Coming up on this week's Countryfile - Sunday 18 October
Matt Baker and Jules Hudson head to Dartmoor for ponies, fungi and cave rescue - Sunday, 7.10pm on BBC One
Dartmoor is rugged and the weather can change rapidly, from bright sunshine to thick fog, rain, or even snow. That makes it the ideal place to train for feats of extreme endurance. Polar explorer Pen Hadow was the first man to walk from Canada to the geographic North Pole solo – and he trained on Dartmoor. Pen takes Matt Baker through his gruelling schedule, then Olympic silver medallist Heather Fell – who competes in the Modern Pentathlon – takes Matt for an extreme workout.
The trees are turning gold, some animals are thinking about bedding down for the winter hibernation, but for the rare black fallow deer in Haldon Park Forest it’s the busiest and most demanding time of the year. The annual rut is a ritual parade where bucks make intimidating noises and size up their rivals, before winning a mate. Jules Hudson joins a Forestry Commission ranger at sunrise, to get a peek at their extraordinary behaviour.
The Devon Cave Rescue Group offers a lifeline to cavers, and people who get lost in the disused mines and quarries that litter Dartmoor. They have to train regularly to hone their skills at manoeuvring stretchers through narrow gaps, along low tunnels and up vertical shafts. Matt Baker goes deep underground, on a training day, to find out to what lengths these dedicated volunteers will go to, in order to save lives.
Ponies have grazed on Dartmoor for thousands of years. They belong to ‘pony keepers’ who turn them out on common land before rounding them up in the autumn for the sales. Jules Hudson joins a farmer as he sorts out his herd, and brands his breeding mares. Jules finds out how little these ponies are worth, and how hard it is to make this way of life sustainable.
Autumn is the best time of year for fungi, so Jules Hudson goes on a hunt with mushroom expert Phil Page to find some tasty – and non-poisonous – examples. Here’s his top three tips:
• Go in the autumn after wet weather.
• Visit a birch woodland
• Always accompany an expert who knows what they’re doing.
Then, where better to cook them up than one of the top restaurants on Dartmoor? Gidleigh Park has two Michelin stars and a delicious recipe for wild mushroom fricassee.
John Craven Investigates: Children and farms
Farms that open their doors to children provide the perfect opportunity for them to learn about where their food comes from. But following a spate of E Coli 0157 outbreaks, visits to farm parks have been cancelled in their thousands and it’s uncertain whether things will pick up again. John Craven investigates the implications this may have for their education.
Adam's Belted Galloway bull is given a clean bill of health by the vet, allowing him to exchange it with another bull, in an attempt to revitalise his herd. Meanwhile Adam has been pregnancy-testing the rest of his cattle and a disappointing set of results suggest one of his other bulls may have been falling down on the job.
Work is underway to create the largest broadleaf woodland in Scotland, the Great Trossachs Forest. Katie Knapman travels to this stunning area, to help plant the forest and find out how Highland cattle are used to manage the landscape once the trees are established.