Anita meets the contestants of the International Young Beekeepers competition at Marlborough College and visits the River Kennet.
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With chalky uplands and lush pastures,
Wiltshire has a rich farming heritage.
Though the horses here aren't all kept in stables.
It's a county brimming with history, where sacred stones
and mystical mounds share the landscape with the military.
And here, on the edge of Salisbury Plain,
I've been looking at a real success story in conservation.
How the world's heaviest flying bird,
until recently extinct around here,
has been brought back to its native Wiltshire.
It's the great bustard.
Anita's with some more familiar feathered friends,
and she gets all her ducks in a row.
You're a natural!
Charlotte's looking at why our farms
are still such dangerous places to work.
If I do that, that will give you an idea how much was lost.
And Adam's meeting the farmer shaking up the dairy industry,
with sheep's milk.
All you have there is sheep's milk and culture.
Wow! That is delicious. I could eat that until the sheep come home!
Summer in Wiltshire,
where vast open skies meet the wide horizons of rolling downlands.
It's home to some of Britain's most recognisable ancient monuments.
And here, on the fringes of Salisbury Plain, one
of Wiltshire's least seen historic sights is making a comeback.
A project to reintroduce one of Britain's most curious
creatures, a bird hunted to extinction 185 years ago.
Salisbury Plain, with all its military manoeuvres,
might seem like an unlikely place
to reintroduce a vulnerable species,
but this wide open grassland is where Britain's
biggest bird, the great bustard, once thrived.
Now, it's back again,
and I'm here to find out how the project is coming along.
Countryfile has been following its progress since 2004.
And eight years ago, I had a rather close encounter with a chap
who showed me a thing or two about defensive manoeuvres.
So, who's this, Karen?
This is a male great bustard and his name is Fergus.
BIRD SQUAWKS Oh! He's just taken a peck at me!
VOICEOVER: Well, I'm hoping that this time, I won't ruffle any feathers.
It's a real passion project for David Waters,
who set up the great bustard conservation group.
For the past 20 years, he's worked tirelessly
to bring this bird out of the history books
and into the landscape.
-Dave, good to see you again.
-John, how do?
-Fine. Is Fergus still around?
-Fergus is still around.
Very much his old self as well.
-I'll stay well clear of him then!
-I should, yes, yeah.
-So, how have things been going since I was last here?
We've had many years of hard work,
but the last two or three years, it has quite literally taken off.
But if you want to jump in, we'll go up and see some bustards.
Right, you are.
This magnificent bird was once a common sight in rural England,
easily identified by its enormous wingspan, distinctive plumage,
and much like David, its fine whiskers.
But its huge size made it an easy target for hunters.
The last great bustards vanished from our skies in 1832.
Now, the ones that are back are protected inside the military zone.
Just remind me, Dave, of what you're trying to do here.
What we're after is a self-sustaining
population of great bustards.
The population will actually grow under its own steam.
Now, when I was here in 2009, I think you had 15.
-Well, very pleased that we're now somewhere 50 or above.
Plus we've got 28 chicks to release later this year.
And somewhere out here on Salisbury Plain,
there will be wild-bred chicks.
So, what got you interested in these birds in the first place?
I've always had a love of nature.
I think from whenever I learnt to walk,
I probably had binoculars around my neck.
But there's also something, I didn't want to be just a birdwatcher.
I wanted to be doing something positive and they're so big,
they're so handsome, and I still get as big a thrill out of seeing
great bustards as I did when I first saw one.
They are fantastic birds. They really are.
VOICEOVER: Any wild birds out there today must be hidden well away
with their young, but scientist Ruth Manville has plenty of chicks to show me.
KNOCKS ON DOOR Are you there, Ruth?
She's been raising chicks from eggs collected under licence
in Spain, where the native population
of great bustards is on the increase.
But to get close to the chicks, I've got to get into character.
-You have to wear a dehumanisation suit.
-What on earth is that?
-Well, it disguises the human form.
-So you're supposed to look a bit like a bustard, is it?
-And we're not the only ones who look silly.
Look at this lot! We've got a drove of great bustards!
This outfit looks bizarre, but it helps the chicks hang on
to their wild behaviour.
And do you think they know that we're coming to feed them?
-Is that why they're making the noise.
-Yes. They can hear the noise.
-Yep, in there.
Wow! Goodness me!
-In you go.
What handsome looking birds.
These ones are five weeks old today.
-They'll be about 12 weeks when they actually go out.
VOICEOVER: Before they're released in a few weeks' time,
the baby bustards are taken out for a daily walk.
-They're very big, aren't they?
-For five weeks.
-They are, they are.
Why do you actually need to take them for walks, Ruth?
Well, it's trying to adapt them to A, this environment,
and B, to teach them to actually forage for wild food,
so for the invertebrates and crickets
and butterflies that they will actually eat in the wild.
Right. Come on, children. Come on!
Never done this before!
-Pied Piper to some baby bustards.
So they will actually look around and if they see any insects,
-they will have a peck at the insects.
-Have a bit of a stretch.
Have a bit of a stretch, yep.
And hopefully, this is just the beginning for this species
that's been brought back from extinction in the UK.
And with success here, we'd like to see it in Norfolk and probably
Cambridgeshire and Suffolk and even up as far as Yorkshire.
Everywhere else where they used to be.
Everywhere the great bustards once used to roam the landscape.
Now, we've talked about safety on farms quite a few times
here on Countryfile.
But the numbers of those who are injured, even killed,
are still far too high.
Well, Charlotte has been meeting people who know all too well
that just one mistake can change everything.
Farming's a funny old business.
The workplace can be wonderful, the hardware could hardly be more
hi-tech, but it's still desperately low on new recruits.
Looking for a dream career?
How about farming?
You get to work outside, with animals,
in some of the most beautiful parts of our countryside.
But there's a catch. Farming is one of the most dangerous jobs
Farm safety is the blight of the industry.
I've been covering this issue since the '90s.
I have to admit, it feels like we're stuck in a loop.
Everyone agrees that safety standards on farms
need to improve and yet, very little changes.
That's why, sadly, the latest figures on farm deaths
from the Health And Safety Executive come as no surprise.
These figures show that last year another 27 agricultural
workers died as a result of an accident at work.
That's two deaths every month.
Now, what's even more shocking is
when you consider that people working in agriculture
make up just 1% of the UK's national workforce
and yet account for 20% of deaths at work.
And it's not just the number of deaths that's a worry.
At least 15,000 more people have been injured at work.
It's a problem which has touched many people,
including some you might not expect.
Al Murray is the stand-up comedian we know best as the Pub Landlord.
Names are important.
What something's called is the clue to what it's like, right?
And if the name doesn't match the thing it's given to, yeah,
chaos will abound.
He's used to playing life for laughs,
but farm safety's no joke and this story isn't part of his act.
Al, how come you know this farm?
Well, we used to come here for summer holidays.
My cousins own the farm
and we would come here for four or five summers when I was a kid.
Let's go and have a look round.
What are your memories of that particular day?
My main memory is I went to the farmhouse to go to the loo
and as I cycled back along the lane from the farmhouse,
I heard someone crying for help.
And looked over and there was this baler
and I could see some welly boots sticking out from what looked
like inside the baler, in the gap between the baler and the tractor.
And on the end of the welly boots...?
Was Chris here, who was the farm manager's son.
He was 18, he was one of the big boys.
Because I was 11, and there he was, caught in this thing.
VOICEOVER: Chris Brown had been operating the baler on his own
when it jammed with hay.
He left the engine running and jumped out to take a look.
I ran round the side of the machine. I was wearing a pair of wellies.
And I slipped on the straw and I got picked up by the pick-up reel,
which then pulled me in to the machine.
I ended up with my arm right up
inside there, with my,
if you like, my body out here.
With the machine still running. And I think panic set in.
I remember grabbing him by his boots and trying to pull him
out of the machine.
I didn't realise quite how firmly lodged he was,
or how much it had him in its grip, you know.
And then he said to me that I should possibly turn the tractor off!
Which he did, and then ran to get his dad,
who called the emergency services.
Chris spent the next 18 months in and out of hospital,
having skin, muscle and tendon grafts.
That's the indentation of one roller
and that's the indentation of the other roller in there.
-It's that clear!
-It took quite a bite out of you, didn't it, Chris?
If I do that, it gives you an idea of how much was lost.
Chris is now using his experience to educate other farmers
and try and prevent what happened to him ever happening again.
If there's nothing else that I can teach people,
it's just to stop and think for one second.
If you're tired, if you're under pressure, if you're in a rush,
you could end up doing things that in a split second change everything.
That's obviously what happened that day.
-Good job you were here. Good timing.
Well, that's the secret of all great comedy.
Who knows? Was that the beginning of the career?
There are as many different types of farm accidents
as there are farmers, but the cause is often the same -
trying to do things in a rush.
Mark Mather was at the end of a long day at work
when his life changed forever.
I remember ploughing and watching these crows eating my barley
and getting frustrated and - that's my crop, that's my living,
that's my livelihood getting eaten.
So I decided to go home and get the shotgun and see if I could
shoot some of the crows to try and stop them eating the barley.
Mark was travelling on his quad bike with his gun on his lap
when he hit a bump and lurched forward.
As the quad overturned, the butt of the gun hit the ground...
..and fired both barrels directly into his right leg.
When I came off the bike, I was lying on the track here,
losing a lot of blood.
Two cartridges had taken out quite a lump of my right leg.
I'd been lying there 5-10 minutes, it felt like a lifetime.
But just lying there, couldn't do anything about it.
You know, I had no phone battery, no way of contacting help.
Luckily, Mark's dad found him by chance and called the ambulance.
Doctors managed to save his life but not his leg.
After my accident, once they explained it all,
what had happened, I didn't think I would be able to farm again.
You almost feel your life's over, that's it.
Nine years on and Mark is back at work on the farm
and his attitude to safety has changed.
We are under huge pressure in the agricultural industry.
Financial pressure, time pressure, weather pressure.
And I think every job we're doing,
we need to stop and think about what we're doing.
Looking back, would I move again with a loaded shotgun? I wouldn't.
What happened to Mark and to Chris was obviously tragic for them,
but it also had an impact on their family and their businesses.
So, what can be done to prevent farm accidents?
Well, that's what I'll be finding out later.
-Now, we all know important bees are.
Up to half of our food relies on their hard work.
And yet, bees are vanishing from our countryside at an alarming rate
and so too are their keepers,
with the typical British beekeeper being around 66 years old.
So, as you can imagine, there's quite a buzz around Marlborough,
as teenagers who are crazy about keeping bees
have swarmed here from all over the world.
Venerable Marlborough College in Wiltshire has taught
generations of youngsters.
But for the first time ever in Britain, it's hosting a global
competition for expert beekeepers and no-one is a day older than 16.
Teenagers from 19 countries have made, yes,
a bee-line to Marlborough to compete and polish their skills
in a lifetime of learning how to keep bees.
Hello, Team England.
-How are you?
-We're good, thank you.
What's this? Team tactics being discussed?
-So, give me...
VOICEOVER: Team manager Serena Watts is overseeing
the team of 14-year-olds, Younis, Sarah and May, with Luke in reserve.
This lot are the A team of bees.
So, why take beekeeping up as a hobby?
-Because they're so fascinating.
-I love learning about them.
I just love them as a creature.
But Younis has a rather surprising confession.
-I hate honey.
-You hate honey?!
Serena, you're team captain. You're overseeing all of this.
Why do we have such a love for bees here?
The best thing about bees is you open a hive
and you can't have read a book about it in preparation totally.
You have to look at the bees
and then work out what you do as a result of what you see.
For many of the foreign students,
today will be their first encounter with the British honey gatherer.
Wearing a bee suit like we're wearing is very normal in England.
And in the European countries, it isn't that way at all.
Is that because we have very aggressive bees?
We have different temperament to our bees.
I wouldn't say they were aggressive,
they're just a different temperament.
English bees are just nutters.
The hardest bees in the world.
Task one is to split an existing hive to create a second colony.
It's the best way to boost bee numbers.
So what will the judges be looking for?
Confidence in picking up the frames, certainly, and inspection.
How much discussion they're having
cos it's a collaborative activity, it's about a team effort.
-Maybe you should just check the middle frame.
Because the queen is probably laying cos she's probably up here.
Yeah, look, there she is.
May is taking quite a lead here and she's very aware that the
queen tends to often be in the middle frames of the brood box.
We haven't seen the queen yet.
But we're just looking through the bottom box now.
-And on this side.
OK, now, you can lever it from this edge, yeah?
It's a hive of activity!
With the queen in the new hive,
the lid goes on and the team's first task is done.
So we've just taken all the young larvae, the young brood,
and we've put that into a new box
and so we shook in loads of nurse bees,
so they can draw out and produce a new queen cell and there'll
be a new colony starting in that new nucleus that we've just taken away.
The next task is the most nerve-racking of the whole event.
Grafting involves moving the tiny newborn larvae
into a special chamber.
Once there, the adult bees feed it with nutrition-rich royal jelly,
-which transforms the larvae into a queen.
-So, can you see this here?
This here's an egg, in here.
-It's like a tiny, miniature grain of rice standing up.
I'm saying I can see it but I can't see a thing.
That's it. That's experience.
Amongst the dozen other tasks sprung on these youngsters is
weaving traditional British straw hives, skeps...
..and, really important for the future, identifying diseased hives.
And you are looking for...
Anything you see that looks wrong, you tell me.
With our bee population in serious decline, this is one
of the most crucial skills these young apiarists will need.
-You've got eggs?
-This sounds really difficult.
-It is really difficult
and it's far deeper than just basic beekeeping
but it's something that all beekeepers need to be aware of.
These young people are remarkably passionate, aren't they?
-And very vocal about their knowledge
and, yes, you see them handling the hives and the colonies
and the frames and they're very capable.
-Yeah, I have been inspired today.
After the team's hard work,
it's time to sample the fruits of the bees' labour.
-Come on then, here we go. Come on, everyone dive in.
I'm going to try this one at the end.
Excuse me a moment.
I'm going to just work my way through all these honeys...
-..and then run around
cos I'll have a massive sugar rush.
Sorry, guys, as you were.
I'm just going to carry on here.
These talented youngsters are keen to learn, share knowledge
and ensure bees and beekeeping have a healthy future worldwide.
It's fair to say life amongst the hives can be truly sweet.
Later I'll be back in the grounds of Marlborough
for a health check on one of Wiltshire's most important
I'm in the foothills of the Marlborough Downs.
Historically, this was a vegetable-growing area
but now some fields are producing not food but flowers.
These days it's become almost second nature to champion
seasonal food and local produce,
and now the same thing is happening to British-grown flowers.
Our cut-flower industry started to bloom in the 1960s.
A decade or so later there were 120 chrysanthemum growers alone,
producing 60 million stems every year.
But by 2013, that number had faded to just three,
yet the demand for cut flowers continued to rise,
spurred on by relatively cheap imports.
But I'm meeting one of a growing number of flower farmers
championing unusual British blooms.
Polly Nicholson specialises in traditional
and heirloom varieties here on her small farm.
-What a wonderful place you've got.
-Oh, thank you.
-So what got you into flower growing?
Well, I was always passionate about flowers
and then about 15 years ago I retrained as a horticulturalist.
I was looking for something different. I wanted something
I couldn't find in a flower market
or in a local florist
and something that just felt more traditionally British to me,
something that took us back to our roots.
And here's a bit of a showcase, isn't it,
-of the kind of things you are growing now.
This is a small selection. So this, which is
called a Phlox creme brulee,
it's got a sort of vintage, soft feel to it.
It has these beautiful mosaic-type flowers,
which go from this dusty purple through to creams.
-It's scented, it's delicate.
And then this one, which is a little bit more out there, which is
called Hot Lips.
But as you can see, what we try and do is we grow a variety of things
and this is just a tiny example.
Polly has a small team to keep this place blossoming
and black bees on site help with pollination.
They're doing a very good job.
This walled garden was derelict until a few years ago.
Now it's brimming with scented blooms...
..and a couple of interesting ones, who have caught my eye.
-And what have we got here, what's this?
-Well, this is asparagus fern.
Yes, we grow about eight different types of heritage
asparagus and we eat a little of it
and then we let the spears turn into this.
You can get fantastic arrangements out of it.
Fantastic sweet peas here.
Yes, these are three of our sweet peas.
We grow about 40 different varieties but we've got
Earl Grey, which is this one here with the mottled leaves,
-and then we've got...
-A pea, not a tea.
Exactly, a pea, not a tea.
And do you have any really local varieties?
We have Wiltshire ripple.
It's similar to Earl Grey.
In fact, it's a burgundy version of Earl Grey.
Polly and British growers like her only account for a small
proportion of our flower market.
We spend an incredible £2.2 billion every year on cut flowers in the UK,
but 90% of those come from overseas,
with subsidised Dutch imports dominating the market.
But hopefully that will change as consumers are becoming more
aware of the value of seasonal local produce.
Every available space here is earning its keep,
as Polly's flowers spill out into the fields beyond the walled garden.
So this is the workshop, then.
This is, this is the flower field and this is where it all happens.
Wow. It must be one of the prettiest fields in the whole of the country.
-How many different species of flower have you got here?
Well, I think, I mean, many hundreds,
but I think we must have going on about 500 different
varieties of flower throughout the year.
This is all organic, so what do you do about bugs?
They must be the bane of your life.
Do you know, they're really not, and I think it's mostly cos we grow
outdoors, so the weather actually keeps things pretty clean and fresh,
but if we do have bugs, we spray with soft soap or we sacrifice that
individual flower, stem or whatever, just to try and keep it down.
So you're prepared to do that, to give up some of your crop?
And we do get insect spoilage and that's just part of it,
it's the nature of it.
-Well, it's all coming together beautifully, I think.
Interesting mixture of quite exotic flowers
-and some pretty ordinary ones as well.
-Yup, no, you're quite right.
I mean, we've got something like this, which is a yarrow,
or Achillea, which you'll see along the side of the road,
but not in that really, really deep claret colour.
And I'm putting in a Wiltshire ripple, the local flower.
And is this your favourite moment, putting it all together like this?
It's incredibly rewarding. Yeah, it is.
Don't share this part of the job with anybody.
-Because you like it too much?
-Because I like it too much.
I'm not going to give it away.
There you go, John, a present.
-What, for me?
Well, Polly, thank you very much indeed.
How about that? My wife will love this.
This whole place is like a floral tapestry,
Local, lovingly grown blooms that can maybe help
the British flower industry blossom again.
Now, earlier we heard how agricultural jobs topped
the tables as the most risky careers in the UK,
so what can be done to protect workers?
Here's Charlotte again.
Farms are dangerous places to work.
Latest figures show that 27 people
died in agricultural work accidents last year.
That makes farming one of the most risky jobs in the UK.
Everyone agrees that reducing the number of accidents
on farms should be a priority.
But in a recent survey,
50% of farmers admitted to taking a risk on their farm in the last year.
So how do you change attitudes from safety last to safety first?
Devon Young Farmers' Club think they have one solution.
The tragic loss of one of their members earlier this year
sent shock waves through the group.
Lauren Scott was killed in a work accident
involving farm machinery in Dawlish in March.
She was just 20 years old.
Matt Holmes was her friend.
-What was she like?
-She was very bubbly, very caring, very smiley.
A great friend to everyone in the club.
Loved animals, loved the outdoors and, yeah, a very cherished friend
and never forgotten.
-So it must have had quite an impact.
-Yeah, it hit everyone hard.
It hit everyone really hard.
In her memory, the club has launched a safety campaign.
It's called Growing Safer Farmers.
There's more machinery than ever in farming but this campaign
focuses on just one part of it, the power takeoff, or PTO shaft.
It links the tractor to anything it's towing.
James Trout is one of the engineers involved.
James, it doesn't look that scary, does it?
No, the issue is, when this shaft is turning at working speed,
which is at 1,000 revs a minute,
that's the equivalent to 16 and a half turns a second,
all of the sudden then it becomes a lot more lively
and a lot more dangerous.
Only takes a loose overall, a bit of hair, anything, to catch you.
-That could be your leg, your arm, couldn't it?
It is that simple, unfortunately.
This is why we've set up the campaign.
We want them to be guarded, we want them to be safe,
we want the farms to be safe working places.
The idea behind the scheme is that
whenever a farm vehicle's brought in for repair or MOT,
the engineer will check the PTO shaft as a matter of course.
If it doesn't have a safety guard or the guard's broken,
the owner will get a written advisory
that they need to take action.
So how many are you hoping to make safer?
We're looking to take out 1,000 broken, damaged, missing PTO shafts
-in the first year.
-It's going to cost money, though, isn't it?
A guard to fit this shaft, for argument's sake,
is probably going to be about 70 quid.
Like, it's... It's...
That or a leg or a life, it's not even worth contemplating.
Devon Young Farmers' approach to tackling the risks around PTO
shafts looks likely to be rolled out across the country.
But PTOs aren't the only repeat offender
when it comes to accidents on farms.
Quad bikes are the workhorses of the farming business.
Almost every farm has one.
John Bond trains people to ride them safely.
Hello. Hi. You made that look ever so easy.
You are wearing a helmet and I've got to admit I see a lot
of quad bikes on farms, I don't see a lot of people in helmets.
No, you're absolutely right.
At a rough guess, I would say 75-80% of farm staff don't wear
a helmet, don't see a need for it.
If they realise the dangers of it, maybe they would more.
-So let's have a go at putting the helmet on.
-Pop your glasses down.
-I'll put him on,
make sure he fits for you.
-And he does up reasonably tight without stopping blood flow.
Now, the rules around quad bikes
and helmets are a little bit confusing
because strictly speaking, it depends where you are
and what you're doing on the quad.
Now, lots of people say that's a bit silly
and what we should actually do is have one simple rule -
you're on a quad bike, you're wearing a helmet.
Do let us know what you think.
You can contact us via Twitter or e-mail.
Right, so, John, now what?
Let's sit you on, get you comfy.
-OK, so just a reminder...
-You might want to stand back.
-So, we've got the brakes here.
-Throttle there. Gear change here.
If you squeeze the throttle gently, you'll go forward.
-Do you want to mind your toes?
-My toes are out of the way.
Nice and gently. Nice and gently. SHE LAUGHS
VOICEOVER: To safely turn a corner on a quad,
you have to elegantly shift
your body weight in the opposite way to the direction you're turning.
Well done, that's good.
Back off on your throttle. That's it. Good. Good, good, good.
I'm starting to get the hang of it and it is fun,
but there's a challenge ahead...
There we go.
..riding up a hill.
When you're going up the hill, you sit forwards,
when you're coming back down the hill, you slide back.
If you lean the wrong way, the quad can tip over and crush you.
This is a common accident on farms.
That's good, well done.
I'll run, don't you worry.
Go on, you're on!
According to health and safety law, everyone riding quads for work
must take a safety course like this and wear a helmet.
But without that being enforced, how many farmers actually do?
Sitting in the right place, getting your throttle right,
wearing your helmet, they should really be second nature
to anybody using these things.
Exactly the same way as it's second nature that they know
whether their cow's calving or not.
How far away from that change do you think we are in agriculture?
Quite some way. Unless it becomes totally law, without any question.
We're never going to be able to take all the risks
out of a job like farming but we can make small changes, like the
ones we've seen here in Devon, which really do make a difference.
Now, Farm Safety Week starts tomorrow,
so that's a really good chance, isn't it,
for everyone to think about what they do
and perhaps do it differently and help save lives.
As for me, well, I know just what I want for Christmas.
There you go, you're going. What's wrong with that?
Erm, nothing actually. No, that's fine. As long as I...
I feel I'm in charge!
They've been a mainstay of British agriculture for centuries.
The wool trade transformed rural areas
and what would a Sunday roast be without lamb?
But there's one aspect of sheep farming that even innovative
farmers like Adam have trouble embracing -
Feta, Roquefort, Manchego,
they're all continental cheeses made from the milk of sheep
but it's an idea that's never really caught on here.
But things are changing.
Simon Stott has been at the forefront of efforts to put British
sheep's milk produce on the kitchen table for more than a decade.
And Matt met him when his new venture was still in its infancy.
How much milk do they produce, then, Simon?
We're averaging two and a half litres a day.
We're putting at full peak time, 400 through
in about two and a half hours.
Now it's my turn to visit Simon's farm in the glorious
Forest of Bowland, Lancashire.
I want to find out if Simon
and his father, John, think their gamble on sheep's milk has paid off.
-Hiya, Adam, you all right?
Hello, Adam, pleased to meet you.
So, you're still milking sheep then?
-Yes, we are. Yeah, we've got up to 600 in the flock now.
That's quite a jump.
Yeah, we were 350 and got up to 600. It's going quite well.
They do look in really good order. They're lovely, aren't they?
-And these are mainly Frieslands, are they, John?
Yeah, most of these now are Friesland and Lacaune cross.
From France, aren't they, Simon?
-And what made you choose the Lacaune, then?
Well, I travelled over to France and over to Spain
to have a look at the Lacaune
and every year when we go to a dairy and ask for a milk price increase,
they always say we need a better butter fat and protein.
The Lacaune has a better protein and butter fat
but the Friesland milks better, so the cross has given us
a bit of both and it seems to be working well.
And what did your neighbours think when you started milking sheep?
Oh, quite a shock when we started, yes. It was. Big shock.
-Yeah, we had a view laughs at the beginning.
Well, there's nine other farmers milking in our area
so, you know, they must have agreed in something.
Yeah. And when are this lot ready to be milked?
About 15 minutes.
-Can I give you a hand to get them in?
-Yeah, let's go.
Simon's innovations go beyond just crossbreeding his sheep.
He's set up a farmers' co-operative in the valley
making sure there's a year-round supply of sheep's milk.
And since we were last here,
he's invested in a hi-tech milking parlour
that's transforming his business.
The key to it is the electronic identity tags the sheep carry.
My word, look at this, Simon.
Really smart, isn't it? How new is it?
-About two months old, that's all.
-Incredible. And so tell me the system, then.
Well, how it works is you've got the EID reader at the end,
which reads the electronic identification tag,
and then as the sheep come down, it puts the ear tag number
on the display and then, as you can see now, its yield.
-They're measuring how much milk it's producing.
-How much it's producing.
So, cluster goes on pretty quick?
Yeah, pretty quick.
These are now milked out now, so we just press the arrow,
it gives it a pause and then it takes the unit off
and then it has an automatic suck-back
so we don't get any spillage of milk.
It's quite expensive, so we don't want it dripping.
And worth the investment, do you think?
Yeah. Yeah. I think so.
-I hope so.
-You'll find out!
The data generated by the new computerised parlour
helps Simon identify which are his highest producing ewes.
Knowing this, he can select them for his breeding programme,
helping him to increase his yields even more.
But increasing yields isn't just down to a numbers game or modern
technology. Simon's made use of some old-fashioned farming know-how.
Simon, cattle give birth all year round,
so there's a milk supply all year round,
whereas sheep are seasonal, aren't they -
they give birth in the spring.
So presumably there's a period when those sheep are pregnant
and they're not producing milk,
so you haven't got a supply for the supermarket shelves.
Well, yes. Like 10 years ago, we did have a dry period from September to
December, which is what you'd expect from a natural sheep.
But what we've done is we've extended our lactation
by lambing a batch in January and lambing a batch end of April/May,
so we can get production right through to Christmas.
We've also got another member in the sheep milk co-operative that
lambs in February, December and July,
and now, you know, we can produce right through.
So that's why you've got these different size lambs.
Yeah, these are January, February born.
And then obviously these are April/May born.
And what do you do with all of the lambs?
The best females are selected and turned outside.
And then the males, they'll go to the butcher's market.
Right, so they go for the table.
-Yeah, we rear them all.
-So you've got a home for everything.
Ensuring a year-round supply has been a crucial
step in allowing Simon
and the other producers to think about new customers and products.
Sheep's milk was traditionally used to make hard cheese that had
a longer shelf life, but now there's no dry period, in other words,
milk's available all year round,
all sorts of products have become commercially viable.
Simon's milk is now used for soft and hard cheeses,
as well as being sold direct as sheep's milk.
The smaller fat globules can make it easier to digest,
so it's been a hit with people who struggle with cow's milk.
And at the nearby Alston Dairy,
Ann Forshaws has been using it to make sheep's milk yoghurt.
Is it proving popular?
Yes. Yes, it is.
We've been packing now just over a year.
It goes into our local food stores
but it's also going over to the Middle East as well.
-To the Middle East?
-Yes, it is.
-Unbelievable, isn't it?
And how come you got into producing it in the first place?
Well, Simon Stott is really a member of the family, he's a relation,
and he asked if I would make this sheep's yoghurt for him
and I said yes, I would, and that's how it started.
So what's next then, Ann?
Well, the next thing is, well, we've got to taste it.
So shall we go over to the house?
I have to admit I find goat's milk products always taste a bit,
I wonder if sheep's milk yoghurt will be as easy to spot.
We've got Greek style, our own natural yoghurt and,
of course, the sheep's yoghurt.
OK. Have I got to tell the difference?
Yes, you have.
I think that might be Greek.
That is like normal yoghurt, cow yoghurt.
Mm! Well, that tastes like cow's as well. Crikey. So...
I think that's the Greek. Am I right?
I don't know.
Because I've written it on the bottom of the pots,
so I don't know. I don't know any more than what you know.
-Greek yoghurt. Got it right.
That's one. Now, these two...
They're so difficult to tell the difference.
I think this is sheep's.
Have a look. I don't know.
-Yes, it is.
-But there's hardly anything in it at all, is there?
So the reason I thought this was sheep,
I thought it was not quite so thick.
-I don't know whether the consistency is any different.
Well, because there's nothing in there.
All you have there is sheep's milk and culture.
Wow, that is delicious.
-I could eat that till the sheep come home.
Simon originally just supplied hard cheeses to the local market
but now a variety of British sheep's milk products can be found
across the UK and as far afield as North America and the Middle East.
It's still a niche market, but with soft cheese,
hard cheese, yoghurt and even the milk itself growing in popularity,
Simon and his dad's punt on sheep's milk is certainly paying off.
Summer is here and it's not just our landscape that's putting on a show.
Countryfile Live is just around the corner,
where we'll be celebrating rural life in all its glory.
I love my job.
Every week I'm in the great British countryside learning
something new about the rural way of life.
However, the great and the good in the Countryfile
office think my learning curve isn't quite steep enough.
They said I need to up my countryside credentials
and improve my animal handling skills in time
for Countryfile Live.
And I said... What did I say, ladies?
I said bring it on.
So I've come to Norfolk to meet a man
who knows a thing or two about animal training.
Meet Stuart Barnes.
He has an uncanny knack with rescue sheepdogs...
..and Indian Runner ducks that are also rescue animals.
Stuart's duck-herding display combines showmanship with education.
-Pleased to meet you. How are you?
-I'm really well.
I wasn't expecting this.
A Kiwi, sheepdogs and ducks.
So why ducks?
Well, ducks are brilliant because they're like sheep,
they stick together really well,
they move around perfectly for the dogs and then they go off
and do a couple of shows a week with us to earn their keep.
Stuart has 10 collies of varying ages and experience.
He's confident he can hone one woman and her dog,
not forgetting her ducks, into a winning team
in front of an expectant crowd.
Good luck with that!
Now, if we've got a dog opposite us with the ducks in between,
if we walk left, cos it wants to stay at 12 o'clock,
-it's going to naturally walk left.
-Without any commands.
You walk right, it's going to walk right.
So you can put the commands on it.
To get this dog to gel with you, it's got to start working for you.
For my first ever duck-herding session, I've picked Stripe,
though deep down I know Stripe has chosen me.
I've never had a dog obey me before. It's a great feeling.
Sit. Sit. Sit.
Indian Runner ducks, though flightless,
are among the fastest running of all our domestic breeds.
And Stuart's are unflappable.
The ducks are nice and calm, the dog is listening to me.
-Was it good?
-Perfect. Looking great.
She's really gelled with you now, so that's ticked the box there.
Waving a crook about is all very well, but now I've got to drive
these ducks around an obstacle course.
Think It's A Knockout.
I'm thinking it's Mission: Impossible.
-We've got a very exciting obstacle first.
-It's called the tunnel of doom.
-The tunnel of doom.
Yeah, so we're going to try and get the ducks funnelled through
-this tunnel of doom...
..and popping out the other side with you and your dog.
-OK, let's do it.
-OK, shall I take the...?
-The magic stick.
-All right, here we go.
-Off you go.
Where are you going, duckies?
-In you get.
-You're a natural.
My goodness! I didn't know it was going to be that easy.
I think beginner's luck.
I think the dog and the ducks know exactly what they're doing,
I'm just here to hold the stick.
Now to get serious.
Well, as serious as you can get herding ducks.
Everything hangs on this next obstacle.
So this is what we're going to be doing at Countryfile Live.
-Live in front of all the crowds.
Oh, we've got the ducks with us as well. This is one of the ducks'
favourite obstacle cos they get to have a quick swim.
And we've got to try and get them up in there and landing into that
lovely pool of water.
-All right, let's try this.
-OK, bring it on.
Right. Right. Sit, sit, sit, sit.
Sit. Sit. Right. Right. St...
Oh, missed it. Missed it. Sit.
Sit. Sit, sit, sit.
Right. Right. Stop. Sit. Sit.
Just keep missing it. Where are you going?
-Missed it. Sit. Sit.
Sit. OK, we're going to do this, me and you, Stripe. In the zone.
The ducks in the pool.
Oh, he went left. OK. Sit. Sit.
Well, we've got them through the tunnel again.
Wrong obstacle, but we made it!
CLOCK TICKS I'm going to quickly show you
-how I would get them...
-30 minutes later
and with almost that many attempts to get my ducks in a row,
Stuart steps in for a pep talk.
-So you can watch me what I'm doing. OK, go now.
Left. Left. Left.
-I... I mean, they went in.
I don't know how it happened.
Well, it's been a glorious day today
but what will the weather be doing for the week ahead?
More sunshine or nice weather for ducks?
Here's the Countryfile five-day forecast.
We're in Wiltshire, just a flint's throw from the Downs.
I'm in the grounds of Marlborough College,
which are bordered by one of Britain's finest chalk streams.
Rising to the west and draining into the Thames 45 miles later,
the River Kennet is a crystalline gem that inspired
one of our best-loved poets.
The smell of trodden leaves beside the Kennet
When trout waved lazy in the clear chalk streams
Glory was in me.
But the 21st-century River Kennet is very fragile.
Overextraction of water
and drought has seen it dry up completely in recent summers.
But now help is at hand.
For some reason, the pupils here at Marlborough College know this
stretch of the Kennet as Treacle Bolly. I've no idea why
but I'm running with it cos it sounds nice and a little bit tasty.
And today Treacle Bolly is getting a makeover by some superfans.
So I'd better get my waders on.
-Too heavy, that's it. Well done.
-Don Harris and Rodney Owen Jones
are from Action for the River Kennet.
They host weekly working parties to restore the river.
These bundles of hazel create artificial banks
that narrow the river and speed up water flow.
And the idea is the river then, it'll hit the deflector
and bounce on down.
We can't make more water appear but we can make what water is
here and the habitat that's here as good as it can be.
The beauty of this artificial banking is it works in harmony
with the river.
-As you can see, the water gets through them.
So that means the little bugs can get through, the little tiny
fish, the water voles and things such as that can get through.
And because of that we're not forming a wall,
we're just forming a deflection.
Look, I've got my waders on, I'm ready to go, another volunteer.
-Are we ready to save the River Kennet?
Who's going to leap up on the top of that?
I'm on the wrong side.
That end down there first.
-Slide it through.
-There we go.
-Give it a good...
Someone else should have a go at this, this is quite good fun.
That way and this, too.
Break bits off and stick them in like that.
As a final flourish, Rodney and Don use living willow stems,
which take root in a matter of days,
hold it all together and provide additional wildlife habitat.
The Kennet is so loved by the locals it attracts helpers of all ages...
including budding 14-year-old ecologist Dominic.
Chalk streams are a very valuable and rare habitat in this country.
I mean, there are about, I think, 200 chalk streams worldwide,
so I think that to have a habitat like this is really important
And also, it's quite beautiful to walk through,
-especially on a day like today, isn't it?
Downstream is another working party led by Anna Forbes. Hello, Anna.
-How are you doing?
-I'm fine, thank you.
-Lovely to see you.
So what what's happening at this bit of the river?
We're busy planting a native aquatic plant called stream water-crowfoot,
-And that's this stuff, is it?
-Can I see what it is?
What's this? What does it do?
So it's a really good plant and it's associated with chalk streams.
It's a great home for all the little invertebrates
and the little fish fry.
And in times of low flow it's really good at holding
the volume of water up.
In the past when the river's dried up,
the Kennet's water plants died back.
But this lot aim to re-green the river.
Right. Let's get planting.
OK, so, with the fork this way round,
you just need to start making a depression into
the chalk stream riverbed.
And then you can just put it in with your hand.
And then with your fork you bring all the gravels and stones
so that its roots are really covered.
-As simple as that.
With this level of love and attention,
it looks like the River Kennet's future is clear.
-Hiya, John. How you doing?
Fine. A ranunculus planter, eh?
-Yup. It sounds like a Harry Potter spell, doesn't it?
-It does, yeah!
Well, that's all we've got time for for this week, I'm afraid.
-What are you up to next week?
-Next week, Sean and I
will be exploring the green hearts of our cities.
Yes, there's more going on where you'd least expect it.
-Well, hope to see you then. Bye for now.
Wiltshire's Salisbury Plain is home to one of England's most successful conservation projects, the first new population of great bustards to be established anywhere in the world. John visits the project's HQ and wears a dehumanisation suit to help keep the birds' behaviour as wild as possible as he helps feed the latest batch of chicks as they prepare to fly the nest.
Anita meets the contestants of the International Young Beekeepers competition at Marlborough College and visits the River Kennet, one of England's most important chalk streams and helps out the volunteers working hard to keep this valuable chalk stream flowing.
Adam meets Simon Stott who runs a co-operative of farmers producing sheep's milk, which they turn into yoghurt and cheese.
At the foot of Wiltshire's Marlborough Downs, artisanal flower grower Polly Nicholson is using the rich, fertile soils of the Calne valley to grow seasonal and old varieties of English flowers. This is farmland turned flower fields, and is part of a growing trend for traditional British blooms. Imported flowers are often grown intensively, non-organically and then flown half way around the world to British buyers, with most varieties available year-round. Polly has established a flower farm with environmental welfare at its heart providing species not usually seen in conventional bunches of flowers.