The Countryfile team celebrate the festive season with a woodland Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, lighting up a mile-long stretch of enchanted woodland with glitter balls, lasers, meteorite lights and bubbles full of smoke.
Julia Bradbury acts as lighting apprentice for the day, learning from the experts how to create a magical festive display. Matt Baker learns about the history of the ancient woodland, and how the Forestry Commission keep the trees happy and healthy.
John Craven is with the volunteers who run the hedgehog hospitals. They are overflowing at this time of year with juvenile hedgehogs who need fattening up before they go into hibernation. Tom Heap finds out how farmers capitalise on Christmas. Some sell Christmas trees and mistletoe, while others have reindeers for Christmas events.
Adam Henson is on his farm settling his animals in for the Christmas period, with his father and his son lending a hand. He also visits his local agricultural college in Cirencester, seeing how the students there prepare for their break and tracking down the choir for a few carols.
Ellie Harrison is with Michelin award-winning chef Tom Kerridge as they cook up something tasty with partridge and pears in the woodland.
The whole team come together at the end of the programme for the big light switch on and some festive cheer.
Behind closed doors at the arboretum
Matt Baker goes behind the scenes at the National Arboretum at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire. He’s meeting the team in charge of sourcing, growing and planting new species of trees that are added to the arboretum collection. Then, alongside the arboretum’s tree climbers, Matt gets up close and personal with an oak tree that is nearly 200 years old. Here he learns about the constant challenges that come with maintaining a centuries old collection of trees.
A winter season steeped in traditions dating back centuries, there’s a bit more to Christmas celebrations than meets the eye. Julia Bradbury finds out the answers to some burning Christmas questions, uncovering where some of our most common festive associations originate. Why is the little robin synonymous with the season? Why are holly and ivy brought into the home? And where does Father Christmas really come from? Julia’s on a mission to find out.
John and the hedgehogs
Winter can be a tricky time for British wildlife and for hedgehogs the festive season is particularly tough. Hedgehog numbers are thought to have declined by a third since the start of the millennium. John Craven visits two determined hedgehog helpers to find out what we can all do to help our prickly friends through the Christmas season.
Ellie gets cooking
‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ is one of our best known and most loved Christmas carols and this week Ellie Harrison will be using it as her inspiration. But she’s not alone. With the help of local Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, Ellie will be cooking up a festive feast for the rest of the Countryfile gang and dispelling the partridge in a pear tree myth once and for all.
Partridge and perry kebabs x10
1 x pheasant crown
1 x partridge
1 x comice pear
20g Douglas fir pine (picked and chopped - reserve 3g for finishing)
100ml first press rapeseed oil
5g crushed juniper
2 x portobello mushrooms
½ tsp picked thyme
Cornish sea salt to finish
150ml pear cider
200ml pheasant stock
- In a bowl, mix the chopped pine, salt, crushed juniper, cider and oil then give a little whisk
- Remove the breast from the pheasant and partridge (or get your butcher to do it)
- Dice the breast into 1cm pieces and put into a deep side tray
- Pour over the marinade and leave for 24 hours
- Also the day before, soak your wooden skewers as this will help prevent them burning
- Now for the glaze - pour the honey into a heavy based saucepan and heat ‘til 150c then, being careful, pour in the cider and stock, then reduce ‘til a syrup and leave to cool
- After the 24 hours you are ready to build your skewers
- Now dice the pear into the same size as the partridge
- With the mushrooms - remove the stalk and again dice the same size
- On the skewer - push one piece of pheasant, then mushroom, partridge and pear. Repeat the same on all of the other skewers
- Grill on a hot BBQ turning the skewers after three minutes. Once you have done this brush with the glaze until sticky and glazed. After a further four minutes they will be cooked
- Remove from the heat and brush once more. Sprinkle on the picked thyme, Cornish sea salt and chopped pine needles
- Leave for three minutes to rest and then start eating
Tom’s Christmas harvest
When it comes to winter, many country businesses go into hibernation. But Christmas can be a fruitful time for the canny rural entrepreneur able to spot our desire for festive produce. Tom Heap visits the businesses that are turning the cold months into money-spinnners. He meets cider makers squeezing a few extra pennies from mistletoe clustered in their orchards, the cattle farmer who has expanded his business with a few acres of Christmas trees, and the television animal wranglers who deliver reindeer to Santa’s grottoes up and down the country.
Julia the lighting apprentice
Christmas is a magical time of year and at Westonbirt Arboretum they are celebrating the festive season by lighting up a mile of their woodland. Julia meets Ben Ousby, the man responsible for designing this enchanting lighting display. Under the guidance of Ben, Julia puts the finishing touches to the display. But will her design skills make the grade when thousands of visitors descend on the arboretum?
Adam’s Christmas farm
The animals on Adam Henson’s farm need tending to 365 days a year regardless of the weather and the same goes for Christmas Day. Adam prepares most things during the build-up to the 25th December, so they don't have as many working hours on the day itself. There’s one animal on the farm that is definitely going to get spoilt this Christmas, as Adam’s son Alfie has a new ferret. Ferrets used to be essential on the farm and Adam’s dad, Joe Henson, reminisces over the times when they were vital during the winter months. Adam also visits the Royal Agricultural University at Cirencester where the students are also preparing for Christmas. He’ll be discovering if some of the students can carry a tune!
|Series Producer||Teresa Bogan|