Mon 28th Oct 2013

Well, it’s finally ready, my new DVD called “I Do It My Way”. So many people ask me when I am going to do another DVD about the land and here it is. I started it back in January so it covers almost a whole year on the land and goes right through the seasons.

You will see all the work I’ve been doing to improve the land for the wildlife. I’ve told you about a lot of it in this blog over the year and now you can see it for yourselves. The new hides I’ve often mentioned are both finished - the one by my main feeding station and the one down by the pond – so look out for these.

I also explain how I film the wildlife by bringing them to me. It’s not easy to do but I learn as I go along and am getting better and better at it. You’ll see badgers, deer and the wily fox, a really tricky animal to film. I’m especially pleased with my shots of the wild boar wallowing and with their babies. I even manage to walk up quite close to them at one point which you can see as I have the camera running in the hide.

Over the year I’ve had lots of young children come to the land to watch what is going on after dark on the monitors and you’ll see just how exciting it is for them to see live shots of the animals in the wild.

Really the DVD is all about showing you what’s possible. There’s no big film crew involved. It’s just me filming on my own, learning through trial and error. I do hope you like it. Maybe it will encourage you to have a go. If you’d like a copy you can buy one from my online shop or from me in person at Barnstaple Pannier Market on Tuesdays.

As you would expect from my October blog post, I have lots to tell you about the rut. It has gone better than I thought it would I’m pleased to say. It started early and I would say we were in full rut by 7th October.

There are a few big stags that are missing this year. Maybe they have been taken out because they were old and I’ve not heard about it. That needs to happen sometimes and is for the good of the herd in the long run.

I’ve had some lovely groups of people out on my Exmoor Safaris and would like to thank all of you for coming out on the moor with me. Particular thanks go to the crew from Saunton Sands Hotel.

I will write more about the actual rut next month but for now I want to tell you the story of what happened on my safari on 6th October. It’s quite funny but could have had serious consequences.

We set off from Exmoor Riverside Caravan Park as normal but there was a lot of fog about and we weren’t seeing many deer. We headed down to Hinam Farm, a great place for B&B and cream teas, with the two trucks and I called in on my friend Colin to see if he’d seen any stags around. He said that if we didn’t mind a walk he’d seen a big stag in his bottom field and we were welcome to go and look for it.

It isn’t easy to stalk deer with a group of eight people, plus me and my son Stuart, but it was worth a try. I did warn everyone that it would be a rough trek but they were keen to go so we set off down the valley.

We went down a muddy track, up a steep slippery track, all the time being careful not to step on sticks that might snap and make a noise. Fortunately the wind was blowing towards us and carrying our scent away. Next came a valley and a muddy stream to cross, followed by a very steep slope, then up over a ridge. Our next obstacles were two large fallen trees. We scrambled over the first, which was not easy, but everyone got over safely. The next one we crawled underneath on our knees.

Finally we came to a big wire fence which we climbed through into the field we had been aiming for. We heard the stag roaring and I knew it was only about 200m above us. Tracking along a beech hedge we only had to walk another 50m or so before it came into view, a big stag with all his hinds. What a wonderful sight.

We watched them for a while and I was just saying to everyone that I was sorry it had been such a long, hard trek when one of the ladies in the group turned to me and said, “Johnny, there is just one thing I must tell you, I am pregnant.” Well what a shock I got having just taken her on such a tough walk. I asked her when it was due and she said, December! Oh my goodness I thought. Then another of the ladies spoke up and told me she was pregnant as well and was also due in December. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Next one of the men joined in and said, “My wife is pregnant too, but luckily she’s not here with us”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or what. I find it funny thinking about it now but I was in a bit of a panic at the time.

Anyway, I quickly sent Stuart and the man back for the trucks to drive them around as close to us as they could while I walked the ladies on an easier route to the road. It was a bit further than going back but more level walking. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to get everyone back safe and sounds. I was pleased to get an email from one of the ladies when she arrived home to say that she was fine and that she had had a wonderful day. I’m sure the baby will be hearing about the adventure when he or she is growing up.

That’s all for now. Catch you next month with more about the rut. God bless.