Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury head to the Thames Valley, on the doorstep of London but far away from the madding crowd.
This picturesque countryside has at its heart the river that bears its name. Matt takes to the water with an Olympian to find out what makes Henley-on-Thames such a breeding ground for gold medal winning rowers.
Meanwhile, Julia is at Burnham Beeches on the hunt for giant wood ants with an unusual defence mechanism which led to the discovery of formic acid. John Craven visits the Household Cavalry as they take part in an equine health survey launched by the charity Blue Cross.
Elsewhere, Tom Heap is on the south west coast to find out why our seabirds are in decline; and down on the farm, Adam's Highland bull Eric is causing a bit of a stir.
Henley Royal Regatta
To most of us Henley-on-Thames is synonymous with the quintessential British sport of rowing. Each year teams from around the world compete in Henley’s Royal Regatta. But what makes this stretch of the Thames so unique? Matt Baker takes a trip along the Thames with rowing legend Sir Matthew Pinsent to find out what makes Henley so special for Rowers, professional and amateur alike. Back on dry land Matt learns more about the regatta’s 174 year history with chairman Mike Sweeney.
Adam, Eric and the silver calf
This week Adam Henson is looking back at how Eric the Bull has progressed since buying him from the Highland cattle sale in Oban two years ago. At almost a tonne in weight Eric is one of the largest animals on the farm and Adam hopes he will pass his genes onto his offspring. But not all the calves have turned out as expected. Rather than having red hair, the latest addition to Adam’s Highland herd is actually silver!
This unusual male calf is yet to have a name, so Adam is asking for some help from you. It needs to begin with the letter ‘N’ and could be related to his colour or his Scottish roots. Adam is open to all suggestions – however unusual. We’ll find out whether any of your suggestions take his fancy in a few weeks time.
Send your ideas to us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Julia visits Cliveden
The Thames Valley has been traditionally where the great and the good let their hair down, away from the prying eyes of the British press. Julia visits Cliveden, arguably the most scandalous house in Britain. It has been home to duelling dukes, social climbers and the infamous Profumo Affair. Fifty years on from the scandal that toppled a government, Julia goes straight to source and takes a tour of the house with butler Michael Chaloner
Seabirds under threat
Earlier this year thousands of seabirds were killed on the coasts of Devon and Cornwall by a mysterious glue-like substance. Tom Heap travels to the south-west to find out what the substance was and see the hundreds of birds that are still recovering from its affects. But is there an even greater threat to our seabird population? On the Isle of May, in Scotland, Tom finds out about a dramatic decline in colonies of kittiwakes and puffins. Conservationists are blaming the impact of climate change on food stocks. So is there anything that can be done to help seabirds through the challenges ahead?
Attack of the giant ants
Julia Bradbury pays a visit to Burnham Beeches, a green oasis tucked between the commuter towns of Slough, High Wycombe and Maidenhead. The site is an ancient pollard woodland and for centuries has been home to grazing cattle. Though surrounded by tradition Julia discovers that the team at Burnham Beeches have a rather futuristic method of keeping their cattle in check. Julia also explores the habitat of the giant wood ant – famed for shooting acid and farming aphids. But it is not long before the ants take a shine to her too!
Each year, the Blue Cross conducts an annual week-long survey to give a nationwide picture of horse health. This year some of the nation’s hardest working horses are taking part, the Household Cavalry. John Craven visits Hyde Park Barracks to meet the on-site specialists who make sure that their equine colleagues are comfortable and in good health. After a busy year serving at national events like the Olympics, the Royal Wedding, and the Queen’s Jubilee, John finds out how the Queen’s horses have fared. The 2013 survey has now closed, but you can take part in 2014 by clicking on the link below.
The National Equine Health Survey website
There’s more to the regatta than meets the eye. As well as arranging the annual competition, experts from the regatta also manage some of the town’s iconic riverbank, a rare riverside wetland. On Temple Island there is a particular concern, a new fungal disease called Massaria, that threatens British plane trees. Matt joins Jago Keen, the regatta’s arboriculturist, to inspect a plane tree which, should it be infected, could cause damage to one of Henley’s most Iconic buildings.
Matt and Julia’s rowing challenge
No trip to Henley would be complete without a race on the river. Matt and Julia team up with some young rowers at Henley Rowing Club to compete in Countryfile’s own mini-regatta. But Matt has a trick up his sleeve, one-on-one training with double Olympic Champion Pete Reed. Pete has already won Olympic gold in the men’s coxless fours in both 2008 and 2012. With this kind of tuition Matt is sure to have an easy win - or will he? As usual, Julia has a trick up her sleeve too!
|Series Producer||Teresa Bogan|