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The strange breeds changing Where to see winter’s greatest natural spectacles the face of our farms


• Fall in love with the sparkling South Downs • Unearth the mysteries of ancient hillforts • Make hearty soups for frosty walks

Matt M attt Dawson Dawson



amazing things to do in 2018 Your wish list for the perfect year

How H ow a ti tiny iny insect floored a rugby legend




W can Sweden What teach us about living te with big predators? wi

Spellbinding images of the recent past in rural Devon


01730 826900

EDITOR’S LETTER Seeing a black grouse lek for the first time is on editor Fergus’ wish list for 2018

HOW TO CONTACT US Talk to the editorial team: Tel: 0117 314 7399 Email: Post: BBC Countryfile Magazine, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN To subscribe or for subs enquiries: Domestic telephone: 03330 162 112 Overseas telephone: 01604 973 720 Email: bbccountryfile@buysubscriptions. com Address: BBC Countryfile Magazine, PO BOX 3320, 3 Queensbridge, The Lakes, Northampton, NN4 7BF

New Year dreams… January rides in with customary cries of post-Christmas anguish. At the very darkest, coldest time of the year, many folk compound the hardship with self-torturing resolutions to kick the New Year off ff with denial. I once – heroically – managed to get to 4 January on a ‘no booze’ mission but fell at the first whiff ff of ale in a country pub after a frosty walk. No, we at Countryfile Magazine reject this madness. Instead of denying ourselves, why not make a list of things that we want to do in 2018? And in terms of the countryside, this can mean a host of places to visit, skills to learn, wildlife to spot and even cakes to try. This plan is the gateway to the most exciting year of adventure ever. But you do need a bit of discipline: learn the Way of the Wish List on page 38. I’ve spotted two for my wish list in this issue. Number one is the South Downs, subject of a 10-page love letter from Matthew Oates, page 18. The beauty and absorbing history are beguiling. And then there’s a black grouse lek – the dancing mating ritual of these rare gamebirds – as part of our winter birdwatching walks on page 71. I’ve failed twice; hopefully 2018 will be luckier. Lastly, on many people’s wish list is the idea of bringing wolves back to Britain. Matt Maynard went to Sweden to see how wolves and people co-exist, there ev ever be howling in the UK’s hills? page 32.. Will ther

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Fergus rgus Colli Collins,

Photos: Oliver Edwards, Getty

THIS MONTH’S CONTRIBUTORS Matthew Oates “A diadem of magical places” says Matthew about the South Downs – close enough to large cities to be a perfect winter escape. Page 18

Matt Maynard “I am in Swedish wolf territory, to investigate how practical it would be to reintroduce wolves to the wild in the UK,” says Matt, page 32

Maria Hodson “At the start of the year, you need things to look forward to – from the hugely ambitious to the utterly mundane,” says Maria, page 38


32 Can we ever live with wolves?

Wonders of the wassail

38 Is seeing the Northern Lights on your 2018 wish list?

The sweeping South Downs are at their most evocative in winter



6-13 JANUARY IN THE COUNTRY › Identify ancient mounds and ditches. › A fiery feast from the humble swede. › Go wassailing this month.

On the cover

New series: learn to become more ‘aware’.

Enjoy perfect winter weekend escapes on these evocative chalk hills full of haunting mystery and rustic charm. Find beautiful walks, delightful villages and magical wildlife with Matthew Oates as your guide.



12 A-Z OF MINDFULNESS Cover: Getty Photos: Jason Ingram, Philip Bedford, Alamy, Getty, James Ravilious


On the cover

New series: unusual farm breeds in Britain. This month: alpacas.


ON YOUR COVER A hoar frost clings to trees as the sun sets over fields in Knutsford, Cheshire.

On the cover

Rewilders would love to see wolves return to the British landscape – but what is it like living alongside large predators? We sent Matt Maynard to Sweden to find out.


On the

cover Forget miserable New Year resolutions – make a wish list of the things you want to do and ensure you make the most of the countryside in 2018.


On the


On the


On the cover

cover Over 4,000 of our hills are crowned with massive earthworks. But who built them and why? Winter is the best time to find out, says Roly Smith.

cover Mesmerising images of farm life in Devon that have largely vanished within living memory.

Delicious, traditional recipes for warming sustenance on your next winter ramble.

77 READER OFFER Buy the set of attractive Countryfile greetings cards.

subscribe today for unbeatable money-saving offers, page 30

56 Bewitching black and white images of rural Devon


Soups to warm the cockles


Walk into an avian melodrama On the cover



Great days out



72 Seabird surprise

Lack of high-speed broadband is killing the countryside.

Your great days out in photos.

93 BOOKS, RADIO AND TV 30 SUBSCRIBE NOW! Don’t miss our special New Year offer.

49 COUNTRYSIDE ISSUES WITH JOHN CRAVEN A secret ingredient from the seaside could help reduce greenhouse gases.


On the cover

What to watch, read and listen to this month, including Judi Dench on trees.

96 MATT BAKER The Baker family wish list for 2018.

Angelsey, Gwynedd

76 Sea eagle splendour Skye, Inner Hebrides

78 Dance of the black grouse Langdon Beck, County Durham

81 Bogland bird bonanza Flanders Moss, Stirlingshire


82 Spoonbill spectacular


85 Waterfowl wonderland

Keep Jack Frost at bay on winter walks.

Can Britain feed itself post Brexit?


Test your rural knowledge.

World Cup winning scrum half Matt Dawson on his rural roots – and the insect that put him in hospital.



Isley Marsh, North Devon Holme Dunes, Norfolk

86 Perfect Purbeck RSPB Arne, Dorset

88 Topp seven starling murmurations Nationwide

What’s in store in the February issue. 05



must see

Photo: Drew Buckley

HARE ADRIFT One place where you can guarantee snow this winter is the Cairngorms in eastern Scotland. These great rounded mountains rise from a massive plateau and are home to five of the six highest peaks in the British Isles. The tallest is Ben Macdui, just 40m or so shorter than Ben Nevis. Even in this cold wilderland, a mountain hare makes its living, burrowing into the snow for warmth. You can find out more about these tough mammals on Living World, Radio 4, 7 January at 6.35am.

PEN Y FAN PERFECTION Pronounced ‘pen-ur-van’, this is the tallest of the Brecon Beacons and frequently snow covered in winter. The name means “top of the hill” and it is loved by walkers who have a number of exciting routes on which to reach the 886m summit. However, this in itself causes problems with erosion from all the foot traffic. Editor Fergus suggests trying some alternative beacons with equally fabulous views such as the climb to Pen Cerrig Calch (“lime stone head”) from Crickhowell. But take the greatest of care if walking in winter.

HOAR FROST HEDGE As our winters become warmer and wetter with climate change, we tend to see fewer hoar frosts. But when they do occur, they coat trees, hedges and fences with magical glistening white crystals. Hoar frost forms on clear, very cold nights when water vapour in the air condenses dew-like on very cold surfaces and then freezes. With little cloud cover, the icy scene can be lit up by sunshine and blue skies the next morning, creating a magical wonderland.

Send us your best countryside photos Share your best photos for the chance to feature as our ‘Photo of the Day’ on social media. Simply tweet your pic, share on Facebook or post on Instagram using the hashtag #Photooftheday. Alternatively, you can email: but please include the subject line ‘Photo of the Day’. 8


Photos: Drew Buckley, Getty

Announcing itself with a guttural “chacka-chucka-chacka” call from trees and hedgerows, the fieldfare is a Scandinavian raider on the hunt for rowan berries. Parties of these large, slate-headed thrushes plunder Britain’s parks and hedges in winter, finding easier picking than in their homelands. A sort of avian Viking marauder.

Make your own... WASSAIL PUNCH Wassail punch is a medieval drink and, in the south-west and south-east of England at least, was drunk as part of a ceremony or ritual to ensure a good cider-apple harvest the following year. Ingredients • 6 small apples, washed and cored • 1 litre cider • 2 cinnamon sticks, crushed • 2 pinches ground cloves • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste • 1 lemon, sliced • Sugar, to taste

WASSAILING Throughout hroughout January

Method 1. Preheat oven to 190˚C/gas mark 5. Score the apples and place in an ovenproof tray and roast for 45–50 minutes, or until skin is soft and starting to split. 2. Heat the cider in a saucepan over a low heat and add cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. 3. Stir well and heat through until the liquid starts to foam. 4. Add the lemon slices and roasted apples, and give the liquid a good stir – if there is any apple juice left in your ovenproof dish, add this, too. If you want to add sugar (I added about 4 tablespoons), now is a good time to do so – add it gradually and taste as you go along. Serve hot. Recipe from BBC History Magazine

The vivacious tradition of wassailing can ca be split into two distinct categories: house and orchard. Exchanging drink and song for gifts, the practice of house wassailing has been largely replaced over the years by carol singing. Orchard wassailing, on the other hand, remains strong, and the sound of merry locals singing to the good health of their apple trees can often be heard in England’s cider regions drifting through the cold, January air. Join in with apple howling at the Old Mill Farm in Sussex (6 Jan), hang cider-soaked toast at the Frieze Hill Community Orchard in Somerset (13 Jan), or take part in a ceilidh at the Chepstow Wassail (20 Jan).

27-28 January

Aviemore Sled Dog Rally


Photos: Getty,Alamy, Stockfood ustrat on: Alan Batley

Every year, ‘mushers’ from around the country gather in the picturesque Glenmore Forest Park for the Sled Dog Rally, the largest event of its kind in the country. The exhilarating race – organised by the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain – sees over 1,000 sled dogs wind through the pine-wrapped shores of Loch Morlich, as the grand Cairngorm mountains tower above. Not even the temperamental British weather deters these speeding adventurers, and in snowless winters, riders use wheeled rigs to carry them cross-country through the woods. This year, the rally takes place on 27-28 January.


How to...

PRUNE AN APPLE TREE A few simple snips and cuts in the winter months means strong, healthy fruit later in the year, says Emma Crawforth, gardening editor of BBC Gardeners’ World magazine

Did you know?

London is home to Europe’s largest urban wetland


If the branches have grown too long for you to reach, reduce them a little to help you prune next time.


Cut out any vigorous shoots that are growing into the plant’s centre so air and light can reach all the branches.

At 211 hectares, Walthamstow Wetlands in North London is the same size as Monaco and five times as big as Vatican City. Regenerated and opened to the public on 20 October 2017, it supplies 1.5 million people with water. It’s also a great place to walk, cycle, fish and spot birds.

Countryfile on TV BBC ONE, 6.20PM, SUNDAYS


If shoots are very close together, or cross or rub against each other, thin them out by cutting one back to the main branch.


Remove damaged, dead or diseased branches. This shoot with a canker needs to be cut back to the main branch.


On old trees, thin out some of the fruiting spurs to create room for fewer but better quality fruits next year.

Ribble Valley – 7 January The team visit Gazegill Farm in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley, where a special tour – organised by The Country Trust – offers refugees and asylum seekers a taste of farm life, including how to make ice cream.

Each issue of BBC Gardeners’ World d magazine is packed with inspiring planting and design ideas, along with suggestions on how to grow your own delicious produce.

Quote of the month...

dawn is the color of metal, “ Winter The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves ” Sylvia Plath, Waking in Winter

Avalon Marshes – 14 January Watch starling murmurations at this internationally important area of lowland wetlands in the Somerset Levels (above . Visual artist and animator Sean Harris, who spent a year living on the Levels, runs a stopmotion workshop with a local school.



A to Z of Mindfulness

A is for Awareness In this new series, we will look at various ways to be mindful in nature, in turn improving physical and mental wellbeing Most of us enjoy being out and about in the countryside but, in the drama of our everyday lives, we often find it difficult to switch off, the humdrum of our inner monologue ever present. One of the most important facets of mindfulness is awareness, defined as a knowledge of something at the present time. And one of the easiest ways to be present is to focus on the small things, those very special notes of nature that are all around us, all the time. When you’re next outside, find a quiet spot and focus on something close to you; a blackbird foraging among decaying beech leaves, a dewspangled spider web, or the furrowed trunk of an old, gnarled oak tree. Rest your hand on the bark and feel its rough surface. Look closely at each groove. Put your ear to the trunk and listen as it creaks. Smell it. Then gaze into its eaves and watch the shifting shapes and colours sway though its boughs. With any luck, you’ll stir some time later and realise that, for those blissful moments, you were aware. 12

In season

Purple on top, yellow-orange underneatth and shaped p like something you would use in crown green bowling, the swede has fallen a little out of fashion of late – often regarded as little more than animal feed. Lucky animals, as it has a distinct, sweet-earthy flavour. Believed to have originated in Scandinavia, the swede arrived in Britain in the late 18th century. It’s delicious roasted or boiled and then mashed with lots of butter and pepper. But our friends at BBC Good Food magazine believe this humble veg deserves a bit more attention.

SPICED SWEDE FRITTERS: You will need • 1 swede (about 650g), peeled and diced into small chunks • 75g plain flour • 100ml crème fraîche • 1 egg, beaten • 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped • 1 red onion, finely chopped • 1 tsp cayenne pepper • 2 tsp garam masala • ½ tsp ground turmeric • 1 tsp crushed coriander seed

Method 1. Cook the swede in boiling water for 15 mins until tender, then drain well. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, crème fraîche and egg to make a smooth, thick batter. Stir in the chilli, onion, spices and coriander, then season generously. Roughly mash the swede and stir into the mix. 2. Heat a splash of the oil in a large non-stick pan and cook small, flattened spoonfuls of the mixture for two mins on each side until crisp and browned. Serve hot with chutney.



Photos: BBC Good Food Magazine / Philip Webb, Getty ustrat ons: Lynn Hatzius, SJC Illustraiton

Britain’s countryside is a treasure chest of ancient and medieval earthworks but, often overgrown and eroded, it can be difficult to work out what’s what. Find out more about hill forts, henges, tumuli and long barrows with historian Julian Humphrys




Sometimes over 90 metres in length, long barrows were created about 5,500 to 4,500 years ago during the Neolithic period. They contained chambers of stone or wood to house the bones of the dead.

An artificial mound or barrow, normally raised over a grave. 20,000 have been identified in Britain. They vary in form but the commonest are bowl barrows (c2000800BC), which resemble an upturned dish.

Medieval open fields were very large fields in which many individual farmers cultivated their own strips. Repeated ploughing caused a distinctive pattern of raised ridges flanked by furrows.




Dating from the Late Neolithic period (2800-2000 BC), a henge is a roughly circular space, enclosed by a ditch and bank. Normally the ditch is inside the bank – unsuitable for defence – implying they were built as ceremonial centres.

Often described on an OS map by their individual names, hill forts are large defensible sites – normally found on spurs and hilltops – surrounded by banks and ditches. Mostly built during the Iron Age, over 4,000 have been identified in the UK.

Originating in the prehistoric period and continuing into the Middle Ages, strip lynchets are artificial terraces found on hillsides. Long-term ploughing dislodged soil, which spread out to form a level platform used for cultivation.




Britain has more than 2,000 deserted medieval villages. Population decline after the Black Death caused some to be abandoned; others simply ceased to be economically viable. House sites are marked by banks and stone foundations.

The Normans introduced these castles into Britain; 600 have been identified. The motte was an earth or rubble mound with a wooden palisade and a stone or timber tower on the top. The adjoining fortified bailey contained additional buildings.

Roads were built by the Roman Army from AD43 to help with the conquest of Britain and to facilitate its subsequent administration. Usually straight, they were flanked with banks and ditches. By about AD150 there were 10,000 miles of road.


Adam’s animals

British farms are home to a diverse collection of exotic animals from all corners of the world. Farmer and Countryfilee presenter Adam Henson meets the star breeds – starting with the alpaca

ALPACA FACT FILE • Alpacas weigh between 60-80kg • Shorn annually, wool yields for each animal average 5kg • Contrary to popular belief, alpacas rarely spit at humans

industry the primary profit-maker for owners. ff the Then there’s the money that can be made off back of alpacas – literally. They produce a luxurious fleece – it’s softer and smoother than sheep’s wool, grows in more than 20 natural colours, and can be spun easily into yarn. Lastly, some sheep and chicken breeders even use these timid yet territorial creatures to guard their flocks against predators such as foxes. The qualities of the alpaca fleece were first discovered in Britain more than 180 years ago by Sir Titus Salt. The story goes that the Bradford-based mill-owner, textile merchant and industrialist stumbled across some bales of imported alpaca wool in a warehouse. Taking a sample to experiment with, he returned soon after to buy the entire consignment. It’s claimed that the discovery made him the richest man in Yorkshire and today he’s known as the founder of the modern alpaca industry. There’s a growing and very lucrative market in alpaca fibre, which many owners are taking full advantage of. I’m sure old Titus would approve.


For the majority of us, our best chance to experience these curious animals is on a specialist alpaca walk in the countryside. Over the years they have become part of the leisure industry, from Norfolk and Hampshire to the Scottish borders and the Welsh Valleys. Stuart Billinghurst and Emma Collison are an example of just how inventive alpaca farmers can be. They started their business in 2011 when they moved from Plymouth to a 10.5-acre farm on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. The pair ff “outstanding views at alpaca run alpaca walks, offering pace”. It’s a great way to learn about livestock handling, animal husbandry and feeding by hand. Stuart and Emma are also introducing people to the delights of alpaca meat. I’ve tasted it and it’s wonderful – tender, lean, with a flavour like lamb or venison, and it’s free-range, too. The farm’s alpaca sausages have been winning awards all over the place. And they’ve recently launched an alpaca knitwear brand for babies. No doubt the next generation will also love the appeal of the alpaca.

But just why are so many people farming alpacas in Britain? Well, there are several answers. The most common reason is for breeding, with the stud stock

Ask Adam: What topic would you like to know more about? Email your suggestions to

ll over Britain, in the most unsuspecting places, you can stumble upon a little piece of the South American Andes. We may be a long way from the mountainous terrain of Peru, Chile and Bolivia but that hasn’t stopped the UK becoming home to tens of thousands of alpacas. Prized by the Inca civilisation for 5,000 years, these charming creatures – with their wide eyes and alert ears – have instant appeal, and they are much more intelligent than they look. Alpacas are a camelid, closely related to their more famous cousin, the llama. They first came to Britain back in the 1990s when 3,000 were imported here. Today, there are around 35,000 alpacas on farms and smallholdings all over the UK and they’ve really found a place in the hearts of the nation’s animal-lovers.


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Photo: Sean May on, Getty


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Sara Maitland

Better broadband connection in rural areas would revitalise the countryside Illustration: Lynn Hatzius

Those of us who live in rural areas will not be surprised to hear that the gap between rural and urban NGA (New Generation Access, which to the lay person means high-speed broadband coverage) remains significant. About 80% of all European households have access to such services, but fewer than 40% of UK rural homes do. The UK is also falling seriously behind not only the continent-wide levels of access, but also the promises that have been repeatedly made to us. Some of this is inevitable, and may even be a reasonable price to pay for the pleasures of living in a more beautiful, healthier, more neighbourly and less violent environment. Economies of scale are real, and are bound to affect private investment. It is more expensive to supply rural areas than urban ones because there are more people and less space between households in towns and cities than in villages and open countryside. For instance, the London Borough of Islington has a population density of 15,670 people per square kilometre (the highest); and the Western Isles has a population density of eight people per square kilometre (the lowest). Which is likely to provide a better return on infrastructure investment? It is a no-brainer.

CROWDED HOUSE But this oversimplifies the situation. England is now the most densely populated country

in Europe and the population is increasing and projected to grow a lot further. The grumbles about overcrowding and consequent pressures on services, house prices and other factors are real – both sincere and reasonable. More easily overlooked is that there are parts of the UK where the population is actually falling – and these are in remoter rural areas. ‘Undercrowding’ creates its own pressures, many of which are financial. Small schools with vast catchment areas make it more expensive to educate each child. Widely spread out ageing populations make the provision of social care more expensive. Roads, rubbish collection, even ambulance provision all become pricier per user than in more heavily populated areas. Some pressures are more social. Providing diverse leisure activities becomes non-viable; there are fewer and less diverse

Sara Maitland is a writer who lives in Dumfries and Galloway. Her works include A Book of Silence and Gossip from the Forest.

employment opportunities; the value of properties falls and so on. What is needed urgently is some sort of rebalancing – a redistribution of population. And since we do not, I’m glad to say, live in the sort of society that allowed the Highland Clearances, the most efficient way to do this is to make rural areas more attractive to people. Over the past decade or so, there has been a strong growth in self-employment, small business start-ups and homebased working. Lower property prices, as well as the lifestyle advantages – particularly for children – ought to make rural communities a highly attractive proposition to ambitious entrepreneurs. But how can you start or grow a business in an area with no decent broadband network? Frankly, you can’t. This is a political issue. What is needed is a national strategy – and a proper investment – to ensure that throughout the country there is access to a full high-speed (fibre) network. This is not about “being nice to those poor yokels”. It is being visionary, supportive of both communities, and securing the digital economy so that the UK can compete with the rest of the world while also easing social pressures on both rural and urban dwellers. That is a no brainer, too.

Have your say What do you think about the issues raised here? Write to the address on page 3 or email 17


THE SOUTH DOWNS Chalk hills roll and plunge into frosty combes, cool mists swirl around wooded slopes and cosy villages await winter wanderers. Pull on your boots and scarf to explore the South Downs this January, says Matthew Oates




Photo: Sussex Landscape Photography

Winter sun bathes a snow-covered chalk quarry in the South Downs National Park


he diadem of magical places that we call the South Downs reaches out from the chalk lands of southern Hampshire deep into the kingdom of Sussex. It is hard to determine where the downs start, but they end dramatically and conclusively, plunging into the English Channel at Beachy Head, immediately east of the Seven Sisters, near Eastbourne. Like the North Downs of Kent and Surrey, they consist of a steep scarp slope and a long, more gentle dip slope. In the South Downs, the escarpment faces north, which renders the turf cool and mossy, while the dip slope ambles away southwards, towards the English Channel, and is dissected by deep and hidden dry valleys, known as combes. Much of this gently sloping land consists of vast arable fields, open plough-land in winter. Four swollen brown rivers cut through and divide up the South Downs – the Arun, Adur, Ouse and Cuckmere. Each of the resultant sections of downland is distinctive, but the greatest landscape character difference lies between the western downs, of Hampshire and West Sussex, which are often steep, 20

TOP Fog hangs over Washington village in West Sussex under the northern slope of the South Downs ABOVE Warm lights welcome visitors on Alfriston’s High Street in East Sussex OPPOSITE, INSET The beautiful sandstone structure of Lancing College Chapel in West Sussex

incised and wooded, and those of East Sussex, which are open and rolling.

HAMLETS AND HOUSES The built environment is as strong an element of the South Downs as the natural and farmed environments, and one which the establishment of the South Downs National Park Authority in 2010 will help to conserve. Local distinctiveness is profound

Photos: Sussex Landscape Photography, Alamy


here, from the villages that have sprung up around the clear streams that bubble up where chalk meets the gault clay at the foot of the downs’ escarpment, to those snuggled away in hidden valleys, or the hillside hamlets miles from anywhere. Thatched cottages proliferate, but the South Downs are more famous for houses hung with pantiles, beneath which pipistrelle bats roost, and for walls of dwellings and farm buildings faced with flints, intact or halved (knapped). Timberframed houses, though, are not as prominent here as in the remainder of Sussex. Village life is massive, and the villages themselves make you want to dawdle there forever. Especially so the settlements of South Harting, Heyshott and Fulking in West Sussex, or Rodmell, Glynde and Alfriston in East Sussex, all of which lie on the spring-line, where streams emerge at the foot of the downland chalk escarpments. Great houses are a feature of the downland landscape and many are open to the public, such as the Elizabethan Parham House near Cootham. Vernacular buildings are everywhere, including the

framed and thatched Alfriston Clergy House in the Cuckmere valley. There are also numerous vernacular farm buildings, such as Saddlescombe Farm at the foot of Newtimber Hill. The downs hold a large number of quaint churches, many flint-faced; some are hidden, awaiting discovery; some stand proud in the landscape, most notably the vast Gothic Revival chapel at Lancing College, which dominates the Adur gap.



Winter on the South Downs is seldom bitter or snowbound, at least not in this modern era; yet frost can linger daylong in the shadowlands, along woodland edges and at the foot of steep north-facing slopes, where the low-slung January sun never reaches. Mostly, in winter, there is a dankness about the western downs: on rainy days, mists and vapours swirl over wooded slopes, or waver from treed promontories like montane banner clouds. In wet weather, footpath surfaces are treacherous for the far south: a claggy clay marl sucks at every footstep as you labour upslope, while downslope involves much 21


TOP Sun breaks through the storms to reveal the South Downs cloaked in snow at Storrington ABOVE The enchanted woodland of Kingley Vale in West Sussex

SILENCE AT DUSK The South Downs offer wondrous days out under the blue skies of a winter anticyclone, and dreamscape vistas across the oaken lands of the Low and High Weald. However, they are at their best in winter in the gloaming, at the end of those silent days of absolute calm that summer cannot produce. Then, when the dog-walkers have gone home, and the hum of distant

Photos: Sussex Landscape Photography, Alamy, Bridgeman

slipping and sliding. Even the bare chalk, when wet, can be surprisingly slippery, for it has been polished by countless walkers. You need good boots, sound knees and a strong stick. By contrast, summer is a time of kicking dust along the well-loved labyrinthine white chalk footpaths that make the South Downs so wondrously attractive to walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders. Even in late January, there are signs of spring all along these downs. Moss grows verdantly up the boles of ash and beech trees, pieces break away randomly in winter gales to behave like tumbleweed. Dog’s mercury, wild arum leaves and bluebell spikes appear through the decaying leaf litter of yesteryear, while the dip slope woods are tinged with the summer-green of honeysuckle leaves. By mid-February, primroses are opening along sheltered sunny woodland banks, the cock mistle thrush is championing spring and the rooks are building high in wavering ash tops. Even in the towns there are early signs of spring, for the tops of Brighton’s healthy, disease-free elm trees flush purple with flower buds. Winter cannot hold spring back for long down here, deep in the south country.

traffic abates, and silence becomes audible; then, with redwing and fieldfare flocks descending to roost in the thickets; then, with vixen calls and a hint of woodsmoke in the air, you can feel the true depth of experience that the South Downs offers, and which captivated the great landscape and nature writers who knew and loved these downs, WH Hudson and Edward Thomas. Then, you can join the sleeping, dreaming trees, and start to dream up spring.


You have to be brave, though, to wander the ancient twisted yew woods of Kingley Vale in the half-light. The ghosts of Viking warriors are said to walk abroad there at night, and twisted roots rise to trip you: time and space become distorted. This place is a world apart, outside our experience, and not for the fainthearted. Chanctonbury Ring, further east along the downland crest, is reputedly one of the most haunted places in Britain. After dark it is downright elemental.

ARTISTS & WRITERS The South Downs are an artistic and literary landscape of national significance. The downs speak through their authors and poets. Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) eulogised West Sussex almost to the point of idolatry. Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) lived in East Sussex from 1897 until his death – his poem Sussex is an outpouring of love for the county. Edward Thomas (1878-1917) pilgrimaged the western downs from his home near Petersfield, his rural prose-poem The South Country (1909) muses over “these lines of still more distant downs”. WH Hudson (1841-1922)

wrote one of his greatest books Nature in Downland (1901) about the western South Downs. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) lived in and around Lewes for 22 years. Artists include Bloomsbury luminaries Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who worked at Charleston near Lewes; painter Eric Ravilious (1903-1942), who specialised in winter downland landscapes (right); and Harold Mockford (b.1932) who paints downland scenes and seascapes. Contemporary art includes the Cass Sculpture Foundation at Goodwood estate, and Red Earth in Brighton.


PRESERVING THE LAND The downs are a changeling landscape, in the process of mending after the singleminded exploitation of 20th-century agriculture. Many of the old estates that own huge swathes of downland landscape, and whose owners love Sussex deeply, are working to restore the downland heritage. This is not simple, as much of the dip slope is high quality agricultural land, under barley, wheat and oil-seed rape. On the downs around Burpham, for example, on the Duke of Norfolk’s estate, hedges and conservation headlands have been established, and winter stubbles are retained. This is to the benefit of grey partridge and other farmland birds such as corn buntings, linnets, skylarks and yellowhammers, and winter raptors, notably the short-eared owl. On winter weekends, the western downs send plumes of blue wood-smoke skywards, where scrub is steadily being cleared to restore the precious chalk grassland. Volunteers from Butterfly Conservation, the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service, the Murray Downland Trust and 24

TOP The Seven Sisters cliffs viewed from Birling Gap ABOVE Early morning mist and frost over South Harting in West Sussex, as seen from Beacon Hill OPPOSITE, INSET Once incredibly common, the grey partridge is now a treat to see

the Graffham Down Trust are active along the downland escarpment south of Midhurst. This work has enabled the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, recently endangered in Sussex, to re-establish a major dukedom here. Further east, the National Trust clears scrub along the Fulking escarpment and the flower-rich slopes of the Devil’s Dyke and Newtimber Hill, behind Brighton.

Similar work also benefits the huge archaeological interest that exists along the downs, centred on the Neolithic hillforts. These features are also threatened by the scrub that developed extensively after the rabbit populations collapsed from myxomatosis and the centuries-old system of sheep grazing declined. The Devil’s Jumps barrows at Treyford, Kingley Vale barrows and the flint mine landscape of Cissbury Ring are especially important archaeological sites, of national or even international significance.

Photos Getty, Alamy

VISTAS AND HEALING At all times of year the downs, western and eastern, offer some of the most iconic and best-loved views in our islands. You cannot but respond to them. They impress, such that you leave part of your soul behind on leaving, which acts as a touchstone to call you back, for more. Here, the East Sussex downs perhaps outscore their western cousins, for the views from High and Over near Alfriston, and eastward and seaward along the Seven Sisters from Cuckmere Haven, from Birling Gap and Belle Tout,


and inland from Windover Hill towards Firle Beacon, are more than breathtaking, they are soul-making. Perhaps we live for such experiences. My own favourites, though, are from the top of Chantry Hill, above Storrington, and Harting Downs, above South Harting. I’m there now. And in winter, these places offer a solitude seldom experienced during the brighter months when honeypot places become more than full. Winter offers us a one-to-one relationship with wonderful places on these downs. Above all, the South Downs are a landscape of love – and not merely because many of us yearn to live in one of their picturesque villages. They generate and instil love. As more and more people realise this, perhaps guided by the great estate owners, so the South Downs’ future will be assured. CF

Matthew Oates is an ecologist, author and broadcaster. His books include In Pursuit of Butterflies: A Fifty Year Affair and Beyond Spring: Wanderings Through Nature. 25


The warm welcoming smell of home is exactly what an Arada stove brings to your life. Light the fire and breathe in the heart-warming aroma of oak, ash, apple or cherrywood as it rises through every room. You might think of it as the finishing touch to your sense of style. Or simply the essence of good living.





Where to walk, stay, dine, muse and more on the South Downs, by Matthew Oates Farnham


A3 Haslemere


6 5 South Downs 17 South Harting National Park Pulborough 1 14 4 15 2 11 16 9 20 8 18 21 Arundel 25



12 10

Hassocks 26


Lewes 24


Bognor Regis

A27 Brighton





19 23 27


HISTORIC HOUSES 1 Uppark South Harting This 18th-century house has commanding views from its position on the South Downs ridge. 2 Parham Pulborough A fine Elizabethan country house built in 1577 with pleasure grounds and a walled garden.

5 The Park House Hotel Bepton A country house hotel with full English afternoon tea and a spa.

9 South Downs Bunkhouse Houghton Farm Set in the Arun Valley, the bunkhouse is open all year.

6 The Spread Eagle Hotel Midhurst Dating to 1430, this former coaching inn has 39 charming bedrooms and a modern spa.

10 South Downs Lodges Hassocks Luxury, dog friendly, self-catering lodges.

7 Wingrove House Alfriston A 19th century colonial-style country house with an excellent restaurant. 8 The Swan Hotel Arundel A fine country pub with 14 cosy ensuite rooms.

11 Gumber Bothy Bunkbarn Slindon Open mid-March to October. 12 Knepp Wildland Safaris Dial Post Self-pitch and glamping site available from Easter to end of October. 13 YHA South Downs Southsease

3 Firle Place Firle This privately owned country house at the heart of the South Downs National Park is open to visitors in the summer months.

Photo: GAP Photos

4 West Dean Gardens Singleton Beautiful gardens with Victorian glasshouses and surreal trees.


Illustration: (Map for illustrat on purposes on y. Please consu t appropriate road/OS maps)


MUSEUM 16 Weald and Downland Living Museum Singleton Discover 900 years of rural life (below).


17 Butser Ancient Farm Explore reconstructions of ancient buildings from Stone Age onwards.

14 Royal Oak Hooksway A freehouse in a 16th-century cottage, with lovely log fires and its own

HERITAGE 20 Arundel Castle Set high on a hill in West Sussex, this great castle (above) commands the landscape with magnificent views across the South Downs and the River Arun. 21 Chichester Cathedral A longstanding cathedral with a charming fusion of the ancient and the modern.

15 The Fox Goes Free Goodwood Find oak beams and a garden overlooking fields at this knapped-flint inn (above).

RESTAURANTS 18 Butlers Arundel An elegant family-run restaurant (pictured) with fine food and terrace garden. 19 Plough & Harrow Litlington This superb 17th-century country pub offers real ales and great food made from local produce.

22 Lewes Castle Climb to the top of this 1,000-year-old Norman Castle for stunning panoramic views across Sussex. 23 Alfriston Clergy House A medieval thatched house with a delightful garden. 24 Lancing College Chapel A striking example of Gothic revival architecture, one of the tallest vaulted churches in the UK.

25 Western Downs: Harting Downs to Treyford Hill Walk from the NT car park east along South Downs Way to Treyford and Didling Hills, via Beacon Hill and Pen Hill; back via Hooksway, Millpond Bottom, Little Round Down and Whitcombe Bottom. Open access downland.


26 Mid-Downs: Devil’s Dyke Walk west from Devil’s Dyke car park (where you’ll find a pub and cafe) along the South Downs Way to Truleigh Hill. Return along the lane through Edburton and Fulking (which has a pub), and back up the escarpment. Mainly National Trust.

27 Eastern Downs: Seven Sisters Go for it! You may get blasted by the wind, but you’ll love it. It’s rather linear, although the downland corridor is surprisingly broad. For a simple route, start at Birling Gap or Friston, head either west or east in the morning and do the other half in the afternoon.

Photos Alamy


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BBC Countryfile Magazine takes you on dozens of thrilling journeys into the countryside every issue, through thought-provoking features and guided walks into enchanting landscapes. With stunning photography and the finest line-up of rural writers in the land, it’s your monthly escape to rural bliss.

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Matt Maynard goes on the trail of wolves in Sweden, and asks – what is the interaction between these resurging predators and rural communities? And what does the Swedish example say about wolves returning close to our own door?



n the day I arrive in the Västmanland province in Sweden, a wolf walks across a packed school playground in the remote hamlet of Kolsva. The wildlife officers in the provincial capital of Västerås are perplexed. They have been tracking this rogue animal since it started snatching domestic animals from local back gardens at the beginning of the summer. The number of on-duty teachers the next day at playtime is increased, and marksman are deployed in the woods. Wolves are currently in renaissance across Europe. With the help of EU protection as well as national level initiatives, these keystone predators can now be found once again in almost every European country besides the UK. Their presence has been credited with everything from reawakening our inner wild man, to reducing overgrazing, encouraging biodiversity and even helping divert flood-


LEFT An isolated farm in snow in Västmanland province, an area inhabited by wolves – though there are still only 400 in the whole of Sweden BELOW Wild Sweden wolf guide Marcus Eldh

a driver should be wary of jaywalking moose that stride out unannounced. “If wolf didn’t kill moose,” lead researcher Jens Frank tells me upon my arrival, “we [human beings] would.” Those same spruce and pine trees I’ve been driving through are an important cash crop in the north of the province. The wolves play a role in preventing saplings being grazed to the ground.

prone rivers. In March 2017, six Swedish wolf cubs were brought to live at the Wildwood Escot enclosure in Devon, with the mooted goal of their potential reintroduction to Scotland. I am now on the ground in Swedish wolf territory, to investigate how practical that proposition really is.

KING OF THE CANINES “Swedes want to see wildlife,” begins wildlife officer and game warden Tobias Hjortstråle. A persistent autumn rain is falling outside the warm offices of the County Administrative Board in Västerås. Beyond the sodden streets stand dense pine woodland. Forests occupy 70% of the country’s landmass and it’s somewhere among those great expanses where ‘Scandinavia’s Big 5’ – golden eagle, brown bear, wolverine, lynx and grey wolf – can still be found. Tobias looks out towards these wilds as he speaks. “80-90% of us,” he continues “are in favour of wolves.” Wolves were never completely missing from the Swedish landscape. When their numbers bottomed out at around 10 animals in the 1960s, the Swedish Government stopped rewarding hunters for culling, and instead made the king of the canines a protected species. “99.99 of the time a wolf will never attack a human,” explains the warden. But a freak killing spree in the 1820s by the unnaturally domesticated and recently dramatised ‘wolf of Gysinge’ has lived long in Swedish memory. 34

“It takes about 10 years for people to get used to the presence of a returning wolf pack” “Today,” Tobias adds of the resurgent population, “it usually takes about 10 years for people to get used to the presence of a returning wolf pack.” That same afternoon I drive west, venturing deeper into the Västmanland province to the Grimsö Wildlife Research Centre. Driving in Sweden is like travelling through vivid green tunnels. Today a thick mist is pouring out of the forest and across the asphalt, but even at the best of times

“Wolf urine, pass it on,” whispers Wild Sweden wolf guide Marcus Eldh. We are now far from the road, in the remote forest territory of the Aspa wolf pack. Currently I’m crouched on all fours among coral reefs of reindeer lichen, and I’m sniffing enthusiastically for scent markings. Marcus points to a runnel of bent wet grass. “Their bodies were close to the ground here – they must have been cubs,” he says. We spend the evening living on our senses. The possibility of a sighting seems to lurk behind every boulder and tree trunk. As night falls, we make a fire to push out the darkness, and sit around listening for the call of the wild. Of course, with each wolf pack comprising an average of just 10 members over a territory stretching 230-300 square miles, our chances are slim. There are still only 400 wolves in the whole of Sweden. A third of them die every year due to scabies, drowning in ice, as well as road and rail accidents. Only 10% make it to adulthood. Additionally, in 2015, a select Västmanland committee – composed almost entirely of moose and deer hunters – voted for a wolf cull in the province aimed at “reducing socioeconomic consequences and improving possibilities for domestic animal husbandry”. The decision was overturned by Swedish courts. But the greatest threat to wolves is still illegal hunting. Over the next two days I shoulder my tent, sleeping bag and camping stove and hike east with my companion into the territory of the Färna wolf pack.

Photos Alamy,,


WOLF FACTS • Wolves can sense up to 1.5 seconds of difference in the oxidisation of a scent, allowing them to precisely date and orientate their prey’s direction of travel • In Sweden, where fenced sheep farming is practiced, the 400 wolves kill 500 sheep every year • In Norway, where open hill farming is practiced, (similar to the UK), the 68 wolves kill 1,600 sheep every year

ALLADALE: THE BRITISH REWILDING PROJECT style of South African wildlife parks and have a controlled release of wolves and brown bears. “Due to the problems currently being experienced in Germany, France and Sweden with wolves, we won’t get permission to have wolves roaming free in the UK any time soon,” he says. “For the past 500 years in Great Britain, our landscape has been sanitised. In our now densely populated landscape that is

The Bruksleden trail leads us on a rugged ducking, side-stepping, bog-wading odyssey through the backcountry. While the path is never straightforward, the vast green forest is a constant. Scotland by comparison is a barren and, to quote environmental journalist George Monbiot, “sheepwrecked” environment. “Wolves,” Tobias Hjortstråle had assured me, “are the most adaptive animal on the planet,” found living in deserts, the Arctic and even city garbage tips in India. Yet wherever they threaten farmers’ livestock, their days, I’m about to learn, are numbered.

REWILDING REALITY CHECK Hellen Wistrand greets me on the edge of her Wildlife Safari and Lodging property, in the isolated outpost of Ulvsbomuren. Living alone here and managing her modest eighthectare sheep farm, she sits on 36

full with sheep, reintroducing wolves would not be the next best step – however, lynx would stand a good chance. Currently there are tentative plans for their release in the 250 square mile Kielder Forest in Northumberland. “The tree planting at Alladale is a long-term project. Lynx and other species rely on forests for hunting as well as cover, and so our woodland won’t really be

the select committee that voted in favour of the wolf cull. “When I came here 13 years ago, there were no wolves,” she explains. While Hellen doesn’t own a gun, she sets out to monitor her sheep fence in rain or darkness if the power metre flashes red, saying “I worry about them every day”. If a wolf did get through her electric fence, it would be likely to kill a dozen animals. As dusk, we walk out into the pasture in order to inspect the electric fence. Here on this remote island in the Swedish forest, the Färna wolf pack seems to have enough prey for now, and has never breached Hellen’s defences. The wolf, she tells me, “is a polarised issue between countryside and city life”. Elsewhere, I have been told in confidence that wolves approaching other farms are sometimes shot to avoid paperwork and potential

appropriate for them for another 20 years. It’s a valid argument that reintroducing species in the enclosed reserve at Alladale, as well as properly rewilding further afield, will increase jobs in economically suppressed areas of the UK. “An even more powerful argument, I believe, is that we got rid of the species and therefore we should bring them back. Life is empty without them.”

criminal proceedings, and are hurriedly buried. The UK’s wilds have not seen wolves for the past 300 years. Here, where road and rail infrastructure is denser and where open hill farming replaces electric fences, the scale of conflict and challenge that reintroducing wolves would create seems insurmountable – for now. Every Swedish wolf expert has told me so. And yet, as the sky flushes red over the endless forest, I feel that earthy pulse, that forgotten wild feeling that still broils up in untamed places. Perhaps before reintroducing the wolf to the UK, we first need to consider rewilding our landscapes – and perhaps a little of ourselves, too. CF

Matt Maynard writes and photographs environmental and adventure stories. Find his work at

Photos:, Alamy,

For the past 10 years, Paul Lister has been one of the leading voices on British rewilding. In his 36 square mile Alladale Wilderness Reserve in northern Scotland, he has planted 850,000 trees. He is now hoping to double the reserve’s size; enclose it in the

9 - 25 February Join our fortnight of cosmic fun with star parties, talks and family activities celebrating dark night skies across the South Downs National Park. • Get closer to galaxies and explore the Milky Way through powerful telescopes; • Meet expert astronomers and ask them questions; • Discover the wildlife that loves the night; • Learn the secrets of stunning dark-sky photography; Find an event near you and details of our flagship ‘Stargazing South Downs’ event on Saturday 10 February in Midhurst, West Sussex

For a choice of over 70 individually selected holiday cottages across the South Downs National Park, with many being dog friendly, please do visit our website or give us a call to find out more. 01798 877336

Country wish eliyoursdretams

New Year resolutions are so last year. Realis on by creating a wish list instead, says Maria Hods ost of us know of New Year’s Resolutions, where one sets intentions for the year ahead. But too often, people make their resolutions negative – ger eat biscuits at my desk” lon “I will no bleak, – and then feel unhappy. In the thing last the y, grey month of Januar further rgy ene r you in you need is to dra h wit tles bat of ies ser a up by setting ion, olut yourself. And if you break a res way bish rub a is you feel deflated, which ead inst d nee you at Wh r. to start the yea to. ard forw look to are things lves So instead, try a wish list. This invo to like ld wou you writing down 100 things be can s item The ad. do in the year ahe mb enormous or tiny, ranging from “Cli rpener”. sha cil pen new a y “bu to ” rest Eve t it has The main thing is that at some poin that ng ethi som as d hea r popped into you do. to like you would The key here is – write it down. idea? If Do you feel any resistance to the with ng wro is at Wh . why so, ask yourself to do? like ld wou you t wha ing acknowledg ’t don I ’t, Try not to say to yourself: “I can t Jus ls.” skil rgy/ have the money/time/ene . free m roa list wish r you write it down. Let t “Ge n tha er rath so , cific spe be to It helps to like ld wou outdoors”, identify a place you ting it visit. And take your time when crea about nk Thi . day a in t buil – a wish list isn’t it. esh refr it, it, finesse


ch 1) VisitndLoand the Lomosachs Tros look at it. Just ottish this s nal park natio esistible. is Irrr

work taw Finally, you have your list. And wha at t tha gs thin the all are e of beauty it is. Her e e ere ewh som up them Pin do. you’d like to elf rse that you can see them, and let you d. hed lish omp acc consider how they can be r u you of y man how by You’ll be amazed e trrick ple dreams can be realised by the sim hem. o th to g of writing them down and referrin f o all or one “But what if I CAN’T do e. Iff by them?” you may wonder. That is fine e don en’t hav you r, yea the the end of you Do y n. isio dec a e mak then ng, ethi som r to ver o it roll just still want to do it? If yes, 2019. f for wish a s ome bec the next year, so it on. so And it. If not, drop


moved Since adopting the wish list, I have surfed, ple, peo at gre with job a d cities, foun seen ls, sea kayaked, hiked hills, swum with are se The les. eag basking sharks and sea appeal to my little dreams, so they may not te crea you that is this of joy you, but the to eat t wan “I YOUR own list. Yours may say it. be So k”. des biscuits daily while at my e thes e sinc but es, wish I advocate 100 be not will y man al, son per lists are very e filtered relevant to other people. So I hav es to wish r doo out my wish list down to 50 se The . side ntry cou the in be accomplished free l Fee e. pag g win follo the on d are detaile own list. to use these, or create your very y yourself enjo do, to Whatever you decide I hope res. entu adv r you all and good luck in r yea the to ard forw look you s that it help how w kno head with enthusiasm. Let us d on you get on and I will kee ... my progress, too

HO W TO DO IT • Write down 50-100 things you would like to do this year. is • Be as clear as you can. “CClimb Pen Y Fan” ”. oors outd t “Get than more specific • Feel free to put down whatever you want. • Be honest with yoursellf – only put what you really want to do on the list.

2) See the Northern Lights Magical illuminatons that decorate the night sky! What’s not to love? Here they are dancing above Bwlch Nant yr Arian forest in Ceredigion.

3) Surf on the Gower I’m keeen to ca tch a wave in tthiss heartlat an Wellsh surfing. d of 4) See a ki fisher What a joy ng spoot that whirrringg flasto h oof blue. 5) Cook a Get fireeedd up.mNeaotl hioungtdoors tastes beetter than fo cookked an a d eaten outsod ide.



Photo: Alamy, Getty, Philip Hartley


6) Climb a Peak District peak I can’t believe I’ve never been. Here are Parkhouse Hill and Chrome Hill at sunset.




entify five 7) Learnietso id butterfleshell, Adonis blue Tortois admiral?itt’s time or red the diffeerence. to spot e Wrath ure to C-waepsst erly 8) Ventst h The mo Sncoorttland has an epic, point of and appealing name. daunnting -air balleoloannd t o h a in y l F ) 9 , to see tathh. W hat a rdusahbo bene so sprea out



1O) Cano camp along the Wye paddle aloe nng g t hi s great winding river, sto ping ng overnigh t at lovely capp mpsites. 11) Go on glowworm walk This magaazine e li t a watch the littlee desiire to illuminate a suumm crittters e night. er 12) Explo e Malh amdale stunning limres e scenery that everyonee ravvtesos ne b ut - I wantt to see its beautyabo for myself.



e Scilly Isles 13) Swim in thgl ring Dip into thhe eseitte ng ri waters oof thes. st ki southernn isl on 14) Visit PortngmeeiItri annaattee al t ta Wales’s straso iinnttrriigliguiauin i g. town loooks


ic 15) Have a picn rn of fond bo ish w e l A simpl e from childhood. memorriies

13. 15. Photo: Alamy, Getty, Jason Ingram


T H G I F R U O N I S JOIN U ART DISEASE! E H T S N I AGA You can join the fight for every heartbeat by taking on a British Heart Foundation event. Whether you’re a beginner looking to get fit, a keen fundraiser looking for a challenge or a regular sportsman or woman, we have an event that is perfect for you!

Saturday 12 May 2018

Saturday 30 June – Sunday 1 July 2018

Back by popular demand for 2018, our London to Henley Trek is a fantastic way to take in some stunning sights, challenge yourself with a trek, as well as joining the fight against heart disease.

Our most famous trek which takes you from the city, through the countryside to finish by the sea front – this event has some of the greatest views in the UK. Available as a day trek, or a full 100km challenge.

Saturday 12 – Sunday 13 May 2018

Saturday 7 July 2018

From the Capital to the historic university city of Oxford, heart trekkers can walk 100km through the day and night in one of our most difficult endurance challenges.

Take on the famous Yorkshire 3 Peaks, covering 24 miles of hiking with over 5,000 feet of climbing, whilst enjoying the sights of the Yorkshire dales.

Sunday 20 May 2018

Saturday 21 – Sunday 22 July 2018

Built in 122AD, Hadrian’s Wall was built to defend against the north … but now it’s your time to conquer it by signing up to our 9 or 15 mile hike.

Are you tough enough to take on one of Scotland’s hardest walks? Tackling either the new 45km day or 100km challenge, you will walk between Scotland’s 2 largest cities.







To register for one of our events, please visit © British Heart Foundation, registered charity in England and Wales (225971) and in Scotland (SC039426)


ll a waterfa r e d un k l a da in W h ) 16 wander gbewd Y o t l o o r c w o H , like S wall of twhaeteBrrecon Beacons. Eira in imming to get 17) Go wyildosw ortunityers and Take anaterp,pfr om riv in the wo the sea. lakes t eam tradins, Hills 18) Ridetahrstoug h woo Tootle eys – and perhaps even and valle glenfinnan viaduct! over th


19) See a starling murmuration A truly exhilarating spectacle (See page 88).

Photo: Alamy, Getty,


2O) explore Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor These ancient knarled oaks have long captured my imagination.

37) Eat a roast in a great country pub my year will be a failure if this doesn’t happen. No pressure.

21) Learn to play the ukulele It’s light and lovely to listen to – a great travelling instrument.

38)) Dance a jig at a ceilidh Just jolly good fun.

22) Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast path MUST walk this well-known route.

39) Go cider-cycling in Herefordshire This annual pilgrimage by bike tours the county’s orchards and cider farms.

23) Learn to identify five mushrooms They’re varied and fascinating, but which is which?time to find out.

4O) Send a vintage postcard I’d like to mail a classic country scene to my Mum, who loves getting postcards.

24) Search for sea glass 41)) Have fish and chips by the sea It’s so calming to scour the seashore for THE classic seaside experience. these beautiful washed-up gems. 42) Listen to folk music in a pub 25) Attend a surf and yoga course An ale, a fire and some fine music, please. S me f my happie t mem rie have ha e been on surf and yoga courses. More please! 43) Learn to identify five new birds There’s more to life than pigeons. 26) 6) Rea Read 2O O bbooks k Titles to be decided! Watch this space. 44) Have a cream tea It speaks for itself. 27) Go on a mindful walk Walk silently and peacefully while 45) Sketch a landscape absorbing the surrounding world. There’s a contemplative joy in drawing a fine view. Even if the sketch is a mess. 28)) Cycle the Tarka Trail enjoy 3O miles of traffic-free cycling 46) Write a poem in Devon. I’d like to try channeling nature into lyrical beauty like Mary Oliver. 29) Visit a Dark Sky Park behold the beauty of a black sky 47) Paddle the Norfolk Broads festooned with brilliance. Wonderful wildlife on these waters. 3O)) Learn to identify five constellations 48) Learn to identify five trees what am I staring at while stargazing Give our big friendly giants a name. 31) Walk part of the Pennine Way The spine of England seems excellently bleak and remote. 32) Spend the night in a bivvy bag It’s time to try the joys of sleeping outdoors without a tent. 33)) Attend a summer festival Not too big, not too small, just right.

Photo: Getty, 4Corners

34) Make sloe gin turn sloes into something quaffable.


35) Travel in a camper van Living the dream, man, living the dream. 36) Spot an otter So entertaining but so reclusive.

49) adventure in a narrowboat Watch the world go by slowly 5O) W while navigating our canals. Northumabelkr the land Coast I’ve be and dreean monce goinng again of ...






s January is traditionally the best time to start those new year’s resolutions there is nowhere better than the Lake District, Cumbria to find all the inspiration you need. Step outside into nature’s ultimate outdoor playground and embrace the crisp fresh air and stunning scenery. For culture in the landscape head to the UK’s newest and largest World Heritage Site – the Lake District National Park, that now joins Hadrian’s Wall in the north with its UNESCO inscription. After conquering the fells, soaking up our heritage and cruising on the tranquil waters, head to the coast where you will find secluded beaches and rugged mountains, the Western Lake District is simply overflowing with natural beauty. Whatever corner of Cumbria you choose to uncover we guarantee you will not be disappointed.


“The loveliest spot that man hath ever found”

With all this and more, Cumbria is the place to be this winter and just waiting to be explored.



Room to breathe... ...freedom to explore Over 300 perfectly placed holiday cottages in the heart of the Lake District.

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The Love Cumbria visitor rewards card from Cumbria Tourism returns to give you even more seasonal treats throughout the winter months. From now until mid-March take advantage of over 40 exclusive winter warming offers at a host of quality attractions, restaurants and ideas for things to do – making it the ‘must have’ holiday accessory of the season. The card can either be bought online or at a participating outlets around the county. The Love Cumbria card includes ‘2 for 1s’ and up to 25% off entrance to popular attractions, cafes and restaurants. For just £10, the card gives two people easy access to the offers for a maximum of two weeks. So whether you fancy dining out for two, flying through the trees on a zip-wire adventure or exploring an historic arts and crafts house oozing with history, there will be plenty of special seasonal treats in store for all. Buy your card today at and view all the offers. Follow us on Facebook @LoveCumbriaCard or Twitter @lovecumbriacard for up to date information.


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TOP 5 REASONS TO VISIT THE LAKE DISTRICT, CUMBRIA THIS WINTER… In 2018 it’s time to celebrate this world class destination for yourself so check out our top 5 recommended bucket list of things to see and do this winter… 1. Visit TWO World Heritage sites in ONE county 2. Discover the landscape with a range of new Signature Experiences from Lakes Culture 3. Explore an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the North Pennines UNESCO Global Geopark 4. Spot the locations of the brand-new Peter Rabbit film to be released in March 2018 5. Bag a Wainwright before warming up with a cosy pub lunch or at a top class Michelin star restaurant


The Lake District, Cumbria hosts amazing places to stay, awe inspiring landscapes and exciting things to do this season. Here is a taste of some of our winter events: Jan - July

Lakes Ignite 2018, 6 pieces of contemporary art to celebrate Lake District World Heritage Status, Various locations

Jan - 18 Feb

The Great Print Exhibition, Rheged Centre, Penrith

Feb 12-16

Love Letters and Pancakes at Lowther Castle

Feb 22-25

Keswick Film Festival, Keswick

Feb 23-25

Askham Hall Music Festival Weekend, Askham, near Penrith

Feb 23

Dark Sky Festival Stargazing, Grizedale Forest

Mar 17-18

World’s Original Marmalade Awards, Dalemain Mansion, Penrith

Mar 23-24

Northern Craft Beer Festival, Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley

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JOHN CRAVEN COULD SEAWEED BE THE SOLUTION TO GASSY CATTLE? ere’s something to ponder in these days of global warming: if just 2% of the diet fed to the world’s one and a half billion cows was made up of a certain type of seaweed, it could slash their emissions of the greenhouse gas methane by up to 99%, researchers believe. What an amazing prediction – because in the United States alone, cattle are responsible for a quarter of all the methane that escapes into the atmosphere. The average cow emits between 70-120 kilograms of methane a year through burping (90%) and passing wind (10%). Scientists at the James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, say a type of red algae called Asparagopsis taxiformiss could prevent that, because it contains a compound that blocks methane production in the stomach.


Photo: Alamy

SEAWEED SALVATION The claim has created a stir among agriculturalists. Later this year, leading British farmer Joe Towers, who keeps 450 dairy cows in Lancashire’s Lune Valley, will travel to Queensland to meet the research team as part of a Nuffield scholarship to examine the potential of Asparagopsis taxiformiss. It thrives in warm seas but its sister plant Asparagopsis armata a grows in more temperate Northern waters, posing the possibility it could also be utilised. “It’s important to discover if these algae can be farmed extensively and commercially, because this could be the first great opportunity for agriculture to play a large-scale role in

Each cow releases 70-120 kilos of methane a year, accelerating climate change. Could kelp help curb their emissions?

“Up to 45,000 acres of seaweed may be needed to solve the cattle-burping issues” methane reduction,” Joe tells me. “10% of a cow’s energy goes into producing methane and there are now lots of exciting ideas to reduce that figure, which would benefit our climate and produce heathier, more productive cows.” The Queensland researchers get their supplies handpicked by scuba divers but in Hawaii it is farmed on a small scale for the local cuisine – it’s known as limu kohu u (‘pleasing seaweed’). Huge investment would be needed to grow it in large enough quantities to solve the ruminant burping issue: as much as 45,000 acres to supply the UK’s 10 million

cattle. Could this be a opportunity for seaweed farmers such as Kate ff the Burns on Rathlin island off Northern Ireland coast? I have watched as the kelp there is harvested from long ropes just offshore. ff She’s been working with Queen’s University, Belfast, to explore its benefits for livestock. “Indications are that seaweed could be an important tool in combatting methane emissions but it’d take tens of thousands of tons of kelp to supply all the cattle in Ireland alone,” she says. “As for Asparagopsis armata, I have seen it around Rathlin but it is not plentiful and as it is non-native, we would not farm it.” However, in the Republic, cattle farmers are taking the Australian research seriously and politician Michael Fitzmaurice stated that it could kickstart a new industry.

WHAT A GAS Not long ago, belching cows contributing to climate change seemed like a joke and the notion that seaweed might help would have been even funnier. But with methane roughly 25 times more damaging to Earth than carbon dioxide over a 100 year period, it’s far from a laughing matter. Some experts argue that better management of poorly performing cattle could reduce emissions. But if the answer lies in our oceans, will it be possible to collect enough of the right stuff to make a difference? ff As the old saying goes: “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” Watch this space.

Watch John on Countryfilee on Sunday evenings on BBC One. 49



Brexit has been hailed by some as an opportunity for the UK to become more self-sufficient, as food imports may cost more due to trade tariffs and a weaker pound. Can we produce all of our own food? BBC Countryfile Magazine investigates

Can we feed ourselves?

The UK grows 61% of the food it eats, according to the National Farming Union (NFU), Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London, and DEFRA’s Agriculture in the UK paper (July 2017). Government sources sometimes quote a figure of 75% but this excludes ‘non-indigenous’ items such as exotic fruit – bananas and mangoes, tea, coffee and spices – foods that cannot be grown (either at all or on a meaningful scale) in the UK.

AND HISTORICALLY? To find the highest historical rates for self-sufficiency in Britain, you need to go back to the 18th century, according to Professor Lang. Historic modern-day lows include the eves of the First World War and Second World War, when we produced only around 33% of our food. The recent high was 82% in the early 1980s.

BRITAIN AND THE EU How much food do we currently import from the EU? Britain produces 80% of the cheese and beef consumed by the nation, but over half of our vegetables are imported.

FRUIT AND VEG The UK has a huge deficit in fruit and vegetable production. In 2015, imports of fruits to the UK were valued at £3.1 billion; imports of fresh vegetables (excluding potatoes) at £2.1 billion.


UK 80%

EU 20%




Source: Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)

Tomatoes 45%


UK exports of fruit and vegetables were valued at £199 million in 2015, less than 4% of the value of imports. The UK is self-sufficient in pre-packed potatoes but imports processed potatoes.




Source: British Retail Consortium

WHEAT In 2017, the UK produced 15.2m tonnes of wheat. Of the annual crop, around 14% is exported. Over the past 10 years, imports account for an average of 11% of UK wheat demand. Source: AHDB 50


‘We will never be self-sufficient in food production in the UK,’ says Meurig Raymond, president of the NFU. “The population is rising and there is huge demand for crops that cannot be grown here, society has grown used to so much being available all year round. Can we increa ease self-s lf-sufficiency? Definitely.”


“Yes, but it depends on what we eat,” says Professor Tim Lang. “We’ll have to cut eating meat down to once a week. We have to rebuild our horticulture and put more money into primary food production. There has to be a shift in how we grow our food.” Norfolk-based Hodmedod’s, a British pulse and grain supplier and 2017 Food and Farming Award-winner, was asked by Transition Norwich to see if the city could become self-sufficient. “We looked at land use and nutrient requirements and calculated the city could feed itself with a six-mile hinterland,” says Josiah Meldrum, Hodmedod’s co-founder. “But this would require significant land use and dietary changes. It would mean eating less meat and eating the vegetable protein that would usually be grown for animals.”

Photo: Getty

How much of our food do we produce ourselves now?




of the food and drink we import comes from the EU.

is from countries granted Most Favoured Nation status, such as the USA, China, Brazil and Australia.





comes from bilateral agreements with countries such as Canada, Norway and Chile.

from Generalised Scheme of Preferences (lower than WTO tariffs), ff such as India, Ukraine and Iran.

Self sufficiency


+ FOOD SECURITY “We are facing an extremely tense food world,” says Professor Lang. “The future is one of volatile world prices. We can’t say that we will not produce our own chickens and import them from Brazil instead. We need to change the way the system works, and invest in wages and skills for those who work the land.”

- MORE LAND NEEDED FOR GROWING There will be potentially more land under the plough, with less room for wildlife-friendly farming. “We can’t just plough up more land,” says Professor Lang. “We must use land under cultivation more effectively. ff It has to be ecosystem friendly, use less energy and not destroy wildlife.”

+ RURAL EMPLOYMENT “This will need an expansion of what is already a competent labour force,” says Meurig Raymond (NFU). “There are some excellent salaries in farming and horticulture.” He identifies fruit and vegetables, pig, beef and cereal as sectors where home-grown production can rise.

- HIGHER COSTS “We have to expect that it will cost more to become self-sufficient, but it will pay for itself by reducing healthcare bills, as we will be eating more healthily,” says Lang. “There has to be a greater understanding of the costs involved in growing,” says Meurig Raymond.

+ WIDER UNDERSTANDING OF BENEFITS OF HEALTHY EATING “Brexit opens the conversation about where our food is grown, how we value it and the labour required to grow it,” says Josiah Meldrum (Hodmedod’s). “It’s a conversation we’ve needed to have for decades, about supporting rural economies and shorter supply chains. To realise where your supermarket ready meal is constructed can only be a good thing.”

- FARMS GOING BUST Some sectors, such as the Welsh lamb industry, export as much as 35-40% of their produce. Calculations by Professor Tim Benton of the University of Leeds suggest that the price of lamb could drop by 30% and, with higher tariffs ff on these exports, trigger large-scale bankruptcies.

+ INNOVATION “Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy will allow us the flexibility to tailor farming support, helping British farmers to be more productive and aligned to the market,” says Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability Policy, BRC. “Investment in technological innovation can enable retailers to source certain goods locally, year round.” Meurig Raymond says: “Precision farming will be essential to raise productivity of any given unit.”

- EXOTIC FRUIT AND VEG WILL COST MORE “There are some very basic things that we are going to have to accept that we will have to import, and we will have to pay more for them,” says Lang. Josiah Meldrum points out: “Historically, we grew lentils in Britain up until the mid 19th century. There were a lot of small-scale crops that were grown in Britain before intensive agriculture came along and led to less diversity on farms.”


“The beef farmer’s adage is that it takes three years from conception to plate.”

“None of the changes are going to happen in the time frame we are looking at. Scaling up and developing new crops takes time.”

“It’s very hard to be nimble in farming. You can’t turn a beef farm into horticulture overnight.”

Raymond Meurig, NFU

Josiah Meldrum, Hodmedod’s

Professor Tim Lang

Have your say? What do you think about the issues raised here? Write to the address on page 71 or email


Secrets of the hillforts Ancient earthworks steeped in mystery wind around the summits of many prominent British hills. Who built these strange structures, and why? Roly Smith investigates

Y BELOW An aerial view reconstruction of the hillfort at Maiden Hill in Dorset, depicting the embankments and ditches, with the circular huts sheltered inside


to have formed part of the ancient defences. Hillforts are little understood by most people, perhaps due to the militaristic name that the Victorians gave them. In fact, Mam Tor and many others seem to have been peaceful summer shielings, used by Celtic tribes to watch over their flocks. They would probably have been abandoned during winter months. But in others, such as Maiden Castle in Dorset and Danebury in Hampshire, there is evidence of an Asterixstyle resistance to the Roman invaders.

CASTLES IN THE AIR Oxford University has published an online atlas of hillforts that doubles the number thought to exist. It has identified 4,147 hillforts in Britain and Ireland, where formerly the number was thought to be 2,000. There are 1,694 in Scotland; 1,224 in England (271 of which are in Northumberland); and 535 in Wales. So how and why were these enigmatic structures built? The construction of a hillfort was a massive engineering and logistical task. It has been estimated it would take 150 men about four months to construct an eight-acre enclosure with a single bank and ditch, using nothing more than antler picks, wooden spades and woven baskets to transport the soil. The method of construction is illustrated at Ladle Hill, an unfinished hillfort near Newbury, Berkshire. It isn’t known why it was abandoned but archaeologists are grateful, as it reveals how hillforts were built. It appears that gangs of workers were used to deepen and widen an initial encircling shallow ditch in sections. Wooden palisades were often constructed first. Around these, embankments and gateways – often with intricate interlocking entrances such as those at Maiden Castle – were designed to give the defenders maximum advantage against potential attackers. Archaeologists still argue about the purpose

Photos Getty, David Lyons

ou can get a hair-raising feeling of closeness to the past as you stand on the airy ramparts of Mam Tor, the 2,000-year-old hillfort that dominates the head of the Hope Valley in the Peak District. As you look east down the broad, tree-lined valley and north to the frowning heights of Kinder Scout, you are experiencing the same sense of dominance of the landscape as our ancestors who built the fort must have felt. This is especially true on a winter’s morning when mist fills the valleys and the earthworks are more sharply defined now the cloaking vegetation has died back. Mam Tor is one of our most impressive hillforts, dating from the late Bronze to early Iron Age. Its embankments were built to abut onto the collapsed ‘shivering’ east face, thought

MAM TOR DERBYSHIRE One of the largest (15 acres) and highest (516m) hillforts in Britain, Mam Tor – or the Shivering Mountain – commands the length of the sylvan Hope Valley, with the brooding plateau of Kinder Scout to the north. One of the fabled ‘Wonders of the Peak’, the hillfort on Mam Tor dates back to the late Bronze Age.

BASIC DEFENCES When Roman commander Vespasian (later emperor) was sent to ‘subdue’ southern Britain in AD43, he attacked a string of about 20 hillforts. The Celts’ main weapon of defence appears to have been simple slingshots and spears. At Danebury, a collection of more than 10,000 slingshot stones were discovered and the skeletons of severely injured bodies have been found buried in ditches there and at Maiden Castle. One, in the Dorchester museum, has a Roman ballista bolt embedded in its backbone. Many hillforts have hut circles in their interior, such as at Danebury, Tre’r Ceiri on the Llŷn Peninsula and Croft Ambrey in Herefordshire. The circular thatched huts were simple oneroomed homes made of wattle and daub. They would have been inhabited by people much like us, grumbling about their neighbours and the weather, or arguing over a missing sheep or pig. An open hearth stood at the centre of the hut; beds were made of straw covered in animal skin. Iron Age economies were essentially pastoral, with livestock moved to the uplands in summer and down to the lowlands in winter for more sheltered grazing. Crops of emmer and spelt wheat, barley, rye and oats were grown in small, enclosed fields in the lowlands, and evidence has been found of storage pits for these grains in some hillforts. The Roman Invasion signalled the beginning of the end for hillforts, although some, such as Hod Hill and Maiden Castle, were reused by the invaders as sites for forts or temples. Among the many things the Romans did for us was to construct roads, towns and an urban culture, and those Iron Age castles in the air were gradually abandoned to become the evocative, lonely monuments they are today. As archaeologist James Forde-Johnson wrote in 1976: “Of all the earthworks that are such a notable feature of the landscape in England and Wales, few are more prominent or more striking than the hillforts built during the centuries before the Roman conquest.” CF

Seek out your local hillfort to share the feeling that people millennia ago surely experienced – that they were monarchs of all they surveyed. 54


INGLEBOROUGH NORTH YORKSHIRE A daunting hillfort of the Brigantes, the Celtic tribe that once controlled much of northern England. Their queen Cartimandua allied herself with the Romans, but her ex-husband Venutius rebelled twice against her and the Romans before his defeat in 69AD. This was the scene of his last stand. The 15-acre fort tops a popular Yorkshire summit – one of the Three Peaks – with views as far as the Lakeland hills and Morecambe Bay. 2

TRE’R CEIRI LLŶN PENINSULA, NORTH WALES Some of the drystone walls of Tre’r Ceiri (‘The Town of the Giants’) on the beautiful Llŷn peninsula stand an impressive 5m high, and the 150 hut circles within the ramparts could have housed up to 400 people. There are stunning views towards the mountains of Gwynedd. hillforts/tre_ceiri/ 3

HAMBLEDON AND HOD HILLS DORSET Hambledon is a magnificent multi-banked hillfort that winds sinuously around a chalk outlier overlooking Blackmoor Vale. It was built almost 5,000 years ago, using antler picks, and abandoned around 300BC. Its southern neighbour Hod Hill is about half its age, and includes the only known example of a Roman fort superimposed on a native hillfort. • • 4

BRITISH CAMP MALVERN HILLS A beautifully built, multi-banked hillfort that contours around the Herefordshire Beacon at the southern end of the rolling Malvern Hills. Built in the 2nd-century BC, its scale is awesome, enclosing an area of 44 acres. It was later topped by a Norman motte-and-bailey castle mound known as The Citadel. 17th-century diarist John Evelyn called the view from the hill “one of the godliest vistas in England”. 5 DANEBURY HAMPSHIRE High on a wooded chalk knoll near Andover, this is probably the most

thoroughly examined hillfort in Britain. Archaeologists have pored over it for more than 50 years and found extensive field systems in the surrounding landscape. It is believed to have been inhabited for 400 years, from 550 BC, housing hundreds of people. countryside/finder/danebury 6

MITHER TAP BENNACHIE, ABERDEENSHIRE “They create a desolation, and they call it peace.” So said Caledonian chieftain Calgacus before the fateful final battle of Mons Graupius with the Romans in AD 84, according to Roman historian Tacitus. The battle is thought to have been fought on the slopes of Mither Tap, the hillfort-topped easternmost summit of the five-mile Bennachie ridge. 7

CADBURY CASTLE SOMERSET The fabled site of King Arthur’s Camelot, Cadbury Castle is a late Bronze and Iron Age hillfort five miles north east of Yeovil. Its four terraced earthwork banks and ditches stand 500 feet above the low-lying Somerset Levels, and have revealed evidence of vigorous resistance to the Roman invasion of AD43. 8 CAER CARADOC SHROPSHIRE The site of Celtic leader Caractacus’s last stand against the Romans, Caer Caradoc dominates the Church Stretton valley in the heart of the Shropshire Hills. This six-acre hillfort encloses a spur of the 460m, volcanic crag-rimmed summit, where a shallow cave is said to have given Caractacus shelter. 9 MAIDEN CASTLE DORSET Surely the grandmother of all British hillforts, Maiden Castle, overlooking Dorchester, is one of the biggest (it covers 47 acres), best-known and most impressive. Evidence has been found of an attack by the Romans, who later built a temple at its heart. www.english-heritage. Roly Smith, or ‘Mr Peak District’, is an outdoor writer who has written more than 90 books on walking and the countryside.

Photos / Dae Sasitorn, Getty, Alamy, Jason Hawkes, Roger Smith

of hillforts. They seem to be most common in disputed areas, such as the Welsh Marches and Northumberland, where in the College Valley, every hilltop seems to be crowned by a hillfort, each visible from its neighbour. This would support one theory – that they were the Iron Age equivalent of a nuclear deterrent, warning off opposing tribes or potential invaders.





4 9

7 8





PAST Over the course of two decades, the 1970s and 80s, photographer James Ravilious captured a way of life seemingly untouched by time in a corner of North Devon All photographs by James Ravilious © Beaford Arts. All image captions by Robin Ravilious he Beaford Archive is an extraordinary collection – some 77,400 photographs of traditional rural life in North Devon, documented by James Ravilious. The son of artist Eric Ravilious, James moved to North Devon with his wife Robin in 1972. He was soon hired by the Beaford Centre to record the landscape and people of the area. This proved a fascinating task in a place in which rural life remained, perhaps deliberately, many years behind agricultural advances occurring elsewhere. James was therefore able to capture traditional farming practices that were still in action as recently as the 1970s and 1980s, and document a rural way of life that has all but disappeared today. His intimate photographs reveal the hardiness and charm of these longstanding country lifestyles: the tough conditions, the close community and the local characters whose experiences seem etched into their faces.


gLAMB RESCUE, 1978 Ivor Brock rescues a lamb in a blizzard, Millhams, Dolton, February 1978. James’s wife Robin says: “It was a savage winter; the whole parish was cut off for 10 days by heavy snow. James travelled laborious miles on top of the hedgerows to avoid falling into the drifts. He always loved snow for its graphic black and white quality, but he was also determined to show the toughest side of farming.” 57

EYE FOR ONIONS h Lloyd Mitchell preparing vegetables for his entries in the flower show, Dolton, August 1982.

iHAY UNDER ELMS Dennis Harris bringing in the hay, Lower Langham, Dolton, 1980. The elm trees behind him would all become victims of Dutch Elm Disease a few years after this. Until then, every farm had its towering elms to provide shelter, furniture and coffins.

PANCAKE PANIC h Diane Hiscock competing in the pancake race, Fore Street, Dolton, 1974. The local branch of the Women’s Institute inaugurated the race that year. Competitors had to tear around the village tossing the pancake at each of the three signs without dropping it. The winner received a brass frying pan. 56

iSNOW MARCH Irwin Piper leading his sheep, Upcott, Dolton, 1981. Sheep on a small farm know their owners well, and follow them in hope of a feed; there’s no need for a dog to drive them. But this lot might have been less eager if they’d know they were going to the slaughterhouse.

gFINISHING TOUCHES Bill Hammond completing a rick of wheat straw for thatching, Westcott, Riddlecombe, 1986. James often encountered Bill on the roofs of local farms and cottages. A reclusive man, he was a skilled traditional thatcher and much sought after. He lived alone in an old longhouse by the River Taw, and kept his materials – the ‘nitches’ of straw and the home-made hazel ‘spars’ for pinning it – in a disused mill nearby.


iSHEEP BATH Archie Parkhouse and Ivor Brock moving a sick ram, Millhams, Dolton, 1978. Too sick to walk and too heavy to carry, the ram was dragged home to be treated by Archie in one of his sheds.

gCHAT AT THE GATE Bill Cooke in Colehouse Yard, Riddlecombe, 1975. Bill’s family had owned Colehouse Farm for four generations. Semi-retired when this picture was taken, his hobbies were breeding donkeys and Hereford cows (which he treated like pets) and studying local history.

ARCHIE PARKHOUSE h The Recent Past: James Ravilious (Wilmington Square Books, £30) contains many more photographs taken by James Ravilious for the Beaford Archive. The images in the book have been hand selected by James’ widow Robin, who has written all the accompanying captions. 60

Archie Parkhouse with ivy for sheep, Millhams, Dolton, 1975. Robin says: “Archie was our nearest neighbour. He had a smallholding across the stream from our cottage. Earlier, he had been a farm labourer, a road mender, a rabbit catcher and a licensed pig-killer. For James, Archie symbolised the old way of life that he was trying to capture for posterity.”



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When you next head offff on a winter ramble, why not take a flask of hot soup? Here are three wholesome, delicious recipes – plus an easy soda bread to make, too By Genevieve Taylor Photos: Jason Ingram earty, wholesome soups make a perfect meal to fuel a walk in the chill weather. All three of these recipes can be made ahead of time – and even frozen into portions, if you like. Then you can either reheat


your soup at home and pack into a food flask, or take it on your walk chilled and ready for reheating. I love to take my trusty Trangia stove when walking. It heats up soups quickly and reliably, and packs away into a neat bag.

Genevieve Taylor cooks up a hearty soup on a chilly walk using her compact Trangia stove


GREEK BUTTERBEAN AND TOMATO SOUP Based on a Greek bean dish called Gigantes Plaki, this soup is really hearty and filling but still manages to taste a bit summery – always welcome on a wintery walk. The feta and olive ‘sprinkles’ are optional but they are really easy to knock up and lift the whole thing to another level. serve 4-6, freezes well (minus garnish) 2 tbsp olive oil 2 onions, finely chopped 3 stalks celery, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, crushed 2 bay leaves 1 tsp dried oregano 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 2 x 400g tins butterbeans, drained and rinsed 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes 2 tbsp tomato puree 500ml vegetable stock salt and freshly ground black pepper

VEGETABLE AND BACON CHOWDER This soup is packed full of healthy, filling vegetables that will fuel your winter walk – but it also tastes rather luxurious thanks to a dash of cream added at the end. Keep it vegetarian by omitting the bacon lardons and perhaps adding a teaspoon of smoked paprika in their place. Serves 4-6, freezes well 2 leeks, sliced diagonally into 2cm rings 200g smoked bacon lardons 25g butter 2 cloves garlic, chopped 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes (approx 500g) 2 carrots, peeled & diced 150g sweetcorn kernels (tinned or frozen) 2-3 sprigs thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme 500ml milk 500ml vegetable stock 100ml double cream (optional) a generous handful of flatleaf parsley, chopped salt & freshly ground black pepper 64

1. Melt the butter over a low heat and sweat the leeks, with the lardons for about 10 minutes until it is slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute before adding the potato, carrot and sweetcorn, stirring well to mix. 2. Stir through the thyme and pour in the milk, stock and wine, before seasoning with a little salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Bring the mix up to the boil, lower the heat a little and simmer steadily for about 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and tender. Towards the end of cooking, I like to use a potato masher to lightly break up some of the vegetables a little and thicken the soup slightly. Turn off the heat and stir through the cream and the parsley. 3. Pour into food flasks while piping hot, or chill ready for reheating on your walk.

for the garnish (optional) 200g feta cheese, crumbled a handful of pitted kalamata olives, chopped zest of 1 lemon 1 clove garlic, finely chopped small bunch of fresh oregano, leaves picked and chopped 1. Add the oil, onion and celery to a large heavy-based pan and set over a medium low heat, softening gently for about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, oregano and cinnamon, stirring well to mix and cook for a further five minutes. 2. Stir through the butterbeans, tomatoes and tomato puree and pour in the vegetable stock. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Simmer steadily, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down and the soup has reduced to a good, thick consistency. 3. Pour into food flasks while piping hot, or chill ready for reheating on your walk. Make the garnish by stirring together the feta, olives, lemon zest, garlic and oregano and pack into a small tub ready to sprinkle over as you are eating.


SODA BREAD ROLLS Soda bread is such an easy and satisfying bread to make – no vigorous kneading, no leaving it to prove and just a few minutes to mix it together. I’ve used khorasan flour in this recipe, an old variety of wheat that is becoming more readily available in the supermarkets. I like it because it’s full of fibre and protein but has a much lighter feel than wholemeal flour. Substitute with regular plain wholemeal flour if you prefer. makes 8 rolls, serving 4-6 250g khorasan flour (or plain wholemeal flour) 250g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp salt 100ml milk 300g full fat yogurt 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan. 2. Weigh the flours into a mixing bowl and stir through the bicarbonate of soda and salt. Measure the milk into a jug and add the yogurt, stirring well until smooth.

BESSARA Bessara is a very simple Middle Eastern soup, fragrant with cumin and garlic and just a touch of chilli. It is traditionally made from dried fava beans which are becoming easier to find – try online or large supermarkets – but you could use spilt peas instead. Both are easy to cook as they need no soaking and they are full of the sustaining goodness you would expect from pulses. serves 4-6, freezes well 2 tbsp cumin seeds 1 large onion, finely sliced 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for drizzling 3 cloves garlic 1-2 tsp chilli flakes, taste 350g dried fava beans (use yellow split peas if you can’t find fava beans) 1.75 litres vegetable stock a good handful of chopped coriander leaves salt and freshly ground black pepper 1. In a large heavy-based saucepan, dry fry the cumin seeds for a minute or two, taking care not to burn them. As soon as 66

you smell their nutty aroma wafting up from the pan, tip into a pestle and mortar and coarsely grind. 2. Add the olive oil to the pan, along with the onion, and sweat for around 15 minutes until softened and lightly caramelised. Add the garlic, dried chilli and half the crushed cumin and fry for a further minute. Reserve the remaining cumin – it gets added at the end for a fresh boost of spice flavour.

3. Pour the liquid into the mixing bowl and stir until you have a rough ball of dough. Tip on to the worktop and knead briefly until you have fairly smooth ball. Rest on a lightly floured baking sheet and pat down to a 3-4cm thick disc. Take a sharp knife ad slice into eight wedges all the way through to the base. Sprinkle a little extra flour on top. 4. Slide into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until deep golden brown. Allow to cool before snapping the loaf into wedge-shaped rolls and packing with your chosen soup.

3. Tip in the fava beans and pour over the stock. Bring up to the boil then reduce the heat a little and simmer steadily for about an hour or so until the beans are completely soft. Blend to a puree with either a stick blender or a liquidiser, adding a little extra water if it is too thick. 4. Add the remaining cumin along with the coriander and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 5. Pour into food flasks while piping hot, or chill ready for reheating on your walk.

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New Year, New Garden, New You


Great days out

WINTER BIRDWATCHING WALKS January is a great month for spotting the best of Britain’s avian spectacles – from soaring sea eagles and skeins of wintering geese to the underwater explorations of a great northern diver High above the village of Gretna Green in southern Scotland, thousands of silhouetted starlings flock together, casting mesmerising shapes across the sky (see page 88)

©crown copyright 2016 OS Photo: Alamy


The National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate in Gloucestershire will be hosting Winterwatch – tune in to BBC Two from 29 Jan-1 Feb to find out more about Britain’s birds.



CONTENTS Your handy guide to this month’s Great Days y Out

p76 p81

p78 p72 p85



AVIAN ADVENTURE South Stack Anglesey p72

SEA EAGLE SPLENDOUR Isle of Skye Inner Hebrides, p76

DANCE OF THE BLACK GROUSE Langdon Beck County Durham, p78

BOGLAND BONANZA Flanders Moss Stirlingshire, p81


WATERFOWL WONDER Holme Dunes Norfolk, p85

PERFECT PURBECK Arne Dorset, p86

STARLING MURMURATIONS Top seven Nationwide, p88


WALK: South Stack, Anglesey

AVIAN ADVENTURE Julie Brominicks takes to the cliffs ff of north-west Wales, a dramatic coastline where great northern divers surf wild waves and Arctic skuas bravely soar ear the bottom of the steps to South Stack Lighthouse is a seat for one carved into a fissured rock, from which you can peer through to the South Stack Cliffs. ff It’s a strange experience, if you know the cliffs ff in summer, to see them in winter. In the warmer months, they’re alive with 10,000 breeding puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmar petrels, shags and kittiwakes,


noisily making use of the ledges. But in winter, the rock is largely silent and still, save for the sound of crashing waves below. Without the auks, you can see the detail of the Precambrian rock, bent from the Earth’s movements into grimaces and smiles. Rust-red, blue-grey and yellow, it has a strange toughened texture, somewhat akin to partially melted plastic. Scanning it for birds, there appear to be none.

And then there’s a slight movement, barely a blur, almost imagined. A rock pipit, perfectly camouflaged, appears from a crevice to feed. The coast continues as a curving rock wall around Gogarth Bay y to North Stack. Above them is Holyhead Mountain, its shattered quartzite summit dominating the headland. In summer, its surface glitters and heather cushions its jagged spikes.


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Gannets patrol the coast; Holyhead Mountain rises 220m above sea level; South Stack Lighthouse at sunset

But in winter, in a whistling wind, its frost-spangled rock contrasts sharply with the black peat at its feet – it seems colder, brittle. But, even then, there are birds.

Photos Getty, Alamy

A RUSH OF LIFE Collectively, North and South Stack, Gogarth Bay and Holyhead Mountain form the most westerly peninsula in Anglesey. It’s a draw not only to the cliff-breeding auks, gulls, petrels and peregrines, but also, in autumn and spring, to passing migrants such as ring ouzels, grasshopper warblers, wheatears, crossbills, redstarts, and occasional rarities such as dotterel and Lapland bunting. It has year-round residents, too: ravens, oystercatchers,

rock pipits, carrion crows, stonechats, jackdaws, linnets, gulls and meadow pipits. Some 300 hectares of this headland, with its rocks, cliffs, lowland heath and pasture, is looked after by South Stack RSPB Reserve. The farmland

fling them beautifully about like charred bits of paper from a fire. Their larger corvid relatives, the ravens, are also prolific. With audible wingbeats and distinctive ‘cronkings’, they often cruise at ease with claws a-dangle, like pilot pioneers hung beneath flying machines. Gannets patrol the sea with efficient flight. A short-eared owl glides over the heath. Sometimes, great and Arctic skuas come foraging up the coast, bullying smaller birds for their food. And occasionally, if conditions are right, you can watch great northern divers tossing about on the sea.


SCOUR THE CLIFFS, BUT SKUAS THRIVE” is managed to allow birds to forage for invertebrates. In winter, storms scour the cliffs, but skuas and flocks of choughs – with red legs and beaks, and ‘cheeyow’ calls – thrive. Strong winds seem to

ANCIENT MARINERS Great northern divers are thought to be the oldest bird species in the world. Large and powerful, their red eyes may help them see underwater on fishing dives up to 60m deep. They breed in North America and winter on Atlantic shores, gathering in large numbers around the north-west coast of Scotland. A strong northwesterly wind, however, can push them south. It takes a keen eye to discern them on a churning sea from other divers, cormorants and ducks. And according to RSPB warden Denise Shaw, you’ll also need “a couple of hours sitting still with a telescope, a flask of hot tea and some butties.”


Caer y Twr Iron Age hill fort on Holyhead Mountain was used by Romans as a watchtower

1 ROAMING RAPTORS From Ellin’s Tower car park, cross heath to reach the coast path. Look out for peregrines as you pass Ellin’s Tower, built in 1868 by the Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey as a summerhouse for his wife. Descend 400 steps to South Stack Lighthouse, open to visitors in summer.

2 LIGHTING THE WAY Before the bridge was built, the lighthouse-keeper’s provisions were swung in by basket and pulley – the beacon is now automated. Look out for rock pipits on the cliffs, and for divers and seals in the sea. Follow the coast path signs towards Holyhead Mountain, passing reed-fringed pools,



5.5 MILES | 3.5 HOURS







3 CHOUGH WAY Descend towards North Stack and the foghorn station, looking back across Gogarth Bay for divers blown off course, and Atlantic grey seals. Retrace your steps and, instead of joining the coast path, take the higher route to meet the chough path. Below you are steps once used by donkeys carrying provisions to the foghorn station, and a domed building used to store gunpowder to fuel the foghorn. Rounding the mount, you’ll see Holyhead Breakwater – in the 19th century, seven million tons of stone were dug from nearby quarries to build it. 4 PATH TO PREHISTORY Above you on the summit is Caer y Twr. The Iron Age fort was occupied by the Romans, its walls almost imperceptible from the mountain itself. As you pass beneath, look for stonechats, rock and meadow pipits, choughs, linnets and short-eared owls. Below the path are several prehistoric hut circles, well worth a visit at the end of your walk, before finishing with coffee and cake at the RSPB visitor centre, just north of the car park.

Julie Brominicks is a Snowdonia-based landscape writer and walker.

Photos: Getty, Alamy,

If you run short of patience and sandwiches, this 5.5-mile circular walk around the RSPB reserve will allow you to spot the less elusive residents. The path, steep and rough in some sections, is generally not too taxing. Those arriving by bus will need to walk the coast path from Holyhead and start and finish their walk at North Stack.

and a shelterbelt of conifers used by migrants. White water stretches from South Stack out to sea, its surface cut from time to time by gannets and porpoises that feed on the tidal races. Ignore the summit path, unless you fancy a quick ascent. The trail bends towards North Stack with Gogarth Bay below. Look out for divers and skuas, and gannets patrolling the water like gliders.



GUIDE How to use the ViewRanger app



Glossy black plumage, a red bill, legs and feet, and a distinctive ‘chee-ow’ call. This bird has an aerobatic, tumbling flight, lives in cliffs and quarries, and feeds on invertebrates in short grass. The chough is the rarest member of the crow family due to a decline in habitat.

Distinctive shape with pointy wings and a short tail. This large powerful falcon makes fast plummeting dives from height when hunting. It has a spotted breast, a barred chest and a black and white face. Eats wading birds, pigeons and ducks.

We’ve partnered up with Viewranger, the go-to app for online walking routes. If you would like to access a route using your smartphone or tablet, here’s what to do: 1. Download a QR code reader from your app shop on your device. Where you see this icon you can use ViewRanger.



In winter, an influx of migrants from northern Europe causes UK short-eared owl populations to swell. Their ear-tufts are not always visible – look for yellow eyes and pale underparts to distinguish them from other birds. Often seen hunting by day with floppy-winged flight.

The bold black and white breeding plumage and checked mantle of the common loon, as it is also know, become duller in the winter months. This large bird (60-100cm) is a powerful swimmer and diver, eating mostly fish, but clumsy on land and take-off. ff

2. Open the app on your device and hold your phone above the printed QR code. It then does all the work!

3. The app will take you through to this walk in the ViewRanger app, so that you can carry the route around with you in your pocket. And you’re ready to go!



The UK’s smallest diver is distinguished by a rufous plumage and upturned bill, with a red throat in summer. It winters on British shores in patchy numbers, and spends its summer in north-west Scotland. Eats mostly fish but sometimes feeds on molluscs and crustaceans.

A medium-sized, dark-feathered seabird that flies swift and low over water. It spends its life at sea, only visiting land to breed. The Arctic skua eats fish, eggs and fledglings, and is known to chase other birds, twisting and turning to make them drop their food.


DAY OUT: Isle of Skye, Inner Hebrides

SEA EAGLE SPLENDOUR Few wildlife experiences can match the elegance and drama of a white-tailed eagle d shores of a Scottish island, writes Ali Wood ings back, legs splayed, talons outstretched; the sea eagle hovers for a split second before plunging, feet-first, into the loch. There’s a flash of white tail against tawnyblack plumage, a splash impossibly quiet for a 2.5m wingspan, then she’s gone – soaring back to the granite cliffs, a fish writhing between her talons. The white-tailed eagle, as it is also known, was a common sight 200 years ago on the Isle of Skye, but by 1930 the UK’s largest bird of prey was extinct. Reintroduced from Norway in the 70s, there are now over 50 pairs across the west coast of Scotland. Board a sea safari at Portree and watch these magnificent birds fish just metres from the boat.





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Black grouse were once widespread across the UK, yet in recent decades, habitat loss and overgrazing have led to a decline in their populations. In some areas, sympathetic land management is reversing this trend

WALK: Langdon Beck, County Durham

DANCE OF THE BLACK GROUSE Remote, exposed and etched with crescents of snow, the uplands of the North Pennines offer little in the way of sanctuary for wintering wildlife – yet in this ice world, one hardy bird thrives, says Anthony Toole



against a sudden snowfall, I have seen as many as 40 blackcocks strutting around the hillsides, watched from drystone wall perches by a similar number of drab-looking hens. The male black grouse is an impressive fellow, and he knows it. He displays his iridescent black plumage – enhanced by a forked tail, white rump and red eyebrows – to attract females and deter rivals during the springtime lek. In decline throughout the British Isles, this large game bird hangs on in parts of Scotland, Wales and the North Pennines, though its reluctance to move beyond its territory

means that the small, local populations remain isolated from each other. The Upper Teesdale flock tends to concentrate in the fields around Langdon Beck. 1 BRIDGE THE BECK Approximately half-a-mile along the road west from Langdon Beck Hotel, a gate opens into the national nature reserve. A good, rough track runs for a mile to Widdybank Farm and a junction with the Pennine Way. If you are content with a short walk, turn east along the national trail for about a mile. Negotiate several styles to a bridge over Harwood Beck,

then follow a swampy and indistinct bridleway back to the start (2.5-mile loop walk). 2 THE CURLEWS’ CRY Alternatively, carry on along the Pennine Way, following the north bank of the River Tees through a narrowing gorge between Widdybank Fell and Cronkley Scar. The track is level – grassy in some parts and rocky in others, with stretches of wooden boardwalk and large stone slabs. Across the river is a substantial juniper forest. Along this part of the walk you may be startled at the sudden cackle of a red grouse or the whirring wing

Photos Getty, Alamy

ronkley Scar, Falcon Clints, Whiddybank Fell, Cauldron Snout. The names have a hardedged musicality that perfectly echoes the harsh, compelling beauty of the landscape. The huge national nature reserve of Moor House-Upper Teesdale, more than 7,000 hectares in size, is as bleak as any part of England. Winter lingers in the high valleys long after it has melted elsewhere. Living is hard, yet the hardiest not only survive, they refuse to move away. Among the toughest are the black grouse. Wrapped up


beat of a snipe. Watch out for dippers bobbing on the mid-stream boulders or diving headlong into the river. Many of the waders that nest here – lapwing, redshank and golden plover – will be wintering on the coast, but you can still see the odd individual that has stayed. Even with patches of snow clinging to the hillsides, the piping call of an oystercatcher or the fluting trill of a curlew can evoke a sense of spring. At this point in the walk the geology of the area becomes prominent. The crags are composed of Whin Sill dolerite, a volcanic intrusion that broke through the older limestone 295 million years ago. As the dolerite cooled and cracked, it formed a large reef of columnar structures, now known as Falcon Clints. Make your way beneath the impressive bluff to reach the base of Cauldron Snout – at 180m, it is the longest cascade in England. In bad conditions, the River Tees swells in size and you may wish to return the way you have come (six miles).

The River Tees slinks beneath the precipitous wall of Falcon Clints in Moor House-Upper Teesdale, the UK’s largest terrestrial National Nature Reserve

3 SUGAR STONE If continuing, scramble up the side of the cascade (also part of the Pennine Way) to reach the Cow Green Reservoir wall. A good roadway runs north for 1.5 miles to Cow Green car park, passing limestone pavements and small patches where the rock was cooked by the emerging Whin Sill magma into a soft, crumbly form of marble, known as sugar limestone.

4 REMOTE LODGING From Cow Green, a surfaced road leads east for three miles back to Langdon Beck. The village hotel – which lies “in the middle of nowhere but an hour from everywhere” – offers beds and local food and drink.

Anthony Toole grew up in Cumbria and is now a prize-winning outdoors writer.



DIPPER A small, white-breasted bird, that gets its name from its bobbing motion. It feeds on invertebrates that it catches by walking along riverbeds.


7.5 MILES | 4 HOURS | MODERATE SNIPE A small wader with a flexible, sensitive bill – a quarter of the bird’s full length – which it uses to search for worms and invertebrates in soft ground.





CURLEW Our largest resident wader gets its name from its distinctive bubbling call. It feeds on invertebrates and small frogs with a long, curved bill.


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DAY OUT: Flanders Moss, Stirlingshire

BOGLAND BIRD BONANZA The thrill of watching skeins of geese slice through the crisp Stirlingshire air above ancient peatlands will banish the chill of winter, says Fergal MacErlean he largest intact raised bog in Britain isespeciallyevocative in the winter months, when time appears to stand still. Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve, situated in the Carse of Forth beneath the rising mounts of the southern Highlands, covers more than 800 hectares of low-lying land. The bogland is rare, for both its size and its near-natural state. Despite losing 40% of its original coverage over the past two centuries, it remains healthy, unlike 94% of British bogs damaged by drainage.



Photos: Lorne Gill/SNH, Getty, Alamy

The peats started to build at the end of the last Ice Age as the seas, which once covered the area, began to retreat. As the air temperature rose,

vegetation began to colonise the newly exposed plains, decomposing and compacting to create a wet and boggy environment ideal for moss growth. The peat expanded at a rate of one millimetre a year and, today, is more than seven metres thick, protruding from the land as a raised bog.

SKEINS IN THE SKY The eastern part of the Moss boasts a 23ft-high observation tower. It’s a magical place to watch long, V-shaped skeins of pink-footed geese traverse the skies at dusk, or dawn if you are a morning bird. These large geese – visiting in their thousands from the Arctic and Iceland every winter – travel daily between their roosting areas and the reserve’s rich feeding

grounds. They sometimes overnight on a lochan in the middle of the bog, along with whooper swans and greylag geese, while others roost in the wider, low-lying Carse of Stirling, home to nationally important populations of these geese. Hen harriers and the hauntingly beautiful shorteared owl also make use of the reserve in the colder months, along with flocks of bullfinches and reed buntings, and the occasional great grey shrike. Just off ff the B822 south of Thornhill, a boardwalk winds through the Moss, offering ff a frog’s-eye view of the bog’s colourful flora and fauna. Fergal MacErlean is an outdoors writer who loves exploring he Scottish landscape.


GREYLAG GOOSE A brown and grey bird, heavy in flight; underside of tail is white. Found throughout lowland UK.

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE Medium-sized, predominantly grey goose with a light breast and pink bill, legs and feet. UK overwintering populations total 360,000 birds.

Don’t forget your wellies: areas of lowland raised bog, such as Flanders Moss in the southern Highlands, comprise 98% water


WALK: Isley Marsh, North Devon

SPOONBILL SPECTACULAR Tor McIntosh takes to Isley’s mud and marsh in search of some of Britain’s most striking winter visitors ithin minutes of leaving the car park at Fremington Quay, I had checked off ff two birds from my ‘must see’ list: an oystercatcher and a curlew, both feeding on the mudflats only metres from the path. With its large black and white body and distinctive orangered bill, the oystercatcher was easy to spot. The curlew was a little trickier, its brownstreaked body camouflaged against the estuary mud. RSPB Isley Marsh sits on the southern edge of the SSSIdesignated Taw-Torridge Estuary y in the North Devon Biosphere Reserve. It’s the saltmarshes and intertidal


mudflats that make this stretch of estuary so attractive for overwintering birds. Wildfowl, waders and gulls come to the area for the invertebrates that dwell in the estuary mud and the valuable shelter of the vegetated marshes. In January, the list of potential bird finds is staggering. 1 TARKA TWITCHING From Fremington Quay it’s an easy two-mile walk along the flat, traffic-free Tarka Trail – a foot and cycle path that follows the old Bideford railway line along the River Taw to Isley Marsh. However, before you begin this gentle jaunt, it’s worth pausing for a while on the

footbridge over Fremington creek, especially at low tide. During the winter months, it’s a great place to see small flocks of redshanks feeding on the mudbanks, or to catch a rare glimpse of a kingfisher. 2 MARSHLAND At an RSPB sign on the Tarka Trail, turn right and follow a public footpath through East Yelland Marsh to reach the estuary. The reserve itself is inaccessible to visitors, who are encouraged to use the footpaths on the outside of the marsh, providing wintering birds with an undisturbed area to feed, rest and shelter, especially during high tides and

rough weather. With limited access, binoculars are highly recommended for spotting regular winter visitors, including wigeon, teal, greenshanks, grey plovers, little egrets and spoonbills – last year, six of these tall, white birds with unusual spatulate bills made Isley Marsh their winter home. Turn right again to loop back to the Tarka Trail along the western side of Isley Marsh. 3 OLD DAIRY FARM Retrace your steps on the Tarka Trail past Lower Yelland, looking out for the entrance board and wooden gate to Home Farm Marsh, another great place to spot winter birds.

Photos: Getty, Alamy, Geograph / Maurice D Budden

Spoon-fed: sheltered and rich in food, Isley Marsh is an ideal refuge for wintering flocks of birds, such as the eponymous spoonbill



Owned and managed by The Gaia Trust, the 71-hectare site is being restored to its former status as a wetland after years of being used as an intensive dairy farm. The variety of habitats at Home Farm Marsh attracts overwintering wildfowl and waders, as well as breeding farmland birds, such as skylarks and lapwings. From the gate, follow the waymarked route along a farm track – be warned, this unsurfaced path can get very wet and muddy during the winter months. 4 ALONG THE ESTUARY You soon pass two wooden bird hides overlooking a series of shallow ponds. The waterholes provide feeding and nesting areas throughout the year for snipe, shovelers, shelducks and moorhens, while large water meadows attract flocks of Canada geese. Continue on the permissive path as it turns right to follow the sand and mud banks alongside the estuary, where there are ample opportunities to stop and observe wading birds and gulls on the shoreline. Keep a look out for raptors, such as buzzards, peregrines and ospreys, which are often seen along the estuary. Last year,

ABOVE A network of wildlife-rich waterways stretches out across RSPB Isley Marsh north of the Tarka Trail The Gaia Trust erected two telegraph poles – one carrying a nesting platform and the other a solar-powered web cam – close to the estuary in the hope of encouraging ospreys to nest in the area. 5 AMONG THE REEDS At a wooden gate, where the permissive path leaves the estuary and starts to head inland along the edge of a field, lies a memorial stone to Lady Hilda MacNeill, a local woman who died in 1904 while trying to save a drowning child.

At the end of the field, the path turns right again. Keep an eye out for herons and little egrets hiding in the reeds and rushes as you walk through marshland to reach a wooden gate leading back on to the Tarka Trail. Turn left and retrace your steps to Fremington Quay, where you can enjoy coffee and cake at the café in an old, riverside railway house. Tor McIntosh is a photographer and writer specialising in adventure and travel.


WIGEON An attractive medium-sized duck with an upturned beak, found in large flocks on estuaries, wet grassland and arable land throughout the UK during the winter months.



1 4


3 2


REDSHANK These waders, with their long, bright-orange legs and straight reddish bills – used to burrow for food – are often found in small flocks on coastal lagoons and estuaries in winter.





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GREAT DAYS OUT Waterfowl, including ducks, geese and swans, overwinter in their thousands on Norfolk’s marshy shores

DAY OUT: Holme Dunes, Norfolk

WATERFOWL WONDERLAND Winter birdwatching is a chance to slow down, says Patrick Barkham on a trip to the Norfolk coast ehind a line of tawny sand dunes and dark Scots pines is a place of rest for winter birds. Holme is a recuperative place for us, too. The grand, unspoilt North Norfolk coast increasingly needs no introduction, yet Holme Dunes remains off ff the beaten track – or rather, at the bottom of a long, gravel road. At the point where the north coast turns west into The Wash, it feels like an island, an eroding corner of sand cut off from the mainland proper by an expanse of wet meadows. This otherworldly coastal corner might have become a beach suburb like Skegness had developers not run out of money. And in spite of the

Photo: Alamy


bombs dumped upon its dunes during the Second World War, the coastline’s wild character remains thanks to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who acquired 526 acres in 1965.

SENSING THE BIRDS I’ve been coming here since I was a boy, imbibing the muddy scent of saltmarsh mixed with pine tang and ocean spray. With sea to the north and west, Holme is first landfall for wind-blown migrants, rarities and vagrants that shelter in the blue-grey sea buckthorn. I always scan the telegraph wires beside the track, where kestrels, and occasionally something more exotic, perch. Drama erupts in the most mundane places; I once saw

a heron wrestle an eel in the reed-edged waterway.

BREATHING DEEPLY Most birders head to the landward side of the dunes – grazed in the winter by Konik wild horses. Wooden hides overlook scrapes of shallow water on the meadows, their surfaces swept by the bills of curlews and avocets. But in the winter, the big visitors are ducks; hundreds of teal and widgeon. Then there are the raptors that hunt them – marsh harriers, peregrines and buzzards. I never tire of seeing barn owls quartering Holme’s meadows in late afternoon. On winter evenings, pink-footed and brent geese descend on the reserve.

I like to take the Norfolk Coast Path along the dunes and out on to the beach. This expanse of sand is often empty in winter, save the bartailed godwits, oystercatchers and dunlin that stalk the peatbeds exposed at low tide. Watching birds is an excuse to loiter, focus, slow down. Holme is a sensitive site, so tread carefully, breathe deeply and don’t bring a dog. Your departure down the long track will be slower than your arrival, Holme’s peace and space filling you with deep calm, and a strange exhilaration, too. Patrick Barkham’s latest book Islander explores Britain’s small islands (Granta, £20).


WALK: RSPB Arne, Dorset

PERFECT PURBECK POCKET Kevin Parr explores russet heathland and wizened woods in search of shelducks, siskins and sparrowhawks

AVOCET With its black and white plumage and long, upturned bill, the avocet is unmistakable. The emblem of the RSPB has thrived in recent decades, and about 40% of Britain’s population winters at Arne.

DARTFORD WARBLER Resident in southern Britain, the Dartford warbler has benefitted from recent mild winters. Synonymous with heathland, it is an active bird, with a prominent, and often cocked, tail.

SPOONBILL Slightly smaller than a grey heron, these elegant white birds have a distinctive spatula-shaped bill and, unlike the heron, extend their necks in flight.


ore than 50 years have passed since the RSPB first leased a small pocket of Purbeck and created Arne nature reserve. The first wardens operated from a caravan tucked away in the heather – half a century later, there is a newly built café and shop, and a working farm. The wildlife-rich heathland of Arne – jutting into the shallow expanse of Poole Harbour – supports all six species of native reptile and around 50 pairs of nightjar. Winter, far from lifeless, offers its own treasures.


1 A FIERY START This birder’s walk around Arne begins in the car park, where siskins, tits and great spotted woodpeckers feed beside the information hut, and firecrests can be spied flitting around the holly bushes. A marked trail leads south from the car park and out on to Coombe Heath. Here, woodlarks and meadow pipits can be seen among the heather, while stonechats and Dartford warblers are found in the gorse – these warblers can seem elusive but there are nearly 60 pairs at Arne. Listen out for their scratchy ‘churr’ and you may catch a glimpse as they dart between bushes, searching for food. 2 LOW TIDE AT THE HIDE The bird hide at the southern point of Coombe Heath offers views across the tidal creek of Middlebere Lake, backed by the Purbeck Hills. At low tide, just a trickle of water remains and the exposed mudflats attract large numbers of birds.

Avocets flock in their hundreds, joined by a similar number of black-tailed godwits probing the rich sediment. Shelducks are abundant too and, in recent winters, over 1,000 brent geese have been recorded at Arne. For many, the reserve’s main draw is the striking spoonbill, easily confused with little egrets, but for their distinctive beak and feeding habits. Populations of this conspicuous, wintering bird are steadily increasing, and it is regularly seen from the Middlebere Hide. The abundance of waders draws raptors, too. Marsh and hen harriers, often seen above the reeds, have winter roosts nearby. Short-eared owls and merlins are less frequent, while peregrines and sparrowhawks are resident in the harbour.


3 BUSY BIRDS To the north of the car park is the farm, where yellowhammers and linnets can be found, while nuthatches and treecreepers keep busy among the birch. A two-storey hide on the northern edge of Big Wood provides further opportunity to see spoonbills on the sand as the whistle of wigeon and the stirring cry of curlews fill the winter air. 4 HARBOUR HAVEN At Shipstal Point, red-breasted mergansers patrol offshore, and in poor weather, various species of grebe and diver seek sanctuary in the harbour.

Kevin Parr is a writer, fisherman and amateur naturalist living in West Dorset.



4 3




Photos: Getty, Alamy, Andrew Locking



CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Tidal fluctuations at Middlebere Lake – an extension of the Wych Channel and Poole Harbour – create the perfect habitat for winter birds; January is a great month for spotting firecrests among the leafless trees; Arne’s many footpaths offer views across to Poole


1 SEVEN STARLING TOP MURMURATIONS Flock to the countryside this January to experience one of Britain’s most spectacular avian ballets, says Roly Smith

6 5


4 2 3

t’s been called the greatest wildlife spectacle in Britain, compared by birder Bill Oddie to anything on the Serengeti Plains of Africa. It’s thought that starlings congregate in these remarkable ‘murmurations’ to deter possible predators, which are confused by the swirling masses. Despite a recent drop in their overall population, you can still witness the mesmerising sight of thousands of birds performing their aerial dance at dawn and dusk. Here’s where to see them:



West Pier Brighton, Sussex

Perhaps the most famous starling murmuration in Britain takes place around the skeletal, derelict West Pier on Brighton’s stony seafront. Up to 40,000 birds arrive from as far away as Scandinavia to winter alongside their native cousins on the pier.


Aberystwyth Ceredigion

This Welsh resort on Cardigan Bay offers another opportunity to see the birds – there’s even a local hotel called The Starling Cloud. Thousands of starlings fly in to roost under the town pier, engaging in a wonderful choreography of synchronised aerobatics.


Ham Wall Somerset

RSPB Ham Wall on the Avalon Marshes (pictured) is a starling hotspot. Thousands of birds – many of which migrate from the colder climates of Northern Europe – congregate in the reedbeds overnight.




Middleton Moor Derbyshire


Leighton Moss Lancashire


Gretna Green Dumfries and Galloway

Between October and March, up to 100,000 starlings swarm in from the surrounding countryside to the reed-fringed tailings lagoon of a Derbyshire fluorspar mine at Middleton Moor. Watch awe-inspiring masses fill the sky with everchanging, abstract clouds.

The skies above the bitternhaunted reedbeds of RSPB Leighton Moss near Silverdale turn black at dusk and dawn. Enormous flocks of starlings wheel, turn and swoop through the air, before dropping down like stones to rest for the night.

There was a time when only eloping couples flocked to Gretna Green on the English/ Scottish border. Nowadays, it’s the aerial visitors that attract most attention, with magical displays of up to 50,000 birds.


Albert Bridge Belfast

City murmurations don’t come much better than those at Albert Bridge in the centre of Belfast. On winter nights, hundreds of thousands of birds gather noisily together to roost.

Roly Smith has written more than 90 books about walking and the countryside.


Starlings are just one of many bird species to spend the winter at RSPB Ham Wall in Somerset. While waiting for the murmurations to appear in front of Glastonbury Tor, look out for little egrets, short-eared owls and bitterns

Look out


CountryďŹ le visits to the Somerset Levels to witness the starlings and meet local artists on 14 January




YOUR GREAT DAYS OUT… IN PHOTOS Share your best photos of the British countryside with us and you could see your image in print or online and win a great prize. Send your images to Your Photos, BBC Countryfile Magazine, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN or email Photo of the month

HELLO, HARE By: Ben Hartley Where: Chartridge End, Buckinghamshire “While out on my bike, I passed a baby fox in a field, so I rushed home to get my camera. On my return, the fox had gone, but a hare was in a field five metres away. I set my camera to quiet and started firing the shutter. Amazingly, the hare seemed to take an interest in the shutter noise and headed towards me. I even had to zoom out! It just sat and looked at me while eating.”

LARRY LAMB JUMPING THROUGH THE WOOD Congratulations to Derek Ives who wins BBC Countryfile Magazinee Dog of the Year 2017 competition with his shot of “Larry Lamb jumping through the wood” in association with Skinnner’s Pet Foods.

THE PRIZE Innovative footwear company BOGS began back in 2002, creating functional boots for farmers to endure the harsh weather conditions. Since then, BOGS has evolved its vision to deliver enduring comfort to the casual outdoor consumer. With technical features including 100% waterproof designs, easy pull-on handles and Rebound shock-absorbing cushioning, BOGS guarantee that you will work, play and live better.


GREAT DAYS OUT SUMMER REMEMBERED By: Carolin Carey Stephenson Where: Cwm George Woods, Herefordshire “As we experience a rather grim and unsettled opening to autumn, I like to remember this late summer token, taken in early evening sunlight during a visit to Herefordshire.”

WAY AHEAD By: Ray Hutcheon Where: Scarth Wood Moor, North Yorkshire “I took this photo in autumn while out walking on the Cleveland Way on the outskirts of Osmotherley.”

PEEPING STAG By: Lesley Hextall Where: Newton Winford, Leicestershire “This was taken during a walk in Bradgate Park in autumn – the stag was perfectly framed peering over the bracken.”


STILL THINKING By: Iboyla Szabo Where: Keynsham, Somerset “I snapped this photo of a barn owl at the Avon Balley Adventure and Wildlife Park.”

With the theme of ‘Call of the Wild’, the Countryfile Calendar 2018 is currently on sale in aid of BBC Children in Need. Order a calendar at, or call 0330 333 4564. To order by post, send your name, address and cheque to: BBC Countryfile Calendar, PO Box 25, Melton Mowbray, LE13 1ZG. Please make cheques payable to BBC Countryfile Calendar. The calendar costs £9.50 including free UK delivery. Postage outside the UK will cost £2.75 per item. A minimum of £4.50 from the sale of each calendar is donated to BBC Children In Need.





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Lazy days TV › RADIO › BOOKS › LETTERS › MATT › KIT › PUZZLES Reviews editor: Maria Hodson

Beech trees and bluebells at Badbury Hill in Oxfordshire. In A Passion for Trees, Judi Dench (inset) explores the hidden world of woodlands

TOWERING TALENTS OF THE WOODS Dame Judi leads a star-studded cast of oak, yew, Scot’s pine and more JUDI DENCH: A PASSION FOR TREES

Photos: Alamy, BBC

20 DECEMBER, BBC ONE, 8PM ALSO AVAILABLE ON IPLAYER Did you know that acting giant Judi Dench has a deep love for trees? Well, she does, and it’s delightful. Filmed over the course of a year, this one-hour programme sees Dame Judi get to know these silent giants of our landscape, enlisting a team of experts to help her understand her own arboretum, and travelling to other sites to explore the role of woodland in our history and future.

In this journey through the seasons, she unlocks the secrets of the forest, assisted by scientists and sophisticated equipment that allows her to hear trees drink, discover how they feel and learn how they communicate and defend themselves. “I shall never be able to walk nonchalantly through a woodland again without thinking about all of the incredible work that is going on under there,” says Dench. “We think we live in a society, but it is no comparison to what goes on between trees, and how these chaps live.”


book of the month

NEIL ANSELL, TINDER PRESS, £16.99 (HB) On a map, some parts of Scotland look ferociously wild – with tight contour lines, deep lochs, huge forests and almost no tracks or human dwellings. I often ask, what can be there and will I ever get the time to explore? Fortunately, Neil Ansell has devoted his life to the roads less travelled – especially

BOOK THE WILD DYER ABIGAIL BOOTH, KYLE BOOKS, £16.99 (HB) Plants and flowers have been used to colour fabric for millennia, and in her rather beautiful book, Abigail Booth explains how to continue this traditional practice in a helpfully straightforward way. When working with natural dyes it can be tricky to fine-tune the colours you are attempting to produce. Rather than fight


where there are no roads. Here he spends a year on a number of expeditions roaming the extraordinary peninsulas from Mallaig to the Sound of Mull. The names, beautiful though they are (Knoydart, Morvern, Morar, Ardnamurchan), are not as important as Ansell’s journey to find wilderness – or perhaps escape mundanity. He camps on empty beaches, walks over seldomconquered peaks, steps through forests where only deer tread. Occasionally he meets wild human spirits – fellow wanderers and bothy hunters – and he has

extraordinary wildlife encounters with otters, eagles and even pilot whales. The undercurrent seems to be Ansell’s internal restlessness, his need to be alone in the wild coupled with tackling a serious heart problem. Worst of all, his ability to hear high-pitched sounds is deteriorating – his “the journey into silence”. This means no more sandpipers and willow warblers – a heartrending loss to someone who loves the natural world. And yet the remaining beauty seems enough for him to find peace. Fergus Collins, editor

this, Booth prefers to leave the results to play out, which makes the whole process seem far less daunting. The Wild Dyerr covers a lot of ground, from the preparation of the material to be dyed, to growing and foraging for dye plants, and even thrifty dyeing from kitchen waste. The accompanying simple textile projects are suitable for all but an absolute beginner – if you can sew a seam you will be able to make most of them easily. Booth describes the different ff colours produced by natural materials in detail,

paired with admonishments not to take too much plant material from a single source, a pleasingly sustainable approach. The description of how to grow dye plants from seed felt a little simplistic – not every young plant benefits from a rich growing medium. But it’s a minor niggle. Certainly, The Wild Dyer madee me question my long-held assumptions about the difficulty of natural dyeing and I’m currently hoarding coffee ff grounds and avocado peel to have a go myself. Rosee Woodland, designer and writer

Photos Alamy,, BBC


Ben Hiant in Ardnamurchan, Lochaber. In The Last Wilderness, Neil Ansell sets out to find raw nature

LAZY DAYS A Scottish wildcat in the Cairngorms – the species teeters on the brink of extinction

BOOK A YORKSHIRE VET: THROUGH THE SEASONS JULIAN NORTON, MICHAEL O MARA, £14.99 (HB) Julian Norton’s love for his work shines through in this collection of stories about his adventures as a vet. Based in Thirsk (of James Herriot fame), Julian faces challenges across the seasons, from the precarious rescue of an injured swan from a lake in winter, to an emergency caesarian on a distressed alpaca in summer. We also meet a host of amusing characters, including Dougie the Amazonian parrot, who speaks in a broad Yorkshire accent. Norton writes with warmth and wit, conveying enthusiasm in even the most hair-raising scenarios, such as operating on a cow amid an electrical storm. We glimpse the myriad considerations a vet must make when deciding a treatment, and the detective processes involved, as Julian often has to make a diagnosis with little information (many farmers on tight budgets cannot justify paying for the diagnostic tests involved). An insightful, comforting read – as an animal lover, it’s reassuring to know this kind of help is at hand. Sam Swannack


RADIO ON YOUR FARM: REFUGEES AND BEES 14 JANUARY, RADIO 4 Caz Graham meets Syrian beekeeping expert Dr Ryad Alsous (abovee), who has just set up a hive project to help other refugees in Huddersfield.

The book’s subtitle is ‘Britain’s most endangered mammal’. Our only native feline ties for this dubious honour with the black rat, but while the elimination of the latter seems to be acceptable, even desirable to many, the Scottish wildcat has become a wildlife celebrity. It has skulked, snarled and spat its way, if not always into our affections ff (the last thing a wildcat wants is your love), then certainly into our high esteem and collective conscience. Undeniably, the appalling predicament facing this unique carnivore is of our making. Until it received protection in 1988, it suffered ff centuries of systematic persecution, and the remaining population now faces the more insidious threat of

being bred out of existence by ill-advised liaison with feral domestic cats. There is as much history here as zoology, and it makes fascinating reading. Clegg documents both the decline of a species and changing human attitudes to it, from totemic significance in Celtic and Scottish clan culture, via vermin status, to rehabilitation as an emblem of lost wilderness and subject of scientific interest. He details the species’ ecology and surprising uses for dead wildcats beyond the insulating properties of their sumptuous pelt, including treatments for gout and haemorrhoids that bring to mind to the scourge of traditional Chinese medicine. This is a timely (if not overdue), readable and impressively thorough book, and ultimately a hopeful one. Things are bad for Scottish wildcats, but at least, as last, they have us on side. Amy-Jane Beer, biologist and writer


Matt Baker THE COUNTRYFILE PRESENTER GOES BEHIND THE SCENES ON HIS SHOWS AND FAMILY FARM FORGET RESOLUTIONS – FOCUS ON THE FUN of satisfaction and achievement. Looking at the 2017 list up on the pin board, the Bakers seem to have done OK. My son has scored the goals for his football team he aimed for; he’s learnt five songs on the piano and guitar; but is still working on finishing the Harry Potter books. He’s almost there and very happy to put it on the one for 2018. My daughter has made Christmas macaroons – so just about squeezed that one in – and has run her two-mile target! As for me and my wife, those big outdoor jobs are done, Mrs B has finished the novel she’s always wanted to write and started the next one and I’ve managed to make more time to play the guitar and paint. I’ve not quite managed to cook as frequently as I would have liked, but having ‘cook more’ on the list means I’ve nailed it.

“I recommend ditching New Year’s resolutions. Writing a hit list is definitely more rewarding”

WRITE IT DOWN AND PUT IT UP The more I write this, the more I can heartily recommend ditching the New Year’s resolutions. Writing a hit list and putting it on display is definitely more rewarding and totally achievable. On that note, writing your list for the year is better done with others, as you can help someone else make sure their list is well within their reach. So what does my list hold for me this year? Before I wrote this, I asked my kids if they’d thought about their lists. Listening to children talk about what they’d like to be able to do in the year ahead always makes you realise that the simple uncomplicated things in life are the most rewarding. After hearing some of their fast and furious thoughts, I made the decision that at the top of my list this year is going to be focusing on the fun and not the pressure that comes with my hectic life.

Watch Matt on Countryfilee on Sunday nights at 6.30pm on BBC One.


Photos Sean Malyon, Getty

BELOW Setting a wishlist of goals for the year ahead is enjoyable and achievable (see page 46)

In our family we haven’t made New Year resolutions for quite a while now. Instead we’ve been making a shortlist of things we’d like to achieve or get done in the year. In midJanuary, we all sit round the kitchen table, tucking in to the last of the mince pies to write the list as a family. Looking at the list we wrote last year, thankfully we’ve all managed to tick off most of them. It’s much more fun to write a to-do list for the year rather than promise to stop doing things or try harder at something that, for most of us, tends to end in failure before we’re halfway through the year. As a farmer’s son, I’m well used to to-do lists and even though they tend to be never-ending, crossing them off ff one by one off ffers a great amount

Your countryside HAVE YOUR SAY ON RURAL ISSUES Share your views and opinions by writing to us at: Have your say, BBC Countryfile Magazine, 9th Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN; or email, Tweet us @CountryfileMag or via Facebook *We reserve the right to edit correspondence.


HALF A CENTURY OF HAPPY HOLIDAYS The article “Lost in the sands of time” (August 2017) brought back memories of our holidays on the Sandbank. My father bought a redundant garage in 1947 and had it transported from Hereford to the beach. For the next 45 years, our family and friends spent idyllic holiday enjoying the vagaries of the British summer for weeks at a time. Today, a ferry takes you from the Haven in 15 minutes to the landing stage. Way back, we used to be rowed across the run – a narrow strip of sometimesrough water – to the beach. Various fishermen would take us over, such as Jim, a real old sea dog, whose tongue would flip in and out from time to time to remove the salt from his lips as he would silently (for he had little conversation) convey us across. We would then traipse up the beach to arrive excitedly at “Got-a-Cot”, our quaintly named hut. In those early days, salmon would be caught at the entrance to the run, the fishermen running out a long net, letting the current take it down and then hauling in a number of fish. That practice has now gone, like the large sand dunes and their resident sand lizards that were a feature. Happily, much of the old times are still evident despite the gentrifying of

Letter of the month

the facilities and massive increase in value of the huts. Ours was sold in 1992 for a mere £15,000. We played scrabble when it was wet, swam and sunbathed when dry, sailed our dinghies, rowed our little boats (we took trippers over the creek and earned pennies for ice cream etc). Today, aged 78, I still am reminded of those years. So much has happened during those decades but Mudeford Sandbank is still there and long may it stay as a place where we lived a “Swallows and Amazons” existence. Tim Townsend, Hereford

Author Clive Brooks replies: I am delighted that my piece on the Sandbank brought back so many happy memories for you. It’s certainly one of my favourite places to be. When the sun shines, it compares with anywhere at home or abroad, and I know that’s a sentiment echoed today by many of the ‘hutters’ too. It genuinely remains a very unique and special place.

THE PRIZE Photos: Getty, Jason Ingram

This star letter wins the Aladdin range, designed to make eating away from home effor tless. The durable Bento Lunch Box stores hot or cold food for up to five hours (£17.99, from Amazon). The cleverly designed Stainless Steel Vacuum Mug keep drinks hot for over three hours oor cold for 20 (£19.99, Dunelm stores). The stylish Fresco Twist & Go bottle keeps drinkk cold for eight hours (£23.99, for stockists call 0116 234 4646).


My husband is a keen allotment grower and always hopes for a recipe. And lo and behold we saw Genevieve Taylor’s Apple and Beetroot Chutney in the September issue. As we had a glut of beetroot, we decided to ‘have a go’. Never having made chutney, it was easy to follow and delicious. We even entered it in the village show and came third g 20 ladies. We have now made some more as Christmas gifts and named it ‘Ken’s Winning W Chutney!’ What a success. Mrs KA Watkin ns Macclesfield, Ch heshire

Editor Fergus Collins replies: This is very happy news – Genevieve is delighted. Howeveer, you haven’t lived unntil you have tried my runner bean picklee.

FARMERS BEFORE FOOTPATHS Farmers are right to demand that they should be able to temporarily close/redirect footpaths at times. I understand the Ramblers objecting but they underestimate or ignore the total idiocy of various sections of the public – not to mention their capacity for criminality. If we are to continue to have any countryside, the Government needs to take action to protect farmers, animals and the countryside. Val Elsworth via email

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Cosy kit Keep Jack Frost at bay as you roam the countryside this winter Reviews Joe Pontin, Tim Bates (TB), Daniel Graham (DG), Maria Hodson (MH), Carys Matthews (CM). Photography Steve Sayers

THREE OF THE BEST WARM MIDLAYERS Pull on these warm layers on cool dry days – or wear beneath a rain jacket on wet ones



PHOENIX JACKET Montane, £140


0808 234 9190,

01670 817 038,

01773 601870

This extremely cosy jacket makes itself even more appealing with its sustainability credentials. Its QuadFusion filling is made from recycled polyester – instead of going into landfill, throwaway plastic is repurposed as synthetic insulation. Yet you wouldn’t guess: it feels like a soft down jacket, and weighs only 410g. It also looks great, with a quilted construction. I liked its big pockets, which fit an OS map, and are great for warming chilly hands. The hood keeps heads toasty and dry. The jacket’s breathability y is impressive, keeping you warm without overheating or trapping moisture, while it also stays warm when wett – much more so than a down jacket. Care wise, it is machine-washable and easy to maintain.

Even on the coldest days, the Phoenix will keep your upper body wonderfully snug. It’s surprisingly lightweightt (438g) for such a warm jacket, thanks to a new synthetic filling, ThermoPlume, made by PrimaLoft, which Montane claim is “the highest performing synthetic insulation to date”. Thismimics the structure of down – and certainly feels soft to the touch. I found that unlike down, it insulates well even when damp. The Pertex Quantum Eco outer fabric repels water without being fully waterproof, so the Phoenix can be worn as a showerresistantt standalone, or as a layer under a rain jacket. The hood and sleeves are stretchy y to help prevent heat loss. The internal zipped pocket is too small for an OS map. Outer pockets can be accessed without undoing bag straps.

This close-fitting jacket is lightly insulated, for an active lifestyle. The Polartec Alpha Direct synthetic filling is highly breathable, designed to keep your temperature even through changeable conditions. All this makes it a great outer layer for active days in the mountains when the weather’s not too wet. On cold, damp days, the Alpha Flux – fast drying g and insulating g – serves as a splendid mid-layer (with a baselayer beneath for warmth). The jacket has two zipped hand pockets, big enough for an OS map – and thumb loops to keep wrists warm. A hood and chin guard further protect against the elements, while the stretch-fleece panelss at the sides mould the jacket to your body – and help reduce weight to a mere 330g.

VERDICT: Cosy and eco-friendly. MH

VERDICT: Warm, light and comfy. CM.

VERDICT: Ideal layer for active walkers, all year round. DG.



Product of the month

Bodyfitzone Winter Zone long sleeve half zip base layer, Icebreaker, £100 Slim-fitting, breathable and warm, this is a great garment for winter hill walking. It’s made largely of merino wool, while at the forearms and lower back, panels of lightweight merino mesh improve ventilation. A front zip allows you to cool off Stays fresh despite repeated wear. DG. 00 800 111 222 99,

Lost Coast Fingerless Mitt, Outdoor Research, £50 Theese 85% wool mittens convert to finggerless gloves, in which the mitten flap is easily secured with a built-in magnet. The sueede palm-lining protects from wear. 016 670 712 2 129, outdo

Donegal Beanie, Extremities, £25 Chunky-knit hat with faux fur bobble, and super-cosy fleece lining for a snug head. 01773 833300,

Master Mug, Stanley, £39.99 Packable and compact, this stylish thermal container keeps ((almost) a pint of liquid hot for up to o 12 hours. The wide mouth helps yyou keep it clean. 01670 716376,

ANVIK GTX BOOTS HANWAG,£195 The Anvik (and the women’s version, the Aotea) are designed to be tough enough for winter use in the hills – while looking stylish enough to wear around the village. Ascending through steep, waterlogged ground, the Anvik felt reassuringly supportive and comfortable, especially around the ankle. This is thanks to what the German maker Hanwag calls ‘perforated bend application’ at the back of the upper, which allows the Nubuck leather to flex backwards as your ankle moves. This part of my test also gave the boots a dunking in thick mud. The waterrepellent uppers and a waterproof GoreTex lining performed well, keeping my feet dry and comfortable. The outer sole shed water and mud well, too, thanks to the wide grooves of the V-Rough outsole, made by tyre manufacturer Michelin. The high ankle support proved useful for deeper water and splashes. A descent through a valley over rocks wet with running water was a great place to test one of the key features of this boot: Hanwag claim to grip well on slippery surfaces, including snow. The flexible tread gave fantastic grip and I felt confident descending over what might otherwise have been treacherous rocks. VERDICT: An impressive boot for winter and autumn walks: the quality, comfort and durability stood up to challenges over a variety of different surfaces. TB

Superior Milatex Jacket, Tog24, £160 A durable, hard-wearing coat in waterresistant fabric. The synthetic insulation is very warm – ideal if you like spending long hours outdoors in winter ambling, birdwatching or other low-energy activities. LP.

Thermonet Buff scarf, £22.50. Tuubular scarf made of a lightweight g g but warm fabric. Great for keeping your face or ears warm on bike rides or windy walks. In ‘Soft Hills Turquoise’ pattern. CM 01707 852244, ff

• For details call 0046 771 601 601 (Sweden), or go to Go online For more reviews of outdoor gear, go online to



answers at bottom of opposite page c) Sir Walter Raleigh d) Sir Thomas More 9) What is the collective noun for a group of buzzards? a) Horde b) Parliament c) Wake d) Muster 10) Based on a cereal grain, which old unit of measurement was used to measure shoe size? a) Oatflake b) Barleycorn c) Wheatlet d) Cornhusk This national trail runs from Winchester to Eastbourne – but what is it called?

1) Which bird forms spectacular flocks known as murmurations? a) Chaffinch b) Blackbird c) Starling d) Canada goose 2) Burns Suppers are traditionally held on the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns. Which day is this? a) 1 January b) 14 January c) 25 January d)5 February 3) Which animal, typically found in cereal fields and other long grasses, is Europe’s smallest rodent? a) Harvest mouse b) Dormouse


c) Shrew d) Woodmouse 4) Vet and author James Herriot was based in which North Yorkshire town? a) Whitby b) Thirsk c) Skipton d) Leeds 5) Which winter visitor and member of the thrush family is pictured? ? a) Stonechat b) Wheatear c) Redwing d) Blackbird

6) Which British National Trail runs from Winchester, Hampshire to Eastbourne, East Sussex? a) South Downs Way b) North Downs Way c) Thames Path d) South West Coast Path 7) The evergreen perennial flower Helleborus niger is otherwise known by which name? a) Foxglove b) Winter Aconite c) Christmas Rose d) Snowdrop 8) A Man for All Seasons is a play by Robert Bolt based on the life of which historical figure? a) William Shakespeare b) Elizabeth I

11) Which ancient winter ritual involves drinking hot spiced cider? a) Sumbel b) Wassailing c) Candlemas d) Halloween 12) St Dwynwen’s Day is celebrated in Wales on 25 January. St Dwynwen is the patron saint of what? a) Lovers b) Dancing c) Drinking d) Baking




by Eddie James

ACROSS 1 Highest part of a horse’s back ... shrivels! (7) 5 Adam and Eve are ___ on the summit of Tryfan (5) 8 In short antirrhinum photo? (4) 9 Departs – in Essex, it seems (5) 10 Small, tailed amphibian (4) 11 Understood ... description of woody plant with young branches (7) 12 Whisky – in Ascot, cheers! (6) 14 Stout shoe and Irish accent (6) 15 Another name for aquatic vole (5,3) 17 Conifer fruits’ forensic changes (3,5) 20 White herons (6) 22 Rose up on hind legs (6) 24 Person who shoes horses (7) 25 Welsh river... in County Wicklow (4) 27 Shepherd’s support (5) 28 Natural water source, spring (4) 29 Stingers, but not nettles (5) 30 Scottish peninsula made famous by Paul McCartney (7)

This magazine is published by Immediate Media Company Bristol Limited under licence from BBC Worldwide.

NOVEMBER DOWN 1 Alternative energy source – damaged bud in winter (4,7) 2 Roseberry_____, distinctive hill of N. Yorkshire (superb!) (7) 3 Plants that retain foliage throughout the year (9) 4 Lake District’s fourth highest peak (7) 5 Flowers attached to watering-cans? (5) 6 Map line joining points of equal height (7) 7 Scatter seed and pig! (3)

ADVERTISING AND MARKETING Group ad manager Laura Gibbs, 0117 314 8760 Ad manager Louise Edwards, 0117 314 8384 Brand sales executive Samantha Wall Brand sales executive Dan Baker 0117 300 8510 Classified sales executive Martin Maynard Subscriptions director Jacky Perales-Morris Senior marketing executive Chris Pipe Press & PR manager Dominic Lobley

13 Golden, nutty-flavoured mushrooms – er, he can tell otherwise (11) 16 Iconic Shropshire hill (3,6) 18 Grooms horse with a comb – and spicy dishes? (7) 19 County location of RSPB Minsmere reserve (7) 21 Public transport that keeps you on track? (7) 23 e.g. gadwalls and garganeys (5) 26 Tree that sounds like a sheep (3)

LICENSING Director of international licensing and syndication Tim Hudson PRODUCTION Production director Sarah Powell Junior production coordinator Sarah Greenhalgh Ad services manager Paul Thornton Ad designer Catherine Howlett Ad coordinators Emily Thorne, Holly White PUBLISHING Publisher Marie Davies Publishing Assistant Rosa Sherwood Managing director Andy Marshall MANAGEMENT CEO Tom Bureau

We abide by IPSO’s rules and regulations. To give feedback about our magazines, please visit, email editorialcomplaints@ or write to [the magazine editor], Immediate Media Co., 9th Floor, Tower House, Fairfax St, Bristol BS1 3BN

ACROSS 1 Shires 5 Hogwash 9/13 Crop rotation 10 Rowan 11 Rill 12 Ashore 15 Wisbech 17 Rushes 18 Manors 20 Bracken 22 Seedsman 23 Canals 25 Mayo 26 Stile 27 Tide 28 Kinsale 29 Punter DOWN 2 Herts 3 Raptors 4 Scree 5 Haworth 6 Gin 7 Aerates 8 Halloween 14 Tarka 15 Whaleback 16 Epsom 19 Old Town 20 Bonfire 21 Kington 23 Cheep 24 Lodge 26 Sea

BBC WORLDWIDE President of UK and ANZ Marcus Arthur Director for consumer products and publishing Andrew Moultrie Director of editorial governance Nicholas Brett Publishing director, UK Chris Kerwin Publisher magazines and NPD Mandy Thwaites Publishing co-ordinator Eva Abramik ( SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BACK ISSUES Annual subscription rates (inc P&P): UK/BFPO £54.60; Europe and Republic of Ireland £68.50; rest of world £68.50. Jan-Dec 2016 45,384

ANSWERS: QUIZ: 1 c, 2 c, 3 a, 4 b, 5 c, 6 a, 7 c, 8 d, 9 c, 10 b, 11 b, 12 a

Photos: Alamy

EDITORIAL Editor Fergus Collins Production editor Maria Hodson Features editor Joe Pontin Art editor Tim Bates Designer Laura Phillips Picture editor Hilary Clothier Digital editor Carys Matthews Editorial assistant Daniel Graham

ACROSS 1 Boulder 5 Spruce 8 Stalls 9 Spalding 10 Llyn 11 Yorks 12 Ouse 13 Chases 15 Aviemore 18 Ambridge 21 Wealds 23 Snow 25 Pupae 27 Rare 28 Honister 29 Graham 30 Cereal 31 Red meat DOWN 1 Bethlehem 2 Uplands 3 Dusty 4 Roscrea 5 Seals 6 Redworm 7 Cones 14 Sad 16 IOW 17 Redbreast 19 Rawhide 20 Emperor 22 Acreage 24 Noose 25 Petal 26 Edged.



The art of great hospitality. Pride of Britain Hotels, Britain’s leading luxury & boutique hotel collection, have selected and approved 50 of the best independently owned luxury hotels and spas around Britain for you to enjoy. To order gift vouchers or your free hotel directory call freephone.

PINELODGE HOLIDAYS Our beautiful award winning 5 star lodge holiday parks are ideal locations from which to explore the Peak District. Darwin Forest Country Park near Matlock and Sandybrook Country Park near Ashbourne both have fantastic onsite facilities including indoor swimming pools, restaurants and activities. Lodges sleep from two to eight people and some include hot tubs and are pet friendly.


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We have a collection of exceptional, award-winning, luxury holiday cottages which are all privately-owned and located in the most enviable coast and countryside locations of beautiful Northumberland. You can bring your dog too! Email us for more information.

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Holiday Ideas Now is the best time to plan your escapes for the year ahead. Book early with these accommodation ideas and look forward to a perfect, relaxing break. PRIDE OF BRITAIN


Join us on a fabulous holiday between Inverness and Fort William on the Caledonian canal and explore the beautiful Great Glen including iconic Loch Ness. Our 4 or 7 day themed cruises involve gentle walking, cycling, canoeing (all guided); or you can simply relax and enjoy the scenery. Each barge offers comfortable saloon areas, twin cabins with en-suite facilities and meals freshly prepared by the live aboard cook. 01397 772167

1 3 5 7 9 11


HARTSOP FOLD Penrith, Cumbria

FOOTPATH HOLIDAYS South West England/Wales




Resting on the bank of the Menai Strait and overlooking the peaks of Snowdonia, Château Rhianfa provides an unparalleled tranquillity and a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle. We Offer Unique culinary experiences every day in our restaurant, Le Dragon Rouge which is an awardwinning restaurant. The very best flavours of our Welsh roots and infusing them with the culinary wizardry of French cuisine. 01248 880090


2 4 6 8 10 12

Peak District




COQUET COTTAGES Northumberland


Character stone cottages set in a secluded wooded valley on a 13 acre smallholding with woodland walks and abundant wildlife. All cottages have picnic and barbecue areas, broadband access, and cosy woodburners. Ideally situated in an idyllic and peaceful location with stream, play area and resident farm animals. Just 5 miles from Cardigan, and picturesque sandy beaches.

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Discover 12 self-catering Scandinavian-style holiday cottages near Brotherswater and Patterdale in Cumbria. An ideal base for fell walking, sailing, mountain biking, fishing, pony trekking and bird watching. Come and explore the wildness and isolation of nature, but return home to a warm and cosy lodge and watch the stars and abundant wildlife from your doorstep.


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Andersen Boats has been a family business for over 40 years. We offer narrow boat holidays on some of the best canals in England North Wales, with a wide range of holiday routes for your ideal canal holiday. Winners of the Trip Advisor 2016 Certificate of Excellence and Hoseasons Diamond Award Finalists 2012-2015.

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Bluebells and early purple orchids on the South Downs, primroses in the hedgerows of Exmoor, and a wonderful display of coastal flowers all over the South West; spring is a wonderful time to explore Britain on foot. Visit our website for details of guided and self-guided holidays.

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Try something new in 2018 and experience our unusual selfguided walking holidays. Explore the wonderful countryside beside the Wey Navigation in Surrey or along the Thames Path, whilst your fully catered “hotel” moves to a new mooring to meet you at the end of each day. Contact us for further details:

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A small four-star family-run site, set in three acres of garden on the boundary of the Exmoor national park. Only 1.5 miles to the shops, pubs and restaurants with the beach beyond. Dogs welcome. Lovely walks from our door and the whole of the North Devon Coast and Exmoor to explore. Disabled Access. Free Wi-Fi.

01643 702789


Contours Walking Holidays are the specialists in self-guided walking holidays across Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, with an unrivalled choice of long and short breaks to suit all ages and abilities. Every detail is taken care of for you – including comfortable accommodation, comprehensive guidebooks and luggage transportation – leaving you free to enjoy the fantastic sights of the Great British countryside. 01629 821900


PATTARD, NORTH DEVON COAST Do you seek luxury accommodation with many walks from your doorstep? Three Barn conversions sleeping two to eight. Central heating and woodburner. Pets welcome. Good pubs within 10 mins walk. Now with onsite restaurant, Pattard Kitchen. 01237 441311




PENHAYL COTTAGE, LELANT, ST.IVES On the edge of the SW Coast Path, RSPB Hayle Estuary Reserve, and SSSI, Penhayl 5 Star self catering house is ideal for both bird watching and coastal walking. Central heating, garden, garage. House sleeps 4, with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. Non smokers. Children over 5 years. Book now for 2018.

EWE BARN A warm welcome awaits you in our idyllic, self catering, barn recently renovated barn, sleeping 2 6 in central Pembrokeshire. Perfect for families, walkers, and cyclists. Dogs welcome. 6+ acres of meadow and woodland walks. Stunning views. Underfloor heating, wood burner, BBQ. Ideal for all year round comfort and relaxation.

OWL BARN RETREAT, MID WALES Offers stunning self catering accommodation set on the edge of the Tanat Valley in glorious Mid Wales. We enjoy a stunning rural location surrounded by the Berwyn Mountains, rolling fields and wildlife. With its beauty changing season after season Llanrhaeadr is a special place to relax, rewind and reboot.

01437 532096

01691 780491




BRIDES B AY St. Davids

Relaxed country house atmosphere, or self catering (just for two). Set in two acres of wild woods overlooking beautiful Lledr Valley. Three double B&B rooms or S/c ’The Studio’. 1m Betws y coed. Nearby: Mountains, rivers, gardens, dark sky, bikes, zip wires, railways, castles, even explore underground!

LINNHE CROFT HOLIDAY COTTAGES Two 3* self catering cottages situated along the shore of Loch Linnhe, Argyll & Bute, Scotland. Each cottage sleeps 4 comfortably but additional bed available if required. Oban is 27 miles away and Glencoe 25 mins drive. Stunning views across Loch Linnhe, Lismore Island and Morvern mountains. Pets by arrangement.

01690 710 480

01631 730591


Luxury log cabins in the heart of the Galloway countryside. Stunning sea views. Coastal and farm walks. See our Champion Belted Galloway cattle. Beaches, Biking, Sailing, Golf, Tennis. Anne Bell: 01387 780206


Por thgain

Quality Self Catering Holiday Cottages In Pembrokeshire West Wales

01437 720 027

UK HOLIDAYS Beautiful holiday cottages sleeping 2-6 on the Northumberland Coast

The Tudor Arms 18th Century family operated Free House with adjacent B&B. ½ mile from the Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.


HOLIDAYS Cruise the Monmouth and Brecon Canal, through g the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Enjoy a peaceful break in our spacious, warm 4 and 5 star holiday cottages in coastal locations. Three of our 17 cottages are dog-friendly.

Or stay in our Ducket, a beautifully restored 18th century tower. Star-gazing observatory, canoe and bird hide available for all guests at our properties.

01668 213 336 |

Book your next stay with us! Wake up To The Country! y

Slimbridge, Gloucester GL2 7BP 01453 890 306


Quality self-catering properties throughout Scotland from rustic appeal to 5 star luxury, countryside to seashore. Whatever your pastime come and explore Scotland.

01873 830001 BATH & WEST COUNTRY WALKS Guided and self-guided walking holidays for groups and individuals. Walking in the Cotswolds, Exmoor, Somerset and Wiltshire. Also Austria and Cyprus in the Spring and Winter. No Single Supplement. Tel: 01761 233807 E:

Short Breaks Available and Pets Welcome. tel: 01463 719219

Holiday Lets

Rural B&B

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or call 02476 696909 for a free guide

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From charming coastal towns and villages to breathtaking, sweeping countryside, Suffolk is the perfect holiday destination at any time of year. Our stunning collection of holiday homes are carefully selected for their location, style and comfort. Whether you’re looking for the perfect place for your next holiday or interested in letting out your own holiday home, we’d love to talk to you!

Llangoed Hall Afternoon Tea | Dining | Accommodation | Events

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Beautiful coastal cottages Stylish seaside apartments

Spacious, contemporary homes

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15 Years’ experience in holiday lettings

Small, friendly team with a personal approach Excellent local knowledge.

Head chef Nick Brodie, as seen on the BBC’s Great British Menu 2017 Llangoed Hall is a wonderfully elegant and historic country house hotel situated in the beautiful Wye Valley in the heart of the Welsh countryside. It offers the quintessential Edwardian country house experience.

Telephone: 01874 754525 Email: | Twitter: @TheLlangoedHall Llyswen, Brecon, Powys LD3 0YP HeritageHideaways

@Heritage H

Island Cottage Holidays


CASTLE HOUSE LODGINGS Isle of Wight & Purbeck coastal & rural cottages

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Situated d in the h p private ggrounds d off Ludl dlow Castlle and d set inside the Castle Walls the three self-catering apartments were fully restored and renovated to the highest specification. Each apartment sleeps 4 with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, fully functioning kitchen with all mod cons, sitting/dining room, unparalleled views of the Castle and the Shropshire Hills, Private Parking and Local to Ludlow Hamper incl. red & white wine and free tickets into the Castle. | 01584 874465

To advertise here please phone Josh Barrett on 0117 300 8543 or email DISCOVER SOUTH DOWNS

The perfect place to relax and unwind East Sussex

Self Catering accommodation on the edge of the South Downs National Park. Two properties both with one double bed. The Escape, our one bedroom cottage, with Log Burner and The Getaway, an open plan studio.

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Need a tractor? Think you can’t afford one?

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n inexpensive way of owning your own tractor is to build one from a flat pack.

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Friends & neighbours will certainly be impressed when you tell them you built it yourself plus you will have acquired a great working knowledge of how your tractor operates; making it easy for you to service and maintain. Prices start from £4,450 (excl. VAT) These are high quality compact tractors that are designed to be easy to maintain & yet can perform a myriad of jobs around your smallholding. With over 1 Million Siromer Tractors in service around the world their reputation speaks for itself. Plus you’ll benefit from great customer service, parts & advice - all just a phone call away. So, do something rewarding this year & take on the flat pack challenge! We’re waiting to take your call. . .

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Next month

Don’t miss your February issue – on sale 19 January


Photos: Getty, Dave Willis, John Potter

Lose yourself in the timeless seaside pleasures of the South Hams: wild cliff-top walks, dreamy coastal villages and sheltered golden coves



Follow the fascinating lives of these hardy, handsome hill-dwelling wild horses

Why the fava bean is resurgent in Britain – and how to cook a delicious feast with it

THE UK’S MOST BEAUTIFUL WALKS 16 unforgettable days out in the loveliest landscapes 113

my c ou n t r ysi d e

Matt Dawson Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson on catching toads, camping – and an insect bite that that changed his life I don’t know whether I could claim to be a country boy. I was born in Liverpool, but I spent most of my life in Buckinghamshire, in Marlow. I was allowed to roam the countryside and I absolutely loved it. It was about getting out into the woods and climbing up trees and creating rope swings and all that sort of stuff Then sport took over my life. I live in London now but I’ve been thinking of moving out again, so maybe I will become a country boy!

I’ve become involved in the Big Tick Project to promote awareness of ticks and Lyme disease. The advice is simple – if you are going to be walking through long grass, wear trousers and tuck your trousers in your socks. There are always going to be times where we’re all wearing shorts and T-shirts but it’s about being vigilant. It’s important to check for ticks. Backs of knees, round the groin area, armpits, backs of ears, in between your toes – all those little nooks and crannies.

When you do spend time outdoors, you realise how incredibly beautiful and fortunate we are to have such great countryside – beautiful rolling hills and parks, and some amazing coastal walks down to the beaches.

When I played for Northampton, now and again I’d get invited to a shoot or some fishing. Mostly I would help local farmers with their wood pigeon problem. I’m quite ambivalent towards shooting. I can see both sides of the argument. I read somewhere that we wouldn’t actually have pheasants in the country if it wasn’t for shooting.

My boys are country bonkers. We go to Chiswick Park, which has a river running through it and some nice wooded areas – they think it’s the jungle. Whether it’s looking for worms, millipedes, slugs or toads, you name it, they want to find it. And they want to get a bucket and take them home and look after them. We were at the stables where my wife keeps her horse but the boys are not interested particularly in horses. When I lifted a mat to find a toad sat there, it was as if they’d found a pot of gold. We took him home, looked after him for a few days then set him free. My life changed two years ago when I was bitten by a tick on my back in Chiswick Park. I was doing some ground training. I knew I had a few mosquito bites on my legs but I didn’t realise that I’d been bitten by a tick for a while, even to the point that the tick had gone. But then the bite started 114

When I lifted a mat to find a toad, my sons reacted as if they’d found a pot of gold” to become quite angry and I developed this target of red-white-red-white in a circle. That’s the tell-tale sign of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is like super flu – it’s really, really bad. I had to get the doctor to come and see me. The bacteria had attacked my heart and created some inflammation. I only realised because they noticed it on some of the pictures when I had a health check up. Then it involved cardiac specialists – I was having thousands and thousands of extra heartbeats a day. I spent three or four days in hospital under observation and needed antibiotics to get rid of the Lyme. I’ve been on beta blockers ever since. It’s calmed down considerably but I can’t now do full-on exercise. I can still enjoy myself but I can’t go guns-out any more.

If I could change something about the countryside, it would be the ability to camp more freely. I remember being a lad and going up to Cumbria and having a great time – but every time we pitched up somewhere, someone would come and move us on. My family and having my boys is my proudest achievement. It beats lifting the world cup. It was a great feeling to win the trophy. Chatting to people today, you can see what it means to them and they remember it – that’s when you start to realise the scale of it. At the time, I was just in the bubble of playing rugby. Whereas now, when people are still talking to me about it, I think, “bloody hell, that was… That was fairly major”. Ireland and England will benefit most from the recent Lions Tour to New Zealand. Wales had a fair share of players there but their senior players already had experience. Former England international Matt Dawson can be heard commentating on rugby on Radio 5 Live. He is an ambassador for the Big Tick Project.

Photo Oliver Edwards

My rural hero is my uncle. My early memories of countryside are being up in Chester with my grandfather and my uncle. My uncle used to take me fishing. I remember wandering around in the woods and finding myself by these big, beautiful lakes.


blinds At Hillarys you’ll find the latest blinds, curtains and shutters measured and professionally fitted all as part of our dedicated in-home service. Visit or call 0800 587 6480 to book a free in-home appointment.