Matt on the beat
Crime is on the increase in our countryside, but local communities are fighting back. Hertfordshire was the first county in the UK to introduce ‘Rural Special Constables’ - volunteers specifically tasked with tackling rural crime. Matt Baker meets the men and women giving up their time to help maintain law and order in their rural community. He discovers they are on the frontline in the fight against crimes like fly tipping, diesel theft and animal cruelty.
Tom Heap discovers that there’s a problem with wildlife crime, not just in Hertfordshire but right across the UK. Every year thousands of incidents are reported, from poisoned birds to baited badgers. Staffordshire police are keen to tackle the problem and they allow Countryfile to join them on the hunt for deer poachers around Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. But, as Tom finds out, questions are being asked nationally about how effective the fight against wildlife crime actually is. Should organisations like the police, the RSPCA and the RSPB should get more money – and stronger legal backing – as they hunt the criminals killing our wild animals?
Hertfordshire naturalistJulia Bradbury is walking in the footsteps of a Victorian aristocrat who made Hertfordshire his home and playground. Lionel Walter Rothschild’s passion for exotic wildlife saw him bring thousands of animals specimens to the county in the 19th century. Most of these were destined to be stuffed and put on display in a collection that now forms the Natural History Museum at Tring. However, Walter and other Victorians also held collections of live animals in private menageries. Julia then goes on the trail of one animal, introduced by wealthy Victorians, that has since escaped and is on the increase across the country, the black squirrel.
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Elephants in the snow
Over the border in Bedfordshire, Katie Knapman meets more of the unusual animals that have found a home in this part of the UK. Whipsnade Zoo is home to a group of Asian elephants who enjoy nothing more than a good ramble through the Chilterns, even in the snow. It turns out that a trunk is the perfect tool for making snowballs! It’s not all fun and games though, the zoo also maintains a valuable area of chalk grassland, designated as a site of special scientific interest. Katie also meets the zoo’s newest recruits - a herd of badger faced sheep whose grazing habits help keep this rare habitat healthy.
Hidden away just a few hundred metres from the A1 in Hertfordshire, is a secret sanctuary for some of the UK’s rarest birds. Lemsford Springs was once a watercress bed, providing vital vitamins for the population of nearby London. Now, this watercress is the basis for a thriving ecosystem. Freshwater shrimp feeding on the watercress provide an easy meal for birds such as the little egret and green sandpiper. Julia Bradbury mucks in with a work party of volunteers whose hard work has helped maintain this site, even in the coldest winter weather.
The flyball challenge
While Julia and Katie look for exotic wildlife, Matt’s finding out how even our most well-known pets could be harbouring hidden talents. He meets Mitch, a springer spaniel with a busy lifestyle. Mitch works as part of a search and rescue team and Matt lends him a helping hand with some valuable training. Mitch’s work as a search dog leaves him in need of some serious playtime and he likes nothing more than a game of Flyball, a canine sport imported from the USA in the 1990s. There are now hundreds of teams in the UK and some of the best are in Hertfordshire. Matt has brought his own Labrador, Annie, along to get her basic training. Will she have what it takes to run alongside some of the top dogs in the UK?
Adam and the stubborn rams
At the start of another farming year, Adam Henson is preparing for the year ahead. His rams have finished their work, as most of his ewes are pregnant. It is now time to move the rams to new pastures where they will spend the spring and summer gaining weight ready for another mating season in the autumn. Last year Adam was a judge for the ‘BBC Farmer of the Year 2012’ and this week he announces the winner at the BBC Food and Farming Awards that took place in November 2012.
- Series Producer
- Teresa Bogan
- Matt Baker
- Julia Bradbury
- Tom Heap
- Adam Henson