The Countryfile team is in Worcestershire. Matt Baker visits Witley Court, while Helen Skelton meets the creatures of the Wyre Forest and cooks up a Malvern pudding.
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Worcestershire - a county of contrasts.
Mature woodland, mighty rivers and acres of fruit orchards
and farmland make up this decidedly rural county.
I am at one of England's most stunning country houses -
or it would have been, if it hadn't burnt down nearly 80 years ago.
Now what remains today are these spectacular ruins which still
give us clues to a bygone age.
In the north of the county is the Wyre Forest,
one of the largest remaining ancient woodlands in Britain.
You might think there isn't much going on in the woods at this
time of year, but actually this place is teeming with life and
some of it you will only find in this forest.
But I am going to need this to help track it down.
It's feeding time for the hogs...
Pigs will eat anything
and with millions of tonnes of food being thrown away every year,
it seems logical to turn that into pig feed for these ladies.
But not everyone is so keen on that idea. And I'll be finding out why.
And with floods in the news,
Adam's been seeing how farmers are really coping.
This is one of the worst affected areas - the Somerset Levels.
And the rural communities around here have seen
flooding on a biblical scale. These should be fields, not a lake.
I'm meeting up with a farmer who's battling on despite 95% of his farm
Worcestershire in the late winter sun.
Rolling fields carpet a patchwork landscape.
Traditional orchards dot the countryside.
Nestling in the shadows of the Malvern Hills, the rivers Severn
and Avon carve their way through the county.
And Worcestershire's got a lot more to offer than just its sauce.
I am in Great Witley, ten miles to the north of Worcester,
visiting a place once considered one of England's
greatest country houses.
Now, one of our most spectacular ruins -
It is absolutely immense.
And from this perspective, I mean, you wouldn't necessarily know that
it was a ruin, but it does have a haunting presence, you know.
It's beautiful. But it's eerie.
Domesday Book records as far back as 1086 show the modest
manor of Witley as being owned by a cousin of William the Conqueror.
But it wasn't until the 19th century
when owned by the Earls of Dudley that this place really came
to life and became one of England's most impressive stately homes.
Historian Nick Molyneaux is telling me why.
Nick, this is certainly the day to see what was quite a creation,
but when did this place become grand?
It was the Foley family who built it in the first place
as a really grand house in the earlier 18th century and
they were the ones who made their money first in the Black Country
and then invested it out here in the Worcestershire countryside.
Then it was taken over by the Earls of Dudley who
invested their money from the Black Country.
They take it on in 1837 and spent huge amounts of money
in the 1850's and '60s to create this grand house that we see today.
OK, we're talking about earning money in the Black Country.
What did they do there?
They owned mines, I think as many as 200 mines, some of them
quite small and some of them large.
And then they owned not just the raw materials,
but the place of production so they owned a number of iron foundries.
As we look out here, look at this view, it is
absolutely delightful, how much of what we see would they have owned?
I think that's a silly question, actually! The lot!
Not only did the Earls of Dudley own 14,000 acres of Worcestershire,
they owned 25,000 acres throughout England.
We are talking serious wealth!
The family's home here at Witley Court reflected that. Dripping with
lavish adornments, parties raged for days at a time within the opulence.
Eating exquisite food and dancing to the finest music,
all in the grandest of company.
In fact, a local lad was known to tinkle the ivories here on occasion.
A young Edward Elgar, whose dad used to tune the Dudleys' piano.
The court was particularly famous for its elaborate shooting parties
attended by the Prince of Wales, later to become Edward VII.
Do you know, standing at the top of these steps,
it's very easy to just transport yourself back in time.
You could just imagine all the carriages sweeping up this
grand drive and all the excitable maids tried to sneak a peek
at the esteemed guests who were turning up.
'A hint of the decadence we're talking about
'is reflected in the church,
'an opulence not usually given to a Church of England building.'
Goodness me! Nick, I didn't expect this.
Not content with having just the finest mansion, this house also had
one of the finest baroque churches in the country.
It has been kept in pristine condition by the local parishioners
since the Dudleys were here.
So where does all this design kind of originate from?
Because you don't walk in here and think "Worcestershire".
No, you don't. We've got paintings on the ceiling from Italy.
An organ up here.
-It's an organ that Handel, the great musician, played at himself.
And finally, we have this fantastic gold-encrusted...
Well, you might think it was plasterwork,
-but actually it is the very latest thing.
-Wow! And this is...?
-Made in moulds.
Is this all still original, then?
Yes, this is the real thing from the 18th century,
and you could buy it and stick it on your wall.
Quite clearly, with this amount of money,
you could do whatever you wanted.
Every aspect of life here at Witley was lived on a grand scale,
but it wasn't to last.
The Dudley fortunes built on the mining industry were on the wane
due to foreign competition.
In fact, it is said that there was
an urn at the bottom of the stairs that the Earl would toss
unpaid bills into on his way down to breakfast.
Now, they eventually sold this place in the 1920s to a local carpet
manufacturer, but that family could only afford to run one wing.
So the staff was dramatically cut
and parts of the house were left abandoned.
In the space of one September's night in 1937,
its existence as a rich man's home changed for ever.
A devastating fire ripped through the east wing.
The rooms that once dripped with exquisite decorations
went up in smoke.
Witley Court was never lived in again.
Lack of maintenance meant that the Victorian sprinkler system
hadn't been looked after properly.
Mind you, it didn't help that the local fire brigade weren't used
to such massive outbreaks and they parked over the fire hydrant.
Later, I'll be peeling back the centuries to get a sense
of what this place was like in its heyday.
And to get a rare glimpse of where the fire that signalled
the end for this most stately of homes started.
Now, as we have heard before on Countryfile, every year,
we throw away millions of tonnes of food in the UK.
But could some hungry animals stop it all from going to waste?
Nothing is as content as a pig in muck
but, in recent years, the people who farm them have had something
to celebrate too - pork prices are better and the British
industry as a whole has a worldwide reputation for its high standards.
Everyone seems happier, including these hungry hogs.
That insatiable appetite
obviously means they get through a lot of food.
In fact, feeding pigs is the biggest single
item in the cost of rearing them.
And on this small pig farm in Cheshire,
the difference between expensive feed or cheaper feed is
the difference between profit and loss.
Many pigs are currently fed on a diet of processed food,
a large part of which is soya.
It's not cheap, and because it is linked to the loss of South American
rainforest, soya comes with its own environmental controversies.
But closer to home,
there might just be an untapped source of pig food created by us.
We throw away 15 million tonnes of food every year, and a new campaign
called the Pig Idea thinks we could be using this stuff a lot better.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Pig Idea.
The Pig Idea is made up of a group of chefs, celebrities,
environmentalists and food waste campaigners who have managed
to generate quite a bit of publicity over the past few months.
Hands up - who's had some pork?
'I'm meeting author and co-founder of the campaign Tristram Stuart
'to find out why he thinks we should put pigswill back on the menu.'
They are walking food waste machines, aren't they?
What exactly is pigswill?
Pigswill is all the leftover kinds of food that we people haven't
eaten and which pigs love to eat.
They have very similar digestive systems to us
and they can eat everything that we leave.
So, why should we be feeding that to pigs again?
What is the big idea behind your Pig Idea?
We have an enormous problem globally and that is increasing food demand.
Particularly feed demand for an increasing production of livestock.
It is putting huge pressure on ecosystems like the Amazon
rainforest, which is being chopped down to grow more soy.
We need to replace the use of those feeds with the kind of waste
that at the moment is being chucked away as a valueless waste product
but, in fact, is hugely valuable.
Are you being naive suggesting feeding swill to pigs?
Well, what we are proposing is to go forwards to a new
era of centralised food waste recycling plants that are really
safe, cook the food so it's totally sterile
and safe for pigs to eat, and is properly regulated by the government.
'Tristram's argument makes some sense,
'but if it's that simple, why aren't we doing it already?'
Everything from sprouting potatoes to bits of bacon rind
goes into the tanks.
Well, in fact, we used to.
Historically, pigswill was a staple part of a pig's diet.
The smell of the cooking swill is no perfume, but the pigs love it.
And during World War II,
it was essential for keeping pork in the ration book.
The recipe for traditional pigswill is pretty simple - any waste food,
could have come from your plate, the kitchen or a food manufacturer.
Because the thing about pigs is, unlike farm animals, say,
sheep or cows, which are vegetarians, pigs are omnivores.
So they will eat meat, fruit and vegetables, biscuits.
You name it, they'll scoff it.
So why did pigswill disappear from the menu?
Well, in 2001, the foot-and-mouth crisis
led to over six million animals being slaughtered.
The whole outbreak is thought to have started
because pigs were fed illegal swill.
As a result, feeding stuff like this, kitchen waste,
including meat, to pigs, was banned in Britain 2001
and across the rest of the EU two years later.
Some food waste can already be legally fed to pigs,
but what isn't allowed at the moment is feeding them
anything that has come from domestic or catering kitchens,
even ones where there is no meat.
Yet there are some people in the industry who like the idea
of swill as a cheaper form of feed.
Julian Price and his son Richard run a small free-range pig farm
in Cheshire producing artisan sausages,
and they are keen to keep their cost down.
-Do you already feed your pigs some leftover food?
-Yes, we do.
We try and feed them as much legal waste as we can.
And that varies depending on what time of the year it is.
During the summer, we can manage to get hold of a lot more.
So we get fruit and veg, we get brewers' grain, spent grain,
we get bread waste from bakeries.
And we get a lot of apples and stuff.
So, during the summer, the waste can make up to maybe 70-80% of the diet.
During the winter, we have to rely a little bit more on commercial feed.
So what you think of the proposal behind the Pig Idea to enable
you to feed swill as well?
I think the idea behind the Pig Idea, which is to stop the terrible
waste of waste that we currently have, is a great idea.
As long as - you know, this is what they see as well very clearly -
that waste is safe, that it has been processed correctly,
then I am all for it.
And how do you think it would help you in your business?
It would help my business enormously
because it would bring down the cost of feed.
In the two years that I've been doing this,
the cost of feed has gone up 30%.
It would literally, with us, make the difference between losing money
and breaking even or actually making a profit.
But even before disease led to the ban, there was
another issue with pigswill - the flavour.
Some farmers say it made their pig taste of fish.
Others thought it led to spicier pork.
So could the same thing happen today?
What kind of things have actually gone into it?
They had things like lettuce, carrots,
they had lots of whey, tofu, which was a by-product from a tofu farm.
And even some beer slops, which they thought were great, too.
'I'm doing a taste test with restaurateur and Pig Idea
'campaigner Thomasina Miers and her legal waste-fed pork.'
Is it not possible, though, that if you feed pigs waste,
some of the taste of that waste will get into the meat
and it might not taste that great?
Oh, no, no, no, the very contrary.
As a chef, the idea that a pig will be eating delicious slops of whey
and beer and vegetables, I mean, that's a great thing.
That means their diet is going to have many more tastes in it than
the kind of mass-produced grain.
So, here we are. Here's some we made earlier.
That's a very simple dinner, isn't it? Two large bits of meat.
-I'm loving it!
I will cut some off here.
I'll give it a go straightaway.
Very good. Proper pork flavour, nothing I would say that is unusual.
You know, no taint of anything that came from the waste.
'It does of course depend exactly on what the pigs are eating,
'but waste-fed pork has passed the taste test in other countries.'
Japan, South Korea and some states in the USA
all endorse feeding swill to their pigs
as long as the waste is boiled and sterilised before being consumed.
So, feeding swill to pigs might cut food waste, reduce the cost
of rearing pigs in the first place and help struggling pig farmers.
And, on top of all that,
I can tell you that the waste-fed pork tastes pretty good.
But as I will be finding out later,
not everyone thinks the Pig Idea is a great idea.
At first glance,
a winter woodland might not appear to be a hive of activity.
But delve a little deeper
and you will be amazed at what secrets lie waiting to be discovered.
This is the Wyre Forest, 6,000 acres or 2,500 hectares
of stunning ancient woodland.
I've been invited to join the forest study group,
a dedicated team of super-sleuth wildlife detectives
investigating the mysteries of the natural world.
And I've come prepared.
Harry Green has spent the last 20 years
crawling around on his hands and knees in the fallen
leaves of West Worcestershire to search for teeny, tiny creatures.
Right, Harry, what exactly are we looking for?
Well, we're looking amongst the leaf litter here for tiny little
things called land caddis.
They're curious little insects
and the larvae live in small cases only a few millimetres long.
You've got these little slightly curved cases made up
of grains of soil and bits of leaf litter.
Caddis flies are normally found on the water.
Why are these here on the land?
Well, it's a difficult question to answer.
We've got about 200-odd species of caddis in this country
and there's only one species here which lives on land.
And they live amongst litter. It has to be fairly moist.
-Do you find land caddis all over the country?
-No, you don't.
When we first started looking for these, they were found in Wyre
and round about, going down to the city of Worcester in that area.
They have not been found anywhere else in the country.
I came prepared because they are very small.
-You don't seem impressed by this piece of kit!
-Well, I thought
I ought to have brought my deerstalker hat to go with that!
Right. I need... Actually, I don't even need that. Is this one?
Aren't you a clever girl?
Yes, first leaf you've turned over and there's an old land caddis case.
Right, I'm going to keep going.
Another wee beastie bedding down under the trees is the slightly
easier to spot lemon slug.
Its vivid yellow colour makes it a fascinating creature to discover.
It's not just the creepy crawlies that are getting special attention.
The secrets of the trees themselves are being
investigated and getting the full forensic treatment.
Clocking up 20 years in the study group, Mike Averill.
He likes to spend his summers surveying dragonflies,
but on this wintry day, he is here to measure the impressive Catshill
sweet chestnut tree.
-Mike, what a stunning tree.
-Hello, yes. It's a fabulous tree.
It's probably about 450 years old, we think.
And what do you learn by measuring it?
Well, it tells us how much the tree has progressed over the years,
whether it is decaying, where the branches are dropping off.
It's like a health check. An MOT, if you like.
We measure it at regular intervals every ten years or so
-and we measure it at this set height.
-Right, well, let me help.
If ever a tree were going to be in Harry Potter, this is it.
We know the last time we measured it officially it was 9.6.
I think we're going to be something like 9.7.
It's a slow-grower.
This tree has expanded ten centimetres in ten years.
Sometimes trees can actually reduce in their diameter,
because they decay and bits drop off.
So that's probably about right for a tree of this age.
-Can anybody measure and register a tree?
If anybody thinks they have found an ancient tree or a sizeable tree,
all they need to do is take a photograph, get a measurement
of the girth, and send it into their local biological record centre.
Some of our major detectives
are always on the trail of another mystery.
Former teacher Rosemary Winnall is dedicated to recording
the Wyre Forest's wildlife wonders.
But keeping a close watch on her own garden
led to a remarkable fungi find.
Well, I first saw it in the year 2000
and I didn't recognise it as a species I knew.
So I sent some specimens off to the mycological research lab in
Kew Gardens, and the experts wrote back and told me it was a waxcap.
They said they thought it was a relation of the parrot waxcap,
but it was only last year when Martyn Ainsworth did his DNA
project into waxcaps and earth tongues
that he recognised that it was completely new to science.
-Isn't that good?
-Yes, new species.
-How long ago was this?
-Well, it's been up now for two weeks.
I took that photograph a week ago
and we have had some frosty nights, and look, look what's happened.
-I think it's over its best, don't you?
-In two weeks?
So what is this called?
This has been named Gliophorus reginii.
-And can you eat them?
No, I don't think so.
I know you will never forgive me
if I don't say this is what it looks like at its best.
This place is a real treasure chest, isn't it?
What else have you found around here?
Well, you won't believe this, but one day last summer,
I spotted a water shrew just in that little pond just there.
So you've been here 15 years.
How many times have you seen a water shrew?
Once. Last year, just there.
It's amazing you managed to get a photograph.
I got the photograph to prove it.
You can tell a water shrew by looking at the colouration.
The division between the black upper fur
and the white belly fur is very distinctive.
I've got a remote camera there
which, wonderfully, has a close-up lens attachment.
So it means now that I can film small mammals.
Obviously, I am hoping for a water shrew.
Whether one will come back here again, I don't know.
But in the meantime,
I'm getting some lovely pictures of common shrew and pygmy shrew.
-Your own reality TV series going on right down here.
Cameras catching anything going on.
It's a little mini world down there with all sorts of surprises.
And this is the latest from Rosemary's hidden camera,
a wood mouse.
Fellow shrews and a wren have all taken the bait here.
Far from being a quiet season, it's worth looking carefully
when you're out and about this winter.
Who knows what other mysteries are out there?
I'm at Witley Court,
an architectural gem built on the riches of the Industrial Revolution.
Country home to the Earls of Dudley, who were famous for their parties.
Before a devastating fire stripped it of its riches,
this place oozed wealth and luxury.
Not only was it famed for its lavish parties
but also for its extravagant gardens,
created by leading landscape designer William Nesfield.
The star being its huge Perseus and Andromeda fountain.
The great and good would gather on the steps overlooking
the garden to see the spectacle.
The main jet is said to have reached a height of 36 metres,
making the noise of an express train when in full flow.
Whilst the fountain remains majestic, sadly,
the same can't be said for the house.
So the disastrous fire of 1937 may well have robbed England
of one of its finest stately homes, but there is a lot more
to this gigantic skeleton than these bare bones that you see before you.
I'm going beneath its bones with tour guide Ann Baynton
to see a side of Witley Court the public doesn't often see.
You get a very different sense, don't you,
-when you're this side of that brick wall.
And this is where there really would be a hive of activity all the time.
Just along to the right here, we have the butler's room.
And of course the butler's room was here
because immediately opposite, we have the wine cellar.
We've got the lovely wine bays here.
With a capacity of around 6,500 bottles,
this lot really knew how to throw a bash.
When they had their grand parties here, it would have been a busy area.
It would have been the motorway, really, along here.
You can just imagine folk passing with things, and trays and stuff.
From the kitchen, food would have been taken down to the food
holding room, and from there, taken to the dining room and the ballroom.
'The Earl of Dudley's wife, Lady Rachel,
'had her own sunken bathroom here in the east wing.
'And believe me, this is one heck of an en suite.'
-Oh, gosh, yeah!
-You get a good idea, actually, of how...
Oh, I'd be in now. Oh, I'd probably just...
Yeah, I'd probably just turn round and push off and do a backstroke.
Yeah, that's lovely, isn't it?
Oh, can you imagine the opulence of just kind of coming
down these marble stairs into this glorious hot bath with the fire on?
Yeah, absolutely. Money was no expense.
Ohh! "Bring us a bottle of wine, would you, from that store room."
'But it was down this corridor that fateful night in 1937
'that Witley's days of grandeur went up in flames.'
The bakery is where the fire started. It really caught hold
because there weren't many people on site at the time in the building.
-So nobody knew it was going on, then?
The fire ripped the heart from the house.
The dining room, once adorned with the latest Louis XV styling,
home to so many elaborate meals, was reduced to tatters.
The magnificent ballroom, where many tripped the light fantastic,
is now a shell.
And the endless entrance hall that once welcomed,
a hollow reminder of the days of privilege.
During the 1950s and '60s,
the whole estate was threatened with demolition several times
amid plans of turning this place into a housing estate,
a caravan park and, believe it or not, a Grand Prix circuit.
But it survived all of that,
and the grounds have now been designated as an ancient monument.
Hopefully, this historic show-stopping ruin
and its bare walls evocative of a life of privilege
will stand for many years to come.
Earlier, we heard about a new campaign to bring pigswill back
into the farmyard, but it is not without controversy. Here's Tom.
Pigs aren't picky when it comes to food, and now a determined
group of chefs, celebrities and campaigners want to feed them
with the millions of tonnes of food waste that we create every year.
They call it the Pig Idea.
They say it's simple - bring back pigswill,
food waste which includes catering waste like this bread here.
It's hoped that would do two things - bring down the cost
of feeding pigs and also help deal with our food waste problem.
It sounds like a good fit, but although some big producers
support it, most of the big boys in the farming industry don't.
OK, so what's happening with these guys now?
We're going to give them some of their jabs, same as children
have before they go to school to protect them from the outside world.
'John Rigby is a large scale pork producer.
'His Red Tractor-approved business was built up by his grandfather,
'and in the past, they collected and fed pigswill to their herd.
'Today, it's a different story.'
So, John, what do you think of the idea of returning to feeding swill?
I am rather anti returning to swill for quite a lot of reasons.
I think the issues over the feeding of meat...
PIG SQUEALS ..and the recycling of meat
within the animal feed industry
came to a head with foot-and-mouth.
It could happen again, and I am slightly worried that even
visiting the subject again encourages part-time pig keepers,
the cottage industry, to see it as a way of saving cost
and recycling within their own domestic...
Really? So you see real danger in this whole Pig Idea business?
I see danger in the Pig Idea even discussing it.
Where is the traceability here?
We don't know the origins of this product and, as such,
I would be really, really unhappy feeding it to the pigs
because I don't know the origins of the food now.
I'd be really unhappy because the public wouldn't...
I couldn't sell the pigs
when I had finished producing the pigs feeding swill.
I would be really unhappy because the UK pig industry would be ostracised
and the price of British pigs would drop.
It's not just disease that worries John.
He's concerned about the impact on flavour, too, and seriously
doubts that swill would be cheaper than other processed feed.
His view is shared by many of those who run large pig farms
and is also supported by the National Pig Association,
who even go as far as to describe the practice of feeding swill
to pigs as "cannibalistic".
'Richard Longthorp is the chairman of the National Pig Association,
'which represents more than 700 pig producers around the UK.'
That's quite a generous bowl of breakfast cereal there, isn't it?
Yeah, I'm not too sure I'd want to eat it!
'I'm meeting him at a feed process plant just outside
'Liverpool to find out what he thinks about the Pig Idea.'
Feeding animals to other animals, cannibalism, if you want to call it
that, clearly there are consumer perceptions
and understandable consumer perceptions around doing that.
Currently, it doesn't take place, and I don't see consumers being
ready to jump on a bandwagon of seeing a return to that.
The major risk, of course, is the potential for exotic disease.
Things like foot-and-mouth,
classical swine fever, African swine fever,
coming across in infected meat from the continent, from other
places in the world, and being fed back to pigs or other animals.
But would it not make feed potentially cheaper
for pig producers, who you should be representing?
Well, of course, any centrally and highly regulated swill
feeding programme and process would bring with it additional cost.
Even if it was cheaper, the risk associated with feeding
pigswill, in my opinion and that of others, the HVLA, government,
the view is that risk is too great to take.
The Pig Idea says the risks from risks from swill are unproven
But with most of the industry so firmly against its return,
is the campaign simply a "pig" waste of time?
Well, not necessarily,
as there is one important area where the industry
and campaigners do see eye-to-eye - the use of more legal food waste.
It is already happening at this factory.
In fact, all the material in here, 500 tonnes of it, was originally
destined for human consumption and is now going to make animal feed.
And what is being thrown away is a real eye-opener.
You've got mountains of breakfast cereal.
Cascades of crackers.
And even chocolate bars.
They all get mixed together in a recipe to make a desirable
dish for pigs.
There are about are million tonnes of legal waste like this
we could use to feed livestock in the UK every year.
Not just dry stuff, but dairy products, fruit and vegetables, too.
But we're still not using its full potential,
so is this what we should be focusing on?
A return to feeding swill seems like a step too far
for the bulk of the industry.
They are so worried about the safety and consistency of their product.
But even if this part of the Pig Idea fails,
the campaign has at least helped highlight the huge amount
of legal food waste that these hungry hogs could be eating now.
HELEN: We've seen this week
how flooding is really bad news for farming.
In the Cotswolds, Adam is finding out how geology
is at the bottom of it all.
Around 200 million years ago,
the scene here would have been very different.
It was the Jurassic period, like Jurassic Park,
with all the dinosaurs.
And it's thought the area would have had a shallow,
warm sea across it, a bit like the Bahamas.
And it's hard to imagine on a sort of classic Cotswold day
like today, but if you look down, the clue is in the stone.
And I quite often pick up fossilised echinoids.
There's a little one and a big one there.
They are basically fossilised starfish,
and you can see the legs of the starfish there.
And then, also, little bivalves as well,
that shows that it was shellfish which are fossilised.
You can quite clearly see the shell on that one.
And, really, when it comes to farming,
geology is very important, because it is a clue to the soil
and how you can farm and what you can farm on it.
Such stony ground sometimes presents problems, but after the wet weather
of the past few months, that Cotswold stone has been a blessing.
Where this bank has been cut away, you can
get a clear profile of what the land is like here.
We're about 300m above sea level.
With very little topsoil, it's quite thin on the surface
and then it quickly goes down into this shaley stone and rock,
right down to bedrock.
So, in the summer months, we are bit prone to drought and this land
dries out quickly, but in the winter, particularly like it is now,
when we're getting lots of rain, it's very free draining,
so if I get this bucket of water and pour it on, what happens is,
the water just percolates all the way through these stones.
And it'll run right down to the bedrock.
And if I pour it on there, it's just like pouring it down the drain.
It just disappears. And so we have got some wet patches on the farm.
A few puddles lying around.
But nothing in comparison to some farmers.
This winter has been a wash-out of epic portions.
-Heavy rain and floods have been swamping part of the UK
-since before Christmas.
-Whole communities are shut off.
More than 100 flood warnings remain in place as forecasters
predict more heavy rain today.
Floods, they're destructive, expensive
and it seems increasingly frequent.
Just about every part of the UK has been affected.
But I'm heading to the Somerset Levels and moors,
where they've had the biggest flood on record.
It's estimated that the area has been swamped by 65 million cubic
metres of water. That's 26,000 Olympic swimming pools.
In a county with agriculture at its heart, this is devastating.
As one farmer knows all too well.
-Amazing view from here. Where's your farm?
Yeah, just over there, you can see the buildings
and the high trees, basically, everything you see underwater.
James Winslade's family have farmed here for 150 years.
He has 600 cattle and arable crops on rotation.
-We farm 840 acres and we've got 790 underwater.
-So, 95% of the farm.
-Goodness me. Standing here, it's amazing.
I've never seen anything like it. And the flooding goes on for miles.
Yes, there's 31,000 acres under water at the moment, which is
2.8% of Somerset is underwater.
Which doesn't sound a lot, but it actually is a fair amount.
-It sounds a lot to me.
My goodness me. Where has all the water come from?
-How does it happen?
-The River Tone comes in which meets
the River Parrett. And it's like a funnel.
You get the water coming from both rivers,
but it just can't get away, so it backs up and it spills out over.
And that's the main problem. The river is higher than the land.
So, every drop of water on nearly all of the moors has to be pumped,
manually pumped, which costs an absolute fortune.
So shall we go down and see if we can get to your farm?
Yeah, yeah, we can give it a go.
Much of the Somerset Levels is a natural flood plain,
designed to fill with water and then quickly drain or be pumped away.
But this is extreme, and it's not the first time this rural
community has experienced flooding like this.
In the last two years, James's farm along with many others has been
underwater for months at a time.
Winter wheat turned to paddy fields, hundreds of cattle had to be moved.
It was described as a once in a century event.
Now, many farmers are reliving the nightmare.
Even accessing James's farm has become an epic journey.
On these flooded roads, you have to be quite careful, don't you?
Yeah, it's not too bad when you can see the edges of the road
and the verges there, but as we get deeper,
the verges tend to disappear.
And if you don't know the roads, you can soon end up in a ditch,
which, there's ditches either side, which are about six foot deep.
The Environment Agency has overall responsibility for drainage
and river maintenance.
Last year, they spent £45 million on clearing rivers around the UK.
Many believe too little has been done in Somerset to prevent
the rivers from silting up.
The estimated cost of dredging rivers here is around £4 million.
And so far, the Environment Agency
and its partners have pledged just £1 million.
The Environment Minister Owen Paterson has promised
an action plan to provide a long-term solution.
But it can't come soon enough for James.
-So this is your land out here?
-It's just like a lake.
-It must be so depressing.
-Oh, it is.
You work hard all year round to keep your farm pristine.
I don't do much gardening, my farm is my garden,
I love being out on it. You're farming for the next generation.
At the end of the day, we're only custodians of the land,
and, you try and make it better.
But it's taken out of our hands all the time.
For farmers affected by the floods, the impact is both emotional
James lost £160,000 last year, and he fears bigger losses this time round.
Against all the odds, James has to keep on farming.
There are 600 hungry mouths to feed. And the herd is growing by the day.
James, I've never seen anything like it. This is unbelievable.
Yeah, it's really quite depressing, really, isn't it?
-And there's a foot of water in this cattle shed.
We had to get them out last week, because it was coming up so fast.
I was hoping that we would move them into the sheds over there,
but we managed to get the straw out.
There was 500 bales of straw in there we managed to get out before
they got wet. But you can see, we're getting deeper.
-Nearly over my wellies now.
-Yeah. I know.
All this silage sitting in the water can't be good for it.
No, no, the trouble is, as you know, if we puncture it,
and we're not using it quick enough, it will rot anyway.
How long can the crops and the grass survive underneath the water?
About 21 days, which actually, it's 21 days today.
So, from now on, everything will start degrading
and you'll get a worse smell, really. Everything rotting down.
It's pretty smelly, isn't it?
Yeah, it absolutely stinks, to be honest.
We've had a sewage farm flood onto the moor,
all of the septic tanks have flooded in the village.
Our septic tank has flooded.
We've got dung heaps now in water that never flood normally,
and that's going out into it, so, yeah, not good.
Even as I was speaking to James, the water was rising,
dangerously close to the cattle sheds.
But work on the farm can't be put on hold,
no matter what the elements throw at you.
James still has to feet and bed the cattle.
Shall I cut the plastic, and you pull it off?
Luckily, he has his son to lend a hand.
George is only nine years old
and is keen to become the fourth generation to farm here.
He's certainly learning how tough farming can be from an early age.
So, James is bringing the straw in now to bed these cattle down.
It's a really clever machine that throws out the straw to
give them a nice, dry bed to lie on.
Well, this bed won't remain dry for long
if the water levels rise any higher.
That's that job done.
What's it like, sort of everyday farming with all of the floods
-the way they are?
-Well, you know, it's always busy.
Winter time, you're feeding cattle, bedding up, scraping out,
doing general maintenance to machines, ready for the spring.
And when the sun comes out, hopefully it dries up.
-Let's hope all this water disappears.
-Yes. Yes. Before too long.
Well, it's been great to met you.
-And you, thank you very much.
-Don't get disillusioned.
-Best job in the world, farming.
-All right, take care.
Making a living from the land is a tricky business,
with so many variables.
And then there's the elements to contend with.
And as the debate goes on to what should have been done or
what could be done in the future to stop such devastating floods,
one thing is for sure - it takes a lot of determination,
a huge strength of character and a whole load of hope to keep
farming in such difficult conditions. And thankfully,
there are farmers like James doing exactly that.
Since I visited James's farm,
the floodwater has risen by a further ten inches.
And as a desperate measure,
he's now considering selling some of his cattle.
With more rain on the way, it will be some
time before things return to normal.
Despite being in the depths of winter, the gentle
transformation before the sun rises is a magical time to observe nature.
And that's why I'm out at first light,
because this is the avian rush hour.
This morning, I'm going to be helping ecologists who track
the birds that have decided to spend their winter break
here in the beautiful orchards of Worcestershire.
Turning up before dawn to monitor the visiting winter
birds are a group of volunteer bird ringers.
Today, they're looking for fieldfares and redwings.
Filling me in on the process is ornithologist Tim Dixon.
Under the nets, we've set up mini MP3 players with little
speakers and those are blasting out the social calls
and the advertising calls of the birds that we're trying to catch.
Mainly redwings this morning.
Theoretically, we intercept them in these nets where
they get caught in the soft nets and then we go along and take them out.
Well, I can't handle the bird, but I can help you weigh it and
-things like that, can I?
-Lead the way, Tim.
With a million birds ringed every year, the data collected
goes to the database for the British Trust for Ornithologists,
so winter migrants like these fieldfares can be tracked.
So how old you think that bird is?
This is an adult,
because there's no molt limit. All these feathers are uniform.
-All these feathers are the same age.
-We're looking at these feathers here.
-They're the greater coverts.
-You work out whether it's a male
or a female by the shape and size of the little black
streaks in the crown.
This has a wing of 148 millimetres. How's your mental maths?
-We weigh the bird and the bag.
Let me make sure that that's firmly on the bag.
So if this is an adult...
Stand up, hold it by the ring. That's it.
-Tell me how much it weighs.
-Remember that, because now we've got to weigh the bag.
-So it's 103.
103 grams, OK.
-Is that good?
-Yeah, that's a good weight.
-So now we let it go?
Let it go on its merry way.
Coming from the thrush family, fieldfares
are social birds in winter
and can be seen in the UK's countryside until spring.
Redwings are fellow thrushes
and you're most likely to spot them here in winter.
Their orangey-red colouration makes them distinctive.
It's a privilege to see these beautiful migrant birds up close.
You can understand why this orchard habitat is so appealing.
When the ground is frozen, taking worms off the menu,
these sugary fallen apples provide a bird banquet,
but the mistletoe berries are an acquired taste.
There are three birds that do eat mistletoe,
-the most common one is the mistle thrush.
Which is where its name comes from.
And there are thrush just like the fieldfares
and redwings we've seen, but they're not migrants,
so the mistle thrushes as we have are with us all year round,
so unlike the redwings, which may be flying 6,000km to
get here in the winter and 6,000km back again,
your average mistle thrush probably goes no more than
a kilometre from where it's born during the whole of its life.
So imagine if you are lucky enough to have an apple
tree in your garden, you probably encourage everyone to leave
the apples that are on the ground, don't clear them away.
Well, leave some of them for the wildlife,
take some for your tarte tatin and your apple pies,
but leave some of them for the wildlife, because
the wildlife needs it and you'll get enjoyment from watching them.
Making orchards more appealing to our winter birds
and animals is a crucial part of countryside conservation.
Especially in counties like this one and its neighbours Gloucestershire
and Herefordshire, all of which are famous for their orchards.
Will Edmonson's grandfather planted three orchards on the family farm,
but the trees stopped being commercially viable 30 years ago.
Thanks to some help from a council grant scheme,
Will's traditional orchard is getting a makeover.
What's the plan for this orchard then, Will?
Well, we're planting a range of different apple trees in here,
This one is a Blenheim Orange, which is an old-fashioned variety.
And we're gapping up amongst old trees that are here,
so, we're sort of re-establishing the shape of the orchard
in the old grid that it was years and years ago.
What made you want to replant this orchard then?
It's been something in the back of my mind for a few years,
because, you know, almost from a heritage point of view,
you realise it's going to be gone.
Another few years, each year goes by and you lose another tree,
and there's only a few left.
You get to a tipping point where suddenly, it's no longer an orchard.
-Good luck with those. I hope they fruit for you.
How long do you think it will be before you get apples?
Three or four years before we get a decent crop.
So it's not too long to wait.
It sounds a long time, but it's not too long.
But these apples clearly came from another orchard.
That's right, yeah.
They were picked earlier in the season, September, October time.
Over in Herefordshire, just for the other orchards are.
I love cooking apples, but I don't think
even I could get through all of those. If you are happy, I'm going
to take these and turn them into a local Worcestershire desert.
But first, what's the weather got in store for the coming week?
This week, we've been exploring wild and wonderful Worcestershire.
Matt's been behind-the-scenes
and the ruins of the once grand Witley Court,
while I've been getting hands-on in wintry orchards,
a stone's throw from the magnificent Malvern Hills.
I have my locally-grown apples and plenty of them,
but what am I going to do with all of these?
Well, this local school is so proud of its namesake pudding, it's
still on the menu after 40 years.
So, yeah, brace yourselves, I'm going to have a go at making it.
We're at Malvern College,
although you'd be forgiven for thinking it's Hogwarts.
It opened in 1865 and its claim to fame, CS Lewis,
author of the Chronicles of Narnia, was a student here.
Now, at the heart of every good school is the kitchen.
And brave cook Fran Browning is letting me
be her sous chef along with students Rupert and Hebe.
Malvern pudding is basically apple with a creme brulee on top.
The original recipe was with a white, sweet sauce, but now,
because tastes have changed, we do a creme brulee.
And in the houses that it is eaten, I think it's quite popular.
-So, where do we start? Presumably...
-We start with washing the apples.
-Rupert. There you go.
-And can you use any apples?
I personally always use a good cooking apple like a Bramley.
The Malvern recipe was most likely cooked up
around the mid-19th century, as a generic apple custard pudding.
It would be eaten as a cheap and hearty midweek desert
which could be spiced up to make it posher.
It was enjoyed in homes from Worcestershire to Somerset,
but here in Malvern College, a house master's wife, Betty McNiven,
introduced it to the menu.
Oh, that's a good sound, isn't it? Let's start on the sauce.
How do we make this then?
Right, this is the amount of eggs that
you need for that size dish. OK?
-That's a lot of eggs, isn't it?
-So get cracking.
-I'm going to do like you're doing it! Shall I?
-You don't cook, do you?
-No, I'm not particularly talented, no.
Fran, how do you think your apprentices are getting on?
I think you're doing quite well, actually.
I'm not so sure about Rupert! THEY LAUGH
Well, I just had my own technique. But mine was working.
This is quite a traditional school, isn't it?
-And this is quite a traditional pudding.
I think it's quite nice. It makes the school a bit different,
having all these old traditions, otherwise,
they'd be so similar to everyone else.
Well, it looks good, it smells good, let's see what it tastes like.
So, how will my pudding compare?
There you go, Hebe, tuck in and let us know what you think.
Rupert, you could have had a bigger spoonful!
-Well, I didn't want to take everyone else's, so.
-What do you make of it?
It was really tasty, yeah, really, really tasty.
-Generous eight out of ten.
-Eight out of ten, Hebe?
-It's actually quite good.
-You sound surprised.
Well, by our cooking skills, I am actually quite surprised.
Shhh! Sebastian, I know everybody in this school
loves chocolate brownies,
would you prefer this or chocolate brownies?
This was surprisingly good.
-I think I'd go for this over chocolate brownies.
Well, I love brownies, but I think this definitely.
You, down the end! You seem to be really enjoying that pudding!
-You all right?
-Oh, it's fantastic.
-Don't talk with your mouth full!
-Can I have some more?
Yeah, course you can. There's a whole big bowl here.
-That's absolutely delicious, actually.
-What do you think of it?
-It's light, airy, it has depth.
-It's got texture.
-Well done, team.
-You did a good job here. Honestly, you really did.
-A generous eight. I would say an 11.
-Thank you for that.
Well, that's all we have time for this week.
Mmm. Quite a nice way to finish! Next week we're going to be
in the Lake District visiting some of those scenic spots that
you see in our opening credits.
The question is, who is that man swimming in the lake?
I'll be recreating the rock climbing scene with
some of the pioneers of the sport in the area, so
-that's all happening on next week's show. We'll see
-you then. Mmm!
-Mmm! I'll keep this.
-It IS good, isn't it?!
The Countryfile team is in Worcestershire. Matt Baker visits Witley Court, which was one of England's most stunning country houses until it burned down in 1937. Now, Witley Court is a spectacular ruin which still holds the clues to a bygone age.
Helen Skelton is in the Wyre Forest, one of the largest remaining ancient woodlands in Britain, where she hunts for the creatures who make this special habitat their home. Helen also visits the county's famous apple orchards, where she sees how essential they are for our winter birds, and cooks up a Malvern pudding with some of the apples from the orchard.
Jules Hudson is also in the county, on the Severn Valley Railway, meeting the volunteers who spend the winter months spring cleaning the trains and the tracks.
Every year we throw away millions of tonnes of food in the UK, so could some hungry animals stop it all going to waste? Tom Heap looks at the idea that discarded food could be turned into pigswill. But, as he discovers, not everyone is quite so keen.
Adam Henson heads to Somerset, one of the areas worst affected by the winter floods, to meet a farmer who is battling on despite more than 95% of his land being under water.