Matt Baker and Julia Bradbury head to Exmoor, a bleak and remote place where moorland and farmland give way to a spectacular coastline. For centuries its wild beauty has inspired writers, painters and poets.
Julia is on the trail of a little-known photographer who spent his days capturing life on Exmoor. A hundred years ago, Alfred Vowles photographed everything from villages to building to hunting. He produced thousands of postcards using just a folding pocket camera, a tripod and his trusty old pushbike. Julia finds out about the man behind the picture and she puts his techniques to the test, recreating one of his many photographs.
Vowles wasn’t the only one captivated by the landscape of Exmoor; novelist RD Blackmore literally put this place on the map when he penned the book Lorna Doone, which was to give birth to Lorna Doone country. Matt turns investigator as he tries to discover if this fictional tale is more fact than fiction.
Elsewhere, Tom Heap is in Leicestershire finding out how the Schmallenberg virus looks set to spread across the country, with devastating effects for farm animals. Down on the farm, Adam takes his Exmoor foals to a world-class equine centre in Cheshire for some basic training.
In the early 1900s when photographs were still a novelty, Alfred Vowles was as close as you could get to a one-man photo booth. Julia Bradbury discovers how this extraordinary man cycled over hill and dale, leaving a legacy of pictures which document rural life on Exmoor at the start of the last century. But in the days before digital cameras, darkrooms were needed to develop pictures. For Alfred that often meant using a stable, a chicken shed, or even the caravan where he lived and worked for much of his time on Exmoor. To find out just how tricky this all was, Julia works with amateur photographer Ray Turner to recreate and develop one of Alfred’s classic pictures of a local trailing hunt, the Minehead Harriers.
See some modern days photos of Exmoor
It is thought that, in the last 80 years, the UK’s barn owl population has dropped by a staggering 70%. One major reason for this is the loss of many of their traditional habitats, such as old trees and ruined buildings. Julia Bradbury visits a project which could change the odds by putting a barn owl box in every parish in Somerset. That’s 335 new boxes by next year. Julia teams up with Chris Sperring from the Hawk and Owl Trust. Together they go to meet Jonathan Webber, who’s willing to host an owl box. But will his family farm come up to spec?
Find out more about the project to house Somerset owl