In West Yorkshire, Matt Baker meets the youngsters who have become RSPB rangers. Anita Rani meets an author who immerses himself in the landscape.
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This is West Yorkshire,
a landscape beaten by the elements
and shaped by industry.
But what industry has left behind,
nature has taken as its own.
And today, I'm going to be meeting the young RSPB
rangers who've fallen for this place.
So this guy's an absolute monster of a great diving beetle.
He's going to be the top predator in the pond.
Anita's losing herself in the moorlands
that motivated the Bronte sisters.
Well, I'm going to leave you and disappear into this wild,
-desolate landscape to be inspired like Emily.
-Go for it.
Tom's investigating warnings that worms could make some parts
of the UK impossible for sheep farming.
We had a mild burden in one of our groups this year,
-which knocked us back a kilo a week of production.
-That's the difference between profit and loss.
And Adam's raising a glass to English wine.
Wow! That's not what I was expecting
at all. It's full of flavour!
Fairburn Ings is an RSPB reserve east of Leeds.
A former colliery, its lakes and wetlands nestle in hollows
formed by mining subsidence.
The gentle slopes surrounding the River Aire are former slag heaps.
And Ferrybridge power station looms large on the skyline.
But down here, in and amongst this native woodland, you feel like
you're a world away from the gritty, the urban, the industrial.
It's peaceful and calm.
The birds love it here.
And so do the people who come to catch a glimpse of them.
Children in particular.
And so the RSPB has taken the unusual step
of making some of them rangers.
One of them, Liberty...
..is also the reserve's official photographer.
Kate Struthers is from the RSPB.
Where do the junior rangers fit in with all of this, then?
So they're out talking to people on the reserve,
telling them about wildlife, what they can spot.
But then they also help out on events, as well.
So we had our Big Wild Sleepout event in the summer.
From the feedback from the visitors on that event, as well,
the youth rangers were a vital part of that,
engaging with other children and engaging with their peers and
getting them connected with nature and showing them that it's a really
good thing to get involved in.
It must come with its complications, though,
having youngsters as part of the, kind of, workforce.
I actually think it adds to it.
We obviously have to follow health and safety and safeguarding and
things. They're always with their parents. But, other than that,
it really adds to the experience for our visitors.
They're great ambassadors for the RSPB!
Down at one of the wetland hides is 15-year-old Elliott.
He's the longest-serving young ranger.
So, as you're looking out on this pool right in front of us,
we've got some moor hens on the island.
They're grazing around for seeds.
Every weekend, he takes visitors on tours of the reserve,
telling them all about the wildlife that's found here.
So this is my fourth year volunteering at the reserve.
-And I've been visiting for about five.
So, definitely become a bit of an obsession!
Yeah. So, here you are now, then, as a, kind of, fully fledged ranger.
What does that work involve?
The first port of call to do is fill up the feeders.
We do a guided walk every now and again, and then that'll...
So you actually take the guided walks, then?
-And what kind of reaction do you get from those that are coming
to take the tour, that you're obviously a lot younger than them?
It's a lot of surprise when they see how old you actually are and how
much you know about the reserve.
You get them to see these rare species,
and they're just so shocked
that this is right next to the Castleford, sort of, city.
For those children that are coming here,
it must be very kind of inspirational for them to see you,
and that you're teaching them.
Because, you know, you're not much older than them.
No. Well, I'm just a big kid at heart,
so I think I add a bit of fun into the day.
-I like to think that.
It's quite a camera this, though, isn't it, that's in front of us?
I got my camera body for my birthday.
came with a lens. And I eventually decided that I wanted a better lens.
-So I saved up a lot of money.
-Bought this massive one.
-And I'm a bit bankrupt now, actually!
Are you?! I'm not surprised. MATT LAUGHS
Have you got a favourite shot?
I got a weasel just down here.
And it just sat on this mound of wood
and looked towards me, and I just got
the perfect timing on that shot.
As a result of tagging along with his son,
Elliott's dad, Gary, has caught the bug too,
and now also volunteers here at Fairburn Ings.
How proud are you that Elliott is now a fully fledged ranger
at the age of just 15?
Yeah, he's been...
He was just short of his 11th birthday when we started here.
And he's come on so much since then.
It gets you out of the bedroom,
and out of the Xbox.
Which he still does - don't get me wrong - but...
He just connects with the outdoors.
I don't think he'll ever lose it.
He'll take it with him, maybe pass it down to his kids.
Now, as a sheep farmer myself,
it's a real concern to hear warnings that in just a few years' time,
some parts of our countryside could become impossible to farm sheep on.
Now, this is all to do with the way that we deal with sheep worms.
Here's Tom with more.
Sheep have been a part of our landscape since as far back
as Roman times.
Once, vast fortunes were built on the back of their wool,
and their milk and meat have helped feed the nation.
But times have changed.
These days, the value of wool barely covers the cost of shearing,
and the price of lamb is unstable.
But now, our sheep industry faces a threat so serious that it's claimed
that unless action is taken soon, fields like this could be left bare.
And sheepdogs like Jock here could be out of work, too.
It sounds unthinkable,
yet it's happened in other parts of the world
and it could happen here, too.
It's all because tiny parasitic worms that harm sheep
are gaining the upper hand against the drugs used to combat them.
Infectious worm larvae are found on blades of grass in pasture.
Once they've been eaten, they develop into worms
in the sheep's guts.
The worms then lay eggs,
which are deposited back onto the grass in the sheep's dung,
potentially in their hundreds of thousands.
And so, the cycle continues.
Matthew Blyth farms a flock of 1,000 in West Sussex.
So, basically, we get the sheep, hold its head.
Pass the gun over the back of its tongue so it swallows,
and slowly squeeze the product down the back of its throat.
'For nearly 40 years,
'farmers like Matthew have routinely used drugs known in the industry as
'drenches to combat the problem of worms.'
So, how do worms harm sheep?
There's quite a few different ways they can harm sheep.
The biggest thing is lowering our production down.
-Cos the worms are obviously in their guts.
-In their guts, slowly,
slowly pulling nutrition away from the animal, which we want to go into
them growing to be healthy.
When you get a really bad worm infestation,
how much could it slow the growth of a lamb?
We had a mild burden in one of our groups this year,
which knocked us back a kilo a week of production.
Right, and that's the difference between profit and loss.
Exactly. A really bad infection will actually kill the animal.
But now, Matthew is finding the drenches he's traditionally used to
combat the problem of worms are no longer working.
So what's the story with these lambs?
The story of these lambs is we had some six,
eight weeks ago and we wormed them with the drug.
Then we got them out to monitor, see how they were doing,
and they wasn't doing what we expected.
We took a dung sample and checked it for worms,
and they still had a significant amount of worms.
How surprised were you by that?
-So in terms of worming treatment,
you'd done everything by the book?
Yeah, we checked the gun, we got the right weight,
we got the right amount of product.
The active ingredient we used actually didn't work to the
efficiency that we hoped it would do.
In effect, the worms in these sheep had become resistant to those drugs?
The problem is that the more farmers like Matthew use traditional
drenches to combat the worms, the more resistant the worms become,
leading farmers, then, to use more drench, and so it goes on.
It's not just Matthew's sheep that are affected by these super-worms.
Currently, the loss of production and the treatment of affected
animals cost the British sheep industry around
£84 million per year.
We'll just have a look round the eyes.
Make sure that's nice and pink in there.
And sometimes we can also just have a look at the lips and gums.
And she's fine.
Lesley Stubbings is from the group
Sustainable Control Of Parasites In Sheep.
She says this downward spiral is a global problem which has left
farmers in some parts of the world with no way back.
The worms themselves are very, very successful parasites.
So, over time, unless we're very careful,
we will end up with an increase in the number
of worms in the population that are resistant to the medicine.
Other parts of the world are in a worse position than we are.
Parts of South America and parts of South Africa.
There are examples there where they can no longer graze animals,
because the worms are so resistant and they have no other method of
controlling them. So we can see from other examples that the end point
could be quite serious.
It's a stark warning to us in the UK of what could lie ahead
if nothing is done.
Come on, guys!
And Lesley says the problem is already reaching crisis point here.
We do have a few farms in the UK now that really can't farm sheep
successfully. In one case,
have had to move because the problem was so bad.
The clock is ticking on our vulnerable but important sheep
sector. So, how long do we have, and what might that solution be?
That's what I'll be finding out later.
a soul-grinding sandstone.
The sky has delivered its blank missive.
The moor in coma...
There are great moors behind, and on each hand of me.
There are waves of mountains, far beyond that deep valley at my feet.
-The rugged countryside of West Yorkshire has been translated
into text by writers for centuries.
Novels, poems and plays have sprung from the foreboding landscape,
as varied in themes as the weather.
But, of course, the most famous of them all
have to be the works of the Bronte sisters.
And it's the moors that really inform these deep, dark,
brooding novels like Jane Eyre
and Wuthering Heights and The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall.
But if it is the landscape that means so much to these deeply
romantic novels, why am I sitting in a very cosy coffee shop?
With me in this comfortable corner of Thornton village
is Michael Stewart,
who is looking for lesser-known locations linked to the Brontes in
the run-up to next year's Bradford Literature Festival.
So, why are we in a coffee shop, Michael?
Well, this is the bicentenary of Charlotte Bronte this year.
And this is the birthplace of four of the six siblings.
What, in this house?
They were born in front of that fireplace here.
-Yeah. So, Charlotte, Emily,
Branwell and Anne were born here and they moved in 1820.
So why is it significant?
Why is it important that we're here and we acknowledge that this is
where they were born? What are you doing?
The main project I'm involved with is called the Bronte Stones.
And the idea of the Bronte Stones is to place stones along the trail,
and to have contemporary writers, female writers,
write for those stones.
I guess, what's the ultimate purpose of the stones?
Well, the ultimate purpose of the stones is to get people
into the landscape. They've read the books, hopefully.
And they're going to get a different dimension by coming onto the moors
and experiencing where the books were set.
Where are the stones going to be? We start here in the coffee shop.
We start here with the Charlotte stone,
which will be placed on the outside of this building.
And then we go up into the moors, for the Emily stone.
-Shall we get our coats, then?
-Let's do it.
I'll take the Bibles. Let's go.
I wish I were out of doors.
I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy and free.
I'm sure I should be myself,
were I once more among the heather on those hills.
Once in place, Emily's stone will be the second of four on the trail.
Talk about atmospheric.
Well, we've picked the right day, really.
-This is wuthering weather.
-Yes, it is.
And what's this spot that you've brought me to?
Well, this is the spot where Emily's stone is going to be.
So, the stone is going to be laid there,
and beneath this solitary sycamore
is the natural home for Emily's stone.
And when can people come and enjoy the stones?
Well, all the stones should be in place for the summer.
For the launch of the festival on the 7th of July.
Fantastic. Well, I'm going to leave you and disappear into this wild,
desolate landscape to be inspired like Emily!
-Go for it.
-See you later.
-Nice to meet you.
-You too, Michael.
This landscape has affected many writers, not just the Brontes.
To Ted Hughes, the moors were a stage for the performance of heaven.
To Simon Armitage, an anti-garden of gritstone and peat.
And writers still come here seeking inspiration,
and immersing themselves in this rich landscape.
And some writers immerse themselves way more than others.
Benjamin Myers is an award-winning local writer,
whose novels and poems unfold in the countryside of the North West.
I've heard of people going for walks for inspiration, Ben,
but never wild swimming. Are you just a little bit mad?
I don't think so. I mean, I do walk a lot,
but I get something else from swimming.
I think the cold kind of shocks you into being, almost.
It's a physical reaction as much as anything.
Your blood starts pumping, puts lead in your pencil, as they say.
And every writer needs a pencil.
Very true. Why do you think so many writers have been inspired
by this landscape?
For me, the landscape is as much a character as any physical person in
anything I write. And I think that's the one, sort of, thread that unites
any of the writers from round here, or who've written about here,
particularly in a book like Wuthering Heights.
I would argue that the main character in that book is the moors.
It's the landscape.
Well, I don't think there could be a more perfect setting to hear a poem.
To the sky we ran and fell
The heather our mattress
The worms our witness
Young lungs burning
Wet-backed, soil-soaked, mulch-coddled, copper-puddled
Dirt-giggled and dizzy
Fists of earth raised, thrown
Fecund offerings for a future union
The rustling of life.
Wow! Thank you, Ben.
Literature and landscape in perfect harmony.
-The Pennine moorland of West Yorkshire,
Where turbines are built to reap the wild winds, and the vast peat bogs
soak up the rain before releasing it
to tumble down streams of millstone grit.
Many of those streams feed reservoirs like this one,
Ogden Water, in the hills above Halifax.
Ogden Water is an outstanding local nature reserve.
It was built in the 1850s,
and has always been a popular place for walking,
picnics and having a grand day out.
For more than 100 years, the beautiful woodlands
were out of bounds to the public.
But the current owners, Yorkshire Water,
have opened up the whole site.
The day-to-day running of the reserve is carried out by the local
council's countryside services team.
Chris Sutcliffe is in charge.
So, Chris, I've seen lots of people wandering around here,
it seems very popular.
Is that, do you think, because it's so accessible?
I think so, yeah. I mean, Ogden's been here for a long time,
but for quite a number of years you could only access the dam wall there
and into the car parks, which were a little park.
But then a collaboration in
the mid-1980s between Yorkshire Water and Calderdale Council opened
up this land for recreation.
So that must have some real community health benefits?
To be able to walk in a beautiful area is obviously good for the mind,
soul and body. And in Calderdale,
we want to be the most active borough in the north,
so we're encouraging as many people to be active as possible.
And what's your role here? What do you do?
My role encompasses looking after the land here.
Managing the public access, so putting in gates instead of stiles,
making sure that footpaths are open, there's no trees falling on them.
But managing nature isn't always straightforward.
Five years ago,
a huge fire on the moor above Ogden threatened to engulf the entire
woodland. Firefighters were forced to battle the flames by hand,
as vehicles couldn't reach the blaze.
Only a lucky change of wind direction prevented
Five years on, the scars left by the fire are still here to see.
Today, the countryside services team, with help from volunteers,
is creating an access route up through the woodland...
..so that the local fire service's ArgoCat
and other off-road vehicles can get to
the critical area where the trees meet the open moor.
I just couldn't resist a ride in it.
That is an impressive piece of kit that you have there.
It is good, I must admit.
It'll go anywhere. As long as there's no trees, walls,
it's not too boggy, it'll go everywhere you point it.
What was the impact of the last fire here?
I mean, in terms of Fire Service resources,
we had numerous fire engines here
for over a week.
There were... Hundreds of ground nesting birds were displaced,
The wind farm had to be taken out of action.
That needed recommissioning.
The contamination got into the reservoir down at Ogden Water.
So that got taken out of action as well.
Total cost to the economy, and taxpayer, really,
£3.5 million estimated.
Do you think if you'd have had an all-terrain vehicle back then,
-that would have helped then?
-Something like the ArgoCat,
with the go-anywhere capability, it does the job of 20 firefighters.
So the fact that this track is being cleared for you,
that is really important.
It's fantastic that they've done this, yeah.
I mean, at the end of the day,
the ArgoCat is only as good as where we can get it.
And for them to build a clear access for us to be able to get
onto the moor, brilliant, yeah.
Boggy ground makes parts of Ogden impassable.
Simon and Jason, who do most of the hands-on work here,
are replacing a collapsed drain
to make the track suitable for off-road vehicles.
So, what other kind of things do you get up to?
Oh, we do all sorts to do with the countryside management.
Fixing paths, tree felling, tree planting.
Pretty much anything, really.
Sometimes it's after stormy weather,
and the trees that have been blown over and are left in dangerous
positions that we need to deal with and make safe.
Otherwise, the pass gets shut down and it restricts access.
So the whole idea is to get people out and about
and enjoying the countryside. So it's a good part of our job.
You are out all year round, whatever the conditions.
Unless it's absolutely really atrocious, we're out there in it.
So a true love of the outdoors is fundamental to do a job like yours?
..you have them days where you just think,
"I love my job. "I'm getting paid for this, and it's brilliant."
It's not looking too shabby, is it?
'But I'm not leaving without first playing firefighter.'
You fire it in.
OK. You can create instant rain.
And what would you have done without this?
Beaten it out with a stick with a piece of hose fastened to the end.
So this is way more efficient for you.
-Yeah, yeah. Do you want a go?
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-Go on, then.
-Just pull the handle.
Could do with one of these to help me wash my car!
Oh, they're brilliant. Got t'cleanest cars in
West Yorkshire at Todmorden Fire Station.
Anyone for a water fight?
Earlier, we heard how the future of the UK's sheep industry is under
threat from drug-resistant parasitic worms.
So, what are farmers and scientists doing to fight back?
Our national flock is locked in a downward spiral that could end in
sheep disappearing from Britain's fields,
as they have done in some parts of South America and South Africa.
That's because harmful parasitic worms are growing resistant to drugs
known as drenches that are traditionally used to combat them.
There are now five colour-coded drenches for farmers to choose from.
But across England, 90% of farms are now showing some resistance to this,
the white. There is less resistance to the yellow and the clear,
but it appears to be on the increase.
And then you have two new drenches,
the orange and the purple, which do still seem to be doing their job.
But in time, the worms will become resistant to them, too.
Here they come.
So, could the sheep themselves be the solution?
That's what one Perthshire farmer believes.
So all our ewes' performances have been summarised into the figures
available on here.
'Farmers are accustomed to breeding livestock to get the best traits.
'And for the past eight years,
'Neil McGowan has been selecting the sheep in his flock
'that have a genetic ability to fight off the worms.'
Of course, traditionally, people would have selected sheep for
breeding according to size or confirmation or things like that.
You're saying it was important to breed them on the basis of how they
-cope with worms?
If you've got two animals, one's better than the other one.
You want to do all you can to find which one's the best one.
We sampled just over 200 lambs last year.
The poorest 10% of these lambs were responsible for
a quarter of the pasture contamination.
And the best 10% of these lambs were responsible for less
than 1%. So these are the ones we're after in our flock.
So, in effect, rather than using drugs, these drenches, you're using,
you know, genetics as a way to try and reduce the worm problem?
Quite right, yes.
If the sheep have a way of dealing with that themselves,
it just seems silly not to take advantage of that in some way.
The technique of breeding to combat worms may be new to us
here in the UK, but in parts of Australia and New Zealand,
it's proved very successful.
Some farmers there have been able to cut their use of worm drench in half
in just ten years.
To test the sheep's natural ability to fight off worms,
Neil has to check their dung.
What is known as a faecal egg count.
There's two ways of doing this job.
One takes a bit of patience and we have to wait
until something happens.
The other one involves a fingered glove.
Samples are sent off to a lab, and any worm eggs found are counted.
I never thought I'd be that excited about waiting for a sheep...
-..to give us some droppings.
'However, this method is considered time-consuming
'and often inaccurate.'
And it is a bit of a mucky job.
'Now, Dr Karen Fairlie-Clarke from Glasgow University
'has helped develop a special saliva test
'that is quick and easy to deliver.'
Do you feel like more of a dentist than a zoologist doing this?
Well, you do sometimes, yeah.
Sometimes you get some quite interesting coloured swabs back.
-Bit green, bit grassy, that one.
-A little bit green, yeah.
Obviously had some breakfast.
So, how does the saliva test actually work?
-What is it doing?
-So what we're actually after is the antibodies
that are in the saliva, that would be attacking the parasitic worms.
Some animals are just better able to cope with a worm infection.
And those are the ones that we expect to have a high antibody
-So a sheep that has a lot of these antibodies
will be better able to
-And it can pass that onto its children?
Yes, it is a heritable trait, yeah. So they can pass that on.
How does this test compare to the old test on the dung of the animals?
With the faecal egg count, it's a little bit tricky to interpret,
because sometimes you can have an animal with an awful lot of worms
that doesn't actually produce a lot of eggs at the time that you sample.
Whereas the antibodies are always in the saliva,
so you know you're always getting a real representation of the animal's
ability to fight the worm.
As a diagnostic tool for the farmers,
it's really one of the most important steps that's been taken
in the fight against worms.
This new saliva test makes selecting the best stock
much easier for farmers.
Using breeding and genetics to solve the problem of worms is still
several generations away,
but Lesley Stubbings from the group
Sustainable Control Of Parasites In Sheep
is confident there are things that farmers can do now.
Whenever we use these medicines,
we need to make sure we give the right dose rate,
actually think more carefully about what medicine you're using.
Are you using the right one at the right time?
And to say to farmers,
"If you haven't got other worms that are resistant to certain groups,
"then don't buy it in from someone else."
We really do need our farmers to be putting in place practical
strategies to take some of the pressure off these medicines now.
Eliminating this threat from our national flock will take time and
ingenuity. But by combining smart action from farmers,
breeders and scientists, we should be able to keep sheep in our fields.
Here at RSPB Fairburn Ings in West Yorkshire,
the main attractions are the waders and waterfowl
that enjoy the reserve's wetlands.
But there are some unassuming residents
that aren't as big and handsome as a heron...
..definitely not as fancy as a kingfisher...
..but are really rather special.
Well, the little birds that I'm talking about are actually the focus
of an ongoing survey here at Fairburn Ings
that young rangers Ollie and Liberty
are diligently working on at the moment.
We're talking tree sparrows.
Small, brown and chirpy.
The population at Fairburn Ings is extremely important.
Tim Melling, the senior conservation officer, explains why.
People may think that sparrows are incredibly common,
but as far as the tree sparrow is concerned,
what we're seeing here is very special.
No, really special.
When I was about ten years old,
there was ten times more tree sparrows in Britain
than there are now. The population has just plummeted.
But they are a really, really special bird and, in my opinion,
far more attractive than house sparrows.
They've got this lovely little chestnut cap and little black cheek
spots. And we've got them nesting in boxes all round the visitors' centre
here and on boxes in trees.
We've got a really thriving population here.
All right. So talking about this species that is on the red list,
why the decline?
They need somewhere to feed in winter and, again,
50 years ago, there was lots of stubbles where grain used to be
spilt, and that was the ideal feeding habitat for them.
But now, with winter cereals, they don't have that same stubble.
They're much more reliant on bird feeding stations and hand-outs
-Right. So what work are you doing, and how does that help?
Well, we're trying to catch as many as we can and put rings on them.
But normally with these birds,
what you do is you put mist nets up to catch them.
But these are one of the most wary birds in the world.
Once you've caught them in a mist net, they will not go in a mist net
again. So that's why the young rangers here have really been
helping, because they can take great photographs and observe the tree
sparrows coming to the feeders. They can read the ring numbers.
And it's just like having a scientific control of a bird
-that lands in a mist net.
Liberty and Ollie don't just make notes.
Liberty has been working on the survey long enough now to have
noticed trends emerging.
How does this year's survey look in comparison to what you were doing
-this time last year?
-This time last year,
there was not as many tree sparrows around the reserve.
And this year, flocks have, like,
dramatically increased compared to last year.
Interesting, isn't it? Well, Ollie, what's your story, then?
How did you end up being a ranger here?
Well, I live five minutes down the road,
so this is, kind of, my home reserve that I come to all the time.
And I just...
I wanted to come here every single day, every single night.
I just wanted to stay here for my whole life.
Really? Ollie, wow, that's passion.
-It's this good, yeah.
-And, Liberty, how about you, then?
How did you end up working here?
I came a few years before, volunteering with my dad.
And came down nearly every day of the week.
And Becky, who was one of the staff that worked here before,
she said, "Would you like to have a try at volunteering?"
I said, "That would be absolutely amazing!"
So, how do you go about learning all the stuff that you know?
Ollie, what you do?
Do you do a lot on the internet, or do you look in books,
or do you just talk to lots of people?
I talk to lots of people.
I get inspired by lots of people.
I watch telly, like, for example, Autumnwatch, Springwatch.
-And Countryfile, yeah.
And just going outside and just watching them helps me learn.
Right, now, let's have another look at this survey.
Because what is really important is to know exactly
what season you're in.
To know the dates as well.
Do you know what this is, by any chance?
-Yes! Have you got one yet?
I have, I've ordered one.
-Hooray, that's good news!
The big question is, have you ordered yours yet?
If you haven't, here's John with all the details.
Liberty, that's perfect.
It costs £9.50, including free UK delivery.
You can go to our website, where you'll find a link
to the order page.
Or you can phone the order line on...
If you prefer to order by post,
then send your name, address and a cheque to...
A minimum of £4 from the sale of each calendar
will be donated to BBC Children In Need.
The mild summer and gentle autumn seem a long time ago now.
But whilst the sun was shining,
Adam travelled to the Rathfinny Wine Estate in Sussex,
where their first commercial grape harvest was about to get under way.
Up until recently, you could count the number of commercial vineyards
in the UK on one hand.
But now, English wine is doing really well.
And many people are investing in large-scale vineyards like this one.
Mark Driver converted this patch of farmland to grow grapes for
sparkling wine back in 2012.
This is a big year for him.
Busy time of year, Mark.
Yeah, very exciting time of year. The harvest is just coming in
and 2016 is the first major harvest that we've had.
What sort of scale are we talking about here?
Well, we planted about 180 acres on our 600-acre farm.
And we think that we're going to plant eventually about 400 acres.
Lots of different varieties?
Yeah, we've got about five different varieties.
-And why here?
-We've got a perfect site here.
So we've got a lovely south-facing slope right onto chalk -
we're on the South Downs.
We're also blessed with great weather, we have a great climate.
And all those things combined make it great conditions for growing
sparkling wine grapes.
I know we've been growing wine in this country since Roman times,
but this sort of scale is just extraordinary, isn't it?
It is, yeah. It's fantastic.
-And how long have you been here?
-About five years.
'Vineyard manager Cameron Roucher learned his trade back at
'home in New Zealand.
'He's in charge of gathering as much of this year's prize crop
Cameron, I know harvest for you is a busy time of year and you've just
-started. How are the stress levels?
-Yeah, they're not too bad.
Sort of just started today and, yeah,
it's just a matter of dealing with all the people that we've got and
trying to get them in the right places and that sort of thing.
But, yeah, it's not too bad so far.
And how's the yield looking this year?
Really good, yeah. This is our first decent year.
And what are the challenges, then, of growing grapes?
-I know nothing about it.
-It's the same as all farming.
A lot of it's down to the weather.
And then you've got disease pressures that relate
-to that weather.
-And what's this blue netting?
It's to stop the birds.
We get quite a big pressure of birds trying to eat our grapes.
How are they looking this year, Cameron?
We've had a great summer.
They're nice and full, plump, lovely and sweet.
-Can I try one?
-Yeah, go for it.
-Mmm! They're really sweet, aren't they?
-Yeah, they're great.
Big effort, and a lot of money to put up all this netting, though,
-Yeah, it is, yeah.
But it's a very high-value crop.
We're looking at around about £2,000 a tonne.
So, my wheat and barley would be worth £130 a tonne!
It's worth a lot more. I can see why you're looking after it!
I see you've got a security camera here.
Have you got people coming and nicking your grapes, too?
Er, no. We've got a problem with badgers as well.
-They're coming and munching on the sweet grapes?
-Yeah, they are.
They sort of tend to go for certain varieties, so...
Really? They know what they like!
-How many tonnes are they eating?
They got through about a tonne of one variety last year.
Goodness me! So, a couple of grand's worth?
Got this electric fence that we've put in along our boundary
to try and keep them out there, eating worms, blackberries,
rather than eating our grapes.
-Well, with the grapes being so valuable, I don't blame you.
Keeping the birds and the sweet-toothed badgers at bay
is only part of the challenge.
There's an art to picking the grapes.
All the fruit here is picked by hand,
and Mark's wife Sarah has agreed to show me the ropes.
The grapes look lovely, don't they?
They're fantastic. Look at that.
I can't stop stealing them.
You're eating all the profits! Why are they so good this year?
They're really good because we've had really good weather,
and we haven't had any frost.
And how do you know they're ready to be picked now?
Well, we know because we've done sugar and acid tests on them.
And also, we can see that they're absolutely perfect.
And now is the right time.
Beautiful, aren't they?
At home, with our crops, we obviously have a combine harvester,
and I know you can pick grapes mechanically,
but you choose to do it by hand.
Yes, we do, and there's good reason for it.
It's all about the craft and the care that we take.
If you use the machine, you damage the grapes.
If we take them off by hand,
then it gives us a little bit longer before they go up to the winery.
So, what's the skill behind it?
Well, it's just about being careful, really. And so you're going in,
you're picking just after the brown bit of stalk.
And you're making sure that you've just got a good,
healthy set of grapes there, which these certainly are.
-OK. Can I give it a go?
Right, here we go.
-That one's all right, isn't it?
Quite a lot of camaraderie and a nice young team you've got working
-A lot of local people have come, of all ages.
You know, from their 70s down to students. It's fantastic.
Well, it's not a bad way to spend your holiday, is it?
Ah, we'll have to give you a job!
Picking the grapes correctly is only one of the skills needed
to make a quality sparkling white.
The estate's winemaker Jonathan Medard comes from
the Champagne region itself.
He's well qualified to get the best out of this year's crop.
Are you pleased with the harvest so far, Jonathan?
Very pleased. It's a really good quality so far, so...
You know, it's beautiful.
It tastes delicious. So yes, very excited.
And how different are the grapes here than in, say, the Champagne
region across the water?
Despite the fact that they grow on the same type of soil -
that's chalk below - the growing season here is longer and it allows
for really nice flavour development,
as well as retaining fantastic acidity.
-And as a winemaker, is that exciting for you?
-It's very exciting.
It allows us to create fantastic wines, yeah.
So what happens now?
We're going to close the lid and go downstairs and start the pressing.
OK, let's do that.
This first pressing produces the purest juice.
Jonathan is keen for me to have a taste
before it undergoes its first fermentation.
Wow! That's not what I was expecting at all.
It's not like your everyday grape juice, is it?
It's full of flavour.
Just delicious, really sweet.
It's really nice.
So, here you are. A Frenchman from Epernay, from the Champagne region,
in the UK making sparkling wine!
What brings you here? Why are you so excited about it?
What's exciting here is that we start from scratch.
We have no history of wines here.
We just planted the vineyards, so everything is new.
From the quality we get, you know,
we're going to decide on what to plant next.
So you can use your true French flair and ingenuity?
We try to.
And when will this be in the bottle as sparkling English wine?
Well, this will be bottled mid-next year, maybe in June,
and then it's going to have to stay three years in the cellar, so...
-You're going to have to be very patient.
That's a long wait.
It's worth the wait for many wine businesses,
who expect a boom in UK wines.
Home-grown production is reckoned to double to ten million bottles
a year by 2020.
Sparkling wine takes so long because it undergoes two fermentations -
the first in tanks, the second in the bottle itself.
Fortunately, Jonathan and Mark have agreed to open a bottle early,
so I can see what all the fuss is about.
So, this is the 2014.
This is our first wine.
It's made exclusively of Chardonnay, so we call this a blanc des blancs.
We're just getting a glance of what it's going to be in a year's time.
-Should we have a little taste?
-I think we should.
-Lovely, isn't it?
-It's rather good, isn't it?
Is this what you were hoping for?
Yeah, this is exactly it.
2016, you know, with the fantastic summer we had.
We're really hopeful that we're going to be producing something
which may even exceed this.
Well, it's wonderful to celebrate success.
It's delicious, isn't it? It's full of flavour.
My home turf.
Town and country sit side by side here.
You can look out of your window in Huddersfield or Halifax
and see sheep and cattle grazing on the hillside.
Apart from the fantastic views,
having towns so close to open country does have other benefits.
For farmers, it means they've got a ready-made market
for their products. And for consumers, it means they've got
fresh, locally grown produce on the doorstep.
One producer making the most of both worlds is award-winning cheese maker
Razan Alsous, who makes halloumi from Yorkshire milk.
She and her family came to Britain after losing nearly everything
in the war in Syria.
-How are you?
-Hi, I'm fine, thank you.
-Good to see you!
-What a view.
-Yeah, it's really nice.
What do you think about West Yorkshire?
Well, it's a bit of heaven.
-And now it's home.
We came here first in 2012, when the bombing started to be in Damascus.
And there was an explosion at my husband's office,
and it was like a sign to find maybe a new home.
A more safe place for the kids.
So what did you find in West Yorkshire?
Well, the milk for sure.
-You can tell!
Lots of cows and all this greenery and this weather
will produce a beautiful milk.
And does it, in your opinion?
Yes, yes. It does.
And I know maybe sometimes, you know, in your heart of hearts,
life would be very different for you, but...
you're here making this amazing cheese.
-And it's the first-ever halloumi in Yorkshire!
In Yorkshire, yes. I think so.
Well, I want to see it being made
and then, of course, I have to taste it.
Definitely. Let's go.
-Come on, then. Lead the way.
In Syria, Razan was a laboratory scientist,
and her spirit of invention is clear in her cheese-making process.
So, this is it - this is where the magic happens.
Just like Razan, all of her equipment has had a previous life -
from an ice-cream maker to a pasta boiler. Even a chicken grill.
Usually the cheese cutters, it's made out of wires.
Well, this is really strong so we found it makes them in cubes.
-..we just use it.
I think you're a genius!
Time for a cheesy montage.
You're right, this is the perfect thing.
-It just feels so good!
Within just a few years of starting production,
Razan's halloumi had won gold at the World Cheese Awards.
Her business has even been praised in the Houses of Parliament.
Oh, that feels so good!
-My husband doesn't get treated like this.
-It's a spoilt cheese!
Halloumi can be made from sheep or cow's milk.
Reheating the cut cheese in its own whey gives it a high melting point,
making it ideal for serving grilled.
It smells amazing!
This is what I've been waiting for.
Now, this is with chilli, and these are plain.
-Let's try the plain one.
-Don't worry, I'll try the chilli one as well.
I'm going to...
What do you think?
-Creamy and delicious.
Yorkshire halloumi's amazing!
I might have a bit more.
Razan takes advantage of nearby delis and markets
to sell her cheese locally.
Victoria Robertshaw runs Keelham Farm Shop.
They specialise in local produce,
but their position in West Yorkshire allows them to supply urban,
as well as rural, customers.
What a gorgeous place!
-Oh, thank you.
And why is it that you sell Razan's cheese here?
Razan ticks lots of boxes for us.
Not only does it taste fantastic,
it's made with all-Yorkshire produce.
Razan is so passionate about what she does,
and we love supporting people like that within Yorkshire and helping
kind of showcase and give a platform for them to sell their products.
How does being placed in this part of Britain help you, do you think,
as a farm shop and as a place that is accessible to communities?
We're phenomenally lucky with our location, because, basically,
we're very close to the towns, but we're still...
You know, we're on the moor tops near Wuthering Heights and
Bronte land. You can see across the moors.
When we've done some stats and stuff,
70% of our customers travel within a three-mile distance to us,
so we're very much the kind of local community shop, as well.
'There are more than 400 Yorkshire products here.
'Everything from pastries...'
We're very famous for pies.
I've never seen anything like it!
-That is amazing!
-It's brilliant, isn't it?
That's a revelation! Wow!
I could be here a while.
And of course, I can't resist a final taste
of Razan's Yorkshire halloumi.
See, this is what it's all about.
Halloumi made in Yorkshire.
We're at the RSPB's Fairburn Ings reserve today.
And we're following their young rangers as they put in
a full day of volunteering.
But not all of it is hard work.
Most of it's fun.
Like surveying what lives here.
Rangers Elliott, Liberty and Ollie are showing a group of visiting
children the joys of pond dipping.
You want to be doing a really big figure-of-eight shape, all around,
cos that's the way you're going to catch most things.
You kind of corral them into the middle.
-Did we catch anything?
Pass it along. And try it.
Try deep. Sometimes they hide in the mud at the bottom.
They're not finding much wildlife because there's a lack of vegetation
in front of the dipping platform.
So, I'm giving assistant warden John Ingham a hand with
some watery gardening.
It's coming out under the water.
That's actually a new shoot that's coming out.
So when we replant this over there,
what will happen is these new shoots will come out alongside and make a
-nice, sort of, wall along the front of the dipping platform.
Give lots of places for the insects under the water to hide.
So, the purpose of doing this, then, is literally to move this habitat
closer so that the youngsters can get up and get in it.
-OK, I'm with you.
It's just creating a much better experience for the people
-who come here to pond dip.
You know, it's one of our major activities on the reserve.
And I can see why!
I mean, when you look at everyone over there having such a good time.
Yeah. Exactly, yeah.
This is an absolute monster of a diving beetle.
Ollie got it.
The rushes are put into hessian sacks filled with the silt
from the bottom of the pond to help them root in their new home.
-Nice sludgy stuff there.
It's all good, full of nutrients.
Do we dig the sack in as well, then?
Yeah, just try and dig a little bit of a dip for it.
And then once it's in the water, just stamp it down a bit.
Look at all the species that are going to benefit from
all of this work that's taken place.
And the next generation
of naturalists that come along and get to experience this place and
enjoy it for what is.
There he is.
It's actually quite big.
Just want to put him down in the bucket there.
Getting stuck in there, Matt?
-Ooh, hang on.
-That hat suits you.
-My foot's stuck.
-Are you all right?
-I'll help you from here.
-You don't want to grab my hand.
-No, I don't!
I'll just leave you.
Have you enjoyed being back on home turf?
I've been able to breathe that much easier.
My shoulders are a little bit broader. Isn't it beautiful here?
I don my cap to you.
I certainly do. But listen, that's all we've got time for this week.
Next week, I'm going to be a little bit drier
in the Brecon Beacons, where we'll be doing a treasure hunt
-across the landscape.
-And Helen will be taking on a fishy rescue.
-Do join us then.
-From all of us here...
Countryfile visits West Yorkshire, where Matt Baker meets the youngsters who have become RSPB rangers.
Anita Rani explores Bronte country and meets an author who literally immerses himself in the landscape. Anita also finds out about an award-winning halloumi cheese producer from Syria.
Naomi Wilkinson discovers the challenges facing the fire brigade at Ogden Water, and Adam raises a glass to English wine.
Tom Heap investigates claims that sheep farming could become impossible in some parts of Britain within just a few years.