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Sunday 21 June 2009
7:00pm - 8:00pm
Matt Baker and Jules Hudson head for Exmoor to discover how the native ponies are being given a new lease of life, what's being done to protect crayfish from the threat of foreign invaders, and why you need to stray off the beaten track if you want to discover the area's hidden secrets.
John Craven investigates the decline of some of our favourite farmland birds, and it's a tense time down on the farm as Adam Henson finds out if his prize cattle are finally clear of TB.
Plus plant expert James Wong is in Dorset to find out if he has what it takes to win the World Nettle Eating Championships.
Matt Baker and Jules Hudson head for Exmoor, a National Park that straddles the counties of Devon and Somerset.
The ponies on Exmoor are the UK’s oldest native breed and they’ve roamed the area since the last ice age. An endangered species, Exmoor ponies are almost as rare as the Giant Panda. Matt meets a farmer who looks after the largest pony herd on Exmoor, whilst Jules discovers how to tame these animals with the help of an equestrian expert.
Think of Exmoor and you’ll think of the beautiful landscape - so it’s no surprise that more than two million tourists flock here annually. But where do you go if you want to escape the crowds and cut yourself off from the outside world? Two miles from the nearest road Jules discovers Culbone Church, the smallest complete parish church in use in England.
Beneath the surface of Exmoor’s rivers there rages a fierce battle for survival. Ever since American crayfish – known as the Signal crayfish - entered Britain’s waters in the 1960s, numbers of our native White Clawed variety have plummeted. Experts believe the Signal population is dangerously out of control. Matt discovers what we can do to help tackle this problem.
“Exmoor Uprising” is a group of locals who claim the Exmoor National Park Authority cares more about conservation than it does about them. Jules talks to some of its members, and takes their concerns to the National Park Authority. He asks what it’s doing to address the issue of affordable housing.
Horses have been an integral part of life on Exmoor for centuries. But today they’re not being used to pull a plough through a field, but to pull people across water. Horse boarding is the latest adrenaline fuelled sport – and its hair-raising stuff as Matt and Jules find out.
Official figures show that the numbers of farmland birds has halved in the past 40 years. Some blame intensive farming methods but others point to environmental factors, such as global warming. Up until 2007 all farmers in the UK had to leave some of their land to grow wild as part of a policy to prevent overproduction of crops. One unintended benefit of this scheme was to boost biodiversity. Now the RSPB is calling for the scheme to be made compulsory again. John Craven investigates the case of the disappearing birds.
Countryfile visits a blacksmith based near the historic town of Marlborough. She is one of only a handful of women in the country who practice this ancient craft. As with many rural skills, the village blacksmith is a less common sight these days. Melissa Cole keeps the tradition alive by creating contemporary and beautiful sculptures using the traditional skills of the blacksmith.
The agonising wait is nearly over – two months ago Adam's cattle herd were tested for bovine TB and they all proved to be negative. Today is the decisive test because if they are found to be clear, after eleven months in quarantine Adam will once again be able to move cattle on and off his farm.
Countryfile’s plant expert James Wong recently took part in the World Nettle Eating Championships in Marshwood in Dorset. James often uses cooked nettles in soups and salads because they are highly nutritious. However this is the first time he is challenged to eat as many raw stinging nettles as possible in one hour, and the competition is fierce.
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