THE COUNTRYFILE PRESENTER GOES BEHIND THE SCENES ON HIS SHOWS AND FAMILY FARM
One Matt and his dog.
For me, there is nothing like the feeling of leaving modern technology behind, grabbing a whistle and heading out into the fields to work instinctively and intuitively with my dog. I’ve been involved in the sheepdog world since I was a boy, training my first dog Lace when I was 14, and so you can imagine that working on One Man and His Dog is a real highlight of the year for me – it’s a broadcasting family that I’ve been part of for years.
The team runs like clockwork and everybody knows their roles, from choosing a location that works well on camera and yet is challenging enough for the finest sheepdog triallers in the world, to filming the spectacle in one go and capturing all that happens on the field.
ROUNDING UP THE COMPETITORS
On the eve of the competition, competitors and their dogs and family travel from across the UK, staying in our carefully selected dog-friendly hotel – a great excuse to catch up and put the more nervous ones at ease. Our head of sheep Malcolm is always on hand to give his inside view of the flock that is waiting for the following day’s trial.
When the big day arrives, the competitors and their dogs are usually on the trial field as early as possible, casting their eyes across the landscape at the first available opportunity. Although the trial and layout are always similar, every field is different. Judging the perspective of the course is always the challenge – the key is pre-empting where the sheep will naturally want to go and which bit is going to cause the most problems.
Technically, the programme is quite a big deal. We turn up with a huge scanner van, into which all the cameras dotted across the trial field are fed, and each run can be cut live as it happens. It’s the kind of kit that is usually used on sporting events, and to see it parked in a farmyard never fails to make me smile. The director, Glenn, sits in this van, usually in wellies, and literally calls the shots.
What Glenn cuts up is then played to Andy Jackman and me live in the commentary box, which is more like a shed with a large window. (And let me tell you, it’s always quite a challenge to get our shed into position.) Fuelled with tea and coffee from the catering tent and getting scores through our walkie-talkies from the judges on the shed roof, we commentate on the action as it unfolds.
And what a competition we witnessed. I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it – just head to iPlayer and think of all that went into producing those highlights from that field at Chirk Castle!
Matt, seen here with his border collie Bob, has trained sheepdogs since he was a boy
One Man and His Dog was broadcast on Countryfile on 27 September, and is available to view on iPlayer.