Sat 11th Oct 2014
You must have been wondering what’s happened to me. I have to say that I got quite a shock when I realised how long it is since my last blog. I just don’t know where the time goes. I’ve certainly been as busy as ever. All the up and coming summer events I told you about last time have been and gone and now the season is turning and autumn is upon us.
Well you know what autumn means to Johnny Kingdom; the rut. I remember telling you last year that it had started early, with the first stag roars being heard on 20th September. This year it got going earlier still, on 13th September believe it or not.
I had a wonderful experience with the red deer just recently. I was out the other side of Exford with a chap looking for them. We weren’t having much luck as the morning was very foggy but we drove around a bit, stopping to listen every now and then. Then we heard it, a deep roar. We knew the stag couldn’t be far away so we set off into the fog. We’d crossed about half a mile of moorland when the man tapped me on the back. I looked to where he was pointing and could just make out the outline of seven hinds. Then suddenly, looming out of the fog was a large stag. He looked straight at us and roared. What a moment. It sent shivers down my spine. I recognised him at once. He was a stag I’ve often seen in the Parracombe area. He was quite a long way from home but stags will travel up to 20 miles during the rut to find the best females. And just two weeks ago I saw a herd of 40 red deer, 30 of which were stags. What an amazing sight.
This is my busiest time of year for Exmoor safaris as everyone wants to experience the rut. We‘ve had some great sightings and heard plenty of roaring. There really isn’t any other sound quite like it.
Talking about stags roaring, on Saturday evening I’ll be at Draydon Rails, Dulverton, for the annual bolving competition. Bolving is the name given to the roar of the rutting stag’s and the competition is a very serious affair. The idea is to roar down the valley and sound so much like a stag that a real stag answers you back. Come and have a go if you’re in the area. It’s a great charity event.
I’m still out and about filming with ITV. The other weekend we joined the Exmoor pony roundup at Withypool. The aim is to bring all the ponies down off the moor to be checked over to ensure they are healthy. Some of the youngsters are taken out of the herd to sell on as riding ponies and any ill ponies treated before being returned to the moor. It’s all part of herd management and helps to keep the herd in good condition and numbers at a sustainable level.
With the lovely long summer, there are some late foals about on the moor and I’ve recently seen some that were only about six weeks old.
I was talking to a man in Simonsbath, who’s a farm manager on one of the big Exmoor estates, and a few weeks ago he saw a hen pheasant come off a nest of nine chicks. That’s unbelievable in September. And last Thursday I counted 20 butterflies on our land. We’ve had lots of red admirals this year but not so many peacock butterflies as some summers. I expect they’ll all disappear now the weather is turning at last.
I always love teaching children about Exmoor and showing them all the wildlife so I was really pleased to be asked to take out a group of home schooled kids who live around the moor. Their mums came too and we had such a great time. They’ll feature in the new DVD I’m making. I hope to have it finished by Christmas.
As I write this I’ve just got home from taking my great grandchildren out on Exmoor. We saw some stags really close to the road and it was so exciting for them.
Now the rain has arrived I should be able to get on with filming the salmon coming up the river and jumping like they do. It’s something the TV crew really want to capture and they’re planning to do some underwater filming. I do hope it works out as that will really be something to see.
Something else I must mention is the Exmoor flag. I told you last time that I was helping to choose it. Well we narrowed the entries down from 300 to five and these then went to a public vote. I don’t know which design won yet but on 29th October the winning flag will arrive in Minehead carried on the front of the steam train. That will be quite an event. From Minehead it will then be taken all around the South West for people to see.
My big event for November is an exhibition of my photos at a gallery in Windsor Castle. I’m having some special driftwood frames made. They really go well with the photos. I’ll be up at the gallery for a couple of days and am looking forward to it.
I’m afraid I must mention Christmas before I go as it will be with us before we know it. This year I’ll be in Exeter with my Christmas stall instead of at Dunster by Candlelight. The event is at the end of November. I’ll also be in South Molton in the run up to Christmas. I’ll give you more details nearer the time and hope to see some of you there.
Don’t forget that you can buy a copy of my 2015 calendar on the website. I’ve had some great feedback and am so pleased that you like it.
God bless until I speak to you again.