Sean Fletcher is in Carmarthenshire in west Wales taking a look at working animals. He meets one of the world's leading experts on birds of prey.
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Animals are a big part of our lives.
Whether at play...
..or at work.
They are our companions and co-workers.
And we both reap the benefits.
In this programme, I'll be looking at the way animals,
large and small - very small - work alongside us.
From the people keeping alive past traditions to the new ways we're
using animals to manage the landscape. And even teach our kids.
We started domesticating animals thousands of years ago,
and even today, in a world of hi-tech farming,
they're helping us to work the land and protect the countryside.
I'm headed for South Wales to learn more about the bonds we form.
Meeting a man who's made it his life mission to work in harmony
with our wild, and not so wild, friends.
And I'll be looking back through the archives of some of the working
animals we've featured before.
Like the time Anita met the rescue dogs being taught new tricks
to help protect wildlife.
-She's found it.
-That's her indication.
-Look at that wagging tail. You are a genius.
A little genius. Yes, you are.
And when Adam stepped back in time to help restore a special landscape.
The lake would have been dug out by hand.
And the spoil carted with horse and cart.
There was no other way of doing it. The JCB came a long while after.
And also the time Ellie got her hands dirty,
meeting some of the hardest working creatures of all.
Worms, they do a lot for the planet.
If you love the planet, you've got to love these guys.
High on a sunlit hillside in Carmarthenshire, I'm meeting
one of the world's greatest experts on birds of prey.
Dr Nick Fox.
With your elbow, drop your elbow in nearer your body.
OK, and then float it.
It's only a little bit that's fallen out.
Nick's been involved in birds of prey all his life and was awarded
the OBE for services to falconry, and to the conservation of raptors.
A passion he combines with a love of horses.
Say I want to ride this horse fast,
I've got to be able to hold this hawk really smoothly.
-The aim of the game is to keep the cup very still...
Clench your fist.
Even the falcon, if you watch a kestrel hovering,
the body moves, but the head's still.
Jimmy, let's see how you're doing. How are you?
Do you want to take the...?
You've done really well there, half a cup.
Not too bad, I've got a bit of a wet knee.
I can see a few dribbles down your leg. That's the water.
That looked really hard, didn't it? Does Nick make it easy?
Yeah, he does, yes. Unfortunately he does make it look very easy indeed.
-What do you think Nick will give you, a B+? C-?
-I don't know.
In all honesty.
-I'll have a word with him.
Part of Nick's skill is employing different methods for
training different types of working animal.
And these two are poles apart.
The horse is a herd animal, while the falcon works alone.
Only herd animals can understand the punishment.
Dominance hierarchies are a herd thing, a group thing.
This is a solitary predator.
If I tried to punish her, she'd just clear off,
she'd think that was an attack. So I can't do that.
And it was a training for a knight in the old days,
the falcon wouldn't obey him, he can only ask her to do things.
He can't force her to do things.
So you have to control your temper and train something without
Can you imagine training your children without being able
to growl at them and say, "No!" No, you can't do that,
you can only go through rewards.
Gosh, my kids would not respond to that, that method, I have to say.
-OK, we better let you get on with your work.
-Off you go.
From horses and falcons, to man's best friend.
Dogs can make great working companions,
and, as Anita found out, even become wildlife heroes.
Don't be fooled by these cute pooch-like faces. This is not an
ordinary team of dogs, this crack team of canines are sniffer dogs.
Their noses are trained to sniff out everything from drugs to
explosives, and that's just the start of it.
These dogs do more than just police work, they sniff out wildlife, too.
Everything from bats to pine martens and newts.
With building projects encroaching on the countryside, it's more
important than ever to detect and protect vulnerable species.
Good dogs. Well done.
Professional dog handler Aaron Klein trains these remarkable dogs.
-Who are these two?
This is Phoebe, and this is Bryn.
What is it about dogs that makes them
so good at being able to sniff out wildlife?
Well, first of all, it's their nose.
I mean, dogs have got millions and millions of scent receptors,
and also their drive.
Working dogs, especially labradors, spaniels, cocker spaniels,
their drive is incredible. And they love to please people.
-Do you breed them specially here?
-No, we try and rescue all our dogs,
so we either go to rescue centres or we go to pet homes that are
looking to re-home their dog, because there's plenty of dogs
in the UK already, we don't need to breed, we don't need puppies.
We might as well give a dog a second chance.
So, is this pretty much the last chance saloon for these dogs?
For some of these dogs, yes, there have been dogs that are ready to be
put to sleep, and we've said, "No, we'll take that dog on,
"we'll train it up."
-OK, let's go.
-Lead the way.
-Come on, guys.
-Wow. Good jumping.
-So, who is this, Aaron?
-This is Ned, and he is our bat detection dog.
Why would you need a bat detection dog?
Well, it's to do with wind turbines.
So, obviously more wind turbines are going up,
and there needs to be a method to detect the mortality rate of
bats being struck by the turbines.
There is human methods, and it's just people walking through a field,
looking for a bat that is literally that big.
But we found out that dogs can be way more effective.
Right, then, Aaron, how do you go about training Ned to detect bats?
Well, it all starts with a tennis ball. So, what we do is,
we start to hide the tennis ball and get Ned to search for the ball.
Then once we're happy he's doing that,
we then put the ball with the bat.
And every time he finds the ball, he smells this bat.
And then all we do is, we then take the ball away, and then once he gets
to the smell of the bat, he's like,
"All right, I usually have my ball here."
And then that's when you throw the ball in.
So it's all about association for the ball with the smell.
So this is what we are looking for, and it's as small as that.
Time for Ned to follow his nose.
Earlier on, a bat was hidden somewhere in this five-acre field.
Now it's his job to find it and point out its location to Aaron.
Good lad, Ned.
Good lad. Find it. Good boy, Ned.
Is that it?
-I think he might have got it.
-Do you think?
Where is it, bud?
-Has he found it?
-I think he has.
He's giving me his indication to tell his dad that he's found it.
So what he'll do now is, I'll click him, and he gets his reward.
-And that's it, he's happy now.
-He just wants his tennis ball.
That's right, that's all it's about.
Isn't that incredible, man's best friend and this
amazing sense that means,
in this huge field, he's managed to find that tiny little dead bat?
Exactly. And to you and me, it just looks like a tiny leaf.
You know, you'd never spot that. But Ned, there's no fooling him.
These clever canines don't draw the line at dead bats,
they're trained to sniff out and search for other rare creatures,
like pine martens and dormice, even great crested newts.
These creatures are fairly widespread in the UK,
but their habitat is under threat,
so knowing where they are is helping conserve them.
-OK, so here we have a newt, and we have another dog.
-Yes. This is Kim.
She is still in training currently.
Because we have to think about the newts as well,
-it has to be kept in a jar.
-OK. Shall we test it?
-Yes, let's do it.
-I'll go off and hide, and you can put it out for me.
-OK, off you go.
Fantastic. Come on, Kimmy, let's go. Come on, sweetie. This way, Kim.
Come on. Kim, this way.
Now, I can hide this anywhere in this field.
I'm going to put it somewhere in the logs.
Let's see if I can really test Kim the dog.
And don't worry, it's OK for me to handle these animals.
There you go.
How about that?
-OK, Aaron and Kim, I'm ready.
-Let's go. Good girl.
This way, sweetie. Through you go.
Good girl, Kim. Kim. Are you ready?
Ready for it. Go find the newts.
Good girl, Kim.
Skills like Kim's are in demand.
Any new building project is obliged by law to seek out
great crested newts on site, and if necessary, relocate them to safety.
Good girl, Kim. Good girl.
Good girl, Kim. Good girl.
-Oh, I think she's found it.
-She's found it?
-Yeah. That's her indication.
-Look at that wagging tail.
-I'll just give her a reward. Good girl.
-Show me where, sweetie. Good girl. Well done, Kim.
Let me just check.
There we go. There's our newt.
Kimmy, you are a genius. A little genius.
Yes, you are. Yes, you are.
-Good girl, sweetie.
-My goodness me.
Their sense of smell, that you could train, it's fantastic.
-Oh, I know. They are incredible.
-So, what does the future hold?
Well, in terms of conservation, this is just the beginning.
You can teach a dog to detect anything.
So, the future looks bright.
I'm in Carmarthenshire,
where bird of prey expert Dr Nick Fox trains falcons.
But he's not just flying them,
he's supplying birds to enthusiasts around the world.
And he's giving the natural process a major boost by breeding and
rearing these little cuties.
Well, more like ugly duckling at the moment,
but believe me, when they grow up, they turn into stunners. Don't you?
Falcon chicks can fetch £10,000 on the black market.
So these legally bred ones are helping curb demand for
birds taken from the wild.
It's hard to imagine that this will grow into
a magnificent bird of prey.
But they do. How long does it take, and how old are the these ones?
These ones are around about five, six days old.
Well, their feathers and wings have hardly developed.
When will this one fledge?
This one that will be fledging in about six weeks.
-Gosh, he's got a lot of growing to do, hasn't he?
they do grow quite quickly.
Over in the nursery,
it's feeding time and there's a tasty treat in store.
This is... It looks like a sort of beef mince but very rich.
-What is it?
-This is actually rat mince.
HE LAUGHS You are joking!
-They eat rat's mince?
And they've got a couple of things to go with it. What's that?
We have a probiotic here and this one's a calcium supplement.
So sort of like yoghurt and a glass of milk.
Katie, this one is desperate to have some food. Can we give him some?
Yeah, we can feed him.
I've got some rat's mince for you! Yes, I have.
-So, you're Mum today.
-I am, yes.
Oh, Mum's got a surprise for you...
-Bit overbalanced there.
Calm down. Can I have a go?
Yeah, of course.
So they just keep eating more and more of this
until they're full or...?
Well, they will keep screaming past the point that is really
-good for them.
-Yeah, so you have to monitor them.
We have to limit, which is why we weigh them
and keep a monitor of their weight.
You must get to know them and their different characters.
Do you have names for them?
We don't name them, just because we have too many,
but we know exactly which chick comes from where.
VOICEOVER: But Katie has a special relationship with this one's mum.
I worked with her this year
and built a sort of pair-bond with her, so she looks to me as her mate.
-And so I can inseminate her and this little guy is the result.
So you're sort of like the daddy.
Yes, I am the daddy for that one.
These chicks have all been hatched from eggs that were removed from
their mothers and then hand-reared, but that means some
mother birds have to be taught how to be a good parent again.
And it's all done with a dummy egg.
It's called a born-again egg and we use it with inexperienced
mothers who've never seen a chick before
and we can put a chick in.
I'm not sure he will fit.
But if I can just get a smaller one...
-..will just sit over the top.
This will go into the nest with inexperienced parents
-so they can see him hatch out.
And they think it's their baby.
Yeah, it makes the connection between egg and chick.
If they actually see one hatch, then it makes the connection that this
is why they've been incubating the eggs all along,
this is what it's for.
And it looks like Balooka the saker falcon
has bonded perfectly with her chick.
We've been training falcons in the UK for about 3,000 years,
but these guys, alpacas, are something of a newcomer,
and they're not just about soft woolly scarves and hats, as Ellie
found out in the Leicestershire countryside the winter before last.
Beneath these wide-open skies and not too far from the M1,
some colourful foreign visitors have found a new home,
bringing the taste of South America to Leicestershire's rolling hills.
I was working in industry and I was looking to do something different.
We had the opportunity of some land
-and I took the plunge and I bought three or four alpacas.
And then very quickly after that I ended up going from the four to
about 55 in the space of about three months.
And his flock continues to grow.
Chris now farms around 80 alpacas.
As a bloodstock breeder,
he's always aiming to improve the quality of his herd.
-This fleece is what it's all about, isn't it?
-It is indeed.
Beautiful! I can have a little feel of that.
Soft, soft, soft, soft.
And there's a grading system, isn't there?
Yeah, they are graded, and they're graded one to five, and it's
-a number of traits that are taken into account.
The staple length, the crimp here, going from end and to end like that,
the uniformity of that length, and all of these things produce
a very, very fine, very, very high quality product.
They're pretty placid, aren't they? Are they quite easy to look after,
-would you say?
-They're used to that hardy environment in the Andes.
-So they're low-maintenance but, like all animals,
-it needs a lot of care.
Alpaca fleece goes for more than eight times the price of sheep wool.
But Chris has discovered that their gentle nature has even more value
-for those who really need it.
-See the boys over there?
-We're going to feed those first.
Pupils from Maplewell Hall special school visit the farm once
a week to enjoy the therapeutic benefits that interacting
with these placid, affectionate creatures can bring.
Mel Ison is the assistant headteacher.
What are the different special needs of your pupils?
We have a range of different needs.
Our children are classed as moderate learning difficulties.
Within that we have visual impairment, we have some physical,
just general learning needs, to different behaviour needs, as well.
And what do they get out of coming to somewhere like this?
It helps them to understand that they can look after somebody else.
It helps to regulate their emotions, to talk and communicate
using the animals.
It helps them just to talk about what is going on in their
-minds and what they think about different things.
And how about their behaviour once they get back to the classroom?
How is that different?
They're a lot more settled,
they're a lot more engaged in what they're doing and that helps
them back in the classroom to make progress, too.
-It's incredibly rewarding to see.
-and they really enjoy it and they come back buzzing.
So, yeah, it's really nice to see them and really proud of what
they've done with the animals.
-Come on, then.
There's another Ellie here today.
She's 12 and has autism.
I'm joining her in taking two alpacas called Seraphino and Michael
for a walk.
What are the different jobs that you've got to do?
-Feeding them is the main one we do.
Which is your favourite job?
Taking them for walks.
Is that nice? What about your least favourite?
Probably picking up the poo.
-And do you look forward to coming here?
-Is it the best part of your week?
Cos I get to miss lessons.
Ellie's dad, Nigel, has seen a noticeable change in his
daughter's behaviour since she's started coming here.
She's always much calmer when she gets home from this.
And it's all about helping Ellie to cope with her anxieties, because she
doesn't express nerves or fear or frustration the same way that we do.
Why is it that looking after alpacas has had this effect on her,
do you think?
You do the right thing by the alpacas and they give the comfort
and the relationship back.
We have to work on trying to get Ellie to be able to cope with
everyday life, and that's tough enough for all of us,
let alone somebody with Ellie's challenges.
Hopefully, what she's doing here will help her to cope with that.
Lovely, it's great to see.
Alpacas may be prized for their valuable fleeces but to Chris
and the children of Maplewell Hall,
the value of these animals is beyond price.
We're taking a look at some of our working animals,
and the places they work can often be surprisingly grand...
..as Adam found out when he visited the Capability Brown-designed
gardens at Euston Hall in Suffolk last year.
Capability Brown was responsible for changing the landscape
of 18th-century England.
He moved hills, created lakes and shaped the countryside.
He worked on some of the most famous estates in the country,
such as Blenheim Palace
He was highly sought after by the aristocracy.
It's thought that Brown worked on more than 170 gardens
I'm at one of them, Euston Hall in Suffolk,
discovering one of his remarkable landscapes.
To celebrate the anniversary,
these grounds are being transformed to their former glory
and what's really exciting is that the heavy work is being
carried out by a magnificent team of Suffolk Punch horses, just as
they would've done 300 years ago.
I can't wait to see them in action.
There's only one man in this country that has the horsepower
to take on such a task.
I met Nigel Oakley earlier this year.
He breeds Suffolk Punch horses
and it's not often I meet anyone so passionate about a rare breed.
Nigel's picking me up in style
to see these beasts of burden in action.
How are you?
-Good to see you.
-Lovely, thanks. Lovely to see you.
I should be calling you sir, shouldn't I?
Something very similar, though not spelt quite that way!
-Can I jump on?
-Yeah, please do.
-What a wonderful way to travel.
-Lovely, isn't it?
And to think we've got a Suffolk horse, category one of the
rare breeds, pulling us along - it's a privilege for all of us.
It really is.
So, the lords and ladies would've been taken around estates,
in fact this would have been their transport, wouldn't it?
Well, it would've been the only form of transport available
in that time.
You know, you're talking the 1700s - that's 300 years ago.
Horses were only really just coming into it, cos it'd have
been oxen prior to that.
But in your mind, the Suffolk is one of the best?
The Suffolk is indeed the best, yeah.
What we're here for today with the gardens,
they would've been horsepower.
The lakes would've been dug out by hand and the spoil carted
with horse and cart, there was no other way of doing it.
You know, the JCB came a long while after!
To find out more about the restoration, I'm meeting with
the Countess of Euston Hall, Lady Clare.
30 years ago, Brown's original plans for the estate were uncovered,
which means the grounds can now be renovated to his original design.
How exciting was it when you found Capability Brown's drawing of
-It was so thrilling
because the whole thing had been lost.
The river had silted up, there was nothing to be seen of these
glorious lakes and broad waters.
And now you've brought it all back to life.
Yes, in the last sort of two years it's been totally opened up again.
We had to move 60,000 tonnes of smelly mud from the river -
60,000 tonnes - which...
That must have meant in the old days that would've been
about 120,000 journeys.
Quite incredible, isn't it,
when you think of the scale of it,
how many horses must have been working on the place.
-And today, you're celebrating the Suffolk Punch horse...
..but getting them to do some practical work
-in the boggy areas, too.
-It couldn't be better.
They couldn't be better suited for parkland work.
They've got fairly small feet,
and tractors make such a filthy mess.
Everything had gotten so overgrown.
We had to cut down all the old trees and pull them out,
-and horses are far better than tractors for that.
And I think they have got a great future in parkland restoration.
These Suffolk Punches have such incredible power.
They drag the logs to the edge of the woodland with ease,
where they're then loaded onto a timber cart for transportation
using an ingenious method.
How do you think we would load this log on here
without the aid of any mechanical means?
So, we've got to get it up onto this beam.
Up onto here, without Paul Daniels or anybody else.
I don't really know. I'm not sure.
I don't know how you're going to lift it off the ground.
Oh, I see, so they're using those
logs as a bit of a ramp.
Yeah, and then the endless rope comes over to the wippletree.
The wippletree's the spreader bar on the back of the horse
-which keeps the chains from his hocks.
The endless rope, we'll just twizzle it up.
There we go. Wow, look at that.
-That's so clever, isn't it?
Marvellous, really, when you consider - a very, very simple
technique, and very little equipment to carry around with you.
A rope doesn't weigh too much.
So, how many trunks would you get on here?
Well, with a single horse pulling it and in these wet conditions,
where the ground's not that solid,
probably five of those sort of diameter, length logs.
And then you'd obviously take them to your depot, roll them off,
and then come back for another load.
Incredible, the work of Capability Brown, but even more
amazing, the men and the horsepower
that created these beautiful views.
Without the horses and the men, it could never have happened.
We have a job to imagine it now.
We've had, I don't know, 10 or 12 horses here today, and this estate,
even in the memory of Lady Clare, had 40 horses working here then.
And that was the intersection between horsepower
So, in the days of genuine horsepower,
-there must have been hundreds of them.
Well, it's been a real treat to see them all coming together.
-Thank you for inviting me along.
-Not at all. Thank you.
It's been a spectacle for me, although I work with them every day.
ADAM LAUGHS Thanks very much.
At Dr Nick Fox's farm in South Wales, they're rearing
falcon chicks to help meet the worldwide demand for birds of prey.
But once they fledge, the falcons need lessons in how to hunt,
and Nick has an ingenious way to teach them.
They're not just breeding birds here - they're building them.
Years of experiments and field trials have resulted in
robotic birds that fly like the real thing and mimic live prey.
This is an eerie place.
Scores of robobirds, like some invading force.
Factory manager Matt Aggett is going to show me how one goes together.
Well, Matt, this is a fascinating place, if a little spooky,
I have to say.
-And you're the Victor Frankenstein putting it all together.
-So, tell us what you do?
-So, it's a little bit bizarre,
but these are the key components of our rocrow.
Here, we have his body. And he's powered by this fan.
This is an EDF, and this is a fan that blows air through the model,
and it's really important for this sort of design that we have
something that a hawk couldn't reach.
It's not a dangerous thing - it blows air through the middle.
This is the other half of his body.
We spin it round and we have his tail fin,
and this keeps the model straight to make sure it flies
in a lovely straight line.
That looks very creepy.
It's like something out of Alfred Hitchcock's Birds film...
-It's a bit strange in the eyes.
-A modern-day version of it. It is, isn't it?
-And it's a soft head as well, isn't it?
This is designed to take the impact of the falcon.
It's also designed to take the impact from a pilot who makes
a mistake, and puts it nose-first into the floor.
But it's sacrificial. It's designed that, when it gets damaged,
we can take it off, we can peel it away, glue a new one in there,
and the falcon doesn't mind.
-And the falcon can get his talons right into that.
-It's very satisfying to watch.
Here he is together with his wings and all body parts joined together.
-And I think that looks quite lifelike.
-You fooled me.
These birds don't just fly,
they are packed with hi-tech kit -
altimeters, GPS, even cameras.
The starting price for a basic model is £400.
Now, Nick, I know you like birds,
but this is taking it a bit too far, isn't it?
Well, we hunt crows for pest control,
and I needed something,
an artificial crow for training our falcons,
one which I could fly under my control.
This is a handmade prototype.
The falcons have attacked it and wrecked it,
and we've glued it back together.
So, this is an old friend, actually.
Nick soon realised that these decoy birds could serve
an important conservation role, too.
Falconers in the Middle East love to hunt houbara,
a wild bird the size of a chicken.
But they're endangered, so Nick invented the robara,
a dummy bird they could hunt instead.
We got a captive-bred adult male,
anaesthetised him, laid him out on the lab table,
photographed him, so we knew the exact shape,
and we can print all the feather pattern.
Everything's exactly the same as the real bird, but half the weight.
This was a prototype pheasant.
The finished one will all be printed.
-You've even got feathers on the back.
-We've got tail feathers
on the back, and that really gets the hawks excited.
That really turns them on.
So, we can make the same model
look totally different.
But these are all being used for prey for falcons.
On the other hand,
we can equally turn the model into a falcon itself,
this is a peregrine,
and we can fly that,
and pest birds like seagulls on airports
think it's a falcon,
and you can clear the airfield or landfill site with one of these,
and if you use it in combination with your trained falcon,
the birds don't habituate to it.
If I was a little boy again and I had enough money,
I think I would buy one, because they look like a lot of fun.
You still are a little boy, it's all in the mind!
And later, I'll be having a go at flying one of these
little boys' toys,
and seeing how it fares against a real-life falcon.
It could be a one-sided battle.
Now, they may lack the majesty of falcons in flight,
but bees are one of our most important working animals,
and here at this school in North Wales,
they're helping with lessons, too,
as Matt found out when he paid a visit a couple of years back.
-MATT: Morning, everyone.
-How are we all doing?
All right? Now, this is a good school uniform.
Goodness me, this is absolutely extraordinary.
So, we're talking bees, here, Ian. Usually bees and children...
They don't generally mix, do they?
No. But it's such a great topic, because everything fits into
the bee topic - literacy, numeracy, and not only that, it's a business.
So, hopefully, the aim is to sell some of the honey in
the Conwy Honey Fair, which is the oldest fair in Wales, I think.
Every penny made from selling their own hens' eggs last year
has been spent on the bees.
But it hasn't been plain sailing.
We bought two nucleus,
and then they started swarming as soon as we got them.
When they started swarming, did you think,
"This is such a bad idea to have them in a school."
I did question the sanity of having bees on a school site, definitely, yeah.
Particularly when I came back from a course and the teaching assistant said
"The sky went black and they all flew over the vale."
And I thought, "Yeah, bad idea."
Time to see what all the buzz is about,
and help check on the hives.
But do the children know their stuff?
-Will we see if we can find the queen, then?
We'll remove this, then.
Now, who knows what the key to spotting the queen is?
-What does she look like? Why is she different?
and we've put a blue spot on her.
These ones are workers,
cos they're much smaller.
And how are you all feeling at the moment, because these bees,
they've flying around us quite closely, aren't they, now?
-And you can hear them. I mean, that wonderful buzz.
-I'm fine with that.
-You're happy with that, Yeah?
I was terrified, then I just realised
that they weren't going to hurt me
unless I annoyed them or anything.
And if we look after them, they'll give us honey in return.
And they help the environment.
I cannot believe how much you know in just a few months.
And this must be really interesting for you, Ian,
because you're discovering so much.
-I mean, you're not a beekeeper, are you?
-No, no, no.
In the olden days,
the teacher was the lead and everybody followed the lead.
-Now, it's more of a partnership.
We need to find the queen. Oh, there she is!
That's so vibrant, that blue. It's a good job it's there, that spot.
As these bees are all part of the school business,
the children are going to have to learn how to harvest
the honey for when the time comes.
Julian Thompson is a warden of a nearby nature reserve.
He's going to show these budding beekeepers
how he extracts his honey.
We're going to take the caps off the honey.
You slide it in like that.
Take a thin slither off the top.
Keep the lids off, there.
We won't waste these cappings that we're taking off.
A quick spin in the centrifuge.
How are you feeling about the fact that next year
you'll be doing this with your own honey?
I'm very proud of the school,
and all the bees have been working really hard.
Whilst the children weren't looking, I went back to the hives,
and it turns out there was just enough honey for them to get a taste.
This will be a surprise.
Right, listen up, everybody,
because you're all focused on that honey, right, but the honey
that we're going to be trying and tasting is actually your honey.
-What's your opinion? Is it good? Is it good?
-Your face says it all!
Oh, wow, got lots of honey there.
-Really nice, isn't it?
-What does it taste like?
I have tasted a lot of honey from lots of different producers
all over Britain...
..and that is one of the finest.
Beekeepers of the future. Here we go.
The honey business will be great fun for the pupils,
and it's educational, too.
A creative and tasty way of teaching the importance of the natural world.
SEAN: Worker bees aren't the only creatures we can learn from.
In spring, two years ago, Ellie was in Worcestershire meeting a man who
is an expert in an everyday animal that does a very important job.
The 19th-century naturalist Charles Darwin is best known for his
theory of revolution, as set out in his book
On The Origin Of Species.
But what is less well known is his deep admiration for
the humble earthworm.
"It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have
"played so important a part in the history of the world as
"these lowly, organised creatures."
But Darwin isn't the only person to recognise the attributes of
these humble invertebrates.
Ken Nelson is a farmer with a difference.
He farms worms.
Ken farms on a two-acre site in Worcestershire,
where he breeds worms for sale.
Supplying gardeners looking to improve the quality of their
soil, and fishermen out for the catch of the day.
I think this must be the first worm farm I've ever been to.
-Well, it's your lucky day.
-It is my lucky day.
What was the appeal for you with worms?
What made you think, "Yeah, they're going to be what I work with?"
Well, worms, they do a lot for the planet.
If you love the planet, you've got to love these guys.
And they really do play an important role,
breaking down dead organic matter in a process called decomposition.
The process releases nutrients from dead plants and animals,
making them available for living plants.
Oh, it's completely different! Wow.
These are what you would call the backbone of the planet.
Their function is to aerate the soil.
Keep the water from... The drainage and stuff like that within the soil.
So all these tubs are full of worms, are they?
They've got loads of worms in them. Quite a lot of worms.
You've got hundreds of thousands here? It's hard to say, isn't it?
Well, look, I could say you'd find ten or more thousand in a bin.
And the great thing about farming worms is they don't need much
-In the top.
-In the top.
-And then the worms...
-You just top that up with organic...?
Waste, yes. Shredded food waste, veg waste and shredded paper.
A bit of paper.
The dead matter the worms eat passes through their systems and
produces an amazing by-product.
This, the good stuff.
Worm cast, black gold, worm poo, whatever you want to call it.
-And is it worm poo?
-Well, yes, it is, because it comes from a worm.
And this is really the good stuff for gardeners.
Yeah, 100%, 100% organic.
There's ways you can use it to make just fertiliser to put
-over the plants.
-If I was a gardener, I would be all over this.
I've got terrible gardening fingers, unfortunately.
Well, trial and error.
Maybe I need more of this, this is what I need in my life.
There you go.
The importance of worms can't be overstated in decomposition
and the structure of our soils.
It's unlikely they're going to become the nation's favourite
pet any time soon, but really, we should cherish them and ask
ourselves, where would we be without them?
Now, it's hard to believe, but just a few years ago,
this used to be a field full of cattle.
Now it's a stunning lake and home to wildlife, from beavers to
water voles and greylag geese. What a picture!
And for this year's photographic competition,
we want you to heed your call of the wild and get snapping.
It'll be down to you, the viewers, to pick your favourite.
Not only will the winner's picture take pride of place on the
cover of our Countryfile Calendar for 2018,
they'll also get a voucher for £1,000 of photography equipment.
The judges will also choose their favourite photo,
and that winner will receive a £500 voucher for photographic equipment.
So, if you've got the focus to take great pictures worthy of
exposure in our calendar, then why not enter our competition?
Please write your name, address and a daytime and evening phone
number on the back of each photo, with a note of where it was taken.
Then send your entries to...
Or you can enter digital images online via our website,
where you'll also find full terms and conditions.
The competition closes at midnight on July 21st.
We've been looking at the role of working animals in our countryside.
But some take a bit more handling than others,
as Anita found out when she visited the Isle of Wight.
They're fast, they're wild, it's going to take all of us to
round them up, and they're very smelly. I am talking goats.
There's been a herd of old English goats on the island since 1993.
They were brought here from Devon to help deal with the spread of
invasive holm oak trees.
But oh, boy, could we have picked a better day!
There's driving rain and thick mist,
which is going to make the task all the harder.
So, we're here to track these goats.
We're on the steepest hill I've ever had to try and navigate,
really, to try and find goats.
And the goats, so far, are nowhere to be seen.
There are between 30 to 40 goats and their kids somewhere out there,
but there's more than 200 acres of gorse,
bramble and dense woodland they could be hiding in.
See here, there's one of their nests. That's their beds.
-How do you know?
-They scrape the leaves off,
and you've got this sort of slightly shiny bit of ground.
-And a little bit of poo there as well.
-Right, to find the elusive...
-OK, on top, Robin, we'll carry on.
I'm stepping away from the round-up for
a few minutes to find out precisely why these holm oaks
are such a problem.
So, Tony, the holm oak seems rather nice to me,
being in this lovely shady forest.
Yes, and that's what the Victorians thought.
They filled their gardens up with them after they had been on
Mediterranean holidays. And they spread like fury.
They liked the chalk, they liked the climate.
And so we ended up with all our lovely chalk grassland being
-covered in this holm oak.
-And why is that a problem?
Because the grassland is very rich in lots of species,
Adonis blue butterflies, chalk hill blues, and floristically,
these wonderful flowers. And it was disappearing.
-And so that's why the goat cavalry have been brought in, is it?
They actually eat the bark of the tree.
And eventually, the smaller trees, they'll kill.
So the goats are doing their job, it's working.
Is it bringing back the lovely chalk that you want to see?
You can look across the landscape, it's completely different.
So it's working.
This uneven ground might be easy climbing for goats, but the steep
slopes and wet leaves are making it slightly harder for us humans.
There they are. There they are, spotted. Fantastic. They exist.
Push across towards Sean. On the far side. As quick as you can!
Wow. Look at those fellas. Aren't they fantastic? Oh, yeah.
Pfff! They smell amazing.
-This isn't the most glamorous task I've had to do.
-It's quite tough.
Oh, that's horrible. There you go.
Well, I've never cut any other creature's toenails before.
A goat pedicure is a first.
God, this one has got really long nails. Crikey.
32 billies, nannies and kids have been trimmed, tagged and recorded.
I'd say a successful day's wrangling.
And this is it, the goats are about to be released for another year.
Here they come.
There they go. Taking that very distinct smell along with them.
Here at Dr Nick Fox's farm, they are using some industrious
creatures to help maintain the landscape.
Three years ago, Nick set up the Bevis,
a charity to promote his vision of farming and wildlife in harmony.
They released three groups of captive bred beavers in
fenced lakes, so they could study their long-term impact.
-That looks like something.
-Yes, there's actually quite a few here.
-So we've got some footprints.
-That's a big foot, isn't it?
That's the hind feet, and they're webbed.
So you've got the pad and you've got the webbing.
Alicia Leow-Dyke is from Wales Wildlife Trust.
-You look a bit further down, you see that hazel.
So you can see they've taken out some of the main trunks for food and
for construction, but they've left some of the smaller shoots.
The perception is that you think, "Oh, beavers,
"they'll just come and wipe out the whole forest."
But what they've done is left many of these. Managing the forest.
VOICEOVER: If we take a closer look, we can really see the power
of these creatures.
So, the reason they coppice trees, the herbivores,
they like the bark of the tree and the cambium layer behind the bark.
That contains all the sugary goodness for the tree,
and that's what the beavers are after.
We can see the evidence of what they've been up to.
Here's some beaver chips, so they don't like the heartwood,
they spit that out, it's got no nutritional value for the beaver.
But each line is actually where they bit into the tree itself.
-So here we have a beaver skull.
-Look at the teeth on that!
So you not only get...
-You wouldn't want to get your finger stuck in there.
They have... It's really hard enamel on the outside, and soft inside.
So as they chisel away at the tree,
it keeps the incisors nice and sharp.
So they basically lock on their top jaw, the top incisors.
Then using powerful muscles on the skull,
bring up their bottom jaw and that provides the bite.
And each line within the chip and on the trunk is one bite.
So it's the bottom jaw, the bottom teeth, that really do the work?
It takes them a few days or a few weeks to fell a tree,
but if they were to go at it constantly, a tree this size,
they could fell it within half an hour.
Of course, beavers are best known for building dams,
and this is where they're working to help manage the landscape.
Wow, this is quite a construction, it's a feat of engineering.
What they would have done is,
they would have felled a tree across a small stream and then woven
branches and tree trunks into that, packed it with mud.
They've braced it with other tree trunks,
there will be stones in there as well.
-They've thought about this, haven't they?
-Yes, they have indeed.
How long would it take them to build this?
It can take them about two or three weeks.
About two weeks to get the basic structure.
And then they'll keep adding to it until they're happy.
When you see how they've done this, you feel like they're at home here.
-Are beavers at home in this country?
-Yes, they are.
They went extinct around the Middle Ages due to unsustainable hunting.
But other than that,
they are native and it's been shown in Britain and right across Europe
that beavers can be reintroduced, and they are very much at home.
But how can we use beavers to help maintain the environment around us?
Where you have beavers, as we've seen, some of the evidence,
they've coppiced some trees.
That opens up the canopy, lets more sunlight come down to the
ground, which lets the ground floor regenerate.
That can benefit small mammals, invertebrates.
So we can really learn from the beavers and use them as
a management tool.
The beavers are generally seen as a good thing,
but they do need some management.
Just mind your step down here, Sean, it's a bit slippy.
Just downstream, I'm meeting farm manager Drue Love-Jones.
-Nice and sticky, the mud.
I can see the beavers have been busy at work here. Eager beavers.
-Blocking up this culvert.
-This pond needs to flow through a culvert.
But as you can see, the beavers have blocked the culvert.
-It's a real mess, isn't it?
-It's a real mess.
-So, we need to clear this blockage. So, it's time to do some work.
So, just getting this out of the way?
-Yeah, just rake it out, chuck it up on the bank.
..will get the water going through. But the beavers will be back.
-The beavers will be back and have another go.
-So this last bit, this should do it. There we are.
-Well done, Sean.
We could build a fence around the culvert,
and on a bigger watercourse, yeah, we'd probably do that.
But in this instance, it's only a 12-inch pipe,
so we'll put this four-inch pipe down it. Feed it in.
But don't let it go because it'll just vanish.
Yes, it's quite a strong current, isn't it?
And then that's about enough.
Yeah. OK, now drop it in the water and let it fill up.
And once it's filled, it will stay in a position itself.
It's like there's a lot of misconceptions about beavers,
and sort of scaremongering.
And actually, you know quite a bit about them and how they live
-and where they live.
-I think there's a balance sheet with beavers.
And in my opinion, beavers come out on the plus side.
The good they do, like the floodwater empowerment.
For instance, we've got a village just down the road.
We'll be stopping a lot of water going down in flood conditions
like this, when the village is down on the flood plain. So that's
going to reduce the impact of the water going through the village.
We've lived with beavers on the farm now for three years,
and we've seen the fantastic work they do in habitat creation.
They're not going to go off half a mile up a hill and start
killing trees up there. They'll stay here. They like willows.
Willows are their preference.
So, where the willows are, it's where the water is.
We've seen them build caches of food and then, a few months later,
there'll be a kingfisher sitting above that cache of food
because it provides a matrix for all the little sticklebacks and
things that the kingfishers feed on.
We've seen dam chicks nesting in the lodges,
we've seen moorhens nesting in the lodges.
They're really creating a huge amount of habitat for other
We're getting absolutely soaked here.
Now, if you're heading out to the countryside this week,
you'll want better weather than this.
Here's the Countryfile five-day weather forecast.
My visit to Dr Nick Fox's farm in Carmarthenshire is about to
reach its climax.
A duel between robobirds, like the ones I saw in the factory, and
a real-life falcon reared here on the farm.
First, chief technician and expert Rocrow pilot Remy Van Wijk
is going to give me a flying lesson.
So, this is a yummy meal for a falcon.
-Yes, they love it.
-This one's had a bit of wear and tear, hasn't he?
-Been caught by a few falcons.
-Oh, yes, many times.
Let's put him aside, because we practised with this one.
Because you've got dual control.
It's a bit like me learning to drive,
-but you've got controls just in case I go wrong.
-It's exactly the same.
Yes, absolutely. I hit the switch, and then you're in control.
And I can release it in case we are about to crash.
-Think like you're in the middle.
-If I crash, can I blame it on the wind?
-Because it is quite blowy today, isn't it?
-You can blame it on me.
-Should we get this thing up into the air, then?
-It really does look like a crow in the air, doesn't it?
It's gone really high.
At which point do you hand over the controls to me?
Well, we are now about 50 metres high, so I will line it up,
put it left, and there you go. Three, two, one.
-You're in control.
-This is me?
OK. I can feel that. I can feel that.
-Up, up, up, up, up, up.
-Now to the right.
-Have you got it?
-There we go. I take over.
-Was that the bit where you rescued me?
I've almost got it,
but Remy's a real expert and can even manage a precision landing.
You could literally catch the thing.
REMY LAUGHS But you dropped it.
These models are sold around the world to replace live prey in
Remy's job is to outfly the real falcon, flown by Nick.
So it's Team Remy versus Team Nick. I think I know who's going to win.
Yeah, I think so, too.
Doing all right. You're evading her. She's closing in now.
I think your time is up.
Round one over, and we're ready to launch again.
This cat and mouse chase is exhausting for the falcons.
So each one can only do two or three flights.
But they seem to be winning.
She's trying to cut me in the corner.
Oh, she's getting close now.
You can see, they just take over control now and they just
land safely. So she's trying to look for a landing spot right now.
-That was absolutely awesome, wasn't it?
-Yes, it's good, it's good fun.
Well, these guys deserve a breather, particularly that falcon,
after all that exercise. And it's time for us to call it a day, too.
Next week, we're in Worcestershire,
where elderflower champagne corks are popping for Ellie.
Oh, I love elderflower.
Oh! That's lovely. I could drink that for a whole picnic.
And Matt's being led a merry dance by some curious pigs.
The reason I am in here about to get covered in mud is because
I'm going to bring you the curly tail of these little pigs
that could have come straight out of the Ambridge archives.
I should have worn wellies.
But until then, from the hills of south-west Wales, hwyl fawr.
Sean Fletcher is in Carmarthenshire in west Wales taking a look at working animals. He meets Dr Nick Fox, OBE, who is one of the world's leading experts on birds of prey. Nick breeds falcons and has a very special way of training them - using robots. Sean is shown round the workshop where these 'robofalcons' are made. These are precision engineered drones built to look like falcons which are used to train real live birds to hunt. Sean takes the remote controls and sees for himself just how realistic these decoy birds are. He also visits the breeding units and gets to handle fluffy little peregrine chicks. Elsewhere on the site Sean discovers that Nick has drafted in beavers to help manage his woodland. And there's a good chance Sean will be treated to the sight of some beaver kits.
Also in this programme we'll be going back through the Countryfile archives to look again at times when we've featured working animals.