Julia Bradbury and John Hammond learn why the UK gets the unique winters it does. Landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy visits Dumfries and Galloway to create a new work of art.
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when stillness descends and the landscape is transformed.
The season when the days are short, cold and crisp
and, for our wildlife, their only options are to sleep,
feed or flee.
Winter is the harshest of seasons. Tough going, no matter where you are
in the British countryside, and nowhere more so
than right here, in the Scottish Highlands.
But why do we get the winters we do? Are we the only country that can go
from wash-out to white-out overnight?
This makeshift map holds the answers and, with the help
of my trusty, and, quite frankly, glamorous assistant, John Hammond,
we'll be explaining why the geography of our country is unique.
And this potato is key to our understanding.
It will also explain how farmers are able to feed us
throughout the winter months.
Carrots! We can't get enough of them.
In fact, we eat 700,000 tonnes every year.
On this farm in Suffolk, they work hard to make sure the humble carrot
is on the menu, whatever the weather.
It's our coast that's taken a battering this year,
bringing misery for some, creating opportunity for others.
It's now that nature takes over, reclaiming it's shoreline,
grabbing it back from the tourists,
and it's also a time when the locals can let their hair down
and get out into these big waves that only winter brings.
On our journey from the Highlands of Scotland
to Suffolk's fields of gold
and the deserted beaches of Cornwall,
we'll see how our land is touched by this bleak, but beautiful, season.
Short days and sombre skies.
The countryside turns black and white
and our wildlife has to tough it out.
But Mother Nature has a plan.
Winter blooms like snowdrops thrive. Migrating birds
from colder climates fly in
and native species put on spectacular seasonal shows.
And our farms can't stop, either. There's work to do.
That low sun... Well, it lights up the stark landscape
like nowhere else on Earth.
Of course, the winter you get
depends on the weather and the location.
I've come to the area of Britain
where winter is at its most extreme.
These are the Cairngorm Mountains and it's the closest you can get
to Arctic conditions in the UK.
Winter here can be stunningly beautiful -
snow-dusted mountains and sparkling, ice-coated valleys.
But don't be fooled. It is full-on.
The Cairngorms are officially the coldest and windiest place
in Britain. The lowest temperature ever recorded was just...
Whoo! See what I mean?! ..Just over there, in Braemar...
Oh, here we go! ..At minus 27.2 degrees Centigrade,
and the highest wind speed was here, on the summit of Cairngorm,
at 173 miles per hour.
For most of Britain, these Arctic conditions are a rarity,
though winter does sometimes like to shock us.
For two months in 1963, most of the country
was frozen solid, under a layer of snow.
And it has other extremes, as the west coast has seen this month -
crashing seas and devastating floods.
While in the East, storms are nothing new.
In 1953, tidal surges engulfed countryside and town,
submerging whole communities.
This split-personality season somehow brings with it both power
and inspirational beauty,
like here in the Cairngorms, where a sudden break in the weather
can change everything.
This is such a glorious view.
This light - and, in fact, the entire scene -
changes every few seconds,
with the clouds and the mist moving so fast across the sky,
but I guess that's the British weather for you -
So, what are the forces that affect our weather?
After all, it is a national obsession.
Tilted back from the sun on the Earth's axis,
Britain in winter is a thing of beauty...
..be it still,
bitter or benign.
The only thing we can take for granted is it's always different
and like no other.
I've come to meet BBC meteorologist and all-round weather geek
John Hammond, to find out what makes Britain's winters so very "British".
Well, well, well,
-you and your maps, John!
-Well, you know, as we're in Wendover Woods,
I thought I'd bring us closer to nature. It's a whopper, isn't it?
It certainly is! All right, tell me what affects our winter weather.
We are uniquely situated, atmospherically.
One of the reasons forecasting in this country is so difficult
is because it changes every day, the weather. The reason for that,
we're on the edge between two distinctly different air masses,
generated by the cold Continent to the East,
which gets very, very bitter in the winter, much milder air
to the West generated by the warm Atlantic Ocean.
-And we're stuck in the middle?
-Yeah. These two air masses
are battling it out in the skies above us every day.
That's what makes forecasting so difficult, but I would say that!
Course you would! You're a hero!
In the grand scheme of things, this little island of ours
is pretty far north.
But when you compare our winter weather to countries
on similar latitude, there's quite a difference.
OK, we've drawn this line right the way across the British Isles.
In fact, right over Wendover Woods, here, which is 52 degrees North.
That's 52 degrees north of the Equator.
In other words, it's closer to the North Pole than the Equator.
Now, remember 52 degrees, because if I give you this flag here
and this dainty pair of ice skates, if you'd like to put it on Sochi.
Sochi, of course, is hosting the Winter Olympics this year.
Sochi - 43 degrees North, so it's a good deal further south
than here in the UK.
But we're not going to be hosting the Winter Olympics in the UK,
not in the short term, anyway.
So, it's a lot colder, even though it's a lot further south.
OK, there are some mountains at Sochi, but I can give you
another example. If we put this flag over on Hudson Bay.
Polar bears enjoy snow every year almost every day,
and temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees. This part of Canada
is on exactly the same latitude as...
Now, I know we complain sometimes of it being a bit bracing
by the seaside, but it doesn't get down to minus 30 degrees
and I haven't seen any polar bears roaming the beach at Blackpool.
How come, if we share such similar latitudes,
our winters aren't as cold as Russia?
The first reason is that the UK is surrounded by water.
Water actually keeps us warm. The sea doesn't cool down very quickly
during the course of the winter, so that's one very important factor.
The other one is that,
to the west of us, we have this huge body of ocean, the Atlantic,
which, again, stays pretty warm.
Over on the eastern side, it's land
and land gets cold very, very quickly.
Now, we have the benefit of winds from the West
and it blows across our shores and it keeps us ever so balmy.
However, we do have one problem with these winds. They're quite moist
and they generate quite a lot of rain across the UK.
Very occasionally, the winds flip around and come in from the East.
That has a dramatic effect on us, because it turns it a lot, lot
colder across the UK, and we're reminded
just how far north we actually are.
'So, let's have a closer look at this island we call home.'
Welcome to Battleground Britannia. We use this word "battleground".
Another word is "front".
You hear "front" coming up on weather forecasts all the time,
because it is exactly what goes on in the atmosphere. You have these
warring air masses and they just do act like warring battalions.
If I put on the warm air coming in from the West -
the warm army, if you like - bringing high temperatures,
but a lot of moisture, over on your side,
let's bring in the cold weather fronts coming in from the East.
You can see the air masses are converging over the UK.
This happens a lot across the country in winter time.
You've got cold, you've got moisture, and that means one thing.
Let me introduce the white stuff.
-That's where snow comes from?
-Yeah. Doesn't happen that often in the UK,
but, when it does, we know all about it.
Heavy snow, disruptive snow and blizzards.
And is this what happens when we experience storm surges
and galeforce winds?
Absolutely, because all sorts of extreme weather across our UK
are exactly due to fighting air masses taking place over our shores.
These storm surges are felt most keenly on our coast.
Here, great tides crash into the shore, and, when they retreat,
they leave rich treasures.
The North Cornwall coast, where the prevailing winds
and warm currents of the Gulf Stream act like a huge conveyor belt,
dropping all kinds of things on our beaches.
Where I live in the Cotswolds, I'm totally landlocked,
so I love coming to the beach to get my sea fix,
particularly at this time of year, when it's so wild and unpredictable.
Even familiar places look very different.
And it's now that nature takes over,
reclaiming its shoreline, grabbing it back from the tourists.
And it's also a time when the locals can let their hair down
and get out into these big waves that only winter brings.
If you've got the right gear for the cold and are good enough
to handle the conditions,
winter storms out in the Atlantic mean that surfers will find
some of the best and most consistent waves at this time of year.
'Dom Clarke knows all about the effect of storms on our coastline
'and the objects that end up where the sea meets the land,
'known as a strand line.'
-Pretty severe out there!
-Yeah, some pretty big waves.
And I suppose these winter storms are bringing it in?
Yeah, low pressure after low pressure at the moment.
So, what is a strand line, Dom?
A strand line is where debris
from the sea gets washed up to the furthest point
of where the tide can get to.
And what sort of stuff do you find?
There's a lot of rubbish in here, isn't there?
One of the big things that you find is what we call sea nuts,
and that's a hazelnut.
-Who knows where it's come from.
-Could've come from anywhere.
It really could have.
Are the winter strand lines very different to the summer?
We get a lot more wood washed ashore at this time of year.
And, as you can see, giant logs over there.
It's a big bit of timber, isn't it?
Yeah, it's thrown around like matchsticks in the ocean.
Is that a cuttlefish?
That is a cuttlebone, yes. That is sort of your classic cuttlebone.
You get a lot of these washed up after storms as well.
-They sell them in pet stores for...
And what they actually used to do is grind up the body of it,
the bone itself, and put it into toothpaste
-as an abrasive to clean your teeth.
There you go, I never knew that.
'Dom's not the only person exploring the strand line for bounty.
'His friend Susie Ray is an artist
'who turns what she finds on the shore into works of art.'
-Hi, Susie, good to see you.
-Hello, Adam. Hey, Dom!
My word, you've got a lot more in your buckets than I've got in mine!
Oh, there's just tons of stuff out there today. The storms are amazing.
-Do you want to hold that bucket?
-That's a big cuttlefish there!
-And whelk eggs.
-Whelk eggs?! Incredible!
Yeah, they look man-made. Some people think they are.
They look a lot like bubble wrap, packaging, so that's what
a lot of people assume that they are and they'll put them in the bin.
This one is some hornwrack. This is really great stuff.
We do some fantastic art stuff with that.
-That's beautiful, isn't it?
-That's really amazing.
I've got here a couple of sea beans.
That comes from tropical America or the West Indies.
And it comes on the Gulf Stream, via the North Atlantic Drift,
and what's amazing is that they can float for up to 19 years.
-Shall we take this back to your studio?
Can't wait to show you what to do with them.
You've got to go back surfing. Surf's up!
Have you got everything you need? Oh, there we go.
-Dropped a few bits.
-OK, thank you.
'Susie's home and studio are within shouting distance
'of the strand line.'
-Oh, hang on.
-Got a little friend!
'She grew up on the south Cornish coast, where
'she first developed her love of beachcombing and the natural world.
'Now, her home's filled with treasures from the beach.
'She's going to show me how to use a 19th-century Japanese
'printing technique to transform flotsam into works of art.'
Just be bold. Mix up lots of paints.
More blue than black, I'd say.
-Just get it on.
-Give it that nice tinge.
And it always comes out differently, every one you do.
So just get your scallop shell and cover it in paint. That's it.
Just get it in there. OK, that's really good. Nearly there.
-Is that enough paint on that?
Lift that up and put that onto this sheet here,
so you don't have the edges.
-Like that, is that OK?
-Yes. Keep one hand on it.
And then just smooth it down with your fingers.
That's it. That's it.
Working right to the edge. Always keep that hand on if you can.
-You don't want creases.
It's the edges you need.
OK, now... That's it. Just do...
-The big reveal?
-The big reveal.
-Look at that.
-Oh, yes! That's not bad.
That's not bad, especially for a first attempt. That's brilliant.
Getting a bit...
'So, while I perfect the technique
'using more of our morning's finds...'
I'm quite enjoying this.
'..Susie's showing me what an expert can achieve on a whole John Dory.'
Right, I think we can have a go at pulling back the sheet and see.
OK. It's exciting!
Oh, no pressure(!)
-Right, are we ready?
-And there we go.
-That is wonderful!
Well, here we are. This is a result of my day at the seaside.
Actually, I'm quite pleased with those.
Not bad for an old farm boy.
Could end up in my bathroom.
'The objects used in Susie's art
'have been on an extraordinary journey,
'from distant continents and from the seabed.
'It's all thanks to the winter storms that leave them
'like gifts on our shores.'
At the summit of the Cairngorm mountain range,
temperatures drop well below freezing for much of the winter.
Even in the valleys, it's so cold, huge lochs freeze over.
The River Spey carves its way through this landscape,
carrying with it icy waters from the mountains on either sides.
It creates marshland which eventually open up into Loch Insh.
That's where I'm heading right now, on a canoe safari.
'My guides are canoeist Graeme Shilland
'and Highland Council Ranger Duncan MacDonald, who assures me that,
'for some of Mother Nature's hardy children,
'these chilly waters are home sweet home.'
It's such an epic landscape!
-Look, the sun's on the Monagh Lea.
-This is glorious!
Isn't this something?
Surrounded by trees and mountains. Welcome to Loch Insh.
It's beautiful. No wonder this is good for wildlife here.
There's trees, there's marshland, tons of fresh water.
This great swelling of the loch provides quite a lot
of sheltered water for all kinds and all manners of wildlife.
From ducks and geese in the winter time,
and through the breeding season as well.
-There's so much life still here.
And beneath us, as well.
Loch Insh is famous, I suppose, for its Arctic char, which is
this trout-like fish that is a remnant of the last great
Ice Age, when populations in Britain
were then cut off as the ice retreated.
They love these really cold, dark waters.
What do you get, in terms of winter birds?
We're getting Whooper Swans in from Iceland.
But here, in the depths of winter,
what we're waiting for is this loch to freeze solid.
-That happens every year.
So, even though the river's flowing through here,
this water here will freeze completely solid.
I'm feeling fairly chilly after being out on the loch,
but clearly wildlife still thrives, even in this harsh Cairngorm winter.
But, if I want to get up close to some of the animals that make
these freezing waters their home,
I'm going to need to downsize to a lochan or pond,
where I'm hoping to catch some winter wildlife.
'I'm with Dr Patrick Walsh from the University of Edinburgh.'
This is an odd time of year to be pond dipping, isn't it?
A little bit, a little bit. It depends on what you're looking for.
I guess it's what surprises people, that even though it's
the bleak midwinter, there is quite a lot of life under the water?
Yeah, there will be. It depends on the area, obviously.
But we'll see if we can find some here.
'We're hunting for creatures living in the muddy waters.
'Patrick's been researching how some tadpoles are able to delay
'growing legs and turning into frogs in the summer.
'Instead, they prefer to spend the winter as tadpoles.'
So, tadpoles from the same generation,
one might become an adult and one might...
Not decide, but will become an overwintering tadpole?
Exactly. It'll be from the same pond in the same area.
Some of them will carry through development whereas some of them
within the same pond will stop the development more or less
-as soon as they become free-swimming and hatching out of their eggs.
And then stay at that stage, getting bigger and bigger and bigger
and then going through their metamorphosis,
the development, in the following spring.
So your research aims to answer that question -
-why some do, why some don't?
-We're still trying to figure that out.
They're actually halting their development
so it seems to be a strategy or a plan to get through
the winter as a larva rather than going through metamorphosis
and coming out as a juvenile.
Yeah, I've got some life. I've got some, something's...
What have we got there? Some nymph of some sort.
Yeah, it's a larval stage of...probably a dragonfly.
'And Patrick has another interesting find.
'He caught this overwintering newt tadpole called an eft
'a couple of days ago.'
They have a breeding season that lasts
basically from about April through till August.
So there's eggs being deposited all through the year
and some of those ones laid in August don't obviously hatch
and develop before the winter so it's a little bit more common
to see these guys, but still unexpected.
You don't often think to see something that people refer to
as being cold-blooded surviving through the winter.
Absolutely, you don't expect nearly so much life
through such a cold month.
'This newt and the other insects we found prove that
'even in the depths of winter, life goes on in these icy waters.'
While some of our smallest wildlife can cope
in Britain's coldest place, what about us humans?
Most of us retreat indoors,
but one man positively embraces the challenges this season brings.
Chris Townsend has taken the term "going for a walk"
to its absolute extreme.
At 64, he's spent his life taking long-distance walks
through the planet's most wild, remote and beautiful places.
Like the 2,700-mile Pacific Crest Trail.
But he always comes back here to the Cairngorms.
The Cairngorms are as magnificent as any place that I've been.
Winter's my favourite season in the Cairngorms
because under snow, the mountains are more majestic,
they're wilder and they're more unspoiled
because all the signs that you get in summer -
cairns, paths and so on - have all disappeared
so it's like the mountains are brand new again.
Even in the most severe of winters, there are thaws in the Cairngorms.
This year's been unseasonably warm.
Well, today, it's very windy. Very windy indeed.
Which isn't unusual for the Cairngorms in winter,
but it's also surprisingly mild.
I'm getting a reading of nine degrees, but I'll see...
..what the wind speed is.
WIND WHISTLES Whoo!
Yeah, that's up to 30mph now.
30 is the speed at which you notice the wind when walking.
Chris's first long-distance walk was from Land's End to John O'Groats.
He doesn't count the Pennine Way, a mere 267 miles(!)
It took him ten weeks to walk from one end of the country to the other.
I felt really pleased because it was the first long-distance walk
and I completed it, so that was obviously good,
but I also felt disappointed because it had ended.
If there'd been another thousand miles, I'd have felt quite happy,
but when you stand at John O'Groats and look out at the ocean, you know
there really isn't anywhere else to go.
'I think the longest winter trip I've done in the Cairngorms
'is a week, but you could stay out longer than that.
'The physical challenge is simply, you know,
'you've got to be fairly fit. I don't find any mental challenges.
'When I'm out here, you know, I feel at home,
'I feel I'm in the right place.
'Mental challenges are in cities and driving and things like this.
'They're much tougher than being out here.'
This is a wonderful area for wildlife.
I've just seen what is probably the largest flock of ptarmigan
that I've ever seen in the Cairngorms.
This time of year, of course, they're white
so they're camouflaged against the snow.
Even in winter, Chris enjoys sleeping outdoors,
so he has to find somewhere relatively dry,
flat and near water to pitch what he calls a tent.
It looks more like a tarpaulin to me!
I now have shelter.
I know some people like being... They feel safest camping
when they're enclosed, but I prefer not to be.
Even tents with zip doors, I only do up the door if absolutely essential,
cos I want to feel part of the outside.
1:15 and I've just been woken up by really big gusts of wind
shaking the shelter. It's also lashing down with rain.
I hope that this will, er, calm down a little soon,
and I can go back to sleep.
He might be outdoors in the middle of winter,
but some things don't change.
Chris still goes to the effort of making coffee to warm him up
and fuel his onward journey.
Then it's time to load house and home on his back
and head out into the wild country once again.
I'd say to people, even if they're only going to take a short stroll
away from the road into a natural forest, do that.
It really is different when you're out there.
Some of us aren't as roughty-toughty as Chris.
Even through all those extra layers,
we feel it more than any other season.
I've been getting to the bare bones of what makes our winters
the way they are, from the cold snaps to the wash-outs
with meteorological maestro, John Hammond,
who's a mine of information when it comes to wintry wisdom.
-I've brought this to warm you up.
-Thank you very much.
-A jacket potato.
-A hot jacket potato?
-Yeah. I'll explain that in a moment.
Any other surprises up your sleeve?
Well, I have, as a matter of fact, yeah,
because some people don't realise that the temperature
actually falls all the way through the night
so that the coldest time of the night is actually after dawn.
In the middle of winter,
that means eight or nine o'clock in the morning.
Just at the time when people are getting out of bed,
-having a shower, getting naked.
-Yeah, I know!
It's coldest in the morning. A few other things.
For example, you might think the lowest temperatures
during the course of the year is at the winter solstice.
The longest night, the shortest day.
That's not the case because there's a lag.
It gets colder and colder and colder through the winter,
so the coldest months are actually January, February,
sometimes even March.
-THAT'S when you should go on holiday.
-Why have I got a potato in my hand?
-A-ha, I'm glad you asked me that
because a potato is a little bit like the Earth, if you like.
The surface of the Earth might start off very warm.
During the autumn, though, it cools down,
in the winter, it gets colder and colder and colder.
But, with my knife, if I cut...
-Such a Boy Scout!
-Well, be prepared and all that.
If I cut through the surface of the potato, underneath...
-It's still warm.
-It's still warm, there's steam coming out
and that's just what happens, really, in the winter time
with the Earth. The ground surface gets colder and colder
and colder, but underneath, you only have to go
a few centimetres and it's several degrees warmer.
Farmers use this to their advantage.
They plant the crops and during the course of the winter,
although the surface is frosty and snowy,
underneath, we retain the warmth and plants continue to grow.
You know what? You're a magician.
A potato, a knife, and you've explained the winter to me.
-Hey presto, it's magic.
-Can we go home now?
-Yes, come on.
While Julia heads inside for a cup of tea
and a now-lukewarm jacket potato,
I'm heading out for the winter vegetable harvest.
Across Britain, our hardiest vegetables stubbornly
stand their ground against the worst
that our winter weather can throw at them.
These tough nuts of the vegetable world know how
to look after themselves,
and they keep Britain's larder well-stocked till spring.
Perfect for coping with the cold are the root vegetables,
Underground, the heat of the sun lingers longer than on top,
while the soil provides protection against frost.
On the Suffolk coast, Ian Hall grows both carrots and parsnips.
As one is hardier than the other,
they need farming slightly differently.
This variety is Eskimo,
and we grow them,
just, really, this time of year.
Right, OK, and as the name suggests, then,
it's good for the winter, Eskimo?
Yeah, it's got a little bit more frost tolerance
than traditional varieties.
How cold can they go?
-Up to about minus seven.
If you get any colder than that, for any prolonged period,
that splits down the carrot.
How does that compare to parsnips?
Well, we've had temperatures round here down here down to minus 20.
Parsnip's been fine in the ground.
It just sits there, lays dormant,
and when the temperature warms up, it seems to be fine.
So, these Sunday roast staples
can both withstand sub-zero temperatures.
But the carrot needs a little more mollycoddling
when winter really bites.
So, Ian snuggles them up under a duvet of straw and plastic.
Look under there, you'll see, these have been strawed about three weeks.
And once we get to midwinter, we can experience
temperatures of minus ten, minus 15,
-so the straw will keep that frost out.
-I see, yeah.
You're not stingy, are you, with the amount of straw you put on?
We put about 20 tonne an acre of straw on, which can,
will keep out up to minus 20 frost.
Looks quite cosy under there, doesn't it?
Just get under there, hunker down under the straw!
But it's not just farmed winter veg
that can tolerate the season's harsh conditions.
There's life in the wilds of our countryside, too.
Paul Foster's a chef who collects wild produce on the Suffolk coast.
For him, winter supplies a unique range of flavours.
And he finds plenty of hardy morsels.
So, this is sea purslane, one of my favourite sea vegetables.
It grows where you'll find samphire, in marshes.
It's got a lovely, salty flavour.
In the winter, it's quite sparse pickings
but if you look hard enough, you'll find some lovely stuff.
This is the Alexander seed. As you can see, it comes
when the Alexander turns to what's called a skeleton.
When it's in its second year, it has these lovely, black seeds.
I was surprised to see it after the floods they've had here,
so it's a real good find, to get this.
-Paul, was it a successful forage?
-Yeah, it was a brilliant forage.
-We found loads of stuff.
-What have you got, then?
I've got some young Alexander seeds, which are really nice and delicate.
The seeds which come up in the second year, and I've got
-some sea purslane from the marshes as well.
And are all these kind of enhancers for a dish
or would you use any of them as a main?
The Alexander's great as its own ingredient in its own right.
The Alexander seed I use as a spice,
it's great with chocolate.
And the sea purslane, it's great in a salad, raw, when it's young,
or blanched with fish, it's perfect.
Ooh, that sounds good. And what are your thoughts on carrots?
I've got some beautiful carrots here,
-pretty much fresh out the ground.
-I love carrots. Really versatile.
Great ingredient, you can do them from starter to dessert,
and I should be able to cook something really nice for you today.
Yeah? Good! Right, well, listen,
I think you're going to cook something up
for what is going to be a very special performance,
because I've heard, and this is remarkable,
you can do a phenomenal thing with the carrot,
and, quite frankly, I can't wait to have a go.
So, I tell you what, I'll leave those with you
and see you in a little while.
OK, thank you.
It's not exactly a carrot concerto,
but I'll just say we do have an orchestra and we do have carrots.
Find out what on earth I'm on about later.
From the farmlands of Suffolk's east coast to the Highlands of Scotland.
Here, the terrain is unforgiving.
While most things struggle to cope and adapt to winter,
there's one breed of cattle
that's able to thrive in these harsh conditions.
The herd I've come to see are particularly special.
They're the Queen's own cattle that live on her Scottish estate,
For me, this is a perfect, picture-postcard scene,
with these fantastic Highland cattle, set below the Scottish mountains.
It's a warm, sunny winter's day today.
The weather up here can get incredibly harsh and I've come
to find out how on earth these cattle can manage up here.
In 1953, the Queen introduced a small herd here.
And today, they've grown to be one of the best in the UK.
Stockman Dockie Ormanston looks after the royal herd.
There's not much he doesn't know about farming this ancient breed.
Dockie, he's looking lovely. Thanks for bringing him out.
-How old's this one?
-He's just about 20 months, 22 months.
-He's well grown, isn't he?
-He seems to have done very well.
-We're very pleased with him at the moment.
And does the Queen come out and look at them much?
Well, we're in the fields in front of the castle,
so they see them all the time when they go past.
And I know she adores her Highland ponies.
Does she have the same empathy for Highlands?
I'm not very sure about that!
-They certainly like to eat them, anyway!
I see you've still got a bit of snow on the tops.
Well, if you were here a day ago,
we had about an inch of snow down here.
So, you're just a day late.
Conditions in the Scottish Highlands can be pretty severe.
Temperatures can fall below minus 20, with snow often a metre deep.
But these Highlands are born survivors.
These animals have got incredible coats.
You can see this long hair on the surface,
and the sleet and rain and snow will just run off that.
And then underneath is this downy fluff, like a duvet, wonderful
for insulating all that warmth that's coming off the bull's body.
-So, tell me what the front bit, this fringe, is called.
The Dossan. I'm always pronouncing it wrong.
That's to keep the snow out his eyes.
And the hair is all over him. It goes right inside his ears.
And then right down his legs to the tips of his toes.
Just a great, big bundle of hair,
keeping him incredibly warm.
So, come minus 15, minus 20 degrees, chucking it down with snow,
they'll just stand out there, solid, happy as anything.
This bull is part of a 60-strong herd and, at the moment,
they're making the most of the mild weather, grazing on pasture.
I've got five Highlands at home but it's lovely to see such a big herd.
They look magnificent.
Normally, we'd have them down on rougher ground,
or up on the banks, let them forage for themselves.
If the snow does get deep and stuff like that, they can forage,
pick with their feet, their horns, just rake the snow away.
-They seem to be quite versatile at doing most things.
They are. They are. Yeah.
And we calf them in February time.
-So they can be calving out in pretty cold conditions?
-No bother at all.
When the calves are born, they're all fluffy and hairy, aren't they?
Just like teddy bears.
Dockie supplements their feed with silage, a pickled grass.
He's enjoying making a mess of that!
As long as it's the silage bale, not me, it's fine!
Well, it's been a real treat for me to come up to Scotland
and see them in their homeland.
With their amazing coats, they do look absolutely wonderful.
Although, today, it's like Cornwall. I don't know what the fuss is about.
I thought you Scots were supposed to be tough!
What can... What can we say?
We just laid on this, just for you!
It'll snow tomorrow!
Andy Goldsworthy is one of the UK's foremost environmental artists.
He works all over the world, in wood and stone and ice.
But, when winter comes, he returns to his Scottish home.
Well, I like to spend most of December, January
and February in Dumfriesshire, because when we do get snow
and ice, I like to be here for that.
Whilst there is this expectation or this idea
that winter equates with snow and ice, it's not always the case.
Especially in Britain. This is a very mild climate.
But when it does get cold,
there's that intensity about that weather condition,
the fact that it's not going to be there for that long
when it's sub-zero temperatures,
and it does provoke an intense response from me as an artist.
It's a very creative time to work with
and it does allow me to do things that I couldn't do normally.
I've worked in this place many times.
I'm kind of attracted to the wall, the now-derelict wall.
And with there being a gap, there's this space to fill.
So, it's asking to be filled.
This one was with branches.
I've gapped this section with ice, three times now.
The first one, I laid it horizontally.
The second time I placed it vertically.
And then the last one was actually kind of an explosion of ice
that just kind of radiated from the centre.
When you get sunlight on it, it's just an amazing place.
And you can see now how the light
is just kind of animating these branches
and giving them such a sense of movement and flow.
Light is very important to this place
and to the works that I make here. They to respond to that.
These are grass stalks that are obviously getting whiter,
now they're dead, and getting bleached.
And there's a strong sense of falling water and these lines
of the water as it's seeping through the ground and over the rocks.
And I'm just wanting to draw that,
to understand that kind of drop.
And it's a drawing, it's drawing water,
just like the water is drawn through the landscape, these grass stalks
are drawing that movement, trying to understand that movement.
It's quite strong. And then when I try to separate these,
they're almost glued together.
And just look at this here.
See the water, there? It's really beautiful.
This is the same process
that creates the icicles that I work with.
If it's cold then this is the place I come to work with the ice
and the icicles.
In the early days, I harvested the icicles
and would make sculptures from them on top of the rocks
and freeze one icicle to another,
and when I'm doing that,
I will often have an icicle in my mouth that I'm sucking on,
and as I hold one to another, I'll spit onto the end of it
in a form of spit-welding that I've perfected for ice, you know?
And then there's that moment when you have to let go.
And is it going to hold? And I have had so many collapses here,
you can imagine, working with something like ice.
Winter is a very, very important and creative time for me.
The freedoms that sub-zero temperatures give me are enormous.
The cold becomes like a glue where I can stick one piece of ice to
another. And the colder it is, the quicker I can do it.
So the quicker I can make work, the more I can do,
so the colder it is, it actually is a fantastic thing.
It's important for me to work with the land as a whole.
And that means working with those things that don't last.
I can't just work... I don't want to work with just wood or stone.
And I do want to understand the flesh of nature, not just its bones.
Some of the great things that I've done
have come out of fighting something,
to realise actually what's happening is more interesting than the thing
I'm trying to make, and to allow those changes to occur.
And that happens most acutely with winter.
Learning to work with the British winter is one of the most
difficult things that I can imagine, because it is so elusive.
And that's its beauty.
Andy is not alone in finding the art of winter difficult to capture.
It also presents challenges
for wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones.
When I'm in Scotland, three species really come to mind
and that's the red squirrel, the red deer and the crested tit.
And winter is THE best time to film them, I think,
because of one simple thing.
So, a very friendly group of conservationists
have come to the woodland here and they've set up a feeding station.
You've got this lovely big mesh of peanuts here,
which the birds are going to absolutely love,
and then just over behind me we have a squirrel feeding box.
The squirrel will come and sit on this platform here,
use its head to flip the lid up
and get to the lovely peanuts inside.
Well, it hasn't taken long before we've got coal tits...
..which are distinctive by the lovely white stripe
down the back of their head.
And they're all... Look at this!
Masses of long-tailed tits.
They've almost... They've completely taken over the feeder.
And actually, the crested tit, the bird I was after,
has just snuck in whilst I wasn't looking.
And it's over by the squirrel feeder.
It's gone underneath the squirrel feeder.
And is feeding that way
because the long-tails have just completely hogged the bird feeder.
The crested tits are a real treat.
They're a specialist of the Caledonian pine forests,
and there are probably only about 1,500 breeding pairs
in the whole of the UK.
They're quite common here, in Scotland,
but, you know, nationally, they're incredibly scarce.
So, an absolute treat and a real symbol of the Scottish woods here.
(Here he goes!)
Lovely, lovely animal.
Now, you'll notice that there's actually a bit of grey in his coat,
and that's not because he's halfway between a red or a grey squirrel.
This is what happens to red squirrels in the winter time.
They have a summer coat, which they moult out in the autumn
for a thicker, warmer, winter coat that has a greyish tinge to it.
And he's doing exactly what I'd hoped.
He's using his head to flip up that lid
and reach down to grab some nuts.
Now, you can hear the road, you can hear cars whizzing behind me.
It just goes to show you. These aren't difficult animals to see.
You could just park up, pop out
and see this very, very easily for yourself.
Red squirrels and crested tits, tick. Two down, one to go.
The red deer. And I have a plan.
I've had a tip that just 15 minutes away on a grouse estate,
I'm guaranteed great shots.
How's about that for a truly Scottish winter scene?
A beautiful herd of red deer stags.
There have got to be at least 20 up there. And these are wild animals.
Normally I'd never be able to get this close to them.
But there's a very good reason why I can.
And it's all down to the keeper here.
You can see that there's one of the stags here who has
a really curved antler at the top.
He's called Droopy, apparently.
And the reason that he's got the antler like that
is probably that it was damaged when it was growing.
It's a very soft material as it initially comes out of the head,
and it probably just got a knock and it sent it in the wrong direction.
But, of course, the stag will lose those antlers
and then grow a whole new set next summer.
So it's a deformity that probably isn't going to cause him
a problem for long, if it's even caused him a problem at all.
So, there you go. Three animals in one day.
Red squirrels, red deer and crested tits.
It just goes to show that winter can be a great time
to get out and watch wildlife.
We've travelled the length and breadth of Britain,
seeing how winter grips our land,
from the dramatic landscape of the Scottish Highlands,
to the salty, sea air of Cornwall.
to wild beauty.
I've been in Suffolk, seeing how farmers and foragers
make the most of this season.
While chef Paul Foster's been finding
the ingredients for an alfresco feast,
I've been out in the fields,
harvesting some of the hundreds of thousands of carrots
we eat each year. There were a few spare, though,
so time for a seasonal musical interlude.
On carrot, Tim Cranmore...
..and Clare Graham.
Soloing on the butternut squash, it's Zebedee Tonkin.
THEY PLAY "COUNTRYFILE" THEME
These professional musicians
have taken the idea of five-a-day to a whole new level.
They've formed The London Vegetable Orchestra
and I'm going to be making up the quartet, with my Eskimo carrot.
How tremendous! The Countryfile theme tune!
How wonderful to see you all! I have to ask the obvious question
of why? Why, how and when did this all start?
I think "why"... The question's really "why not?"
You know, kids are told not to play with their food, so we're trying to
change things up a little bit.
Playing with your food can mean more than just throwing it around.
So we've decided to make some instruments out of it.
Yours is half-carrot, half-butternut squash?
Yes, a mix and match. We have a mouthpiece,
which is pretty much the same as a brass instrument mouthpiece.
We stick that on the end of this, which acts in the same way
as a trumpet would to a mouthpiece - amplifies the sound.
And when you go shopping, do you shop in a different way now?
Very much so! I've got some... I've built up some really good
relationships with our local greengrocer.
When I walk in, they know exactly what to expect now.
-And what you're after?
-Exactly. They know that I'll walk out
with a lot of vegetables and probably not eat most of them.
Tim Cranmore's a professional recorder maker.
He'll help me fashion my carrot, to join this vegetable medley.
Right, then, Tim. So, I have the drill, obviously.
I'm going to now bore a hole through the middle of the carrot?
Brilliant. OK, clear out the coleslaw.
-Yeah! It's a good way of making coleslaw!
-It is, yeah.
-So, then up through the bottom?
Yep! It's gone all the way through.
'The exact recipe for a carrot recorder
'is a closely-guarded secret that I've promised to keep a lid on.'
We've got the body of the carrot,
we've got the bore - the hole down the middle - and the window.
'As Tim puts the finishing touches to my instrument,'
over in his rather unconventional makeshift kitchen,
Paul's busy catering for an intrigued audience.
His braised Eskimo carrots,
with goat's curd and winter sea vegetables,
served alongside... what else but carrot juice?
It's all going down a treat with the locals...
..but everyone's hungry to hear the vegetable entertainment,
with their newest member on recorder.
Welcome, everyone. Are you all enjoying your food?
-Is it nice?
-It's all been foraged within a few miles of here,
so I hope you really are enjoying it. Anyway, can I introduce you all
to this afternoon's entertainment?
This is The London Vegetable Orchestra.
Tonight, there's going to be one extra vegetable - that's me -
and this is our rendition of Build Me Up, Butternut.
-Are we ready?
Ready? I'm ready now.
ALL PLAY "Build Me Up, Buttercup"
Oh, look at that! Thank you ever so much for that heartfelt applause.
It's been wonderful. Music has never tasted so good.
We've explored the fairy-tale beauty
and the fight for survival in wintertime.
We've seen how our creatures revel in the season,
great and small.
We've seen extreme weather and extreme adventures.
But so often, even the toughest conditions
bring out the very best in our winter countryside.
Countryfile's winter special is a celebration of Britain's beautiful countryside in this, the harshest of seasons. This winter has been a particularly tough one for wildlife when their only options are to sleep, feed or flee. Ellie Harrison is in the Cairngorms where winter is often felt most keenly. As well as exploring the mountain tops she also takes a canoe safari around a Loch, looking for the hardy wildlife which has to survive whatever the weather. Julia Bradbury joins weatherman John Hammond in the Chilterns where, with the help of a giant map and some trusty props, they learn why the UK gets the unique winters it does. It's been especially apparent this year that the coast is often hardest hit by winter storms but whilst it might wreak havoc for us, it brings a special kind of treasure for beachcombers. Adam Henson is on the north Cornwall coast to find out more. Matt Baker is in Suffolk to see how farmers keep food on our tables whatever the winter weather. He's with carrot producers as they bring in their harvest, and with the help of the London Vegetable Orchestra, he plays a mean tune on a carrot. Britain's foremost landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy visits his favourite spot in Dumfries and Galloway to create a new work of art especially for the programme and explains why the countryside in winter has so much to offer him as an artist.