Ellie Harrison is on a winter wildlife safari in the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. In Filey, John Craven hears the history behind the fisherman's gansey.
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Whether you relish the frosty mornings,
or dread the short days and dark nights, there's no escaping winter,
but get it right and you'll reap the rewards.
Today, we're going to embrace winter and all its seasonal spectacles.
Matt's meeting some farmers with a herd as rough and tough
as the winter landscape they graze.
It's hardy, it's traditional
and it just looks absolutely fantastic.
We all know he's got a penchant for a pullover,
but John's unravelling a yarn he's never heard
about fishermen's winter woollies.
Adam catches up with the farmers giving a bit of winter TLC
to some of our oldest and rarest breeds.
Goodness me, you Welshmen are hard!
What are you doing washing cattle on a day like today?
Well, I quite like to give them their monthly shower, you know,
just to freshen them up a bit!
And we'll be meeting those who love nothing more
than getting out there and embracing winter's frosty charms.
Aw, this is great!
In the heart of the Scottish Highlands is the Cairngorms.
Winter here shows off the landscape's raw beauty,
with its great glens, vast lochs and imposing peaks.
Thrill seekers may swarm to ski the snowy slopes
in the height of winter,
but this is our wildest national park and it's nature's patch.
Here, wild cats roam the woodlands,
pine martens dart through ancient forests
and ptarmigan don their winter coats.
But the season is harsh.
Some of the animals here in the summer have left for warmer climes,
and the rest have to adapt to the coldest,
the windiest and the snowiest conditions in Britain,
and, today, I'm hoping to spot some of those that are toughing it out.
'I'm starting my winter wildlife safari in Rothiemurchus,
'an area rich in conservation credentials,
'with one of the largest remaining swathes
'of ancient Caledonian pine forest in the country.'
-This place is just so gorgeous!
-It really is. It really is.
'Showing me round his rather enviable workplace is
'Countryside Manager Julian Orsi.'
What makes it so special for wildlife?
We've got, um, every sort of habitat you can imagine.
Everything from the mountaintops of Braeriach,
right down through to the Caledonian pine forest and the wider forest,
and then down to the River Spey
and the habitats associated with river systems as well.
We've got 173 recorded bird species and 27 mammal species.
That must bring a conservation challenge of its own, all that?
Yeah, roughly 6,000 hectares is designated with some
sort of protection, whether it be environmental or cultural.
Nature and people is the most important thing here -
that they live in harmony together.
'Before I seek out some of the estate's wilder creatures,
'there's time for a bit of breakfast for their farmed red deer.'
How about this?
Wow! I've never been this close before.
Ooh, beautiful. So, this is how they'd be in the wild as well -
in a group of females, the hinds together.
-SHE LAUGHS: It's amazing.
-It's fantastic, isn't it?
This is our farmed deer, um, so we always come up here
-and put some silage out for them during the winter time...
..and this is just a bit of a chocolate bar, really.
And, in the wild, when the winters are really tough, they'd come down
onto the lower ground and sometimes end up, then, nibbling woody browse,
-which can cause landowners a few problems?
-Yeah, that's right.
We've got roughly about 150 wild red deer and about 250 roe deer.
If we get a really harsh winter or winter conditions,
we will do diversionary feeding. We'll put out silage for them
and the hope is it'll just deflect them from the pine forest
-and young trees and stop them browsing those young trees.
So, rather than putting fences round all of those young trees,
you just say, "Actually, let's lure them away with the food
-"they really need and want?"
We try and leave the forest as much as we can to itself.
But it's not just the animals that have to survive the harsh winters.
The ancient Caledonian pines
have been braving the Scottish weather since the Ice Age.
Conifers are well-adapted to freezing weather.
On the trunk, they have this very thick bark,
which helps protect them against the cold.
The shape - cone-shaped, with these very flexible branches,
let me grab one, here -
mean that, if they're covered in heavy snowfall, they can cope.
The leaves are...thin, small,
they've got a very low surface area, a waxy covering,
and that helps reduce water loss.
And, not only that, the tree produces its own antifreeze protein,
which can help protect the cells from any damage from ice crystals.
The wildlife here relies on this pine forest,
and it's become a stronghold for one of our rarest mammals -
the red squirrel.
'With more than 25 years' experience at Rothiemurchus, who better
'to help me spot some than the guide in the hide, ranger Alf McGregor?'
-Is there much going on out there, Alf?
-Yeah, aye, there is some activity.
There's some birds about.
-That's a coal tit down now.
That flash on the back of the head.
Caledonian pine forests are a very special place for wildlife.
What are your top species?
-Without a doubt, the capercaillie.
-they're a bit elusive, but there's also pine martens as well.
But more realistically, today, in the middle of winter,
-what animals are we likely to see toughing it out?
Definitely red squirrels.
They're pretty active all the winter.
So, if we just wait patiently, we might be in luck?
Patience is the name of the game!
-There's a great tit here.
-Just popped in really quickly.
Chaffinches as well.
Oh, and underneath the root,
-there's a tiny little mouse just poked his head out.
-They're so quick, though, aren't they?
If you've got 99 things wanting to eat you...
-You'd be quick!
-..you'd be quick as well!
-You'd be quick!
-Away out there...
..there's a squirrel on the move there.
It's always such a treat seeing them.
And then, look at this chase here now that they do.
It's this time of year they start that mating behaviour, isn't it?
-Chasing around like loons.
So they will store food for the winter.
That's just what this one's doing here -
just grabbing the food and getting as many winter calories as possible.
It's amazing, when you see...when you do see them, just chewing away.
-What a great sight.
-Quite the thing.
What a sight.
Well, what a great treat
to see so much active wildlife in the chill of winter.
Now, later, I'm going to be heading up into the Highlands on a mission
to photograph one of winter's most elusive animals - the mountain hare.
The last time I saw one, it was heading for the horizon at 40mph,
so I'm going to need all the help I can get.
Snow is no rarity in these parts. In fact, a study recently found
the Scots have 421 different words for it.
So what do you do when you've got more words for the white stuff
than Inuit Eskimos?
You make the most of it and "go with the snow".
My name's Jamie Kunka, I'm 28 years old and I'm a ski maker.
I was always a keen woodworker as a kid and a very keen skier as well.
My end goal for the skis was to
marry up sustainable, traditional materials.
I wanted to make a ski that was both beautiful and high-performance,
so, either when you're not using it or have finished with it,
you can hang it on the wall.
I usually start off by going to the sawmill.
I'll then look through the timbers
and select ones that are really straight grained, good quality, dry.
That gets sawn into strips,
then the strips get glued together
and they form the spine of the ski.
Every single piece of wood has its own character, its own look.
In the skis, that comes up, cos every ski looks different.
I'd spend a long time sanding the wood,
getting it really smooth and flat.
Which brings out the kind of beauty of the individual piece of wood...
..which makes every ski look different.
Then the ski gets varnished and the final stamp of approval...
..and then it's ready to go out the door.
I like to think of the skis as kind of tools to explore the landscape.
I was particularly interested in designing a ski
that was going to be at home in Scotland and I get a good feedback
off the landscape, where I can look at a gully or a quarry and think,
"Ah, this'll be the ski for that,"
and sometimes go home and draw up a new design
and try something out, go and test it.
I love to use place names as inspiration,
so interesting Gaelic names, Scots names, and also kind of
seeing bits of terrain that might inspire a new ski.
Say a piece of a hillside that I'm like,
"One day, I'm going to wait for the correct snow conditions
"and I'm going to hit that."
I used to come here with Dad, cross-country skiing over the loch
when I was little, so it's quite an important place for me,
and it's one of the most beautiful places around here, I think,
and particularly lovely when it's in full winter condition.
Scotland's one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
I love the variety of landscapes here,
from the mountains all the way to the...the coastline.
In Scotland, it's really a case of trying to pick the day,
trying to find the perfect day, a bit like surfing,
trying to get the perfect conditions, the perfect wave.
Sometimes, even if there's not much snow, I still like to get out
and ski on what we can, even if it's a little patch.
That's what I think Scottish skiing's all about -
it's just making the most of what you've got.
MATT: Winter's grip is all well and good for fresh air fanatics
on the slopes, but for farmers,
the work never stops.
HE CALLS, SHEEP BLEAT
You know, as a farmer myself, I know how hard winters can be,
and, in the uplands of Cumbria, winters don't get much tougher.
The days are short, the nights are dark,
and the cold will chill you to the core.
-Hill farmers in Cumberland haven't forgotten
their severe losses in the blizzard weather last winter...
In the past, farmers have been known to resort to extreme measures
to protect their flock from the worst the winter can throw at them.
This winter, it can freeze if it likes - the sheep won't feel it.
Do you really like having to wear jute?
-There's no substitute for wool.
But this lot don't need any extra layers.
Herdwicks - as rough and tough as the landscape they graze,
guardians of these fells for more than a thousand years.
These hardy animals can cope with anything that the Cumbrian weather
can throw at them, and so, for that matter,
can the hardy shepherds who look after them.
-Come on, dogs.
-Come on, come on, here to me, here to me. Up here.
'Shepherds like Peter Bland,
'who runs 1,000 Herdwick ewes in Grasmere.'
There's a bit of a bite in the air today, Peter,
but nothing too drastic, I'm sure, from what you're used to, but, um,
how has this winter compared to the recent ones?
Yeah, it... it's been unbelievable, really.
Since December and January, we've had day after day of nice weather,
so the sheep are in good condition.
As far as their kind of coping mechanisms are concerned,
what are their patterns when the weather gets bad?
They live on these fells, high out, so, when the weather comes in,
they'll come in with the weather, to get shelter.
But they can be stubborn. If they're wanting to stay up
in the bad weather, they'll just find a stone to stand behind.
It's quite a special fleece that the Herdwick has.
It isn't worth a lot to us, but to them, it's invaluable,
and it's a very coarse, heavy, thick wool that keeps the weather out.
-It's the old-fashioned Gore-Tex, if you want.
-That's it, absolutely.
A good shake and they're dry.
'Their blizzard-proof fleeces may not be worth much commercially,
'but the Herdwicks are now giving farmers like Peter
'a financial lifeline in other ways.
'That's because Herdwick lamb and mutton from the Lake District was
'recently awarded protected status, putting it in the same category as
'French champagne, Cornish pasties and Melton Mowbray pork pies.
'It's been a 10-year project that's been driven by the farming community
'and the added status is now putting some well-earned money
'into Peter's pocket.'
And when you look now at that flock,
-knowing that you have this real protected status...
..and that the value and everything that you've worked for
-has now come to fruition...
-..I mean, for you, it must mean
an enormous amount and for all the Herdwick farmers around here?
For us Herdwick producers, we take pride in our...
in our being able to farm these on these fells, it isn't an easy job.
To breed these sheep to go and live out there all winter,
you have to have a lot of knowledge,
which you can't just pick up overnight,
it's passed down from generation to generation.
What difference has it made to the Herdwick farming community
around here, that are involved with it?
It gives us far more security.
Breeding a couple of lambs, and we know,
-if we make a good job of them, what we're going to get.
And you ask any sheep breeder in the business,
that's the big problem is you can go to a market
and you're at the mercy of the dealers and the buyers.
And I guess it just gives you buoyancy, in the darker months,
-when things are really tough around here?
-Definitely, it does.
It gives us that security and...we're quids in!
So it's going well!
So, not only have you guaranteed a price at the start,
-but actually, that whole system has become a lot simpler?
-Very much so.
There's now a new-found demand for the humble Herdwick and, later,
I'll be finding out why, when it comes to taste,
many are hailing it top of the chops.
From the fells of Cumbria to the flatlands of Kent now,
where wildlife cameraman, Richard Taylor-Jones,
is discovering the chill in the air isn't always caused by the weather.
I've been visiting the Isle of Sheppey
and watching its glorious wildlife for many years now.
It was better known as a summer seaside destination,
but since the hordes of sun-seekers have gone,
a winter crowd has gathered.
And they have something far more sinister in mind -
murder most "fowl".
Winter on the Isle of Sheppey has become famous for being
one of the best places in the UK to watch birds of prey.
And I'd just like to see how many I can see in one short winter's day.
Now, the reason that winter brings so many raptors here to Sheppey
is essentially because of what I've got out in front of me here.
There's a large flock of feeding ducks, known as widgeon,
and, as well as widgeon, there are other waders and other geese
and all sorts of birds that birds of prey basically feed on.
And the widgeon behind me are going up, look at that!
Now, there is actually a kestrel that's just flown in
onto the gatepost there.
It's very unlikely that a kestrel would take a widgeon,
but it's certainly enough to spook them and put them up.
Here's our first bird of prey.
Just in the distance, I can see a couple of marsh harriers perched up.
And that's what Sheppey's really famous for -
it's the marsh harriers.
There are probably more marsh harriers here
than anywhere else in the UK.
There it goes, just taken off.
There's the barn owl, here's the barn owl.
There we go, look at that. Lovely!
Such a distinctive bird.
These are birds that prey on voles, mice, mammals.
Oh, she's being attacked by something! What was that?
Oh, a gull. A gull just came down and attacked it.
I just got the briefest of glimpses
of a Merlin perched up on a fence
post and it just flew out of shot the moment I managed to hit record.
Lovely bird to see.
Our smallest British bird of prey.
I've moved along now
and arrived at what's known as the raptor watch point.
It is the middle of the day, when birds do tend to go
a bit quieter, but...who knows what might happen?
Oh, this is great.
This is the bird I was hoping that we might see
but not one that I expected to.
It's a female hen harrier, otherwise known as a ringtail.
There's not many birds that you want to see flying away from you
but this one is doing just that
and it's showing us a lovely white rump
and that identifies it.
This is one of Britain's rarest birds of prey.
That is just fabulous.
This is perhaps the bird I'd expect to see here,
it's the common buzzard.
Oh, look, there's a kestrel right above the buzzard.
Whoa, diving down... HE CHUCKLES
The poor buzzard's being mobbed by the kestrel
and is now running away really quickly.
Oh, what's going on here?
This is an aerial battle!
Two raptors scrapping it out.
And I think, that to me looks like a female peregrine -
big female peregrine.
Oh! It's in the distance, it's behind a bush, but it's a peregrine.
It's one to add to our list!
And up above me here now, very rapid wing beats that make the
distinctive outline of a short-eared owl.
Beautiful bird. This is a really good kick for the raptor list.
It's the last light of the day here now on Sheppey.
Now in the evening, the marsh harrier, they come together,
up to 20, 30 birds, to roost in the reed bed in front of me here.
I can just see them dropping in now.
One. There goes another one - two.
It's just absolutely magical to see this many marsh harriers
disappear for the night.
Do you know what, I think you can keep your summertime trip to
Sheppey, with its buckets and spades.
Give me a raptor spectacular in the winter any day.
ADAM: Winter is a good time of year for farmers to take stock
and prepare for the year to come.
I'm heading to Carmarthenshire to meet some farmers who are
thinking much further ahead,
going the extra mile to preserve the future of some of our rarest cattle.
This is the Dinefwr Estate, owned by the National Trust,
and it's said to be the ancestral home of one of Britain's
During the winter months,
most cattle farmers have got their animals indoors.
But this shed isn't just full of any old cattle - these are White Parks,
and there's only 750 breeding females left in the world
and this herd is particularly special.
They're one of the most renowned White Park herds in the UK.
They've been part of a landscape here at Dinefwr for more than
1,000 years and Wyn Davies has devoted the last 18 years
to looking after them.
In you go.
In you go.
-Hi there, Wyn.
-Good to see you.
Nice to see you.
They look in lovely condition. How many cows have you got now?
Oh, we've got, in total, here we've got 18 breeding cow.
And then the rest are young cattle, followers.
And you've got them in this lovely new shed.
Well, yes, the nature of the ground around here, it gets very wet in the
-So they were making a bit of a mess outside,
so it was decided to put up this new building.
The cows could survive the winter outdoors,
but with nearly all of them pregnant,
keeping them under cover will allow Wyn to keep a close eye on them.
Well, as you see, it's been designed for plenty of fresh air
to come in here. It's a nice environment for them to be.
-Especially, they can look outside and see the sunshine.
And also see the visitors passing in the day.
ADAM LAUGHS And you've got a lot of experience
-working with these cattle. You love them, don't you?
You know, they're part of Welsh history.
And good to work with?
Erm, challenging at times.
Most of these rare breeds retain their primitive instinct,
They haven't been improved like many of our modern-day cattle,
so they retain that independent spirit.
-They've got attitude!
-But we want to maintain that, don't we?
We want them to be survivors, to look after themselves.
Well, that's what makes them what they are, really, isn't it?
That distinctiveness. They're quite eccentric in a way, really.
Now, a little bird has told me you're thinking about retiring.
-Is that right?
-Well, yes, there comes a time for everything, really.
I've done my best to look after these animals since they've
been under my care
and I'm looking forward and I've got every confidence in
Rhodri Thomas, who is going to be my successor, then.
-Wonderful. Well, good luck with your retirement.
-Thank you, Adam.
-Keep in touch. All the best.
-Thank you, bye-bye.
Rhodri has certainly got big boots to fill when
he takes over from Wyn in the spring.
-Good to see you.
-Good to see you.
As well as keeping the deer in shape, the White Parks
will be ready to calve.
So how do you feel about being the next generation, the person who's
going to look after all this livestock here,
particularly the White Parks?
Yeah, it's a big responsibility, you know?
And I fully acknowledge that and obviously it's a huge honour
and a privilege for me.
But, you know, Wyn's overseen my development this past year and
a half now and I feel a lot more confident about doing it.
With the deer fed,
Rhodri and I head back to the barn to help Wyn bed up the White Parks.
The extra work that goes into keeping them indoors in
winter might seem excessive,
but with such a small population,
hopefully this 5-star treatment will protect and preserve this herd
that is such a big part of this landscape.
I think it's brilliant that Wyn is so happy to hand over his
knowledge to Rhodri
and that Rhodri is so keen to take hold of the reins.
I think these White Park cattle are in very safe hands.
Just over the hill from Dinefwr is another rare breed success story.
In the shadow of another castle, farmer Bernard Llewellyn
breeds English Longhorns.
By developing the Longhorns' strength to suit today's
modern farming methods,
these once incredibly rare cattle have made a remarkable recovery.
-Adam! Good to see you.
-Goodness me, you Welshmen are hard.
What are you doing washing cattle on a day like today?
Well, I quite like to give them their monthly shower, you know?
It's just to freshen up a bit.
Now, these bulls are so different to what I remember.
-We had Longhorns, what, 15, 20 years ago.
-Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Goodness me, they've changed, haven't they?!
Well, we've tried, really, I suppose, to improve the conformation
really because of market needs as much as anything.
Well, they're certainly tremendous looking animals. I mean, look at the meat on this boy.
There's some money in there, isn't there?
Very good bull in the loin, which is where the expensive joints are.
People concentrate, I think, too much on this back end,
although he has got a good bum.
Now, the Longhorn has been famous for living off, you know,
pasture, living off grass.
-You know, docile, easy calving, all those sorts of things.
-Are you retaining that?
-Well, I think it's vital we do retain that
because certainly in the future...
Grass-fed cattle are already being sold at a premium.
But certainly in areas like this, you can see we haven't got quite
the flat areas of
-the Cotswolds down here.
You know, it's cattle that graze upland pastures,
but also graze hills,
that we're going to need, whether it be cattle or sheep.
I can't harvest my grass, so to convert that grass into
something that humans can make use of, we need cattle that can graze.
Grass might be plentiful here in Wales, but straw isn't.
Around 80% of Wales is hill country, unsuitable for arable crops.
Many farmers like Bernard have to buy their bedding in from
across the border.
And as demand increases over the winter months, so does the price.
Although housing livestock at this time of year is an expensive
business, Bernard firmly believes Longhorns are more than
capable of paying their way.
These cattle look well, Bernard. How many have you got in here?
About 25 cows in here.
We try to keep them looking reasonably well all the winter,
but all they have is this haylage from now on.
It's incredible how the breed has come such a long way
when my dad first started keeping them.
Back then, it was about preservation,
and they were more of a museum piece.
But breeders like you have done a lot for them, haven't you?
I think we've got to the stage
where we probably have got sufficient numbers,
and we've got to look at alternatives
for utilising the other strong characteristics that they have.
They produce superb quality meat.
And that really is what I feel the future is,
is producing a very high quality product from grass,
relatively low inputs, but superb.
What the chefs really like is the quality of the beef.
And selling that into top-class restaurants and butchers?
Exactly. There's got to be some added value there somewhere.
I couldn't afford to get involved in the costs of the straw
or in keeping them unless there was a bonus for me in it.
It's wonderful to see, isn't it?
That that's where agriculture is going, hopefully.
Well, I think we're going to be more and more dependent
on the marketplace as time goes on,
so let's produce something that people really do want.
These lovely old-fashioned breeds.
Old-fashioned, yes, but they could be the future, too.
-Great to see you.
-Thank you, Adam.
-Keep up the good work, bye-bye.
MATT: The Herdwick, a sheep to weather the wildest of winters.
Do you know, from a sheep farmer's perspective,
that is absolutely beautiful.
You've got that almost grey cloud that's just
sweeping across the landscape.
Around 95% of the world's Herdwicks live on the Cumbrian fells.
These special sheep are as much a feature of the landscape
as the lakes and hills themselves.
It's hardy, it's traditional,
and it just looks absolutely fantastic.
And the breed is even more important to the area
now that the Herdwick's meat has been awarded protected status.
To be branded as Lakeland Herdwick,
the sheep needs to be born, reared and processed in Cumbria.
We're not talking food miles here, more like food metres.
Steven Airey is currently the only butcher in the area
that can certify authentic Lakeland Herdwick.
For your customers, this stamp is very, very important.
All the carcasses get stamped with ten stamps on the main cuts.
They want the traceability.
They want to know all about where it comes from,
-the farms it comes from.
And they can get that information.
And so, for other farmers that may be thinking of getting together
because they have a heritage breed,
would you say that, going forward,
this is actually a really positive model?
I think anybody can do it, but they have to suss out
the end market first and work backwards.
We can't compete with the South Americas and the Australias
with mass production, so I think
really, we've got to go for the niche market.
Lakeland Herdwick is proving such a hit with diners,
it's finding its way onto the menu of top London restaurants.
Steven is even regularly shipping it as far afield as Hong Kong.
And it's all down to farmers like Peter.
-So what are we looking for? About 40 kilos?
Yeah, somewhere there. But we have to knock 3.5 kilo off
cos our scales are not working properly!
-Can't you just adjust it at the top?
-We could, but it's past adjustment.
-Oh, is it? Oh, well. As long as you know.
So why is Herdwick lamb and mutton considered
in such high international regard?
-Put a pop on that.
-Yeah, put a pop on that.
Most growing lambs you see dotted in fields around the UK
are commercial crossbreeds.
Now, in that system, lambs would be ready for the table
at about three months. But for farmers who farm Herdwicks,
well, they've got to wait much longer.
In fact, these are proving to be ready at nearly ten months old.
-Come on, boys.
-Which means more time for the sheep
to take in the fells' amazing grazing.
And for local chef Tim Brown, it's time well spent.
Oh, Tim, this smells absolutely unbelievable.
You've got three hungry farmers who are waiting to be fed.
-That's correct, yes.
-I'm hoping this is Herdwick on the menu.
Of course it is, yeah. Herdwick mutton.
-Herdwick mutton, right.
-From my brother's farm in Eskdale.
And looking at your trusty anatomical menu here,
loin, you can see, is this part here.
-But you also do neck, you do shoulder, leg.
Obviously, it's different cooking processes
for different cuts of the animal, you know?
The more working parts, we cook slower, for a longer time.
The prime cuts, we can cook quick.
What have we got going on here, then?
-These are beautiful, colourful bowls.
-This is just salsa verde.
We have some tzatziki here,
made out of smoked beetroot instead of the cucumber.
Wow. Are you a big fan of Herdwick?
The Herdwick has got a lot deeper flavour than you can find
in more intensively farmed sheep.
And also, it's got to pick up the flavour from the terrain.
Yeah, quite something for you to be cooking it down
in the farmyard, looking up at the fells?
-Yeah, it is.
-It's nice, isn't it?
Very special, very unique in flavour.
Well, we need to get on and eat this, don't we,
to be honest with you. So, lads, come on and eat.
Look, it's like a pyramid, a fell of Herdwick.
A fell of Herdwick.
Do you know, at the end of the day,
this, really, is what it's all about. Isn't it, Peter?
Because you're doing what you can, with the landscape that you've got,
with the sheep that you've got,
that have been bred in this area for this very purpose.
And to taste that finished product is just... It makes it all worth it.
And, you know, deserved that it has that protected status
and it's given that kind of...
-authority in the world of food.
ELLIE: For those looking to the landscape for inspiration,
winter can be one of the most striking times of the year.
This is nice, here.
Where you've just got a sparkle on the top of the lake. That is good.
Norman Ackroyd is one of Britain's most celebrated artists.
He uses an unusual process called aquatinting,
a pre-photographic technique that etches with acid on copper.
We caught up with him on his home turf of Yorkshire,
as he made the most of a rather grey day.
I sometimes think you're of the soil that you're brought up in.
It's something very elemental.
I worked in America for a while.
I woke up one morning in New York and I thought,
"I've got to get back to the British Isles.
"That's what I want to do things about."
I want to go and really explore MY country.
When you start to stare at this, it just looks grey.
But you suddenly realise the colours start to come out.
Wonderful, subtle greens and browns.
And the silvers. To me, it's like a rainbow.
It's as bright as a rainbow.
This hill is called Hood Hill.
There's no real plan. I just go where impulse takes me.
I don't have a, kind of, huge life project.
I just find myself in places like this,
and I want to put over the essence of it.
It's important that one knows the history of a place,
because it's not just a line of trees.
We get into the last outposts
of the Roman invasion here,
and this was a Roman site.
And you imagine the Roman legionaries then,
who got posted back to Italy, to a much warmer climate and they think,
"God, what we... I was in North Yorkshire!"
And remember the times, especially the winters, they spent here.
This is really nice on the copper.
Just take one pace to your right,
and keep holding the mirror there. Right, that's it,
it opens it up a bit. That's good, thank you.
When we print off this plate, it will print the other way around
to what I'm drawing it, so it has to be drawn in reverse.
This is a great etching image, it really is.
This is going to make a nice little plate, I think.
I do my printing in a big warehouse right in the middle of London,
and I live above it,
so if I want to do something at three in the morning
I can just walk down the steps and get on.
It's good as soon as you get back from a trip
to go right in on it, when your hands are still cold. You know?
And that way, I hope to get the freshness
of what it feels like with the rain falling.
Aquatint is an etching process.
It's a way of laying a thin film of resin on a plate,
almost like a fall of snow.
And when you melt it,
it crystallises like the surface of sandpaper.
And you can have a fine grain and a coarse grain,
and those grains resist the acid, but the acid gets in between them,
and so it etches a tone on the plate.
What you want is the bones, the skeleton of the image,
done on the spot. There's something in that original first drawing,
straight onto the copper, that has a magic that you never get
by repeating yourself.
It's the first fine careless rapture.
I don't want to do any more to that.
There's nothing mysterious about it.
It's all very simple, really, once you've got the logic of it!
I'm on a winter wildlife safari.
So far, I've spotted some magnificent red squirrels
braving the season's chill, in the ancient Caledonian Forest.
But now I'm heading for higher ground,
as there's one mountain dweller I REALLY want to see -
the seasonal chameleon that is
the mountain hare.
It's our only truly Arctic mammal,
and in winter, it changes colour
so it blends in with the background,
and camouflages itself against predators...
and knowing my luck, film crews.
The hare's winter coat blends in with the snow -
but with very little about,
I might stand a fighting chance of seeing one.
To help me get a close encounter of the "furred kind",
I've enlisted the help of wildlife photographer
and all-round hare whisperer, Andy Howard.
-You got anything, Andy?
-Nothing yet, Ellie,
but there's plenty around, so it shouldn't be too long,
-hopefully, before we find one.
The images you've got of mountain hares are full of character.
How do you get that out of your subjects?
A lot of time and patience, basically,
and going at the hare's timescale.
But a lot of it is fieldcraft,
it's reading the body language of the hares.
Ideally we want to get really close today.
I'd love to get you within, you know, a few metres of one.
-And I think we should head off and go and look for one.
-Yeah? Let's go.
-Let's do it.
Mountain hares are perfectly adapted to this harsh environment,
with a thick layer of hair,
wide feet like snowshoes, and speed to flee from predators.
And there's evidence we're in the right place.
-This is the sort of classic hare form here.
It's on a leeward side of
-Out of the wind...
Out of the wind. I've actually photographed them in this situation
where they are completely covered in snow,
and you can just literally see
the top of the head and the ears poking out.
So, the snow really isn't an issue for hare.
-If anything, it insulates them against the cold.
-So we can't be far away from them now.
-We can't be far away,
so let's just keep on looking.
As we venture higher up,
in the distance, we catch our first sighting.
Well, there you go, Ellie, look, there's some hares over there.
There's about four or five
-Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
They really stand out, don't they, against that background?
Oh, it's fantastic, there's plenty over there!
Now, I'm happy to see the whites of their coats -
but it's the whites of their eyes I've really come to see.
I just need to get close enough...
-There's a hare sitting in the ditch here...
He's lovely. Aren't you a gorgeous boy?
It's in a lovely ball shape,
it's got its eyes sort of partially closed,
so we know even at this distance we are now,
-it's relaxed and happy with us being here.
So what we're going to do is we're going to move in very slowly...
If it starts to twitch, we know that it's not happy.
It's already closer than I've ever been before, you know.
What we want to do is
we want this hare to know exactly where we are at all times.
This is amazingly close.
-What we're going to do now is we're just going to drop down...
..really slowly, no sudden movements at all,
tell the hare that he's quite happy...
-We're all good. No problems here.
-It's pretty relaxed, isn't it?
We're just coming to say hello.
That's brilliant, we're within just a few metres now.
Hello, little one.
So, look, we're going to see his head tilting forward,
and that's him going down to collect one of his pellets.
It's still quite a relaxed act, though, doesn't seem...
-He's really happy.
He wouldn't be doing this if he wasn't relaxed with us.
Filling the frame! CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKS
Oh, a few of those!
Cor, the detail on that!
-You can see the detail, can't you?
-It's remarkable, yeah.
Shall... Shall we really go for it
and try and...?
Let's say hello to him.
You are beautiful, aren't you?
Aren't you gorgeous?
You're lovely, aren't you?
Look how close we are!
Listen, it's not going to be on the Countryfile calendar,
but I'm happy with that.
-'..forecast, issued by the Met Office
'on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
'Forth, Tyne, Dogger, Fisher...'
Cold and unforgiving - the North Sea.
'..fog patches, occasionally very poor.'
This is Filey on the east coast of Yorkshire,
where winter can be a turbulent time.
'..otherwise increasing gale 8 at times. Rain at times, moderate...'
fishermen have braved these waters to bring home the catch of the day.
But the story of the fishing industry is also interwoven
with a fascinating yarn about winter woollies.
This is a tale of love, loss,
fish and fashion.
# I don't know if we'll get lost at sea
# Or we'll end up where we're supposed to be
# Are you brave enough to swim against the tide?
# Oooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh! #
Today, the last great fishing families of Filey
spend most of the winter months inside,
mending their lobster pots and creels.
But Graham Taylor remembers when winter was the season to be at sea,
This is one of the winter lines, long lines.
Each man had five of these,
and hopefully we're going to fish in the right place.
What was it like, Graham, working out at sea, in small boats,
in the middle of winter?
Very cold, for a start.
-Bearing in mind you're three men in an open boat.
If the weather was bad, we went,
because that's the only reason you'd get any money.
But that was it, it was a way of life.
As their battered boats tumbled through the waves,
fishermen like Graham and the generations that went before him
were thankful for one simple reminder of home -
their thick woollen jumpers, known as ganseys,
or here in Filey, as guernseys.
Now, as you know, I'm partial to a good pullover.
But I'm told that often these were so tightly knitted around the neck
and the cuffs, to keep out the wintry blasts,
that when you pulled them over your head,
they could actually make your earlobes bleed.
In other places, they're known as knitfrocks,
but whatever name they're given,
they all serve the same purpose -
Knitting and fishing have long been intertwined,
both part of the fabric of coastal life.
And it's what links Graham to his wife Margaret.
She's one of the few keeping this centuries-old tradition alive.
It's a labour of love.
So how old do you reckon those needles are, Margaret?
I would think these needles are about 100 years old.
They belonged to my grandmother.
I've used them constantly since 1967.
Well, what is it about these jumpers that makes them so special, then?
They're special because the guernseys knit all in one piece,
on five needles, and they're close-knit.
So this makes them kind of water resistant, and almost windproof?
They fit tight to the body - they're like...
referred to as a second skin almost.
And is there a kind of standard pattern for them, then?
There's about 17 variations of guernsey patterns that I'm aware of,
but we have our Filey pattern.
-This is the shingle on the beach.
-The diamond - that's the mesh of the nets.
-This one is the cliffs - you walk down in a zigzag pattern.
If that was a double row, two stitches side-by-side,
it's the ups and downs of married life...
..or walking along life's path together.
This one's also got the initials in, of the wearer.
If you found that jersey on a washed-up body,
somebody in the know would know that that was a Filey guernsey.
-They would know from the pattern it was a Filey jumper...
..and they would know exactly who the victim was because of the...
-Because of the...
-They don't take identification to sea with them.
And there would be nothing worse than not having the body
-brought back to the right place.
It takes a skilled knitter like Margaret at least 100 hours
to complete a guernsey.
You couldn't make a living knitting these.
They're a garment of love, you've got to want to knit them.
And you want to do them for somebody who will appreciate them.
Ah! Here comes Graham...
'wearing his latest Guernsey.
'Over the years, Margaret has made him 25, and he's kept them all.
'And this is the very first one she knitted for Graham,
'more than half a century ago, when they first started courting.'
The lady who taught me, Lizzie Hunter,
she was an old fisher wife, and said,
"If you're going to be serious,
"then you've got to learn to knit a guernsey".
Graham, was Margaret the first girl
who knit you a jumper?
Actually, there was a young lady
who used to come down on the Cobble Landing
and sort of mix with all us young fishermen.
But she obviously didn't impress you as much as Margaret.
So that was quite a challenge for you, then, Margaret?
It was definitely a challenge.
Mine had to be better than the one he already had.
It also had to pass Lizzie's approval,
which this one did.
When I'd finished it, that was the end of the lessons.
I never had any more lessons.
Well, I'm not a fisherman,
but I've managed to go through my career as well just wearing jumpers.
I bet you've never worn a Filey guernsey.
I have not!
I've got one here if you want to try it on.
Well, yes, thank you.
This is a grey one!
-Grey for Sunday best.
-Oh, that's it?
You had a blue one during the working week...
-And a grey one...
-..and a grey one on a Sunday.
Sunday best, just like Countryfile.
Ellie is in Scotland on a winter wildlife safari. The Cairngorms National Park is home to 25 per cent of Britain's threatened wildlife species, and Ellie hopes to spot some of them.
Matt is on the Cumbrian fells, where a winter's day barely starts before it is over. He meets Peter Bland, who farms herdwick sheep. These are the hardiest of herds, and their blizzard-proof fleeces can embrace everything that winter throws at them. Matt hears how their access to amazing grazing on the fells all year round creates a real depth of flavour to their meat.
John Craven is in Filey on the east coast of Yorkshire, where he hears the history behind the fisherman's gansey, a winter woolly with a distinctive pattern.
Richard Taylor-Jones is on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. This one of the best places in the UK to watch birds of prey in winter because of the amount of food on offer for them. To avoid being eaten many of the birds stick together in huge flocks, hoping to confuse the attackers, and this is a spectacle only seen at this time of year. Richard sees just how many birds of prey he can track down in one day.
In Carmarthenshire, Adam is meeting the farmers pulling out all the stops to preserve the future of some of our oldest and rarest cattle breeds.
We also spend a day with one of Britain's most renowned landscape artists, Norman Ackroyd CBE. Inspired by extremes of weather, Norman embraces winter and creates shadowy studies of some of the harshest landscapes of the British Isles. We see him on home turf - at Sutton Bank, North Yorkshire.
We also meet budding designer Jamie Kunka in Perthsire. He transforms the surrounding trees into handcrafted, and now award-winning, skis. We see him at work and hear about his ambition to make skis that will last a lifetime and be beautiful enough to hang on the wall between the seasons. Then we put them to the test on the snowy slopes.