John Craven explores the historic ruins of Jervaulx Abbey, once home to Cistercian monks, while Julia Bradbury goes on the hunt for Britain's native red squirrel.
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The Yorkshire Dales, where intricate dry-stone walls criss-cross
a landscape of remarkable beauty and distinctive character.
Swaledale, Wensleydale, Wharfedale and Nidderdale
all familiar names to the many visitors
who fall in love with the area,
whatever the weather.
We've had a bit of snow here and it is mightily cold.
Most of our feathered and furry friends have taken cover
against the winter chill, but there is one bold little mammal
that will make an appearance for the right food.
For me, that would be chocolate cake. For them, it's these...
I'm more of a cheese man,
so I'll be looking into the history of a famous one.
These are the ruins of Jervaulx,
one of the great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire.
The monks who prayed here were also farmers.
Sheep grazed their land and, from the sheep, they got milk and cheese.
And it's believed the monks had a special recipe that was
the forerunner of Wensleydale cheese.
And I'll be seeing if we can recreate that original recipe
on this spot, all these centuries later.
Tom's on a farm in Devon, checking on the prospects for the coming year.
These empty barns should be full of cattle, but the torrential rain
of last year means the farmer can no longer afford to keep them.
He's had to sell up. Will the hardship be as bad in 2013?
I'll be investigating.
And, on his farm, Adam's got a brand-new helper.
It's coming a bit misty now but at times,
the snow can make the landscape look beautiful.
But for me as a farmer, all the extreme weather has caused us
all sorts of problems, but it's not this man's fault.
I hope not, Adam, anyway!
John Hammond, BBC weather forecaster, he's come to the farm
so I can tell you all about how the weather has been affecting us,
and while you're here, I'll get you to feed some sheep, too.
Look forward to it.
A landscape peppered with the ruins of ancient abbeys
is a striking reminder of an important era in Yorkshire's history.
The Dales were once a stronghold of Cistercian monks.
Jervaulx Abbey, on the edge of the Dales,
was one of eight they built round here nine centuries ago.
The monks were robed in white, just as the ruins are today,
and they had a significant impact on both the countryside and its people.
For the monks here at Jervaulx,
agriculture was a major part of their lives.
And they were particularly renowned for their sheep and their horses.
For almost 400 years, this blend of piety
and commercial farming was a powerful force.
But it came to an end in 1537,
when Henry VIII seized the estate and blew up the abbey.
Today, there are just ruins, but this tranquil place does provide
a home for more than 180 species of wildflower,
and some of them still manage to add a little touch of colour, even now,
in the depths of winter.
'I'm meeting with monastic scholar Glyn Coppack, who can give me
'an insight into what life was really like here for the monks.'
There's certainly a bleak majesty
about this place in the snow, isn't there?
You can see everything. It's so clear.
Just how big would this building have been, in its heyday?
The buildings covered about two acres.
Outside that two acres, there's another 78.
These abbeys are built on agriculture.
They're the first great corporations.
They brought capital in an area
which was essentially a peasant occupation.
So, they did things on a scale
which hadn't been seen since the Roman times.
And where are we now? What was this place?
This is the cloister. This is the monks' living room.
-This was at the very heart of the monastery, then.
And what have we got here, Glyn?
Well, this was the chapterhouse.
They came here to confess their faults,
to receive punishment and to do business.
And would these stone slabs around here be where the monks sat?
They are indeed,
with the Abbot sitting in the middle of the east wall
-on a slightly higher seat.
-What, up there?
On the wall in front of us.
And, at his feet, the graves of his predecessors.
So, he sat with his feet on dead abbots?
Well, that's where his authority came from.
The Cistercians lived frugally, observing rules of poverty
and simplicity, and were restricted to a single meal each day.
And this is the meat kitchen.
-When was this built, then?
-Round about 1400.
You say "meat kitchen", but I thought Cistercians were vegetarians.
Well, they were until the end of the 13th century,
-when the Pope decided they could eat meat.
-And is that a fireplace there?
-It was indeed.
-It's enormous! It's huge, isn't it?
Presumably, there would've been a spit across here?
Oh, yes, and the evidence for that is, to either side,
we have a little box, like this.
There was a man sitting in here, sheltered from the fire,
turning the handle.
-And they probably had a whole cow on here!
-They were great cheesemakers, weren't they, the monks here?
Is it possible that Wensleydale cheese
could've started on this very spot?
It could have done.
They ran herds of sheep and cows. They were great innovators.
And we know they ate a lot of cheese.
I'd be very surprised if they weren't involved somewhere.
This wild Yorkshire setting was the perfect backdrop for the monks,
as they dedicated their lives to prayer, study,
farming and cheesemaking.
Now, a local artisan cheesemaker, Iona Hill, is following their lead.
-Well, this is certainly a first, isn't it?
Making cheese at Jervaulx Abbey for the first time in 500 years.
It certainly is, but I'd hope that the monks
made it in their dairy with a roof and four walls!
-And a bit warmer weather, as well!
-I'd hope so, yes.
And, what stage are you at, at the moment?
Well, I've added my starter culture and I've added rennet,
and now I'm going to cut it, so it's set,
so we'll form curds and whey.
-You're now going to cut it?
-Now is that looking good to you?
Yes, it certainly is, it's just moving around a little too much.
-I'll be back later, if that's OK, to give you a bit of a hand.
But first, living in the countryside may seem idyllic,
but for a growing number of people in the UK,
rural life has become a daily struggle,
and Tom has been discovering why.
CROWD SINGS FOLKSY TUNE
It's a chilly night in the county of Devon,
but here in the village of Wimpole, they're letting their hair down.
This is a wassail, a festival to banish the doom and gloom
of winter, and wake up the fruit trees in the hope of a better year.
And, after the last 18 months, they're really going to need it.
FOLKSY SINGING CONTINUES
For many in the countryside,
there hasn't been much to sing about recently.
Last autumn, Devon farmer Barry Butler had to make
one of the toughest decisions of his life.
In here, we had youngsters, we had young weaned calves and young stock.
In here was our stock bull,
and here, we had a cow and a calf, with the calf creep in the corner.
Now you've just got the cockerel
-and the harem left there.
-That's right. Yes. Sad, isn't it?
After 30 years, Barry was forced to sell his entire herd
of award-winning Aberdeen Angus beef cattle.
And this is the reason.
A year of wet weather has ruined many of his fields.
Tom, you've got to be a bit careful, here.
Don't go over there, cos you'll sink knee-deep.
I mean, can you get cattle or a tractor even through this?
No, we haven't been able to get a tractor on this field all year.
-Is this the only field that's like this?
-No, they're all like this.
This is the problem that we've got.
So you decided that this was
really no longer any good as cattle country any more?
Well, it's just not viable. I can't... What can you do?
They can't come out on this.
As soon as they come out on this, they'll sink.
The grass won't be edible any more, it'll just be a mud patch.
As a farmer, surely you're used to the vagaries of the weather,
-We are, but this is really, really serious.
To get this back in any state,
we need a drought, a really strong, long drought.
With his fields flooded,
Barry's only option would have been to keep his cattle indoors.
But that would have meant buying in expensive feed.
The price of feed has rocketed - this is hard feed.
And we haven't made enough forage to keep them going.
What do you do? I don't know.
How did it feel to sell them?
It's 30 years of our life
breeding what we consider to be really top-quality stock.
We've shown for years, and it was heart-rending, it really was.
My wife Judy couldn't come out of the house. She couldn't see them go.
It was very, very sad.
It really was. But what can we do?
Guess what? It's raining again.
Farmers like Barry feel like they've endured 18 months of winter,
like last summer never really happened.
It's hit dairy farmers, poultry,
soft fruit, sheep farmers,
Few in the countryside can escape the consequences
of nearly the wettest year on record.
It's not just been the weather.
Living in the countryside means coping with poorer transport links,
higher fuel bills and a lack of nearby services
like schools and hospitals.
When you add all those together,
it's reckoned that for a similar lifestyle,
you need to earn £2,700 more
if you live in the countryside than if you live in the town.
And don't let the desirable homes and gorgeous views
blind you to a reality that there are some people
in the country who are really struggling to get by.
One in six households in rural areas is now below the poverty line.
But there is some relief.
The Trussell Trust is opening three new food banks a week,
offering free basic supplies to those in need.
-It's three children, isn't it?
-Well, two and a half but we say three.
Could we have a food box made up, please,
for one adult and three children?
Working alongside them, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution
offers financial advice and support to farming families.
Liz Hall's one of their welfare officers.
Sometimes when you turn up at farms,
are people in really quite straitened circumstances?
Oh, yes. Just despair, really. Depression is an awful thing.
I see quite a lot of people
that are very depressed, whether or not it's been diagnosed.
Sometimes, when you turn up to a farm, can it be quite an emergency?
In the past, I've given away my sandwiches. It's useful to have that.
cos people think about farmers growing food for themselves.
Yet sometimes they haven't got enough for the weekend?
The thing is, a farmer doesn't get a weekly wage, like a lot of people.
He may be waiting for a cheque.
Sometimes you need to give them the means to eat over a few days.
So, even in the heart of the countryside,
help is on its way for those who are really struggling.
Just getting by in the countryside has always been tough for some.
But after the 18-month winter we seem to have had,
many people - whoa! - are almost completely swamped.
And, as I'll be reporting later,
the aftershock in 2013 could be even worse.
This week, we're exploring the Yorkshire Dales.
An unlikely hotspot, you might think, for this little fella -
the red squirrel.
I'm in Woodale,
heading to a patch of forest that's a stronghold for the reds.
But that's not the case everywhere in the Dales.
Red squirrels are native,
and once thrived across our British woodlands.
Just four American grey squirrels were introduced to Britain in 1876,
and they bred like, well, squirrels,
and that led to a devastating decline in our native reds.
As well as out-competing the reds for food, the grey squirrel
carries a pox which, whilst not fatal to them, will kill a red.
I'm meeting wildlife photographer Simon Phillpotts
at a spot where they've been clinging on.
-There he is. Hello, Simon.
-I'm ready for my master class.
Lovely to meet you.
-So, you've got all the kit?
-We're all ready to go.
-That one's yours, the big one there.
-I feel very privileged!
'I'm also hoping to get my first snap of a red squirrel.'
Aren't we very exposed out here?
-Shouldn't we be hidden in the bushes?
-No, not really.
This is the best location in terms of light,
because it's quite open woodland, and the squirrels really don't mind.
As long as they can come and find their food, they're happy.
-Is it OK to feed them?
This is actually quite a young pine forest,
so in terms of natural food,
a lot of the cones aren't fully developed yet,
so they do need some supplementary feeding to help them through winter.
-Is this camera idiot-proof?
-Yeah, we're all ready to go!
The exposure's set.
All you're going to have to do is make sure you get the centre
focus point on the squirrel.
Then you can fire away.
Now we just have to wait.
No squirrels yet,
but the birds are definitely enjoying the free banquet.
It doesn't take long, though.
Here he comes.
The first one makes its entrance.
-Here we go.
-Ooh! Come on, little cheeky thing.
In just a few minutes, three or four are running around.
They're quick movers, aren't they? They do a sort of smash-and-grab,
they come and get the nut, and they're off!
They just come and grab a hazelnut, and then they take it away
and put it in a private store hidden away from all the other squirrels.
They're so quick, all I seem to capture are bushy red tails.
It would be nice if at least one posed for me.
-If only he'd just turn around!
-Ah, that's a beautiful pose.
-Showing off now.
-Oh, yeah, they do.
Finally, I get my picture.
I'm quite chuffed with that.
But what's the future for red squirrels in Yorkshire?
At the moment, greys are mainly Southerners,
whilst the reds cling on to more northern locations.
A frontline now runs right through the Yorkshire Dales.
Simon is part of a new group that wants to make more
of the area's red-squirrel territory.
'Another member of the group living right on the grey-squirrel border
'is Anthony Bagshaw.'
So, Anthony, this is such a new squirrel group,
-you haven't even got a name yet?
-So how long have you been here?
-We've been here just on 20 years now.
And what was the squirrel landscape like when you arrived?
When we arrived, we had red squirrels up the dale that way.
We had grey squirrels on that side of us.
And we took the view that, if we could control the greys,
we would protect those reds up there,
-and if we were really lucky, we might get a red here.
Four years ago, we seemed to have got rid of all the greys,
and then a red turned up. Shortly after that, we had two reds,
then we started having litters here.
These are the squirrels from that litter, filmed just before the snow.
Without really intending to,
Anthony has helped this farm become a red-squirrel stronghold.
Now he hopes the new community group will help to widen
the reds' territory even further.
What is the aim of the group? What's your ambition?
We want to get as many of the local people involved as possible
so that we can do three things, really.
One is to monitor the greys and the reds.
The second is to help control the greys, and then the third thing is
to feed and encourage the reds to spread out into the community.
One of the most important things that they want to do is to encourage
locals to report their sightings of both grey and red squirrels.
Today, Matt Neale from the Yorkshire Dales National Park has come along
to help Anthony set up his own squirrel-monitoring system.
-Matt, we're here to help!
-That looks like a feeder.
The idea of the feeder is to try to attract squirrels to this location.
And the idea is we're going to try to find out
if we've got red squirrels or greys visiting this location.
And have you seen one of these in action before?
We haven't had one of these here before.
Time to fix it to the tree.
With the feeder firmly attached, now for the high-tech monitoring device -
a bit of plastic pipe.
And that's the sticky pad?
And we've got the sticky pad, OK, so we take the backing off now.
And then we push that just up inside in this end...
..like so. And you can just see the sticky pad up that end.
So as the squirrel comes along the branch, goes through the tube
to get the food, it'll hopefully leave its hair.
Matt's brought along a sample from another site.
You can't always tell which squirrel's been through
just by relying on the colour, because both squirrels
moult at different times of year and have colour variations.
There's lots of shading going on.
So we take them away and examine these pads under a microscope,
and then that tells us whether it's red or grey.
And these kind of systems are just so important, aren't they, for you?
They are, because if we know if we've got red squirrels
or grey squirrels in an area, then that helps us
and other bodies advise landowners on the best way to manage woodlands.
Future habitat management is going to be one of the key measures
to ensuring we have a sustainable red squirrel population.
This little box is going to be a fantastic monitoring system
to find out if, indeed, there are any greys left in the area,
how many there are and whether or not it's going to stay red. We hope so.
'While I've been meeting one of our most loved wild animals,
'Jules has been following in the footsteps
'of one of Britain's most famous vets.'
'With their rolling hills, seemingly endless stone walls
'and remote farms, the Dales are, of course, James Herriot country.
'Written by real-life vet Alf Wight, the James Herriot books
were 'semi-autobiographical tales of a 1930s vet in Yorkshire.'
In reality, Alf Wight actually worked in Thirsk,
up on the edge of the Dales,
but it was here in Askrigg that the stories really came to life.
Back in the 1970s,
this entire place was transformed into the fictional Darrowby,
for the hit TV series, All Creatures Great And Small,
and this building behind me, well, THAT was Herriot's home.
I'm sorry, Mr Handshaw, this cow has a broken pelvis...
..and damaged nerve endings as well, I shouldn't wonder.
'Just a stone's throw from Askrigg is a real-life veterinary practice
'run by married couple Davinia Hinde and Michael Woodhouse.
'So is life as a Dales vet
'still anything like James Herriot's classic anecdotes?'
-Nice to see you.
-Pleased to meet you.
'I'm giving Davinia a hand with her first patient of the day,
'Minnie, who's in for a blood test.'
There we are, Minnie. Right...
There we are, good girl.
Now, Minnie here, I suppose, represents, you know,
the classic small-animal moment in the day of a working vet,
but you are a mixed practice,
and that's something that you were very keen on getting into.
Absolutely. We wanted to be working within a genuinely mixed practice.
We're 85% large animals,
so after this, I could be off calving a cow
or doing a Caesarean or whatever. It's a very mixed day,
which is just really nice to have that variety in your life.
Did the Herriot stories inspire you, like it did many vets?
I am one of the, sort of, sad ones, that it was the Herriot stories.
And is it the romantic dream that you hoped it would be?
Erm...it has its romantic moments,
but it also has its chaotic moments, as well.
-But it must also have its heartbreaking moments.
One of the worst things, putting farmers' dogs down,
cos they spend more time with their dogs than with their wives,
many of them, so they're always very upset.
'The waiting room is now full, so I'm leaving Davinia to it,
'to join Michael out on his rounds.'
-You all right?
-How are you? All set?
Well, lovely day to see the Dales.
-Absolutely. Minus six.
We're heading down to a herd that milks
just over 100 pedigree Holstein cows.
Oh, nice! OK, yeah.
It's a routine fertility visit,
so we're looking to see if cows are in calf.
Erm, we're looking to see if cows aren't in calf,
why they're not in calf and cows that haven't been seen in heat.
Here we are.
-Alan, hello, nice to see you, sir.
-How d'you do?
-How are you?
-Fine, thank you.
-How many are we going to look at today?
-There's eight today. We're just hoping they're all in calf.
-It's the one's that are not in calf that we're looking for.
-Right, then, who's our first client?
-Oh, she's here!
-What's the news, Michael?
We have black fluid with a white circle,
and then there's a fine white line running round it.
That's the little baby calf.
I can just about see his heart flicking away.
-It's absolutely amazing. Next!
She's got a huge cyst on her ovary.
-See that big black circle?
Yeah. That's the cyst, is it?
Yeah, each one of those squares is a centimetre,
so it's one, two, three, four centimetres across.
What we're going to do is we'll put a progesterone implant device in
that sits in for a week,
and then when they take that back out,
hopefully, the cow gets rid of the cyst and then comes back into heat.
Right, Alan, she's done.
'Michael's routine visits not only mean checking for pregnancies,
'but they're also aimed at making sure
'the cows are in optimum health for getting in calf.'
Your relationship with the vet, with Michael here, is crucial, isn't it?
Oh, it is, yes. We used to do this monthly, we've gone to fortnightly.
-If there's anything wrong, we catch them, you know, sooner.
So is it...it's economy of time,
and it's worth having Michael in on a more regular basis?
Yeah, even though they do charge a lot.
-You see, I was waiting for that!
Getting dragged out of bed at five o'clock in the morning
when it's minus four outside or whatever,
to go and calve somebody's cow - it isn't great fun.
It's very satisfying when you've done it.
That was all rather interesting, actually.
Quite nice to see one of your clients, as well,
-with his lovely Holsteins. They were nice.
-Very nice, very good farm.
Yeah. But in terms of the sort of characters that you get
to meet here, I mean, again, going back to the Herriot books,
I mean, they are full of people that, really, you kind of wonder
if we'd ever see again. Do you have anyone like that up here on the...?
We've got a few characters, haven't we?
I don't think they've all died out, as yet, have they?
No, no, there's some of the traditional ones still out there.
We're not just vets, either, are you?
You spend part of your time being social workers and...
-Oh, a lot of your time being social workers.
GP. "Will you have a look at me gammy finger?"
-Marriage counsellor, yes!
-And that's all this week!
When Alf Wight put pen to paper all those years ago,
I wonder if he really knew that he'd be creating a character
that would go on to inspire generations of young men and women
to share his passion for animals and their welfare.
When it comes to James Herriot, it's perfectly clear
that his spirit is alive and well here in the Yorkshire Dales.
For nearly 400 years,
the Cistercian monks of Jervaulx Abbey farmed here.
They were very much part of the community in Wensleydale,
which was to give its name to a well-known cheese.
And their legacy lives on, because they could have brought
the original recipe from France.
We're recreating it today, using, as they did,
not cow's milk, but sheep's.
So what stage are we at?
OK, we've just taken the whey off and we've got ourselves
a nice little block of our ewe's milk Wensleydale.
We could add the salt, I think.
Have you been making cheese for a long time?
Actually, no, I'm a relative newcomer.
I've only been making cheese for little over four years.
What did you do before then?
Oh, goodness! I was a chartered accountant!
-Well, that's a bit different, isn't it?
-Certainly is, yes.
But give me cheese any day.
You don't need all of this, so just going to put a little bit in,
and then we're going to crumble it up and that's our version of milling,
-which means you just get the salt evenly distributed.
-There we go, that's enough.
-And what happens after this, then?
After we've finished milling this and mixing the salt in thoroughly,
we're going to put this into a mould, with a cheesecloth,
and then it's ready to put into...
-What, a cheesecloth like this one?
-So is that enough mixing yet?
-Yeah, I think it is, yes.
-You see, it's almost starting to set already.
-It is, isn't it?
This is the lovely bit about cheese. It starts off being milk
and then it sets and then you cut it and...
-Keeps transforming itself, doesn't it?
Now it starts going back together again. There we go.
So we're pretty close to having a Wensleydale cheese now, aren't we?
We are, indeed, yes. Yes, we are.
If we put some weight on it, in about 24 hours we'll have a firm cheese.
And when you're making Wensleydale sheep cheese commercially,
-do you do it in exactly the same way?
-Yes, we do.
Same process, same stages, slightly larger quantities
and in a much warmer place. But let me show you one I made earlier.
This is our matured ewe's milk Wensleydale.
-That's a fine-looking cheese.
-Would you like some?
-Ooh, yes. Can I have a nibble?
-Absolutely. There you go.
Mmm, thank you.
-Oh! That is very strong, isn't it?
-Yes, it is.
It's matured, it's aged, yes.
I've just realised that not only are we making cheese today,
we're making history,
because this is the first time for nearly 500 years
that a Wensleydale cheese has been made in the grounds of this abbey.
-Yes, you're right, absolutely.
-How about that?
-Fantastic, isn't it?
Now, we've been hearing how a tough 2012 only added to the problems
faced by many of Britain's farmers.
So will 2013 be any better?
The so-called "18-month winter"
has taken its toll on the British countryside.
For farms, especially the smaller ones,
the dreadful weather, combined with the high price of animal feed,
has brought real hardship,
not just for farmers, but for their workers, too.
That's Louie just arriving here on the farm for work
and he commutes about five miles every day.
'Louie Cornish is part of the future of agriculture.
'He's a 17-year-old apprentice on this farm in Devon.
'But poor buses and low wages mean he needs a subsidised scooter.'
-They look pretty keen, they look pretty ready for it.
Tell me about this moped scheme - how does that work?
Well, basically it costs £22 a month...a week, sorry,
and they give you a moped and they service it all for you every month.
-This is Wheels to Work, Devon Wheels to Work.
Why is it you decided for a career in farming?
Well, I just love being outdoors, really.
It's nice to be out in the fresh air and it's just animals.
'Money is tight for Louie, but his situation could be worse
'if it wasn't for a body called the Agricultural Wages Board.
'Set up after the War, it looks after the pay
'and conditions of farm workers in England and Wales.
'But the benefits the board brings have an uncertain future.
'The government wants to abolish it.'
The abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board could mean
apprentices like Louie lose around £1 an hour,
and farm workers' unions are furious.
'The union Unite claims 136,000 workers
'and their families could be affected.
'DEFRA says getting rid of the board will help ensure a viable
'future for agriculture, increasing flexibility and decreasing red tape.
'But it does accept the abolition could take more
'than £250 million out of the rural economy in the next ten years.'
So it's my job to stop them coming out of this gap here?
-It is, yeah, you protect that gap there.
'But scrapping the Wages Board could reduce outgoings
'for farmers like Louie's boss, Steve Wooldridge.'
It tells you if they're going to have one lamb,
two lambs or maybe three or more.
-So this is a pretty critical moment for the yield...
-It is really.
-..for the welfare of the whole farm.
-Yeah, that's right.
'Like most livestock farmers, Steve suffered from the bad weather,
'forcing him to buy in expensive feed.
'He had been doing well from higher meat prices,
'but now, even those are starting to fall.'
Yeah, bring that one on, Tom, yeah? That's right.
So what's last year been like, overall?
The lamb prices at the moment have dropped quite significantly.
-We was up to nearly £90 last year.
-£90 last year and how much now?
-Just over 60 now, at the moment.
-It's dropped 30 quid.
That makes a huge difference to your bottom line, I guess, does it?
-It does, yeah.
-And who's working on this farm?
Well, it's me, mainly. Then, me dad's still quite active.
And then we've just taken on an apprentice.
And out of all those people who actually gets a wage?
I'm afraid it sounds a bit bad but...
Louie's the only one that's getting paid, basically.
'One of the people who works without a wage is Steve's wife, Rose.'
One of the changes that's coming in this year
is the probable abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board.
Now, you've got a worker here, an apprentice, Louie.
What do you think about that?
When we first looked into taking on an apprentice,
we obviously looked at the national minimum wage
and then realised that the agricultural wage was slightly more.
It doesn't seem quite fair.
I guess it would perhaps be more feasible
for some people to take on an apprentice at the minimum wage,
rather than the agricultural rate.
'Despite the planned abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board,
'Steve and Rose have decided they won't drop Louie's wages,
'but that's not an easy decision
'when you're struggling with your own finances.'
Last year, we didn't make any profit, at all,
and it's not looking good for this year, either.
So how do you get by?
-Yeah, we have to claim, unfortunately.
We'd rather not, but that's the only way that we could exist as a family.
The business pays our bills, but, you know,
we have to have something to buy food and clothes with,
so we have to claim tax credit.
'Rose and Steve were both born into farming families
'and are determined to plough on.
'But how long before there's light at the end of the tunnel?
'Stuart Burgess is from the Commission for Rural Communities.'
My own take on this is that a number of the small farmers
may well go out of business.
The farms that will basically survive will be the bigger farms,
who can actually cope with the changing patterns of weather
and the rise and fall of prices.
It's the small farmer that finds it more and more difficult.
Is there a brighter horizon for farmers and the farming industry?
The medium and long-term future, I think, is pretty bright,
mainly because we have to feed more people.
The world population is rising
and we're going to have to grow far more food ourselves.
So I think if people can hang in there, then it is bright.
'Here at least, the pregnancy scans are going well.
'With a bit of luck,
'there'll be plenty of healthy lambs, come the spring.'
Reasons for at least half a smile?
Well, a little bit of a smile, maybe, yeah!
We've got more work to do here.
'But with thousands of mainly small farms now closing down each year,
'can people like Steve really afford to hang on
'in the hope of better days to come?'
The ruins of Jervaulx Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales are privately owned.
They were bought back in 1971 by the Burdon family,
along with surrounding land.
It came as a shock a few years later when government inspectors
labelled the abbey the most unsafe ruins in Britain.
Since then, the family, with a lot of time and money,
have managed to conserve the abbey, so the public can enjoy
and explore this tranquil place.
Responsibility for the abbey's never-ending upkeep
lies with landowner Ian Burdon.
-Good to see you, Ian.
-All right. Hello, there, how are you?
Now, it must have been a heck of a task turning
such a dangerous place into somewhere that's safe for visitors.
Weren't you tempted just to let the place fall down?
In one word - extremely!
But it's a place where, if you found Jervaulx, you know Jervaulx,
you learn to love Jervaulx, and it's grown on us
and hopefully, the work we've done,
we've managed to maintain it and preserve it.
What we like to try and do is let people come in through here,
dawn till dusk, and use their imagination as to
where they would be and what would have been happening in the area
where they're standing and things like that, and just wander round.
It's cost over £400,000 to make sure Jervaulx is safe for visitors.
But there's always more to do.
So, what was this, Ian?
Well, this is the south transept of the church in Jervaulx
and this is our last phase of work.
Because, you can see, we've got the ivy growing up the walls here.
So, what will happen? Will a whole wall come down?
Well, what we do when we see a phase like this, what we do -
it's a long, long process -
but we make a template of wood round the frame of the door
and then we'll take out the ivy from the top and then,
stone by stone, we will remove and we will number or letter,
and then we'll bring everything right down to ground level
because we've got to get at the root system of the ivy.
Then we'll have it back to exactly how it was before -
without the ivy, without the saplings. And...
How long will that take?
Well, I hope to do it in my lifetime.
Thanks to Ian and his family,
these glorious ruins should be secure for the future.
Truly, a labour of love.
On his farm in the Cotswolds, Adam's had his fair share of problems
with the weather over the last year, and it's not getting any easier.
With recent heavy falls of snow,
he's got his work cut out just trying to keep everything in check.
I've just got to catch one of these sheep.
I've noticed there's a bit of wire stuck in its wool.
I'll leave you there, Boo. Pearl...that's it.
Dolly, you come, too. Stay there, Boo. Stay...
It's amazing, these ewes, when they're out on the grass
that's covered in snow, they'll paw the ground, to get the grass.
There's a few doing it now. Right, I'll just round them up.
At one time, I was looking for a new sheepdog but I've been working
Pearl quite a bit lately and she's actually got a lot better
and become quite a useful little dog.
You're a good girl now, aren't you?
Not a bad dog.
There it is.
Just a bit of old wire. I don't know where that's come from,
but it had got caught up around its leg and it just came off.
So, job done.
I'm heading back to the farmyard to check on some new arrivals.
This sow has given birth to nine little piglets.
They're Gloucestershire Old Spots - one of my favourite breeds of pigs.
What do you reckon, Boo? Isn't he lovely?
Pigs quite often squeal when you pick them up,
calling for their mums, but they'll soon settle down.
Pigs are quite tough, but we bring our sows in to give birth,
in these stables.
The other adults are wading around in the snow.
There's an awful lot of farmers with pigs outdoors in big herds
that you might see when you drive round the countryside,
and they've had terrible times in the wet weather, in the flooding,
and now, the ground's frozen
and they're having to cart water to all those pigs. Not easy.
As a farmer, I'm always checking out the forecasts
so that we can plan the jobs we're doing on the farm.
I really rely on the forecasters -
people like BBC weatherman John Hammond.
It's trying to be nudged out of the way by these weather fronts
coming in off the Atlantic, heralding a change in the weather.
I've actually invited him to the farm,
to find out what's going on with our weather systems.
'John's familiar to us as a weatherman,
'but he also has a real empathy with farmers.
'That's because he's from farming stock.
'I want to know what's been going on with our weather.'
-Well, it's great that you're here, John.
-I'm loving it.
Absolutely in my element, to be honest. Thank you for inviting me.
We've had an amazing year.
Droughts in March,
and then all that wet weather through the summer.
We had a very difficult harvest, yields were poor, quality was bad,
-really awkward autumn, and now this big freeze.
It does seem to be we're going into a spell of rather more extreme
and prolonged weather spells.
I can show you exactly what we think is going on with a bit of a diagram.
-Shall I show you?
-What, in the snow?
You see, basically, if we look at the northern hemisphere - whoa! -
-like that, and the UK is probably somewhere like that.
-Now, you've heard of the jet stream, maybe?
That's that fast-moving ribbon of air which goes
across the northern hemisphere, and that's the dividing line
between the cold, Arctic air and tropical air to the south.
Along this jet stream, we tend to get our weather systems,
our highs and lows.
What seems to be happening now,
perhaps due to climate change, global warming,
is that the ice caps, of course,
are beginning to melt up at the North Pole.
That means there's not so much contrast between
the Polar latitudes and the Tropics,
and because we haven't got so much contrast,
the jet stream is much weaker,
and instead of going in a relatively straight line,
it's tending to do a lot of this -
meandering around aimlessly, like that.
We can either, in the UK, be stuck on the warm, dry side
for quite a long time, or then stuck on the cold
and wet side for a prolonged time,
so we tend to sort of lurch from one prolonged extreme to another,
and that's what's causing this blockage in the weather system,
and so we get these more prolonged spells. That's the current thinking.
And as a farmer, that is just something we'll have to get used to.
You need something to moan about, don't you?
When the weather's like this,
we have to make sure all our animals are well-fed.
-There we are. Some sheep nuts.
-Ah, this brings back memories, Adam!
So your family were farmers?
Yeah, most of my family are, or were, farmers, yeah.
My memories of this time of year is doing just this -
with a handful of nuts, feeding in the snow.
Why didn't you go into farming? Why the weather?
It was really that I was fascinated with the weather, from aged four.
30 years later, I'm on the telly, so it's great.
But if my face doesn't fit any more, I can always go back to farming!
Oh, it's easy. You can drop straight back into it, no trouble.
Just remind me, we're feeding these nuts, we have a bale out there,
so why are we doing both?
Well, the grass is obviously covered by the snow,
so they've got nothing to eat, as far as the grass goes.
The forage is good, that silage, but some of these are pregnant
and we need to give them some of these high-protein nuts to help them
grow the lambs inside them,
and they also need a bit of extra sustenance, cos it's so cold.
The funny thing is, although I'm not a farmer,
it's still in my mind all the time.
When I'm doing TV forecasts,
I'm always thinking about how it might impact
on the farming communities, so when I'm doing the Countryfile forecast,
sometimes I'm stood there thinking, "The weather's going to be
"quite humid, quite close, in June, July, it's maggoty weather!"
And although YOU know what I'm talking about,
if I said "maggoty weather" on the telly, other people might not know.
But, as you know, maggoty weather means you've got a lot of blow flies
in the summer and, when there's a lot of heat and humidity,
they tend to lay their eggs on the wool and that causes maggots.
And hence, maggoty weather.
Well, maggoty weather's a while off yet.
But right now, I've got an animal
originating from a very hot climate, that I'm keen to show John.
Well done, brilliant.
Are these particularly rare, Adam?
Not really. They're a Sicilian donkey, so they're a smaller type.
Sicilian?! In this weather?! I'm feeling sorry for them already.
They like a bit of this fodder, to keep them warm,
keep their bellies full.
Do you know that on the back of every donkey is a cross in the fur?
-Oh, yeah. I can see them.
-And they say - the wives' tale is -
it's where Jesus rode on the back of an donkey.
-Oh! Old wives' tale.
-You know what's coming next, don't you?
I know all about that. Go on. Fire away!
What are all the weather ones?
Right, I'll give you the ones that are complete rubbish, first of all.
Cows lying down in the field, it'll rain, standing up, it won't.
I don't think there's any scientific evidence to say that's correct.
There are one or two quite good ones, actually.
Ice in November, to stand, a duck,
the rest of the winter will be slush and muck.
Now, "ice in November, to stand, a duck",
that means lots of frozen ponds
so, if you get a really cold spell in November,
by the law of averages, the rest of winter, probably, quite mild.
So there's a bit of truth in that one, perhaps.
Another very good one, actually,
is our old favourite - red sky at night, shepherd's delight.
Actually, because red sky in the evening,
that means that the sun is reflecting off some very high cloud.
Quite often that's at the back of a weather front,
so if the weather front's clearing away, the next day will be fine
and sunny and in the morning, if you've got a red sky in the morning
that means it could be a weather front approaching and that means
that day will be rather wet.
Bit of truth in that one. You have to pick and choose.
This week, we're in the Yorkshire Dales.
While John's been making cheese using medieval techniques,
I've come to Castle Bolton, which was partly ruined
during the Civil War.
Here, they're keen to bring the Middle Ages back to life
on the estate.
Constructed in 1399, the castle was a hub of activity,
nestled deep within the Yorkshire Dales.
And then, civil war broke out. The walls came under attack
and you can still see the damage today.
Despite being half-ruined,
the castle has stayed in the same family throughout its long history.
Tom Orde-Powlett now has
the enormous responsibility for its upkeep.
-Morning, Julia. Welcome.
-Ooh, it's a chilly one!
-Yeah! You're wrapped up nice and warm.
Absolutely, yes. Would you give me a hand?
-Yeah, they look quite heavy.
-Give us one. There we go.
'Tom wants to return the castle to how it was in its medieval heyday.
'The cost of rebuilding is too much to even consider
'so he has other plans.'
-So, here they are - the wild boar.
-Pleased to see us!
-Would you like to feed them?
-You show me first.
'These can be dangerous animals
'so an electric fence keeps them safely inside.'
Ooh, sorry, I got a few of your pigs on the head there.
-Why have you gone for boar?
-I'm trying to get more and more things
that are relevant to the castle and the history of it.
So, obviously, boar are a very iconic medieval species.
-And it's what would have been here.
So, very much in keeping with the local area.
'Tom's grand plan is to reintroduce animals to the estate
'that would've been here in medieval times.'
We've got Pip, the merlin...
-Pip, the merlin.
-..which is the smallest European falcon.
And why the merlin?
One of the biggest events in the castle's history
was Mary, Queen of Scots staying here for six months,
in her imprisonment, and she loved flying merlins.
She obviously really enjoyed seeing them flying in their
natural environment, rather than just watching them on a perch.
And, Tom, what sort of temperament is she?
Well, she's a little bit nervous at the minute.
This process that we're in now is called manning.
Each year, we put them away at the end of the season,
-get them back out and they've to retrain.
-So back to square one, almost?
-We've only just got her out, actually.
Another animal that was naturally abundant on the estate
during that period was salmon.
The River Ure runs through the castle grounds.
It was once a popular spot for salmon fishing.
Pollution in the Humber meant that, for the majority
of the 20th century, very few were caught on the Bolton Estate.
Now, with pollution levels much lower,
more salmon have been returning to the river.
Tom and two others have formed the River Ure Salmon Trust.
David Bamford is the river manager.
'They hope to help boost numbers of salmon in the area
'by protecting the river habitat and restocking.'
It's a swimming pool.
Certainly is! Not one I'd like to swim in today, though.
-There are salmon in there.
-Yes, three big salmon in there
-and they've got to go back in the river.
-How does it work?
We've got to drop the water level first, then we're going to chase them
-around with nets.
-There's a lot to look forward to.
Caught in late autumn, the female salmon in this pool
were on their way upstream to spawn.
Why are the salmon in here, anyway?
We caught those salmon on rod and line in the autumn,
we stripped the eggs out of them and now these are hen fish,
female fish that are recovering.
Why do you strip them of their eggs in here?
Why don't you let them spawn naturally?
The greatest loss, really, with the fish laying its eggs,
is between the eggs being laid and the eggs hatching.
So we can get a 95% hatch rate, or we have done in previous years.
There might be only a 1% hatch rate in the river.
Now the water's down to a foot, it's time to try and catch the fish.
This restocking process isn't permitted on all rivers,
but if there's been a loss of spawning ground,
it's sometimes allowed.
-What's the plan, Dave?
-Well, we'll try and ambush them in the corner.
-That's the plan, anyway.
-There's one over here.
-OK. We'll have a go.
-Yes. That's it.
-When she goes, she'll go.
Ooh, blimey. The problem is you can't move the nets as quickly
-as they can move under the water!
-No, you can't.
'Surrounding them in the corner, we go for it.'
Ooh, here we go...
-You got it!
-I got one!
-Yeah, pass it up to Richard.
-There you go, Richard.
-There we go. That's one.
-Number one. Well done.
Why do you keep them in the tank for a month?
Why don't you just release them straight away?
It gives them bit of time to recover. Obviously, we've anaesthetised them
and stripped the eggs out them and it's very stressful for them.
-So it's just better if we...
'The next salmon also heads for a corner
'so it doesn't take long to get her netted, too.'
Yay, look at that!
That's 1-1 now!
With the fish safely transported to the vehicle and oxygen
flowing through the water, it's time to head off to the river.
We're releasing them at a spot close to where they were caught.
Ready for their swim.
Yes. Ready for the big swim and, hopefully, they'll come back
and spawn again in 2014.
Fingers crossed, anyway.
There she goes. Come on, beauty. Are you sad to see them go?
I am, but she's going back to the right place now.
-There she goes. She's away.
-Yup! There she goes,
-off to the North Sea. Well done.
-That is lovely.
Very, very nice. Well, that is it from a snowy Yorkshire.
Next week we're in North Cornwall
and Matt's having a bit of a go at Cornish wrestling.
Don't worry, he likes getting thrown around a bit.
See you, then. Bye!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Countryfile comes from the snowy Yorkshire Dales. John Craven explores the historic ruins of Jervaulx Abbey, once home to Cistercian monks who would have farmed the land around the abbey. It is thought that the monks could have made the very first Wensleydale cheese with their own French recipe; John attempts to help make cheese on the site for the first time in more than 500 years.
Julia Bradbury goes on the hunt for Britain's native red squirrel. Few people know that Yorkshire is a red squirrel stronghold, but Julia meets a photographer who feeds the squirrels and regularly sees more than 20 a day from his hide in the forest.
Jules Hudson is also in the Dales, following in the footsteps of Britain's most famous vet, James Herriot. He goes out on the farm rounds with a young veterinary couple who specialise in large animal work.
Tom Heap investigates rural poverty, and Adam Henson is on his farm in the Cotswolds learning more about the rural folklores surrounding our weather.