Thurs 16th August

I’m sorry I’ve not been with you for the past month. I’m sure you’ll have guessed that I finally set off for Alaska, but other things have been happening as well.

Sadly, I have recently lost my dear sister Shirley. We knew it was coming but the waiting has been so hard and seemed to go on forever. I miss her terribly but am thankful that she is finally at rest and no longer in pain.

Life goes and I must tell you about my trip. Well, it really was something different and the best place I have ever been.

It took us over 19 hours to get there across the sky and we went on four different planes. The final one, a 1943 Wiggin, had only four seats and the flight was something out of this world. My dear wife Julie sat up in front with the pilot. What a brave lady.

We lifted off from a runway but landed on water when we reached Kodiak, which was really exciting but a bit nerve wracking. We then put on waders and jumped out into the water, would you believe.

My guide over there was a lovely lady called Jo. My life was literally in her hands as we were to be tracking dangerous animals. She’d been bear watching for twenty years so knew what she was about.

My first animal sighting wasn’t a bear but a wolf, right out in the open in front of me. She told me to stand still and the wolf just walked on. What a start.

A bit further on she said, “Look to your right.” There on the sand, about two hundred yards away, was a large female bear feeding on clams. I had a big lump in my throat as I watch it. Amazing.

Then Jo said, “Johnny , now we are going to walk very slowly towards the bear.” My heart began to race faster but, saying that, I wanted to have a really good look as it was the bears I’d come to see. You lovely people can tell how close I got from the picture below. It was a really special experience. And don’t forget that I was in open countryside with nowhere to run to.

What I really wanted to see was bears catching salmon in the river. I thought we’d have to hide away like I do when watch the red deer on Exmoor but it’s not like that with bears. You’ve got to show yourself but keep your hands still. I kept a good eye on what Jo was doing as she was the expert.

Moving very slowly, we started to walk along, looking right and left all the time because the bears could be anywhere.

The next thing I saw was a fox with a young salmon in its mouth. I told Jo I’d never seen anything like that before.

On we went and I could see the river in the distance. It was so exciting and I remember saying to myself, “Johnny, you may be about to see bears catch salmon, something you’ve always wanted to see.”

And I was right. It wasn’t long before my dream came true and I saw it with my own eyes. It was a wonderful thing to see. Julie got to see some as well which I’m pleased about.

Well, we did our filming and the programme will be on BBC4 around Christmas time. I won’t spoil it by telling you all the other things we got to see. I’m not sure if they’ll include shots of the lovely place Julie and I stayed in Kodiak – Hyder House with our hosts Robin and Helen. We had great food there.

We would both like to think we’ll go back to Alaska again one day. Who knows? It may happen. I do hope so.

Back at home I’m doing a talk at Exmoor Zoo once a week over the summer. It’s a wonderful place with lots of animals to see.

Today I’m off to the Bird Fair in Rutland Water which runs over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s a really good event and I love going there. I’m sure I’ll see some of you regulars. Don’t forget to come over and say hello. And I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new people as well.