shaped by it.
Livelihoods depend on it.
Water provides homes for wildlife.
It's a place for recreation and a source of inspiration.
Today, I'll be exploring the mighty Kielder Water
and finding out how the wet stuff shapes our lives.
We'll also meander through the archives,
dipping a toe into previous watery worlds we've explored.
We'll travel the UK, looking at rivers and reservoirs...
..lochs, lakes and canals, and the life that ripples through them.
From the time Ellie enjoyed the birdlife,
as she paddled along the River Bann...
They look like sentry men.
-Waiting, knowing there's food underneath.
..when Anita visited the world's first artificial surfing lake...
Paddle, paddle, paddle!
..and when Adam met a farmer
who spent more time on a boat than a tractor.
-This has got to be a pretty unusual job in farming.
-Yes, pretty unique.
There's not many farmers go to work on a boat, I'm sure.
But that's the beauty of it, you're out here every day on the lough.
Water is essential to life.
And nowhere in the UK has more of it than this place -
Kielder Water in Northumberland.
In fact, it holds more than any other man-made lake
in Northern Europe - 200 billion litres.
Like many of our reservoirs,
it was created to meet the demands of a booming industrial economy.
Looking at this vast body of water now,
it is hard to imagine that not that long ago,
it was a valley full of villages and farms.
In 1975, though, the building of that dam
changed this landscape forever.
Plans for the reservoir swept away all before it.
Local people living in the valley
lost their homes and farms to the water.
At 5.5 miles long and 52 metres at its deepest point,
it took almost two years to fill up.
Jonty Hall is truly part of Kielder's history.
Not only is he the facilities manager
but, as a boy, he pushed the button to flood the reservoir
before it was officially opened by the Queen in 1982.
I congratulate all those who play a part in the conception
and construction and management of the scheme.
I'm meeting him underneath the reservoir,
in the belly of the beast.
Well, this is some tunnel.
So we are underneath the reservoir.
-How much water is above our heads?
So above our heads, roughly about 50 metres.
I've just got short of breath!
There's definitely no cracks down here, is there?
Well, no. No, it's really well looked after, believe me.
-And that is your job, but way back when,
it was your job to help this dam start backing up in the first place.
Yeah, so back in 1979,
I was chosen because I was the oldest kid at Kielder School,
so I was chosen to press the button.
And did you, at the time, appreciate what a big deal that was?
Yeah, I think I did. I mean, nine years old,
travelling up and down the valley
and seeing all of the work taking place,
and hearing your mum and your dad talking about it and everybody else,
so it was, it was a massive thing back then.
How did the news go down that the valley would be flooded?
It was met with a bit of optimism, but also a bit of...
It's a white elephant, you know.
Is the water really needed?
So, for the people who lived in the valley,
this valley was going to be flooded,
and the house where they grew up
or where they lived was going to be basically covered in water,
and they were never, ever going to be able to go back
-and see that again.
-So what happened to those people?
They were compensated for losing their property and their land,
and they also built some new houses down on Falstone,
and they had the chance to buy those properties.
Obviously now, a couple of generations on,
how is the reservoir received locally now?
Now it's looked at...
A major provider.
Kielder can supply water to 80% of the north-east.
We never have any water restrictions or hosepipe bans.
It's certainly an impressive structure.
I feel like I'm in a James Bond film,
but I'm definitely more comfortable above the surface.
-Can we go back up?
-Of course we can, yeah.
-Lead the way.
-Off we go.
So, if this place supplies eight out of ten homes in the north-east,
I bet Matt Baker grew up drinking water from Kielder.
The reservoir here not only provides a life source for locals,
but a whole host of wildlife.
I'll be hearing more about that a bit later on.
But first, we're off to Scotland.
A while back, Matt visited the stunning Loch Lomond.
On one of its tiny islands, he met some rather unusual farmers
who made the most of their watery surroundings.
Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater lake in the UK,
covering around 27 square miles.
And what better way to explore this place than in one of these?
Wow. The nose goes up slightly as the power kicks in.
This seaplane flies regularly from Glasgow to Loch Lomond,
and with water for a runway,
we can take off and land wherever we like.
David West is my pilot.
David, you've flown jumbos all over the world,
so how does zipping around here in a seaplane on Loch Lomond compare?
I've got to tell you, um...
-..I love this.
I'm not saying any more than that, I absolutely adore this.
It's that mix of seamanship, airmanship,
and look at the landscape.
It's just amazing, it really is.
It is the oddest feeling as we're coming into land that we're just...
We're heading in to water.
-And we're on.
-Thank you so much.
No, it's a pleasure to have your company.
The loch is dotted with many small islands,
some of which are no bigger than a rock.
Only two are inhabited, and having got the lie of the land,
I've dropped in on the smaller of the two, Inchtavannach.
I'm meeting some four-legged island residents and their owners -
the appropriately named Roy Rogers and his partner, Susan Gell.
Apparently, their horses like nothing better
than a swim in the loch.
But first, I need to get to know the animals better.
Roy, how are you doing? All right?
-Good to see you. Is there room for a small one in there?
-I'm sure she'll let you join us.
Hello, my darling.
-This is Rosa.
I have to say, Roy, you have the most incredible existence.
Of all of the farms and the crofts that I've visited, this one,
it has to be one of the most exciting.
-How big is the island?
-It's about 200 acres,
it's about a mile long, roughly, by a quarter of a mile wide.
Is there anyone else on it, then?
-Apart from yourself?
-No, just us. Just us.
-Just how we like it.
-Just you and the horses. Ah!
I think, well, for me, it's...
To give you an idea, my parents always said I'd be a recluse
when I was a kid,
when I was brought up for a while in the Highlands in Scotland.
And horses came along quite late in life,
I was 48 before I started with horses.
Right. And is that where the swimming comes from, then?
-..you've got a stretch of water
between you and the mainland,
so you've got to get from one to the other.
Well, it sort of came in that way, as I'd certainly seen, you know,
these types of people who work with horses
doing that sort of thing, and they just do it naturally.
-But it was primarily because we wanted to get to the other side!
Aren't you a beautiful girl?
She's saying, "Can I go for a swim?"
Well, it's not your turn today, is it?
No, it'll be Shoshoni getting her regular swimming exercise
in a very fresh loch.
Is that you being acclimatised, Susan?
-Is it nippy?
-Just a bit.
Seems like a very long way away, Roy.
No, only takes about four minutes or so.
And Shoshoni's a pretty powerful swimmer, so it won't take long.
-We have literally swum hundreds of them there.
In the winter, though?
-Yeah, actually, we've done it at all times.
-In the winter as well, yeah?
Yeah, we've done it with the snow coming down and all sorts.
Susan's not so keen these days!
-If Susan's got to get in the water, I'm not surprised!
Whoa, this is the moment.
Here we go, it's getting deeper.
And she's swimming now, is she?
-There she is.
What a good girl!
And so the technique here, Susan, is just,
what, just to keep her straight with the lead?
Yes. The main thing is, when we first started swimming,
they try and use the boat as a little safety zone,
so we usually have to push them out away from the boat,
and it's getting the distance from the boat that's the important thing.
And, I mean, it is a wonderful form of exercise, this, anyway, isn't it?
Oh, it's absolutely brilliant, yeah.
If you've got a lame horse, you can just keep them fit by swimming.
She sounds like she's taking quite a lot of air there!
-She's OK, though?
Yeah? That's the way they breathe. Because they close,
they swallow, so they hold themselves...
You know yourself, when you swallow, you do that.
And then they're breathing through their nose...
-..rather than through their mouths.
Almost there. It's an incredible rate that she's swimming at.
She swims fairly fast.
Some of the other horses swim a lot slower than her.
-She's one of the fastest.
And you can see as well, she's very buoyant in the water.
Her bum sticks up in the water.
That's it, yeah, yeah.
Some of the horses, they sink quite low down.
Yeah, yeah. And I think she's got her feet down now, has she?
-Yeah, that's her down now.
-The loch's quite high just now.
Normally this little bit's all land.
Back in Northumberland, my exploration of Kielder continues.
And there's a lot of ground to cover.
The reservoir holds more water
than any other man-made lake in Northern Europe.
And it's surrounded by the UK's biggest man-made forest.
Which is a winning combination when it comes to wildlife.
Crossbills, ospreys, otters all thrive here.
In fact, it's home to half of Britain's red squirrel population.
One species did completely die out, but after 30 years,
Ratty is making a return.
Water voles were once a common sight at Kielder Water, but by the 1990s,
they'd pretty much disappeared.
More than 90% of our water vole population has died out,
making them the UK's fastest-declining land mammal.
But locals here will soon see them back on the banks.
The Restoring Ratty project here at Kielder
is the UK's biggest-ever reintroduction
of the endangered species to one location.
The Forestry Commission,
the Tyne Rivers Trust and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust
are all working together to make it happen.
I'm hoping Paul Pickett can tell me more
about why they vanished in the first place.
There's two main reasons. The first reason is habitat loss.
Fragmentation due to tree planting right up to the water's edge
stopped the water vole colonising new areas.
The second reason is mink.
They devastated the watercourses here.
And they just kill everything, they're such an efficient killer.
And how important are water voles to this ecosystem?
They're really important, because they provide a food source.
Everything eats water voles.
Herons will eat water voles, otters will take water voles.
They're a really important food source.
And they're important botanically, as well.
Because they will carry seed and plant matter into the burrows
and spread plants up and down the river system.
So they're good for diversity, as well.
What's the state of play with mink?
Is it safe to reintroduce water voles now?
That's a really good question. The mink seem to have disappeared.
We've been surveying here.
Why? Probably because they're a product
of their own success, really.
They've depleted their food source.
There probably is still one or two about, but not in any great numbers.
So how confident are you about reintroducing water voles?
Extremely confident now.
We've got thousands of hectares of open space, areas like this,
wetland areas, we've got bogs,
we've got mires in the forest and they're ideal for water voles now.
The project started two years ago,
and there have already been nearly 600 water voles
released back to Kielder's waters.
Healthy animals were donated from sites in the North Pennines,
the North York Moors and The Trossachs in Scotland,
where their numbers are high.
They were then taken down to Devon to breed,
before they returned to the watery world here at Kielder.
But to make sure their future is safe,
the Restoring Ratty team need to keep monitoring
for the presence of mink.
OK, what have we got here?
This is one of the wildlife platforms
that we've put in around the north of the forest,
in all the river systems.
And they're basically just to check for mink.
-That was their original use.
Is there any chance there's been a mink in there?
We can have a look. We can certainly have a look.
Oh. So what is that?
It's just a...
Basically, it's a basket that sits in the water to keep moist.
It's an oasis, and a sand-and-clay mix on top.
So it's great. If anything goes over, it leaves a really good print.
-And a really obvious print, as well. So there's nothing on there.
I wouldn't expect there to be in this weather, to be honest.
-During the summer, we'll have more rafts out.
Probably 100 rafts throughout the north of the forest.
And we also have camera traps, as well.
These are working 24 hours.
So if anything appears, then we've got it, and we know what's there.
So, an exciting time for the water voles, hopefully?
-Yeah. Certainly will be, yeah.
-Roll on, spring.
-Roll on, the spring.
-And lots and lots of baby water voles.
Finding ways to live alongside wildlife can only be a good thing.
And last summer, Anita visited Woodberry Wetlands,
a reservoir in the heart of Hackney in North London,
where drinking water and wildlife are natural neighbours.
Once upon a time, this place was all barbed wire and fences,
but lucky Londoners have just gained access to it for the first time
in more than 180 years.
Built in the 19th century,
the reservoir was always closed to the public.
Working with Thames Water,
London Wildlife Trust has carefully built an urban oasis.
One local lad taking full advantage of the new access is Nathan Legall.
So, Nathan, a Londoner born and bred and now a wildlife ranger.
Yeah. I'm here, working on the reserve
and helping to protect this for nature and for local people.
Why is it so important to have something like this
in the heart of a city?
So, green space in London is very precious.
When you come from the main road,
you would not expect to see this spectacle of wildlife
that we have here.
People always come here and when they come through the main entrance,
they have to stand there just simply in awe.
Having a reserve like this
right in the heart of London is almost unheard of.
We're in zone two of London,
literally, get off the Tube at Manor House, zone two,
and walk ten minutes down the road, and here you are.
You could put it on your tourist trail of London, couldn't you?
You could go and see Buckingham Palace,
Houses of Parliament, jump on a Tube, Woodberry Wetland Reserve.
This group of grandparents and grandchildren
visit as often as possible.
So, Carol, how important is it to have this on your doorstep?
It's really important.
Some of these children, well, most of the children haven't got gardens.
They haven't got these facilities,
and we're very fortunate and we've never looked back.
We come here about twice a week
and the children love it.
They get so much out of it, it's untrue, you know.
This is the garden that I never had.
-What have we got?
There we go.
There's one local resident with a view I can't wait to see.
Daphne Hart has lived here for nearly 40 years.
-Wait till I open the window.
-There you go.
What an incredible view.
Yeah. I love it. I absolutely love it.
I don't have to go for a ride to the country.
I've got it all here. I've got the greenery, I've got the water.
Words can't explain how I feel.
I think it's phantasmagorical.
-My own words, I think...
-That's a great word.
-It is. It is wonderful,
and whoever comes up here cannot believe,
that, you know, with this view...
-My mother used to say, when she used to come up here,
she said, "You need never be depressed.
"Because you look out this window and you have all the four seasons."
And I feel so privileged to be able to live here.
You are very, very lucky.
-Now let's just have a look at the wildlife.
-Look at those beautiful birds.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-And we're in London. You know...
I can't believe we're in Hackney.
-I can't believe it.
-Would you ever move?
Never, never, never, never.
-I don't live too far away,
so I'm going to pop in for a cup of tea every now and again, just for...
For the conversation, obviously.
-Oh, shut up.
-The company and...
-Yeah, yeah, yeah, schmoozer!
What an unexpected gem right in the heart of the city.
We're off to County Antrim in Northern Ireland now,
where you never seem to be too far away from water.
A while ago, Ellie was there on a wildlife safari,
taking in the waterfowl and fish that thrive in its rivers and lochs.
This beautiful river is the Lower Bann,
stretching 36 miles along the boundary
of Londonderry and Antrim,
and there's only one way to see it.
Boosting my paddle power are Robin and Chris,
who've been messing about in boats here for years.
So when you're paddling, Ellie,
just do, like, a stroke and then let it glide almost for a while.
-You see how quick we're going now without even paddling.
Are these sand martins here?
-I think so, yeah, yeah.
The River Bann is famed for its birdlife.
Even here, where it feels quite industrial,
it's still very much surrounded by nature.
Yeah, plenty of greenery here, isn't there?
Once an important route for commerce,
these days, the river is a great place for leisure.
My guide, Chris Scott, helped create the Lower Bann Canoe Trail,
which we're following today.
As we approach the eel fishery,
I can't help feeling we're being watched.
There are five herons circling around here.
They know that there's food in there for them.
Yeah, definitely looking for a snack, all right.
There's six herons now. Yeah, they're all over.
Look at them all lined up like that!
They look like sentry men.
Yeah, exactly. Statues.
Statues, waiting, knowing there's food underneath.
All of a sudden we're in the countryside.
Goes from grey to green very quickly.
-Chris, have you done the trail?
I have indeed, yeah. It's a fantastic trip now.
How long is it?
I always say to people, you know, you can do it in two days at a push,
but, you know, why not do it in three, and spend two nights?
There's some gorgeous campsites along the way,
so you can really chill out and take it all in.
-How long did you do it in?
-I did it in three.
-Enjoyed it, took your time.
And that's really what this trip's about,
taking your time to take it all in.
I've seen more herons here than I've ever seen before.
I think we take it for granted now, the herons, actually.
-It's funny you saying it.
It's a sign that there's loads of food.
This is so blissful.
This is my mindful moment right here.
Amazing place to breathe.
I love it.
I could do this all day.
But first, I make a stop near Portnagh, a busy holiday-makers hub.
I'm meeting Stephen Douglas from Waterways Ireland,
who is going to tell me about the river's past.
Stephen, how are you doing?
-Hello, Ellie. Nice to meet you.
-You too. I've been on a great journey.
It's the same sort of paddle strokes
that would've been made 10,000 years ago,
when man first settled in Ireland, along the lower banks of the Bann.
So they were hunter gatherers,
and they would've used the canoes
and skin boats to travel upstream to hunt and fish.
These flints are typical of the hoard of flints that has been found,
actually, along the River Bann.
-There's a real history there.
The river became important again in the mid-1800s as a commercial route.
The locks that were built to allow freight survive to this day.
The stone delivered on-site
and would've had to have been handcrafted
by the stonemasons on-site.
And you can see how good a job they have done.
And standing up well to the test of time.
Absolutely, 160 years later in a water-based environment.
-It's a testament to the skill and craftsmanship
of the people who constructed the locks.
Absolutely. But this lock, it's a little bit worse for wear.
It's seen some years' use, this one.
Well, you're absolutely right, Ellie.
This is one that we've programmed for replacement, and, in fact,
we're constructing a new balance beam for this
in our shed across the way.
Inside the 21st century work shed, a little piece of history.
Hi, there. How are you doing?
-Hi, Ellie. How are you?
-I'm all right, thanks.
-These plans look pretty old.
Yes, they are. They're very old.
The plan of the gate, actually,
was originally back in the sort of late 1800s.
And then the reprint in 1931.
-So these are the best plans for the job.
-Feet and inches, yeah.
-Feet and inches, so old units, as well.
Some safety goggs.
-Right, what's this?
This is for the big crossbeams that go in.
-So it's got to be accurate?
-Yes, have to be accurate.
Dead on. OK, so that one's done.
-That one's in the process.
-This is how they would do it.
This is probably how they would have done it years and years ago.
Still a hammer and chisel, pretty much?
Still a hammer and chisel at this stage.
-Would you like to have a go now?
-Yeah, I would.
-I can't go wrong, can I?
-Not today, please.
Oh, I'm not going anywhere.
Let's get digging.
OK. I bet I get some lush splinters out of this.
-I love splinters.
There's still plenty of work to do,
but it's time for me to be on my way.
From the rivers of County Antrim to the lakes of Snowdonia now,
where Joe met an artist for whom water is not just an inspiration,
but also an integral part of his work.
We all love to walk through picturesque landscape
and take in the beauty of the place,
but do we really appreciate all that we encounter?
Well, I've come here to Snowdonia to meet an artist
whose work is truly connected to the landscape
and intended to give passers-by an enhanced vision
of the world around them.
Anthony Garratt is a contemporary artist who's renowned
for his large-scale outdoor installations.
He creates these dramatic works in the landscapes
where they are ultimately displayed.
He's taking on his greatest challenge to date.
Two paintings, High and Low,
will be exhibited in two contrasting locations here in Snowdonia.
-Anthony, how are you doing?
-Hi, Joe, very well. How are you?
-Good to see you.
This looks amazing. And an epic backdrop, as well.
It is an epic backdrop. Yeah, you've got these beautiful mountains
at the top and then this aggressive quarry at the bottom.
-It's an exciting spot.
-Tell me the idea behind this.
Very rare to see a painting exhibited outdoors.
It's a unique way of seeing a painting
because the weather changes each day.
It has a life of its own and it's open to everyone as well.
So there's no hiding it away in a white box.
This is out for everyone to see.
So these will be exhibited outside for how long?
For weeks, months?
So this project is called High and Low
and it's going to be exhibited for about five months,
one on the flanks of Mount Snowdon on a lake,
and this one is going to be hanging down in a slate cavern
500 feet underground.
So they explore the highs and the lows of Snowdonia
and the heritage of the mining, as well.
So on Snowdon, you've got the old copper mine
and here, you've got the slate-mining industry,
so that's a nice tie as well.
-Look, I want to see you work.
-Get stuck in.
-So I can get painting.
For Anthony, it's important to use natural materials
connected to the landscape, such as copper and slate.
-Perfect. There we go.
-I'd hang it up now.
It looks great!
I'll have to get you to sign this.
You OK there for a couple of hours?
Yeah, this is probably where I'm most useful, I think.
This painting represents the low part of the project
and will be displayed in the belly of Llechwedd Slate Mine.
It's not just Anthony working on these installations.
He has a team of more than 20 people
helping him realise his final vision.
Anthony's other painting, High, is finished and ready to put in place.
We are carrying it to its final destination,
floating on the Lake Llyn Llydaw,
under the shadow of Mount Snowdon.
Let's take a look at it.
This is your moving team.
-It is indeed.
-Hello, everyone. ALL:
Everyone feeling strong?
-So how far has it got to go?
-Half a mile.
-Half a mile?
Right, shall we give it a go, then?
200 years ago, miners walked this track,
and, being true to the history of the place,
the team are following in their footsteps,
transporting the painting to its new home.
Brilliant. Thanks very much, everyone.
And we're down. Good job.
Anthony, carrying it around there really hits home
that this is a team effort. This isn't about a solo artist.
The painting is quite a small element
of the whole project, really.
I mean, there's a couple of shipwrights, Mark and Loz,
who have been designing and building this for months.
It's taken a lot of effort from a big team, which is great.
So the final thing is to launch a massive painting
into the middle of a lake?
Indeed, just beneath the summit of Snowdon.
-You don't see that very often, do you?
-Right, let's crack on.
The shipwrights, Mark and Loz, are getting ready
for the launch at the water's edge.
-Hi, guys. How's it going?
So this frame here that's going to hold the canvas
is your construction?
It is, yeah. This was quite a big challenge, yeah.
Because we had to keep it light, so it could all be carried up.
You've seen all the carrying that's gone on.
-We're going to get all this lot set up by the water's edge.
-And then get ready to do some more lifting.
-Shall we have a go at getting it down to the lake, then?
-Can we get some more help?
-Yes, let's do, wave some people in.
So now we need the painting.
-Oh, yeah, the painting.
-We're going to pick it up.
-Take it down to the framework.
Take it flat down.
And then we'll stand it up,
and then we'll make the rest up when we get there.
-And then who knows?
-Who knows? Indeed.
One, two, three.
This is such a surreal view,
looking out across this giant artwork
and just seeing five heads around me.
And up. Somebody get ready with the clamp.
It's taken so much effort to get to this moment,
but will it actually float?
There she blows!
It's a curious sight, watching this giant canvas glide across the lake,
and, after all the hard work, it's finally in place.
-So there it is.
You must be very proud?
Yeah, it feels amazing. I'm sort of fed up with looking at the painting,
so it's quite nice to have it out there! But it looks amazing.
It shows it had to be that big.
It's the biggest freestanding canvas you've ever worked on.
Yeah, it's huge, but it does look small.
Wow. Well done.
-Thanks for your help.
I'm pleased it's worked out so well. It's beautiful.
It's not just in Wales
where art, water and the landscape have joined forces.
Kielder Water here in Northumberland
has inspired many with its watery charms.
Kielder has been inspiring artists for years,
and, dotted throughout this landscape,
there are a series of really interesting sculptures.
Lots of them have a special relationship with water.
Like the Wave Chamber here.
Peter Sharpe is the curator.
He commissioned this and many of the works on the water.
Tell me about the wave chamber, then.
Well, what it does is it captures the light off the waves,
so it's a camera obscura.
It's got a lens and a mirror at the top
and the light bouncing off the waves out there
gets projected inside,
so you get your own little Cinemascope display in there
when you shut the door.
It's very, very dark, and you have to get your eyes used to it.
So what's the idea, then?
Is it to get people to get a different experience of the water?
Yeah, when the artist came here,
he was really interested in the way the light
sort of bounces off the waves,
so what he wanted to do was to sort of isolate that experience.
-Well, there's a sensational light out here...
..but I'm going to see if I can enjoy a bit of focus.
Right, so, we go in.
Shut the door.
So the idea is just to focus on what we can hear, and...?
Yeah, and wait for your eyes to adjust to the light.
We needed a bit more sun,
but with a bit of creative licence, you get the idea.
A place like this really makes those senses just open up.
-Out we go.
It is very dark in there,
but it kind of makes you focus down, doesn't it,
and just think about one thing?
It does. I think it's very easy to just sort of move too quickly
through the landscape and not really stop and look.
It's an experience, isn't it?
It is. It is.
Many of the works here are by internationally famous artists,
and they provide an unexpected surprise
when spotted from the water.
Do you need art in a stunning landscape like this?
It's beautiful, anyway.
It's interesting, having installations
that also act as vantage points or shelters or seating.
They help kind of focus the environment so...
..one of the things that the artworks do here
is that they provide different ways of thinking about the landscape.
We're just seeing a belvedere appearing here.
-That piece of work looks like a very tiny little jewel
in the distance, but when you're up close, it's got a lot of presence.
Look at that. That's cool!
It's quite an unusual thing.
The flash of orange in the distance is called 5502.
They built it, and it's, like, walls and seats and a kind of roof,
but they're facing in different directions
so the reason it's kind of orange, kind of red like that,
is they wanted to make it feel like
it was a very manufactured sort of industrial structure,
and they describe it as a sort of manufactured architecture
in a manufactured landscape, so it's a sort of reflection on the fact
that all of the landscape around here
is all designed on a computer, really.
-It's man-made, isn't it, yeah?
It would take days to get around all of the sculptures on these shores,
but one of my favourites puts me back on dry land.
This is Silvas Capitalis,
which is affectionately known as The Head.
Now, the idea is it listens to and it watches out
on the ever-changing watery world.
Water may look beautiful and provide inspiration for many,
but for those whose livelihoods revolve around it,
things aren't always as straightforward as they seem -
as Adam found out when he visited County Fermanagh
in Northern Ireland last summer.
The picturesque Lough Erne.
It's one of the largest freshwater lakes in the UK.
The vast expanse of water flows for 50 miles
right through the heart of County Fermanagh.
It's made up of more than 150 islands,
and during the summer, when the grass is flourishing,
livestock make the most of the island's pastures.
And I've been told to expect the unexpected,
and I'm very excited about it
because this is far from your classic farming landscape.
You won't find many tractors out here.
Stockman Andrew Gallagher has an unusual daily commute,
travelling around the loch by boat.
Hi, Andrew. Can I climb in?
Andrew works for the RSPB, managing livestock for conservation grazing.
Their aim is to promote birdlife.
This has got to be a pretty unusual job in farming?
Yes, pretty unique. Not many farmers go to work on a boat, I'm sure.
That's the beauty. Often, you're out here every day on the lough.
-How many cattle?
-There's about 140 cattle,
give or take, on the islands.
In the summer, it must be beautiful, mustn't it?
Oh, it's deadly. You couldn't beat it.
You could spend all day on the loch.
-Even if you've got no cattle to see.
-And you're moving some cattle today.
Yes, we are bringing across five cows and two calves.
-I'm looking forward to seeing that.
-Yes, it should be good.
Livestock has been transported around the loch
for at least 1,000 years.
Fred Ternan was the last person to be born
on one of Lough Erne's islands.
He has some interesting family footage from the 1950s
of how they used to swim the cattle between the islands.
The end of the rope was passed to a man in the boat,
and then the boat was rowed out a bit from the shore
and, as you can see,
the cow doesn't really want to go swimming at all,
but eventually the cow is pulled up close
to the back of the boat, where it will be held,
and swims quite contentedly along behind the boat.
Who is in the boat here?
This is my father rowing the boat and that's myself as a little boy.
-It must've been exciting?
-It was indeed.
It was good fun when you're small.
And the cows could swim all right, then? I've never seen a cow swim.
Oh, no, they could swim,
and, in fact, they can swim without being on a rope, as well.
Providing they know where they're going,
they can get across.
But it's much safer to have them on a rope
to ensure that they don't swim off in their own direction,
and then you've got to round them up again.
The cattle were traditionally transported
on a special boat called a cot.
Today, livestock are still being moved on a boat
based on this ancient design.
They are nice and quiet, aren't they?
Yes. They will stand now quiet.
Admiring the scenery, the same as us...
-..till they get across.
Right, let's go, Skipper.
Ah, we seem to be stuck.
Are we grounded?
Do you want me to jump off and push?
So just by moving the weight of the cattle...
-That's all it takes.
-Getting it off the bottom.
There we go. We are away now.
How far have we got to take these?
We are just taking these across the lough over to that pen over there.
They are beautiful islands, aren't they?
-How many are there?
-There's over 150 altogether.
Incredible to think that people lived on them all, isn't it?
-Yes, it's mad.
-Doing this job in the old wooden boats.
Yeah, towing them across and all sorts.
Do you swim them occasionally?
No, never, no. We've not went down that route.
In the summer sunshine, Lough Erne is looking at its best.
Even the cattle seem to be enjoying the view.
It's almost 30 degrees, so it's a good job we're surrounded by water.
The cows know exactly how to cool down.
You must have seen some sights or have some interesting stories?
Oh, yeah. Last week, we had the Highland bull on one island
and we had heifers on another island.
It was about half a mile across.
And I came back onto the island with the heifers, and there he was,
standing looking at me, the big bull. He had swam, let's say
half a mile across the lough himself and onto the island.
-To get in with the heifers?
-To get in with the heifers, yeah.
That's a long swim, isn't it?
-So he could just smell them on the wind.
He smelt them on the wind, and away he went.
What happens if the boat sinks, then, Andrew?
If the boat sinks, I'm taking that cow's tail
and you choose whichever one you want.
Just grab a tail and they'll take you ashore?
I don't know where you'll land,
but you'll land on dry ground somewhere...
-..and that's all that matters.
It's not long before land is in sight.
With the promise of summer pastures and fresh grass ahead,
the cattle don't hang around.
It's a quick leap of faith into the water...
..and finally the cattle are rewarded
with as much grass as they can eat.
They're certainly enjoying that, Andrew.
Yeah, there's tonnes here for them, plenty of good grass.
They'll be here now until October,
so they'll be in good shape by the time that comes around.
It's beautiful, isn't it?
The cattle love all this fresh grass,
but their grazing also benefits others species on the islands.
I'm meeting with conservationist Amy Burns, from the RSPB.
There's certainly plenty of grass here, Amy, isn't there?
There is, yeah, plenty, which is part of the reason
we put the cattle out onto the islands, you know.
There's no other way we could manage this, apart from grazing, so...
And you want it for the birds, grazed down?
Yes, curlew, which would have been widespread
across the UK and Ireland,
now that have suffered really significant declines,
we're trying to help bring back from the brink really, here in Fermanagh.
But also birds like lapwing and snipe
that are associated with farmland,
and what we're trying to achieve with the grassland
is to get it into suitable nesting conditions for the birds.
So we want a variation of height in this sward,
so species like curlew will prefer a taller sward,
maybe about 30cm. Lapwing like it very short, of about five.
-And is it working?
It's working really well.
We've had some fantastic success,
and our numbers keep going up year-on-year
because of the management that we do on these islands.
-So this is a safe haven, really?
-It is. You know,
it's probably one of the best spots in the whole of Northern Ireland,
I think, you know, for breeding waders.
There's no time to hang around.
At the other side of the lough,
some sheep are patiently waiting THEIR turn.
But this might not be plain sailing,
as sheep really aren't keen on water.
-How many have you got in here?
-There's about 12 ewes in here.
-Shall I stand this side?
You stand that side there, yeah.
Farmer Mark Thompson has made this crossing with his flock many times,
so we're in safe hands.
-Not great swimmers?
-No, they hate water.
And if you try to swim the sheep,
they're likely to drown, aren't they,
particularly when they've got a full fleece on?
A full fleece on, like, as you say,
it just sucks in the water straightaway.
You know, a cow is different. Cows, their bellies can float,
whereas the sheep will not do it, they don't like it.
Warm summer sun and woolly coats are not a good combination,
so we need to get them into the shade as soon as possible.
Well, they seem pretty keen.
Oh, yeah, yeah, they were mad to get to the grass now
and a wee bit of shelter.
Well, it's a wonderful summer holiday for your sheep and cattle
-on this beautiful island.
And a perfect habitat for the birds, it couldn't be better.
Oh, yeah. Like you say, it both complements well,
it both works together well, so it does.
Of course, we couldn't have a programme about water
without one of us getting wet.
And when it comes to surfing,
it seems you don't have to be at the mercy of the Atlantic
to catch a wave,
as Anita found out when she visited a new water world in Snowdonia.
Snowdonia National Park is one of Britain's largest protected areas,
covering more than 800 square miles.
It's home to the highest peak in Wales - Mount Snowdon.
I'm in Dolgarrog in the River Conwy Valley
right on the eastern edge of the park.
This part of the country has some of Britain's most dramatic
and mountainous landscapes, attracting visitors all year round,
and I'm here to check out one of its latest attractions.
That is Surf Snowdonia, the world's first artificial surf lagoon.
This extraordinary place has been built on the site
of a former aluminium factory.
Where some just saw a derelict wasteland,
Andy Ainscough and his dad Martin
saw an opportunity to ride the waves.
The idea is insane, but just looking at it, you sort of think, well,
of course this should be here.
So why did you and your dad decide to do it?
It was the ideal site, really.
We're not too close from the big populations,
but we're in a beautiful part of Snowdonia,
with power next door from a power station.
And surfing is probably the UK's biggest growing watersport
and it was something I was really passionate about.
So we did it.
Six months of development turned into 12 months,
and then we opened in 2015.
It's absolutely fantastic.
What's the technology, then? How does the wave work?
We've got a big motor at one end, and a return wheel at the far end.
And almost what's like a snowplough
that runs between the middle and creates the wave.
We create a wave of two metres in height every 90 seconds.
So the same wave every time at the push of a button.
This old industrial site has undergone a complete transformation
to turn it into an ecologically sensitive surfers' paradise.
How much of a consideration has the environment been,
because you are in this very spectacular part of the world?
Yeah, this was a factory for almost 100 years,
and when it closed in 2007, it was left derelict.
We came in and cleaned up the land,
pumped out all the oils and solvents,
completely broke up all the concrete and used it in our construction
-to make the basis for our buildings.
-So you recycled quite a lot?
Yeah, we recycled pretty much all the concrete on-site.
The water's recycled.
That comes from the hydropower station,
from the pipes down from the mountains.
And I've noticed it's not bright blue.
It's kind of a sandy colour underneath it.
Yeah, we always wanted the liner to match the River Conwy.
We're only about half a mile from the River Conwy which is tidal,
which is sand-coloured at low tide, so we had to match that.
We're just on the edge of the National Park,
so the way this looks is very important.
Because when you do have a look at it from up high,
it does blend in really nicely.
I mean, I've always wanted to surf.
Honestly, I thought it would be somewhere like Costa Rica,
But I'm here, and I guess
I'm going to have to give it a go at some point.
But before I dip my toe in the water,
I want to find out about something else on this site
that's pretty special.
It's not just the surfers
who are making the most of this environment.
The landscape and wildlife around the surf lake
is also being carefully looked after.
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the site
is one of the habitats being managed by a team
from Natural Resources Wales.
Hi, how are you doing?
Sian Williams and Matthew Ellis have been involved with the project
from the start, working closely with Andy
to help protect the natural environment.
So, what are the specific environmental considerations
for this area?
So, obviously, you know, we've got the main River Conwy
just over here.
There's important mussel beds in the estuary,
and also bathing water there as well,
so it's really important for us to protect the water quality
and also the biodiversity in the area.
We've got a nature reserve next door,
a Site of Special Scientific Interest here as well.
And why is it important to have kept this bit of the factory?
This part of the factory supports the lesser horseshoe bat.
It's a very important area for the lesser horseshoe bat,
is the Conwy Valley,
with a number of nationally important roosts,
and this was used by the bats for hibernation.
-I need to see them.
-Here they are.
So this is an example of what they look like?
Oh, they're so cute.
-Oh, they're fantastic.
-They sound like R2-D2.
And what kind of environment does a lesser horseshoe bat
like to be in?
Lesser horseshoe bats like a connected landscape
with a mosaic of habitats,
which includes woodlands, hedgerows, streams.
Do they mind surfers?
They don't mind surfers at all.
And have you both had a go at surfing?
Soon? You've got to.
-It's right there.
-It's a nice day today. I'm quite tempted.
Jo Dennison is head coach at Surf Snowdonia,
the perfect person to help me catch a wave.
You will probably see a wave coming towards you.
When it gets another board's length away,
you're going to start to paddle. So look forwards,
nice, long, strong paddles, like that.
-And from here, I'm just going to take two steps.
-So, I'm going to go one, two and then surfing position.
OK, so just try it.
-That's not going to work.
-That's not going to work.
Do I look like I know what I'm doing?
Here we go.
All right, here we go.
Paddle, paddle, paddle.
That was awesome!
That was amazing.
It's great to see how this unique facility
has breathed new life into the region,
transforming a heavily polluted industrial site
into a haven for wildlife and people.
I'll be heading back out there shortly, but first,
let's find out weather-wise if it's going to be perfect
for getting out and about on the water
or if it will be better for ducks.
Here's the Countryfile forecast for the week ahead.
Water is our most important natural resource.
We've seen how it gives life,
provides livelihoods and is a source of inspiration.
And, of course, when it comes to recreation, it's good, clean fun.
It is freezing, but that will not stop these guys
getting their fresh-air fix.
Freezing is sort of an understatement,
but they're not the only ones out on the reservoir today.
The local Scout centre often runs outdoor activities for youngsters
and the Calvert Trust make sure everyone can enjoy the water here
by providing experiences that are accessible to all.
This boat has been designed to give easy access to wheelchair users,
and for Doug Paulley, it's given him a new lease of life.
How difficult is it for you, normally,
to get out into the countryside?
It can be very difficult to get out.
I mean, I live in a care home and I don't have my own transport.
And even without that, getting out and about in a wheelchair
and being able to get to places can be really difficult.
So, yeah, it's a real difference coming here
in that they make it easy to come out and about on the water,
and to go around the forest and see beautiful things.
They give me a go on the steering every so often,
and go exploring around all the edges of the lake.
-Yeah, it's really good.
-It is years since I've been at Kielder.
Just tell us a bit more about it.
-What do you love about it?
-It's an entirely artificial environment,
but, also, it's one of the most, despite that,
it is one of the most unspoiled environments as well.
So it's great being able to be somewhere that is so remote.
It's weird being somewhere without any mobile phone coverage, though.
-It's liberating, though, isn't it?
-It kind of is, it kind of is, yeah.
It certainly stretches you.
It seems like you've got a good gang,
and I can tell everybody's keen to get back out on the water,
so would you like me to get out of your way,
Sally, so you can enjoy the rest of the day?
-Yes, I'm off. THEY LAUGH
I thought so. Right, enjoy yourselves, guys.
-Nice to meet you.
They've got 27 miles of shoreline to explore.
No wonder they want me out of the way.
And after all that rowing, I'm sure this lot will sleep well tonight.
Well, we've seen just how important water can be
in shaping not only our landscape, but our lives.
A precious natural resource that we can all appreciate.
Well, that's it from me on Kielder Water.
Thanks, Guy. Cheers, Graham.
Next week, Matt will be in the Lothian and Borders of Scotland
where he'll be meeting the community
that saved its local lifeboat from going under.
All right, Graham, let's make some wash.
Ooh. Brilliant. Ta-ta.
We ARE making wash!
Water is our most precious natural resource. There is not a plant or animal on earth that can do without it. Our landscape is shaped by it; livelihoods depend on it. Water provides homes for wildlife and is a source of inspiration and a place for recreation.
Helen Skelton is at Kielder Water in Northumberland, exploring the ways in which the wet stuff shapes our lives. There is also a meander through the archives, dipping a toe into previous watery worlds to which Countryfile has been.