In the beautiful Wye Valley, Ellie Harrison scales a sheer rock pinnacle and John Craven finds out about the monks of Tintern Abbey. Plus, Tom Heap investigates fracking.
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Call it inspirational - a landscape for artists and poets.
Call it inviting - it's where British tourism began.
Call it beautiful - green and deep and winding.
Call it the Wye Valley.
Just look at it. I never tire of coming to this place.
I love the woods and this river.
But today, I'm feeling slightly different.
A little bit anxious, and very on edge.
Could be something to do with this beast.
Unlike Ellie, I'm feeling pretty relaxed
about my visit to the Wye Valley, but then,
this is a place of the utmost peace and tranquillity.
Tintern Abbey, and I'm going to do a spot of time travelling
to find out what life was like for the monks who lived here
before Henry VIII turned it into a ruin.
Tom's in Lancashire investigating a controversial method
of extracting gas from reserves deep underground.
When it comes to fracking, the pressure's building,
with government, big business
and the environmentalists all pushing hard.
So, should we be getting gas from the rock? I'll be investigating.
And Adam's looking at two very different ways of dairy farming.
This cow having her back scratched, and this lovely lady here,
are dairy cows - specialists when it comes to producing lots of milk.
And this week, I'm visiting two dairy farms
that manage their cows in very different ways.
The Wye Valley.
Straddling the border between England and Wales.
At its heart, the River Wye.
Intricate, almost tortuous, twists and turns,
but always majestic, with magnificent views
around every meandering bend.
The Wye Valley takes in the counties of Herefordshire,
Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire.
It's the only cross-border Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
This is the village of Symonds Yat, border territory.
This side of the river is Gloucestershire,
and over there is Herefordshire.
It's not just this picture-perfect river that draws attention.
This spot is also a magnet for rock climbers.
This limestone valley has been shaped over 350 million years by water.
The jagged rocks and sheer cliffs
offer more than 800 tough routes in this even tougher terrain.
Matt was here last, squeezing into the Pancake Caves.
There's obviously a limit
to the people you can actually get in this bit!
Depends how much you like your cake.
'But instructor Sven Hassall is about to tell me
'exactly what he's got in store for me.'
Now then, Sven, talk me through what is happening today.
We're going down to an area of rock known locally as The Pinnacle.
We've got an abseil, because we have to get down there,
and it's all about climbing that and getting off it,
across a Tyrolean traverse.
A Tyrolean traverse? I don't know what that is.
In climbing terms, it is a rarely used climbing technique
to cross a gap. In this case, it's a 9mm-wide rope,
and you're going to shimmy across it above the gap.
Ohhh! I'm really nervous, you know.
So I set out this morning, thinking I was going to have
a lovely day on Countryfile, looking at newts or rare orchids,
and instead, I'm taking my life into my hands!
I've got to do an abseil, I'm all right about that.
Climb, not so great, and this traverse, well, that's just...
the work of madmen. These madmen over here.
'Whilst I get kitted up, let me introduce the rest of the team.
'Sven is assisted by Ryan and Bob,
'and I have also brought along specialised cameraman, Robin.
'He's filmed everywhere from the UK's largest waterfall
'to climbing in the Alps and in the canopy of the Amazon rainforest.'
Come down to me, mate. Nice and steady, no rush.
-All the way to the edge?
'All set to go, Sven gives me instruction on rope technique
'to get me started on the abseil. And more importantly, how to stop.'
-No rush at all.
See, that looks like a shoelace. See how thin it is?
-What happens if the tree goes?
-The tree never goes.
-Trees have fallen down!
-Trees don't meet industry standards.
'This is just the start.
'Before I get to the site where I will make the traverse,
'I need to abseil down a sheer cliff.
'And this is the easy bit.'
-Off we go?
-Off you go. Yeah. OK.
Don't forget to look down, mate.
-Look at your feet. There are some steps there.
-And it's just walking from here, OK?
-Nice and steady. No rush, mate, no rush.
I'm certainly not going to break any speed records!
That's a great position. So we're just walking down there.
-Just walk through this little gap?
-Feet wide apart, bum back.
Hello to you!
Apparently, there is a way to walk down here.
But what fun would that be?
Is it all right like this?
Perfect. Yeah. There we go.
Just keep leaning back. There's a little surprise below you.
-You will have seen that.
-There's a hole!
-Keep your feet on the top and lower your bum back.
Keep my feet on the rock?
Yeah, feet on the top, bum back, and you'll swing into space, OK?
Oh, I don't like this! Whoa.
My word! I like rock, not a great big void.
Hang on. I've still...
Hey! Actually, it's kind of more fun without a rock.
Yes, last few feet. Yes! Hey!
-Yeah, I love that!
Look at that. My fingernails embedded into my palm.
-You make it look so easy!
-It was great fun. I loved it.
-Yeah, it's good, isn't it?
-And that's the warm-up.
I know! I've seen what I've got lined up for me just over there.
'It's the first time I've seen the scale of the challenge ahead.
'Just look at it. I think at this point,
'I need to tell you, I really don't like heights.
'What a way to try and conquer that fear!
'Before I get to that, though,
'Sven will be putting me through my paces
'with a challenging practice climb.'
But next, they've been blamed for earthquakes and flaming taps.
Now fracking, the controversial method of getting gas
out of the ground, is back on the agenda.
The government are keen to see our natural underground reserves
exploited, but what does that mean for those living with
the prospect on the doorstep?
For centuries, we've powered our nation
with energy harvested from deep within the earth.
Coal mines once peppered our landscape.
Now, the UK relies on imports for most of its fuel.
But the discovery of a rich reservoir of gas
could change all that.
It is estimated that there are hundreds of trillions of cubic feet
of the stuff under the north of England alone,
and just a fraction of that
could satisfy the UK's gas demand for decades.
The problem is, the gas is buried deep under the earth,
trapped in tightly packed layers of rock called shale.
The only effective method for releasing it is known as fracking.
Professor Ernest Rutter at Manchester University
has designed an experiment which shows how you get gas from a stone.
I can see the pressure on the dial beginning to rise here.
Just got up to 4,500.
'I'm ratcheting up the pressure,
'forcing pink wax into the centre of this clear plastic cylinder.
'Let's see what happens.'
The liquid is a bit like a crowbar which is wedging a crack open,
forcing it into the rock.
'Real-life fracking uses a mixture of water, sand and chemicals,
'rather than the wax here.
'This forces cracks through the rock like the ones
'we see in our clear piece of plastic.
'The gas trapped within then floats to the surface.'
Isn't that beautiful?
These two butterfly wings, these two planar cracks,
breach the outside of the cylinder.
'Engineers refer to this extraction process as "unconventional".'
But outside the gas industry,
the word most commonly associated with fracking is "controversial".
'In 2010, it was claimed the extraction of shale gas in America
'had resulted in gas leaking into local water supplies,
'with explosive results.
'Geologists say this couldn't happen over here.
'But the inflammatory shots did little to help
'public perception of the industry.
'And then this happened.'
A controversial drilling operation for natural shale gas
has been suspended after a small earthquake near Blackpool.
At Preesall in Lancashire, the UK's first attempt at shale fracking
resulted in two minor earthquakes around the drilling site.
It's quite a funny story, really. I was in bed.
I'd felt something happen. I heard a bit of a rumble.
My phone pinged, I picked it up,
and it was my daughter at the other end of the house,
it was a text saying, "Was that you, Dad?"
Local farmer John Loftus had leased some of his land to the gas company.
They didn't damage your house or buildings at all?
Oh, it was very miniscule. My son lives at Ripon,
and this earthquake the week before was, I think, twice the size.
-And they don't have any fracking.
'Operations here were halted after the earthquakes,
'and there's been no fracking in the UK since.
'But unrelated seismic activity of this size is fairly common,
'and in 2012, a report into the local geology recommended:
'Certainly, John is still more than happy
'for it to go ahead on his land.'
So what was it like when they were actually
-doing the fracking and drilling here?
-No real noise.
I mean, obviously, we live nearly half a mile from here,
but a lot of stone came in,
a lot of wagons up and down the road -
I think one day when they were taking it off,
there were 32 artics in a row.
So why do you do it?
I believe that the countryside is basically for the country,
and as farmers, we're only custodians of the countryside.
So you think this is a public-spirited thing to do?
It wasn't because of the cheque you got to put this on your land?
The cheque I got was less than two percent of my income.
Well, that might be quite a lot! You run quite a big farm here.
How much was it? Go on, tell me.
I'm not supposed to tell you, so I can't tell you,
but my best Angus bull that I sold last year
was twice as much as I get rent for this,
-and it's minuscule, to be honest.
'Minuscule for John could be large for other British farmers,
'but unlike their counterparts in the United States,
'it won't make them a fortune.
'There are different laws in Britain and America.'
Over there, the gas is owned by the landowner,
whereas here, it belongs to the Crown Estate,
and the farmer just gets paid
for leasing the land that the wellhead sits on.
'But there would be big winners, like the British government.
'In today's prices, it's already made £300 billion
'over the last 40 years on home-sourced energy,
'mainly from North Sea oil and other offshore operations.
'And if shale gas is worth just a fraction of that,
'it'll provide a windfall when the country needs it most.
'A good reason, then,
'to venture back underground in search of energy?'
This stuff, coal, powered Britain through the Industrial Revolution,
changed the country for ever.
'But should we still be looking to environmentally unfriendly
'fossil fuels to power our nation,
'or is shale gas simply too good an opportunity to miss?
'I'll be finding out later.'
The Wye Valley. Its river snakes through wooded slopes.
On its Welsh bank stands Tintern Abbey,
a gigantic skeleton open to the skies.
Talk about take your breath away.
I mean, this building is magnificent,
and just think what it must have looked like to medieval travellers
as they approached Tintern in its full glory.
Tintern was the first Cistercian abbey to be founded in Wales,
and only the second in the whole of Britain.
Work started in 1131, and it thrived for four centuries until,
like so many others, it was turned to ruin by King Henry VIII.
'But what was life like back then before the dissolution?
'How did the monks live?
'To find out, I'm going back 500 years,
'coming face to face with a man who can tell me.'
Let's do a spot of time travelling.
Brother Thomas is returning to the abbey
shortly after it was destroyed, and breaking his vow of silence.
Now, this was the chapter house, where we met in the morning
to set the pattern of our day.
-So this was the Abbey powerhouse?
This is our refectory. Once a day we ate here.
And what sort of things were on the menu?
Fish, eggs, and vegetables.
Everything grown on the estate.
And this is our warming house.
A kind of common room in the winter, largely, where monks came,
they read here, they would have had their tonsure haircut here.
A tonsure? The bald bit at the back?
The bald bit at the back, that's right. THEY LAUGH
How many monks would there have been?
At its height, about 80 of me, the choir monks,
and about 200 lay brothers.
Because you worked the fields all around here, didn't you?
It was very intensive farming that you monks were doing?
Absolutely. Yes, it certainly was.
And of course, Cistercian monks developed agriculture considerably.
-And it was a hard life for the monks, wasn't it?
-Very hard, yes.
We were a Trappist order, a silent order, and very, very strict.
And I hear that, despite all the privations,
you monks did enjoy a little bevvy or two, didn't you?
Oh, Master...I think the hour has come for me to go to prayer!
-Say no more!
OK, so Brother Thomas is actually Keith, the tour guide.
But it's well-known that monks were master brewers.
Maybe historian Madeleine Grey can tell me more.
They used to brew a lot of beer
because the water supply was so disgusting...
-And dangerous, presumably?
So you cleaned it up by brewing with it.
The men who worshipped in here
were not necessarily the ones who worked out in the fields?
Well, no. The bulk of the work is done by these lay brothers.
They were recruited from local peasant farming families.
If you think about it, it's quite a man-management issue.
You've got all these energetic young men,
you've got somehow to keep them under control,
so a combination of all that beer
and an awful lot of physical hard work in the fields,
and they were probably too tired to even have impure thoughts,
never mind doing anything about it! THEY LAUGH
But the simple, monastic life of Tintern was soon to end.
In 1536, it was surrendered to Henry VIII's officials.
Along with more than 800 other monasteries around the country,
the abbey was dissolved and stripped of its wealth,
and so ended a way of life which had lasted 400 years.
The monks of Tintern may be long gone, but their legacy lives on,
and one of the things that Brother Thomas and his ilk left for us
tastes surprisingly good. It's mead.
Later, I'll be heading to a local vineyard that's picked up
where the monks left off and is putting mead back on the map.
Now, the BBC's Summer Of Wildlife is all about getting out
and looking for the wildlife near your home.
As part of that project,
Countryfile asked wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones
what he could find near his home in Kent.
And I have a special reason for wondering if he was lucky.
As a wildlife cameraman,
there are some animals that are notoriously difficult to film.
For me, there's one species in particular
that's always caused me problems,
and it seems I'm not alone.
John was in Wales a few weeks back
and he had high hopes of seeing water voles,
Britain's fastest-declining mammal, with his own eyes.
In all my years on Countryfile, Sorcha,
I've never seen a water vole.
Am I going to be lucky today, do you think?
He had to be satisfied by some grainy images snapped by remote cameras.
But even that's something.
Water vole numbers have crashed by a staggering 95% since the 1970s.
My challenge today is to go one better.
I've come to a place just a few miles from home
where I've been guaranteed,
yes, GUARANTEED, I will see water voles.
So just perhaps, I'm going to have a little bit more luck than John.
And this is the place.
These fishing lakes are close to my home in Kent.
My mum told me years ago this place was good for wildlife,
but I've never bothered to look until now.
Within minutes, I've spotted some promising signs.
There's flattened grass by the lakeside
and nibbled vegetation,
which could be the work of water voles.
But this is the best sign of all.
A little patch of animal droppings.
And there's one way to find out who they belong to.
Now, then, water vole poo is often a greeny, browny colour,
which this is.
And then if you just squash it between your fingers,
it has a very sort of vegetabley texture.
It doesn't feel meaty in any way.
It doesn't smell too bad at all.
So I would say, going on the size, the colour, and the smell,
we probably do have a water vole latrine here.
Really good news. But to utterly convince me,
I need to see a water vole.
This looks like a burrow entrance, so I'll leave a bit of apple as bait
and plonk my remote camera down in front of it.
And if I've got a shot of them on this, then I know I can spend the
rest of the day in confidence waiting to get the shots I'm really after.
I'll need to leave my camera for a good few hours to stand any
chance of capturing water voles.
That gives me enough time to explore the rest of the lakes.
Hard to believe that only 20 years ago all this was a cauliflower field.
It became prone to flooding
so the farmer created these fishing lakes,
all now fringed by lush woodland.
A great example of how quickly nature can reclaim the landscape
if given a chance.
And, as if to prove the point,
some rather special flowers have appeared here.
These are southern marsh orchids
and there are literally hundreds of them and, to me,
they kind of remind me of the fashion models of the flower world.
They're tall, skinny, just utterly gorgeous,
but there is a bit of a problem with them.
If you just come down here, let's have a look at this one.
I always feel that they get lost in amongst all this grass
and so what I want to do,
as we do love our photography here on Countryfile, I want to give it
the full studio treatment
and make it look as glamorous as I know it really can.
I've brought along my outdoor studio.
The aim is to isolate the flowers
by gently flattening down other vegetation around them and then
shoot against a pure white soft box.
Inside the soft box is a flash which backlights the orchid creating a soft
rim light around the edge of the flower.
Then flashes at the front are switched on
to really make those colours punch out.
You're left with a single stem of floral beauty
standing out like a model on the front of a fashion magazine.
Time now to get back to my remote water vole camera.
Has it got the proof I need?
Hey, hey, hey. Bingo!
There we go, water vole, dead slap in the middle of frame.
That gives me the encouragement to get out on that bank
and sit there for the next few hours.
Filming wildlife often involves a huge amount of waiting around.
But not this time. I can't believe what I'm seeing.
Look at this. Here he is.
A water vole.
And there's a fisherman totally unaware of what's just beneath him.
He's climbing up the vegetation like it's a rope. Stretching up.
This is lovely.
I think he's using the old dry vegetation to clamber up
and grab a piece of the fresher green stuff...
..without having to expose himself by going on top of the bank.
A large male water vole like this
can weigh up to three-quarters of a pound.
That's quite a bulk to haul around on a grass root,
but it appears this vole is as keen on swimming as it is climbing.
And soon he's back up on the bank and heading for the fisherman.
I love the fact that the angler is just
now sitting there with no idea
that Britain's fastest-declining mammal...
..is just, what, two yards in front of him?
This vole is keeping itself hidden for good reason.
All sorts of predators love to eat them, especially American mink,
brought here in the 1970s,
and the key reason water vole numbers have collapsed.
I can't believe what I'm seeing and it's just about to get even better.
QUIETLY: I don't know if you can see from there,
but I can certainly see down this camera that we have a water vole.
It must be only three metres away from me.
It's just come out of its burrow
and coming out onto the wider lawn,
which perhaps isn't surprising
because I've left a little bit of apple there to tempt it out.
And he's incredibly relaxed.
These animals are constantly surrounded by humans.
Pretty much every day there are anglers out around this lake.
So the water voles have become very used to people being around,
which is making it really very easy for me to get the shots.
It seems I've finally broken the curse of the water vole.
And, what's more, I've done it just a few minutes' drive from my house.
So, thanks, Mum!
Finding the water voles here has been a complete revelation to me
and I guess it just goes to show that no matter how well you
think you know your local area, if you keep on asking around,
if you keep looking, there's always something new to find.
And if you want to find out more about the incredible
species in your own backyard, go to the Countryfile website
where you'll find all the information about
the BBC's Summer Of Wildlife and how you can be part of it.
Next time, I hope to be on the trail of the elusive kingfisher.
I'm in the Wye Valley to try something I've never done before -
a Tyrolean traverse, travelling along a rope between two rock faces
high above the ground.
This is Symonds Yat Rock and that is one of only a handful of inland
rock pinnacles anywhere in the UK.
I've got a bad feeling about this.
The route up is appropriately enough christened "Vertigo",
an energy-sapping 80-foot climb.
But before I go anywhere near that thing,
a bit of training is in order.
Right, OK, Ellie, the line here follows the line of least resistance
so it's the easiest round you can find.
And it's just like walking up the stairs you said?
Just like walking up the stairs, OK. The stairs are little bit smaller.
Climb when you're ready.
'Symonds Yat is testing.
'But trees provide good anchor points for ropes,
'which really helps.'
-Is that too big?
-No, perfect, nice.
-Suddenly I've gone silent, concentrating.
Up and over there?
'The limestone here has been stripped of plants.
'It should make it easier to climb
'but I'm struggling to get a good grip.'
It's a bit slippy.
Oh, I don't like it. Is that too high?
-You can do it that way. Whatever works for you.
-None of them work.
Oh, man, this is supposed to be the easy one!
-That's actually really good technique, Ellie.
-We call that a step through.
-Oh, I got my step through.
-Just going to admire this limestone for a while.
-Now go straight up.
-Try and finish this when you touch the karabiner.
This is a fraction easier here.
Oh, lordy, it's not natural doing this.
Why do people do this?
-Straight up to the karabiner.
-Up to the karabiner.
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
'And there, looming in the background, what I'm training for.
'A much tougher and taller climb.'
-Hold on to this?
-Yeah, if you wish.
I do, I do wish. All right, what am I doing?
Feet wide apart, that's the idea.
Yes, yes, yes.
-Nice and steady.
'What made this training climb so tricky is the shape of the valley.
'It's been cut by water instead of glaciers
'forming squarer, steeper walls.'
-There we go.
Yes, I'm down.
-I bet that was an easy climb, wasn't it, in climbing terms?
-Not at all.
Not for me it wasn't.
Actually, in climbing terms, we have a grading system,
the English grading system, and this is graded very difficult.
Oh, very difficult. Hey, that was good, that was good.
Nice and short, as well.
'A successful training session but will it hold me
'in good stead for the main climb ahead?'
Well, I'm very glad I had a couple of training climbs
because sitting at the bottom of this...
..feels slightly terrifying.
I think I'm just going to sit here and think about it for a while.
Now, earlier, we heard how controversial method of extracting
untapped underground gas deposits has had a shaky start in the UK.
But, with the government now firmly backing plans for fracking,
are there any credible reasons for standing in its way?
Here's Tom again.
The United Kingdom is an energy-hungry country.
But, in the next few years, there's a chance we may be energy starved.
The regulator, Ofgem,
has warned that we might run short of electricity in the next decade
and that's partly down to our reliance on this mucky stuff.
So, let's shed some light on the situation.
Last year, the UK relied on coal to generate
nearly 40% of our electricity.
But due to EU emissions rules, at least 5 of our 17 coal-fired
power stations will have closed by the end of 2015,
taking 10% of our power capacity off-line.
Ofgem want the energy industry to get new sources of power on the grid
so we can prevent the lights going out.
For the British government, at least,
that could be where shale gas comes in.
At a time when we're crying out for reliable home-grown
sources of energy, the answer could be under our feet.
It's beneath the old coalfields
so if we look to see where we extracted the most coal, the
chances are, beneath that is where we're going to find the most shale.
'You can find shale gas under most of the UK
'but Professor Peter Styles from Keele University thinks the most
'interesting reserves might be under the north of England,
'Central Scotland, south of London
'and on the Irish border.'
So these are where there are promising shales
but does that actually mean we can get gas out of them viably?
We will never get the total volume of gas out and, on average,
we'd be lucky to get 10% out, but 10% of these numbers are still
very large amounts, potentially many tens of years of UK gas supply.
Are we going to see a rash of wells across the country?
Individual holes in the ground,
probably of the order of 1,000, but that's not what you
see at the surface because these wells
are drilled from a pad about the size of a football field
and perhaps 10, perhaps 20 wells will be drilled from one of those.
So we may have 100 of those
across an area the same as Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Shale gas sites could be coming to some of the most beautiful
parts of the country.
In Lancashire, where they've already had a small
taste of the industry, the anti-fracking movement is still
working hard to make people aware of the potential problems.
I don't know what's going to become of it.
I think it's going to go ahead.
I don't know if it's something you've ever looked at.
-I really think we should go for it.
-You think we should go for it, right.
It's a joke. An absolute joke.
Ian Roberts runs a local anti-fracking group from the small
town of St-Anne's-on-Sea on the Fylde coast.
There's a whole range of issues.
If you look at where these sites are, the infrastructure,
the roads just aren't there.
These are country tracks often
and you're going to be bringing thousands of heavy-duty wagons
full of chemicals and waste water to these sites.
And tourism. This is an absolutely beautiful coast.
Are people going to be attracted to the rural Fylde coast
if you've got an industrialised zone?
But in the next few years,
doesn't shale gas play a role in keeping the lights on?
I don't believe so.
I think we need to shift our investments into renewables.
This is exactly the wrong point in history at which to be
investing in, scrambling for the last bits of fossil fuel.
Fracking also uses huge amounts of water mixed with sand and chemicals.
The water companies have voiced concerns over the possibility
of contamination of local supplies and potential shortages.
So, are the environmental worries credible enough to halt
the so-called dash for gas?
Francis Egan is the CEO of Cuadrilla,
the only company to have actually fracked for shale gas in the UK.
100 sites takes a total land area of two square kilometres
across 1,200 square kilometres.
I think that can be fitted into the County of Lancashire fairly
easily without a huge amount of disruption.
Are there not big environmental concerns over water here?
You're going to use a lot and it comes out of the ground polluted.
You say it's polluted but actually,
the Environment Agency classification under EU legislation
is non-hazardous, but it does need treatment.
So it's officially classified as a non-hazardous waste, OK?
That's not to say that you would put into your drinking supply.
It does need treatment. But it's not a threat to public health.
But what about the concerns over our continued reliance on fossil fuels?
After all, the UK is legally bound to
an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,
so should we rush to a carbon-rich fuel like shale gas?
The question is not will we be using gas, because we will.
The question is, where is it coming from?
Now, is it better for the environment to develop it here
in a highly regulated UK, European Union environment?
Or to import it from halfway across the world in a ship?
Gas is a much more environmentally benign fossil fuel than coal,
so there is plenty of room to reduce emissions and still use gas.
And, in fact, that's what happened in the US.
The US has increased its share of gas and electricity generation
and increased its renewables and it's reducing CO2.
We've done none of those.
Fossil fuels helped build modern Britain
but pulling more of them out of the ground can only increase
the levels of climate-changing gas in our atmosphere.
With concerns over energy supplies, and the country's financial worries,
the big question is, do we have any choice?
Just like coal in previous centuries, reserves of shale gas appear
to be plentiful and the technology to reach them is developing fast.
And, when you combine that with the government's obvious enthusiasm,
then environmentalists are going to have to work hard to keep it
all locked up underground.
Adam doesn't have dairy cows on his farm, but he knows just how
tough dairy farming is and he's taking a look now at two very
different approaches to meeting the challenges faced by the industry.
These are my Gloucester cattle.
They're a lovely old-fashioned, dual-purpose breed
so quite good at producing milk and quite good at producing beef,
but not brilliant at either.
And, after World War II,
we were a starving nation and we needed farmers to go for
out-and-out production and so we specialised in our cattle farming.
We went for the dairy cow for milk, the Friesian
and then the Holstein and, in the beef world,
we went for the Hereford and then Continental beef breeds.
So now, in modern-day farming, we have beef cattle and dairy cattle.
I'm off to see two dairy farms just down the road from me
in Gloucestershire that have very different approaches to
Rob Alan farms a herd of 150 cows.
Yeah, let's have a look around.
Would you consider yourself a very typical dairy farm here?
Yeah, I'd say so. I'm a third-generation dairy farmer.
What sort of cows are you farming?
Years ago, when my father first came to this farm,
we were very much Friesian-type cows.
But now, in more recent times,
we've obviously introduced the Holstein genetic.
So you're getting a productive cow
-but also one that can survive off grass?
-That's right, yes.
So, really, what you want is lots of lovely leafy grass that's
full of sugar and protein that the cow churns up with its rumen
to produce great quality milk?
Yeah, that's right. It's important to get the timings right,
get the cows out to the grass at the right growth stage.
When the sun is out, I think the grass is like everybody else.
It's essentially happier and it's more nutritious
and hopefully we'll get more milk from it.
You're a young man. Where do you see the future?
Well, I'd like to be running a viable dairy business
in years to come.
Obviously, to double the number of cows out in this field,
it wouldn't make sense.
I need more land area to do that.
You could run out of grass quickly, if you put too many cows out?
That's right cos, essentially,
they've got to stay within reason to the holding
because obviously we're bringing them in early mornings
and late afternoons to be milked.
So even if there was land available three or four miles away,
it wouldn't suit what we're trying to achieve.
Yeah, cos the cows can't walk all the way there
-and all the way back again.
You all right, girls?
-So this is the business end then?
This is where all the magic happens, yeah.
What sort of yields are you getting? How much milk per cow?
On an annual basis, we'd be doing about 8,500-9,000 litres.
And the cows would be doing about 28 litres a day.
How does that compare to when your dad first started milking cows?
Well, the old Friesian-type cows
-were doing between 4,000 and 6,000 litres, really.
So you've really pushed things on?
-Yeah, that's right.
-And can you push things any further now?
-Where's the future?
-I think for the system we're running at the moment
we're about maxed out, really,
without introducing a lot more supplementary feeding.
And you're happy with that?
Yeah, I enjoy seeing the cows out at grass
and I enjoy the different management techniques.
It's going well.
Rob has ambitions for the future, but he's at the limit of how much
milk he can produce with his present system.
So I'm taking him to a farm where they have a herd six times
greater than Rob's and achieve a 30% higher yield from their cows.
David Ball is the farm manager.
-It's a lot of dairy cows, Rob, isn't it?
-Yeah, that's a lot of cows.
Very impressive. And so, how many have you got here, David?
-We've got 900 cows in the herd.
-And these cows don't ever go outside?
That's correct. We keep the cows inside all the time.
We do that because, on this farm,
it's not a suitable farm for growing grass all year round.
It's very drought prone
and particularly with the weather conditions at the moment,
grass growth is very unreliable
and so we choose to house these cows so that we can provide
ration for them, for their needs, and comfortable beds for them
to rest in the relatively cool environment in the shed here.
And what about the breed?
These are Holstein cows
and they are bred for high production of milk.
They require high levels of input in terms of their nutrition
and their diet to support that sort of milk yield.
This is what we call a total mix ration, a TMR.
It's available to them 24 hours a day.
It's made up of the three forages that we grow on the farm.
That's grass, lucerne and maize and we add to that
a blend of by-products that we buy from the human food industry.
We use a nutritionist who visits us fortnightly
to construct a ration in great detail.
We do monitor the cows very closely.
We take blood samples and we take dung samples
so that we can monitor the effect of the ration
and how the digestion of the cow is going on.
Here they are investing heavily in the future,
with this new state-of-the-art high-tech facility
where all the cows' needs are catered for.
But there's still no getting away from the fact that this is intensive.
And, for some, this type of farming is hard to accept.
While David shows Rob around, I've invited along Amy Jackson,
who's an agricultural PR consultant with two decades' experience
in the farming industry.
The public like to see cows out at grass, don't they?
Absolutely, because that's what they have become accustomed to
over the years,
pictures of cows on green fields, but actually, the reality is,
if you look at British cow hours, more than 50% of them
are spent inside because of the winter period
and probably up to a fifth of cows are in 365 days a year now.
Year in, year out.
So I think what we have to do is try
and get people used to the idea that some cows are inside.
So, with Rob's system and David's system,
what are the problems that they might face?
Rob obviously has his cows going outside in the summer
and that brings its own issues.
You know, there's flies outside and on a day like today,
you have to make sure they have enough shade.
You have to make sure that when the grass growth slows down
they're actually getting enough food into themselves.
Something you can't control is the weather.
Here, obviously, you can
make sure their nutrition is more balanced
but then we have to make sure that their udders are clean
and feet are healthy so you have to keep on top of that continually
and quite often, on a farm like this,
you have weekly foot trimming and vets in on a regular visit
to make sure that that's on top of as well.
So, with all the different systems, cows outdoor all year,
half and half, and then this kind of system, is there a right or wrong?
No, I think it's about how it's all managed.
Certainly there are different risks with different systems,
different pros and cons.
It's all about how you manage those on each farm.
Is this kind of system then, keeping the price of milk at the right price?
Well, it's not about keeping the price of milk down.
We've lost about a billion litres' worth of milk production
in this country in the last ten years
and that's 1,000 farms' worth, 1,000 average farms,
so we need to think, if we want to keep having British milk
we need to support farmers who are expanding
so we can keep milk production in the UK.
Rob, for you, you've got your cows out at grass during the summer.
-Do you find this going against the grain a bit?
-No, not necessarily.
I think, in terms of investment for my future,
I'd quite like to incorporate maybe the two systems
so cows giving more milk, run a very similar system to David,
but then still maintain the cows out at grass.
And if you're going to expand, because you haven't got enough
-fields, I suppose that's the only way forward?
-Yeah, that's right.
It's natural progress and, like I say, we could have an indoor
group and an outdoor group and utilise the best of both worlds.
It's been fascinating for me to meet two dairy farmers
that keep their cows in very different ways
but what seems to be crucial is that,
whatever system they are in, that the cows are well looked after.
Next week we're busy making hay and I'll be taking a look
at the effect the weather has had on my other crops over the past year.
-Right now I'm heading into the hills above Tintern Abbey
to one of the oldest commercial vineyards in Wales.
For over 30 years, it's been producing wines from the very
slopes thought to have been farmed by the monks.
The monks down at the Abbey abided by the rule that they should
live by the labours of their own hands and not accept charity,
so one way of doing that was to produce
and sell alcohol from their vineyards and from their own brews.
The monks worked this hillside from as early as the 12th century.
Today, in the shadow of the spectacular ruins,
Colin and Judith Dudley are continuing the tradition.
I must say, Judith, the words "Wales" and "vineyards"
don't normally come in the same sentence to me.
There are actually 17 vineyards in Wales now. Ours is the oldest one.
You are not just producing wine, but mead as well.
Yes, we started doing the mead
because we would get visitors coming to the vineyards
asking what the mead was that the monks used to drink at the abbey.
-Because mead is a mixture of honey and water, fermenting?
That's the traditional mead.
The mead that we actually make here is called a hippocras.
It's made with white wine, honey and spices in it.
It would have been used medicinally.
These days, spiced drinks, fancy ciders are all the rage.
-Do you think there is a good future for mead?
-I do, yes.
It does seem very popular.
Particularly, I would say, at Christmas time.
The spices we use are similar to the ones in mulled wine.
People associate that with Christmas,
but people drink it all the year round.
Judith says that just as a wine's character is determined by the type
of grape, the flavour of mead is all down to the honey that is used.
And for Richard Liddell, his bees help make a mean mead.
Just get my gloves on.
What effect does smoking have on the bees then, Richard?
It's kidding the bees there is a forest fire on the way.
So really what they want to do is fill their stomachs with honey,
so that they can decamp and make another hive
somewhere far away where the fire isn't.
And of course the beauty of that is that if you have a bee that has
-a full stomach with honey, it's not going to sting you.
So a little gentle smoke on the top there.
Would the monks down at Tintern
have used the same technique of smoking to get their honey?
I'm not absolutely sure, but one thing is certain,
they did used to have to destroy some of the hives
in order to recover the honey from the bees.
Of course, don't forget, in history,
honey wasn't the food of the ordinary person.
It was the food of kings, lords and ladies.
What about mead, was that the same?
Mead was the same, yes, and historically, farms used to have
to give barrels of mead to the lord of the manor as their due tithes.
-Look at that beautiful texture of that.
Fantastic, God's wonderful nectar.
The honey is added to white wine
and spiced with ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
Leave to ferment for a couple of months,
and you've got a mead any monk would be proud of.
Right, Judith, I'd very much like to taste this Welsh spicy mead of yours.
-Grown with your grapes and using your honey, Richard.
Absolutely, there's no food miles here.
Everything gathered within a few yards of this table.
-And now for the tasting.
Mmm, it is very nice. But it's not quite what I expected.
It's not as sweet as I thought it would be.
This is because it's a wine mead, wine-based.
But you can't taste the wine as such, you get the spices
-and the honey at the end.
-Yes, you do.
-I'm glad you said honey.
-And this was the monks' medicine, was it?
I'll have a drop more of it.
In the meantime, I'm going to hand you over to the BBC weather studio
for the Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead.
The majestic River Wye has carved out the splendour of the valley
that shares its name.
But while many come to appreciate the tranquillity
this place has to offer, I'm enjoying anything but.
Earlier, I conquered a tricky abseil
before enduring a testing training climb,
all in preparation for my next challenge.
And now I'm at the foot of the Pinnacle.
80 feet of sheer hell.
350 million unforgiving years have shaped this beast.
Stacks like this are normally only found at sea.
And how I wish this one was too.
But it's not. It's here.
Surrounded by jagged rocks.
And it's what I've got to conquer if I'm to make the Tyrolean traverse.
And here is that traverse.
If I make it up to the top, that's how I'll get off.
Travelling high above the valley floor, on the thinnest of ropes.
Fewer than one percent of climbers have ever done one.
Sven may be an experienced hand, but I'm still mighty nervous.
Oh, I've actually got to do this now.
I've only just started. It makes me want to cry.
That's it, Ellie, that's it.
Come on, come on.
Yes, yes, yes.
OK, I need to take a second.
-Just to breathe.
I'm making schoolboy errors, using my arms. It's all about the legs.
Don't look down.
No, I can't do this.
Robin, you can see. Have I got a good hold?
Yeah, it's pretty good.
I can't bear this. Come on, come on. Yes, yes, yes.
That's it. There's nothing else to hold onto.
Yes, I'm OK here.
I'm not even looking, I'm just going to chat to the rock.
Me and the limestone.
It's nice lichen.
Chewing the grain, this is just where I want to be(!)
Having a great time.
Nice climbing, Ellie.
OK, nearly at the top.
-Nearly at the top.
Yes, yes, yes.
Ah, I'm nearly there, nearly there.
Go on, Ellie.
Right, don't mess, I've still got to get up there. Lovely big rocks.
Lovely big steps.
Sven, I'm here!
That's amazing. I can barely speak, I'm so nervous. Oh, it's incredible.
I just wish there was a lift down.
Having conquered the Pinnacle, I'm feeling very relieved.
But I can't tell you how glad I'll be to get off.
Oh, I'm looking right down the line
at this enormous disappearing ground beneath me.
-What have I got to do?
-Whenever you are ready,
I'm just going to ask you to shuffle on down, sit down here.
And then step on the blocks down below,
OK, and we'll take it from there.
OK, so I'm sitting down here.
You're going to sit down where your feet are now.
Man, looking down is a disaster, isn't it? Just don't do it.
-Right, so shuffle, shuffle.
-Down to the edge.
-This is crazy. OK.
-Lower yourself down.
Hang on. OK, I'm lowered, I'm lowered.
Look at the view. I've got time to enjoy it.
Hey, it's incredible!
The whole of Symonds Yat is buzzing on a summer's day.
Right, at some point, I need to turn round. Is this the point now?
Spin myself round. Now the work begins.
Come on. I've got a tree to get to.
Oh, work those biceps.
Let's get up off that edge. My word!
Oh, my goodness, I can't believe I just did that!
I'm alive. LAUGHS
That was amazing. I'm exhausted...but alive.
Well, that is definitely it for this week.
Next week, John is in Northumberland on the trail
of a creature that is rarely seen
and he joins the team of people
who have discovered an amazing Bronze Age burial.
I'll still be having a lie-down by then. See you soon.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Ellie Harrison and John Craven are in the beautiful Wye Valley on the border of England and south Wales.
Ellie faces her fear as she scales a sheer rock pinnacle called the Longstone, before zipping along a wire high above the ground in a risky manoeuvre called a Tyrolean Traverse. John, meanwhile, is on safe ground, finding out about the daily lives of the monks of Tintern Abbey before turning his hand to making their favourite tipple - mead.
Tom Heap investigates fracking, the controversial new method of extracting gas from the ground, and Adam looks at two contrasting approaches to dairy farming.