The team head to Somerset, a county which has taken a battering from the winter storms since December, leaving large parts of the Somerset Levels flooded. As a result, communities and animals had to be evacuated. Matt Baker meets some of the resourceful locals who have come together to create a silage food bank, with contributions coming in from farmers from all over the country. Matt also visits a beef farmer to find out how he is coping with the aftermath of the floods.
Ellie Harrison discovers that human resilience and ingenuity are a common feature in the character of its people. She makes herself at home in the glorious Exmoor landscape where a remarkable woman spent 60 years drawing, painting and writing about this wild place. Hope Bourne was to become known as 'the woman of Exmoor'.
Tucked away in the streets of Somerset's Castle Cary is one of only two factories left in the world using horse hair to make textiles. John Craven tries his hand at weaving and discovers it has a proud tradition here.
Turning waste into electricity seems like the perfect way of creating power, and as such the last few years have seen anaerobic digestion units spring up all over the country. But, as Tom Heap finds out, while some claim AD has become too successful, others are worried we're starting to pull the plug before it has really got off the ground.
The landscape of the Levels
The Somerset Levels have been lived on and managed for thousands of years but it was the Romans who first tamed the wild wetlands for agriculture. When the Romans left, the land was reclaimed by the sea and it wasn’t until much later in the medieval period that the rivers were canalised and land once more reclaimed. Ellie Harrison learns the history of the Levels’ changing landscape and discovers how, with the aid of steam power, the Victorians pumped water off the Levels.
Flooding on the Levels
After the wettest winter on record the Somerset Levels have suffered some of the worst flooding in living memory. The water is receding but it will be a long time before things get back to normal. Matt Baker joins the local fire service checking depth levels on flooded roads before finding out what volunteers have been doing to help those affected. He visits a food bank set up in the local pub and joins a Burrowbridge farmer on his daily commute to feed his evacuated cattle. At the market Matt meets volunteers supporting the farming community by donating silage and bedding for evacuated livestock.
John Craven visits one of only two remaining horsehair weavers in the world. John Boyd Textiles in Castle Cary have been weaving the hard-wearing hair cloth for more than 150 years and still use the patented Victorian looms developed to replace child workers in the 19th Century. John discovers the processes involved in preparing the hair and finds out how versatile a cloth it can be – used for wall coverings, upholstering chairs and even fashion accessories such as handbags and hats.
Find out more about Castle Cary’s horsehair industry
Ellie takes to the rugged wilderness to follow in the footsteps of one remarkable lady who led a self-sufficient lifestyle in a remote corner of England. Known as the Woman of Exmoor, Hope Bourne was a writer and painter who covered many miles of vast moorland on foot documenting her daily encounters with the local people and capturing the rhythm of the seasons with her paintbrush and pen. Ellie reminisces with John Burgess, a friend of Hope’s, on the site where her leaky caravan once stood before meeting Rachel Thomas, chairman of the Exmoor Society, who shows Ellie the wealth of work Hope bequeathed to them after her death.
The Highlands of Scotland are an awesome place to farm – demanding respect and determination from both man and beast. This week Adam Henson is heading far north to an unusual hill farm near the highest village in the Highlands to meet some of the toughest animals around. The Smith family have farmed here for more than 30 years and have chosen animals with an independent spirit and hardy nature. The high ground is home to the UK’s only free-roaming reindeer herd, while the lower ground is a Highland haven for native breeds, including red deer, belted Galloways and wild boar.
Over the years Somerset’s long agricultural history, natural beauty and abundance of wildlife have enticed many creative minds. Amongst them is Pauline Rook, a farmer turned rural documentary and portrait photographer. Ellie is introduced to her favourite subject, local farmer Joe Samways, she explores some of Pauline’s work, and finds out what has inspired her to move behind the lens.
|Series Producer||Teresa Bogan|