Exmoor Flag

Mon 11th Nov 2014

What a lovely few weeks I’ve had since I last spoke to you. I hardly know where to begin telling about all I’ve been up to.

I’ll start with a little badger story told me by a lady I know called Ruth. She lives in a cottage near a wood close to our land. Well, she was indoors one morning, about 10.00 am, when she heard a funny noise outside. She went out and found her cat up on the bunker with its fur all standing up on end as happens when they’re frightened. What had scared it was a badger wondering around by the cottage.

She was a bit concerned it might get her cat but I’ve never heard of that happening. Cats move so quickly I don’t think a badger could catch one. That’s my thought anyway. The badger eventually trotted off, but the point is, it shouldn’t have been out and about in daylight and I think there must have been something wrong with it. Wild animals do get sick, of course, and these are the ones that should be taken out, not the healthy one, which is what more often happens.

I was just off to the roaring competition when I did my last blog. What a great evening that was. There was 150 to 200 people lined up along the road to have a go at getting a stag to answer them. I had to have a go as the film crew were filming it. I was rubbish at it so I hope they cut that bit! The youngest to try was just 2½ years old would you believe.

Overall I was really impressed by how good people were, although I did hear some very funny sounds during the evening! The same person won it this year as did last year. The best roarer ever is a chap we call Elvis but he’s so good he’s not allowed to enter any more. He’s just too good.

I’ve also been working hard on my new DVD and it’s nearly finished. I’m so pleased with it as I’ve achieved something I’ve been trying to do for years, with my friend Bob Sampson. What’s that? To film badgers underground.

I’ve told you a little bit over the past year about setting up some underground containers that I’ve rigger remote cameras in. By learning from our success and failures we’ve made improvements and got better and better shots of the badgers.

One of the best yet is an infra-red shot of seven badgers all together. It’s amazing to see and I’ve put it on the new DVD. To see what they get up to underground is so special, a dream come true for me. I don’t want to spoil it by telling you everything that happens on the film but I think you’re going to enjoy it.

All the filming was done using Bushnell cameras, which I’ve mentioned before. They are remote and work on sensors and it’s so exciting to check them each day to see what’s been recorded. I’d recommend them to all you budding wildlife film makers.

I set up another couple of cameras near a wallow and got some cracking shots of a huge stag, the biggest I’ve seen this year. He lies down, rolls around in the mud, rubs his antlers then roars at the camera. Wonderful. So that’s another treat for you on the DVD.

Another first for me is some film of two red deer hinds boxing. Not something you see very often.

I won’t tell you everything that’s on the DVD but people have been asking me if it will have shots of the kestrel and barn owl chicks I’ve mentioned over the summer. The answer is yes. They’re another part of the film I’m particularly pleased with. It should be up on the website in the next few weeks so do keep a look out if you’d like a copy or want to buy one as a Christmas present. And don’t forget that my 2015 calendars are still available as well.

The rut is at an end now. I don’t think it’s gone quite as well as last year. We’ve lost so many good stags since last autumn which is such a shame. People are always going to shoot them but I do worry that too many are being taken, and the wrong ones. If this continues the natural balance is going to tip and the herd will suffer and become weakened.

On a happier note, I want to finish with the most exciting thing that’s happened in the past month. The new Exmoor flag has been chosen and I had the huge privilege of launching it.

What a special day me and Julie had, and a long one too. We left home at 9.30 am and didn’t get back until 8.20 pm. But it was unbelievable. Part of our journey was on a 1940’s bus. My heck it was scary, especially going down Countisbury Hill, which frightened us all to death. There was thick fog up on Exmoor which didn’t help either. The bus could only go at 30mph at its fastest and we were on it for 5 to 6 hours. We did have a great time though.

The best bit of the day was on the steam train from Dunster to Minehead which was carrying the new flag to be unveiled at Minehead. We were so proud to be on it and couldn’t believe what we were seeing as it came into the station. The platform was packed with people, including the paparazzi, all come to see the flag. It was incredible.

The winning design was by a lady from London called Jenny who’s been visiting Exmoor for years. I told you before that I was on the committee that selected the final five designs out of over 300, and I was so please that the winner had a stag on it. It’s a lovely flag. It still amazes me that entries came in from as far away as Australia and the USA. The oldest entrant was 93!

Well, it was a day I’ll never forget and I want to say a big thank to everyone involved for all they did to make it happen and for giving me and Julie the opportunity to be part of it. I love Exmoor so much and for it to have its own flag is fantastic. And an extra thank you to Kerry who sent me a lovely thank you letter for doing the launch.

I’ll try to get another blog done fairly soon to let you know where I’ll be in the run up to Christmas as people always ask me. God bless for now.